Executive chef Marcus Woodham, at The Bower, a cool plant-bedecked neighborhood destination, in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans expresses his individuality with a well-edited yet appealing menu that combines local staples (crawfish, grilled gulf shrimp, and all that among short lists of small and large plates) with some fresh ideas (a house-made basil spaghetti with pesto, preserved lemon, oven-dried tomatoes and burrata). The signature charcuterie and international cheese selections encourage dining freedom: say, coppa (cured pork muscle), a Cremont (“the cream of Vermont”) and Chiriboga Blue from Germany; or chorizo, duck and date rillettes with a Spanish pata cabra; or Everything But The Kitchen Sink (five meats and five cheeses)—for a starter, main meal or dessert. Woodham relies on Sugar Roots Farm, a nearby community nonprofit, for produce and as a salute to the vegetable gardens that were historically a main neighborhood feature. So, expect squash, spinach, chard, peppers—whatever is seasonal—to be woven into many dishes. The farm salad shines among composed salads anywhere: crispy halved hearts of gem lettuce and spinach leaves, velvety beets, radishes and dried cherries, with fresh herbs and crunchy sunflower seeds generously scattered throughout—flavors and textures that both tease and satisfy.
The local produce inspires beverage director Mickey Mullins too. He mixes house-made hibiscus syrup with bourbon for the Bower Sour, a mint infusion with bourbon for Hydrix; for these drinks and others he uses aquafaba instead of egg whites. “We do have a seasonal rotation of cocktails,” Mullins says. “But our seasons are short; we might have strawberries only for one to two weeks.” He can help match food choices with cocktails, “—they all drink softly and don’t interfere with spices—” or guide diners through the large, eclectic international wine list. “Orange wine has become a huge trend,” he says. “But I love our sweet Lambrusco [Famiglia Carafoli Nicchia Lambrusco di Modena]— especially with the crispy cauliflower, which has sweet notes throughout. It’s New Orleans—we drink more sweet. Although a little goes a long way.”
1320 Magazine St. New Orleans, LA 70130
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