Friday, February 3, 2012.
Birthday At Galatoire's.
Mary Ann said she would not come across the lake today, so I was on my own for dinner. My little sister Lynn Fleetwood was also free for the evening. On Friday nights in the absence of any firm plans, I think French Quarter. How about Galatoire's? It's been awhile, she said.
I pulled up in the parking garage at the same moment Raul Bencomo did. He too was en route to Galatoire's to meet up with his wife. Raul was in my class at Jesuit. Every time we run into one another, tells me he listens to my radio show every day, then proves it by rattling off a bunch of minutiae he could not othewise know.
I had a Sazerac with the Bencomos and we compared notes about restaurants and other matters of taste. To explain why I didn't show up for our annual reunion between Christmas and New Year's, I related The Homestead Massacree. They'd heard of the place. A couple of years ago they went to the same part of the world for four days at the Inn At Little Washington, a much spiffier and more expensive resort, with a world-class restaurant.
Lynn appeared and we moved to our own table. She's a Champagne lover. I got a bottle of Roederer Estate Brut non-vintage from Anderson Valley in California--a great area for bubbly. Great things about a bottle of sparkling wine: 1) it goes with everything you're likely to order, so you can drink it all night; and b) the glasses are smaller, so you consume it at a slower pace. The bottle lasted all night.
David Gooch was at the back desk tonight, and had the kitchen send us an amuse-bouche of something new. Deconstructed oysters Rockefeller? That set off my contrivance alarm. But I could not say this wasn't good, playing as it did with several affinities at the same time. A fried oyster rested on a layer of Rockefeller spinach (a mixture of Rockefeller sauce and creamed spinach), which filled an artichoke bottom. Hollandaise sauce over the whole thing. Any combination of those four ingredients works.
Lynn walked in with oysters Rockefeller on her mind, and it's never far from mine. We split a half-dozen for a real appetizer. Lots of good fish tonight, said my waiter Imre Szalai. Lynn was roped in by the promise of excellent speckled trout amandine. I liked the prospect and reality of lemonfish, grilled, napped with the Marguery sauce. That's a rich veloute studded with shrimp and mushrooms. For a long time it was considered a major Galatoire's specialty. In recent times, it's slipped in popularity, but I think it's as good as ever.
Every time I go to Galatoire's, I say it's my birthday, so I can get a free custard. I'm pretty sure the management is onto me, but it's a running joke now and they play along. However, this really was a birthday dinner for me, since I celebrate sixty-one on Monday. Imre gave a bigger buildup than usual, and instead of just giving the first name for the sake of singing the song, he identified me by species. This caused all heads to turn my way and brought a moderate cheer and applause from the dining room. Well! And I got my free custard, too!
Lynn and I are closer to each other's wavelength than either of us are with our two sisters. We had an especially enjoyable chat tonight. The next morning she e-mailed to tell me not to go into details here about that conversation. I told her not to worry, because I can't remember any of it anyway. Except for the food, of course. That I never forget.
Galatoire's. French Quarter: 209 Bourbon. 504-525-2021.
It's over three years since a day was missed in the Dining Diary. To browse through all of the entries since 2008, go here.
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