“The Pure Essence of the Good Life” (Chapter 4 – Pleasure Is Powerful: Jazz and Floor Shaking Music, Warm Hospitality, Great Food and Drink Make New Orleans A Fun Place for Visitors) by Gary S. Smolker
“The Pure Essence of the Good Life”
Pleasure Is Powerful: Jazz and Floor Shaking Music, Warm Hospitality, Great Food & Drink Make New Orleans A Fun Place for Visitors
By Gary S. Smolker (Chapter Four)
PLEASURE IS POWERFUL
New Orleans is a city of warm hospitality, great music and many great restaurants.
The great chefs in New Orleans restaurants have created a dizzying cornucopia of culinary dishes.
Mouth-watrering dishes created by these great chefs lead to more, not less, consumption of great meals in New Orleans.
Innovation and skill spreads from person to person, from street to street and from restaurant to restaurant in New Orleans.
Each person in the New Orleans restaurant industry learns from and is stimulated by the people near them.
Each person in New Orleans can see and taste (experience) the creative dishes being served in nearby restaurants and enjoy the high level of service being provided.
This pattern of connectivity and the systemic effects of having hard working creative skilled chefs and restaurant managers working in close proximity to one another boosts the performance of everyone in the restaurant industry in New Orleans, provides a higher level of eating experience.
The great restaurants in New Orleans pull in tourists who want to experience warm hospitality and to eat savory food in a great environment.
Tourists, in turn, create tremendous demand for a great eating experience – savory meals in an elegant room, smart waiters, a cellar of choice wines and creatively inspired superior cooking.
Tremendous demand for savory meals and warm hospitality, in turn, results in many restaurants in New Orleans successfully creating stupendous inspiring dishes served by smart waiters in wonderful environments for bigger and bigger appreciative audiences.
- The abundance of cooking talent and demand for savory dishes and warm hospitality in New Orleans has created a virtuous cycle in the New Orleans restaurant-hospitality industry wherein talented chefs, service staff and restaurant management competing with each other raise the level of competence and performance of all competitors.
- Concentration of hospitality industry, culinary, and musical talent makes New Orleans a fun city – a city filled with things to hear, things to see and buy and taste and learn.
- By the way, more than a century ago, the great English economist Alfred Marshall described how in dense concentrations “the mysteries of the trade become no mystery at all, but are, as it were, in the air.”
Closeness to superior performing peers enhances and induces high skilled performance and competence in the restaurant industry. This also occurs in other industries and endeavors.
For example, hanging around successful older engineers helps make younger engineers more successful themselves, and so on and so forth.
People have higher income growth as they accumulate the skills that make them successful.
There is a tremendous influx of people coming to New Orleans to eat great food which results in a large variety, a dizzying cornucopia, of great restaurants being successfully operated in New Orleans.
Eating and hospitality are part of the culture and identity of the people living in New Orleans. People in New Orleans believe their identity and the identity of their city (New Orleans) is tied to having many great and successful restaurants in New Orleans.
This sense of identity creates a mode of being, of thinking, of creating, of socializing, of openness, of a consciousness of others in establishing relationships that contributes to building a charming city.
This culture leads to people in New Orleans experiencing a unique charm which, in turn, results in people coming to New Orleans to eat great food while enjoying the warm hospitality and company of other people visiting and/or living and/or working in New Orleans.
In this virtuous circle — great restaurants bring in a large flux of people from outside of New Orleans to eat in New Orleans. The abundance of human talent in New Orleans offers an opportunity for everyone who visits New Orleans to have new experiences, to learn and to interact with people who interest them.
In this regard, while sitting at a table at Irvin-Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta New Orleans at 300 Bourbon Street, on October 22, 2011, and while listening to a jazz combo and talking to both my daughter and to two strangers seated at that table with us, I was introduced to the “Hurricane.”
The “Hurricane” is a classic New Orleans drink.
The “Hurricane” was created during World War II when liquor such as whiskey was in low supply.
In order to purchase just one case of these liquors, liquor salesmen forced bar owners to purchase as much as 50 cases of rum, which was plentiful.
It was in an effort to use the abundance of rum that Pat O’Brien acquired the recipe for the “Hurricane” with the help of an eager liquor salesman.
The name “Hurricane” came soon after when a glass shaped like a hurricane lamp was used to serve the fruity rum cocktail.
Recipe: In a 26 oz. Hurricane glass, mix 4 oz. of Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane Rum or a good dark Rum and 4 oz. of Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane mix. Fill with crushed ice, and garnish with an orange and cherry.
While sitting at a table in Irvin-Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse, my daughter Judi and I shared the table with two ladies — one lady was from Boise, Idaho and the other from Durham, North Carolina. We did not know them. They did not know us.
They told us they were long time friends — they had come to New Orleans to be together in the wonderful atmosphere of New Orleans.
While the four of us were enjoying eating and drinking and listening to a great jazz combo and talking about the sights in New Orleans and about places to eat and about food served in other cities we became fast friends.
As the night went on, all tables in Irvin Mayfield’s jazz club became full of happy people enjoying the pure essence of the good life.
Any empty chairs at any table were soon filled by perfect strangers (like us) who partook in enjoying wonderful jazz music, having drinks and making new friendships with other people (whether they were already friends or strangers) already seated.
THE IDENTITY OF A CITY MATTERS
I took my 26 year old daughter Judi with me for a father-daughter weekend (Oct. 21 through Oct. 24, 2011) of eating at famous New Orleans restaurants, listening to Jazz, and feeling the warm hospitality one inevitably experiences while in New Orleans because I had been told that New Orleans is one of the world’s great urban playgrounds, a city filled with things to see, great music to listen to and great food to taste.
All restaurants we ate at were full of diners engaged in warm conversations with each other.
They were obviously enjoying the unique and elegant ambiance created by the service staff, the superior cooking, the building and room in which the restaurant was located, and the streets traveled on to get to that particular restaurant.
The people in New Orleans honor their past.
Each street we traveled on in the French Quarter was full of romance, beauty and history.
Each meal we ate and each restaurant we ate at was a wonderful experience.
We were never in a hurry and we never felt hurried.
We never heard a horn honked while we were in New Orleans, albeit everyone was in a party mood everywhere we went and the prevalent tone of the city and of each restaurant we ate at was “have a good time.”
New Orleans is a city high on itself.
New Orleans exudes vitality.
You would never guess it was recently devastated by a hurricane.
As we walked around the French Quarter we constantly heard music coming from bars, restaurants, boutiques, etc.
On a window of a restaurant near Jackson Square, in the French Quarter of New Orleans, we saw a sign which said “No Drugs Or Nuclear Weapons Allowed Inside.”
The most unique street we experienced in New Orleans was Bourbon Street.
Bourbon Street is world famous as a party street where there is entertainment all night long and I promise it is one of the most unique streets you will experience in the world.
As we were walking on Bourbon Street, or on a sidewalk adjacent to Bourbon Street, we heard loud music blasting in nightclubs, bars and restaurants which line both sides of Bourbon Street.
Most of the time, cars and trucks (except police and emergency vehicles) could not move because Bourbon Street was full of pedestrians.
While we were walking down Bourbon Street, we watched people dancing in the street, impromptu bands playing music as they walked in the street and large crowds of people parading and dancing behind them.
Men threw necklaces to pretty women walking down the street from balconies above Bourbon Street.
A man standing on a second floor balcony threw a necklace to my 26 year old daughter Judi. I will never forget that a man threw a necklace to my daughter Judi from a second floor balcony on Bourbon Street.
Judi caught the necklace and brought it back home with her to California.
People determine a city’s success.
IT IS NO COINCIDENCE THAT NEW ORLEANS’ INTERNATIONAL REPUTATION ATTRACTS VISITORS
Tourists come to New Orleans to eat.
When in a restaurant eating, tourists and local residents alike talk about where they are going to eat next.
People do not rush in New Orleans.
At the restaurants where Judi and I ate dinner during our weekend of dinning in New Orleans
- Judi and I were the last customers to leave.
- The wait staff stayed an extra hour after all the other dinners had left.
- Judi and I talked to each other and to the wait staff and management while finishing our dessert.
- Judi and I took three or four hours to finish our dinners: time elapsed from eating appetizers to eating desserts and drinking after dinner drinks.
- Waiters talked to us, joined our conversations by adding intelligent and knowledgable comments, while we were eating appetizers, entrees and dessert. This added “connection” created a strong bond between us and the restaurant.
A restaurant “brand” is fragile. When you walk into a restaurant you immediately experience the brand.
A restaurant’s brand is how people feel inside the walls of the restaurant.
I want to be served by people who want to take care of me, by people who want to make their interactions with me great, by people who have talent, passion, skill and knowledge.
I care about the quality level of the people who serve me and the environment in which I eat food served to me as well as the quality of the food I eat.
On Saturday night October 21, 2011, Judi and I had a great dinner at Bayona (Susan Spicer – Chef/Owner, Brett Duffee – Chef de Cuisine, 430 Daupine Street, 504-525-4455). Our waiter, Scott made our dinner more delightful by joining Judi and I in our dinner table discussion about whether Chinese or English is an easier language, whether Chinese is a simple or complicated language and whether English is a simple or complicated language. Scott’s comments were interesting, knowledgable and profound.
Another waiter explained to Judi and me that the wait staff and kitchen staff react to the mood in the restaurant set by the people eating in the restaurant, he explained to us the impact of the “type” of diners and the type and kind and tone of their conversations at their tables had on the wait staff and kitchen.
At Scott’s suggestion, for a main course, I had Grilled Hanger Steak with Yorkshire Pudding, Roasted Parsnips, Asparagus and Bearnaise. It was excellent. For dessert, I had Passion Fruit Tart with Dark Chocolate Sorbet & Raspberry Coulis.
The experience of having several extremely intelligent articulate waiters talking to us during the course of our meal made the excellent experience we had while eating our meal at Bayona even more enjoyable.
Judi and I like talking to knowledgable people while eating our meals when we are dinning out and when eating at home.
At our dinner, on Sunday night October 23, 2011, Judi and I ate at Stella (1032 Chartres Street, 504-587-0091). During our meal, Managing Partner Tanya Boswell talked to Judi and me about cheeses (where different kinds of cheeses are made in France, which cheeses are Tanya’s favorite cheeses), after Tanya heard Judi exclaim “Heaven exists. I have been there.” Sommelier John Mitchell also talked to us.
Talking to Tanya and to Sommelier John Mitchell made our meal at Stella even more delightful.
John advised Judi to have The Rare Wine Co.’s Historic Series Madeira (Charleston Sercia) with the assortment of cheeses Judi had for dessert.
Judi said she had experienced being in heaven after eating the following assortment of cheeses (with accompaniments), for dessert at Stella:
- Delice De Bourgogne — a soft cheese made from cow’s milk. This cheese has an incredibly rich, full flavor with a smooth, melt-in-the-mouth texture.
- Cremont — a smooth and creamy cow and goat’s milk cheese with a hint of Vermont Cream. It has a complex nutty rind taste with notes of cooked bread, hazelnuts, and yeast.
- Little Boy Blue — a crumbly blue cheese made from sheep’s milk with mild and somewhat citrus flavor.
Judi began her meal at Stella with Lobster Egg and Caviar — local North Shore Farm Egg with Canadian Lobster and NOrth Star Paddlefish Caviar. I tasted this dish. This dish is a fabulous way to begin a meal.
I began my meal at Stella with a Summer Asparagus and Canadian Lobster Salad with Italian Summer Truffles, Tomato Confit, Black Olive Tapenade, Dijon Vinaigrette and Burgundy Reduction. By the way, I don’t cook. When I’m “home” in Woodland Hills, California, my lunches and dinners are prepared for me by an excellent professional chef, Marcia Whitfield (www.cleanfooddelivered.com) who prepares “healthy” meals custom created by Marcia for me.
For her entree, Judi had Pan-Seared Georges Bank Dry Pack Scallops and Shrimp with Truffle Andouille New Potato Hash and Caviar Butter. This is a fantastic entree , an excellent dish.
For my entree, I had Mismo and Sake Glazed Japanese Mero Sea Bass with Udon, Green Tea and Soba Noodles, Buna-Shimeji Mushrooms, Canadian Lobster, Blue Crab and Shrimp Broth. This entree was a delight to eat. It is fabulous.
The above described dishes are the marvelous creations of Chef/Owner Scott Boswell and Executive Sous Chef Lawrence Dodds.
THE WAY IN WHICH MEALS ARE ENJOYED IS VERY IMPORTANT TO THE HAPPINESS OF LIFE.
If you want to experience the effect of gourmandism on happiness, I highly recommend eating a meal at Stella with someone who wishes to eat with joy who you wish to please and who wishes to please you or with a group of people who wish to please each other.
When gourmandism is shared by such people, as by eating a meal at Stella and/or by eating a meal prepared by Marcia Whitfield or by eating a meal prepared by any other great chef – or prepared by someone who loves you or prepared by you for someone you love – you will find it has the most marked influence, on the happiness which can be found in being with another person.
People who share the pleasure of the table have, at least on that occasion, a pleasant opportunity to be together; they have a subject of conversation which is forever new; they can talk not only of what they are eating, but also of what they have eaten, what they will eat, and what they have noticed at other tables if they are in a restaurant or cafe or bistro or bar or at a party in a private home; they can discuss fashionable dishes, new recipes, and so on and so on – whatever is on their mind.
It is well known that intimate table talk [CHITCHAT] is full of its own charm.
THE EFFECT OF GOURMANDISM ON SOCIABILITY
Quoting from “The Physiology of Taste” by Brillant-Savarin:
Gourmandism is one of the most important influences in the social life; it gradually spreads the spirit of conviviality which brings together day to day differing kinds of people, melts them into a whole, animates their conversation, and softens the sharp corners of the conventional inequalities of position and breeding.
It is gourmandism, too, which motivates the effort any host must make to take good care of his guests, as well as their own gratitude when they perceive that he has employed all his knowledge and tact to please them; and it is fitting at this very place to point out with scorn those stupid diners who gulp down in disgraceful indifference the most nobly prepared dishes, or who inhale with impious inattention the bouquet of a limpid nectar.
General Rule: Any preparation which springs from a high intelligence demands explicit praise, and a tactful expression of appreciation must always be made whenever it is plain that there is any attempt to please.
For desert, I ate a marvelous a marvelous creation of Stella’s Pastry Chef Rebecca Cohen — Dark Chocolate-Espresso Torte with Chocolate Cremeaux, Cherry Granita and Fresh Cherries.
While eating my dessert, and during the conversations that continued after dessert, I drank two cappuccinos.
Judi and I had our last meal in New Orleans (lunch on October 24, 2011) at Commander’s Palace.
At Commander’s Palace the charge for a Martini is 25 cents, limit three to a customer.
We didn’t have a Martini during lunch.
Judi had champagne and I had iced tea with our meal.
Waiters, the manager and service staff buzzed around us all during our meal.
We talked to each other. They laughed at my jokes (warm Southern Hospitality?).
The manager told Judi, that she (the manager) admired Judi’s taste because she (the manager) didn’t drink a Martini during lunch but instead drank champagne.
For my main course (entree) at Commander’s Palace, I ate griddle seared gulf fish, with crab boiled mirlitons, carrots, celery, mushrooms, corn, garlic and fingerling potatoes with burleed lemons in a brown butter vinaigrette. It was a delicious entree.
For desert I ate a custom made gingerbread roasted pumpkin cake: creole pumpkins baked into a rich gingerbread cake with chait iced cream and roasted apple jus in bourbon infused molasses. It was divine.
I was turned away when we first arrived because I was not wearing a shirt with a collar. I asked what I could do. I was directed to a street full of boutiques and told to purchase a shirt with a collar and return.
At the end of my meal I jokingly offered to leave my shirt on “consignment” with the receptionist to rent out my shirt 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 that shirt because that shirt was chosen for me by the female proprietor Rhonda Findley of a fun rock’n emporium of fashion, art, and music on Washington Street — who took charge of my wardrobe when informed of my fashion plight.
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.
LUNCH AT NOLA’S AND MURIEL’S
Judi and I ate lunch at Nola Restaurant (534 St. Louis Street, New Orleans, LA 70130, Telephone 504-522-6652, http://www.emerils.com) on Saturday Oct. 22, 2011.
For lunch we had New Orleans Style Crab Cake with Spicy Corn Relish; Emeril’s Barbecued Gulf Shrimp with Rosemary Biscuit; Crispy Duck Livers with Slow Cooked Southern Greens, Caramelized Onions, and Creole Mustard Aioli; Baby Arugula with Watermelon, Manchego Cheese, Almonds and Mint Vinaigrette; “Shrimp and Grits” Sauteed Gulf Shrimp, Grilled Green Onions, Smoked Cheddar Grits, Apple Smoked Bacon, Crimini Mushrooms and Red Chili-Abita Butter Sauce. YUM.
Judi had a Lemon -Thyme Mojito and I had a couple of Mint Juleps with our lunch as well as ice tea and a special Cafe Richard 100% Arabica Grand Cru Espresso.
For desert we had a house made sorbet.
NOLA’s has an incredibly fun interior and a very attentive staff.
On Sunday (October 23, 2011), Judi and I had Sunday Brunch at Muriel’s (801 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA., Telephone 504-568-1885, http://www.muriels.com, Executive Chef Gus Martin).
Muriel’s is located in a historic building — which traces its history to 1718, the year New Orleans was founded.
The current building opened its doors on March 14, 2001 after an extensive restoration which was closely monitored by the National Park Service to ensure that the house remained faithful to the original design.
Muriel’s history includes a ghost story: “In 1788, there was a disastrous fire n the French Quarter … it burned everything to the ground. Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan bought the property in 1789, and subsequently his ‘dream home’ for himself and his family. One night in 1814, Mr. Jourdan wagered his beloved house in a poker game — he lost, and before he had to vacate his beloved home, he committed suicide on the the 2nd floor … best determined to be in the Seance Lounge area. Thus Pierre Antoine walks his beloved home forever …”
Be that as it may, food was served at Muriel’s and a jazz combo played jazz while we ate a Sunday brunch at Muriel’s on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011. I ate the classic New Orleans three course brunch consisting of Turtle Soup Qu Sherry; Wood Grilled Puppy Drum with Flash Fried Oysters served with Crimini Mushroom Potato Hash, Wilted Spinach and crystal butter sauce. For dessert I ate Muriel’s Mudslide Torte — Layered Chocolate and Irish Cream Mousse with a Kahlua-Chocolate Crust and Caramel and Chocolate Sauces and drank Armaretto de Sarono.
MY ADVICE: DON’T GO TO NEW ORLEANS TO LOSE WEIGHT
Eating (fine dining) in New Orleans will be a five pound (minimum) weight gain weekend.
Copyright 2011 (c) by Gary S. Smolker