World War Two poster by Herbert
Bayer (circa 1943)
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by John Mariani
THE BIG EASY IS STILL BLACK AND BLUE
BUT ALSO BACK AND BETTER
by John Mariani
Cakewalking at the Windsor Court
not point out again that New Orleans restaurants have rebounded faster
than could have been imagined after Katrina destroyed so many of them
four years ago, so let me just launch right into a round-up of some of
my recent meals all over town, some new places, some old.
question I get from first-time visitors to almost any city is, if I had
to pick just one
place to eat, where would it be? It is impossible, of course, to
answer such a question about such a large, gastro-wealthy city like New
Orleans. If you
seek festive, I might say Commander's Palace; if you want old-style
Creole, I might say Pascale Manale; a jazz brunch, probably
Brennan's; for Cajun, K-Paul's.
Herbsaint is open for lunch Mon-Fri., for
Orleans is still lacking in good examples of a few species of
the opening if Rambla this year under Chef de cuisine
Scott Maki brings the city its first first-rate tapas bar, where you
can sit at counter-like tables and eat you fill of everything from
dates wrapped with smoked bacon, Marcona and Valdéon cheese;
with pecans and spicy andouille sausage and dressed with tomato-olive
concasse; or a potato
and onion tortilla Spanish style; of tender
grilled octopus with lemon oil; and the pecan-andouille
filled calamari with chunky olive-tomato concassée.
It had been years since I'd dined at
The Rib Room,
though it has always
been one of my favorite, most consistent restaurants for turning out
not just some of the best beef in the city but combining it with a menu
Creole dishes. Like every other restaurant in town, The Rib Room
has been freshened and brightened sine Katrina, including some fine new
The Rib Room is open
daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At dinner appetizers run
$10-$15, main courses $28-$46.
Brennan's PALACE CAFÉ
The Palace Café
for lunch Mon.-Sat. Sun. for brunch; dinner nightly. Appetizers at
dinner run $8-$12, entrees $17-$34.
Cafe Adelaide is open for
breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Dinner starters run $7-$12, entrees
713 Rue Saint Louis
Increasingly I find it easier to love Antoine's than to like it. I've dined here over four decades, and this 1840 institution--one of the very first true restaurants in the USA--has such historic ballast throughout its warren of 15 dining rooms that I find returning to the place as much a testament to historical endurance as to shrine-like renewal, especially after Hurricane Katrina took off nearly an entire wall of the old structure and ruined its formidable wine cellar.
As happened in so many cases in the French Quarter, Antoine's got a thorough, well-needed scrubbing, so everything now looks brighter than it has in years, not least my favorite dining room (below)--the one oddly shunned by many locals as fit only for tourists--the big one you enter through the door off the street. It has wonderful, soft light pouring through the huge windows, Champagne-colored walls and white tile floors, mirrors, ceiling fans, an old bar, and decidedly rickety tables and chairs. It is really very beautiful, while some of the rooms preferred by locals, especially for private dining, can be downright dreary, not least the one they call the Dungeon. But do get up and walk around to see some of the other salons, like the fine Rex Room, and another of motifs japonais.
Antoine's, which has been in the same family line since it opened, rarely changes its menu (until recently printed entirely in French), and one would think that practice makes perfect after 160 years in business. But doing the same thing for so long can also induce an ennui reflected in much for the food and service here. My most recent meal, at lunch, was pretty typical of the way things have been going for some time now, beginning with a greeting that falls somewhere between rote and dismissive. The waiters, many here for many, many years, go through their motions robotically, and even when they ask if you're enjoying your meal, they don't seem to care what your answer might be. They shrug a lot. I pretty much poured my own wine throughout the meal, and my food came out of the kitchen in a dismayingly short period of time between ordering and hitting the table. I didn't see my waiter for a while after that.
Antoine's has a big menu, with most of the dishes unchanged for scores of years, including a few, like oysters à la Rockefeller, created right here back in the 19th century. It is a thoroughly French menu with Creole lagniappe, so that crawfish tails (in season) come in a white wine sauce with tomato; alligator soup is highly seasoned, and pompano--a fish Mark Twain characterized as "delicious as the less criminal forms of sin"--à la Pontchartrain, is served with crabmeat sautéed in butter. I began with lump crabmeat in a pleasant cream sauce and a mix of cheese and breadcrumbs baked and browned under a flame. It was good, if, at $18.75, a little skimpy. I've always loved the hefty slab of châteaubriand here with a well-rendered marchand de vin, but this afternoon I went for a filet of trout meunière; the speckled trout itself was of good quality, but there should have been a more luxuriant amount of butter in the sauce. Of course, I had Antoine's signature pommes soufflé, as perfect as ever, light as the Montgolfier balloons they were named for, crisp, salted, and wholly addictive. Desserts are very old-fashioned, not least the flaming cherries jubilee and the bread pudding with warm rum sauce.
Antoine's winelist has been built back up to imprssive, if pricey, dimensions.
And so it goes at Antoine's, where the past is as much a part of the present as they can make it--an admirable conceit, but a shake-up in the kitchen and staff would bring needed luster to such a lovable antique.
Antoine's is open for lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat., for Jazz brunch on Sunday. The lunch and dinner menu are priced the same, with appetizers from $7.75-$19.25, and main courses $24-$43.75.
this spring of the venerable Windsor Court Hotel has, for the
moment, not changed the chef or look of the Grill Room, so for the time
being my report still stands.
NEW YORK CORNER
year Barbounia has gone through some changes, not least a fine new
Israeli chef, Efraim Naon, with partner Alon Jibli. The menu is
more Pan-Mediterranean than ever, so those expecting only Greek food
will be neither
disappointed nor surprised by the new additions from around the Basin,
including Southern Italy, North Africa, France, and the Middle East,
an array of delectablly traditional mezze.
There's even pizza and
French croque monsieur to
develop the theme.
Barbounia is open for
lunch and dinner daily; Mezze and tapas run $6.95-$8.50,
appetizers $12.50-$15.95, and main courses $18.75-$33.95. Fied
price dinner $35.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
hope you haven’t drunk all the 1997 brunello di Montalcinos in
your cellar, because if you have, you may have made a mistake.
When people started
drinking the wines, it became evident they didn’t even come close to
deserving the ratings doled out by the media. They weren’t even
particularly fine examples of brunello much less “wines of the
RESTAURANT CRITIC: GET ON WITH
IT, YOU TWIT!
you are about to read marks either the end of restaurant reviewing as
we know it, or a brave new dawn – and I am genuinely not sure which.
For as I write it up for you in all its imperial 1,500-word majesty on
Friday, August 21, 2009, and send it lumbering out into the world
through the normal channels to be edited, subbed, illustrated, faffed
and fiddled with, printed and bound and thrown in the back of a van to
arrive, finally, 15 days later, on the floor of your local newsagent,
from where you will pick it up and heave it home to where, you hope,
your husband has put the kettle on, so that you can tear off the
polythene bag, toss away the Bathstore flyers and droiky CD giveaways,
and flick through the real pages with your real fingers, until you get,
finally, to this page, to find out – be still, my beating heart – what
this restaurant critic thought of the relaunched Criterion restaurant
in Piccadilly, the world already knows. And has known for more than a
fortnight.'--Giles Coren, The London
Guidelines for submissions: QUICK BYTES publishes only events, special dinners, etc, open to the public, not restaurant openings or personnel changes. When submitting please send the most pertinent info, incl. tel # and site, in one short paragraph as simple e-mail text, WITH DATE LISTED FIRST, as below. Thanks. John Mariani
IMPORTANT NOTE: Owing to the number or Thanksgiving announcements received, QUICK BYTES cannot publish any but a handful of the most unusual.
* During Nov. and Dec.
in San Francisco, Café de la Presse presents
the 2nd in their ongoing series, A Culinary Tour of France, with the
focus now on Champagne. The region will be showcased through their
traditional dishes and wines which will be offered à la carte,
in addition to the regular menu. Call 415-398-2680 or visit
* On Nov. 12 in Berkeley, CA, Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto hosts a
Berkeley’s Kitchen Benefit Dinner with a 4-course prix fixe menu
prepared by Chef Devon Boisen, paired with beer. $60 pp inclusive. Call
* On Nov. 12 in Peoria Heights, IL, June restaurant hosts a farm dinner
with award-winning farmer Henry Brockman and Terra Brockman, author of The Seasons on Henry’s Farm who
will be on hand for a book-signing afterwards. The 5-course dinner,
paired with exceptional wines is $90. Call 309-682-5863 or visit
On Nov. 12 in NYC, Tour de Champagne brings together
prestigious champagne houses, local chefs, special guests and live
entertainment to create anevening at La Venue. The event begins with a
Prestige Champagne Seminar and ends with a Fin de Soirée. Three
ticket levels are available. $100-$195. www.tourdechampagne.com.
* On Nov. 13 in Kohler, WI, The American Club is hosting the
annual In Celebration Of Chocolate Night featuring more than 7,000
pieces of chocolate incl. the award-winning Kohler Original Recipe
Chocolates, handmade desserts, and an ice cream, sorbet & cookie
bar. Tickets are $75 pp. Hotel packages start at $200 pp. Call
800-344-2838 or www.DestinationKOHLER.com.
* From Nov. 13-15
celebrate fall Italian style at Sassi
in Scottsdale, AZ, with
Festa di Maiale, honoring the traditional feast of the pig. A 5-course
menu will be offered at $55 pp. Visit www.sassi.biz.
* On Nov. 15, The Chew Chew Restaurant, in Riverside, IL, will hold its
Annual Fall Beer Festival, with 30 unique seasonal beers, live music
by "Kevin Trudo Guests." Proceeds to " Hannah's Hope for
Giant Axonal Neuropathy" (GAN) in honor of 6 year-old Riverside
resident Ethan Tkalec. $40 pp.Call 708-447-8781.
* On Nov. 18 in Yountville, CA, Bardessono celebrates the release of Douglas Gayeton's SLOW: Life in a Tuscan Town with a 4-course Italian dinner and wine pairing. All guests will receive a signed copy. . $125 pp. Call 707-204-6030.
* On Nov. 18 in New Orleans at Calcasieu Chef Donald Link will
celebrate of the official arrival of
Georges Duoeuf Nouveau Beaujolais, honoring his Cajun-French roots with
the first annual “Can-Can” fundraising event for Second Harvest Food
Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana, with Can-Can dancers, Georges
Duoeuf Nouveau Beaujolais, and an assortment of contemporary Louisiana
menu items. Benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank guests are encouraged
to bring a donation of canned goods. Tickets for the event may be
purchased for $30 by calling 504-588-2189, ext. 4.
* On Nov. 19, in San Francisco, CA, Arlequin Wine Merchant will host a
“No More Nouveau” wine tasting celebrating the “real” Beaujolais from
award-winning Cru Beaujolais producers incl. Marcel Lapierre, Guy
Breton, Pierre Chermette, Jean Paul Brun, Alain Coudert, John-Paul
Thévenet and more. $15 pp. Call 415-551-1590.
* On Nov. 21 Chillingsworth Restaurant in Brewster, MA, will host a casual
celebration of the harvest with a Beaujolais Nouveau eveningfrom
Georges Du Boeuf served with hors d’oeuvres and the first course;
the remainder of the meal will be paired with Morgon, Julienas,
wine with each course. $95 pp. Call 508-896-3640.
* From Nov 26-29,
in NYC and Chicago, Vermilion celebrates an
Indian-Latin Thanksgiving: a 6-course dinner incl. black cardamom
smoked turkey, panch-puran ginger cranberry chutney, roasted corn soup,
brazilian feijoada, mexican pumpkin horchata, white chocolate goan
pudding and more. $45 pp, vegetarian option offered, with a round of
champagne. Chicago: 312-527-4060, NYC 212-871-6600;
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." To go to his blog click on the logo below: THIS WEEK: CONDOS TO GO; SMART DEALS IN MONTANA; RARE TRAVEL POSTERS; COPENHAGEN.
Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio. He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991). THIS WEEK:
Family Travel Forum (FTF), whose motto is "Have Kids, Still Travel!",
is dedicated to the ideals, promotion and support of travel with
children. Founded by business professionals John Manton and Kyle
McCarthy with first class travel industry credentials and global family
travel experience, the independent, family-supported FTF will provide
its members with honest, unbiased information, informed advice and
practical tips; all designed to make traveling a rewarding, healthy,
safe, better value and hassle-free experience for adults and children
who journey together. Membership in FTF will lead you to new worlds of
adventure, fun and learning. Join the movement.
nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist, BusinessWeek.com; email@example.com; www.nickonwine.com.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
Any of John Mariani's books below
may be ordered from amazon.com by clicking on the cover image.