Trip Report: LONG. Yum!
Spent 3 nights, 4 days in NOLA and am super full! Had a great time as always. Here’s what I ate:
Arrived on Saturday and went straight to the Oyster Festival. This was fun and not all that busy, surprisingly. I would go back for sure. I had:
Oysters from the Drago’s fire truck: just as good as I’ve always heard. Plump, perfectly cooked, buttery, cheesy. Definitely my favorite item I ate.
Oyster Rockefeller Bouhe from Royal House: This was kind of lackluster and only included about 3 actual oysters, although the creamed spinach was tasty.
Raw oysters from Acme: big and flavorful as always.
Oyster po boy from Stella: nicely fried oysters, flavorful sauces.
Open faced oyster brochette from Galatoire’s: this was okay, didn’t blow me away
Buffalo oyster po boy from GW Fin’s: flavorful, nice sauce
Broussard’s bananas foster bread pudding: sweet, sticky and a nice dessert.
Lots of Purple Haze.
In all, an awesome start to my trip.
After a few drinks around the quarter, including some nicely mixed items from Hermes Bar, we headed to our hotel to get ready for dinner. We were done in time to grab two drinks at Bar Uncommon with Chris, yay! Just sitting and talking with him about his craft, about the history of cocktails and about other good spots in New Orleans was awesome. Wish we would have had more time for chilling there! I just let him make me his choice of drinks, and both were awesome. Can’t remember the names, sadly.
Next we headed to Coquette for dinner. My meal here was good, but not spectacular. We got the four-course tasting menu with wine pairings and added a pork belly appetizer because we are little piggies.
Pork belly: awesome! Loved the Asian sauce, pickled peach and slaw.
Dinner first course: corn soup. Lacking seasoning, super blah.
Second: fried oysters with some sort of smoked tomato sauce and bacon. Really good and flavorful.
Third: cochon de lait, also flavorful, inventive and good.
Dessert: some kind of chocolate cake, not all that impressive.
As the night went on, the service here got worse and worse. I know the place got busy and our servers got a large table, but we still weren’t pleased to be forced to sit and wait for our check, etc.
I was also disappointed with the wine pairings. They weren’t listed on the menu and our servers were totally uniformed as to what they were. Often they’d try to put the wines down without telling us what they were, and when we asked we got generic responses like “zinfandel.” I think if you are going to offer a wine pairing, you should better inform your servers about wine.
The next day I got up early and grabbed a breakfast sandwich at Café Beignet. I know people dis the beignets here, but I absolutely adore the bacon-egg-cheese breakfast sandwich for an a.m. meal on the go. It’s a homemade omelet with white American cheese served on a bagel or croissant. There’s a ton of bacon, making it flavorful and filling after a night of drinks!
Later in the afternoon, we had lunch at Salu. The food here was okay, but the atmosphere was just what we wanted. We relaxed on the patio and watched people pass by on Magazine. I had two “sangrias,” one that was fabulous, blackberry-prosecco, and one that was okay, coconut lime. For food we had chorizo sliders, lamb lollipops, duck flautas and stuffed dates. The lamb was our favorite followed by the sliders. Flautas and dates were just okay.
After some wandering along the street, we stopped in La Divina Gelateria. Hello awesomeness! I had bananas foster and bourbon pecan. My small was huge! I could barely even eat half. So flavorful and full of good ingredients, plus the service was really nice. When we said we hadn’t been in before, the gentleman at the counter gave us a ton of tastes so we could decide what we wanted.
Later that evening we headed to Stella for dinner. We were there, so we figured we’d do the tasting w/wine pairing. I don’t have a list of all the wines, but will try to do food list.
First, I started with a cocktail featuring beet juice. The bf got one with arugula and Tabasco. Both were good, kind of like salads! Def a fun start to the meal. For the other courses we got:
Amuse Bouche: curried shrimp with a mango puree. Shrimp was served on a fork and the mango came in a shot glass. Inventive, flavorful, set a good tone for the meal.
Amuse Bouche: some sort of wonton. Nothing super special.
Both these courses came with a reisling, which paired exceptionally well.
First course: caviar, Louisiana lobster, truffle, custard served in an egg. This was okay, but I’m a bit over the whole custard/egg trend.
Second course: Diver scallop sashimi with yuzu-olive oil vinaigrette, petite radishes, wasabi ice and nasturtium air. Loved the flavors here. This is the dish that made us excited about the rest of the meal. Very inventive. Also loved that we were given fresh chopsticks just for the wonton and for this dish.
Third course: Louisiana gulf shrimp risotto with caramelized shitake mushrooms, grilled ramps, English peas and olive oil. This dish was nothing special, and I think a bit overcooked. I would have expected something more unique.
Fourth course: Sea bass. Can’t remember the preparation, but it was the best I’ve tasted. The boyfriend doesn’t even like sea bass and he was impressed.
Something weird happened here: after receiving our next wine and waiting for like a half an hour we were brought some palate-cleansing sorbet and more wine. The way it was served and the timing compared to the rest of the meal made us feel like some glitch happened in the kitchen. No biggie.
Fifth course: steak. We were disappointed with this after having heard such great things about the inventiveness of the chef. A basic steak served with potatoes was a letdown, plus the bf’s was waaay overcooked. Like gray in the center. Unacceptable considering the cost of the meal and Stella’s reputation. This was the dish that made us start to feel a bit let down.
Sixth course: goat’s milk panna cotta with berries and honey and pistachio brittle. Loved the flavors and the fun take on a cheese course.
Seventh course: sesame cake with chocolate ice cream. The flavors here didn’t really work, but I commend the chef for trying something different.
Finisher: homemade chocolates. These were unique and well made. Interesting flavors.
Throughout the meal, I was extremely impressed with the wine pairings and the way each was served, with a solid description of the flavors and region. It’s rare that I’m impressed by how well each wine chosen goes with my meal and I was here. I was also blown away by the service. Even small things like when I headed to the ladies room my server walked in front of me and stopped anyone with a tray that might have gotten in my way. Our servers were flawless.
In all, was it worth the price tag? No, I’d say. We’d heard from so many people that sometimes chef Boswell tries to do too much, and here we felt like he didn’t do quite enough. Dishes like risotto and basic steak just fell flat for the price tag. We had hoped for more creativity in each course.
We started our next day with light breakfast snacks at Croissant D’Or, which was okay but nothing stellar. My ham and cheese croissant was satisfying. The bf thought his quiche Lorraine was on the dry side. I’d probably go back were I staying close by, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get here.
A little later we stopped by El Gato Negro where I got a fresh watermelon margarita. Yum! I loved the tart flavors and chunks of fresh watermelon in my glass. It was perfect after the hot walk around the quarter.
Later we did lunch at August. As always, my favorite meal of the trip! We did the three-course meal and added fois gras, because the fois gras here is the best I’ve ever had. This time didn’t disappoint. It was encased in duck and served with homemade blueberry preserves.
For the three courses we got:
pork terrine: this was big and really good. We loved that it was served with all sorts of accompaniments like pickled mushrooms, blueberry preservers, grain mustard, spicy mustard and champagne jelly. It was fun to try the different flavor combos. We also learned the restaurant raises its own pigs, which is pretty cool.
Watermelon gazpacho: perfectly refreshing on a hot day with lots of flavors going on: watermelon, pepper, mint, cilantro, etc.
For the main we both got the lamb stomach with creole cream cheese dumplings. Full of flavor, unique and a nice portion.
For dessert I got some sort of crispy peanut butter bars with buttered popcorn ice cream and caramel corn. What a fun flavor combination.
The bf got panna cotta with an addicting fruit puree.
Service here was stellar as always. I asked our waiter to select wines for me to pair with my courses, and he was spot on, even when I asked for something to go with the gazpacho (he suggested a lovely prosecco I wish I’d gotten the name of!). Needless to say, next time we come to town, we’ll do our big-bang meal here and skip Stella. Maybe we’ll do lunch too!
After lunch we wandered over to WINO for some more wine drinking. Sampling wines always makes for a fun afternoon. We enjoyed some of the dessert wines here, but weren’t overly blown away by the selections to sample. It was fun anyway.
Later we stopped by Luke for fresh oysters and drinks. The oysters were plump, juicy and a great deal at 50 cents each! I washed mine down with some sparkling rose. Delish.
After a quick freshen up, we did some more pre-dinner cocktail hopping. First we stopped in the Carousel Bar where I had my first Ramos Gin Fizz. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this creamy, flavorful libation.
Next, we ran into Sylvain where I got Lancelot’s Deception. This blend of Bols Genever, Yellow Chartreuse, Death’s Door Gin, lime and rhubarb bitters was a bit medicinal for my taste, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Would love to come back here and try more off the menu. It was nice to find a place like this that felt populated by mostly locals despite its location on Royal Street.
Later we went to Cochon for dinner. A favorite from two of my past trips, on this night the meal was more hit and miss. The place was packed! Service was rushed and not super friendly, and the loud/open area made us feel like we were eating in a cafeteria. They were obviously trying to rush people in and out. I started with a cocktail featuring gin, limeade and some other ingredients. It was just too gin-centric, and I like gin. For the meal, we just got a bunch of small plates:
Rabbit livers: great and very inventive. Loved the use of mint.
Pork cheeks: flavorful as always. This is one of my favorite Cochon dishes.
Boudin: spicy, good, loved the mustard it was served with.
Oyster roast: okay, but nothing special. Kind of just tasted like oysters smeared in buffalo sauce.
Charcouterie: good as always. Wish they’d come up with an option including some cheese.
Mac & Cheese Casserole: dry and disappointing.
For dessert we split the blueberry buckle, which was dry, crappy and old-tasting, and the peach pie with caramel. This was warm and flavorful, and went oh so well with the dessert wine suggested on the menu. We almost just ordered the blueberry dish, so I’m glad we added this one! Even though I liked some of my dishes, I just wasn’t as impressed as I was on past visits. I don’t think we’ll return here for a while.
Next day, last day in NOLA:
I was up before the bf, so I grabbed a half mufaletta for breakfast at Central Grocery. I only ate ¼ of it, and it was okay. I totally agree with those who say it could use more meat and more finely chopped olive salad, but I still enjoyed it. I wouldn’t go out of my way to get one, but on a day like that a.m. when I was just wandering, it hit the spot.
Later we ate at Stanley. It wasn’t really our number one choice, but it started pouring/hailing and that’s what was nearby, so ta-da! I started with a bloody mary, which was okay, a little heavy on the vodka. For my meal, I went oyster po boy. The oysters were nicely fried and I liked the sauces. In fact, I ate the whole thing! The bf got the Korean beef po boy, which he enjoyed as well. We also split some fries, which reminded me of a fresher, better version of McDonald’s! Not bad for our last meal in the city. I do wish they’d just include fries with their sandwiches, though. For the prices I don’t think it’d kill them to throw in a side.
Ah well. Let the post-trip detox begin!
930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130
209 Bourbon St., New Orleans, LA 70130
La Divina Gelateria
3005 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115
Nice report. I am in the minority, but refer to Stella! as "the emperor's new clothes". Not a fan of Stanley either. Love August and Coquette. Thanks for coming!
Great report. Loved the detail on Stella. I'm with you on August. We always fit in lunch there as it's the perfect setting, service is stellar and it's such an incredible value that we really go whole hog on the wine. It's a happy place for us!
Thank you for sharing!
Glad you enjoyed La Divina Gelateria! They really do put a lot of local ingredients in their gelato, and it's made from scratch. Love Cochon, too, but I agree it has been packed every time I've gone lately. Maybe we should stop telling people how good it is? ;)
And lunch at August is always a good idea.
930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130
quite a line up. bummer Coquette wasnt more up to the challenge. while i enjoy the food, i have definitely noticed their service leaves something to be desired. same thing -- when it gets busier our server employs a cloak of invisibility. they should work on this.
Croissant D'or used to be special, but now that it's on its three-times-removed ownership, it's become lackluster. a shame.
El Gato definitely has the best margaritas. put put Rita's margarita bar in the quarter to shame!
Thank you for taking the time to report.
"I was also disappointed with the wine pairings. They weren’t listed on the menu and our servers were totally uniformed as to what they were. Often they’d try to put the wines down without telling us what they were, and when we asked we got generic responses like “zinfandel.” I think if you are going to offer a wine pairing, you should better inform your servers about wine."
To me, this is totally unacceptable, and indicates a lack of knowledge, and concern, regarding their wine program.
Now, I am probably not the normal diner, as wine is always a part of our every meal, after breakfast.
Going back a couple of sommeliers, that was our biggest issue with Restaurant August - the wine pairings were all wrong, poorly served, and not nearly worth the cost. I hear that things have changed there, but going back, the wine program needed an entire revamp.
The same can be said for too many other wine programs. Wine is a major part of the meal for many.
We do a lot of "chef's tastings," and "sommelier's wine pairings," around the globe, and each server must give us the full details of each wine - zero exceptions. I also ask why each wine was chosen, for that dish. If the server cannot communicate those simple requests, we ask for the sommelier, to give us some background.
When I am paying upwards to US$ 200 per diner, for the "sommelier's pairing," I expect something beyond a wine from the B-T-G list, that might pair with that dish. Make your case, and make it well, or I want the wine list back, and you to clear all these glasses.
301 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
"Something weird happened here: after receiving our next wine and waiting for like a half an hour we were brought some palate-cleansing sorbet and more wine. The way it was served and the timing compared to the rest of the meal made us feel like some glitch happened in the kitchen. No biggie."
To me, this would have been a "biggie," and one that I would not have been please with. Pacing is part of fine-dining, and I do not expect any mis-steps in the process. Though a big fan of Stella!, this would have been a show-stopper for me, and someone would have been table-side with a bunch of good reasons for this slip-up.
When a restaurant is doing "fine-dining," they absolutely need to deliver - no excuses.
As for the egg custard in the shell, going back about 11 mos., their version was up there with Restaurant Daniel and Le Bernadine - just flat near the very best. Sounds like someone is getting tired of the dish. That should never happen. An amuse bouche is all about innovation and showing off a bit. The kitchen MUST get those right, or move on. Heck, these should be a showcase, and if not inspiring, should be instantly replaced.
"Throughout the meal, I was extremely impressed with the wine pairings and the way each was served, with a solid description of the flavors and region. It’s rare that I’m impressed by how well each wine chosen goes with my meal and I was here. I was also blown away by the service. Even small things like when I headed to the ladies room my server walked in front of me and stopped anyone with a tray that might have gotten in my way. Our servers were flawless."
This is the way that it should always be!
I want to know why the sommelier/wine steward chose THAT wine, with THAT dish. If no one can tell me, I feel slighted.
We've most often done the chef's tasting, and the sommelier's pairings, and have been impressed to date.
As state above, the wine IS part of our meal, and should pair perfectly for every course. Some thought MUST go into it. Glad that they did not disappoint here.
re: Bill Hunt
Totally agree with your comments! Even though the price of the wine pairings jacked up the cost at Stella, we thought it was totally worth it, exactly as you said 1. because each wine was well thought out 2. because each pairing was explained in detail and 3. they were great! I also loved that if we finished our wine before our course was finished, or if it was supposed to go with a second course, they refilled our glasses like it was no big deal.
Like you, I thought the way the wine pairings were served at Coquette was totally unacceptable. The wines weren't even detailed on the menu, so we really had no clue what we were drinking. And, to to send the waiter back for info only for them to return with "zinfandel" is totally ridiculous! After that I think we just threw in the towel on trying to understand the pairings or we would have asked to see a sommelier, wine manager, something! Particularly when I'm on vacation, wine pairings is something I look forward to and get really excited about. It was a letdown at Coquette.
I do agree that the timing thing at Stella was annoying, but I think in general we were just more annoyed that the timing snafu was followed by my boyfriend receiving an overcooked steak, not to mention that this dish lacked any culinary inventiveness. We didn't pay super close attention to the menu in the beginning and we almost wondered if they ran out of what they were supposed to serve and gave us this lackluster dish instead. Either way, I'm still glad we experienced Stella.