Instead of our typical trip to Vegas to celebrate our delayed Anniversary, Mother Dear gave us the chance to explore a long dreamed of locale, NOLA. We had an almost perfect trip and New Orleans is all itís purported to be. All of the downsides to any large city exist, but are clearly outmatched by the upsides. And then there is the food, my GOD, the food. We ate ourselves stupid, and regretted it a couple of times immediately afterward. But looking back, I wouldnít have skipped anything.

It was our first trip, so it was a touristy trip. We tried the things you see on tv over and over instead of trying to find hidden gems. Especially shocking was how good SO MANY of the classics turned out to be. Only twice was I disappointed, and by disappointed I mean the place was only good. Much more often I was surprised by how much better the place was than expected, a rare treat repeated and repeated in the Crescent City. If you are from our neck of the wood, or anywhere else than NOLA, it is a completely different world, and one worth experiencing for multitudinous reasons. Vegas is a different world but it is a calculated and manufactured experience, New Orleans has evolved in a storied and historic manner into what it is, you can feel it everywhere you go. Nothing like it.      True Dat.
 

 
 


Borgne
 New Orleans, Louisiana        Date of Visit  12/13/15         
 http://www.borgnerestaurant.com

Since Central Grocery was sold out, our first meal was at the John Besh coastal cuisine outpost, Borgne. Beautiful place, great service. Chef seems to keep his large empire operating at seriously high standards. Borgne is one of two places that served us their own bread. I think almost everywhere else we had Leidenheimerís but Borgne sent us a light and crusty loaf of their own, which had been dusted with a ryeesque coating giving it texture and a light earthiness.   We started with two soups and two appetizers. The soups were a duck and Andouille gumbo and a butternut squash.
 



 


 
 


One Of The Few Places To Serve Their Own Bread

 The gumbo. Iíve had gumbo here and there. I havenít had gumbo. I remember taking three classes worth of time making a brick roux for a gumbo in culinary school. Even with the nine hours invested in just the thickener, it wasnít the same. Nothing super spicy but everything warm. Round spices fill your senses and made me think of those old cold medicine commercials where vapors float out of a coffee cup to magically relieve any ailments. Thatís was Borgneís gumbo.

The butternut squash was served tableside. The bowl arrived with a plop of crŤme fraiche in the center, which was surrounded by spiced pork rinds. Okay? Our runner decanted a burnt umber and fluffy cloud of soup over the bowlís contents from a silver pitcher. I really enjoyed the gumbo but sweet suffering Moses, the squash soup was extraordinary. It was strained so silkily and whipped so puffy I didnít expect there to be much flavor, but it screamed butternut with an added but perfect punch of warm spice which made the whole thing sing.
 

 
 
The Gumbo Is Loaded With Spice, Duck, and Sausage

This Cloud Of Awesome Was Also Perfectly Spicy
 
 

 

 

 

If our soups were pretty standard, our appetizers went way out on a limb. Turns out, thatís where the best fruit hangs. The duck jalapeno poppers were wrapped in bacon and set atop a smear of an herbed cream cheese and drizzled with a sweet and spicy barbeque style sauce. Yes, Please.

Even better, by far for me, were the turkey necks. I raved about the chicken necks from the Greenhouse Tavern, more raving to follow. Again a real chef takes time to respect the whole animal, using parts others wouldnít, but making them even better than the primo cuts. Yezus, these were crusty but succulent bits of bird (think excellent bbq) in which all of the collagen had broken down into gelatinous meat awesomeness. The protein on the surface had caramelized to a lightly crisp bark and the whole thing was topped with spicy peppers and sweet jelly and set in a small pool of crab boil. Bravo!

We shared a cocktail, the Barrel Aged Vieux Carrť (French Quarter).  Our server told us we would like it, itís really boozy. She was right. Built with Sazerac Rye, Pierre ferrand vsop, carpano antica, and bendictine itís certainly an adult beverage in every sense of the word, and scrumptious if you like that sort of thing.
 


Fun & Tasty Duck Poppers
 

Very Adult Vieux Carrť
 

The Turkey Necks Also Looked A Little Disturbing
 

But Delivered Crusty Chunks Of Awesome
 

Now the entrees. Coastal cuisine means fish, we did seafood top to bottom. We usually avoid scallops (do them better at home than most places) but the divers at Borgne are served with spaghetti squash, sweet potato and crab broth. The broth was poured tableside like the soup and doused fat and nicely seared scallops. The broth was delicious and the sweet and bitter micro greens added their own nuances. What really stood out in the dish for me was the squash. I expected mushy strands and got al dente pasta texture instead, just with squash flavor.

The most popular dish is the Black Drum A La Plancha, a mild and flaky white fish cooked on a griddle. It was subtle and delicious, cloaked in a pile of jumbo lump crab and all dosed with brown butter and pecans. It was great, clean and fresh fish with nutty butter and nuts, but I am usually a fan of more forward flavors and we found that in the daily schnitzel.
 


Crab Broth Made The Enormous Scallops
 

Pile Of Crab On Lightly Flavored Drum
 

They do two regular items with daily fish one en papillote (poached in parchment paper) and the second a schnitzel. The schnitzel fish of the day was sheepshead. Iím not a fisherman by any stretch but I have drowned a worm or two. On Lake Erie, Iíve watched experienced fishers battle sheepshead out of their element and into ours which takes effort. Then they say profane words, extract their hook, and toss the fruit of their hard earned labors back into the depths, usually muttering about what a pain they are to clean or how horrible they are. Somehow we ended up ordering it and it was embarrassingly delicious. The fish was every bit as good as the drum and coated in a crisp crust with loads of additional awesome texture and flavor. Sitting atop lightly spicy mustard greens and a light spaeztle noodle, the whole thing was beautiful. Add the Creole mustard cream underneath and it was unbelievable!
 


Stunning
 

Every Morsel A Revelation, In Sheepshead!?!
 

We ordered three really nice desserts, all of which were pretty straightforward with little unique touches. A peanut butter semifreddo with dark chocolate, caramel, and peanuts; an apple upside down cake with brown butter caramel and buttermilk ice cream; and a key lime ice box pie with a punch of ginger and topped with black rum ice cream.

The place is relaxed and fun with personalized notes in the menus next to the stranger items, but still very professional and efficient. The service matches and the food exceeds expectations...the stranger the better.

Turns out John Besh has more than a head full of hair, dreamy eyes and a southern drawl. A great start in the Big Easy.

 


Chilly Study In Peanut Butter & Chocolate
 

Delicious Apple Cake
 

Key Lime & Black Rum? Yes.
 

The Menu Encourages You In The Right Direction
 

Great First Meal In New Orleans. Even Pillars Are Covered In Seafood
 
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        Sheepshead & Turkeynecks?      
 
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