With thanks for all the suggestions, a quick report back.
I'll say from the outset that I am not the ideal NOLA eating customer--basically a vegetarian with occasional fish-eating and no shellfish. Husband eats it all though, and since I'd been before my food choices changed, this trip was really for his eating. So, here goes....
Arrived Thursday, and headed to Coop's for lunch. I got a veggie burger and fries, with Abita Raspberry. I'll give our waiter credit for not laughing at me for ordering a veggie burger:-) Husband got a shrimp po-boy. I tried to steer him towards the jambalaya based on the recs here, but he was having none of it. We then wandered the Quarter for a while; I needed to "sample" pralines to determine the best.
Thursday night, we had reservations at Herbsaint and Bayona, and totally torn, we took the advice we saw most on this board and went to Herbsaint. BAD CHOICE.
As I said, I make dietary choices that I know make things a bit more difficult, particularly in a place like NOLA. That being said, we are pretty big foodies, and I have NEVER been to a restaurant where there was nothing on the menu that I could eat, or modify a bit. And the attitiude of the server left something, a lot, to be desired--given that it's not a dive restaurant. The guy at Coop's was more helpful!!!
We were sitting near enough to the hostess table to hear her say to one of the waiters: "We're falling apart," so we knew something was off. Don't know if someone called in sick or what, but they were clearly shortstaffed and the service was awful. Slow, slow, slow. But on to the food.
My husband got a crawfish appetizer, with squid ink pappardelle and asparagus (I think?). He said it was fantastic, and it looked delicious. For his main, he got the Muscovy duck leg confit with dirty rice and citrus gastrique, which he said was: "Okay." When I ordered the arugula salad with walnuts and burrata in a walnut dressing, they said they would make me an entree sized portion. They of course charged entree prices, and this was NOT a $20 salad. The arugula was great and peppery, and I've never met a burrata I didn't like. Too bad the whole thing was slimy with totally flavorless dressing. Sigh.
I'd also ordered a side of fries...After our server forgot to put the order in until well after our entrees came, they came out so salty as to be inedible. We sent them back, and I'll give them credit for taking them off the bill.
Dessert was also hit and miss on the very same plate. We got the banana brown butter tart with fleur de sel caramel, a la mode. The tart itself, and the ice cream, were delicious. The bananas, though, tasted like bitter alcohol. I am going to assume that they were just having a really off night, but we headed to Vaughn's, wishing we had gone to Bayona instead....or just about anywhere else.
NEW ORLEANS FOOD AND SPIRITS
We spent the next morning doing some volunteer work in Gentilly, and one of the locals we were working with took us to New Orleans Food and Spirits. She got the eggplant Pontchartrain, which looked pretty awesome (and like more food than I could consume in a whole day!). Husband got gumbo (yay, more crawfish!) and another shrimp po-boy (he just can't get enough). I got a good ol' grilled ruby red trout and sweet potato fries. Solid meal.
Despite being a compulsive planner (we had restaurant reservations before we had plane tickets!), I had not made any set plans for Friday night dinner. We were in Uptown, and asked someone where we should eat. She said Lilette without a second thought, and give her another comments about food and eating--we knew she was someone we could trust. And she was not wrong.
We got there around 7:30ish, and decided to eat outside since the night was pleasant enough. We sat up on the porch, and there were just two other couples eating outside. I started off with a passionfruit bellini--could have used a kick more lillikoi flavor, but it was lovely and our waiter used the ingenious line of: Can I refresh your bellini? How could the answer be anything but yes:-)
I started with the white bean and roasted garlic soup with homemade croutons, minus the duck confit. It was delicious, though I would have liked more roasted garlic flavor. My husband had the white truffle parmigiano toast with wild mushrooms, marrow and veal glace. As he said, his first impression was that it was a messy looking piece of bread, but he said that it was so rich and unctuous....really a first rate bit or 4.
Mains--I got the aneed black drum with Israeli cous cous, leeks, tomato and ver jus mussel butter (minus the mussels, but with butter:-)). It was really excellent. Husband got the fried Kurobuta pork belly with a salad of melon, sweet onion, cucumber, peashoots and herbs, which he promptly declared the best "salad" he'd ever had.
For dessert, we shared the nutella custard with fleur de sel, caramel cream and chocolate-hazelnut brittle, which is pretty much my dream come true...and did not disappoint. Only complaint of the night---I got eaten alive. Next time--inside. But Lilette was really a lovely little restaurant!
We spent the next morning walking along Magazine St, but knowing that we had dinner at August that night, decided not to splurge on a big lunch (despite being tempted by Coquette and Mahoney's Po Boy's). We headed back to the Quarter and caught Cafe Amelie just as it closed. It was perfect for what we wanted. I had the salad with grapes, bleu cheese, and apples. The citrus vinaigrette was delicious, and their lemonade is outstanding. My husband got the orange-chili grilled shrimp. It was just the light lunch we needed, and I topped it off with an iced 'au lait' from CDM.
We've been wanting to go to August for years now, and as I said, I made this reservation before I made our plane flights. I was not coming to NOLA and not eating here!! There was a benefit in the upstairs room, so Chef Besh (and some other celeb chefs) were in the kitchen, though not cooking for us hoi polloi:-)
We were shown to the middle room, and service started off iffy---but improved greatly throughout the night. Burned by my Herbsaint experience, I had called ahead and the waiter knew about my food issues and said they could basically modify whatever I needed off the menu. We decided not to do the degustation (I know, I know!). I started with the field greens salad with the pumpkin seed brittle and bleu cheese. Um, why don't I have pumpkin seed brittle in ALL of my salads. It was delicious. My husband got the "other" salad, with beets and bacon. He asked: Why don't I have pork in ALL of my salads:-) I had a sparkling Shiraz with my appetizer, and then a Pinot Meunier with my main.
For mains, I told him he was crazy if he got anything but the cochon de lait, and he did. He said it was outstanding in all ways, and given the richness--just the right quantity of food. He also says that each of the three cuts were markedly different in taste, but all worked well together. He went on in more rapture about it, but I wanted to describe my dish. I got the speckled trout "Pontchartain," though without crab meat. It was a pan fried trout fillet with morels and hollandaise. I am STILL trying to figure out what seasoning it was in the breading that made it so delicious, but it was just great. The hollandaise makes every other hollandaise I've ever had taste like a weak, broken imposter. It was so "fluffy," and the pepper and Creole seasoning gave it just the right kick.
I cannot even remember the dessert menu, because once I had seen the chocolate peanut butter brittle on the degustation menu, I knew there was no other option. It was like a homemade candy bar, crunchy and chocolatey and peanut buttery. The night was only capped off by meeting Chef Besh when I had to go upstairs to use the restroom. All in all, August was a just a fine, fine dining experience--and by New York price standards, not even the pocketbook blow I was expecting!!
CENTRAL GROCERY and CAFE DU MONDE
Stopped by Central Grocery Saturday for a muff for the plane, and CDM this morning for beignets and au lait before heading to the airport.
My thoughts on the trip overall--I really missed doing one of the "classic" NOLA experiences---Commander's or Galatoire's. While August and Lilette were both really excellent, both are ultimately restaurants I could see existing here in NY. We're already planning our next trip, since the list of places we did not get to try (Boucherie, Patois, MiLa, Brigsten's, Dick and Jenny's, Parkway, Dookie Chase, and more) keeps getting longer and longer.
Thanks for the advice, 'hounds!!
430 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70112
701 Saint Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70130
3637 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA 70115