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Recently in New Orleans Category

Next for Rick Tramonto: Restaurant R'evolution at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans' French Quarter.

The announcement was made this morning in New Orleans, Tramonto's new home-away-from-home, which had been the speculation for weeks. "Chicago will continue to be my home," he said in a statement.

The restaurant will serve contemporary Creole, a "marriage of Folse's classic Southern approach and Tramonto's contemporary New World style," a release says.

It appears there's more to come from Tramonto. Restaurant R'evolution will be the "first joint venture" between him and good friend John Folse, one of Louisiana's best known chefs.

As expected, Rick Tramonto's next project is taking him (has already taken him) out of Chicago. And we're not talking fast-food salads.

An email invitation received yesterday announced a "culinary revolution" Tramonto and his good friend and respected Louisiana chef John Folse will unveil at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the historic Cabildo building in New Orleans.

Tramonto announced his departure from Tru restaurant in Streeterville in June and has dropped a hint or two on his Twitter feed as to his next big thing (he also announced next week's press conference this way).

His allegiance to the Gulf region was furthered in late June when, at the suggestion of Folse, he organized a bunch of famous chefs, including Top Chef's Tom Colicchio, to tour the region promoting the message that Louisiana seafood is safe to eat.

Rick Tramonto has seen the devastation from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill firsthand. His job now, he says, is to convince other chefs to see it for themselves.

Tramonto was one of a contingent of well-known chefs who traveled to the Grand Isle area Sunday to throw their support to the state's fishing and shrimping industry and ease consumer uncertainty about the safety of Gulf seafood. The chefs held a press conference Monday to launch the Friends of the Fishermen Foundation with the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

"It's about bringing awareness to the situation immediately, and opening a discussion of what does this really look like, to get the chefs to see it up close and personal," Tramonto said today, en route to yet another (unrelated) event in Minneapolis. "Yes, families are devastated, yes, areas are devastated. But yes, there is still great, live fish coming out of the Gulf."

The catalyst for the event was Tramonto's friend, Louisiana chef John Folse, who had just come back from promoting Gulf seafood in Helsinki, Finland, on behalf of the Louisiana seafood board. Folse got Tramonto on board, who then rounded up a dozen of his buddies for the weekend, including Tom Colicchio, he of Bravo's "Top Chef" series, and Rick Moonen and Susur Lee, Tramonto's fellow competitors on this season's "Top Chef Masters."

The chefs took a boat tour in Grand Isle and met with fisherman and crabbers whose livelihood has been threatened by the spill. And they ate plenty of oysters, crab, shrimp and redfish, too.

This was Tramonto's third such trip to the region. The chef, who announced this month he is leaving Tru to open a new project, said it's not his last.

As for the chatter that New Orleans just might be the site of that next project, Tramonto said ever so gamely, "I really want to be in Napa Valley, if everybody really wants to know where I want to be."

By guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes

NEW ORLEANS -- Some foodstuffs come with stories that are as nourishing as a meal. In this economy, tales of unanticipated success are particularly welcome.

Twenty years ago, Loretta Harrison was a medical librarian at Louisiana State University. Then, she learned that Jazzfest needed someone to make New Orleans' most famous candy, pralines. Harrison made a few batches from a family recipe -- and cooked a new life for herself.

In two days at the festival, Harrison and her pralines pulled far more than she was earning in the university library. She shelved the bookish life and opened Loretta's Authentic Pralines, 2101 N. Rampart. When the store's door opened, Harrison became the first black woman to have her own candy company in New Orleans. lorettaspralines_2056_0.gif

Harrison's a born sharer. Come into her store and choose your fill of pralines, cookies and cake, and she's likely to give you the one thing you missed ... just to try. That's kitchen wisdom for you: Sit, rest, eat. People do, and return to do so again and again.

You can get Harrison's well-gotten goods in NoLa or online. If she has her way, before much more time has passed, she'll be on TV and you'll be able to buy her food from a national network.

Harrison worked hard to make her pralines a success story, and she doesn't divulge her recipe. She is, however, happy to provide an insight into what makes a good praline: butter - real butter - and love.

By guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes

NEW ORLEANS -- From the outside, the famous New Orleans restaurant, Dooky Chase, looks to be an unemarkable residence.

Like a space in a science fiction film, the restaurant at 2301 Orleans Ave. is larger on the inside than the out. Expansive rooms have widely spaced, linen-clad tables. The walls are hung with large pieces of elegantly framed art - art that a Chase braved Katrina to save.

Dooky Chase is a true family business, headed by a small, energetic whirlwind of an octogenarian chef. At 86, Leah Chase runs her kitchen with talent, humor and frequent detours to the door, where patient customers wait to ask her to sign copies of The Dooky Chase Cookbook.

Leah Chase's daughter and her namesake, a Juilliard graduate, works the front of the house -- when she isn't singing at jazz club Snug Harbor. In the dining rooms, a nephew serves food and stories. And, in the kitchen, a young Dooky Chase - Edgar Chase IV, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris - cooks alongside his grandmother.

There's no doubt who's at the helm of the good ship Dooky Chase. As grandmother and grandson work, Leah Chase cheerfully thumps the young chef's arm, scolding and directing him. "Add garlic. The people want more garlic." (He adds more garlic.)

The dish of the moment is Shrimp Clemenceau, a bright, uncomplicated item that brings out the best of each ingredient without masking a thing.

Nothing needs to be hidden. The food at Dooky Chase is good ... good enough that Barack Obama made a point of eating there last year.

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Chase dispenses spice and advice with the aplomb of a woman who knows her place because she owns it. If you're allergic to shrimp, you can enjoy this dish: just use chicken. If you don't like chicken, substitute steak or lamb or whatever makes your plate and palate happy.

Versatility is key. New Orleans isn't about making do with what's at hand; it's about making the best with it.

What's the dishy best in Chicago right now? Lyle Allen, executive director of the Green City Market, is always ready to talk substitutes. He leads with Twin Oak Meats , which has fine pork - no steroids, no growth hormones.

If you want to go with steak, then Heartland Meats humanely raises Piedmontese cattle, producing beef that is tender and flavorful.

At Mint Creek Farm, a small family farm in Stelle, Ill., the lambs graze on alfalfa, grass and clover. Free-range living leads to better meat.

"It's amazing," Allen says. "I just love their sausage."

Sausage Clemenceau? Why not?

More than meats can be local. Allen says, "We have one of the best mushroom providers in the Midwest: Eric Rose, with River Valley Ranch. Unbelievable variety of mushrooms. He does a mixed bag for $10 - it's just my favorite thing."

A fast, adaptable, one-pot dish that comes with love, laughter and a serious heritage - That's a kitchen's favorite thing.

Recipe after the jump.

By guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes

NEW ORLEANS -- The anniversary of Hurricane Katrina has been all over the news of late, and the people of New Orleans are remembering - even more keenly than usual - that disaster and its aftermath.

The gulf city has always made the most of what was available, and has never held with waste. Chefs were swift to return to New Orleans after Katrina; they saw it as vital to put food - good local food - back on the table. After all, there are few finer communities than those that gather to share meals.

Thinking of bringing NoLa north, I turned to Lyle Allen, executive director of Chicago's Green City Market, to turn New Orleans recipes into feasts that celebrate both New Orleans' culture and Chicago's fabulous food supply.

The chefs of New Orleans aren't big on postponing pleasure. Nobody gives a more ebullient expression of that attitude than chef Kevin Belton of Li'l Dizzy's, 1500 Esplanade Ave. in New Orleans.

In that chef's world, food and life are made for enjoying. If there's an ingredient you don't like, substitute something else. Not too keen on spice? Tone it down. Don't like that sausage? Use another. Make the food the way you like it, and make enough to share, from starters to sweets.

Belton's bread pudding is a reason to save room for dessert. It's as far from the "slabs of stale bread soaked in custard" standard as a New Orleans summer is from a Chicago winter - although it's far easier to take than either extreme.

Instead of being cut into slices, the bread is crumbled. The small pieces meld and become carriers for whatever flavors you want to add.

Belton's a big believer in tradition and creativity. Before handing over the recipe, he draws a pencil line halfway down. From the line up (from bread through vanilla), the ingredients are mandatory. After that, it is cook's choice. Belton grins as he lists some of the things he's used in making bread pudding: chocolate, fruit, nuts, spices - and broken-up chunks of pie.

When in NoLa, follow Belton's lead and use Hubig's Pies. They come in twelve flavors; choose the one that fits your mood.

Bring it closer to home with a trip to the Green City Market to get a Hoosier Mama Pie. "Paula Haney [pictured] makes fabulous pies," Allen says. "She's renowned for her apple pie." That may be true, but Allen especially likes Haney's chess pie, an old-school vinegar pie. Enjoy the pie fresh, and crumble the leftovers (if there are any) into bread pudding. 9-11-07_sweda_pie_7.jpg

As to the mandatory ingredients, Nordic Creamery just brought butter to the Market. Allen says it's worth a trip just to buy that butter, and their cheese is "just tremendous". It would be good on that apple pie - the part that doesn't make it into the pudding.

Buy the best and use it all. A true son of his city, Belton would approve.

Recipe after the jump.

Soaking up the Big Easy

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By guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes:

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Recently, a few New Orleans chefs invited me into their kitchens. I had expectations - good (New Orleans' food tastes fantastic) - and bad (everybody knows that food in NoLa features boatloads of fat).

And, as I couldn't stay in New Orleans forever, there was also the question of whether I could replicate any of the tastes and textures at home.


Watching Leah Chase run the kitchen of the renowned restaurant, Dooky Chase, 2301 Orleans Ave., I had to wonder whether the cuisine was healthier than its reputation. Chase is 86 years old. While she shares stove-space with her grandson (Edgar Chase, Cordon Bleu graduate and heir to the nickname "Dooky"), there's no doubt who's the boss in her kitchen.

I want to be that healthy in my 80s, and - being greedy - also want to enjoy my meals along the way. What's the reality behind New Orleans' cuisine?


As it turns out, food in the Big Easy is really about company. Chef Kevin Belton, of Li'l Dizzy's Café, 1500 Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans, says, "It doesn't matter what's on the table. It matters who's around the table."

Now, that was something anybody could bring home (without adding calories or taking luggage space). So is local pride. All of the chefs said that the reason they came back after Katrina was the city - its people and its culture. New Orleans' natives had an obligation, one based in love: keep their home and its ways alive. The way they see it, we should all support the places where we live.

People in New Orleans are proud of their city, their heritage and their food. This includes seasonings (spicy flavors brought in by the slaves) and regional produce. When chef Doris Finister, of Two Sisters Kitchen, 223 N. Derbigny St., makes gumbo, it wouldn't occur to her to use anything but Gulf shrimp. The local shrimp are dense and meaty, a world (and a gulf) away from the watery things most of us have eaten.

Every single chef assured me that substitutions were welcome in the pot. Allergic to shrimp? Use chicken. Have a local butcher you really like? Go to him for sausage. Is there a sale on local fish? Buy it. Is something fresh in the market? That's what you should choose.

Seasonal eating isn't a trend or a rage; it's an intrinsic part of New Orleans cooking. Cajun tomatoes, local blueberries, regional fish, okra ... If it's fresh, it's on the table.

When your stock is that good, you don't need to do much to it.

Chef John Besh (below) wasn't in town during my stay, but he gave the Sun-Times a galley proof of his new cookbook. My New Orleans: The Cookbook will be released in early October, and its author will be coming to Chicago on a book tour shortly thereafter.

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I'm glad to have it now. Lyle Allen, the executive director of the Green City Market, reminds me that blueberries are in season - and at the Market.

More New Orleans recipes (with Market tips) are yet to come, but kick off the weekend with indulgence, and feature dessert first. Besh's cookbook features a recipe for blueberry sorbet. Healthy and tasty, it has a maximum of 1/2 cup of sugar in 12 portions. Given the quality of the fruit at the Green City Market, I'm betting I can leave the sugar on the shelf.

Recipe after the jump.

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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