Friday, October 27, 2017. Port Of Call. The radio guest today was Mike Moliere, who has been the general manager of the Port of Call practically since its beginning in 1953. The hamburger specialist has changed so slightly over the years that I would only guest at ways in may have changed. My first visit there was in 1967, when I went there with a bunch of other 16-year-old friends from Junior Achievement at the end of our school year. With a demographics like that, it’s easy to understand why we found the place the apotheosis of the hamburger joint.
What I didn’t know is that it was originally posited as a Polynesian-style steak specialist, with a bar serving the same kinds of drinks you would have found at the extinct Bali H’ai. But one day they ran out of baked potatoes for the steaks. Instead of substituting fries for the baked, they offered burgers instead of steaks that night. The combination had such impact on the customers that the burger-baked potato combo became the signature dish–even though they continued serving the steaks.
The Polynesian touch was most visible in a big net stretched across the ceiling. I’ve said this before, but. . .well, I hope I never see what’s in that net after all these years.
Another unique story involves the ground beef used for the burgers. It’s all chuck roast, but it meters the amount that comes from the fattiest part of the chuck so that it tops out at eighty percent. The patties are made by hand–long the job of a Central American lady who would grab a wad of ground beef, pat it a few times, and wind up with exactly eight ounces, every time.
The Port of Call was one of the first restaurants to open after Hurricane Katrina. Even the management admitted that seeing a line running two blocks down Esplanade Avenue was a mind-blower of some weight. A lot of people considered getting a Port of Call Burger as evidence that things were going to be all right.
Mary Ann called with the news that she was in town, and could tolerate dinner with me at Public Service. I always go with her suggestions. And I found a legal parking space around the corner from the old New Orleans Public Service, Inc., now the NOPSI Hotel.
The dinner was reasonably good, but this place is going on too long without making menu changes. Some of this, I understand, is due to an accident that has hobbled the chef. But now that we’ve been for dinner four times, we find ourselves looking at dishes we’ve already tried.
My entree was unusual. The Public Hamburger is almost a Cuban sandwich with pork belly, aioli, manchego cheese and avocado. MA liked it better than I did. We also had a “flat” (current restaurant jargon for pizzas that aren’t really pizzas, or else they would have called them that). The round bread held tomatoes, cheeses, and herbs. Good with drinks, I imagine.
But MA loves the premises, and I must say I find it comfortable, too. But they could do with more variety and perhaps a toning-down of many dishes.
Saturday, October 28, 2017. I Am Reinstated At Jesuit High School For The Evening. Sort Of. Short story, for those who haven’t heard or read it before. I started high school at Jesuit but, after a very bad junior year, I didn’t graduate from there. All my fault. I had a car (one of the few Juniors who did), and I worked far too many hours a week (around thirty-five) at the Time Saver instead of studying. I flamed out in three courses: Latin Third Year, Greek Second Year, and something else I can’t remember. I and my scholarship were released from the school. Again I tell you, I deserved this. I bear no ill will. I’m still friends with most of my Jesuit classmates. I still go to all the reunions (we have one every year), and–best of all for the sake of my soul–I have often been asked by the school to participate in various activities, and I always do. The best of these is the annual fund-raising auction. I have been the guest auctioneer many times, usually in a duet with the president of the school. I would do anything for Jesuit, and I am especially happy to do this.
The party took place this year in The Cannery, a handsome, spacious special event venue. The food–most of which had been prepared by one of several caterers who gave their services anonymously–was the best ever for the event. Example: a deviled egg stuffed with a mousse of smoked trout. I ate about five of them. And about two dozen of the oyster shooters right next to them.
Also pleasant was the Jesuit Jazz Ensemble, whose numbers includes eight saxophones, about the same number of clarinets, and a half-dozen trumpets. Even though I had to stand in the cold outside to hear it, I listened to them most of the night.
The ladies who run this event (most of whom have sons at Jesuit) had a great theme: the disco years. The costumes were painfully amusing. The pain was in remembering platform shoes–high heels for men, which gave a hint of what an agony must high heels be for women.
And I felt other tendernesses in my heart. These parents of current Blue Jays are young enough to be my son. There was a fair number of old-timers from the likes of the Class of 1954, but I saw only one other member of my would-be class (1968). But that’s the way calendars work.
I finished high school right on time at Archbishop Rummel. It’s an excellent school, and I had a wonderful year there. But I still have my old Jesuit name tag hanging on my bulletin board at home.
One more comment on The Cannery, anent of nothing: The last time I was here, I was the moderator for a fundraiser hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association. Hmm.