How's Bayou? The cuisine of yesteryear
Thank God frog legs weren't on the menu.
I'd just read that the John Folse Culinary Institute, scheduled to move ino a spectacular new 30,000-plus square-foot campus facility in 2013, was currently sharing space with biology labs in a building at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, just down the bayou.
Millie and I had made reservations for a special evening that the institute's Bistro, a showcase for student creativity, was offering; but we were among the last lucky few to secure a table.
My fear was that they'd be two plates of frog legs short and someone would get the brilliant idea to dash down the hall to the biology labs to make up the difference: Millie and I would be the only guests to dine on Jambes de grenouilles au formaldehyde.
Fortunately, the format decreed otherwise. The evening was titled "Lost Restaurants of New Orleans . . . and the recipes that made them famous," based on research by New Orleans food and cultural connoisseurs Peggy Scott Laborde and Tom Fitzmorris.
The menu began with an appetizer that we both remembered fondly, Oysters Dunbar, "Corinne Dunbar's most famous appetizer of artichokes and oysters served with artichoke leaves" -- which we appropriately employed to scoop up the wonderful concoction.
The restaurant occupied a two-story house near Lee Circle, where, years before, Millie's maternal grandmother had lived and held court, and featured a set menu, graciously served by staff who made you feel as if you were a guest in a private home. It was Crescent City gentility at its finest.
We savored T. Pittari's Crab Bisque with Crab Boulettes (a crab paste of sorts) and wondered what ever became of Pittari's signature dish, Lobster Kadobster, crafted from a crustacean of your own choosing from an immense tank.
Next up was the Delmonico (pre-Emeril) Salad, a paean to iceberg lettuce and parboiled vegetables, just as crisp and tasty as ever with shredded lettuce, blanched broccoli, cauliflower, beets and carrots with Delmonico's barn-red, spicy vinaigrette.
We had to eliminate Elmwood Plantation's Chicken Grandee, served with crispy potatoes, roasted peppers and Italian sausage, from our choice of entrees.
Millie went with Crozier's Veal with Crawfish, a delectable creation of chef Gerard Crozier that featured paneed veal with a hearty crawfish mushroom sauce. I chose La Louisiane's Trout Lafreniere, with lemon juice and capers heightening the flavor of the formidable breaded seafood crust.
It was practically a battle of forks as we made quick strikes on each other's plate to forage for tastes of the other's entree. Well worth the fight when you can't make up your mind which entree you really want.
I think they cheated a bit with the single dessert item, Berry Sabayon, a gratin of strawberry, blueberry and raspberry sabayon flavored with orange liqueur; no New Orleans restaurant was given credit. No matter: it was a fine end to a food-induced fantasy walk down memory lane.
It's great to have a college town like Thibodaux so near Madewood. The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra has played at Nicholls, and the university's annual Jubilee arts and cultural festival begins in just a few days.
The Bistro dinners, held every Wednesday and Friday evening during school semesters, sell out within days of the themes and menus being announced, and Times-Picayune food columinst, as well as instructor at the John Folse Institute, Marcel Bienvenu is often around to offer amusing commentary on the proceedings.
And to laugh with us at the thought of pillaging the labs for spare frog legs.
How's Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now juggles his time between Dixie Art Supplies in New Orleans and Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.
How’s Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.