Last week I got to experience a Chef Meg and Company Dinner in which Meg Bickford, Executive Chef of Commander’s Palace, hosts a special dinner and wine pairing in conjunction with another well-renowned chef. The guest chef for the evening was Amy Mehrtens, the Executive Chef of Copper Vine and a former Sous Chef at Commander's Palace under Meg Bickford. Needless to say, I was so excited to be a part of this delicious reunion, and I put on my Trashy Diva-best in celebration of the night.
Before we get into the evening's festivities, let me give you a little history of Commander's Palace. Considered one of the finest Louisiana Creole restaurants in New Orleans, Commander's Palace was founded by Emile Commander in 1893. That's right-- this year, Commander's Palace is celebrating 130 years!
In 1969 the Brennan Family, proprietors of many fine New Orleans dining establishments, purchased the restaurant and made it their own. Can you imagine the history packed within these walls? Some world-famous chefs got their start in the kitchen here, including chef Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse, just to name two.
The restaurant has been honored with countless awards throughout the years, and today Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan are running the show as co-proprietors. And I gotta say-- I love the restaurant's female energy. More women in charge of landmark restaurants, please!
Heading into this evening with all of this incredible history swimming in my head, I knew that I was in for an experience. This dinner is a five-course meal complete with a wine pairing customized by Dan Davis, who helms the restaurant’s eleven-time Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning wine program.
The dinner took place on the restaurant's second floor, and I was greeted with a tasty welcome cocktail. What a great way to start the evening!
After introductions from Chef Meg and Chef Amy, we were served the first course of Tuna and Watermelon Salad made with Gulf Blue Fin Tuna, heirloom tomatoes, local Mississippi Watermelon, and crushed briny olives with Southern Maids goat feta vinaigrette and sunrise tomato puffed rice cracklin'. The wine for this course was a 2016 Clos Sainte Magdeleine, a Cassis Rosé from Provence, France.
I recently commented how watermelon seems to be finding its way onto New Orleans menus this summer, so I was especially amused to see it on this menu. Of course, it makes sense-- we're in the middle of watermelon season. I love when a summer meal starts off with a refreshing, light appetizer, and this Tuna and Watermelon salad certainly fit the bill. The tuna was fresh-- Chef Meg mentioned it was delivered that morning, and the dish reminded me of a nice ceviche. The puffed rice cracklin' was a nice touch, and I always love when a dish adds a crunchy bite.
The second course was Summer Agnolotti with sweet corn and housemade ricotta rolled pasta with Amy's sambal, charred okra, pickled sweet peppers, buttery corn milk, and sweet corn shoots. The wine for this course was 2013 L. Crochet, "Cuveé Prestige," a Sancerre from Loire Valley, France.
Who doesn't like pasta in a creamy sauce? Man, the Chefs really knocked it out of the park with this one, and I was left wanting a full entree of Summer Agnolotti! These little ravioli-style pasta were packed with ricotta, and the buttery corn milk sauce was over the top. It was rich without being overly filling, and honestly, this was the perfect amount of pasta for an appetizer. However, I would love it if Chef Meg considered adding this to Commander's Palace's rotating menu because it was outstanding.
Mid-meal, we were treated to a delicious le Coup de Milieu called Hi-Bliss made with Ford's Gin, hibiscus, pineapple, lime, and ginger. This cocktail was delicious! I think I am quickly becoming a gin fan, especially after my experience at the Ford's Gin event at Tales of the Cocktail last month. This cocktail was so sweet and smooth that it was almost dangerous.
The third course was Bone Marrow Crusted Redfish with a whipped bone marrow and herb crust, oyster and mushroom dashi, and flambeéd mushrooms. The wine for this course was 2013 Guy Breton, a Régnié from Cru Beaujolais, France.
This dish was an experience for me! I have had and enjoyed bone marrow before, usually as an appetizer with some bread. I have never had it spread on fish and baked; my goodness, this was delicious! This was almost my favorite dish of the evening. I love redfish, and the bone marrow crust just brought it to another decadent level. The oyster and mushroom dashi was a new experience for me as well. Of course, I'm a fan of both, but Chef Meg and Chef Amy knocked it out of the park with this combination.
The fourth course was Iberico Pork Pluma with roasted garlic, whipped Creole cream cheese, apple cider, bacon fat braised greens, brown butter tomato vinaigrette, and "Put Up" Louisiana fig demi-glace. The wine for this course was 2012 Clos la Coutale, a Cahors from Sud-Ouest, France.
I thought the Bone Marrow Crusted Redfish was my favorite dish, but I spoke too soon. The pork in this dish was so tender and cooked perfectly, with a little pink in the middle. The demi-glace added a surprising sweetness to the dish that mingled beautifully with the flavor of the pork, and I loved it!
The final course was dessert: Ruston Peach Baklava with peaches, apricots, crunchy phyllo dough, smoked honey pastry cream, lavender syrup, crunchy nut brittle, and salted pistachio ice cream. The wine for this course was 2019 Thierry et Pascale Matrot l'Effronte, a Aligoté Moelleux from Burgundy, France.
I'm a New Orleans girl and love a good bread pudding, but can I be honest? It was nice to attend a special dinner in New Orleans that ended with a dessert other than bread pudding. I think bread pudding is the "go to" dessert around here, so the change of pace was a nice surprise. This Ruston Peach Baklava was delightful and perfect for summer. The dough was flaky, and the baklava was bursting with flavor. And it was nice and thick! I loved how it was layered; it was the perfect way to end this extraordinary meal.
As long as we're talking about wine, Commander's Palace has something exciting on the horizon! It's the launch of Commander's Palace Cuvée Brut, the restaurant’s latest and most exciting wine project.
From the official press release:
Produced in partnership with Terres Secrètes and made with grapes from the Mâconnais region of Burgundy, the pinot noir-based sparkling wine displays hints of red berries and light spice-forward notes, with a toasty richness to finish. The Commander’s Palace Cuvée (SRP: $42) is now available for purchase online for nationwide shipping and by the half-glass, glass, and bottle at the historic restaurant.
Terres Secrètes is one of France’s celebrated cooperative wineries, founded in the early 1950s and supported by dozens of talented family growers in the greater Mâconnais. Commander’s Palace Cuvée Brut is produced using the same ages-old methods and grapes found in Champagne, resulting in a near-identical quality to pinot noir-based champagnes. Suggested pairings include seafood, duck, mushrooms, root vegetables, and cheeses such as Manchego, Parmesan, and Gruyère.
In addition, some changes are coming to Le Petit Bleu, Commander's Palace's take-out shop located right next door to the restaurant. Since the Covid pandemic, Le Petit Bleu has been the spot where you can get a la carte and family-style food to go, such as Commander's famed Turtle Soup au Sherry, Creole Gumbo, and New Orleans Classic Muffaletta. The shop is currently undergoing some renovations, and Ti and Lally have some cool things planned for the space, which I am keeping secret for now!
Keep an eye on Commander's Palace's events listing page because the restaurant is always having cool events that include delicious food and wine! I had such a wonderful time at this event, and if you have never been to Commander's Palace before, one of these fun events is a great introduction to the historic restaurant.