As the weather gets a bit warmer and steamier this week, I’ve been turning my attention more to foods that leave us feeling a bit lighter and healthier. Fortunately, we’re headed into that perfect time of the year when the Creole tomatoes and similar fare will be very affordable and readily available.
There was a time when New Orleans was considered a great place to shop. Dozens of stores, most of them located on Canal Street or nearby, filled specific niches in the marketplace and shoppers from across the city, the region and the state came downtown, especially women in white gloves and high heels like Allan’s mother Miriam Pailet Katz, to shop, eat and enjoy the ambiance of New Orleans.
Then came the suburban flight, the rise of Lakewood Shopping Center and the development of Jefferson Parish as the retail center for the metro area, the region and the state. Most of Canal Street went into the dumps and there were only a few first-class stores in all of Downtown.
Now, eight years after Hurricane Katrina, corporate retailers, for the first time in 50 years, are looking at Downtown New Orleans as a “hot” place to invest their money.
So the iconic Camellia Grill may be getting a facelift, if you’ve kept up with recent current events? Apparently its new owners are in breach of contract with the previous owner to the degree that the pink-and-green flower paired with the title of the namesake diner may become a memory. While Camellia Grill has a longstanding line (pun intended) of devotees and tourists alike, I must say I am in that number. And if legal motions require a makeover then so be it. I mean what’s fair is fair, but there’s no use in crying over spilt chocolate freeze, is there? The essence of the grill would remain unchanged (I’d hope!), so call it whatever. Besides, who cares? I can think of two recent local brouhahas regarding rebranding. Starting with the Pelicans!
When I was driving on Carrollton Avenue yesterday, I was greeted by what I thought was a timely message: “NOLA NEEDS PEACE.” Days after a mass shooting left 19 people injured at a second line on Mother’s Day, no one can dispute the call for peace and an end to the violence that plagues — and numbs — the New Orleans community.
But, then I read the rest of the sign: “NOT MORE ABORTION.”
This past Tuesday, Senator Mary Landrieu proposed an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act that would stop the implementation of National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) premium increases that Congress imposed last year. Senator David Vitter is co-sponsoring the amendment.
However, both agree that the NFIP needs to be self-sustaining. Thus, Louisiana’s Senators are agreed first, that the NFIP should pay for itself, and secondly, that this should not result in massive premium increases that spur voters to kick their keisters out of office.
At first blush, it sounds like Louisiana’s Senators are saying that chocolate should taste good but shouldn’t make you get fat. That’s not quite the case.
Doug Hammel was the clear favorite in political circles in the May 4 runoff election for a Juvenile Court judgeship but Yolanda King and her volunteers had a big surprise for him. In an election where the turnout was just about five percent, King won 54 percent of the vote.
As is almost always the case in New Orleans politics, race was a major factor. King, who is an African-American, was making her fifth race for a judgeship and was considered by some to be a perennial candidate. She spent just $7,750 on her campaign. Hammel, who is white, spent more than $125,000 and, in the view of many of his advisors, didn’t spend enough.
I was fortunate enough during JazzFest to do what I love most (at least professionally) — work in a creative kitchen with other inventive folks, tweaking the menu a little each night and leaving room for whatever inspiration happened to hit. While I was limited mainly to pantry work (salads, saucing and desserts), there was still plenty of back-and-forth about what might work and we could each throw out ideas for possible use. The creative spigot was wide open, even more so when things got busy. It was delightful.
As the 2013 close of another JazzFest leaves in its wake a thankfully healthy trail of mud, sweat, and beers I find myself at once indifferent but pleased, however mostly curious with one eyebrow raised just so. You see, if I get to go any given year I generally only have the privilege of going one day, and I’m okay with that. As such I tend to take it all in, looking to maximize my experience, people watching, carving out set times, and noting what, if any, differences from years past. So color me dismayed this season when as I queued to purchase my ticket and then queued again to enter the fairgrounds, the security measures in place from previous fests seemed largely unchanged – or – maybe even exactly the same. Bags searched? Maybe. Strollers examined? Ha! And the coup de gras of all contraband concealers the chair tube: opened? Nary a one. Frankly my fellow New Orleanians in a post Boston Marathon bombing world, this is not okay.
Last summer, my son played baseball for a park run by NORDC, the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission, the dramatic voter-approved overhaul of which was supposed to be one of Mayor Landrieu’s first major accomplishments.
For months, his team practiced on a sliver of grass not on a baseball diamond. Although one game was played at Norman Playground, the rest were scheduled at Behrman Park — also on the Westbank — because we were told it was the only facility in NORDC that had operating field lights. There was only one bench for two dugouts to share. The team that arrived first claimed the bench leaving the other players to sit on the concrete slab or in the bleachers among the throngs of Little League supporters.
The coach collected a modest sum from each participant to purchase uniforms. He never delivered the shirts and visors nor returned the cash.
I’ve noticed lately that anti-gun journalists have been kvetching about House Bill 48, filed by Rep. Henry Burns (R-Haughton), which they say will allow concealed carry holders to bring firearms into restaurants that serve alcohol.
I’ve unexpectedly had the opportunity lately to spend a lot more time in the French Quarter, since I’ve been helping a friend during JazzFest. This gave me the chance earlier this week to pop into the Louisiana Music Factory to see Beausoleil and Zachary Richard, as well as wander around aimlessly. I think that’s the best way to see the oldest part of our city – without a schedule or plan. Tours are fine to get a sense of how things are laid out, but I also think a completely unstructured day is a lot more fun.
Today is an important milestone in Councilman-at-large Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson’s life. It is the beginning of her last year as City Council President. She is slated to take over today from the effervescent Councilwoman-at-large Stacy Head who made lots of headway on projects she considers important.
Without fuss or fanfare the Oak St Ace Hardware depleted its remaining inventory over April and closed its doors permanently. Forever. Gone. Kaput. No mas. The corner fixture that united neighbors and brought inexpensive solutions to the 21st century world of buying in bulk, automated key duplicating machines, and the like became another memory, the end result of a society that more often chooses convenience over customer service and cost over care. I, for one, was a fan and truly shopped there as often as I could, and I am more than a little sad if only because I can see the future. Effectively our consuming buying patterns and the all too nearby Lowe’s spelled the demise for this little gem.
“The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the only legitimate object of good government.”
– Thomas Jefferson, 1809
“Good government is practically applying the principles which make a man a good citizen.”
– Theodore Roosevelt, 1902
“We are trying to resolve this behind closed doors cause that is good government.”
– Jackie Clarkson, 2013
How does that old Sesame Street tune go? “One of these things is not like the others…”
I mentioned in last week’s column some of my ideas about pairing various beers, wines and foods together, and already I’ve gotten a few questions. They mainly involve how someone knows certain things go together before they spend a fair amount of money during a trip to the store. Pretty much anyone who cooks even semi-regularly is willing to experiment and improve, and I’m one who has been lucky enough to make a fair living doing so.
For many years, the 33-story World Trade Center overlooking the Mississippi River was one of New Orleans’ most important centers of business.
Powerful people, companies and government agencies including the Port of New Orleans occupied suites at the WTC. The 30th floor restaurant, the Plimsoll Club, was usually packed. You needed a reservation to get a table. The World Trade Center suite on the 29th floor was often the site of important civic press conferences and educational seminars. Located at the foot of the Mississippi River at the end of Canal Street, the WTC offered incredible views of the river, especially from the Plimsoll Club. At the top of the building a revolving bar called the Top of the Mart was an important social spot. During her years as a lobbyist for the Dock Board, Danae worked at the WTC Building and enjoyed it. She, along with her colleagues, thought the Plimsoll Club was a neat place for lunch.
Back in February, a sense of grief swept the entire New Orleans community when the Sisters of Blessed Sacrament, a Pennsylvania-based order, announced it would close the all-girls Xavier University Preparatory High School at the end of the school year due to uncertain financial sustainability. As many prepared to mourn the death of Prep as yet another failed black institution, the school’s alumni base wasn’t quite ready to deliver the eulogy. They couldn’t bear to see St. Katharine Drexel’s dream wither. They fought, fundraised and incorporated to preserve the school.
Attorney Shantell Payton, class of 1997, is the youngest Prepper among the coterie of six alumni who bought the school, along with Federal Judge Karen Wells Roby, Clerk of Court Dale Atkins, Judge Piper Griffin, attorney Keith Doley and Judge Edwin Lombard (including male alumni, a nod to the days when the school was co-ed). Payton’s allegiance and love for Prep is boundless. She chose to attend Prep over Benjamin Franklin High School, the number one ranked school in the state of Louisiana, reluctantly following in her sister’s footsteps.
Last September I wrote a piece regarding Uptown New Orleans real estate market activity, specifically the flip of a double at the foot of the Freret St revitalization. Last week another nearby example played out in a single family home and on a much shorter timeline. And like the Napoleon duplex, I was neither the listing or selling agent in any of these transactions. Ladies and gentlemen that watch the Crescent City realty trends, prepare yourselves for the totally true tale of 2124 Jena. And let’s go timeline on this one, shall we?
The other day, I heard an anecdote about a man who parked in a gas station in Orleans Parish and wound up in a confrontation with a tow company. Apparently, he’d pulled in to buy something from the convenience store, but first decided to check out the menu posted in the window of a restaurant next door. When he came back less than five minutes later, a tow company was already hooking up his car and demanded $90 to release it. The man protested and the police were called out, who promptly backed the tow company.
I’ll finally be getting an opportunity in the coming month or so to do what I enjoy most – coming up with menu items to pair with beer at a dinner or other special event. While I never think of myself of actually going “to work,” it is at times like these that I really feel like I’m being paid for something I’d be doing anyway. It’s one of the ways in which the culinary, art and musical worlds are very similar to each other.