Monday, September 13, 2010. Wife Leaves Again. Redfish On The Half Shell At Camellia Café.

Written by Tom Fitzmorris September 21, 2010 16:11 in

Dining Diary

Monday, September 13. Wife Leaves Again. Redfish On The Half Shell At Camellia Café.
For the past few days, Mary Ann has been in a state of helpless wavering between going to Washington for her sister's election or staying home. Today, trying to put an end to this, I all but pushed her out the door. I had to book an expensive rental car for her so she wouldn't feel guilty about doing so. For some reason, rental cars out of Baltimore are running eighty dollars a day and up.

She left at midday. When she will return is not known even to her. If her sister wins the primary, she will be there a long time. I keep telling her she'll be back by Thursday, trying to plant a seed. It would not take root.

Back to bachelorhood, which is coming in handy right now. I'm proud of myself: I can say I have taught myself how to build a content-managed website, a goal which has eluded me for two years. But moving all the reviews, recipes, and other data into it will take hundreds of hours.

Dining room at Camellia Cafe.

As soon as the radio show ended at seven I unshackled myself from my desk and headed to the Camellia Café for supper. I'm about ready to write a review, but I wanted to check out the more ambitious side of their menu. Mostly, this is a place for red beans, seafood platters, poor boys, and the like. But they offer a few bistro-style dishes, too.

So, artichoke and oyster soup. Is it from a plastic pouch, delivered by Mr. Mudbug or Kajun Kettle or another such outfit that supplies much of the menu for a surprisingly large number of local restaurants? Or are they cooking everything here?

I could just ask. But this brings up a philosophical question. If it's delicious, and I find out that it came from outside, does that make it less delicious? My stance on this gives rise to Deft Dining Rule #1: "If it tastes good, it is good." So I make up my mind first, then find out later.

The artichoke-oyster soup was, in fact, excellent. It took a long time to come out, though. I think this is because I was spotted, and they may have whipped up a fresh batch. But that doesn't make it less good, either.

Redfish on the half shell?

Entree: redfish on the half shell. This was either a misnomer or a very polite version of that dish. At its best, redfish on the half shell is black and crusty on the skin and scales, the result of having sat above a hot fire long enough for the meat of the fish to cook almost entirely by the steam being made by the fish's juices. This was really just a grilled fish with the skin on. But not bad at that, generous, well-seasoned, good-looking.

The waiter recommended the shrimp and squash casserole. That didn't attract me, but I allow waiters' suggestions to trump my prejudices about seven times out of ten. The casserole was light, fresh-tasting, and served in a size almost big enough for an entree unto itself. But this isn't my cup of gumbo. Mary Ann would probably love it, though. Better than whatever she's eating at her sister's house.


The waiter said the dessert to get was the cheesecake. I didn't expect it to come out in a hot sauce of the kind that might be seen with bread pudding. The cheesecake tasted and look good, and the sauce was delicious. But hot cheesecake? That's a bad idea. Lapses of taste are what often bedevil place like this. But I'll bet most of their customers love it.

One more question: does everyone who comes here get a decorated bowl for the likes of bread pudding? This is my third time.

*** Camellia Cafe. Abita Springs: 69455 LA 59. 985-809-6313.