Culture / Foodie Events

The 2016 James Beard Best Chef South Winner is Cooking Up Great Food in The Big Easy

BY // 05.23.16

Spending time in New Orleans is never a bad thing. Music, architecture, food, drink, people watching … that and so much more is everywhere you look. It’s easy to have fun.

I was there earlier this month, and, other than a college commencement ceremony, food was my focus. I had a list of places to get to, and one evening was spent at La Petite Grocery, a little place that opened in 2004 but has gone from strength to strength under the leadership of chef Justin Devillier — the 2016 James Beard Best Chef: South recipient — and his wife, Mia Freiberger-Devillier (the pair took ownership of the restaurant in 2010).

These dumplings should be on your try list.
These dumplings should be on your try list.

We began with ricotta dumplings, pillowy and moist, served under shaved piave vecchio alongside hen of the woods mushrooms. A rich broth and chives rounded out the dish, which I shared with my dining companion; it was a fine way to start the meal.

Justin Devillier is the man behind La Petite Grocery.
Justin Devillier is the man behind La Petite Grocery.

I chose the panéed rabbit, which is a mainstay on the menu here, for good reason. Crisp breading, moist and tender meat, it’s rabbit done well. You’ll like the spaetzle and wilted greens on the plate, and the sauce Grenobloise is superb. A turnip purée adds a finishing touch.

Our second main course was red snapper. The skin on this snapper is as it should be: crisp, seasoned with salt, and full of flavor. The rest of the fish is just as good; firm and meaty and satisfying. Lentils and pickled radish are also on the plate, and nothing is unnecessary. A bite comprised of all of the dish’s components is a wonderful one.

We also ordered a side dish of roasted beets, which are served with feta and smoked almonds. Do as we did, because it’s a small bowl full of some amazing richness. I found myself spooning the mixture onto my rabbit, and the result I taste still.

The Devilliers opened another restaurant in 2015, called Balise, and I’ll take you there soon.

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