I guess once you’re married you are supposed to let go of that original anniversary you’ve had all those years. With our originally anniversary so close to Valentine’s Day, it’s hard not to continue to celebrate. We had an added reason to do so this year since it’s our last celebration living in the city.
I’d always wanted to check out the James Beard House. A friend of ours photographs there often and I’d heard so many great things about their dinners. We ended up getting seats to attend their February 1st dinner with Tory McPhail celebrating Miss Ella of New Orleans’ Commander’s Palace. We’ve been saying a trip to eat our way through New Orleans has to happen at some point, so we figured this was New Orleans coming to us!
The dinners begin with a cocktail hour which in this case featured champagne (to be specific, it was Trepo Leriguier Songe d’Une Nuit de Vendanges Extra Brut 2008) and a selection of three hors d’oeuvres. My favorite was the pork pastrami which was served with mustard–vinegar whipped fat on buttermilk biscuits. It was just the right proportion of meat to biscuit – and the biscuits were so light and flaky. The other apps were petite oyster–pork belly Domes with double cream and herbsaint liqueur and creole cream cheese croquettes with smoked tomatoes, grilled peppers, and roasted garlic and basil–infused sea salt.
The cocktail hour was a bit crazy in our opinion. The space, though lovely, was quite tight for the number of people who were attempting to eat, drink and mingle. It felt much better once they opened the upstairs for dinner – but at that point, clearly the cocktail hour was over.
The first course ended up being one of my favorites – cracked Louisiana blue crabs with meyer lemon–pickled jumbo lump crab, salt-cured crab fat, cocktail claws, and crispy back fin beignets. Though, to be honest, I suspected that would be the case when I came in because beignets! Our wine that course was a Château de la Font du Loup Signature Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc 2015.
My second favorite course was the second course of a redfish haute creole which was salted redfish with 30-second collard greens, roasted leeks, butternut squash, charred parsley, and a lemon-smashed fish bone butter. I’d never had redfish before and I can’t fully explain why, but something about the distinct flavor made this dish taste like New Orleans on a plate. The butter was the accent that really made this dish. It added a subtle flavor that balanced the fish with its rich, creamy texture. This course was paired with a Château de la Font du Loup Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2014.
The third course had all sorts of things going on! It was a tangerine jam–lacquered Texas quail with Louisiana popcorn, wild rice–yeast roll Dressing, tasso-braised cabbage, chicory coffee quail jus, and crystal hot sauce pepper jelly. So many different flavors! I had to have an alternate version of the dish due to my mushroom allergy, but T noted that this had just as many competing flavors as it sounds like it. The tangerine jam added a very sweet note and the chicory coffee in the jus screams New Orleans. The course was paired with a Château de la Font du Loup Signature Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge 2015.
The fifth course was a cassoulet. It was a Colorado lamb neck, Colorado lamb smoker confit, and spicy lamb sausage with puréed Louisiana red and white beans, lemon gremolata, and rich lamb jus roti.
This course was served with not one but two wines – both red. One was a Château de la Font du Loup Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2014 and the other a Château de la Font du Loup Le Puy Rolland Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2004. The 10 years made such a difference in the flavor. The older vintage came with a richer flavor profile and slightly more sediment at the bottom. Really liked his surprise from the sommelier
For the dessert, we’d heard much conversation about the plan for the evening – to debut a new dish they hoped could be a new signature dish for the restaurant. We had such high hopes for the dish, which they were calling Crêpe Souflée Ella after Miss Ella. It was supposed to be a hybrid of a crepe Suzette and a souflée, but did not quite work. The whipped top portion was on point – beautifully sculpted and slightly sweet. The bottom souflée portion did not properly set though and was more soupy than souflée. This course was paired with a Champagne Trepo Leriguier Cuvée Rendez Vous Galant Sec NV, one of my favorite wines of the evening.
Overall, it was a lovely evening out for us – our last one for the foreseeable future in Manhattan. It was nice to have a night out just us doing something special like this one final time before packing up for the suburbs. Would be curious to come back and try a meal here again on a very different night!
James Beard House – 167 West 12th Street – 212.627.2308