The British call it the season of “festive fixtures,” a tip of the beefeater to an overindulgence on soccer delights. Christmas cannot be contained to a day; rather, it’s a day-after-day calendar of regional Premier League matches.
Benny Grunch and his Bunch call it the “12 Days of Yats,” winding our days from Christmas to Epiphany through an “ain’t dere no more” who’s who. A dozen Manuel’s hot tamales sure sound better than any outside-New Orleans discussion on the meaning of “January 6.” Phunny Phorty Phellows, take the cable news channel wheel!
I, however, call it the time of personal pâté-ing. From Christmas to Carnival, the celebrations run thick—and my calories run high. So many gatherings. So many meals. So few fasting opportunities. As we celebrate, my liver turns to pâté, my pancreas to sweetbreads, and my remaining internal organs to a gelatinous mess.
With the fatted calf coming more into focus by the day, ‘tis better to discuss how we got here, and not what my mirror is revealing. In this season of thanks, I continue to recall this week’s meal at San Lorenzo.
The transformation of the old St. Vincent Asylum on Magazine Street into a boutique hotel has been detailed in other places. It also follows the sacramental-to-sightseeing pipeline of the Marigny Opera House, Hotel Peter and Paul, Annunciation Hall, and the André Cailloux Center for Performing Arts (the encore of its Southern Rep opening)—to name only a few. Let’s completely sidestep the transfiguration topic and just dig into the meal.
Simply put, we saved the best meal of our year for 2022’s last week. And it was a memorable 12 months of feasting. Up and down Galatoire’s menu, up and down the Four Seasons’s first and fifth floors, up and down the Morning Call-Bud’s Broiler streetcar stop. Somehow San Lorenzo even topped an April selection of Saint-Germain’s carefully curated bites—though I would love a best of five series.
I’ll leave better dish descriptions to the capable palate of “Haute Plates,” but as I rolled over in bed during post-San Lorenzo slumber, one thought continued to bubble to the surface: That was a great meal!
Well, one thought and two dishes.
The squid ink chitarra might sound unapproachable, but it was the dish that got us in the door (thanks to my well-chronicled passion for WYES’s Steppin’ Out). Don’t picture a plate full of black-jet noodles. Instead, imagine picking through a fresh crab (without the cracking-snapping-picking effort), perfectly cooked but still smelling of the Gulf (without the tank of gas spent or boat launched), spiced and briny, clean but with kicks of crab fat. It was Louisiana in a bowl: authentic and flavored, rooted yet wildly different.
If the chitarra got us in, the wild mushroom anolini will get us back. Mushrooms, truffle, lemon, cheese. All together now: These are a few of my favorite things. Julie Andrews couldn’t have pulled it off any better. And that is the sound of music—and a deeply satisfied pasta-vore.
New Orleans is a head-scratching proposition. It’s also a stomach-pleasing escape. San Lorenzo was a reminder of our culinary giftedness—ingredients and imagination and skills all whirled together. Squid ink and truffles in an orphan asylum.
Such a love note to the city deserves one back.
As I also learned on Steppin’ Out, Benny Grunch laid low this holiday season, continuing his recovery from a summer stroke. Although nothing will outdo his yatty Christmas homage, I’m a little partial to his later seasonal creation Santa and His Reindeer Used to Live Right Here. Even the big man had a porch in the front and a washer in the back.