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Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Bouillabaisse Diaries: Tallulah Crafted Food and Wine Bar

by Paige Johannessen


I must say, until recently I had not heard much about Tallulah Crafted Food and Wine Bar, or even knew where it was located. To be honest, I had never stepped inside of the Renaissance Baton Rouge until visiting Tallulah last month. It’s beautiful in there! I typically refer friends and family who are coming to visit to stay downtown, but on the corner of Bluebonnet and Anselmo is a hotel with a stunning interior and a surprisingly good wine bar and restaurant.

I went to meet a friend at the wine bar for a glass of wine before sitting down for the dinner tasting and y'all, I thought I walked into heaven. There was bottle after bottle of wine on tap. Tallulah uses an Enomatic Wine Serving System, which in layman's terms means a fancy way for preserving open bottles of wine which allows them to serve lots of different wines by the glass. To top all of this off I was pleasantly surprised to find out it is half off glasses of wine on Wednesdays AND there was live music. We were off to a good start.

After gabbing, having more wine than we planned, and catching up about life and love and our growing waist lines we finally sat down for dinner.

The restaurant is small and intimate, located directly behind the bar. You could still hear the live music playing in the bar area and we had a lovely view of the outside patio thats full of patio seating around fire pits (note to self: drink wine on tap next to a fire this winter).

From left to right: Tuna Poke Lettuce Cups with a citrus soy marinade, Creole Oysters served over duck bacon and topped with rockefeller butter, Crab Cake served over corn maque choux and a remoulade drizzle

Once settled we were presented with a collection of appetizers. Tuna poke delicately presented in lettuce cups, fried oysters over duck bacon and crab cakes served on a heaping pile of corn maque choux. I could not pick a favorite from these because they are all so different but the fried oyster over duck bacon stood out the most. The oysters were delicately battered and the duck bacon was not chewy or dry. I could have popped one after another of those suckers and not felt the least bit guilty.



Next, we were brought a sandwich duo. A three cheese grilled cheese filled with bacon and red onion jam and a duck BLT. Duck bacon in a BLT. Hallelujah! Duck was a common theme throughout the dinner tasting and I was pleased to learn from Jace Schexnaydre, Tallulah’s Sous Chef, that his staff takes a lot of pride in not wasting any parts of the ingredients that come through their kitchen. If they have duck on the menu, they are going to do their damndest to use all parts of the duck in other dishes, nothing goes to waste. 

Duck Bacon BLT: house made duck bacon, arugula, tomato, pickled red onion, remoulade 

Up next was a trio of entrees. Cold smoked fried chicken served alongside a four cheese cast iron mac and cheese, a steaming bowl of bouillabaisse, and a vegetarian eggplant dish with shiitake mushrooms stacked high over quinoa. 

Let me interrupt here for a quick story: When I first moved to Baton Rouge from Las Vegas, Nevada, needless to say, I had never experienced true cajun cooking. My grandfather who has lived his whole life in Findlay, Ohio had taken a trip to New Orleans many, many years ago and apparently had one of the best dishes of his life, a bouillabaisse. Every time I talk to my grandfather, he asks me if I have had a bouillabaisse yet. And for eight years I have had the same answer, “I can’t find it anywhere”.

Well, I finally got to try a bouillabaisse and maybe I am being sentimental here, but I was so impressed by this rich, flavorful dish. The head on shrimp, chunks of delicate redfish and mussels all soaking in the creole broth mixed with the hunks of andouille made for a truly spectacular dish. I could not wait to call my grandfather the next day and rave to him about my bouillabaisse experience. So, thank you Tallulah, for ending my eight year quest! 

Bouillabaisse: head on shrimp, redfish, mussels, andouille, creole broth, wild rice

Last, but certainly not least a single, hearty slice of cheesecake topped with chunks of praline, a honey drizzle and sprinkled with blueberries finished off the night. Just when I thought I could not take one more bite...but who can resist cheesecake?




I left that evening with a parting bag of duck cracklins in hand and incredibly impressed by this tucked away gem on Bluebonnet that I had never visited. Believe me, if there is a restaurant in town serving half off glasses of wine and rich bowls of bouillabaisse, you will see me there again.

Cheers!