The Smolker Letters, Letter No. 1 (The Spirit of New Orleans and of Restaurants in New Orleans, October 25, 2011)
“The Spirit of New Orleans and of Restaurants in New Orleans”
by Gary Smolker
Smolker Letter No. 1, October 25, 2011
Tuesday night, Oct. 25, 2011
I think cities have identities based on spirit and that identity matters.
For example, New Orleans has the reputation of being a fun city.
Judi and I ate dinner in New Orleans on Saturday night and Sunday night.
Now that I have been there, I can see how New Orleans got that reputation.
Burbon Street is truly an amazing street.
It is a total party street.
While we were walking down Burbon Street, on Saturday night, a man standing on a second floor balcony, threw a necklace to Judi. Judi caught the necklace and brought the necklace back home to L.A..
While in New Orleans for the weekend, Judi and I spent a lot of time eating at restaurants.
At each restaurant where we ate dinner,
- we closed the restaurant, we were the last customers to leave
- the staff stayed an extra half hour to hour after all the other diners had left while we finished our desserts,
- our waiters talked to us while we were waiting for dessert and after we got our dessert
- we took two or three or four hours to eat each dinner on Saturday and Sunday night.
At Bayona (Saturday night) our waiter joined our conversation on whether Chinese is a simple language or complicated language in comparison to English and whether English is a simple language or complicated language. Another waiter joined in — the other waiter told us that the way the restaurant performs depends on the clients dinners. That “tonight” we were having a brilliant conversation that he couldn’t help but overhear and that increases the level of performance of everyone working in the restaurant.
At Stella (Sunday night) we had three waiters. All three waiters and the manager of the restaurant joined in our conversation. We talked about the use of cherries in desserts, different kinds of cheeses, whether to have a port or a wine with the assortment of cheeses Judi had for desert. Judi settled on a Madeira.
We also talked about the history of Madeira and where different kinds of cheeses are made in France.
We had our last meal in New Orleans (lunch on Monday) at Commander’s Palace. At Commanders Palace the charge for a martini is 25 cents, limit 3 to a customer — because that is enough.
Judi, being the classy woman that she is, opted to have champagne instead of a martini. The manager of the restaurant was so struck by Judi having champagne that she came over and told Judi — “That is what I do too. Why have a martini when you can have champagne?”
The waiters and manager and service staff buzzed around us all through our meal. They laughed at my jokes — that is Southern Hospitality.
I was turned away when we first arrived because I wasn’t wearing a shirt with a collar. I asked what I could do. I was directed to a street full of botiques and told to purchase a shirt and return. At the end of the meal, I offered to leave my shirt on “consignment” with the receptionist to rent out to gentlemen who would otherwise be turned away because they were not wearing a shirt with a collar.
But, on second thought, I couldn’t part with it because that shirt was chosen for me by the female proprietor (a cute woman in every positive sense of the word cute) of a funrock’n pop culture emporium of fashion, art, music — who took charge of my wardrobe when informed of my fashion plight.
I plan to introduce her to James at Runway Magazine and to introduce James at Runway Magazine to her when she is in L.A.
If I go to a Runway event there is a good chance I will wear the funky fun straw hat she chose for me.
But, to degres even more: In its early history, in the 1920’s Commander’s Palace had a spicier reputation: Riverboat captains frequented it and sporting gentlemen met with beautiful women for a rendezvous in the private dining room upstairs. Downstairs however, the main dining room (with its separate entrance) was maintained in impeccable respectability for family meals after church and family gatherings of all sorts.
For my desert (at my last meal in New Orleans at Commander’s Palace) I had a gingerbread roasted pumpkin cake: creole pumpkins baked into a rich gingerbread cake with chait iced cream roasted apple jus in bourbon infused molasses.
For my main course (entree) I had griddle seared gulf fish, with crab boiled mirlitons, carrots, celery, mushrooms, corn garlic and fingerling potatoes with burleed lemons in a brown butter vinaigrette. I forget what I had for an appetizer.
I recommend New Orleans for all dads who “have their act together” and want to have a memorable father-daughter weekend with their 26 year old single daughters.
New Orleans is a fun city.
Judi and I will remember this past weekend for the rest of our lives.
I couldn’t resist bringing Louisiana Music back to L.A.
More on that later.