Friday, October 21, 2011

Carmo addict

FINALLY -- I made it over to Carmo for the first time a few weeks ago! I'd had it on my to-do list for months, ever since receiving a comment on my blog from Dana Honn, who owns the restaurant along with his wife, Christina. I met them briefly when I dropped by their booth at Veggie Fest; they were advertising a dish involving rice, beans, and vegan sausage. I admit I almost didn't order it because I make a lot of rice/bean/vegan sausage dishes myself, and I thought, how different can it be? Thank goodness I ordered it anyway -- HELLO TASTINESS! I'd give you the details, but I don't remember them now. All I remember was that the underestimated rice and beans cradled a sprinkle here and a drizzle there of varied, unexpected punches of flavor.

So my trip to Carmo felt long overdue by the time I finally set foot in the door.

I am not optimistic in all areas of life, but when it comes to eating out, I tend to automatically expect things to be awesome. I'm not sure why this is...especially since my hopes have been dashed more often than not. It's silly that I continue to set myself up for disappointment (I know it's a steak restaurant, but they said they could do something "special" IT'S GONNA ROCK!).

So anyway, it's nice that every now and then, a restaurant experience is just as amazing as my imagination-run-wild has predicted. That is what happened that day at Carmo.

First of all, there's the friendly vibe and artful, inviting space:

I love the colorful decor and produce on the counter.
L-R: Pamela Stedham, Dana Honn, Matthew McNamara
This wall takes me back to my trip to Lascaux II, the replica of Lascaux.

That first visit, I ordered the special -- Potatoes Timbale -- how great is it that they make vegan versions of their specials?! It was delicious. The rest of my family all ordered the famous Rico. The Rico is a breadless sandwich -- I know, what? But don't question it; just GET IT. Don't judge it by its breadlessness. If you must, tell yourself that it's not a sandwich at all, that it was accidentally placed in the sandwich section of the menu...because if you're like me, you're usually all about the bread. Let me tell you, though, you won't be missing it here. The delightful vegan version of the dish comprises a plantain patty, Daiya,  vegan "smoked pork," salsa fresca, and, as they put it, a "tangy-sweet-spicy 'Rico' sauce" ...You know, there are some dishes that shouldn't be described in terms of their ingredients. Sometimes words limit imagination. Like the words "rice and beans." So just try it!

Anyway, dedicated eater that I am, I had finished most of the meal before I remembered I was supposed to take pictures. (I promise I will get better at this!) I did get a couple of shots of our desserts:

Caribbean banana cake -- moist and sweet.
Pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread, made with Daiya) -- Crisp, warm, fresh!

Johnny and I have been back a few times already, and everything has been delicious. This past week we ordered a grilled vegan ham and cheese sandwich, as well as the special du jour, the Caruru (imagine a Brazilian twist on gumbo):

Yes, we'd already taken bites out of the sandwich before I remembered to take a picture...

In addition to making room for vegan food on the menu, Carmo's owners source as many local and organic ingredients as possible, and they plan to grow much of their own produce in the near future. Upstairs from the restaurant, they are working on building a solarium and a second kitchen (which may be used for cooking classes, among other things).
A final thing we love about this place is the owners' dedication to the arts. It's no coincidence that Dana and Christina bought this building (called "L'Entrepot") on Julia Street to start their dream cafe; they're using other parts of it to support the arts community. When you go by, be sure to check out their multi-purpose studio space next door to the cafe:

Hope you go to Carmo for lunch soon if you haven't made it yet -- I give this place a BIG two-thumbs-up for vegan foodies!

Carmo ~ 527 Julia St. ~ New Orleans 70130 ~ 504.875.4132