Tag Archives: southern

The Redhead

If you’ve read my post on Tipsy Parson below, you’ll already know how I discovered The Redhead and what made me want to try their food.  But, just to recap: The Redhead was mentioned in an article titled “The South Invades NYC” in the fabulous and bizarrely named magazine Garden & Gun, which described it as one of the best restaurants in the city representing the southern inspired cuisine that is currently so trendy.  Its chef is a former resident of New Orleans, my hometown, which only further piqued my interest in the restaurant.  After looking at its menu online, I knew I had to try it out.  Items such as bacon peanut brittles, house made soft pretzels with Kentucky beer cheese, crawfish mac & cheese, and buttermilk fried chicken sounded amazing.  I dreamt about those pretzels with beer cheese for weeks before I finally went for dinner…

My friend and I decided to hit up The Redhead on a Friday night.  We went around 8 and crossed our fingers that we’d be able to get a table, since they only accept reservations for parties of 5 or more.  When we arrived, I was a little bit turned off by the decor.  The restaurant was very small, dimly lit, and outfitted in dark brown and deep red shades (including a lot of horrendous crushed velvet).  Now, dim lighting and deep jewel tones may sound like the makings of a romantic, intimate restaurant, but here, it came across more like a stereotypical British pub.  There were red velvet floor-to-ceiling drapes on the large front windows, but they had been left open, allowing light from outside to disturb the otherwise shadowy interior.

We were seated near the front door at a high top cocktail table – not ideal, but the hostess flat-out told us that she had “no idea” when another table would become available.  Now, this place wasn’t packed or lively – there just aren’t that many tables.  I didn’t appreciate her flippant attitude, but I brushed it off.

The waiter brought by a cocktail menu and, though many sounded interesting (like the Revival and the Redhead Fizz), we went with wine and beer.  After our drinks arrived, we placed our order.  I selected the pretzels with beer cheese (of course), the Cuban style grilled corn, and the crawfish mac & cheese.  My friend ordered a salad that was heavy on broccoli and the Redhead BLT.  The waiter was immediately confused as to how to bring out our food, as all of mine were technically starters or sides, but he rushed off without resolving his confusion.  I hoped, however, that it would become clear to him after he mulled it over – bring my pretzels and my friend’s salad together, and then bring my corn and mac & cheese along with my friend’s BLT.  Instead, this waiter delivered everything all at once – really un-ideal.

We surveyed the massive amount of food on our small table and then began furiously eating, since we feared letting our food go cold.  I immediately dug into my pretzels – and I was incredibly let down.  The pretzels themselves are miniature versions of what you’d find at Auntie Anne’s in the mall, except with far less flavor.  They were also hard (i.e. stale) and room temperature – clearly not freshly baked.  The amazing sounding beer cheese was the biggest disappointment of all though.  It was pasty, cold, and had only a slightly cheesy flavor, as the beer taste completely overwhelmed it.  If Ke$ha had sung about brushing her teeth with a beer instead of a bottle of jack, this “dip” could have been what she was using.  It was so thick that my pretzel kept breaking apart into little pieces as I attempted to swipe it through the cheese.  I was expected a hot cheese dip – sort of akin to a fondue – which would have been lovely.  In the end, I only ate one of the two pretzels and very little of the dip.

Next, I started working on the corn.  This was good, but not great.  I love Mexican and Cuban inspired corn, especially the “street corn” served at Dos Caminos, and though I enjoyed this, it didn’t have enough salt, spice, or cheese.  Nonetheless, it was good enough to finish.

Finally, I ate my crawfish mac & cheese.  This dish was the highlight of my meal.  The crawfish was perfectly cooked – not chewy but also not mealy.  The cheese sauce was well seasoned and cheesy without tasting like Easy Mac.  However, it would have been better if the sauce was thicker.  The way it’s prepared now, it’s very thin and slides right off the noodles, only to pool at the bottom of the bowl.  I ended up dipping my pretzels in the remaining sauce and partially salvaging that otherwise terrible appetizer.

Though I didn’t taste my friend’s meal (which ended up being a blessing in disguise, as you will read below), she didn’t have anything especially bad or especially great to say about it.

At the end of the meal, we considered ordering dessert – but since they give each diner a free, full-sized chocolate chip oatmeal cookie with their check, we decided to pass.  When we informed the waiter of this decision, he was noticeably displeased, and when he brought the check, he literally threw the cookies down on the table.  The cookie was pretty good though…

Overall, my experience at The Redhead was decent.  I probably won’t go back though – nor will I recommend it, as A) I don’t want to give southern cooking a bad name and B) my dining companion became violently ill about an hour after the meal, and her food poisoning continued well into the next day.

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Filed under Dinner, Late-Night, Snack

Tipsy Parson

A month or so ago, while browsing through an airport news shop, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a magazine called Garden & Gun.  I stopped in my tracks and squinted to see if that was, in fact, the name of a magazine.  And it was.  So, naturally, I had to investigate.  I was fully expecting this to be a joke – some MAD Magazine spin on Southern Living.  But no, this magazine is for real, and it takes itself very seriously.  An online description states that it is “A Southern lifestyle magazine that’s all about the magic of the new South – sporting culture, food, music, art, literature, people, and ideas” – which sounds pretty interesting to me, being from the south and all.

I thumbed through the magazine and discovered that it contains interesting lifestyle pieces and beautiful photography.  However, what grabbed my attention most in this particular issue was the supersized mint julep cup on the front and the cover story, “The South Invades NYC.” In the story, the author discusses the many southern-inspired restaurants popping up around Manhattan and Brooklyn.  Since I’m a New York transplant from the Deep South, the southern food trend that seems to be overtaking the city both excites and scares me – I’m excited to be able to get some of the flavors from home that I love, but I’m scared that I’ll be sorely disappointed by the way they are interpreted.  Nonetheless, I decided to try two of the restaurants mentioned in the article – The Redhead and Tipsy Parson.  Though I will also post a review on The Redhead, this post will focus exclusively on Tipsy Parson.

I made reservations for a Saturday night at 7:15, and when I arrived, the restaurant and bar were pretty empty.  This immediately worried me.  But, since my friend was late, I decided to sit and have a drink at the bar.  Tipsy Parson is known for its frozen peach julep – the image from the cover of Garden & Gun – but it is nothing like a traditional mint julep.  However, it’s very good – shockingly good for a frozen cocktail, which always conjure up in my mind images of tropical beaches or Bourbon Street.  It was well blended and fully frozen – it didn’t have pools of liquid rising to the top like you sometimes get when frozen cocktails haven’t been in the machine long enough.  The peach flavor tasted pretty authentic – I don’t think they use a peach syrup – and it wasn’t saccharine, just pleasantly sweet.  It’s really a perfect summertime drink  and would be a great at a BBQ.

We ended up waiting until around 8 to go to our table, and at that point, the restaurant started getting busy (phew…).  The decor and ambiance is terrific and very fitting with the southern inspired theme.  The front room with the bar is outfitted in dark wood, wainscoting, miniature tiles on the floors, and bookshelf-printed wallpaper – it also has little pieces of vintage bric-a-brac displayed on the large shelves behind the bar.

In the dining room, interesting decorative plates adorn the walls, and all of the tables are practically bistro sized – very cute.  To me, it felt like the inside of your sweet grandmother’s stately plantation-like home.  Only adding to the charm was the placement of our table next to a set of French doors that opened out to a teeny little garden.

Our waiter was very johnny-on-the-spot and immediately came to take our drink orders.  I selected a glass of lambrusco, which I was thrilled to see on their menu by the glass. It’s uncommon to find lambrusco period, and this lambrusco happened to be very good.  In the U.S., when you find it, it tends to be disgustingly sweet, but this glass was fairly dry – I’d probably say off dry.

We also ordered some of the snacks – specifically, the deviled eggs and the fried oysters.  Both were simply scrumptious.  The deviled eggs were a delight.  While many deviled eggs are on the sweet side and incorporate ingredients such as sweet pickle relish and paprika – which I find off-putting – these were very savory.  In fact, they had a good deal of mustard in them, lending to their vinegary flavor.  The oysters were also fantastic.  The breading was crispy  – not too greasy – and it was well seasoned.  The oysters themselves were medium-sized and very juicy.  They were served with a bold dipping sauce, something akin to an aioli seasoned with Old Bay.  Along with our snacks, the waiter delivered some rolls to the table – one per person.  They were very unusual.  At first glance, they looked like your average dinner rolls topped with gravy and green onions.  However, it ended up that their tops had just been glazed before baking to encourage browning.  I thought the crust was too hard – it didn’t flake, it cracked – and it had an off flavor.  The crumb was flavorless and it somehow managed to be light but dense at the same time – a bit like cotton candy.  Furthermore, they were served without butter.

Next, our main courses were delivered.  I thoroughly enjoyed mine and ate every last bite.  I ordered the catfish, which is dusted with seasoning, broiled, and served alongside crispy potatoes and a cucumber salad.  The fish was very light and flavorful, which surprised me, as I’m accustomed to catfish being very heavy and fried.  The potatoes were perfectly crispy and well salted, and the cucumber salad was amazing.  Granted, the salad didn’t exactly “fit” with the rest of the food on the plate, but the flavors were so robust that I finished this before anything else on the plate.

My dining companion ordered the cod, and all I can really say about it is that it was very fishy.  The sheer fishiness of the cod blocked out a lot of the other flavors.

We rounded out the meal with the Lemon Cooler Pie.  It was very traditional, and I would have liked for the lemon-thyme sauce to be more pronounced in order to give the pie more of a twist – but it was still very good.  It managed to maintain its lemon flavor instead of taking on an artificial, overly sweet taste.  It was served with an olive oil gelato that, though creamy and lightly sweetened, tasted more like vanilla than anything else.

The meal ended up being a bit pricey (the frozen julep alone was $12, and the pie was $8), but everything was delicious and the ambiance was charming – so I’d say it was worth it.  I would definitely go back, especially with someone visiting from the south.

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Filed under Brunch, Dinner, Lunch