Sunday, May 6, 2012

Celebrate

Now, this week was a bit of a weird one- Adam Yauch aka MCA of the Beastie Boys died, a friend was frantic about her daughter going missing, I almost got myself killed trying to save a dog that almost got itself killed - people in general were on edge. I attribute it to a mix of Jazz Fest shenanigans and this damn full so-called "supermoon." Violence in New Orleans continues to ramp up and spill over in the ugliest ways possible- kids shooting kids, folks shooting up school buses. the murder of children and adults alike. It is very, very difficult to process this kind of senseless, mindless violence that happens on a daily basis, which is why people often tend to become emotionally distant from it, which makes it harder to work together to change the culture that's producing this.

However, it's this kind of recognition of the fragility of life and stability that leads to the New Orleans tendency to live in the moment and seize the day and celebrate life while you can. It's awful but beautiful in a way. It's the celebration that those who visit us can feel, but maybe don't understand why it's so important to those who live here. Jazz Fest is wrapping up today, and the city has been hosting thousands of visitors who have been at the Fairgrounds, eating in our restaurants, going to our music clubs, and enjoying the New Orleans way of life in the French Quarter, the Marigny, Mid City, Uptown, the CBD, and the Warehouse District. So close and yet so far to the heartbreaking violence in Hollygrove, Central City, the Seventh Ward, the Ninth, the East, the Irish Channel, Broadmoor. It seems that all the police are focusing on is that tourists don't see the flip side of the coin, leaving the rest of us to cope more or less on our own.

The best way to cope, I find, is to take pleasure in celebration. Join a passing second line, dance your heart out to the music that is provided by our many talented musicians. Seek out what makes your tongue and belly happy, be that a snoball, a poboy, a daiquiri, or a three course meal at one of the amazing restaurants here. Enjoy the people you love- your family, friends, and neighbors. Listen, laugh, drink, sing. Put the pain behind you for the night and howl at the moon.

All this is to say, we partook in some nice meals and experiences this weekend, made all the more sweet for the crappy week that preceded it! Friday night, a family friend was in town for a nursing conference and we made plans to have dinner. Happily, La Petite Grocery had a 6:30 reservation available for 3 people on a Friday night during Jazz Fest, so I hopped on that right quick. Tom and I left work a little early on Friday to blow off some steam, in cocktail form, at Victory on Baronne Street, I had their always awesome 3 bitter Manhattan and then a Fernet-based cocktail called the Dirty Sanchez. Tom had their special cocktail of the day, the bourbon-based Brown Derby, and then some crazy chartreuse cocktail.

Our blood pressures suitably lowered, we headed off to pick up our friend from her hotel to take her uptown for dinner. La Petite Grocery was wonderful- great service, great food. Sheila had a cocktail that I think was called the Beehive, with gin and grapefruit bitters and honey and jalapeno? It sounded weird but it was actually quite delicious and refreshing. I had an old-fashioned (just like my Grandma used to enjoy!) We all started with appetizer specials- Sheila had the farmers market salad, I had the tortellini with lobster and crawfish, and Tom had the sweet potato-shrimp bisque. All were excellent. For our mains, Sheila had the beef tenderloin, Tom had the rabbit, and I had the housemade spaghetti. I think the rabbit won that round- it was excellent! The other two entrees were good as well, but I think the rabbit was truly outstanding.

I'd discovered that Sheila hadn't had the chance to listen to much music since getting here, and decided she must go to Frenchmen Street immediately with me. So that's what we did! Tom dropped us off and we stopped at the Spotted Cat to see the Washboard Chaz Blues Trio (and see some great dance moves) and then moved to Maison to hear the end of Ingrid Lucia's set, and then got set up at BMC to see most of the Dana Abbot Band's set. Very different types of awesome live music, and we both had a blast! After the Dana Abbot Band, we wandered down Decatur to Pravda! bar so Sheila could indulge in a little absinthe to close out the night. They have a good selection of absinthes as well as the traditional preparations. We also stumbled across a random crafts fair and I ended up doing a bit of shopping for myself (parasol and headband) and Tom (locally made soap, and lots of it!)

Since I didn't get home till late, we had a bit of a later start than planned. But we did get out to Freret Street to have our brunch at the High Hat - pancake special for Tom, pork debris & grits special for me, and homemade strawberry crisp pie for us both- and then toddled (waddled?) down the street to check out Crescent City Comics on Free Comic Book Day. It was also crazy capitalist indoctrination National Lemonade Day, so I bought some lemonade to help out the kids and capitalism. I think we might have been branded socialists and thrown into jail if we didn't buy some lemonade, but I'm not clear on that.

That night, we got all gussied up to celebrate 10 years of being together in a relationship and went out to Root in order to do so in style. There were some driving and parking shenanigans that tested my patience, but happily once we were able to get to Root, they had valet parking! Which was awesome and totally worth  $10. We got in and settled- Tom had a Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, and I had something called the Julia, a cocktail with gin, Lillette, and "Apricot Eau-de-Vie." It's light but plenty boozy, so I don't tend to chugalug it without thinking. For starters, Tom had the merguez sausage plate (HOORAY!) which he liked very much. I had the compressed watermelon salad with seared rare tuna, avocado, tomato, goat feta, and a chili-lime vinaigrette. It was a really excellent contrast in flavor and textures, and I enjoyed eating it. For our mains, we had the two recommended specialties of the house: I had the hangar steak with sweetbreads, frites, and a blueberry bordelaise; Tom (although he swore previously he wouldn't because he hates that kind of flashy presentation, in general) had the Cohiba smoked scallops, which were perfectly cooked smoked scallops served in a cigar box with a blast of cigar smoke that comes at you when it's presented. It gave Tom the asthmatic a twinge of chest tightness when it came out an initially opened, but it faded and he very much enjoyed all that was contained in the cigar box. My sweetbreads were delicious, and my hangar steak was a little tough and overly charred (perfectly cooked to medium rare, though.)

For dessert, we shared the "Black Sesame Citrus" which had: Burnt Blood Orange Meringue, Black Sesame Praline, Bergamot Ice Cream,Pistachio Sponge Cake, Calamondin Chutney. It came out really nothing like we thought it would be. It was challenging but ultimately satisfying. They also send out one of their signature desserts for us, the Yorkie, which had: Chocolate Covered Peppermint Pattie, Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, Coco Puffs, Minted Milk. I tend to not care for chocolate-mint flavor combinations (I'm like the only person I know that doesn't like Thin Mints!) but this one was really excellent. The Peppermint Pattie was excellently executed, the cocoa puffs with the minted milk and melting ice cream was super comfort food cereal late-night-snack vibe, which was totally charming and very enjoyable to eat.

The service was great, and the vibe was nice- bustling but not overly loud, relaxed but not quite casual. The small nitpicks above were very easily overlooked in the context of the entire welcoming of the meal, the satisfaction of a fun night out with pleasant people on staff and no evident douchebags ruining the atmosphere. We had a very, very nice time, and look forward to returning and trying more of Root's food. It's interesting, challenging, but most importantly, delicious and enjoyable.

Today: The Avengers at the Theaters at Canal Place!

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