Category Archives: Culture

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Booty’s Street Food now accepts Bitcoin!

1:55 PM  December 3, 2013

We’re always excited about trying the world’s newest creations – and Bitcoin is one of such fresh creations.

 

Started only 2 years ago, Bitcoin is a person-to-person digital payment system that basically replaces banks and government-supported fiat currencies. It also offers a more streamlined way to pay for goods and services without having to pay bank or credit card fees. And if you’re traveling around the world, paying with Bitcoin is the same wherever you are. As long as the merchant acccepts that form of payment, you can pay without foreign transaction fees or currency exchange fees.

 

Governments are just now starting to take note of this enormously buzzy digital currency, as it threatens the mechanisms of financial control that they’ve been fine tuning for centuries. Fiat currencies – or currencies backed by governments – have changed over the years, and this is one of the latest developments. A development that actually proposes an alternative to a regulated financial system in favor of a peer-verified and direct-to-person network.

 

The way it works is this: each Wallet has a unique, anonymous code associated with it. In order to pay someone, you simply open your app, choose how much, scan a QR code of that person’s account, and then it will send that amount of Bitcoin to that specific address.

 

There’s no set account number, there’s no bank forms to fill out – it’s simply like setting up a Paypal account that happens to have it’s own currency. Of course, this currency is still pegged to whatever denomination you are cashing out to – so you’re still going to be looking at the dollar price and converting to Bitcoin, at least until merchants begin posting prices in Bitcoin.

 

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Bitcoin at Bootys Street Food

 

However, since Bitcoin has been incredibly volatile (speculators and buzz are driving it wild), it makes printing prices on menus quite difficult as the price changes too regularly to be accurate.

 

We’re enthusiastically allowing guests to pay with Bitcoin for three reasons: 1) Credit card processing fees eat up a significant amount of our revenue each month and offering a lower-fee way to pay means that we can pass on our higher profitability to customers; 2) Alternatives to our current financial system are intriguing to explore, especially as we see ourselves as a community business serving our neighbors; and 3) We’re nerds and we’re proud of it.

 

We’re not sure how this will pan out, and given that not many folks actually have Bitcoin wallets, we imagine this won’t be a popular way to pay for awhile. Nonetheless, we’ve decided to participate in this new alternative economy to see what real-world implications there are.

 

As a business focused on serving the community, we want to be able to accept whatever form of payment the community uses. That’s why we accept credit cards, and that’s why we accept Bitcoin.

 

Bitcoin is still highly speculative and, as we can’t predict the future, recommend extensive research to anyone considering using Bitcoin as a form of payment.

 

More about Bitcoin can be found here,
here, and here. To sign up for a Bitcoin wallet, we recommend CoinBase or BitPay. To see other merchants worldwide that accept Bitcoin, visit http://bitcoin.travel.

POSTED BY bootysnola ON December 3, 2013 IN Culture

Way, Way Down South in Bolivia

3:13 PM  November 25, 2013

Bolivia. Where to begin?

 

I had been in contact with Michelangelo Cestari, who is one of the chefs at Gustu (yes, there are two). For those of you who are not familiar with Gustu, it is a cooking school, forerunner of the movement to introduce the world to the amazing wealth of raw ingredients in Bolivia, as well as an insanely good restaurant in La Paz. Claus Meyer of NOMA fame is duplicating his new Nordic movement, only this time on the other side of the world and with a completely different set of ingredients.

 

I was slated to stay with the aforementioned Michelangelo, and his housemates, Kamilla Seidler (also the chef), and Jonas Andersen (front of the house manager as well as wine and cocktail guru) near the restaurant in the neighborhood of Zona Sur. Michelangelo had also arranged for a taxi to pick me up from the airport upon my arrival.

 

Not a bad view of town. Not bad at all.

Not a bad view of town. Not bad at all.

 

After a few plane rides, I arrived at the airport in La Paz. To be exact, above La Paz in the Altiplano where airplanes actually have to climb to land, which is a strange way to enter a country and will play a role later in my tale. While taking a bit longer than I would have liked going through customs, owing to my wrinkled US dollars being used as an entry fee to the country, my taxi was loaded with my luggage in the early hours before dawn.

 

I hate to admit it, but my Spanish is lacking. Put me in a kitchen, and I’m fine. In everyday life, not so much. That being said, my driver and I actually managed to have a sort of conversation. I could just be imagining this as it was dawn and I hadn’t slept on the plane.

 

The drive down into La Paz was beautiful as the sun climbed over the mountains. It was a Saturday, so there weren’t many people out as we drove down the Prado. After about thirty minutes, we arrived at a large metal door in a wall a block long. There were other doors, and other houses, but again, I was exhausted. As I was extricating myself from the tiny taxi, the driver had rung the bell and awoken Michelangelo, who ushered me in and up four flights of stairs to my room where I thankfully passed out.

 

When I awoke, there was an Andean woman who was cleaning the house who spoke no English but had a note from Michelangelo for me with the number for a taxi and directions to the restaurant. After a few tries, I finally procured a taxi and was off to the restaurant to learn about Bolivian cuisine.

 

Upon my arrival, I was greeted warmly by every single employee I encountered. After finding my host, I was introduced to Kamilla and Jonas. They set me up at one of the tables upstairs and brought me a dish of lamb, yuca, and artichoke. It was my first meal in Bolivia and it was sublime.

 

My first meal at Gustu

My first meal at Gustu

 

I was eager to see all of the restaurant, and was paired with Renata Zalles, a CIA graduate with roots in Bolivia who worka at the restaurant. She ushered me around the prep area which is larger than my whole restaurant and serves as the heart of the school while introducing me to the many students and stagiaires who were on hand that day. I was taught to make saltenas, which is somewhat of a cross between an empanada and a soup dumpling. I worked with Steve, who was from Canada and on his way to Chile for a year of work/study. We prepped for the dish of palm marrow with charque (llama jerky) and poached egg yolk, which while a delightful contrast in textures, was very labor intensive.

 

Many of you have had hearts of palm. This was not what you are used to in the slightest. First, the palm is in its raw and unprocessed form. It must be peeled of its outer husk, which is full of thorns. Next, it must be split and each individual layer is peeled apart to make fine strips which are assembled into a nest of sorts for the finished dish. It took me, Steve, and a few other of the students who intermittently came and went on different tasks, about an hour to get enough for that night’s service. About twenty to twenty five portions. I’m no slouch when it comes to prep. This was serious work.

 

When we had finished with the palm marrow, I ascended into the service kitchen to observe service and generally try to stay out of their way. Mostly, I took a lot of pictures. It was the most pristine kitchen I have ever seen. Later, I was informed that all of the equipment was imported from Denmark as it was cheaper than buying it in Bolivia. I really cannot stress enough how beautiful this kitchen was. The walls were slate with convection ovens built in. The floors were polished slate and looked brand new even though the restaurant had been open for almost eight months. Sorry, I’m a chef, I have a thing for kitchens.

 

Service went off without a hitch. The students run the stations and either Michelangelo or Kamilla expedites and plates every dish. A year ago, these kids hadn’t cooked before and now they’re running a stellar world-class kitchen. It is really amazing what is going on there.

 

On Saturday nights, after service, the whole crew gets together at the bar for drinks and to talk about the previous week. I had a snack with Kamilla while we waited for everyone to finish up. 100 day aged beef with fermented carrots and salt. That’s it. Three things. Perfection on a plate. The thing is, most Bolivians don’t get it. They don’t age their beef in Bolivia. Kamilla does, and it’s delightful.

After everyone joined us and I had a few drinks, I caught a cab back to the house with Kamilla. Remember that little snippet about the altitude? It threw me for a loop. At the house, I slept like a baby. I needed it. Sunday was going to be a big day. 

The Inexorable Draw of New Orleans

10:41 AM  August 19, 2013

Years ago, a few friends and I decided to move to Colorado to go snowboarding. Most of them lined up jobs, but I was a bit full of myself, and didn’t.

 

"I'm a New Orleanian, get me out of here!"

“I’m a New Orleanian, get me out of here!”

 

I had been working as a back waiter at Antoine’s as well as working in the wine cellar during the summer. Consequently, I knew a good bit about wine and was a pretty damn good waiter. Being young and naive, I figured that restaurants would be falling over each other to offer me gainful employment. After all, I was coming from New Orleans where I worked in the oldest family run restaurant in the country, in a fine dining, Creole mecca. This was Durango, Colorado, a small tourist town in the mountains in the middle of nowhere.

 

Upon my arrival, I went to the swankiest restaurant in town, which happened to be the only one that wasn’t a bar or a diner, to apply for a job. That being said, it was much nicer than I expected.

 

Unfortunately, the busy season there for the town itself had just ended. The summer season is a boom for the town proper, but winter is for the resort on the mountain. Needless to say, I did not get a job.

 

My friends who had actually done some preparation and lined up jobs for their arrival, assured me that they could get me something at the resort. I, however, needed money sooner, rather than later.

 

After looking for a job, any kind of job, I finally found work at a pewter figurine factory by convincing the poor woman that hired me that since I had done graffiti in my checkered past that airbrushing pewter fairies and dragons was the next logical step in my career as an artist. It was the most boring job I had ever had. It didn’t help that I had to walk to the factory from my apartment at some ungodly hour before the sun was even up through giant snow drifts (any snow drift would be giant, I was from New Orleans) and take my lunch breaks across the highway in the Little Caesar’s which was located in a K-Mart. To this day, I can’t stand the smell of that particular brand of “pizza” and cringe whenever I see a pewter figurine mounted on a geode invariably holding a crystal ball.

 

Durango: Place of dreams

Durango: Place of dreams

 

Weeks passed and finally my friends came through. I had a job! Dishwashing. At least it was a foot in the door and I had a free pass to snowboard. After a few days I was promoted to prep cook, and a week or two later, line cook. I had never cooked professionally before, but it came naturally. By the end of the season, I was tasked with overseeing the closing down procedures of the restaurants on the mountain, which consisted of me riding my snowboard all day and checking in with the people doing the actual closing of the restaurants and making sure they were working.

 

The season over, I decided to move to Atlanta to continue cooking. I had family there and a few friends, so it seemed like a good idea. I cooked at a few restaurants and learned a lot more about the back of the house.   

 

I was staying with a good friend at his brother’s condo in the city, couchsurfing. I was making decent money, but nothing like I had made as a waiter. I was in the process of looking for a place of my own and with the money I was making, pickings were slim. Since I was staying for free at my friend’s place, I would cook dinner as they wouldn’t accept money for my intruding presence.

 

I would try out new things that I had learned or researched on my unsuspecting hosts. More often than not, my offerings were a rousing success.

 

#memorylane

#memorylane

 

One day, on a tight budget (payday had come and gone, and a few too many nights out as well), I decided to cook red beans and rice. I figured it would be an easy, cheap, crowd pleaser. My hosts were from New Orleans, as well as most of our friends, so how could it go wrong?

 

I soaked the beans, cut the trinity, cooked rice, and started on the beans. I started to brown the sausage and the smell was intoxicating. Adding the trinity and garlic, the smell amplified along with the memories that accompanied it. All of a sudden, I was homesick. There was a hold on me that my hometown was asserting with a vengeance. I knew right then and there that I had to leave.

 

We sat down to eat and I broke the news to my friends. I was going home. The next morning I got a plane ticket, went to work and put in my notice. My boss was disappointed. I had been steadily moving up and he thought it was a bad decision. He wasn’t from New Orleans. He didn’t, couldn’t understand. Three weeks later I was home.

 

Damn, those were some good red beans.

 

POSTED BY Greg Fonseca ON August 19, 2013 IN Culture

Sunday Dinners with My Dad

12:33 PM  July 29, 2013

Sunday dinner was always the one time during the week that I could count on seeing my dad. He was the beverage manager at Antoine’s and was at work when I wasn’t in school. Obviously, I didn’t get to see him that often. When I did, it was all about the food.

 

Chef Don Fonseca, in the 1989 Antoine's Restaurant cookbook

Chef Don Fonseca, in the 1978 Antoine’s Restaurant cookbook

So a typical Sunday started with church (sometimes), then going to the old A&P to get fresh baked french bread for breakfast. Before everyone gets outraged about the fact that we went to the A&P instead of some of the more famous bakeries in town, two points, one, it was all we had back in the late 70’s – early 80’s that was close to our house, and two, it was good. Not like the crusty baguettes that are seemingly available at every supermarket these days. Just good old New Orleans hot, soft, fresh bread. Which, when slathered with butter (NOT margarine!) is an almost religious experience. But I digress.

 

While at the store to get our french bread, my dad would do the shopping for whatever he felt like cooking that day. It varied depending on the time of year, the weather, and his whims as far as I could tell. The ubiquitous Sunday roast, stuffed peppers, shrimp and mirliton casserole, and oddly enough, pork fried rice, to name a few. The last was my favorite, which explains a lot about the food that I tend to gravitate towards cooking.

 

Having taken care of the shopping, we would make our way home with him chiding me for surreptitiously eating the hot bread in the car. “You’re going to be mad when you eat yours now without butter.” he would warn. That was my dad, no sympathy whatsoever. When we would arrive at home, he would take his half of the loaf and give me my “half” that looked as if a small flock of birds had attacked it sometime between the register and the dining table. It’s not that he was malicious, he was trying to teach me restraint and how to enjoy good food. A lesson I’m still trying to learn.

 

Beach bum, Don Fonseca

Beach bum, Don Fonseca

 

I, like my father before me, work in an industry where we all tend to eat when we can. Mostly standing up, with lightning speed, and not nearly enough regard for the simple enjoyment of what we’re hastily shoving in our mouths so we can get back to work.

 

French bread eaten, it was time to cook. Being too short to reach anything, he would pull a chair up to the counter for me to clamber up. As he worked, he would explain what he was doing and why. He would, without fail, assign me a task. This was undoubtedly the highpoint of my week. Everything from stabbing the roast and shoving in the garlic cloves (let’s be honest, when you’re 5 it is stabbing and shoving as opposed to the more urbane terminology that we employ for these acts), peeling shrimp, cleaning out peppers, basically anything and everything that he could give me to do without my mother going into hysterics upon coming into the kitchen and seeing her youngest child wielding a high carbon chef’s knife that he was two sizes too small to have any business around.

 

It was in these moments that I found my love of cooking and food. Aside from the obvious attraction to the danger that my mother’s overreaction implied, just the act of creating something greater than the sum of its parts was exhilarating.

 

Don't let the smile fool you. Chef Greg Fonseca is about to give photobomber JR the boot.

Don’t let the smile fool you. Chef Greg Fonseca is about to give photobomber JR the boot.

I would like to think that he would be proud of me and my chosen path in life. I just wish he was here and I could cook for him now.

POSTED BY Greg Fonseca ON July 29, 2013 IN Culture

Bywater Boasts Biggest Bike-to-Work Population in New Orleans

2:15 PM  July 17, 2013

We’re passionate about bikes here at Booty’s. After Katrina ate my brand new Ford Escape (along with the rest of my earthly possessions) a thousand years ago, I relocated to Seattle. Thanks to the wonder of purchasing my car in Pennsylvania, but living in New Orleans, I ended up owing thousands of dollars on car that was towed off to a scrapyard after having been submerged 100% below water. Memories…

 

Bootys Street Food bike racks

The super fly bike racks at Booty’s

 

I never did end up purchasing another car, as Seattle is an incredibly walkable city. I moved back to New Orleans two years ago with my partner Nick to begin work on Booty’s, and we remain without a car to this very day. 

 

If we can’t get there on our bikes, we’re probably not going. I do the entirety of my grocery shopping at the New Orleans Food Cooperative in the Marigny, carrying as much as I can on my bicycle, and dinners with friends are usually hosted at Bywater restaurants like Mariza or Pizza Delicious. Booty’s gets our morning pastries from Shake Sugary a few blocks down the street, and many a sunny afternoon is spent poolside at The Country Club (Think less of an actual country club and more of a boozy, half-naked pool party, for those of you who have never been). 

 

And you know what? It’s not just me living this way in this fantastic, incredibly bikeable and walkable neighborhood. A new study from a BikeEasy graduate student confirms what everyone living here in Bywater sees every day; Bywater loves bikes. 

 

“Bywater, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, boasts one of the highest bike mode shares in the city per the ACS, with an estimated 7 to 11 percent of residents commuting to work by bike, depending on how the district’s boundaries are defined. In Navarre, a section of more suburban Lakeview that took off after the rise of the personal automobile, an estimated 2.5 percent of residents get to work by bike.”

 

“Bicycling tends to be most alluring in places with ample and well-connected bikeways, where the bike offers a convenient way to avoid traffic congestion and parking hassles, and where there are plenty of places to bicycle to – stores, jobs, and other destinations – within close range.”

 

“Bywater is such a neighborhood. It is characterized by a mix of commercial and residential uses. By virtue of its early origins, it has narrow, well-connected, low-speed streets and limited off-street parking. Bywater also benefits from some dedicated bicycling infrastructure.”

 

It’s true! Bikers be biking on their bikes everywhere in this neighborhood! With the help of the Young Leadership Council’s Where Ya Rack, we’ve installed five bike racks outside of Booty’s, and on any given night, they are all completely full. We once had a brunch service with nineteen bikes locked on our racks and street signs outside of the restaurant. Heck yeah! 

 

One of the concerns raised by our immediate neighbors when be began building Booty’s was that there would be a sort of parking apocalypse brought about by the proximity of Booty’s to Maurepas Foods and Satsuma Cafe, three popular destinations all within one block of each other. Except, that’s exactly how cities are meant to work. Close proximity, shared infrastructure, denser living, commercial and residential buildings existing in harmony. The parking apocalypse never did end up happening, though all three of our business regularly sport lines out the front door. 

 

We regularly count the number of empty parking spots outside of Booty’s on busy nights. Even with a completely full house, 50 people eating and drinking inside, we consistently count between ten and as high as twenty spots open on the four blocks that Booty’s sits on the corner of. It turns out that the majority of our customers are coming to Booty’s on their feet, on their bikes, and by taxi (Especially astonishing to us, as taxis literally and uniformly refused to drive to Bywater for the year we spent building Booty’s.). Pedicabs and limousines (!!!) have even become frequent fixtures here, dropping off guests, but gridlocked traffic and a dearth of parking spots? Not so much. 

 

The bike racks at Booty’s are full every night. And only four of our 26 employees drive cars to work. The rest bike (and lock their bikes up in our private employee area off the street) or walk, with the exception of one committed employee who takes two buses from Uptown before and after each shift. 

 

All of this is essentially just to say, Heck yeah, bikes! And heck yeah, Bywater! 

POSTED BY Kevin Farrell ON July 17, 2013 IN Culture

Happy Birthday, 800 Louisa! The Booty’s Building Turns 128

12:27 PM  July 15, 2013

Bywater Flash Fact: 800 Louisa St., the building that Booty’s Street Food calls home was erected on this day 128 years ago. 

800 Louisa St, post-Booty's renovation. Upgrade!

800 Louisa St, post-Booty’s renovation. Upgrade!

800 Louisa was first host to Driscoll’s Pharmacy for several decades, while multiple Driscoll generations grew up in the flat above the pharmacy. The Driscoll children – now grown adults with babies of their own! – told the Booty’s team all about growing up in Bywater, and how they were best friends with the children living across the street above the grocery store that would eventually be transformed into the former Bywater Bar-B-Q courtyard.

800 Louisa St., taken shortly before construction began on Booty's Street Food.

800 Louisa St., taken shortly before construction began on Booty’s Street Food.

800 Louisa also housed a video rental store named Channel Zero for a time, but then lay empty for several years while it underwent some pretty heavy renovations.

 

And here’s a little Bywater super secret What If-ery for you: 800 Louisa was thiiiiis close to becoming the permanent home to Pizza Delicious when our pizza pals were looking to make the transition from pop-up to permanent pizzeria. 

 

The last notable tenant of 800 Louisa before Booty’s Street Food opened for business late in November of 2012 was…Lake Booty’s! The 3100 and 3200 blocks of Dauphine St., and the 800 block of Louisa St. flooded multiple times during the summer of 2012 while the Sewerage and Water Board took their sweet-ass time upgrading the Bywater’s plumbing infrastructure. 

Lake Booty's, the frequent visitor that reappeared throughout the summer of 2012.

Lake Booty’s, the frequent visitor that reappeared throughout the summer of 2012.

I remember standing inside of Satsuma with my face pressed to the glass the day that I took this photo, watching the water rise higher and higher, until it was eventually licking at the lip of their front door. Nick and I trudged through water up past our knees and stood in the doorway of Booty’s, watching geysers of water literally shooting up 8 feet high from Dauphine St. every 20 feet or so. Just when the water was about to crest over our front step and into our live construction site, the geysers deflated and Lake Booty’s began to recede. What a close call! I still have nightmares about that day. 

 

We’re celebrating 800 Louisa’s 128th birthday today with a $1.28 cocktail called The Old Wench. So come on by and clink your glasses with us in a toast to this old beauty that we now call Booty’s. Cheers! 

 

POSTED BY Kevin Farrell ON July 15, 2013 IN Culture

Businessweek Names Nola America’s 13th Best City

7:00 AM  September 27, 2012

Using criteria like the number of bars, restaurants and libraries in town along with data like crime rates and air quality, Bloomberg Businessweek has published its list of America’s 50 Best Cities.

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[box]New Orleans is legendary for its good times and is now also known for its resilient response to the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. Less obvious strengths, however, abound in the quality of its air and its universities, anchored by Tulane University. Low median household incomes and a high rate of crime keep the Big Easy out of the top 10, but they can’t take away the French Quarter’s iconic charms—from its genteel beignets to the sloppy, bead-induced revels of Bourbon Street.[/box]

Low income and high crime, got it. Can somebody downtown get on that?

San Francisco took home the top honor this year, followed by Seattle (Holler!) and Washington D.C.

We’ll get ‘em next year!

 

POSTED BY bootysnola ON September 27, 2012 IN Culture

Next Big Thing: The Bywater Non-Musician Start-Up Musical Group

8:01 PM  August 22, 2012

Bywater, I love you.

Bywater Non-Musician Start-Up Musical Group, Bywater Non-Musician Start-Up Musical Group craigslist, bywater non-musician musical group wanted ad

For those of you who didn’t major in squinting at Tulane:

[box]Two highly talented non-musicians looking to assemble symphonic freak orchestra ensemble with 3 to 5 musically-inclined non-musicians to practice 2-3 times weekly in preparation for occasional local gigs as soon as September.

To prepare for the audition, candidate should find an instrument and figure out how it works. An instrument could be provided, but extra consideration will be given to candidates who bring their own self-fashioned gear. [/box]

Ace.

(via Craigslist)

POSTED BY bootysnola ON August 22, 2012 IN Culture