Sunday, March 5, 2017.
Late, Short Radio. Zea.
The Sunday radio show is abbreviated to less than an hour. The only hard part of it is getting people who just finished listening to a baseball game to shift into the very different arts of eating and cooking.
That done, MA and I adjourn for an early dinner at Zea. I am going there more often lately because the annual seafood menu has gone into force. The kitchen emphasizes its fishy offerings, most notably the Asian-flavored, sesame-seed encrusted oysters. I get a double order of these, and they are as good as I remember. They only serve the dish this time of year, using large, local oysters.
I’m pleased to see that Zea has finally ditched the non-catfish catfish it has served for years. Instead, it now has wild-caught catfish from Des Allemands. They are even advertising the fact on billboards around town. If only all chain restaurants did worked that way, chain restaurants would be more interesting.
In mid-meal, Steve Jeansonne comes over to our table with news that, after several years at Ralph Brennan’s Café B, he is now managing Ralph’s on the Park. Also at Steve’s table is his wife Nancy, and here we go with another example of my theory that only 500 people live in the New Orleans area.
Nancy was my radio producer in the early 1990s. Steve asked me back then for advice on breaking into the restaurant business. I told him to put on a jacket and tie and make an appointment with the owners of Commander’s Palace. He would be starting at the top, but he was smart enough to pull that off, even though he had no restaurant experience. He’s moved up ever since.
Monday, March 6, 2017.
Mary Ann absents herself for a day on the South Shore, making sales calls and taking Mary Leigh’s camouflage-colored dog Bauer for a walk. I go to the sleep clinic to learn the results of the overnight test I took two weeks ago. The doctor shows a graph that indicates that twice during the night, for about ten to twenty seconds I stopped breathing. She runs down the methods of fixing this mild sleep apnea. As she does so, I think of all the times I held my breath that long. Heck, I sing notes much longer than that. I can read a thirty-second commercial in one breath.
She gives me her recommendation: “position therapy.” I stop myself from asking whether this is something out of the Kama Sutra. But all I really have to do is sleep on my sides, not my back. She tells me a neato trick for accomplishing this. Buy a golf shirt with a front pocket. Put a ping-pong ball in the pocket. Don the shirt backwards, with the pocket and ball in back. If I roll into the back position, the ball will wake me up. So much for this problem.
I head back to my office to catch up my daily daily. A bit after noon I go to lunch at New Orleans Food and Spirits, one of my regular lunch places on the few days when I eat lunch. They make exceptionally good red beans here, and a side of that is half the meal. The other half is itself a half: of a muffuletta. This is something I have not tried at NOFS. And I forget to tell the server not to have the muff cut in half until it’s too late to do anything about it.
To the point that people bring up the subject in conversations with me, I am opposed to hot muffulettas. The salami gets drenched in fat, the ham gets dry, the olive salad has its flavors overmodulated, and the cheeses all melt. (I believe we melt cheese about five times as often as we should.
I’m sure the kitchen would bring a fresh, room-temperature muffuletta if I had asked them, but I let it go and make a test case out the irregularity. Really, am I doing my job well if I never try a hot muffuletta?
I give the sandwich a fair test. I can see why people like it warmed up. But my own tastes prevail. The texture of hot salami is not pleasant. And the olive salad is like listening to music at ear-busting sound.
And another question looms: if the restaurants that heat Muffuletta would perform the same act on a roast beef poor boy, that sandwich would be improved greatly. So why don’t they?
The rest of the day is routine. The NPAS rehearsal is fun, although I’ve about had it with lyrics that include the words “ram-a-lam-a ding-dong.” It’s from the show Grease, which I never thought much of anyway. But when you’re a choral singer, you must submerge your own tastes to blend with the other voices. The ultimate praise for a choral group is, “They sing as one voice.”
On my way home, I stop for gas in a rather deserted filing station. It’s the third time I have felt uneasy at a late-night filler-up in the past week. I tell myself that if I could survive nine years working in the Time Saver convenience stores in the 1960s–including one armed attack by a guy who left my co-worker unconscious for a long time–then I probably won’t be attacked tonight. I enter the place and have an ice cream sandwich.
Which–have I ever mentioned this before?–ought to be called an “ice cream poor boy.”
Tuesday, March 7, 2017.
We have a very slow day of call-ins during the radio show. Two days from now, at the Eat Club dinner, I will learn that the phones were out of order for a good while today.
I call Mary Leigh to check her availability for dinner. We go to Magasine Café, whose Magazine Street original is always jammed and usually uncomfortably slow. But ML says that the one in the CBD (corner Girod Street at O’Keefe) is much nicer. Which it is indeed. It’s also nearly empty (probably isn’t at lunchtime, and it’s raining like crazy off and on.
We begin with a unique spring roll made out of a shank of rolled-up lettuce with avocado in the center. Also here is some peanut sauce and spicy carrot sauce. ML applies some hoisin sauce and the spreadable crushed red pepper to not only this but also the chicken roll-up. That plate is also piled high with shredded vegetables. I get pork “bun,” pronounced “boohn.” It uses most of the ingredients you find in pho except for the overwhelming broth. It’s also filled with the shredded vegetables like what MA has. A great, light but somehow still filling bowlful of freshness.
We have a lovely conversation. MA’s job has been working well for her. It combines artistry and heavy tools. She has enough leeway in the design aspect that she finds it all great fun. Who knows where this will go? I’m glad she has found happiness.
When I head home, I get caught in the most violent vortices of wind and rain I have ever experienced. It felt like what it might be like to run into a tornado. All one can do is keep going or get underneath an overpass.