Touring Before We Find Orient Express. Episode Four: Exploring London’s Many Attractions. By Mary Ann Fitzmorris.
In all previous trips to this my favorite city, I can’t believe I had still not made it to the Borough Market under the Tower Bridge. I aimed to rectify this today. Southwark Street is where all the hot eateries are, and I ran into a few here. (Always recognizable by lines of millennials out front.)
But the food was so plentiful at the Market itself, and so interesting, I couldn’t imagine eating in a restaurant. There was every imaginable version of street food in every possible fusion from all corners of the globe. Absolutely convivial in vibe. Also, so overwhelming that I got nothing. The most tempting thing was a place called Fish, serving actual slabs of fish over nice chips.
I found myself in a stinky cheese store called Neal’s Dairy. As soon as the cheesemonger repeated my fromage mantra, “Sharp good-stinky bad” I had to buy some. He sold me a nice slice of Scottish cheddar and a divinely crusty small baguette. And that is all I bought at Borough Market. And that is what I ate the next two days.
Back at the hotel I asked Tom if he wanted to accompany me to Chinatown. My earlier plan was Hakkasan, or Hutong, but suddenly some dim sum and a stroll through Chinatown seemed like a better idea.
We made it ten minutes before dim sum stopped at 5 p.m. Gerard’s Corner (imaginative, huh?- it’s on the corner of Gerard Street, Chinatown’s main drag) is an unassuming basic Chinese restaurant, and we went crazy ordering dim sum before we were shut out. Fortunately they were out of a few things, or the order would have been obscene. But we didn’t stop there. Tom got a fried oyster dish over noodles, and I got a pork noodle dish. I like to think of this Chinatown with its hanging ducks as authentic, but I know the real one, China, must be far grittier and way more frenetic.
An after dinner stroll through the area brought us to our car, and back to the hotel. We finished the day in the bar at the Goring, where the only entertainment that evening was at a neighboring table. It was fascinating to watch a strapping young Brit consume a gigantic and beautiful hamburger without ever touching it. Reduced to mere crumbs solely by knife and fork!> At our table, Tom was impressed with his Negroni, and I with the homemade cheese straws.
Mid-City: 2441 Orleans Ave. 504-603-2344
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Why It’s Noteworthy
Leah Chase’s famous Dooky Chase restaurant is only a few blocks from the new Gabrielle, and that force alone turns this neighborhood into a rich source of eating real New Orleans food. The area has been erroneously called Treme, but speaking as a Treme native, I hope the addition of Gabrielle makes the neighborhood better still. It should also be noted that the new Gabrielle is pretty close to the pre-K one.
Why It’s Good
Greg Sonnier and his restaurant are among the few direct descendants of Paul Prudhomme’s heritage, having first worked in K-Paul’s kitchen in its glory years, then for Frank Brigtsen after he opened his own place. The Cajun aspect of the food at Gabrielle is very clear, but so are the original ideas of Greg himself. So we find deep rouxs, dark-skinned poultry, fish served whole, and other bold, country-style eats. It’s about 90 percent accurate to say that Gabrielle’s took up where it left off when its world ended after Katrina.
Gabrielle is similar to most New Orleans neighborhood cafes and bars in being deeper than it is wide, with an undersize kitchen jammed in the rear. The Sonniers didn’t fancy it up in any noticeable way, although the dark colors (on the ceiling inside, and the screaming dark blue outside) make it stand out. For those concerned about the citywide dangers, there is a guard on duty at the front door.
More important than the above is that dining room is staffed by older servers (think about the older guys at Clancy’s) than we see in restaurants these days. They know the food and wine well enough to give good advice. Also here is Gabie herself, the still young namesake of the restaurant.
Smoked quail gumbo
Ponce de lapi
Oysters Gabie (artichoke, garlic, gratin of parmigiano bread crumbs).
Braised rabbit, caramelized onions
Traiteur fish, Red chili cheese crawfish corn bread
Slow roasted duck, crimini mushrooms, roasted red peppers, orange-sherry sauce.
Double-cut mojo marinated pork chop, root beer glazed apples.
For Best Results
Make a direct reservation, even on weekdays. The restaurant likes to combine several dishes in trios of assorted possible entrees for sharing.
Opportunities for Improvement
Gabrielle is still in its early days, and some of the dishes I’ve had here could do with a bit more attention than they’re getting just yet. But I have no doubt that this will become a mecca for people who visit New Orleans often.
Anecdotes and Analysis
Waiting a long time for dinners at Gabrielle is something New Orleans diners have become accustomed to. The original restaurant was laid flat by Katrina, then ran into a skein of problems that prevented Chef Greg Sonnier from pushing the start button. At last, the motor is running, and about the only source of foreboding is that the neighborhood is unfamiliar to a lot of potential customers–even though many mainstream restaurants have operated on or near Orleans Avenue for a very long time. But there is good news on this matter, too. Parking is easy, for example.
March 27, 2017
French Quarter Festival April 2-5
Easter April 21
Jazz Festival April 26-May 5
It is National Paella Day in America. Paella is catching on. While we have always been able to find a restaurant around New Orleans that serves paella, until very recently we never needed more than the fingers of one hand to count them. Nor were the ones we found especially good–again, until recent years, with the broadening of all ethnic dining in New Orleans. Always, any chef that made this most famous of Spanish rice dishes could be counted on to be very proud of it. Enough so that paella is usually the most expensive item on menus that offer it.
Paella comes in many forms, with a long list of possible ingredients. But it simmers down to this: rice, olive oil, and stock (usually chicken) are cooked in a big pan with poultry, sausages, or seafood, plus peas, beans, and savory vegetables. It’s flavored with saffron if it’s a good version. In the cheaper editions, annatto gives the color of saffron, but not the unmistakable flavor and aroma.
The dish originally came from Valencia, but now you can eat it in most parts of the world. There is some question as to whether jambalaya is a direct descendent of paella, but it’s certainly related, by way of the connection between the Spanish West Indies and Louisiana. Currently, Our city has a great shortage of Spanish restaurants. In the last few years, we X-ed out four restaurants that no longer serve paella or anything else. This leaves Barcelona Tapas in the Riverbend, and Lola’s in Esplanade Ridge.
Pompano Beach, Florida is a suburb of Fort Lauderdale, about thirty-five miles north of Miami. The place is well named: there’s a large beach, and no doubt pompano–which we consider the best eating fish in the world–are regularly caught there. The core of Pompano Beach is not on the beach but inland; it was founded as a station on the Florida East Coast Railway. It’s a hundred years old this year. The restaurants include a wealth of Latin American restaurants of all kinds, including Brazilian.
spiedini, [speh-DEE-nee], Italian, n. pl.–“Italian shish kebabs” tells ninety percent of the story. But spiedini has enough distinction to deserve its own definition. For starters, spiedini are almost always made entirely of meat–no vegetables. The meats tend to be rather good; even ground meats are considered raffish in spiedini. (Although sausage is welcomed.) Most spiedini use more than one variety of meat on the skewer. Here in New Orleans, a variation has emerged in which the meats are stuffed with a concoction of bread crumbs, prosciutto, garlic, parmesan cheese, and olive oil. If anything, those are even better than all-meat versions. The word is rarely spelled correctly on menus.
Food In Diplomacy
The flowering cherry trees for which Washington, D.C. is so famous were first planted on this date in 1912. They were a gift from the people of Japan. Of the more than 3,000 tree planted then, over a hundred are still alive. Many more have been planted since, of course, and the city is full of them now. We hear that the flowers are much more beautiful than the taste of the actual cherries. But that’s true of a lot of things.
Today in 1860, a New Yorker named M.L. Byrn patented a design of a corkscrew. It was T-shaped, based on gadgets that had long been used to extract bullets stuck in the muzzles of guns. Corkscrews had been around before Byrn’s invention, but his design became the standard in America for decades. The business end was not a worm, as we use now, but looked more like a screw. If you have a corkscrew made that way–and you just might–don’t use it for opening bottles of wine. It may drill a hole through the cork without pulling it out.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
If a corkscrew turns a wine cork into crumbs, no matter how much you paid for it or how long it’s worked properly or how beautiful it is, throw it away.
NFL running back Tom Beer came to life today in 1969. . . Ohio Congressman Douglas Applegate was born today in 1928. . . Nathaniel Currier, who with his partner James Ives created lithographs generally regarded as the first artistic bits of Americana, was born today in 1813. . . Stacy Ferguson, a singer with the group The Black Eyed Peas, was born today in 1975.
Words To Eat By
“Rice is born in water and must die in wine.”–Unknown.
Words To Drink By
“Drink down all unkindness. “–William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor.