Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Orleans New Guard: Tweaking the Classics and Mixing it Up for an Almost Wordless Wednesday

In my last New Orleans post, I spoke about some classic and essential NOLA restaurants and dishes. And now, as promised, I'm going to share some newer spots and innovative  nibbles, some of which are destined to become New Orleans classics in their own right. That dish above - Oysters Delacroix, a succulent plate of plump Gulf oysters, bacon, Napa cabbage, and bread in a buttery broth -  is from one of my new favorite places, Green Goddess.

Located in Exchange Alley in the heart of the French Quarter, this is by no means a place that simply caters to tourists. Chef Chris - husband of author Poppy Z. Brite - is a walking encyclopedia of food and drink knowledge, and he'll likely come out to chat and share his passion with the diners at this cozy spot, as he did the night we were there. His cuisine is playful, imaginative, eclectic, and sometimes strange, but it's not weird for weirdness' sake. Instead, he retains the spirit of New Orleans food, while mixing up ingredients and flavors in a smart, creative, joyful way. Take these "shrimp in a grass skirt":
This  plating reminds me of Middle Eastern shrimp presentations, while the salad in the middle is essentially Caribbean, and that amazing sauce - spicy, smoky, intense - has the soul of a traditional New Orleans shrimp barbecue. An inspired plate of food!

Similarly, the "cochon de lei," a play on cochon de lait, or pig in milk, was a fun variation on the original. It arrived wrapped in a banana leaf:

And released an incredible spicy aroma upon opening:
Loved this. Less successful were the Louisiana bangers and mash:
These were good, but thanks to that maple syrup the dish was a bit too sweet overall for my taste. If there had just been one more spicy sausage here I think the balance would have been restored.

And speaking of pig ... our next foray into a newer establishment was Cochon, located in the Warehouse District:
To be honest, this was my least favorite meal of the trip. It's not that anything was bad, it just didn't wow me, especially  compared to the caliber of the other meals Poppa and I had had so far. Plus, the service here was more rushed and impersonal than I'm used to in New Orleans. Speaking from experience, it was more New York than New Orleans.

That said, here's what we had (keep in mind these shots are after Poppa dropped the camera!):
Boudin balls. Good but not great.
Rabbit livers with pepper jelly. Loved the jelly, but it stomped on the livers.
Oyster pie. Doesn't look like much, but this was my favorite bite at Cochon.
Rabbit and dumplings. Good comfort food, but reminded me of something I would easily make at home, and not something I would be excited to order out. 
Luckily, our next foray outside of the old school did not disappoint: Dante's Kitchen, located uptown, was nothing short of awesome.

First, they brought a complimentary buckwheat spoon bread that I could eat every day for breakfast:
Next, more boudin. These blew the boudin balls we had at Cochon away:
I had the shrimp and grits. The grits were perfect. So creamy, so good:
For our mains, I had trois mignons, medium rare. Just right:  crust on the outside and juicy rare flesh on the inside ... the toppings were, respectively, debris, house made Worcestershire, and melted Stilton. Holy heck was this good.
 Poppa ordered confit pork steak and spare ribs with samosa-seasoned veggies. An interesting touch, that!

It's a testament to the good food, cozy atmosphere, and friendly service that I hardly thought about how sick I was getting for the whole meal!

Some readers have chastised me for never ordering dessert when we go out. So, as a consolation prize, behold these macarons from sweets boutique Sucre:
We even got a few to walk around with!
See? I am full of surprises.

In my final installment of my New Orleans trip, I'll have a little lagniappe for you all in the form of yummy odds and ends.


  1. Oh wow. I knew i picked the wrong week to go on a diet. I can see that the only requirement I will place on myself when I travel there is that you are my culinary guide! Yum.

    Now...about blowing bedouin balls...gross.

  2. Oh my you did find some unique entrees! These meals are not like the ones I enjoyed in NOLA. Like everything, we expect more and it is glad to see that someone sure knows how to bring it in NOLA. Very creative dishes here. I would have loved to try the shrimp in a grass skirt. Thanks for sharing your dining experience!

  3. Amazing every time I come here I drool like a baby... everything looks fabulous!

  4. I am now going to go to bed dreaming of oysters...and hungry, too! You two sure know how to eat well on holiday!

  5. Amazing! I have never seen such fat oysters in my entire life! And that pork...that's my idea of heaven. Mmmm....

  6. for a gal living a far, you do know your way around... the only problem with NOLA is there are too many good restaurants, nice to see you picked out two that I know... Green Goddess I have not tried, yet...
    oh, it will actually take more than a slab of pork to make this guy feel lean and sassy... Mardi Gras is raging now and I am already tired...

  7. I really fell for the idea of pheasant under glass when i made it.... open the glass and you get hit with a heavenly choir of scent from the dish.... like your leaf. It's a presentation that is smart as well as cool. So many good things... more great oysters, shrimp and grits... love the noodle tangle with shrimp too (what are those called? ). All in all, you ate like a goddess!!!

  8. I feel like I just went to New Orleans! Love. Although I was reared in the deep south, I never found my way to New Orleans until last February when my mother and I took a road trip from Ocala, FL to Austin, TX. It was so fun stopping at all the towns along the way, especially NOLA. We made it there at 5 am, just in time to stop at the best little french bakery for quiche, bacon chocolate muffins and coffee. Taking pictures of NOLA in the morning was one of the greatest days of my life. This took me right back there!

  9. I want to go to that first so creative and different..and weird! And suckling pig has been a dish coming up over and over again lately on blogs and from my friend's mouth...MAJOR CRAVING for it.

  10. What decadence! I wouldn't last a day there with a dairy allergy!

  11. A wonderful different way to serve oysters!

  12. Everything looks enticing but I must say I am intrigued by the cochon de lei wrapped in banana leaves.

  13. You two really know how to travel! First time I go to New Orleans, I want you as a tour (read restaurant) guide...Theresa

  14. Oh man, I wish I'd have known you were going to N'awlins. Felix's oyster Bar and the Court of Two Sisters are some of the best restaurants you could ever eat at. Looks like you did pretty well on your own too :)

  15. Wow, such variety and great looking takes on classics. Love the Oyster pie, never seen anything like that :)
    Great re-cap of your trip and eats!

  16. LOVE the photos! I want to make something in banana leaves! :D