My Weekend Trip Report (Long)
- Miss Needle Oct 6, 2008 02:43 PM
Thank you all for helping me plan my weekend excursion. We had a wonderful time and still incredibly fully from the experience that I think we'll be eating pretty light this week. We started off with Cochon on Friday night. I absolutely loved the food. I was amazed how developed that area had become since the last time I've been there. Before heading out to Cochon, we did stop by the Fulton Seafood Festival, but was saving room. So we didn't eat anything, but just took a look around. Drago's oysters had the longest line. Wished we could have tried them, but there was just limited room in our stomachs. At Cochon we had the cochon, wood-fired oysters, fried alligator and onion braised pork cheeks and peach and zucchini buckle. I would have loved to try more food. This is a restaurant that we would definitely go back to on our future trips. I loved every single dish, particularly the wood-fired oysters. I was a bit surprised as I tend to prefer my oysters raw. But they were soooo goood! I've had alligator before, but this was the best rendition I've tasted. It was well spiced and fried expertly. Their signature cochon was delicious as well. The pork cheeks were quite good -- my only quibble was that they were served a bit on the lukewarm side. So the meat didn't fall apart tender like it should have. And the peach and zucchini buckle was yummy -- loved the ginger creme fraiche that accompanied it. I didn't really taste the zucchini -- kind of got blended in like zucchini tea bread. Lively atmosphere with very friendly servers. I liked our waiter -- he was very enthusiastic and sweet.
The next morning, we headed out to Croissant d'Or. Turns out that I've been there a few years ago but never knew the name of it. I ordered a croissant and DH got a chocolate croissant. It was OK, but not spectactular. I took two bites and that was it for me. It was too heavy, burnt and greasy for my taste. I guess there could be a certain charm to that style of croissant, but I prefer mine light and airy. DH thought his chocolate croissant was OK, but wanted more chocolate in it as he said it was mostly bread. He ate the entire thing.
We then went to Galtoire for lunch. We got there around noon and there was no wait at all. In fact, during the entire time we were there, the room never filled up. Mostly locals there. Loved seeing the guys rockin' it in their crisp white suits. I can understand what posters mean by Galatoire's waiters are professional waiters. Our waiter (Celeste?) was charming, helpful and very friendly. The service was very non-intimidating. She explained the menu very well and gave us a lot of suggestions. We ended up ordering oysters Rockefeller, the eggplant and potatoes, fish with lump crabmeat and soft-shelled crabs. We both actually never had oysters Rockefeller before. So we were really curious to see what it tasted like. Unfortunately, I don't think it was to our taste. There was so much spinach, bread crumbs, and butter that we could barely taste the oysters. I guess if you don't like oysters very much, I can see you liking that dish. However, I wanted to taste the seafood. The dish was prepared well -- it's just not our thing. The potatoes and eggplant were delicious! The waiter gave us instructions on how to enjoy them. She warned us that the potatoes suck when eaten cold. So we ate those first. I tried all different permutations. I discovered that my favorite was dunked in the bearnaise sauce then in the powdered sugar. I've read about this whole powdered sugar thing and will admit that I was a bit skeptical. But it worked! I'm thinking about trying to work on an eggplant dessert at home now as I really enjoyed the sweet eggplant. The bread we got was entirely forgettable. It looked beautiful. But the insides were pretty cottony. We ordered the soft-shelled crabs sauteed as opposed to deep-fried. When I cook soft-shelled crabs at home, I pan-roast them in butter plain with some lemon as opposed to breading and deep-frying as I find that you can taste the crab more. Well, these crabs were sauteed, but they were breaded as well. Nevertheless, we were able to taste the sweet meat and insides. We generally eat Maryland crabs in NY. But I found these crabs to be tastier as they were chock full of tomalley. The fish topped with crab was well prepared. I think they forgot to salt the fish because it was bland. But I just added the salt at the table. The crab was delicious and well-seasoned with garlic. There must have been a stick of butter in that dish because it was so rich. I tried adding some powdered sugar to the fish and it was delicious. It "lightened" the dish somewhat and not made it taste as rich. May not be a traditional thing to do, but it tasted good (at least to me). No dessert as we were stuffed.
I then spotted Krystal's. I really wanted to try it after seeing all those commercials on our hotel TV. DH used to go there when he was younger after he was done drinking on Bourbon Street. He said the later it was, the more interesting the show. Well, on a Saturday afternoon, I wasn't expecting too much. I'm a huge fan of White Castle's in NY and wanted to see how they compared. Sorry, but White Castle's takes the prize. I ordered one burger without pickles, which is about twice the cost of one White Castle. The bread was too fluffy -- I prefer the soggier one at WC. And I had no clue that mustard was going to be a default topping. I thought the thing they were squirting on my burger was going to be ketchup. I've noticed that once I get out of NYC, mustard is common in burgers. So I took one bite and that was about it. I think this must be something you grow up with. I've been eating at White Castle since I was three. I can see somebody who has never eaten at WC trying a burger and finding it vile. But I love them (when I'm in the mood for it). I think the same probably goes for Krystal's. If I grew up in the South, perhaps Krystal's would have been my default choice.
In the afternoon we went to Hansen's. We've never had shaved ice so good! The texture was really fluffy, like snow as opposed to the chipped chunks of ice we usually eat. And the syrups were delicious. The people there were so sweet and nice. When I first told him we were getting some "shaved ice" he didn't look too enthusiastic. But he said, "Whatever you want to do, baby." He's the best husband! I tried to talk it up a bit, but knew better not to oversell it as I didn't want him to be disappointed. But he was really pleasantly surprised. He loved the texture and the coffee flavor. He was really hesitant about the condensed milk. But I've had some Singaporean-style shaved ices before with evaporated/condensed milk and knew it would work beautifully with the coffee. He still didn't want to get the condensed milk until the girl behind the counter urged him to do it that way. He said that he never pictured shaved ice like this and thought it was really delicious. I loved my almond cream with condensed milk. I preferred it over the coffee. I recommend any tourist going out to the Uptown area to visit Hansen's if it's open.
For dinner, we headed out to Casamento's. I was really impressed by how clean everything was. We sat at a table and ordered a dozen raw oysters, 1/2 oyster loaf, 1/2 shrimp loaf, cup of gumbo and cup of oyster chowder and an order of fries. We also ordered two iced teas. Mine was fine, but DH's had lipstick over the rim. He didn't make a fuss and just asked for a straw. Our raw oysters were delicious. My preference is for the briny East coast oysters, but the Gulf coast ones were great too. I had mine with a spritz of lemon. DH concocted his own cocktail sauce using the condiments on the table. We then received the gumbo and oyster chowder. The gumbo was good. Oyster chowder was prepared well, but I don't think it was my thing as it was too rich for my taste. I just ate the oysters and left the broth alone. But if you're a fan of really creamy seafood preparations, I can see you liking it. My eyes bugged out when our loaves were delivered. Seriously, I pictured 1/2 a loaf being 1/2 the size of what we were served. I took a bite and it was wonderful. Oysters were perfectly fried -- not too greasy and you can taste the lard. But I was getting too full after a couple of bites. So I took one of the slices of bread off and ate it with a fork and knife. I actually preferred it that way as I could taste more oyster. The fries were great. I think the lard made the difference. I was also surprised how tiny the portion of the fries was in comparison to everything else on the menu. Aside from the raw oysters, the fries were the only thing we were able to finish. I then had to use the restroom and had to walk through the kitchen to get to it. I was shocked that there were no fry-daddys. Saw oysters and french fries being fried in big kettles of melted lard. They do things old school. I then realized how talented these cooks were to fry the oysters just right. Amazing! Then DH used the restroom. When he came back, he told he understood why there was lipstick on the glass. There were no dishwashers, but a woman in the corner washing all the dishes by hand! I totally missed that on my trip. My opinion of them (which was really high already) shot up by 1000%.
Ok. Even though we've only been in New Orleans for a day and a half, we were so full of the rich breaded deep-fried food that the idea of going for po-boys at Parkway the next day didn't seem possible. I think we were deep-fried out. So we decided to keep it simple and stay in the Quarter and go to Coffee Pot for brunch/breakfast. I ordered two eggs poached on biscuits served with chicken livers and home fries. DH ordered eggs creole with biscuit and home fries. My eggs with the chicken livers were scrumptious. DH also really liked it as well. The eggs creole -- well, they were just OK. And the home fries were not very good at all -- they were served cold and they weren't even completely cooked inside. Our concierge was telling me that Coffee Pot was only one of two restaurants that still serve cala cakes (sweetened rice fritters). So even though we were absolutely stuffed, we had to order them for dessert. I liked it a lot. You eat it with maple syrup, and it's very hearty, comforting, stick-to-your-ribs type of food. Service was good, but a bit brusque -- not brusque in a bad way, but in a very efficient way -- kind of like how a lot of restaurants in Chinatowns are.
We then had reservations for August later that evening. A beautiful space. I liked the juxtaposition of the rustic brick walls and the crystal chandeliers. After debating about this for a while, we decided to go for the 9 course degustation. As there's no degustation menu printed out anywhere and I don't take notes while eating, I'm doing this from memory. We first received an amuse-bouche of some sort of custard filled in an egg. I believe it was topped with a bit of caviar (I could be mistaken as I may have gotten this egg dish mixed up with other filled eggshell dishes I've had in the past). Delicious. I also know it's pretty labor intensive to do this. Our first course was melon-cucumber soup. I think they made some cucumber "tapioca balls" using sodium alginate. While I'm not a huge cucumber fan, I found the soup nice and refreshing. Second course was "chop" salad. Holy cow! I didn't expect anything like this! Different vegetables cooked perfectly arranged artfully on a wide plate with greens. There were beets, tomatoes, baby corn, potatoes, etc. I could definitely tell this salad took a lot of effort. It was beautiful and tasted really good. I'm generally not a salad fan, but I was so enamored with this dish. It reminded me of something I've had at L'Arpege in Paris where there was a medley of perfectly cooked vegetables. Everything had to be cooked individually and assembled together. I think I was also dying for some fresh vegetables after all the heavy food I've been happily eating. Third course was pork cheek ravioli. The pork inside was wonderful. The pasta -- slightly underdone. Fourth course was soft-shelled crab served with some bacon. Delicious. Well-fried. We were kind of tired of deep-fried food by that point, but was able to make room for this dish. Probably my second favorite course next to the salad. Fifth course was I believe redfish. It was good, but slightly overdone. Sixth course was a deep-fried lamb rib. Good, but would have preferred it not deep-fried as lamb rib meat is pretty fatty to begin with. But that's just probably me. Seventh course was "kobe" beef. It was well prepared and the accompaniments were delicious, but I'm not so sure about the quality of the kobe beef. I think there's such a wide variation between what people call kobe beef. This dish was far from melt-in-your-mouth flavorful beef. I liked the dish overall, but I didn't taste the luxurious kobe beef. It tasted kind of ordinary to me. The cheese course was a composed course of a cow's milk cheese with some really delicious ham and perhaps a confit of shallots or something. I loved it. Their ham was especially delicious. I'd also like to say that I don't know where Besh sources his tomatoes, but every single tomato I tasted was so full of flavor. Dessert was a chocolate-cayenne souffle cake served with some berries. The mignardises was a pistachio-type of cookie and a piece of salted chocolate truffle-like thing. Honestly, I wasn't too impressed with the desserts. It wasn't that it was bad -- well, the pistachio cookie was pretty dry (and not purposefully dry like in a biscotti). But I really did expect more in the pastry department from a restaurant like August. I just sipped sparkling water throughout my meal. DH didn't do the wine pairing but just had some champagne in the beginning and switched over to a bottle of burgandy as he's one who prefers to drink what he likes as opposed to drinking a certain wine to match a certain dish. They took a total of $70 off of the price of the degustation as we didn't do the wine pairings. Overall, the meal was very good. It was definitely the most refined from all of the meals I've had here. Did I find it the best? It was indeed the most expensive, but definitely not my favorite. I preferred my meal at Cochon where every dish was a winner. But if one is looking for a fancy special occasion restaurant, I don't think you can go wrong with August.
I also went to Rousse's at Royal and picked up a few goodies. I couldn't pick up liquid items because we weren't going to check in luggage. But I managed to get some Camelia red beans, some creole seasoning, file, Zapp's crawtator chips, spicy creole tomato chips, Hubig's pies (apple and banana). Really loved both flavors of the chips. Hubig's pies -- well, I don't think I "get" it. I was actually picturing something more like my beloved deep-fried McDonald's apple pies I used to eat as a kid. But this was more like a Hostess pie (not my favorite thing in the world). Perhaps this is something you need to grow up with to really appreciate it.
Well, I think we did a lot of damage over the weekend. We ate really well in our short time here thanks to you guys and look forward to doing it again soon!
Glad you enjoyed Hansen's, and we don't call it shaved ice, they are snowballs in New Orleans. Shaved ice is just that, basically ice chips, the machine that Hansen's uses was made by Mr Hansen, the current owner's grandfather, and that machine makes the best snowballs in the city, IMO, and Ashley makes all the syrups herself.
Thank you for the well-written and informative review. I understand not taking notes when dining, especially with guests.
As for Drago’s Charbroiled Oysters, I’m not sure that you missed anything. I’ve got a review, that I’m working on right now, and they were our first location.
Personally, I’m glad that you enjoyed Cochon, Galatoire’s and Restaurant August, as they are high on my list. I also did The Coffee Pot twice, once with the family and once when I was dining alone. Did my usual, but maybe I need to look more closely at the eggs next trip.
As for my favorite soft-shelled crab dish, the #1 is still a pecan-crusted, garlic sautéed version. Though I AM a big fan of well-done deep frying. Guess that that comes from growing up in the region.
I am with you, in that I cannot imagine a “deep-fried” lamb chop. Oh well, maybe I am just not adventurous enough.
The Restaurant August amuse sounds like what we had. Great little starter and excellent with Champagne. I was hoping that you had also done the sommelier’s pairing, as that was a real sore spot with us. My hopes are that they address that deficiency and that they take the wines a bit more seriously. Which Burg did “DH” opt for? Though I love Burgs (white, or red), I usually go for a domestic PN, when in NOLA, to match the food. Still, I love to hear of great Burgs on wine list.
Thanks for taking the time to report. My reviews should be up by week’s end.
re: Bill Hunt
Ooh, the #1 pecan-crusted garlic sauteed shelled crab sounds really good. I wish I tried that. But I was happy with mine as well.
I can ask DH later about what wine he had. It was a red burgundy, but that's all I know. One thing was that they didn't decant it. I didn't drink it but was smelling it from time to time. It didn't really open up until the sixth course after it was sitting in his glass for some time. I know there's some controversy as to whether or not you decant Burgundies. I'm in the school of decanting it.
Looking forward to your report!
roro, thanks for setting me straight on the snow cones!
re: Hungry Celeste
D'oh! I kept calling them "shaved ice" and DH called them "snow cones" throughout the weekend. Snowballs, snowballs, snowballs -- I think I got it now. : )
Bill, DH told me he didn't remember what wine he had ordered. He said he would recognize it by sight but can't come up with the name himself. He also said he wouldn't order it again as he wasn't too thrilled with it. The only thing I remember about it was that it was $120 a bottle.
btw, for those of you guys who plan on going to August, the price of the degustation has been raised and is not reflected on their website. It's $170 per person, not $150.
Edible, thank you so much. You have all been so kind to me!
re: Miss Needle
Actually, not decanting a red Burg (white Burgs are more often decanted, though the FR call it caraffing), because of the delicacy of these wines and the nominal lees that the PN grape throws, i.e. usually far, far less sediment, than a Bdx. of the same vintage. This does NOT mean, that they don't need some time to open up, as your DH, and you, observed.
Going down to your reply to HC, even at US$170, the food end is still a good deal, for me at least.
Also, don't forget that when you are in Hawai`i, you must call it "shave ice." No "ed" on the shave... sometimes it gets really confusing.
Again, thanks for review. Next trip back, I will have to try their sommelier's pairings, to see what might have changed, and for the better. I hate really good, to great, food, with midiocre wines!
re: Bill Hunt
I would definitely have to agree that $170 is a great deal compared to what we would be paying for in NYC. Real estate has a lot to do with it. And there's nothing like eating fresh New Orleans seafood. I think one of the reasons that the NY's Jacques-Imo's sucked compared to the New Orleans one was that once the seafood got to NYC, it just wasn't the same. btw, the $170 cost included the wine pairing, which made it even better!
Oh, I definitely have to get my frozen dessert names straight! Shaved ice, snowball, snow cone, snow-bliz, frio frio (I used to work in a Dominican neighborhood) -- they all can be very confusing!
Please report back on the sommelier's pairings. If you think about it, $35 for a wine pairing is quite a bargain. Where I live, when there are wine pairings for a tasting menu, it generally starts at $90 per person.
re: Miss Needle
Don't feel bad regarding the snowball nomenclature. I worked with a friend in Gulfport, MS in the '50s, and he had a snowball cart. We wheeled it all over the area (just 75 miles from NOLA), and sold "snowballs," in the Summer. We "shaved" the 25 lb. block of ice for the "snowballs."
When I moved to NOLA (or maybe while I was still dating my wife), I was introduced to both Plum St. Snowballs and to Hanson's SnowBlitz. To me/us, Plum St. (at Burdette) was the better, but that may have been the toppings, and also that she grew up in the Upper Garden District.
Then, we went to Hawai`i and it was "Shave Ice." Very similar, though different with regard to consistancy.
It's been many years, since we did any form of flavored snow/ice concoctions, so there are probably myriad other iterations, and then one needs to factor in the neighborhood and possibly the ethnicity of the vendors.
Yes, it gets a tad confusing. I try to listen to the locals, read the signs and try to figure out what I should call the shaved ice in my cone, cup, platter, etc.
Still, if they are good, I like them!
re: Bill Hunt
I have lived here many years , never had a snowball blize or cone, my notion is they are too sweet and I am not one who leans toward the sweet side of life( food wise ) have yet to have a beignet because of the sugaryness. Have had a savory version which I enjoyed . Once walking through the Quarter around Cafe du Monde I over heard a tourist saying we need to get a (big net) made me chuckle.
You are yin to my yang. I have always been a fan of sweet (in certain dishes and wines). My coffee is café au lait with a bunch of raw sugar! I do enjoy the beignets, though the sugar at CDM is a bit over the top these days. I enjoy a really nice Sauternes with my foie gras.
I also like the creme concoctions at the old Plum St (is it still there?) "snowball" stand. Wife introduced me to those, and I have been a fan, ever since. Now, if they also had a nice 5er Cru Bdx. flavor, I might like that too...
OTOH, there are a ton of sugary confections that make my teeth buzz and I do not do those. Still, as a child, we'd grab fresh sugarcane and trim the outter "bark," to chew on the insides for hours at a time.
"For every action, there is an equal, and opposite reaction." You help keep me for tilting the globe off of its axis.
great report. glad you had a nice and filling time here. thanks for coming and don't be a stranger...you're family now after that weekend...done right.
Loved your report Miss Needle! It reminded me very much of my trip from about a year ago and makes me want to go back!
I loved Galatoire, it may have been my favorite meal with the old school feel to it. If you didn't like the Oyster Rockefeller, you probably wouldn't have liked the Drago oysters either since they are also covered with sauce and cooked. I didn't care for them that much since I prefer my oysters raw.
I've linked my reports in case you would be interested in my experience in NO.