We were in New Orleans from the 16th to the 24th, and Im only now beginning to recover. We had so much food, some of it really wonderful. The weather though, according to locals, was far hotter than usual for October. Ive never sweated that much for that extended a period of time. But somehow that did not deter us from eating.
On Saturday, I met my brother and his new wife at the Napolean House for drinks. Had my first Pimms Cup. It was the perfect refreshing beverage for a hot humid day, and had just enough of a kick to it to mellow me, but not so much that I would go stumbling out onto the street.
After drinks, we walked over to Bayona for dinner. I had the sweetbreads appetizer, which were quite yummy. Lisa had an assortment of appetizers, including the goat cheese crouton with mushrooms in Madeira Cream. I thought this was quite nice as well. There was also the grilled shrimp with the black bean cake, which I thought was o.k., but the black bean cake seemed a bit incongruous.
For entrée, I had the duck with pepper jelly, which I thought fine, but not particularly flavorful, and even a bit underdone. I liked the pepper glaze, but could have used more of it.
Desert was a parfait trio of mousses: espresso, and two kinds of chocolate. Overall, I liked Bayona, and would consider the food to be above-average and the service gracious and friendly, but not overall an exceptional experience.
Sunday, coffee and beignets at Café du Monde - always enjoyable for me. It was more crowded than I had ever seen it on my last trip. In general, it was a different city than when we visited in January, with many more tourists in town for conventions and concerts.
Later that afternoon, we had birthday brunch at Arnauds. Arnauds was a bit of a surprise for me. I expected it to be more intimidating. I didnt get a lot of attitude there, though I didnt feel the service was particularly attentive. For example, I arrived a little bit late, my brother and Lisa were already seated and drinking coffee, and nobody ever came by to offer me any. I did get a lovely rendition of Happy Birthday from the jazz trio however. Had my first Sazarac, and discovered I was a sucker for that as well!
In general, I tended to rely on the waiters for recommendations. I wanted to make sure I tried dishes that were unique to the restaurant or that I couldnt get at home. To that end, I ordered the Shrimp Arnaud, which I found pleasant but unremarkable. Lisa, however, ordered the oyster soup, which I thought was fantastic creamy and flavorful. At the waiters recommendation, I had the Shrimp Clemencau, which was nice, but a bit bland it perked up with a little salt. For desert, we had Bananas Foster for three. This was quite nice, and we enjoyed the spectacle of the preparation, though the texture was soupy. A local told me later that soupy was the way he liked it best. Thats what makes the world go round!
That night we dined on Mufallettas from Central Grocery I had bought and brought back to the hotel for a gang of my boyfriends colleagues who were working the convention. Discovered that Mufalettas improve when theyve had a chance to sit around a bit. Yummm.
Next day, I was on my own. Had a waffle, scrambled eggs and bacon at Clover Grill. It was simple unpretentious diner fare (though I liked the little clover imprint in the middle of the waffe) and a nice change from the higher end establishments.
I ended up having lunch at Petunias. I missed the early lunch crowd and had the place almost to myself. I had the St. Francis crepe: shrimp, Louisiana crabmeat, ratatouille (vegetable medley) and cheese sauce. It was fine, but I was only able to eat half of it, since Id already been eating so much.
That night, several of us had dinner at K-Paul, the scene of the best all-around meal of our last visit. In general, the food was good, but not up to the standard of our previous dinner with one notable exception: FRIED GREEN TOMATOES. We had a chance to taste at least three different versions of this dish over the course of this trip, and these were by far the best. I highly recommend them. I could see coming back and sitting at the bar and just having those and some desert.
I had the twin filets with a rich reduction sauce. This was very nice, but not the spectacular steak I had had the last time. We also had an entire coconut cake make for us (it was actually being baked while we ate dinner). However, it turned out that my boyfriend, on the advice of one of the hostesses, had ordered the chocolate coconut cake this time, and I did not think this was nearly as good as the original, plain version. I also had the pecan pie, which I thought was a bit bland though I think perhaps this is the way it is served in New Orleans, as I had the same experience two more times during our trip.
More coffee and beignets, fewer tourists, yay!
That afternoon, I stopped at Mothers where there was a long line outside. I came back an hour or so later, and there was no longer any line. Ordered my first Ferdie! Ate half, and donated the second half to my boyfriend. MMmmmmmm Heaven! Who knew that something called debris could taste so divine? I realize Mothers is unpopular on the board, and I respect everyones opinion but me, my original high opinion of the place was upheld.
Now, the true highpoint of the trip: The Chefs Table at Commanders Palace:
We arrived at seven, and were ushered into the kitchen, to a table with a view of the food preparation activity. We had our own personal maitre d for the whole evening, and were greeted by the chef who asked us if there were any special requests or things to avoid. Lally Brennan (hope I got the name right) came by to introduce herself and to chat with us, and was quite gracious. We were treated like royalty all evening.
To the best of my recollection we had: appetizer: a cold salad of blue Crabmeat (with oyster on top) delicate and delicious. A second appetizer of whole shrimp over a lentil concoction. These shrimp were the best I had during the trip. Third was Foie gras, prepared three ways: the first was a seared slice traditionally prepared, the second, and my favorite, was done with a ginger glaze and was piquant and almost candy-like, the third was a foie-gras ice-cream! There was a palette cleanser course consisting of vodka that had been frozen in the bottle with the ice still around it, and a mango puree. We had a redfish entrée, partially prepared at the table, as the chef demonstrated how he basted the fish in butter, reducing until it was absorbed into the fish itself. Delightful. Then there was a rack of lamb with a mustard crust, prepared to a perfect pink color and melt in your mouth texture.
During the whole experience, the four of us were almost in a surreal state, and it was equally delightful to witness the surprise and delight of our companions with each course. In each instance, our food was deposited in front of us simultaneously, and was delivered by four servers at once. But when eight plates of desert arrived, it was like an army of flying-saucers was descending upon us en masse. I almost ducked. Eight deserts to be shared by four bulging-eyed people. Ill try to remember them all: There was a molten chocolate cake, another chocolate cake (chocolate devestation perhaps?), very good cheesecake, an intentionally shallow rather than deep crème brulee , lemon coconut flan, bread pudding soufflé, a pecan pie done with chocolate reduction that came from a special reserve batch from one particular farm somewhere, a fluffy, white, and rich desert, almost like a chantilly cream surrounded in a praline cookie, oh, and Im sure Im forgetting something. They were all great, but my favorites were the flan, crème brulee, and the bread pudding. We had the half-glass wine-pairing as well and how we managed to waddle out of there, Ill never know. We were free to roam as we chose --- and were given a tour of the restaurant, as well as personal signed menus from the chef. As some have said here before, this is not a quiet, romantic experience --- but unless that is essential to you --- if you have the chance to do this --- grab it!
The only slightly odd thing is that we werent offered any coffee or tea. But really, at that point, who cared?
More to come.