By John DeMers & Rhonda Findley
RHONDA: Creole vs. Cajun? John, you make it sound like Ali vs. Frazier or something. Is it a championship bout at the Louisiana Superdome, or are we talking great New Orleans cooking here?
JOHN: Maybe a little bit of both, I'm afraid. The fact is, we New Orleanians don't mind telling everybody about all our history. But we sometimes get tired of insisting that most of us aren't Cajuns from down on some bayou - and that our local cuisine that everybody lines up to eat isn't Cajun either. Hey folks, it's called Creole!
RHONDA: So, the way I understand it -- Creole and Cajun cuisines are the creation of two distinct French-speaking groups who called south Louisiana home. Actually, there are a lot of experts who proclaim Creole and Cajun food America's best indigenous cuisines. Some even proclaim them America's only indigenous cuisines. Creole cuisine is the cooking of New Orleans! No matter how many times you've heard this city described as the heart of Cajun Country, both groups will tell you ... New Orleans is not.
JOHN: Creole cooking is based on elegant French cooking - a time-honored pampering of royalty and rich people. The glorious sauces of the Creole kitchen are at least built upon the glorious sauces of the French kitchen. And no one around here is about to complain.
RHONDA: Yet Creole also has that "melting pot" thing going on. Seems like it borrows from anybody who's spent more than 15 minutes in New Orleans. This mingling goes back to Creole cooking's earliest days. In other words, it's been grabbing good ideas since the very beginning.
JOHN: That's for sure. Way back in 1722, they had what became known as the "Petticoat Rebellion." About fifty young wives marched on Governor Bienville's mansion in New Orleans, pounding their frying pans with metal spoons and protesting their dreary diet. I'd agree: cornmeal mush sounds pretty dreary!
Bright guy that he was, Bienville put the women in touch with his own housekeeper, a certain Madame Langlois. She'd picked up a few tricks from the local Choctaws. She calmed the angry wives by teaching them how to use powdered sassafras for flavor in gumbo, how to make hominy grits, how to get the most from this region's fish and game. So French tradition got real friendly with native American pragmatism, and Creole cooking was born.
RHONDA: According to the dictionaries, Creole comes from the same Latin root as the work "create," with the French creating their creole from the Spanish criollo. Over time, this went from denoting a person born here of Spanish parents to a person born here of French parents. But Creole, you have to remember, can also mean a mix of black and white parentage, or even undiluted black. It can get pretty confusing. And to these French, Spanish and African roots, successive waves of immigrants contributed touches from everywhere - especially Sicily, Germany, Ireland, Greece and even Croatia.
JOHN: Okay, that's some serious Creole. But what about the Cajuns people keep thinking we are? Well, they were a different French-speaking group living along the bayous - outside New Orleans. After all these years, the result is a Cajun cuisine that looks French in sophistication yet packs more punch and, on many tables, carries more surprises. Cajun cooking left the Mother Country earlier than the roots of Creole, so it's simpler and more rustic than the food found in fabled New Orleans restaurants. In some country Cajun eateries, you feel yourself eating as the Three Musketeers must have eaten. Maybe: One for all, but all for me!
RHONDA: Come now, John. Didn't you're mother ever teach you to share? And really, that's only the beginning of Cajun cooking. Not its current state. The international spotlight has convinced Cajun chefs they are no longer second-class citizens. In truth, they never were. Today they are some of the superstars in a city long dominated by Creole taste buds and chefs imported from France.
JOHN: I guess it just .
Starter (choice of one)
Chicken and Andouille Gumbo
Flash Fried Asian Calamari
Tossed with sweet chili sauce, served with sambal-lime sour cream
Stilton and Apple Salad
Baby lettuces, English Stilton, granny smith apples, toasted walnuts and orange-champagne vinaigrette
Entrée (choice of one)
Pork Porter House 64
Steen cane syrup and Creole mustard glazed, 16 oz Porter House served with bacon-smothered green beans and Brabant potato topped with fried shallot rings
Prosciutto and Parmesan Crusted Chicken
Free range Statlor breast served with cauliflower almond puree, zucchini tapenade and Saba
Fresh drum served with warm potato salad and Andouille-corn au jus
Dessert (choice of one)
New Orleans Bread Pudding, Crème Brulee, or Homemade Ice Cream
Friends & Family can also enjoy this special menu for $35 per person.
Reservations are required by calling, 504-586-0972
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