to Kitty Humbug. “This job calls for a pro. I didn’t get dragged to a succession of joints, dives, and greasy spoons to see you review the Jazz Brunch at the Blue Room.”
As Chuck was finishing his photo fest of the Roosevelt Hotel’s lobby, we were joined by Karen and Dick Allsing for a truly memorable experience.
“During the height of the supper club era in the early 1930’s there was one venue that continually drew the stars of stage and screen for unforgettable performances—The Blue Room. Locals and visitors alike would put on their Sunday best and head to The Roosevelt to see such celebrities as Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante, and Sonny & Cher to name a few. Today the spirit of entertainment and service lives on in The Blue Room. History is written with every note, every drink and every artfully crafted dish. Dressed in deep blues and rich gold, this storied space continues to welcome special performances as well as the culinary and cultural experience of Sunday Jazz Brunch” (therooseveltneworleans.com).
Upon entering the Room, we were invited to take a complimentary glass of either champagne or a mimosa (left in th photo above). (We would learn that these glasses would be refilled upon request during the meal. Also at no charge.)
Noah Bonaparte Pais at www.bestofneworleans.com/gambit/the-roosevelt-hotel wrote when describing the hotel’s restoration: “And then, there is the Blue Room, perhaps the hotel's true trump card. The famed supper club hosted everyone…before going into hibernation during the Fairmont's latter years. But the venue is a large part of the vision for a reborn Roosevelt.
“The cobalt-carpeted room received a facelift as well, starting with overhauled lighting and sound…Technology is a real assistance to us (in the Blue Room)," says Roosevelt GM Tod Chambers. ‘This room before, as great as it was, didn't have these wonderful speakers, this lighting truss that's going to light the stage. It's a beautiful, historic room, yet loaded now with the most recent technology, and it makes it a lot better room for all of its potential uses. The ceiling's been redesigned acoustically. The sound quality will be good.’"
The brunch menu is part buffet (appetizers [photo above] and dessert) and part table service. Just my luck, I was seated directly facing the cold seafood bar which was piled high with cold boiled shrimp, crab claws, and oysters on the half shell. I could have made a meal of these alone.
But instead, my appetizer plate contained (from the top clockwise) an oyster with horseradish, a mini crawfish pie in a rich and flaky pastry, puff pastry encased oyster, barely seared carpaccio (Italian in origin, carpaccio consists of thin shavings of raw beef filet, which may be drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice or served with a mayonnaise or mustard sauce. The dish is often topped with capers and sometimes onions. It's generally served as an appetizer [epicurious.com]), another oyster, boiled shrimp and, in the center, a small slice of rabbit and crab pate with Dijon mustard and a cornichon (French for gherkin. Why not just call it a small pickle?)
Chuck, showing restraint, chose the pate and carpaccio and added a roll, a small dish of curried chicken (top), and some honeydew melon from the extensive fruit and salad section of the appetizer buffet bar. Other items sampled, but not photographed, were the Creole gumbo, small one-ounce servings of blended gazpacho, and small cups of white lump crab with asparagus and frisee in a light dressing.
Now it was time to make our entrée selections. Items not chosen by our party are: Banana Nut Pancakes with cinnamon, walnuts and honey; Hazelnut Waffles with blackberry cream and Nutella (an Italian hazelnut and chocolate spread sometimes referred to as the Italian peanut butter); Smoked Salmon Flatbread marinated cucumbers and pickled okra; Poached Eggs and Grilled Chaurice (Creole and Cajun sausage made from pork and normally spicy) with stone ground grits, sauce piquant, and crispy shallots; and Herb Marinated Grilled Half Poussin with fresh asparagus and oyster-andouille dressing.
I almost ordered the latter but decided that however you say it, poussin is still chicken—albeit a young chicken. So instead I ordered the Tasso and Shrimp Crusted Gulf Fish with sautéed French, fava, and wax beans, and shrimp velouté. Tasso is a smoked pork meat seasoned with cayenne pepper, garlic, and salt and is used as a food seasoning. I was concerned that the powerful flavor would overwhelm the mild fish (Gulf redfish), but my concern was unfounded. Just enough was used to impart a light smoky flavor, but it didn’t dominate the dish. What shown through was the mild and sweet flavor. And the fish was so perfectly cooked that it retained its medium-firm texture that I found not unlike lobster tail. And the velouté added another dimension of flavor. (A velouté is one of the five French “mother sauces” and is “a white sauce that is stock-based and thickened with a white roux. Velouté is a form of the French adjective velour, which means ‘velvet.’…The ingredients for a velouté sauce are butter, flour, and a light stock, which means the bones used have not been roasted [wisegeek.com]).
Dick selected the Louisiana Blue Crab Omelette with fresh herbs, Creole sauce, and gruyere which was accom-panied by a dish of potatoes.
Karen chose the Eggs Sardou which is described on the menu as Huey P. Long’s favorite with poached eggs bathed in hollandaise sitting on artichoke hearts and creamy spinach and accom-panied by a fresh tomato salad. The dish, which was created at Antoine's Restaurant, is “named for Victorien Sardou, a famous French dramatist of the 19th century, who was a guest in New Orleans when the dish was invented" (wikipedia.com).
And Chuck? His entrée was the Herb and Sea Salt Crusted Prime Rib (medium rare) with horseradish mashed potatoes and natural jus and a side of the same beans that graced my plate. Don’t see the photo? I think, after photographing the three of our entrees, he was in such a hurry to eat that he forgot to take a picture. I did sample a small piece of the prime rib and it was delicious.
It was time for a short food break and we sat back to listen to some cool jazz. (Cool jazz “is a style of modern jazz music that arose following the Second World War. It is characterized by its relaxed tempos and lighter tone, in contrast to the bebop style that preceded it. Cool jazz often employs formal arrangements and incorporates elements of classical music” [wikipedia.com]). In this case, provided by the James Rivers Movement.
“After his (James Rivers) high school graduation, he began to travel on the road… After playing with a multitude of prestigious recording artists, such as Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Jimmy Reed…, James returned to New Orleans, where he formed his own band. They played in various nightclubs that included Mason’s, Sylvia’s Lounge, and his all time favorite, ‘Tyler’s Beer Garden’, where he performed great music for fourteen years. While performing one night at Tyler’s, James was fortunate to meet the actor Clint Eastwood, who came to hear him play. Mr. Eastwood was impressed, and featured James in five of his movie soundtracks… James mostly plays private clubs now, but his all time favorite gig is now the Blue Room” (jamesriversmovement.com). The music was perfect for conversation and, for a brave few—which included Dick and Karen—dancing.
For one selection, Rivers played this instrument (right) which looked like a flute and sounded like a harmonica. At the conclusion of the music, Chuck asked what the instrument was, and after a laugh, Rivers showed him the instrument--a flute with a harmonica attached to it. (Chuck wondered if this arrangement made it easier to hold and play the small harmonica, but he didn't ask.)
But now it is time for dessert. At the urging of John our server, I started with the Bananas Foster (created in 1951 by Paul Blangé at Brennan's Restaurant), prepared a la minute or made to order. The dish contains bananas and vanilla ice cream, with the sauce made from butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark rum, and banana liqueur and as the final stage in the presentation is flambéed. I was so intent on watching the preparation that the young man at the prep station had to remind me to “Watch out for the flame.”
Chuck came back with a plate of mini desserts including a small dish of crème brûlée for me. As a child, I hated custard. But put a sugary caramelized topping on the custard and I can’t get enough.
The Addie scale wasn’t designed to rate an experience such as this. To say that the Jazz Brunch at the Blue Room earns 5.0 Addies is an understatement, but will have to suffice. And we are delighted that we could share the day with Karen and Dick.
To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.