Home FOOD & DINING TASTING NOTES February | Food & Drink Guide

February | Food & Drink Guide

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Here’s where we’re eating

Avenue Pub. You’ll find your favorite beer on an infinite list of draft and bottled brews made locally and all over the globe. The food is a cut above too. There’s the chicken, cucumber and kiwi sandwich with bread slathered with cucumber cream cheese, as well as fried wontons filled with either red beans and rice or jalapeño, cream cheese and bacon. Avenue Pub also carries an impressive offering of bourbons and Scotch whiskeys.

1732 St. Charles Avenue, (504) 586-9243, www.avenuepub.com

Cure. This innovative cocktail bar also led the way to the Freret Street resurgence and continues to craft seasonal, unique drinks—try the full-bodied Two Fathers, a rich grape blossom of fortified wine, bourbon, absinthe and a wonderfully smoky rhubarb amaro—and the small plates that go with them. This time of year, that means warm curried lentils with squash and nutmeg croutons, pulled pork arepas topped with ginger-spiked cream and chicken pot pie served with a long snap of roasted fennel.

4905 Freret Street, (504) 302-2357, www.curenola.com

Café B. Restaurant maestro Ralph Brennan intended this to be a neighborhood draw, but it’s also bringing city locals to this part of Old Metairie. Clever spins on comfort food—like green eggs and ham with a poached egg, crisp-tender asparagus, prosciutto and bacon-studded hollandaise or boudin and pork belly served with a hand-rolled buttermilk biscuit—make this bistro feel like your mama’s house. For special occasions, indulge in Chef Chris Montero’s signature ravioli stuffed with lobster, shrimp and goat cheese and topped with champagne-swirled butter sauce.

2700 Metairie Road, (504) 934-4700, www.cafeb.com

Café NOMA. Whether you’ve just spent an hour gazing at art or playing tennis, this is the place to duck inside for an inspired snack. Restaurateur Ralph Brennan has refined the café with a tranquil view of the sculpture garden. The menu includes colorful salads and a list of sandwiches and sliders, including one version loaded with pepper-roasted chicken, goat cheese and grape chutney and another focaccia-grounded version of a Caprese salad. There’s even a kids’ menu with upscale grilled cheese and a flatbread pizza.

#1 Collins Diboll Circle, City Park, (504) 482–1264, www.cafenoma.com

Delachaise. Great little plates, a mile-long wine list and beers from around the world are hallmarks of this treasure box of a pub that is also non-smoking. String together cozy tables and make a meal from crunchy, roasted corn cakes topped with smoked salmon, or small grilled cheese sandwiches made sublime with creamy young Asiago cheese and apple butter. For bigger appetites, try the Cuban sandwich served with freshly fried yucca.

3442 St. Charles Avenue, (504) 895-0858, www.thedelachaise.com

Dooky Chase. This legendary restaurant in Tremé has a speakeasy quality to it. There’s no website and the dining room could pass as your granny’s parlor if she had an amazing collection of African-American art and an equally amazing lunchtime buffet. Leah Chase’s grandson Edgar is now managing the kitchen and still turning out crispy-topped mac and cheese, lima beans and shrimp étouffée, tender full-flavored fried chicken and dreamy peach cobbler.

2301 Orleans Avenue, (504) 821-0600

MiLa. French-trained chefs and spouses, Allison Vines-Rushing and Slade Rushing, keep things remarkably light, using techniques like reducing sauces instead of adding cream. Earlier than most, the Rushings contracted with a local farm to get seasonal produce and it shines in their grilled corn soup and lemon blueberry tart, as well as the grapefruit vinaigrette, heirloom tomato gelée and poached rhubarb that accent truly gorgeous dishes.

817 Common Street, (504) 412-2580, www.marriottmarketing.com/ord/production/MSYBR_MilaNewOrleans/

Oak Wine Bar

Oak Wine Bar. This chic spot on Oak Street features a pale, wide open room and long marble bar, perfect for hand-crafted cocktails such as the “8118” that is sunny with citrus, basil leaves and vodka. There are also gorgeous small plates, including mousse-like burrata cheese paired with roasted pears and greens, all drizzled with local honey vinaigrette. Another sauce, a tamarind-orange glaze, brightens crispy plantains, whipped avocado and fried duck rillettes. The deconstructed Gulf shrimp tacos perched on tortillas are ready to assemble any way you like with pickled vegetables and lime sour cream. On weekends, the full menu is available past midnight and there’s live music.

8118 Oak Street, (504) 302-1485, www.oaknola.com

Pizzicare. Hefty New York-style pizzas are grounded in a chewy, flaky-crisp crust and topped with locally fresh produce—much of it sourced from a community garden next door—as well as house-made sausages and meatballs from restaurateurs Bart Bell and Jeff Baron’s other venture, Crescent Pie and Sausage. Every week features a NOLA Roots Garden pie, recently composed of a vibrant mosaic of beets, squash and mustard greens. We’re partial to the Bianca calzone, stuffed with ricotta cheese, breaded chicken and roasted garlic cloves and the crust-wrapped smoked sausage, served with your choice of dipping sauce. Now you can also order online.

3001 Tulane Avenue, (504) 301-4823, www.pizzicare.com

Shake Sugary. Pastry chef Dawn Snead has made a splash in Marigny with her artisan cupcakes, pastries and sweet breads. She adds signature touches to her treats: fresh tarragon makes its way into chocolate shortbread cookies; jasmine green tea is paired with citrus in a quick bread; and the Hummingbird cake is composed of spiced banana, pineapple and pecan cakes, held together with ginger cream cheese frosting. An ever-expanding vegan menu includes muffins, sweet rolls and cookies.

3600 St. Claude Avenue, (504) 355-9345, www.shakesugary.com

Oak Wine Bar. This chic spot on Oak Street features a pale, wide open room and long marble bar, perfect for hand-crafted cocktails such as the “8118” that is sunny with citrus, basil leaves and vodka. There are also gorgeous small plates, including mousse-like burrata cheese paired with roasted pears and greens, all drizzled with a local honey vinaigrette. Another sauce, a tamarind-orange glaze, brightens crispy plantains, whipped avocado and fried duck rillettes. The deconstructed Gulf shrimp tacos perched on tortillas are ready to assemble any way you like with pickled vegetables and lime sour cream. On weekends, the full menu is available past midnight and there’s live music.

8118 Oak Street, (504) 302-1485, www.oaknola.com

Tamarind. Named for the sweet-tart fruit, chef Dominique Macquet’s latest venture is in the revamped Hotel Modern and helmed by chef de cuisine Quan Tran. The French-Vietnamese menu is a perfect blend of local cultures and plays out on the plate in the lemongrass-cured salmon topped with wasabi crème fraîche and a duck confit tarted up with citrus fleur de sel and hoisin-cider vinaigrette—all plated with a bok choy salad. For dessert, there’s a cinnamon molten cake that melts along with Vietnamese coffee ice cream. Mixologists Kimberly Patton-Bragg and Michael Glassberg are the talents behind the bar.

936 St. Charles Avenue, (504) 962-0900, www.thehotelmodern.com

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Valentine’s Day Finds

What do these eateries have in common? On Valentine’s Day, they’re the satin around your rose bouquet:

M Bistro

For a sexy setting:

M Bistro. Even if you aren’t tucked away in the luxuriously draped “cheaters” booths, this swank dining room—with its flattering natural light, well-spaced tables and Ritz-inspired opulence—gives off a rich, chic vibe. Executive chef Vinny Russo and chef de cuisine Emily Dillport have streamlined the plating so that even the succulent smoked pork chop comes simply with a pot of house-made pepper jelly and a pot of mac and cheese. Likewise, trim and crunchy grit-and-Gouda sticks appear with the honey-glazed shrimp. For dessert, try the deconstructed PB&J made with peanut butter ice cream, brioche doughnut, grape jelly and caramel brittle. The sexiest finish here is composed of peaches roasted in bourbon vanilla with a puddle of white chocolate mousse and sparkling white peach sorbet.

921 Canal Street, (504) 524-1331, www.ritzcarlton.com

For a martini:

The Bombay Club. One of the Quarter’s treasured clubs, with romantic private booths, free nightly jazz and an eye toward everything cocktail (the chilled shrimp is served with gin-spiked cocktail sauce in a martini glass.) To that end, Bombay Club boasts a sweeping original cocktail list, thanks to former bar manager Cheryl Charming, who writes recipes with plenty of sex appeal and takes on the standards with style. Whether you’re thirsty for something romantic like the French Vanilla 75 with vanilla cognac, lusty such as the Womanhattan based on rye whiskey and Chambord or clever like potato vodka, chilled and garnished with Andouille sausage, you’re in the right place. And if you’re truly hungry, order the 22-ounce rib eye, glistening with foie gras butter.

830 Conti Street, (504) 586-0972, www.thebombayclub.com

To share dessert:

Green Goddess. Just beyond the Green Goddess’ trailblazing lunch and dinner menus is a dessert list, ripe with invention, from chefs Paul Artigues and Chris DeBarr. Start small with a wide choice of cheeses; one is rubbed with fennel pollen and lavender while another is bound with a rind made of herbs, chocolate and rose petals. For a sweet plate, look no further than the Sultan’s Nest, a spectacular composition of shredded phyllo drizzled with saffron honey and candied orange peel and topped with both absinthe and pistachio gelato balls. You’ll want two spoons for Saturn Calling, a bowl of black rice cooked with coconut milk, ringed by a mango and amaretto purée, trippy and fantastic. You also might share a sundae towering with praline ice cream and bacon-flecked caramel sauce. For hand-held goodness, try the French toast stuffed with bittersweet chocolate and caramelized goat cheese; a drizzle of cane syrup sweetens the deal.

307 Exchange Place, (504) 301-3347, www.greengoddessnola.com

To hop a romantic carriage ride:

Sylvain. Fittingly, this dark, intimate tavern was once a carriage house; now it’s a nod to old-world New Orleans and one of the coolest places in the French Quarter, offering a steady menu of upscale bar food. This high-low concept makes up the appetizer of Veuve Clicquot and hand-cut fries, as well as the rustic antipasti (with a pickled farm egg), rugged sheets of house-made pasta with Bolognese sauce and braised beef cheeks with whipped potatoes. The cocktail list changes often and is always worth sampling. As for the ride, just go down a block to Jackson Square.

625 Chartres Street, (504) 265-8123, www.sylvainnola.com

To bring your single friends:

Bar UnCommon. This underrated lobby space is padded with stuffed sofas, thick pillows and glitters with candles and mirrored mosaics. It also has The Nook, a private room just off the bar and walled off with a swinging bead curtain. Inside, there’s plenty of space to lounge, watch TV or savor a good cocktail—their able bartenders can make almost anything, and you can also ask for private bottle service. If you’re hungry for more than a “chill” night out, try the beautiful tomato salad tossed with chewy cornbread croutons and a chunky blue cheese vinaigrette. The goat cheese ravioli are also an indulgence, bobbing in a creamy tomato and cheese sauce. Dessert should be berries and freshly whipped cream. Whatever you choose, it all comes from MiLa’s expert kitchen.

817 Common Street, (504) 525-1111, www.baruncommon.com/index.php

Best-paired food and cocktails:

Lilette and Bouligny Tavern. One side is a chic wine bar, but be sure not to overlook the broad selection of single-shot pours, including grappas, eaux de vie and Calvados. There’s also a clever list of original cocktails—we’re partial to the sage julep, an earthier, more sultry version of the race day classic. A few steps next door will find you at Lilette, a breezy French bistro known for delicate dishes prepared by owner and chef John Harris. The roasted chicken breast with tangy-sweet balsamic glazed onions is perfection, as is grilled hanger steak with red wine sauce that’s touched with bone marrow. Steady—and seductive—on the dessert menu is goat cheese whipped with cream, then mounded with poached pears and lavender honey.

3641 Magazine Street, (504) 891-1810, www.boulignytavern.com

3637 Magazine Street, (504) 895-1636, www.liletterestaurant.com

-ANNE BERRY