Thursday, March 15, 2012.
Southern Yacht Club. Galatoire's. Patrick's Bar Vin.
Among the mysteries of broadcasting is why sports takes precedence over everything else. I may hold the local record for the number of hours my regular program has been pre-empted by some kind of game. This week, the last half-hour of my show was bumped twice for basketball. Today and Friday, I am off the air completely.
I will not complain about that, however, because the extra free time allowed me a few pursuits that don't get nearly enough of my attention.
Many months ago, the women's group at the Southern Yacht Club asked me to give a talk at their luncheon today. The difference between lunch and a luncheon, I've decided, is that one dresses up for the latter. The last time I spoke to this group was something like twenty-five years ago. (I recall bringing up Jerusalem artichokes then.) I mentioned that long-ago talk, and said the place looked a little different now. That got a good laugh. The SYC burned to the ground right after Hurricane Katrina, and is now ensconced in a handsome new building.
At the tables, the club served three dishes made from recipes in my (and Peggy's) Lost Restaurants book. This is the third time that idea has been explored in a week.
They began with my rendition of T. Pittari's crab bisque. I'd better look at that recipe. As the John Folse Culinary Institute did last week, they didn't fry the crabmeat boulettes.
Next came veal Crozier, with its sauce of crawfish, reduced stock, and butter, with rice on the side. That showed up at all three of the Lost Restaurant meals. This version was the best, even coming close to the superb rice that Gerard Crozier used to cook.
Dessert: Masson's almond torte. That's a sentimental favorite for the SYC, since Masson's was only a few blocks away. The thing is butter cream with almonds, and I never liked it. A lot of people did, though, and almond torte spread to other restaurants--notably Christian's.
I was seated next to Charlene Baudier, whose husband Jay was in my class at Jesuit. He's also part of the group of 1968-vintage Blue Jays that have lunch once a month at Galatoire's. In fact, today was the day for that, Charlene said. At the end of the SYC lunch, she called Jay to determine what point the one at Galatoire's had reached. "Salads," Jay said. That's about right. These guys have an extended round of Sazeracs with soufflee potatoes and fried eggplant before anything like a lunch order is placed.
I'm off for the rest of the day. Why not join them? After penetrating a bad French Quarter traffic jam I arrived around three-fifteen. The restaurant was empty except for our eight usual suspects. Baudier, Harry Forst (attorneys both), Darryl Fletchinger (major manufacturer and distributor of Mardi Gras throws), Dr. Tom Ryan, Jack Casey (sno-ball magnate), Frank Maselli (real estate developer and king in the Irish-Italian parade this year), Nicky Matulich (financier; his wife had also been at my SYC table), and a guy whose name I can never remember because he arrived at Jesuit after I left.
I was lunched out but shared the wine and soufflee potatoes. The conversation was about how everyone should join the parade this Sunday. We would have to walk the entire distance from Clearview Mall to Dorignac's. I have an out: I am the honorary chairman of the Chef Soiree this Sunday on the North Shore.
As the next hour wore on, someone decided that the thing that must be done this afternoon was to watch the sun set from the lake. But it was far too early for that, so time had to be killed first. Nicky said we ought to go to Patrick Vin Hoorebeck's new Bar Vin for this purpose.
Off we went. But first, I had to run down my waiter Imre to pay for the service he provided me while I was there. He waved me off. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a high estimate of the price of the snacks and tip. He got up from his chair and ran off. I followed him, but somewhere in the kitchen he lost me. Probably ducked into one of the mysterious corners every French Quarter building has. Only at Galatoire's would you have to chase down a waiter to give him a tip.
On the way out, I was embarrassed to see that the only other table occupied at Galatoire's at four this afternoon was occupied by Tommy Andrade and a visiting friend. Tommy is the greatest living impresario of formal dining in New Orleans. He's also the owner of Tommy's on Tchoupitoulas Street, as well as the elegant Tommy's Bar next door and the new Tomas Bistro across the street. He was the style-setter at the Sazerac in the 1970s and 1980s, and one of the founder's of Irene's.
Fortunately, we are good friends. And Tommy has been in the restaurant business too long to be shocked by anything. Still, the raucous, profane emanations from our high school gang's table had to give less than the best impression, especially to Tommy's visiting guest.
Even with that delay, I caught up with the rest of the 1968ers as they entered Patrick's, only a block away. They were all looking up into a tall magnolia tree in Patrick's small courtyard. Its canopy was covered by some kind of netting we couldn't dope out. Patrick explained. "Every day a flock of birds comes here at sunset and starts s----ting down on the customers in the courtyard. We just put the net up yesterday to see if it keeps them away. So far, so good."
Patrick was for many years the dining room manager and major wine domo of the Bistro at the Maison De Ville. He popped up in a succession of first-class restaurants after he left the Bistro, most recently the Rib Room. He is also the permanent king of a small parading-and-feasting club called The Krewe Of Cork. About a year ago he made a deal with the new owners of the St. Louis Hotel (now Hotel Mazarin) to open a wine bar in what used to be the bar of Louis XVI French Restaurant.
The six of us sat down in a circle of sofas and chairs. Nicky Matulich, the most avid oenophile among us, ordered a bottle of a big, black wine from Cahors, a growing wine area southeast of Bordeaux. All Malbec! That grape is native to that area, but I'd never had a full-blooded Malbec from here. This would be the first of three bottles of wine we would severely damage. A predominantly Sangiovese with Cabernet wine from the Chianti region was my idea. Nicky followed that with something truly offbeat: a Syrah-Viognier blend. Both come from the Rhone, but Syrah is red and Viognier is white. What the. . . ? Pretty good, was what, and bigger than we expected.
I ordered a cheese and fruit platter, which had a salutary effect on the wine. The server was a lady who not only had waited on me in another restaurant in the past, but had sold air time on my radio show for awhile.
Talk of watching the sunset from the boathouse (whose boathouse?) continued. I demurred and got out of the Bar Vin just in time to catch the phone call I knew would be coming from Mary Ann. She had things she needed me to do at home.
Patrick's Bar Vin. French Quarter: 730 Bienville St. 504-200-3180.
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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