Annie's promoted sustainable, artisanal, locally-sourced ingredients before such things became de rigueur in fine dining. And to list a few of its many distinctions, Annie's has been recognized as one of the Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DIRONA), and Chef Lou Rook III was a recent semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef, Midwest. Glenn Bardgett's wine list consistently wins the Wine Spectator "Best Of" Award of Excellence in addition to other prestigious awards, and reads like a bacchanalian, lyrical love poem to some of the best wines in the world. (ie: "Etude 2006 Carneros ~ An old favorite never fails to excite, always a benchmark of Carneros")
But above all, to me, Annie Gunn's means family. Although I only worked at Annie's for 2 years, it's like no time has passed when I go back. I'm always greeted with happy hugs, warm smiles, updates about children and now grandchildren (!), and it is a loving and wonderful homecoming. The most significant and unexpected of these homecomings happened in September, 2005. Just one month after I left Annie's and moved to New Orleans for law school, Hurricane Katrina sent me back home with nothing but my dog, a few law books, and 3 changes of clothes. Annie's took me back with open and friendly arms. Co-workers donated uniforms, shoes, and clothes, and I was immediately back on the schedule. For several months, I was panicked, and grief-stricken for everyone and everything that we lost in the floods after the storm, but I was never alone--my Annie's family made sure of that.
Annie's is an amazing family because the people who work there--many of whom have been there for more than a decade--share a real compassion for one another that can handle any crisis. (Something that I will always be thankful for.)
And Annie's is an amazing restaurant because its staff shares a collective passion for fine dining with its guests day in and day out. Obviously I can't write a real review--it would be like trying to critique Mama BaCon's jambalaya recipe--but here are some photos from my latest trip to Annie's. Like my most recent visit, here's hoping that my Annie's homecomings from now on are merely sweet, and always familiar. And if you, dear reader, get to visit any time soon, I hope you are able to recognize that Annie's is much, much more than just a restaurant. And the maple glazed smoked shrimp are not to be missed.
(If you guys end up reading this Glenn, Lesley, Pappa & Claire, and Chef Lou--I miss you guys all the time. You'll never know how much you mean to me, but maybe this helps? I love you!)
Daily Lunch Special of Sauteed Gulf Shrimp in an Herb Heirloom Tomato Broth and Crispy Risotto Cakes
Grilled Medallion of Beef Tenderloin and Sauteed Hudson Valley Foie Gras with a Schlafly Pale Ale Tamarind Caramel Glaze and Whipped Yukon Gold Potatoes
(aka "Foie Gras As Big As Yer Head")