Calas, a turn-of-the-century snack food, once popular in New Orleans back when horses pulled the streetcars, are making a comeback. The tasty rice fritters are extremely versatile and can be made with just about any kind of ingredient ranging from the savory to the sweet. Though they’re primarily remembered as an economical street food, area restaurants have been reinventing them using high quality ingredients to give them more of an upscale polish. You can find a wide range of calas at Calas Bistro & Wine Cellar in Kenner. Tucked away in a strip mall, this establishment is a food and wine lover’s oasis surrounded by a sea of shops and parking. By melding a wine shop with a restaurant serving innovative cuisine, Calas makes for a relaxing dinner destination.
Here savory calas come three to an order and feature ingredients such as shrimp, crawfish or Andouille. They are served with two sauces, a homemade pepper jelly and a green onion aioli. Specialty calas highlighting ingredients such as jambalaya and vegetables with pesto rotate through the lineup as well. The Calas combo is a nice option, offering up one of each of the savory versions. Sweet calas appear on the dessert menu as well, showcasing ingredients such as fresh fruit.
And calas are just a part of the menu here, which offers lots of other dishes. For entrées, try the Grilled Gulf Shrimp. They come over a bed of bacon and manchego cheese grits with a garnish of oyster mushrooms. A rosemary jus is spiked with molasses, giving it some sweetness. Basically, the dish offers up some tweaks on a traditional “shrimp and grits” and the results are tasty. This sort of experimentation can be seen throughout the menu, which offers other twists on regional cuisines. Another example is their Pesto Shrimp Bisque. Neat specials such as a recent Two-Mustard Corn Fried Buster Crabs with a Jicama, Cantaloupe and Apple Slaw also help keep things fresh and interesting.
The retail wine shop doubles as a wine list. If you find a bottle you like, you can enjoy it with your meal (for a small corking fee) or take it home. Wine flights and tastings are regularly offered as well, and the collection is well-chosen.
Wine and a Winner
Brian Landry of Galatoire’s has been racking up accolades in his relatively short tenure as executive chef at 209 Bourbon St. He can now add to this growing list: his victory in the Louisiana Seafood Cook-off, part of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience in May. For those who missed the event, don’t worry; his winning dish of Sautéed Cobia with Crab Butter over fingerling potatoes and caramelized fennel with Louisiana jumbo lump crabmeat and vegetable pearls, will be served at the July Summer Wine Dinner on July 29. Part of the 9th Annual Summer Wine Dinner Series, his winning dish will be paired with the Montelena 2006 Chardonnay.
If you can’t make the July wine dinner, try again next month. Sonoma winery B. R. Cohn will join Galatoire’s for another event on August 26, pairing prestigious wines with Landry’s dishes. The events are hosted in private rooms on the second floor and the all-inclusive price includes tax and tip. (Reservations can be made by calling Christi Gaudet at 525-2021.)
Cuisine for a Cause
On Friday, May 9, downtown restaurateurs celebrated the opening of the new Ruth’s Chris Steak House with a block party on Fulton Street. Participants included Gordon Biersch, Grand Isle and Ernst Café. Rockin Dopsie entertained crowds into the night as patrons enjoyed cochon de lait, gumbo and grilled-to-order sliders, along with other delicious fare from participating restaurants. Proceeds went to benefit the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide support for the education, health and social welfare of local children. Since its founding in 2006, the foundation has assisted restaurants in reopening after Katrina, made donations to needy individuals within the hospitality industry and contributed to local children’s programs.
Additionally, guests got a sneak peek at the new Ruth’s Chris location on the ground floor of the Harrah’s hotel. The space formerly occupied by Riche has been subdivided, creating a more intimate dining experience, yet the high ceilings help to maintain a feeling of spaciousness. Guests can also dine al fresco on the Fulton Street mall, enjoying the ebb and flow of one of the city’s hottest new dining and entertainment destinations.
The Galley on Metairie Road, perhaps best known as purveyor of the Fried Softshell Crab Sandwich at Jazz Fest, turns out some fantastic boiled seafood as well. Whatever you order, supplement it with a side order of fried artichoke hearts. Your doctor won’t thank you but your taste buds will.
Calas Bistro & Wine Cellar | 910A West Esplanade Ave. | Kenner | 471-2200
Galatoire’s Restaurant | 209 Bourbon St. | 525-2021
Ruth’s Chris Steak House | 525 Fulton St. | 587-7019
The Galley Seafood Restaurant | 2535 Metairie Road | Metairie | 832-0955