One distinct part of my life that continues to evolve is my sense of taste and my pure, unadulterated curiosity in food culture. If it wasn’t for this site, I’d still be stuck on stupid with my steady diet of grilled cheese and pb&j sammiches with a side of bad pizza.
A place that continues to inspire and push the limits of my newfound spontaneous affliction is Ste. Marie. Partners Leon & Pierre Touzet (of Patois) and Robert LeBlanc (LRG Group), sweat and bleed passion for their business and their product. Ridding shotgun on this roller coaster ride is Executive Chef, Chris Foster, who is bulldozing his way through bridging the gap between old school and moderne French bistro fair. Ronnie Lamarque’s got nothing I tell you.
After speaking with both the partners and Chef Chris, formerly the sous chef at Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain, the intensity, and of course passion for their craft swirls through the air as if it was humidity. Both Leon and Pierre talked so very proudly of their youth and how all of their fondest memories involved many of the dishes you’ll see on the menu at Ste. Marie. Their offerings are an ode to the traditional french preparation, all the while devoting themselves to using locally fresh ingredients.
From their attention to detail in service, wine selection, as well as right down to the early 19th century reproductions of the original New Orleans architectural drawings that line the walls. The photos of the space don’t do it justice. As if it couldn’t get any more progressive, Ste. Marie is located in between Jamba Juice and Reginelli’s pizza in the brand new 930 Poydras building.
I know, I know, what about the food. I was fortunate to be able to spend a bit of time behind the scenes with Chef Chris and Sous Chef as they prepared a few selections for me to dive into. Certainly an honor. The word of the day is passion and it was also very evident in the knowledge and confidence of chef Chris and his sous.
I’ve had mussels once before and since then, I’ve yet to offer them a solid second chance. Ironically, one of the first dishes fired was moules frites. Cooked and tossed with chorizo, those dainty little molluscs welcomed me into their shell. I plucked the goodness out and stabbed a few fries to take along for the ride. Then I proceeded to produce another healthy bite, all the while dragging it through the broth as if it were maple syrup of the sea. The fries were seasoned very well and provided such a contrast to the chorizo.
Next up was the veal country taurine, served with fresh housemade pickles, grilled ciabatta crostinis and hot mustard for a kick of a finish. The taurine was a texture I’d never experienced, but when paired with the crostini and the pickles, it was hard to not go for a second and third bite.
One of the standout dishes from this tour de force, was the sauteed sweetbreads served with the ancient grain farrow. The sweet spot ship had just landed with this dish. Lightly textured, the sweetbreads worked magically well with the farrow, and aniseed masterfully with kale and tarragon reduction. Frankly, it’s probably one of my favorite dishes this year.
To round out the experience, I thoroughly enjoyed steak tartare with housemade pita, fell in love with the cauliflower, pancetta, and butternut squash gnocchi, and barely made it through the final courses of mustard braised rabbit and unbelievable good alligator soup. I must admit, the latter dishes were super-cali-fragalistic, but the sweetbreads will always be my first love!
After a few minutes of pacing around and letting the divinity in my belly subside, I had one last dish to repel from…dessert. The fresh fruit and zeppoli-like narrow fritters, begged to be dipped into the chocolate. The perfect way to end the perfect meal.
Needless to say, I’m finally getting to the point where I’m no longer intimidated by dishes and experiences in which I might step out of bounds and into a self-proclaimed danger zone of the unknown. Again, I feel especially honored and humble by the passion and excitement shown to upon each visit to Ste. Marie. Vive, St. Marie!
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