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.

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Two Nine

by Emily on May 27, 2014

My boss surprised me with lunch at Dooky Chase Restaurant and a meet and greet (in the kitchen) with Leah Chase herself!

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.

Sipping French 75s and noshing on Pommes soufflées at French 75 Bar

Birthday morning breakfast at Toast with a friend

Impromptu afternoon crawfish boil in the backyard

Impromptu crawfish boil in the backyard

Champagne Stroll on Magazine with mom

Early morning walks in Orange Beach

Royal Street Stroll during NOWFE

Dinner at Cobalt in Orange Beach

My friend Lorraine's beautiful wedding in Lafayette

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Dishcrawl NOLA: Dining Around Freret

by Emily on April 16, 2014

The Dishcrawl group outside of Mint on Freret Street (Photo Credit: nola.com)

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.! I was instantly thrilled.

Sipping draft beer at Wayfare

The concept of Dishcrawl is to take food lovers on a walking tour to different restaurants, located all within a chosen neighborhood. The meeting location is a secret until the day before and then each restaurant is revealed while en route. It’s a fantastic way to taste dishes from great local restaurants, expose yourself to new neighborhoods, and meet lots of new people.

We began the evening at 7pm at Wayfare on Freret Street where we sampled the “Knuckle,” a sandwich of cold roast beef tossed with a horseradish dressing and topped with arugula and crispy onions on a pretzel roll, black bean arancini with cilantro lime crema, and an empanada with salmon and spinach served with a lemon dill sauce. Dude, if I could give “knuckles” to the “Knuckle,” I would. What a brilliant combination… no wonder it’s a best seller.

Aracini, Empanada and the "Knuckle" from Wayfare

Aracini, Empanada, and the "Knuckle" from Wayfare

The next stop was Midway, where we enjoyed deep dish slices of pizza and house salad. I tried a slice of the “Thunderbird” with ham, chicken, caramelized onions, and Creole aioli. I’m not usually one for deep dish pies (I prefer thin crust) but this pizza was GOOD. The onions and aioli definitely stole the show.

The "Thunderbird" pizza from Midway

Last was Mint, Freret’s one and only Vietnamese restaurant, specializing in modern renditions of the classics, as well as a full bar including special cocktails and brews on tap. Our sampler plate included all of my favorites: Lemongrass chicken bun (vermicelli), chicken wings, and spring rolls with steamed shrimp and pork. For dessert, a piece of green waffle topped with green tea ice cream.

Lemongrass Chicken Bun, Chicken Wings, and Spring Rolls at Mint

All of the food was excellent and the crowd was a really fun mix of people. My only complaint is that for the $45 price tag, I would have liked for each participating restaurant to have also provided a beverage – a small glass of beer, wine, or house cocktail – or special drink prices for the crawlers. Perhaps that’s something that can be implemented in the future…

Check out Dishcrawl NOLA’s website for information on upcoming crawls and other events. I’ll definitely be attending more of these!

Green Waffle with Green Tea Ice Cream at Mint

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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Judgin’ and Hoggin’

March 26, 2013

This past Saturday marked my third time attending Hogs for the Cause and my second time to judge. Every year I’m impressed at how much bigger and better they have been able to make this event — raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to help families whose children are undergoing treatment for brain cancer. Over […]

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Checkin’ Out Charcoal’s

March 21, 2013

On Valentine’s Day this year (yeah, so I’m a little late posting this…), I decided I would treat my boyfriend to lunch since I knew he was going to buy all of the ingredients to make a steak dinner at home that night. A bit burned out on our usual lunch spots, I was excited […]

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