1069 Restaurants Open Around New O. The whole list.
Veuve Clicquot Toasts Saints. Skitch. Mozart. Chocolate Cake. Bridges. Bulbs. Worms. Tortes. Cakes Creek.
Eating Around New Orleans Today
Ralph's On The Park is running my kind of Saints-related promotion. The glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne they usually sell for $16 for is available for toasting the Who Is Thats, Drew Brees, Scott Fujita, Tom Fears, Obert Logan, and all the rest of the Saints for only $10.XLIV. The Roman numerals are theirs; in case you don't want to bother, that's $10.44. (That's which Super Bowl is coming up, is what I understand.) I can't think of a better wine for saluting the heroes, or a better place to do it.
Ralph's On The Park. City Park Area: 900 City Park Ave. 504-488-1000. Contemporary Creole.
Today is National Chocolate Cake Day. It's no longer enough to make just chocolate cake anymore. It must be Chocolate Suicide cake. Or Death by Chocolate cake. Or Better Than Sex chocolate cake. Isn't a good chocolate cake good enough? It seems essential now that it give one a headache to be taken seriously. Although it will not do that to serious lovers of chocolate. My wife and daughter, for example, recognize no limit to the richness of a chocolate cake.
Chocolate cake's makeover came in the 1990s, with the advent of the flourless chocolate cake. All of a sudden, every restaurant with a pastry chef was serving the new, shallow, intense dessert. Waiters spoke of it with a pride previously reserved only for one's newborn child. They made it seem like a magic trick. Not that magical. It's basically a chocolate mousse stiffened with an unusually large amount of eggs, then baked in a water bath so slowly that the egg foam dries out and hardens.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez: When you melt chocolate in the microwave oven, know that the chocolate can hold its shape when it's melted. Stir it every thirty seconds or so, or you can burn the chocolate waiting for it to look melted.
Music To Eat A Midnight Snack By
Skitch Henderson was born today in 1918. He's best known as the bandleader on the Tonight Show during the early years of the Johnny Carson era. When the show moved from New York to Burbank, Henderson stayed and went on to many other projects, of which the last major one was the New York Pops Orchestra. He and his wife wrote two delightful cookbooks based on the goings on at The Silo, a farm and cooking school they ran in New England. He was on my radio show twice to talk about those books, one of which had a Christmas theme. I pull it out every Christmas season to get me into the spirit. Skitch died in 2005 at 87.
Music To Dine Expensively By
Speaking of musicians: today is also the birthday (1756) of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. How many restaurants have played how many thousands of hours of his works as background music?
Sounds Like Food, But Isn't
The Diet of Worms began today in 1521. It's not what you think. Look it up. Clue: Martin Luther was there.
Inventions For Finer Dining
On this date in 1880, Thomas Edison received a patent on the incandescent light bulb. Think about this: Antoine's, Tujague's, Bruning's and many other restaurants were open before the light bulb existed. Try to imagine what that was like. If you can't, go upstairs at Muriel's, where they still illuminate some rooms by candles alone.
Pro football kicker Matt Stover was born today in 1968. . . Union Brigadier General Samuel Allen Rice was born, 1828. . . Bobby "Blue" Bland, a Memphis blues singer who played around New Orleans a lot, was born today in 1930.
Words To Eat By
"Research tells us fourteen out of any ten individuals likes chocolate."--Sandra Boynton, greeting card writer and artist.
Mardi Gras, Christmas, And Now This
Commander's Palace Will Close
Super Bowl Sunday Night
In November, when the hopes that the Saints would make it to the Super Bowl were still in the finger-crossing stage, Ti Martin and Lally Brennan--the owners of Commander's Palace--said that if the Saints were in the big game, the restaurant would close for the night.
One could take a cynical stance and note that this may have been inspired by the very empty dining rooms restaurants all over town have suffered with on ever Saints game day or night. The Saints in the Super Bowl would have every customer with perhaps one well-known exception at home in front of the television set.
But I happen to know that the Brennans are, in fact, hot on the team. And this is real Saints fever. They don't want to be working themselves that night, and can understand that the rest of the staff might not be paying close attention to service either.
So while you can have the Sunday jazz brunch they created at Commander's Palace on February 7, you won't be able to have dinner. May as well watch the game.
Commander’s Palace. Garden District: 1403 Washington Ave. 504-899-8221. Contemporary Creole.
Wednesday, January 20. Antonio's. A beautiful day, the kind that would make New Orleans a town of millionaires if we had it all the time. Jude called to say that the results of his recent physical have come in. After an uncomfortably deep probe with advanced instruments, everything was seen to be as it should be. The cause of his abdominal cramps, says the doctor, is probably the fear of getting cramps. I could have (and indeed did) tell him this months ago. I know all about this problem. I had it for years in high school and college. The tipoff was when he said that he never notices the discomfort when he's fully involved in a movie shoot.
If he follows in my footsteps, he's not far away from the day when he will wonder whether he's losing his sanity. I vividly remember a few such episodes from my early twenties. The cure: watching Johnny Carson. It was another one of those maladies in which the more you think about it, the worse it gets.
Dinner tonight at Antonio's, an Italian restaurant on Maple Street whose long, punctuated history started with it as a wine store on Terry Parkway in Gretna in the 1990s. It evolved into a restaurant as months went on. We did a couple of live radio broadcasts from there. It closed one day, and wasn't heard from again until about two years ago, when it revived itself in a different location, still in Gretna. That closed, and now here it is, in the converted house that has sheltered Nautical, a New York-style deli, and a few other restaurants in the past ten years or so. Whoever did the most recent renovation has turned it into a much more attractive space. It's now one large room with hardwood floors, romantically dim lighting, a divider here and there, a bar on the left, and big windows.
The menu was not what I remember from the old Antonio's, but I think my memory is the problem in this case. They're cooking a standard Northern Italian selection, heavier on the pastas than I was expecting, but with more seafood. I began with a sauteed scallop and mushroom salad. The scallops and mushrooms were warm enough to wilt the salad, but the salad was so large that it wasn't a disaster. (Anyway, there was a time when it was popular to wilt salads on purpose.)
During the salad course, however, an issue did arise. It was the arrival, when I was about a third of the way through the salad, of the soup. The restaurant was nearly empty. It wasn't late enough that they were looking to hustle me out so they could close. The waiter was friendly and my questions revealed an accommodating nature. So who was it who thought I should have two courses on the table at one time? Why does this happen so often?
I would have been even more upset had I not determined that I'd eaten enough of the salad for my purposes (it was entree size, really, with about eight big scallops). And if the soup hadn't been as good as it was. Really, the only reason I ordered it was that it was a little chilly outside. French onion soup in an Italian restaurant? My first look at it made me suspect that it had been made with base or maybe even taken out of a pouch. But the flavor was very nice. Thick, deeply-colored broth, the right amount of the right kind of cheese (Fontina, I think) over the top. Excellent.
I heard someone else in the room order the spaghetti carbonara, and the power of that suggestion made me follow suit. Haven't had that great combination of cream, eggs, bacon and pasta in awhile. This too was very well made. If a flaw had to be found, it was in an oversupply of bacon--but that's just looking for trouble.
The tiramisu wasn't to my liking. Far too much of the creamy, cheesy, overly sweet filling for the amount of cake there. But at these prices, Antonio's is cooking as well as some much more expensive Italian places.
Antonio's. Riverbend: 7708 Maple St. 504-218-5457.
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Bravo! is a large regional chain of Italian restaurants which, like a number of other chains, have latched onto the dirty little secret of Italian food: if you have good recipes and are willing to diversify the menu beyond spaghetti and meatballs, you can create a restaurant that most Americans will find indistinguishable from the gourmet Italian places. They don't give you the top twenty percent that the best Italian restaurants do, and it's a far cry for the food served in Italy. And it's good enough that not even a gourmet would leave the place mad.
WHY IT'S GOOD
The quality of the pastas, sauces, cheeses, and vegetables are generally good, and used in well-constructed if fully Americanized versions of classic Italian dishes. The seafood is the weakest part of the menu; if there was any local seafood here, I couldn't find it. The dishes identified as "wood grilled" come from a grill fired mostly with gas, but with some sticks of wood in there. The flavor effect is insignificant.
Bravo! began with a single restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, and spread several dozen restaurants through the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states. It came the New Orleans by a family connection: Alton Doody, entrepreneur and Carnival royalty, opened the first of two on St. Charles Avenue. It closed after the hurricane, but the second location in Metairie survives. There's another New Orleans connection, according to the company's website: "Chris [Doody, who started Bravo! with his brother Rick] attended Tulane University in New Orleans to learn how to cook."
The interior design creates an interesting, faux ruins-of-the-Roman-Empire scene, spacious and comfortable.
Fried cheese ravioli.
Italian wedding soup (chicken broth with little meatballs and pasta)
Fried eggplant with crawfish fra diavolo.
Insalata rustica (interesting greens with sun-dried cherries, pecans, and pears).
Pesto tortelloni (little ravioli stuffed with cheese and spinach).
Pasta Bravo! (with grilled chicken and mushrooms in a cream sauce).
Pasta Woozie (Alfredo style with chicken and spinach).
Ravioli: crawfish and lobster, or braised beef.
Frutti di mare (pasta with seafood).
Grilled pork chops.
Strip sirloin steak or filet mignon.
Affogato di gelato.
FOR BEST RESULTS
Come here for pasta, pizza, and salads are the best dishes. If you want to concentrate on meats or seafood, there are many better restaurants in the neighborhood. If you have been to Italy, fuggeddaboutit.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
No restaurant claiming to serve good food should be without local seafood, corporate menus notwithstanding. The management claims they have a chef in every location. Why not let him cook?
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Service +2
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine and Bar
- Local Color -1
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open after 10 p.m. (Till 11 p.m. Sat.)
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted
Vote In A Poll; Comment
What's Your Kind Of Restaurant
For A Big Night's Dinner?
I like all kinds of restaurants except bad ones. But there are some styles I like better than others. I admit to a bias toward the native cuisine--no matter where I am, but certainly here in New Orleans. I also would say that I like classical cooking a shade more than cutting edge creations.
I wonder where you stand. Would you mind telling me? Take a look, then
For this poll, we'll limit the view to big-deal, grand dining venues. We'll come back and do the bistros and the ethnic places some other time. I don't know why I have to say this, but the we are not voting on the examples I give, but on the entire range of restaurants in the same category.
You need to register to do this, but that's free, takes only a minute to answer a couple of questions (name and e-mail), and I will keep the information private. (I don't even use it myself.)
"Tira mi su" literally means "pick me up" in Italian. That's what's alleged to happen when you eat this espresso-doused cake, although I think the sugar contributes more to that effect than the espresso does. It's a a creation of relatively recent vintage, but it has become universal in Italian restaurants around the world. There are two styles of making it, both authentic. This one uses lady finger cakes, and is served by scooping it out of the pan with a big spoon. It can also be made (using the same other ingredients and assembly method) with sheets of sponge cake, and served in slices.
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup mascarpone cheese
- 1 pint whipping cream, chilled
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/2 tsp. almond extract
- 2 Tbs. sugar
- 3/4 cup espresso or very strong coffee
- 1 oz. creme de cacao (or dark rum)
- 12-18 lady fingers
- 2 Tbs. cocoa powder
- 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, shaved into slivers
1. With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and half of the sugar together until the sugar is no longer gritty. Add the mascarpone cheese and beat it until smooth and light.
2. Clean the beaters. In a chilled bowl, beat the whipping cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the remaining sugar, vanilla, and almond extract until it peaks. Don't overbeat, or the cream might break.
3. Add the mascarpone mixture to the whipped cream and beat it until completely blended. The filling is complete; hold it in the refrigerator.
4. Dissolve the 2 Tbs. sugar into the espresso and creme de cacao plus , 2 Tbs. water to make a syrup.
5. Cover the bottom of a 7 x 9 x 3 inch cake pan with lady fingers. Brush the cake with the syrup. Using a rubber spatula or a cake-icing knife, spread about a third of the mascarpone cheese mixture over the lady fingers and into the cracks between then. Make another layer of lady fingers, brush with the syrup, and cover with the filling. Then another layer.
6. Sift the cocoa powder over the top of the cake and top with chocolate shavings. Refrigerate for at least two hours. Leave it in the refrigerator until serving.