While Big 4 Restaurant has game a-plenty to cook and serve during the year, this is their special week to shine. Like the Mardi Gras of game meats ready to party with you. The dishes are dear (in price), but I had their saddle of black buck antelope and it was phenomenal. [See my previous dish review.] And there’s Rocky Mountain Wapiti (elk); Sika Deer (Broken Arrow Ranch); and even Llama Rib Eye (Robert’s Ranch, Nebraska).
You can even start off with a little piranha…how often do you get to eat that? (Before it eats you, random Amazon-wanderer?)
Carnivores of all persuasions, get to Big 4 this week, amid your journeys into SF Cocktail Week bar events.
Creole Stuffed Bread – Creole Lunch House Lafayette LA
(and, usually, at New Orleans JazzFest)
Unless you’ve been to the New Orleans Jazzfest or a little place called the Creole Lunch House in Lafayette, LA, you may not have tasted the meat-glory of a Creole stuffed bread. It’s a jaw-dropping, awe-topping combination of beef and pork (usually mixtures of ground, plus andouille sausage), onions, celery, bell pepper, tasso (if you got it), jalapeno, and a whirlwind of seasoning and spices, stuffed inside a terrific little French bread bun. This bread is called a ‘pistolette,’ which is a single-serving size of traditional French bread.
The ingredienta of Creole Lunch House seem pretty basic, but belie how amazing their Creole stuffed bread is: bread dough, water, sugar, fresh sausage, smoked sausage, cheddar cheese, and Jalapeno peppers. Looking at the bread before your first bite, you’ll never suspect how much spicy, meaty, wicked goodness is hidden inside. You could say Creole stuffed bread is like the Cajun sandwich version of a dragon’s den: the treasure is hidden deep inside.
Emeril has a decent creole stuffed bread recipe, if you are the DIY type who likes to make your own. If you want the real deal and can’t get down to Lafayette or New Orleans anytime soon, Creole Lunch House actually offers these meaty monsters (about 16 oz. each) online here at CajunGrocer.com. You get 4 ‘pies’ for $15.95 plus shipping.
The Dish: Antelope (Saddle of Black Buck Antelope)
One of the most incredible meals I’ve had in the past year, without question, and probably as good as any meat dishes I have eaten in the past five years. Both times I’ve eaten antelope previously were in Colorado restaurants, so antelope was my de facto choice from the menu of Big 4, which specializes in wild game. The antelope saddle was a perfect medium-rare, and sat upon a small mound of butternut squash puree. Two late fall fruits—a caramelized pear blintz and a generous portion of huckleberry gastrique—were perfect, semi-sweet complements to the meat, and a tossing of crispy plantain chips rode high atop the saddle. The variety of texture (crunchy, chewy, smooth, and juicy) made every bite a palate dazzler. The portion of antelope was appropriate: large enough to graciously satiate.
Caveat emptor: May be available only seasonally.
The Vibe: Big 4 restaurant
Old-school, formal, and opulent in a particularly American manner. Big 4 Restaurant is more of an expense account place, a place for special occasions, a place where you go when you don’t care how much it costs. The service is professional but amiable. All the old carved wood and antique socio-political ephemera along the rear dining room walls make one feel like Teddy Roosevelt could bustle in and drink whiskeys with you at any moment. You can’t create that type of atmosphere; certain places just carry their history in a way that permeates your experience there. And Big 4 is also likely to attract white-haired men with blonde-haired damsels/table candy for discreet meals, and groups of financiers/lawyers to imbibe whatever’s expensive (power lunch, power dinner). The good news is that Big 4 successfully shoulders its heavy hype. My dish was certainly stellar, and I do recommend it highly for the aforementioned occasion/s when money is not an object. Like, for the perfect instance, when someone else is nabbing the bill.
The Grade: Astounding (unforgettable, awesome) 5 out of 5 The Damage: $38
The Skinny: Big 4 Restaurant in the Huntington Hotel
1075 California St (between Mason / Taylor), San Francisco CA
Executive Chef Gloria Ciccarone-Nehls Phone: (415) 474-5400; (415) 771-1140
Some people think Louisiana is full of people eating frog, alligator, and all sorts of other wild and strange beasts at every turn. While that can be true in spades in South Louisiana, it’s not easy to find alligator sausage. So it’s a treat to find such a hearty snack at The Praline Connection, a deceptively named eatery that’s as renowned for fried chicken as its famous house-made pralines.
The Praline Connection still draws local New Orleans crowds for its Creole and soul food. Despite it being too brightly lit for dinner, The Praline Connection’s perfect for a late night dinner or snack on Frenchmen Street, when you’re headed to (or from) Snug Harbor, Blue Nile, Apple Barrel Bar, or The Spotted Cat. Co-owners Cecil Kaigler and Curtis Moore are usually on site sporting their jazz-era porkpie hats, walking through and conversing with guests to ensure things go well. Their servers also show a similar spirit: friendly and attentive, but cool. With its lingering reputation as a mecca of flawless soul food, one’s high expectations might fall short on certain Praline Connection dishes. But luckily, we found the fried alligator sausage.
THE DISH: FRIED ALLIGATOR SAUSAGE IN BBQ SAUCE
Spicy, smoky, and slightly sweet, the alligator sausage is a true Praline Connection winner. The texture and consistency of the alligator sausage is great: the outside skin is a bit crisp from the fry but the pithy meat is plenty juicy and flavorful within.But swirling alligator sausage in barbecue sauce pushes the little appetizer to snapping heights. Praline Connection’s BBQ sauce is a little moat of beauty, well suited for fried ancient reptiles.
It’s not every day that someone this side of Sydney gets to dine upon kangaroo loin, so that’s what I ordered at Johannes in Palm Springs, CA. And it was excellent.
The Vibe: Understated décor, with comfy, white, high-back chairs, and a few cool paintings on the cool cantaloupe walls that reminded us of a couple of European cities.
The Dish: Australian, Grass-fed Kangaroo Loin. Wow; what a phenomenal dish from Johannes’ April menu. This goes on my list of favorite meaty dishes for 2008. It’s a clear indication of their commitment to excellent food.
The perfect loin was drizzled with an “organic wild blueberry port essence” that was rich but not heavy. For those who have not enjoyed kangaroo meat, it’s wonderfully lean, with a mild flavor and a texture between steak and (closer to) lamb. The kangaroo loin at Johannes was thick and lean, perfectly medium-rare, and tastier than any steak I’ve had in the past few years.
The Damage: The kangaroo loin is $28.
Accompanied by large, tenderly grilled summer asparagus and a glazed Granny Smith apple, it’s a hearty, fantastic plate and a good value for the price. Being one of the best meat dishes I’ve enjoyed in the past couple of years, the only real damage is the inability to eat this more often.
The Grade: Sterling (5 out of 5) The Skinny: Johannes
196 South Indian Canyon Drive (at Arenas)
Palm Springs, CA 92262
Phone: (760) 778-0017
Dinner only, Monday – Sunday 6:00pm to 10:00pm
Owner / Chef: Johannes Becher
Johannes website: http://www.johannesrestaurants.com/
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