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Dinner at The Green Goddess

While we were in New Orleans for TechEd, we took a little foodie pilgrimage to The Green Goddess. I've been reading chef Chris DeBarr's blog for several years now (he's chefcdb), where he talks about his philosophy of food, his plans for the restaurant, and what he's currently cooking. Everything I'd read made it seem just the sort of restaurant I'd like: small, informal, with wicked crazy food that celebrates the small producer and the idea of local cuisines.

It had been a hot, humid day in the Crescent City, punctuated by lunch at the famous Mother's canteen and iced coffee and beignets at the Café du Monde when we finally arrived at Exchange Alley. A pedestrian walkway through the heart of the French Quarter, the alley was a cool dark place after the loud brash bustle of Bourbon Street. Tables surrounded by greenery marked the restaurant, and we went in to see if we could get a sitting. We didn't have to wait too long before we were at a table, with the menu and the wine list in front of us, and the only real problem was just what to order - that and to avoid the distraction of the amazingly psychedelic wallpaper on the ceiling!

We decided to have the tasting menu (starting with a strawberry bellini to cool off), and as the establishment's small and intimate, we were walked through each course (and the wine we chose) by the chef himself.

A Midsummer Night’s Reverie Tasting Menu

“Didn’t He Ramble?” Gazpacho Trio
Roasted yellow tomato gazpacho paired with White gazpacho made
with bread, almonds, garlic, & aged Sherry vinegar, with slivers of
sun-dried tomato, smoky almonds & Frescobaldi “Laudemia” Olive
Oil. Add a Creole tomato aspic, lurking below the surface.

Roasted Eggplant & White Anchovy Bruschetta
Griddled bread topped with pureed roasted eggplant, lemon, and
capers, with piquillo peppers and beautifully fresh-cured white
anchovies, or boquerones as they are known in Spain.

Midnight Pasta
Spaghetti cooked in crab boil, tossed with killer olive oil, toasted
garlic, organic herbs, lemon zest, and bottarga: the pressed, cured, dried
roe of Mediterranean fish; a traditional use of caviar in Sicily.

Campari-Fennel & Chocolate Mint “Snowball”
Granita of Campari infused with Bronze Fennel,
finished with PZB Chocolate Mint & Vodka Syrup

Snails, Tails, & Tasso
If we were making this dish in the mountains of Abruzzo, we might
serve this sauté of exquisite basil-fed snails, crawfish and ham
with wild herbs over polenta, but here in New Orleans we have
different herbs to season the pot, and creamy grits instead!

A Date with Destiny
Inspired by the Saints’ Super Bowl victory, Medjool Dates stuffed
with Hudson Valley “A” Foie Gras Mousse in a Turkish “Sweet
Spice” mode; the dates roasted in Madagascar Vanilla.


What can I say about the menu that the dish descriptions don't?

The gazpacho was the perfect cooling start, mixing the crunch of the nuts with smooth tomato soup. The bruschetta brought in a taste of summer evenings in a bustling port city, with just a hint of decadence in the aubergine paste - very New Orleans in its Spanish roots. The Creole tang of the pasta was matched by the raw power of the olive oil and the sea tang of the micro-planed lemon zest and fish roe - an awesome dish with a complexity of flavours that belied its simplicity. The fennel campari granita was the perfect palette cleanser, with its mint chocolate syrup adding sweet to the bitters. Then came the snails, tails and tasso - wonderful, delicate escargot with a flavour defined by the snails' basil diet, fresh crawfish and the local ham, all laid on a pile of soft grits. Finally the foie gras stuffed dates, soused in sweet vanilla (marypcb had the absinthe shrimp BLT as an alternate).

We couldn't just finish there, not with the remarkable bar and its stock of excellent liquors looking across the room at us. I let the barman play, and was presented with what he called a "Blindside", a mix of fruit and flower flavours that smoothed out the end of the evening wonderfully...

A fine end to an excellent meal.

The Green Goddess is a place well worth returning to next time we make it to New Orleans. It's eclectic, clever, and above all, wonderfully tasty. As I said to marypcb, after a week of Microsoft it was very hard to keep using that standard piece of Redmond hyperbole with each dish: "Awesome". Well, dear reader, it was.

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