Wednesday, September 22, 2010
I went to New Orleans this past weekend to attend the wedding of my oldest friend. She and I met in first grade. I brought to light just how many years of friendship that is during a toast, but I'm not willing to blast it over cyberspace.
I've been to New Orleans before, in fact it was almost exactly one year before Katrina. So I didn't feel the need to run around and try to take in as many tourist destinations as possible. Neither am I the type to venture down to the 9th Ward to see how things are coming along with the reconstruction; not even in the hopes of running into Brad and Angie. So when not doing wedding activities, I spent most of my time at the hotel.
Both our accommodations and the wedding/reception took place at the InterContinental Hotel 444 St. Charles Ave. This is not a commercial, (would that I could make money from this blog). I truly feel the service and amenities (particularly the lotion) of this hotel were stellar. If you're going to New Orleans and you're looking for a good hotel, not 4 star top of the line or cute boutique, but clean rooms, attentive staff, nice touch of elegance throughout, easy walking distance to the French Quarter, Bourbon Street and Harrah's Casino, then I'd suggest the InterContinental . And I highly suggest joining the InterContinental Club!
I was staying with the maid of honor and she's a member of this VIP extension of the hotel chain. If you've ever seen George Clooney in Up In the Air, you'll know what I mean. By being a member, you have access to the suite on the 14th floor; this is a comfortably appointed lounge, stocked with snacks and drinks all day. Movies playing on the flat screen (watched Love Happens & Couples Retreat, both drivel, but Vince Vaughn's Guitar Hero face off with the obnoxious overseer is highly entertaining) and most importantly free, fast WiFi.
Every morning they lay out a sumptuous breakfast of bagels and locks, assorted danish, muffins, toasts, cereal, juices, coffee, tea, fruit, yogurt, mimosas, sausage, scrambled eggs, and the best thick cut, peppery sweet bacon I've ever had. Every evening at 5pm is Happy Hour! Open bar, enjoyable wines, bubbly champagne with a raspberry or strawberry garnish. Twice I got too full from the assortment of hot and cold appetizers served to even enjoy my dinner. I'd like to give a shout out to the three excellent gentlemen that maître d’ the Club Suite - Rommel, Darkuk and Max.
The rehearsal dinner took place across the street at acclaimed Chef & Restaurateur, John Besh's brasserie, Luke. "featuring blackboard specials, newspaper racks, and a vintage pulley-and-belt driven ceiling fan system. Since opening in 2007, Lüke has been hailed by Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and The Times-Picayune Lagniappe, which awarded Lüke an impressive three bean-ranking for its “disarmingly home-spun culinary touches..."
Our party was shown to the private dining room, festooned as a wine cellar. But the rest of the restaurant feels like a large dining market place. Philadelphians could equate it with Reading Terminal Market, but not that large or quite that rustic.
I started with a Roasted Beets salad w/ Clemson Blue Cheese and Spiced Pistachios. I'm a blue cheese fanatic and this was a particularly creamy one. I would have enjoyed it more without the lettuce. I wanted a taste of beet, pistachio and blue cheese together with every bite. The dressing was part tangy balsamic, partly sweet.- 3 Tines
My main Course was Ravioli of local Crabmeat simmered with Garlic, Cream, Meyer lemon and herbs. I told myself, I wouldn't eat any seafood while in New Orleans, because of the Gulf Oil disaster, but that soon went out the window; after all, drilling oil is a natural resource, so if any of the fish did contain some, I'll just looked at it as an organic added ingredient.
As expected, the ravioli was done to perfection, but the red pepper seeds over powered the taste of the crabmeat. - 2 Tines
The bride to be had Moules et Frites Prince Edward Island mussels steamed with garlic and thyme with housemade fries. I ate all her french fries. I don't blame her, if I knew I had to fit into a wedding dress the next day, I don't think I'd eat at all.
Here's a pic of another menu item - Poulet Grand Mere Herb Roast Local Chicken, jus naturel, Allen Benton’s bacon and whipped potatoes. Nancy, the orderer of this meal, devoured it quickly, so I assume she had no complaints.
Desserts pictured: Brendan’s bread pudding with vanilla bean ice cream and hot buttered pecan sauce, “gateau basque” vanilla cake with seasonal fruit and crème fraiche, espresso ice cream profiteroles with salted caramel and toasted hazelnuts. I had some of all three, the bread pudding was excellent, but too rich for my taste, as was the vanilla cake, too buttery. The chocolate sauce on the profiteroles was particularly tasty. Each dessert receives - 2 Tines.
Cheers to Tom, the best man, who picked up the entire meal. I only met Tom right before dinner, but this guy knows how to celebrate! Later he took me over to Harrah's and gave me $300 fresh from the ATM dollars to shoot craps! I was in my glory! I've been itching to get back to the Craps table ever since I learned the game at the Luxor on my trip to Vegas in July (T & T Does Vegas) I played for about an hour and gave him back about $175 of the $300, not bad. No strings attached, for those of you reading this and thinking there was a hook up back at the InterContinental... now if he'd been single...
What family doesn't have family stuff at every big or small occasion? No need to air people's dramas and dynamics on a food & film blog. The important thing being, the wedding ceremony went wonderfully. I did my reading in front of God and everyone with perfection! And oh yeah, Jen & Glenn, the bride and groom, were very happy.
Here's a pic of the beef choice at the wedding. I'm not sure what cut of beef it was, but it was very tender, well seasoned and although not elegant, I liked the gloppy type mashed potatoes underneath. - 3 Tines.
Some how the butlered hors d'oeuvres didn't make it around to everyone before dinner, and the taste and consistency (not the visual) of the cake was more a good birthday cake, when I was hoping for an actual wedding cake, but otherwise, overall, a nice affair.
Since I was in New Orleans for 4 days and didn't pay for a single meal, I decided to take my best friend, Discover, out of the hotel safe and join some of the wedding party in the French Quarter, the next evening, to dine at the famous Brennan's Restaurant -In July 1946, Owen Edward Brennan leased the Vieux Carre Restaurant directly across the street from the Old Absinthe House. (1956 the restaurant moved to it's current location on Royal St) He named his new restaurant for himself, Owen Brennan's French & Creole Restaurant; and with time, it came to be more commonly known as Owen Brennan's Vieux Carre. Owen Edward Brennan and his Vieux Carre restaurant attained nationwide fame, turning into a famous institution overnight, competing with New Orleans' oldest and best in French and Creole cuisine. Owen's research and knowledge of French food, fine wine and impeccable service made him a master. He was called the "wonder man" of the New Orleans restaurant industry. Owen was known in Hollywood movie circles and entertained some of the brightest stars in his French Quarter restaurant - Vivian Leigh, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor, Gary Cooper, Jane Russell and Tennessee Williams, to name a few. As a result, many stories were written of Owen's life and success in the restaurant business in national publications, such as Newsweek, Collier's, Holiday, Life and Gourmet magazines.
Brennan's has an illustrious history, but unfortunately it is relying on this past glory in order to charge exorbitant prices for very ordinary fare. The decor is historical, shabby hauteur. I can't imagine anything has changed since 1956. I can appreciate this aspect, quaint; but I kept feeling like perhaps we should have gone to NOLA which has a more sophisticated, casual ambiance.
We went for Brennan's $48 Four Course Prix Fixe. However, almost everything on the menu had an add $5 -$10 price increase, so it may as well have been a $60 Prix Fixe, $65 if you add in a cup of adequate coffee.
I chose a white wine blend, $30 bottle. Slightly sweet, but I was very happy with the choice.
First Course: I chose the Creole Onion Soup. it's not a French Onion soup with the cheese over the top, but it was good - 2 Tines
Second Course: Brennan Salad romaine lettuce with a tangy Creole dressing, grated Parmesan cheese and croutons. Standard - 2 Tines
Main Course: Shrimp Samantha with Andouille Gulf shrimp and spicy Cajun sausage sautéed with fresh mushrooms, garlic, green onions, white wine, spices and served on a bed of parsley rice. Completely tasteless. No sauce, tasted like defrosted shrimp, andouille sausage & rice just lacked flavor - Tarnished
Dessert: Lemon Curd Crepes. Best part of the meal. Cool to the mouth, not sweet, not too tangy, smooth. Perfect spongy consistency to the crepe - 4 Tines
And the Bananas Foster was also excellently prepared at your table.
Here's pics of the other 3 meals -Trout Kottwitz Filet of fresh trout sauteed with sliced artichoke bottoms and fresh mushrooms topped with lemon butter sauce. Chicken Lazone
Breast of chicken sautéed in our own Brennan seasonings, served in a light cream sauce. Tournedos Taylor Two prime tournedos each with different sauce, Bearnaise and Marchad de Vin, accompanied by a bouquetiere of fresh vegetables.
Gail was less than pleased with the trout, Kathy's filets were super small and she loves Bernaise sauce, but wound up wiping this sauce off her filet. Nancy was happy with her chicken, but I thought it looked like a meal served at a neighborhood diner.
Hmmm, I hate to end a post on a bad note. Oh, I know, here's a good note, literally. Steamboat Willie, a musician at a little outdoor courtyard on Bourbon Street. He sounds just like a record playing on a phonograph from the 1920's. Quiet, lovely way to end an evening and there's no cover charge.