So after I got home on Wednesday, I unpacked the jars of Cajun seasoning, put the Camellia beans away, and lit a fire in the woodstove in the kitchen (it was 63 in the kitchen). I did a quick draft of the last day in New Orleans, which I finally had time to finish.
During the day, we drove to Casamento’s on Magazine Street for some raw and broiled oysters and a soft shell crab po’ boy. The oysters are different from Wellfleet’s—warmer water, marsh and not sea grown, I think, but who can pass oysters by? Oysters or clams on the half-shell always remind me of my father. We used to have dinner in Manhattan at some Italian white tablecloth restaurant or other in mid-town, sharing a dozen raw clams before the veal parmesan. After dinner, we’d see the new James Bond movie. Continue reading
Back from NOLA yesterday. Sarah and her sister Anne were due to spend a week in Costa Rica. Anne’s wife Barb had another seizure Tuesday night. Rachel got in touch with them and they got off the plane in Costa Rica, got back on and flew back to Atlanta where Anne got to say good-bye. Barbara died early this morning. She was a kind, generous, and loving person, younger than me, and we will all miss her terribly. I am so glad that Sarah is there for Anne.
Day Seven NOLA post will be a little delayed.
So originally we were supposed to eat at Antoine’s, an old school New Orleans restaurant. A chance to taste the classics as they’ve been done for 170 years. However, after checking a lot of the on-line reviews, the major comment by most posters was that the ambiance was fantastic, the food ranged from good to great, the servers from friendly to rude, but the price never approached less expensive. So we shifted to Donald Link’s oldest restaurant, Herbsaint, on St. Charles at the edge of the Central Business District.
Wow. To quote several grandchildren out of context, “that was a good decision.” We had what we all agreed was the best dinner we’ve had this week. When we got there, Donald himself was having a glass of wine with someone at one of the outside tables. Later on, we saw him duck into the kitchen. Now, we’re not thinking he personally cooked our meal, but just the fact that he was around was comforting. Continue reading
So here we are at the Maple Leaf bar, waiting for the Pigeon Town Steppers second line to come through. It’s twenty to five and their permit runs until five and there are several other stops still to go, so the question is will they make it or will they just turn off and head for the Blue Flame Lounge where they disband? We’ve run into friends of Bill and Cindy’s and been invited over for some gumbo z’herbes, had some grilled oysters from one of the BBQ grills on pickup truck beds that seem ubiquitous at every outdoor event, and followed the rumors back and forth.
At the Maple Leaf
“They extended the permit until seven,” comes the latest word and suddenly, NOPD is blocking off the side streets, the crowd has grown and the brass band gets louder and louder. We were there at the start of the second line, at Silky’s Lounge on Magnolia Street, which was a milling crowd of the well dressed and the casual, BBQ trucks and Flexible Flier wagons with “Cold Cold” beer and “Ice Cold” soda, a full bar on the cab roof of a pickup truck, the competing smells of hickory smoke, sizzling fat and weed, and, off to the side, some floats. It started as a semi-chaotic affair, with maybe a hundred or so following the floats and the music. We joined for a while and then peeled off.
Pigeon Town, a neighborhood near Bill and Cindy, was originally called Pension Town because of all the black WW II vets who settled there. Like all things, time has wrought it’s changes. This, their 19th Easter, the theme of the Pigeon Town Steppers second line is change: “20 Years in Da Game, Time Brings Change.” Continue reading
OK, so I’ve been told I am somewhat demanding when it comes to food. I was looking forward to Vincent’s, an old school Italian place and especially the bracialoni , a roll of veal around stuffing and touted by Gumbo Tales as the New Orleans Italian dish to have. So, of course, we had some.
Vincent’s is old school. Green, red and white, Jerry Vale on the sound system, second generation run. All I wanted and more. The breadsticks and softened garlic-scallion butter on the table to start was a superb touch. The Rose of Sicily (a breaded deep fried artichoke heart draped with shaved parmesan in a garlic olive oil was quite tasty and the parmesan was good quality. The crabmeat stuffed mirlton (chayote) in a white sauce was also quite good and I got a sense of mirlton’s taste (subtle) and texture (like the pepper in a chile relleno). The duck carbonara was loaded with bacon and duck in a homemade wide pasta. Even the blue cheese vinegrette on the salad was good, a touch sweet from balsamic, and Gorgonzola blue cheese. Continue reading
Some friends of Bill and Cindy’s came by so we got off to a late start after trading lies and telling stories. Lil Dizzy’s for lunch. So far, the best meals we’ve had have been neighborhood lunch places. I’ve come to love the restaurants tucked into residential street, not all corner stores, like Lil Dizzy’s, but in the middle of the street, we’ll pass by a place that Bill or Cindy will immediately identify as a great place to eat.
Lil Dizzy’s buffet—fried chicken, little crawfish pies in tiny throwaway pie tins, macaroni and cheese, sautéed vegetables, shrimp Creole, crab and crawfish gumbo, and bread pudding—again accompanied by giant iced teas, sweetened this time—was all that and more. Don’t know why the giant sodas in movie theaters, etc. piss me off so and the giant teas seem quite fitting here, especially on the second refill.
People who seem to think “to die for” is a good expression for food always annoy me. “Freedom is to die for; good fried chicken is not,” but I’d commit a little mayhem to get back to Lil Dizzy’s fried chicken. Nice crust, juicy, not greasy at all, I’d’ve had more if the crawfish pie and gumbo weren’t so good. I never understood why the gumbo recipes have you cook the crab pieces for the entire hour of simmer time and then add the shrimp at the last minute, but I finally got it. The meat fell out of the crab bodies and the flavor was crab, dark roux and fish broth. Cindy thought she spotted Errol Laborde and his wife Carol, publisher of several New Orleans magazines and moderator of Lost Restaurants of New Orleans respectively at the next table so it wasn’t just this easily impressed Yankee. Continue reading
Like an empty pot, a half-empty bar waiting for the musicians can turn into anything—Ed Wills playing blues, a Buster Keaton film with accompaniment by Tom McDermott and Aurora Nealand, or a drunk trumpet player trying to commandeer a gig. It can go anywhere. Like the hexagram says, “The Corners of the Mouth. Pay heed to what a man seeks to fill his own mouth with. Perseverance brings good fortune.”
There’s been some method to Bill’s madness, trying to pack as much as he can into this trip. Everywhere we go, there is the overlay of history, his own, Cindy’s, the city’s centuries, Katrina, who is present in many stories that begin “before” or “after.” Like an empty pan, echoes of meals gone by and of meals still to come.
Gumbo at Liuzza’s
Yesterday, we went to the Museum of Art, in whose stone lobby Bill took art lessons as a boy then to Liuzza’s by the Track, just a corner bar with fried oyster salad, gumbo, a dark turtle soup that just might be the best thing I’ve eaten so far, and glasses of unsweetened ice tea deep enough to swim in to Longue Vue gardens for the tail end of the iris show and a stop at Angelo Brocato’s for ices and gelato.