Game Time

Fall dishes bring warmth and comfort as the seasonal coin flips.

I love fall: the cool air; the insane neighbor practicing a turkey call in his backyard during halftime; memories of campfires and flannels and almost being run over by my grandfather’s truck at our hunting camp. At least I got some venison out of the deal. We had a friend who would make sausage from the meat, quite like they do at MiLa, where the hot deer sausage with cheese biscuits are a staple on the bar menu. St. James Cheese Company is gearing up for the holiday season with pork pie wonder boy, Andy Scurlock, who’s busy turning out very tasty venison meatpies, too. In fact, it’s not just the Saints who got game this year; some great restaurants do as well.

Tucked away in a quiet Uptown neighborhood, Patois is by far one of the best restaurants opened in the last few years. Rabbit is a house specialty, and Chef Aaron Burgau never disappoints. The Mississippi rabbit with housemade Italian sausage is served over mascarpone polenta – not your grandma’s grits – with flavorful roasted fennel and a creamy Madeira sauce that you couldn’t rival at home. At brunch, fried rabbit comes on a biscuit, topped with a poached egg and Italian sausage gravy. With an emphasis on local, seasonal foods, the menu feels warm and comforting, much like the restaurant itself. While I’ve been a fan of Patois’ mussels for a while now, favoring their smokey broth to the ubiquitous white wine base, the rabbit gumbo is a must-try appetizer, with savory morsels of tender meat. Burgau has a knack for preparing in-house pâtés and sausages like the duck, rabbit and pheasant galantine with sour cherries, a nice option for table sharing. His pâtés can usually be found for sale at St. James Cheese Company as well. For dinner, the roasted pheasant breast and confit leg is also of note – with crispy skin and succulent meat, accented by sweet cippolini onions and a foie gras emulsion sauce that’s ever so sinful.

Domenica, a new John Besh restaurant, wows with its Northern Italian cuisine. Chef Alon Shaya focuses on house-made pastas, pizzas and an impressive house-cured meat selection. Located in the swanky Roosevelt New Orleans, the dining room lives up to the hotel’s classic elegance with its pristine charcuterie display and sparkling chandeliers, which against the dark interior seem a bit Zsa Zsa – think little black dress paired with huge dripping diamonds. The food is so comfy and rich, however, that I wanted to put on pajamas and vegetate. The menu offers a selection of exotic meats: no chicken in sight except for their livers, which are served as part of an oxtail ragu.

Instead, Shaya offers guinea hen with local tomatoes and rapini. The slow-roasted goat is hardly gruff; it’s tender enough to eat with a fork, and while the only thing wild about this dish are the accompanying mushrooms, the goat is a nice respite from the ever-prevalent steak dish. Shaya’s strength seems to be handmade pastas. The tagliatelle pasta with rabbit ragu and porcini mushrooms was especially pleasing, and rich enough to have me over for a second date.

There are several reasons I love Arnaud’s; the great service and a great bartender in Chris Hannah are just two. Plus, café brulot is perhaps the best hot drink to ever be invented, let alone by a pirate, and Arnaud’s always makes a spectacular show of it. What is better than watching a blue flame engulf an orange peel, to see cloves glow like ghoulish eyes in the night and finally to sip on the spiced, spiked coffee over some good conversation on a cool night? Well, perhaps having Oysters Bienville in front of you as well. Another reason I love Arnaud’s is the decadent dish of roasted Louisiana quail, partially deboned, stuffed with foie gras and mushrooms, wrapped in bacon and served with a truffle-infused bordelaise sauce. My heart nearly stopped when the beauty arrived at my table. Now if only they could fit that inside a turducken.

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