With the snow and accompanying silliness putting the kibosh on celebrations on the real natal day anniversaire, we were forced to take her to brunch, a week later, at a restaurant of her choosing. Oh poor poor us!
Kate lived in New Orleans for a few months several years ago and had a blast. So it stands to reason that she not only loves good cajun food, but knows where to find it. Even though her folks had taken her there a week before for dinner, we went to New Orleans Bistro in Bethesda.
I love brunch- it’s the perfect meal as far as I’m concerned- and NOB had been recommended by a former co-worker and Bayou le Batre native, so I was looking forward to the meal with no small amount of enthusiasm.
To start we had Bloody Marys. I should say, before I go on, that I have never really cottoned to the idea of V8 spiked with vodka for some odd reason. I was willing to give it a shot and gave it my all; this was tasty, with the blend of paprika, pepper and other spices around the rim, and the pickled okra pod as a garnish. However, I was overwhelmed by the size of the drink (a pint!) and didn’t finish, going to the old standby: the ever tasty and reliable Mimosa. I tried, though.
The restaurant promises that it’s chicken jambalya “will have your tastebuds reciting jazz”. Well, I don’t know about that, but this drink had my taste buds scatting for a good 15 minutes before collapsing in an exhausted heap.
There were presents and merriment. Tales of past silliness and all those good things that come with spending time with family who are also quite friendly. And of course there was food.
After a lovely spinach and arugula salad with goat cheese, orange slices, cherry tomatoes and red onions drizzled with a creole dressing (a combo of mustard, something creamy and a bit of honey, according to the waitress), it was time for something egg-y.
I settled on Eggs Sardou: two poached eggs served on artichoke bottoms resting on a bed of spinach and topped with Hollandaise, with a side of Potatoes Lyonnaise.
I don’t know about you, but I like my poached eggs runny; all the better to dip one of NOB’s tasty biscuits in. Those eggs were perfect- runny like a marathon-er.
I’d never had this dish with artichoke bottoms instead of English muffins, and I have to say it really upended the “guilt factor” of one of my favorite guilty pleasures. I enjoyed the biscuit on the side more, the Hollandaise tasted less heavy, but overall it was no less tasty than a typical Eggs Benedict. In fact the artichoke was tender and lightly flavored and the Mimosa was a fresh accent rather than something to wash it down with.
Dessert was a treat- none of the ubiquitous cheesecake, no brownie sundaes to be seen. After a quick scan of options I skipped the Bread Pudding with Maple Bourbon Ice Cream, forwent the Bananas Foster (which I enjoy making myself) and went for the Cherry Chocolate Torte with Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream.
Kate got a candle in her Sorbet Trio. The 3 flavors were mango, raspberry and the white scoop was lemon- it was puckery and not her favorite. We had one of those “This milk is sour.” “Really? Let me try.”- moments while everyone tried it and imitated Dizzy Gillespie.
Not sure why I didn’t go for the Beignets- the torte was heavy and required major spoon work and didn’t add much to my experience. The ice cream was worth it though- the bourbon was subtle and the ice cream was… creamy, where most liquored ice creams can be grainy and granular.
Our waitress was fantastic, the owner himself attended to us on several occasions (probably recognized my cousin from previous visits) and overall we had a great time.
My recipe for Bananas Foster:
6 yellow or speckled bananas cut in half lengthwise and crosswise
3 tbsp cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
a pinch of freshly ground cinnamon
a sprinkling of chopped pecans
a splash of bourbon or rum
1 pint vanilla ice cream
In a large skillet over medium heat, combine the butter, sugar, oj, cinnamon and pecans.
Stir until butter and sugar have melted and sauce is smooth. Add liquor of choice.
(At this point you can flambe if you like, I prefer not- unless I am really trying to impress someone. Usually people are impressed enough by the ease of putting the dish together that one does not have to overcompensate by setting one’s hair aflame. One likes those people and invites them over often.)
Put the banana quarters into the skillet and simmer, basting the bananas with the sauce until glazed and sauce is somewhat reduced.
Place banana quarters in a dish, top with a dollop of sauce and a healthy scoop of ice cream.
Bask in the glow of accomplishment and try not to think of the caramel hardening in the skillet.