The New Orleans Feast menu will run on the 16th and 17th of May, at The Varsity Club, on the Oxford High Street. The night will celebrate the food, the music and the libations of the Crescent City. Tickets are £30 and that includes the four courses listed above as well as a cocktail of your choice from The Varsity Club’s special New Orleans themed menu. If I’ve said enough and you’re already ready to book, click here.
If you want to learn a little more, read on and I’ll walk you through the menu.
From the top: we have Crawfish Étouffée Tortellini, representing the big city fusion of European fine dining with Louisiana ingredients that is Creole cusine. The Louisiana signal crayfish is considered an invasive species in British waters and thus is an ecological imperative that we should eat as much of it as possible. I’ve stolen this dish from the fictional menu of Chef Janette Desautel of the TV series Treme, where its popularity almost broke her kitchen. I aspire to nothing less.
Second course is the Boucherie Gumbo Ya-Ya. A boucherie is a Cajun tradition where a community gathers together upon the occasion of a pig being slaughtered in order for all to assist in preserving the different parts of the pig. Gumbo Ya-Ya is the rich, roux-thickened stew, also hailing from Louisiana’s Cajun country. The name means “everyone talking at once” – because of all the different meats and flavours going into the stew, or to evoke the image of a whole group of women gossiping in the kitchen while taking turns as the one in charge of constantly stirring the roux.
The final savoury course is Shrimp and Grits. Grits – a kind of Southern cornmeal porridge, is traditionally a breakfast food and is found anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line. Shrimp (prawns) are one of the most notable, ubiquitous and delicious ingredients in the cuisine of New Orleans. This dish is designed to showcase both.
Finally, we come to dessert: Sweet potato bread pudding with bourbon-cayenne syrup and toasted marshmallow ice cream. I’ve already written about this dish, the best thing I ate in New Orleans on my first trip to the city, the one I called “a hard left turn down an unmarked swamp road right into the heart of flavour country.”
Head to the Facebook events page to see more pictures of the dishes that inspired the menu – a new post every day until the night of the event. Or you can follow Smoke and Thyme on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram to see all the photos from my New Orleans trip. Check out The Varsity Club, or if you’re ready to book, click here.