Restaurant R'evolution

Revolution. Coup. Innovation. Metamorphosis. Transformation. Uprising. Who would attempt a culinary "revolution" in the one city in America that takes more pride in its culinary traditions than anywhere else? The answer is Chef John Folse and Chef Rick Tramonto, with their newly opened, and aptly named, Restaurant R'evolution in the Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans. The two are an unlikely pair - Louisiana native Folse is an authority on Cajun and Creole cooking, while Tramonto is an Italian from New York who worked in fine dining restaurants there and in Chicago before announcing the partnership with Folse in 2010. Restaurant R'evolution is their first place together, and while we were in New Orleans, nothing was going to stop us from eating there.

The home base for our stay in New Orleans was best friends' K's and J's home in River Ridge. But we decided to get a couple of rooms in the French Quarter for a night, dress up and find out whether R'evolution can deliver on their promise of a contemporary translation of Cajun and Creole cuisine (it can, and it does).

We were seated at a table within view of the open kitchen, always a plus for us lovers of the Food Network and Cooking Channel. The walls were lined with white-washed cabinets in which hung various meats destined to be thinly sliced and served on charcuterie platters. The chairs were high-backed and comfortable, a good thing, since our dining experience, from amuse bouche to complimentary sweets, lasted close to four hours. The decor was elegant with a touch of whimsy, like scarlet spindles printed onto the chair upholstery and a silhouette of a Southern belle etched into the glass on the ladies' room door.

We settled in with our drinks and shortly after, our server brought an amuse bouche of a shot of carrot and ginger soup with a slightly salted rim. We love the colored cardstock that decorated each plate - a fun and festive look indeed.

Much to our delight, Chef Folse visited the table and asked what we were thinking of ordering. At this point, Amy became her chef-groupie self, staring with wide-eyed wonder and blushing while trying to form a coherent sentence while the rest of the table had a nice conversation with the legendary chef. He was a friendly and gracious host who offered suggestions of his favorites and happily posed for a photo or two.

We took Chef's suggestions under advisement, then the four of us each ordered an appetizer and an entree, along with a couple of side dishes for the table to share. Of course, we also (barely) left room for dessert. Here is a photo gallery of the meal, along with brief descriptions of each dish.

First, the appetizers.

Death by Gumbo - a wonderfully rich, muddy broth poured at the table over a roasted quail with spicy andouille, rice and briny oysters.

Corn and Crab Cappuccino - a soft, velvety soup filled with fresh sweet corn and crabmeat and topped with a little bit of popcorn and a thin sliver of black truffle.

Tomato Salad - a Jackson Pollack-esque plate of heirloom tomatoes drizzled with balsamic and garnished with a scoop of olive oil gelato.

Pig Out Board - a charcuterie "binge" board of various meats, vegetables and relishes.

Next, the entrees.

Gulf Shrimp and Grits "Villages d'Est" - head-on shrimp stir-fried in a spicy ginger and chili sauce and served over cheesy grits that Chef Folse told us are stone-ground at his plantation near Baton Rouge.

Crawfish-Stuffed Flounder Napoleon - one of chef's strong suggestions - flaky flounder with a crawfish dressing served in a tangy artichoke and oyster stew with fried crawfish balls.

Sorghum-Cured Breast of Duck - tender duck in a molasses-flavored lacquer with soy beans, corn, tomatoes and stone-ground grits served with a miso beurre noisette.

Triptych of Quail - quail served three ways: crispy Southern-fried, uniquely Absinthe-glazed, and meaty boudin-stuffed.

For side dishes, we went au gratin, sharing the Artichoke and Mirliton (aka chayote squash) au gratin and the Gruyere potatoes au gratin (the former got the winning vote).

Dessert also offered a "triptych" this time of cheesecakes, which the ladies shared: marscapone with peaches, Creole cream cheese with strawberries, and goat cheese with plums; while the gentlemen enjoyed a chocolate souffle with Grand Marnier creme anglaise. At the end of the meal, our server delivered a gorgeously decorated jewelry box, and in each drawer were sweets - tartlets, truffles, pralines - to finish our meal.

This was, in many ways, among the best dining experiences we've had. Each bite (and yes, we all somehow managed to taste everything that came to the table) resulted in moans of gastronomic pleasure, and there were plenty of bites to go around. Enjoying it with our best of friends made it even better, naturally. There were some problems in the service - it was a bit slow, at times inattentive, and there were a couple of serious fumbles (Amy was given two knives and no fork to eat her duck with, a server splashed J with beer). Still, the food, as it should be, was the star of the show, with each simple Louisiana ingredient being respected while at the same time gently coaxed into a better version of itself.  In this way, one can almost compare it to the city of New Orleans, relying on her foundations not just to rebuild, but to evolve into something better. That is what Chefs Folse and Tramonto are doing here. And it is truly revolutionary. 

Restaurant R'evolution on Urbanspoon


Summer Corn and Cockles Pasta

No, we have not forgotten our promise to tell you more about our culinary adventures in New Orleans. We ate and drank our way through the city, took plenty of photos, spent time with wonderful friends, and now that we're home safe and sound, we need some time to organize our thoughts (and those photos!). So we will come back to that.

But having indulged in Southern style cuisine for all that time, for last night's dinner we wanted something lighter than what we've been eating. Chris went out to buy some produce and along with it, a pound of teeny tiny heart-shaped cockles that he thought would be great in a summery pasta dish. We used a garlic-parsley angel hair we bought at the farmers market a few weeks ago and made a tangy sweet sauce with Sicilian lemon vinegar.  Garlic added a much-needed kick and lemon zest boosted the fresh, light flavor. We liked it a lot, but might try it with some red pepper flakes next time. Can't find lemon vinegar? Use white wine vinegar and add a bit of lemon juice. Plain angel hair will work nicely as well.

Summer Corn and Cockles Pasta
(makes a light dinner for two or
four appetizer-sized plates)


2 nests garlic-parsley angel hair pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 pound cockles in the shell
1 ear of fresh corn, kernels shaved off
1 teaspoon lemon vinegar
1 teaspoon simple syrup
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Prepare the angel hair according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cockles and cook, shaking the pan often, until cockles begin to open. Add the corn kernels and vinegar and continue to shake the skillet to incorporate. Gently stir in the simple syrup and lemon zest and give it a couple of last shakes, cooking until all cockles are open. Set aside. Drain pasta and toss in cockles and sauce. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro.

Duda It's a Dandy Summer Recipe Contest Winner!

Updated 8/9/2012 - We won the Duda It's a Dandy Summer Recipe Contest! Check it out on their webpage here! Our Sweet Chili and Coconut Corn Soup was tested, tasted, and photographed by Duda Farm Fresh Foods, producers of Dandy Fresh fruits and vegetables. Our recipe is featured right here on their website. This photograph is from their professional photographer. We love it! Thanks, Duda!


New Orleans Part One

We are livin' the good life in New Orleans and thought we should share some photos of our culinary adventures so far.

Day One:

Lunch at Mandina's

Seafood Gumbo

Crab Fingers in White Wine Sauce

Fried Oyster Po'Boy

Afternoon Snack at Williams Plum St. Snoballs

Pineapple with Coconut Cream and Dreamsicle

Appetizers at Dockside

Chargrilled Oysters

Dinner at Huckleberry's

Shrimp Etouffee

Trilogy (fish, oysters, shrimp) Po'Boy

White Beans with Grilled Shrimp

Day Two:

Lunch at Pascal's Manale

Loaf of French Bread

Shrimp and Andouille Ravioli

The Original Barbeque Shrimp


Dinner at Impastato's (Chef Joe's Dinner Special, sadly no photos!)

Day Three:

Brunch made from leftovers

Pasta Frittata, Veal Hash, White Beans-and-Rice Arancini, Filet Mignon, Mimosas

That's all for now! We are heading to the French Quarter for a couple of days, and we will update soon!


Sorbetto al Melone

It seems to us that we promised you a recipe about a week ago and we haven't followed through. We're sorry...but we are teachers on summer vacation! And we are about to head to New Orleans, NOLA, the Crescent City, the Big Easy, for two weeks! Which means you probably won't be hearing much from us. For now, here's that recipe we promised - a cool, refreshing, delightful sorbet you can make using your favorite type of melon. We've tried it with watermelon (pictured above) (fantastic) and cantaloupe (our favorite sorbetto ever!). Anyone up for some honeydew?

Sorbetto al Melone, or Melon Sorbet
slightly adapted from Gelato by Adriano di Petrillo

Cooks' Note: Why caster sugar? It dissolves much more easily than granulated sugar so your sorbet isn't gritty.


1 1/3 cup cold water, divided
juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 cup caster or superfine sugar (see cooks' note), divided
14 ounces melon, peeled, deseeded and chopped

In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat 2/3 cup water until just boiling. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and 3/4 cup of the sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves; set aside and allow to cool. Place chopped melon, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and remaining 2/3 cup water in a food processor and puree. Combine sugar/lemon syrup and melon puree together and stir. Pour mixture into ice cream maker and proceed with manufacturer's instructions. Serve immediately or store in airtight container in freezer up to a week.


Sweet Cheeks Q (A Review)

Amy writes...
Did your 4th of July BBQ make you hungry for more? If so, keep reading. It all started when J wanted to take me out to a schmancy dinner in Boston for my 40th birthday. Due to the busy-ness of the school year, April and May were chock full of nonsense. So we decided to go a week after school got out, and we made it an overnight. Foodies that we are, a good chunk of the 36 hours centered around food, right from the get-go. This is the story of amazing meal number one - barbecue.

Shortly after we got off the turnpike, J, who had recently had a college reunion, took me on a driving tour of the Fenway area so I could see how much things have changed. That's about when we decided we were hungry for lunch and absolutely had to check out Sweet Cheeks Q. Sweet Cheeks Q is a real Texas BBQ joint owned by Tiffani Faison (of Top Chef Season One fame), that offers a unique and sorely needed type of cuisine right near the Green Monster. Their meats are all-natural (including Berkshire pork and locally sourced beef), and they utilize local farms as much as possible.

The decor is simple, homey and fun - sauces, napkins and flatware in old coffee cans sit atop glossy picnic tables. The space is bright and open, with enough light that you can almost imagine you're eating in the good ole' outdoors.  The lunch menu is straightforward (and reasonably priced!) as well, focusing on "trays" that are served with hot or cold "scoops," and sandwiches, with a few other tidbits thrown in for good measure. It didn't take long for us to choose what we wanted - for me, the pork belly tray; for J, a pulled pork sandwich.

Our waitress was young and friendly, attentive and welcoming. When we mentioned we were fans of "Tiff," she let us in on the secret - Tiff was there at that very moment - and said she'd ask her to come visit our table. Chef groupie that I am, I got all verklempt!

"The House Bill 819" - tea-infused Berkshire Mountain corn whiskey
with lemon-mint simple syrup

We enjoyed our drinky-drinks (it was big girl lunch, after all) and anxiously waited for Tiffani to visit and for the deliciousness to arrive. Our trays came first. I had ordered the Berkshire pork belly with a hot scoop of mac-n-cheese. While the fat on the pork was not quite crispy enough for my taste, OMG was the the flavor ever there and more. Smoky and meaty and incredibly good, I coudn't possibly eat it all in one sitting (at least not along with the creamy mac, pickles, Texas-sized white bread, salt and pepper potatoes appetizer, and a few tastes of J's lunch), so I insisted on taking the leftovers. Once we got to the hotel, poor J had to create a makeshift refrigerator out of some ice and a hotel shoe-shine bag for me.

J had better luck finishing her Berkshire pulled pork sandwich, which was slathered with crunchy/creamy slaw and served on grilled, buttered Texas toast. The pork was so tender and juicy, if she weren't so careful, she would have dribbled it all over herself. The "heirloom bbq beans" she got for her side dish were perfectly cooked, sweet and smoky. Although we barely had room for them, the salt and pepper potatoes were crispy fried bites of heaven, like the simplest but most delicious potato skins you've ever had. And although neither pork dish really needed them because the Texas-style dry rub was so awesome, we tasted all three of the housemade sauces - one sweet and smoky (the sweet bbq), one tangy and vinegary (the Carolina), and one sweet/hot and peppery (the cilantro habanero) - and liked them all.

When Tiffani visited, she was kind and hospitable, graciously chatting and accepting my business card as if she hasn't gotten a million of them from foodies all over the place. We so appreciated her taking the time to come out and see us and making us feel special. 

To sum up, every bite was as good as, if not better than, the last. Drinks were strong (in a good way), food was plentiful and comforting, service was awesome, and we met Tiffani!!! As far as I'm concerned, this lunch ranks in my personal Top 3 of all barbecue experiences. I will be back. Chris has got to eat here...and so should you!

Thank you, J, for dinner, a couple of these photos, and everything else, most importantly, your friendship.

To check out J's blog, go here.

Sweet Cheeks Q on Urbanspoon