Note: I went to New Orleans with a group of bloggers as part of a trip with the Lousiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. We ate and ate, and then ate some more. What else would food bloggers in Nola do? Stay tuned all this week for snapshots from my trip! —Chichi
1403 Washington Avenue, New Orleans LA 70130 (map); 504-899-8221
Commander's Palace is one of those tourist-frequented destinations that still, surprisingly, has great food. After brunch here, it's easy to see why locals and visitors alike love the place. Since 1880, it's been in a Victorian mansion in the Garden District of New Orleans. The quiet, attentive waitstaff walks calmly, never rushing. During brunch, brass and string musicians circulate from room to room.
What makes the food at Commander's so special? It's really just standard brunch fare but executed flawlessly: perfect hollandaise, tender buttermilk biscuits, and a creamy yet delicate oyster stew. Even the garlic bread, a filler at most places, is just the right combination of bread, garlic, and butter.
The entrees at Commander's are decadent, nearly-over-the-top with at least half a dozen different components, making the platters very involved affairs. Case in point? A grilled Louisiana White Shrimp dish that came with fresh red beans and andouille sauce, grilled sweet corn, the "trinity" of bell peppers, onions, and celery, and a sauce called "Creole tomato etouffee," which tasted very clearly of shrimp and tomatoes.
Seared gulf fish was another dish with a lot going on for one plate. Seven varieties of vegetables, julienned, then boiled in crab stock, accompanied by torched Meyer lemons. A brown butter vinaigrette accompanied the fine-tasting, succulent fish with crispy skin.
Hollandaise sauce made with tasso (a regional smoked ham) and just a bit of spicy heat, covered a platter of stewed pork shoulder topped with fresh eggs. Commander's perfect buttermilk biscuits and sauteed mushrooms rounded out the dish.
Roasted quail with an andouille and cornbread stuffing was by far my favorite dish at brunch. The stuffing had plenty of honey and jalapeno for a sweet-spicy flavor, which paired well with the smoky andouille. Braised cabbage, extremely tender and sweet, had bits of bacon for good measure. The juicy quail meat and crispy skin could not have been more carefully prepared and was even better with a bourbon-molasses glaze.
For dessert, a coffee cake with a moist yet firm texture held up well to the whipped cream and juicy fruit (peaches and blackberries). Toasted pecans added some crunch to the dish.
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