February food and drink is so obvious – King Cake, chocolate, snacks from the Carnival carts along the Avenue and of course, delectable dishes from the restaurants …

Everyone has their favorite and I’m personally missing the serious, every-topping-in-the-joint rendition from Antoine’s on Freret Street, but meanwhile there are plenty of great King Cakes, such as La Spiga’s buttery brioche-style with Creole Cream Cheese or the sugary, doughnut-style rings from Paul’s Pastry Shop in Picayune. Paul’s flavor list is enormous and includes the sane, Blueberry Over Cream Cheese, and the zany – Pizza: Italian Sauce with Sliced Pepperoni & Cheddar Cheese. My favorite? Rum and Cream Cheese.

RESTAURANT INSIDERPHO GET IT Monday mornings mean Pho Dac Biet – beef noodle soup with strips of medium-rare beef, pepper-corn studded brisket, flank, tripe, tendon, and more – and Lemon Soda, slurped lustily with Chef Kristen Essig (of NOLAbean.com) at Pho Danh 4, followed by grocery shopping at the Hong Kong Market. Nine Roses’ Tomato Tofu Soup is a newfound favorite, originally discovered by ersatz gourmand and Oriental Carpet shop owner, Bob Rue.

RESTAURANT INSIDERSUCH A CREPE-Y JOB Lately, lunch has been really crepe-y. Perched alongside The Boot by Tulane, Crepes à la Cart griddles some of the best savory and sweet crepes in town – breakfast crepes with eggs, ham and Hollandaise, vegetarian crepes, seafood, meat or chicken crepes laced with cheese and house-made sauces or an array of Specialty Sweet Crepes with fruits, chocolates, nuts, cake, whipped cream … Hidden in the Bywater is the café gem, Coffea Coffeehouse Gallery with their Breton batter – sweet or savory buckwheat crepes loaded with fillings. Topping the “most popular” list is the Florentine with spinach, tomato, egg, Swiss and fresh Parmesan crowned by a dollop of sour cream or the Huevos Crepe with egg, Cuban black beans, queso fresco, salsa fresca and sour cream. 

LATIN LOVE Pupuseria & Restaurante La Macarena has relocated from Williams Boulevard to West Metairie. The building’s exterior is nondescript, but inside the dining room is bright and colorful, accented by slick, contemporary Latin music playing just loud enough. Start the eating adventure with Yuca Frita topped by crunchy pork cracklings or a drape of gooey melted cheese. The soft, corn-scented pupusas – stuffed tortillas – can be filled with pork, beans, cheese or any combination thereof. Served with tart Salvadoran slaw, this is an experience with textural crunch and chew, balanced with tangy, sweet and savory flavors. Tomatillo’s opened mid-December in the space previously occupied by Marisol [Frenchman Street at Esplanade Avenue.] The menu is straight-up Tex-Mex with Rellenos – including the avocado stuffed with cheese and deep fried – Enchiladas, Tacos and a Louisiana nod, “Mexican Oysters.”

RESTAURANT INSIDERCHOCO-MANIA Obsessed with chocolate? Blue Frog Chocolates is great for variety, including sugar free chocolates and single bean chocolates. Did you know that chocolate is the new health-food darling? Don’t believe it? Check this out: Special K Chocolatey Delight Cereal – crunchy flakes tossed with little bricks of chocolate; or Life Chocolate Oat Crunch Cereal. Both have hit our groceries and are pretty darned delicious.