Sunday, May 27, 2007

return of the prodigal foufou

The last time I ate at Bennachin was when it was still on Carrolton, and I and had read Things Fall Apart a few years earlier and, sadly, retained from it only a vague understanding of foufou (or fufu or foofoo). There may have been references to colonialism and massacre and anguish and the death of culture and stuff, but really, at fourteen, somehow, foufou is the only part of that novel that fell within my scope of comprehension.

So imagine my excitement when I recognized it on the menu at Bennachin. And then imagine my disappointment when it tasted like nothing very exciting at all. And then imagine my excitement when seven years later I realized that you have to eat it with something else. Like fish stew. (bangs the figurative no-duh gong).

Better yet, the stew part is exactly like gumbo. (double gong) Except orange and with tilapia.

The foufou is lovely, especially if you’re all about starchy textures. It’s like a gnocchi, but bigger and better. Or, perhaps more accurately, gnocchi is like fufu, but smaller and multitudinous and pretty okay. Depends on the sauce.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Did I bring my passport?

Whoops, forgot I was still in the French Quarter. Bennachin, the west African restaurant on Royal St. , was a trip abroad without leaving home. We had bootleg music videos on tv (very big industry there--a pirate's dream), screaming babies (bravo to the parents for venturing out with tots), and more cayenne pepper dusted on my dinner than I knew what to do with. I loved the sensation of being somewhere where my usual expectations don't work. A lovely and safe way towards a reality check. And oh yeah, the food was good, too! Our appetizer of 'akara'--a samosa-like pocket filled with seasoned mashed black-eyed peas dipped in a tomato onion sauce was high on my list of faves. I particularly wanted to try it as it had migrated to Brazil with the importation of slaves from West Africa, and is a popular snack in Bahia, a place and culture I very much want to see. Dinner itself, was roast chicken, spinach, and fried plantains. In general, it was a starch heavy cuisine on display. Of particular fascination was the side of 'fufu' Anthony ordered. Billed as boiled mashed yams, I thought I knew what to expect. Wrong again. It was a perfectly smooth oval of...starch. Pearly white, nearly tasteless, and slightly more solid than mashed potatoes, it took me a minute to figure why anyone would want this dish....It begs to be the base for a highly flavored stew or a soup. Ok, mystery solved. Overall, I enjoyed the Bennachin experience and would recommend it to fans of ethnic food and other adventurous eaters.

Friday, May 18, 2007

My two centimes

Clementine's was a delight, no other way to put it. Sure, the food was as it should be: sophisticated, but simple. Subtle, but not intellectual. Clementine's also fed my hunger for connecting with people. The European habit of dining, as opposed to just having something to eat, fosters the kind of conversation that feeds us as social beings. The married couple who served us that evening fussed over us as if we were guests chez eux. The waitress, in particular, enjoyed the prospect of feeding a slender young man like our Anthony. Our servers freely shared their appreciation for the pleasures of the table and passed on a little of that attitude to us, for which I am grateful.
PS--If your schedule and dining companions agree, be sure to have dessert FIRST. :)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

honest to goodness meal

Sometimes it looks like a joke to me, but actually it was my dinner.

The mashed potatoes are stoemp, the sausages are bratwurst. And I wouldn’t be fooled by their simple appearance, or by the mustard signature. Both (the stoemp and the bratwurst. Not the mustard) were more complex than they look. And when I say complex, I don’t mean that in some messed-up trendy fusion sort of way. I mean that this was very purposeful humble food. Not your average plate of fat and salty/hot and plentiful; there were a lot of flavors to contemplate the whole way through. The herb-and-spice job made sense, delicious sense, wasn’t plain, and best of all, wasn’t fussy. And isn’t that the point of the bistro? Unpretentious and perfect. I loved this dinner. I mean that. Earnestly. Like the food.

New Orleanians, this is a great place to take your meat-eating friends. Especially if they mainly stick to the east bank. The outside looks distinctly oompah/hofbrau, the inside looks like Thailand/Portland. They don’t use the $ sign next to the prices, but just give you the price as a round number (23, 7, 12 … like that).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Eating at Clementine's was not only the first event for the Gastonauts, it was my first trip to Gretna. The inside of the restaurant was nothing like the area that surrounded the building. The decor was modern - with very cool furniture for sale, artwork on the brightly colored walls, and cool lamps. I could spend some time in that place, drinking Belgian beer, hanging out.

The food was yummy, although there wasn't much to offer the vegetarians. I had a crepe with spinach and feta. Oh, and I had a side of perfectly prepared asparagus. For dessert, I chose ice cream with a fabulous chocolate sauce. Mmmmm. It was less fancy than the other desserts on the menu. But it was delicious.

The service was friendly and I'd definitely go back again. If the Gastronauts had a rating scale, I'd put my rating here.... but we don't have one yet.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Clementine's Belgian Bistro

2505 Whitney Avenue (Home Depot at Stumpf)

(504) 366-3995

Wednesday May 9, 2007