Here is the promised trip report for our visit 7/13/04 to 7/18/04.
Thanks to all who responded to my request for help Boston Hound Overwhelmed Need Help. All the responses were greatly appreciated. Particular thanks go out to Ike and JohnBigEasy.
Breakfast Cobalt because we were at Hotel Monaco. Very uninspired breakfast menu with equally uninspired preparation and presentation. Perhaps the dishwasher makes breakfast.
Lunch - Central Grocery for a muffaletta. The sandwich was very good and grew on us as we progressed through the Frisbee size serving (splitting a whole was more than enough and lighter eaters would be satisfied splitting a half. Low carbers need not apply as much of the sandwich consists of a toothsome sesame encrusted bread. Cokes from a machine rounded out the elegant repast.
Afternoon snack - Café du Monde for beignets, café au lait and people watching. Great outdoor setting, decent coffee and beignets with slow but sincere service - it is what it is and that can be quite enjoyable.
Dinner - La Petite Grocery (4238 Magazine St., 504-891-3377) based on a hounds suggestion. LPG is a new restaurant, only open about three months. It appears to be embraced by the locals and is run by a chef formerly of Peristyle (now under new ownership see other CH NO postings). She began with pan-fried oysters on ragout of sweet potatoes and apple wood smoked bacon The oysters were coated with a toothsome cornmeal based breading, the bacon chunks were meaty and appropriately smoky. The oysters were firm and flavorful though to my mind slightly overcooked. I started with foie gras that was plump, fresh and intense. The generous serving was perfectly and respectfully seared and placed atop a mound of fresh polenta. The grainy-nutty polenta provided a perfect foil for the richness of the foie gras. The dish was served with a garnish of large fresh blackberries and sauced with a reduced blackberry glaze. It was sublime. We shared a hearts of romaine salad beautifully drizzled with a rich egg and anchovy caesar-like dressing. Perhaps most interesting were the crispy fried capers scattered over the salad that offered a nice smoky saltiness in lieu of the traditional anchovy fillets. I ordered Red Grouper fillet that was nicely grilled with crispy skin and firm moist flesh. It was lightly seasoned and sat above a bed of red bliss potato quarters that were perhaps a little undercooked, wedges of steamed mirliton squash (aka Chayote) and carmelized onions. She had the pork loin that was a generous serving of plump and moist pork cooked to perfection. It was topped with carmelized onions and sat on a bed of choucroute with a Riesling-cider reduction for a sauce that worked to setoff the pork flavors to good effect. Missing were apples described on the menu. We shared a dessert of an uninspired but satisfactory crème brulee. Our waitress was newly promoted from bus girl and a bit nervous but eager to please. Coffee with dessert was disappointing although the pitcher of hot milk was a nice touch. The wine list was not extensive but appeared well thought out and reasonably priced and I foun a nice NV champagne at an excellent price.
Breakfast - Cobalt see above, we got lazy
Lunch - Magazine Street PoBoy and Sandwich shop in the lower Garden District. A simple lunch place visited by a local construction crew and, as we were leaving, a Gray Line walking tour. We ordered the daily special of white beans and andouille sausage over rice. It was served on a Styrofoam plate with traditional southern green beans, cooked to death and then more for good measure, and cornbread. Not much to write about here ok if trapped on foot in heat and in need of sustenance, pass otherwise.
Dinner - Emerils 800 Tchoupitoulas St. 504-528-9393 There is a story here. An incredibly generous hound suggested this venue and, when we were unable to garner reservations on our own, he went out of is way to use his connections to get us in. Perhaps we hit it on an off night or perhaps we ordered poorly. Dinner had a few high points but was disappointing overall - particularly when price is factored in. We began auspiciously with an amuse bouche of English pea vichyssoise served in a small espresso cup with truffle oil sprinkled on top. It was heavenly, with an intense fresh summer pea flavor and the wonderful essence of truffle. I ordered pan-fried oysters over corn salsa with apple smoked bacon in part to compare to LPG the night before. This time the oyters were large plump and juicy with no sign of overcooking. The corn salsa was crunchy and delicious. She ordered a special appetizer of Rabbit terrine over a bed of pickled onions and cornichon with toast points. The terrine was a passable country terrine though a bit mild mannered to our taste. Next I had a warm spinach salad with chevre balls rolled in pistachios, walnuts and pecans. The bacon dressing was much too salty and overwhelmed the bed of fresh spinach greens and may have seared my taste buds for the evening. She requested a baby arugula salad served with a pumpkin seed dressing, shaved parmigiano and roasted figs. Again a tasty salad dressed with too much salt. The roasted figs appeared incongruous on the plate. For dinner I chose Bouillabasse that was served with a grilled redfish fillet over oysters, and mussels in a rather wan saffron broth. It was accented with toast points covered in a saffron roux. The fish and shellfish were very nice and fresh but the unlike the overstated salads, the broth was too understated. She ordered hazelnut crusted flounder with abalone mushrooms and spring peas. It was good but overly rich between a heavy hazelnut crust and a rich wine/butter reduction for a sauce. We shared Key Lime pie and mascarpone crepes with mandarin oranges and a cointreau based sauce. The Key Lime pie was superb with the incomparable bright bite of key limes and a creamy, perfectly constituted custard. The crepes were drowned in a cointreau based sauce that masked anything els that may have been happening in the dish. The soux sommelier Steve assisted us in selecting an excellent (though overpriced) Austrian Riesling. He followed-up to make sure we enjoyed it and poured a complimentary Muscat dessert wine. Service by Angelo was excellent and we enjoyed watching the dining room being run by Kevin who truly puts the General in General Manager.
Breakfast Mothers There seems to be a mixed feeling about Mothers on CH. Yes it is a dive touristy diner but locals eat there too and boy are there some things to like. Much of the breakfast, scrambled eggs most notably, seemed to come off a steam table (pet peeve) so we ordered the Black Ham Biscuit without really knowing what it was. It turned out to be a generous flaky biscuit stacked with the part of the baked ham I always tried to peel off and eat as a kid but which my mother would always kill me for. Black ham is the luscious outside crispy flavorful part of the ham Mothers trims off. It was awesome. The rich chicory coffee rounded out a simple but great breakfast.
Lunch Spuddys 2644 La. Hwy 20 West in Vacherie, LA 225-265-4013. After visiting Lauras Plantation along the River Road we stumbled upon Spuddys using the time honored road food method of cruising a town and picking the place with the most pickup trucks parked in front. Using this selection criteria, Spuddys was the overwhelming choice. Inside a cinder block walled restaurant we were served by a slow but gracious waitress and we ordered PoBoys made with Spuddys homemade andouille sausage. Wow, were they good. The bread was a fantastic French bread with a crusty outside and firm moist crumb. The spicy sausage had been sliced into discs and sautéed so that it was crispy on the outside and hot and spicy on the interior. The Sandwiches were dressed with lettuce, home garden like tomatoes and a Dijon-mayo sauce. I am salivating as I write this. All washed down with excellent sweet tea. I will definitely drive out there again.
Dinner - Bayona 430 Dauphine St. 504-525-4455 This is another interesting story. Some NOLA hounds seem to think this has gone by the boards. It was the original Susan Spicer location and it was recommended by the kind hound that helped with Emerils. When we arrived the dining room appeared a bit past its prime and the furniture a bit dated amd worn. Service was attentive but more casual than one might expect. Always on the alert we began to worry needlessly it turned out. We began with grilled shrimp with coriander sauce accompanied by a black bean cake topped with a dollop of sour cream. Yikes it was good. We split the appetizer which was a mistake. It was served with three shrimp shrimp and division of the third shrimp was like a UN negotiation. The shrimp were moist and grilled perfectly with a lovely crust the coriander sauce was just the right amount of zip to accent the briny shrimp without overwhelming their flavor and black bean cake was a nice neutral foil. We both had our own Bayona salad with Great Hill blue cheese. The salad was perfectly dressed with respect for the greens and a generous serving of crumbly blue cheese. It is a simple but classic presentation perfectly executed. She had the snapper fillet with cranberry beans, haricot vert, bacon and a lemony basil sauce. It was accompanied by mouthwatering zucchini fritters that were show stoppers. The fish was perfect, the sauce balanced and in appropriate quantity and the beans were splendid. I ordered the veal tenderloin medallions over mashed potatoes with fontina cheese and Serrano ham. The dish was sprinkled with lacy crispy fried potato threads and accompanied by spinach. Again the preparation and presentation were perfect and again it was simple classic dish shown off to stupendous effect. We again misguidedly shared a dessert of almond financier cake with roasted peaches, honey, apricots and house made vanilla ice cream. The cake was a small inverted fluted dome of golden perfection. Its texture was firm moist and chewy but crumbly as well. It was a bit like a dense almond studded Madeleine. The fruit and honey glaze were perfect. We ate every last crumb. For wine we ordered a bottle of Austrian Riesling from the same producer as the wine at Emerils from a more desirable vintage and offered at literally half the price at Emerils. Incidentally, after such an incredible meal we asked if we could thank the chef de cuisine. He appeared reluctantly awkwardly though graciously received our praise. Apparently Susan was in Anguilla honing her skills. She left competent staff in charge.
Breakfast - Cobalt slightly better menu on the weekend, still laziness is the only reason to go
Lunch - Martins Wine Cellar (and Deli) Nicely stocked wine store cheese shop and gourmet food store with deli in the garden District. We went here thanks once again to the Emerils hound. I ordered a sandwich of corned beef, ham, bacon Dijon dressing with lettuce and tomato. She got a roast turkey sandwich with homemade slaw, Russian dressing, and Swiss cheese served on seven grain bread. Great spot for lunch.
Dinner - Lillette 3632 Magazine St. 504-895-1636 We began by sharing gnocchi in brown butter with shaved parmigiano and white truffle toast with wild mushrooms, veal glace and marrow. The Gnocchi were nicely al dente and the sauce flavorful with that perfect butter mouthfeel all accented by the sharp and nutty parmigiano. The white truffle toast was sublimely truffley and the intense veal reduction offered massive flavors with the marrow bits giving a hedonistic mouthfeel and the mushrooms shrooming up the flavor. My salad was slices of Alabama tomatoes (seemed as though they were from my grandfathers garden), stewed fava beans and Vidalia onions with EVOO, parmigiano shavings and basil. Hers was the Arugula roma/grape tomatoes salad with a vinagraitte and more parmigiano shavings. Both were very nice salads. Her entrée was potato encrusted black drum on a wild mushroom ragout with mini veggies of white and yellow beets, haricot vert, and baby carrots. The dish was nice with a crispy potato coating the fish though the amount of oil needed to crisp the potatos tended to overwhelm the fish. I ordered the pork belly w/Satsuma glaze over Israeli large pearl couscous and served with beets. I believe the dish has been described elsewhere on the Board as a pork donut. It is rich beyond all measure but somehow manages to avoid being over the top. The Satsuma is a Japanese mandarin orange brought to Texas. It creates a sweet but citrusy glaze on the pork belly pieces and when combined with the pearled cous cous base it made a flavorful, intense dish that came close but did not cross over to overwhelming. We finished with a peach tart tatin with homemade vanilla ice cream. The tart tatin is traditionally prepared with apples and although the peach version was good, the peaches dont have the assertiveness to hold up to the caramelized butter and sugar. The wine list was reasonable in both breadth and price. We ended up with a Zind Alsatian pinot/chardonnay and Inniskillin ice wine for dessert.
Breakfast Madelenes Corner of Chartres and St. Ann 504-568-9950 Passably good croissant, and pane raisin with decent coffee. Still irked by steam table scrambled eggs.
Grabbed another muffaletta at Central Grocery for the plane ride home to Boston.
Summing up, we loved NO, the NO board and its dedicated hounds were a huge help. Next trip we will hit the traditional spots like Galatoires, Uglesichs etc that we missed. I will likely skip Emerils, but will return to LPG, Bayona, Central Grocery, Mothers, Spuddys and Lilette.
Thanks again to all who made an effort to share their knowledge.