Sous chefs Maria Diaz, Craig Crosby and executive chef Orlando Amaro (center)
photo by Robin May
It’s a really good sign when you walk into a restaurant and cured hams are hanging from the ceiling. That’s one of the innovations at Pamplona, Lafayette’s downtown tapas destination. The other big change is that founding chef and partner William Annesley has left not only Pamplona’s kitchen, but Lafayette as well. He does remain a partner in the business. Annesley famously juggles projects. He’s done everything from pub cooking in his native England to building movie sets in Los Angeles, producing films, hosting underground dinner parties, opening clubs and marrying Quentin Tarantino’s assistant. Karina Carrero grew up in Lafayette and introduced Annesley to Cajun country. Five years ago the couple moved to Lafayette to create Pamplona.
It took four years to get the tapas restaurant off the ground. With its white stucco walls and dark wood bar, bullfights on the video screens and echoes of Ernest Hemingway’s love affair with Spain everywhere, Pamplona was an instant sensation. It also garnered the reputation of being too pricey for everyday dining. Annesley was importing delicacies from around the globe to create his fusion tapas that melded everything from southeast Asian coconut curry broth for his mussels to foie gras from New York’s Hudson River valley. The broad swath of the menu created conceptional tension between traditional tapas, which is Spanish bar food, and the high end dishes Annesley was offering.
In early January, Annesley announced his departure for Los Angeles. Both Karina’s career in fashion and marketing and Annesley’s casting in several television cooking series demanded a relocation to the West Coast, long range plans they say were in the works even as the restaurant was being created. What would that mean for Pamplona? Changes. The main one being that the restaurant’s former chef de cuisine, Orlando Amaro, could finally step into the limelight.
Roasted pig flat bread and zucchini ravioli
photo by Robin May
At 34, the native Venezuelan has the youthful glow of an ingenue, but don’t let his baby face fool you. He grew up under the tutelage of his mother, Helen Farias, a pastry chef, and was fascinated by food preparation as a boy. At 20, he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of Mexico in Puebla before going on to stints as executive chef at Hilton hotels in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, and Miami, Fla. The critical moment in his gastronomical education, however, came when he entered the kitchens of Juan Mari Arzak, in San Sebastian, Spain. Restaurant Arzak blends traditional Basque dishes with the laboratory techniques made famous by Ferran Adria at his Catalan destination restaurant, El Bulli. Arzak has been repeatedly named one of the top restaurants in Europe, and Amaro learned a world of taste and technique there. Amaro was back in the states, as executive chef of the Blu Moon, in Miami, when Annesley, who was looking for some one with European training to take on the kitchens of Pamplona, contacted him.
“I saw the idea of a tapas restaurant in the small town of Lafayette, and I thought it was a great idea,” says Amaro. Not only have he and his wife settled in, with one child in school and another on the way, but his father, also named Orlando, works for Pamplona as the familiar doorman under the big red umbrella at the Jefferson St. curb. Amaro has been at the stove since the restaurant opened, but Annesley has now passed on the creative reins. Last week, Pamplona came out with a new menu offering more traditional tapas at more traditional bar food prices.
On display on the bar, as they would be in Spain, are nibbles such as spicy garbanzo beans, citrus olives, Spanish cheeses and cured meats, including a sensational duck prosciutto.
The small tapas plates are designed for three people. Don’t miss the feta cheese al horno, which is an innovative ravioli, where thin strips of grilled zucchini replace more traditional pasta, filled with warm creamy goat cheese and crunchy macadamia nuts. Other favorite bites are the pintxos morunos, skewered grilled lamb with tapenade; bacon-wrapped dates; and patatas bravas, spicy small fried potato balls with a smoked paprika aioli. Tapas prices run from $3 a plate up to $10, considerably less than the old menu. Salads are brighter and lighter. The fabulous duck fat fries are still on the menu, and there are a couple of knock-your-socks-off entree size dishes like Amaro’s play on duck three ways, sliced grilled breast, foie gras and a confit and potato galette, or the Aspen Valley lamb chops with a truffle potato cake. The wine list encompasses the best of Spain — good deals on great earthy wines. And the service is still silky smooth.
Major changes in restaurants often cause tremors in smallish towns like Lafayette, and Annesley’s departure quickly ground through the rumor mill. Managing partner Jerry Young says that’s par for the course but was quick to note that there is no disruption in the force. “Pamplona is here to stay,” he says.
JUNE 19 Former Saint Steve Gleason, who is paralyzed by ALS, released a statement Tuesday in response to the Atlanta radio station's skit making fun of him and the disease, this Picayune post reports. What did he say? He said he'd accepted the apology of the DJs who did it, notes that at least the incident has got people talking about ALS, and asks anyone who is burning to take action about it to do so -- by helping him fight ALS.
JUNE 19 Blogger Ian McGibboney takes a look at the Gleason incident in this post. He makes a good argument about the difference between having free speech and being free from consequences for your speech (which none of us is). He also admits that many of us got upset before we listened to the skit -- but lets us know that the reality is far worse than we can imagine. It was the incredibly bad judgment, even more than the actual speech, that probably got those DJs fired, he opines.
JUNE 19 Washington Post blogger Aaron Blake writes about Sen. Guillory's switch to the GOP in this post. He writes what most political watchers in Louisiana know: Guillory was a Republican before he decided to run for the senate seat in a mostly-D St. Landry district, and has switched back now that he plans to run for Lt. Gov. in a mostly-R state. But how come Blake missed Guillory's appearance on a TLC pageant show? Now that is a video we'd like to see. (Again).
JUNE 19 Here's another Washington Post blog post about a Louisiana politician, and it's just plain scathing. Ezra Klein says Jindal's Politico post was "insulting" to the intelligence of voters, and adds that Jindal is personifying the "stupid" he's railed against, by being an "elite" who convinces GOP activists of "things that aren't true." Me-ow.
JUNE 19 Here's Gov. Jindal's post in Politico, in which he asks the GOP to get over losing to Obama (again) and stop "the bedwetting." (Uh, what?) He gives his Republican buddies what is probably a nerd's idea of a coach's motivational talk, which starts with a list of accomplishments that they can't seem to exploit and ending with an absurd description of liberals that sounds like a character treatment for a Fox "News" movie scripted by Gordon Liddy. Sure, he's preaching to the choir, but even the choir's not this gullible.
JUNE 19 Lamar Parmentel read Gov. Jindal's post on Politico, but thinks it was so dumb it probably was published in the wrong paper. This post by Lamar on the Daily Kingfish opines that possibly Jindal's post was destined for the Onion -- because the governor couldn't possibly be serious here. If you listen closely, you can hear the staff of the Kingfish giggling.
JUNE 19 Blogger Robert Mann posts from Turkey, a country he has visited several times in the past few years. Mann gives an interesting overview of the current political and societal climate of the country, which -- if you're living under a rock and don't know -- is experiencing protests and turmoil these days. Mann promises to post as much as he can during his trip, which should be fascinating reading.
JUNE 19 Blogger CB Forgotston says the legislature is keeping the vicious cycle going with its funding of new buildings for the community college/technical college system. Universities across the state need maintenance and improvement on existing buildings, and the solution is to build new buildings at other schools? By the time the bonds are paid off, those buildings will be falling down, too, CB says.
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to offer shares of its stock to the public for the first time.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.