Fortunately, Dante’s is yet another restaurant within walking distance of my apartment, so John and I strolled three blocks and arrived in time for our 6:30 p.m. reservations. Initially, we were seated inside the restaurant, but a couple sitting at the next table had a screaming infant and we requested to sit outside so we could enjoy our dinner in peace. The hostess was very accommodating and understood why we wished to move.
Without hesitating, she sat us outside on the porch and turned on the wicker-paddled fan, creating a slight breeze to cool us while we dined. The sun had just begun to set and the air was sweet with jasmine. The cicadas were humming loudly, muting the traffic noises of River Road as we relaxed on the porch of the quaint lavender and lime house secluded by large banana plants. It was a very comfortable, and quite romantic setting for our first experience at Dante’s.
We started out with some cocktails, I ordered a Ginger Cosmopolitan featuring house infused ginger vodka and John selected Dante’s Lemonade with house infused lemon vodka. Both cocktails were very tasty and while we sipped, our server brought out a little lagniappe, a Molasses Spoon Bread with honey butter served in a small pan that was still hot from the oven. It “smelled to heaven” as my Mom would often say and it tasted even better.
Before we finished reeling from the Spoon Bread, our appetizers arrived. John ordered the New Orleans Style Barbeque Shrimp made with Abita Turbodog beer, rosemary and garlic and I got Chanterelles and Louisiana Crabmeat with house made bacon, lemon zest, toasted brioche, and roasted tomato vinaigrette. The shrimp were huge, served with the heads on, although they kindly peeled the tail, and the barbeque sauce was spicy and lemony and, in true New Orleans fashion, there was plenty left over for dipping. The Chanterelles’ peppery flavor was complimented nicely by the lemon zest, tomato and crabmeat: a wonderful beginning to a fabulous cheat.
Growing up, my mother often prepared pork chops that were thin, dry and practically flavorless. So, when I decided to brave Dante’s Double Thick Berkshire Pork Chop with Ruston peaches, roasted onions, corn & goat cheese grit cake, I still had a lingering childhood fear of dry, tasteless chops. My worries were delightfully unfounded after I had my first bite of the juicy pork chop bursting with flavor from the Ruston peaches and fabulous grit cake. In vain, I attempted to clean my plate but I wanted to save what little room I had left for dessert. John’s entrée was called Trois Mignons which consisted of three petite beef tenderloin filets served on caramelized onion mashed potatoes and topped with pork debris, Stilton cheese sauce and marchand du vin. The sauces were tantalizing and rich and a bite of the tender medium rare filets with a dollop of the caramelized onion mashed potatoes soaked in the marchand du vin was enough to make my mouth water for more.
As usual for my cheat meals, I stuffed myself silly and by the time dessert rolled around, I was already hurting. But, I couldn’t walk away from Dante’s without sampling their sweets, so I convinced John that we should hang around long enough to order a Peanut & Mascarpone Torte with a chocolate crust and chocolate and caramel sauce on top. The creamy mascarpone smattered with chopped peanuts melted in my mouth and I wish I could have eaten more than I was actually able to consume.
John and I finally waddled off the porch and slowly made our way home. As usual, I was already considering where our next cheat meal should be, but the flavors from dinner were still rich on my tongue and I found I couldn’t quite concentrate. All I could do was luxuriate in yet another fine dining experience as we strolled home through the Riverbend, listening to the soft rustling of the night.