There is something very personal about dining at Vizard’s. Perhaps it is the small room, which pulls off the trick of making tables placed closely together feel intimate rather than cramped. Perhaps it is the large portrait of lady diners wearing masques but not tops that injects an atmosphere both a bit rarified and a little risqué. Then there is the rampant table-hopping. But for me what makes it personal is Chef Kevin Vizard’s food.

Vizard has been blessed with an unusually strong local following; his fans enthusiastically follow him wherever he leads. And while in the past he’s relied on a little shock to distinguish himself (his Blue Cheese and Chocolate Torte dessert, for example) a pass at a recent menu gave the appearance of having being reined in. That is not really the case; a closer look revealed that Vizard’s devil is in his details. That Filet of Beef is much more than it seems; it comes stuffed with oysters, leeks and velvety Brie. Rounded out with a red wine-infused demi glace reduction and asparagus, here is a dish at once both novel and traditional. His Crabmeat Nelson appetizer uses eggplant as a canvas to present a rich assemblage of crabmeat and crimini mushrooms dressed in a béarnaise sauce. His Roast Chicken, a bellwether dish in any establishment, earns added dimension from fresh rosemary in the jus.

For appetizers, Vizard bends the rules with his Oysters Foyot. Fried oysters perch atop of toasted crostini smeared with foie gras pate and are then enrobed in a Foyot sauce, essentially a béarnaise sauce amped up with the inclusion of veal stock reduction. Traditionally served with meats, the Sauce Foyot instead plays off the pate and oysters, using an uncommonly encountered traditional French sauce in an unorthodox way. For me, dishes like this are a big reason why I keep coming back.

Donald Link Cookbook

Any cookbook that begins with a recipe for “Homemade Bacon” makes me reach for my wallet. Welcome to Real Cajun, Donald Link’s long-awaited instruction manual for deliciousness. If you’ve been looking for actual, usable recipes for Tasso, Boudin and Hot Pepper Jelly, they’re in here. This is a cookbook that teaches you how to make the ingredients that other Cajun cookbooks simply tell you to add. In addition, Link weaves autobiographical stories throughout, embedding his cooking within a cultural context. The book doesn’t just ask you to add rice, it elucidates upon the role rice plays in the seasonal cycle of southwest Louisiana cuisine. Readers come away better informed and enriched. And hungry. Vegetarians beware: As a cookbook, this is not for you. But as a portrait of a disappearing culture, buttressed with engaging stories humorously told, this book is for everyone who loves Louisiana.

5015 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70115

Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana
By Donald Link