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Diary For Thurs., Jan. 3, 2019: First Taste Of Bywater Bistro.

My daughter Mary Leigh doesn’t go out to dinner with me nearly often enough. It’s nobody’s failing, really. We’re both more than a little busy. Her house-building effort and and her projects during the past year have pulled her into a possible career in architecture. And, in her mid-twenties, she enjoys an active social life. Not a lot of time in between to hang with Daddy, but then Daddy is pretty busy himself.

Mary Ann has been leaning on the two of us to go to more new restaurants, as well as places that haven’t been reviewed lately. MA is pretty busy herself, largely with a series of television shows for children about the age of our grandchildren. That’s something she’s wanted to do for years. It is moving to fruition, with all the shooting done and the editing about finished, all to her great satisfaction.

A corner of the dining room at Bywater American Bistro.

And so ML and I arrange dinner tonight at the Bywater American Bistro. It opened a few months ago, the story being that it was the new enterprise from chef Nina Compton, who is the tastemaker at Compere Lapin. That’s the Southern and Cajun restaurant that made a big splash when it opened a few years ago. It continues to get lots of both local and national press, always favorable. Compere Lapin (it translates as “brother rabbit” is a jump through the window in my radio studio (this is not to be tested, of course). Despite that convenience, and the goodness of the eating, I don’t dine there often.

This new restaurant is indeed just over the railroad tracks in the Bywater section, in the space that formerly was Mariza. The real estate was an old rice mill on the riverfront. It still holds onto its industrial look, which has varying appeal on potential diners. What with the vast overhead atmosphere, I find it agreeable. It stays pretty busy throughout the several dining rooms, which vary wildly in size. The bar fills faster than the tables do, mostly with people dining there.

The menu is right in vogue. I’ve seen Reveillon menus with more choices. Here one has seven appetizers, six concoctions of rices and pastas, six entrees, a scattering of sides, and a scant half-dozen desserts. Everything is a little quirky. I began, for example, with pumpkin soup served fairly hot, but with a nearly-frozen (on purpose) buttermilk sorbet at the bowl’s center. My other appetizer was cobia (a.k.a. lemonfish), served cool after a pass through a lightly-acidic marinade. That turned the dish into escabeche, a concept popular in the Caribbean.

Mary Leigh, who is becoming more aventuresome of palate, had agnolotte pasta (like small ravioli) stuffed with smoked ricotta. It’s then tossed with mushrooms and pickled onions. This was a little far out for ML, so I had a good taste of it. The pasta has a slight texture problem (too heavy for my tastes).

My second course included my fourth dish. This is how the hip crowd eats these days. Here was the only large dish of the night for me: steamed red snapper with raab (primitive broccoli) and what the menu called Crystal hollandaise, for the famous bottled hot sauce. Or perhaps there were crystals of something in there.

My eating was accompanied a Negroni cocktail, which the menu said came from a bottle, for whatever reason. It was good and very generously served. I had to drive home, and I could only have a third of this orange-red beverage.

All this came in at a little over a C-note. The people sitting alongside our bar stools engaged in conversation with us. People who dine in the Bywater and Marigny sections are usually talkative.

The only question left to be asked is, how will Compere Lepin and Chef Nina be affected by having to keep the new place rolling. But that’s nothing new in the restaurant game. This one is engaging enough to bring me back.

One bit of good news: parking seems to be no problem, which it was when this was Mariza. Also no problem: the clearing on the skies and the end of the rain of the past week.

Bywater American Bistro. Bywater & Downtown: 2900 Chartres St. 504-605-3827.

Eat Club In Alaska

The Third Act Of A Trilogy

The Eat Club has cruised around the globe on many different lines, but the three Cunard ships are far and away our favorites. We have traveled on the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria, but will achieve a grand slam when we sail to Alaska aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2 this summer. Yes this summer, June 2019, on the only Cunard ship sailing to Alaska this year. It’s the last leg of a round-the-world journey, and the first time Cunard has been to Alaska in decades.

For the Eat Club, this will be our third, and likely our last, visit to Alaska. We chose this itinerary because it is special, beginning and ending in Vancouver. That world-class city boasts the largest number of Asian restaurants in the world outside of Asia. Sampling some of them is a definite possibility.

The center of the cruise brings us to the adorable little Ketchikan (which claims blue skies 360 days a year,although last time we were there it rained). We go to rugged Skagway, where a passenger train takes you over the mountains to the Canadian border in gold-rush territory, with spectacular views in between. And we stop at our personal favorite: Sitka, a charming frontier town. We will cruise Tracy Arm Fjord and Hubbard Glacier, and the little-known Icy Strait Point. Expect glaciers and icebergs (not too near). We call on the capital city Juneau, of course. A new stop for us is a special stop in Victoria, British Columbia.

It’s a ten-night cruise departing from Vancouver on June 10th, 2019.

The package includes:
–10 nights on the Queen Elizabeth
–Port charges and departure tax
–Cocktail party hosted by Tom and Mary Ann Fitzmorris

Sample Per-person Prices Based on Double Occupancy:
–Outside cabin $2,700.33
–Balcony cabin $3,460.33
Ask for info on other cabins available upon request, including the exclusive Princess’s and Queen’s Grills.

Refundable deposit of 20% due at time of booking. Book before January 14th for a reduced refundable deposit. Final payment due March 10th.

Have a question or want a brochure? Call our longtime Eat Club travel agent Debbie Himbert at 504-456-0846. She can tell you all about flights to and from the cruise and anything else you’d like to know. Please also feel free to contact Tom by email:
tom @nomenu.com. The Eat Club is not really a club, but open to everyone. The friendships you’ll make during the cruise are more than worth the price of the journey. The same might not also be said about my singing, which I plan on exposing to anyone willing to listen.
Tastefully yours,
Tom Fitzmorris

AlmanacSquare January 7, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Mardi Gras March 5.
Got Gumbo Competition Feb. 7.

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Tempura Day, honoring the fried Japanese dishes with the puffy, thick, soft coating. But here in New Orleans it’s Hot Sausage Day. That’s because hot sausage, also known locally as chaurice, is most appreciated for its perfect compatibility with red beans and rice. Indeed, one of my fondest taste recollections is of a fifty-cent plate of beans at Martin’s Poor Boy Restaurant in the early 1970s. The cook fried a pair of hot sausage patties on the flattop grill. He then transferred them with a metal spatula, along with all the grease (there’s no other word for it) that could come along for the ride, and plopped it all atop the beans. I don’t know if I ever had better beans than those. These days, most hot sausage comes in large patties, either atop the beans or in a poor boy.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

I knew a short maker of sausage with red pepper
He’d pack ’em in a cold box and then he would schlep ‘er
To a sandwich shop Mondays where in lieu of a bill
He’d accept as his payment his appetite’s fill
Of red beans and white beans and really hot chili
Filled with his product, but even so still he
Kept the circle unbroken, until he retired
Not rich but quite famous from the patties he’d fired.

Deft Dining Rule #744:

Hot sausage–in fact, all really spicy foods–are at their best when eating them brings you to the threshold of pain from the pepper.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Pecan Hill was a small farming community of the late 1800s that began fading just as Dallas–twenty-four miles north–began spreading. Now there’s nothing left of the old farmhouses, and the vast acreages of cotton and cattle grazing are being nibbled away by large housing developments. Those have brought almost 700 citizens to the town, an all-time high. If there are any pecan trees or hills, they are not obvious. This is high but flat land. Pecan Hill is a mile and a half east of a restaurant called Labouchee, in Red Oak.

Edible Dictionary

St. Louis ribs, n.–A style of preparing barbecued spare ribs. The ribs come from the lower part of the pig, usually from just past the breastbone. The rack has a bout a dozen ribs, with large bones but a good deal of meat. They’re cooked in a closed smoke pit at 225-250 degrees until full cooked and crusty. The next step is distinctive: St. Louis ribs, after coming off the pit, are often put into a pan full of barbecue sauce and simmered in it for a half-hour or so. This makes the ribs very tender, with the meat beginning to fall from the bone. The term is also used in some barbecue places as nearly synonymous with conventional barbecue spare ribs, without the simmering.

Familiar Icons Of Eating

Guess the location!

The Tower of Pisa, whose image appears in more Italian restaurants than any other, was closed to the public today in 1990. Its famous tilt had gone a little too far, and for the next eleven years it was shored up and stabilized. It’s back open now. As many times as you’ve seen pictures of the Campanile (its real name), seeing it in real life will stop you in your tracks.

Annals Of Food Writing

Today in 1896, Fannie Farmer published her first cookbook. It was originally entitled The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, but with millions of copies in print it’s now known as the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. It became famous because it was the first book to specify exact quantities for all ingredients. It was much welcomed by people who’d never cooked before.

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Emilian of Saujon, France, a small town north of Bordeaux. He was a Benedictine monk who spent a time as a hermit in the eighth century. The winemaking commune of St. Emilion, whose wine is predominantly made with Merlot grapes, is named for him.

Food Namesakes

Donna Rice, whose romance with Gary Hart brought down his campaign for the Presidency in 1988, was born in New Orleans today in 1958. . . American novelist Nicholson Baker wrote the first page of his Big Book today in 1957. . . Art Baker, the host of a 1950s television show called You Asked For It, was born today in 1898. . . Ducky Shofield, who played shortstop for a number of teams in the Big Leagues, took the Big Field today in 1935. . . John Berryman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, jumped from a bridge to his death today in 1972. The poet’s life can be hard. . . Kobe Bryant made nine consecutive three-point baskets, plus three more in the same game, to set the NBA record today in 2003.

Words To Eat By

“A highbrow is the kind of person who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso.”–Alan Patrick Herbert, British author of the early 1900s.

“Doctor, do you think it could have been the sausage?”–Alleged to be the last words of French poet Paul Claudel.

Words To Drink By

“Never cry over spilt milk. It could’ve been whiskey.”–Pappy Maverick, in the TV show Maverick.

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