Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Bread & Circus: Fall Menu Sneak Peek

Moscow Mule
In his five book collection of poems entitled Satires, Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis, known in English as Juvenal, made public his ills and annoyances associated with 1st and 2nd century Rome. Holding nothing back in his educated yet humorous critique, Juvenal exposed the threats that plagued the common man. Among those were threats stemming from the government itself. In his tenth book in the series, Satire X, Juvenal's disdain for governmental manipulation in order to gain power is viewed. In 140 B.C., Roman politicians devised a plan to win the votes of new citizens by giving out cheap, or sometimes even free, food and entertainment. "Bread and Circuses", the practice of providing free wheat and playful games was brought to the forefront of Roman culture.

Smokey Old Fashion

Bread & Circus Provisions, located at 258 Bendel Rd, is establishing itself as a mainstay in Lafayette cuisine. With a fresh, farm-to-table approach, Chef/Owner Manny Augello combines appeasement and fun in a unique dining experience. Nothing is off limits. No boundaries are set. There is a sense of freedom in the cooking at Bread & Circus; something that can be tasted and sets it apart from other restaurants. Juvenal was once quoted as saying "Honesty is praised" and, in the case of Bread & Circus, honesty is delicious.

Fall at the Circus is a wondrous thing. With the crisp air wafting in through the open doors, the scent of Neapolitan pizza fills the parking lot. Plates of bone marrow and bowls of ramen fly out the window in the blink of an eye. The kitchen is full of sounds and activity and the staff moves stealthily. Patrons are laughing and striking up conversations with people on the left and right of them. 

We were invited to attend a four course sneak peek of the new Fall menu. Making its way to your table this Thursday, October 9th, it offers sincere, nostalgic, heartwarming dishes. You're left with a sense of who Chef Manny is, what he believes, and why he does what he does. 

In the midst of conversation, our first course is brought to our table. Buddha's Belly, an appetizer named in honor of cancer survivor Allison "Buddha" Walters, features two of Bread & Circus' regular menu options (Gouda mac and cheese and fried chicken skins) combined into one.

Buddha's Belly
Coated in chicken skin panko then deep fried, each ball rests upon belly bacon and is served with a celery salt mayo. The dish was perfectly paired with a glass, or two, of Shingleback "Black Bubbles" Sparkling Shiraz. Traditionally served in Australia at lunch on Christmas Day, "Black Bubbles" was a fun surprise that coupled perfectly with the Buddha's Belly.

As soon as we finished our glasses of the delicious Shiraz, we were greeted with our second course. Perhaps a soon to be offering on the menu for the Saturday night "Belly Up to the Deli", the Fried Eggplant Spears with miso mayo dipping sauce were bar food elevated; crisp and salty on the outside while tender on the inside.

Eggplant Spears
Adding to its propensity to be a bar staple, the eggplant was served with a Covington Brewhouse Kolsch. Covington Kolsch, the beer Covington Brewhouse was founded on, goes down smooth and has a slightly fruity finish. Perhaps the best beer I've tried in a while, Kolsch will have to accompany more of my meals. One sip and you may feel the same way.

When we weren't sure we could eat another bite, Chef Manny walked out the third course. As a product of Cajun and Creole cuisine, I am no stranger to rabbit. However, this dish surprised me. The Rabbit with Sweet Potato Gnocchi was my favorite course of the night. Painstakingly de-boned, the rabbit is then stuffed with garlic, parsley and the rabbit's own liver.

The perfectly seasoned meat was tender and juicy. Guilt flooded my body as I came to the conclusion that Manny's rabbit was better than my grandmother's. The sweet potato gnocchi, served with delicate mushrooms, was served on top of an arugula puree. The peppery arugula worked well with soft, sweet gnocchi. It was a homey dish. Real food; the "cucina povera" style that speaks to everyone. You are transported back to your youth and comforted by taste and memories of simpler days. The Appletini with smoked pecan sugar lining the rim will quickly snap you back to reality. 

And what is a dining experience without dessert?

The fourth, and final course, did not disappoint. Pulling from his roots, the Sicilian Panna Cotta, Italian for "cooked cream", is a dynamo of a dessert.

The cold set gelatin, Mexican vanilla bean, housemade Reve coffee liqueur and brandied cherries all play a vital role in this semi-sweet stratified dish. You can taste the love that goes into the bowl with each bite. This is more than just Chef Manny; this is his family. His culture. Scoop up a mouthful with Chef Manny's mother's biscotti. That's right. It's his mom's recipe. Now that's love. Paired with New Orleans' official cocktail, Sazerac, you'll travel to Palermo while you're feet are still grounded on your own Louisiana terra firma.

In lines 56-89 of Satire X, Juvenal famously states "The people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions, and all else, now meddles no more and longs eagerly for just two things — bread and circuses!"

Meals at Bread & Circus leave you doing just that; longing for your next experience. After one visit, you'll discover that the only cure for a Bread & Circus hangover is more Bread & Circus. Follow them on Facebook to be tempted daily.

258 Bendel Rd

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