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Every time Robert and I plan a trip to New Orleans, I almost “lose my mind” over planning our meals…I want to make sure that I get in as many different restaurants as possible~! It doesn’t matter what the occasion might be – for me, the main event will be the food. But, the most difficult part is trying to balance wanting to return to our old favorites and wanting to try all of the new and some “not so new” that we haven’t been to yet. What a problem to have, right?!!!

So, starts the mad googling…reading what Tom Fitzmorris has to say about where he has been lately, looking at menus, reading online reviews (which I don’t put too much stock in, since a lot look like angry people who had a bad night!)… then talking to people who have the same expectations as you do – that is the real clincher! Then, I just go with what feels right….

This particular weekend, we had the good fortune of being in New Orleans for 2 nights! This is what it came down to:

Friday, late lunch: Sylvain – Opened in 2010 – New one for us…but, one of our daughter’s friends (Charlie) had been a waitress there before moving to Dallas and they all loved it – a bonus: she would be with us for lunch!

Friday night dinner: We had already planned to attend Tom Fitzmorris’s Fabulous Eat Club Annual Gala at Le Foret! How could we go wrong? This would be wonderful…

Saturday lunch: We love the Saturday “Light Lunch” at Bayona – so that was a must!

Saturday night dinner: The Pelican Club – new to us, but have been hearing nothing but rave reviews! and…..

Sunday before going west down I-10: The Royal House – our old favorite for raw oysters and very casual dining – This is the place where we spent 10 hours for Super Bowl Sunday (to watch the Saints) in 2010!  Maybe, a repeat in 2012???? (We can hope!)

5 different restaurants! Perfect combination – if only we could sneak in a little John Besh or Galatoires!!! Next time… We had a great fun time and sooo enjoyed all of places that we went….Sounds like 5 different posts to me!

Starting with Friday late lunch at Sylvain wwwsylvainnola.com:  Called a “Gastropub” by new foodie groups, but I am really not sure what that means!  To me, it is a really cool, somewhat informal little restaurant that has kept that old feel of New Orleans, while updating their menu to include current trends of unique and really delicious food and isn’t a tourist trap yet…that is what I like!

The building was built in 1796, where Jean-Francois-Marmontel and Andre Getry’s one-act comic opera Sylvain was performed in New Orleans.

Since then, the building has been owned by numerous New Orleans dignitaries and characters, including notorious French Quarter Madame Aunt Rose Arnold who presided over her own Storyville brothel and lived at 625 Chartres during the 1920s. Standing over six feet tall, Aunt Rose was an imposing figure and friend of many of the neighborhood’s bohemians as well as friend of famous authors; Sherwood Anderson who wrote of her in “A Meeting South” and Faulkner is also believed to have used her as his muse, patterning his character “Miss Reba” after her in “Sanctuary” and “The Reivers.”

In fall of 2010, Sylvain opened at the very site of Mr. Almonaster’s Chartres Street carriage house. (They even leave a cocktail out every night for Miss Reba, who supposedly still wanders her old home and creates havoc at times!)

As soon as we walked in – through the long old bricked walkway leading to the open courtyard and were seated in the intimate historic dining room – that has doors opened onto Chartres Street…we knew that this place was special – and, of course with our daughter and 3 of her old friends in tow…it was!!!

Our wonderful, bright and knowledgable waitress told us all about their very unique and delicious Bloody Marys (served with a shot of Schlitz Beer, in honor of Chef Alex Harrell’s father’s favorite beer!)…we were sold!  We are always game to try anything with a story – and we love Bloody Mary’s….

Then, I just had to meet this Chef that I was hearing so much about…that’s where Charlie (our daughter’s friend) took control!  She was showing me around and told me a few “choice” stories, then introduced me to the man behind all of this wonderful creative food…

Not only is he one talented chef…but gracious (and good-looking) to boot!!! So, we wandered back to our table to start our tasting or “grazing”…

For starters we had to try several:

Roasted Beet Bruschetta with Goat’s Milk Cheese, and Sherry-Walnut Vinaigrette:

If you like beets, and even if you don’t…you will love this combination of the smooth mild goat cheese spread on the wonderful thin toasted slices of bread topped with the roasted beets and sweetened nutty vinaigrette – Even my daughter (who doesn’t eat much in the way of veggies, loves this!!)

Chicken Liver Crostini with Martas Farm’s Sprouts and Dandelion Vinegar:

Perfect smooth Chicken Liver Pate slathered on a crisp crotini….topped with fresh bright sprouts and “dandelion” vinegar…who could have ever imagined such a blast of flavor on a plate?  Chef Harrell – fantastic!

Then on to a salad…that the girls said we had to try…

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Apples, Pecorino Romano and Hazelnuts:

Get the idea of what you know about brussels sprouts out of your head!  This salad really can change anyone’s opinion of this veggie that is usually roasted or boiled…It is prepared by shaving the fresh brussels sprouts very, very finely – then tossing them with chopped apples and hazelnuts…then topping all of this wonderful mixture with a finely grated, delicious pecorino romano cheese!  A salad that was a table pleaser….everyone enjoyed it!

On to Entrees…

Slow Cooked Pork Sandwich with Pickled Collards, roasted Garlic and Chili, Served on Wildflour Bread:

If you worked at Sylvain and this is your choice…(yes, Charlie’s lunch!) then you know it has to be good…It was delicious – she insisted that we all taste and that slow cooked pork, was so tender!!!

Grilled Italian Sausage with Louisiana Polenta, Stewed Eggplant and Balsamic Syrup:

Our daughter’s roommate’s favorite…and I know why now!  The subtle flavor  of the fennel in the sausage was incredible..and the tender eggplant blended with the sweet sauce was to die for!  Sitting on a bed of local polenta…well, fantastic!

“Chick-Syl-vain” Sandwich – Buttermilk Fried Chicken breast with House-Made Pickles:

Any chicken fried in buttermilk would steal my heart…but this was exceptional – yes, we all had a bite of this “Grand Sandwich”. Another crowd pleaser!

Braised Beef Cheeks with Potato Puree, Sweet Onions, Field Peas and Natural Jus:

I couldn’t believe it…this is my daughter’s favorite!  New Orleans has definitely opened up her palate for a broader variety of foods and flavors…it is sooo much fun to watch her grow and bloom!   After sharing this beautiful dish with us…I know why it is her favorite.  The beef cheeks were so tender (melt in your mouth tender!) and full of rich deep flavor in its natural jus…and the plating with the potato puree, sweet onions and field peas was just beautiful – and fabulous!  Maybe, my favorite too!

Gulf Shrimp and Littleneck Clams with Spanish Chorizo, Tomato-Fennel Broth and Smoked Paprika:

This is what Robert decided on….Just look at this bowl of deliciousness!   I would call it Sylvain’s version of a bouillabaisse. The freshness of those gorgeous Jumbo Gulf Shrimp and wonderful Littleneck Clams…with the mild smokiness of the chorizo and faint hint of fennel and smoked paprika bathing in the rich tomato based broth – Oh my gosh!!! It was wonderful…and yes, I tasted this too – I just had to!

Now, we just couldn’t pass up a “tasting” of dessert…we decided to order 2 desserts for the table…and ended up with a little “lagniappe” from wonderful Chef Harrell!

Chocolate Pot au Creme:

Rich, silky deep chocolate creme topped with fresh whipped cream and rasberries…”according to Charlie” – this was one of the local favorites when she worked here!  It was the last one that they had that day…she was just so happy to have it!

Local Honey Panna Cotta with Almond Brittle:

Fresh, smooth and fantastic Panna Cotta…and that wonderful Almond Brittle was just a perfect partner for this dessert – needless to say, we all loved it!

And the Lagniappe…

Bete Noire with Toasted Hazelnuts and Double Cream:

A fabulous version of the classic flourless chocolate cake…”The Black Beast” – Dense rich chocolate with a great side of crunchy hazelnuts, cream and a little slice of sweet local grapefruit…just when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite!  It was devoured – quickly!

Needless to say, we are sold on Sylvain!  A unique and fun place to have a great meal in New Orleans…you know that it has to be good (and consistent) if it has become a “local” favorite! (Throw in a little story about the haunting of Mrs. Reba’s ghost and her nightly cocktail) And to top it all off… my daughter is now enjoying beets, beef cheeks and brussels sprouts!?  Now, that is what I call Food that Works…

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