DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Thursday, March 9, 2017.
Eat Club Goes To Café Giovanni.

I somehow squeezed out the fifteen minutes it takes me to walk around the inside perimeter of the Cool Water Ranch. Although the rain hasn’t been as insistent as it was a few months ago, the water table has risen all the way to the surface, and it’s difficult to walk around without having to step into a few puddles.


On the other hand, on the trail that runs through the woods, the open area about fifty feet in diameter is sprouting its annual cover of ferns. These are a special kind of fern, each one about the size of my hand. They only grow in small clearings like the one I’m walking through, or at the edges of the woods. I remember seeing this patch the first time I tried to walk through the many large pines. There’s something about it I find peaceful. Maybe it’s because it always comes back with unusual lushness and insistence after winters in which it disappears completely.

And then I heard a rustling in the leaves. That always gives me a start. But it’s only Valencia, the smaller of our two orange cats. He runs faster even than the dogs, and can clib to heights that seem impossible. He reminds me of the late cat Twinnery, who every now and then would be sitting on a log a long way into the woods when I walked past. How did he find his way in and out?

The Eat Club convenes for another of our dinner at Café Giovanni. As good as it is, I think we may be going there too often. I don’t think the Eat Clubbers agree. We have a nice crowd today–fifty or sixty. Chef Duke LoCicero is going through a restaurateur’s nightmare: four of his cooks are out with the flu. This didn’t show up in the goodness of the food, although the plates could have used a bit more decoration. But we let that pass.

Alligator meatball @ Cafe Giovanni.

Alligator meatball @ Cafe Giovanni.

The highlights of the dinner are the Italian oysters, the sea scallops with an Asian-inspired sauce, a Caprese salad with a sparky chilled seafood concoction something like ceviche, a duck that some of us thought was beef, and beef that was obviously not duck (filet with green peppercorn sauce).

The emphasis was on seafood, since, after all, it’s Lent. First week of Lent, at that, in which it has always been challenging to fill dining rooms.

I didn’t know what to make of the dessert until I tried it. It was sort of a sherbet with the three most traditional flavors of spumone. I could have downed two of those, without regard for the ice cream headache that it surely would have bestowed upon me.

About fifteen percent of the people who come to our dinners are single and come alone. We have only a couple of times attempted to have singles only dinners. A few single Eat Clubbers have met people interesting enough to get married to others in the group. It always makes me happy to know how very married I am.

But every now and then, I have been approached by one of the single ladies who seem to be putting feelers out. I’m probably fooling myself. Back when I was single, I never had even the hint of such a thing. Not even when I was in a book entitled “The 100 Sexiest Men In New Orleans.” I don’t think anyone was fooled by that.

Friday, March 10, 2017.
Manale’s Does Oysters.

I invite my little sister Lynn to to dinner at Pascal’s Manale. She gasped and said that just at the moment I range her bell, she was thinking about going out somewhere for dinner, and that her somewhere was the same as mine. Adding further eeriness, she only yesterday had seen Bob De Felice, one of the four siblings who own Manale’s and are friends of us both.

Manale's oysters Bienville.

Manale’s oysters Bienville.

I am at Manale’s for some oysters Bienville more than anything else. I hesitate to say that Manale’s version of this old baked-on-the-shell classic is the best in town, but only because the recipe is very old-fashioned, with a roux so light that it’s almost fluffy. That texture is not for everybody. I love it. Lynn and I put shucker Thomas to work by taking delivery of a dozen raw before the six-and-six Rockefeller-Bienville assembly. It’s already a great meal.

My entree is one of the day’s specials: a redfish fillet with a lemon butter sauce and asparagus. How routine can a dish get? But this rendition is spectacular. So much so that I push the plate to Lynn so she can have a taste. The sharp-citrus-to-mellow-butter ratio is on the money.

Bread pudding to finish. It’s always been good here. One of the few versions of pudding with raisins in it, which I like-although it’s clear that, like the roux on the Bienvilles, is not for everybody.

As always happens to me here, several people I don’t know come over to the table to tell me that he or she listens to the radio show all the time. Anybody else out there ready to inflate my balloon further?

Why, yes. But that will happen tomorrow.

Pascal’s Manale. Uptown: 1838 Napoleon Ave. 504-895-4877.

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