We're having a Fat Tuesday Beard House fête when French Quarter institution the Grill Room at Windsor Court heads north to the Big Apple. Chef Daniel Causgrove will treat diners to a festive menu highlighting the best of the Grill Room’s classic and contemporary dishes. In anticipation of his jubilant event (we have our beads at the ready!), we spoke to Causgrove about his oyster Rockefeller redux, "badass" corned beef and cabbage, and his idea of a "baller" date.
Tell us about your inspiration behind the menu for this Beard House event.
First, the most basic inspiration is the spirit of Mardi Gras and celebrating it in style. Second, I drew some inspiration from Kevin Graham's 1991 cookbook, Simply Elegant: The Cuisine of the Windsor Court Hotel. After reading the cookbook, I was impressed by Graham’s unique presentation style and wanted to take some of his signature dishes and update them. For example, his Sugarcane Pasta will be revived and updated. Originally, Graham plated steamed mousseline with pasta woven around it. Mine will be a whole shrimp topped with mousseline, woven in pasta, fried crisp, and garnished with spring roll flavors. His Harlequin of Three Fish with Sun Dried Tomato Sauce will be served as a crudo plated in the shape of a rose, garnished with finger limes, radishes, his signature Hijiki Blackening Seasoning, then lightly poached table side in a smoky tomato consommé.
What's a dish on your Beard House event menu that you're especially excited about or proud of, and why?
I am pretty psyched about the Murder Point Oysters Rockefeller. These oysters are really exciting because they're the most excellent boutique oysters we have from the Gulf—so sweet and briny. We're going to lightly grill them until they plump up and finish them with a sassafras-infused mixture of cream and buttermilk with some spicy mustard green juice. It’s going to be the lightest yet most delicious oysters Rockefeller yet.
What’s your ultimate guilty-pleasure food?
The frozen meatballs from our employee cafeteria. Something about them brings me back to the good times when I was growing up and eating the meatball subs at Fast Break Pizza in Syracuse. Especially when I put them in po’ boy bread and melt a ton of mozzarella on them.
Tell us about the last great meal you ate.
Last week I had dinner at Boucherie. They recently moved into a new, great looking spot that finally gives them a realistic amount of space. Chef Nathaniel Zimet is a seasoning savant and his business partner James Denio is so passionate about all things, but lately, particularly so about Champagne. We had a bottle of Michel Loriot Authentic Champagne which was ridiculously good. The meal was punctuated by buttery, local dry-aged carpaccio, some poached prawns with avocado, and a roasted beet with General Tso’s cauliflower. Tons of fun.
Who's been your biggest inspiration, and what dish would you cook to thank them?
My parents. Growing up, they taught me to be an open-minded person and that has really allowed me to become a well-rounded adult. I would make my mom the oatmeal pancakes with New York maple syrup that she used to cook for me as a kid. For my dad, I would make a really badass corned beef and cabbage on his birthday, which also happens to be St. Patrick’s Day (guess what his first name is...).
What are the best places to eat in your city these days?
I think the Rare Beef Pho at Lilly’s Café on Magazine Street is the best around. The chicken wings at Tahn Dinh call out to me often. When people come in from out of town, I take them to Parkway Bakery and Tavern for po’ boys more often than any other place. I think the quality there is a cut above and it shows because anytime I go there, I never order anything but a Large Shrimp Dressed, which is probably the most ubiquitous po’ boy, so if you do it the best, you're at the top of the pile. The baller date-night move is a bottle of Ridge Monte Bello Merlot and cheeseburgers at Doris Metropolitan.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and who gave it to you?
My dad once told me, “If people are getting to you, that's because you're letting them.”
View all upcoming Beard House events and book your seat at jamesbeard.org/events.
Hilary Deutsch is editorial assistant at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Instagram.