Expected And Unexpected

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris October 09, 2020 05:28 in Dining Diary

Lately people keep inviting us to Middendorf’s. This is hardly a chore, but having been there barely two weeks ago, we decided to go to the Manchac flagship. Part of the fun in going to Middendorf’s is passing through Manchac. The place fascinates me. There are many different ways one can live a life, and that one is so different. The community seems to be growing since the last time we passed through there. I always wonder about the stories…

And then we arrive. Middendorf’s has become a complex since the Pfeifers arrived. Karen Pfeifer has created a chicken coop and sandy beach and Horst has found interesting uses for his sinker cypress collection. 

We agreed to meet our companion on the far deck right against the water. I was immediately struck by a familiar smell. In the Eat Club cruising days we spent many hours in ports around the world and they all had one thing in common: the strong smell of the sea. This is not a bad thing but rather a primal earthiness that creates a strong sense of place. It’s an interesting phenomenon, meaning interesting good. The memories elicited by smell can be powerful.

The Middendorf’s deck was a great scene. Party barges and boats of all sizes came and went as the rest of us enjoyed a front row seat to the action. The perfect temperature made for a beautiful day and the breezeway was delightful.

Service is fast casual, with a pickup counter staffed with very helpful young ladies. It behooved us to get something different since we were there merely two weeks ago. Our dear friend Dominic Massa opted for a stuffed flounder, and me, a stuffed crab. For the table we got shrimp remoulade, and Dominic got some gumbo, which was oddly served in styrofoam.

The shrimp remoulade was a good deal. It came in a medium-sized fish plate piled high with small shrimp tossed generously in a delicious remoulade sauce. It was served on shredded iceberg lettuce. This was a very good remoulade sauce and the amount of shrimp went a long way. These little shrimp made one of my favorite remoulades. Much more easily shareable, I wish more were like this.

The concentrated effort to experience something new made me get a stuffed crab plate, and Dominic ordered a broiled stuffed flounder. But we still had to get the crispy thin fried catfish because it's Middendorf’s. And because it’s fantastic. And because Middendorf’s is such a drive who knows when you’ll have these delectable crispy fish chips again?  

Because we were three and we were sharing, the large order of five sheets of crispy thin fish seemed appropriate. It disappeared quickly. We also shared the rest of the platter, extremely mediocre frozen fries (though no one ate much of those) and coleslaw that reminds me of my high school lunch coleslaw. Somehow this works as the proper side to the crispy fish. We got some extra pickles because we think pickles pop fried seafood.

There is one good stuffed crab plate out there, in my opinion. It is at Blue Crab. It is stuffed into a shell, and it is mostly crab. And it is the proper size. When we picked up these plates, the sight of the stuffed crab immediately alarmed me. It reminded me of the Deanie’s stuffed crab, which is a massive but neat mound exploding over the crab shell. It is large enough to be a softball, and stuffed tightly into the shell. Not very much flavor in this, there is an occasional shred of crabmeat, but this is mostly stuffing/breadcrumbs. This fell flat. It was large, which would normally excite me, but I didn’t want that much of this. Across the table, Dominic was working on his broiled stuffed flounder. It was dry and stuffed with the same stuffing that was in my crab.

The best thing on the table by far was the thin and crispy fried catfish. This is the thing to get here. And on a beautiful day like last weekend, that deck was the place to be. It was an extraordinarily pleasant afternoon out there. Very worth the trip.

That evening, we dropped in on a place we had previously dismissed, but went back to have another look. Duman is a pizza place in Mandeville at the corner of Hwy 190  at Gerard St. It’s been around for four years, and has been embraced by the community. A friend of ours raves about the place, but our first visit underwhelmed. It’s a spartan-looking place but happening, minimalist but attractive. There is something here, we reasoned, and we dropped in to find out. 

We weren’t very hungry though, so it wasn’t a fair visit. We have been here three times. The first time was for pizza, which we didn’t really like. The next time we picked up pizza and liked it better. On this night we also got just a pizza, but had a long chance to look at the menu. It’s a very interesting slate of Mediterranean dishes, including the flaming cheese Greek dish, which is done tableside.

I love Saganaki, and we will definitely go back for this. The menu was so eclectic we asked to meet the owner, who came to the table to chat. Ozzy Duman is from Germany but her background is Turkish. The menu reflects her global experiences. 

Tonight, we settled on a goat cheese and arugula pizza with walnuts. Usually a pizza like this is white, but this one had red sauce as a base, though the sauce was very light. It was quite good. The crust was thin and well made. 

We asked Ozzy Duman about the handmade tagliatelle, which she explained was not housemade, but imported from Italy, where it is handmade. Tom was interested in the lamb hummus, and a very large calzone turned our heads as it went by. There is much we want to try when we return here. We look forward to the exploration.