Friday, August 10, 2012.
Dr. TF. In My Comfort Zone At Antoine's.
It's nice to have as my primary care physician a man who is about my age. He knows how I feel. I began seeing him twenty years ago--I don't remember for what--and started showing up regularly when Jude and I became Boy Scouts. The Scouts insist that guys my age get a physical every year before we're allowed to go to summer camp, as I would do six times before Jude preferred I stay at home. Dr. TF (we even have the same initials!) knew all about that, because he'd been a Scout leader himself.
This morning he did a followup on my emergency room visit two weeks ago. I told him my theories, most of which have to do with being a wuss. He thought that diagnosis agreed with the tests. He noticed that I'd lost a lot of weight, and asked whether I was doing that on purpose. Yes, I was proud to say. He gave me a new cholesterol prescription--one he takes himself. And, as he always does, he told me to get a colonoscopy, because when he did they found something soon enough to do something.
All that off my mind, I swung into action and finished all my work a little earlier than usual. Good for you, Tom! Your reward is permission to go to dinner for pleasure alone, without regard to either editorial needs or those of my family. (Who are all still in London, so I need not feel guilty.)
Antoine's is my comfort zone. That's why I like going there better than any other restaurant--at least in moderation. Too much of any restaurant makes one like it less, no matter how good it is. I think this is because the staff, convinced that you like their work, takes liberties that they would not for a customer to whom they have to prove something. That's balanced by their appreciation of your steady business, but not always of fully.
I get to Antoine's once every three or four months. I tried to go several times lately, always to be pulled elsewhere. Nothing to stop me now.
I started with a Manhattan. I managed to skip the soufflee potatoes. Potatoes are a bad enemy of weight loss, and I've eaten these advanced French fries enough times to be able to enjoy them by just thinking about them.
Oysters two-two-two: Rockefeller, Bienville and "Thermidor"(a misnomer; the sauce is cocktail sauce and bacon, all baked on the oysters' shells). One bite of the Bienville almost made me send the whole pan back. They were underbaked a little, resulting in more a textural lack than a flavor miscue. I let it go.
I walked in thinking about trout amandine on top of creamed spinach. But before my waiter Charles Carter took that order, he delivered news from Chef Smitty, who was in charge of the line tonight. "He wants to make you a tournedos Rossini," Charles said. "He says he has some foie gras."
Tournedos Rossini--named for and invented by the famous Italian opera composer--is a dish that hasn't been served at Antoine's since at least 1975. The reason I know is that while I was researching an article for New Orleans Magazine that year, I called Antoine's to find out what exactly was tournedos Rossini. I probably would have received a quicker answer from Chef Daniel Bonnot at Louis XVI. Instead, I called my waiter at Antoine's, Joe Guerra. At that time, Antoine's was viewed as the definitive source of classical French dishes in New Orleans. Even its menu was entirely in French.
The name was familiar to him, but he wasn't sure. It hadn't been on the menu in a long time. A few minutes later he called back to say--correctly--that it's a pair of tournedos of beef topped with paté de foie gras and a Madeira wine sauce.
Well, here it was again. For the first time in my hundreds of visits to Antoine's, I had tournedos Rossini. It was made with whole, unprocessed foie gras--not the paté that would have been used in the old days. The sauce was right on the money. Not what I had in mind for dinner, but very enjoyable with a glass of Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape--a textbook wine to drink with a steak at Antoine's. No sides. A little sauceless bread pudding (I asked for it that way). It worked for me, but I think Antoine's ought to think about doubling the size of the bread pudding. It's a cheap dessert to make, and it looks skimpy as it is.
It was my pleasure, all of that. Uniquely mine. And Antoine's.
Antoine's. French Quarter: 713 St. Louis St. 504-581-4422.
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