Friday, August 27, 2010. Everybody's Reminiscing. Peppermill. This the day when I was supposed to have done a guest shot on the Today Show, but they bumped me off the schedule. They're in town to mark the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Reminiscing about that has been the top story in all media outlets this week. I was to talk about the miraculous recovery of the restaurant community, which as of this morning has thirty-eight percent more restaurants than it did before the storm. More restaurants are operating now than at any point in the city's history. But they ran out of time. I think they got a look at a photo of me and my face for radio and changed their minds then.
This sort of thing happens all the time, and it makes sense. The idea of media people interviewing other media people is a uncomfortably self-reflexive. I tell this to people who ask me for interviews all the time. Why don't they get a chef or a fisherman instead? The idea sinks in, and they cancel me. The lady who interviewed me while Mary Ann and I were on our way to Dallas a couple of weeks ago e-mailed me today to say that her editors have delayed the piece for a few months. Of course. I'll bet it never runs.
Being even as slightly prominent in local media as I am makes it tough to get attention from other local media outlets. WWL Radio wouldn't do an interview with me about Hungry Town, and they're across the window from my studio! The Times-Picayune comes close to acting as if I don't exist. They've mentioned my cookbook in passing a couple of times, but no full review. Not one word about Hungry Town. I've had enough reviews elsewhere, and the book is selling well enough, that I expected something.
On the other hand, I was surprised to see that Brett Anderson, the restaurant critic for the Times-Picayune, mentioned my restaurant tally in his column this morning. It was also on the NBC Nightly News tonight.
I've had several calls from reporters who wonder about the disparity between my statistics and those being quoted by the Louisiana Restaurant Association. The latter says that there are only eighty percent as many restaurants are open now in Orleans Parish as there were before the storm, and eighty-seven percent as many in Jefferson Parish. Their figures come from the Department of Health And Hospitals, which issues the permits needed for a food service operation to open. But that data includes all kinds of food services that could only be called restaurants in the most general sense of the word. Everything from gas stations with sandwiches to prison mess halls to school cafeterias to delis in grocery stores have to get this license.
What's more, the DHH list includes a lot of places that aren't actually open. I suspect that before the storm there were even more such closed places with permits than after, since everybody had to get new inspections and permits after Katrina. The DHH list says that 1,506 restaurants are open in Orleans Parish. Where are they? My list would show a much higher number if that were true. A bar selling pickled eggs is not a restaurant in my book.
What I really can't figure is why the restaurant association is putting out these loser statistics, when they're clearly inaccurate. Seems to me they'd put the best face on things.
I couldn't decide where to go to dinner tonight until I was so close to the Causeway that I had to think of something fast. The Peppermill is always my last resort at times like that. I almost didn't go in. It was eight-thirty, and they close at nine. But a dozen or so people were dining, so I did too. I started with what I think are the best fried eggplant sticks I've had anywhere since the Rodney Salvaggio days at Smilie's. Enough for two people, so hot they burned my mouth, crisp on the outside, nice marinara dipping sauce.
The entree was veal with artichokes and mushrooms. Not panneed veal, but either grilled or pan-seared. It was hard to tell, because whatever they did they did it too much. Veal in thin slices is what you cook for less than a minute only. More than that, it toughens up. The same thing happened at Andrea's a few weeks ago.
I see more evidence all the time that chefs have forgotten how to cook veal. That's probably because its popularity has gone down so much. I think it's ready for a revival. It would be better than short ribs or pork belly, that's for sure. The only chef I know who seems to understand this is Frank Brigtsen, who always has a a great old-school veal dish on his menu.
Peppermill. Metairie: 3524 Severn Ave. 504-455-2266. Creole. Italian. Breakfast.
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