Mat & Naddie’s
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
The sign outside looks as if it were painted for either a preschool or a late-1960s head shop (funny how those two had similar decor). The exterior is bright greenish yellow. What kind of restaurant is this? Would you guess an ambitious, sophisticated gourmet bistro in a league with Gautreau’s, Clancy’s, or Brigtsen’s? With a wine list to match? It is all those things, its kitchen so adept at rendering both classics and inventions that you either fail to notice the surrounds, or you actually like the scene.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Mat & Naddie’s is Uptown’s favorite kind of restaurant: a Creole bistro with imaginative (but not too) and delicious (very) food, in a funny old cottage whose interior decor seems almost accidental. All this gives the feeling that you’ve discovered a great restaurant nobody knows about, and this charms you.
The contrast between the frivolous exterior and the sophistication and imagination of the kitchen could hardly be greater. Every time I dine here I’m taken aback by it. The trick is this: the presentations are dialed back, while the gustatory aspect is optimized. Dishes can be original and familiar at the same time, with dishes built with infrequently-encountered ingredients. Although it isn’t a vegetarian restaurant, the menu contains more vegetarian and vegan dishes than any other I know of. The place often presents table d’hote dinners with paired wines at attractive prices.
The restaurant evolved from a catering business operated by Michael and Paula Schramel, whose children’s names were Nat and Maddie. After evolving by way of kidspeak, the name of the restaurant was born. In the 1990s Steve Schwartz–a sous chef for most of the restaurant’s history–bought the Schramels out. He added his own ideas and thereby made the cooking even better, keeping Mat & Naddie’s on a long-term upward trend.
It’s a 150-year-old cottage built from the boards of flatboat barges that had finished their one and only trips downriver. The main dining room is a long space with wavy floorboards and many windows. Freight trains passing just outside somehow become romantic. They also have an outdoor dining area on a deck lighted partially by Christmas-tree lights.
BEST DISHES Entrees Desserts FOR BEST RESULTS OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
FULL ONLINE MENU
Soup of the day
Sweet and spicy pecan halves
»Sicilian olives, artichoke hearts, marinated ricotta salata cheese
Artichoke, sun-dried tomato and roasted garlic cheesecake, basil and spinach chiffonade, olive tapenade
»Shrimp and crawfish croquettes, pickled fennel, red onions, roasted garlic and balsamic emulsion
»Mat & Naddie’s pâté
»Roasted banana, green lentil-flour curry paste, cashew cream, cilantro-mint-tomato relish
»Grilled prosciutto-wrapped scallops and bitter greens salad, tomato caper basil vinaigrette, shaved parmesan reggiano
Maytag blue cheese garden salad, romaine, cucumbers, radishes, carrots and grape tomatoes
»Belgian endive and beet salad, walnuts, crumbled goat cheese, Creole mustard-cane syrup vinaigrette
Fried oyster salad, baby greens, green-onion rémoulade, applewood-smoked bacon, pickled fennel, and onion
»Bronzed Gulf fish, basil and shrimp risotto
Smoked shiitake mushrooms, Thai red curry stew
Brown jasmine-black sesame lunar rice cakes, squash-sweet pepper ragoût, garlic
Grilled Gulf shrimp tonkatsu (panneed), sticky jasmine rice, braised Chinese celery
»Grilled filet mignon, pommes frites, wild mushrooms, roasted broccoli and a beurre rouge
»Grilled venison denver leg “Norske,” cauliflower puree, two sauces: watercress and lingonberry
»Mushroom and Swedish Vasterbotton cheese roulade, porcini marinara puree, truffle oil garnish
»Veal saltimbocca, rasted cauliflower and broccoli, beurre blanc and fried capers
»Panneed white chocolate and almond bread pudding, banana brulee, rum caramel sauce
Chocolate truffle cake, creme anglaise, raspberry coulis
Chocolate peanut butter gooey battercake, creme anglaise, chocolate sauce and crushed peanuts
»Warm blueberry peach cobbler, oatmeal and brown sugar crust
Lemon ice box pie, chantilly cream and candied basil
Make a reservation; the place fills up suddenly and unpredictably. Ask about having a dinner paired with wines. They’re better at this than you might imagine, with a terrific list to pick from. Be aware of the funny dinner schedule, in which the place is closed on Wednesday and Sunday.
The dining rooms are a little drafty in cold weather.
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
FOR BEST RESULTS
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
- Live music some nights
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Good view
- Open Monday lunch
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations honored promptly
Thursday, February 11, 2016.
Twenty-Seven Years. Two Meats-And-Threes.
It’s the anniversary for Mary Ann and me. Six months after she hired me for the gig I still have on WSMB Radio, she and I tied the knot, beginning a year of tremendous changes for both of us. By the time we celebrated our first anniversary in 1989, we had traveled to Europe, gave birth to son Jude, and I became manager of the radio station. Two anniversaries later, we had moved to Abita Springs, WWL bought WSMB but let me continue the Food Show, Mary Leigh was on her way to being born, and our lives settled more or less into the routine it kept until recently, when suddenly we find each other with grown-up, departed kids, and we are grandparents.
And the radio show is still on the air. Only slightly less resistant to change is a ritual we practice almost every A-Day. We return on this day to the Windsor Court Hotel, where we spent the first two nights of our marriage. Some years we come again for dinner. On the big anniversaries, we check in for the night. This year, we have lunch in the Grill Room, where Mary Ann has found a menu that suits her tastes perfectly: a meat-and-three collection of home-style dishes prepared with fine ingredients and great care, served in a beautiful setting with detailed service.
Her order brings to the table a cup of seafood gumbo, grilled Brussels sprouts, and generously crabby crab cakes. The most intriguing of her three sides is a thin sheet of Manchego cheese melted across a wide plate with a central depression where various vegetables collect.
My lunch main is a confit of duck leg, just crisp enough at the skin and falling apart at the bone. The threes are Hopping John (black-eye peas with savory vegetables stirred in among the beans), a miniature Windsor Court salad (the very thing we dined upon when we checked into the hotel on our wedding night) and truffled macaroni and cheese. Everything on both sides is terrific. Pretty good lunch for $19.84 a copy.
The pastry shop sends us a miniature wedding cake bearing the message of the day. We are mellow.
When we can’t linger another minute, I walk the three blocks to the radio station to commence the good old Food Show at three. As for Mary Ann, she goes home to pick up one of our neighbors, and the two of them drive to Baton Rouge to take part in the big Donald Trump rally. In no other way is Mary Ann predictable, but her politics are. I push away any thoughts I might have had about sharing our anniversary with The Donald.
I am much too full from lunch to even consider dinner. Unless I count a graham-cracker-flavored frozen yogurt at the gas station en route home. I note with pleasure that my new Beetle gives a third again as many miles for the same-size tank of gas in my late, lamented PT Cruiser.
Windsor Court Grill Room. CBD: 300 Gravier. 504-522-1994. The meat-and-three $19.84 lunch is available every day except Sunday.
#31: Seraphine Salad @ Steak Knife
The salads at the long-running Lakeview steak specialist (which also serves just about everything else) have always been better than average. This one is for evenings when you want to literally graze. The Seraphine salad (I think it’s named for the Roth brothers’ mother) brings avocado, asparagus, hearts of palm, and artichoke hearts together with the greens. The house-made dressings are all good, but the best is the Roquefort, topped off with a little remoulade. Perfect prelude to a steak, the great roast chicken, or the crabmeat au gratin.
For the rest of the Seafood Countdown so far, click here.
Angels on Horseback
This is such a simple dish it almost doesn’t require a recipe, but enough people ask me about it that here it is. This is the perfect time of year to make this little pass-around appetizer, because the oysters are exceptionally meaty right now.
In the days of Dickens, grand feasts would end with what was called the “savory”—a single bite of something smoky and salty. This dish is the classic savory course–especially when the meal began with oysters.
- 6 slices smoky bacon
- 12 large oysters
1. Stretch the bacon slices out on a rack atop a baking pan and put it about four inches under the broiler at 550 degrees. Broil for about two minutes, until the fat in the bacon begins to turn opaque and some of the fat has been rendered out. Remove and drain the bacon. Leave the broiler on.
2. Cut each slice of bacon in half. Wrap a half-slice of bacon around each oyster, and attach with a toothpick. Place the oysters on the rack under the broiler and broil for about two minutes, turning once, until the edges of the bacon begin to crisp.
Serves four to six appetizers or twelve savories.
February 12, 2016
Days Until. . .
It is International Lentil Soup Day. Lentils are an ancient part of the human diet, having been cultivated since prehistoric times in the Middle East. They have two things going for them: they’re highly nutritious, and they taste great. Lentils are legumes, more closely related to chickpeas and green peas than to red beans, limas, or other New World beans. They come in many colors, from green to red to brown; the latter are most common in our part of the world.
Lentils lend themselves so well to soup that they are found in that role throughout the Mediterranean. I order lentil soup whenever we find it; after hundreds of samples, I can’t say I’ve ever had a bad one. The best come from Italian and Lebanese restaurants. Lentils play a particularly large role in the Indian menu. Not only do they serve them as soups and as beans, but they also mill them into a flour that’s made into poppadums, those big thin wafers you get at the beginning of an Indian dinner.
The unique shape of the lentil gave rise to the word “lens,” with which it shares a shape. (I know that sounds unlikely, but it’s true.)
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
When the cook in the house
Prepares lentils and fish
The reviews from the spouse
Dover sole, n.–One of the world’s most prized eating fish, the Dover sole lives along the eastern shores of the Atlantic Ocean, along the coasts of Europe as far south as Northern Africa. It gets the first half of its name from the fishing port on the British side of the English Channel, where the best soles have been caught for centuries.
The soles (there are other kinds) are flatfish, a family whose other members include flounders and halibuts. Most such fish lie on the bottom of the seabed, blending in with it, until suitable prey happens by. The sole then explodes from seemingly nowhere and grabs its food. Because of this behavior, one of its eyes have migrated to the upper side of its body.
Sole meuniere–dusted in flour, sauteed in butter–is the classic way this beautiful white fish is cooked. In the classiest places, it’s brought to the table whole, and deboned right there for the diner. A few restaurants in New Orleans serve Dover sole, but the local flounder is actually a better fish.
The town of Turkey–population about 500–is at the base of the Texas Panhandle. Its greatest claim to fame is that it’s where the great cowboy swing bandleader Bob Wills was born. It’s the center of a vast farming area where cotton, watermelons, peanuts and sweet potatoes are grown. It is also surrounded by a very striking landscape. Turkey is just west of the edge of the high plateau of the Panhandle. The terrain has eroded into forms that are alternately beautiful and desolate. It’s an eyeful either way. You can get a good meal in Turkey at Galvan’s, right on Main Street.
Today is the birthday, in 1791, of Peter Cooper, a man active in everything from industry to politics to education. He built the first steam locomotive in the United States, the Tom Thumb. We remember him as having patented a gelatin dessert in 1845. After the patent expired, the concept evolved into Jell-O.
Food In Science
Today in 1976, FD&C Red Dye #2 was banned from use in food in the United States, after Russian scientists found it caused cancer in lab rats. As a result, we had no red M&Ms for many years. At the local level, Barq’s Red Cream Soda became colorless for a time. There was no change in the flavor, but everybody said it did taste different. That dye was replaced by others that didn’t cause problems.
Actor Joe Don Baker was born today in 1936. . . Sir Anthony Berry, British politician, was born today in 1925. . . Pro baseballer Chet Lemon stepped up to the Big Plate today in 1955. . . Former governor of Indiana Conrad Baker was inaugurated into life today in 1817.
Words To Eat By
“Kissing don’t last: cookery do!”–George Meredith, British writer, born today in 1809.
Words To Drink By
“An American monkey after getting drunk on brandy would never touch it again, and thus is much wiser than most men.”–Charles Darwin, born today in 1809.
What Happens To Table Scrapings?
Have you ever wondered why restaurants are so insistent about rounding up all the tray orts that wind up in the tablecloth (if, indeed, you’re lucky enough to have a tablecloth)? Could it be that they have a plan that results in extra profitability?
Click here for the cartoon.