Where better to spend St. Patrick’s Day than New Orleans, Louisiana? After a short 9 hour drive with Kitty, who decided he wanted to drive most of the way, we arrived! There are so many great restaurants in New Orleans it was hard to decide where to start. I decided to use the 2012 James Beard Nominee list as a starting point. The first stop was Justin Devillier’s La Petite Grocery on Magazine St. where the Blue Crab Beignets were delicious. Unfortunaltly, the Housemade Fetuccini and Braised Pork was a let down, the pasta was undercooked and the flavors were outshined by the crab beignets… The Paneéd Mississippi Rabbit Sandwhich was not bad, the pimento cheese had a great flavor but I had wished there was more on the sandwhich. Lastly, the Local Shrimp & Grits entree was average, the shrimp were a bit overcooked, but the grits were wonderfully creamy. Overall, I expected a lot more from a James Beard Nominee… I bet a dinner service would be much better than lunch, but was only there for a lunch service. After Lunch, we decided to try a New Orleans staple for dessert… White Chocolate Bread Pudding from the Palace Cafe, it was not bad texturally, as bread puddings go, the sauce was a bit grainy from the powdered sugar, but quite tasty… If you go for dessert you can sit at the dessert bar and watch the kitchen at work.
Dinner was at Gautreau’s Restaurant were we enjoyed chef Sue Zemanick’s creations… Sue earned a Rising Star award from StarChefs.com and I can see why… Elegant dining service, with great flavors! The crispy pork belly with oyster chowder was great, as were the seared sea scallops… The Osso Bucco was a nice sized portion with a deep flavor profile, it has fregola (a Sardinian pasta very similar to Israeli couscous), baby carrots, and grilled leeks… The Halibut with preserved lemon yogurt was paired with tabbouleh, fried artichokes, and a roasted pepper chutney was a really fresh dish, the flavors worked well together…For dessert we tried the blueberry buckle with huckleberry ice cream and the nightly special which was peanut butter fudge with marshmallow and chocolate sauce and graham cracker soil… it was a delightful deconstruction of the old campfire favorite, Smores… I would absolutely recommend Gautreau’s to anyone looking for a fine dinning experience in NOLA…
The next day I wanted to try Chef Donald Link’s Herbsaint, unfortunalty they weren’t open for lunch on Saturday, so we decided to hit his other restaurant Cochon (French for pig) what a great suprise! Our lunch was fabulous… The Wood-Fired Oyster Roast was really tasty, the boucherie plate offered a nice sampling of Cochon’s butchershop capabilities. The pickled green tomatoes on the boucherie plate were amazing, I am going to try to make them at home! The Braised Pork Cheeks with Saurkraut Potato Cakes, Apple Sauce and Goat Feta were very good and the rabbit and dumplings had me smiling the whole way through… Couchon is a partnership between chef Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski both are James Beard winners and it shows!! If you are in the mood for a sandwhich there is the Couchon/Butcher right behind the restaurant where you can get sandwhiches and cured meats like an old world meat market.
For dinner on Saturday we got reservations at ROOT, chef Phillip Lopez won a Rising Star award from StarChefs.com and his playful nature with food really comes through… The Moroccan Spiced Pork & Duck Rillettes was smooth and creamy, served in a small jar with an assortment of pickled treats including Romanesco broccoli, “Face” Bacon relish, and thin slices of radish… my only gripe was that the pickled stuff all tasted very similar, I was hoping for a little more range of flavor there… the addition of a tube of house-made mustard was a nice touch! I really enjoyed the Louisiana Pickled Shrimp with Shrimp Stuffed Deviled Eggs, the deviled egg mixture was rich & flavorful and perfectly smooth. the shrimp were ok, to me the eggs were the star of the dish… The Lacquered Pork Belly was outstanding, plated on a charred Eggplant Puree, with stewed greens, candied Mission Figs and Indian Spiced Yogurt.. It was both beautiful and delicious! I had to try the Cohiba Smoked Scallops with Chorizo Dust, Carmalized Cauliflower and Fennel Choucroute… The presentation was really cool served in a smoking cigar box the plate arrived with the sweet smell of tobacco smoke wafting through the air, when you open the lid to the box, on display are nice large (maybe u10) scallops, The scallops were nicely cooked but the flavor of the Cohiba smoke just permeated everything, for me it was a bit overpowering… but for many I am sure this dish is a delight. For dessert we had the Ambrosia which was a little bit of everything… supremed citrus wedges, with a Meyer Lemon Sorbet, Charred Apricot Meringue, and Rose Water Marshmallows. I didnt really taste any apricot in the meringue, and I was hoping it had been a little more crispy than fluffy, but overall it was an intersting dessert. I would reccomend ROOT, but if your going to eat there make reservations!
On the way home we had to make a stop for lunch at Poche’s Market in Breaux Bridge… This place has great cajun food, and you can order online!
Until Next Time… Eat Well My Friends,