Last Thursday, I was invited by representatives of Highland Park Scotch Whiskey to attend the StarChefs.com “Rising Stars” event here in New Orleans, honoring some amazing local chefs and mixologists who “represent the vanguard of the contemporary dining scene in America.”
Aside from giving serious props where props are due, I loved that the whole “culinary exhibition” took place at The New Orleans Museum of Art. As cheesy as it might sound, I truly believe that creating excellent food is, indeed, an art form. Chefs are able to stimulate your senses and stir your passion with elegant presentation and unique flavor and texture combinations, changing the everyday, necessary act of eating into an experience to truly appreciate.
Quite a few of my personal favorites were lauded including Aaron Burgau of Patois, Nathanial Zimet of Boucherie, Phillip Lopez of Root and Alon Shaya of Domenica, but every single dish I tasted (and I almost tasted them all) was utterly delicious. If I had the time (or the stamina) to go back and sample them all again, I would have…every single one.
John and I raced along with Emily Smith to capture a few pictures of what we tasted before the sunlight faded to dusk in Cafe NOMA’s courtyard. Chef Nathanial Zimet prepared some incredibly tasty Fried Chicken Sausage with pickles, Hawaiian-style bread and chicken liver mousse.Chef Bart Bell from Crescent Pie & Sausage made his killer “Bad Bart’s Black Jambalaya” with his own smoked sausage and braised pork.
Pastry Chef Rebecca Cohen from Stella! created the most fabulous dessert, Frozen Chevre Parfait with poached pears, financier (French tea cake) and a Caramel “Croquant” that just about killed me. The worst part being that I will likely never taste her desserts again unless I win the lotto.
Chef Michael Stoltzfus of Coquette and Sweet Olive made one of the best salads I have ever tasted…and I’m not a salad kind of girl (in case you haven’t noticed), dressed with a cashew puree and citrus vinaigrette. In fact, it was so tasty that attendees voted it “favorite dish” of the evening and Stoltzfus won a Jade Plancha!With no offense to Chef Stoltzfus, I had to vote for Emeril’s Chef David Slater’s dish, Sorghum-smoked Duck Breast with “dirty” fregola sarda (pasta), choucroute and truffle pate. I was dreaming about this one days later.
Although we lost the light soon after taking that last shot, we still enjoyed some wonderful cuisine, most memorably Alon Shaya’s Octopus Carpaccio (never tasted suckers that good) and Phillip Lopez’ Aloo Gobi (the only good Indian dish in New Orleans).
How I love edible art!