Friday, April 20, 2012

I Was Looking for Chinese

I knew that we would want lunch following our walk through Longue Vue Gardens in Metairie and ever on the hunt for good Chinese food in New Orleans did a “Google” search. Alas, authentic Chinese was not to be had. So I branched out looking for the best places for lunch and came upon Martin Wine Cellar.

Martin Wine Cellar has outlets in Baton Rouge, New Orleans,
Mandeville, and Metairie, but only the Metairie location contains a bistro/deli and “is one of the South's premier wine and gourmet food shops…founded in 1946 by David Y. Martin, Jr. What began as a humble spirits store has blossomed into…nationally recognized shops bursting with fine wine, spirits, gourmet foods, artisan cheeses, gifts, wine accessories, a dine-in upscale delicatessen, gourmet to go and full-service catering. Locals and visitors pack the lively, casual eatery daily for lunch and on Sundays for brunch. Daily specials created by Martin's talented chefs rival the top restaurants in New Orleans, but for a fraction of the price” (

Named in Gambit's Best of New Orleans Readers' Poll 2011 as the “Best Gourmet to Go," the store offers: “A full slate of sandwiches, gourmet salads, house-made dressings, cheese plates and daily hot lunch and dinner specials (including dishes such as rum jerk grilled pork chops or chicken wings) that change weekly give hungry customers lots of options to take home. You only have to walk a few steps to find the perfect wine accompaniment, with hundreds of bottles from around the world as well as a full stock of liquor and beer. There's also seating in the bistro if you can't wait until you get home to take your first bite” (

The cold cases are filled with prepared salads,

cheeses, and dried and cured meats,

and several varieties of olives and a small selection of caviar.

Shelves are filled with gourmet food products—pastas, crackers, coffees and teas, cookies, and should you run out of duck fat, Martin’s is the place to go.

Martin’s must be a popular lunch spot for Metairie locals. When we arrived just before noon most of the tables were already occupied. You order and pay at the counter and are given one of those buzzer gizmos that lets you know when your order is ready for pick-up. The bistro/cafĂ© occupies about a third of the total floor space
and is rather functional in design with only an occasional "objects’ d′art" like this item entitled Pink Warrior which reminded us of a New Year’s Day Philadelphia Mummer with its feathered back piece.

The extensive menu is printed on a series of chalkboards and includes daily specials, salads, and sandwiches. For the kids, there are chicken tenders, pb&j, and ham or turkey sandwiches. Sandwich choices included: thinly sliced boneless garlic studded roast pork loin with lettuce, tomato and mayo served hot on an onion roll; Californian oven roasted turkey with havarti cheese, avocado, sprouts, cucumbers, tomato, Creole mustard, and mayo on wheat or pita; the Cedric with thinly sliced roasted chicken breast, Swiss, fresh spinach, red onions, tomato, and mayo on seven-grain bread; the Chopper with pulled oven–roasted chicken breast, green leaf lettuce, bacon, tomatoes, boiled eggs, and radish, then tossed with Russian dressing and served in a flour tortilla; Smoked Salmon BLT with smoked salmon, bacon, arugula, tomato, and wasabi mayo on toasted sourdough bread; and more, and more, and more. And they all sounded delicious. And all could be ordered with a choice of toasted bread—rye, white, wheat, seven-grain—or an onion roll, French bread, bun, sour dough, pita, or whole wheat pita.

If you are in the mood for a salad, you can chose: a small or large Caesar with, for an additional charge, grilled chicken; the Martin Special with green leaf lettuce, bacon, avocado, tomatoes, boiled eggs, radish, and crumbled blue cheese; the European Salad with baby arugula, prosciutto, dried cranberries, toasted pine nuts, shaved parmesan reggiano, and sherry vinaigrette; the Sena with pulled oven–roasted chicken, golden raisins, and field greens with bleu cheese and pecans tossed in Tabasco pepper jelly vinaigrette; and Spinach and Grilled Chicken with fresh spinach, grilled chicken breast, eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes, grilled onions, and peppers.

Chuck selected the Lindy Special sandwich with oven roasted turkey,
Swiss, house–made coleslaw, tomatoes, and Russian dressing on seven-grain bread. To this, he added a side of Martin’s house-made potato salad. He took one bite and proclaimed: “This is the sandwich I was looking for at Stein’s Deli!” It was an almost perfect sandwich. Sometimes multi-grain breads are too dense and heavy. Not this. The meat was thin sliced, moist, and full of roast turkey flavor. And the condiments of slaw, dressing, and tomato added to, rather than overpowering, the taste.

The red-skin potato salad contained a good quantity of egg and was dressed with mayo and—perhaps—a bit of sour cream. This was an excellent deli potato salad.

When I saw the Trio Salad listed on the menu, my choice was made easy. This was a sampler plate of three of Martin’s cold house-made salads, and I had my choice from chicken salad, chicken tortellini pasta, coleslaw, Creole shrimp pasta, egg salad, fruit salad, oriental pasta, potato salad, tomato pesto pasta, and white Albacore tuna salad.

The first of my choices—the oriental pasta salad—was ultra thin noodles combined with carrot shreds, red onions, and black beans tossed with a dressing of soy, sesame, and just a touch of vinegar (given the mild acidity, it was probably rice wine vinegar). This was a light and refreshing salad and just perfect to satisfy the urge for Asian food. So good was it that I was inspired to go home and dig out my recipe for Cold Sesame Noodles which we had for supper on French Quarter Festival evenings.

The second was the Creole shrimp pasta—small shells mixed with chopped shrimp and celery with a mayo dressing, spiked with Creole seasoning that provided a mild heat. This was very good, although I would have liked a bit more shrimp with the pasta.

The third, which I took home for supper that night, was the chicken tortellini and was my least favorite of the three. It was a combination of tri-color tortellini, shredded chicken, red onion, black olives, sun dried tomatoes, and marinaded artichoke hearts in a vinaigrette dressing. Here the salad suffered from an excess of artichoke hearts. While I like them in moderation, here the flavor was too pronounced.

This was a very good—although not perfect lunch—4.5 Addie lunch, and Martin Wine Cellar has gone on our list of “keepers.”

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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