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Eating New Orleans

We’ve just returned from a 9-day trip to NOLA. First time back, post-Katrina. We ate at all of the restaurants, that I had mentioned in my previous thread, plus a few additional ones. In an attempt to put these into some order, I’m going to do, as I did for our 16-day trip to Hawai`i, last October, and add each restaurant as a Reply. That way, someone can collapse the threads and hit only what they want. It also helps me put each restaurant into a separate review, so I don’t jump all over the place.

Background: wife is a “native,” as is her mother, who was traveling with us. Wife’s family mostly still lives in NOLA, or its environs. Everyone loves good food, though most are not the “food-geeks,” that we are, and certainly not the winos, either. One nephew has been a line-chef, a pastry-chef and a sous-chef at some higher-end NOLA restaurants and just cooked his way across Prague for six months. A niece has been in food-service in NOLA, mostly at the “neighborhood eatery” level. My wife could well be a chef, were she not so good at being a hospital president. Maybe for retirement, I’ll get her into Le Cordon Bleu and fund a restaurant wherever she wants – if I can be her sommelier...

We flew the Southwest Airlines’ Disney Land/Disney World shuttle, picking it up in Phoenix. This made it easy on us, as mother-in-law is 87 and in a wheelchair - non-stop was definitely the way to go. I left my wine glasses in their travel bag at home, since my hands were full, and regretted that decision several times.

In general terms, the food was great, and the service was even better. We could not have felt any more welcome (except for MSY, but that is another story), and it was heartening to see the City doing so well with the restaurant scene. [Note: if I were just a casual tourist and did not know intimately, of the charms of New Orleans, I would have left immediately and never returned, based on the treatment and attitude of some of the concessionaires at MSY. They are NOT ambassadors for the great, but still struggling city – sour, dour, mean, rude and nasty. What a bunch.]

What follows is the chronological progression, regarding our diners. The other dining will not be covered, with two exceptions: brunch on Sunday and lunch on the Gulf Coast.

Hunt

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  1. Dockside

    We were a bit late getting into MSY and then had a couple of minor problems with our hotel reservations. With much of the family in-tow, it was decided to try Dockside, a small neighborhood place on Dickory Ave, Metairie/Harahan. I had seen this place on previous trips, but had never eaten there. Family members, however, had, and suggested it. We arrived with a party of eight.

    It is a well-lit “neighborhood” restaurant in a small strip-center in the Hickory/Dickory/Dock area, just off of the western end of the Earhart Expressway.

    Now, I must reiterate that we arrived late and with a large group, to be fair to the owners. There were a few patrons there, but most were finishing up their meals. I think that the kitchen might even have shut down, about the time that we arrived. However, we were not impressed by anything served.

    Most of the family had either the seafood platter (ours with soft-shelled crab), or the “extreme” seafood platter (probably not the official name, but it was $40 and had about everything imaginable. We did a few appetizer plates, but other than the onion rings, I do not recall what they were. I understand why my memory is not working, as everything was forgettable. The onion rings looked much better on a few plates, that were still being served to the stragglers in the restaurant. We got a double order for our end of the table, and they were the oddest onion rings, that I have ever encountered. They were large (tall, as the onion is sliced) and very thick. The batter seemed to be baked, and not fried, as I believe the earlier versions were, or at least appeared. The onion, inside, seemed to be reconstructed from jig-saw puzzle-like pieces, if that makes sense and were raw - even cold in places. The batter was warm, but not very. The onion pieces seemed moist, but had no taste or consistency - odd.

    The seafood platters (fried shrimp, oysters, fish and fries) seemed to be heated from the freezer. Nothing had a really good taste, and I think that they might well have been re-heated. Our soft-shell was just plain bad. I know that the season is “over,” but this crustacean had been in a freezer for a year, or two. It was inedible. Bad choice on our part. Even the 20-something nephews and nieces did not finish their “extreme” platters, and I’ve seen them devastate a restaurant like a swarm of locusts. No one came close to finishing their meal. No one wanted to take any home, either.

    The wine list was non-existent, but I did not expect much. I won’t bore you with the wine glasses, but will say now, that I wish that I had traveled with my own. Having a wheelchair-bound family member, precluded that, as we had enough to carry, without a bunch of wine glasses.

    I hate to write the above, as several family members stated that this was NOT the typical fare there, but all chimed in, “we should have gone to Come Back Inn.” I really felt that I needed to try them once more, earlier in the evening, without the whole family, but could not pass up the food, that was to come.

    After this inauspicious start, I really did not know what to expect during the rest of the trip.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      My experiences with Dockside over the past four years have been very different from Bill's. Since my daughter lives just across the street, I have gone there numerous times before and after Katrina. My family has had the platters, salads, po'boys, and soups everything has been well above average. Dockside is not fine dining. It is a great neighborhood casual seafood venue. I heading to Mardi Gras on Friday and looking forward to stopping by Dockside, getting great seafood, and avoiding the crowds in the tourist areas.

    2. Sake Café
      4201 Veterans Memorial Blvd.
      Metairie
      No Web site found

      The next night was “kids’ choice,” and we ended up at Sake Cafe, behind Houston’s on Veterans Boulevard in Metairie. It was an unassuming place outside, with nice decor inside. Now, I enjoy sushi, but am not the sushi-nut, that my wife is. I usually build around a tempura seafood main, with several various rolls, and then nibble on her full-sushi spread. We do this in San Francisco, Honolulu, London, Denver (yes, I know, but one of the best sushi restaurants that we’ve encountered *anywhere* is Kenny Sonoda’s in Aurora, CO), almost anyplace. The sushi was far better than the tempura, which was just OK, with very rubbery calamari. Fortunately, we had two giant platters of almost everything on the menu. All was very good.

      I thought that I had hit the “mother lode,” when I saw Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough Region, NZ) for $40/btl. on the wine list. I am a fan of this wine, and SB is usually great with Sushi. Normally, I’ll go with a bit more of a fruit-driven wine, say from the Central Coast, Sonoma, or even Napa, but could not resist this deal. Well, it was not to be – no Cloudy Bay. Unfortunately, most of the wines, on the meager list were not sushi-friendly, and the only other SB was ‘04 Casa Lapastolle, Rapel Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Now, I have to confess that I am not a fan of Chilean wines, only having encountered one, that I would buy. I have also attended three wine dinners with Mrs Alexandra Marnier-Lapostolle, and was, at one, seated immediately by her side. When asked for a full review of the evening’s wines (several “library” selections brought in just for that event), I had to use decorum to keep from offending my hostess. I believe that I could have successfully run for political office, based on my responses that evening.

      This wine just fell flat and was overpowered by all aspects of the meal, except for a “plastic bite” on the finish, which was not to be overpowered by anything. The glassware did not help the wine, in the least, and it was served about 40°F (a theme that was repeated all too often). OTOH, maybe it was a blessing that this wine was so cold, as you could not taste anything for some time. When you could, it was not really worth drinking. Oh well, it WAS a sushi spot, so what did I expect?

      All of the sushi was very good, though nothing hit me as great. I do not know about BYOB policies, but would try to bring in my own wines next time and pay corkage, if possible. I sure missed my own glassware too.

      Not bad, and at a fair price. Not the best sushi that I’ve had, but really quite good. It seems that I saw at least one other restaurant with this name, so it might be a mini-chain.

      1. Restaurant August
        301 Tchoupitoulas St
        http://restaurantaugust.com/august.htm

        Now the fun begins!

        My wife had done a seminar with Chef John Besh at the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience some years back, and had been very impressed with his cooking and philosophy. I had also seen many good reviews of Restaurant August, so we were primed. We dined as a party of 2 and chose an early sitting.

        The interior is lovely and elegant, with at least three “rooms” to choose from. Though the “wine room” seating was available, we chose a table by the large windows, in the main dining room. The tables are very ample, and well-spaced. Service, from reservations to the final course/wine, were outstanding.

        Our starter wine was a Louis-Jadot Meursault ‘04.

        We both opted for the nine-course “tasting menu,” with wine-pairings:

        1st Course:
        Tomato Tart Inversé, paired with Perrier Jouët NV Champagne. Tomatoes were the recurring theme of the evening. The tart was crisp and the tomatoes were very fresh an tangy. The textures were an excellent counter-point. The Champagne was the best “pairing” for much of the evening.

        2nd Course:
        Crispy Seared Foie Gras with Bing Cherry and Pickled Chanterelle, paired with a Chenz Marchand Sancerre. Luckily, I still had some of my Champagne, as the Sancerre disappeared next to the Foie Gras. I had asked for a TBA Riesling, but none was available. A glass of Late Harvest SB was produced, but I do not have the notes on it. It, and the Champagne were far, far better than the Sancerre. The Foie Gras was just right, and the Cherry and Chanterelles were interesting notes. The textures of the toast point (base) and the Foie Gras was a very nice balance.

        3rd Course:
        Olive Crusted Redfish with Basil Risotto, Crispy Sweet Tomatoes and Aioli. This was served with Treana, Central Sonoma Coast Viognier. While I am a fan of Viognier, the Treana did not do well with the Redfish. The Treana is a Viognier/Marsanne blend (do not have the %, but it seems that it’s ~ 65/35, IIRC). It’s a nice wine, but did not belong with Redfish. Still had some of the Champagne and the Sancerre, each of which did better, but would have loved a Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir with some nice acid. The Redfish was probably the best course, but suffered from a poor wine pairing.

        4th Course:
        House-made Rabbit Sausage with White Bean & Cherokee Purple Tomato Salad, served with the Acacia, Carneros Pinot Noir. The Rabbit was wonderful as was the “salad,” upon which it was served – tender, lovely presentation and great textures. Now, I like the Acacia Carneros. It’s even our “house” PN. I wish that I had had it with the Redfish, but it did not help the Rabbit. It was just too one-dimensional. I think that their Beckstoffer Vineyard bottling, or maybe some of the more hearty and complex Santa Barbara PNs would have been a far better choice. Even a Syrah would have done more for the pairing, than did the Acacia.

        5th Course:
        Pan-fried Veal Sweetbreads with Garlic and Wild Mushrooms, paired with Lea Santa Barbara Petite Sirah. I am not a really big fan of Sweetbreads, in general, but these were the best that I have ever had. Their texture was similar to that of the Foie Gras and the Garlic and the Mushrooms were perfect accompaniments. The Lea, a wine, that I was not familiar with, went very well (not quite as well as the Champagne from Course #1, which was leading at this point), and the Acacia was better, than with the Rabbit. So glad that I held on to most of my wines for the other courses, and wish that they had been served first, so I could have tried some of the later ones, with earlier dishes.

        6th Course:
        Mayhaw Glazed Quail, stuffed with Berkshire Pork on Rice Vermicelli with Lemongrass Broth. This was served with Surh Luchtel, Gary’s Vineyard, Pinot Noir. The Quail was crisp and the Berkshire Pork added the right note of salt and smokiness. While I liked the Lemongrass Broth, I’m not sure that it really complimented the Quail & Pork. I think that I would have enjoyed it elsewhere. This wine was probably the best all around, in the group, and its earthy notes, plus a hint of smoke, brought it to the #1 pairing.

        7th Course:
        Slow-braised Kobe Short-rib with Potato Confit, Asparagus and Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette. My favorite! This was maybe the third-best Short-rib that I have had and atop the Potato, was excellent, tender, moist – all the things that Short-rib should be. It was paired with the Tensley, Colson Canyon, Syrah. It was a nice wine, but I’d have grabbed a Turley Duarte Zinfandel, if this were at my home. The Tensley just did not have the body to stand up to the beef.

        8th Course:
        Grilled Fleur de Tech Sandwich with Cucumber Sorbet, served with Fonseca 10yr Tawny Port. The Cucumber Sorbet didn’t work as well as I thought that it might, but the “Sandwich” was great, as was the Port. Maybe it was the Cucumber, but the match was not hitting on all cylinders.

        9th Course:
        Warm Tarte of Local Blueberries with Brown Butter Pecan Crust and Buttermilk Ice Cream. Yum! This was served with Domaine de Gran Prē Pomme D’Or. These two item, the Tarte and the Pomme D’Or were a wonderful way to end the evening.

        I had recalled comments on CH and a few other boards, that Chef Besh’s portions were too small. As all that we had to go on, was the tasting menu, I felt that they were perfect. I would not have wanted any more of any - except the Foie Gras, but then I’d eat that, until I had to be carried from the table, so it doesn’t count. The wine pours were about 3-4 oz., or what I call a half-glass (except for my starter wine and Foie Gras accompaniment wine), and were ideal. The presentations were excellent and I’m glad that we opted for the main room with the large windows, to better see the delightful detail. I would not have missed that show for anything.

        I thought that the wine pairings were the weakest part of the evening. As noted, I felt that a few might have been “out of order,” and were certainly not the best possible. OTOH, it is impossible to order the “perfect” wines with so large a menu, unless you are dining with a party of 10-12, so one has to go with the sommelier’s choices, unless the restaurant offers hundreds of B-T-G wine selections, and few in the world have a list that would have covered this meal. Except for the Champagne, the whites were too cold and all of the reds far too warm. The glassware needs to be kicked up a notch, or two. I did see more appropriate glassware being used at nearby tables, and feel that to accompany Chef Besh’s work, better glasses should be used for the pairings. Some restaurants look upon pairings as “just wine-by-the-glass,” but they should not be considered such. They should showcase the best that the sommelier can deliver, to work with the food. I think that sommelier, Lee Ingold should step it up a bit, even if it means charging more for the wine pairings and the better glassware. It would certainly be worth the $. We recently dined at Chef Mavro’s, Honolulu, and the sommelier, Todd Ashline, formerly of Tru in Chicago, offered two pairings with the 4 – 7 – 9 and 11 course “tasting menu.” One was a “standard pairing, but for ~$5 – 10 additional per glass, one could get his 1er Cru pairing – outstanding and well worth the extra. I wish that more sommeliers would provide this service. Maybe, in time, Restaurant August can do something similar, as the food really deserves it. Another tip: with a tasting menu and wine pairing, serve the “next” wine, BEFORE the previous dish has been cleared, not after the patron has had three bites of the one, that the wine is to be paired with.

        Later in the week, we happened to have a server, who also works at Restaurant August and he had a theory on why the wines might not have been up to par with the food. His thought was that in the Summer, the diners were more probably local, and not so attuned to fine wines, as during the height of the “tourist season,” plus that the restaurants did not get their better wines in, at that time of the year. I do not know if this is the case, but would urge the sommelier to go for the best, during all seasons, and not short-change any of the diners at any time. I felt that the food and other aspects of the service, were 95-99%, but that the wines, to borrow from Chef Emeril Lagasse, needed to be “kicked up a notch” - glassware, serving temp and wine selections. Remember, the old rule-of-thumb about reds being served at “room temp” comes from Europe, where “room temp” is between 50 & 60° F, not far from the normal cellar temp, and whites should not seem as though they were poured into a chilled glass. This is not Budweiser, that we are drinking folks.

        Though only a general observation, it appeared that while we dined, from a very early seating to a very late departure, the restaurant had turned-over about twice. Maybe I missed someone in another room, but do not think so. At no time, did we feel rushed in any fashion, though we were occupying a prime table. Pacing was perfect and every aspect of service was flawless. We were never wanting, without, or being intruded upon.

        The menu was certainly innovative and Chef Besh might have been taking a few chances, but all dishes were very good to great, without some of the hokey affectations, that too many chefs use today. There was not one instance of what I refer to as “the emperor’s new clothes.” If I were to be in NOLA next month, I’d dine there again. The cost was $434.18, dinner for 2, including tip, but remember, that I had three additional glasses of wine.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Bill Hunt

          "His thought was that in the Summer, the diners were more probably local, and not so attuned to fine wines, as during the height of the “tourist season,” plus that the restaurants did not get their better wines in, at that time of the year."

          YET another reason to cross RA off my list...a server doesn't come up with this kind of theory on his/her own...if there is even a minute bit of truth to this statement I will make sure my expense account dollars are directed elsewhere ~ especially in the off season until the tourists get to town and bring with them better class of wine drinkers...yeah right

          1. re: chef4hire

            I do not know how intimate the young server's experience was with the actual wine program, but, like you, feel that it is a very poor approach to a food/wine program, if true. I feel that all diners deserve the best in each, that a restaurant can muster - at all times.

            Now, some of the problem could be one of distribution and the re-building of a wine program. I'll withhold final judgement, until I can dine there again. However, I will grade the wine program a bit more harshly then, and not be so quick to overlook pairings that just do not work, and wines that should be on the B-T-G list at Copland's, or similar.

            As mentioned elsewhere, I'd urge RA to look into doing a two-tier "sommelier's pairing" with a regular list and a "reserve" list for a few $ more. Todd Ashline's approach at Chef Mavro's, Honolulu, is perfect, in this respect. Though we do a lot of chef's tastings & wine pairings around the globe, I have yet to encounter so well thoughtout a program, elsewhere.

            Chef Besh's food needs a better accompaniment, in my opinion.

            Hunt

          2. re: Bill Hunt

            Just caught Chef Besh winning the Iron Chef competition agains Chef Mario Bitali. Chef Besh's fare looked and sounded great. Apparently, the judges thought so too. Phoenix had just scored a win with Chef Mark Tarbell, and we've got another one taping now.

            Just thought I'd add this here, in the Chef Besh sub-thread.

            Hunt

            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Lee Ingold has not been at August since April 2005.

              1. re: fruitcake

                Thanks for the info. That was the name that I was given, and was also still on the Web site. I made the assumption that if they were still listing him, and giving references to him, when we dined there, that he was still current. Obviously, my research stopped a bit short.

                [Edit] Out of curiosity, who is the sommelier at Restaurant August, and was that person in charge 9 mos. ago? I cannot imagine why the restaurant would have given me old, incorrect, info, but maybe the head server did not know, so just chose a name from the past.

                Appreciate the correction,

                Hunt

            2. G W Fins
              808 Bienville St
              http://www.gwfins.com/

              Years ago, we were to attend a medical convention in NOLA, but had to change our plans. A foodie/wino friend got a rec. from the hotel concierge for her one free night of dining – a new place in the Quarter, G W Fins. She called from the restaurant to tell us to add them to our list for the next trip down, partly because of their extensive B-T-G wine list, but also the seafood. We did, and the rest is “history.” We’ve dined there on almost every trip to NO, including vintners’ dinners with the NOWFE events. We took mother-in-law, an aunt and a cousin for an early dinner. I won’t try to give a complete review of everyone’s meal, but will, instead, concentrate on my wife’s choices, and on mine.

              Starters:
              Seafood Gumbo (excellent, though not the best of my life, or even this trip), Wood Grilled Gulf Shrimp with Melon Relish and Lobster Butter and Spinach and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Strawberries and Walnuts. The starting wines were: Cakebread Cellars, ‘05 Napa Sauvignon Blanc and Belle Glos, Clark & Telephone Vineyard, Santa Maria ‘05 Pinot Noir.

              Mains:
              Crispy Jumbo Soft Shell Crabs with Mashed Potatoes, Creamy Brown Butter and Chopped Cashews, and Wood Grilled Louisiana Pompano with Lump Crab, 4 Melon Salsa, Grilled Banana and Lobster Butter. The wines were: Cakebread Cellars, ‘05 Napa Chardonnay and Fiddlehead Cellars, Fiddlestix/Lollapalooza Vineyard, ‘03 Santa Rita Hills, Pinot Noir (would have been great with the 3rd & 4th courses at Restaurant August.

              The Gulf Shrimp and the Soft Shell Crab were both excellent. Apparently, there were still a few good soft shells left, though later in the week, Chef Frank Brigsten had not found any, so they were off his menu. The Grilling of the Shrimp were perfect, and that is not that easy to get just right. The Soft Shell was crisp on the outside, but oh so tender and juicy on the inside - one of the best! I really enjoyed the Pompano, but kept reflecting to the last time that I had that fish (different prep., of course) at the Pontchartrain Hotel. It was good, but the bar had been set very high. The salad was very nice, and the Balsamic Strawberries were a nice touch.

              Of the wines, the Cakebread Cellars Chard was the weakest. I would have chosen a Montrachet, or even a Meursault, had they been on the list. I like Dick Cakebread’s wines, even after he sold the operation, but this was just a bit too much of a Cal-Chard. Hey, what did I expect? It WAS a Cal-Chard.

              The restaurant is bright, with well-spaced tables and a very attentive staff, as always. Service is very friendly and attentive, though in a more “casual” way, than Restaurant August. Once again, we arrived early and stayed late (but not as late as Restaurant August) and never felt rushed. Very good pacing and nothing missing. The surfaces are a bit “reflective,” and when the dining room is going full-tilt, it can be a bit loud. Still, the seafood (more grilled than fried, usually) is always top-notch. The wine glassware needs a bit of a re-work, but was still better than what we found at the majority of the restaurants. Still, why not go for perfect? The wine list seems pared down, and there seemed to be fewer B-T-G selections. Maybe restaurants have scaled back the wine selections, post-Katrina. I know that many lost their cellars, so I will not be too critical, as the selections here, and elsewhere were adequate. One suggestion that I would offer to G W Fins is, white Burgundy. Both the steely, flinty Chablis and the richer, more buttery variations, would go so very well with their fare. The Pinot Noirs were very good, however - maybe a Brewer-Clifton for the high-end, but that’s about all.

              After maybe 12 meals there, I do not ever hesitate to recommend them. I feel that they fit nicely into a mix of the more casual and the higher-end establishments, and have never disappointed me. My wife placed them squarely in the #2 position, behind Brigtsen’s – not bad.

              The total bill was $477.24 for five, with some fairly significant Pinot Noirs.

              1. Cochon
                930 Tchoupitoulas St
                http://www.gwfins.com/

                This was another restaurant, that was new to me. I had read many reviews, here and elsewhere, and really wanted to try it. The restaurant is a bit on the small side, but very bright with a nice sized bar to one side in the front of the dining room. It is very causal, with matching blonde wood tables and chairs. The chairs, though wooden, were surprisingly comfortable. For this excursion, we gathered the nephews, a few SO’s and mother-in-law, wheelchair and all. Nearly the entire crew was waiting for us, and the staff had arranged a large table, with a spot for the wheelchair. We crowded around, and I wish that we had had a bit more table real estate, especially when I added several wines to the table, along with a few beers and cocktails. Still, we got by and never felt as though we were jammed in amongst other tables – a good sign for me.

                Again, I will concentrate on wife’s and my choices, plus wines.

                Starters:
                Jalapeno & Roasted Corn Cala with Tomato Salad, Fried Alligator with Chili Garlic Aioli, Black-eyed Pea & Pork Gumbo and Spicy Grilled Pork Ribs with Watermelon Pickle. I know, 4 starters for just 2, but they all sounded so good.

                Mains:
                Oven Roasted Redfish, “Fisherman’s Style,” and Smoked Beef Brisket with Horseradish Potato Salad, plus sides of: Macaroni & Cheese, Eggplant & Shrimp Dressing and Smothered Greens.

                Everything was fantastic, plus all of the various “tastes” that the nephews put onto my plate. Each dish had distinct and distinctive flavors, and everything worked well, except for the Smothered Greens, which might have been a tad over-cooked. There was no discerning one green, i.e mustard, turnip, kale, etc. from the other. Otherwise, it was some of the best “comfort food,” that I have eaten. The portions were large enough to share “bites,” with others, and not so much that you imagined that your mother would spring from the kitchen and admonish you about the “starving children in China.” Nothing was heavy-handed, and the spices seemed about perfect. Now, we love spices, and a fair amount of “heat,” but it HAS been years, since we lived in NOLA. Everything here was just about perfect. Decades ago, I might have tapped a few drops of Tabasco into some of the dishes, but not this time - no need, as they were as I would have wanted them to be.

                Now, the wines were not so much paired, as they were just ordered, as I saw fit. With the variations in starters and mains, it would have been impossible, though the small, but adequate wine list worked well with the food. Someone knew what they were doing there. We started with Bouchard Pere et Fils, ‘04 Meursault, Les Clous and the Stadt Krems ‘05 Weinzierberg, Grüner Veltliner. These were followed up with, and overlapped by: Belle Glos, Clark & Telephone Vineyard ‘05 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir, Qupé Los Olivos ‘05 Syrah and Fritz ‘03 Sonoma Zinfandel. The wine service was very good, though a few times, the server got called away, when other tables’ meals were up. I guess that they figured that we had a ton of wine (and beers and cocktails) and that the food elsewhere might get cold, if they kept doing our wines. Not a big deal, and a bit reflective of the casual atmosphere. The glassware was adequate, but not ideal, however the serving temps were just about perfect - no cupping a glass of white, to warm it, or placing a red into an ice-water bath to cool it. I am more at ease with the casual nature of the wine service, than I am with really off serving temps, but I find that very common in the Deep South, and really much of the US.

                For dessert, I did two wines, that I did not know: “New Orleans Port,” from Covington Winery (still looking for the Web site and varietals) and the Edmeades Late Harvest Zinfandel. I know Edmeades and have had most single-vineyard offerings, but had never had their LH Zin. I expected a version of their Mendocino Ridge, Alden Ranch Zin, but on steroids. This was actually lighter than the Alden Ranch (16.5% ABV in ‘99, but with the ATF +/- 01.5% variance would guess 18%) and very interesting. It could have passed for a normal Edmeades, but I got to see the bottle. The New Orleans Port was surprisingly good. It reminded me a bit of the Sandeman’s Founder’s Reserve (Ruby) Port, but with some varietal character, beyond what one finds in Port (Porto). I could not quite place the exact varietals, but found it interesting.

                Others had more traditional desserts, and raved, but I took mine in a couple of copitas, instead.

                In all, great food in a very relaxed setting with service to match. I was very pleased with the recs. that I had received, and so glad that we had fit Cochon into the mix.

                The bill for 7, tax and tip included, came to $698.06 and I stuck on an additional $20, for some special service regarding the wheelchair. I will return and will include them in my “Must Dine” while in NOLA. Thanks for the tip.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  That is more like the pricing I have found. How this former poster fed 5 people for $150.00 is beyond me. Even lunch would cost more.

                  1. re: Tonto

                    If a group split the first courses and settled for limited mains, w/o wine, it might be possible. In my case, the wine certainly ran up the tab and did a handful of brews for one nephew. I'll look over my copy of the menu and see what might be possible. OTOH, to do a meal, there or anyplace else, I have to have my wine, so that is the load that I bear.

                    In all, it was well worth the $ and I would not hesitate to recommend them, or return. Great food, and a fun place for an up-scale casual NOLA/S. LA-influenced meal. (By LA I, of course, mean Louisiana and not that city in CA)

                    Hunt

                    1. re: Tonto

                      yeah, I think you are refering to me. it was a buisness lunch and we passed roughly 10 small plates and no entrees. We all left very satisfied.

                      1. re: malenky

                        Thanks for the clarification. That is one reason that I try to give a description of what we had, so that folk are not shocked and the price, should they not opt for a half-case of wine with the meal. Some go so far as to list the price of each dish, but that gets a bit tedious, at times.

                        Glad that you hit the thread to add the comments. When one is planning an evening of dining, they should have some idea of what to expect, regarding price. I hate to recommend a restaurant to someone, only to have them recoil when they see the prices, or worse, the tab.

                        Thanks,
                        Hunt

                        1. re: malenky

                          I think one really great thing about Cochon is that you can have a very small or very large meal and it's not awkward if you just order a few small plates, because their menu is designed to be flexible around what the diners want. My favorite thing about their menu is I can order a few small plates even if a male dining companion orders much more (I guess you can do that anywhere, but it's easier when the menu is so adaptable).

                          I am a big Cochon fan so I'm glad you liked it!

                    2. Emeril’s Delmonico
                      1300 St Charles Ave.
                      http://www.emerils.com/restaurants/ne...

                      My wife and I frequented the original Delmonico Restaurant and had many special meals there, over the years. Having worked, just down the Ave., I fondly recall their creme pies: chocolate, coconut and banana – possibly the best examples of each. We have also been fans of Emeril Lagasse, since his stint at Commander’s Palace, another favorite restaurant and the site of many birthday celebrations for my wife, even after we moved across the country. We’ve dined, and enjoyed the eponymous, Emeril’s, since it opened, usually dine there every other trip, or so. Because of reviews on this board, however, it was with some trepidation, that I made the reservations, but we just had to try Delmonico for ourselves. We dined alone on this visit, and I now wish that we had had a few more folk along, to help us with both the food and the wine.

                      I tried to reconstruct the layout of the old restaurant in my mind when we entered, but either the memory is failing, or too many things have changed. One aspect that was retained was the elegance of the dining room. Now, I have to admit that I really enjoy a stately and luxurious room with white linen table clothes and servers in uniform. Delmonico harkened back to the days of that style of decor. While the room was not “hushed,” in any way, the sound level was more than adequate for us to carry on a normal conversation, and the conversations of others did not intrude.

                      We were a bit early for our reserved time, not knowing how long it might take to drive in from The Parish, and were ushered to the bar. I was glad to have the opportunity to spend a few minutes with the two bartenders, who filled us in on the property immediately after Katrina. The bar wine list was short, but adequate, and we started off with a couple of Patz & Hall, ‘04 Dutton Ranch, Sonoma, Chardonnays. Pay-dirt – the best wine glasses of the trip, so far, and with B-T-G selections! Had I been thinking, I’d have ordered a bottle to start with, and had it taken to the table, but was clearly not planning properly.

                      Once seated, service began immediately and was very efficient throughout the meal. The only minor glitch was that our main server could not understand that we wanted all of the wine on the table pretty much at once. I guess that he was more used to folk ordering the white, then the red, then the dessert wine. In our case, we were still nursing the Chard, when I ordered a bottle of Domaine Vincent et François Ponard, Chassagne-Montrachet, a Brogan Cellars ‘05 My Father’s Vineyard, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir and a Brogan Cellars ‘04 Baby James Cuvée, Russian River Zinfandel. A close friend sells a lot of his Pinot Noir to Brogan and they have also donated kindly to some of our charity events, so we were very pleased, and surprised to see them represented so well on the wine list. Having dined at several of Emeril’s restaurants, I have come to expect excellent wines, and wine service. I did have to request a Bdx. stem for the white Burg, rather than the nice, but much too small white-wine glass offered. Not even a pause from the server – large-bowl glasses in a heartbeat. This is the way it should be.

                      By now, our 4-top was starting to fill up, and we hadn’t even ordered our first course. Once I convinced the server to just keep opening and pouring, we had flawless service. The wine temps were perfect, as was the stemware.

                      Our first courses were: Crispy Slow Roasted Pork with Chickpea Purée, Cummin-scented carrots and House Made Vincotto and Emeril’s BBQ Shrimp with Baked Grits. These were followed by: a cup of Gumbo and Citrus Cured Salmon and Frisée Salad with Salmon Caviar, Caper Cream Cheese and Tarragon-Blood Orange Vinaigrette. The mains consisted of: Pan Fried Redfish Amandine with Brahunt Potatoes and a 6 oz. Prime Petit Filet with Béarnaise sauce on the side. I’m glad that I ordered it this way, as the Béarnaise didn’t go with either the Pinot Noir, or the Zin. It wasn’t bad, just an afterthought for someone who doesn’t put sauce on his filet. My side was the Delmonico Potatoes, which were good, but nothing unique. I had my eyes on the Cheese Course, and held out hope that we’d be able to at least get into it. I held on to all of our wines, just in case.

                      Everything came out with a flourish and was served spot-on, with regards to our pacing. The staff had quickly seen that they were dealing with slow eaters. Again, we started early, and finished late. The presentations were superb and everything was cooked and seasoned to perfection, with the slight exception of the Gumbo, which needed more filé. In a second, a small tumbler of filé appeared at the table, and all was perfect. My wife graded the Redfish down a bit, but loved the BBQ Shrimp. My Pork was excellent atop the Chickpea Purée, and the flavors and textures played off of each other nicely. For me, the pairing was the Pinot Noir, with its earthy elements, that melded with the Chickpeas. Maybe black-eyed peas would have made it 100%, but it was too close to complain. Wife’s Salmon didn’t get too many comments, but with only a little help from me was devoured. For the first time in my life, I could not finish a Petite Filet, or my potatoes – no cheese course for me! We passed on dessert and on dessert wines, opting instead for some decaf, which was very rich and flavorful, despite being decaf.

                      The total bill was $548.37 for 2, but with wine for six. I was glad that LA allows wines to be resealed to be taken home, as the full-bottle list was far better than the halves. It was not a “cheap date,” and was not the most “innovative” meal of the trip, but in total, a wonderful dining experience. As I tried with the decor and layout, I also worked to make a comparison between Emeril’s and the original Delmonico, with regard to food and service. It was difficult delving so deeply, especially after the wine, but I’d give the nod to the current iteration. The menu was a bit more creative and the execution was spot-on. Service was almost flawless, but then so was the old Delmonico. I am very glad that we went and sampled it for ourselves. I ranked Delmonico higher, than did my wife.

                      The only possible comment that I could add would be to expand the half-bottle collection a bit more, though by taking the excess wine home, most of our worries were taken care of. Both the Pinot Noir and Zinfandel held up well (I used my Vac-u-vins on the bottles and the fridge in the room), and only suffered slightly from the glassware in the hotel, as my Riedels were back in Phoenix, since I had my hands full with the wheelchair and everything else. The Chard (Montrachet) probably was the weakest, and would have benefitted from proper stemware. I’m sure that Emeril has some major clout, considering the number of restaurants that are in his empire, and the wine list shows the work of Russ Bergeron, the sommelier.

                      As for Chef Lagasse, I think that he’s doing some fine work with this restaurant. I do not know how much latitude Chef de Cuisine, Spencer Minch has, but the kitchen was turning out some great food. As I stated, at the start, we have kind of followed Emeril from Commander’s through several of his New Orleans restaurants and also Las Vegas. I was more a fan of his earlier TV program, and less so of his “Emeril Live.” In a cooking show, I like to see and hear more “cooking,” but the popularity, nationwide, seems to indicate that I am in the minority. We have yet to dine at NOLA, but will give it a go, next trip, just to say that we’ve done them all (in NO). I also have to give a nod to Chef Lagasse for the work that he did post-K, in both NOLA and on the Gulf Coast. I tried to be totally objective, when dining, and not let any of that cloud my critique.

                      1. Keep 'em coming, Bill. I'm waiting to read your review of the Grill Room at the Windsor Court! ; )

                        1. Restaurant Cuvée
                          322 Magazine St
                          http://www.restaurantcuvee.com/cuvee/...

                          I had gotten so many good comments from CH, that I had to include Restaurant Cuvée in our dining plans. I’m glad that I did, though we had to miss Stella! and Clancy’s on this trip. This evening, we dined with friends and family, as a party of six.

                          Restaurant Cuvée is right around the corner from Restaurant August. Matter of fact, it’s right around the corner from almost everyplace that we dined. The CBD/Warehouse District has really grown over the years, especially since we moved away. It’s now getting like San Francisco with too many great restaurants to sample during a single trip, and that is without going to other neighborhoods! Great to see and to experience.

                          Located in what was probably the lower level of an office building, Restaurant Cuvée is a charming, almost “old world” establishment. I rather thought of a more upscale version of Kolb’s, when we entered. Some of our guests preceded us, and had already started a flow of wine and cocktails. We quickly caught up.

                          I started the table with the Domaine Hubert Lamay, ‘04 St Aubin (Chardonnay), while we poured over the small, but interesting menus. Because our friends, joining two family members, had many Katrina stories to tell and we all had “catching up” to do, I do not have great notes for many of the dishes that hit the table. However, wife and I had: Deux Foie Gras (Seared and the Brûlée) and Sweet Summer Corn Tasting (Louisiana Shellfish Corndog with Sweet Heat Dipping Sauce, Chilled Corn Soup, Crème Brûlée Cornmeal Crepe with Louisiana Caviar and Poached Asparagus with Crème Frisée, For our mains we had the “Surf, Turf and Sky” (Butter Poached Royal Red Shrimp, Madeira Braised Veal Cheek and Pheasant Fig Pie), and the Tuscan Style Grilled Kobe Flatiron Steak with Rosemary Roasted Red Bliss Potatoes, Arugula, Parmesan Reggiano, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Lemon for our mains.

                          My wife’s “Corn Tasting” was a bit uneven, though she did allow that the St Aubin paired wonderfully with it. I added a glass of Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise for my Foie Gras, which was perfect. The St Aubin did a good job with pairing with the Foie Gras Brûlée, but a bigger Corton-Charlemagne or Bâtard-Montrachet would probably have gone better, but none was on the list. Besides, I hate to blow my entire wine budget on the first wine course!

                          During the first courses, we added a Melville, Carrie’s Vineyard, Santa Barbara ‘04 Pinot Noir, a Sea Smoke, Southing Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills ‘04 Pinot Noir (wanted the Ten, but they were sold out) and the Turley, Rattlesnake Ridge, ‘05 Howell Mountain, Napa, Zinfandel (wanted the Uberroth Vineyard, but it was sold out and I could not see springing for the Hayne Vineyard).

                          The stemware was good, but could use a little work and the St Aubin was a bit too cool. The wine service was, otherwise perfect, with the reds at a good, cellar temp. The food service was almost so, as well, with one little mis-step. There was a bit of a mixup on my wife’s main course. She was presented with The Duck (caps theirs), which went to another diner at our table. No problem, until her Surf, Turf and Sky didn’t show. After a moment, I looked around and there was no server visible. A moment more passed – no Surf, Turf and Sky and still no waitstaff. Being “sons of the Old South,” we all were waiting for my wife’s main course. Finally, a server, who was summoned over. “We’re very sorry about that, and it will be out momentarily,” was his courteous reply. He zipped off, and in a few minutes, Chef Bob Lacovone arrived and profusely apologized to my wife, stating that the dish had not met his requirements and had to be re-done. He then apologized to the table for the wait. As anyone, who has ever cooked knows, things happen in the kitchen and I was glad to see that the QC caught this dish, before my wife did. The correction was fairly quick and the apologies most endearing. My wife was a bit less complimentary of the dish, noting that the Royal Reds were a little tough and lacked the flavor that she has come to expect from those deep water shrimp. The Pheasant Fig Pie was also not the highlight of the trip. However, my Foie Gras and Flatiron Steak were excellent. Now, I am far more a fan of filet mignons, than most other cuts of beef, but this ranked very high on my list. Only I have created a better Kobe Flatiron and that took about three days to marinate and four tries to get one that was perfect.

                          No one was up for dessert, though they sounded enticing. I’d have loved a cheese course, but would have had to decline, as I was full.

                          While not the highlight of the trip, it was a great dining experience, with service and ambiance to match. The dining room is very nicely appointed and the tables are adequately spaced. My only concern was that WE may have been a bit noisy at OUR table, and I really hate to be around loud diners in a fine restaurant. No one seemed to be giving us “looks,” but I did try to keep things under control. We were just having so much fun with our friends, family, food and good wines, that I worry a bit. Very inventive, fun, fine dining in an elegant setting. The bill for six with some semi-heavy hitter wines, plus cocktails for some and extra wine for me came to $1,068.45 with tip. Parking is across the street and with validation came to $0. We opened them up, and nearly closed them down. Do you detect a theme here?

                          1. Brigtsen’s
                            723 Dante Street
                            http://www.brigtsens.com/chef_frank.html

                            We finally left Downtown and the CBD and dined in the Riverbend Area. Brigtsen’s holds a lot of history, as most of my wife’s family lived in the general area from State St to The Riverbend. Several of the family’s properties are scattered all around Dante St. It is probably not fair for me to do a review of Brigtsen’s, as they have been our favorite NO restaurant for years and much of my wife’s family is treated like “family” by the folk there – from the kitchen to all of the servers. Still, I cannot pass up the opportunity to comment on a fabulous meal for what turned into a party of 12. We had one room, almost entirely to ourselves with what seemed like five servers at our disposal at all times. With two tables for six, I will not begin to list what others had, sorry.

                            First, Brigtsen’s wine list might well be the shortest of any in our fine-dining experiences on this trip, but it is well-thought out to pair with the menu, which changes daily. I do not know how much wine Frank Brigtsen lost in Katrina, but it seems that the list was a page longer, when we were last there. Our table started with a Cakebread ‘05 Napa, Sauvignon Blanc, then a Domaine Michel Lafarge ‘03 Meursault and a Hiedler ‘04 Grüner Veltliner, Kamptel. For our reds, we ordered up the Domaine Antonin Guyon, ‘03 Gevrey-Chambertain, the Ridge, Three Valleys ‘05 Zinfandel and the Stag’s Leap Artemis ‘04 Napa, Cabernet Sauvignon. I quickly lost count of how many bottles of each we had, but know that we finished off all of the Domaine Antonin Guyon in the cellar.

                            Wife and I had the: Filé Gumbo with Rabbit & Andouille Sausage, Mustard, Pulled Pork with Corn Macque Choux Griddlecake & Pepper Jelly Glaze and Cornmeal Fried Des Allemands Catfish with Tomato, Vidalia Onion and Roasted Jalapeño Tartar Sauce for starters. There was also a bowl of Butternut Shrimp Bisque that came my way, but that may have been passed by a family member, as I do not remember ordering it. Our mains consisted of: Panéed Rabbit with Sesame Crust, Spinach & Creole Mustard Sauce, Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Dirty Rice & Pork Debris Sauce and Blackened Yellowfin Tuna with Smoked Corn Sauce, Red Bean Salsa & Roasted Pepper Sour Cream. I do not know how two of us got three mains, but I’m not complaining. Plus, it seemed that every dish passed in front of me during the evening. I should have been taking notes, but with the entire (OK, not entire, but a lot) family dining, it was too much to ask.

                            The Domaine Michel Lafarge went well with everything with corn/cornmeal in it, and was a good welcome wine. I would have loved to have had some of the big Central Coast (primarily the Santa Rita Hills) Pinot Noirs, or a killer Zinfandel for the mains, but we did OK.

                            I am a big fan of Gumbos, and have had wonderful variations that ranged from a light broth with small shrimp over rice to gumbos that were almost black and had to be eaten with a knife and fork. Most of my favorites have been of the seafood variety, but the Rabbit & Andouille was top-notch! Also, I am not normally a fan of “blackened” seafood, but Chef Frank showed me how great it can be, in the right hands, in the right kitchen. I’m glad that I took that leap of faith, but will probably wait until I dine with him again, before ordering it elsewhere. No wait – I ordered it at brunch the next morning! Our one regret was that he was unable to find really good soft-shelled crabs, as we would probably have done two of his Seafood Platters, had they been available. To date, his soft-shells have been the #2 all-time favorite versions of those seasonal guys.

                            Pros: everything that we ate or drank. Cons: stemware could be improved considering the dining fare. Brigtsen’s is a combination of fine-dining & great neighborhood-dining – much of the charm. Were I his sommelier, I’d change out the glassware, and add a few more high-end reds, especially the afore-mentioned PNs and Zins.

                            The service was excellent, especially considering that each server knew most of these diners and had to spend a certain amount of time with each, and every one. It was like having Guy Savoy join your family and then cook for a major dinner. Awesome, just totally awesome!

                            There were desserts, but I think that mine (a glass of Warre’s ‘97 LBV Port) may have been the only one actually ordered. In the family, we had four birthdays within a few weeks of this dining event and one that night. The desserts and birthday cakes kept on coming and each, that I had, was great.

                            Again, while we occupied almost the entire room, there were a few other diners, who shared the space with us. We were pretty much under control, but I did apologize to one couple, who were placed behind us. The gentleman’s comment was, “there was never a problem. I just want Uncle Bill to order the wine for us next time... “ I guess that I was more concerned, than any of the fellow diners were.

                            As for the cost of the evening – well, I haven’t a clue, as my brother-in-law picked up the tab. I know that it was not cheap, but, from my perspective, it was worth every $ that he paid. As the older adults headed home to moan due to their gluttony, the younger family members headed out to the Yacht Club for more party time. I think that I could have once done that, but those days are long gone.

                            Let me change the wine glasses, add a few wines and Brigtsen’s would be the perfect dining venue, anywhere, and at any price. Were I driving from Seattle to Boston, I’d detour for Brigtsen’s.

                            My wife claims that this was her #1, and I cannot argue. This also has nothing to do with the fact that someone else picked up the tab. See, I told you that this would not be fair!

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              Isn't Brigsten's just the best?

                              The sheer warmth of the experience is, to me, the epitome of hospitality.

                              There is nothing pretentious about the place, the service is familiar and professional all at once. The chef is a true original and is behind the stove pretty much every single night, not showing off or building an empire - just cooking great food day-in, day-out. And on his day off, Frank's not pimping himself out to the food world, he's out fishing.

                              I don't mean to get all warm and fuzzy but Brigsten's is a true New Orleans gem.

                              1. re: bodie

                                I think that you nailed the reason(s), that Brigtsen's is on the top of my list - great, but familiar, service and excellent food. It's a difficult task to bring off, night after night, but they seem to do it, almost in their sleep. If I lived in NOLA again, I'd probably find that they can have off nights, but visiting on the schedule that we've had, have managed to miss any of those.

                                Immediately after Katrina, I got word from a foodie/wino in Chicago, that Chef Frank was going to move the entire operation to Shreveport - it even made the NY Times. Though I believe that Shreveport could use a restaurant like Brigtsen's, it would have been such a loss to NOLA. When my brother-in-law called to tell me he was coming back and would re-open, we jumped for joy. Still, we'd have driven up from NO to Shreveport, just to dine with him and his family.

                                Hunt

                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  Bill, great review. jfoods there last wednesday and then found ourselves reso-less in the French Quarter on thursday. A quick call and they opened their arms for a second perfect meal. A quick 20 minute drive cross town and then a second bite of heaven.

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    I caught your review, just tonight. Your comment about being treated "like family," conveys a lot of what I always feel there. OTOH, much of my NOLA family is very close to the folk there. One reason that I almost felt guilty doing such a glowing review - almost incestuous.

                                    You validated much of what I said and I appreciate that. I still rate them #1, pre/post-K, though wife did give boucoup points to G W Fins, which does take its knocks on this board.

                                    So glad that they could accommodate you, and on short notice. Normally, I'll make my reservations months out, and I only do that at very few restaurants around the globe. To me, it's well worth the efforts, as I could not stand a trip to NOLA without a trip to Brigtsen's

                                    Looked like you had a wonderful and food filled trip - makes me very happy, as I still think that NOLA is one of the premiere dining cities, anywhere.

                                    Hunt

                              2. re: Bill Hunt

                                Since I rank Brigtsen's soft shell #1, (to your #2), where can I get #1? Thanks.

                                1. re: JazzyB

                                  Unfortunately, I do not know. When living in Denver, we frequented a wonderful French restaurant, Tante Louise. It was owned by a thrid-generation restauranteur (really hard to find in Denver) and his exec. chef was Michael Dagenhart. Chef Michael's pecan-crusted, garlic sauteed softshell was "to die for." He did these for two "seasons," and we'd end up dining there twice to three times per week. Not easy, as the normal fare for Tante's was ~ $120, without the wine, and Tante's without wine would be like a shrimp po-boy, without French bread! Alas, Chef Michael left to pursue another position. Just after we left Denver, Corky Douglass, the owner closed down Tante's, not too long after his dad died. I hear that Corky is opening up a new bistro-style spot, but have not heard a word on Chef Michael. I do not know his source, when in Denver, but I shudder to think if he ever landed in NOLA, and did these with 100%, totally fresh crabs. I'd drive to the Gulf, if I heard he was cooking them somplace there.

                                  At least we had two seasons of these, so I will have to get by on my memories.

                                  Sorry,
                                  Hunt

                              3. Ralph’s On The Park
                                900 City Park Ave
                                http://www.ralphsonthepark.com/menu_d...

                                OK, this is NOT an evening meal, but I thought that our Sunday Brunch needed to appear in this group of reviews. We had attempted to dine at Ralph’s on our previous trip, May, ‘05, but could not get in. When my wife was back in July of that year, she also tried and could not get a reservation. I was faced with having to pick a brunch location for wife, mother-in-law and myself, and choosing between Commander’s Palace and Ralph’s. Now, we’ve done Commander’s an untold number of times, mostly dinner, but also various brunches, and had never done Ralph’s. I made the leap, and chose Ralph’s. It was a wonderful choice.

                                The space is right at the main south entrance to City Park and is a lovely, brightly lit (at brunch time) room. A bunch of colored balloons adorned one chair per table. As we were flying out in a few hours, and on SW Airlines, we wanted to be comfortable. On most airline flights, I’ll don my ubiquitous blazer, but with “general seating,” the heat of both NOLA and PHX, our destination, plus having to manhandle a wheelchair, I chose shorts. Concerned, I called and was informed that they would be OK. The other diners were adorned with everything from shorts to dark suits and full floral dresses, replete with hats and a few pairs of gloves – across the board.

                                This was a brunch for three and the staff made sure that the wheelchair fit to a table and was out of the way, so mother-in-law was not bumped by any of the servers, or patrons.

                                We started with a Cakebread Napa ‘05 Sauvignon Blanc, then went to the Matrot 1er Cru, Les Chalumeaux, ‘05 Puligny-Montrachet, which was served at a perfect temp, though the glassware could have been upgraded (common thread). Finally, we added the Siduri, Sapphire Hill Vineyard, ‘03 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. Oh, and I had a glass of the Mer Soleil Late (a Late Harvest Viognier, Santa Lucia Highlands) with my Bread Pudding. Hey, I was not driving and only had to hail a skycap at MSY!

                                Our meals consisted of: Crystal P&J Oysters (andouille crusted flash fried P&J oysters finished with Crystal hot sauce butter), Turtle Soup (with Sherry, plus more Sherry), and Country Gumbo (golden gumbo with Lake Pontchartrain Blue Crabs, Gulf Shrimp, Bayou Oysters, Creole Country Sausage and Green Onions on Rice), for starters. Our mains were: BBQ Shrimp & Grits (Jumbo Gulf Shrimp Barbequed New Orleans Style in Buttery Black Pepper and Worcestershire Sauce, served with Creamy Stone-ground Grits), Blackened Redfish (House-seasoned Fresh Fillet of Redfish, Blackened in a Cast Iron Skillet, served with a Peppery Crab Cake with Blue Crab Butter Sauce and Red Pepper Salad) and a side of Grits and Biscuts. Once again, I did a “blackened” fish, and loved it. For dessert, we shared a Bread Pudding, yum! and mother-in-law had the Creole Cream Cheese Ice Cream. Though she always holds our for chocolate, she licked the bowl clean. Now, she’ll want me to find Creole Cream Cheese Ice Cream in Phoenix – yeah, right...

                                The service was excellent and very friendly. The kitchen was very efficient and though we had a mix of courses and sides, did not miss a lick. Other than the already mentioned wine stemware, I could find no fault with any aspect of this meal. I will definitely do an evening meal at Ralph’s On The Park, when we return. Now, I have to admit that I did add a squeeze of lemon (mother-in-law’s iced tea) to the Turtle Soup, but Chef Gus Martin did not see me. It needed a touch more tang.

                                Well, this time, we did not open the restaurant, though almost, and were far from closing them down, since we had a plane to catch.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  We've moved an in-depth review by Bill Hunt of Vrazel's, in Gulfport, MS, to the South board. You can find that review here:

                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/433888

                                2. Postlog:

                                  We had a wonderful dining experience though out much of NOLA. There were a few hiccups, and some spotty service, but all very minor. The chefs are spreading their wings, and the menus show their efforts. Not every dish was a winner, but more were, than were not.

                                  The biggest problem that I saw was in the wine service areas. Glassware that was not up to par with the wines; white wines served far too cold, and reds served far too hot. The wine lists seem to be coming back, but I know that a lot of restauranteurs lost a lifetime of wine, due to the loss of electricity. Still, some need to get a bit more creative, especially some of the high-end restaurants. To me, it’s about the entire dining experience, and wine with my meals is a very big part. Sommeliers need to taste their choices with the chef’s menu. If it doesn’t work, choose something else. I do not know the wine distribution network in NOLA now, and also do not know what the new cellars and wine are costing, but if some can do it, others can, as well. I found the wine service to be very good, with only minor glitches. Food service was spot-on. Even problems were handled quickly and with aplomb.

                                  In my view, New Orleans is “open for business,” and is ready for you.

                                  Now, I have been dining on oat bran for three meals per day, and hope that I do not have to give away all of my trousers. Still, every pair of 34" pants will be going to the consignment shop this week, as I know that I will never fit into any of them – maybe a few of the 35" too!

                                  I realize that some of my reviews go against the current feelings on this board, but I have to stick by what I felt and tasted during our stay in that wonderful city in the crescent of the mighty Mississippi.

                                  I feel bad that we did not get to some spots; a few old favorites, and some that would be new to us. Since we flew out, leaving most of the family there, we’ll definitely be back, and expecting things to be even better.

                                  Hunt

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    Really great reports - I've read two of them so far - my husband travels to NOLA a couple of times a year and does a lot of business entertaining there - I'll be sure to forward this to him. BTW - if you make it back to August, do try the roast chicken - it may sound prosaic, but he says it's the best roast chicken he's ever had.

                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                      Thank you for that rec. My mother-in-law will likely benefit most from it, as she ate every chicken in Hawai`i, last time we took her there. I do not know that O`ahu has recovered from the chicken shortage.

                                      We saw many great dishes on the menu, but are great fans of "chef's tastings," and usually do not find those in NOLA. I am a sucker for "what the chef is doing, that night."

                                      We will definitely be back and I'll work the roast chicken in, somehow, when we do Restaurant August next time.

                                      Thanks,
                                      Hunt

                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                        Just so you know - the chicken is for two, so someone may have to share it w/ your MIL if she comes on the next trip.

                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          Bill,

                                          Thanks for such a wonderful post. I always enjoy, and appreciate, the wonderful reviews of the hounders. This one is really exceptional, and makes me even more eager to chow in New Orleans.

                                      2. re: Bill Hunt

                                        Great post..Next time try a Kistler pinot at Cuvee (about $500?) and Kosta Browne pinot at Ralph's (about $150?) great but not like the Kistler...I could make a meal on the foie gras @ Cuvee alone. Take care...

                                        1. re: Wooly

                                          Thanks for the tip. I have had most of the Kistler Chards in many vintages, and enjoy them. I have yet to have their Pinot Noirs, however. I'll keep my eyes open and snag one, or two, the next time I can find them. Since we are in one, or more, CA wine regions per year, and have several friends in various levels of wine growing/production, it should not be too hard to find these. Do any Kistler Single Vineyard Pinot Noir offerings stand out to you?

                                          It seems that we've fallen into a bit of a rut lately, with the Santa Barbara/Santa Rita Hills PNs, but I'm sure that it is because of a recent trip there and the discovery of a ton of new wines and wineries, since we last visited - wow, that place has expanded, and in a very good way. Seems that the little film "Sideways," has a positive impact. We rather expected Dolly'wood, but what we found were new, great wineries, all over the place.

                                          We'll definitely be back to Ralph's, and for an evening meal, next time. I'll pour over their entire wine list then.

                                          Thanks for the H/U,
                                          Hunt

                                      3. I have been "stalking" your reports,reviews,opinions since I discovered this site!! Our visits to NOLA span 35years--each trip filled with special memories and many more of those "ahhh" moments!!! We return this October-our first since K--to celebrate my 61st birthday(I know, most make a big deal of their 60th)and our 39th anniversary!!(I was almost a child bride)I have been spending most of my leisure time(not nearly enough) to work on our itinerary--I was so thrilled to find your report of Cochon and GW Fins-as they have made my short list-My goal for the rest of my life is to reach "ROCK STAR" level(where I place you) when it comes to wine-while I enjoy the experience--my best friend of 39 years-is so very happy with a white zin,and would not be opposed to a "box"wine!! Thank's Bill for the great report--and here's to you and to NOLA!!!!

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: cheerstonola

                                          Happy birthday AND anniversary! My milestone b'day was a few weeks ago, and my loving wife had primed every restaurant in Santa Barbara for that event. This time round, we had a half-dozen other b'days to celebrate for the family.

                                          I would do both Couchon and G W Fins, were I back next week. I was disheartened to read a recent post on Fins, that painted a bleaker picture. They have always come through for me.

                                          I think that you will be pleasently surprised at the level of the restaurants in NOLA. There are still some major scars, but everyone is working very hard to get it back to 100%. I'm so glad that I was able to support them.

                                          Enjoy,
                                          Hunt

                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                            My personal view of GW Fins, which I've expressed several times on this board, is that while it's a fine restaurant -- I don't recall a bad meal, and the service is always first rate -- it just doesn't get me as excited as many of the other places in town.

                                            1. re: Blumie

                                              TOTALLY feel you on that!

                                        2. Wonderful post Bill!

                                          Thank you for your detailed descriptions of both the food and the wines.
                                          Well, maybe especially the wines... the food I get, the wines I'm learning!

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Cookiefiend

                                            Thank you.

                                            You might want to stop by the CH Wine Board, if you have not done so already. There are always a lot of good wine posts there and the folk over there are always open to questions. I've just about abandoned all others, both on the Usenet and the Internet, in favor of CH's.

                                            As for the "learning" aspect, I feel that I will always be a student of wine, as there is too much of it, to know, or keep track of. I try to branch out constantly, and others always have great new "finds," that I've never heard of, much less consumed.

                                            Hunt

                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              Hi Bill,

                                              I have checked out the CH Wine Board. There are a lot of good posts and I'm trying to learn from what I read.

                                              That and try to remember what I've read and hope that one day I will find it so that I may try it myself and see what I think of it!

                                              It's good to hear that someone like you is still learning and will always be a student of wine.

                                              Thanks for you time - I can only imagine how long this thread has taken you!

                                              :-)

                                              1. re: Cookiefiend

                                                Though probably best said on the Wine Board, I'd suggest taking note of what you like and then finding a local shop with good staff. Tell them what you like, and what you do not like. Give them a per btl. budget and let them suggest wines to try. Report back with the good, as well as the not so good. Next, do a search on the Wine Board for Andrea Immer. Get her book, "Great Wine Made Simple." Do the "homework," in the book.

                                                Enjoy,
                                                Hunt

                                          2. Parkway Bakery & Tavern
                                            538 N Hagan
                                            No Web site found

                                            I nearly forgot - Parkway Bakery! It was only when I was replying to another thread, that the realization sank in.

                                            We headed down to Mid-City for lunch and had to try the Parkway. A previous thread regarding roast beef po-boys had flagged it for me, plus several family members had spoken highly of it for years.

                                            Got there early for lunch and we were so glad. In a moment, we had mother-in-law up the ramp and situated near the order counter. It was a no-brainer for me - roast beef w/ gravy and swiss cheese - dressed, plus hot-mustard. Can't for my life remember what wife and m-i-l had, but they cleaned their plates.

                                            Now, seated with my po-boy and my Barq's, I was ready. Um-m, good! It was the best, that I have had in many, many years. The Barq's went very well and there was no wine stemware to carp about!!! It was not the ultimate roast beef po-boy, that I have had, but close. The bread was soft inside, and chewy on the crust, just the way that I like it. The gravy and the hot mustard had soaked in a bit, so it was not an easy sandwich to eat. Again, the way that I like it. Copious quantities of napkins were available. The bread was of an even diameter for most of its length, not fat in the middle. This always makes for a better po-boy, IMO, as it is easier to eat, and one doesn't get more bread, than is necessary. The beef was very tasty and tender. I would only grade it slightly down on the garlic level. The mythical Acey's Pool Hall RB po-boys and Frank's Deli (back when Frank's m-i-l was cooking) are the only ones that I'd rate above, but sadly, Acey's is long gone and Frank's is not quite the same any more, so I guess that the beaded belt now goes to Parkway Bakery.

                                            The restaurant/Tavern is roughly L-shaped and though there are individual tables it's really like communal dining, as they are very close together and really fill up at lunch. I have no clue as to what might be available at the "Tavern" end of the shop, as it was filled to overflowing and all I really wanted was my Barq's. The mix of diners was totally across the board. You had tradesmen in their cover-alls to the gentleman in front of me in a dark suit, wearing a diamond and gold Rolex, who paid for sandwiches for his office with $100s from a roll that must have been 4" thick. A total cross-section of New Orleans - simply wonderful.

                                            The decor is "funky, New Orleans." How could one fault a place that has a Pontchartrain Beach (amusement park from years ago) wall?

                                            I'd go back in a heartbeat, just to see what else might be available there. Prices were about average to average +, but well worth it. Parking is a bit of a trick, and though they have a wheelchair ramp, some of the sidewalk is pretty rough.

                                            While we were there, we met three folk, who we knew from either New Orleans, or Phoenix and they were not together. That did not happen at any of the other places, except for the family, that we brought with us - amazing!

                                            To all, who gave me the rec. for Parkway, and to my family members in NOLA - THANK YOU!

                                            Hunt

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              My friends have always commented that I know how to live, but I can't hold a candle to you, Bill Hunt!!! I absolutely loved reading your wonderfully detailed reviews, especially since I will be hitting many of the same places next weekend. I admire your joie de vivre!

                                              1. re: ClevelandRandy

                                                ClevelandRandy,

                                                You flatter me, more than I deserve. In this case we had several b'days to celebrate and going to NO and NOT eating is like going to Hawai`i and not seeing a beach. The biggest problem was finding a pair of trousers that still fit, to fly back to PHX.

                                                Especially as I have not lived in NOLA in ~ 30 years, I consider myself fortunate to have the good folk on this board to tell me what is still good, and what has changed over all the years. Of the spots that we tried, only two were "old friends" to us. The rest came from here and from the family still in LA.

                                                Hunt

                                              2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                I've always loved the Parkway--it is a favorite haunt after leaving Da Track(where I also have eaten a lot--I should look like Sydney Greenstreet). But what you really hit home with was the mention of Acy's. That was a magic couple of blocks in The Old Days, with the Half Moon right down the street. There used to be Deb parties in Acy's....spent many a happy hour in there. I always lamented that many out-of-state classmates in college thought NOLA was only the French Quarter and never strayed from the basic path. So they missed Acy's and College Inn (in its heyday) and Eddie's on Law Street and who-knows-how-many Irish Dive bars, including one in Marigny that I won't name.

                                                You are also right about Brightsen's. I love the place but, as you know, my regular habits draw me other places as a rule.

                                                BTW saw an article in the Boston Globe comparing the Super Bowl contestant's cities in the realm of food. A New Yorker was howling about NYC being teh Greatest Food City in teh World. You can start a fun fight over that easily disputed assertion.