Day 4 - A Phoenician's Tour of NOLA (Elizabeth's, Southern Candymakers, Couchon, Celebration Rum Distillery, Dominique's on Magazine, Tropical Isle)
- Seth Chadwick Nov 3, 2011 09:49 PM
Day 4 had us up fairly early and we decided to have breakfast. So, we got the car and headed to Elizabeth's. We had thought about walking to it, but ultimately we were glad we took the car.
We stepped into the little place and loved the atmosphere. The colorful interior and the cool tablecloths were fun and inviting. We took a seat and were given menus and water. We decided to both get the Eggs, Grits, Biscuit and Praline Bacon. J. asked for an additional biscuit as well as some sausage gravy on the biscuits. I also ordered a side of the Callas.
It wasn't too long before the Callas arrived. About a half dozen fried rice orbs sat in a bowl and were dusted with powdered sugar. The server brought us honey and maple syrup for them. I dove in and really liked them. The crunchy exterior and light interior was spot on. I loved the flavor of the Callas, but the honey went better with them than the maple syrup. I loved them quite a bit. J. did as well, and described them as being similar to French toast donut holes.
Our full breakfasts arrived and it was a tremendous amount of food. J. immediately started in on the biscuits and gravy. He really liked the sausage gravy which was filled with sausage and very peppery. He also liked the density of the biscuits. He also like the fact the biscuits were not drowned in the gravy. I personally thought the biscuit was far too dense for my taste. It had a great flavor, but it was just too heavy.
Both of us though the eggs were sort of... there. There wasn't much to them and mine were overcooked. But was the eggs lacked, the Praline Bacon more than made up for. We loved every single bite. It was a meaty, slightly sweet and somewhat nutty in flavor. A true winner. We also loved the grits that were filled with butter and cheese. They were light and savory and a wonderful treatment of them.
We finished our meals and then headed back to the Quarter to walk around the French Market. Wanting a little treat, we stopped in the Southern Candymakers shop and got some pralines. I chose a traditional one as well as a coconut praline. J. had a Chocolate-covered Oreo, a Chocolate-covered Tortues, and a traditional praline. I thought the traditional praline was excellent. However, the coconut praline, while yummy, just missed the mark in satisfaction. J. liked the Oreo because of the quality of the chocolate covering, and really liked the Tortues, but found it exceedingly sweet.
At 1:30 PM, we made our way to Couchon for lunch. Parking proved to be a challenge, but we made it into the restaurant and were immediately seated. The restaurant had such a large selection of tempting items, we were chomping at the bit to dig in.
Too bad for us the restaurant fumbled right out of the gate with some of the worst rolls I have been served in quite some time. Even the lousy Brown and Serve rolls in the plastic wrapper that my grandmother insisted on serving during Sunday dinners were better than these dry, flavorless hockey pucks.
But, we set that aside and moved to ordering our beverages. I had the Voodoo Bengal Beer from Tin Roof Brewery that was refreshing and satisfying with a slight edge to it. J. had the Apple Bobber cocktail that featured peach liqeur, apple moonshine and some fruit juices. It was very tasty and J.'s first experience with moonshine, and he found the drink stronger yet smoother than he expected.
Our server took our order and we were not shy. We ordered to share the Oyster Roast, the Charred Onion Hushpuppies, the Iceberg Salad with Buttermilk Dressing with Bacon and Radish, the Mushroom Salad with Deep Fried Beef Jerky and Lemon Vinaigrette, the Louisiana Couchon with turnips and cracklings, and the Braised Pork Cheeks with Sauerkraut Potato Cakes.
The first thing to hit our table were the Hushpuppies. They were piping hot and served with a Goat Cheese dipping sauce. They were crunchy on the outside but so light and fluffy on the inside. Still, we had to wait for them to cool. When we finally got to eat them, we were impressed. The charred onion gave a burst of earthiness and the goat cheese sauce added a creamy edge. Following these were our salads. The winner of the two was the Mushroom Salad. We adored the dressing which was bright and fresh, and balanced the richness of the pork cracklins and mushrooms. A very good dish. My salad was an iceberg wedge with buttermilk dressing and sprinkled with bacon bits and some radishes. A straightforward presentation with a nice dressing and a nice salty addition from the bacon. I was happy with the choice.
The Braised Pork Cheeks arrived and the cheeks fell apart at the touch of our fork. The potato cakes were great at mopping up the juices from the cheeks. We thought this was a solid dish. The Louisiana Couchon was good, but didn't really wow us. It was a perfectly serviceable dish, but it just didn't stand out.
The real winner for J. was the Oyster Roast. Six oysters on the half shell were treated with a spicy sauce. He gobbled them up (oysters aren't my thing) and found them creamy and delicious.
We passed on dessert, but left pleased. However, we were not blown away. It was a pleasant lunch and we enjoyed it (sans the awful bread), but it would not be on our list of repeat places on our next visit to New Orleans.
One thing we had on our list to do was to visit the Celebration Rum distillery. It seems few people know about this place and the fact they offer tours, but we went and had a fantastic rum Iced Tea cocktail while being given a tour of the little plant where they showed us how rum was made from molasses to some great drinking rum. It ended with a tasting of their four rum products. All were excellent.
After spending the day enjoying the city and the distillery, we got dressed up and headed to Dominique's on Magazine. Walking in, we loved the interior with its white walls and glowing votive candles. We were seated at a four-top in the middle of the room and were given water and a yeast roll with butter. We placed our order drinks of an Earl Grey Gardens cocktail for me and a Lemongrass Pisco Sour for J.
We munched on the yeast rolls while awaiting our drinks and they were warm and tasty. Our drinks arrived and I was quite impressed with my Earl Grey Gardens, which contained Ketel One Oranje, Earl Grey Syrup, Lemon, Soda, and Thyme. It was incredibly refreshing and light. I loved the Earl Grey aftertaste that coated my tongue. Lovely. J.'s Lemongrass Pisco Sour contained Pisco, Lemongrass Syrup, Canton Ginger Liqueur, Lemon, Lime, and egg white. J. ooohed and aaahed from the first sip and it packed quite a punch of flavor. It was excellent.
With a few sips under our belts, we ordered our meals. My starter was the Duck Confit with Poached Pear which would be followed by the Lobster and Celery Root Salad (which I would share with J.) and the Grilled Island Spice Rubbed Pork Porterhouse. J. selected the Charred Morgan Ranch Beef Tartare and the Tasting of Lamb.
When the Duck Confit arrived, the aroma saturated my nose and I felt like I could have floated away on a duck-scented cloud. The duck meat was fork tender and sitting on a bed of Frisee and dressed with a cane syrup and apple cider vinaigrette. All I can say is that I went to my happy place with the first and subsequent bites. Truly spectacular. J.'s Beef Tartare was a cylinder of beef mixed with tamari and ginger and served with an avocado creme and thick, housemade potato chips. J. liked it better than other beef tartares he had encountered in the past. He did wish there had been a grain mustard or similar as an enhancement as opposed to the avocado creme, but he loved the dish and found it a perfect-sized portion for an appetizer.
Our Lobster and Celery Root Salad threw us both for a loop. We were expecting a pile of celery root with a smattering of chopped lobster meat. On the contrary, it turned out to be a lobster salad accented by some celery root slices and a basil aioli. The salad was packed with large pieces of claw meat and was fresh and delicious. We were so pleased with the salad we sang its praises. Just completely unexpected and completed delightful.
Then, it was time for our mains. My Pork Porterhouse was huge. It was nearly an inch thick and glistening with a spice rub. I dove in and it set my mouth on fire. I was so tickled. This had a great spice kick that did a nice burn on my lips and tongue. The meat was perfectly cooked and I couldn't have asked for a better preparation. The sides were local green kale & pork confit fricassee and cane syrup-glazed sweet potato. the kale was okay, but I am not a kale fan. The pork confit and the sweet potatoes were excellent. What a great entree.
J.'s Tasting of Lamb was a hit. It included a lamb chop, lamb osso bucco, and a grilled lamb tenderloin. The osso bucco was melt in your mouth tender and wonderful. The lamb chop was perfectly cooked with a pink inside and a charred outside. The tenderloins were good, but overshadowed by the other two components. The sides were local grown lima beans which were good but secondary to the meat. He was very pleased with his selection.
For our dessert, we shared a copy of the Goat Cheese Cake with honey and almonds. What a treat. Tangy, thick, rich and sensuous. It was a great ending to the meal.
As we left, we felt a nice, cool breeze with a hint of autumn dance across our faces and we commented on what a great night it was.
So, to further enjoy the night, we decided to go to Bourbon Street and take in the sights. Our first stop was Tropical Isle where we imbibed in this thing called a "Hand Grenade" which can best be described as a tool of the devil. It was sourish, tangy, strong and, well, I can't remember much more other than we ended up in Cafe Lafitte's in Exile doing Karaoke where I was, apparently, threatening to sing "Danke Schoen" by Wayne Newton. The one thing I do remember is the sheer terror in J's eyes when I pointed out that song. But, less Hand Grenaded heads prevailed and I sang "Octopus' Garden" by the Beatles. J. denies it, but I am sure he belted out something by Abba. (Note by J.: Stone Temple Pilots, thank you very much)
Alas, it was time to go home and get ready for our last full day in New Orleans.
Omigosh, Seth, I so love reading your reviews, and judging from the other posters' comments, everyone else does, too. I feel like I'm a mouse riding around in your pocket, traveling and enjoying vicariously, as you and J take in all the wonderful places to eat and drink while in NOLA.
We didn't have lunch at Cochon, but dinner instead, and agree with your assessment of this restaurant...serviceable but not a place to necessarily put on the return list. We just didn't think it lived up to the hype.
Would've loved to have been at Cafe LIE while you two were doing karaoke. Sounds like a blast. It is one of our favorite bars in the lower FQ. Was Will or Paul there?
I'm very sad that it appears your reports are going to come to an end. Unfortunate for all us CH'ers who have been drooling over your reviews and food descriptions. Very pleasure-inducing. Many many thanks for posting.
930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130
I am not sure if Paul or Will were there. They did have a substitute host for the Karaoke.
Thanks for the compliments. They are very much appreciated.
You are correct that things are winding down. We are packing our bags now before one final lunch and then a bit of shopping and then to the airport.
I will post my last two reports over the next day or two.
re: Seth Chadwick
Thanks for the reply. I will eagerly anticipate your next (and sadly, final) reports from my favorite city.
Also forgot to mention it was good to know the New Orleans Rum Distillery tour was worth it. Have heard other good things about it, but we have not done it yet, but it's on the "next time" list. A coworker is going down next month to visit friends, and I suggested he check it out, and they are going to. They've already driven to Abita Springs and done the brewery tour there and liked it, so told him he needs to keep in the adult beverage mode and go to NO Rum and take the tour there. The location is somewhere in the Upper Ninth Ward, right?
The thing is with New Orleans, there's so much to see and do and eat and drink, there's never enough time to take it all in. Repeat visits are always in order. ;-)
I'm taking notes on all the places you're writing about...I just went to Dominiques On Magazine website, and it appears that the chef, Dominique Macquet's last day at his namesake restaurant will be this Saturday, Nov. 5! I don't arrive until the 8th, I'm bummed!