Jack Rose bears no resemblance to the Caribbean Room in looks, menu, or clientele. It is so radically different that it’s a surprise that anything remains from the grand old era when that restaurant had some of the best service this city had to offer. Lyle Aschaffenberg ran a dining room that was genteel and storied. There is no such thing today.
Since the halcyon days of the Pontchartrain and its own Grande Dame, The Caribbean Room, things have changed so much in the world, the city, and certainly the hotel that it’s a wonder anything remains. The Mile High Pie, the sole survivor, is such a legend in New Orleans, and so fondly regarded, it had to stay. Even people who were not alive in the glory days of the Pontchartrain have become fans, their first taste prompted by the culinary folklore that surrounds it.
My first experience with The Mile High Pie was not my first experience with The Caribbean Room. It was one of my first experiences with Tom, and it was seminal.
In the late Eighties, Martin Wine Cellar hosted a wine tasting every Thursday at the Caribbean Room. Wine tastings were very popular then, and it was a great chance to get to know about wine.
Tom was a regular at these events, and it was not hard to go to one of these every night. Different places. Different sponsors, Different wines. Mostly the same people.
Tom had just been hired by the radio station to start the Food Show, and I was pivotal in his hiring. The day the new radio station started broadcasting, he called me after my radio show, and began the conversation with a thank you for the job, This was followed by a quid pro quo (which no one had heard of back then).
He said, “I want to thank you for the job, and I have two tickets to a wine tasting tonight. Do you want to go?” Such opportunities were omnipresent in media back then, so I just assumed he was offering them to me.
“Tonight??” I said. “I don’t know if I can get anyone to go that quickly.” After a pregnant pause he said, “Well I was sort of thinking of using the other ticket myself.”
I was so out of his league it simply never occurred to me that he would ask me for a date. I was mortified at the faux pas, and a little guilty. I accepted after I apologized.
Accompanying Tom to this event was enlightening. He was definitely a celebrity, and he reminded me of a popular television commercial advertising financial services for E.F. Hutton. The theme was that when E.F. Hutton spoke, a hush fell on the room. The slogan was ,”When E F Hutton speaks, everyone listens.” Like the Oracle at Delphi. And Tom.
People actually lined up to talk to him. He was truly in his element. And the radio show was only in its first day.
My subsequent memories of the Caribbean Room are a little more in keeping with everyone else’s. Or maybe not. I thought it a pretentious, expensive place with mostly ordinary food.
Except for The Mile High Pie, which is extraordinary in presentation, And in every other way: size, taste. and fun. Who doesn’t want to eat a tall pie with multilayered and multi flavored ice cream?
The current home of the Mile High Pie is arresting in decor, excellent in service, and delicious in taste. This dessert from another era would at first thought seem an outlier, but it fits right in. Kudos to Jack Rose for keeping it. And for offering this recipe to anyone daring enough to try it at home. From The Pontchartrain Hotel.
Mile High Pie
1 quart peppermint ice cream
1 quart vanilla ice cream
1 quart chocolate ice cream
each chocolate cookie pie crusts
Meringue for on top:
8 each large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 jar chocolate sauce
1 medium stainless steel wine bucket
1. In a mixing bowl, use a rubber spatula to mix the peppermint ice cream until it’s the consistency of soft serve ice cream.
2. Place the peppermint ice cream in the wine bucket, being sure to smooth out the ice cream as much as possible. Place in the freezer for about an hour (or until set). 3. Place the vanilla ice cream in another bowl and mix to soft serve consistency, then layer it on top of the peppermint ice cream. Let vanilla ice cream freeze for about an hour (or until set).
4. Repeat the same steps with the chocolate ice cream, layering onto the vanilla and allowing to freeze.
5. Crumble the cookie crust and sprinkle generously on top of the chocolate ice cream. Using the bottom of a water glass, press the cookie crumble into the chocolate ice cream, making sure it is dense enough to hold the slice of pie.
6. Freeze entire pie for 2 hours (or until ice cream is set). 7. Remove from freezer and place a plate on the bottom of the wine bucket and invert. Using your hands (or a small blowtorch), gently warm the wine bucket and shake gently to remove the ice cream from the wine bucket. If pie is resistant, try placing a skewer inside the center of the ice cream to help release it.
8. In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites with vanilla and cream of tartar until soft peaks form.
9. Gradually add sugar, beating until the egg whites are stiff and glossy and the sugar is dissolved.
10. Spread meringue over the ice cream using a spatula or add to a pastry bag with a star tip and pipe onto the pie.
11. Toast the meringue with a small blowtorch.
12. Slice and serve with a generous drizzle of chocolate sauce.