Lunch At Arnaud's. Rabbit. Tea Party. Chocolate Covered. Goose. Goose Creek. The Peacemaker. American Pie. Coins For Liquids.
Eating Around New Orleans Today
Something we miss from the pre-Katrina days is lunch at Arnaud's. Although dinner there has been rolling right along--it was the first of the French-Creole grande dame restaurants to reopen after the storm--it hasn't restored the midday meal. Except at this time of year. Beginning today through December 23, Arnaud's will have both a special lunch menu and its full a la carte offering from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. This Friday's lunch has long been a particularly lively party, filling every table in the big restaurant with people dressed up for the season. The classic lunch of shrimp Arnaud (the best remoulade there is), trout meuniere, and creme caramel is $26.50.
Arnaud's. French Quarter: 813 Bienville 504-523-5433. Classic Creole.
Ten Days Till Christmas
Sixteen days till New Year's Eve. Buy the wine and Champagne for your Christmas and New Year celebrations today. The wine stores will only get busier from now on. Make restaurant reservations now. A list of restaurants open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, plus all the Reveillon menus and our favorite Christmas recipes, are all on our Christmas Page.
Food In Literature
The Tale Of Peter Rabbit, who ate so well that he got very fat (this is sounding better by the moment!), was first published today in 1901 by Beatrix Potter. Now I'm thinking of grilled rabbit tenderloin with peppercorns, and--well, this isn't Easter, is it?
Today is the birthday of the author Jane Austen, author of Pride and Prejudice (later made into my wife's favorite movie), Emma, and many other brilliant works about manners and women. For a few years the Upperline Restaurant observed her birthday, serving a dinner in the style of Austen's 18th-century British milieu. People would attend dressed in period clothes. Only JoAnn Clevenger could come up with something so rich.
Beverages Through History
Today in 1773 the Boston Tea Party episode transpired. About 350 crates of tea flavored the Boston harbor's waters that day. Too many jokes have asked what china and pastries were served for me to add to their number. The event, aside from galvanizing the inchoate American Revolution, figures into the transition from tea to coffee as the preferred hot beverage in the United States.
It is rumored that today is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. Have you ever eaten a chocolate-covered ant? They're not bad, but not great, either. They're "repletes"--ants whose job in the colony is to hold a supply of honeydew brought to it by the ants who go out to gather it. They get to be the size of peas or even grapes, and they're very sweet to eat. When I first started writing food columns, people who'd known me a long time used to ask, "You're a gourmet now? Do you eat fried grasshoppers and chocolate-covered ants?" As if that were the only gourmet food in the world. (They're not gourmet food at all, of course.)
Don't bend over! This is also Get The Christmas Goose Day. What could be more traditional than a Christmas goose? But what could be harder to find in a restaurant? Not even the Reveillon menus this year feature any roast goose, as they have in the past. Too bad.
Starting about ten years ago, more people are thinking about roasting a goose for the holiday table. Most stores I've checked this year have them, all frozen. They're not cheap--they're generally around $25 for a 10-pound bird--but they seem to be selling. You'd like the bird if you tried it. It's lighter in flavor, texture, and color than duck. And since it has even more fat than a duck, the flavor is richer.
To prepare a goose properly, you need to buy it in the next day or two. It takes a couple of days to thaw (it will almost certainly be frozen). And then you have to let it age for a few days in the refrigerator. If all that sounds complicated, the cooking process continues to be so. But it's worth it, both for the sake of your palate and tradition. The tremendous amount of fat left over from cooking a goose can be made into a roux. I did that once and combined with a stock from the goose carcass to make a singularly great gumbo.
Music To Eat In The Car On The Levee By
Don McLean's song American Pie, which memorialized the simultaneous deaths of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens (although you would never have known that to listen to the song, whose lyrics didn't make a lot of sense) came out today in 1971. Not only was it irritating, but at eight and a half minutes long it got more airtime than any other Number One hit. I say it's responsible for the death of Top Forty radio.
On this day in 1887, a patent was issued for the first coin-operated machine that dispensed liquids. William Fruen's machine sold coffee and tea. I wonder what it tasted like after it sat in there a few days, as it did.
William "Refrigerator" Perry, Chicago Bears defensive back, was born today in 1962. . . Theo Bitter, who was a Dutch theatrical designer and artist, came to life today in 1916. . . Anthropologist Margaret Mead, who brought to light the freewheeling (to us) lifestyle of the people in Samoa, was born today in 1901.
Words To Eat By
"Dear, would you like a little goose?"
"You try that here and I'll punch you!"--Actual conversation between a husband and wife attending an Eat Club Reveillon dinner where goose was on the menu, the Hunt Room Grill, December, 2002.
Wednesday, December 9. Reveillon At The Windsor Court Grill Room. A break in the rainy weather allowed me to walk the two blocks to the Windsor Court Hotel from the radio station, without bothering to carry an umbrella. There I met three genuine bigwigs in the Polo Lounge, waiting for me to finish the radio show. And a commercial that needed to begin tomorrow. I only get these on days when I have an appointment right after I get off the air. But the person who invited me is Chris Claus, the corporate vice-president in charge of all of our radio stations in New Orleans. He certainly understands this problem.
The others were David Teisch, the general manager of the Windsor Court, and D.A. Magee, who with his wife Jennifer own a major public relations firm here. I've known D.A. for many years, but it's been long enough since I last had dinner with him that I needed to be reminded that his kids are the same ages as mine.
I wondered about the agenda for this meeting for days. It turned out there was none. We had martinis in the bar, then retired to the Grill Room. The conversation ranged across everything that four middle-aged New Orleans guys could be expected to discuss over dinner, with one exception: the Saints came up only in passing. (That pun was unintentional, but I can't bring myself to remove it.)
Teisch, who has good reason to be plugged into the convention business, said that next year is expected not to be as good as this one. I found that hard to believe, but he said that 2009 was the last year of conventions planned before Katrina, and when 2010 meetings were in the idea stage, planners were dubious about New Orleans. The year after that looks better. This is where the Saints came marching in: the team's high profile this year has New Orleans on a lot of people's minds.
Looming much larger than any of this was the food and wine. I inadvertently triggered an overachievement in the kitchen by asking the server, "So, what does the chef have tonight that's really unusual and fabulous?" In answer to the challenge, Chef Drew Dzejak improvised a four-way amuse-bouche. I don't believe I've ever been served such a thing. In the northwest of the four-compartment plate was tuna tartare. To its right, a nibble made with spicy shrimp. Below that, carpaccio of beef with an oily, capery sauce. In the last quadrant, a single grilled oyster with an herbal sauce.
The Grill Room had a Reveillon menu that looked good enough to accept in its entirety. I was asked to order first, since I was so decided. "I would like to create my own Reveillon dinner," said Teisch. "I'll start with foie gras," he said. Wait--there was no foie gras on the Reveillon menu; he was just getting what he felt like eating. The others did follow his lead, and when the food began to arrive there I was with a bowl of tasty butternut squash soup, while everybody else was raving about the foie gras. That's what I get for being a rule-follower.
We all got on the Reveillon track after that, though. The entrees included red snapper with a satsuma mignonette sauce, a filet mignon with potato puree and root vegetables, and chicken breast with red beans and mirlitons. The last one was mine. I couldn't resist the idea of having red beans and fried chicken (below) at the Windsor Court. Teisch said that it was commonly served to the staff, and that they had the reputation of being very good. Teisch and Claus, neither of whom is from here, seemed little interested in red beans. But I grew up with them, and I was happy they were there.
We drank good wine throughout, but I had the bad luck of hitting empty holes on the wine list. The first bottle was a Grand Cru Chablis; it was out, but another was substuted. Same thing happened when I ordered Matanzas Creek Chardonnay, mainly to tell about the New Orleans connection with that wine. No go, but the juice that came (I forgot what it was) did the job with the growing inventory of food on the table.
The dessert was billed as bananas Foster bread pudding. What wasn't said is that it's the deconstructed version. A row of three major components had a ball of ice cream in a nest on the left, a demitasse of custardy, eggnoggy sauce on the right, and pudding with curved spikes like a dorsal fin in the center. Two slices of banana stood off to one side. Chefs think this is fun. This deconstruction was better than most, but I think it's time to retire this shtick.
There is no question that the Grill Room is approaching its former eminence. The years after the hurricane saw a shocking decline in the standards of what had once been named the best hotel in the world. The purchase of the property by Darryl Berger and associates is great news. Berger knows what fine dining is about, and its importance in this city. I'm also happy to see that the "Grill Room" name is back, after several years as "The New Orleans Grill." I never stopped using the original name in my journals, and I'm glad I stuck it out.
A pianist who doesn't read music but who nevertheless plays flawlessly a vast repertoire of standards did so all night long. Before I left, I did a duet with him on the Gershwin tune How About You? Chris Claus and I walked together back to the radio station, and went our separate ways thereafter.
Windsor Court Grill Room. CBD: 300 Gravier 504-522-1994. American.
Riverbend: 7623 Maple. 504-314-9003.
Lunch and dinner continuously seven days.
AE DC DS MC V
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
In a renovated cottage in the middle of one of the busiest blocks of Maple Street, it captures a clientele that mixes people from the neighborhood, the university crowd, and the other local shopkeepers. The half-Italian, half-Creole menu is appealing and well turned out. And the prices are at bargain levels. The Maple Street opens on all holidays, with special menus.
WHY IT'S GOOD
The food here has a lightness in style that runs through almost everything here. The raw materials are good and fresh, the cooking straightforward and uncomplicated by too many ingredients, and presented beautifully. The appetizer collection is varied enough to make it possible to have a good meal of only those, especially if a pasta course is included. The soups and salads are especially good. The Friday night osso buco special is a contender for best version of that dish in town. (It also differs from the rest of the menu in being a massive meal.)
The Maple Street Cafe was a spinoff of Petra, a Metairie restaurant begun by Jameel and T.J. Qutob, brothers from Jordan. Jameel, who was a chef at Vincent's before partnering with T.J., is the managing partner of the Maple Street, as well as the man on the stove most of the time. T.J., the former maitre d' at Andrea's, spends most of his time at the other restaurant (now called La Famiglia).
The main room is split-level, being a combination of the old cottage's parlor and its former front yard, now enclosed by walls with many windows. It's pleasantly bright. The kitchen is at the rear (its teeny size explains the simplicity of most of the food) and open to view. Just past it is a less-appealing private dining room that could use some renovation. They also have a few tables on a small deck for nice-weather alfresco dining.
Eggplant cake with crabmeat cream sauce.
Stuffed shrimp in phyllo.
Steamed mussels with tomato sauce.
All soups, especially lentil.
Grilled chicken salad with seven lettuces.
Greek salad in a bread bowl.
Rigatoni sui-sui (garlic-tomato sauce).
Angel hair pasta with three exotic mushrooms.
Grilled salmon with herb sauce and spinach.
Cioppino (seafood stew with pasta).
Chicken or veal piccata.
Chicken stuffed with artichokes, ham and cheese.
Duck Jameel (with fig glaze).
Filet mignon with grilled portobello.
Rack of lamb.
FOR BEST RESULTS
Avoid tables near the front in cold weather. Have pasta as an appetizer. Even though the restaurant is rarely full, make a reservation; it has a way of packing unpredictably.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The rear dining room is significantly less pleasant than the front. The osso buco ought to be on the menu all the time.
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
- Service +1
- Value +2
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar
- Local Color +1
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Medium private room
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all holidays
- Open all afternoon
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations honored promptly
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Outside the French Quarter, few areas of the city enjoy what you could call a sidewalk trade. One of those is the dozen or so blocks of Maple Street between Carrollton and Broadway. It's a commercial strip in an otherwise residential neighborhood, with the colleges nearby supplying even more traffic. (And potential employees.)
Every day, a new suggestion on where to celebrate whatever it is you're celebrating, right up to the end of the year. A collection of all these menus can be found here. Our snowflake ratings are for the holiday menu only, with three flakes being the top rating.
534 St. Louis. 504-522-6652.
Four courses $50
* * * * * * * * * *
French bread crostinis
Duck Confit Salad
Baby arugula, blue cheese, kiln dried cherries and Steen's cane syrup-brown butter vinaigrette
* * * * * * * * * *
Butternut Squash Bisque
Crème fraîche and candied pecans
* * * * * * * * * *
Buttermilk Fried Quail
Andouille sausage hash and meuniere sauce
Pan Roasted Gulf Drum
With English pea risotto, dill cream and roasted fennel relish
* * * * * * * * * *
Warm Gingerbread Cake
Reisling poached pear and cranberry chutney
Roast Goose with Pecan Rice Stuffing
No dish is more traditional for Christmas than a roast goose. It's a dark-meat bird, like a duck, and very flavorful. You will not have much trouble finding a goose in the store (it will be a frozen bird, likely). However, you must get started on it four or five days ahead, and that's why I'm telling you about it now. It's a bit of work to get it on the table, but its flavor is impressive. What's more, most people at the table will never have had it before. And it goes with all the traditional side dishes.
- 1 goose, 10 to 14 pounds, neck and giblets removed
- 1 rib celery, cut up
- 1/2 onion, cut up
- 2 cups Konriko Wild Pecan Rice
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1/4 cup chopped green onions
- 1 cup crushed pecans
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. Tabasco
2. The morning of the dinner, make a stock by boiling the neck, celery, and onion in one quart of water for about an hour. Strain, skim off the fat, and reserve the stock.
3. For the stuffing, heat the butter in a saucepan and saute the green onions and the coarsely-chopped giblets. Remove the solid contents and add the uncooked rice to the remaining butter. Stir to coat well. Then add three cups of the stock. Cover and cook over very low heat for 30 minutes. Stir the giblet mixture, the pecans, salt, and Tabasco in. Cook uncovered for another five minutes, stirring once.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
4. Stuff as much of the rice stuffing as will fit inside the goose. Tie the legs across the cavity to hold the stuffing in place. With the point of a knife, prick the skin all over.
5. Put the goose breast side down on a rack in a broiling pan, and into the preheated oven. Lower the heat to 375 immediately. Let the goose roast for 45 minutes at that temperature, then turn the oven down to 300 and let it keep going until you register a temperature of 180 degrees with the meat thermometer in the thigh (not touching bone, nor poking into the cavity). for between an hour and a half and two hours.
You will not need to turn the goose, nor will you need to baste it. However, it may be necessary to spoon some of the fat from the pan (you'll be astonished how much there will be!).
6. Remove the goose from the pan and place, with the rack, on a clean pan. Return to the oven and increase the heat to 450 to crisp the skin for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the drippings into a gravy separator and remove the fat. Use the juices and browned bits to make a gravy, just as you would for a turkey.
7. A goose is a little hard to carve, so show everybody the whole thing then take it back to the kitchen for the inevitable wrestling match. Those joints do not come apart as easily as they do for a turkey. Serve with gravy and stuffing on the side.
Serves about eight.
Missing something from the old format? I've moved a few departments to the column at left. Click below to go to them.