A weekend + Cocktails
Last weekend we took advantage of a Hilton package to get 20% off at any Besh restaurant and be in town for Tales of the Cocktail.
Friday we arrived slightly damp at August for lunch. The place is beautiful and the service very good. My wife had prix fixe with pate and then buster crab. I had two apps, the octopus and a salad. The food was good but my wife commented "Is that all there is?" She was commenting on the brief lunch menu but I was also thinking about the food. Dining out can be a pretty subjective occasion. I've heard so much about August that maybe my expectations were unreasonable, but I felt the ROI for lunch, even with the discount, was just OK. That's not to say we won't go again, this time for dinner, but this visit was just OK.
A few hours later we tried to decide on a place to watch the Olympics opening before we went to dinner. The problem is that bars with good drinks rarely have good TV's and bars with good TV viewing rarely have good drinks. We wanted to go to Bombay Club but it was too far out of our path. We decided to try Mannings. We got good seats at the bar and my wife had an acceptable Sazerac while I had a St Arnold. The beer choices were not that large, particularly for a sports bar. The place was about 1/3 full and I noted I was the only one drinking beer from a glass. It looks like it will be a great place in the fall if you like gathering with large noisy groups to watch sports.
After the Five Ring fireworks on TV we went to NOLA. We go there about 2-3 times a year mainly for its consistency in good food and good service. (To refer to a comment last week, we have never been in NOLA when they haven't asked if there are any food allergies). The last two times there we have had the specials and have found them excellant. It may be the expectation thing, but when I had a special in the spring it went on my top ten ever meal list. Last week we both had the app of fresh local chantrelle mushrooms. My wife had what the menu called fish soup and the waiter called bouillabaisse. It was not a bouillabaisse but very good. It had drum, great scallops, shrimp and mussels. The only down side is that there was not a whole lot of broth for what should have been great slurping and sopping. I had two more apps, a great creole tomatoe salad and then a lobster salad, both simple but with great greens, mixings and dressing.
With a very pleasant evening, considering it was late July, we took a pedicab back to the hotel. It was quite nice, but pricey, and should be saved for special occasions or when you can't get a cab and can't walk,
Saturday we went to the Monteleone for our first taste of Tales of the Cocktail. We are now hooked and are already planning to get friends together for next years. It's worth a ticket just to sit in the lobby sipping a fruity masterfully made cocktail and watching the people. It was a bit like the Casa de los Marinos crowd with uptown ladies and heavily tatted bartenders and all in between. We've heard from friends that the special tasting dinners at various restaurants were great fun.
For lunch (prior to an earned nap) we went to Grand Isle. Wife had her usual half and half, a cup of andouille gumbo and half a shrimp poboy. I had a half dozen raw oysters and we worked on a mound of onion rings. The top 1/3 were great but once we got down further they were good but oily.
That afternoon was back at the TOTC and I attended a very informative tasting on anise spirits and the Med region. I won't bore you with details but if anyone is interested in the anise flavored drinks speak up and I'll do a separate post, although it might end up in the CH cocktails board.
Dinner was at Borgne. It is big and a bit stark. The service was good for what it is. The staff uniform is jeans and black t-shirts and even the FOTH manager was weraing jeans. So the service is sort of Outback youthful casual. My wife had a dozen raw and I a half dozen. We followed that with her black drum with pecans and my "Fish in a Bag". Both were simple, cooked perfectly, and very good. We enjoyed these dishes more than the ones at August.
The oysters were served on a pretty fancy raised shallow metal bowl filled with ice. The oysters were very cold, firm and...bland. I eat good oysters as they come, no sauce, no crackers. After the first three I had to go to the cocktail sauce. At Grand Isle the oysters were not as cold, not as firm, but very flavorful. They were not salty but tasted very much like the sea and needed no help from a sauce. This may be personal taste and some may prefer the bland oyster. I'll note that at both places they were the same size, half dollar to silver dollar, and both were priced at $8 per half dozen.
If you read the first sentence I was loyal to 20% off :-) I have had more luke warms at Besh restaurants than hits.
R'evolution or Stella does not grab me. Maybe like Hazelhurst I prefer not to multi-taste. I prefer one thing done very well rather than some fusion coming at me from various directions. But that is just a personal thing when I spend my restaurant dollar. But I will eat anything in any country so it's not a matter of unusual tastes.
I'll get back to you when I'm home with my notes. The tasting ended with Pernod absinthe. Like wine tastings we started with the lightest and ended up with absinthe. The route was French anise aperitif, Spanish, Raki, Arrak, Italian, then French pastis and finally absinthe.
This summer we had dinner in a small Burgundy village. The owner had no English and our French is a hand full of nouns verbs and a few phrases. We ordered drinks and everyone had wine but I looked on the menu under aperitifs and saw an unknown brand. I often order unknown things to learn so asked for Brand X. When he double checked our order he asked if I wanted Brand X and I said yes, I want a pastis. He looked at me like I had two heads so I back pedaled and said yes, Brand X. When it came out it was the anise aperitif I expected.
It was at this tasting that I learned my error. What I ordered was a pure anise aperitif. A pastis is an anise infused alcohol aperitif that ALSO has botanicals, such as Pernod and Ricard. Not that big of a thing to me but it was to that French restaurant owner.