New food trends and the reappearance of old favoritesFood trends are intriguing. You never know just what will be “the thing” until “the thing” presents itself. New York food blogger “Restaurant Girl” claims that the current trend is tater tots (really?). Here in New Orleans, there’s no denying that there’s a decided trend toward Italian cuisine. At this moment there are four new Italian restaurants, each with its own spin on the cuisine and presentation, including one that’s a sort of Italian fusion. Then it seems to me that we have a river of liver … dishes. Couple that with the launch of fall menus and getting geared up for Thanksgiving, and you’ve got more than trends, a continual food obsession. Ahh, job security.
RESTAURANTS THAT DE-LIVER
I’ve been swimming in a river of liver. I’ve always loved the fried chicken livers at Praline Connection—crispy and golden, nestled up against a mess of stewed greens and rice, little bowls of pepper jelly and brown gravy perched alongside. From there, I hit the fried chicken livers at Fat Hen and declared those heaven-sent, until I ordered fried chicken livers at Elizabeth’s and well, it’s a three-way tie, with Elizabeth’s pulling ahead in the pepper-jelly department with a chunky house-made rendition. And if you haven’t had the fried chicken liver and slaw po’boy at Mahoney’s, make that next on your list. Chef Alon Shaya knew the way to my heart when he put “Stracci” on his Domenica menu. Wide, tender strips of roughly torn pasta tossed with slow-cooked oxtail ragù and a smattering of fried chicken livers. The dish is rich and decadent, lightened ever so slightly and smartly with tiny wisps of rasped lemon peel.
Of all the recent book releases (and trust me there have been a slew—it’s that time of year), I’m glued to DamGoodSweet, by New Orleans–born David Guas and writer-author Raquel Pelzel. This book, an homage to New Orleans–style desserts, is single-handedly responsible for my expanding waistline. The Lemon Ice Box Pie is divine, the Mahatma Rice Pudding is creamy nostalgic goodness and the Sweet Potato Tart Tatin is, well, all I can tell you is that this is absolutely on the family Thanksgiving menu and reason alone to buy this book. Genius!
Also just out is Pecans, by Keith Courrege and Marcelle Bienvenu. The recipes will make you nuts, in a good way. I got previous non-asparagus-eaters to devour Asparagus With Pecan Butter and wowed diners with buttermilk-dipped, pecan meal–coated chicken quarters, baked golden and crazy crunchy good. Friends can expect gorgeous Louisiana pecans buttered, sugared and bagged as holiday lagniappe.
A magnificent panorama mural, installed in one of Bayona’s dining rooms, was unveiled in early October. Painted by Joel Lockhart Dyer, the artwork depicts a wish-you-were-there bit of Mediterranean countryside.
After I’ve had Thanksgiving turkey (roasted, fried, etc.), the leftover sandwiches, turkey gumbo and turkey curry, I somehow find my way to Riccobono’s Peppermill for the turkey poulette, an open-face sandwich of turkey slices on white bread topped with cream sauce, bacon and shredded cheddar run under the broiler until bubbly golden brown.
It’s said that the third time’s the charm; let’s hope so. For Mexico City–born chef Guillermo Peters, there was first a tiny café in Kenner called Taqueros, then came the move to New Orleans and a huge, expensively renovated space called Taqueros y Coyacan, which became Stop 9 after 2005. Now Peters is taking another stab at the New Orleans dining scene, again with Taqueros, again in the refurbished restaurant on St. Charles Avenue. Chef Guillermo says he is building a “very basic menu that represents the best of Taqueros.” Focusing on botanos—Mexican small plates, with prices ranging from $3.50 to $7.50 per dish and $2.25 tacos—the restaurant will also offer specialty dishes like queso fundido, shrimp in butter sauce, Guillermo’s famous guacamole, tortilla soup and, of course, a full bar. The restaurant will offer casual service, with counter pick-up.
I have a wing-fanatic friend who was crushed when the Uptown location of WOW Cafe and Wingery was shuttered. Luckily, the wings have returned to the corner of State and Magazine streets with the reopening of WOW Cafe and Wingery. The new owner, Stephen Klein, former manager of New Orleans bands Cowboy Mouth and Deadeye Dick, has completely redone the restaurant, creating a fun environment to “wing it” (there are wraps, sandwiches, salads and burgers, too) while watching the 13 flat-screen televisions.
Finally, there are a number of newly opened restaurants. More on them in the future, but for now, here is the list: Tiramisu55 on Carondelet; Antonio’s on Maple Street; Jackson on lower Magazine Street and right next door, Sweet Gals; Sarita’s Grill and Freret St. Po-Boy & Donut Shop on Freret Street. Oh my! There’s that job security thing again.