I had my first visit to New Orleans this past weekend and did a lot of eating. 3 of the meals are worth reporting on. Friday a business associate took us to Nola. It was chaos there. Although we had a reservation, they gave us a 40 minute window for when we'd be seated and there wasn't any room at the bar. We were seated after about 25 minutes. For starters we ordered the roasted garlic parmesan bisque (my wife), the baby lettuces (BA) and the ancho barbecued pork and smoked cheddar flatbread (me). My wife loved her soup, BA finished his salad and the flatbread was pretty good but way too big for one person. Main courses were grilled double cut pork chop (wife), NY strip steak au poivre (BA) and hickory roasted duck (me). The pork chop had a lot of dry rub on it that my wife thought was overpowering, BA loved his steak and I thought that the duck was good except that the whiskey caramel sauce needed something to balance the sweetness. Washed all of this down with a Turley zinfandel that was fairly priced. My wife and I ordered the white chocolate bananas foster bread pudding with the drunken monkey ice cream to split. We could only manage a couple of bites before surrendering although it was pretty tasty. Walked back down Bourbon at midnight to get back to our hotel. Not an experience that I would like to repeat any time soon.
Saturday lunch found us taking the street car down St Charles to the Camellia Grill. We stood (and sat) in line for about 30 minutes before reaching the counter. My wife ordered a cheeseburger and fries and I had the roast beef au jus sandwich with fries and slaw. Both of us gobbled down our sandwiches in no time and also enjoyed the show behind the counter. Next time, we'll have to try breakfast here.
Saturday dinner was at Peristyle. We were eating fairly early (6:45) and all of the other customers at that time were tables of 2. Seemed kind of unusual to me. Anyway, on to the food. We both had salads to start. My wife's mixed greens with blueberries, pepitas and balsamic vinagrette was excellent. My arugula with parmesan, hazelnuts, hearts of palm and lemon juice/olive oil dressing was a little out of balance to the tart side. It would have been better after an appetizer (to clean the palate), but it wasn't as good stand alone. For entrees, my wife ordered the drum sauteed in butter with sliced almonds. I forget what it was served with but she loved it. I ordered the special of grilled grouper topped with crab meat, shitake mushrooms, fava beans and grape tomatoes served over a risotto and sided with a red pepper sauce. I was hesitant because red pepper sauce is a difficult one to balance and not have it overpower fish. The dish was excellent. Everything was in balance. Only 2 minor comments: the crab meat didn't seem completely fresh and the serving was so big that I couldn't come close to finishing it. I only mention that because I think of lighter dishes when I think of ordering fish as a main course (although it is probably better to err on too big then too little). Had an aged Alsatian reisling with this. We couldn't think of ordering dessert although the peach tart sounded great.
I also wanted to mention how nice the people of New Orleans are. We struck up a conversation with the couple at the next table (obviously regulars at Peristyle) and talked about other places to eat in New Orleans, San Francisco, Santa Fe and Dallas (our home). When they found out that we had taken a cab from our hotel, they offered us a ride back to the hotel and when they found out we have a 5 year old daughter, the husband produced a child's book and cd version that he had written and had been published. We'll remember things like this long after we remember what we had to eat at Nola or Peristyle. We enjoyed our trip and look forward to returning (although we'll probably avoid Bourbon Street next time).
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