Let’s talk about New Orleans. A veritable utopia for those who are fans of eating well. Quite possibly the most difficult thing about a trip to NOLA (aside from managing a hangover) is picking between restaurant and dining options. This choice becomes even more difficult during the summer when the annual Coolinary New Orleans is held. Described as “a celebration of dining in America’s most delicious city”, Coolinary runs over several weeks, and participating restaurants offer fixed lunch and dinner menus at insanely low prices – usually $25-35 for three courses. And don’t get it twisted, we’re not talking about those groupon promoting restaurants you’d barely want to step foot in. Rather, the who’s who of culinary NOLA participate in this extravaganza, including Antoine’s, Galatoire’s, Emeril’s and a host of other places with names not ending in ” ‘s “.
I was lucky enough to experience the Coolinary three course lunch ($20!!) last year at Coquette on Magazine St, a modern American eatery with a French bistro feel and a focus on local and seasonal ingredients. I was joined by friends Olivia and Stephe* and was thus able to snap pics of nearly the whole menu, as we each ordered something different. Yeah you read right – not only did Coquette offer three delicious courses for $20, they had a selection of dishes available for each course. How’s that for lagniappe?
Naturally, I started with a bloody mary but Olivia went a little fancier and ordered the Belle Fleur – a cocktail with orange vodka, Pama, Calvados, Moscato d’Asti and lemon. It was a delicate way to ease into day drinking.
We had to pressure Stephe into actually ordering the hog’s head cheese (which is a form of terrine/pate made from various head parts) because we wanted to try one of each of the offerings. Hesitant at first, he seemed to be really thrilled with his choice one he’d braved the first bite. Olivia reported that her soup was tasty albeit not extraordinary. I was exceedingly pleased with my choice of salad. Stop laughing, I’m being serious y’all. I knew the main course was going to be richer than Scrooge McDuck (cringe) so I was thankful to start with something light. The slight sourness of the cheese played beautifully against the sweetness of the pecans.
Pork belly? Unexpected. I am not sure that it was enough of a meal in and of itself for a manly man like Stephe, but in conjunction with the other courses it fit well. Although all the mains were well received, I personally think my shrimp and grits dish won. I will admit to secretly wishing that the lunch menu item of softshell crab with sweet corn and chimichurri (um, hello? YUM!) was part of the Coolinary offerings. But now I have reason to go back.
Much like those who order turkey instead of beef at BBQ places, you are a total chump if you do not automatically choose the chocolate/caramel dessert option over ANYTHING with fruit in it. Ever. Always. Why? SEE BELOW! But be warned, it’s extreme food porn:
Even if you aren’t in town around Coolinary time, Coquette’s menu changes daily (in keeping with their nod to seasonal cooking) and I for one would definitely recommend a visit.
* So yeah, he actually spells his name Steve. But his real name is Stephen. So I prefer to correct this (and annoy him) by writing it properly.