Tag: Celebrity Chefs

New Orleans Food Tour: Brigtsen’s

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

Classic Creole food by a disciple of the great Paul Prudhomme

Brigtsen’s is one of those Chef owned restaurants that you just want to love because you know they are a labor of love themselves. Chef Frank Brigtsen started his culinary career as a pantry apprentice at New Orleans famed restaurant Commander’s Palace back in 1978. There, legendary chef Paul Prudhomme took him under his wing, teaching him how to cook traditional Creole cuisine. In 1986, Prudhomme helped Brigtsen open his own restaurant, and he has been cooking and serving sophisticated Creole cuisine ever since. In these almost forty years he has won numerous awards, including a James Beard, and has become an ambassador for Creole cuisine nationwide. He is also mentoring the next generation of Creole cuisine chefs.

The restaurant itself is located in a cottage in the Riverbend neighborhood of New Orleans. It’s only a couple of blocks away from a cable car stop, and the ride from the French Quarter takes you through the Garden District and by Tulane university. The ride in the airy wooden carriage was long but romantic in that balmy spring New Orleans evening, and a perfect preface to a Creole meal.

I’ve eaten at a handful of restaurants located in old homes, and I like the intimacy of the small dining rooms. This was the case at Brigtsen’s, where we were seated in what once might have been a small dining room itself. There wasn’t much in the way of decoration, but it wasn’t needed.

Brigtsen’s is a smart casual sort of place, like most of the nicer restaurants we went to in New Orleans. What this means in practicality is that collared shirts are a must for men.

Brigtsen’s menu is centered in Creole cuisine, though it travels beyond it by incorporating dishes and ingredients that show international influences – what you would expect from a lower-case, ever evolving creole cuisine.

The menu was heavy on seafood and not particularly friendly to vegetarians – fortunately, we didn’t have one along. It’s relatively short, fitting a small kitchen.

I wasn’t extremely hungry so I decided to forgo an appetizer and get dessert instead, though Mike went for the full three courses.

We started dinner with bread. Now, this is true at most American restaurants, but at Brigtsen’s they actually charge you for the bread ($3.50). This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem – when I grew up in Argentina, most restaurants charged for bread -, if the bread was particularly good. This one wasn’t. It was just a typical French loaf, distinct only by how extraordinarily airy it was inside. Basically, it was all crust and the crust wasn’t particularly tasty. The salted butter was not particularly noteworthy either.

Mike had a cup of their Filé Gumbo with Chicken and Andouille Sausage ($9). It was my first experience with gumbo and I was surprised at how much I liked it. I’d always been reluctant to try gumbo because I thought all gumbos included okra. That turns out not to be true – they can also be thickened with filé, as was the case here, or even with a dark roux. It’s a pity I hadn’t tried them before, because the gumbo here was very good. Now, it wasn’t out of this world good – the filé, I think, gave it an awkward undertone – but it was tasty and satisfying. This being our first gumbo, we couldn’t really compare it to others when we ate it, but we liked the one we had at Broussard’s the following day more.

Mike had the Seafood Platter ($48), which came which consisted of seafood prepared in five different ways. He was very happy with it. He felt that the grilled redfish with crawfish and pistachio lime sauce sauce was perfectly cooked and delicious. The sauce was “yummy” and the crawfish added a nice texture. He liked both scallop preparations just as much. The baked scallop with Herbsaint creamed spinach and Gruyere was scrumptious and the cheese was mild enough to not overwhelm the scallop. He liked the sauce in the seared sea scallop with Fontina cream cheese grits and mojo sauce that he didn’t mind the grits, though the Fontina cream cheese helped. Mike doesn’t like oysters in general, but here the baked oyster with shrimp and crabmeat was chopped and mixed with the other seafood and he liked the overall dish as well as its presentation on an oyster shell. Finally, he loved the crawfish cornbread with jalapeño smoked corn butter. The cornbread had a kick without being too spicy and the crawfish gave it a subtle flavor. The bread has a nice, standard texture. In all, he was very happy.

Not being a seafood lover, I was more limited on my choices and decided to go with the Grilled Beef Filet with Marchand du Vin sauce ($45), despite it sounding more French than Creole. The filet was described as grilled, but I could have sworn it was sous vide given how incredibly tender it was and how consistent it was its texture. I don’t think I’ve had a more tender steak in my life, though I also don’t think I’ve had sous vide steak before, so I’m only speculating as to what its texture might be. It was also impressively free of any grit. The sauce was as delicious as expected. The mashed potatoes had good flavor, and this was overall a good, solid dish.

For dessert, I couldn’t resist the Tres Leches Cake with Ponchatoula Strawberries and Chocolate whipped Cream ($14) despite its less than Creole origin. It was a big mistake. The cake was crumbly and lacked both moisture and flavor. A shortcake or biscuit would at least have been able to absorb the sauce and gain it from it, but this one didn’t have the necessary consistency. The chocolate cream provided a discordant flavor that overwhelmed both the cake and the strawberries, and had a heavy consistency, closer to buttercream. Finally, the strawberries were just not sweet. In all, this dessert was a complete failure and should not have been served. Someone should have tasted the strawberries, determined they weren’t ready and taken it off the menu.

Mike had the Lemon Ice Box Creme Brulée ($10) and that was much better. There was nothing remarkable to it, but it had a nice flavor and consistency. It was, at least, what you expected it to be.

I had sparkling water with dinner ($3), but Mike had a Bayou Bonfire cocktail ($13). Unfortunately, he can’t remember it at all – and all I remember is that it was way too alcoholic for me to try more than a sip, but that is true with most cocktails.

Service was competent thought not extremely attentive – for example, no one inquired about how we felt about dessert.

In all, given everything I’d read about the restaurant before we went, I expected more – of the three full fledged meals we had at New Orleans restaurants, this was my least favorite – though that may just speak about the quality of the others. Still, we did have a lovely dinner in a lovely restaurant after a lovely cable car ride, and enjoyed the experience very much. I’d return.

723 Dante Street
New Orleans, LA
T-Sa: 5:00 pm - 8:30 pm

New Orleans Food Tour

NYC Food Adventure: Daniel

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

A Wonderful Night at a Two Michelin Star Restaurant

I wanted to crown our once-in-our-lifetime trip to New York City with a visit to both the future and the past of fine dining in the City – going to one of the best classic restaurants, and one of the best and most innovative newest ones. For the former, we chose Daniel.

The beautiful main dining room. Our reservations were early, as we were hoping to catch a show after dinner, and the restaurant filled up by the time we left.

I can’t say, really, that it was much of a choice as one of the other contenders, Le Cirque, had closed years prior, and two more, Le Bernardin and Per Se, did not have reservations available during our week in New York, but Daniel was perfect for what I wanted: a restaurant that for decades had been at the very top of the NYC restaurant pyramid. The eponymous flagship restaurant of famed chef Daniel Boulud, Daniel turned thirty years old last year. It’s located on Park Avenue, near Central Park, and features a grand, if somewhat understated, dining room that screams “special occasion.” It also has a lounge for more casual occasions. While I don’t know what Daniel’s menu looked like thirty years ago, I can’t imagine it was significantly different. The dishes are all classic French-inspired concoctions, which mostly delighted and sometimes even surprised. Presentation was impecable, flavors and compositions magnificent, and the whole experience exactly what you expect from a two or three Michelin star restaurant (Daniel lost its third star a decade ago).

Daniel offers a four course prix-fixe menu ($188) and a seven course tasting menu ($275) in the dining room, and the former plus an a la carte menu in their lounge. The prix-fixe menu gives you a choice of dishes for each course, while the tasting menu is set by the Chef and must be ordered for the whole table. I had gone in thinking we’d do the tasting menu, but quickly changed my mind when I realized that foie gras was only available as part of the prix-fixe one. Plus, I figured, by sharing dishes, my husband and I would be able to taste eight different ones, rather than just seven. In addition to the for courses of the pre fix menu, there is a pre-appetizer dish and three extra dessert courses – so that four-course menu is really an 8-course one. You most definitely do not leave hungry. Both menus come with wine pairings ($125 to $195) but we no longer can drink that much alcohol and stay awake, so we decided against it.

leek amuse bouches

Dinner started with an amuse bouche of leeks prepared three ways, served on a somewhat disconcerting half plate (literally a plate cut in half). Mike and I absolutely love leeks and this dish was not only beautiful but delicious – probably my second favorite of the night. I particularly loved the creamy leek soup, which reminded me of the leek cream I make for my flamishe.

Mike’s first course consisted of the Long Island fluke (sea buckthorn cured, crème fraîche, crispy daikon
shaved radishes, orange balm). These were basically thin layers of fluke, served cold, with the listed accoutrements. I wasn’t a fan, which is not surprising as I’m not a big raw fish fan. Mike, on the other hand, loved it. He thought the combination of flavors and textures was amazing.

Far more successful for me, and I’d say even beautiful, was the Upstate New York foie gras terrine (Lehigh Valley squab, cacao, Fukushu kumquat, heart of palm, “brioche feuilletée”). The terrine was delicious and worked very well with the acidity of the kumquat and the bitterness of the chocolate. Moreover, it was s generous slice.

Mike’s first second dish was Montabauk Black Sea Bass (Ossetra caviar, beluga lentils, vodka-watercress emulsion). We were at first thrown by the presentation (round fish?) but had fun with it. The fish was flaky and perfectly cooked, and the combination of flavors worked very well – I liked how fresh the watercress emulsion was. The lentils were very comforting.

My second course dish, the Upstate New York Foie Gras (Cointreau flambéed, Cara cara orange, licorice, braised black radishes, an $18 supplement) was cooked tableside and it was a spectacle. The show was fun, but the foie gras was truly delicious. I’ve had various combinations of foie gras and fruit before, but this very well may be my favorite. The portion was generous, and it went perfectly with the tiny pieces of brioche. As much as we enjoyed the black sea bass, I wished we had ordered two of the foie gras instead, so I could have had a full portion just for myself. It was that good and our favorite dish of the evening.

For his entree, Mike had the Manchester Farms quail “Onyx” (black truffle, Horn of Plenty mushroom “subric”, celery, “sauce Albufera”). This was perhaps the hardest dish to understand – I’m still trying to. As best as I can understand, the dish consisted of a croquette stuffed with quail and quail eggs. I do not like eggs, so this was not the dish for me, but once again Mike liked it, and he liked the presentation and combination of flavors.

My entrée was the Highland Farm venison (chestnut crusted, parsley, spaetzle, myoga,
mustard greens salad, sauce “Grand Veneur”) and I thought it worked very well. The meat was tender and perfectly cooked – but it’s venison, not the most flavorful meat out there. I did like the spaetzle in the sauce and I absolutely loved the chestnut purée. I will have to attempt to make something like that for some holiday meal. It’s sweet, but the sauce gave it a savory element. It was simply good.

It was then time for dessert, and these kept coming and coming…


I ordered the Sudachi Vacherin (sudachi sherbet, green apple-herbs sorbet, nori scented meringue) and it was excellent. I loved the combination of the sour sorbets (sudachi is a Japanese citrus) and the sweet meringue. It has inspired me to try to experiment making sorbets from different citruses, as well as green apples (if I can figure out a way to juice them or buy green apple juice). It was my favorite dessert of the evening.

Mike chose the Hukambi (Brazilian chocolate custard, toasted riz au lait, banana ganache) and it was good, but pretty unmemorable. I was pretty fully by then and I have began to like chocolate less and less in my older years so I wasn’t terribly into it. Mike, who wanted it, can’t remember what he thought of it. He didn’t dislike anything that night, so he must have liked it.

We were having an early anniversary celebration that night, so the next dish that came – several chocolate truffles – was served in a dish with a candle and Happy Anniversary written on it. I thought it was very nice. Truffles were good, though, as mentioned, I was really full by then.

mini madelines

If I had been able to eat anything else, I would have gone for these mini-Madelines. They were served warm and they were fluffy, soft and delicious. I had only a couple, but they were very much worth it.


Apparently, three dessert courses weren’t enough – as we then got these three petit fours. I can’t even tell you about them. I’m sure they were great, but there is such a thing as too much dessert, so they blended into everything else that evening.

And indeed, we weren’t done. Because we had a fifth dessert course to come – though by this point, we didn’t bother with pictures. This involved chocolate sticks (thin cookie sticks covered on chocolate). I tried one – because I had to – and it was very good, but really, it was almost cruel to be given all this amazing food with just one stomach.

Finally, we got a little canelé to take home with us. I wanted to make these myself when I cooked Bordelaise food, but they require a special pan I didn’t want to have to buy. I’d gotten them boxed, and had been disappointed with them, but commercial products are often poor imitation of the real thing. Unfortunately, in this case they weren’t. Daniel’s canelés, which I tried the next day, were also dense, not very sweet and not very flavorful. I think we must blame Burgundy and not Daniel, however.

Daniel has an impressive wine list and large variety of cocktails, but I stuck with sparkling water all night (Evian, $10 for a bottle) while Mike mostly drank tap water. He did have a cocktail, a Liaison Lisbonne ($24). He liked it, but can’t remember what was in it.

Service throughout the night was splendid. The staff was obsequious and really made us feel pampered and special. I’ll say that, in general, we got great service in New York, so that might be part of the NYC hospitality culture.

Daniel no longer has a dress code, though jackets are encouraged for gentlemen. All but a couple of men wore them, and most women were nicely dressed – I didn’t see anyone wearing “nice jeans”.

In all, we had a lovely evening, and we’d highly recommend Daniel for anyone who wants to have a special, classical meal, in beautiful surroundings.

60 E 65th Street,
New York, NY 10065
(212) 288-0033
Tuesday-Sunday, from 5pm-10pm

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