Ralph's on the Park News
Two for the Season
Posted May 2012
By Jay Forman
Mother’s Day is traditionally one of the highest-volume days of the year and few properties are more adept at handling such a crunch as those in the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group. Mom will be impressed with the picturesque views at Ralph’s on the Park and the whole family will be impressed with chef Chip Flanagan’s fun and inventive menu.
After taking over as executive chef three years ago, Flanagan widened the menu’s focus to include more regional and Southern-style fare with an additional flourish of international inspiration. Some of it isn’t for the weak of heart, like his fried chicken, wrapped in country ham and served with collard greens and boudin balls. I probably shouldn’t even mention his TCB Foie Gras: an Elvis-inspired peanut butter, foie gras and banana sandwich. But such weighty offerings are offset by dishes with a far more delicate touch, like his “Visiting” Fish glazed with white miso and Steen’s cane syrup, plated in a shrimp broth enriched with French-style mousseline shrimp dumplings, watercress and seasonal vegetables. “That is by far our most popular entrée,” says Flanagan.
As we move into the warmer months, look for ingredients that reflect the season used in dishes that still employ techniques of which Flanagan is a fan. Braising is an example of this. His cool-weather dish of beef short rib braised in NOLA Brewing’s Irish Channel Stout, a big hit on the St. Paddy’s Day menu, will likely get changed up to include lamb cheeks braised in white wine. “I love lamb,” he says. “I always try to find a new way to use it,” he says. “When it gets hot in this city I don’t want to have that heavy braised dish on there, but I still want to have something braised,” he says. “New Orleans is funny sometimes though – even in that hot weather locals want that hot, thick turtle soup. They’d kill me if I tried to take that off.”
New for festival season is a short selection of New Orleans-inspired small plates, including an alligator strudel spiced up with sauce piquant. Worlds collide in his Foie Gras Funnel Cake, rounded out with some black pepper-infused strawberry jam and pistachio nuts for texture. Other good bets include classics like his barbecue shrimp – in my opinion, one of the best versions in the city. It includes an emulsified broth lightened with Abita Blonde beer and pre-peeled for hassle-free, fine-dining pleasure. The blue crab beignets on the appetizer menu are surprisingly light and get a nice complement from the pepper jelly cream, and Tuna Two Ways – tartare and seared – offers a nod to Japanese cuisine with its wasabi crème fraîche.
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