A Party in Your Mouth on Bastille Day Weekend
Within 24 hours of landing in America’s most French-rooted city, a.k.a. the “Crescent City,” a.k.a. the “Big Easy,” a.k.a. “N’Awlins,” I’ve visited two restaurants and two coffee shops to have eaten fresh boiled crabs, shrimp and crawfish, fried frogs legs, fried pickles, a fried oyster po’ boy, a stuffed artichoke, raw oysters on the half-shell, jasmine ice cream, “beignets” (donuts), and drunk New Orleans coffee and chicory café au lait and Barq’s Root Beer, not to mention topping it all off with chocolates from France. My ankles are already swollen from the sodium, but there’s no denying the party going on in my mouth, so I don’t care.
‘Accoutrements’ such as Louisiana Hot Sauce, horseradish sauce, Thousand Island dressing, ketchup-lemon-horseradish-doctored hot sauce, Saltine crackers and for topping the beignets, powdered sugar…dresses the tables and the dishes. Luckily, a roll of paper towels on the tables at these restaurants are at your disposal.
My mother asked if Paris had seafood like New Orleans — which at first seemed a rather ridiculous question, remembering one time seeing a sign at the Poissonerie Daguerre on rue Bayen in the 17th arrondissement boasting of 60 varieties of fish that day, but realizing that not even Paris could compete with New Orleans for great seafood.
One time my mother visited me in Paris, she tried to recreate her delicious seafood gumbo using French “huitres,” “écrevisses,” “crabes” and “crevettes.” It was a poor imitation and she complained that French seafood had no flavor. Of course, it’s not the seafood that starts out without the flavor,
but the delicateness of the French palate that deters it from going from its original subtle flavor to being downright scandalous as it is here way down yonder in New Orleans.
The taste of New Orleans happened the minute I landed and took the Enterprise Rental Car shuttle to the lot. The driver of the bus, an elderly man with a heavy New Orleans “y’at” accent welcomed me with the usual “Good Mornin’, ‘Dahlin'” and I knew immediately I had arrived home where my roots still are. By the time I stepped off after hearing all about how his family had survived Hurricane Katrina, he was asking for hugs, reminding me how warm and friendly these folks really are.
Our Events Conference Coordinator, Schuyler Hoffman, moved to New Orleans about a year ago and as it happens, is the Event Manager for Antoine’s Restaurant, a world-renowned New Orleans institution since 1840. By coincidence, too, it’s owned by close neighbors of my mother’s, and it’s where we will be holding the family dinner celebrating her 90th birthday Friday night. Schuyler’s able assistance at the recent Living and Investing in France Conference now transcends to another weekend of activities as he has arranged for the special dinner at Antoine’s.
The menu? For hors d’oeuvres: Soufflé potatoes; appetizers: Shrimp Remoulade and Oysters Foch (served family style); entrees (the American word for ‘main course’): Chateaubriand with Marchand de Vin Sauce with Mushrooms or Trout Amandine accompanied by Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce; dessert: Baked Alaska and of course, finished off with New Orleans coffee. Sounds like a menu you’d have in any great Paris 3-star, right? And I’ll bet it’s going to be a party in our mouths and in our memories not to be forgotten.
That’s just the beginning the weekend-long event the family has organized to honor my mother’s 90 long years on the planet. She has many more on the horizon by the looks of it — still living alone in a three-bedroom home, driving her own Dodge car, coloring her hair (don’t tell her I told you), wearing new stylish clothing (that amazingly resembles what I had brought to wear!), walking miles every day around the shopping mall for exercise and complaining that all her friends are dead, leaving her very few with whom to go to the movies. I hope I inherited her genes to live to one hundred.
So, while you all in France are whooping it up at the Bals des Pompiers and watching the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower in honor of Bastille Day (which I haven’t missed in 13 years), I’ll be digging down deep at my Louisiana roots and sharing my feelings about Paris and France with my family and friends…sure they will want to know what life is like on the other side of the big pond.
New Orleans, by the way, shows signs of tremendous improvement since Hurricane Katrina struck almost two years ago…but not enough to totally bring it back to the great city I once knew. In due time, I pray, if not sooner.
Editor’s Notes of great dining in New Orleans:
713 Saint Louis Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
Brocato’s Italian Ice Cream & Italian Desserts
214 North Carrollton Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70119-5109
Galley Seafood Restaurant
2535 Metairie Rd
Metairie, LA 70001
Harbor Seafood and Oyster Bar
3203 Williams Blvd
Kenner, Louisiana 70065-4506
823 Decatur St
New Orleans, LA 70116
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
P.S. Now you know where I got my craving for great dining! For more than 200 recommendations on where to dine in Paris where the Parisians dine, not the tourists, and for spending less without sacrificing great food, download my own “Insider Paris Guide for Good Value Restaurants” available for purchase at http://www.insiderparisguides.com/member