Sunday, April 18, 2010

Goat vs. Octopus

On our first night in New Orleans we were ushered through the kitchen of a restaurant Goodfellas style, in what felt like a single tracking shot. We emerged in a secret room, where we consumed a goat. Do you think I am kidding? I am not! "Blog" Buddy Pia Z. Erhardt ate the goat with us. The next day I was invited to lunch with John Currence and Elvis Costello. Reader, I DECLINED! I can't believe it either. But yes, I am a professional, and my panel - my reason for being in New Orleans - was scheduled for lunchtime, so I hurried over to the panel place, all ready to get paneled. BUT IT TURNED OUT THAT THERE WERE TWO PANELS!!!!! AND MY PANEL DID NOT START UNTIL 3:30!!!!!!!!!! So I totally would have been able to have lunch with John Currence and Elvis Costello AND fulfill my duties to my gracious hosts, but by the time I figured it out, it was too late. O monstrous fate! But I really can't complain. The panel before mine was very interesting to hear. And anyway, we were in New Orleans, so the fun was just getting started. "Blog" Deputy Rhea came to my panel, so that was nice. It was great to see her in person! Afterward, Theresa and I went to Rio Mar and got to see Adolfo Garcia again. We were with John T. Edge, so Chef Garcia began bringing out all kinds of interesting and delicious things to surprise us, including what he called "the best ham in the world" and he knows what he is talking about. It comes from the "famous black pigs of Spain" who get to romp around wherever they want and feast on their favorite acorns, which they find for themselves. I am paraphrasing, and any errors are mine alone, certainly not Chef Garcia's. We ate octopus two nights in a row. On the first night it preceded the goat. That particular octopus was served as a carpaccio and adorned with these exquisite little slices of some sort of tiny, delicate oranges, I guess. That was at Domenica. Oh baby! Well, while we were talking to Adolfo Garcia, and eating every amazing thing he brought out, John Currence showed up with his sous chef (is that the right phrase? I'm an idiot!) Heath. So the five of us went from restaurant to restaurant, sharing many, many, many small plates of things, including some fried hog's head cheese from A Mano (another Garcia restaurant). I believe our marathon dinner stretched over four restaurants (more for some of us; see below), not counting the Carousel Bar, where no food was. In the French 75 bar at Arnaud's, we had a fried oyster I can only describe as fluffy. It was so good! Like something between an oyster and a cloud. And John Currence and John T. found a bartender there (in the French 75 bar at Arnaud's) to worship. An artist! (That's him in the picture. He's so good that I immediately found his picture on the "internet." I am ashamed to say I didn't learn his name, but that's because John T. and John Currence were hogging him to themselves, and I was away from the bar most of the time. Theresa and I sat on a comfortable loveseat watching a lovely older woman dressed in Phyllis Diller style smoke via cigarette holder.) The legendary musician Dr. John loves this bartender so much that he made a little statue of him. We saw it! Currence pronounced his concoctions "sophisticated." I had one of his Ramos gin fizzes, which was also like a cloud. I guess everything is like a cloud to me. He made John Currence something called an "aviator." It utilized creme de violette. I had a sip. It was like a cloud! Not really, but why stop now? It WAS remarkable, though. Oh yeah, the night before, we had a secret contraband liqueur made from Perique tobacco, of which there are only 25 acres left in the world, I think. But they'll grow more if this hooch gets off the ground. I have no idea what I'm talking about. What's Perique, for example? Is that a thing? And I forgot to tell you how we hung out in a mansion where Tennessee Williams wrote a play, next to the funeral home that made the arrangements for Jayne Mansfield. And I forgot to tell you how John T. and Theresa and I went to breakfast and had some ham hock and red pepper jelly on toast. And a bunch of other things made of pork. And did I mention that the goat and the octopus were placed in a cage where they battled to the death? Not really! But that was a little joke I told during my panel, inspired by a conversation with Rhea. Theresa and I stopped eating things at some point. John T. Edge and John Currence were last seen heading to a place called Cooter's for some fried meat pies.