Garden District Delight:
In the heart of the Garden District above many trees rises a grand Victorian turret, in a building that is home to the legendary Commander's Palace. Here, I was lucky enough to have the last Sunday Jazz Brunch in the week before Katrina. Now, after more than a year of waiting, this great dame has re-opened to gladden the hearts of many.
Emile Commander opened the original restaurant in 1880, in the new "American" sector of New Orleans. The Americans had been generally snubbed socially by the Creoles, and they sought their own territory. Later, it was something of a "sporting house" in the private upper dining room, while the separately maintained downstairs was the scene for family meals and celebrations. In 1974, the Brennan family took over, and Commander's Palace as we know it today was born.
Commander's is open for lunch and dinner, with a Jazz Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Lunchtime here is a favorite with businessmen, possibly due in part to the 25-cent (yes, that's right) martinis. The restaurant is famous for its Turtle Soup with sherry, and Gumbo Du Jour. While you can get a porterhouse, why not try the Crawfish and Cognac, and finish off with a bread pudding souffle'--you have to order that early, when ordering the entree.
I have a hard time getting past the Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish, but am becoming very fond of the Grilled Veal Chop Tchoupitoulas. My husband always gets the Black Angus Filet Mignon, spiced and grilled, and served with truffled mashed potatoes, caramelized onions, smoked mushrooms and tasso marchands de vin. Yum. For dessert, the Chocolate Molten satisfies the most devout chocoholic.
This is the seat of so many birthday and anniversary celebrations. You can get eggs Sardou or Pain Perdu ("lost bread", a very elegant French Toast)with peaches, whipped cream, and champagne syrup. You can opt for Shrimp Cognac and Andouille Grits, Muscadine and Chicory Coffee Lacquered Quail, any number of salads or soups, and of course, Champagne. All of this is accompanied by the soul stirring music of a Jazz trio. Here is perfection on a Sunday afternoon.
Exeutive Chef Tory McPhail is a mere 30 years old, but has been training for this position for years. He was formerly Chef at the Breakers in Palm Beach and is a James Beard Rising Star Chef Nominee. The Chef has been at Commander's since 2001 and demands that his creations are the product of the freshest local ingredients.
What You Need to Know:
Commander's Palace is located at 1403 Washington Avenue at the corner of Coliseum Street. Reservations are required.(504) 899-8221 Dress is upscale, jackets for men are preferred at dinner. For more information, go to the official website.