Maple Glazed and Toasted Walnuts

Sometimes the best Saturdays are those that are spent almost entirely at home not necessarily doing nothing but just being able to work around little things in the house with all the time in the world. We started the morning with a quick trip to Lovely A Bake Shop for some freshly baked chocolate croissants and coffee for breakfast before heading to our local fresh produce wholesaler to pick up some root and leafy vegetables, nuts, and eggs. Before heading home we stopped at the local seafood wholesaler and got some fresh scallops and clams. Armed with these grocery goodness, we were ready to spend a fantastic day at home.

Nuts find their way into our home a lot primarily because T absolutely loves them. They really are quite a versatile item. They are great as snacks or with salads. When chopped up, nuts are also great served as entree toppings. We bought whole unroasted walnuts from the fresh produce store that morning and a short while later we had some tasty maple glazed and toasted walnuts sitting in our kitchen. They were quick and easy to prepare. Simply good things can come easy, at least for these walnuts.

Inspired by Ellie Krieger's Maple Glazed Walnuts

2 cups unroasted and unsalted whole walnuts
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Over medium heat, toast walnuts on a medium size pan for about 3 minutes. Stir walnuts constantly so that they toast almost evenly.

2. Pour the maple syrup over the walnuts and add in the salt. Stir gently and often so that the walnuts are evenly coated with the syrup and also to prevent the syrup from sticking to the pan. Continue stirring the walnuts and turning them over occasionally until the syrup is caramelized and the walnuts are fragrant, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from pan.

3. Let cool on a surface lined with parchment paper to prevent the walnuts from sticking to the surface.



The walnuts goodness did not just end there. Lunch for that day were the scallops we bought that same morning from the local seafood wholesaler. Credit goes to T for the preparing the fantastically seared scallops entirely by himself. We chopped a tiny handful of the just-ready walnuts and topped the scallops with it. Perfect. The rest of the walnuts were saved for snacks and for salads.


Gilt Bar

Eating out often really reminds us of the fact that there are many different types of people out there. Everyone has different dining intents with equally different expectations. We have been to Gilt Bar more than five times now and only at the last time did we sit at the kitchen counter table. In general, advanced reservations are strongly recommended for Gilt Bar unless you don't mind getting stuck with a 10:30pm seating. So on one of our previous visits, we asked our server how do we get seated specifically at the kitchen counter table and she gave us some tips: reserve early, request it at the time of reservation, and if we pick a non-busy time, more likely there would be availabilities. We went home that night and T made an advance reservation and requested to be seated at the kitchen counter. The hostess who called to confirm our reservations a couple days prior said they would try their best to accommodate our request. And they did. So we got an entire night of kitchen action before our eyes.

The kitchen counter table accommodates four people. Halfway through dinner, two female companions were also seated at the kitchen table. From the constant chats and hugs they gave to some of the servers and chefs working in the kitchen, we gathered they were part of the insider network of Gilt Bar. Going back to what I said before that there are different types of diners out there, awhile after the two female companions left, a couple was brought over to the kitchen counter table to be seated. At first glance towards the female I sensed a quiet displeasure on her face. A few minutes passed and T could not help but overhearing her tell her boyfriend/husband in an irritated tone, I thought you made a reservation. Why are we here?! She probably saw themselves as being very unfortunate to have been seated at the worst area that anyone could possibly get at a restaurant. Who wants to be shoved into the back of the restaurant among the kitchen chefs? Some slight argument ensued. Oh dear. Or, from our perspective, they probably lucked out at the last minute and got seated at an action-filled location because the seating happened to open up. A few more minutes passed and they got up and left Gilt Bar, probably never to return. It was 8:45pm then. I don't know if they are from the city or if they were familiar with the dining scene in Chicago, but if you are attempting to do a walk-in at any other restaurants at that time of the night, I would say you'd be looking at a 2-hour wait for a table.

Clearly the kitchen table attracts a different population of diners. When we were seated at the kitchen table at Emeril's in New Orleans, we were surrounded with diners who were as equally enthusiastic diners who were there not just to eat but to be part of the whole food journey. At Next in Chicago, the kitchen table only has one seating per night and tickets are at premium pricing.

Gilt Bar is the first of three projects of Brendan Sodikoff. Given the equal success of his three projects (the other two are Maude's Liquor Bar and Doughnut Vault), it is not surprising that he was a nominee for the Restaurateur of the Year 2011 by Time Out. News confirmed that a fourth project by the ambitious Brendan Sodikoff is set to open this year, The Ox Diner.

Located in the River North area, there is naturally a lot of competition considering the myriad of dining options in the area but Gilt Bar has nothing to worry about. It has an alluring charm that is rustic and yet relevant to today's dining scene. Tables and chairs are made up of unvarnished solid wood. The lighting is very dim with majority of the light source coming from the table candles. A beautiful chandelier in the middle of the dining room ceiling poses more as a decorative item than as a light source. The noise level is loud. People are there to have a good time. Gilt Bar is serious about its food. The menu offers truly good and well thought-out dishes that do not come with pretensions. They're just, well, simply good in pairing various ingredients and making the marriage of combined flavors work. Dishes are meant to be shared around the table. They also have a beautiful cocktail list and if none of the cocktails, wines, beers, or whiskeys float your boat, you can't go wrong with the $4 per glass of red and white table wine.

One of our top favorites at Gilt Bar which is a must-have for us each time we're there is the roasted bone marrow. A petite spoon is used to scoop out the delicate marrow which is sprinkled with coarse salt. The marrow is eaten with house made red onion jam, flat leaf parsley, and the generous amount of toast bread.

Another consistently good item is the tenderloin steak tartare with poached egg yolk. A bottle of Sriracha hot sauce is brought to the table as an accompaniment to the steak tartare. It sounds like an odd combination but hey, it works. I'm a big fan. Steak tartare is easily on my list of top favorite foods in the world; Sriracha is a must-have accompaniment when I have Thai food. So when I get to have steak tartare and Sriracha, it's like a perfect marriage made in food heaven.

The fava bean salad is tossed with feta cheese, chopped toasted almonds, and mint. The flavor of the salad is light but the beans definitely will fill you up quite a bit. I really liked that the toasted almonds adds a nice crunch to the salad. The mint also brings it up a notch from being a regular bean salad to a dish with refreshing hints.

The coal fired ribeye is limited in availability every night but if you're there early, you will be in luck. It is priced by the ounce and depending on the day, the kitchen prepares one or two different pre-cut sizes to choose from. In line with the concept of shared plates, the cut of steak is meant to be shared. Our medium rare steak, seasoned with steak salt and served with bearnaise sauce, was done to perfection. The piece of meat was tender at every bite. As expected in a ribeye, there were streaks of fat at the edge of the piece of meat. We did not eat the fat but it certainly enhanced the flavor of the entire steak from the cooking process.

The smashed red potatoes with chicken jus and roasted garlic is so smooth in texture that it feels like puree. How much flavor can the smashed potatoes have? The trick is probably the chicken jus. As we inched our way deeper into the potatoes, there was some remaining chicken jus at the bottom of the dish that was intentionally not combined with the rest of the potatoes in order to keep the potatoes moist. I also fell in love with the vintage enamel saucepan that was used to serve the potatoes.

The grilled asparagus with chili and drizzle of Meyer lemon is more of a light dish that is certainly welcoming after some of the more heavy dishes.

The bouchot mussels are prepared from a combination of white wine, herbs, and smoked paprika. Reflecting its freshness, the mussels were one of the softest and most tender we've had.

The desserts at Gilt Bar have never disappointed us during the the times we've been there. The offering of classic and old-fashioned ice cream flavors at Gilt Bar have been sorely lacking in contemporary restaurants these days with pastry chefs clamoring to let their dessert skills shine through. Sometimes you might just want to settle for a good old fashioned ice-cream for dessert and Gilt Bar has the answer ranging from cookie dough to mint chocolate chip. My personal favorite is the cookie dough ice-cream. Bonus points for serving the ice-cream in a frozen and frosted goblet.

On the dessert menu are also baked desserts and pies. We asked our server for recommendations and in her words, the sticky date cake with coffee ice-cream is the unsung hero among the dessert items. We could not agree more. The sound of a sticky date cake might conjure up images of a heavy and dense fruit cake but the sticky date cake was nowhere near dense. It was not airy but it was light and even a little spongy.

Other items on the menu that we are in love with are foie gras and pork liver mousse and hand rolled pasta that comes with a variety of preparations.

Gilt Bar
230 West Kinzie Street
Chicago, IL 60654

2011 Best Restaurateur Nominee, Brendan Sodikoff
2011 Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand


Magellan Spring 10K

Overcast skies in cold and wet weather. Running conditions like these are not unusual in Chicago this time of the year. Not only did we get dreary and wet weather on race day, we had extreme wind conditions blowing uninhibitedly against our direction during the entire second half of the race. This is by far the most brutal race I've ran because of the unforgiving wind. Running the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K race during a blizzard in 2009 was not even as physically challenging as last week's uninhibited wind. It felt like the more we pushed, the harder the wind came upon us. When it comes to forces of nature, there is nothing runners can do but to push on physically and mentally. At least at the end of it all, we get mentally tougher.

The entire race course was along beautiful Lake Michigan as we ran along the lakefront path. The path was quite tight which made maneuvering through other runners a little challenging especially at the first few miles. Around the second mile mark, the uninhibited winds came and this time created a huge wave of water splashing onto the shores of Lake Michigan sending the high waves splashing above the heads of the runners right in front of me. This is a race to remember. T came in at 51:07 and I came in a little later at 1:02:24. Can't say that I was very stoked about my time but considering the harsh weather conditions I'm glad we got out of bed, headed to the start line in the rain, and ran with our faces against the wind. That was worth some self-satisfaction.

Photos below taken by Action Sports International


Next, Paris 1906

Tickets to dine at a restaurant?

Alright, so I am not embarrassed to admit that on the day when it was announced that Next was finally scheduled to release tickets, along with thousands of people I was one of those who waited anxiously and obsessively for an incoming email. Will I get that email today or not, I wondered.

Chef Grant Achatz and business partner Nick Kokonas have reinvented the system of dining logistics and in lieu of table reservations, patrons need to purchase tickets for the dining experience. It works like how you purchase tickets for a concert or a game, but of course the entire process of purchasing those coveted tickets is not without frustration before ending with excitement that you got to the tickets before the other remaining thousands of people did. There's no denying that the ticketing system is a great business model from a restaurant's perspective as it deters common problems such as no-shows for table reservations or having people who made reservations show up with a couple more unexpected people than they have reserved for.

Months prior to the opening of this highly anticipated restaurant, it had received an obscene amount of media praises. How could a restaurant that was not even opened receive that much coverage even from non-Chicago based publications, including the New York Times and Washington Post? Food news websites like Grub Street constantly provided updates and speculations on when tickets would be released. Put simply, Chef Grant Achatz is a genius. He has a pretty remarkable life story too having won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the United States at the age of 35 and later getting diagnosed with stage 4 tongue cancer and is now in remission.

A mailing list was set up probably about half a year prior to Next's opening to notify people about the tickets release. Up until the week before the ticket release, there were close to 20,000 people who signed up to be on the mailing list and priority was given to those on the list before tickets would be available to the public. Within the mailing list, priority was given according to the order in which people signed up. When we were eligible to purchase tickets, we received that information in that most coveted email from Next. We could then go to Next's website to create an account, put in our email address to generate a password, log in, and then purchase the tickets. If you did not receive that email announcement but still tried to generate a password to create an account, tough luck. A note will pop up telling you to wait to be notified. That sounded like it was simple enough a process to go through except that hundreds of people were also trying to log on to the website which created the infamous server overload which led people to keep hitting the refresh button on their computers a gazillion times so that the proper web page would appear. Adding to the server overload were the other thousands of people who were not eligible yet to purchase tickets but still went on to the website just to try their luck. But yes, we received the email on the first day tickets were released and after many attempts of hitting our refresh button, we snagged our tickets and counted down to the day we were going to Next for dinner.

The ticket pricing varies between the day and time of the dinner. For example, a table for 7:30pm on a Saturday is pricier than a table at 8:00pm on a Wednesday. Tickets are sold per person but also according to the number of people in your party. Only tables for parties of 2 and 4 are available. There is a kitchen table available for 6 people and that is only available one per night. Wine pairings and non-alcoholic pairings are add-ons.

Next promises great vision and concept of restaurant dining. It features a different menu every few months and the menu focuses on a different city and a different timeline. Their debut menu is featuring an 8-course dinner for Paris 1906. Come July, the menu will move on to the futuristic Bangkok 2060.


Paris 1906 - Escoffier at the Ritz
inspired by the recipes of Auguste Escoffier, who along with Cesar Ritz, opened the Hotel Ritz Paris. 

1. Hors d'Oeuvres
Paired with Alsace sparkling Chardonnay

From right to left clockwise: truffled egg custard with salt cod inside an egg shell, foie gras baked in brioche, mushroom duxcelle wrapped in leek, anchovy on a quail egg, pork rillette on a cracker.

Every piece of amuse bouche was delicately created and made great palette teasers but if we had narrow it down to a favorite among these, hands down our pick goes to the anchovy sitting atop the poached quail egg. The anchovy was fresh with no hints of fishiness. When we popped the quail egg into our mouths, the yolk surprised us with a burst of runny egg yolk. If this was any indication to what we would expect for the rest of our meal, it definitely set us on the path for more greatness to come.


2. Potage a la Tortue Clair
Paired with Domaine de Montbourgeau L'Etoile

The turtle consomme, we were told, was meant to whet our appetite so we were encourage to drink it all the way. It was garnished with petite vegetable bits and a flower bud. The consomme was light but very tasty and I found myself finishing it until the very last drop.

3. Fillet de Sole Daumont
Paired with Macon Chardonnay

The fillet of sole was prepared with crayfish butter and the shell of the crayfish head was filled with crayfish mousse. What better way than to pick the shell up from the plate with your fingers and suck the crayfish mousse out. The plate was generously lined with saffron sauce that had an encrusted surface that was reminiscent to what creme brulee is like.

4. Supremes de Poussin
Paired with Les Amandiers Faugeres (red blend of Syrah and Grenache)

Chicken dishes are generally underrated and not thought of very much as something worthy of specialness but clearly Next is setting a new way of how we treat chicken. We were told that the chicken was selected from 20 breeds of chicken. Covered with foie gras butter, the diamond-shaped piece of meat on the plate was absolutely tender and smooth at its best. The poached cucumber was filled with chicken mousse in the center and delicately wrapped with salt pork.

5. Caneton Rouennais a la Presse
Paired with Domaine Brusset Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne

The pressed duck was unquestionably the star of the night. The beautifully roasted duck breast and leg were served family style and carefully arranged on the plate with a fresh bundle of rosemary tucked in between the meat arrangement. The decadent sauce was made from duck jus, cognac, and red wine. The duck was prepared medium rare and it was easily one of the best meats I have eaten.

Gratin de Pommes de Terre a la Dauphinoise

Served alongside the duck was the potato gratin topped with crispy bread crumbs. Having the duck and potato gratin together, it brought out the classic way of how one would normally pair their protein and starch in a meal.

6.  Salade Irma 

The light tasting salad was very welcoming after the duck and acted almost like a palate cleanser. The plate was lined with a few pieces of asparagus tossed with egg emulsion. Sitting on the bed of asparagus was an edible wild flower lightly drizzled with lemon vinaigrette.

7. Bombe Ceylan 
Paired with Ramos Pinto Porto Quinta de Ermavoira

The dessert was the coming together of coffee, rum, and chocolate. Is there a better combination than that? Inside the dome-shaped dessert was rum vanilla ice-cream and within the center of the vanilla ice-cream was coffee ice-cream. The dessert sat on a chocolate base and was covered with coffee powder. Glazed cherries accompanied the dessert as well as the smear of creme anglaise on the plate.

8. Mignardises 

The three varying sweets were presented on a two-tier platter. That included the sea salt caramel squares, nougat, and beet-flavored gumballs. Generally eaten at the end of a meal, these petite delights brought us to the end of our beautiful 8-course dinner. How did it end so quick? Time flies when we are having a good time.

What made this entire experience so special (besides getting bragging rights for those coveted tickets!) was topped by the fact that it was luxury dining but without all the pompousness and stuffy atmosphere. The entire waitstaff were very approachable and happy to answer any questions about the menu and were clearly very knowledgeable about the wine grapes and aging process for the wines on the pairing list. The diners around us were also visibly passionate abut their food. Given that the menu was inspired by Escoffier back in 1906, the planning and execution for every dish was incredibly well thought out reflecting Grant Achatz's attention to detail into making each dish his own. It is not something that people indulge on a weekly or monthly basis but Next offers relatively affordable luxury dining that is not necessarily beyond reach.

I quote Phil Vettel from the Chicago Tribune: I went to Next looking for greatness, and I found it.

953 West Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

2011 Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People
2011 TimeOut Magazine 5 Stars for Next
2011 3 Michelin Stars Chef 
2008 James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef 
2007 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Great Lakes
2003 James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef
2002 Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chefs



Oh, those beignets. I wished I had eaten them everyday when we were in New Orleans but would that be asking for trouble? Those deep fried dough sprinkled ever so generously with confectioners sugar are really something. I generally do not like to hype up touristy places and Cafe du Monde certainly does not need any additional hype but dang, those beignets were good.

We arrived at 9:10am on a Friday and saw that there already was a long line. Uh oh. I insisted we wait. Cafe du Monde currently has a whopping 1512 reviews (and counting) on Yelp so that had to mean something. To our surprise, the line moved pretty quickly that morning and in about 15 minutes we were seated. It also helped that Cafe du Monde has a huge seating area. We looked at the menu and they really only serve the famous beignets and trademark coffee. That also explained why the line moved so quickly. With only these items on the menu, there was not much reason to linger at the table after scarfing down those beignets. And who wouldn't scarf down those delicious beignets?

The beignets were warm when we bit into them and they were light and fluffy. It was pure deep fried doughy goodness without any heaviness to it. Heavenly.


I was still dreaming of beignets on the morning of the day we were supposed to head back to Chicago and I told T that we must have another round of beignets but maybe this time we would find an alternative and skip the line. After doing a little bit of research we headed over to Cafe Beignet only to find that we were every bit wrong about not having to wait in line for beignets. We stood in line patiently like the others to order our food. Unlike Cafe du Monde, this place serves more than just beignets. They have breakfast items and pastries. The line moved slowly but one needs patience for beignets. I can see why some people prefer Cafe Beignet over Cafe du Monde. The former does not have as crazy a hype but surely it is popular enough that we still had to wait in line to order our food. But getting to the bottom of it, beignet is the star here and both places make their beignets a little differently.

Cafe du Monde
Light and fluffy
Puffed up in shape and size
Almost obscene amount of confectioners sugar sprinkled on top

Cafe Beignet
Doughy in texture
Not as puffy and is a little flatter
Relatively less amount of confectioners sugar

I honestly think that the differences aren't a good or bad thing but they reflect the different establishments' own take on beignets. In fact, I would be hard pressed to decide if I liked one better than the other especially when I would definitely return to both places the next time we make a trip to New Orleans again. All I need is patience to stand in line and I will be rewarded with some deep fried dough.

Mmmm, beignets.

Cafe du Monde
800 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA 70116

Cafe Beignet
334 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA 70130


Of all the decadent foods that we ate in New Orleans, August Restaurant wins hands down as what we think is arguably the best restaurant in that city. All dressed up, we were pumped up for a night of fine dining and August delivered. The entire execution of the dining experience and food at August stayed true to Chef John Besh's awards: Top 10 Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine magazine, James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southeast 2006, America’s Top 50 Restaurants by Gourmet magazine.

If the amuse bouche was any indication to the level of goodness of the rest of our meal, it certainly was a good way to start us off. The egg shell was filled with fish mouse and topped with black caviar and a tiny sprig of parsley. There was no hint of fishiness in the mousse which should be the way how fresh fish items are. The mousse was light and maybe even a little fluffy.

August gets bonus points from us for having the flexibility of the menu. While the degustation menu looked absolutely amazing, we had just come from happy hour at Luke and managed to eat an obscene amount of raw oysters and therefore would not have been able to stomach a 5-course dinner. Our server told us that if we liked any of the items from the 5-course degustation menu, we could order them ala carte style. Score.

The sunfish crudo was a winner in its own category. Dressed with a citrus vinaigrette, the sunfish slices were perfect for every bite. While we have seen ceviche in many places, we noticed that crudo seems to be popping up at restaurant menus these days. Crudo is raw fish in Italian and the fish is commonly accompanied with some sort of citrus dressing. While ceviche and crudo sound and look similar, the difference is that crudo is not "cooked" in the citrus juice but serves as an accompaniment.

The mangalitsa pork belly was amazing in its own right. We first learned about the Mangalitsa pig from Ming Tsai who said during one of the episodes of The Next Iron Chef that this breed is one of the most expensive and premium swines around and it is noted for its lard. While we have not seen Mangalitsa pork in any Chicago restaurants, they definitely are making the rounds in Chef John Besh's New Orleans restaurants including Luke which we also went to.

If there was a category for decadence, the best contender would have to be the duckling breast served with roasted duck foie gras. The duckling breast was tender and juicy done medium rare. The foie gras was rich and its petite serving was well portioned.

We topped off our meal with a deconstructed Hummingbird cake. The bite-size sponge cake was lightly seared on one side which gave it a slight crisp and burnt fragrance. It also came with a scoop of cream cheese ice-cream which replaced the traditional cream cheese frosting of a Hummingbird cake.

A large part of our travels involve gastronomic adventures and at the end of each trip we always ask each other So what was your favorite meal? August it was for the both of us.

301 Tchoupitoulas Street
New Orleans, LA 70130

2008 Food & Wine Magazine 50 Best Chef Hall of Fame
2008 Bon Appetit Magazine The Hot 10 Restaurants
2006 James Beard Award Best Chef in the Southeast
2006 Gourmet Magazine Top 50 Restaurants
1999 Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chef



Bam! Ah, that's Emeril Lagasse's famous catchphrase on his TV food shows. His personality on TV is such that people either like him or they don't. One thing is for sure, I find him entertaining although I have to say that I am still trying to find out the reason when each time he mentions garlic in his cooking shows, the audience on TV cheer and clap in delight.

We made advance reservations for our dinner at Emeril's and I also have to admit that before that night, I thought nothing more of Emeril than being a celebrity chef on Food Network TV. I had thought, hey, we are going to New Orleans, we have to try Emeril's flagship restaurant. Our entire experience that night at Emeril's sealed the deal for us. During our meal, I told T, "He isn't just a celebrity chef. His restaurant makes goods stuff. This place has standards".

Our experience was enhanced by the fact that we were seated at the kitchen counter. We did not realize that kitchen counter seating was available when we made reservations but when we checked in with the maitre'd, T saw the kitchen counter seating and requested if we could be seated there. We lucked out; the manager said he could put the two of us there. Score!

The kitchen was huge. We got full view of all the action going on in there with each chef working on their own stations. The station right in front of us was for grilling meats and preparing the seafood bouillabaisse dishes. The station to our left worked mainly with searing and grilling fish and shrimps. The two other stations to our right prepared the appetizers such as crawfish tails and pasta. A kitchen staff whose main responsibility was to oversee and expedite the entire process made sure each item was good to go before the food left the kitchen for the tables. It was non-stop action the entire time that involved seasoning, grilling, searing, boiling, and finally plating. We were mesmerized and just could not stop staring.


No, Emeril himself wasn't there. We chatted with the chef working right in front of us and he said that Emeril came in about a 2-3 weeks ago. With many of his other restaurants in different cities in the US, he divides his time between places. I asked the chef if Emeril's personality is exactly like what we see on TV and he said, Yeah, pretty much. You'd think that he'd be full of himself with his status but he's a nice guy.

I think the kitchen counter attracts diners that think alike. The rest of the diners at the 9-seater kitchen counter were as enthusiastic about their food and experience as us. We gave quick glances at each other's food, commented that it looked good, asked what was it and how it tasted.



Emeril's changed the way I feel about corn bread. Sounds like a pretty bold statement, I know. I never was a huge fan of cornbread but I blame it on the fact that the ones I've had were dry in texture. The cornbread at Emeril's was so soft it was almost cake-like. Each of our bread dish also included a sweet potato roll which was also so good and light, I ate it up in no time.

We shared the chicken gumbo and I don't remember us previously being this satisfied with gumbo. It was rich and the thick broth was immensely flavored perhaps even with some beef broth.

My smoked duck breast was something to rave about. I requested it medium rare and the meat was tender at every bite. The accompaniments of rhubarb, kale greens, and beans were great although halfway through my meal I felt that there were way more beans on my plate than I could finish.

T was equally happy with his cast iron fillet of beef that came with a small BBQ shortrib shepherds pie and apple walnut salad. The beef was perfectly prepared and the shepherds pie was a nice contrast from the steak.

Our dessert was Emeril's version of a deconstructed Black Forest cake. Unlike the traditional form of Black Forest cake that has cherries sandwiched between layers of chocolate cake, this dessert at Emeril's came with a square slice of Doberge cake that had thin layers of chocolate cake in between what tasted like chocolate ganache. The must-have cherries in the Black Forest cake were served as a compote as an accompaniment. The scoop of vanilla bean ice-cream was also an added touch to the dessert. This classic dessert was transformed into a new form and it worked.

When we eat, we not only focus on the end product on our plates but also like to think about the entire process that involves prepping, and then cooking itself, and finally plating before eating. It is almost like a short story in itself and sitting at the kitchen counter allowed us to participate in this entire process.

800 Tchoupitoulas Street
New Orleans, LA 70130

2011 James Beard Nominee for Outstanding Service