Wednesday, February 12, 2014.
A suite at the Windsor Court Hotel is a very good place for sleeping. Especially when it’s so cold outside that remnant raindrops freeze to the outside of the window frames. Ice also formed on the bottle of Dom Perigon that Oliver and Carolyn gave us last night. (We had it out on the balcony to chill.) Something about the contrast makes a bed warm and comfy. We took our good old time getting our feet on the floor.
We began our morning with a continental breakfast in the Club lounge. May as well get our money’s worth out of the $600 we spent on this suite, I thought–then realized what a foolish notion that is. How many plates of fresh fruit, glasses of fresh orange juice, and cups of coffee would be needed to catch that up?
Almost as soon as we were done with that pursuit, we went down to the Grill Room for a real breakfast of eggs and such. Mary Ann had corned beef hash on her mind. She thought it was strange that the menu didn’t include it. I said that very few restaurants have corned beef hash anymore, but that a restaurant of this caliber probably could make it up for us. She won that argument. The Windsor Court had no corned beef.
But the eggs and sides were good, and a beautiful young woman handled the service pleasantly. We had a nice surprise at the end: a big platter of berries and fruit on a plate with “Happy Anniversary” written in chocolate around the rim.
Another couple was at the next table. On our way out, they made a remark that let me know they’d tuned into our discussion over the corned beef massacree. But I had heard them go at one another over some equally trivial matter. I said that arguing is something a lot of couples do for fun, and that we actually must enjoy it in some strange way. They laughed about that. And then we found out that it was their wedding anniversary, too.
MA dropped me off at the radio station and headed for home. I did my show, and then followed her through the drippy cold. So endeth Part Two of our Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Festival. Part Three will commence in two months, when we make our first return to Belgium since our honeymoon.
Thursday, February 13, 2014.
Audio At Parkway Poor Boys. Dinner At Broussard’s.
Mary Ann owns the advertising side of the web site. She has big ambitions for expanding it, but they are roped tightly by a lack of understanding of the production side of things. Which is funny, since she worked in television and radio for many years before we met.
Jay Nix, the owner of Parkway Poor Boys (I’m proud of them for spelling it that way), was interested in an expansion of the advertising he does with us. We came up with the idea of recording a loose audio feature with him, his general manager Justin Kennedy, Mary Ann and me. Both Jay and Justin have lots of stories to tell and a funny way of putting things, which makes them ideal for such an undertaking. It also gave me a chance to use the professional mini-studio equipment I’ve had for years but used only very rarely.
We talked for an hour, ad-lib all the way. It will probably take longer to edit than to record, but I think it could be an interesting addition to the website.
To dinner at Broussard’s. I am figuring on visiting that grand old restaurant a few times to write a review. The brunch we had here Sunday was encouraging. But tonight I came away with the feeling that six months into the fourth chapter of Broussard’s long history may not be enough to tighten its laces.
It was not a busy night, something I think can be blamed mostly on the cold, wet weather. One of the captains said that things had been up and down dramatically in recent days. Packed yesterday, empty today. Sparse dining rooms are their own worst enemies.
In the quiet, I heard four people on the other side of the room talking about Belgium. I walked over and said that we were going there ourselves in a couple of months, a reprise of our honeymoon. I thought they’d be surprised by that, but I was the one taken aback: they knew exactly who I am, and in fact had been to some Eat Club dinners.
An amuse-bouche of fried spring rolls started our dinner nicely enough. Mary Ann likes the bread here, made by a local artisan baker. It came with to kinds of flavored butters, one with blue cheese and the other with a peppery component. Both were good, but they need to work on the presentation, which I found offputting.
The first official course brought three baked oysters, each in a different sauce. Mary Ann ordered those, oddly. I’m usually the oyster guy at the table. Instead, I had chicken andouille gumbo. I was very surprised by this. It was the kind of thing you get when a skillful cook who has never eaten gumbo before applies a good recipe. It didn’t taste like gumbo. Not bad, but when you expect one thing and you get another, it leaves you off balance. They need to rework this recipe.
The entrees were both perfect for the cold weather. MA again stepped out of character and ordered roast pheasant. That bird is as good as its reputation when the cook knows to avoid a problem: pheasant is all white meat, and prone to dryness. This rendition was moist, rich, and everything we were hoping for.
The lamb chops before me were also very good, cut thick, seared and finished just the way I like them (rosy–medium but with a blush of red). The chops were stuffed with–crabmeat? That made no impact whatsoever on the flavor, but probably persuades people to order the dish. A highly-reduced natural sauce and roasted Brussels sprouts finished off a fine plate for a winter’s dinner.
It ended on a note of overambitiousness. Very few restaurants in New Orleans undertake the baking of hot souffles. They require, really, a dedicated oven and chef. But the guys running Broussard’s these days seem to have the wherewithal. And the idea of a half-chocolate, half-Grand Marnier soufflee sounded brilliant. Both flavors are soufflee classics.
But on this night the soufflee was Broussard’s downfall. The top part puffed up bit, but the bottom part didn’t, leaving a gooey batter where a near-cloud should have been. If the chef who does this had the night off, they should take it off the menu. After three desserts, we’re still waiting for the first good one.
And this is why I hesitate to go to new restaurants. Six months is not always enough. (Mr. B’s took two and a half years after it first opened.)