That’s what the ancient woman in the white dress said: “In New Orleans, you’re never hungry and you’re never lonely”. A motto for the luscious crescent city where I’ve spent the last woozy week, certainly, but crystallized there could be my own personal motto. Never Hungry, Never Lonely. My heart vibrates on that powdered-sugar dusted string. On that resonating note, our incredible hosts told us that if you love New Orleans she’ll love you back, and I think that’s absolutely true. The wet-hot afternoons and perfect spring-chill evenings, the orange blossoms, azaleas, and bougainvillea, the endless strains of music, the big dusky river wind in your hair, the endless flavor and constant cocktail, the ease of it all, never hungry, never lonely. I have a lot to share, so I’ll just start now with some greatest hits:
From top: The incredible beignet choux rolling machine hiding secretly around the back corner at Cafe du Monde, the actually-better-than-Cafe-du-Monde beignet at Cafe Beignet (don’t be fooled into thinking that I had a single morning without a chicory-coffee-and-beignet breakfast at several different locales), Preservation Hall, a tray of 50 cent oysters that we devoured with Sazeracs like good tourists/brilliant geniuses, One of infinite glorious balconies in the French Quarter. That’s some hits, tomorrow, the adventures.
This is what it looks like when you’ve just eaten a raw oyster from your home waters. Very, very good. Growing up in the Virginia lowlands, of water stock, I actually never really understood the sense of place in an oyster. They just tasted like oysters. It wasn’t until I was long out of Virginia, a New York veteran of a few years, meeting McKay and Cakes at Marlow for one of those hours long dinners that meeting those girls at that place requires, that I saw a James River oyster on the menu and ordered it. Oh man. Just the taste of that dusky brine and I was immediately transported to summers on the Mobjack bay, wearing white rubber watermen’s boots and traversing the mudflats like they were my kingdom. Tidewater, in an instant, a taste. I bet the old salts around the bar in Montauk feel the same way about their super saline Long Island Blue Points, but the fact is they’re the exact same oyster species as my fat and sweet-salty Virginia half-shell, they’re just tempered differently by the water they’re in. Per usual, a parable. Back in Virginia, for my big birthday, I was lucky enough to have two bushels brought to me directly from the coast, just a little over 400 oysters. The plan was to roast most and shuck some. Lucky for me, my dear friend Rob came straight from the banks of the York river bearing his oyster knife, super shucking skills, and intimate knowledge of the oyster crab. The little yellow-orange jewel here is a tiny soft-shelled crab, a lady, who is symbiotic with the Virginia oyster. They are friends, and are only found in the best and healthiest oyster beds. The New York Times wrote two separate articles in the early 1900’s on the little buggers- here and here. The Times suggests frying them or covering them with a mayonnaise lightly colored pink with beet juice, but Rob told me to just eat it raw. Incredible. It was the first one I ever found, and I felt so lucky to have had it in Virginia, on my birthday.
It’s been a pretty big week for pizza (when is it not a big week for pizza?): we went to Grimaldi’s new location in an unspoken celebration of Ann Marie’s return to the East Coast, and today I’m leaving to meet my Mama to take a pizza making class as part of her ongoing JUBILEE celebration. We’ll stay with our town mouse friends, have much wine and lots of food, and generally make merry in the best of ways. On a related note, did you know that a standard baking stone is, like, $30? I’ve been under the illusion that they’re hundreds of dollars and that’s why I don’t have one. GET THEE TO A CHEF SUPPLY STORE! In love and pizza, have a wonderful weekend.
Grimaldi’s image from here.
I love New York. Today: on our way to Ping’s in Chinatown for a traditional Dim Sum breakfast to undtraditionally celebrate Rosh Hashanah with Sweetheart’s family. Shanah Tovah, Cha siu bao!
I simply can’t get enough of the divine and positively louche cheese spread on Saxelby Cheese over at the Selby. She arrived at the Essex Street Market around the same time I started frequenting it, and in one of those weird secret girl-crushes, I think trail blazing cheesemonger extraordinairess Anne Saxelby is one of those ladies that, you know, we’d really hit it off if we ever met in person, you know, just like Zooey Deschanel or Michelle Obama, but with cheese, you know? Here, in typical Selby fashion, her illustration of the ideal cheese cave, why parmigiano is like Elvis, and instructions on how to make something that sounds absolutely incredible, her “bourbon soaked grape leaf cheese wrap”:
Everyone who knows me well knows what I’m about to tell you. It’s one of my few deep, dark secrets… not mentioned at the food Co-op, kept under wraps at yoga, quieted up and hushed down until certain forces combine and champagne collides with the morning: I love McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwiches. Like, LOVE. A Filet-O-Fish (formerly #9 on the combo list, now #11- which I have learned in order to avoid the ignominy of actually having to say “I’ll have the Filet-O-Fish, please” in line and have other patrons look at me like I’m gross) is not only the absolute best cure for a hangover, its strange and incredible squareness is at once crispy, salty, greasy, miraculous, and, yes, a little fishy. I have been shamed by this. Now, it seems: NO LONGER! We are not alone. See above. This, dear ones, is the cheese fish sandwich from Laketrout in Williamsburg (Brooklyn). It is an homage to both the classic MacDo’s Filet-O-Fish and the orange-drink Baltimore fish sandwiches of the chef’s youth: a perfectly executed crispy square of fish topped with a sideways square of cellophane cheese and what I can only imagine is the worlds most delectable tartar sauce. Pandemic! WMD! The secret’s out, thank goodness.
This image from the absolutely incredible Fish Sandwich centerfold in New York Magazine’s 2012 cheap eats issue. Read em and weep (for joy).