Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Here and there in NOLA

Maybe you go to a city for a conference and then stick to the program for the whole four days. Not me! I have to get out an explore on my own. So that's what my Tales buddy Lisa and I did when there were no seminars that sounded crucial. Once you get past all the cruddy and touristy bars and start getting deeper into the French Quarter, it reveals a weathered old world beauty that lives up to its name.

For lunch one day, we popped into Galatoire's which like most of the restaurants in the area has been there since the early part of the century. I had the most delicious and huge soft-shell crab lightly fried and drizzled with a buttery meuinere sauce; I would have taken a picture but I was too hungry. Afterward, we ordered Cafe Brulot, the potent coffee drink that's spiked with cognac and orange liqueur. We had seen the whole show at Arnaud's the previous night, where the waiter held a long, clove-studded orange peel over the bowl and made blue flames dance up the spiraled peel. We couldn't wait for our own show! So it was disappointing and a bit startling when our waiter brought a silver bowl of coffee to the table, tossed in some orange peel and then torched it. That coffee stain on the table was from when he poured flaming coffee onto the table cloth for an added thrill - as if!

By the next day, Lisa was dying for some modern Southern food, so we cabbed over to Cochon, where chef Donald Link creates eclectic fare. The room was very open with lots of natural light and wood, but our waitress who seemed like she's rather be having a root canal was a downer. But we didn't care after she started bringing food like pork ribs with watermelon pickle and this insanely good pork cake (like a crab cake but with pork) on top of sweet and sour braised cabbage garnished with mango and fried pork rinds. The only thing that would have made it better was a nice glass of sekt.

It's a good thing I'm doing a lot of walking down here! Speaking of walking, I think it's still a good idea to stick with a group when walking around in the French Quarter at night. So that's what I did, hoofing it over to the far side of things for yet another Beefeater's party for Desmond Payne. There were guys dressed as Beefeaters and lots of red cocktails in honor of the Ruby Jubilee, but it was also bloody hot. I ducked out and then met up with an interesting looking group who turned out to be from O'Nieal's Grand Street Bar We've all been there; it was the scene for Steve and Aidan's bar called Scout in Sex and the City. After hearing "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "Let it Be" by a man playing an instrument made of water glasses of different pitches, Jessica, Chris, and I walked back to the Hotel Monteleone. "All those people in there think they know what to do with glasses," Chris told the musician "but you really know."
I couldn't agree more.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Spirited Dinners Part 2

Most times I can look over a list of ingredients for a cocktail and decide if I'll like it or not. But as the next cocktail in the Spirited Dinner at Restaurant August in New Orleans proved, looks can be deceiving.

The first ingredient in the Ruby Bean cocktail was Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky. I'm no fan of the smoky, peat-mossy flavors I've found in the few Scotches I've tastes. But mixologist Charlotte Voisey tamed the smokiness with two other elements. First she added Lillet Rouge a French fortified wine made from cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes. She lightened the flavors and added a hint of sweetness with Licor 43 a Spanish liqueur made of 43 ingredients including citrus, herbs and vanilla. Finally, she brightened the cocktail with orange and lemon juices. The whole delicious effect was that of a smooth, potent and citrusy sangria, with a hint of vanilla and bitterness. It turned out to be my favorite of the evening.

Though it was paired with Chef John Besh's seafood-stuffed veal breast, Silver Queen corn and crab risotto; The Ruby Bean would be delicious with pork or even a juicy beef steak.

The last cocktail of the evening, called Bite the Bullet, paired Bulleit bourbon with Dubonnet Rouge and a whipped caramel sauce. It was tasty, with the dessert of caramelized heirloom tomatoes with creme fraiche ice cream and more caramel.

But I opted to finish my Ruby Bean for dessert.