Since I’ve moved away from San Francisco, my lunchtime options have changed considerably. Gone are the places I oft-frequented. Gone are the bronzed roast chickens at Seller's Markets, the organic salads with golden beets and marinated hearts of palm at Mixt Greens, the royal chicken roulade at Lightening Foods. . . And gone is the majestic Ferry Building.
But I can't complain. Now, in New Orleans, I can eat at a place that sells lunchtime martinis for only $0.25.
And thus illustrates the number one reason why I love New Orleans.
Bacco (the $0.25 cent martini place which I am referring to) is owned by the illustrious Brennan family, a restaurateuring presence in New Orleans. When a San Francisco friend came to visit last month, we decided to visit this $0.25 martini place, and were in for an incredible surprise.
When we were seated, our server described the specials and the signature items. However, the part that caught my ear was her explanation of how of the Zagat editors indicated that the lobster ravioli was better than heaven on earth.
"'Lady, you had me at 'lobster ravioli,'" I told her, with the look of enamor in my eyes.
My friend and I started with a truffled egg, which as the menu describes as, "[a] flash fried soft boiled egg served on bruschetta with truffled gorgonzola cream sauce and baby arugula."
As we divided the dish, my friend and I marveled at (1) the symmetry of the egg and (2) how the egg white had solidified, leaving nil a trace of any slippery uncooked white, while preserving the gorgeously runny yolk. Every flavor asserted its presence independently and every element was elevated beyond an artform. The toasted bruschetta retained its crunch while simultaneously sponging the sunny yolk that had exuded and oozed forth from the flash fried egg. The crisp, breaded skin of the egg provided a welcome contrast to the gelatinous and springy egg white, and the tangy cheese flavors from the gorgonzola had permeated into the dish and left a green marbleized vein across the ivory sauce. Finally, the thin truffle slices possessed a light, gritty texture and robust woody, nutty, and earthy flavors. As my friend and I took turns cleaning off the plate, we expressed our concern that the main course could not possibly live up to the truffled egg. Thankfully, these concerns went unrealized.
For my main course, I ordered the housemade lobster ravioli which was stuffed with Maine lobster and gulf shrimp and served with caviar and champagne butter sauce. The ravioli pasta sheets were firmly sealed together with the crosswise imprint of a pasta roller and the raviolis were generously filled with lobster and the native gulf shrimp. Gargantuan chunks of supple lobster flesh and tense little beads of caviar danced upon the ravioli and into my mouth. Best of all, the raviolis were served in an elegant and rich champagne butter sauce that consisted of the purest and sweetest form of liquefied butter known to man. Yes. It was better than heaven on earth.
My friend ordered the roasted chicken and stracci, which was described by the menu as "[h]ousemade pasta rags tossed with roasted chicken morsels, fresh spinach and basil in a light tomato sauce and garnished with parmigiano-reggiano cheese." The humble pasta rags were best al dente pasta I have ever eaten in my life, and I don't throw around the word "best" lightly. The pasta possessed a firm resistance and the delicate chewiness that had never been as well-executed in any other pasta dish I have had. Furthermore, the rich tomato sauce was filled with warming herbal flavors and the comforting (and not overpowering) aroma of cheese. I felt like I could pour the rest of the sauce into a mug and sip on it in front of a cabin fireplace with mittens and my earmuffs on.
Finally, as a conclusion to a fabulous, awe-inspiring meal, we ended our meal with Mr. Ralph's ice cream sandwich which was made of spongy chocolate gingerbread stuffed with a dulce de leche ice cream, dusted with powdered sugar, and served with chocolate and caramel sauce. It was fine dessert, but I find that personally, I tend to shy away from dishes that combine flavors like cinnamon and ginger with cream. The ice cream was firm and frosty, and the dessert was presented well.
As my friend and I finished our meal, we talked and laughed until we had tears in our eyes. Although the majority of my tears were due to my joy at seeing my wonderful friend, I think our tears were in part due to the amazing meal at Bacco.