Wednesday, August 11, 2010. An Interview At Galatoire's.

Written by Tom Fitzmorris September 20, 2010 17:41 in

Dining Diary

Wednesday, August 11.
An Interview At Galatoire's.
Christoph von-Marschall is a reporter from Der Tagesspiegel, the Times-Picayune of Berlin. (I hope he doesn't take that as an insult.) He came to New Orleans in 2005 to cover the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Like many news gatherers, he is back in town to write a series of articles about how our city has recovered in the last five years.

Here is what everybody will be saying, even if they lay it between the lines: New Orleans has pulled itself together, and the rest of the world need not concern itself too much with helping the city further.

That's a good thing. As many problems as remain from the storm, I'm afraid we have to face the fact that we will have to perform whatever remedial steps are still needed on our own. We will be the better for it. We already are.

Christoph found me by reading my book Hungry Town. He agreed with my thesis that our food culture pulled the city back together, and he wanted to cover that angle. Good choice! Not many reporters get that. He asked me to pick out a spot in the French Quarter for a very late lunch. Had he been to Galatoire's? I asked. No, he said.

Galatoire's bread.

We met at Galatoire's at two-thirty. The dining room was half-full and emptying--the best time to be there. The food is cooked and served with a little more attention to detail then. The waiters have time to stand around and shoot the breeze with each other and sympatheque customers. (I'm happy they regard me as such.)

Christoph had never heard of a Sazerac. We fixed that during the soufflee potato course. Then a Galatoire' Grand Goute: shrimp remoulade, crabmeat ravigote, oysters en brochette. I chose this not only because it's the classic appetizer for a repast in this restaurant, but also to make a point about the effect of the oil spill.

Everything on the plate was Louisiana product. All of it was as good as it gets. At the same prices the restaurant would have charged before the oil spill. Where's the big problem? There is a problem, of course, but until the first piece of contaminated seafood shows up in a restaurant or store, there's no reason to consider this the end of the world.

Just to make sure he got the idea, I recommended (and the waiter confirmed) that Christoph should try the pompano. Big fillet, nice and fresh, brown butter. Can't be beat. I ordered soft shell crabs and have Christoph one of the two big ones they sent out. he seemed convinced that New Orleans is still in the top ranks when it comes to eating seafood.

My business done, we fell into an easy conversation. I was surprised by how much he knew about New Orleans and me. He must not have just read Hungry Town, but studied it. This clearly was not merely a newspaper story for him, but a saga in which he was genuinely interested.

We talked about the journalism biz. "The newspaper I work for is having the same problems that newspapers all over the world have," he said. "The readership is sinking, the advertising is sinking, the papers are getting smaller, they're running less news. What can be done? The future is the internet!"

Interrupting all this, every fifteen minutes or so, were visits from customers who recognized me and waiters who wanted to tell jokes or give the latest gossip.

Crepes maison.

A surprise for dessert: crepes maison are back. They're almost absurdly elemental: crepes stuffed with currant jelly, dusted with powdered sugar, covered with slivered almonds, run under the broiler until the edges get crispy, the doused with orange curaçao. But it's not been available since the hurricane. The story was that the lady who makes the crepes had disappeared. Well, they're not on the menu but you can have crepes maison again. As good as the caramel custard here is (and I think it's the best), for me these funny crepes are essential to a classic Galatoire's repast.

Remaining at the table until about five was a triple pleasure. The food and the company, of course. But, without a radio show to present this afternoon, I didn't have to worry how many glasses of wine or cups of coffee we had, nor how long we lingered.

That is a Katrina aftermath story itself. In the few weeks between my arrival back in town on October 10, 2005 and the return of my daily radio show in November, I enjoyed the unfamiliar pleasure of open-ended luncheons. As many others did, too. People who had returned but not called back to work had very long lunches with very many cocktails. The liquor wholesale houses said that they'd never seen anything like the amount of alcohol that was being consumed in those days.

That was my last anecdote for Christoph. I fought with him over the check, but he trumped me with an expense account--something I've longed for all my life. He'll be here another few days, so I gave him a restaurant list.

Back at home, I was fiddling around with some new web software when I heard a distinctive yowl coming from the back door of the living room. It was the cat Twinnery, and I didn't need to look to know that he'd caught another unfortunate animal. He is an amazing mouser, for which I am grateful. I'm less happy about the birds and the occasional bats he catches. But he scored his personal best tonight, and was proud. A rabbit hung limp from his mouth. It was at least half his own size. What a hunter!

**** Galatoire’s. French Quarter: 209 Bourbon. 504-525-2021. Classic Creole.