Category Archives: Food

Bill Gates’s Cousin At The Spanish Harlem Popeyes

Inside this box is 1440 calories of everything great about America.

Inside this box is 1440 calories of everything great about America.

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Today’s post No. 40 focuses on a case of mistaken identity at Popeyes in Spanish Harlem.

A pregnant, prolonged craving for biscuits – buttery, artery-clogging biscuits – motivated me to ride the subway two stops north earlier this week into the heart of Harlem to find Louisiana’s Kitchen. In the process of satisfying my Nickelback palate I became known as Bill Gates’s cousin at the Spanish Harlem Popeyes.

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Prompts: Searching For New York City’s Best Pizza Slice

Koronet, one of the biggest, if not best, slices in NYC.

Koronet, one of the biggest, if not best, slices in NYC.

Prompts is a joint creative exercise between my friend Matt W. and I. We will choose a different subject at the beginning of each week and post no more than 500 words on said topic on Fridays (whoops, today is not Friday). Today I am writing about a project I will embark on for the next three months.

A few weeks ago I re-watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II for the first time in at least 15 years. Doing so reminded me how fortunate I am that the rats congregating in my building’s garbage cans cannot talk or perform karate moves, reintroduced me to Vanilla Ice’s high water mark, and made me ask the question, Why no Rocksteady and Bebop. The movie also proved an outstanding vehicle for the wonders of New York City pizza, as consistently excellent and cost-effective a food item as one could hope to find in this overpriced metropolis.

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A Checkpoint For The Fringe NOLA Crowd

Laura McKnight's stomping grounds

NOTE: I incorrectly labeled Laura McKnight’s post on the Hubig’s Pies fire as her Cajun Tomato writing debut. It was not. I glanced through my archives and neglected this post that originally ran March 20, 2011. When I switched host servers earlier this year the link to this Checkpoint Charlie’s ode was broken, and the post disappeared from the site. Here it is again in all its glory.

By Laura McKnight
Cajun Tomato Correspondent

NEW ORLEANS – As I scribble the notes for this, my heart is working overtime trying to pump greasy beef through my veins. The Cajun Burger from my Laundromat is delicious, but loaded with grease. It’s the kind of grease that trickles out of the meat patty with each bite and dribbles onto jean shorts, staining them.

At this Laundromat, which also happens to be a bar, I could probably just take my shorts off, throw them in the nearest washing machine and chill in my panties with few stares, much less objections. One of my college professors told me he spent part of a rainy Mardi Gras here, buck naked, waiting for clothes to dry.

Stains aside, that burger did nothing good for my physical constitution. Likewise, spending regular laundry sessions at this place, known as Checkpoint Charlie’s, is likely not advisable for healthy living. But it’s fun and my clothes need washing, so I come here anyway. That’s how we roll here in South Louisiana.

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Grieving Pies I Never Ate: Reflections On The Fiery Loss Of Hubig’s Pies

Smoke yo sorrows away!

NOTE: It’s an exciting day on this site. The Olympics have started … I mean, my friend Laura McKnight penned her first piece for this site, and it’s a good one. Laura wrote about New Orleans institution Hubig’s Pies burning down in the early morning hours on Friday near her house. She also provided photos. Talented lady, that Laura McKnight.

I’m a pretty big fan of most South Louisiana specialties – crawfish, Abita beer, Zapp’s potato chips, king cake, Bourgeois beef jerky, etc., etc. – but there are a few things that make me feel like a traitor to my roots: I rather my coffee without chicory, I’m ambivalent about oysters, and I’m pretty sure I have never in my life eaten a sugar-glazed Hubig’s Pie.

That’s right. I have never eaten a Hubig’s Pie, not even with the factory sitting on the next block from my house. I walk past that factory almost every day, often multiple times a day, sometimes catching a whiff of fried sweetness in the air, and I have not tasted one. They just never tempted me, not even with the happy little baker man smiling at me from the front of the bags.

So I don’t even know if I like Hubig’s Pies. But I like the idea of Hubig’s Pies. I dig the happy retro logo, I dig the fried-ness, and I really like living on a block nestled between a cheerful pie factory and the Lost Love Lounge. There’s a metaphor for my life somewhere in that.

A little background for the unfamiliar, and some would say unfortunate: Hubig’s is one of those uniquely New Orleans/South Louisiana icons like K&B, Mr. Bingle, the Special Man on the Frankie and Johnny’s commercials. Hubig’s history in New Orleans goes back to 1921, the factory on Dauphine Street to 1924. Flappers were eating these pies while doing the Charleston.

And like anything uniquely New Orleans, especially anything retro that can be screen-printed onto a T-shirt or made into a group Mardi Gras costume, Hubig’s has a fiercely loyal following. I mean diehard fierce, as in this fire at the pie factory is nothing short of a catastrophe.

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Can Muscle Milk Help Me Get Country Strong Again?

Country strength personified!

In my 27-year-old grown-ass man universe, grocery shopping generally consists of me buying materials to make sandwiches and/or fruit smoothies, plus a few random items I decide at the last minute I need that I really don’t (i.e., pistachios or buffalo chicken pizzas). This one time I bought salmon from the neighborhood grocery store the woman behind the counter labeled me a “bachelor” based on my cart’s contents. The fish lady had me, a Ginger stranger, pegged.

On my most recent grocery shopping misadventure, I explored the aisle with protein supplements and decided purchasing Muscle Milk was the motivation I needed to regain my country strength (i.e., return to the gym). In this recession, I convinced myself that $7 was a worthwhile investment for a four-pack of protein shakes. Country strength – the kind you would ordinarily find in farmhands accustomed to hurling bales of hay around all day – is recession proof, I’ve decided.

Tonight I drank No. 3 of the four vanilla creme-flavored Muscle Milks I purchased a week ago. I am pleased to report, though I did not work out before drinking it, I am feeling country strong.

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You’re Outta Here: On Getting Ejected From My Yankees Stadium Debut

The crime scene

And now for a story about throwing popcorn at strangers, verbal altercations with off-duty NYPD cops, and getting kicked out of baseball’s most tradition-rich stadium, all of which would make my mama shake her head …

I did not throw the popcorn first. I imagine I would start there if I were in a court of law retelling this story. I am civilized. I don’t waste popcorn. Hell, I don’t buy popcorn at ballgames.

I arrived at my first game at Yankee Stadium three innings late. The women I attended the game with pre-gamed and then during-gamed off-site. I did not consume alcohol before or during the game.

By the time we arrived in the Bronx, the game had no chance of being anything but a buzzkill for them. Blurry eyes, full hearts, can’t get drunker at Yankees Stadium – not unless you wanna throw your wallet in the Hudson at the end of the night.

So, I’ll skip ahead a few innings – past the part where my ladyfriend Kerry and I wandered around like exiles looking for a program, watched Alex Rodriguez strike out with the bases loaded (score!), and then found said program in the bowels of the stadium. We returned to our right field seats around the seventh inning, and even though the Yankees were losing to the Tampa Bay Rays everyone seemed in good spirits.

The chain of events that occurred next surprised me, excited me, confused me, and, above all, amused me. Who gets kicked out of Yankee Stadium on their first visit? This guy, apparently.

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Thomas Jefferson: “A Grown-Ass Man Should Have A Grown-Ass Web Site”

A Grown-Ass Man


A grown-ass man should have a grown-ass web site.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

Our third president had a way with words, eh? I’d say so.

The reason I bring up this rarely quoted Jefferson quip is because today I decided to update my web site. It’s been 3 years since I started this blog and roughly 18 months since I started writing semi-regularly.

You know, a grown-ass man needs a grown-ass web site and all that jazz.

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Thoughts: “A Whole Lot of What Ifs”

The term “what if” was a negative force in my life the past two months, as I wrestled with illness and the anxiety associated with it. Questioning yourself and the path you are on does not need to be negative thing though. It can be a freeing experience.

I jotted this down a few minutes ago. The genesis was “what if I reached my potential?” I told my dad the other day I felt afraid to reach my potential. My logic, if there was any: “What if I reach my potential and it is not all that great?” You see? A perfect example of the term being negative. The flip side: What if I reach my potential and it IS great?

Anyway here’s my stream of consciousness piece, “A Whole Lot Of What Ifs.” Dig it!

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My New Year’s Food Binge And Other Thoughts

Bailey the Scaredy Cat

It’s a few minutes after 1 p.m. on New Year’s Day. Here’s what I have devoured in 2012:

— Four carne asada tacos at 4 a.m.

— Two double cheeseburgers and waffle fries at noon.

I interviewed a wellness coach last week who told me people who are trying to lose weight should keep a food/drink journal. I am not aspiring to lose weight. I am below my fighting weight of 205 pounds. I need to add weight — hopefully muscle.

Consider this my first food journal post. Don’t fret. The Cajun Tomato is not turning into a chronicle of my poor eating habits. And this fatty food binge will stop, eventually.

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Crawfish in Portland: Yum, But Where's The Dip?

Crawfish boil at Portland's EAT!

It’s been more than six months since I last set foot in God’s Swamp aka south Louisiana. I must admit I took a few things for granted while there. Things like motorists’ disdain for bicyclists, mosquitoes’ unending fly-by assaults on muggy summer nights and thick, juicy Cajun accents — you know, the kind that require subtitles on Fox reality shows.

Oh, and lest I forget, one other thing: The seemingly endless bounties of crawfish just waiting to be scooped up and boiled. I’m told crawfish exist in Oregon, but this remains something of a rumor, since I have not yet devoured them.

On Saturday, for the first time since leaving the bayou, I feasted upon crawfish — Louisiana crawfish — at the oyster bar Eat! in northeast Portland. It was damn near perfect except for one thing — they did not supply dipping sauce.

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