Installment 3: Home from the Big Easy

August 19, 2010

And my luggage made it, too!

I last left you after a fine breakfast of cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe DuMonde, which had in turn followed a most excellent dinner at Mr. B’s Bistro. Monday night was scheduled to be K-Paul’s; however, that establishment is dark on Monday nights, as I learned when I tried to make a reservation. So we went to the Palace Cafe instead. I had andouille-crusted redfish, served over a bed of sauteed veggies, and we all shared a batch of appetizers; the crabmeat cheesecake, I am here to tell you, is possibly the best appetizer I ever put in my mouth.

It’s a savory cheesecake, obviously; a savory crust (later determined to be ground pecans), what tasted like a combo of ricotta and fresh gouda and I’m-not-sure-what-other cheese, beaten impossibly creamy, baked, topped with a sort of minimalist gumbo that was mostly just crabmeat, roux and onions with spices. And it was wonderful!

Hey, Troops. I started this post, I think, two days ago. The slings and arrows of an outrageous work schedule have played havoc with it, as have three glasses of wine. I will truncate what I’d planned to write, but please don’t truncate your visit to New Orleans. It’s a fine town to eat out in. —

Ahem. Where was I? Oh, yes, Palace Cafe. Operated by one Dickie Brennan, of Brennan’s fame, who also has Dickie Brennan’s Steak House (who bothers to eat steak in the Big Easy?), and, well, Brennan’s. Or at least the same family. And I’m not at all sure the Brennans don’t operate Commander’s Palace. A culinary family, they would be.

In any event, there were six of us, and I think we had six different entrees, and shared them all. My aforementioned andouille-crusted redfish was good, its crust of what tasted like breadcrumbs mixed with ground andouille a nice counterpoint to the gently sauteed onion and bell pepper on which it rested. If one liked sauteed bell pepper. I don’t. So I picked around it.

Elsewhere around the table, the grouper with crabmeat was excellent; duck was good; ribeye was good (goofy people who don’t eat seafood in New Orleans). The shrimp tfuncte (don’t ask me wtf a tfuncte is, I don’t know, but it was good) was small shrimp, not popcorn sized, but not big, either, sauteed with onions in a nice brown sauce I couldn’t really analyze in one bite, over rice. My book gives it the pick of the dinner.

Desserts were pretty amazing, including the classic bananas foster, flamed tableside. Those, the shrimp and the crabmeat cheesecake get my vote.

Here’s the link to the recipe for the cheesecake: People. Let me tell you, this is the equivalent of crack cocaine. Do not make it unless you are willing to eat a metric assload of it and gain 10 pounds in one fell swoop.

Overall Palace rating: Good. Damn good. Doesn’t come up to Mr. B’s, but good.

Nightcap after dinner at the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel, which is quite possibly the most gorgeous hotel I’ve seen in the continental US. (Not sure it can come up to the Imperial in Tokyo.) Sazerac bar is way cool. Do not get a Sazerac. They’re nasty. Get a Planter’s Punch, which is pretty freakin’ good.

Next day: Lunch. Skipped out on the conference lunch t o go to Acme Oyster House and get, what else, oysters. Plus red beans and rice. Plus gumbo and lots o’ other stuff.

Confession: I am not crazed over raw oysters. I can eat ’em, am not grossed out by them, and they’re OK. But char-grill those babies, with a minimal dusting of Parmesan on them, and I’m your huckleberry. I’ll go through as many of ’em as you’ll set in front of me.

I went through a dozen and a half, plus the bigger portion of a plate of red beans and rice (it was, after all, Monday), and went back to the remainder of the conference a happy woman.

That night was Tipitina’s, where we had a significantly good time dancing to a zydeco-soul-cover (go figger) band led by a brothah in a cowboy hat and ankle boots who was channeling James Brown. And not badly, I might add. Had some respectable muffalettas, left before we got too indecently intoxicated, and went down by Restaurant August, John Besh’s restaurant, to munch our way through some appetizers and enjoy some good wine.

Two things. Pali pinot noir. I believe they said it was Californian. Get it. It’s absolutely astounding. And the poached figs with marcona almonds and fresh ricotta. Oh, dear sweet baby Jesus. I am not sure in what they poached those figs, but I want to take a bath in it. The black truffle gnocchi was not to be dissed, either, although the cavatini with rabbit sausage was a little fennel-heavy for my tastes.

But oh, that Pali. Granted, after a series of vodka tonics, I was not at my best to assess wine, but that sure tasted good.

And we went back to the Sazerac Bar, because it is just So Cool, and had martinis, and went back to the hotel and crashed and burned.

And went home the next day. Sigh. So many restaurtants. So little time in New Orleans. Damn, but that’s a foodie town.

No cooking since. I’ll cook Saturday, and then I’m off cooking for a week or so. Will check in from time to time, if I can. Otherwise, I’m counting on you and y’mama ‘n ’em to keep it between the ditches, and trust me that I’ll be back in the kitchen one  of these days.

2 Responses to “Installment 3: Home from the Big Easy”

  1. Len Cleavelin Says:

    who bothers to eat steak in the Big Easy?

    People who can’t or won’t eat seafood.

    “Who can’t” is understandable (allergies, y’know). “Who won’t” isn’t (IMHO), but I’ve always taken the position that the more people won’t eat seafood, the more seafood is there for those of us who do. 🙂

  2. Len Cleavelin Says:

    And I’m not at all sure the Brennans don’t operate Commander’s Palace.

    According to Wikipedia, they own the place:

    (Sorry to keep polluting your comments like this; the morning caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet, and I didn’t think to check Wikipedia about Commander’s Palace before posting that earlier comment. So sue me. 😉

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