Vacation time and annoying little details like money didn’t quite work out, so I wish all my friends and readers who are going a GREAT time … and I don’t want to hear a single thing about it, or it’ll drive me crazy. Internet blackout for me! No Twitter! What I will do is find a great bar (which will, I hope, have left a few bartenders behind that aren’t going to Tales) and quaff some cocktails.
My friend Stevi, who does the excellent cocktail weblog Two At The Most, asked me if I could come up with a playlist to help people prepare for getting to Tales next week, which I thought might be fun. (I can’t help but shamelessly mention that there was that New Orleans box set I did a while back that was pretty good …)
I thought about how much I and so many other people enjoyed HBO’s superb New Orleans-based TV series “Tremé” this past year, and included a number of artists and songs featured on that show. If you’re a “Tremé” fan you’ll like this little quickie compilation, which I put together on iTunes using their iMix feature. It’s entitled “Tales of the Cocktail ’10 Prep!”
So, you can buy the whole list, or pick a handful that you might want to hear, or if you have an extensive NOLA music collection use the list and drag the songs into a new playlist on iTunes, whichever you like. (Alternately, you can just ignore it and make your own!) One annoying hitch — I made a 100-song playlist, and for some reason iTunes truncated it to 72 the first time I tried to upload it, so I’ve had to break it up into two playlists. There should be widgets below to take you to iTunes, but in case it doesn’t render properly here are the direct links: (Part 1, Part 2) Look for the full printed list after the break.
Threadhead Records have released a new single entitled “Nobody Knows Nothin’,” performed by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Clint Maedgen, along with John Boutté, Susan Cowsill, Craig Klein, Bill Lynn, Gregory Menoher, Margie Perez and Paul Sanchez, and written by John Boutté, Bill Lynn and Paul Sanchez. Proceeds will benefit Gulf Aid, a 501(c3) nonprofit corporation established in response to the biggest oil spill in US history just 50 miles off of the Louisiana coast, and are distributed to organizations focused on supporting wetlands/coastal environmental issues & the well-being of fishermen, and the regional seafood industry.
To purchase the digital download of the song, and to help with the oil cleanup efforts, go to threadheadrecords.bandcamp.com. The song will also be available soon on iTunes.
While you’re at it, check out the song “It Ain’t My Fault,” by Mos Def and Ben Jaffe, along with Lenny Kravitz, Trombone Shorty and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, also to benefit GulfAid.org:
I know, I’m late again. Busy week. We were out yesterday so I’m even an episode behind, eek! But let’s just dive right in … ’cause it’s Mardi Gras! (Well, in the timeline of “Treme” it was last week; in real life Mardi Gras was almost four months ago.)
“All on a Mardi Gras Day” is also the title of two works of interest to “Treme” fans who want to learn more about New Orleans Carnival traditions. One is a 1995 book by Reid Mitchell tracing Mardi Gras history and traditions (its subtitle: “Episodes in the History of New Orleans Carnival”). The other is a 2003 documentary by Royce Osborn focusing on black Carnival traditions.
Delmond checks into the Loews New Orleans Hotel on Poydras Street. Hotel rooms were hard to come by for Mardi Gras 2006: Almost half of the available hotel rooms during that time were occupied by public safety and recovery workers, as well as residents who’d lost homes and apartments.
The Loews Hotel also houses one of my favorite restaurants in New Orleans, Café Adelaide, and one of the city’s better bars, The Swizzle Stick.
Whole Fried Trout with Corn and Crawfish Hash and Watermelon Caipirinha Sauce
The Twentieth Century Cocktail at Café Adelaide's Swizzle Stick Bar, containing gin, lemon juice, white creme de cacao and Lillet blanc.
Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is a holiday in New Orleans. Most schools are off all week, hence Sofia Bernette’s availability to take a drive to the lakefront with her father on Lundi Gras, the Monday before Mardi Gras.
When I first moved to L.A., I had hardly ever been outside New Orleans — family vacations in Alabama, Georgia and Florida, a brief stop at Rock City in Tennessee, and a weekend trip to Carbondale, IL to check out a school. Getting to L.A. and finding out that for starters you couldn’t drink on the street was a major culture shock. Then finding out that we don’t get Lundi Gras, Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday off from school and work … what kind of heathen land had I moved to?! My SceniCruiser had taken me beyond Baton Rouge and truly into the heart of darkness.
Creighton Bernette displays symptoms of depression, a chronic condition in New Orleans post-Katrina even among residents who were comparatively lucky in the storm.
Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose wrote about his own battle with post-K depression in October 2006.
“My hands shook,” he wrote. “I had to look down when I walked down the steps, holding the banister to keep steady. I was at risk every time I got behind the wheel of a car; I couldn’t pay attention.
“I lost 15 pounds and it’s safe to say I didn’t have a lot to give. I stopped talking to Kelly, my wife. She loathed me, my silences, my distance, my inertia.
“I stopped walking my dog, so she hated me, too. The grass and weeds in my yard just grew and grew.
“I stopped talking to my family and my friends. I stopped answering phone calls and e-mails. I maintained limited communication with my editors to keep my job but I started missing deadlines anyway.
“I tried to keep an open line of communication with my kids to keep my sanity, but it was still slipping away. My two oldest, 7 and 5, began asking: ‘What are you looking at, Daddy?’
“The thousand-yard stare. I couldn’t shake it. Boring holes into the house behind my back yard. Daddy is a zombie. That was my movie: Night of the Living Dead. Followed by Morning of the Living Dead, followed by Afternoon …”
By the way, don’t ever call the streetcar a “trolley” in New Orleans; it’s a dead giveaway that you’re not from there. I’ll cut him some slack as he did say “streetcar line” first.
Antoine gigs again at Donna’s, a Rampart Street landmark of traditional New Orleans music. That’s oft-irascible bandleader (and WWOZ FM-90.7 DJ) Bob French on drums.
Antoine greets Al Johnson at the bar. Johnson recorded the Mardi Gras classic “Carnival Time,” the lyrics of which describe Fat Tuesday activities in the Faubourg Treme neighborhood, in 1960. He was 2005 King of Krewe du Vieux. “Carnival Time” plays under the later scene in which Janette and Jacques cook for parade-goers on the traditional St. Charles Ave. parade route.
“Milenberg Joys” was recorded by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, New Orleans musicians living and working in Chicago, in 1923, with its composer, Jelly Roll Morton, on piano. The Milneburg entertainment district in New Orleans, located approximately where Elysian Fields Avenue once met Lake Pontchartrain, was a popular entertainment destination for New Orleanians from the 1870s until the 1930s. Many visitors, drawn by the outpost’s dance halls, arrived by a train known as the Smokey Mary. The area was reclaimed and redeveloped, and a lighthouse is the only remnant of the district today. The Pontchartrain Beach amusement park operated near the site through the middle decades of the 20th century. The University of New Orleans now occupies part of the original Milneburg site.
For this and much more, see the rest of Dave Walker’s column in the T-P.
Eek! This post is very late. Thanks to the “Lost” finale we didn’t get a chance to watch “Treme” last Sunday, and thanks to various cocktailing events we didn’t even see it until Wednesday (and Thursday was busy). Without further ado … the annotated Dave Walker’s “‘Treme’ Explained’ column for last Sunday’s presentation, episode 7. Here are a few excerpts to get you going, with a few of my additions and annotations:
The wonders of Trout Baquet are known to thousands via the dish’s availability on the grounds of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell. In a video on this page, Lil’ Dizzy’s proprietor and New Orleans culinary royalty Wayne Baquet talks the late Chappy Hardy through the recipe.
Here’s that recipe, from the man himself (i.e., Wayne Baquet).
“Okay … You take … um, you chop some garlic and onion, and you get some lemon, and some lump white crabmeat, and some butter or margarine, depending on how healthy you want this thing to be.* You take a skillet, a small skillet, and you do this to order, you know. You put a little bit of your butter in there, say, a teaspoon of garlic, a nice handful of onion, and you sauté that, until they’re tender. They don’t need to be clear, just ’til they start getting tender. Sprinkle a little lemon in. Add a little bit more butter, so now you have a butter sauce. Take a pound of lump white crabmeat, and toss it in — don’t break it up, toss it in. All right. That’s your sauce.
“Take your skillet. Put just a little bit of vegetable oil in it. Take your two filets of trout — one trout cut in two nice filets, about 4 ounces each. Salt and pepper. Put it in your skillet. No breading. Put lemon on top of it, and grill it in the frying pan. You can use a Teflon frying pan that works real well, or you can have a treated pan … you have a seasoned iron pan and it won’t stick. Now you put it on the side that you fileted down, ’cause the part that’s not going to break up. You gonna cook 90% of it on that side, you know that. You’re gonna flip it for a second, just to get it, flip it for just a second, then you flip it back. Because the fish is going to cook through, you know how fish cooks. Then you take those two nice filets, plate ‘em up, take that sauce, put it over the top of it … unbelievable.
“Unbelievable. You’ll love it.”
Boy, is he right. This is one of the simplest, and one of the best, New Orleans dishes ever.
* – By the way, don’t use margarine. Use butter. It’s healthier and tastier. (Seriously, butterfat is not nearly as bad for you as the hydrogenated trans-fat in margarine.)
Janette Desautel meets with chef John Besh in his flagship Restaurant August. Besh stars in “Inedible to Incredible,” a TLC cable network series scheduled to debut June 14. He’s also been prepping a cooking show to air nationally on PBS in 2011. His other restaurants included Luke, Best Steak, La Provence, Domenica and The American Sector in the National World War II Museum. Besh sent the visiting celebrity chefs to Desautel’s in episode five.
Here’s Chef Besh talking about his fantastic new cookbook (and makes a pot of quick gumbo), and about his five restaurants:
Janette and Davis set up her mobile rig at Bacchanal, a wine and spirits shop, live-music venue and deli at 600 Poland Ave. in the Bywater. Its patio and backyard were a setting for post-Katrina feasts prepared by restaurantless or moonlighting chefs. The tradition continues.
I love Bacchanal. It’s on Poland and Chartres, 3 blocks down and 1 block over from my grandparents’ old house and corner grocery, so I really feel at home in that neighborhood. I wish I could get there more often, and if I lived back home I’d be there all the time. Reading about the dinners that Chef Pete of the late, lamented Marisol used to make there, and not being able to be there, nearly drove me insane.
Bacchanal Wine and Spirits, in the Bywater, New Orleans
The patio at Bacchanal
For more about Bacchanal Sundays (featuring live music, guest chefs and a great time for the whole family), the food and music featured in the show, the occupations of the housing projects, the longstanding tensions between the Mardi Gras Indians and the NOPD, the morgue situation post-K and much more, make sure you read the whole column.
I should have the next “Treme” post up on Monday. That will mean only two episodes to go this season. It’ll be ending soon, and no more ’til next year!
“In December 2005 the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic and Assistance Foundation created our own version of the WPA, believing (as we still do) that for New Orleans musicians a vital mental health initiative is to be paid to perform, and for our community, hearing New Orleans music is the heartbeat of our recovery,” says Bethany Bultman, director of the foundation. “We wanted to make sure that when donors gave us money, it would go into the pockets of those musicians struggling to keep the music alive, not sit in the bank. $100 per musician per gig seemed like the most equitable way to distribute donations.”
The Lake Charles cop who walks Toni to the abandoned NOPD patrol car is Don Yesso, who played kitchen assistant Shorty La Roux in “Frank’s Place.” Yesso got his start as an actor when he met “Frank’s Place” co-creator Hugh Wilson on an airplane. His credits since then include “My Two Dads,” “Guarding Tess,” “Dudley Do-Right,” “K-Ville” and “The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans.”
It had been so long since I’d seen Don Yesso in anything that I didn’t recognize him at first, but I was struck by his voice. I thought that that cop sounded much more Yat than Lake Charles.
Davis McAlary salutes college professor and New Orleans blogger AshleyMorris, on whom John Goodman’s Creighton Bernette character is loosely based, during the concluding Krewe du Vieux sequence. For the 2006 parade re-created in this episode, Morris dressed as a street mime and rode on a float themed as a plea to France to buy New Orleans back. Pictures of the 2006 parade, including one of Morris as the character he called Mime-boy. Morris’ post about the parade. An account about what it was like to re-create the parade for “Treme.”
Photo of Ashley Morris by emily, http://www.flickr.com/photos/79977933@N00/
looka, <lʊ´-kə> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "look," in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans. It is usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something, or to what one is about to say.
2. --n. Chuck Taggart's weblog¹, est. 1999, with contributions by Wesly Moore, updated (almost) daily (except when it's not), focusing on cocktails and spirits, food and other drink, music, New Orleans and Louisiana culture ... and occasionally movies, books, sf, public radio, media and culture, travel, Macs, humor and amusements, reviews, news of the reality-based community, wry observations, complaints, the authors' lives and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the authors' fancy.
This weblog is part of The Gumbo Pages, by the way. It's big and unwieldy and full of all kinds of fun food, drink and New Orleans stuff. Check it out.
"Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans" is a 4-CD box set celebrating the joy and diversity of the New Orleans music scene, from R&B to jazz to funk to Latin to blues to zydeco to klezmer (!) and more, including a full-size, 80-page book.
Produced, compiled and annotated by Chuck Taggart (hey, that's me!), liner notes by Mary Herczog (author of Frommer's New Orleans) and myself. Click here to read more about it!