Earlier this week, The James Beard House hosted one of America’s most renowned restaurateurs, Ralph Brennan, as well as the executive chefs from all of his New Orleans restaurants, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Called “The Bounty of the Gulf,” the meal showcased the amazing seafood of the Gulf Coast. The chefs involved included James Beard Award-nominated Slade Rushing from flagship Brennan’s (which recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation and re-opened late last year), Chip Flanagan from Ralph’s on the Park, Austin Kirzner from Red Fish Grill, Steven Marsella from Heritage Grill, Chris Montero from Napoleon House, Michael Uddo from Café B., and corporate pastry chef Brett Gauthier.
“This is a very special opportunity to showcase the bounty of the Gulf, which is the backbone of the cuisine of New Orleans,” Brennan told the gathered crowd. “After Hurricane Katrina, and after the more recent oil spill, we made a commitment to support the fishermen of the Gulf Coast, and expanded our menus to include even more Gulf seafood. It was a vote of confidence.”
The evening started with passed hors d’oeuvres which included Louisiana bowfin caviar, jumbo lump blue crab crepes, frogs’ legs croquettes, and smoked speckled trout rillettes, washed down with Pimm’s cups. Diners then moved upstairs and were treated to a meal that started with chardonnay-poached Louisiana oyster with tarragon aioli, caviar, and grilled romaine from chef Montero, followed by a stunning crispy Louisiana soft shell crab with saffron bisque from chef Kirzner. Next was a “holy trinity” of shrimp (pickled ruby red shrimp with watermelon rind kimchi, rock shrimp vadouvan with broken rice grits, and Gulf white shrimp with creole tomato sauce), followed by the main course, creole-spiced pompano with summer squash, blue crab, and soubise, a specialty of chef Rushing. The meal was brought to a delicious end by chef Gauthier, who prepared a New Orleans fig jam tart with fresh figs, pecan shortbread, and peach leaf ice cream.
Not only was the meal a celebration of the thriving bounty of the Gulf of Mexico, it was also stunningly delicious, and a wonderful opportunity to sample the cooking of some of New Orleans’ finest chefs.