As a committed and well documented foodie, it is only fair I give credit where credit is due. Quite often, a meal out will inspire a new dish or flavor profile or a cake. So, on Wednesday’s I will feature a review of a restaurant that I have dined at sometime. You may have noticed the tagline “Meals and Memories.” Most of these meals and memories are ones that were cooked and eaten at home. Not always though. I’ll start in one of the most memorable food places ever, New Orleans.
The name of the city of New Orleans alone brings to my mind a map of restaurants that I can’t leave without seeing. How do I pick? Brennan’s and Cafe Du Monde and Po Boys and Muffelatas, oh my! I guess I will start with my most recent favorite: NOLA is celebrating their 20th anniversary this month. BAM! What an experience. Emeril Lagasse is one of the finest chefs and teachers. I have made a lot of recipes from a lot of places but the ones he gives always workout perfectly and eloquently. So, you know the folks in his kitchens do things his way and they turn out right. I had very high expectations and was not disappointed.
On a steamy New Orleans evening in August, I walked the four blocks from my hotel to the rather unremarkable outside exterior building that housed a fantastic meal. If you are looking for a quiet, romantic dinner go someplace else. This was a cozy and relaxed place. I felt like I was sitting in Emeril’s Food Network kitchen. You couldn’t help but talk to the tables around you to see what they were ordering. Had it not been completely gauche, I would have shared mine if they shared theirs.
I was quickly and kindly greeted and seated. Our waiter brought me a refreshing mint julep as I studied the relatively small menu. One thing I have learned, the smaller the menu the better. Quality is better than quantity.
We ordered the BBQ shrimp to start and I had to taste the gumbo. For dinner, what else would I get? Shrimp and grits. The BBQ shrimp had the lovely wood fire taste underneath a just finely balanced sweet/smoky sauce. I ordered the gumbo without rice and the waiter looked at me like I was crazy. I know, I know…not right. My theory on rice is that it really takes away from the very intricate flavors of gumbo. I didn’t want to miss a one in this case. So, call me crazy but I was glad. The gumbo was very traditional and very, very good. The first gumbo I have had that had enough spice to it. I didn’t need to ask for the hot sauce. Then came the inspiration: Shrimp and Grits. I have had this a lot and made this a lot and Nola’s is and might always be my number one. It was the perfect combination of everything. Andouille sausage is totally underrated and very hard to find sometimes. If I was going to have a criticism it would be don’t make it so big. I felt guilty not being able to finish but it was soooo rich. Clearly, Emeril makes his grits the right way with cream. I should have stopped right then but how could I not try dessert? They had a special bread pudding that night. A chocolate with a caramel cream sauce. It was delicious. After three bites I literally couldn’t lift my fork.
When I was finished I just sat there. I didn’t want to leave. I just wanted to wait until I was hungry again. Plus, we were having such fun with all of the new friends we met sitting around us. Alas, it was time to go. I didn’t take the rest of my food with me. It deserved that place. I do have that memory to go though! In fact, it inspired my own shrimp and grits rendition not too long after that. In fact, that rendition was part of a meal that took inspiration from more than one restaurant. Take a read! Come back next Wednesday to see where I might end up in my memories.
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