Peacocking With Food

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris June 29, 2021 08:45 in Dining Diary

When the kids and I stepped in to steward the ship that is our family business, the age discrepancy was immediately apparent. I always say I have millennials only by birth, but while they don’t think like millennials, they can navigate around the tools they grew up with.

Mary Leigh and I have tussled more, because she and I are more in the decision making, and because she is on Instagram. (She does our IG) Jude is too busy with his life for recreational social media.

It doesn’t take social media to illustrate how millennials have changed everything. Take food, for example. Right here in New Orleans, a city with, as Tom likes to say, so strong a regional cuisine that there is no room for chains or anything else.

The chains don’t bother me nearly as much as the anything else. I just received a list of winners for NOWFE, also known as the NEW ORLEANS Wine and Food Experience. New Orleans is in the very name, yet two thirds of these winners were raw fish, and a few of them had not a single ingredient I recognized as food. (I asked some restaurateurs to help, and they couldn’t.) One winner was immediately recognizable local food - the Fowl Gumbo from Trenasse.

I mention this not just to explain my screed, but because Mary Leigh and I had disagreements in the beginning about what we would cover of the cavalcade of new openings. I had a hard rule. I refused to waste time covering something that would not be here a year from now. I have refined this policy to say I will not devote time and resources to silly food. Or silly places.

No one person can do this anyway, so one must stake out some ground. Tom loves food that tastes good. Tom never thought about the food he ate, he just “felt” it, and tasted it. 

When Mary Leigh and I looked at the NOWFE list the other day we said to ourselves that if this is New Orleans food now, Tom would not want to do this any more.

I just returned from a place like this, because we have to check into “the scene” now and then. Motivated by the gushing of a regular caller to the radio show, a non-millennial regular fine diner who had followed Tom for decades, I went into town to sample the experience known as the Peacock Lounge in the new Kimpton Fontenot Hotel.

The menu was not large, but one person can only eat so much anyway. There is a similarity between this place and Jack Rose. Both make strong design statements, but while the food at Jack Rose is actually pretty delicious, the Peacock Lounge offers silly food. It is not bad food, just easily forgettable, puzzling food.

I made my way past the taxidermy white peacock to sit with my companions for the evening. Wine was being discussed with a generally inept server who spent more time wrestling the corkscrew than pouring wine.

I ordered the Cheewee Fries, with andouille salt and sriracha aioli. In New Orleans Cheewee means a crunchy cheese snack, and I still have no idea what andouille salt is. I would have asked a server such questions, but this is not the place to do something like that. I don’t think they would know, or care. These were impossibly ordinary fries, a tad greasy frozen fries, but it’s hard to deny that sriracha makes everything better, as it did with this spicy aioli.

Blue Crab pimiento cheese with toast points is just comical. I completely missed anything pimiento in this cheese pile. It seemed upon merely curious inspection to be thin cubes of Port Salut with Calabrian chiles in a pile with a bit of blue crab meat on top, served with brioche toast points undeserving of a second bite. A ridiculous dish.

Crawtator-crusted fried oysters were a little limp but otherwise fine, served over a bed of giardiniera vegetables. The pickling was very strong but pickled veggies have to be really bad for me not to eat them, and these did not hit that mark. This was an okay dish. Not special or terrible, but that should not be the goal.

The two best things at the table were the duck and andouille gumbo, which was served with a small ramekin of strong vinegar potato salad. I liked this potato salad, which had somewhat pronounced mustard notes. The gumbo had a hint of sweetness at first which I found off putting, but it got better with each bite, leaving a spicy aftertaste. It was so loaded with large pieces of meat it was a little hard to eat.

And the burger was nice. A well made patty, it was a gourmet burger with bacon-boursin cheese, crispy shallots and tomato jam. The soft cheese that was sort of melted was peculiar, but the flavors came together nicely. It was cooked exactly as I asked, though a nice crusty sear would have been preferable. On a brioche bun that was properly prepared for this big burger, it was served with more ordinary frozen fries.

What was wrong here was me. I am not the right customer for this place. This is a cocktail lounge, and the menu is as good as it needs to be. This is a place for younger people looking to linger over drinks in an arresting environment. They are not looking for delicious comforting food. They are looking for excitement, edginess in vibe and taste, and a good time. All of which is in the soul of the beholder.