Tuesday, March 14, 2017.
Mary Ann Pulls Me Out Of A Hole.
Before she hosted her own talk show in the 1980, Mary Ann was a radio and television producer for WWL. Her skills at building a panel of guests are superb. Every now and then she pities me for finding myself less than flush with people to talk with. Then she gets to work filling my radio show with guests. The fact that some of these guests show up all but unannounced adds to the excitement, as I try to figure who these people are and what they are capable of discussing. Fortunately, I’m pretty good at programming on the fly myself.
So we have a lady who writes for the Clarion Herald, the Catholic newspaper in New Orleans. Her expertise is on the celebration in our area of the feast of St. Joseph, part of the Italian-Sicilian-Creole culture here. She says that the practice of erecting St. Joseph altars, with all the attendant food, has done nothing but grow during recent years. A lot of restaurants have taken up the practice.
Then we have another lady who comes to see me every year. She is with the Youth Services Bureau on the North Show, which protects young people from family or other problems. The organization’s big fund-raiser is the Chef’s Soiree, a very popular annual event involving chefs from around the area, but mainly on the North Shore. It’s a long-running event that was already a very large gourmet-grazing evening when we moved across the lake in 1990. It’s so well attended that tickets are hard to score. Chef’s Soiree is one of MA’s favorite festivals. She’s already looking forward to it, while I wonder how I will jam it into my day. But MA and I were honorary chair people for the Soiree a few years ago, and I have to show up.
The busy radio show ends, and I call daughter Mary Leigh to see
whether she is free for dinner. I can tell by her voice that she has had a long day and that she’s not especially hungry, and she hasn’t left the job site for the ride home.
Maybe she infected my mood, because I get that familiar but rare feeling that says I don’t have a strong hunger, myself. Catering to that lack of appetite is one of the main strategies that let me lose seventy pounds in the last three years.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017.
Vincent’s Is Full Of New Dishes.
We are once again visited by a slate of MA’s guests on the radio show. What happens is what I was hoping for. A busy show full of texture attracts more busyness and more texture. Mostly in the second hour, more people call in than any other day since HD2 was inaugurated. Yes!
I always have a list of restaurants I’d like to visit in the near term. But for some of them, a peculiarity comes to bear. I go to the restaurant and fine:
1. It’s closed on the night I go there.
b. I can’t find the place
iii. I get stuck at a railroad crossing or a traffic jam
D. The restaurant closed for good three days ago
All except D. have prevented me from having dinner at Gendusa’s, a café in the old part of Kenner about which many of my listeners have raved. This was my old neighborhood in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I know my way around there. But where is this restaurant? After about fifteen minutes touring in the car and walking about, no dice.
I’m still hungry when I give up. I drive slowly along Williams Boulevard, looking for either Gendusa’s or some other eatery. Lots of Asian and Hispanic restaurants around there.
But I wind up at Vincent’s. Vincent Catalanotta is on duty. He and I go back to 1978, when he was a bartender at a restaurant called Romanoff’s, I was working for a month as a waiter to see what that was like. Not long after I began hosting the radio show in 1988, Vinnie managed a funny little place called the Corsican Brothers. The restaurant failed, but Vincent thought he saw an opportunity. He got a good deal on the lease, compiled a few recipes, and opened shop as Vincent’s.
The restaurant blasted off immediately, and it remains one of the best neighborhood-style Italian restaurants in the area. No small number of patrons say it’s the best Italian restaurant of them all.
I like showing up this time of year because Vincent makes crawfish bisque. The kind with the dark roux and the stuffed heads. He makes it himself, often after the restaurant closes for the night.
But other dishes loom on the menu. The most interesting is a newly-popular chicken dish, encrusted with bread crumbs and a lot of parmesan chese. Sounds strange but unaccountably wonderful.
I eat as much as I can, then Vinnie and I update the other, recall the old days, what’s wrong with things that have something wrong with them, and the like. I am captured at three tables who would like to shoot the breeze. Not only are most of the customers locals, but they’re regulars as well. And they love him.