I mentioned in a previous post that I’m an avid supporter of all things Georgia football. Having grown up in Maryland, I also happen to be a devoted fan of the Baltimore Ravens. In case you haven’t figured out yet what I’m getting at, this means that I spent the past weekend in New Orleans cheering on the Ravens in the Super Bowl.
The last time I was in New Orleans was more than ten years ago, but somehow, I still have a vivid memory of the pecan crusted gulf fish I ate at Commander’s Palace. This time around, I made sure to set aside plenty of time throughout the weekend to re-experience the New Orleans cuisine.
The culinary highlight of the weekend was our pre-Super Bowl brunch at Emeril’s New Orleans. The restaurant itself is located in a renovated pharmacy right in the heart of the Warehouse District. The interior of the restaurant matches the location perfectly – super high ceilings, exposed brick, and beautiful woodwork. We sat at a round table in the main dining room, which looked straight into the kitchen. Quite a view.
Upon being seated, we were presented with a trio of bread – rosemary focaccia, a sourdough roll, and a cornbread muffin. All were freshly baked and delicious, the cornbread in particular. Our server even provided us with cornbread to go, just in case we got hungry during the game.
Hoping to prevent a major food coma in the coming hours, we decided share a bunch of appetizers in lieu of the heavier entrees. I didn’t try anything that I didn’t like, and I tried quite a few…
I started with a bowl of the “Gumbo of the Day.” Much to my delight, Super Bowl Sunday’s gumbo du jour was a seafood gumbo with shrimp and andouille sausage. This dish was the winner of the entire weekend (other than the Ravens, of course). The bowl nearly overflowed with shrimp and sausage, finely chopped celery, bell peppers, onions, and most importantly, a flavorful roux. According to Emeril, the secret to any gumbo is cooking the roux until it reaches a perfect chocolate-brown color. Clearly he knows his stuff. Emeril’s roux was bold and rich, not too thick, not too thin. Luckily, I saved some of my cornbread muffin to soak up every last drop in the bowl.
The muffaletta bruschetta was my second favorite dish of the afternoon. The crostini slices were layered with an arugula pesto, thinly sliced sopressata, and a kalamata olive salad. A dollop (well more than a dollop really) of burrata mozzarella and a citrus vin cotto finished the dish. The combination was outstanding – the mozzarella was delicate and creamy, a nice textural contrast to the toasted crunch of the baguette. The vin cotto really accentuated the flavor of the olives and the pesto. Although it was nothing like a traditional muffaletta or bruschetta for that matter, this dish brought out the best of both worlds.
At that point, I hadn’t had quite enough sausage from the gumbo, so I tasted some of the homemade andouille and boudin sausages. The duo was served over braised greens with whole grain mustard and a house made Worcestershire sauce. Piled on top was a crostini of beer-braised onions. Both texturally and flavor-wise, I preferred the andouille, which was spicy and smoky. The boudin, comprised of a pork-rice combination, was a tad grainy for my liking. It was also rather difficult to eat without completely mangling the filling out of the sausage casing.
The barbeque shrimp was really the only dish that didn’t stand out to me. Emeril definitely kicked it up a notch with the spices on this one, but the shrimp were nothing to rave about. They were doused in a spicy, Cajun barbeque sauce and served alongside a “petite” rosemary biscuit. I think the biscuit added more to the dish in terms of presentation than it did flavor-wise.
We ended the meal with a slice of the chocolate Sambuca mousse cake. Layers of chocolate mousse were topped with an au lait semifreddo (aka encrusted coffee ice cream) and a few slivers of espresso bean bark. The dessert was absolutely divine. If I had to guess, I would say I probably consumed 60% of it, my Mom 30%, and everyone else scraped for a bite of the remaining 10%.
Aside from the food, the other highlight of the meal was meeting Emeril himself, who happened to stop by the restaurant and make his rounds! Although he spent most of his time chatting with Bill Romanowski before retiring to the kitchen, I still managed to squeeze in a brief (and star-struck) hello.