I ate like a queen when I spent five days in New Orleans in early December. I came to the Big Easy to watch my granddaughter dance during the Regional Irish Dance competition. She is a gorgeous young woman and she qualified for Worlds, which will take place in Boston in March 2013.
Of course, she was in my heart and mind, but there was time enough to eat royally, at Donald Link's Herbsaint and, twice, at Borgne, the latest of John Besh's restaurants. It is right off the lobby of the Hyatt Regency, where I stayed. (This was simply the most palatial hotel I'd ever visited; I had gone onto Orbitz on the Internet and looked for a hotel that was reasonable, near the Marriott, where Lily was dancing, and looked safe. How I was able to get this room in that hotel for less than $130 per night is still a mystery to me.)
At Borgne what I ate was mostly catches from the sea. Oysters, crab and flounder, oh my. A grilled romaine salad with white anchovies, slices of a Spanish cheese called Idiazabal and "chips" of ham so thin you could see light through them.
The first night I tried an Abita root beer float with house-made vanilla ice cream (I knew Abita made beer, but I hadn't known they make root beer, too). The second evening I ordered hummingbird cake, my favorite of all cakes. This time it was unconstructed: a glass filled with a slice of cake, cream cheese frosting, more cake, whipped cream, toasted pecans and bits of praline (a candy made with pecans, caramel, dark corn syrup and evaporated milk). You can make hummingbird cake at home and serve it as is, or play with it and make it gorgeous like it was at Borgne.
from Felicia's Sweetface Pastry Shoppe, Gales Ferry
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped finely
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
3 eggs, gently stirred
¾ cup canola oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, not drained (or 4 ounces chunks and 4 ounces crushed)
2 cups very ripe mashed banana (some lumps are fine)
Pecan cream cheese frosting:
¼ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
3 ½ to 3 ¾ cups confectioners' sugar
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon lemon juice
½ cup finely chopped pecans
To make the cake
Grease and flour two 8- to 9-inch cake pans. Set aside. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl whisk together flour, sugars, soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. In another bowl, mix wet ingredients and pecans. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until only mixed.
Divide batter between the two pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Check for doneness when toothpick comes out dry.
When finished, cool on wire rack. Remove from pans and invert onto a cake plate. Frost when completely cooled.
Beat together butter and cream cheese. Scraping bowl often. Add vanilla and lemon. Beat until smooth. Slowly add the sugar.
Fold in the chopped pecans.
Place one cake layer on serving platter. Frost top of first cake lightly with about one-third or one-quarter of the frosting. Add second layer. Frost the rest of the cake with remaining frosting. Decorate with some pecan pieces.
LEE WHITE HAS BEEN WRITING ABOUT RESTAURANTS AND COOKING SINCE THE LATE 1970S. EMAIL HER AT LEEAWHITE@AOL.COM.