Nothing says celebration like the Jazz Brunch at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans!
To continue our 50th Anniversary celebration we knew we wanted to follow our dinner the previous night at Restaurant R’evolution with the Sunday Jazz Brunch at Commander’s Palace. As we walk up to the entrance of this legendary restaurant located in the beautiful Garden District it is hard not to notice its iconic Commander’s Blue exterior. The restaurant was established in 1893 but it wasn’t until 1974 that Ella, Dottie, Dick, and John Brennan took over personal supervision of the restaurant and made it the culinary landmark that it is today. A stellar parade of renowned chefs – Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, Jamie Shannon, and currently Tory McPhail – have helped earn Commander’s Palace seven James Beard Awards for its Haute Creole cuisine. Today Commander’s Palace is under the watchful eye of co-proprietors Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan and they carry the torch of the Brennan family’s dedication to perfection.
From the moment the host walks you through the kitchen to the bar to enjoy a drink while waiting for your reserved table you sense the party atmosphere. The kitchen is bustling with activity and the bar is filled with the sound of ice cubes clinking in glasses as cocktail shakers are shaken. It’s the musical rhythm of a restaurant that is busy from the moment it opens until the lights go out at closing.
The bar looks out to the patio and an additional dining room. Even though it is very chilly to us Floridians, there are no empty seats outside! Each table, indoors and outside, has a centerpiece of festive balloons. Steve and I enjoyed a very delicious Bloody Mary and peered through the window at a waiter’s tray topped with three tempting desserts. A Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé, a Strawberry Shortcake, and a Praline Parfait, which one will I choose?
It seemed like the second we took the last sip of our drinks the host appeared to seat us in the upstairs Garden Room. Our table was the perfect spot to enjoy the strolling jazz musicians and see the never-ending trays of food parading from the kitchen downstairs. I marveled at how running up and down all those stairs with full trays must really keep the servers in shape. Even the cover of the menu tells you it’s a Celebration at Commander’s!
Unlike most of the brunches that restaurants offer, this one is not a buffet. You select an appetizer, entrée, and dessert for the price listed on the menu for Entrée, which ranges from $35 – $47. For our starters, Steve chose the Classic Commander’s Salad which was composed of crisp romaiine, Parmesan, pressed egg, smoky bacon, French bread croutons, and grated Gruyère cheese with a creamy black pepper dressing. And I chose the Crispy Oyster Sardou Salad of Parmesan-dusted plump Gulf oysters over baby spinach and arugula, lemon roasted artichokes, melted leeks and warm Herbsaint vinaigrette with a soft poached hen’s egg and caviar hollandaise. Both were so tasty that we sopped up every drop of dressing with their delicious bread.
For our entrées, we again made very different suggestions. I stayed with the egg theme and thoroughly enjoyed my Cochon de Lait Eggs Benedict because I’m a huge fan of Eggs Benedict no matter what the complementary protein is. This one delivered on flavor big time with its 16-hour barbecue pork shoulder over buttermilk biscuits with perfectly poached eggs, ripped herbs, sauce forestière, and housemade tasso hollandaise. Steve’s Wild Louisiana White Shrimp was an equally delicious plate of food with rosemary, garlic and lemon seared shrimp, roasted mushrooms, petite tomatoes, local soybeans, and ripped herbs with smoky tomato vinaigrette.
But it was the desserts that stole the show. I think I knew what I wanted the moment I laid eyes on that tray I spied from the bar when we had our bloody Marys. I ordered Lally’s Praline Parfait. What can I say? Ice cream is my Achilles Heal. And I was not the least bit disappointed in the tall sundae glass filled with handcrafted vanilla bean ice cream, candied pecans, Chantilly cream, and sticky praline syrup. Steve had the housemade Creole cream cheese cheesecake with a honey graham crust, chocolate lattice, and sticky caramel sauce. Both of our dessert plates were adorned with Happy Anniversary written on the rim of the plate in dark chocolate.