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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Corks & Cleaver Shows Off on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

by Jay Ducote


Chef David Dickensauge used to be a fixture in the Baton Rouge food scene, running the kitchen at Bin 77 with a creative and ever-changing menu as well as participating in numerous charity events by serving up inspired dishes to the crowds. When I got word that he'd be leaving Bin 77 to head to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I knew it would be the capital city's loss and the coast's gain. 

I recently got a chance to check out his first restaurant in Gulfport, MS, Corks & Cleaver. With only a quick glance of the menu, you can evidently see his flair and flavor profile. A friend and I decided to feast on a sampling of small plates along with a bottle of wine, after all, corks is in the name. 

Coffee Braised Veal Cheeks
Coffee Braised Veal Cheeks, Truffled Popcorn Grits, Fermented Greens, Sweet Corn Pudding, Parsnip Volutte

Tender, and packed with flavor, the coffee braised veal cheeks fell apart at the prodding of a fork. That bitterness of the coffee offset the sweetness of the corn while the dish got an acidic bite from the fermented greens. The only thing I would have liked to add to this dish would be a crunch textural element. The grits, greens, corn pudding and veal all had a soft and smooth texture and could have used a snap but the flavors were on point.


Creole Devils on Horseback: Bacon wrapped Boudin and Andouille stuffed Medjool Dates with Piquillo-Tomato Sauce
Creole Devils on Horseback: Bacon wrapped Boudin and Andouille stuffed Medjool Dates with Piquillo-Tomato Sauce

A staple of Chef Dickensauge's arsenal is the Creole Devils on Horseback. He's made these before, he'll make them again and I'll be happy to eat them every time. Boudin and andouille get stuffed in a sweet Medjool date, then all of that is wrapped in bacon and plated atop a piquillo pepper and tomato sauce. The dish is smoky, porky, sweet, spicy and tangy. I need more.


Duck Confit Beignets, Bok Choy Kimchi, Smoked Date Marmalade, Cayenne Powdered Sugar
Duck Confit Beignets, Bok Choy Kimchi, Smoked Date Marmalade, Cayenne Powdered Sugar

We opted for the duck confit beignets as our final small plate, because duck. These crispy, fluffy orbs of fried dough came stuffed with savory duck confit and bok choy kimchi. It's an interesting flavor combination to be sure, but one that works on multiple levels. The tartness from kimchi is just enough to counter the richness from the duck and dough, while the cayenne powdered sugar left just the right amount of sweet and spice.


David Dickensauge's Tres Leches Cake with Blueberries and Blackberries
David Dickensauge's Tres Leches Cake with Blueberries and Blackberries

We had to have something for dessert and our server suggested the tres leches cake. I'm not normally a fan of tres leches as sometimes the textures just don't agree with me, but we were assured that this tres leches cake would live up to the hype.

Earlier this year I had hands down the best panna cotta of my life, and now I can also say that this year I've tried my favorite tres leches cake ever. What Chef David Dickensauge and his team really nailed is the texture. Instead of being a soggy mess, the moist cake held up to the milk and the flavors hit all the right notes.

Hopefully I'll get a chance to get back to Corks & Cleaver at some point. I'm also really excited about Chef David's new seafood restaurant, Brackish. Check it out if you're ever on the Mississippi Gulf Coast!