Wednesday, May 27, 2009

24 Hours in New Orleans

The bar at MiLa

Sitting here in the New Orleans airport (yes, again) I figured I would write about my dinner and lunch over the past 24 hours. Last night I had dinner at MiLa. I was originally planning on driving out to Clancy's but MiLa was literally across the street from my hotel. I took that as a sign from the food gods and to MiLa I went.

The chefs of the restaurant are Allison Vines-Rushing, a 2004 James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year winner and her husband Chef Slade Rushing.

The restaurant was pretty empty aside from 2 or 3 couples and a stray flying termite that managed to creep under the front doors. (It is evidently swarm season in the Big Easy) They weren't expecting much business the day after the Memorial Day weekend and I was happy to have plenty of space to spread out on the bar. Entering the space, your eyes are drawn to the huge alabaster bar lighted from underneath. Perhaps the termites found it pretty as well (?). They have a few published signature cocktails on the menu but I decided to let the bartender whip me up an orange something or other. Great drink as an aperitif, he did well. It was a nice balance of sweet and bitter orange. If only I could remember all the ingredients. I started dinner with a complimentary amuse bouche: a goat cheese crostini with tomatoes and a balsamic reduction drizzled on top and a deep green parsley oil underneath. It was OK. The balsamic taste wasn't as strong as I had hoped. Considering you only have one bite, you've gotta pack some punch. All was fixed when the appetizer came along though. I ordered a deconstructed oysters rockefeller. The six or so very lightly poached oysters arrived on a bed of spinach drizzled all over with a white creamy foam and each oyster was topped with a piece of thin, cripsy bacon. The fact that you don't have to wrestle with the oyster shell was a nice change, especially when you've got on a freshly ironed light blue shirt. Everything was well seasoned and the oysters were my favorite part of the meal. Next came the entree; a sweet tea brined duck cooked on a rotisserie, served with roasted beets on a bed of wilted greens and drizzled with a date jus. This was a good idea in theory but there wasn't much tea flavor. Maybe I was expecting something like tea smoked duck, but I felt the flavor could have been more pronouced. The bitter wilted greens were great though, and the date jus was a perfect flavor match with the duck. Overall it was a pretty good plate of duck. For dessert (something I rarely go for) I got a Muscadine wine gelee. The gelee flavor was rather subtle and frankly I would have preferred more muscadine flavor. There is probably a fine line between gelle and grape jelly though, and if I had to choose, I'll take the gelee. It was cool and refreshing nonetheless. Overall the meal was quite good.

Today I drove back to Cochon Butcher for lunch before I left town. I had the muffaletta last time so this time I tried the bahn mi. I thought about it for a minute... why order a Vietmamese sandwich in a Southern Cajun style restaurant? To their defense they do list the "bahn mi" with quotations on the menu and refer to it as a Vietnamese po'-boy as not to offend any hard core food bloggers. Anyway, the sandwich was just OK. It was not as impressive to me as the muffaletta was. The bread was great, it had that thin crust that shatters all over your lap but is yet still super soft on the inside, it had the pickled daikon and carrots, the cilantro, and the jalapeno peppers too, but yet again, the flavor was lacking. The meat of the sandwich was pork liver pate and head cheese - fantastic in theory but they just lacked the pronounced pork flavor that I was hoping for. Still, I really admire and respect what they do there at the Cochon complex so I'll certainly be back when given the chance to try more!