Stops for Pops

Father’s Day – things to do, places to go

Last month we told you all about Mother’s Day, so we figured it would be right and proper to do the same this month for Father’s Day.

Though absent the gender-politics-charged proclamations that accompanied the advent of Mother’s Day, Father’s Day traditions also built up around age-old concepts of honoring parents for their hard work, their sacrifice and their ability to suffer neckties as gifts (sorry, Dad – I’ll be more original this year. A bolo maybe?).

Sonora Smart Dodd, a native of Arkansas, threw the first officially acknowledged Father’s Day celebration in Spokane, Wash., on June 19, 1910, in honor of her father William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran who raised his six children as a single parent. Three years later, Congress considered a bill to make Father’s Day a national holiday, and subsequent presidents supported the notion, but it didn’t become a national holiday – Congress feared it would become too commercialized – until President Nixon signed it into law in ’72.

Down New Orleans way, tradition is a part of daily life – especially when it gives rise to occasions to celebrate, cook, eat and indulge.

Here are a few ideas to help Pops relax and unwind on his day.

   

Shave and a Haircut. When my brother and I were boys, our father took us for our first haircuts (the first I remember, anyway) at a tiny, four-chair shop on Witherspoon Street in Princeton, N.J. The barbers, two brothers named Tony and Burt, joked with Dad about taking me and Joe out for beer and pizza. Here in New Orleans, the family barber shop tradition is still alive and well; one way to thank your old man for years of patience and guidance is to treat him to a haircut and a hot shave (or beard trim).

Tony Trippi runs the Whitney Barber Shop in the Whitney Bank Building (228 Saint Charles Ave., 5th Floor, 524-4900), and it has become a family tradition for many. “We get kids who come in here – their daddies bring them in here,” he says. “We’ve got a doctor who brings his two sons here, a man in the Coast Guard who beings his son here.”

In his fifth-floor parlor, Tony and his brother Guy (who also cuts hair at Whitney) have inherited the profession from their late father; “He was a barber, my mother was a beautician,” says Tony. “My uncle, my cousin are barbers … my sister is a beautician, my mother is a beautician.”

The Trippis offer old-fashioned haircutting and hot shaves with safety razors, as well as “razor cuts,” a specialized haircut that gives a more polished look to the final coif.

Without indulging in the self-important rhetoric endemic of other area groomers, Trippi acknowledges that his is, for the most part, a shop for men. “We don’t do too many ladies,” he says. “Beauticians are better for ladies.”

Grillin’ Out. Most folks of my generation have fond memories of charred-on-the-outside, cold-on-the-inside grilled fare (again, sorry, Dad). As grilling has become more sophisticated, so too have the cuts of meat that we throw over the fire.

Henry Albert has been selling choice flesh from his Rare Cuts shop (801 Nashville Ave., 267-4687) since it opened in 2010. “We carry everything,” says Albert; for “staple steaks, we have ribeyes, New York strips, porterhouses.” For smoking cuts, Rare Cuts carries pork butts, briskets and roasts.

“Our most popular steak is the filet,” says Albert, but for less conventional cuts, “we sell a tomahawk ribeye, which is a 24-ounce ribeye with a 9-inch bone in it … that’s what sets it apart. It’s a shock-and-awe steak.”

Rare Cuts carries all breeds of beef (including Australian Wagyu beef), pork, lamb, fowl and veal, as well as seasonings and marinades. For grilling these choice cuts, Albert recommends hitting it with just sea salt and black pepper and letting the meat speak for itself.

Across town at Cochon Butcher (930 Tchoupitoulas St., 588-7675), chef de cuisine Drew Lockett confirms Albert’s less-is-more philosophy on seasoning: “Buy the best you possibly can and season it very simply with salt and pepper, maybe garlic … there’s nothing else you need.”

Like Rare Cuts, Butcher – part of chef Donald Link’s burgeoning restaurant empire – stocks choice meat from various beasts. “We have awesome ribeye, heritage breed bone-in pork chops, prime grade flatiron stakes,” says Lockett. “Those three, I could eat anytime. The prime flatirons are f------ delicious … and the southern bred pork chops are sick good.”

For Father’s Day, Lockett cooks ribeyes for his father and sets aside fish – usually halibut – for his mother. “I love a ribeye,” he says in agreement with his father’s taste; “as far as beefsteaks are concerned, it couldn’t be more perfect than that.”

Run For It. If Dad likes to work up an appetite before chowing down (or getting a haircut, either way), the New Orleans Track Club (RunNotc.com) puts on an annual Father’s Day Race in Audubon Park. There are 2-mile and half-mile divisions, so runners of all ages and abilities can participate in the dash and the after-party.

Billie Sloss, executive director for the club, says that the race – which they’ve been putting on for almost two decades – is more family-oriented than it is competitive, and attracts several generations of many different families to join in the festivities. “We have one family, Brendan Minihan Jr. … and his dad, and now Brendan has kids and they all run,” says Sloss (Minihan Jr. is on the board of NOTC, and his father was once treasurer). Brendan’s sons Aiden (age 7) and Ewan (age 6) are returning participants, and his 3-year-old daughter Claire will also be running the Father’s Day Race this year.

Sloss says that the after-party will be equipped with music, food and plenty of beer (Abita Light is one of the sponsors, along with major sponsor Each One Save One, a nonprofit that provides mentoring for city youths). “There are things like face-painting and a spacewalk and a lot of different kinds of food.” And while the kids are busy getting painted and jumping around, what about for the dads? “Beer and food,” says Sloss, and then jokes, “Pretty women in short shorts.”

Go Fish. Nothing promotes father-son or father-daughter bonding like isolating yourself with the old man on a boat with naught but an ice chest and tackle box. Fish of all stripes inhabit the waters in and around New Orleans – so much so that fishermen have an embarrassment of supply from which to choose.

“We have so much fishing here it’s hard to pick the best of anything,” says Gail Gele, who runs the Professional Sport Shop (920 Julia St., 522-3771). “If you want to go get tuna, now’s the time to go get tuna out in the Gulf. And speckled trout will be fair game through the summer in Lake Pontchartrain and the surrounding area.

There are also the satellite lakes and sundry waterways throughout the greater New Orleans area, just to get started on fishing in the area. “Louisiana is the best state for fishing,” boasts Gele.

Fathers First
Although Sonora Smart Dodd received the credit for the first Father’s Day celebration, the first recorded celebration of a “Father’s Day” per se was in 1908 in Fairmont, W.Va. Grace Golden Clayton had organized the event to honor the loss of her father (and more than 200 other fathers, as well as more than 100 other men) who died in the Monongah Mining Disaster. Since the city never publicized the event and was generally preoccupied with other matters, the celebration didn’t catch on at first, although it has a special remembrance to this day in Fairmont.

In the Catholic tradition, many regard St. Joseph’s Day – on which devotees celebrate the life of the godfather to Christianity – as Father’s Day, and several predominantly Catholic countries have made the common festival, held March 19, a national holiday.

In Germany, Father’s Day gets a particularly special twist. Held in tandem with the Feast of the Ascension, on the Thursday 40 days after Easter, Vatertag – also known regionally as Männertag (“men’s day”) or Herrentag (“gentlemen’s day”) – provides an opportunity for groups of men of all generations to load up wagons full of hooch and traipse off into the forest. Understandably, many men opt to take the following Friday off of work, and many schools are closed as well.

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