When the temperatures start consistently hitting the 90s, everybody down here knows we’re entering the restaurant doldrums. Business slacks off over the summer, according to every restaurateur to whom I’ve spoken. I suspect the reason is the relative decrease in the number of visitors from out of town, and the fact that people are less willing to go out when conditions are similar to those in a sauna.
Have you ever tried to eat in a sauna? No, because nobody eats in a sauna. You go to a sauna to be cooked, not to eat. On that note, and because I have just spent 20 minutes down a Google rabbit-hole about saunas, did you know that a) almost every home in Finland has a sauna; and b) there are saunas in New Orleans, including kits you can apparently buy at the Home Depot? I don’t know about you, but at some point this weekend I am going to my local Home Depot, where I will pretend to be a Finn, and demand they show me the sauna kits. “Vhere arer zee zaauana keets?!?” I will say loudly in what I hope is something like a Finnish accent.
Anyway, having once inadvertently walked into a sauna, I assure you that the first thought most normal people have is, “where is the exit to a place with air conditioning?” rather than, “what’s on the menu?” From June until October, the conditions on our streets are not much different from a sauna, particularly when the steam rises from the asphalt after a quick rain.
But what makes this a less attractive destination for tour groups is an opportunity for intrepid diners. There are events going on in the next few weeks, and many restaurants have specials aimed at bringing in locals who haven’t fled for cooler climes. The French Market Creole Tomato Festival, for example, is this weekend on Saturday and Sunday.
It’s the 30th time the event has been held, and like the vegetable [Nix v. Hedden, 149 U.S. 304; 13 S.Ct. 981; 37 L.Ed. 745 (1893)] for which its named, it has grown wildly, to the point that it’s really not just a “French Market” thing any more. Follow the link for all of the details, or just wander down to the foot of Esplanade and head into the Quarter on Saturday or Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The alchemical magic that happens when a skilled baker combines flour, water, yeast and heat is fascinating to me. To my mind, good bread is almost essential for a fine-dining restaurant, and an element that is too often overlooked outside of New Orleans.
If you feel the same way, you may be interested to know that on June 25, my friends at Gracious Bakery will be holding an open house at their Earhart Boulevard “Gracious to Go” shop. There will be tours of the bakery every 15 minutes, and samples of bread. They’re doing it in connection with a series sponsored by the Bread Bakers Guild of America, “Bread Uprising,” and it sounds like a great way to check out the different breads (and pastries) Gracious is putting out.
If you’ve never been, you should, because chef Megan Forman is not only a friend (and married to my colleague, Jay Forman) but a truly gifted and generous baker and cook. You will not be disappointed in the baked goods, both sweet and savory, on offer at either of their retail locations – the other being in the Woodward Design + Build building at 1000 S. Jeff Davis. Personally, I find their iced coffee to be the best in the city, and certainly worth a taste if you take your caffeine cold. For more information, please contact Gracious LLC's operations manager Heather Knudsen at 301-3709 Ext. 2, or email her at email@example.com.
I hope you manage to stay cool over the next several months, and if you are an easily-offended Finnish person, please leave your complaints below, whereupon our crack team of in-house consulting employee staff will begin the process of planning an outline of our response. You should have something in about seven to ten nevers.