Returned a few days ago from our annual food-n-fun adventure in New Orleans. Started on Wednesday evening with dinner at Galatoire's. We arrived just before 8 and the place was packed. Got seated at the only available table, a terrible busy spot that required every passing patron and waitstaff to turn sideways and squeeeze past our faces and drag our tablecloth along with them. We sat there for about 10 minutes, ungreeted, unwatered, unbreaded. Noticed another two-top on the other side of the room opening up. We asked the maitre'd if we could move. He made up the table, motioned for us to move, and there we sat for another 20 minutes with no acknowledgement from anyone. Other tables opened up, other people were seated, promptly served water, bread and butter, cocktails. I don't know what happened. Huz was in a jacket and dress shirt, I was in an adorable dress and heels, so I don't think it was our appearance. Anyway, I asked the hostess for menus and water, at which point we got bread and butter but no silverware for employing said butter to bread. At 8:35 waiter Robert sauntered over and the meal actually got going. It was fine, but nothing like it was last year. The souffle potatoes were sort of cold, the stuffed eggplant was heavy on filler and light on shrimp and crab, and the filet w/ bernaise was overcooked. The turtle soup had an oily film around the edges. Huz's fried softshell crab with crab meuniere was probably the highlight. Meh.
Thursday morning we went to Elizabeth's for breakfast. The praline bacon was heavenly -- sweet and salty and porky -- and the pain perdu was pretty yummy. The waiter said I ate more of it than most people manage...I'm not sure that's a good thing.
Dinner was at Jacques-Imo's. We'd never been before. It was fun and I loved my food. We shared the shrimp and alligator cheesecake; it was simply one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth. Huz's paneed rabbit was outstanding. I had the godzilla meets fried green tomatoes. When they brought that stack of fried tomatoes topped with an upright deep fried soft shell crab I almost fell out laughing. The crab was very good, the tomatoes a bit heavy on the breading, and the presentation too much fun. It was a good meal in a fun atmosphere at a very reasonable price.
On Friday I had my cooking class at the New Orleans Cooking Experience. I've taken group classes at both Cookin' Cajun and at the New Orleans School of Cooking. I also took a private class at the N.O. School of Cooking last year. The NOCE class was in the kitchen of a beautifully restored bed & breakfast (House on Bayou Road), so the atmosphere was unbeatable. The class was very good; we learned fried green tomatoes, shrimp remoulade, chicken and andouille gumbo, and a fruit roulade for dessert. The teacher, Michael, was very good as well and very full of good ideas and techniques. It was, however, very expensive: $185.
Dinner that night was at Lilette, a new place for us. The room was pretty and the menu excellent. I had an appetizer that involved parmesan toast points with marrow and mushrooms that was delicious. Huz had a salad with veal cheeks, which was also excellent. His potato crusted drum was perfect, but my hangar steak, ordered medium rare, was simply raw. The waitress seemed put out that I wanted it cooked a bit more, and the perfect frites that came with the meat suffered from the return trip to the kitchen. It would have been an excellent meal if not for that gaffe. My dessert of creme fraiche panna cotta and peach sorbet in a pool of mint marinated peaches was sublime.
Saturday brunch was Commander's Palace. It was lovely, as always. We were seated in the upstaire garden room that is all windows and looks out over the treetops, which is my favorite room in the place. I had shrimp remoulade and eggs sardou with the bread pudding souffle for dessert. It was wonderful. Huz had the 1-1-1 soup, and they were all yummy: smoked tomato and redfish (?) bisque, turtle soup with extra sherry, and seafood gumbo. His quail entree came to the table extremely undercooked, as in red flesh throughout. The waiter was very apologetic and brought a new, more cooked, plate quickly. The jazz combo with the banjo player was a lot of fun -- he sang Fats Waller's Big Feet Blues as we were finishing dessert and it put us in a great mood to take the St. Charles streetcar back to the French Quarter.
Saturday night we ate at Gabrielle, another new place and probably the highlight. I had seared foie gras for my appetizer and Huz had the rabbit tenderloin. I thought they brought the wrong appetizer at first -- I have never been served such a huge slab of foie gras in my life. It was perfectly buttery and surrounded by various fruits to temper the richness of the meat. It was unforgettable. My mojo marinated pork chop with root beer glazed apples was another delight, accompanied by a deep-fried cheese stuffed anaheim chile, which had just the right heat to balance the sweetness of the pork chop. Huz had the creole cream cheese crusted lamb, which was divine. Another nice surprise was the wine list. We live in the Santa Barbara area, and can't touch local wines for less than $50-$75 a bottle in restaurants. We had a very nice bottle of Fess Parker Piont Noir for $39! It was a great meal and I would not hesitate to return.
On Sunday morning we went to the Gospel Brunch at Praline Connection, which I attended about 8 years ago. I also used to eat at the Frenchmen Street location every time I was in town, but the last time I was there it just wasn't that good. Anyway, the brunch is a buffet...we got there right when they opened the doors and headed straight to the entrees and loaded up on crispy fried chicken, rice and crowder peas, collard greens, shrimp etouffe, and macaroni and cheese. There is nothing like it where we live and I loved every bite. I was having such a great time that the lead singer of the choir invited me to come up on stage to sing along with "Oh Happy Day!" which I did. It was a happy day, indeed.
Sunday dinner was at a favorite of ours, Upperline. I had the special Louisiana Purchase dinner, a four course meal with wine pairing for each course for $65. It was tremendous, as always. I had turtle soup, the fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade, the roast duck with ginger peach sauce, and spiced pecans and stilton with a glass of port for dessert. Huz had oysters, the lamb shank, and bread pudding. The service was excellent, the funky dining room a delight, and the food was simply delicious.
We were supposed to have lunch at Herbsaint on our way out of town on Monday, but they were not up and running after their fire. We lagged getting going and ran out of time, (I wanted to try Coop's, or get to Mandina's, or try Bayona) and well, we ended up at the Palace Cafe for lunch since it was just around the corner from our hotel. What a bust. I don't even want to talk about it. Okay, I'll talk a little. Overly salty food, a "creole tomato" salad made with mealy refrigerated supermarket clones, inept and rushed service. But at least it was expensive...a sad end to an otherwise great foodfest.
Thanks for all your suggestions and thanks for letting me relive another great New Orleans eatin' vacation.