A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be selected to judge for the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience's Fleur de Lis awards. Aside from gorging myself in some of the city's best restaurants, I was able to hang with food professionals like writers Dale Curry, Sharon Litwin, Gwendolyn Knapp, Brenda Maitland, Lisa LeBlanc-Berry, Kendall Gensler and photographer Romney Caruso.
What is most stunning, aside from being able stuff myself silly in two 7-hour periods, is the miraculous creativity and enthusiasm we encountered from each and every chef. Although, I thought almost all of the dishes were phenomenal this year, there a few dishes that really stood out to me as being above and beyond the typically fabulous cuisine we have available to us here in New Orleans.
Palace Cafe blew me away with these Flambeed Duck Hearts served cold on toasted brioche, a dish I was actually afraid to try. Let me tell you, once I had my first taste, I scarfed down the rest with ease and avid enjoyment.
Now, it should come as no surprise that Chef Tory McPhail at Commander's Palace wowed us, but I am still raving about this Jamaican Jerk Pork served atop "island paella" with pickled fruit and aqua fresca. My mouth is watering as I type...
After tasting this next dish, I cannot wait for Tableau to open inside Le Petite Theatre...it was an adorably delicious Creole French Onion Soup with andouille sausage and a baby croque madame on top made with Chisesi ham and a quail's egg.
Chef Chuck Subra at the JW Marriott nearly destroyed our appetite for anything else when he presented this Green Tomato Courtbouillon with Louisiana seafood (a.k.a. oysters, shrimp, crab and crawfish) served atop buttery grits. They also offered us some warm, crusty French bread that we all couldn't help but devour, using it as a spoon to scoop up the luscious courtbouillon.
Finally, the last dish I'm going to mention is from 8 Block at the Hyatt Regency. It's last not because it actually was last or because there weren't anymore superb offerings, but because if I keep talking about this, I might just eat my keyboard. Also, when I was presented with this delectable dainty, I literally inhaled it after being so incredibly full, I didn't think I could manage another bite. It was Petit Chilled Raviol de Royan with roasted Creole tomato, arugula salad and burratta cheese.
Just from the twenty or so dishes I tasted, I wouldn't miss the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience Grand Tasting event for the world...and you shouldn't either.