Isn’t it wonderful when you go to a party not knowing what to expect and it is one of those magical gatherings where everyone gels?
Recently we were invited to a luncheon at a place called the Canal Street Inn. Never heard of it, but it turned out to be a lovely private home built in 1900 that is now a bed and breakfast. It keeps a low profile between Carrollton and Jeff Davis. This charming 10-room inn is owned by Monica Ramsey, who also owned the Canal St Bistro until Chef Guillermo moved to Texas with his family.
This party was occasioned by the 50th anniversary of the hospitality group, called Select Registry, to which the Canal St Inn belongs. Mostly a group of New England and Mid-Atlantic properties, there are some Southern exceptions. A few of these Southern property proprietors were at the luncheon, and the goal was to mingle with press invitees. It was a table set for 20, with about half press and half proprietors. The group moved chairs to mingle with each course. Lucky for us, press guests remained in their seats and the hoteliers moved with each course. Aside from logistics like knives and water glasses, this was a brilliant idea and gave everyone a chance to make new friends.
We sat initially with three people from a Natchez property, the Devereaux Shields House. The owner explained how he and his wife drove down from Michigan and purchased it at first sight, just returning to collect their things. Who does that? I admire such courage.
When the shifting occurred, we got a chance to meet a woman who inherited her childhood home and turned it into an B&B called Fall Farm Inn, 90 minutes east of Dallas. Great stories all.
The third move put us close to the CEO of the company, but we couldn’t stay too long. It was show time.
There is no renowned chef in the kitchen at Canal St Inn, but it smelled divine when we walked in. The menu was three courses, featuring cliche local dishes that everyone loves.
There was first a strawberry salad with local strawberries and goat cheese on mixed greens. This was pretty straightforward and pleasant enough. The second course offered a choice of chicken andouille gumbo, or shrimp creole. Both dishes were heavy on the rice. I’m glad I didn’t have to choose, ordering one of each for Tom and me. Tom chose the gumbo and he made the better choice. This was a delicious version of our local favorite, with big clumps of chicken in a perfectly balanced broth.
The shrimp creole was quite red in hue, and extremely spicy. It was a little messy peeling the edge of the tail from the shrimp, but worth the trouble. This was bursting with Creole flavor.
Tom had a coffee served from the beautiful Southern silver service, which accompanied one of his favorite desserts, flan. This was a little different. It was coconut flan, with dried coconut flakes flecked throughout.
It was too bad he was so intrigued by the conversation with the CEO of the company, because by the time I got his attention it was just about time to leave. He couldn’t really savor his beloved flan properly. The radio show (airs weekdays 2-4pm 990 AM) waits for no one.
We did the show on bluetooth until we got to Lakeview, where the car decided it had had enough waiting for me to take it in for the wheel sensor malfunction. We were stranded at Robert E. Lee and Canal Blvd.
After letting it sit a while we were able to limp our way to the Peake dealership in Kenner.
My lovely sister was there to pick us up. I couldn’t talk to anyone about the car because I was doing the show on the phone. I dropped the key and gave them my number to call me and we got into the car and headed for the Northshore.
My sister waited for me to pick up a car at our house. It was pouring so Tom waited in her car while I got into his and we headed back down to the lakefront. I talked her into visiting with us over dinner at Pat’s Rest-A-While. She would be close to the bridge and could just head right home.
It was a pity it was storming because that place is so lovely in the evening to sit by the lake. The food is always great but the atmosphere is what sells it, to me anyway. We sat inside the beautiful old building that has also been refurbished as lovely as the other three, making for a most interesting restaurant and bar, surrounding a great outdoor space.
My sister announced that she wanted catfish, which is Tom’s go-to. I pitched that they split a catfish platter and I would get an oysters/shrimp combo, giving them the oysters. This followed Tom’s essential first course, the chargrilled oysters.
For $18 and $19 respectively, these were great in portion size, crisp, golden brown and delicious. My sister was delighted.
We watched the weather through the old windows as it stormed, then cleared to sunny. I wanted my sister to get on the road before it returned, but she enjoyed the place so much she was in no hurry. When I saw threatening clouds in the distance I insisted we end the party. Good thing too. By the time we arrived at the bridge to go our separate ways, it was starting again.
I like it when something terrible can be turned into something nice. That day was quite an arc. Something awful sandwiched between two great times. We are blessed people, despite the continuous wild ride.