Monthly Archives: February 2020

Galatoire’s — Lunch on 13 February 2020

You’ve probably read somewhere that “Sixty percent of restaurants don’t make it past their first year and 80 percent go out of business within five years” or “The average lifespan of a restaurant is five years and by some estimates, up to 90 percent of new ones fail within the first year”.

Urban legends—none of that is true.

According to Forbes, “…only 17% of restaurants close in the first year, not 90%.”

And then there’s New Orleans, which is probably the home to more “centenarian” restaurants—restaurants that are still thriving more than 100 years after their founding—than any other city in the country.

They must be doing something right to last 100 years. Whatever that “something” is, Galatoire’s, on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, is doing it particularly well.

Galatoire’s

Galatoire’s

Founded 115 years ago, Galatoire’s is yet another New Orleans centenarian restaurant, like Commander’s Palace and Acme Oyster House. Five generations of the Galatoire family and descendants have been involved with the running of the restaurant.

Shrimp Remoulade

Shrimp Remoulade

For my simple Shrimp Remoulade starter, the shrimp were boiled and served on iceberg lettuce. The authentic, definitely-not-from-a-bottle remoulade sauce was a quintessential taste of New Orleans.

Chicken Bonne-Femme

Chicken Bonne-Femme

Somewhere under that luscious mound of bacon and caramelized onions is a perfectly seasoned roasted half chicken, complemented by cottage fries.  Highest possible praise for this one. Looking back, it was my favourite main course in a week full of great meals.

Lauv — “Modern Loneliness”

Really liking Lauv’s new release, “Modern Loneliness”, which is one of those songs that seems to be speaking directly to me. (And, it seems, directly to a lot of other people, as well.  The video was posted five days ago and already has more than two million views.)

“Modern Loneliness” is the final track on his first studio album, How I’m Feeling, which will be released on 6 March 2020. In early 2019, Lauv started to release singles that will appear on the album as they were completed, so 10 of the 21 cuts from How I’m Feeling are already out there online.

Lauv, after musical collaborations with everybody from Troye Sivan to BTS, is three months into a year-long world tour.


The image is the artwork for <i><b>How I'm Feeling</b></i>

The image is the artwork for How I’m Feeling

Acme Oyster House — Lunch on 12 February 2020

Acme Oyster House

Acme Oyster House

Acme Oyster House, founded in 1910, has been around almost as long as Commander’s Palace, but in many ways, they’re worlds apart. Commander’s Palace is in New Orleans’ elegant Garden District, while Acme Oyster House is in the raunchy French Quarter. Commander’s Palace is quiet and refined; Acme Oyster House has the look and feel of a good ole honky-tonk. Commander’s Palace provides the most superb service you could find in a restaurant, while Acme Oyster House features a neon sign that reads: “Waitress Available Sometimes”.

What they have in common is that they both serve wonderful food.

Acme Oyster House Interior

Acme Oyster House Interior

Acme doesn’t take reservations, and the line to get into the restaurant starts forming before its 10:30 AM opening. Service is non-stop through an 11 PM closing.

Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

Another day, another rich and filling Gumbo. This one featured chicken and andouille sausage.

Boom Boom Shrimp

Boom Boom Shrimp

This was the main reason I was here. It’s called  Boom Boom Shrimp, and it tastes fantastic. I didn’t count, but I think there were somewhere between 30 and 40 shrimp in that bowl, and I gobbled down each and every one of them. Eleanor Shellstrop would die of envy, if she weren’t dead already.

The fried shrimp are coated in Acme’s homemade sauce, and its sweetness made me think one of the sauce’s ingredients might be honey. I later found some recipes online, which said it was made with mayonnaise, sweet chili sauce, and either toasted sesame oil or Sriracha.

The recipes look easy, and if I ever have a fully-functioning kitchen again, I’m certainly going to try this at home.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020, Is Pancake Day


“The Fight Between Carnival and Lent”, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Pancake Day has never caught on in the US, and that’s an American deficiency that should be corrected. It’s celebrated around the world, but especially in the British Commonwealth, on Shrove Tuesday, the day before the start of Lent.

a

In towns throughout the UK, schools shut down at 11 AM, and roads are closed to traffic so that local citizens can race through the streets, tossing pancakes into the air and catching them in frying pans as they go.

b

If you happen to be in London, which is to Pancake Day what New Orleans is to Shrove Tuesday, but with fewer next-day regrets, TimeOut has posted a list of some of the pancake races, pancake eating contests, and create-your-own dream pancake celebrations.

Up until a year ago, you could also watch teams from the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the media competed for the title of Parliamentary Pancake Race Champions, in support of the charity Rehab. The fun relay race has apparently become yet another casualty of Brexit bitterness.

c

If you’re in the US, you can still celebrate! IHOP, which I believe is a public interest organization of some sort, has got into the spirit of Pancake Day by offering a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes to every guest on 25 February 2020.


Disclaimer

(This comment was neither sponsored nor endorsed by IHOP, formerly known as the International House of Pancakes, not that I’d turn down some coupons for free stacks if they offered them in exchange for the wide exposure this blog post will give them. I mean, I’m an Influencer, dammit. My recommendation will make their pancakes sell like…well, off-hand I can’t think of a good analogy.  I don’t know, maybe Popeye’s chicken sandwiches* or something.)

*Which I also like and would gladly recommend, for a small sum.

Better Call Saul — Season Five Starts Tonight

Looks who’s back!

It’s Saul Goodman, a shyster so corrupt, so morally bankrupt, so totally devoid of ethics, honesty, and scruples that it’s surprising he didn’t pop up advising the Republican senators during the recent impeachment trial.

And look who else is back!

Gus Fring!

Héctor  Salamanca!

Mike Ehrmantraut!

And even DEA agent Hank Schrader!

All brought back from the dead for this prequel to Breaking Bad, probably the finest television achievement of the still-very-young 21st century.

There’s a never-ending debate on line—one of those Kirk-vs-Picard things—about exactly when Walter White broke bad and went over to the dark side. (I admired the Redditor who answered the question by posting sonogram of a fetus.)

With Jimmy McGill, the question is pretty much resolved: It was when Jimmy McGill became “Saul Goodman”. That’s where we are at the start of Series Five.

After tonight’s episode, Better Call Saul will return with a second episode on Monday night in its regular time slot. This is the show’s next-to-last season, but, hey, s’all good, man.

Commander’s Palace — Lunch on 11 February 2020

Commander's Palace

Commander’s Palace

Nothing lasts forever. The polar ice caps are melting, the West is in decline, and there will eventually come a time when Commander’s Palace is no longer the definitive New Orleans restaurant, if only because New Orleans itself has sunk beneath the waves.

But happily for us, we’ll probably all be dead by then.

Commander’s Palace has been serving fine food since 1893. It has won seven James Beard Foundation Awards, and the list of some of its other awards and critical appreciations goes on for screen after screen on its website.

Amuse-bouche

Amuse-bouche

After being greeted by what seemed like most of the restaurant’s staff, I was given this little amuse-bouche. It’s a miniature king cake, filled with caramelized onion and pepper jack cheese and decorated with the traditional Mardi Gras colours of green, yellow, and purple. Two delightful bites.

Gumbo

Gumbo

Gumbo has an infinite number of variations. The server said that this one was called “The Three Little Piggies” because it contained three different forms of pork. (Bacon, sausage, and pulled pork, if I remember correctly.)

Satsuma Glazed Duck

Satsuma Glazed Duck

Love me my duck confit, so when I saw it on the menu, I didn’t bother to read further. The dish was described as “Crispy duck leg confit over Camellia white bean, andouille, and Cajun ham cassoulet with brown butter, turnips, spicy greens, and Louisiana citrus.” I had to see what Commander’s Palace would do with this classic. Would it be the best duck confit I’d ever tasted?

Well, no. It wasn’t.

The problem with setting expectations so high is that anything less than perfection is a disappointment. There was nothing wrong with the dish,  but nothing to remind me that I was dining in one of the most celebrated restaurants in America, either.

Ponchatoula Strawberry Shortcake

Ponchatoula Strawberry Shortcake

While the main didn’t live up to my very high expectations, the Ponchatoula Strawberry Shortcake dessert wildly exceded them. I mean, just look at it!

Those are first of the season Louisiana strawberries macerated with a touch of cane sugar, served on a warm buttermilk biscuit.

And I am beginning to wonder why I don’t spend all winter in New Orleans every year.


The 25¢ Martini

25¢  Martini

25¢  Martini

I think the last time I tasted hard liquor was before I was old enough to drink it legally, which was, eh, some months ago. A glass of wine, once or twice a week, is about my speed these days. Nevertheless, when in New Orleans…. I had to try the famous Commander’s Palace 25¢ Martini special. (“Limit three (3) per person ’cause that’s enough. Available with the purchase of any Entrée.”)

But what to order? I glazed over when the server recited the list of possibilities, because being ignorant of what the names meant,  that didn’t help me at all. I knew that I didn’t want a Cosmopolitan, because that was what people drank on Sex in the City, and at the time it slipped my mind what Patsy and Edina would drink. (Answer: Almost anything.} So I asked the server to surprise me.

It seems that cocktails are an acquired taste, and it’s a taste I’m unlikely to acquire. I don’t remember the name of the drink in the picture, but I only drank half of it.

Looks like Windex, doesn’t it?

“There Are Only 10 Types of Movies”

And Lee Steffen has figured out what they are. Here are the first two types on his list. You can find the rest on his Twitter feed.

1. Orange and Blue Action


2. Sexy Legs


The responses to Mr Steffen’s list are also worth a look. One commenter, for instance, pointed out that Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t allowed to face the camera on movie posters.

Another found this interesting case of twinning.

Much more at the site.

Pêche Seafood Grill — Lunch on 10 February 2020

Pêche Seafood Grill.

Pêche Seafood Grill

Founded in 2014, Pêche is a newcomer in a city that measures the longevity of its restaurants in decades. It got off to a brilliant start, though, winning that year’s James Beard award for Best New Restaurant in America. The same year, Pêche chef Ryan Prewitt took the James Beard award for Best Chef: South. Pêche regularly turns up on lists of the 10 best restaurants in New Orleans.

The restaurant is a big, airy single room. No dress code here; the accent is on casual comfort.

Fish Sticks

Fish Sticks

I joked, a few weeks ago, about preparing for an elegant homemade gourmet dinner by first defrosting the fish sticks. Fish sticks! How silly of me.

When I started to research restaurants for my trip, I noticed something unexpected about the reviews of Pêche: the food critics kept raving about the restaurant’s fish sticks. “You can skip the shrimp toast …but not the beer-battered fish sticks (really)”, wrote one. “Don’t miss the shareable beer-battered fish sticks”, said another. Who’d a thunk it?

Pêche’s fish sticks are indeed excellent. They’re worlds away from the elementary school cafeteria staple that gives fish a bad name.

Now if only someone would reimagine tater tots and chicken nuggets….

Smothered Catfish

Smothered Catfish

“Smothered”, in this context, describes a cooking method used in Cajun and Creole cuisines. It’s basically stove-top braising, and in Louisiana it’s used to tenderize and flavour all sorts of game, domestic animals, seafood, and vegetables.

For my main, I had a fine serving of Smothered Catfish. Or so I thought….


A Disturbing Discovery

I left the restaurant happy and satisfied, a mood that lingered until I took a close look at my receipt and noticed something shocking.

Smothered cat? My god, what had these maniacs served me?

Drago’s — Dinner on 9 February 2020

Drago's

Drago’s Seafood Restaurant

I arrived in New Orleans late Sunday afternoon, checked into my hotel, and walked down to Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, “Home of the Original Charbroiled Oyster”, for my first meal of this year’s visit to the city. My Colorado brother and sister-in-law had recommended Drago’s years ago, and a visit to the restaurant has become part of my standard New Orleans routine. Drago’s doesn’t take reservations—unusual for New Orleans—but it’s huge, so I knew I’d have no trouble getting in.

The seafood restaurant has an extensive menu, but the specialty of the house is the aforementioned Charbroiled Oyster which the menu describes as “The Single Best Bite of Food in Town”.

Here’s how charbroiled oysters are prepared:

First, the chef places an order of lightly-breaded oysters on the half shell on a grill over a fire.

Then this happens.


After that, the oysters are plated and drenched in melted butter. Lots of melted butter. This is not a meal for the weak of heart, in any sense of the term.

And it comes out here.

You can choose between a serving of six oysters for $13.95 or a dozen for $23.95. I went all-in and ordered the dozen, and had absolutely no regrets.

Home Again

Some people take a mid-winter break to go on a ski trip or to laze on a tropical beach.* I, on the other hand, am a devout, committed urbanite, who becomes terrible antsy when I’m not within easy walking distance of the nearest public transit stop.

When February seems like it will never end, I head to a warm city with good restaurants, because dining well is truly the best revenge.

And now I’m back in DC, after a short vacation in warm, tasty New Orleans.


*I’ve also heard that some people go out dancing, other people they’ve just gotta work.