Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Foodie Honeymoon: Wednesday Lunch at American Sector

What a crappy day for weather it was on our Wednesday afternoon.  Torrential rains left us stranded for half an hour in a bar just two blocks from our hotel after we'd left to catch a streetcar for the National World War II Museum.  The unrelenting storm nixed that romantic streetcar plan, and we decided to call for a cab instead.  The streets were looking pretty swamped.

But our outlook wasn't dampened whatsoever that afternoon as we headed to lunch.  Today we were going to eat at American Sector, Besh's nod to American comfort food--just kicked up a notch.  The taxi dropped us at the door, and we bolted inside.

This restaurant had a very similar feel to Domenica: very open and loft-like, full of light and glass.  But here, I was hoping for a little something extra--and as we approached the host station, I got it: a hostess wearing bright red lipstick and coiffed hair greeted us with a smile.  Perfect characterization.

The restaurant was broken into two seating areas: a smaller room, partitioned off from the main dining room by a glass wall, was in full view as you entered the restaurant.  The larger dining area, where we were seated, was decorated with what looked like metal stripes undulating across the ceiling-- something like a flag, waving in the breeze-- and centered around a very large oval bar.

Within moments of being seated, our waitress, a cute blonde named Jocelyn, came to greet us, and within a few minutes more I could tell that, like all the other amazing servers we had had thus far, she, too, knew the food and was willing to talk.  And I, once again, was so incredibly grateful for this one hour relationship that I knew was going to develop.  Whether they know it or not, Besh's staff provide a rare reward to diners such as ourselves with this openness.  It's not just the food that sets them apart.   It's like that little mint you get once-in-a-blue-moon with your check: you don't pay for it, so you don't expect it, but when you get it, it is sincerely appreciated.

Jocelyn took our drink orders (I opted to try the housemade seasonal peach soda) and then proceeded to entice us with the appetizer of the day: squash blossoms stuffed with shrimp and ricotta, tempura battered and fried, and then scattered with baby herbs, tomatoes, shaved ham, and caramelized pineapple. Intriguing.  So we got it.  As for the main course, both of us immediately zeroed in on what we were going to get: Chef Reiton wanted the short rib "sloppy joe" with fries, and I couldn't stop fantasizing about the chicken and dumplings.  Both very American, and both one of our favorite foods.

After Jocelyn left we talked about our evening plans of going to Preservation Hall, of the gifts we wanted to take home for our family--and before long, this piece of art was brought to the table:

stuffed and fried squash blossoms at American Sector in New Orleans, LA

In five minutes flat, this is what was left of it:

I'm not even going to try to describe what eating a flower stuffed with cheese and shrimp then fried and blended with caramelized pineapple was like.  Just--please...if you ever are offered the chance to try them: DO.

Soon after our empty plate was removed from the table, our main courses arrived.  So fitting with the theme of the restaurant, the presentation itself was classic.  My chicken and dumplings-- a slowly stewed concoction of chicken, green beans, yellow squash, carrots, porcini mushrooms, and tiny dumplings in a thick chicken gravy-- came in a little enameled cast iron pot.

chicken pot pie at American Sector in New Orleans, LA

Chef Reiton's short rib sandwich, piled with fried onion straws and tomato and lettuce straight from the kitchen garden, was plated on a mini chopping block with fresh cut fries in a tin can.

short rib sandwich and fries at American Sector in New Orleans, LA

And the flavors? They were perfect, simply because they were exactly what you wanted them to be.  Isn't that what comfort food is all about? Flavor-infused memories.

Being the great waitress that she was, Jocelyn had already done her job of selling us on dessert before we had even finished our main entree.  So, with barely enough room for two bites, much less a dozen, Chef Reiton and I agreed to indulge in two classic American desserts.

The first: hot apple pie, homemade butter pecan ice cream, and pralines

mini apple pie and butter pecan ice cream at American Sector in New Orleans, LA

and a devil's food cupcake stuffed with Nutella, with a side of homemade vanilla ice cream.

devil's food cupcake stuffed with Nutella at American Sector in New Orleans, LA

Oh, heavens.  So so so yummy.

I seriously think we waddled out of the restaurant.  And the thought about eating dinner that night made me want to die.

But the thought about eating dinner tomorrow night??? Oh, that one made me very, very happy.

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