Thanksgiving

Photo by Robert Peyton

We here at Haute Plates Industrial Concern and Sardine Cannery are not immune to the passing of the seasons. Which is to say that we would not be immune if New Orleans experienced any season other than “hot and humid” for more than three days at a time. Regardless, today is Thanksgiving, and in lieu of the restaurant report you might be expecting, We hope you will indulge us as we write something in the spirit of the holiday. We promise to stop using the first person plural as of this sentence.

We lied. We have become enamored of the first person plural. It makes us feel like a professional athlete or a rock star. We are considering changing our name to a symbol or a number and using the verb “want” as a noun. Recognizing, however, that we are constrained by certain editorial considerations – for example, an editor – we will reluctantly fulfill the promise made in the preceding paragraph, and switch off of the Pluralis Majestatis to the first person singular.

There, we I hope you're happy.

There's a lot for which I am thankful. I am thankful for my family and friends. I'm thankful that I am physically healthy, and that I am blessed with great and enduring beauty. I'm thankful that I have a home and the comforts that come with it. All of those things are great, but if that's all I was going to write about, it would hardly be "Haute Plates." So instead I'll write about the food-related things about which I am thankful.

Since 2005 New Orleans has seen a remarkable change in the restaurant and dining scene. More restaurants are now open than before Katrina, and that's with a reduced population. A lot of the restaurants that have opened have been truly ambitious, and if not all of them have been unequivocally successful, many are outstanding. There are too many to provide a comprehensive list, but Cochon, Le Foret, Meson 923, Coquette, Boucherie, Mondo, Bistro Daisy, Domenica, A Mano, La Boca, High Hat Cafe, Ancora, MiLa and Dominique's come to mind. How these restaurants have thrived with fewer local diners and a struggling economy is something of a mystery. I think that New Orleans residents, already some of the most frequent restaurant patrons in the country, decided to eat out even more frequently. Combine that with a resurgence of the convention and tourism industry based in part on the fact that New Orleans is a cheaper destination than a lot of other places, and you've got a lot of customers. Whatever the reason, it's a fantastic thing for me both as a diner and as a part-time food writer.

Places to buy high-quality produce, meat, cheese and wine have also opened steadily over the last several years. Whole Foods Company opened a store in Metairie only months after Katrina, and shops like Rare Cuts, Vom Fass and St. James Cheese Company offer high quality products that weren't easily obtainable in New Orleans in the past. Hopper's Carte des Vins is one of a few excellent wine shops to open, making New Orleans a great place not just to buy but also to learn about wine and spirits.

I'm also thankful for the additions to the bar scene. Cure, Victory, Twelve Mile Limit, Sylvain, Oak and Bouligny Tavern have brought a cocktail culture to the Crescent City that was formerly only available in cities like New York, San Francisco or Chicago. These places aren't for everyone, but it's hard to argue that diversity is a bad thing.

I could go on and on, people, but my deadline is fast approaching. I haven't even mentioned all of the new pizza options in town, or the new burger joints; I haven't noted the fantastic new Mexican, Honduran and Salvadoran restaurants, or the increasing number of excellent food trucks. I could write another blog entirely about how a handful of chefs have brought the art of charcuterie back to life in New Orleans, and yet another on how thankful I am that our local seafood industry has survived the  damage caused by the BP disaster. But given my time constraint, I'll have to leave things here. I'm sure there are more than a few of you who feel like I'm leaving something out. Please let me know what you think, either in the comments or by sending me an email.

Happy Thanksgiving. Try not to immolate anyone when you fry the turkey this year, OK?

Categories: Haute Plates, Restaurants

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