by Ian McNulty
Before he and his partners opened the Three Muses on Frenchmen Street, chef Dan Esses made his name cooking around a circuit of New Orleans fine-dining restaurants. But it was the food of his native New York City that made the chef, informing his tastes, rooting his perspective on cuisine and animating his flavor memories.
Inspired to help after Hurricane Sandy, the Bronx native is sharing a taste of this and paying tribute to his stricken hometown with a special menu the Three Muses will serve each Thursday in November (excluding Thanksgiving, when it will be closed). It features six dishes, plus New York-themed cocktails, and the Three Muses has pledged all proceeds from these items to City Harvest, a nonprofit in New York that feeds the hungry with food collected from restaurants, markets and wholesalers. The group has been active in hunger relief after the Hurricane Sandy.
Esses says the 100-percent contribution is possible because local suppliers agreed to donate ingredients, including Stein’s Market & Deli, Inland Seafood, New Orleans Ice Cream Co., Republic Beverage, Glazer’s and Crescent Crown Distributing.
The benefit menu is a mix of iconic New York dishes, but the selection goes deeper than that.
“This menu is basically my youth,” Esses says, explaining that he has a personal story behind each dish.
For instance, his “Arthur Ave. chicken Alfredo” is a tribute to the main drag in the Little Italy of the Bronx, where Esses said his family dined often while he was growing up. Meanwhile, his “Mott Street lemon chicken with broccoli” references the Manhattan Chinatown and a somewhat later chapter of the chef’s life — late-night meals at Chinese restaurants after his restaurant shifts.
A corned beef sandwich pays homage to the legendary 2nd Avenue Deli, zeppoles are the chef’s favorite food at the city’s colorful Feast of San Gennaro street festival and Coney Island hot dogs speak for themselves. And the “Mamaroneck Ave. pizza?” That’s a reference to the address of Sal’s Pizzeria, a font for New York slices that Esses (and many others) holds in high esteem.
“I can’t call it Sal’s pizza because there’s no way it will be as good,” he says modestly.
The food at the Three Muses is always good, and the Thursday special is for a good cause. The bar is serving Buffalo Trace Manhattans, Ketel One Cosmopolitans and Abita Fall Fest beers, with all proceeds from these drinks benefiting City Harvest as well. The full menu is also available on Thursdays.
Need another reason to visit? The Three Muses hosts piano demon Tom McDermott for happy hour this Thursday, followed by St. Louis Slim and the Frenchmen Street Jug Band.
The Three Muses
536 Frenchmen St., 298-8746