This year we have a particularly narrow window into which to cram some virtuous dining choices between the belt-busting excesses of the holidays and the debauchery of Mardi Gras. I begin every New Year by kicking carbs and hitting the gym, so I can look my best in order to compete with teenagers for beads during Carnival. I used to say my annual January health kick was motivated purely by vanity and immaturity – and it still is to a great degree – but these days I also just feel poisoned by too much oyster dressing and champagne, and I look forward to my post-holiday cleanup almost as much as I enjoy the smorgasbord that necessitates it.
I seemed to have plenty of over-indulged company on a recent post-holiday afternoon when I visited the Uptown outpost of Satsuma Cafe for a clean, restorative meal. I kicked off with The Cleanser, a juice of beet, fennel, cucumber, lemon and celery, then moved on to a Raw Vegetable Salad, which changes seasonally but during my visit consisted of paper thin layers of beets and fennel tossed with arugula, avocado slices, sprouts, sunflower seeds and Bragg’s apple cider vinaigrette. My dining companion went for the Green Breakfast Sandwich that combines one fried egg, baby arugula, tomato, avocado mash and Swiss on a choice of toast, bagel or croissant.
I have always had a thing for places located near the Mississippi River and have lived no more than a block away from it for most of my adult life, so I was thrilled when chef Brack May opened the charming and rustic Truck Farm Tavern 10 miles or so upriver on River Road in St. Rose. I showed up with my virtue intact and left with it in tatters. Everyone I dined with that night fell in love with Truck Farm Tavern. The location, the art collection, our waitress Brenda, the fun and inventive menu, and the very easy prices immediately earned this place a top rating. We devoured Red Neck Egg Rolls (stuffed with smoked pork) with Apricot Mustard, Smoked Pork Poutine with Onion Gravy and Cheese Curds, Oyster Toast with Rockefeller Spinach and Lemon Aioli, and the Farmer's Market Vegetable and Local Goat Cheese Tart with Overnight Tomato Jam before moving on to the beautiful Truck Farm Salad. We tossed off all restraint and ordered the daily special of Double-cut Chop of Wild Boar with Sausage and Cherry Compote, Sweet & Sour Cabbage, Au Gratin Potatoes with Gruyere Cheese, Chicken Parmesan with House-made Mozzarella for only $12.95 and a Grilled N.Y. Strip with Loaded Smashed Potatoes and Rockefeller Spinach for only $19.95. For dessert it was a Red Velvet Ho-Ho roll with Cream Cheese Filling and a square of rich, dense Bread Pudding.
So much for virtue. But, word to the wise: The portions are as gigantic and the price tags are small. We took home enough to graze upon for days – and one of my dining companions was a 19-year-old man to whom I refer as The Bottomless Pit. He finally hit bottom at the Truck Farm Tavern.
Any moment now Chef Scot Maki will open his new restaurant, Trinity, on Decatur Street in the spot formerly occupied by Maximo's. Maki's menu marries elements of the cuisines and techniques of Italy, France, Vietnam and Acadiana. Seating is available both indoors an out – always desirable in the French Quarter – and the menu looks great: Andouille, Green Onion and Smoked Gouda Beignets with Heirloom Tomato and Steen’s Jam; a Duck Boucherie Board with hickory cured duck ham, Vietnamese-style duck boudin, Cajun spiced duck wings, and duck liver cracklin'; Angels on Horseback (plump Gulf oysters wrapped with bacon and dressed with garlic butter and preserved lemon; and "Priest Strangler" Noodles(definitely inquiring about the name of that one when I go) served with charred tomato and fennel sausage ragu and broccolini. For dessert there's Dark Chocolate Mousse with Olive Oil, Sea Salt, and the “Papa Rouge” Float combining house-made strawberry soda and “K&B”-style ice cream.