I started cooking seriously – by which I mean trying to approach it from a studious point of view – when I was in college from 1987 to 1991. That’s when I started collecting cookbooks, reading about food history and generally trying to methodically teach myself to cook.
I went to college in Memphis, and while the food was good back then – barbecue, Greek and a few intriguing joints come to mind – it’s undeniably better these days. Like a lot of places, Memphis was caught up in the cultural wave that brought “foodie” culture into the mainstream, made celebrities of chefs and broadly speaking raised the standards for restaurant food nationwide.
One summer, in the late 80s, I took a trip with my father to New York. I was well into my food obsession, and I recall buying copies of the New York Times and the Village Voice a couple of weeks before we left so I could educate myself a little. I was fascinated by the Voice’s review of a Chinese restaurant on Bleecker street; it was like nothing we had in New Orleans at the time, and the way the author casually referenced dishes I’d never heard of seemed incredibly cosmopolitan and exotic.
On our second day in town I walked four or five miles to the place and ordered pretty much everything described in the review. It was enough food for at least two very hungry people, but I ate almost everything: mussels steamed with garlic, preserved black beans and chiles; fat egg noodles with beef and bean sprouts; pan-fried dumplings with spicy dipping sauce, and Chinese greens stir fried with ginger.
I ate so much that I put myself into a food-coma. My father had made reservations that night at The Palm, a renowned steakhouse, but I couldn’t make it. I still feel a little bad about that, but at the end of the day, it was a magical meal that I don’t truly regret.
It struck me then how far ahead of Memphis and New Orleans NYC was, in terms of the breadth of options. It was amazing seeing all of the different cuisines represented, and that trip redoubled my desire to eat well and often, even if I had to cook the food myself.
What brought those memories back recently was an excellent interview of Andrew Zimmern posted at Eater earlier this week. If you only know Zimmern because he hosts a television show on which he eats things like horse rectum and fried tarantula, you need to read it. He’s a very bright man with a historian’s eye for context, and if you’re at all interested in the evolution and business of restaurants, you’ll enjoy it.
Speaking of the evolution of the restaurant scene, there was a time when Galatoire’s did not really have a “named” executive chef. That’s not to say the folks in the kitchen at Galatoire’s (or Arnaud’s, Antoine’s, Tujague’s and others) weren’t talented. It’s just that their ability to come up with their own food was pretty limited. There’s only so much nuance you can put into your remoulade before someone starts complaining that the place has gone downhill and for that matter where’s my chipped ice?
These days chef Michael Sichel is running the kitchen at Galatoire’s and the adjacent Galatoire’s “33” Bar & Steak. He’s a talented chef, and an asset to the Galatoire’s restaurants for the overall improvement in the standards he’s brought since he was hired. He was never going to change the menu at the flagship too much, though, and while I am a fan of that food, I’m also a fan of his classically-influenced, innovative cooking, too. So I was pleased to see that Galatoire’s “33” Bar & Steak will host a Jean-Luc Colombo Wine Dinner on August 31, at 7 p.m. with a menu designed by chef Sichel and pairings by Wine Director Gabby Waxman. Here’s a look at the five-course menu, including the wine pairings:
Hand-Passed Hors d'Oeuvres:
Smoked Eggplant and Artichoke Purée with Burrata Cheese
Apple and Blue Cheese Tartlet
2015 Jean-Luc Colombo Rosé "La Dame du Rouet," Coteaux d'Aix en Provence
Seared Sea Scallops
Herbsaint Cream Sauce and Roasted Almonds
2014 Jean-Luc Colombo Blanc "La Belle de Mai," Saint-Peray
Duck, Rosemary Au Jus, Cherries and Pistachios
2013 Jean-Luc Colombo "Les Bartavelles," Châteauneuf du Pape
Grilled House-Cured Pork Belly
Fennel, Apricot Compote and Burnt Honey
2006 Jean-Luc Colombo "Terres Brûlées," Cornas
Herb-Crusted Braised Short Rib
Parsnip Purée and Roasted Cipollini Onions
2005 Jean-Luc Colombo "Les Ruchets," Cornas (Magnum)
Tres Leches Cake
Dulce Sauce, Toasted Coconut
2013 Jean-Luc Colombo Blanc "Amour de Dieu," Condrieu
That’s a pretty luxe meal, Kids. The price is $125.00, inclusive of tax and tip. Seems like a pretty swell time, and if you’re interested, as I write they do have a few seats available. Call Christi Broussard at (504) 525-6022 to set something up.
That’s far from the only event coming up in the near term – the Farm to Table Experience comes to the Morial Convention Center starting today and running through Saturday. Follow the link for details, including information on how to register to attend.
Last but certainly not least, I received an email with an interactive map of locations in the metro area where donations can be dropped off to assist those of our neighbors who’ve been affected by the recent flooding. The information includes the hours when donations can be received and what they’re looking for. Hope you came through ok, and if not, that you get the help you need.