Thursday, December 3, 2009. Bourbon Dinner At The Bourbon House. Dickie Brennan uses the name and location of his seafood house for all it's worth. Not long after it opened, the Bourbon House latched onto the growing interest in small-batch bourbon whiskeys, and started an open, free club for people who were interested in the spirit. Dickie says that the inspiration came from his father, who thought it made a lot of sense for a New Orleans restaurant to emphasize bourbon, now that bourbon's quality was being enhanced.
The producers of bourbon in Kentucky got wind of these efforts, and so liked Dickie's frequent bourbon dinners that they had the governor of the state name him a Kentucky Colonel. His celebration? What else but another bourbon dinner at the Bourbon House?
I didn't have an Eat Club dinner this week, so I accepted an invitation to the ceremonies. The presence of buffalo on the menu also grabbed me. And it gave me a chance to catch up with my buddy Dick Brennan Sr., Dickie's aforementioned dad. He and Marcelle Bienvenu and I had dinner together at Commander's Palace every first Tuesday of the month for ten years, during the Emeril and Jamie Shannon years. I am unlikely ever to top the pleasures that came from those dinners. Or to forget Dick's wit and wisdom, which could be compiled into a small book and sold. His best line of this night: "Tom, tell people to eat all they can now, because if they wait until they get old they won't be able to." (He's had to alter his diet substantially for health reasons.)
Four small-batch, premium bourbons sloshed out in small snifters in advance of the courses, with a tall glass of water on the side. I believe that cocktails and food are only marginally good partners at the table, but sometimes it works. It did tonight.
The first course was slices of smoked duck breast, fanned over a salad with candied pecans and the local citrus. Then the soup of the year: butternut squash bisque, which everybody seems to be serving. This is the fourth time I've had it in the last month. (It was even in one meal I had on the Canada cruise in October.) Floating on it was a slick of ruddy "maple-cayenne oil." It zipped up the pepper level higher than I would have, and it made the Eagle Single-Barrel Reserve Bourbon burn so much the more. Seared sea scallops--another commonplace on menus for the past decade (but not the one before that)--came with grits underneath and Woodford Reserve on the side.
The main item was filet mignon of bison, sliced with the grain (why did they do that?), served with a smoked oyster dressing and a French bordelaise (made with red wine, as opposed to the garlic butter we call bordelaise in New Orleans). I haven't had bison in something like ten years. What I remember about it from then--that it's a lot like beef, except not as tender because it's not as fatty--was confirmed by this sample. It's not gamy at all, which is the biggest surprise.
I mentioned beefalo, a hybrid of cattle and bison. I wrote ads for Canal-Villere about the meat in the 1970s. It just occurred to me that I haven't seen or heard of it since then. Nobody else at the table had ever heard of it at all. So much for that conversational string.
Dickie got his Kentucky Colonel commission, joked about wearing a white suit with a big white hat and a string tie while carrying around a bucket of fried chicken, thanked his dad, and thanked the great state of Kentucky. Someone got up and tried to get everybody going with a lame rewrite of the Christmas song "Let It Snow," with the chorus going "Twelve and oh, twelve and oh, twelve and oh." The Saints obsess most of us always and everywhere these days.
What brought this up was news that snow may actually fall in New Orleans tomorrow. Indeed, it was very cold outside. We'll have our first freeze of the season tonight at the Cool Water Ranch. The advance winds blew my car all over the Causeway on my way across. To someone driving behind me, it might have appeared that I'd been drinking bourbon all night.
Bourbon House. French Quarter: 144 Bourbon 504-522-0111. Seafood.