I called ahead for two of our reservations and booked two reservations on Open Table securing seats at four of the hottest, most innovative dining spots in the Big Easy. We are purposely steering clear of the tourist magnets like Commander's Palace. Booking a table several weeks in advance at these cutting edge dining spots is an absolute necessity if the diner expects to get seated at a reasonable hour and avoid a long wait.
Our first dine will occur Sunday evening on the day of our arrival at a John Besh establishment, Lüke, "his homage to the grand old Franco-German brasseries that once reigned in New Orleans." The Sunday special is “Blanquette de Veau” local veal, house-made ricotta cavetelli. While that sounds enticing I am leaning more toward the Choucroute Garnie Maison, smoked pork shank, Mangalitsa belly and bratwurst, with house-made sauerkraut.
On our second night we will be at Cochon (French for pig) serving traditional Cajun Southern dishes with an emphasis on pork...glorious locally sourced pork. I quiver at the very thought of Louisiana cochon with turnips, cabbage, pickled turnips and cracklins. The pork tongue with charred radishes and English peas from the boucherie, or butcher shop, sounds good, too.
Speaking of the butcher shop, on our third night we will waddle over to the Boucherie in Carrollton. The Boucherie was born out of a purple food truck and can best be described as contemporary Southern. Most of the food served at Boucherie is recognizably Southern: a pulled pork cake with potato confit and purple cabbage slaw could easily be described as a deconstruction of the traditional barbecue sandwich. But, it's the Smoked Wagyu Beef Brisket with Garlicky Parmesan Fries that is calling my name.
Finally, for our last meal (sounds ominous, doesn't it?) we will be carted over to the La Petite Grocery, a handsomely recast corner grocery store. More than half the menu changes regularly, taking advantage of abundant local produce, seafood, and game, such as roasted quail stuffed with boudin and black drum topped with a blue crab beignet, as well as tangy goat cheese desserts, served with whatever fruits are in season.
New Orleans is one of our most favorite cities. We love the bizarreness of the French Quarter and the charm of the Faubourg Marigny. On this trip, though, we will be exploring dining establishments Uptown and in the Central Business District with a side trip to the Carrollton District. We've done the bars, clubs, and restaurants in the Vieux Carré so many times that we can now proclaim, "The thrill is gone." We are ready for something new. The closest we will get to the Quarter will be Felix's Restaurant and Oyster Bar across the street from the tourist packed, long-in-the-tooth, Acme.
On this gastronomic adventure we hope to experience something new and unique, eschewing the sameness that is so pervasive in way too many Tampa Bay restaurants. In searching Urbanspoon for New Orleans restaurant suggestions, if I saw the ubiquitous ahi tuna, seared or tartare, or fried calamari on the menu I...I...well, I screamed in frustration, and crossed that venue off my list.
The Piglets may be wearing our skinny pants going, but I think we will have to pack our fat pants for the trip back home. We will regale you with stories of our adventure upon our return. In the meantime, we are counting the days.