The Big 3-0 & Promo

by Emily on June 19, 2015

IMG_0105

Food has always been a big part of commemorating my birthday each year. And this year, I wasn’t just celebrating entering a new decade of life, but also a promotion at my job where I’ve been working for close to three years. The timing couldn’t have been better for me to turn the big age and also get the chance to start fresh at something I feel confident I’ll do well in. To sum things up, May 2015 was a really great, life-changing month for me. And celebrating these special moments meant the pressure was on to choose the right food and restaurants by which to toast these joyous occasions.

The best part about being a May baby is that it’s really the first month of the year when the weather starts to get warm enough for activities like swimming, barbecuing and crawfish boils. I had swimming parties all throughout my childhood, so turning 30 seemed like the perfect time to host my very first crawfish boil. Close to sixty family and friends joined me in pinching the tails off 200+ pounds of crawfish in addition to corn, potatoes, sausage and brussels sprouts (if you haven’t tried this… you must!), and floating a keg of beer. The company was great but the crawfish definitely stole the show. Purchased live from Bevi Seafood Co. and boiled in Zatarains seasoning with tons of garlic, lemons, oranges and onions…. these crawdads were absolutely perfect. Thanks again, Seth and Lorraine, for all that you did to make this day everything I’d hoped for!

IMG_0109

I received some really great gifts from my friends.  My sweet friend Elisa bought me the “Brunch Essentials” package from Good Eggs. Such a fun gift! Locally-made bread, farm fresh eggs, grapefruit, strawberries, blueberries, and smoked bacon. She certainly knows the way to my heart!

IMG_3013

Not long after my whirlwind of a birthday, I began my new job. My parents took me to Baru Bistro’s Crudo Bar to celebrate with cocktails and some tapas while we watched the sun set on Magazine Street.

IMG_3339 Passion fruit cocktail with vodka from Crudo Bar at Baru Bistro

 

IMG_3344 Raw oysters on crushed ice with tomatillo mignonette and aji limo hot sauce IMG_3353 Shrimp agua chile with cucumber and jalapeno water, avocado salsa and avocado oil.

 

After my first day in my new position, I joined friends at Shaya that evening for a rose toast and the most delicious spread of food including hummus, matzo ball soup, and baklava with local pecans and honey.

IMG_3415 Hummus topped with soft-boiled egg, red onion, harissa, and cornichons at Shaya

 

All in all, a fantastic birthday and promotion celebration. I can’t wait to see what surprises my 30s have in store for me!

 

 

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

You Better Balise It!

by Emily on June 3, 2015

IMG_2126

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of my last post on Fleurdelicious.

Sad, but true.

Before you judge me I might add that three weeks ago I turned thirty years old. And I’m learning that with thirty comes a long list of goals, a bit of acquired wisdom, and a few full-blown David After Dentist, “Is this real life?” panic attacks. I’m not proud of neglecting my beloved blog for so long, but taking a year off has served as a much-needed reminder of how much I missed writing. So, starting today, I will be making a grand, thirty-year-old effort to get back in the game. After all, I’m still the same hungry, food-loving girl since 2010… I guess I just needed to hit Ctrl+Alt+Delete on life and reconsider what matters to me. And this blog matters a great deal to me.

Content shouldn’t be a problem considering that New Orleans is exploding with restaurants right now. My must-try list on my iPhone is never-ending since the moment I can finally cross one restaurant off, I am forced to add another. Naturally, there are a few that have made their way to the top of the list and Chef Justin Devillier’s Balise was one of them. Some girlfriends and I decided to try it recently and, as expected, Balise did not disappoint.

IMG_2118

I began the meal with a Methuen Treaty cocktail which is just one of a dozen craft cocktails that Balise offers. This one was a refreshing blend of gin, ruby port, pear williams, demerara, ginger beer, grapefruit and lemon and came highly recommended by our waitress. Dangerously delicious and easy to drink… plus a super fun pink color slightly reminiscent of the tiki bowls at Five Happiness. But, if you can imagine, way better tasting!

IMG_2120

The menu at Balise is broken down into 5 sections: cold appetizers (garde manger), hot appetizers (entremet), sides (lagniappe), entrees and desserts. I ordered the trio of oysters with mignonette and cocktail sauces to start and though I’ve eaten oysters about a million and a half times, these were exceptional. The oysters were just as they should be – very cold and slightly briny and the mignonette, though pungent with vinegar on the nose, was much more subdued once paired with the oyster. I was left wanting way more than just three.

Our waitress also recommended the venison tartare, which all three of us absolutely loved. The tartare was served with small dollops of dill mayonnaise, some horseradish, chives, and crispy rye breadcrumbs. Wow.

IMG_2129

But it was the brussels sprouts from the Lagniappe menu that won us over. Bathed in a sauce of blended chilies and fish sauce and topped with fresh herbs and fried peanuts, these crispy fried sprouts were addictive to say the least. We polished off the bowl in a matter of minutes and considered ordering a second.

IMG_2130

In my adult life I have become somewhat adverse to red meat, which is crazy because I grew up eating steak probably twice a week. Now, the craving for it just isn’t there but I have been known to make an exception, especially if I think that a particular restaurant’s preparation sounds impressive. Blaise’s grilled sirloin strip with grilled scallions, Dauphine potatoes, and caramelized onion jus sounded way too good to pass up, so I stepped out of my seafood/pork/chicken comfort zone and ordered it.

No regrets.

In fact, I would go back just to have this same dish again. The steak was very tender and I loved the potatoes, which were like little mashed potato beignets (how do they even do it?) and the cipollini onions and grilled scallions were a fantastic addition.

IMG_2133

Dessert had to be the Sticky Toffee Pudding with roasted pecans and smoked vanilla ice cream. All I’m saying is that if Chef Devillier makes any version of this for his family during the holidays, then they are the luckiest people on the planet.

IMG_2139

I genuinely look forward to visiting Balise again – especially knowing that the menu will often change just as La Petite Grocery’s does. When you have culinary talent like Chef Justin, the seasonal produce, fresh catches, and farm-raised meats used in dishes are expected, but his preparation of ingredients and the flavors that he and his team create are always a pleasant surprise.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Chef’s Table @ Commander’s Palace

by Emily on June 3, 2014

There are plenty of ways to enjoy food in New Orleans and no one is going to tell you which is the right or wrong way. Slurp oysters straight from the shell at Casamento’s, enjoy artfully plated courses at Stella!, or pick up a few po-boys from Guy’s and enjoy them on the floor of your living room with friends, TV, and ice cold beer. Truth is, food is so darn good here it doesn’t matter how much you pay for it or how dressed up you have to get to eat it. But, I believe there is a single dining experience in New Orleans that every food loving local should strive to achieve. Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m talking about the mac daddy of dining: the Chef’s Table at Commander’s Palace.

First of all, this is a “save for a few months and splurge” kind of meal, but in my opinion well worth every single hard-earned penny. I had the honor of joining a friend and some of his business colleagues for a twelve (!) course dinner at the Chef’s Table and weeks later, I’m still dreaming about it. Here’s how it went down:

The Beginning

Upon arriving to Commander’s Palace, we were immediately shown to our table located in the kitchen. Yep, I said in the kitchen. Seated amongst all the hustle and bustle, you’d think it would be distracting, hot, and noisy but in actuality we experienced an indescribable sense of calm. The kitchen at Commander’s operates like a well-run ship – everyone mans their station, works efficiently, and helps out others when asked. There wasn’t any yelling, cursing, or putting out kitchen fires. Things operated with surgeon-like precision and the proof was all over our plates. Chef de Cuisine Chris Barbato (he and his wife, Lisa, also own Rivista) took excellent care of us all evening since Executive Chef Tory McPhail was out for the evening. Chef Chris, Argyle (our head waiter) and their crew did such an incredible job of exceeding our expectations with flavor, presentation and service that, looking back, I’m not sure how the meal could have been any better.

We started the meal by each ordering an Old Fashioned – strong, sweet and excellent conversation juice. To accompany our cocktails we were served the first course, an amuse bouche of smoked redfish with mango relish, thus beginning the feast of a lifetime.

The Food

Amuse Bouche of Smoked Redfish with Mango Relish. Gone in one bite.

First course: Stone Crab Claw with BBQ Mushrooms and Wasabi Crema. Cold, buttery crab highlighted by savory mushrooms and tangy wasabi cream.

Second Course: Fresh Gulf Oyster with Choupique, Tabasco and Mayhaw Caviar. The bowfin caviar was flavored with ghost chili for some mellow heat, and  the Tabasco and mayhaw were mixed with gelatin to create caviar-like pearls. Each caviar, layered on top of one another, had a flavor that unfolded slowly once we slurped the oyster straight from the shell. First, the briny, saltiness of the oyster, then sweetness from the mayhaw, and finally, subtle heat from the Tabasco and ghost chili. I’m comfortable with saying that this oyster changed my life.

Third Course: Soft-Shell Crab with Crawfish & Creole Succotash. Delicate, lightly fried softshell crab on top of a smoky, spicy sauce studded with plump crawfish tails and tender edamame.

Fourth Course: “Fish in a Bag”: Sheepshead with Clams and Oysters en Papillote. Each pouch of soup was unwrapped and unfolded upon serving, allowing us to breathe in the steam of white wine, herbs, vegetables and seafood. Intoxicating is an understatement. This broth was so good, in fact, that we called in our French bread lifeline so we could soak it all up.

Fifth Course: Le Coup de Milieu – The Saint 75. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of this drink. The Saint 75 is Commander’s take on the French 75, made with gin and fresh basil. Very good and very refreshing. This was served to each of us in a small shot glass as a palate cleanser.

Sixth Course: Yellowfin Tuna 2 Ways. I’m not sure why it was called “two ways” since we received three pieces of fish but let’s just say that tuna on top of fried black eyed peas and cilantro does not suck.

Seventh Course: Foie Gras with Local Berries and Honeycomb. Commander’s asks their Chef’s Table guests beforehand if there’s anything the party would or would not like to see on their plates. Foie Gras was a must have for our group and here we had it seared and in mousse form with tart berries and warm, sweet local honey. Wow. Just wow.

Eighth Course: Boudin-Stuffed Quail. Boudin, quail, Steen’s syrup gastrique. Need I say more?

Ninth Course: Braised Lamb Belly. Belly topped with tenderloin. Braised with wine and herbs and served to us perfectly pink.

10th Course: A Selection of Artisan Cheeses. So stinky and so delicious. Pecans, fruit, fresh honeycomb and mayhaw jelly were served as accompaniments.

11th Course: The Dessert Bomb. Yep, they dropped the bomb on us, baby. All 8 desserts. All at once. And it was all I could do not to make myself sick eating them. I had one (okay, maybe two) bites of each. Favorites included the Strawberry Shortcake, Praline Sundae, and Creme Brûlée. The White Chocolate Bread Pudding Soufflé with Whiskey Sauce is a mainstay and always a crowd-pleaser.

Ahhhhmazing. If you’ve never had a Louisiana strawberry then you probably haven’t lived.

I can’t even with this soufflé. Can you?

I swear I didn’t enjoy myself at all…

The Wine

To top things off, we had four incredible bottles of wine throughout our meal. First, a bottle of the 2011 Vincent Dauvissat Chablis 1er Cru “La Forest”, a sophisticated chardonnay with floral and citrus notes that held up nicely to our first three shellfish courses. Second, the 2005 Clos Mogador Priorat, a complex red wine from Spain that was perfectly aged and adapted well in our transition from seafood to foie gras. Third, the 2010 Justin Isosceles, an 85% Cabernet Sauvignon full-boded wine with notes of dark fruits held up nicely to the Boudin-Stuffed Quail and Braised Lamb Belly. And lastly, it’s never a celebration (or proper dessert bomb) without some bubbly. We said “cheers!” to our incredible meal with the Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve, a champagne that donned the most beautiful golden hue I’ve ever seen.

The End

What else can I say? New Orleans is the most unique city in the world to dine in because of meals like this one. From beginning to end, the entire evening was sophisticated without being stuffy, decadent without being ostentatious and elegant while still maintaining a desired level of “cool.” Restaurants like Commander’s prove that 100+ years of operation is not at all indicative of predictable or played out food. The dishes we sampled were fresh and inventive, but still held true to the strong culinary heritage of our city. A celebration of food like I’ve never experienced, the chef’s table at Commander’s Palace is a true gem of the New Orleans dining scene.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Two Nine

May 27, 2014

On May 10th I celebrated my 29th birthday. Since then, life has been a whirlwind of eating great food, traveling, and sipping lots of great wine. Thanks again to everyone who made my day so very special.

Read the full article →

Dishcrawl NOLA: Dining Around Freret

April 16, 2014

Last Wednesday night I was lucky enough to participate in my very first Dishcrawl. I hadn’t heard of these events before our local ambassador, Michelle Mashon, contacted me and asked me to join. Not knowing what to expect, I immediately did some research, only to discover that “Dishcrawling” exists in multiple cities across the U.S.! […]

Read the full article →

New Year’s Traditions

January 2, 2014

With the turn of each new year I always yearn to participate in and create new traditions amongst my family and friends. Aside from being an opportunity to create lasting memories with the ones you love, instilling traditions (especially those that require cooking) is a chance to perfect something over many, many years. My mom […]

Read the full article →

RTW In 30 Days

October 15, 2013

Back in August, I had the tremendous privilege of filming a television show pilot with Jenny McIver, blogger, world-traveler, and career woman extraordinaire. On her blog, Round The World in 30 Days, Jenny shares tips on how she uses air miles and hotel luxury points to book lavish month-long vacations that take her across multiple […]

Read the full article →

I’m In Trouble: Rivista

July 10, 2013

After a long holiday weekend of poolside iced coffee, fried trout with homemade tartar sauce, s’mores and lemon ice box pie, and a shameful trip through the drive thru for $1 hot fudge sundaes, it’s safe to say that these past few days away from the office were more than detrimental to my waistline. But […]

Read the full article →

Cool Stuff I’ve Gotten Invited To

June 24, 2013

Some sweet friends invited me to attend a Caribbean-inspired Dinner Lab inside a plant nursery Since starting my blog in 2010, I have had the honor and privilege of attending multiple invite-only food-related events. In 2010 there was the James Beard Benefit at the Kingsley House, judging at Hogs for the Cause in 2011 (and […]

Read the full article →

28th Birthday Marathon

May 13, 2013

Photo op on our way to my birthday lunch at Muriel’s I’m going to go on writing and pretend like I haven’t taken a month off. Okay…over a month. It’s terrible, I know. I have, on the other hand, been doing some frequent writing over at GoNOLA. If you haven’t already, please check it out! This […]

Read the full article →