By Mary Olsen
A Louisiana themed dinner at the new Gather space at Perry’s was a big success Saturday, January 24, thanks to Chef Ed Vigil’s familiarity with the lusty, flamboyant cuisine. Ed’s wife, Dee Wagner, from New Orleans, has apparently had a delicious influence on Ed.
The evening began promptly at 6 pm with a plate of tasty little bites, one of which was alligator with a cornmeal crust, which was why I had signed up for the dinner. Yes, it does taste like chicken, almost exactly. Same texture, too. It shared space with a little crab pancake and a crawfish beignet, both with spicy, interesting sauces.
The servers for the evening, Molli Milner and Lea Hickman, were gracious and adept at serving the thirty plus patrons. Despite the awkwardness of having to go outside the deli to get to the dining space, the food was served hot from the kitchen and people at each table were all served at the same time – great teamwork.
A Romaine salad came next. Thinly slice Tasso Ham, a southern specialty that resembles prosciutto, corn bread croutons, smoked cheddar cheese had just the right amount of vinaigrette. The salad and the tasty bites would have made a satisfying supper for me,
I wasn’t prepared for the enormous red snapper that suddenly swam onto my plate. The red fish on a pink little pond of crab and shrimp sauce looked lovely. t was perfectly cooked. My only whine was that my lemon was thinly sliced so it made squeezing it difficult and messy.
My dining companion, Mr. Olsen, chose the Devil’s Gulch pork chop. They must have really big hogs over there at Devil’s Gulch. I’ve never seen such a huge chop in all my life. It was served with dirty rice, which looked and tasted a lot like risotto to me. And it didn’t taste dirty at all. The collard greens were also lightly and cleanly cooked, not braised all day. They retained their shiny green brightness.
The third choice of the evening was gumbo with chicken and sausage. No one at my table ordered it, so unfortunately I didn’t get to taste it. I asked the diners at the next table how they liked it, but no one offered me a bite. I’ll be keeping an eagle eye out for it in case Ed puts it on his weekly menu in the future. It looked gorgeous. (Ed creates a complete and different dinner every night and sends out a weekly e-mail to those who’ve signed up in the store. The meals are between $17 and $21/person. Bring your own container and get a $1 off.)
Our tablemates, newlyweds Elizabeth Hill and Chris Eckert, who had just returned from their wedding in New Orleans, declared their meals authentic and as wonderful as anything they had had on their honeymoon. Perhaps is was their infectious happiness that made the evening such a glowing success?
Dessert was warm beignets with a coffee bourbon sauce. I was more than pleasantly full so I took mine home and had them for breakfast on Sunday morning. A few minutes in the toaster oven and I was sitting at the Cafe Du Monde, beside the Mississippi, watching the River Queen load her passengers.