There aren’t many cities that have a food culture like New Orleans. We love cooking, eating and sharing the table with friends and family to a degree that’s normally associated with Europeans (well, the French, Spanish and Italians, anyway). You sometimes hear that our food is staid, or old-fashioned, but you generally hear that from people who don’t appreciate that good food can be more than novel.
There is nothing wrong with new and inventive cuisine, just as there is nothing wrong with holding onto traditional recipes. The difference between New Orleans and, say, Atlanta, is that New Orleans actually has traditional recipes that don’t exist elsewhere.
None of which is news, exactly, but it did seem relevant given the news I am about to impart about a restaurant celebrating 160 years of service, and a soon to be released documentary about one of the true grande dames of the New Orleans restaurant world.
First up: Tujague’s has been hosting dinners for months to commemorate the 160 years it has been operating in the Quarter. They’re wrapping things up at the end of the month with a Grand Finale Anniversary Dinner & Culinary Demonstration on Thursday, September 29, at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum’s Rouses Culinary Innovation Center by Jenn-Air. (SOFABRCICJA or somesuch, I believe).
It’ll be a five-course dinner, with wine pairings, and also an opportunity for newly-named executive chef Guy Sockrider to debut. Author of the Tujague’s cookbook, media maven and general bon vivant Poppy Tooker will be on hand, as will Tujague’s owner Mark Latter.
Things start with a cocktail at 6:30. The menu is as follows:
Brisket of Beef with Creole Horseradish Sauce
CVNE Vina Real Crianza, 2011
Gulf Shrimp, Absinthe Fennel Cream, Housemade Buttermilk Biscuit
Vino Laurio Grillo Giardinello, 2014
Jumbo Lump Crab and Brie Soup
Pine Ridge Chardonnay, 2014
Gulf Grouper Cardinal
Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus and Crawfish Beurre Blanc
Albert Bichot Chablis Reserve de l'Orangerie, 2014
French Market Latte Crème Brulee
NV Broadbent 5 Year Reserve Madeira
I very much enjoyed the dinner I attended a couple of months ago at Tujague’s, and I have a feeling this is going to be a good time as well. Tickets are $90, all-inclusive, and require a reservation, which you can obtain by calling 504-525-8876. The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is located at 1504 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. If you have not been, you’re missing out. It’s a pretty swell joint, and the demonstration kitchen is particularly well thought out.
In other news, the world premiere of a documentary about Ella Brennan will be held at the Orpheum Theater on October 14, at 8:30 p.m., as a part of the 27th New Orleans Film Festival. "Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table" is the name of the film, which is narrated by Patricia Clarkson and directed by Leslie Iwerks. Because I love you, I will share a few bits from the press release I received recently:
Before the food business became show business, one woman led the way. Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table follows Brennan’s life steeped in the world of New Orleans dining. At age 18, Brennan went to work at her brother’s bar on Bourbon Street. The New Orleans dining scene had no idea what was about to hit it. The film tracks her work as a pioneer of the modern American food movement, and follows her years of collaboration with chefs like Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse to bring Creole and Cajun flavors into the national vocabulary. Brennan lead Commander’s Palace to be the only spot in the country to earn Zagat’s Most Popular Restaurant Award 18 years in a row. In 2009, Brennan was awarded with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award by the James Beard Foundation.
Brennan’s influence reaches far and wide, as evidenced by the friends and industry stars that count her as inspiration in the film such as Daniel Boulud, Danny Meyer, Jeremiah Tower, Drew Nieporent, Leah Chase and many more. The unveiling of the documentary will follow close on the heels of a new memoir of Brennan’s career penned with Ti Martin, Brennan’s daughter and co-proprietor of the Commander’s Family of Restaurants, Miss Ella of Commander’s Palace, to be released September 13, 2016.
There’s a question and answer session scheduled after the showing with the film’s “subjects, director and producers”, and that alone may be reason enough to go. You can find information about the festival, including how to purchase tickets, by clicking here.
I’m a fan of Commander’s Palace, and that means I’m a fan of Ella Brennan. It’s looking unlikely I’ll make the premiere, but I’m certainly looking forward to seeing the picture in the near future. If you go, do send me a note with your review.