Indulgence: Dinner at Emeril’s Delmonico

One of the highlights of our December trip to New Orleans was dinner at Emeril’s Delmonico. This was one of the events on our itinerary that I was looking forward to most. Many foodies have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with Chef Emeril Lagasse, and I am no different. His TV shows shtick sometimes obscures that he is truly a culinary giant. On one hand you have the “BAM!” guy whose audience seemingly experience orgasmic waves of ecstasy at the mere mention of such exotic ingredients as garlic or cayenne pepper. On the other hand you have the guy who did his best to track down all of his employees after Katrina hit, and then called chefs all over the country to make sure his people had jobs. I think that hand definitely trumps the other one.

And as food loving friends are wont to do, food began to get passed around like joints at a Grateful Dead concert.
If you have ever tried one of the many of his recipes that appear on-line, then you know without a doubt that the man can cook. Not only that, most utilize ingredients that a home cook can find without too much trouble. So I was curious to see for myself what it was like to eat in one of his restaurants. A chef as incredibly famous and popular as Emeril Lagasse could probably put his name on a Chili’s, quadruple the prices, and have his fans line up to eat racks of ribs and goopy burgers. Despite having read many times that his joints all deliver, the cynic in me had me wondering.

Oh, me of little faith! The dinner we had at Emeril’s Delmonico is easily in my top 5 meals of all time, and I’m still trying to figure out 3 more to round out the list for an upcoming post. Delmonico is a New Orleans institution, having first opened its doors in 1895. It closed in 1997 and was subsequently purchased by Emeril, who reopened it under his direction and vision in 1997. The Chef de Cuisine is Spencer Minch, who has worked his way up through the ranks after initially being hired in as a line cook.

Pork Cheek with Creole Dirty RiceOur little group arrived at Emeril’s very hungry as it was our first major event. For me, at least, it was the last time that weekend that I could claim to be truly hungry, and I couldn’t claim it for long. We were seated at a long table in a private room (they have configurable walls) right next to the glass wall of the wine cellar.  Our excellent server pointed out the homemade charcuterie hanging in the corner of the wine cellar. By the time the first wine was being poured we had 3 large cutting boards filled with fantastic sausages, tureens, and hams. It was a great start.

Sipping wine and eating delectable applications of animal flesh, we perused the menu. Delmonico’s employs one of those small/medium/large menus that make you want to order everything, both because it all sounds so good and it would just end the confusion. I’m never sure whether I am ordering enough food, or if I am going to have way too much. Not at Delmonicos however, where the servers explain it so well that not only could I understand it, I even remember it.  The small is about half an appetizer, the medium is appetizer sized, and the large is a normal sized entrée. Our server added that there is no right or wrong way to order from it. I was happy, even if I was still undecided.

It was difficult, but I finally ordered crispy pork cheeks and dirty rice, and duck confit. I shouldn’t have worried so much about what to order. While almost everyone at the table started off as strangers, the food, wine, and great conversation had us all feeling like old friends in no time. And as food loving friends are wont to do, food began to get passed around like joints at a Grateful Dead concert. Happily, no one started doing that pinwheel dance thing.

I can honestly say that I loved every last thing that I tasted that night. The food and wine were fabulous, and since we spent over 4 hours there, the conversation was as well. Believe it or not, but we actually finished the meal with dessert. Below are some photos of the table-side Bananas Foster preparation.

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