Lighten Up

For several months now, to step outside has meant enduring the feeling that a big dog is breathing on me and I’ve devolved into my annual summer Smoke & Mirrors Act. Dressing for a business meeting means tossing a flowing tunic or a feather-weight wrap over my yoga pants and sports bra, slipping into ballet flats and accessorizing with jewelry and a handbag designed to distract, while hoping no one notices what a hot, sweaty mess I really am. Mine is hardly an original method of dealing with the persistent heat: Every woman fortunate enough to work in a creative profession seems to be sporting some variation of my summer uniform as we look upon our proper, office-bound sisters who must suit up to the nines each day. With my hair pulled back in a ponytail or worse, clamped atop my head in a configuration resembling a whale spout, I gaze upon those polished women with a mixture of both pity and awe.

I could no more pull off coiffed hair, full makeup, a proper blouse, suit and heels in the swelter of August than I could scarf down a bowl of thick, dark Cajun gumbo, meaty cassoulet or braised short ribs. I relish those foods on the coldest days of winter but right now? No way.

When the heat is on I crave fresh, often chilled offerings like the Hawaiian raw fish salads at Poke Loa. Here, diners build their own one-bowl meals starting with a base of white or brown rice or mixed greens; protein options that include fresh, butchered-in-house yellowtail, tuna, octopus, salmon, spicy tuna or tofu; and either baby cucumbers, sweet onions or fresh cilantro. Diners then further customize their meals with an array of sauces and toppings, including seaweed salad, mango, three kinds of tobiko, citrusy Ponzu, sesame oil, lemon-miso aioli, chili paste, macadamia nuts, sesame seeds, edamame or pickled ginger.

If you’re lazy, like me, a selection of signature bowls are also available. The $15 King Loa Bowl is fresh, flavorful, visually stunning and abundant enough for two to share. It includes a base of white rice and spring mix; two scoops of each salmon and tuna; cilantro sprigs, cucumbers, tamari, sesame oil and seeds; chili paste, crab salad, edamame, seaweed salad and red, orange and wasabi tobiko; lemon miso; and avocado.

If raw fish is simply not your jam, Pizza Domenica’s fire-roasted Cauliflower Steak with toasted pine nuts, Parmigiano Reggiano and whipped goat feta is perfect for a shared appetizer and the light tastes – both warm and cool at once – make it just right for summer. Follow it up with a Roasted Carrot Pizza with goat cheese, red onion, Brussels sprouts, beets and hazelnuts from the wood-burning oven and you have the perfect, satisfying summer date night meal that feels virtuous, too.

One the other side of town Namese offers a selection of Vietnamese entrée salads. The Asian Slaw combines fresh herbs with grilled pork belly, grilled shrimp and the bracing house dressing. The classic Papaya Salad substitutes the fresh herbs for a base of sturdy ribbons of julienned green papaya; and the Vietnamese Steak Salad features mixed greens and pickled vegetables 

Try This:

Creole Cuisine Concepts has a new hots pot in the Warehouse District. New Orleans Social House (NOSH) features a relaxed atmosphere, an international wine list, craft cocktails from Bar Manager Jay Teichmann and live music every night. An inventive, progressive small plates menu from kitchen king chef Michael Farrell, who recently returned from a years-long stint at a posh resort in the Bahamas, encourages sharing with plenty of snacks, flatbreads, tartines and a fresh seafood bar. Look for house-made fingerling potato chips with shallot cream dip, charcuterie, a Brussels sprout salad, Gulf shrimp spring rolls, bison sliders, lobster tacos and beef carpaccio. The seafood bar shimmers with Gulf oysters, salmon carpaccio, Hamachi tiradito, Peruvian ceviche and grilled octopus carpaccio.

New Orleans Social House
746 Tchoupitoulas St.

4077 Tulane Ave.

Pizza Domenica
4933 Magazine St.

Poke Loa
3341 Magazine St.

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