With spring less than a month away our first event for the year brought us back to The Phoenix and its timeless club environs to celebrate and give tribute to the cuisine and traditions of New Orleans. “Fat Tuesday” was but two days hence for our Carnival Fête so all were in great spirits and whimsy was upon us! Those not already attired could find beads, masks, and decorations at their disposal to fit in with the more elaborately costumed. Servers added to the jovial atmosphere with magnums of 1995 Roederer Brut and tasty miniature crab cakes with remoulade sauce. The champagne was crisp and clean which also made for a great match to smoked salmon and caviar on toast points. Chef Ed Anderson was preparing us for a classic tour of Cajun and Creole styles made famous in the “Big Easy.”
Moving to our tables set with hats, beads, and doubloons brought on the first course of Oysters Rockefeller, warm, fresh, and delightfully briny on spinach for a pleasant contrast. This was served with a 2000 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre which made its mark by nature of an oily body and ripe tropical fruit flavors accented by honey, minerals, and hazelnuts. Next up was perhaps the most famous Cajun dish, crawfish and Andouille sausage gumbo. With a base of blond roux and okra left al dente, the whole crawfish atop the bowl gave a challenge to the uninitiated but was worth the effort especially with a southern gentleman in the person of new Chevalier Shannon Reed at our table to coach us! Accompanying this feast in a bowl was a magnificent 2004 Dutton Goldfield Chardonnay whose chalky vanilla nose and lush blend of apple and tropical fruit elevated the quality of this wine far beyond current recognition making for a great value.
For a respite between courses our chef next presented a sorbet with another salute to the illustrious Crescent City. This was flavored like the famous Hurricane drinks sold in the French Quarter, with passion fruit and lime, and brought in liqueur glasses so sipping the melted concoction was a pleasurable alternative to using a spoon. To continue our meal we now were given a large cut of garlic crusted redfish with an assertive dill aroma and luxurious consistency of lobster tail. We sipped a 2002 Louis Latour Chambolle-Musigny with this course that showed a smoky caramel nose and great rich fruit body over subtle acidity to make for another fine match with the bold food.
For our main meat course a slow braised lamb shank with Creole seasoning served with “dirty” rice gave a high point for our affair. With a little skill the marrow could be extracted for an extra taste of soft luscious decadence. To meet this massive dish we filled our wine globes with 1998 Leoville-Las-Cases and were rewarded with mysterious iodine fruit nose, magnificent rich body, and a finish that lingered long after the final taste. Keeping in the theme that “too much is just enough” for the hedonic crescendo before Lent, we next received an assortment of gorgonzola, chevre, and asiago with fresh fruits to pace our reverie. For a finale, Chef Anderson concocted warm peppered strawberries and vanilla ice cream, giving the unexpected hint of spice to a well loved dessert. Our salute to the essence of New Orleans and intention to laissez les bon temps rouler was a grand success thanks to Chef Ed Anderson and the gracious staff of The Phoenix.
J.T. Mayer, Vice Chargé de Presse