Over the past couple of years, I’ve heard complaints from a lot of people about the decline of service in fine-dining restaurants. In the aftermath of Katrina, the dearth of affordable housing meant that the pool from which restaurant staff could be hired was pretty shallow, and most folks seemed to accept that less-than-polished service was, if not ideal, at least tolerable. That started to change around the anniversary of the storm, and I’ve heard more complaints ever since. I find myself agreeing with people who have had peculiar experiences at a few places I’ve visited in the last couple of years, but I’ve also found that even service that isn’t very good hasn’t bothered me much if at all. I’m a prickly bastard by nature, too. Your thoughts?
Hey, did you know that the Southern Foodways Alliance has released a cookbook? No? Well, it’s OK; you’re not stupid. You’re just ignorant, and ignorance is curable. This Saturday the Garden District Book Shop is holding a release party for the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook. The book, edited by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge, is a collection of more than 170 recipes that will remind you of the kind of spiral-bound cookbooks that such organizations as the Junior League have been putting out for decades, though presumably with more carefully selected recipes. The SFA is a pretty neat organization, and I’ll be picking one of these books up shortly.
The life of a food writer is one of toil and sacrifice, fraught with the threat of imminent physical violence at every step. The editor of this column, for example, has more than once threatened to beat me “like a sack of oranges” if I write about the same restaurant twice. I don’t know what that means, but I don’t aim to find out. So while I haven’t written about it here, I have had some excellent meals recently at restaurants about which I have already written here. At Coquette, for example, I ate fried quail with black-eyed peas, greens and ham; lamb neck over goats’ milk polenta; and suckling pig, pork sausage, and pork tenderloin with cabbage, spicy pepper vinaigrette and sweet corn. At Boucherie, I had a lunch of steamed mussels with collard greens and grits crackers, duck confit with a roasted banana pot sticker and a tart mojo sauce and smoked brisket with garlic fries. I ate myself into a coma at Jung’s Golden Dragon last week, mainly because I tried to finish the Hunan Crispy Fish Fillet with Spicy Sauce by myself. I swear, the things I suffer for you people…
Last but not least, this Sunday evening a new venture called MVB will begin serving first-class hamburgers at Slim Goodies Diner. The diner, which is itself only open for breakfast and lunch, is located at 3322 Magazine St., and MVB will start serving at 5 p.m. MVB is composed of Joel Dondis, Evan Bensen, Larkin Selman and the kids behind the Web site Blackened Out. Rene Loupre, one half of the aforementioned “kids,” tells me that the burgers will be made from a mix of 50 percent brisket and 50 percent chuck and that the hand-cut fries will be fried twice. For the time being, the burgers will only be available on Sunday evenings, but there are plans to expand those hours if demand is sufficient. Normally I don’t believe a word Louapre says, but the other guys behind the operation are fine cooks, so I imagine MVB will produce one of the best burgers in town.