I spent last week tasting lots of great food for good causes. As the saying goes, “It’s a tough job …”
During the month of March, celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse celebrated the 25th anniversary of his original restaurant, Emeril’s New Orleans, 800 Tchoupitoulas St., with special menus and events. He capped off the month with three commemorative dinners for friends, family and loyal customers on March 26-28. Lagasse hosted all the dinners. He also was on hand for a media lunch on March 26.
“It’s been a great 25 years. It takes a great team,” he said as he introduced David Slater, the restaurant’s chef du cuisine, and General Manager Kevin Delaune.
“Every dish on the menu has a special place in my heart,” including the hors d’oeuvre consisting of Louisiana caviar and crème fraîche atop a frozen Zapp’s potato chip, he said at the lunch.
“Why a frozen chip?” I asked. He responded that as a young chef with little money, he would nibble on Zapp’s chips he stored in the freezer.
Another passed tidbit was barbecue shrimp, a customer favorite that will never leave the menu. House-made andouille and boudin served with cooked greens, beer-braised onions, Creole mustard and house Worcestershire were also a nod to Emeril’s original menu and Louisiana’s culinary heritage.
Lagasse also fondly recalled mentor Richard J. “Dick” Brennan Sr., the New Orleans restaurateur of Commander’s Palace and Palace Café, who died March 14 at age 83.
And, he posed with his 12-year-old son, E.J., who was working in the kitchen expediting dishes. The youngster, who was on spring break, is always in the kitchen, his father proudly said. “We can’t keep him out.”
I joined other volunteers last week on one of the four days devoted to touring New Orleans, Baton Rouge and north shore restaurants to taste dishes from chefs vying for a Fleur de Lis Culinary Award in the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience’s May 22 and May 23 Grand Tastings. The NOWFE events will showcase more than 1,000 domestic and international vintages served alongside foods by more than 75 chefs and purveyors. If what I tasted is any indication, those attending NOWFE will have a delicious time.
On Saturday, I headed to New Orleans’ City Park Festival Grounds to serve as one of dozens of volunteer judges for the Hogs for the Cause organization’s Seventh Annual Ben Serrat Jr. “High on the Hog” Cook-off.
“Hogs” is the premier fundraiser for pediatric brain cancer outreach services in the United States.
The Aporkalypse Now team was named High on the Hog Grand Champion. It also won the ribs and whole hog categories. A Baton Rouge team, Bacon Rouge, took top honors in the shoulder/butt category while Captain Porkenheimer won the sauce category, and Swine Krewe, the Porkpourri category.
“This year our teams raised an astounding $765,000 for families in need,” said Zandy Rainold, Hogs for the Cause treasurer.
The “Hogs” cook-off attracted 80 teams. Individual judges tasted only six entries per category, but after judging four categories, I decided one can overdo “pork-licious” eating. It’s nothing but vegetables and fruit for me this week.
Dale Curry will be signing copies of her new cookbook, “Gumbo: a Savor the South cookbook,” at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Maple Street Book Shop, 7529 Maple St., New Orleans.
Speaking of cookbooks, “Down South: Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp & Second Helpings of Everything” by New Orleans chef Donald Link and Paula Disbrowe, edited by Rica Allannic (Clarkson Potter) was named the winner in the American category of the highly coveted International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Awards March 29 during the organization’s 37th annual conference in Washington, D.C.
Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s food editor. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.