Sunday, June 02, 2013

Delicious, delicious New Orleans

I'm in and out of New Orleans on business, and I ate at a delicious restaurant in the city recently. Revolution is located in the Royal Sonesta Hotel in the French Quarter, and the menu, while inventive, also speaks traditionally to the unique geography and culture of New Orleans.

We started with cocktails (I had the Magnolia, I think, a deliciously flowery glass of nectar, garnished with a tropical blossom.), then moved on to appetizers.

We began with the beer-battered crab beignets and the sizzling oysters revolution. Presentation of all the dishes was impressive. The beignets were served on a long rectangular platter, and each beignet was in a pool of its own flavored remoulade. The six oysters were served on a large, warm stone, cushioned by a pile of rock salt. Both appetizers were delicious. The beignets were crispy and savory, and the oysters were large and buttery.

For our entrees, I chose the red snapper and pork belly a la plancha, and my dining companion had the crawfish-stuffed flounder. We also ordered a side of artichoke mirliton au gratin to share. My entree was wonderful. The fatty pork belly served as a nice counterpoint to the lightness of the fish. We split a half bottle of wine to wash it down.

To finish, we shared the tart a la bouille, a strawberry tart scattered with merignue, gelee and other deliciousness. (I loved that the merignue was shaped like a small piece of chalk! What a nice touch of whimsy!)

A note: eating at Revolution is definitely not cheap. Including cocktails and wine, our dinner came to about $100 per person. We could have kept our costs much lower by ordering fewer courses and skipping the drinks, but since we were on our own dime and feeling celebratory, we splurged.

Artichoke mirliton au gratin
This is a great spot for special occasion dining, and I'd definitely go back! We sat in the dining room that opens into the kitchen, and I loved watching the chefs work and seeing the different dishes go by!

Turning pages . . .

I've read three really good books lately that are worth passing along!

1.) The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather. I stumbled onto this collection of recipes and essays almost by accident. I serve on the board of the Millsaps Arts & Lecture Series, and one of our final programs of the year was a discussion by Mather and local gardening expert Felder Rushing. The two were discussing the importance of eating local, the ease of backyard vegetable gardening, and the like. After the program, I bought a copy of Mather's book. She was kind enough to sign it for me!

I sat down and read it cover to cover like a novel. Very satisfying. Mather understands the emotional connection we have to food. She illustrates how, when one knows who produces that food, the connection is richer, more magnified. After reading this book, I was inspired to start visiting the Mississippi Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. In addition to produce, vendors there sell dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.). You can even order chickens and shares of beef and lamb! This book is a great read, and it has really influenced me to make some changes in our family's food supply.

2.) Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris. I've read nearly everything Sedaris has published, and he's hilarious! A friend and I had gone to hear him speak when he visited Jackson a few months ago, and I was interested to see what essays had made it into his latest book.

The book is what you'd expect from him - funny, quirky, smart. And our favorite story from his speaking tour - one about his experience getting his first colonoscopy - is in there, and it's just as funny as it was when he read it aloud!

3.) Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I picked up this book after reading about it a while back in an issue of O Magazine. This is an amazing true story of a young woman who decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. She'd had a tumultuous childhood, and after her mother (who was really her only present parent) died, she felt lost. After some misfires in her personal and professional life, she decided to take on this mammoth hike.

Strayed wasn't exactly prepared for her journey, but that ends up kind of being the point. She re-grounds herself out on the trail, and she comes to terms with the loss of her mother. She is so unflinchingly honest that you find yourself nodding, over and over. ("Yes, that's what it's like when someone you love is in the hospital. It's just like that." "I remember feeling this exact same way when . . . ") It's rare that I encounter that in a writer. Highly recommended.

Fun with little man!

Little man and I have been having the best time! Now that he's getting older, I decided this would be the summer he'd learn to ride his bike without the training wheels. We worked on it for three evenings before he really got it.

Our first lesson was learning not to stop pedaling! (When he got scared, he'd not only quit pedaling, he'd hold his feet out from the bike! Not good, dude.) The next night, we focused on not looking behind him (to make sure I was still holding the bike) and balancing his weight. After that, it just took lots of practice and being brave. Then, off he went! I am so proud of this little munchkin!

Hubs and I were all smiles at his end-of-the-year program! He even had a LINE! His big moment was approaching the microphone and saying, "R is for reading. We read all day long." We practiced it a lot at home, and he did a good job with his small but pivotal role.

All smiles after the end-of-the-year program!
(Of course, during the group numbers, I don't know WHAT the kid was doing. He was looking out at us in the audience, checking out what all of the other kids on stage were up to, etc. Every time he looked my way, I motioned for him to pay attention to the director! Lawd, have mercy!)

Several weeks ago, Poppy gave Clay a fishing pole. I figured this was the perfect time to take him on his first official fishing trip. I got my fishing license online, thinking we'd just drop a hook into the reservoir, but Chandler, a friend of mine from work, had a better idea. He told me he could take us to a great spot.

We met him at around 8:45 a.m. in Raymond. We stopped by the Shell station to load up on live crickets, then followed his truck to our secret fishing hole. He took us to a private fish camp, and it was super nice. There was a boardwalk out over the lake to a pavilion in the middle. You didn't even have to sit in the sun to fish!

Just to be SURE we caught some fish, Mr. Chandler even threw a little bit of fish food in the water before we started. Then, he showed Clay how to get his rod and reel set up and put the cricket on the end. (Do you think Clay put any crickets on hooks? Do you think he took any fish OFF hooks? On the upside, I got to dust off my rusty fishing skills!)

After Mr. Chandler got us set up, off he went. And, boy, did we catch fish! We kept five of them, three big ones and two little ones that wouldn't have made it. And we threw back a lot of little ones, safe and sound. What fun!
Call me Ishmael . . . 

When we first put the fish in the cooler, they were still swimming around. By the time we left, they were very still. Clay asked me, "Mama, why aren't the fish swimming anymore?" That gave me the opportunity to talk with him about where our food comes from, and how it has a cost. How every time we eat fish or beef or pork or chicken, something has to die so we can have such a good supper. We had talked about that before, but Clay had never been around for the actual dying part.

"But that makes me sad," said little man.

"Well, do you want to not eat fish?" I asked.

"No," he quickly responded.

I acknowledged that it was a little sad, and that was part of the reason that wasting food was such a bad thing.

Then, Pawpaw helped us clean our fish. We fried them up that night and ate them, and they were delicious!! It made me think of all those summers I spent on my grandparents' farm as a girl, fishing with cane poles and frying up our catch with hushpuppies. The simple coleslaw we used to make just with shredded cabbage, carrots, mayo and s/p. If I can give Clay just a fraction of those memories, I'll feel like our fishing trips are a success!