I crashed onto the tarmac at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport licking my chops. My flight was late and I only had 40 minutes to check-in to my hotel and run to my 8pm dinner reservation. Not-so-shockingly my two flights that day offered nothing but complimentary beverage so with nothing but a bran muffin in my gut all day I arrived to NOLA famished. I power walked through the terminal with my carry-on whizzing behind me. Take no prisoners!
With great haste I checked in at the International House and then bolted around the corner, spinning through revolving doors and spilling into the dining room of Luke Restaurant. As I was whisked to the back of the restaurant I passed a long stool adorned bar where treats from the sea sat perched on crushed ice and a bull bust stood hanging over the dining room from the far reaches of the ceiling. I was seated at a two top in the restaurants second dining room which plays home to a window lined kitchen offering guests a peak at the process which is “bringing dinner to the table.”
Christine DeCuir from the New Orleans CVB joined me at the table and spent the next few hours enthusiastically chatting with me about her fine city as we plopped plump shrimp into our mouths. I smirked as Christine was the Louisiana grandmother of my dreams, “Andrew eat up New Orleans! You gonna leave the city well fed and lawd knows your’ll never forget it!” she chirped.
John Besh is one of Louisiana’s most celebrated celebrity chef’s and his restaurant Lüke successfully serves up an authentic brasserie experience. Its full-service bar features an extensive French, German and Belgian beer selection, plus three house brews: Luke Fru (a very young beer), Luke Export (golden pilsner with a nose of Austrian hops), and Luke Alt (an aged pilsner in the Dusseldorf style). I decided to first flirt with a St. Charles Streetcar, a cocktail concocted with st. germain, pear vodka and champagne. Once dinner got serious (read: fatty, delicious, hearty) I slugged back a bottle of local brew Abita Light, a Louisiana blonde lager.
My dinner at Lüke was a fantastic reminder that the only way to arrive in New Orleans is under the duress of starvation. Like a true feasting champion I ate my way through a charcuterie board which played home to pickled watermelon rind, grainy mustard, rabbit, foie gras, pork rillette…I could go on. And I hopped right from the finest cured beasts to the glorious wonders of the ocean via Le Plateau de Fruits de Mer which teams with fresh oysters, shrimp, clams and mussels.
A parade of memorable dishes marched onto the table: I beamed over a cast-iron skillet of Jumbo Louisiana Shrimp En Cocotte featuring roasted jalapeno cheese grits, andouille and green onion sausage. The Choucroute Garnie Maison is truly a marvel tackled only by the most serious carnivore (smoked pork shank, mangalista belly, bratwurst and house made sauerkraut). I will never forget enjoying my first Étouffée, a savoury stew which definitely falls into the comfort food category featuring blue crab, gulf shrimp and popcorn rice.
The bacchanal concluded with a finger-licking-good sweet duo of Brendan’s Bread Pudding (oh that hot buttered pecan sauce still finds its way into my dreams!) and Steamed Chocolate with hints of chicory, bitter cocoa nibs and salted caramel ice cream. As I waddled out of the restaurant and headed for bed I couldn’t help but laugh at the notion that just a few hours ago I identified with “the hungry.”
St. Charles Streetcar
st. germain, pear vodka, champagne
louisiana blonde lager
Assiette de Charcuterie
pate of louisiana rabbit + chicken livers, pate de campagne, terrine of slow cooked foie gras, rillette of local pork, blood pudding, pickled watermelon rind, preserves, grainy mustard
Le Plateau de Fruits de Mer
oysters, shrimp, clams, mussels
Jumbo Louisiana Shrimp “En Cocotte”
roasted jalapeno cheese grits, andouille, green onion sausage
Choucroute Garnie Maison
smoked pork shank, mangalista belly, bratwurst, house made sauerkraut
blue crab, gulf shrimp, louisiana popcorn rice
roasted duck breast, confit duck leg, satsuma glaze
Brendan’s Bread Pudding
vanilla bean ice cream, hot buttered pecan sauce
chicory, cocoa nibs, salted caramel ice cream