Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Foodie Honeymoon: Tuesday Dinner at Besh Steak

When I found out that Besh Steak was inside Harrah's Casino, I was a little startled.  No offense, but I always associate casinos with the word "cheap," no matter how fancy and glitzy and flashy they make things seem.  But, there she stood as we pushed through the casino entrance, just past the security station, waiting quietly and with poise amidst the flashing lights and stoic faces.

Besh Steak in New Orleans, LA

We were greeted by a very sweet hostess who led us past the bar, through an archway, and into the main dining room.  Blue Dog's eyes followed us as we went.  After passing tables and booths moderately filled with guests, we were directed to a booth nestled in a little curtained alcove.  So romantic! I happily slid into my seat.  We were given menus and a wine list, and the hostess slipped away.

Momentarily, our waitress approached the table.  She was a little thing, gentle and appearing to be a bit shy.  She introduced herself as Margaret, took our wine orders of a cabernet and a malbec, and she, too slipped away.  I remembered our experiences with Vanessa and Corey, and then Billie, and I wondered how this evening's relationship would develop.

At this point I excused myself to wash up after our rather warm walk and traipsed myself through the casino to what I thought was the closest bathroom.  I took a good look around as I walked.  Within my two minute walk (I got lost), I passed what must have been hundreds of people, seated at slot machines or crowded around game tables, none of them smiling, none of them even aware of me--dressed in a bright red dress--as I passed within inches of them.  What a way to spend your money, I thought.  I wonder how much they are spending for the hope of enjoying that ever elusive win?

I'd rather spend my money knowing that I'm going to enjoy something--namely, food.

When I returned from the restroom, Chef Reiton informed me that he and Margaret had had a chat while I was gone.  She had seen from our reservation that we were on our honeymoon, and he had told her of our honeymoon plan.  Besh's employees seemed to appreciate our little plan--I'm assuming because they agreed with how awesome he is.  I was glad to know it; I wanted it to be known that we appreciated him so.  I sat and soaked in the warmth I was feeling from my husband, my own enjoyment of our honeymoon thus far, and the wine I was sipping.  I reached across the table for Chef Reiton's hand and took a look at the items that had been placed on the table.

chicken liver pate at Besh Steak in New Orleans, LA

"Chicken liver paté and crostini," Chef Reiton explained.

Huh.  I'd never eaten chicken livers before.  Never really wanted to, either.  But here it was.  I took my knife and scooped up a little bit, then shmeared it on a crostini.  It looked like pink peanut butter.  I took a bite and chewed slowly, noting the contrast of textures: the crispy crunch of the crostini and the buttery smoothness of the paté.

"It's good, isn't it?" Chef Reiton projected, as he scooped up another blob.

I had to agree.  The paté definitely had a deep, dark flavor to it, but it was so gentle that you didn't mind.  And it's texture was so pleasing, smooth but full--it added a little contrast to the coarse crispness of the toasts.

As we were analyzing our virgin paté experience, a gentleman walked up to the table.  It was the general manager that we had seen eating his lunch that afternoon at Borgne.  He introduced himself as William and congratulated us on our marriage--and thus began another relationship for the evening.  We talked with William about our wonderful experiences so far, of which restaurants we had left to go to, of what brought him to New Orleans.  He was delightful.

"Hey," Chef Reiton interjected at one point.  "What is a Sazerac? We keep seeing them on menus."

Being a cocktail junkie (which my darling husband shamelessly encourages), I listened intently as William described the process of making the New Orleans cocktail:
   1) rinse an old-fashioned glass with absinthe
   2) pour in a couple ounces of rye whiskey
   3) squeeze a twist of lemon peel over the glass
   4) drop the lemon twist into the whiskey
   5) sip and enjoy

"It's a drink that is pretty much just straight whiskey, but if you like them, most people love them,"  he said.  Hmmm...I was intrigued.  William told us to enjoy ourselves and thanked us for coming, then headed off to the next table.

A moment later, Margaret appeared, ready to take our orders.  She had definitely warmed up to us.  She was starting to bubble.  Chef Reiton had decided on the smoked and roasted prime rib which came with fingerling potatoes and summer vegetables.  I wanted to expand my seafood experience further, so I opted for the surf 'n' turf, two beef tournedos served atop a bed of grits and topped with lump crabmeat in a béarnaise.

Off Margaret went with our orders, only to return a few minutes later with warm sourdough bread, butter--and two flutes of sparkling rosé.  "Congratulations!" she said with her darling smile.  I couldn't believe it.  Two nights in a row! What an amazing organization it was appearing that John Besh had built.  Talk about feeling like royalty! We thanked her repeatedly, then reached for our bubbly and reminisced of the past 24 hours with absolute glee.  What an experience to be having with someone who loves what you love--and who appreciates your loving it with your whole being.

Before we knew it, our food was ready and placed piping hot before us.  First, Chef Reiton's prime rib

smoked prime rib at Besh Steak in New Orleans, LA

and then my surf 'n' turf.

surf 'n' turf at Besh Steak in New Orleans, LA

There was a moment of silence.  I think the next words spoken were: "Oh    my     god."  Chef Reiton's prime rib was the size of the plate.  And my dish was gorgeous.  Simply GORGEOUS.  Knives and forks were picked up in slow motion.  We looked at each other and smiled.  And then we began to eat.

Now, I am a country girl, but one from the Northeast--so grits were not regular fare at my house.  In fact, they were a fare I had never tasted before in my life.  I knew what it was, basically, and that people ate them at breakfast--and that was as far as my knowledge went.  To find them on my dinner plate with steak and crab was exciting.  I was going to try them for the first time in an unusual way.

My first bite held a wonderful combination of a very faint sweetness from the grits and crab and a sour bite from the balsamic glaze that lightly dressed the tournedos.  The béarnaise, an ever delicious way to dress up a bit of beef tenderloin, provided a creamy butteriness that cut the vinegar's tartness.  As for my other garnishes, I unfortunately never found out what the purple leaves were on top, nor the bright green drizzle.  If I find out, I'll let you know.

The smoked prime rib was quite different for Chef Reiton.  He knew that the meat was smoked, but he declared the flavor to be more pronounced than he expected, and therefore, in his head, completely changed the meal.  It didn't seem like prime rib anymore; it was something else.  "It's good," he said.  "It's just not prime rib."  I tasted it and agreed.  Delicious, but different.

We continued our meal slowly, taking moments to rest and digest, talk and sigh.  Eventually Chef Reiton finished his meal; my meal--almost.  All except for one of the tournedos.  I just couldn't do it, as much as my mouth wanted it.  We settled back and sighed, and told Margaret how delicious everything was when she returned to our table.

"I'm so glad you enjoyed it," she said with a twinkle in her eye.  And as she backed away with our plates, William walked up from behind and placed a platter--and I mean a platter--of desserts right smack in the middle of the table.

desserts at Besh Steak in New Orleans, LA

At first I thought it was one of those trays of fake desserts that you pick your favorite one from.  But, no.  It was all real, and all for us.

"We want you to try our desserts," William said with a smile, and Margaret explained what each one was: molten chocolate cake with blackberries; homemade vanilla ice cream with homemade peanut brittle; white chocolate cake with berries; dark chocolate truffles; and warm bread pudding with caramel and pecan pralines.

"Just when I thought I couldn't eat anymore!" Chef Reiton said.

"I'll just have a bite of each..." I rationalized.

Ha ha haa! "A bite of each!" (You should have seen the platter when we were done.)

When we were moments into our dessert exploration, William one more time appeared at the table, this time with a Sazerac in hand.  "You have to try a Sazerac while you are here," he said and placed a glass on the table.

a Sazerac at Besh Steak in New Orleans, LA

"Thank you so much for celebrating with us," he said as he shook our hands.  "And have a wonderful rest of your honeymoon."  And with that he walked away.

I turned to Chef Reiton and shook my head.  "I cannot believe this treatment!" I said.  "It's just unbelievable. And it's everywhere we go!"  And then I took a sip of the Sazerac.  Ahhhhh.  Warmth and the scent of licorice and lemon.  De-licious.

Our leisurely evening of dining was drawing to a close.  I was so happy, I didn't want to move.

"So what's next?" Margaret asked as we paid our bill.

The answer? American Sector, Besh's nod to retro American comfort food.  That is: amped up comfort food.

As full as I was, I found myself thinking: I can't wait.

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