Restaurants New and Revisited
SARA ESSEX BRADLEY PHOTOGRAPHS
In many parts of the United States, September is when you first start considering whether you should bring a sweater with you when you leave the house. If you’ve got kids, it’s also when you start getting re-acclimated to the routine of the school year. In the restaurant world, September is when we start seeing an end to the summer doldrums. I am not pulling the winter clothes out of storage yet, but I do always feel a bit more peckish when there’s an “r” in the month.
The return of restaurants to the Lakefront is a particularly welcome, and a particularly long-hoped-for part of New Orleans’ recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Like New Orleans generally, these restaurants come in all forms, including casual places such as Bucktown Burger & Fish Co. (200 Old Hammond Highway), which opened in July in the space formerly occupied by the similarly casual Live Bait. From the name you’d probably guess the focus is on hamburgers and seafood, and you’d be right. Owner Andrew Jaeger is an old hand at running New Orleans’ restaurants, and the Bucktown operation includes local music on a regular basis.
Call 840-0902 to find out who’s playing next.
Chef Kristen Essig grew up in Florida, but she came to New Orleans in 1999 to work at Emeril’s, and has called it home since. She has worked with Anne Kearney at Peristyle and Susan Spicer at Bayona, as well as operating NolaBean, a private chef and catering company. Most recently she took over as the executive chef at the sleek bistro Sainte Marie (900 Poydras St.).
Essig has gradually been putting her own spin on the restaurant’s menu. She is a true believer in the value of sourcing product locally, and that’s reflected in some of the changes to the food on offer at Sainte Marie. Gnocchi has been on the menu since the place opened, but these days Essig pairs it with local squash, pesto and Parmesan cheese; the agnolotti is now stuffed with ricotta and mushrooms instead of chard, and served with caramelized onions in a mint-tomato broth. New items include pork belly with watermelon, arugula, pickled turnip and basil oil and grilled duck with a celery root gratin, duck cracklin’ and honey-hazelnut demi glace. Essig has also added desserts such as S’mores Please, a graham cracker genoise cake with toasted marshmallow semifreddo rolled into a log, topped with chocolate sauce that’s allowed to harden before being garnished with graham cracker dust. To find out more about chef Essig’s food, call Sainte Marie at 304-6988.
Casa Borrega (1719 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.) opened over the summer in a converted residence dating from 1892 that’s been restored with elements from New Orleans, Texas and Mexico. Hugo Montero and his wife Linda Stone own and operate the place. Montero is an artist, and Stone founded the Green Project. Both of their sensibilities are evident throughout the structure, but it’s Montero’s hand behind the food. He is a native of Mexico City, and the menu is heavy on the sort of antojitos popular in Mexico’s capital. There are tacos, yes, but also sopes, griddled cakes of cornmeal with black beans, queso fresco, radish and for $2 more than the $10 base price, you can add chicken. Whole roasted red snapper comes à la Veracruzana, with onions, garlic, tomato, chiles and olives, and there’s a daily ceviche made with seafood from the Gulf. Casa Borrega is, as I write, open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight, and for brunch on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 427-0654 to find out more.