DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Diary: 11/15/2018: Jack Rose, Formerly Known As The Pontchartrain Hotel’s Caribbean Room. Mary Ann called me at the radio station with plans with our longtime friends Oliver and Caroline Kluna. In line with her idea to go mostly to new restaurants on the South Shore, we went to Jack Rose, the reborn Caribbean Room.

I am hearing varying reports about the famous old hotel. Most of these express puzzlement. In the most recent renaissance–orchestrated by no less than John Besh and Company–the restaurant made a big splash that left the ground wet for about a year, after which it sort of faded away. Remaining were the Silver Whistle (the long-running breakfast café), Hot Tin on the roof of the fourteen-floor hotel, and the Bayou Bar. The Caribbean Room became Jack Rose, in an outline that’s hard to determine. A lot of the former staff of the C-Room is still there, under the management of an outfit called QED Hospitality. I saw no sign of Chef Brian Landry, who had been Besh’s man on the ground during the C-Room confusion.

This evening, Jack Rose happened to be hosting a meeting of the Louisiana Restaurant Association. This added to the customer mixture as assorted restaurant people approached our table, not knowing whether we were part of their meeting or not. So we were treated to words with Tommy Cvitanovich (Drago’s), Greg Reggio (Zea), Melvin Rodrigue (Galatoire’s), among many others I knew more or less. It took a half hour for the waiters to sort out where our foursome was to be served.

The server who finally landed before us offered cocktails or wines or food. All of that was on a small single card. I asked for a Jack Rose cocktail, which was something like a Ramos Gin Fizz, but with some sharp oddities (Calvados, rose wine, and generic citrus. It was better than it looked.

Although we don’t hang out with them often, the Klunas are such close friends (they are our son Jude’s godparents) that every gathering with them is warm, loaded with reminiscences and conversations picked up from a year ago). It was an hour before the food was decided upon. We started with crabmeat bisque and a duck and andouille gumbo. Both were in the Creole style, but the gumbo got enough spice for both. The bisque needed a few shots of Tabasco. Because it was there, somebody got the pompano en papillote, an old favorite of the old C-Room (but never of mine). Red snapper was had in more basic ways. Oliver went after what the menu at first called a steak, but which proved to be beef short ribs), and MA the lamb shank.

Steak tartare.

Steak tartare at Jack Rose.

My order was the most unconventional: steak tartare, served a raw-beef appetizer (which, of course it is). Another place where Tabasco helped. Dessert consisted of a banana cream pie for Oliver and blueberry bread pudding. Speaking of which, there was no sign of the Pontchartrain’s famous blueberry muffins.

We were in the room for about two and a half hours, as pleasant as visits with Klunas always are. In the meantime, we put up with what I found to be unlistenable music played a touch too loud (the millennials must be pleased) and an irritating interior design (said MA).

We exited into the cold outside with a good feeling of love for our good friends.

Jack Rose. Garden District & Environs: 2031 St. Charles Ave. 504-323-1500.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Stuffing Cornbread

This is the very dry cornbread needed to make a number of stuffings, which otherwise would come out of the oven steaming, crumbling, soft, and otherwise untenable for adding oysters, sausage, and other bedrock layers often used to hold up the bottom layers without falling apart. Not very good for eating as is, but you might find other uses for this.

HomemadeCornbread in a Skillet

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 2 cups self-rising cornmeal
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. granulated onion

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

1. In a large plastic or glass bowl, beat the eggs and add the buttermilk. Then add the melted butter while briskly whisking.

2. Combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, and granulated onion in a second bowl. Add the mixture to the bowl with the liquid ingredients and whisk to blend. Use a rubber spatula to get rid of any pockets of dry flour. Add a little water if necessary.

3. Grease a shallow baking pan or two (or use non-stick pans). Fill the pans about two-thirds full with the mixture, and bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees.

4. Remove the pans and let them cool completely. This recipe works best if you make it a day or two ahead, and let it dry out even more.

Makes enough for stuffing for 20.

AlmanacSquare November 16, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Thanksgiving: Nov. 23
Christmas: Dec. 25
Eat Club @ Roosevelt. Nov. 28.
New Year’s Eve: December 31

Gourmet Gazetteer

Oniontown, New York is in the winemaking central part of the state, twenty-eight miles east of Syracuse. It’s just a crossroads in an intensively farmed area. Oneida Lake–the “thumb” of the Finger Lakes–is a half-mile off. A lot of fish is caught from it–even in the winter, when it freezes over. Johnnie’s Pier 31 and Jeannie’s Fish Fry are the two closest restaurants, each about two and a half miles away.

New Orleans Food Guys

Today is the birthday of Sal Sunseri, who with his siblings operates P&J Oyster Company. In the past decade, the Sunseris transformed a very old (since the late 1800s) oyster-shucking operation into a standard-setter for the business. The P&J brand has become enough of a hallmark of quality that many restaurants with oyster bars now make a point of saying that their oysters come from there. Sal has also been a leader in the revitalization of Rampart Street, and in the successful recent fight against Federal regulations that would have banned raw oysters in the summer months. After all that work, it’s unfortunate in the extreme that his main lookout now is for the survival of his company in the wake of the oil spill. But I have confidence that P&J is long-term. Sal and his brother Al will see to that.

Food Through History

It’s always mystified me that the early Pilgrim settlers of the British colonies in North America were always hungry. The oysters and lobsters alone should have taken care of them. In any case, the Pilgrims led by Miles Standish were on the verge of starvation on this date in 1620 when they uncovered a cache of corn. It had been hidden on what became known as Corn Hill by a tribe of Native Americans. The corn got the Pilgrims through the winter, allowing them to discover turkey the following year.

Today’s Flavor

It’s National Fast Food Day. This too shall pass. In a nutshell, here’s what’s wrong with fast food: in order for it to be served quickly, it must be prepared in advance. While it waits for you to order it, it becomes terrible. Also, it removes the element of anticipation from eating. You don’t have time to look forward to the meal. (Why would you want to, if it’s a standard burger?) The wait itself is one of the things that makes great food worth waiting for.

Great Food Moments In Literature

Today in 1913, the first volume of Marcel Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu (somewhat mistranslated as Remembrance of Things Past) was published. The whole work was inspired by a flood of memories Proust experienced when he ate a madeleine cookie with a cup of hot tea. The first-person protagonist has a very disturbed mind, but the language and insights are incomparable.

Edible Dictionary

baron of beef, n.–A large (fifty pounds or more) section of beef that includes the whole double top sirloin and sometimes the top round, too. When both upper legs are included, it’s almost identical to a steamship roast. It’s most commonly seen on a table in the center of a large buffet, as for a hotel Sunday or holiday brunch, or a large reception. It’s cooked in much the same way that prime rib is–but starting in the oven at a high temperature until the exterior is browned, then lowering the heat for a long, slow roasting. The story behind the name sounds suspicious, but here it is: a roast along these lines was supposed to have been prepared for King Henry VIII of England. He liked it so much that he knighted it, calling it Sir Loin, Baron of Beef. Right.

Annals Of Open Dining Rooms

This was not a nice day in New Orleans in 1960. Upon the integration of two public schools, an estimated two thousand people turned out to protest, some violently. Shortly afterwards, desegregation in New Orleans restaurants occurred, with few incidents. Most restaurants took it in stride, if a little nervously. Restaurateurs who were there to see their dining rooms integrated recall the event as an anticlimax. A few restaurants became private clubs, to keep segregation going a little longer. Even those relaxed when it became clear that accepting everyone as customers is an entirely good thing.

Food In Show Biz

George S. Kaufman, who wrote the screenplays for The Cocoanuts (and other Marx Brothers movies) and The Man Who Came To Dinner was born today in 1889.

Food Namesakes

I’m intrigued by two near-food names today, both of actors. Steve Railsback joined our world in 1948 today. Royal Dano was born on this date in 1922. So, for dinner, how about grilled fresh brook railsback, well seasoned with garlic butter? After dessert I’ll open up a port, cut some wedges of ripe Royal Dano cheese, and roast some pecans. . . Richard Coke Jr., an early Congressman from Virginia, was born today in 1790.

Words To Eat By

“Avis Au Public. Faire de la bonne cuisine demande un certain temps. Si on vous fait attendre, c’est pour mieux vous servir, et vous plaire.”–A note appearing at the top of the third page of Antoine’s menu for many decades. It means, “Advice to the public: good cooking requires a certain amount of time. If you will but wait, it will let us serve you better, and you will be pleased.” This is the polar opposite of the fast food imperative.

“In the light of what Proust wrote with so mild a stimulus, it is the world’s loss that he did not have a heartier appetite. On a dozen Gardiner’s Island oysters, a bowl of clam chowder, a peck of steamers, some bay scallops, three sauteed soft-shelled crabs, a few ears of fresh picked corn, a thin swordfish steak of generous area, a pair of lobsters, and a Long Island duck, he might have written a masterpiece.”–A.J. Liebling, American journalist and gourmet.

Words To Drink By

“Take the juice of two quarts of whiskey. . . ” —Eddie Condon, American jazz guitarist, beginning his hangover cure recipe.

Thanksgiving is not the busiest day in the year for restaurants, but it is the time when things have a way of becoming most frantic. It’s also a day in which finding a reservation is most difficult. Calling ahead months is a very good idea, particularly if you’re planning on having Thanksgiving dinner with many family members and friends. Tables in famous restaurants are also hard to nail down. Finally, if what you want from the restaurant is a big feast, it’s essential to make your reservation in, say, September or earlier.

There is an escape if you still don’t have a reservation a few days ahead of Turkey Day. When you call a few says or hours before dinner time, laugh to show that you understand how dear Thanksgiving tables are, then ask whether there are any last-minute cancellations you can fill. That works even for the toughest seats.

The Thanksgiving experience is is different from other meals in other ways. Buffets–which have almost disappeared from fine dining in recent years–have a way of popping up in many restaurants. Most of these are high-end hotels. If you go that route, know that it will be much more expensive than what you remember from years ago. It may even go higher than $100.

On the other hand, Thanksgiving has a way of inspiring restaurants to create special menus that may be surprising. Three courses for $around 50 have been common in recent years. And there are always children’s menus.

All that said, here is my list of the forty best restaurants for Thanksgiving in 2018. Enjoy!

Andrea’s. Metairie 2: Orleans Line To Houma Blvd: 3100 19th St. 504-834-8583. Special menu: three courses, $40. Regular menu also available. 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

Annadele Plantation. Covington: 71518 Chestnut St. 985-809-7669. Three courses from a special menu, $48, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Arnaud’s. French Quarter: 813 Bienville. 504-523-5433. A special four-course menu for $47, with a mix of traditional Thanksgiving dishes and Arnaud’s specialties.

Bistreaux. French Quarter: 1001 Toulouse St. 504-586-8000.

Borgne. CBD: 601 Loyola Ave (Hyatt Regency Hotel). 504-613-3860. A special four-course menu, plus a limited regular menu.

Bourbon House. French Quarter: 144 Bourbon. 504-522-0111. Regular menu and Thanksgiving specials, entrees $26-32.

Brennan’s. French Quarter: 417 Royal. 504-525-9711.

Broussard’s. French Quarter: 819 Conti. 504-581-3866. An especially beautiful setting, with the courtyard open.

Chophouse. CBD: 322 Magazine St. 504-522-7902. This high-end steakhouse is promoting its steaks as an alternative to the standard turkey dinner. If that appeals to you, there they are. Handsome place.

Commander’s Palace. Uptown 1: Garden District & Environs: 1403 Washington Ave. 504-899-8221. Special menu. Very likely already to be sold out.

Compere Lapin. CBD: 535 Tchoupitoulas. 504-599-2119.

Criollo. French Quarter: 214 Royal. 504-523-3341. The new restaurant in the Monteleone Hotel serves its second Thanksgiving. It’s a handsome restaurant with an imaginative, current New Orleans-style menu.

Crystal Room. CBD: Le Pavillon Hotel, 901 Poydras. 504-581-3111. Buffet, a bit less expensive than in the other hotels, and for that reason fills up early. Food is good as buffets go.

Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse. French Quarter: 716 Iberville. 504-522-2467. Regular dinner menu and Thanksgiving specials, 3-9 p.m.

Five Happiness. A Chinese restaurant on Thanksgiving Day? Yes. What happens here is that people who either missed the turkey dinner or already had one earlier in the day. Five Happiness is open into the evening for those people, and is very busy.) Mid-City: 3605 S Carrollton. 504-482-3935.

Fleming’s Steak House. Metairie 2: Orleans Line To Houma Blvd: 3064 N. Causeway Blvd.. 504-799-0335.

Latil’s Landing. River Parishes: In Houmas House Plantation. 225-473-9380. This is the grand restaurant in Houmas House Plantation, on the River Road, halfway from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Buffet, noon-4 p.m. $55, $25 children.

Lebanon’s Cafe. Uptown 4: Riverbend, Carrollton & Broadmoor: 1500 S Carrollton Ave. 504-862-6200.

Lüke. CBD: 333 St Charles Ave. 504-378-2840. John Besh’s most popular restaurant. Special menu.

M Bistro. French Quarter: 921 Canal. 504-524-1331. The flagship dining room of the Ritz-Carlton offers a high-end buffet 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Maple Street Cafe. Uptown 4: Riverbend, Carrollton & Broadmoor: 7623 Maple. 504-314-9003. Both locations, special menu. Three courses, $25, $13 children. under 12. Noon-7 p.m.

Mr. B’s Bistro. French Quarter: 201 Royal. 504-523-2078. Special menu, featuring free-range turkeys. Noon-8 p.m.

Muriel’s. French Quarter: 801 Chartres. 504-568-1885. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Special menu, three courses, $45.

Palace Cafe. French Quarter: 605 Canal. 504-523-1661. Regular menu with Thanksgiving specials (entrees $26-42), 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

Ralph’s On The Park. City Park Area: 900 City Park Ave. 504-488-1000. Very substantial special menu, three courses $46-54.

Red Fish Grill. French Quarter: 115 Bourbon. 504-598-1200. Buffet 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m., $47, kids $15, under 6 free. It’s not an enormous hotel-style buffet, but the food is fresh and distinctly Creole. Lots going on for the kids.

Restaurant des Familles. Marrero To Lafitte: 7163 Barataria Blvd. 504-689-7834. Way out on the bayou twenty minutes from downtown, and quite an environment. Special menu.

Rib Room. French Quarter: 621 St Louis St83. 504-529-7045. Special menu. four courses, $37-51. 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.

Roosevelt Hotel. CBD: 123 Baronne. The Roosevelt Hotel serves Thanksgiving dinner in the Waldorf-Astoria ballroom, the grandest and largest space in the hotel. In addition to the buffet, there are several other action stations cooking to order. On a smaller scale, the hotel’s Fountain Lounge will also be open.
504-648-1200.

Roux On Orleans. French Quarter: 717 Orleans (Bourbon Orleans Hotel). 504-571-4604. The restaurant of the Bourbon Orleans, a block in back of St. Louis Cathedral. Buffet from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Adults $59, tax and tip included (!).

Royal Sonesta Ballroom. French Quarter: 300 Bourbon. 504-553-2278. Now that R’evolution is the main dining room at the Sonesta, the holidays bring forth special arrangements. The buffet you remember from the days of Begue’s is now in the hotel’s big ballroom. $75 is the price; $35 6-12 years, free under that. Seatings begin at 10:30 a.m., with the final seating at 1:30 p.m.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Metairie 2: Orleans Line To Houma Blvd: 3633 Veterans Blvd. 504-888-3600. Thanksgiving specials ($40, complete dinner) and regular menu, both locations. Noon-8 p.m.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House. CBD: 525 Fulton St. 504-587-7099. Thanksgiving specials ($40, complete dinner) and regular menu, both locations. Noon-8 p.m.

Tujague’s. French Quarter: 823 Decatur. 504-525-8676. Usual table d’hote dinner, with fresh turkey and other Thanksgiving dishes, about $40. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Vacherie. French Quarter: 827 1/2 Toulouse St. 504-207-4532. This boutique hotel in the French Quarter (it’s where Louis XVI used to be) hase continually expanded the reach and goodness of its restaurant, particularly on holidays. Thanksgiving brings a buffet from noon until 4 p.m. The price is $39 adults, $18 children.

Windsor Court Grill Room. CBD: 300 Gravier. 504-522-1994. Special menu, four courses, $95. It’s offered all day long: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

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