Things Fall Apart, and Other News

Girls at the Turtle Parade

You may have noticed that I have not written Haute Plates for the last two weeks. Following is an explanation for this lapse, and following that, some news on the actual topic of this blog.

It has been three years and change since I had surgery to address a herniated disk in my lower back. The surgery was successful; in the 48 hours following the procedure I went from constant, excruciating pain to no symptoms whatsoever.

Since that time I’ve “tweaked” my back every so often, and had varying degrees of discomfort for between a couple of days and a week. But the Thursday before Mardi Gras this year, I started to feel pain radiating down my left leg that, as yet, has not gone away. I returned recently to the doctor who performed my surgery, and he said he thought I had either re-herniated the same disk or had a new herniation one level higher. I’ve had an MRI, and am waiting for my return visit to the surgeon to confirm his diagnosis and discuss options.

One thing he did prescribe me was a course of oral steroids. It doesn’t appear to me the steroids had an effect on my pain, but according to the urgent care physician I saw on Monday this week (which was my birthday), they may be responsible for the “thrush” I developed in my mouth and throat. Thrush is, essentially, a fungal or yeast infection, and in my case it’s been pretty painful.

I was prescribed a “magic” mouthwash that seems to have gotten rid of the burning sensation and metallic taste in my mouth, but by Tuesday I was having severe pain on swallowing and so yesterday I returned to urgent care and was diagnosed with strep throat. Finally, (I hope) I have had hiccups most of the time for the last 48 hours. I know that doesn’t sound like much of a concern when compared to a herniated disk, but I assure you that involuntary contractions every few seconds for hours at a time is maddening.

I am falling apart, is what I’m saying, but I am starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Strep can be treated with antibiotics, and while my back pain is still pretty bad if I spend too much time sitting or if I walk too far, it has improved. By the time I see my surgeon at the end of next week, my hope is that all I’ll need is physical therapy and a reminder not to lift things by bending at the waist.

I apologize for missing two weeks of this blog, but I’m sure you understand. With that out of the way, here are a few things going on in the local dining scene:


This Saturday, at 11:00 a.m., the second annual Turtle Parade will roll through the French Quarter, winding up at Brennan’s on Royal St. The turtles were discovered living in the restaurant’s patio fountain during recent renovations, and the parade last year marked their return from a temporary exile. New this year is that Avery Kyle, who was the runner up on the Fox TV show “Master Chef Junior,” will serve as the junior grand marshall.

I attended the event last year with my daughters, and they had a blast. If you’re going to be in the neighborhood on Saturday, you may want to check it out.

Speaking of Fox’s Master Chef, I recently received notice that the Gordon Ramsey-hosted competition will be holding open call auditions on Saturday, March 19, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the JW Marriott Hotel at 614 Canal Street. If you are interested in finding out whether chef Ramsay is actually as big a jerk in person as he appears to be on television, you should visit to register and find out what to expect of the process.

We have no shortage of great home cooks in South Louisiana, so if you fit that description – or if you are terrible and enjoy being yelled in public – you should give it a shot.

One more item on the subject of television, local PBS channel WYES-TV has a new cooking show, New Orleans Cooking with Kevin Belton, premiering on Saturday, April 16 at 9:30 a.m. Rather than paraphrase, I thought I’d share the relevant portions of the press release I received:


Chef Kevin Belton takes viewers on a tasty tour of New Orleans in his new 26-part cooking series produced by WYES-TV. From Classic French to soul food to German, Irish, and Italian influences, NEW ORLEANS COOKING WITH KEVIN BELTON explores the diverse mix of cultures that contribute to the distinctive food of the Crescent City. The series premieres on WYES-TV/Channel 12 on Saturday, April 16 at 9:30 a.m. Future episodes will air in the series’ regular time slot on Saturday mornings at 9:30 a.m., with repeat broadcasts on Sundays at 1:00 p.m.

Chef Belton himself is a gumbo of English, French, Native American and African ancestry. His mother’s family has roots in the French- Caribbean island of Martinique, and his French-speaking father’s family came from the Bayou Lafourche area of South Louisiana, near Thibodaux.

The self-trained chef began cooking under the watchful eye of his mother and grandmother in the uptown New Orleans home where he grew up. From these talented home cooks, Chef Belton learned to prepare the venerable dishes of the city. In his new series he’ll share family recipes and personal tips for making seafood gumbo, pralines, shrimp remoulade, Chicken Clemenceau, corn and crab bisque, pecan crusted redfish, red beans and rice, Cajun turkey and dirty rice, bananas foster and many other New Orleans specialties.

Cooking instruction is second nature for Chef Belton, who has spent the last 20 years teaching the foundation of Louisiana cooking to appreciative audiences. As an instructor at the New Orleans School of Cooking, located in a renovated French Quarter molasses warehouse built in the early 1800’s, this homegrown chef has introduced more than 500,000 visitors from around the world to the food and rich traditions of the region.

In his new national public television series Chef Belton wants to pull back the curtain and show viewers what really makes the legendary cuisine of New Orleans so delicious. “Everybody says you make it look so easy,” he says. “I tell them, no, it is easy. My mission is to get you to cook and then sit down with your family and friends and share that meal. People need to get back to the table.” Recorded in the studios of WYES-TV, NEW ORLEANS COOKING WITH KEVIN BELTON is a chance for viewers to meet a new and charismatic host whose big personality is a perfect match for his 6’9” frame.

In addition to the new cooking series, Belton fans can enjoy a companion cookbook titled Kevin Belton’s Big Flavors of New Orleans which contains all the recipes from the series, plus many more. If purchased through WYES, your cookbook will be autographed by Chef Belton. The cookbook is published by Gibbs Smith and is also available in bookstore nationwide. Also offered is a 60-minute DVD featuring chef’s favorite recipes from the series. Both items can be purchased online at or by calling WYES Customer Service at 504-486-5511.


WYES graciously provided me an episode to preview, but for the reasons discussed above I haven’t had an opportunity to watch it. I can say that WYES has produced some of the best cooking shows in the history of the medium over the years, and I see no reason to think New Orleans Cooking with Kevin Belton will be an exception to that rule.

When I attended college in Memphis, Tennessee in the late 80’s, there wasn’t all that much to write home about where the food was concerned. Great barbecue and causal Southern joints, sure, but with some exceptions, not a lot else.

That’s changed over the last decade or two, with young chefs opening ambitious restaurants at a rapid rate. Chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman operate three such restaurants that combine the cuisines of Italy and the Southern U.S.: the upscale Andrew Michael, the more casual Hog & Hominy, and Porcellino’s Craft Butcher.

Ticer and Hudman will open Josephine Estelle in the Ace Hotel, at 600 Carondelet St., on March 14, also focusing on the intersection of Italian and Southern cooking. Chef Philip Mariano, formerly of Domenica, will be the executive chef.

I have to admit that the date caught me a bit by surprise, as I drive past the hotel’s location pretty frequently, and it hasn’t looked like the doors were only weeks away from opening. It’s a pleasant surprise, because the menu at all of Ticer and Hudman’s restaurants look intriguing, and I’m anxious to see what they can do.

With that, I will return to my regimen of antibiotics and ibuprofen. Hopefully by the next time I post an edition of Haute Plates, my medical condition will not be noteworthy.

Wish me luck.



Categories: Haute Plates, Restaurants