Eatin’ in New Orleans

April 28, 2013 at 3:55 PM Leave a comment

Normally, a trip to New Orleans is for pleasure, but because of an amazing turn of events, Jeff needed to spend a week working in our favorite city. Michele of course came along for half of the stay. This extended visit allowed us to sample an unusually large group of new places and revisit a few old favorites. Of course we enjoyed our obligatory Shrimp Po Boy at Johnny’s and Gumbo at Mr. B’s. Beyond those staples, with one exception, dining was a positive experience. It was a good week!

The perfect ending - This used to be a Shrimp Po Boy!

The perfect ending – This used to be a Shrimp Po Boy!

Without exception, the highlight of the week was our visit to Le Petite Grocery. This Magazine Street gem serves a wonderful amalgam of French and Louisiana food in a perfectly delightful environment with a staff of extremely knowledgeable and cordial folks. Michele enjoyed a butter-soft Bibb lettuce salad, then Shrimp and Grits. She feels no shrimp tastes quite like the Gulf Shrimp served in New Orleans and this selection was close to perfect. Normally a more reserved eater than Jeff, she was moments away from scrapping the plate to enjoy every morsel. Jeff had the Roasted Sweetbreads (which also seem to be just a bit better in NOLA) appetizer and the Rabbit entrée. Both were exquisite. Dessert was a comforting Butterscotch pudding. Not one morsel could have been better. This one is on our list for a return visit whenever we are back in town.

Almost as good was a recommendation we picked-up from New Orleans Magazine. Eat New Orleans in on Dumaine at the farther extents of the French Quarter. Jeff went there for lunch with the crew from work and each plate was better than the next. Suffice to say, much passing around was performed. Jeff had a bowl of the Chicken & Andouille Gumbo and it was excellent. The Crawfish Étouffée special and Roasted Stuffed Pepper he tasted were also top-notch. We all shared a Crawfish Boullette appetizer that was universally praised. After such a successful meal, we’re looking forward to trying a dinner. It has to be just as good, as the menu is virtually the same. Can’t wait!

John Besh’s latest spot is Borgne located in the Central Business District on Loyola Avenue in the Hyatt Hotel. They specialize in seafood fished within a 75 mile radius, insuring a quality level we have come to expect from Besh. Michele fully enjoyed the Fish in a Bag, that day featuring Sheephead, a Gulf variety that was offered as the special all week, all over town. If you’re from Cleveland, Sheephead might sound familiar. We have no idea if they are the same variety, but if so; don’t be surprised if you see Michele with a pole sitting on the shore of Lake Erie! Jeff had the Oyster Spaghetti, just like it sounds, but with a cream-based sauce. The Grilled Romaine Salad and Crawfish Croquetas appetizers and Lemon Olive Oil cake dessert were also very tasty. While far away from the typical New Orleans “action,” we did fully enjoy this meal.

For lunch on another day, Jeff experienced his first sandwich at Mother’s, a New Orleans institution. The Famous Ferdi Special is a combination of house baked ham, roast beef, “debris” and gravy. It was an excellent Po’ Boy, but way more than any human needs to eat for lunch.

While Jeff was overeating at Mother’s, Michele was doing the same at Red Fish on Bourbon Street. She had the hickory smoked Barbeque Redfish and proclaimed it amazing. Because of those large lunches, dinner that night consisted of the appetizer sliders for Jeff (Very Good!) and the Seafood Gumbo for Michele (Very Good!) at 5 Fifty 5 in the Marriott Hotel on Canal. Not bad for hotel food.

Sylvain on Chartres

Sylvain on Chartres

Once Michele left town, Jeff joined his coworkers for dinner. In the same magazine article that recommended Eat New Orleans, they also suggested Sylvain as a local place in the Jackson Square tourist area that served interesting, dynamic foods. Again, they were right. Jeff ordered the Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad as did a number of others at the table. The sharpness of the sprouts was tempered by apple, pecorino and hazelnuts. The pan fried Pork Shoulder was a real treat, while Jeff’s coworkers enjoyed the Beef Cheeks, Fish Special and Gulf Shrimp Pirlou. All around, this was a real find. As we searched for reservations in the coming days, we noted that Sylvain was booked most nights. This reasonably new spot must be garnering a good reputation.

The city was packed with people and it was really tough to get reservations for most of the rest of the week. Jeff wanted to try Dominica; John Besh’s other new place that has been attracting national attention. His coworkers really wanted to stick with more Louisiana-based cooking, so we exchanged one Besh with another and visited one of our NOLA favorites, Lüke. Lüke claims to be a French place, but we always felt it was much more German/Alsace in feel. Jeff enjoyed the Crawfish Bisque and Jägerschnitzel. Both were expertly prepared and Lüke’s house brewed beer worked well with this fare. Around the table, the Lapin special, Shrimp En Cocotte and the Choucroute Garnie Mason (a collection of pork cuts and sausage) were praised and enjoyed. This remains an excellent and popular place.

Luke on St Charles Street

Luke on St Charles Street

During our visits to Bayona (our favorite New Orleans restaurant) we have often passed the Louisiana Bistro as we walked down Dauphine Street. It is small, the posted menu seemed interesting and year after year, it stayed open. Jeff decided it was time to try this little place after a number of other places were booked. They were able to squeeze us in and we discovered another hidden gem. The table shared flash fried Oysters and Boudin Ball appetizers. They were gone in less time it took to cook the oysters! Jeff enjoyed the Duck Confit and his coworkers also expressed satisfaction with their choices. The staff here was especially engaging with heaps of hospitality.

Years ago, we had an enjoyable lunch at Olivier’s Creole restaurant. With few options on a busy Sunday night Jeff and a coworker made reservations for dinner. While we had little choice, we wish we would have tried someplace else. After a week of excellent food, we finally hit a clinker. The Crawfish Étouffée was watery and lifeless and Jeff’s associate indicated the Shrimp Creole was boring (Creole food is many things, but one of them is not boring!) Unfortunately, Olivier’s is not what it used to be.

To complete the trip, Jeff planned a late lunch/early dinner at Herbsaint. Shortly after Herbsaint opened, Jeff and Michele dined here. Chef Link has since gone on to open Cochon, one of the best places in town and both have earned James Beard awards. As expected, lunch was perfect. The Chicken Andoullie Gumbo was rich as Warren Buffett. The beer battered Soft Shell Crab was crunchy, soft and flavorful and the flash fried Brussels Sprouts were flakey and delicious. Herbsaint is indicative of why we love New Orleans food. The foodstuff is different, the preparation is excellent and the memories last…at least until the next visit! St Louis Street New Orleans, LA 70130 504-525-8037 Royal Street New Orleans, LA 70130 504-523-2078 Magazine Street New Orleans, LA 70115 504-891-3377 Dumaine Street New Orleans, LA 70116 504-522-7222 Loyola Avenue New Orleans, LA 70113 504-613-3860 Poydras Street New Orleans, LA 70130 504-523-9656 Bourbon Street New Orleans, LA 70130 504-598-1200 Canal Street New Orleans, LA 70130 504-533-5638 Chartres Street New Orleans, LA 70130 504-265-8123 St. Charles Street New Orleans, LA 70130 504-378-2840 Dauphine Street New Orleans, LA 70112 504-525-3335 Decatur Street New Orleans, LA 70130 504-525-7734 St Charles Street New Orleans, LA 70130 504-524-4114

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