Faine Opines

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Last Days of the Green Goddess: New Orleans

My friend and fellow Simon’s Rock veteran Laura Byrne was until last week a waitress and bartender at the Green Goddess, a New Orleans restaurant that was surely among the most creative in the French Quarter.

The restaurant is undergoing a change in management. (EDITED: I earlier heard it was closing, but it hasn’t! So you can go check it out! Different chef, though.)

So myself and my friends Braden and Nicole decided to pay her and creative bartender Scott one last visit.

Well, a first visit for me. I am now wishing I’d come earlier.

Laura started us off with this lovely cheese plate. Nicole can’t really eat cow’s milk cheese, so we had a selection of goat’s and sheep’s milk stuff instead. Convenient, as that happens to be my favorite.

It’s really, really hard not to love Purple Haze chevre – especially those chewy little bits of fennel stuck to the sides. Note the well-thought out accompaniments of spicy pumpkin seeds, pistachios, apple, and delectable saffron honey. Not pictured: an olive oil cracker, Italian. Great with a crisp white. I did not take pictures of the wine bottles. I suspect Laura can help me out.

Watermelon soup with lump crab meat and avocado mash. A light little wisp of a thing. Perfect for a New Orleans summer. Something about Green Goddess recipes makes me want to try them myself, and I think that’s a good thing.

The Green Goddess wedge salad with radishes, shrimp, romano cheese, egg, and hearts of palm. You’d be a fool to eat here without ordering something with Green Goddess dressing on it. Per the restaurant name, it’s a damn fine rendition of this classic dressing, with lots of delicious herbs. I would dearly love to eat this salad once a week.

Tumblin’ Dice: seared tuna crusted with fennel pollen and Persian spices, with watermelon chunks, avocado oil, and organic Treme sprouts (grown locally! Really locally!).

This is just a brilliant idea for a light summer dish, really. My hat is off. Something else I’d love to take a stab at in the relative privacy of my own kitchen. Not to mention it’s just gorgeous to look at. I love creative cooking like this.

Snails, tails and tasso: escargot, crawfish tails, tasso ham, green onions, Creole spices, grits. With a name like this I knew I would love it: a great riff on shrimp and grits with funkier ingredients. Once you get past the snail part, they’re just pleasingly firm (not snot-like) little niblets, that go well with the crawfish and the smoky tasso. And they are lovely little fibonacci spirals, lending a touch of elegance to what might otherwise be a rather pedestrian brown gravy.

“Midnight pasta” with spaghetti cooked in crab boil, tossed with olive oil, lemon zest, herbs, and bottarga, pressed, dried Italian caviar. The operating principle here, as Chris explained it, is a pasta that you throw together when your friends show up at your house after a night of drinking and everyone’s really goddamn hungry.

In Italy, apparently this midnight pasta making endeavor can turn into something of a competition, often between men: who can make the best dashed-off pasta while barely sober? This seems like a good way to lose a fingertip or incur a knife injury in the heat of battle, but sometimes the results are glorious. This was spicy, zesty, and salty in all the right ways. Really robust.

Bacon sundae: pecan praline ice-cream, bacon praline caramel sauce, pink and black lava salt, Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon, whipped cream. I’m not even sure I need to talk about this much to express how good it was. I have no sweet tooth, but when you add salt and bacon to a sweet dessert, you’ve suddenly got my attention. Crack-like in its elegance. This might be worthy of “nuclear secret” status. Or poorly advised as hell, the jury is out.

Most restaurants in the Quarter are more than content to rely on Creole standards that tourists like, expect, and crave, but the Green Goddess doesn’t do that. That would be too easy.

Under the guidance of chefs Chris DeBarr and Paul Artigues, the Goddess had this funky, well-written seasonal menu that was really a joy to eat through. New Orleans is a place where you should never ever be bored, and the food at the Green Goddess does a masterful job of living up to that standard.

Chris DeBarr is leaving, but the Green Goddess is still open. How the hell did I miss coming here earlier? Chris is opening a new place in Mid City soon called Serendipity. Plans call for more space, a similar menu philosophy, and live music.

Laura being Laura. Bring on more of that Trader Vic’s macademia nut liqueur, plz thanks.

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3 Comments

  1. Craig Etcheson

    May 16, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Oh. My. God. I’d seen that place but never went in. My mistake.

  2. Green Goddess isn’t closed! Chris DeBarr did leave, but his partner Paul Artigues has remained and the restaurant is still open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Please update — I’d hate for diners doing Google searches to come across this page and think that GG is gone.

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