Friday 9 January
Barbara, in nosing around teh intertubes for New Orleans restaurants, found raves about the Friday fixed-price lunch at John Besh's restaurant August.
The place was a mere stroll from the Sheraton, an elegant chandeliered room (if breezy in winter) offering one of the most impressive meals we had in town, at a mere $20.14 (they haven't added the extra penny after New Year). So forgive us if we blog at length about lunch as well as dinner.
There were two choices for each of the three courses, so of course we each got a different one and passed them back and forth. The amuse-bouche was actually amusing: garlic and butternut squash mousse topped with browned crumbs, piped into a topped eggshell. There were also warm sourdough baguette-elles tucked into napkin beds, the best-tasting bread we've had here.
Our appetizers were a lush butternut squash soup poured over tiny collops of Louisiana shrimp, and a country paté, fortunately without too much liver, in a sparkling array of house-made pickles, mustards, and marmelades, served with a chunk of toasted brioche.
The mains were a perfect packet of shrimp and crispy-potato-crusted flounder topped with malt and house-pickled vegetables, and succulent beef cheek bourguignon with onions and gold potatoes to sop up the sauce.
Desserts were also spectacular: "couches de chocolat noir" served with blood orange sections and toasted sesame crisp, and artlessly-artful torn-up chunks of angel-food cake among strawberries, angostura ice cream, and perfect tiny cubes of champagne gelée, to make an edible abstract painting.
As a lovely parting gift, the attentive waitstaff gave us white chocolate truffles filmed with gold leaf, and a couple of the necessary New Orleans pralines.
Dinner would have been an anticlimax, had we not gone with our Tucson friends, Mary and Fred, to Pêche Seafood Grill.
Its wooden benches and plaid-shirted waitstaff were quite a contrast to the elegance of August. But they gave us the best raw Louisiana oysters we had in our whole trip, crisp and brine-sweet, along with a fine Sancerre (Henri Bourgeois "Les Baronnes" 2013).
Everything was cooked simply, immediately, and with bright, upfront flavors. We ordered a whole redfish with green herb sauce (mainly basil) for the table, and sides of fried brussels sprouts with chili vinegar, and absolutely addictive and crispy brabant potatoes. We also got tastes of Mary's smoked tuna dip and Fred's Louisiana shrimp roll (like an enormous lobster roll, but with shrimp).
We staggered out, singing "Do you know what it means to eat New Orleans?" (apologies to Louis Armstrong - all this is "red beans and ricely yours").