From Michael Gulotta, chef de cuisine of John Besh's Restaurant August, a famed New Orleans restaurant with a real German influence. Gulotta traveled to the Southern Black Forest, where Besh had trained under Karl Josef Fuchs at the Michelin-starred Romantik Hotel Spielweg; he spoke of a calves' head salad that Fuchs served. So Gulotta's German-meets-NOLA contribution was a calves' head roulade with an heirloom tomato–pepper salad with a warm vinaigrette.
Lavash crackers rode on top for a little crunch, reminding Gulotta of his childhood: "I grew up eating hogs-head cheese on a Triscuit," he said; "but, uh, it's really hard to make Triscuits."
John Currence (& Cala)
In this fourth-floor pop-up, John Currence (City Grocery) set up shop on the balcony, frying up smoked catfish cala that he'd spent the afternoon carefully quenelle-ing.
"Gumbo is generally served over rice," said Currence, "but I'm doing a sweet potato salad, another gift from Africa." From the cast iron pot, we ladled a phenomenal green gumbo, Currence's tribute to the legendary Leah Chase's Gumbo z'Herbes at Dooky Chase. It's a dish traditionally made on Holy Thursday to eat on Good Friday, a rich stew of cooked-down greens appropriate for a day meant to be meatless—well, except that Currence's version had pork. Can't fault a man for that.
Cavatelli with Lemongrass and Crawfish
"New Orleans cuisine isn't stagnant," said Gulotta, of this course designed by John Besh; "it's still progressing. It's still a nerve center." And nowhere is that more evident than in the influx of Vietnamese immigrants. "You've got banh mi shops all over the place these days. The Vietnamese are making such a contribution to the New Orleans food world. It's amazing." That's honored in a cavatelli piled with crawfish but flavored with lemongrass.
Michael Gulotta and John Currence plate out the last savory course.
"You might not know it, but in the early 1900s, New Orleans had more Italian immigrants than anywhere else in America," said Alon Shaya. "There's a whole tradition of Italian–New Orleans cuisine that isn't the same anywhere else. You don't see bruciolone, this Sicilian-derived meat dish, anywhere else."
"When a grandmother makes it," said Shaya, "it might be rolled around breadcrumbs and hard-boiled eggs." But here, it's focaccia and quail eggs set so that they're still runny, with creamed-down spring onions, making the whole center effect something like an insanely moist Thanksgiving stuffing.
John Currence starts torching marshmallow cream for dessert.