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pterostyrax

Stella! and Chef Scott Boswell

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The website for Stella! has announced that it plans on reopening sometime in December. This is great news! Scott Boswell has been at the forefront of the efforts to show that, never fear, the New Orleans food scene will rise out of the ashes.

He also announced that the Iron Chef French with Chef Hiroyuki Sakai dinner is still on for this coming March. This is also great news! We attended the first one last January with Iron Chef Masa Kobe, and it was one of our most memorable food experiences ever. We will be there for the next one as well.

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Scott Boswell and Bryan Dupepe, Jr. (the manager of the Hotel Provincial), were up in New York last week and Boswell prepared a luncheon for a small group of journalists.

Boswell prepared two savory course from the current menu. The first was a squash soup -- excuse me, "Autumn Heirloom Squash Purèe" -- with pancetta *and* bacon, olive oil and Valrhona Xocopili (a newish Valrhona chocolate product meant for use in savory cooking). I had a couple of objections to the dish on paper -- I feared the use of Valrhona Xocopili might be self-consciously trendy, and as much as I like all parts of my dear friend the pig I worried that pancetta and bacon would make for strange bedfellows. Boy was I wrong. One bite, and I was in the "this guy can cook!" zone. The soup was served in a wide, rimmed soup bowl, and the bacon, pancetta and chocolate were in the center. The bacon and pancetta made for nice textural variety, and the chocolate was present in a very small amount -- just enough to add spicy/bitter/sweet interest. It really worked.

The other savory dish was also excellent: "Panko and Parsley Roasted Hawaiian Walu with Wilted Chinese Spinach, Crisp Tofu Frittes, Petite Stuffed Cockle Clams and Champagne Sea Urchin Butter." This was my first experience of the fish called walu, so I've no other walu to compare it to, but it was a thick, white, fleshy fish without a lot of similarity to any particular fish I've had. The sea urchin butter was the highlight of the dish.

Boswell's pastry chef Nolan Ventura wasn't along for the ride, but had come up with a simplified expression of the sorts of things they do at the restaurant: "Milk Chocolate and Fennel Seed Ganache with Toasted Brioche and Blood Orange." The chocolate and fennel was a nice combo -- again, not forced as I worried it might be.

Boswell and Dupepe were charming hosts and stressed the importance of supporting the recovering city of New Orleans through tourism -- that just coming down and having a good time is a great way to support the recovery. One point they wanted to make was that most of the things that tourists have always come to New Orleans for (the French Quarter, the downtown attractions, etc.) are going strong -- that New Orleans is open for business and there are plenty of hotel rooms and restaurant tables available.

http://www.restaurantstella.com/


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'm really impressed by Boswell as a chef. It's true that his dishes often sound uncomfortably trendy on the page, but after tasting his food and interviewing him I trust that his only concern is the flavor. The execution at Stella is just amazing.

At the moment, he's retooling Stanley, his casual breakfast and lunch spot. He also has a new Asian restaurant in the works, with a price point a little lower than Stella's.


Edited by TAPrice (log)

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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I 've also heard good thngs about the chef, and the dish sounds intriguing, but I have to ask, what does a hawaiian fish have to do with New Orleans? Could he not have used Sheepdhead for the same effect?

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I don't think Boswell's cuisine is about trying to have anything in particular to do with New Orleans. He thinks more like a sushi chef, looking for the best fish from around the world and getting it flown in. I think he uses local produce from small growers when he likes what he sees (the squash for the aforementioned soup), and he uses things from Louisiana when he thinks they're the best in the world (Gulf shrimp), but otherwise he uses FedEx. Stylistically, as well, I can't detect anything Creole, Cajun or Southern about Boswell's cuisine. It's quite international. Just scanning through the menu, here are a few of the apparently non-local ingredients he uses (there are also plenty of local ones):

Valrhona Xocopili

Italian Pancetta

Tatamagouche Oysters

Japanese Tobiko Caviar

Canadian Lobster

Italian White Truffle Oil

Wild Burgundy Escargot

Wild Tasmanian King Salmon

Chinese Jellyfish

Taylor Bay Scallops

100-Year Old Balsamic Vinegar

Blue Sky Farms Mixed Baby Greens

Georges Bank Diver Scallops

Shortbill Spearfish

Kalamata Olive Tapenade Butter

Hawaiian Walu

Rack of Australian Lamb

Washington State Squab

Hudson Valley Foie Gras

Snake River Farm Kobe Beef Tenderloin


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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That sounds right, Steven. The only thing local about Stella is Boswell.

Personally, I've got no problem with that. In fact, I welcome the variety.

Sure, I'm all for supporting local producers for a whole bunch of reasons (taste, good for the economy, good for the culture), but I don't think an outlier like Boswell is the problem. I'm more concerned about the widespread use of low-quality imported shrimp, catfish, and crawfish.


Edited by TAPrice (log)

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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The other savory dish was also excellent: "Panko and Parsley Roasted Hawaiian Walu with Wilted Chinese Spinach, Crisp Tofu Frittes, Petite Stuffed Cockle Clams and Champagne Sea Urchin Butter." This was my first experience of the fish called walu, so I've no other walu to compare it to, but it was a thick, white, fleshy fish without a lot of similarity to any particular fish I've had. The sea urchin butter was the highlight of the dish.

http://www.restaurantstella.com/

I had that dish a few months ago and I thought it very well could have been the best fish dish I have ever had!!! Ever!!! Anywhere!! In my life!!!


Gorganzola, Provolone, Don't even get me started on this microphone.---MCA Beastie Boys

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I 've also heard good thngs about the chef, and the dish sounds intriguing, but I have to ask, what does a hawaiian fish have to do with New Orleans? Could he not have used Sheepdhead for the same effect?

No, the fish is really a steak fish, firm.


Gorganzola, Provolone, Don't even get me started on this microphone.---MCA Beastie Boys

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I 've also heard good thngs about the chef, and the dish sounds intriguing, but I have to ask, what does a hawaiian fish have to do with New Orleans? Could he not have used Sheepdhead for the same effect?

Would you ask the same question about a chef in New York or Chicago? Why not?

New Orleans is famous for our local cuisine, but we shouldn't limit our chefs to local ingredients if, as Boswell is, they're capable of stretching boundaries. I'll echo Todd, the menu at Stella! put me off when I first read it, but Boswell pulled absolutely everything off perfectly. It was one of the best dining experiences I've had, New Orleans or not. I'm looking forward to a return visit.

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For no particular reason I was under the assumption that he was considered a "New Orleans" chef, featuring products of the local environs. That he's not cooking locally flavored food is no big deal, hes certainly not the only one(I cooked for Susan Spicer at her Bayona, the menu was global), so it was a misunderstanding.

Would you ask the same question about a chef in New York or Chicago? Why not?

Well, what about either of those cities is culinarily distinct that would define a chef cooking from there?

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I don't think Boswell's cuisine is about trying to have anything in particular to do with New Orleans. He thinks more like a sushi chef, looking for the best fish from around the world and getting it flown in. I think he uses local produce from small growers when he likes what he sees (the squash for the aforementioned soup), and he uses things from Louisiana when he thinks they're the best in the world (Gulf shrimp), but otherwise he uses FedEx. Stylistically, as well, I can't detect anything Creole, Cajun or Southern about Boswell's cuisine. It's quite international. Just scanning through the menu, here are a few of the apparently non-local ingredients he uses (there are also plenty of local ones):

Steve has nailed Scott's cuisine dead on. Everything he prepares, to put it quite succinctly, is a joy to eat. For the last couple of years my wife and I have been on fine dining experiences in San Francisco, New Orleans, New York, Paris, London, Barcelona, San Sebastion, and Prague to name just a few cities. We have had comparable fare at Les Ambassadeurs in Paris, Ramiro's in San Juan, Campton Place in San Francisco (before the change of chefs), La Reve in San Antonio, and Restaurant August in New Orleans, but nothing that really surpasses any of the many meals we have enjoyed at Stella! (the two meals we had at Ramiro's may have been better, but at this stage of the game it is hard to decide if anything is "better", just different).

In addition, the wine list is the most reasonably priced wine list I have ever seen. For example, when we were there a month ago, Stella! had the 2003 Quilceda Creek cabernet sauvignon for $195 - a whopping 45$ more than the Vieux Carre wine store was selling it for and $50 less than the best price you can find on the internet using wine searcher. For comparison, Cuvee, where we also ate at, had it for $250, which is still reasonably priced, but not nearly as reasonable (dare I say cheap) as at Stella!.

Scott is a class act all the way around, particularly when you take into account what he has done since Katrina. I cannot recommend his restaurant highly enough.


Edited by pterostyrax (log)

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Scott Boswell is in competition with Starbucks to nab a key spot on Jackson Square in the French Quarter. Here is a brief item from the Picayune.

Java giant Starbucks Coffee Co. and local restaurateur and chef Scott Boswell are competing for the lease on the old la Madeleine space in Jackson Square's Lower Pontalba Building.

I'll update the link when the paper posts a full story.

Starbuck's big donation to Leah Chase made me feel better about the organization than I had before. It's worth remembering, though, that it was locally owned companies that returned soon after the storm. The big corporation, especially Starbucks, left their locations vacant for months in area that weren't even flooded.


Edited by TAPrice (log)

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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More choice quotes from the full article.

Starbucks is itching to compete with Cafe du Monde:

"We're just providing one more choice to Cafe du Monde," said Alan Richardson, Starbucks' regional marketing director. "We feel strongly this is a great choice for a particular community."

Some French Quarter merchants are convinced that Starbucks will be a great draw for tourists. That strikes me as just dumb. Really dumb.

But Carol Lewis, who along with daughter Mari Anne Lewis owns Violet's, a women's fashion boutique on Chartres Street behind the La Madeleine site, thinks Starbucks could be good news.

She said it would be most appropriate for a New Orleans business to operate at the site. But Starbucks would lure much-needed tourism traffic to the corner and last through good times and bad, she said.

"This is a dead corner," Lewis said Monday. "I have nothing against Stanley and I wish he could make it there, but Starbucks can weather the market for 10 years. They've got the deep pockets to stick it out (until the market returns)."

If Ms. Lewis is so convinced that Starbucks will stay through thick and thin, maybe she can explain why they were so slow to reopen after the storm in unflooded areas with lots of traffic.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Starbucks also has contributed generously to Reconcile New Orleans and its restaurant/training grounds, Cafe Reconcile.


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Starbucks also has contributed generously to Reconcile New Orleans and its restaurant/training grounds, Cafe Reconcile.

Starbuck's has, indeed, come through with a bunch of money for many worthy causes in New Orleans and I feel less strongly about them than I used to (though I still say their regular drip coffee can easily be outdone by the average Zippy Mart-the stuff just tasted burnt-completely overoasted). That being said, I would be ok with a Starbucks there. It would be mainly used by tourists, as there are lots and lots of coffee options within a couple of blocks of that spot and most of us these days are shopping as locally as possible (or so it seems to me) and will continue to support the local guys over the corporate behemoths. Besides, they make a crappy cafe au lait and don't even have chicory coffee in the place-poseurs, for sure.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Why didn't a local coffe shop like PJ's get in the race?

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I do wonder if there were other people after that space and these are the last contenders standing.

PJ's is no longer a local company. It was a bought by an Atlanta-based group a few years ago.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Has anyone heard anything about Boswell's space in the International House hotel?

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I'm not sure about the status of Hoshi, the place in the International House. Last time I talked to Boswell, it sounded like Hoshi was taking a back seat to some other projects both in New Orleans and elsewhere.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Starbucks withdrew its lease application, according to this TP article:

In May, news that Starbucks was seeking the former La Madeleine location prompted support from local merchants who believed the coffee giant would attract foot traffic. But still other local business owners said the chain would be out of place in the historic atmosphere.

This week the museum issued a brief statement saying that Starbucks withdrew its lease application and that the only other applicant, local chef Scott Boswell, was still being considered.

Looks like we're one step closer to having Stanley back and on Jackson Square.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Boswell got the lease. The TP has the details:

Boswell has said he plans to open a Stanley restaurant much like the breakfast-and-lunch place he ran at 1031 Decatur St. for a year after Katrina. The restaurant would feature a "great New Orleans brunch, po-boys, real New Orleans food," he has said. It would include at least 50 dining tables plus a soda fountain seating 50. Opening is expected in late fall.

Lovers of burnt coffee must still walk a few blocks to the Starbucks at Canal Place.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Boswell got the lease. The TP has the details:
Boswell has said he plans to open a Stanley restaurant much like the breakfast-and-lunch place he ran at 1031 Decatur St. for a year after Katrina. The restaurant would feature a "great New Orleans brunch, po-boys, real New Orleans food," he has said. It would include at least 50 dining tables plus a soda fountain seating 50. Opening is expected in late fall.

Lovers of burnt coffee must still walk a few blocks to the Starbucks at Canal Place.

I spoke with Erik Veney (sous chef at Stella!) about a week ago, and he told me the expected opening for Stanley is sometime in January. Just thought I'd keep y'all updated.

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So, has anyone heard anything about Stanley? Last time I checked, I was told this month, but I haven't heard anything since...

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When I last spoke to Boswell, he said that construction would begin on January 1st if all went well with the lease. I think he hoped to open in April, but I don't have my notes with me.

I heard of Lorin Gaudin's radio show either this week or last that the lease was signed. Sounded like he got it done later than hoped (no surprise, it had to go through the state for approval).


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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