Both Richard and I are into gourmet cooking, so we don't go out to eat for the food alone. We want the whole dining experience to be an event to remember.The last few days in Louisiana, we've had some of the most memorable -- in both the good and bad meanings of the word "memorable" -- meals of our recent history. Starting with the wonderful, we lunched at Dick and Jenny's in the Garden District of our beloved New Orleans.
Here I had an unexpected pleasure of pain perdu of duck confit. This translates to a patty melt made with sourdough French bread, Brie cheese, poached duck, pickles, and apple butter, with a side of peach chutney. I liked this variation on a patty melt a little better than I did the Vietnamese influenced version of a pressed pork sandwich I had at the American Sector Restaurant a couple of weeks ago. Both of these similar to the Cuban sandwiches available in areas of the city with large Hispanic populations. In very few cities outside New Orleans would you find so many ways to present a patty melt.
Richard started lunch at Dick and Jenny's with the seafood gumbo -- the closest to mine that I've ever experienced. He followed that with a crab cake lover's dream -- two perfectly prepared patties comprised of lumps of sweet white crab meat barely bound by a bread crumbs, and pan-seared until slightly crispy on the outside. These delectable darlings were then perched atop two finely fried green tomatoes, and topped with a ribbon of red pepper aioli.
I didn't eat all of my lunch, preferring to reach my fork over to taste what was on Rchard's plate. That simply meant we had the remainder of my sandwich and side of warm bacon potato salad for supper the next day. Everything was delightful that day -- the weather, the food, the superb service, and the company of my favorite person in the world.
When my long-lost childhood neighbor Leslie and I went to the warehouse district, we stopped in at Rio Mar for tapas (also called "small plates"). We were hard-pressed to say which of the eight mini dishes we liked best, the mixed seafood seviche or the succulent smoked tuna -- or was it their signature oyster presentation? While the food couldn't have been better, the service was simply sloppy. It's such a shame to have such formidable food and so little respect for the hot, hard work coming out of the kitchen. Sadly, this slovenly service seems not to be an isolated incident.
The evening before this, Richard and I had taken my daughter out to a steakhouse which has long been one of favorite Slidell eateries. We should have known to walk out when our waiter approached our table, introduced himself and waved his arm toward the three other employees in the dining room saying, "We're all taking care of you." Maybe he had never heard that divided responsibility equates to nobody actually being in charge.
Our dining experience was more like a Keystone Cops episode than a fine dining event. We had to flag the waiters down each time we wanted anything even as simple a water refill, and both I and my daughter got the wrong food. It was especially disappointing as this was our daughter's last meal with us -- and she had looked so beautiful in her new outfit from Mexico.
Not to worry, though. Last night we had dining perfection presented to us in the form of supper with four friends at Coquette. The food was as good as any food can be, possibly excluding manna of milk and honey. Hanger steak with mushrooms, caramelized onions, and a potato and bleu cheese "risotto" was sinfully delicious, as were the seared sea scallops on a bed of something made of potato and salt cod called a "brandade." This was accompanied by a roasted tomato relish, identified on the menu as a "tomato confit." The fancy names do add to the ambiance, but aren't always necessary for me to feel like we're having a special occasion.
The fill-them-yourself with both chocolate mousse and caramel sauce cream puffs that we had with our coffee were the perfect finish for the evening's meal. Happily, the service at Coquette was superb and silently attentive. Three hours and thousands of laughs and calories later, all involved pronounced the time together as "perfection."
I'm so happy to have something other than good old gluttony to blame when I pork out. "It must be my new medication." It's also comforting that one of my granddaughters has proclaimed that she will love me up to a thousand pounds.