Good Taste and Tasting Good. New Orleans.

It is amazing what smart people with good intentions can do to increase tourism. A few years ago, New Orleans was discussed with sadness and tears and pity parties.

Good Taste and Tasting Good. New Orleans.

It is amazing what smart people with good intentions can do to increase tourism. A few years ago, New Orleans was discussed with sadness and tears and pity parties. We wondered how this formerly over-the-top tourist extravaganza could ever regain its footing. From Acts of God, to incredibly poor politics, it looked like the glory of New Orleans was going to be a historical study for academics. Culinary artists, gourmets, gourmands, and oenophiles were going to have to take their tastes elsewhere… New Orleans was no longer an option.

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Fortunately the city that heralds “Let the Good Times Roll” did not hear the lamenting sounds of outsiders. Business people and political leaders picked themselves up from the debris of Katrina and developed an extravagant city that is flush with good food, good wines, great shopping, interesting museums, and a joie-de-vivre that is constantly in your face. Children running through the streets and hotel lobbies are happy; parents are jubilant; and seniors stroll blissfully along the streets, holding hands, kissing over drinks, and partying through to the following morning.

This fifth in a multi-part series, “My Take on New Orleans,” will, hopefully, capture some of the joyfulness that makes New Orleans a destination that is selected by choice and not by chance.

Good Taste and Tasting Good. New Orleans.

Sometimes gourmets are not happy dining in hotel restaurants, while at other times the hotel dining experience is a plus, because there is no need to make a great effort to arrive on time. An elevator ride and short walk… and memories are there for the making. In some cases, the focus is on the chef, while others place the spotlight on the food. In the case of Criollo, a new restaurant opening at the Hotel Monteleone, the food has become so celebrated, that it has made magazine covers.

Just how new is the Criollo (Spanish for Creole)? Brand new! The restaurant officially opened on May 23, 2012. The know-how of the Chef de Cuisine, Joseph Maynard, and the Executive Chef, Randolph Buck, are very likely to make this the “go to” spot for fine dining. Betsie Gambel of Gamble PR has termed the inspired menu as “Louisiana Fusion.”

Chef Maynard comes to New Orleans via Florida where he studied at the Southeast Institute of Culinary Arts in St. Augustine. He has been associated with the Delano Hotel in Miami and the Asia de Cuba in the Miami’s Mondrian Hotel.

As is the tradition in New Orleans, the cuisine focuses on fresh, locally-grown products and seafood. The chefs have developed “signature” items that run from Gulf Shrimp, Blue Crab, and Avocado served with a spicy tomato coulis and herb oil (see photo) to Black Bay Oysters topped with Swiss chard and Herbsaint, Angel Hair Tetrazzini, Artichokes, and Brie. The restaurants’ featured cocktail is a blend of New Orleans Cajun Spice Run, Agave Nectar, Club Soda, Fresh Lemons, and mint leaves.

The restaurant is more European in design than most New Orleans dining spots. With French limestone floors, and wood-paneled walls combined with deep purple and gray fabrics, the ambiance is elegant and sensuous. For diners not interested in each other and looking for a distraction, ask for a table near the open kitchen and watch the chefs practice their culinary magic.