October 19 – 24
With nothing formal on the agenda for Sunday we had a lazy morning as those who’d hit Igor’s the night before took a bit longer to greet the day that the others. We decided to head back over to the French Quarter to walk around and find somewhere to eat, using the street car as before and then wandering around as a number of options were closed or had long wait times.
We finally circled back to a corner directly across from Jackson Square and landed at Muriel’s which had immediate seating for our party. The building has a rich history, dating back to the early 1700’s when a French trapper built a brick house with a front gallery, which would later be torn down and rebuilt by Jean Baptiste Destrehan, the Royal Treasurer of French Louisiana Colonies.
Over the years it would remain a personal residence until pressed into service as a saloon, pasta factory and grocery store, then a location for the restaurant chain Spaghetti Factory before serving as a Charthouse Restaurant for 25 years. During that time in the 1970’s, the bottom portion of the building was used as Heritage Hall and was home of the Heritage Hall Jazz Band. Its current configuration opened its doors in March of 2001 after an extensive restoration which remains faithful to the original historic design of the building as a prime private residence.
We were seated in an open atrium with brilliant sunshine lighting the table. Warming up with a few appropriate brunch drinks (Bloody Mary’s, etc.) we plunged into eating, Joanna and I splitting a very good Muriel’s Omelet (Three egg omelet of bacon, cremini mushrooms, spinach and a choron sauce, served with Brabant potatoes and an andouille and cheddar cheese biscuit) and the Wild Mushroom Gnocchi (Potato gnocchi tossed with mushrooms, spinach and cream, garnished with parmesan cheese and crispy prosciutto).
More drinks were consumed amidst lively conversation and Joanna and I would end up taking some of our food with us back to the house as we held back eating, knowing that we’d be enjoying a large dinner later in the evening. We walked around the Quarter some more, letting the food settle while we did some window shopping and then returned to the house for more football viewing and puzzle assembling.
At the appointed hour we set out walking the one mile or so to Commander’s Palace, our long-awaited rendezvous with a classical New Orleans dining experience. There are a number of iconic restaurants in New Orleans starting with this place that one should visit, if not for the food but for the chance to say that you did.
These include in no particular order Antoine’s, Brennan’s, Emeril’s New Orleans (featured in this post Emeril’s Blog Post), and Galatoire’s (there are so many more to choose from). What tends to set these places apart is of course the great food but more so the overall dining experience that comes with well-appointed, sometimes opulent physical spaces, and highly attentive service.
Commander’s Palace was established in 1893 and has long been one of the best-regarded upscale restaurants in the country. Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse are two of its alumni and is the winner of six James Beard Foundation awards, including Best Chef and Outstanding Service Award. Prospering over the years under many owners, it was purchased in 1969 by the Brennan family who continue to operate it to this day. As we walked through a maze of dining rooms to our table in the back overlooking the garden, it was hard work keeping one’s eyes off of the plates of food being enjoyed around us.
Team service is used here and would be outstanding throughout the meal, water glasses refilled as if they signaled the servers electronically, alcoholic drinks promptly brought to the table (this can be dangerous both physically and to the budget if the participations like to drink), and a waiter materializing whenever you had a question or request.
But with this kind of attention and food quality, it is not a cheap date; a serving of Waygu Beef coming in at $42, Brown Butter Seared Diver Scallops a bargain at $33, the other entries (Filet Mignon of Black Angus Beef, Molasses Glazed Texas Quail, and Cast-Iron Seared Maple Farms Duck Breast) tipping the scale at $40 plus apiece. We finished the meal in style with a pecan pie, dessert of the day and best of all, Bananas Foster prepared at the table.
The total bill came out to about $100 per person, but this included a restrained bar tab of nearly $300 and although not the meal out you’d do regularly (well, at least we don’t) it was well worth the price, the service exceptional, a moment in time we will long remember and in the end, dining like this isn’t always about the food but more the overall experience and those folks you love that you get to share it with.
Commander’s Palace: https://www.commanderspalace.com/
Commanders Palace attribution: