You can tell a lot from the bread basket. That's where surprises begin at MiLa, a recent entry on the New Orleans comeback scene. You start here with two miniature cast-iron skillets, one with a creamy, I-want-the-recipe lima bean puree and the other a luxurious butter crusted with sea salt--both accompanying sweet potato rolls and a softly textured shallot cornbread.
Those are just the first of the clean and different foods emerging from the kitchen of Slade Rushing and Allison Vines-Rushing on this (or any) day.
The couple blends Southern roots and New York training in a next-step cuisine for the Big Easy. Not Cajun, not Creole, devoid of heavy creams, sauces, and other maskings. "New Orleans food traditionally has an overindulgence of rich items--crab, oysters, filet, and hollandaise on one plate--but our food is about purification," says Slade. "We want you to taste the vegetable just picked yesterday." The ever-evolving menu features Louisiana crab, New Orleans-style barbecue lobster, pig cheeks (a keeper), and various Gulf fish, all deftly sweeping past predictable. "It's approachable," says Allison of the simple ingredients woven into unique combinations. Yes, the kind you want to approach again soon. 817 Common Street, New Orleans (in the Renaissance Pere Marquette Hotel); www.milaneworleans.com or (504) 412-2580. Hours: 6:30-10:30 a.m., 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and 5:30-10 p.m. Monday-Friday; 6:30 a.m.-noon and 5:30-10 p.m. Saturday; 6:30 a.m.-noon and 5:30-9 p.m. Sunday.
"A lot of our peers went out of the city and worked with other chefs; now they're bringing back that knowledge. That new energy is what we thrive on," says Slade. Allison adds, "It's rewarding to be part of the rejuvenation."
A NOTE TO OUR READERS:
"Food Finds: MiLa" is from the September 2008 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.