Steven Hronek Photographs
February has the makings for some very special occasion moments. Between Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day (only two days, actually), you’ll probably be in need of some dining recommendations, and if chefs Kristin Butterworth and Brian McGeehee have anything to do with it, you’ll gain a new passion for dining in New Orleans.
Maybe it’s the collection of beautiful artwork, the luscious flowers and the ornate bar – not to mention the grand piano – but The Grill Room has long been associated with special occasions. But whether it's a Valentine's Day or a regular weekend night, one step up the stairs into the Windsor Court’s fine-dining mecca and all cares melt away. Last fall, The Grill Room at Windsor Court welcomed a new talent in the kitchen, Kristin Butterworth, an award-winning chef who relocated from Pennsylvania and immediately added her elegant signature to the menu with terrifically bold and impressive seasonal dishes.
For the full scope of her talents, a chef’s tasting menu is offered, though the regular dinner menu is impressive itself. Appetizers vie for attention. The foie gras appetizer is practically a work of art, served alongside a buttered date, pickled apples, brown butter pecans, fried sage and a bacon beignet. The beignet alone is appetizer worthy, topped with a bacon-infused powder sugar that chef Butterworth creates in-house, and can be plated tableside, offering a unique aromatic experience. Infusions seem to be a great strength here. Whiskey pecans, which accent a decadent Madeira-lacquered duck entrée with butternut squash risotto and Georgia wildflower honeycomb, are soaked in whiskey, which is then used in a cocktail at the Cocktail Bar downstairs. As part of the Winsor Court's $22 million dollar renovation completed in 2012, the bar focuses on modern drinks with a culinary twist (i.e. infusions) and mixologist Christine Jeanine Nielsen creates innovative riffs on classics, like the Aviation Snoball. Her drinks and panache are heralded by local bartenders and imbibers and are definitely worth a stop in for an after
Ye Olde College Inn has long been associated with their hospitality and comfort food, but a couple of years ago a farm-to-table approach was introduced in the kitchen by then-new chef Brian McGeehee. Since then the restaurant has been sourcing locally, even supplying its own produce and eggs. The restaurant’s tiny “farm” of herbs and produce grows on the side of Carrollton Avenue, often attracting a driver’s curiosity. It is with great innovation and success that McGeehee puts his harvest to use in dishes ranging from utterly decadent to guilt-free. The Gulf fish is served with a farm fresh garden vegetable maque choux and a creamy roasted corn sauce that’s worth the trip alone. A crispy boudin cake topped with a poached egg from the restaurant’s coop is served with pepper jelly dressing and red pepper sauce.
Though I wouldn’t suggest dining here if you’re in the midst of fasting, there are at least a few options for dieters. Nearly everything else has a sinful element. On a recent visit, a special entrée for the evening was a Gulf Fish encrusted in Zapp’s chips and served over garden hash, a medley of gorgeous squash and herbs plucked from their garden – the star of the show. The great thing about Ye Olde College Inn is that it still retains its ineffable charm: the local sports icons on the wall, the din of noise that envelops the dining room as the place packs out, the welcoming staff. But perhaps the best thing about Ye Olde College Inn right now is that it’s certainly experiencing a renaissance. There really is something for everyone, from poor boys to broiled fish to braised duck salad, all of which are accented by the kitchen’s obsession with
The Grill Room
300 Gravier St. | Windsor Court Hotel | 523-6000
Ye Olde College Inn
3000 S. Carollton Ave. | 866-3863
3025 Magazine St. | 520-8311 | Lakeside Mall | 3301 Veterans Blvd. | 834-2277
Sucré’s Carnival chocolate collections feature flavors quintessentially New Orleans, such as bananas foster and pecan praline.