Happy Carnival!


We have a ways to go until Fat Tuesday this year, and I guess we’re all hoping we turn a viral corner in time to enjoy the season in public and with our friends and neighbors. Carnival really does bring the city together, on the street, every year. It also brings visitors, and those visitors tend to spend money at local businesses.

This is not likely to be a record-breaking year for attendance at parades. The current surge in infections is, I think, predicted to break soon. A lot of people are going to be waiting for the next variant before they travel, though.

If there’s a restaurant you haven’t visited lately, now would be a good time to do it. If it’s the sort of place you think, “Why haven’t I been there lately?” then you should make a reservation because we’re going to lose more restaurants, and wouldn’t you hate to find out the place had closed before you had the chance to go?

Getting back to Carnival, have you had trouble finding king cakes? Because it seems to be an issue in the (very small) social circle in which I orbit. Particularly if the cake in question must be produced in a facility not contaminated by nuts, as is the case for our daughter’s school.

And there are king cakes produced in such facilities; we bought one recently from Baker’s Dozen, and the kids in our daughter’s class seemed to like it.

I have to admit that I am not really a king cake fan. I was spoiled as a kid by chef John Caluda’s version at Coffee Cottage on Metairie Road. Then again, everything they made was outstanding. Chef Caluda is still in business, by the way, and if you like a brioche-style cake, you should place an order.

On a final note, I read an article recently that echoed some things I’ve been saying for a while about social media and restaurant criticism. It’s translated from Italian, I believe, and that’s the main reason I’m mentioning it. Because I cannot make sense of the last two paragraphs without assuming there are some words missing. If you can make sense of this, I’d appreciate your advice as to what it means:

Last September, the New York Times published a scathing review of Swiss chef Daniel Humm’s all-vegan tasting menu, which he introduced at Eleven Madison Park, his New York restaurant. The critic accused the three-Michelin-star restaurant of jumping on the sustainability bandwagon while continuing to serve meat in private dining rooms for his most lavish customers.

Humm is one of the world’s most famous chefs and could have sent his scathing response to the main culinary news outlets in the world. But he didn’t. Instead, he continues to charge €300 per person for his fine dining experience, even though the NYT critic said one of his dishes tasted like wood polish. So much for misunderstood visionaries.

Does that mean that chef Humm is at fault for serving bad food? That if he wasn’t serving bad food, he should have responded in the main culinary news outlets? Because that assumes chef Humm gives a shit.

Or does it mean that the reviewer, Pete Wells, is full of poop? I have no idea. I know Mr. Wells has a way with takedown reviews. He wrote about Guy Fieri’s restaurant in Times Square, and it was funny.

I admit that I laughed along with that one because I am not a huge Fieri fan. I don’t know chef Humm and have no way to know whether his food is as pretentious and awful as Wells made it sound. I will probably never eat at his restaurant.

And it doesn’t matter. Wells has his taste, and so do we all. What you hope for in a review is that you can determine whether you’ll like a restaurant or not. It’s hard to judge based on something written by someone whose palate you don’t know, but here we are.

I try to be critical about everything I read when it comes to food writing or anything that must be judged subjectively. I advise you to do the same.

I hope the new year is off to a good start for all of you, and that we’re back to some sense of normalcy before long.




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