Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Epicurean Adventures: Flirting with Food @ Coquette

So, while having lunch at Sukho Thai yesterday with my fellow office monkeys, it struck me -- I haven't yet dedicated a post to my upcoming "rehearsal" dinner at Coquette! Well, this must be fixed right away, and so, kids, I'm going to talk about rising star Chef Mike Stoltzfus' elegant, sophisticated, yet reasonably priced brainchild.

There were a variety of things that went into my choosing Coquette as the place to have that super-important night-before meal. The location is great, allowing my guests to see a bit of the Magazine Street strip/shopper's paradise, and to pass through the Garden District, since the family is staying downtown pretty much the whole weekend. It's classy and understated without being pretentious, new enough to be trendy without being overly edgy, and honestly? It made me feel in the know to have it somewhere that was still slightly obscure. (Like the insider that I am?) But the most important reason, above the dark French ambiance and stellar service, is the food. Nothing trumps flavor.

I went there for the first time, after mentioning its grand opening in Where Y'at's Food News, for me and Boy's New Year's Eve dinner. I was intrigued by the little tidbit that the chef/owner was one of the former sous chefs for acclaimed New Orleans chef John Besh. Stoltzfus had apparently risen quickly through the ranks to having most recently served as the sous chef for Restaurant August, Besh's flagship, for a time before embarking on his independent endeavor. Having eaten at August, Luke, and Besh Steak, and being an avid watcher of the Food Network, my curiosity could not be resisted, and after getting a copy of the awesome menu emailed to me, well, we couldn't find any other option that was comparable. A fabulous five-course menu was offered for about $60 (may have been less) and it was only $80 total to include the wine-tasting (which promptly led to Boy becoming sloshed but decidedly content). Many dishes later, we were fans of the surprisingly young chef and his inaugural enterprise, and with the opening of the private dining space on the second floor, Coquette became our first choice to hold our "rehearsal" dinner.

Now you must be wondering why I keep putting the word "rehearsal" dinner in quotes. Basically, this is because we're not holding a traditional rehearsal dinner. I'm not exactly what you call a traditional gal, as conservative as I may look these day, and still can't help but gravitate towards "edgy" and unique things. Again, hence Coquette versus the classic Creole mainstays of Commander's Palace and Brennan's, both of which we took under consideration before ultimately deciding on Chef Stoltzfus' restaurant.

Anyway, because everyone is coming in from out of town and Boy and I are paying for every penny of our own wedding, what we've essentially set up is a group dinner, not necessarily a rehearsal dinner. We coordinated the place, set up the menu, and invited people to the gathering, but everyone is responsible for their own bills. And since Coquette is a new restaurant and the chef is a really nice dude, they've been extremely flexible and accommodating, allowing our diners to choose and pay for their own wines, and setting up a beyond reasonably-priced with a veritable cornucopia of options ... for only $35 for three courses and $40 to do both the appetizer AND the salad.

Here's what's on the menu:

  • Amuse Bouche - Secret surprise!
  • First Course - Choice of two (or both, if opting for the four-course deal): Bibb lettuce salad with warm goat cheese and candied pecans OR Boy's favorite pasta dish of all time (he'll actually be getting this as an entree, too), homemade pumpkin capelleti pasta served on shredded duck confit in a tangy orange au jus.
  • Second Course - Choice of one: robust flatiron steak with sweet shallots and steakhouse cut frites OR whole-roasted cochon de lait with creamy stone-ground grits and good old Southern bitter collard greens OR juicy sea scallops with fresh acorn squash, a touch of pork shoulder, and enhanced with the tang of ginger
  • Third Course - in-season local strawberries with a lush elderflower sabayon OR warm bread pudding drizzled with caramel and topped with melting ice cream
2800 Magazine Street
Garden District
New Orleans, Louisiana

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