The month of September marks the time of year when my boyfriend and I first started dating. We met two weeks after Katrina and through mutual friends formed an immediate friendship which eventually blossomed into a loving relationship that, I’m proud to say, has lasted five wonderful years. Plans to celebrate our anniversary included dinner at Susan Spicer’s Bayona, a restaurant we had both been eager to try for months, and enjoying cocktails at an upscale bar. I spent Saturday getting ready for our night on the town by getting a much-needed haircut, enjoying a Summer Peach Salad from St. James Cheese Co., and stocking up on nail care essentials from Earthsavers.
Our reservation was for seven o’clock and we were seated promptly. We did end up moving tables since we felt as if there was warm air blowing on our feet at the first table. The waitress was polite and honored our request immediately, seating us a few tables away at a four-top, which was much more comfortable. We began the meal by ordering a bottle of white wine, the Veal Sweetbreads with Lemon Caper Sauce (pictured above), and the Grilled Shrimp with Black Bean Cake and Coriander Sauce. I had heard wonderful things about Spicer’s sweetbreads and they completely lived up to my expectations. A light breading on the sweetbreads allowed us to enjoy their texture, while the lemon caper sauce, in the most simple way, enhanced their flavor. The cubed beets that accompanied them added a nice splash of color and earthy sweetness to the dish, which brought all of the flavor elements together nicely. We both enjoyed this dish immensely. The grilled shrimp were also very good, but definitely didn’t surprise us as much as the sweetbreads did. The shrimp were, in fact, perfectly cooked and flavorful all on their own, however, we didn’t get much out of the black bean cake and coriander sauce. The cake was powdery and quite dry, the only bit of moisture coming from the coriander sauce, which we didn’t think added much flavor to the dish.
For our entrees my boyfriend ordered the Stuffed Rabbit from the seasonal menu, and I ordered the Salmon with Gewurztraminer Sauce from the standard menu. My thick fillet of salmon was served medium rare atop a bed of choucroute, which is basically a milder version of sauerkraut, lighter than air butternut squash puree, green beans, and oven roasted potatoes. The Gewurztraminer sauce was light and decadent, made from white wine, lemon, and butter and provided a fabulous backdrop of flavor for everything on my plate. I understand why Spicer hasn’t taken this dish off her menu in years; it was, hands down, the best salmon dish I have ever had. My boyfriend’s rabbit was also fabulous, stuffed with mushrooms (porcini, I believe), paired with potato gnocchi and covered in Marsala sauce. Impressive to say the least, though he did find the caramelized onions to be slightly bitter.
Every dessert option was unbelievably tempting, but we settled on the Lemon Lavender Semifreddo with Almond Shortbread. Much like a lemon ice box pie, this dessert was tart and creamy, but the subtle hint of lavender made every bite as new and interesting as the first. The almond shortbread acted as the crust and all of its buttery, crumbly goodness was topped off with a piece of crystallized sugar, dotted with sesame seeds. This dessert will have you wondering how chocolate got its popularity.
After dinner we met up with my parents at the Bouligny Tavern, which John Harris, owner and chef of Lilette, has opened up right next door to the popular restaurant. We enjoyed the mid-century modern decor and sipped on perfectly mixed cocktails at the bar. In addition to an extensive wine and cocktail list, the Bouligny Tavern also serves late night small plates that, given Harris’s success, are sure to please. After a few cocktails we realized it was still early, so we headed to the Maple Leaf Bar on Oak Street where we downed NOLA Blonde’s and enjoyed some of the best live music the city has to offer. I couldn’t have crafted a better evening to celebrate our life, love, and passion for this wonderful city. Here’s to the next five…