Best Bets for the Weekend and Beyond
We were giddy over an excuse to dress in something other than yoga pants and shorts, so my sister Beth and I donned dresses for an evening in the Lower Garden District at The Bower. We live within blocks of each other near Magazine Street and Jefferson Avenue. We were too far from The Bower to walk and did not feel like trying to park, so we took the RTA Magazine Street Bus. This efficient, friendly and clean means of transportation delivered us a block from our destination for less than $2. I heartily recommend this the next time you want to hit up a few spots on or around Magazine Street.
The Bower hit every note for me. A burnished grid fitted with hanging plants of many varieties drops a few inches from the ceiling, and a large rectangular planter bisects the dining room lending a secret garden effect to a clean-lined space outfitted with a mix of tables and banquet seating. To one side of the room, a jewel-like craft cocktail bar headed up by Mickey Mullins is lit with moody lighting to offset the vibrant concoctions on the counter. At the rear of the space is the open kitchen manned by Chef Marcus Woodham, a talented alum of both Restaurant Patois and Bar Frances.
Expansive picture windows overlook a courtyard and outdoor spaces planted lushly with yet more tropical foliage, my kind of space.
The highly customizable menu is divided into small plates, house-made pasta, large plates, house-made charcuterie, cheeses, and boards. A partnership with Sugar Roots Farm in Algiers assures gloriously fresh produce like that featured in the exquisite Farm Salad (gem lettuce, spinach, radish, beets, sunflower seeds, dried cherries, herbs, parmesan, honey and white balsamic vinaigrette), a feast for all senses. My sister turns her nose up at both pâté-like textures and bread so the Duck and Date Rillettes (whipped duck legs, thyme) served with a seasonal tarte cherry compote and rounds of fresh baguette was gloriously mine-all-mine and, figuring this would be the standout dish for me I foolishly ate every last morsel.
We were doing ok until the Crispy Cauliflower we ordered to share appeared. One bite from each of us and the knives came out, both of us wanting it to ourselves. This magical dish of humble veg is one of those unforgettable creations that becomes so much more than the sum of its parts (cauliflower, napa cabbage, sweet garlic chili oil, sesame seeds, cilantro, green onions). I could eat this every day. In fact, I am currently stalking Chef Marcus for the recipe…
We pushed on. Plump and sweet, the seared scallops were beautifully balanced with chewy farro, and deep umami from Maggie Mushroom conserva, thin chards of hot coppa, and herbaceous ribbons of fresh basil. The Gulf fish (grouper on this night) was bright and satisfying with black rice, fresh local citrus, delicate pea shoots, and farm radish, finished roasted tomato vinaigrette.
I am eager to get back to try the ever-changing burrata dish, the house-made pastas, the Bower potatoes, the heritage meats and, well, pretty much everything.
If you are headed out for the Krewe of Boo parade this weekend consider a pre or post stop at Saint John, Chef Eric Cook’s new haute Creole spot on lower Decatur Street. Though I have yet to experience a full meal I was impressed (I always am by Eric Cook’s work) when I visited for cocktails and lite bites. The white bean cassoulet with salted pork, braised pork belly and hog cracklin’ gremolata was deeply satisfying and crave-worthy, as were the tiny bites of Oysters Saint John (oysters three ways: poached in double cream, crispy fried and oyster dressing in vol au vent shells) that I could secure through the mob that surrounded them each time a tray emerged from the kitchen.
When Eric opened Gris Gris, his first restaurant on Magazine Street, he impressed when he told me, “I’m staying in my lane. I know what I know.” The result is food visitors comes here to experience those locals are also eager for. He takes familiar standards most locals could produce at home (see that cassoulet, an elevated bean dish) but elevates them with nuance and technique that would make them a headache to make at home.
Lastly, as part of their Global Culinary Initiative, next Wednesday evening at 6:30 p.m. the New Orleans Chapter of Les Dames D’Escoffier is hosting a dinner with a multi-course tasting menu at Thai D-Jing. Thai D-Jing is helmed by Chef Suda Ounin and husband/partner Jeerasak Boonlert and serves a variety of Thai specialties. Ounin is a classically trained chef who cooked in Thailand and in New Orleans kitchens before opening Thai D-Jing in Gretna in 2020. The multi-course tasting dinner, priced at $65 per person (includes two glasses of house wine or beer, tax, and gratuity), will showcase an array of authentic dishes from the four regions of Thailand:
Crispy Catfish Salad with Green Apple
(2 per person)
Betel Leaf Salad Roll
Betel Leaf, Cashew Nut, Ginger, Coconut Meat,
Chili, Lime, Plum Sugar Sauce
Tom Yum Seafood Soup
(1 pot per person)
Hot and Sour Seafood Soup with Shrimp, Fish, Squid, Mushroom
Served with Hot Pot
Massaman Curry Beef
(1 pot per person)
Thai-style Beef Curry, Cumin, Coriander, Cinnamon, Nutmeg
Chicken on a Stick
(1 per person)
Steamed Coconut Custard
(2 per person)
Steamed Flour with Coconut Filling, Wrapped in Banana Leaves
Wine or Beer
(2 glasses per person)
The dinner will be served outdoors, weather permitting. Tickets are $65 per person and available here.