Jan 31, 201308:36 AM
Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene
Games, Gumbo and Other News
There are no shortage of events associated with the Superbowl this Sunday. Some are... different.
One that I'm happy to announce involves my pal Poppy Tooker, who on Sunday will appear with Wynton Marsalis on CBS Sunday Morning in a segment titled “Ode to Gumbo.” Poppy is an authority on local cooking, and no stranger to cooking gumbo on television; she beat Food Network celebrity-chef Bobby Flay in a gumbo “throwdown” a few years ago. Her current gig is host of “Louisiana Eats,” a food-centered radio show that airs on local NPR station WWNO from 1 to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and 11 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. CBS Sunday Morning airs from 8 to 10 a.m. this coming Sunday. I don't know when Poppy and Wynton will be on, but I'm thinking they won't be the only locals featured.
In other gumbo news, local poor boy shop Tracey's is hosting a “Gumbowl” cook-off today from 4 to 6 p.m. In a contest judged by the public, 10 competitors will vie for the title “Gumbo King." Tracey's is located at 2604 Magazine St., in the Irish Channel, and you can reach them at 899-2054.
On Saturday morning Grand Isle restaurant will host an oyster-eating contest sponsored by Beaver Brand Extra Hot Horseradish. The competition is called, I kid you not, “Grand Isle's HOT BEAVER challenge.” Basically 10 locals will try to eat a dozen raw oysters, each topped with a half-teaspoon of the sponsor's horseradish, in two minutes. If they're successful, the restaurant covers the tab for the oysters and beer, and throws in a T-shirt announcing to the world that the wearer holds the title of “GRAND ISLE BEAVER BUSTER.” The press release I received said that the promotion would last beyond the Superbowl weekend, so if you're not already signed up, and have an interest, you can test your mettle against some hot horseradish-topped oysters another time.
I recently had a chance to check out Little Gem Saloon. I'll share more of my thoughts after I've had a few more meals there, but based on my first impression, it's worth a visit. The renovation of a building that sat vacant for decades before the current owners decided to fix it up is remarkable. Little Gem is a restaurant, sure, but music is built into its bones. There's a small stage downstairs that's clearly more than an afterthought to the dining room. It's well-lit and from the looks of the sound system, it's designed to host serious music. The upstairs lounge looked like the kind of place where you could check out some great music without having to forgo a good meal.
The second thing that impressed me was the kitchen's ability to cook oysters in two different ways. I had a couple of canapés to start my meal. One was pickled oysters with a ravigote sauce, and the other was a daube glacé with horseradish. The daube was very good, but the oysters were outstanding. They had a texture that was somewhere between raw and slightly cooked, though better than that sounds. They were bracingly tart, and the sauce was spicy, but despite the strong flavors the briny taste of the oysters was always there. I also tried the quail with oyster and chaurice stuffing, and again I was impressed by how clearly the oysters were represented. The quail was cooked nicely; the breast and the leg/thigh meat were tender, and there was a good bit of kick from the chaurice. All in all it was a nice dish. Little Gem Saloon is located at 445 S. Rampart St., and the phone number is 267-4863.
One more item of particular interest to me, as it involves my neighborhood, is the re-opening of the original Buds' Broiler on City Park Avenue. The hamburger joint was closed last year after suffering a fire, but signs went up pretty quickly reassuring diners that they would re-open soon. That day is tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 1. The trend lately has been burger joints that grind their own beef and bake their own buns, and I'm entirely in favor of that development. But I grew up eating Bud's cheeseburgers with hickory sauce and onions, (the Number 4) and I'll always have a soft spot for the place.