Fulton Street. It�s more a concept than a traffic corridor. Over thelast year, a handful of restaurants have opened there: 7 on Fulton,Wolfe�s in the Warehouse and, most recently, La Boca. Everyone isclamoring for a spot on the half dozen blocks that hardly anyonenoticed before and plenty of people still can�t find.

Harrah�sCasino has plans for the street. The casino lured celebrity FOODchef ToddEnglish to the new Harrah�s hotel on Fulton, where the Boston chef justopened his 18th restaurant, Riche. The street�s name may lack poetry,but those blocks promise big money.

Seven on Fulton trumpets thelocation in its very name. On paper, 7 on Fulton sounded like acombination that would put this street on the map. Restaurateur VickyBayley had run Mike�s on the Avenue and Artesia. She hired chef DavidEnglish, the rising star who headed the kitchen at Cobalt before thestorm, and he was named Best New Chef of 2005 by New Orleans Magazine.

By the end of the summer, however, chef English had given notice. At press time, a new executive chef had not been named.

WhenI say that I�ve been sampling the restaurants on Fulton Street, many ofmy friends give me puzzled looks. Tell them it�s the address of Rock�n� Sake, and they instantly know the location.

Even when thesushi joint is half empty, the energy level is high. How many othersushi restaurants are dripping in neon and blasting 50 Cent? Therestaurant has a rock star�s appetite for excess.

Sushi rollsseem to be expanding as quickly as the average American�s waistline.Along with the traditional fish and rice, cream cheese, avocado andmore can be ordered wrapped in seaweed.

Their Warehouse Roll,for example, is filled with tuna, salmon, smelt roe, yellowtail andavocado, and is too big for a single bite.

Rock �n� Sake mayfavor the large and loud, but sometimes simplicity is best. The fishwas fresh. The nigiri sushi, the single slice of fish atop rice, wasthe best thing I tried.

The month before Katrina hit, chef TomWolfe opened Wolfe�s in the Warehouse as an extension of his lakefrontrestaurant. Now, it�s his flagship.

Located in a Marriott Hotel,Wolfe�s in the Warehouse is part of the corporate reconstruction ofFulton Street. In the case of Wolfe�s, the money serves a good purpose.The staff is crisp and well trained. The décor is luxurious withtouches of New Orleans flair. The floors are a pattern of octagonaltiles; fans spin slowly above � the decorator probably spent a few longlunches at Galatoire�s.

In a city full of talented chefs, Wolfehas a style that I could recognize blindfolded. He serves his wonderfulcrab cakes, small disks of pan-fried lump crabmeat, over a Caribbeanmix of black beans and mango salsa. Another appetizer, the braised beefshort ribs in a mushroom sauce over white cheddar grits, verges onoverwhelming. Shards of flash fried celery, looking like onion strawson top of short ribs, add a sharp taste to balance the richness.

ChefWolfe has an all-American cooking style. He sears freshwater ruby redtrout and serves it with the rainbow hued skin facing up andaccompanied by asparagus, artichoke hearts, fingerling potatoes and asweet vermouth butter sauce. His signature Duck, Duck, Goose � roastedduck breast, duck confit tortelloni and savory bread pudding with duckcrackling and foie gras � is a one-course tasting menu. In thetortelloni, the combination of meat and dried cherries reminded me ofclassic Christmas dinners.

Step into La Boca, chef AdolfoGarcía�s new Argentine steakhouse, and maitre d� Orestes Rodriguezgrabs your hand and offers a generous greeting. The low-ceilingedwarehouse space, decorated with a few brightly colored walls and framedArgentine soccer jerseys, doesn�t look so different from chef García�sother restaurant, Rio Mar. In fact, La Boca is the red meat version ofthat great seafood restaurant. It�s unpretentious, Latin influencedand, like Rio Mar, one of the best meals in New Orleans.

InArgentina you have to search for a bad meal � the country produces someof the greatest beef in the world. Judging by the way they eat, theArgentinians might be required by law to finish at least one steak aday. The large Italian population means that pastas, particularlygnocchi, can also be found at many meals.

At La Boca, dinnercould begin with empanadas � savory, baked turnovers stuffed withground beef, raisins, olives and boiled eggs. The morcilla, a bloodsausage, is dark inside and grilled until the casing flakes open inpapery shreds. Perhaps the most exciting appetizer is the simplest: theprovoleta. It�s an inch-thick round of provolone seasoned with oreganoand grilled. A standard item at any Argentine steakhouse, it�ssurprising that provoleta hasn�t already become all the rage in thenorthern hemisphere.

La Boca doesn�t tout the pedigree of itssteak. This is beef for folks without an expense account. La Bocaseasons their steaks with nothing more than salt and pepper and thengrills them with an expert hand. The restaurant has the skill to makeless luscious cuts of meat, such as flank steak or short ribs, into atreat. The most expensive steak, a massive 20 oz. bone in rib-eye,costs $36, while more modest cuts can be had for $21 or less.

Emerilhelped launch the Warehouse District. It only seems appropriate thatanother celebrity chef from New England, Todd English of Boston, shouldlead the second wave of development. If everything follows the businessplan, Fulton Street will soon be a destination for tourists andconventioneers � a miniature Las Vegas; Bourbon Street with less sleaze.

It�s nice to imagine Fulton Street as a strip of restaurants like La Boca:serving unpretentious food and taking care of their local customers. Itwould be the culinary equivalent of Frenchmen Street. It seems morelikely that the restaurants could be brash, heavily bankrolled andangling for the outsider�s pocketbook. Let�s hope that as Fulton Streetgrows, it will still be a place where a restaurant like La Boca canprosper.

Let Your Taste Buds Do the Walking
Rock �n� Sake
823 Fulton St.

Wolfe�s in the Warehouse
800 block of Fulton Street at St. Joseph 613-2882

La Boca
857 Fulton St.

Truckin� Hit the taco trucks stationed around town (Claiborne at Melpomene, Mid-City and Metairie) for simple, yet delicious tacos, burritos and more. The price tag is usually under $5. If you feel like sitting down, truck on down to the French Quarter for a meal at our very first Honduran restaurant, Jazz Tacos. Ignore the touristy name and head in for unbelievably good pupusas, gooey with cheese and wrapped in handmade tortillas bursting with fresh corn flavor. The yuca con chicharron (boiled yucca, chopped into cubes and covered in shredded cabbage, pickled carrots and tomato sauce, then topped with crunchy crackling bites) is heaven on a plate. �Natural Drinks,� like the passion fruit, are a perfectly sweet and refreshing accompaniment to the food.

Cubanismo Azul Restaurant, Fredo Diaz�s latest venture, which graces the ground floor of the Ambassador Hotel on Tchoupitoulas, is cooking up a fusion of Asian and Cuban cuisines. Top on the lunch menu are Tamal Cubano � stone ground corn tamale with roasted pork and a drizzle of Asian sweet chile sauce � and the Frita Cubana � the Cuban Hamburger is a blend of ground sirloin and pulled pork, griddled and topped with a tomato-like sauce, shredded lettuce, onions and a huge pile of shoestring fries.

FOODGimme Buffet Two local spots are offering killer lunch buffets: Mat & Naddie�s $10 buffet is rocking the Riverbend from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Mon.-Fri., while newcomer, the Elms Mansion on St. Charles Avenue offers a buffet lunch for $15, Tues.-Fri. from 11:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m.

If You �New� Sushi Chef Hidei (aka Elvis), above, of Kanno California Sushi (18th Street, between Arnoult & Edenborn) is always setting trends with fun and funky ingredients for sushi rolls. Right now he�s adding �green crunchy� to his sushi. Don�t ask how he makes it, he won�t tell you, but he will say it�s made from spinach.

FOODNoteworthy News Paula Deen, below, the gorgeous, hilarious, and talented cook/author and Food Network star, will be in town promoting her new book, Paula Deen Celebrates! She starts at the Monteleone�s Literary Luncheon on Oct. 30, and later that same day (from 5-7 p.m.) she�ll be signing and speaking at Garden District Books in the Rink on Prytania.


Adventures With Pumpkins

FOODNowhere are fall�s colors prettier, than in this season�s food. We may not have the leaves to enjoy at home, but we are rich in pumpkin, colorful squashes and the deep shades of wintergreens that are proliferating now. Pretty enough for table settings and decorations, gourds, pumpkins and squash embellish our homes throughout October, spiking at Halloween and carrying on into Thanksgiving.

When the French and Spanish inhabited Louisiana, they likely got their pumpkins from the local Indians. Pumpkins are easy to grow and their large size provides lots of nutritious food. Actually, pumpkins are a squash and not a fruit; they taste great and they can be prepared in many ways. However, pumpkin was not new to our settlers. The big orange globe grows equally well in the soils of France, Spain and many other countries around the world. In early New Orleans, cooks baked them in pies called tarte de citrouille, laced with brandy. They also served pumpkin as a vegetable side dish at dinner � a little cinnamon here, a pinch of nutmeg there, and pumpkin morphs into the perfect accompaniment to lamb, pork, fowl or beef.

In recent years, American cooks have focused on the pumpkin pie � and not for any small reason. The pie is delicious and is a natural for Thanksgiving. However, despite the wealth of pumpkin available, we may be losing out on the full range of uses that pumpkin could play in healthful diets. Pumpkins are rich in vitamin A and potassium, and are high in fiber. Better yet, they are low in calories and devoid of fat.

Creative New Orleans chefs have discovered pumpkin soup. Combined with chicken stock, cream and seasonings of choice, it makes a hearty first course that can be glorified with crabmeat or shrimp. Some versions are a ringer for butternut squash soup, because of similar textures and tastes; it also tastes similar to some carrot soups I�ve had. All three are a beautiful color, especially in a china soup bowl or large tureen. In the case of pumpkin, some cooks like to serve the soup right out of the hollowed-out pumpkin itself.

One of my fondest mother-daughter memories was cutting up the Halloween jack-o-lanterns, boiling the meat and mixing up a vat of ingredients for multiple pies. After all had been put through a blender, we�d pour the correct amount for single pies into freezer containers and stack them in our freezers. Whenever the occasion called for a quick dessert, it was just a matter of thawing a pie or two, pouring them into store-bought shells and baking them for an hour. A can of real whipped cream decorated individual pieces deliciously when ready to serve.

Another handy use for pumpkin is baking it into small loaves of nutty pumpkin bread, just right for take-a-longs to holiday parties or little gifts to friends. Make multiple batches and stack them in the freezer, too.
You�ll find pumpkins piled high on the floor at grocery stores, but don�t pass up the roadside trucks and stands, many of them south of New Orleans. They�re a regular crop for Louisiana farmers, some bright orange and others a lighter color. I�ve cooked both, and find they all work well in recipes. Also, despite warnings by some nutritionists, I always light the pumpkin on Halloween night and clean it up good for cooking the next day. No one has complained yet.

4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 pound andouille sausage,
3 14-ounce cans chicken stock
or equivalent homemade
5 cups pureed pumpkin, cooked
fresh or canned
1 large potato, peeled and
cubed in half-inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 cup heavy cream

Heat butter in large, heavy pot and sauté onion and celery until soft. Add garlic and sausage and sauté a few minutes more. Add chicken stock, pumpkin, potato, salt, pepper, nutmeg, allspice and thyme; simmer until potatoes are done. Puree the soup � about one cup at the time � in a blender. Adjust seasonings to your taste. When ready to serve, add heavy cream and heat. Do not boil. If you like the soup thinner, add a little more cream or milk to your liking. Serve in bowls with a dash of freshly grated nutmeg. Serves 8.

4 strips bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
4 cups pureed pumpkin, cooked
fresh or canned
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup half and half
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1/4 cup seasoned
2 tablespoons butter, cut into bits

In a large, heavy skillet, fry bacon until crisp. Remove, drain and reserve bacon. Leave 2 tablespoons bacon grease in skillet and sauté the onions. Add pumpkin, honey and seasonings and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix eggs with half and half and stir into the pumpkin mixture. Top with Swiss cheese, then with breadcrumbs and dot with butter. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. When almost done, crumple bacon and sprinkle on top. Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.

3 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups pureed pumpkin
3 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup water
1 cup chopped pecans

Mix sugar and eggs in electric mixer. Blend in pumpkin. In a separate bowl, sift together all dry ingredients and add gradually to the pumpkin mixture. Add water and blend until mixture is smooth. Stir in pecans.
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven in two slightly greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pans for about one hour, or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. Cool briefly in pans, then transfer to wire racks to cook completely. Makes two loaves or a half dozen mini-loaves.

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