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Diary For The Weekend Of 1/11-13/2019. From A Unique King Cake To A Lively Birthday Party Put On By New Friends.

John Caluda is one of those people who, after running through a few years of absence from my world, turns up. I first knew John from his time in the pastry shop of the Royal Orleans Hotel and the kitchen at Flagons–the extinct but important wine bistro of the early 1980s.

I first made friends with John when he opened a coffeehouse on Metairie Road near Labarre Road. The building had been Time Saver #11, a store I worked in about four times in my teens. Caluda served not only coffee but also light breakfasts, lunches, and pastries. All of this was very good, enough that when Caluda moved and renovated his offerings in Harahan, I often went far out of my way to keep drinking his coffee and eating his snacks. That’s when And the cycle of my running into him began, even though by the time it took for you to read this, his business had shifted to being primarily about catering.

In the form of his baked goods, Caluda showed up in my radio studio today. A delivery minion brought a unique king cake, one encouraged by Ochsner’s Eat Fit program. Molly Kimball, a very fit p.r. agent for Eat Fit, would come by on Monday to talk about the new king cake. But I got to eat it in advance. It looks like a bundt cake, with its dome-like shap and hole throug its center. The top was emblazoned with the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. The cake itself is low in carbohydrates, and gets that way through the use of a very light dough, the kind you’d use for an apple fritter. We must Eat Fit, after all.

That concludes this encounter with John Caluda, to which I only need add that he sells the Eat Fit king cakes (and regular king cakes, many other pastries, cakes, et al.).

Cottage Catering. Harahan: 1536 River Oaks Rd. W. 504-343-5706.

The Birthday Gift Was Thirty Of My Books.

In another in the many ways in which my life is marvelous, I often meet friends I didn’t know I had. A few weeks ago, one such pal called to ask whether I would thirty copies of my book Hungry Town. It was my offering to those who lived through Hurricane Katrina, and those who wondered how New Orleans lived through the diaster. Like almost everything I write, it comes from my personal thoughts and memories of those days. That’s one reason why I was surprised that Abrams–my publisher–wanted me to write the tome. I was even more surprised that it sold rather well from the beginning. Let alone that someone liked the book so well that he wanted to give it to all the guests his wife’s birthday party. When I asked him why he had, he said that he read the whole thing in two days–a compliment.

Another surprised is that he wanted me to join his wife and friends at the party, and MA, too. I should give a short talk before dinner was served. Ah! Just the crowd for me to sing a song, too. Or so I thought. The party was such a rousing evening that I was barely able to finish my triptych on the subject of soup du jour.

The host and his birthday girl clearly like to have many friends. The red-walled Plantation Room on the second floor was filled to the brim, and everybody was talking over their own smiles. Many of the guests had come in from out of town to be there.

Muriel’s is a great place to hold an event like this, which reminded me of our best Eat Club dinners. Things started with an assortment of oysters, shrimp and beets (for the vegetarians), all passed around in the bordello-like Seance Lounge. Flutes of Champagne-like bubbly, big red wines, and the entire range of cocktails were alsy in the employ of the guests. Could they make a Manhattan for me? Yes, well, and generously.

Next came Muriel’s very strong statement on seafood-and-okra gumbo. The timing was perfect to gainsay the article in the New York Times a few days before. It said that gumbo was dead in New Orleans. You couldn’t prove that idea based on the gumbo we were served.

That was followed by a salad of interesting greens, but not enough dressing. Then a choice between black drum with pecans with a variation on meuniere sauce, or a filet mignon with a red wine reduction. Desserts was creme brulee, which I seem to be running into all the time lately.

Early on, the word got out that Mary Ann was producing a children’s television show. The hosting couple found this very interesting, and left the impression that they might like to get an advance look. Since the attendees were about the age for having kids, and they liked Hungry Town, this may prove to be an interesting nexus.

I love birthday parties. Especially when they result in finding new friends. And they find me.

Muriel’s. French Quarter: 801 Chartres. 504-568-1885.

The Girls At The Saints Game.

When the Saints are playing. as they are today, my Saturday and Sunday radio shows fall by the wayside. I welcome the break, and use it to do some work on this newsletter, which always needs a little work. I always feel lonely when confronted with that, mainly because the Marys socialize with friends and others at the approximate game site. MA wrote all about it in the Monday edition of this diary. I only bring it up to note that Mary Leigh announced that the roof is on the house she’s renovating. When will it be finished? Will it be at the same moment when she says that she plans to go after an architectural degree? I hope so, but she is enough of an achiever to make that home.