Tag Archives: Ron Samuelson

The Big Easy in the Big O

February 23, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

One of America’s great food cities, New Orleans, is steeped in history, culture, and fantastic flavors. From beignets to étouffée, the Southern city’s distinctive cuisine attracts food lovers worldwide. Perhaps the best way to satisfy one’s Cajun and Creole cravings is with a trip to N’awlins. But if that isn’t in your plans, a visit to Herbe Sainte offers a taste of the Big Easy without leaving the Big O.

The Aksarben Village cocktail bar and restaurant, which opened in late October 2016, is the creation of longtime restaurateur Ron Samuelson and his nephews, Aaron and Justin Halbert. For decades, Samuelson co-owned M’s Pub, the iconic Old Market restaurant that was destroyed in a January 2016 fire. His focus is now on Herbe Sainte and other new projects, including a French-focused eatery that he and the Halberts are working on.

muffuletta

For Herbe Sainte, the trio took inspiration from the food and drink of the Crescent City. “New Orleans has a great cocktail culture,” Justin Halbert says. Seafood purveyors from several Gulf Coast states supply the restaurant with fresh shrimp, crawfish, and oysters. Halbert, who used to live in Florida, says seafood from the region, particularly Gulf shrimp, boasts exceptional flavor and texture.

Shrimp is the star of one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, NOLA shrimp. One of a dozen items on the small menu, it features plump, succulent shrimp smothered in a rich, luscious sauce made decadent with cream, butter, and wine. It’s served with crusty French bread to sop up the sauce, which is sparked with a Creole seasoning blend for a palate-tingling heat. I would have liked a bit more spice, but I thoroughly savored each bite.

raw oysters

Executive chef Jeff Owen leads the kitchen, showcasing an appreciation for the nuances of New Orleans cuisine while putting his own twists on the classics. The shrimp roll features boiled shrimp lightly dressed with Cajun remoulade, lettuce, onion marmalade, and cornichon. Lack of breading and frying allows the shrimp’s firm, meaty texture and sweet, clean flavor to shine. We liked the filling but thought the bun needed to be warmed or toasted a bit.

Oysters are abundant in New Orleans and on Herbe Sainte’s menu. They’re available shucked and served on the half shell, as well as broiled. For non-seafood lovers, there’s muffuletta (a signature New Orleans sandwich stuffed with cold cuts, cheese, and olives) and a cornbread and sausage plate. It features sliced boudin (pork-and-rice sausage), mustard, pickles, slaw, two types of cornbread, and honey butter. The restaurant’s boudin has a soft, crumbly texture and was milder than I expected.

Enhancing the dining experience is a stylish interior with local artwork, modern-meets-rustic décor, and an eye-catching bar with custom wood shelving. Several couches, coffee tables, and armchairs invite guests to linger. The high-ceilinged space is intimate enough for date night yet lively enough for after-work cocktails. “We wanted it to be really eclectic,” Halbert says.

The establishment’s name comes from Herbsaint, an ingredient Sazerac cocktails.

The drink menu offers classic New Orleans cocktails, such as the Sazerac. Bold yet balanced, it includes brandy, Peychaud’s bitters, simple syrup, and the restaurant’s namesake, Herbsaint, an anise-flavored liqueur used as an absinthe alternative. The long, spacious bar provides plenty of room to whip up craft cocktails and develop house-made ingredients.

Together with their design team and bar and kitchen staff, Herbe Sainte’s owners have created a delicious, inviting spot to savor a taste of New Orleans and let the “bon temps” roll year-round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit herbesainteomaha.com for more information.

NOLA shrimp

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

M’s Pub

March 8, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Boasting some of Omaha’s oldest and most popular restaurants, the Old Market has been a popular dining destination for decades. With 40 years under its belt, M’s Pub is definitely on the list for casual diners seeking a night out on the town.

Co-owner Ron Samuelson has operated M’s Pub with business partner Ann Mellen for 27 years. After so much time, it could be easy to take success for granted, but Samuelson continues to try to appeal to his customers by offering quality food at an affordable price.

“The main thing that I hope anybody gets out of a visit here is that they’ve been served something that has been prepared lovingly,” Samuelson says. “We take a lot of care in making sure every dish that goes out of the kitchen has been prepared properly and is a good value.”

20140123_bs_5278

On a recent visit, M’s was in full swing serving casual families, couples on anniversary dinners, and business associates. I ended up sitting at the bar with my dining partner and having a pleasant conversation with a few businessmen about the specials menu. I love sitting at the bar at M’s—it’s usually a more inclusive dining experience.

I started off my meal with the charcuterie special: hand-cured duck and soppressata with warm, fresh bread, red onions, caper berries, and a spicy mustard that really pulled the ingredients together. Samuelson says that M’s is working toward offering hand-cured charcuterie specials on a more regular basis. This special definitely indicates a positive future for the new menu item.

We ordered the fresh whole artichoke appetizer to share. For entrees, my dining partner ordered the gluten-free chicken pesto pasta, and I ordered the lamb burger from the mainstay menu. Although the artichoke was a bit challenging to eat at first, it turned out to be an interesting addition to the evening’s meal—the accompanying lemon aioli and curried mayonnaise were exceptional.

The chicken pesto pasta received a thumbs-up from my dining partner, and the lamb burger was delicious, topped with fresh tomato and lettuce that seemed too good to be true for the winter months.

For dessert, I ordered one of the brand new mini-dessert specials: a salted caramel pudding minus the accompanying toffee bits due to my tree-nut allergy. Although I felt like I was cheating on my favorite sour cream pound cake, this mini dessert was a flawless execution of sweet and salty flavors.

Throughout our meal, the waitress was incredibly accommodating to my dining partner’s gluten intolerance and my allergy. She went the extra mile to help guide us through the extensive menu to create a cohesive dining experience.

Consistency with service is something that has been integral to M’s success in the Old Market and has ensured a full house, even on a cold weeknight. At M’s, no one is shoving you out the door if you just want to stop in for a glass of wine and dessert. When you ask for a suggestion or an honest opinion, you’ll get one without an uncomfortable up-sale.

As a long-time fan of M’s, I was pleased to experience the same sense of consistency and familiarity I was used to, along with a few nice surprises.