While some folks find it too easy to begin honking about how things ain’t right in a new place, I find it mostly tremendous — and so it is with my wife’s effort to obtain medical marijuana here in Southern California. … Far as I can tell, this is The Future and I’m glad to be part of it, even if it’s something I’ve just not gotten into.
This marks my 78th and final column for Uptown Messenger as Kim and I pack up and move back toward the West Coast. She was raised in the San Diego area and we feel it’s time to tighten the circle, pulling family closer and seeking new opportunities. Besides, I am long overdue for a good, no-time-schedule road trip and the adventure it brings. In a perfect world, we would have time and money for one last, great tour of New Orleans favorite haunts and to try to get around to a few spots we haven’t yet tried. But we don’t have much of either, so such an event will have to wait until we return, which will be as often as possible.
While we’re still packing boxes, spinning off furniture and generally preparing for our move, I’ve had to take time out to schedule one final Big Event while we’re still in New Orleans. While others get involved in White Linen Night or the Red Dress Run, I’m gearing up for the Louisiana Restaurant Association Expo at the Convention Center this weekend. I love food shows, but the LRA Expo is more than just your average feed-me-for-free event. It’s part reunion, part discovery expedition and all playground for those of us in the food biz. It’s not just a gathering of folks from around Louisiana or the Gulf South, but also from around the country.
I thought the hardest part would be deciding which books to take, since we have many and I have a thing for real books over a Nook or similar device. But now, looking at the kitchen, it appears to toughest decisions are still to come.
We’re in a situation these days at work where those of us who cook for a living are having to take things back to basics and re-learn some appreciation for what many of us view as scut work. I think it’s a good thing. It is all fine and good to be creative and come up with new dishes and keep pushing culinary boundaries. This is what I love to do and what so many of my cheffery friends enjoy on a daily basis. But, in any decent commercial kitchen, one has to be a generalist and be willing to pitch in wherever it’s needed.
Mymymy. Last week’s column kicked up a lot of dust, as I criticized what I see as the shrinking creativity of the New Orleans restaurant scene and many jumped to its defense. I stand by my opinion, but the fact I have one does not make me right. It’s an opinion and it’s good to see so many take issue. Thanks for reading and responding. One reader made the observation I need to go out to eat more often and I certainly agree.
Much has been going through my mind over the past couple of weeks, as we’ve been doing some scaling back here at the house with a yard sale, taking that trip up to Illinois and generally refocusing ourselves. Quite honestly, the local culinary world has not treated us kindly over the past year or so, despite our history of success, and we wonder if our time in New Orleans is coming to an end. We live in one of the great food cities of the world and you’d think there would be ample room for those of us who see food equally as playground and sustenance. But the truth is New Orleans is basically a city of many restaurants but only a few menus. Some of this is due to our status as a tourist mecca, with folks from around the world arriving and expecting Creole and Cajun all day every day.
Our brief trip up to Illinois for a long weekend turned out to be every bit the culinary adventure we’d been seeking, not so much because the food was adventuresome but because it gave us a chance to hit some spots that simply don’t exist in this part of the world – at least not yet. Give it time. My highlight was, of course, this Midwestern pork loin sandwich. We all got one from this tiny place in Metamora IL, outside Peoria. It’s a slice of pork loin that’s pounded flat, breaded and fried — essentially a chicken-fried pork loin about nine to ten inches in diameter.
As you read this, Kim and I will be off on a rare road trip, going to the Land of Lincoln (literally, since our 16th president had a law practice in the small town where we’re going. So did Adlai Stevenson, though his star has shone less bright in the galaxy of history). The event is family related and the route won’t take us far off I-55 at any point. This means classic interstate travel with all its corporate culinary sameness, though (as mentioned last week) that’s not always a bad thing. Though we’ll be out of the South fairly quickly, we’re assuming one place we’ll stop will be a Waffle House for at least one breakfast.
I can already see some of my friends clutching their chests and whispering to each other about how I need to just move the hell out to Suburbanland, where all of this is readily available and everyplace looks like anyplace.