Perhaps the only child in Louisiana history to be born to a mother with absolutely no culinary skills at all, Jyl Benson began cooking in self-defense at the age of six. She is 13 years younger than her closest sibling so her parents were tired and paid little attention as she use the household kitchen as per personal laboratory, sometimes with disastrous outcomes. Her skills have improved greatly over the years and kitchen fires are a thing of the past.
She began her editorial career in 1990 with The Times Picayune and served as a regional reporter covering the southeastern United States for both The New York Times and Time magazine. She wrote "Galatoire's Cookbook: Recipes & Family History from the Time-Honored New Orleans Restaurant" (Random House 2005), as well as several cultural, historical and architectural guides to New Orleans. She served as editor-in-chief of Louisiana Cookin’ magazine from 2009 to 2011 and founded Louisiana Kitchen & Culture magazine in 2012. Sheis a dining columnist for St. Charles Avenue, Acadiana Profile and Louisiana Life magazines, a frequent contributor to New Orleans Magazine, and the author of "Fun Funky, Fabulous: New Orleans Casual Restaurant Recipes" (2015, Pelican Publishing) and "Louisiana's Tables" (2017, Savory House Press).
Tired of your own cooking and looking for a change of pace? Longtime friends Alison Vega-Knoll and Chris Wilson recently pumped some excitement into the upscale grab-and-go and market scene with the opening of Larder (3005 Veterans Blvd., Metairie, lardergourmetmarket.com). The gourmet market and casual eatery has plenty of outdoor seating in a garden setting (as garden-like as you can get on Veterans Boulevard, anyway. Amman Landscaping did a lovely job.) and drive though pick-up is in the works. The market and dining area unfold around a large kitchen that produces meals-to-go and chef prepared basics for family meals at home, as well as a full range of menu items available for breakfast and lunch.
“This has been a dream of ours for a long time,” said Vega-Knoll. “Chris and I have crafted a menu that brings people together to celebrate.”
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The market side of Larder offers an extensive cheese and charcuterie case, Cajun Caviar selections (Vega-Knoll is a partner in that business), ready-to-serve items such as soups, salads, vegetables and sides, and meat and seafood entrees. The items in the refrigerated cases will change regularly based on product availability and seasonality and included Crawfish Grillades on a recent visit. Also, on hand are unique, chef-sourced products— oils and vinegars; spices, mustards and dressings; gourmet nuts, popcorn and candies; and crackers, polenta, pasta, grains and rice. There is a decidedly local bent to the product lines. A king cake kit from Gracious Bakery will be a sure hit with families and for gifting as will a line of beautiful tea towels printed with the likenesses of paintings from artist Garland Robinette’s Ju-Ju Doll series.
A gelato bar from local purveyor Piccola Gelateria (king cake flavor is one of the current flavors) is the first thing visitors see upon entering and an extensive selection of coffee and tea is provided by French Truck Coffee. Wine and beer are also for sale for both dine in and take-away. The bakery selection includes various items, such as bagels, quick breads, scones, and quiches. The sweet shop offers cookies, cupcakes, brownies, and, of course, gelato. Six breakfast dishes include Amy’s egg sandwich, a white cheddar and roast pork grit bowl, and the Fontal crepe (abargain way to start the day for $7 with Chisesi ham and apple compote), as well as several side options. More than a half dozen sandwiches include a Cuban, meatloaf, citrus shrimp gyro, roasted vegetable, and prosciutto di Parma. Salad and soup options include a crispy Asian chicken salad, steak house salad, grilled shrimp and street corn salad, Wilson’s chowder, and a soup of the day. A kid’s lunch menu is also available, so things just do not get any easier than this.
[caption id="attachment_165333" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Photo by Chris Granger[/caption]