Hedging my bets at La Petite Grocery

I’ve whined about this before, but sometimes it’s a real pain in the ass taking a risk and trying a new restaurant. Sure, it could easily be fabulous and I could find a new favorite, but it could also just as easily be awful and sometimes, just once in a while, I like to play it safe.

There are those select restaurants in town that I’m positive will be delicious, regardless of what I order or what time I come, and La Petite Grocery is definitely one of them. John and I headed over there for lunch a few days ago and, as always, we were not disappointed. We ordered a bunch of different dishes to share and sat chatting and watching the traffic ooze by on Magazine Street while we waited.

The first to arrive was a salad of sorts where thinly sliced discs of chilled, roasted beets were topped with a healthy portion of blue crab in a horseradish “emulsion” (think mayonnaise) and pickled red onions. It was so cooling and creamy, I gobbled half of it and then traded plates with John. I looked longingly at the remaining crab salad as he started to dig in, but then was distracted by the plate he slid in front of me.

The second appetizer featured thick slices of grilled peaches along with a nice slab of pork belly garnished with a sprig of fresh basil. Not only was it gorgeous — thick lines of char striping the sweet, orange peaches and a glossy, reddish glaze on the pork belly — it tasted wonderful. The peaches were ripe and sweet, bursting with juiciness and the rich, fatty pork belly was a delightful contrast. 

We also ordered a side of Baked Blue Crab that arrived before our entree. I suppose it seemed an odd accompaniment to the po-boy we decided to share, so the server brought it out beforehand. He offered to bring some more rolls, considering the ones we were served at the outset had magically disappeared, but we managed quite well without them. Normally, I am not the type of person to enjoy hot seafood and cheese concoctions, but this knocked my socks off. Served like a gratin with crispy breadcrumb top, this dish of blue crab and brie was good enough to lick off the plate. Who needs bread when you possess no etiquette?

Just as we were sluicing out the last creamy bits with our fingers, they brought our our Pork Cheek Po-Boy dressed with pickled red onion and purple cabbage slaw. Tender and juicy, the meat was perfectly complimented by the slaw, but the bread was another issue. I took one bite and the bread was so toasted and crusty all the way through, that I thought I might cut my mouth to ribbons if I kept trying to eat it. It wasn’t that much of a problem, though. I just ate around it, including the huge pile of hand-cut fries served on the side.

Once again, John fruitlessly tried to fight me on ordering dessert, but I would not be intimidated. I ordered the Toffee Chocolate Tart and, as always, John matched my ardor to the very last bite. The tart was mostly dense, dark chocolate with a crumbly, buttery, shortbread crust topped by a large dollop of coconut whipped cream and sprinkles and smears of toffee decorating the rest of the plate.

What can I say? Hedging your bets almost always pans out!

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