For a long time I have used the expression, “proving that we do take our own advice…” We took our own advice last night and went to Annadele’s Plantation. They are an advertiser on our new show (live weekdays 2-4 WGSO 990 AM) and we hear the spots. It worked on us.
Absolutely every time we leave this place I say the same thing, wondering aloud why going there isn’t a weekly thing. The dining room is small and lovely, the food is really quite delicious, and it is overall a wonderful experience. There is no “but” coming here. It is a wonderful experience.
Last night was different than most though, because Greg and Trisha, the owners, were playing all the service roles. Greg made Tom’s Negroni (his efforts approved by Tom), and Trisha and Greg were our waiters. I started feeling sorry for them midway through our meal,when the dining room started to fill up. The kitchen is a bit of a walk from the dining room. These two are pretty excellent at service, because last night the food was some of the stove-hottest food I have encountered in a long time. Tom was delighted that he had to wait a few seconds to eat his fish. My seafood au gratin was smoldering.
I already had trouble wanting everything on the menu and then Greg mentioned the night’s specials. He said what I thought was cacio e pepe, but that didn’t seem right. He was relieved when I helped him. I was surprised to hear that, until I remembered the guy in the kitchen was from Italy. He also told me there was a crawfish quiche, and I was already dickering with myself between the savory cheesecake and crab cakes. Tom went for a beet salad.
I asked if I could get a side of cacio e pepe in my relentless quest to find a “true” version of this. And I got the quiche. Tom’s entree order was exactly what I wanted, so I got the seafood au gratin, and I left another eight things on the menu I would also have loved.
The crawfish quiche was really tasty, with a fantastically flaky crust. It too, was really stove hot and had a rich seafood flavor. I could have asked for the remainder of the pie and had a meal of this.
The cacio e pepe was a true version of the dish. I first became obsessed with cacio e pepe about 6 years ago when I read about it in a travel magazine. It was featured in an article with a close up picture of some strands of spaghetti dangling from a fork, bits of pepper clinging to each spaghetti strand. It is a particularly Roman dish, and some have suggested it is sort of the official dish of Rome, though you see it around Italy some.
Whenever I see it in the States, I have to get it but I’m always disappointed. Not in the flavor so much - how bad can Pecorino Romano cheese and spaghetti and pepper be? What makes it so special is that these are the sole ingredients to the dish, and its preparation is daunting. Made properly, hot wet pasta is tossed in a hollow wheel of cheese in such a way and just so that it gets a coating of cheese evenly distributed, and then cracked pepper is added in exactly the proper amount. The name says it all. Cacio e pepe is translated as cheese and pepper. Simple and sublime.
Last night I was brought a bowl of a true cacio e pepe, though I was told he did not toss it in a wheel. And if I wanted to be picky, the pepper was too fine, but otherwise, it was the real deal.
Tom meanwhile was happy with his beet salad with large homemade croutons and large slices of perfectly cooked beets.
On a bed of spinach with a delightfully fresh and light dressing, I could see why he was happy with his choice.
The entrees came and I can see why Tom reference Galatoire’s when he mentions Annadele’s. Atop some brabant potatoes sat a large piece of redfish Meuniere, with a great sauce. And toasted almonds. This was the first real meal in a restaurant in months, and I’m glad it was this one. The crust was perfect, the sauce spot on, and the fish flaky inside. A total winner.
I was no less happy with my cheesy topped ramekin packed with crabmeat and shrimp and crawfish in a cream sauce. One of us had a side of artichoke and string bean dressing which was a little piquant and also really nice, but that would be something I would be more inclined to eat. I was a little cheese-weary at this point, but had enough bites to enjoy.
Tom had a creme brulee that I have always considered very generous and equally beautiful. Lat night I actually had a bite. It had a hard crust of toasted sugar that was very pleasing, and a creamy vanilla custard inside that was really delicious. This is not a dessert that I’d ever waste calories on (it’s not chocolate) but I can definitely see its merits. And this was a great version.
So how is it that a great Italian chef is toiling away in the kitchen at Annadele’s Plantation, nestled off the highway in Covington? A familiar story: His wife met him on a vacation to Rome. She’s from Madisonville.You can’t take the girl from Louisiana.