Category Archives: Sausage

Chicken & Andouille Sausage Gumbo (Brenda’s French Soul Food)

BRENDA’S FRENCH SOUL FOOD, SAN FRANCISCO CA

Chicken, Sausage, Okra Gumbo (Brenda's French Soul Food - SF)

Chicken, Sausage, Okra Gumbo (Brenda’s French Soul Food – SF)

Like most sane people, I rarely eat Cajun food outside of Louisiana. I’ve had awful “Cajun” food in New York and Los Angeles, and even Cajun food in Texas and Mississippi can be suspect. I also think blackening fish is criminal, and chain restaurants with anything Cajun on their menu need some schooling. By schooling I mean an old nun with a cane cut from a pecan tree bent on a proper instruction, the kind one remembers for life.

But when somebody moves to a city from New Orleans or Lafayette or any little town in between, my interest is piqued. Brenda’s is just that: literally a hole in the wall run by a New Orleans transplant who puts out authentic Southern, Creole, and Cajun style cuisine.

Only open for breakfast and lunch, Brenda’s has a 45-minute wait at any given brunch time on weekends. Minimum. Definitely worth it, if you had some breakfast already. (Do the folks outside Brenda’s windows look like Tenderloin locals or very hungry hungry brunch-sters? Yep, you know it.)

So, with the caveat that I’m not on a gumbo run, I can authoritatively say this is the best, most authentic gumbo I’ve had east of Lake Charles in as long as I can remember. Seriously good chunks of smoky sausage, juicy chicken, and okra in a nice, moderately dark roux: that little bowlful is richer than it looks, y’all.

The Grade: Excellent / Awesome
The Damage: $7.25
The Tip: Brenda’s is CLOSED TUESDAYS  and only open until 3pm
The Skinny: Brenda’s French Soul Food
652 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94102-3328
Phone: (415) 345-8100

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Spring Lamb Dinner

Spring Lamb Dinner

What a phenomenal dinner. Coco500 (Chef Mike Morrison and company) recently put on a 4-course lamb dinner, paired with wines from A Donkey & Goat winery. Every dish was fantastic, and each portion of lamb perfectly cooked, smartly seasoned, and sweetly plated. The flavor combinations were subtle, letting the meat be the rightful star.

Course 1: Grilled Lamb Heart

Lamb heart is phenomenal, and should be all over America. Lamb heat has great flavor: primarily with a slightly sweet steak flavor, but it also reveals a more subtle tone of foie gras’ phermone-go-wild fatty passion and a tiny tang of earthy liver. It’s also full of Omega-3, so go get ’em.
Grilled Lamb Heart Salad with cheese & wild fennel pollen

Course 2: Lamb Shoulder Cavatelli

Each portion of this dish–lamb, spring beans, house-made cavatelli pasta–is roughly the same size, making each bite a flavor balance. Soft, juicy, crunchy, chewy, meaty, cheesy work a mouth into bliss; this is an excellent pasta. The peppery pecorino gives a light heat to round it out. I could have eaten a few bowls of this.

Note: Coco500 often has a great meaty pasta or two on their menu, but not always the cavatelli (e.g., lamb shoulder pappardelle). The pasta’s house-made; good stuff.
Lamb Shoulder Cavatelli

Course 3: Lamb Mixed Grill

Another really remarkable dish that displays the horizon-wide range of flavors from various parts of the lamb. The generous cut of lamb loin was bright pink and sweetly juicy; the spicy lamb sausage (mostly shoulder, but some trotters and a bit of liver ground in for texture and flavor) was excellent, as was the lamb roulade (roll). White beans toned down the wallops of various lamb bites well.
Mixed Lamb Grill (showing loin and white beans)

Mixed Lamb Grill (showing spicy lamb sausage and lamb roulade)
Course 4: Cheese Platter

A perfect conclusion to a great meal. Ewe cheese, honey, dates, sliced apple, and nutty bread. The cheese had medium texture with a pale yellow milkiness and just enough edge to work well with the other components of the dessert platter. The honey was fantastic. Worked great with the Roussanne. Ewe Cheese - Dessert Platter

Spring Lamb Dinner Wines: A Donkey and Goat

Big thanks to Tracey and Jared of A Donkey and Goat for such smart pairings with Chef Mike Morrison’s lamb dishes. Their wines were well-balanced and easy to drink; I look forward to seeing more of what they’re doing at their young yineyard (since 2003). They’re based over in Berkeley and have a seasonal newsletter and blogs available from their site.

A Donkey and Goat: WIne Pairings for Lamb

Course 1: A Donkey and Goat – Grenache Rose´

This wine goes in the Rose´ Renaissance that seems to be happening all over this year. A nice light flavor with a cheery, cherry nose, this wine flirted well with the rich lamb heart opening act. Not too sweet but softly floral (more like dried flowers) and fruity enough to tease the palate open.

Course 2: A Donkey and Goat – Four Thirteen

The name ‘four thirteen’ represents the four varietals in this red blend wine, and denotes the number of varietals (13) required to make Chateneuf du Pape. With the cavatelli, this was superb. I’d love to have this again, with anything. Even getting a third of a Chateneuf du Pape is pretty high up there, like a national grape-hood of bishops.

Course 3: A Donkey and Goat – Syrah (Fenaughty Vineyard)

Hearty meat, hearty wine, and I heart Syrah wines big time. This Rhone blend is strong but not bulging with testosterone from the gym; it really worked well with the lamb sausage and the thick, juicy lamb loin (which was like the little lamb version of prime rib). A bit of pepper after blackberries, a solid player with a nice, long finish.

Course 4: A Donkey and Goat – Tamarindo (Roussanne, El Dorado)

The Roussanne was a perfect touch to end the meal. Great sipping with this, against the platter of honey, dates, ewe cheese, thin apple slices, and nutty bread. A crisp, clean white with citrus and pear notes, just sweet enough but miles from cloying.

Whew; what an awesome dinner!

The Grade: Awesome / Exceptional

(my highest grade)

The Damage: $65

(4-course dinner) + $30 for wine pairings

The Skinny: Coco500

500 Brannan Street (at 4th Street), SF CA 941107
Phone: (415) 543-2222
Hours: Mon – Thurs: 11:30 am to 10 pm
Friday: 11:30 am to 11 pm
Saturday: 5:30 pm to 11 pm
Closed Sundays

Website: http://www.coco500.com

Creole (Meat) Stuffed Bread

Creole Stuffed Bread – Creole Lunch House Lafayette LA

(and, usually, at New Orleans JazzFest)

Unless you’ve been to the New Orleans Jazzfest or a little place called the Creole Lunch House in Lafayette, LA, you may not have tasted the meat-glory of a Creole stuffed bread. It’s a jaw-dropping, awe-topping combination of beef and pork (usually mixtures of ground, plus andouille sausage), onions, celery, bell pepper, tasso (if you got it), jalapeno, and a whirlwind of seasoning and spices, stuffed inside a terrific little French bread bun. This bread is called a ‘pistolette,’ which is a single-serving size of traditional French bread.

OMG. That's all Creole Stuffed Bread makes you say.
OMG. That's all Creole Stuffed Bread makes you say.

The ingredienta of Creole Lunch House seem pretty basic, but belie how amazing their Creole stuffed bread is: bread dough, water, sugar, fresh sausage, smoked sausage, cheddar cheese, and Jalapeno peppers. Looking at the bread before your first bite, you’ll never suspect how much spicy, meaty, wicked goodness is hidden inside. You could say Creole stuffed bread is like the Cajun sandwich version of a dragon’s den: the treasure is hidden deep inside.

Emeril has a decent creole stuffed bread recipe, if you are the DIY type who likes to make your own. If you want the real deal and can’t get down to Lafayette or New Orleans anytime soon, Creole Lunch House actually offers these meaty monsters (about 16 oz. each) online here at CajunGrocer.com. You get 4 ‘pies’ for $15.95 plus shipping.

I love the comment someone said in response to this Flickr photo of a Creole stuffed bread: “It looks likes a Hot Pocket on steroids.”  If only Hot Pockets were this good (or good at all).

Miss Hebert puts the love in Creole Lunch House
Miss Hebert puts the love in Creole Lunch House

THE GRADE: AWESOME!!

THE DAMAGE: under $4 (for a beefy, full-pound sandwich!!!)

THE SKINNY: CREOLE LUNCH HOUSE

713 12th Street, Lafayette, LA 70501

Phone: (337) 232-9929

Website:  Nope

Creole Lunch House, Lafayette LA
Creole Lunch House, Lafayette LA

BBQ Ribs Platter (Salt Lick BBQ near Austin TX)

Salt Lick Barbecue, (near) Austin TX

Gimme My Dang Bar-B-Que!! Salt Lick!!
Gimme My Dang Bar-B-Que!! Salt Lick!!

The Dish: Barbecue Ribs Platter

Salt Lick is really more about a great rustic, summer-camp atmosphere than earth-shattering barbecue. Nice little plate of barbecue will fill you up; the sauce is tasty. The brisket, sausage, and pork ribs are good, and the portions acceptable for the price. I liked the more mustard-driven potato salad and the other sides are OK but they don’t have any demanding, distinctive sense of homemade flavor. If you said they were from a vat, nobody would disagree (unless they work for Salt Lick and know better). With Salt Lick’s eternal popularity, maybe they’re both homemade and from a vat. Still a fun place  and decent grub for the price.

Rib Platter at The Salt Lick BBQ, near Austin TX
Rib Platter at The Salt Lick BBQ, near Austin TX

The Damage: Platter (your choice) for $11.95

Includes either beef, sausage, pork ribs, or a meat combo, with potato salad, cole slaw, beans, bread, pickles, and onions.

If you go in a group, it’s easier to just get the $18.95 all-you-can-eat platters. They keep comin’ round the bend with more food until you say, “Whoa.” (See plate below for example of heapin’ helpin’…)

Combo BBQ Meat Platter, The Salt Lick BBQ
Combo BBQ Meat Platter, The Salt Lick BBQ

The Grade: Very Good (food) but Great (experience)

A lot of why you’ll like Salt Lick Barbecue is due in no small part to the laid-back, way in-the-sticks atmosphere. It’s like a big summer campground: big old WWII-era cabins with long picnic tables, and an outdoor seating area that busts out with local live bands on weekends. You’re encouraged to tote in your own coolers full of beer (or whatever), so it’s a nonplussed party atmosphere that’s also somehow family friendly, with kids romping around all over. It feels like a Southern family reunion you got invited to, actually, with lots of distant cousins who you don’t know so well at the other tables. The barbecue itself is actually more ‘very good’ tasting than great, but the vibe at Salt Lick Barbecue should provide a fun afternoon or evening for a group.

Outside at The Salt Lick BBQ, Driftwood TX
Outside at The Salt Lick BBQ, Driftwood TX

The Spot: Salt Lick Barbecue

Salt Lick is really fun and worth the trip to its hot, dusty boondocks, so I highly recommend you go out there with a group of hungry friends and while away an hour or two and some giant plates of barbecue. Salt Lick is a fun, rustic place from another generation, with neighborly friendly service and very decent (but not phenomenal) grub. It’s an icon of the Austin area, and a must-see for you hungry tourist folk.

Toothsome: Cobbler (Peach or Blackberry Pie)

You must, must, must get a slice of fresh cobbler. In fact, get one to eat there and one to take home for breakfast. Salt Lick BBQ’s blackberry pie is insane. In fact, I remembered the pie with more drool than any of the BBQ.

A whole heap of pies are lined up along a counter next to the cash register, like some super-long Aunt Bea windowsill in Mayberry, RFD. Salt Lick may have peach and other kinds of fruit or berry pie, depending on the season, and pecan pie is a staple. I suspect that any Salt Lick BBQ pie along the line is pretty darn good. Salt Lick BBQ is like that, no nonsense and down-home sweet.

The Skinny: Salt Lick Barbecue

18300 FM Rd 1826, Driftwood, TX 78619

Phone: (512) 858-4959

Website: http://www.saltlickbbq.com/

Note 1:  Salt Lick is cash only, so bring a heap if you’re a group. No credit cards accepted.

Note 2: Be sure to go to this Salt Lick in Driftwood; there’s another Salt Lick (from the same group) that’s more like a chain restaurant than the rustic, cool outpost of the original Salt Lick.

the_salt_lick_bbq_woodensign_austin_tx_meatmeister

Fried Alligator Sausage (The Praline Connection, New Orleans LA)

ALLIGATOR SAUSAGE (in BBQ sauce)

THE SPOT: THE PRALINE CONNECTION, NEW ORLEANS LA  

Some people think Louisiana is full of people eating frog, alligator, and all sorts of other wild and strange beasts at every turn. While that can be true in spades in South Louisiana, it’s not easy to find alligator sausage. So it’s a treat to find such a hearty snack at The Praline Connection, a deceptively named eatery that’s as renowned for fried chicken as its famous house-made pralines.

The Praline Connection still draws local New Orleans crowds for its Creole and soul food. Despite it being too brightly lit for dinner, The Praline Connection’s perfect for a late night dinner or snack on Frenchmen Street, when you’re headed to (or from) Snug Harbor, Blue Nile, Apple Barrel Bar, or The Spotted Cat. Co-owners Cecil Kaigler and Curtis Moore are usually on site sporting their jazz-era porkpie hats, walking through and conversing with guests to ensure things go well. Their servers also show a similar spirit: friendly and attentive, but cool. With its lingering reputation as a mecca of flawless soul food, one’s high expectations might fall short on certain Praline Connection dishes. But luckily, we found the fried alligator sausage. 

THE DISH: FRIED ALLIGATOR SAUSAGE IN BBQ SAUCE

Spicy, smoky, and slightly sweet, the alligator sausage is a true Praline Connection winner. The texture and consistency of the alligator sausage is great: the outside skin is a bit crisp from the fry but the pithy meat is plenty juicy and flavorful within.  But swirling alligator sausage in barbecue sauce pushes the little appetizer to snapping heights. Praline Connection’s BBQ sauce is a little moat of beauty, well suited for fried ancient reptiles. 

THE DAMAGE: $6.95

THE GRADE: Awesome (5 out of 5)

THE SKINNY: THE PRALINE CONNECTION

542 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA, 70116

Phone: 504/943-3934

Web: http://www.pralineconnection.com/