Monday, May 14, 2012

It’s Almost Time to Leave New Orleans…

and we didn’t get to all of the restaurants on my list. With only a few days left, do we try to get to a couple of these or revisit to two of our favorites? Easy answer. Go back to the favorites.

So we start the “farewell tour” at Casamento’s. I thought that I had
a well-formulated plan. Go on a day when the masses would be at the Fairgrounds attending Jazz Fest, I surmised—wrongly as it turned out—that there would be little competition for tables. As we approached the restaurant’s doors you could hear the roar or noise ten feet away. We barely managed to get inside and close the doors and found a line that ran from the front doors back to
the second dining room. So we stood. And waited. And waited. And waited. The line never seemed to abate. Soon we were at the raw oyster station which meant we were next for a table. The line still went back to the doors.

A table at last. We had planned to repeat our earlier meal (see blog of March 29, 2012)—the small calamari appetizer and a shared seafood platter with oysters, shrimp, crab claws, catfish, and french fries.

But, alas, they were out of calamari. So Chuck ordered a cup of the seafood gumbo, and I a cup of oyster stew. My oyster stew took me back to my childhood. Christmas Eve was a meat-free for Catholics so my family’s traditional Christmas Eve dinner was oyster stew and
pickled herring. (I know. This sounds like a strange combina-tion.) So I developed a taste for oyster stew at an early age. And this was just like the stew that my father would make. He would heat milk until bubbles formed along the side of the pan. He would then dump in the oysters with their liquid and heat them just until the edges of the oysters “shirred.” Add a generous amount of butter and some salt and that’s all there was to it. My father could have gotten a job making oyster stew at Casamento’s, their two stews were that identical.

Chuck’s gumbo was delicious, although I might not call it a gumbo. I am sure that—in the Creole style—it contained tomato, and I thought I detected some non-traditional seasonings.

Again the seafood platter was a heaping mountain of fried goodness. It may have even been better than the earlier one. And I never thought that I would see Chuck eat, and enjoy, large plump
fried oysters. Oysters as large as those shown on the half-shell in the above photo.

It’s no wonder that this New Orleans 5.0 Addie legend is so beloved by locals and travelers alike.

We end our trip…

as we began. With pizza. At Ancora. And not just to eat pizza but to say goodbye—for now--to persons we now consider friends.

First, we say goodbye to Bren—server extraordinaire. Bren came to New Orleans from Lake Charles with Jeff Talbot when he (Jeff) was recruited to open Adolfo Garcia’s pizza restaurant. Bren is a graduate of McNeese State University in Lake Charles where he played baseball. Since Chuck is also a baseball fan, some time during each visit was devoted to discussing the national pastime.

Then we say goodbye to Adrian, who, on Jeff’s days
off takes the position of honor at the giant pizza oven. Adrian came with Jeff and Bren from Lake Charles (where the three had worked together in a restaurant kitchen), and Adrian is responsible for the wonderful kumquat and mustard chutney that graces the Affetati Misti plate and the strawberry jam served with dessert at the wine tasting dinner.

Then we say goodbye to John, the restaurant manager. Unfortunately, we neglected to get a photo of John but we appreciated his friendly manner and constant attention to detail.

And we would have said goodbye to Jeff—but it was his night off. We’ll have to give him a call in a few days.

Well, all of these goodbyes have made us hungry and it is time to eat. But to start, we decided to walk on the wild side and have a real honest-to-goodness cocktail to start dinner—The Louisiana Blueberry Lemonade made with Louisiana blueberries, vodka, lemoncello, and soda. These were tart and sweet at the same time and were amazingly refreshing.

While we were drinking lemonade, Adrian sent over a plate of grilled bread that had been drizzled with olive oil. Just the perfect partner for our drinks.

We debated on whether we should branch out and try one or more different pizzas but then decided to not mess with success. So we shared one Margherita (tomato, basil, and fior di latte [fresh cow’s mild mozzarella])

and one Diavolo (tomato, spicy Naples sausage, and fior di latte).

Time for a brief digression and stop me—well, you really can’t stop me—if I have told you this story before. When I was working, I refused to cook on Friday nights. Chuck would get home before me, and when I was leaving I would give him a call. He then would call a pizzeria in Doylestown (it may have been Pina’s) and place a take out order. I would get home before he returned with the pizza, so I would immediately turn on the oven for a reheat. But you don’t want to throw a sliced pizza directly on the oven grates (it crisps the crust better this way) so Chuck would ask that they not cut the pie. Well, for some reason we went in one night for pizza. We took a seat and placed our order. Suddenly the owner sees us—or should I say Chuck—sitting there. Suddenly, the owner calls out “There’s Chuck No Cut.” End of digression.

Have I mentioned before just how good Ancora’s pizza is? And the foundation is the crust that takes three days to make and is made using Jeff’s starter that he has been nursing for many years. It has all of the qualities of a good—no, great—bread. Flavor and chew. It stretches if you take a piece of the crust edge in each hand and pull. And that is the result of Jeff’s time and attention to bread making details.

Thanks to Adrian, we finished our meal with a plate of grilled blueberry and hazelnut bread liberally spread with a hawthorn berry jam which was another of Adrian’s creations.

These 5.0 Addie meals were the perfect way to end our two month New Orleans visit. And we are already trying to plan a return sometime in 2013.

To review the role of Adler and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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