The New Orleans Gourmet (continued)
The New Orleans Gourmet
(Continued from page one.)
At Restaurant August, chef John Besh, who won the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southeast, focuses on the finest ingredients of South Louisiana. In the hurricane aftermath, Besh dished out red beans to the relief workers then opened his establishment as soon as the city came back to life. The atmosphere in the historic four-story Creole-French building in the Central District dating back to the 1800’s is as welcoming and chic as ever – crystal chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling windows played against weathered brick. His flash-fried zucchini blossom amuse-bouche melts on the tongue; the bowl of truffled gnocchi with a garnish of flawless lump crabmeat is amazing; and rabbit from a nearby farm is served over a mix of lobster, sweetbreads, and artichoke hearts. In each case Besh elevates the simple to the sublime. The secret to Besh’s success is that the food tastes of itself. Besh has a mission to serve food that has a New South environmental awareness – food profoundly rooted in its home place but prepared at a level that’s world-class.
On the top of his lunch menu at Restaurant August is this note: “Each day as we purchase local fish from folks like Brian Cappy, produce from Jim Core and poultry and such from Jim McCloud, we collectively contribute to the rebirth of New Orleans.”
At the end of April, Besh opened Luke, a brasserie in the heart of the central business in the newly rennovated Hilton New Orleans. “It has a much more casual focus, but the food is amazing and the atmosphere is fun,” Besh says. Lüke’s menu is unaffectedly Old World, featuring Germanic specialties and French bistro classics, house-made pâtés and abundant plateaux of cold, fresh seafood. To complement its brasserie cuisine, Lüke offers an extensive French, German, and Belgian beer selection, including three exclusive house brews, as well as wines from the Loire, Alsace, and Savoie regions of France, and Germany.
Brennan’s may not be the oldest restaurant in New Orleans, but for nearly five decades the Brennan family has ruled the world of New Orleans cuisine. Now, like all the other restaurant owners in the city, they are fighting to reclaim their businesses after Hurricane Katrina. The entire 35,000-bottle wine cellar at Brennan’s, including extremely rare first-growth Bordeaux from the 19th century, was ruined and auctioned off by insurers. The building, which dates back to 1798, was acquired by the Brennan family in 1943 and transformed into a stunning restaurant with 12 elegantly decorated dining rooms. A beautiful courtyard of magnolia trees and picturesque fountains create the perfect dining atmosphere.
Brennan’s is known for its breakfast, and it helps to bring an appetite. Begin with a Brandy Milk Punch, followed by any one of a dozen poached egg dishes such as Eggs Hussarde, a Brennan’s creation. Lunch offers soups such as oyster, Creole onion, turtle, and seafood okra gumbo. Dinner offers a delightful assortment of delectable options such as Gulf soft shell crab with bearnaise sauce, shrimp with Cajun andouille sausage and blackened redfish. For dessert, try the famous Bananas Foster, which was named for a Brennan’s regular.
Seven on Fulton
At Seven on Fulton, chef Michael Sichel’s personal and creative cooking style is French based and New Orleans inspired. Before coming to New Orleans in 2005 he cooked for four years in California’s Napa Valley at the award-winning Auberge du Soleil. Highlights among the highly inventive offerings are a perfectly made lobster bisque with tortellini and lemon confit; seared scallops offset with smoked tomatoes and almonds with sauce hollandaise; and duck breast accompanied by crisp bacon lardoons. The wine list is compiled to create the best possible pairings with the dishes on the menu.
Chefs Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski were brave enough to open Cochon just a few months after hurricane Katrina. Their gamble paid off because their Cochon is one of the most talked about new restaurants in the city. Link, who won the James Beard Foundation’s award for Best Chef of the Southeast 2007, brings his love for authentic Cajun cuisine to Cochon. Both chefs embrace old style traditions and source all their ingredients from local farmers. They smoke and cure all their pork on the premises for boudin, andouille, smoked bacon, and head cheese. The menu also features handmade crawfish pies, rabbit and dumplings, and spoon bread with okra and tomatoes. Cochon offers specialties from the wood-burning oven such as roasted oysters, suckling pig, and beef brisket.
WHERE TO STAY
Harrah’s Casino Hotel, #8 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA 70130, (504)533-6000, www.harrahs.com. Downtown and the Central Business District house most of the bigger hotels in the city. Harrah’s combines perfect location with comfortable accommodations. If you feel lucky, the hotel is connected to Harrah’s Casino.
WHERE TO EAT
Besh Steakhouse, 8 Canal St., 504-533-6111 harrahs.com
Brennan’s Restaurant, 417 Royal St., 504-525-9711 brennansneworleans.com
Cochon, 930 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-588-2123, cochonrestaurant.com
Luke, 333 St. Charles Avenue, 504-378-2840, lukeneworleans.com
Restaurant August, 301 Tchoupitoulas, 504-299-9777, rest-august.com
Seven On Fulton, 701 Convention Center Boulevard, 504-525-7555, 7onfulton.com
For more information: New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau neworleanscvb.com