Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Coquette New Orleans

Coquette is my corner bistro, a friendly neighborhood place where everybody knows your name.
Owners, Chef Michael Stolzfus and Lillian Hubbard make it that way. They are a couple, and Coquette is their baby.

Coquette is located in a great corner building in The Irish Channel, on Magazine Street at the corner of Washington Ave.

The renovation is so spectacular, with exposed brick, crystal chandeliers, a fabulous wood bar, gas lights outside, just every detail perfect.

It was once a rundown car parts store, and has been several restaurants since its renovation in 2004.

First it was a Surf and Turf place that was over priced and under whelming and it closed within months. Then it was a place called Table One that was an oasis after Katrina, one of the first places that opened. I celebrated my birthday there. Table One closed too, the food never being able to live up to the fabulous space.

There was one more restaurant in the space before Coquette, an Asian place that added zebra carpeting and fake orchids everywhere. It was awful!!!

Finally, the handiwork of chef Mike Stoltzfus and Lillian Hubbard broke the spell of the address known for housing short-lived restaurants despite the fact that the property is totally gorgeous.

Chef Mike moved to New Orleans from the eastern shore of Maryland a little over two years ago. He was a sous chef at Restaurant August (John Besh's posh place) when he decided to open Coquette down the street from Commander's Palace. Lily runs Coquette's front of the house.

They are part of a crop of young talent settling in post Katrina New Orleans, eager to be a part of the fabulous rebirth that is happening, part of the "new nola STYLE".

It is not difficult to explain what keeps drawing diners back to their restaurant. Coquette is a neighborhood place with intelligent, creative food, an inviting bar and frequent drink specials that draw on both an eclectic cocktail repertoire (ask for the "Bailout" with bacon-infused bourbon) and a concise but captivating wine list. It sounds simple enough, yet it's difficult to think of a local restaurant to compare it to.

Coquette makes good on the casual demeanor suggested by the terms Bistro and Wine Bar. Denim isn't likely to raise anyone's eyebrows, and the cool and friendly and knowledgeable waitstaff can read tables well enough to know when it's safe to break into informal conversation.

The restaurant is undeniably elegant. Housed in a 19th century building restored to its original brick and wood splendor, the restaurant's main dining room fits a single row of tables next to a long bar inside a narrow footprint. The close quarters fosters intimacy, but there's also grandeur in the setting, much of it overhead: soaring ceilings, custom chandeliers and rich dark woodwork. There is an attractive second-story dining room as well (we'd love to have a tango party there!).

Personally I dine there as often as I can. We take out-of-town guests too. Recently Marcy Blum, super eventista with a celeb ladden client roster, was our guest.

She thought the bartenders were the most skilled and clever mixologists she has seen anywhere. And Marcy could not stop raving about the food and the service, no faint praise since she dines regularly at the top restaurants in New York. She also offered to do Mike and Lily's wedding when the times comes, which made Mike blush and Lily smile.

I am starting an irregular regular bloggers luncheon to be held at Coquette. I got the idea from the Houston bloggers!

The first one is going to be on Thursday May 6 in honor of Laura Casey being in town and hoping Laura Ingalls Gunn and Fifi Flowers will be here too.

New Orleans bloggers Jessie from The Gimlet Eye, Mitchell from Optimism and White Paint, Caroline from perch., Julie from The Bayou Contessa, Nathan from Laurel Street, Amanda Talley from The Big Easy Life, Jessica from Black.White.Yellow, Beki from Artsy Crafty Babe, and Bryan and Tom from Hazelnut have all been invited.

If you want to come just let me know, and we'll add a place for you.

Alberto often comes to pick me up from work with Cholo. We usually stop at Coquette and sit outside for a cocktail before walking home. Wednesday is when Coquette runs a wine s special, and Thursday is the night for any specialty cocktail made for you at a bargain price.

2800 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70115-2229
(504) 265-0421

Monday, April 26, 2010

Visual Vamp Report

I imagine by now most of you who are still reading magazines, have seen the latest issues from the big three that are still left standing: House Beautiful, Elle Decor, and Veranda. Architectural Digest is still here too, but it is not really as relevant most of the time due to its stagnant, but well financed editorial view.

Of the big three, House Beautiful is by far the best of them this month. Elle Decor fell flat again, and seems to really be struggling with content. Veranda fell ever flatter.

Maybe the big shake-up of moving Stephen Drucker to Town and Country, and replacing him with Newell Tucker will be good for T & C, because this the last Drucker issue is another great one in a series of them that he has been producing lately.

Veranda is getting ex Domino star Dara Caponigro at the helm of the luxury brand Veranda, though I have no issues with the stellar Leslie Newsom's excellent stewardship . I hope she is going to bigger and better projects. You just can't have a knock-out issue every month can you, and maybe this being Newsom's last issue gave it that "I'm over it" vibe.

The cover story from House Beuatiful is girly gorgeous. You can see all the photos and read a terrific back story about at The Style Saloiniste HERE

I was especially delighted because I have the same mid century chest that wunderkind Mellisa Warner has in her posh and pretty apartment!

I snapped a quick photo of mine for you this morning and styled it in the same vein.

I grabbed some flowering branches outside my door. They are so cool. I don't know waht they are. They look like mini passion flowers, but they are growing on a huge tree like bush instead of a vine.

For a moment I wanted to repaint my chest! The white and blue looks so fresh.

My piece is actually three of these chests hooked together, with a long pecan wood top. I have often thought about separting them, and making three new tops so I could use each of them in a different way.

The piece is vintage Baker, and when I bought it in a thrift store years ago, no one was attributing these Baker pieces to the pedigree they are now enjoying on sites like 1stdibs.

I repainted mine, but it is still close to the original color. I aged it a bit which fits with the faded decadence that is New Orleans. I think if I painted it a slick white (with possibly lime green insets) it would not work for my room. The beautiful hardware on my piece is also not modern like Melissa's, but more baroque.

Other news is that Amanda Talley just sent off the painting to the winner of the first The Visual Vamp Giveaway.

I think it is going to look wonderful in Kristen's space, don't you?! Amanda actually did TWO paintings for her! I thank Amanda again for her generosity!!!!

Via the giveaway, Amanda was commissioned by The Zhush to do a painting!
Contact Amanda if you would like her do one for you HERE

I hope they both post soon and show us where they are hanging their fabulous ATs!

Lastly, we are dog sitting our next door neighbors' dog Coconut. She is adorable and Cholo is smitten.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Behind Closed Doors 1

New Orleans has beautiful old homes on beautiful old streets. Walls and fences and windows and doors beckon you to peak in.

I have many designer friends working on projects, and sometimes they invite me to see what they are up to. They know I write a blog, and they know I love to look at everything.

Sometimes I can take photos to show you. Sometimes I can say who lives behind these closed doors. In this case I have taken photos of a work in progress, but at this time I will withhold the identity of the owners of this beautiful home.

The home is a three story townhouse on Camp Street across the street from a a beautiful fountain. It's at least 150 years old. A young couple, she a local girl, and he from London, live here with their two children. They are traveling now, and the desinger Bruce McNally is working on the house while they are away.

He invited us to dinner with the blessings of the couple who know us from the shop I work in called perch. Bruce shops at perch. and has gotten some fabric and furniture from the shop for the house.

It is a side entry house that opens onto two huge parlors. The first thing you notice are these incredible chandeliers. Jack, my co worker and a fellow designer from perch. and I gasped when we saw them, and whispered "Mooi".

Mooi is a design company we revere, and we have yet to see anything Mooi used in a home...

Sean Cummings' Mooi chair

...except for once in pictures of Sean Cummings' home in New Orleans when it was featured in Louisiana Homes and Gardens.

Bruce told us that Marcel Wanders the founder of Mooi did indeed design the chandeliers in both parlors.

But they are not sold at Mooi, but rather at Design Within Reach. They are called "Zeppelin".

They are so lyrical, and an amazing engineering feat too. The bulbs touch the membrane, and yet it doesn't burn.

Using these modern pieces in this old house just seems so right. In fact most of the house is furnished with very modern pieces that somehow honor the old architecture.

The first living room/parlor also has handsome bookshelves built in.

The second parlor has another Zeppelin chandelier.

You can see the dark stained hard wood floors that run throughout the entire house, and the floor to ceiling windows.

Comfy leather furniture is kid and pet friendly. The silver mock croc cube is from perch.

This is a sofa detail in the front parlor. It's upholstered and Bruce has sheets tucked in on it to keep it clean while work is being done on the house.

The house has several marble mantles. This one is in the front parlor.

The grand piano hasn't been delivered yet, and this paper doll space saver cracked me up. I danced on the keys like Tom Hanks in "Big".

I think the young couple should consider this modern piano table from lovegrove and repucci that is actually a docking station for an iPod.

Down the hall is the dining room. It has an antique Swedish table surrounded by Philippe Starck Victoria Ghost chairs, and French Louis chairs from perch.

Bruce has covered each Louis chair in different black and white print fabrics (from perch.)

The chairs look incredible, and there are six that are still being worked on.

Here's another marble mantle in the Dining Room, and Bruce stacked three mirrors up above it.

The walls are covered with wallpaper by the genius New Orleans company, Flavor Paper.

I love the mirror with the ornate Lucite frame over the antique sideboard.

The rug in the dining room deserves special mention. It is made of carpet tiles that look like Astro Turf! Designer fringe has been sewn on at the ends, and I think the whole idea and effect is so witty and fun. I love the detail and contrast of the vintage style heating/cooling vent.

Upstairs on the second level are the bedrooms. There's a guest room, the master, a little girl's bedroom, and a little boy's bedroom.

This is a book shelf in the little girl's room.

There is a charming mural painted over the marble mantle in the little girl's room.

Bruce is a well known set painter. He's done extensive film and stage work. He painted all the murals including this fabulous headboard in the master bedroom.

The third floor has an office taking up a huge loft like space. An industrial style desk has been ordered for this space.

Back downstairs on the main floor is a state-of-the-art kitchen. The lady of the house is a professional chef. Bruce did the most beautiful Ventian plaster on the kitchen walls that I have ever seen!

Bathrooms are the next thing I want to show you.

This is the master bath. I love the wallpaper, also from Flavor Paper.

It's called Kashmiri and you can get it HERE

The master has handsome separate double sinks. The bathroom reminds me of an English gentleman's bathroom.

The downstairs powder room has amazing modern bronze fixtures.

And more wallpaper from Flavor Paper, this one a humorous print called Chinatown Toile.

This is a Limited Edition wallpaper designed for the NYC Chinatown Soccer Club’s Adidas sponsored clubhouse in Vienna, Austria for the 2008 European Cup. Chinatown Toile can be printed in any color, but production is limited to 100 rolls total. Get it HERE

Outside at the back of the house is you can see the second floor gallery where the nanny's room and a playroom are located. The doors on the first floor open to the kitchen.

You can see to the front of the property from this corner. The pink house belongs to the neighbor.

This is a catwalk that connects the main house to the old servants quarters which is now a guest apartment.

A brick patio by a swimming pool makes for typical New Orleans nights and days passed with ease and enjoyment.

Even though the house is still a work in progress, and the house was not styled for a photo shoot, and I chose to just show special details, I know you got a sense of all this beauty behind closed doors.

This is the first in a series that I will continue to bring to you, as good generous folks invite me in to share hidden treasures not normally seen.