Feb 25, 201012:00 AM
Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene
Sausage Is the Star
The merguez was flavorful without being overly greasy, and the harissa that accompanied the dish was a perfect complement.
Photo courtesy of Robert Peyton
I have had two very good meals recently at Huevos and Crescent Pie & Sausage Co. The restaurants are owned by Bart Bell and Jeff Baron and are located adjacent to one another on Banks Street. Each meal was a study in how to excel at the fundamentals of good cooking.
Huevos opened in January 2009, and Bell and Baron had plans to open their pizza and sausage restaurant around the same time. Their plans were thwarted by Hurricane Gustav, but the delay probably worked to their benefit. The original plan to renovate a dilapidated building for Crescent Pie didn’t work out, but the new structure is modern and comfortable. Huevos inhabits an older building, with stucco walls and tables out front for use during pleasant weather. It’s homey, and the vibe is more coffee shop than restaurant.
Huevos does a fantastic breakfast/brunch. Last weekend I dined around 11 or so, and I hadn’t had eaten anything before visiting. I was hungry, in other words. I ordered the huevos con tamal: three tamales filled with pork, topped with two poached eggs and a tomatillo salsa and garnished with avocado and an excellent corn tortilla.
I’m pretty picky where it comes to tamales, particularly where the masa is concerned. I was not disappointed. The pork was tender, the masa was moist, and the eggs were poached perfectly. I could have used a bit more of the salsa, but that nit aside, it was the best start to a Saturday morning I can imagine.
The menu at Huevos also includes traditional huevos rancheros served with black beans and what the restaurant calls a “traditional Southern breakfast,” which features two eggs; a choice of bacon, ham or sausage; grits or hash browns; and toast. The breakfast sandwich comes with two fried eggs; a choice of bacon, chorizo or ham; and a choice of Swiss or cheddar cheese on a French bun, and the Blue Jay Special is a tortilla stuffed with eggs, cheese and chorizo with charred tomato salsa and a small coffee. Huevos also does a three-egg omelette filled with a selection of vegetables from the nearby Hollygrove farmers market. Pastries and doughnuts from Henry’s Bakery & Deli are available, too. There is a lunch menu consisting of three sandwiches: a BLT on rye, egg salad on wheat and a ham and Swiss melt on a French bun. Prices are reasonable, ranging from $5 for the Blue Jay Special to $11.50 for the omelette, with most items coming in at around $7.50.
The thing about Huevos that impressed me the most was that every component of the dish I had was excellent. From the tamales to the ripe slices of avocado to the fresh tortilla rolled up on the side of the plate, there wasn’t anything to criticize about the dish. I do this semi-professionally, kids, and that’s a rarity, let me tell you.
So it was with considerable anticipation that I visited Crescent Pie & Sausage Co. a couple of days after my visit to Huevos. The “pie” in the restaurant’s name refers to pizza, of which there are five. The pies range in price between $12 and $14, and you can choose between a Margherita (tomato, mozzarella and basil); a “BLT” (bacon, spinach pesto, roasted tomatoes and cheddar); Hot Coppa (salami, arugula, peppadews and blue cheese); Chicken Marsala (mushrooms, ricotta and chicken); and the Mediterranean pie (lamb sausage, red pepper sauce, olives, artichoke hearts, goat cheese crema and eggplant.)
I am not a huge fan of American-style pizza. What I enjoy is a good dough with a minimal amount of toppings, and at least as far as the Margherita pizza is concerned, that’s how they do it at Crescent Pie. An excellent thin crust was topped with house-made mozzarella, tomatoes and fresh basil, and that was just about it. If that sounds boring to you, please understand that when all of the aforementioned ingredients are of top quality and when those ingredients are treated with respect and care, the result is anything but boring. The pies are large enough to share between two people, though you’ll want to order an appetizer or some sides if you’re really hungry.
The sausage end of the equation is, if anything, more the star of the show than the pies. The sausage plates when I dined included a mixed grill, bratwurst with pickled cabbage and German potato salad, merguez with arugula and harissa and chaurice with pan-fried “mac ‘n’ cheese” and braised greens. I had a chance to sample the merguez and the bratwurst, and both were outstanding. The merguez was spiked with chile and full of flavor. Harissa is a North African condiment made of chiles and tomatoes. It’s ordinarily spicy as all hell, but the version at Crescent Pie wasn’t; it had a good flavor from roasted chile peppers and a bit of heat, but it was more a complement to the sausage than the distraction it might have been.
A few years ago I went through a German phase. This largely involved the consumption of sausages, potatoes and cabbage in various preparations. Also: lederhosen, but that’s a story for another time. I mention this because I am a fan of bratwurst, and I can happily report that Crescent Pie’s version is first-class. It was seasoned aggressively with garlic, slivers of which were recognizable as I ate, and paired with pickled cabbage, German potato salad and some excellent pickles. German potato salad typically means a warm mix of spuds, bacon, onions, vinegar and mustard. That’s not what Crescent Pie served with the bratwurst, but their version –– new potatoes roasted and dressed with a little mustard –– was good.
The kids at Crescent Pie clearly know a thing or two about making sausage, because they pulled off the difficult trick of having just enough fat content to maintain a good texture without making the sausages oily. The sausages show up on the pizzas, as noted, and also in the bratwurst sandwich, which is served with the same pickled cabbage on a bun, and the hot sausage poor boy, served dressed on French bread. There’s also a “redneck brisket” sandwich that comes with a red pepper aioli and barbecue sauce and a pecan-smoked turkey breast with fig spread, lettuce, tomato and spicy mustard on ciabatta. The sandwiches come with house-made dill chips or a side salad.
Appetizers of note include a “black” jambalaya with pork, chicken, sausage and black-eyed peas; meat pies made with seasonal fillings of meat, vegetables or seafood; and a link of one of the day’s sausages.
Crescent Pie & Sausage Co. is open for lunch Wednesday through Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; for dinner Wednesday through Saturday from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Sunday and Monday from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Call them at (504) 482-2426 to check out what specials are being offered or just to say hello.