A trip to Louisiana is feast for eyes, mouth

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 17, 2013

We spent a wonderful two days in New Orleans last week at the New Orleans Antiques Forum, which is held every year in August. We saw two fabulous houses on a pre-conference tour, one of which was Popular Grove Plantation in Port Allen, La., which is a Victorian confection in a tropical setting reminiscent of Queen Emma’s palace in Hawaii, and Lakeside Plantation in Pointe Coupée Parish. The Lakeside Plantation was of interest to us since it was built by Charles Stewart, the son of the builder of our house here in Mississippi. At 12,000 square feet, it is the largest house in Pointe Coupée Parish and in the 19th century the center of a large sugar plantation. Much sugar cane is still grown in the flat fields behind the levees in the parish.

The tour day became more of interest as we walked to the bus for the tour; we passed St. Louis Cathedral as preparations were made for the funeral of Lindy Boggs. Later in the day we had lunch at St. Mary’s, New Roads, where that afternoon Mrs. Boggs would be buried in her family tomb. Maybe you are more familiar with Mrs. Boggs’ daughter, the public radio commentator Cokie Roberts. I learned of some more people of interest from Point Coupée – Marine Commandant General John Archer Lejeune, for whom Camp Lejeune, North Carolina is named. Another General of more recent interest is General Russell Honore who gained fame in New Orleans during Katrina.

We went to two new restaurants while in New Orleans. One was SoBou, short for south of Bourbon and is one of the newest Brennan’s restaurants. It is located on Chartres and the bar is very attractive. Of interest, my son who met us there, also met a couple from Birmingham. Of course when I met them I went off about Frank Stitt and the Highlands Bar and Grill. They knew the restaurant and thought highly of it also. If you had not seen the latest edition of Garden and Gun, please pick up a copy. There is a huge spread on Frank Stitt and what he has done for Birmingham. “How did you hear of Frank Stitt?” We lived in Andalusia.” “Small world, I’m from Brewton!” she said. How is that for connections? Getting back to SoBou, it is really a tapas restaurant, offering many small plates. We ordered a Cajun Queso (think pork rinds with a pimento dip), some alligator sausage, boudin balls and topped it off with a cheese plate. If you want some good small appetizers and a good drink or a glass of wine, this restaurant is for you.

We went to lunch the next day to our other new restaurant, but it has actually been in business for three years. Sylvain is also located on Chartres Street in the 600 block. This restaurant has an Alabama connection also, since the chef, Alex Harrell is from Dothan. His father has been a cardiologist in Dothan for many years and has just retired. Some of you have probably seen him as a patient. Alex is a charming young man and a very good chef. He uses local ingredients and changes his menu frequently.

A main item on his menu is his Brussels sprouts salad (which I came home and duplicated and will give it to you). He also had a wonderful eggplant appetizer (so large it would be a meal). I had a beef belly appetizer and it melted in my mouth and had a great flavor. His hamburgers are good, and he had a sweetbread appetizer with a chili sauce that my husband loved. So give this restaurant a try when you are next in New Orleans. I hear the bar can be noisy at night so maybe lunch would be the better venue.

While Brussssels sprouts are expensive, a few goes a long way.

While Brussssels sprouts are expensive, a few goes a long way.

Brussels sprouts are not in season I admit, but I did find some at Whole Foods. Alex keeps it on the menu because people like it so much. This recipe was so good I wanted to share it with you while it was fresh on my mind, but keep it for the months Brussels sprouts are in season. I found hazelnuts at Whole Foods also, and I did toast them before putting them in a food processor. They are expensive, but you only need a few in the salad.

Brussels sprouts with Hazelnuts and Pecorino

(Adapted from Sylvain Restaurant)

4 servings

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced on a mandolin or shaved thin with a very sharp knife

1 Granny Smith apple, cut into small pieces

Juice of one lemon

½ cup of toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped in the food processor

½ cup of grated Pecorino

3 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Toss the shaved Brussels sprouts with the apple. Squeeze the juice of the lemon over all. Mix the white balsamic vinegar with the olive oil and mix well.

Toss the vinegar and olive oil mixture over the Brussels sprouts and apple. Mix well and then add the hazelnuts and grated Pecorino. Toss once or twice to mix well.

Can add kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.