Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

What I know about Cajun food is that it’s spicy and it should look like the chef burned it. True or not, I don’t know, but in my experience that’s what often passes for Cajun food.

What I liked about Liliana’s, our second place to visit during Madison Magazine’s Restaurant Week (Winter Edition) was that they didn’t overdo the Cajun thing. In fact, the meal I had, which they called “French Quarter,” wasn’t spicy at all, unless you count the biscuits, and I think you’d have to if you popped one in your mouth by mistake. I split mine in half and slathered each half with lots of butter, so they didn’t scorch my tongue the way I imagine they might have. They were the spiciest things I ate, though.

For starters, I got a duck confit salad. I’m going to come clean and admit that I thought confit referred to the apples and onions that came with the greens, but I was probably thinking of a compote. If Wikipedia is to be believed, and I’m pretty gullible so it’s the first thing I look at when I google words I don’t know, like “confit,” a confit is a way of preserving meat, so in this case it’s all about the duck. My salad came with two slices of duck on top of a bushel of greens that camouflaged a heap of caramelized apples and onions surrounded by big, lumpy chunks of Gorgonzola cheese. I urged My Darling B to eat as much of the Gorgonzola as she wanted. I love Gorgonzola but I can tolerate only so much, even when I’m dosed to the eyeballs with a handful of milk pills. B loves Gorgonzola, too, so she took full advantage of my offer.

My main course was boeuf bourguignon, which is French for “beef in wine sauce so rich you’ll be up all night farting your brains out.” Big chunks of deliciously stewed beef (is it sacrilegious to suggest that boeuf bourguignon is “stewed?”) were generously ladled over half a hogie bun that swam in a dish with onions, mushrooms and chunks of celery. I thought at first that I would have to take half of it home, but it turned out to be so moorish that I snapped up every morsel and sopped up the sauce with a chunk of corn bread. *bliss!*

Dessert was beignets. I may be mistaken, but I think it’s pronounced “boinks.” Don’t quote me. It’s a deep-fried, doughy bun dusted with powdered sugar. Can’t mess that up.

Each course was served with a short pour of wine: the first, with a dry white wine, the second with a red wine that was a blend of pinotage and syrah, and the third with a sweet white, this time sparkling. A very nice touch.

My Darling B ordered the Bayou meal, because she just had to try deep-fried alligator, the first course. She expected it to be like pork, but after a few bites she thought it was more like a mild seafood. I thought it tasted a little like crab. It came with a helping of collard greens braised in bacon, because everything’s better with bacon, even – can you believe it? – collard greens. Really.

B’s main course was Jambalaya of shrimp with andouille sausage on a heap of rice with lots of spicy tomato sauce. I hate to say this, but B’s cooked jambalaya and she’s made better, mostly because she has mastered the art of cooking shrimp as perfectly as can be done. The woman has trouble making an omelet even after twenty years of trying, but give her a pound of shrimp and she can whip up a dinner that will make you feel as though you’re falling in love. She shared some of the jambalaya with me, spooning out a little rice, a piece of sausage and a shrimp on a plate for me to taste, and I went straight for the shrimp, because I loves me some shrimp, but as soon as I bit into it I thought, Okay, not too bad, but chef could’ve taken that off the heat a minute sooner and it would’ve been perfect. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked it. It wasn’t overdone, which is so easy to do with shrimp. Most places serve shrimp so overcooked you might as well take them home and give them to the dog as chew toys. These were not that kind of overcooked. They were delicious. But they weren’t perfect, and when you’re serving great, big, fat, rolly-polly shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce with deliciously spicy sausage, they really ought to be perfect. Still, thumbs up.

For dessert, B had cherries Jubilee, which were advertised as “flambeed to order in our dining room.” B was really hoping that meant they were going to set it aflame right before her eyes, but no joy. Didn’t stop her from lapping up every little tiny bit of it.

cajun | 10:19 pm CDT
Category: festivals, food & drink, Madison Restaurant Week, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants | Tags:
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