Thursday, November 25, 2010

Horribly Oversalted Food Ruins Baton Rouge's White Oak Plantation's Thanksgiving Dinner

I was expecting a lot from Chef John Folse because of his reputation and I was disappointed. If you like extremely salty food, medium rare pork, the fishy stench of frozen snapper and mediocre service then make your reservation now for the next dining "event" at White Oak Plantation.  I started with the Bisque of Wild Mushroom soup as I was sure it would be an exquisite treat.  It had a wonderful aroma and was thick with cream and minced mushrooms and I could hardly wait to taste it.  It was so horribly oversalted that I couldn't eat it--but I did use it as a mushroom gravy on the woefully undercooked pork roast.  I know that it is supposed to be OK to eat medium-rare pork as the trichinosis threat is gone, but I've spent a lifetime (51 years) eating pork roasts that were cooked to 175 degrees or so and rare pork is as palatable to me as raw chicken.  It wasn't over salted but it was definitely too undercooked for me.  The dirty rice was the highlight of the meal.  It was perfect--literally perfect. Fluffy, flavorful and not overly salty or greasy made it the perfect Louisiana side dish and if I'd had just the rice, the chicken and oyster stuffing, the sweet potato soufflĂ© and the turkey leg, this would be a rave review. The smoked chicken and oyster dressing had quite a bit of chicken but no discernible oysters and with a hint of sweetness it was delicious--and escaped the horrible over-salted fate of most of the other dishes. The sweet potato soufflĂ© was light, fluffy, perfectly cooked and delicious.  I was able to procure a turkey leg which had nice flavor and didn't need a thing--it was excellent. Sadly, I like to taste everything as it's unfair to do a review without tasting as many dishes as possible.  The "shrimp mirlton casserole" had a VERY pungent fish smell and was terribly salty--a theme that was carried through on almost every dish.  The Caesar salad was so wilted and warm that I couldn't eat it.  It looked like it had been refrigerated overnight or longer and was unpalatable.  The marinated meat salad looked like fried cold cuts swimming in oil so I couldn't bring myself to eat them.  Quail isn't something I would ever eat again after the food poisoning that accompanied my last dining experience that included them.  I also don't like seared duck--I like it thoroughly cooked.  The rolls were cold and hard and the butter balls must have come from the freezer as it took a steak knife to cut them while they skittered about on the plate.  The crowder peas with ham looked rather unappealing as it appeared to be thick pea soup and again were very, very salty. The cranberry relish was the sourest cranberry sauce I've ever had--a lot of pucker power but not much else--they needed some sugar in the worst way.  The iced tea lacked ice and the refills and the service were excruciatingly slow although there appeared to be plenty of wait staff.  The dessert tray looked rather old with the mint leaves used for garnish appearing to be wilted and tired.  My sugar-free cheesecake was still frozen in the middle, so I'm guessing it wasn't made in-house although it wasn't bad--it was commercial grade and tasted a lot like Sam's club cheesecake--but it was OK.  I think that the chef overreached and missed badly.  It was a third-rate meal in a first class venue with prices to match, and if Chef Folse would lose the salt shaker (or in this case the salt SCOOP) it would be a great improvement.  My family members that were dining with me were similarly disappointed and the consensus was that we could have had a better meal at Picadilly cafeteria.  If Chef Folse had gone with simple goodness, it would have been better by far.  He may be talented but he's either way overrated; (or his kitchen staff didn't follow the recipes) but he way overreached with this meal and he missed badly. The overwhelming theme was one of many poorly done dishes with so many cooks that they spoiled the meal.  The exotic dishes were bypassed for the turkey and pork roast which means there was a lot of waste of very expensive ingredients.
Here's a hint for next year Chef:  Keep the turkey, the stuffing, the sweet potatoes and the dirty rice.  Cook the pork loin to 175 degrees and leave out the salt in the mushroom bisque.  Lose the over-salted cheese and stale crackers in the hall and replace them with some spinach dip and homemade Cajun chex mix.  Add a leg of lamb rubbed with garlic and rosemary and a steamship round of roast beef or chateaubriand grilled to medium rare with a nice horseradish sauce.  Corn pudding,  steamed asparagus, green beans almandine and broccoli with hollandaise sauce, put some sugar to the cranberry relish and THAW the cheesecake before you serve it.  While you’re at it, serve some Abita beer in the bar and get some single malt scotch—Chivas is crap—the people that come to this expensive of an event don’t drink crappy liquor.  Go top shelf with the bar, think fresh and simple and you'll do more business and have happy diners.

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