Weekend in NOLA
June 24-28, I attended the American Library Assoc. Conference and ate my way through the weekend.
My arrival on Friday took me to Galatoire’s where I hadn’t been since the early 60s; however, I did attempt to eat there in 1999 when we arrived through the then revolving-curtained door during the fashionable Friday lunch, in – God Forbid – T-shirts and shorts. Upon entering, the Maitre‘d blocked our unsightly bodies from view of the posh regulars, yet he was not large enough to totally obscure us. I watched the mouth of a gentleman with a properly knotted ascot open in slow motion and then freeze in place. He, and the two bejeweled gray-haired society doyennes (my assumption), were seated at the first table one saw when entering, moreover, their eyes, when we appeared, seemed to be trained on that door, thus enabling them to observe all arrivals. As they cast their eyes on us, both ladies cringed, but kept their focus. I realized the mistake we had made, smiled and bowed to the ladies and their gentlemen escort. That was then, and on this 2011 evening, I arrived nicely done-up with a jacket.
I ordered a Sazerac, a drink I’ve never had. It was smooth and went down easily but perhaps left too strong a taste on my pallet, which I tried to obliterate with pieces of their bland bread. Whether or not it was from the strong drink or the heavy-handed spice, I couldn’t distinguish any flavors in my cup of seafood okra gumbo.
Next, came a plate covered with blackish-green glop. It was my oyster Rockefeller. The glop, which was puréed spinach, had a decent tang, but what lie underneath was a huge disappointment; six too well cooked tiny oysters. Galatoire’s presentation of that dish was atrocious.
A glass of Sauvignon Blanc accompanied the oysters and led into my soft-shell crab menuniere. The two crabs were exquisite, but the soufflé potatoes that I ordered to accompany them were akin to thin cardboard, and to make matters worst - were cold.
I watched my server as he brought dishes to others and to me, always balancing many on his hand and arm, and then when setting them down on the first table, would chat with those people before proceeding to the next or me. Galatoire’s is scratched from my list. Interestingly, I got similar comments from others who had dined there over the course of the weekend.
Saturday lunch break took me to Cochon Butcher. I had their muffaletta. The filling of meat, cheese and olive salad was tasty, but for me, it was a bit disappointing because of the ratio of filling to the roll’s size.
On Saturday night, after a half-hour taxi ride from the Quarter and $20 poorer, I arrived at Brigsten’s. Ordered a French 75, another drink I’ve never drunk, and had the rabbit tenderloin to start. I’m not partial to fried foods, which is how it was cooked, but enjoyed the grits cake and sauce it was served with. A glass of Sauvignon Blanc accompanied their seafood platter. The drum fish was perfect, as were the four other bites that came with it. Unfortunately, the fifth, the shrimp cornbread with jalapeño’s was too heavily salted. Pecan pie followed - a dessert that is to die for.
Sunday lunch was at Mulates across the street from the convention center. That meal is best forgotten. On the way back to my hotel I stopped at Acme Oyster House, downing a dozen for $13.50. I can remember when you stood at the bar, and the shucker continued to shuck until you said, “Whoa!”
Sunday night took me to Atchafalaya, by far the best meal I had in NOLA. Jalapeño corn muffins were served. I had a couple of Gruner Veltliner’s, followed by fried green tomatoes topped with crab. The crab had a better taste, and there was more of it than what I get in San Francisco. Then I had the, cooked to perfection, redfish, accompanied by wilted spinach. Their Italian cheese plate (3 cheeses) and a glass of 20-year-old Port ended my meal.
Monday lunch was at Cochon, no res, but got there at 11:30, before the crowd. Had three small plates, oyster roast (sorry, I hadn’t ordered a 2nd of them, since they were worlds apart from the taste and miniscule oysters Galatoire’s served). Overcooked grilled shrimp were served with spicy corn relish, and the pork cheeks were dry. Peach pie on the menu turned out to be what looked like a small calzone with a meager amount of peaches in tough pastry. I even asked my server where the peaches were. My check said I had ordered a peach strudel, huh?
The meal I had that evening at August impressed me. The amuse-boche, served in an eggshell, was a seafood sabayon with a scallop seafoam topping topped with caviar. I ordered the gnocchi with crab and black truffles, and a glass of Chablis. Zinfandel was my choice for the saddle of lamb, served with crispy sweetbreads and lamb belly. It was tasty, cooked medium rare as ordered, but was quite tough. Dessert off the tasting menu was their chocolate snowball, a granita of shaved chocolate crystals, plated with many different types of chocolate pieces, together with a scoop of white ice cream, whose flavor I’ve forgotten...
Noon lunch on Tuesday, with only a short time before I caught my flight, I went to Brennan’s because I didn’t have enough time to get to Luke (I should slap myself hard). I had oyster soup – can someone please tell me what was in it, ‘cause it didn’t taste oyster-y or like anything else. Then I had their $19 shrimp trail, which consisted of 10 or 12 small-poached shrimp topped with remoulade sauce. The shrimp surrounded a miniscule mound of shredded iceberg lettuce. Brennan’s… a tourist trap, alive only because of its past.