New Orleans

Foodie in New Orleans: Emeril's

Mirliton I recently dined at Emeril's Delmonico on the historic and charming St. Charles Avenue--the St. Charles Streetcar stops right outside.  I've never been to any of the Emeril's Restaurants and was somewhat wary about whether the popularity of this restaurant was due to its celebrity chef's celebrity status; however the food was a beautiful hodgepodge of southern classics and modern flavors.  Due to the prime location of this restaurant, I've passed it countless times walking or driving down St. Charles Avenue.  I figured it would be the perfect place to celebrate my sister's birthday.  We were about 15 minutes early for our reservation, so they ushered us to the bar.  The bartender at the "welcome bar" was highly knowledgeable and suggested a lovely red wine that my mom loved. Plus, the highly talented pianist played some jazz favorites as we sipped our wine near the bar area.

The fam in front of Emeril's Delmonico

We started the evening with the merleton appetizer (pictured at top).  Merleton is a vegetable that folks eat here in south Louisiana. It's kind of a hybrid between a squash, a potato, and a pepper, and it's traditionally eaten at Thanksgiving.  It's also called "chayote" or "alligator pear."  One of the many outstanding servers shared a story of how his grandfather prepared this vegetable back in the day.  The spicy sauce was the star of the plate, nicely complimenting the mild, fleshy merleton and the buttery Louisiana crab.  The restaurant also served cornbread and potato rolls that are freshly baked in-house.  But be careful:  these hot-out-the-oven dinner rolls might just melt in your mouth, and you definitely want to save room for dessert.

My sister and I decided to order different entrees so that we could taste each other's dishes.  I had the "dry aged moulard duck breast," served over a bed of sweet corn maque choux, brussels sprouts, roasted poblano, cheddar grits, and tasso jam.  I must admit that I ordered this dish more for the sides than the actual duck breast.  The corn maque choux with cheddar grits sounded irresistible, and it was.  The sweetness of the corn in the maque choux balanced savory and creaminess of the cheddar grits, making it a phenomenal dish.  All of the components fit together like the pieces of a puzzle.  The spicy-sweet tasso jam added a nice complement to the savory roasted brussels sprouts.  I am not really a big red meat eater, but I ordered the duck breast cooked medium.  The skin was crispy and the fleshy inside was tender.  There was certainly a generous serving of duck breast; although, the other components of the dish were the true stars.

duck breast

My sister ordered the jumbo gulf shrimp bordelaise, with chaurice sausage, zucchini, sweet peppers, chick peas, garlic butter, and oregano breadcrumbs.  This dish was nearly entirely paleo----no major amount of carbs in it----just meat and veggies.  She described it as "gumbo without the rice," which is a gross simplification of this beautifully complex dish. But, I must admit, I do love my sides so this meat and veg dish was not as good as mine--but it was still a beautiful, thoughtful dish.  My mom's gumbo was great.  I'm typically wary of ordering gumbo from a restaurant----any restaurant. But, the sausage in this dish really made it stand out.

shrimp bordelaise

We didn't have room for dessert, but they surprised my sister with scoop of house-made sorbet.  I asked one of our servers what flavor it was.  He wasn't sure----he said "either dreamsicle or passion fruit."  I got way too excited about the prospect of passion fruit; so, he promised to bring an extra scoop of passion fruit in case it was dreamsicle and not passion fruit.

Happy Birthday Lu: Delicious dreamsicle sorbet

It was dreamsicle.  And to my surprise, it was divine.  When I think of dreamsicle or creamsicle, i think of those syrupy sweet orange-dyed popsicles with vanilla ice cream inside.  Not bad, but not exactly "gourmet."  This scoop of dreamsicle sorbet was more than gourmet--it reinvented an old-fashioned, childhood classic to a sophisticated and classy, seemingly simple sorbet.  I imagine that it was gelato or sorbet made with ripe, fresh oranges.  It wasn't creamy, so I'm not sure if there was cream, but it tasted like fresh Madagascar or Tahitian Vanilla Beans.  I had to let the server know that I was so glad that they brought the dreamsicle, because I would not have tried it otherwise!  Despite how great it was, he demanded that we also try the passion fruit, so we did.  The passion fruit was super tart and tangy.  For those who are not familiar with passion fruit, the juice is about as tart as a lemon.  I love it in desserts because the tartness provides a great contrast to the sweetness.  Eating a scoop alone was pretty hard though; I prefer to eat it with vanilla (or even chocolate!)  But, I was glad that we got to sample it.

We had a lovely evening filled with great food, and amazing service.  Cheers to our waitstaff that made our night so special.

lucy 2

New Orleans Food Crawl

New Orleans is one of the great culinary capitals of the world, and I am certain that my love affair with food has its roots in creole cuisine.  My earliest memories involve Louisiana food--the aquariums and hush puppies at Ralph and Kacoo's or the Saturday afternoon cajun dancing to go along with your crawfish etoufee at Boutin's (formerly Mulate's).

More recently, I have had the pleasure of enjoying meals at some of New Orleans' most famed restaurants--from Commander Palace's creole bread pudding souffle (above), to the "gumbo z'herbes" and fried chicken (below) at Dooky Chase, an African-American family-run restaurant that played a pivotal role during the Civil Rights era.

I was in New Orleans with a couple of first-timers, so we decided to go on a food crawl.  We started at Palace Cafe on Canal Street.  Palace Cafe is the bistro version of Commander's Palace, so it's an excellent budget option.   I love their crabmeat cheesecake and their pecan-crusted fish, "gulf fish pecan."  (official Palace Cafe crabmeat cheesecake recipe)  But most importantly, make sure you save room for dessert and try the classic New Orleans dish, Bananas Foster (below).  The bananas are flambeed tableside in banana liquer and rum.

Our next stop was Cafe Du Monde in Jackson square.  We enjoyed cafe au lait and delicious beignets!  My family uses the mix over the holidays to make beignets, and they come out incredible.  Extremely easy if you can control the temperature of heat in your skillet.Cafe Du Monde Beignet Mix 28oz - 4 Unit Pack
The next day, we went to Mother's.  I think tourists enjoy this place more than locals.  I ordered pancakes and red beans and rice.  Neither impressed me.  Their shrimp creole, however, was quite tasty.
If you are visiting New Orleans, be sure to try some gumbo, a shrimp po boy, and crawfish (if it's in season).  And if you like to party, make sure you get a hand grenade (below) from one of the four locations that sells them in the French Quarter.