27, 7:00 P.M.
Members $95, guests $120
The Big Apple
may boast that we have it all, but we dont have New Orleans,
and lets face it, weve got nothing that even comes close.
OK, with luck we may be able to get a decent cup of coffee, but
not that quintessential Big Easy brew with chicory, served up with
a warm, sugar-dusted beignet. Certainly no self-respecting New Yorker
would turn down Manhattan clam chowder, but does it really hold
a candle to a bowlful of peppery gumbo, brimming with crayfish?
And theres scarcely a po boy in Manhattan worthy of
the name. This month, Beardies with a soft spot in their hearts
for the one-of-a-kind fare served in the Crescent City can have
their fill of grits and redfish at our Taste of NAwlins dinner,
when not one, not two, but four resident chefs and friends cook
up a spread as big and rich as the Delta city itself.
Jack Leonardi, coordinating chef for this special dinner, serves
Creole-soul cuisine that captures all the spice and spirit of the
city. Leonardi, a graduate of the Coast Guard Academy, fell in love
with New Orleans and its food when stationed there in the 80s.
While still in the service, he began working with Paul Prudhomme
at KPauls. It was an eye-opening experience. Leonardi
also trained with Austin Leslie, one of the all-time heroes of soul
food cooking, at Chez Hélène. By 1996, he was ready
to run the show. At Jacques-Imos, he serves the kind of food
that keeps em coming back for more, such as smoked boudin
with Creole mustard hollandaise, and bronzed amberjack with shrimp
in jalapeño sauce.
moved to New Orleans from his home in Des Moines, Iowa, to get into
the restaurant business. He was immediately hired at Clancys,
the popular Big Easy eatery singled out by Food & Wine
for its much-loved fried softshell crab sandwich topped with lump
crabmeat. After two years as line cook, Larson was tapped to be
sous-chef, and within a year, he was wearing the top toque. Under
his watch, Clancys received a four bean review
from The Times-Picayune. But Larson isnt hanging his
laurels on that achievement alone. Earlier this year, he became
proprietor of Lee Circle Restaurant, a new venture specializing
in elegant Creole cuisine.
Larson and Leonardi
will be joined at the Beard stoves by Richard Benz, who owns the
small, intimate Dick and Jennys with his wife. Writing in
The Times-Picayune, Paul Greenberg advised his readers to
you wouldnt think a little bargeboard
house could boast such big, imaginative cuisinebut think again.
Benz, a graduate of UCLA and the CIA, picked up a few things while
working at Gautreaus and Commanders Palace. At Dick
and Jennys, Benz has created a stir. Zagat respondents
claim that they would follow him to hell for French-Creole
food thats out of this world.
New York native
Emanuel Loubier moved to New Orleans after graduating from Rutgers
University with a degree in botany. He paid his rent by working
as a line cook, first at Café Savannah (now the home of Jacques-Imos),
and then with Kevin Vizzard, who was opening his first restaurant,
Bayou Ridge. Next, Loubier completed one year at that bastion of
fine French fare, Henri. He put in ten years of service at Commanders
Palace, which readied him to strike out on his own. At Dantes
Kitchen, he delights locals with his homey rendition of fine Creole