When I was still young I remember an advertisement for an instant coffee which claimed they substituted their coffee for the legendary coffee of Antoine’s in New Orleans. Back then I had no idea of Antoine’s, but I was still incredulous that a stellar restaurant could pull such a switcheroo and why they would want to. Now I know what Antoine’s is, and I still find the commercial hard to take.
When we called for reservations to this fine establishment, we were informed that they do not accept reservations and it is first come, first served. So we decided to get there when they were opening up for dinner. With the extreme humidity that is part of New Orleans charm, we figured this was a wise move. When we arrived there was no line and we noticed a small plaque on the front door, which state that “Gentlemen must wear coats for dinner.” This is no problem as my Bride and I dress for dinner, even when we are on holidays. As there was no line we were given a booth in the front room, which was great for people watching, when we weren’t deeply involved in reading the menu and the wine list.
Soon the room we were in was filled and they started to fill up additional dining areas as is their custom. There was a steady stream of groups coming in for a fine dinner. All of a sudden there were five men that showed up in very casual attire and they demanded a table. The Maitre’de must have made the walk in about five strides from one of the back rooms to greet the men. He politely informed the gentlemen about the dress code requirement and offers to make a phone call to one of the other fine dining establishments in the French Quarter that did not require jackets. The leader of the group began to get loud and belligerent and start swearing very loudly that he demanded that they be served. This went on for several minutes with the Maitre’de remaining very stoic and reserved, but steadfast in the rule. Finally the leader reached into his pocket and pulled out a large wad of cash, as if to influence the decision and announced that he could afford to eat at Antoine’s. The Maitre’de announced that everyone could afford to eat at Antoine’s but they still had to wear a coat. A few more curse words were bandied and the gentlemen left in a huff. The diners in this first room all began applauding that civility was maintained and then everyone went back to enjoy the evening.
What a grand meal could be had at Antoine’s. We debated on whether to share Oyster Rockefeller which was created at Antoine’s or “Les escargots a la Bourguignonne.” The escargot won. My bride ordered “Filet de truite Florentine” (trout poached in white wine in a bed of creamed spinach draped with hollandaise sauce and baked with cheese and fresh bread crumbs) and I opted for “Pompano en papillote” (an Antoine’s original dish of pompano baked in a paper bag with shrimp and lump crabmeat in a white wine sauce). We also ordered a side of asparagus and the “Pommes de terre soufflés” which was highly touted by our waiter. We also gave an advance order for “Omelette Alaska Antoine (pour deux)” (Antoine’s very special presentation of Baked Alaska for two). As the dinner progressed I had forgotten about the “Pommes de terre soufflés.” This large wire basket arrived on the table, which reminded me of a basket of golf balls one gets at a driving range. It was filled with these brown round globes and I had to inquire what it was. They were potatoes that were peeled and sliced paper thin and placed in iced water overnight, then dropped in the wire bucket into one vat of hot oil, then pulled out and dropped into another vat of even hotter oil; which caused the potato slices to expand and become hollow potato chips. They were wonderful, a crispy potato chip with a micro-lining of like a mashed potato. We could not stop nibbling on them until they were all gone.
With as rich of a dinner that we had both chosen, I opted for a white Burgundy. A Puligny-Montrachet “Clos du Cailleret” which is a Premieres Crus. Just a wonderful elegant white wine that had more then ample ability to hold its own against the rich food and sauces that it was paired with. The wine had a beautiful soft golden color, a mellow nose and a wonderful aftertaste. Needless to say we were in heaven.