Sunday, June 3, 2007

An 8-Course, $170 Meal (per person!) in New Orleans

First, I must tell you, I don't like to spend more than $25 per meal--especially when I'm driving cross-country on a tight budget. But, when six restaurant managers invite you to a meal where they are personally aquainted with the chef, you just can't say no. Well, maybe you can once you find out you're paying for your meal--and it's $170. Too late, it's already in your belly.

Cuvee, as most people know it, is a champagne--possibly one of the top ten in the world. To me, Cuvee is an eight-course meal (at least) including wine paired with nearly every dish, not to mention a Port wine from 1927. The chef? 32-year-old Bob Iacovone, a native of Massachusetts, who journeyed south and discovered how to spice up Creole food (if that's possible) with French and Spanish influence.

We sat down (after a quick dress code-check as we walked in the door) to be greeted with a spritzy Pa Ohler riesling alongside remoulade-covered shrimp atop fried squash. Perfectly creamy and not too greasy. Next, fried oysters were brought out on a bed of thinly-sliced cucumbers in a bloody mary sauce. Now, I've only had ocean-pulled oysters which can be rather salty. For those, check out Boston's B&G Oysters. The local-oysters in New Orleans are from freshwater and are as silky as a slice of butter.

While seafood was holding up the appetizer portion of the meal, no meal is complete without a salad to start. Their popular chop salad is a mixture of bleu cheese, bacon, apples, dark greens, with a dallop of bleu cheese dressing and a homemade saltine cracker in the shape of a half-moon on top.

After studying abroad in Italy, during college, I came to understand the importance of bread as a fifth (fifth?) utensil. At Cuvee, the bread basket combines white bread, biscuits, and cornbread to keep with Southern tradition.

Back to seafood, next came a large, fried bay scallop over spaghetti'd squash with chopped baby jalapenos and tomatoes. This was paired with an oaky chardonnay by Ramey. Seared, herbed Yellowfin tuna came next over creamed sweet corn and mashed potatoes with thin slices of aromatic truffles.

Not to break up the dinner, but halfway through the filling of our bellies, a traditional New Orleans wedding strolled by the window. White parasols bounced above the bridesmaids while men in black suits did a sort of hop-dance down the street. Turned out, they were celebrating the marraige at Cuvee.

Next on the menu came Red Snapper over a crabcake. It was accompanied by pickled, South African sweet peppers that were tangy and unique-tasting. To wash it down, we were poured a refreshing sauvignon blanc.

Foie gras. This is one of those foods that my French friend, Anne-Cecile, tries to force feed me. I can't do it. But, on this night, there was nothing better to touch my tastebuds. It was like the tiniest bite of the best steak I had ever eaten. There was so much flavor, I didn't need a whole 12 oz. The triangle-shaped foie gras was served over a bread crisp smeared with goat cheese. Also, on the crisp, was a balsamic strawberry--sweet and savory perfection.

As if that wasn't rich enough, the next dish was a creme brulee with tiny bits of foie gras--accentuating the rich, deliciously-fat flavors in the dessert.

Just when we thought we had been served dessert, a rosemary-and-wine chicken was set before us. The chicken breast was stuffed with homemade Borson cheese, and served over what else than a waffle. Now, I'm from LA and this was exactly like the LA-staple Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles only it was topped with a Mississippi cane syrup. What goes better with the chicken-and-waffle combo than a textured burgundy? And after, a deep pinot noir. Immediately after the chicken-and-waffle combo, we were served smoked duck on perfectly al dente risotto.

Now for dessert! Macadamia-crusted espresso ice cream drowning in fudge. A cookie wrapped in chocolate, infused with orange zest. And, a bowl of sorbet that tasted nothing short of the childhood-pastime, creamsicle. And a sweet, syrupy Port wine from 1927 to wash it down. It felt almost sinful to open the bottle.

Tell me, what is the best meal you've ever had?

Image 1 thanks to notashamed thanks to this license.
Image 2 thanks to _e.t thanks to this license.
Image 3 thanks to princess of_llyr thanks to this license.