Reviewing Red Beans and Rice in Nola, Come to the Table in Nola and in San Francisco

The Storm after the Storm

New Orleanians are a proud people, and rightly so. A big part of their pride comes from their fantastic food, their “food culcha” and their devotion to sharing it with each other, and with the world.

My love and respect for the city is well known to readers here. It’s probably a good thing that the first reviews of restaurants begin again in New Orleans (See, Time to Revew Again). The Times-Picayune critic gives Mr. B’s Bistro 3 Beans. (You can read the review online here.)

My four beans and trinity.

Brett Anderson, The Times-Picayune critic, uses the iconic red beans to rate his restaurants, instead of the more common stars. Even The New York Times is taking note of the reinstatement of restaurant reviews in New Orleans, see, New Orleans is up for Review Again.

To get a good read on the general public, see the readers’ comments following the reinstatement announcement. You’ll see some anger, some rejoicing, some supportive comments aimed at other commenters. It says everything about the place that two readers who were going at each other, wind up circling back to reaffirm that they were each okay, hadn’t meant to offend, etc. You see that a lot down there. Everyone knows things like being civil matter, taking care of other people and seeing how they’re doing, matters.

Life in Nola still remains hard. Harder for some, more than others. Restaurant job vacancies hover around four times the national average and workers have a hard time paying now higher rents. Some estimate rents are over 40% higher than pre-Katrina. Not enough public transportation has been restored to enable the familiar trade-off that lower-wage workers often make: longer commute-cheaper rent. Child care infrastructure lags, as well.

Still, it’s hard to have a bad meal in New Orleans. It can be done, but you have to really work at it. And the people, as well as the food, are reason enough to go back. Have a meal, talk to your bartender, your server.

Every restaurant owner, chef, server or bartender I spoke to on my last trip had a story to tell about heroic efforts of regular people after the levees failed. Everyone had a story about tragedy and about life-changing acts of kindness, often from strangers. Everyone was so glad to be back, be back at work.

Everyone said “Thanks for coming back to see us. Come back again soon.” When was the last time a server or shop clerk looked you in the eye, said that, and really meant it?

From Red Beans and Rice to Gumbo

After seeing Poppy Tooker in a Gumbo Throwdown with Bobby Flay, we just had to have a little taste of Nola. I’d been thinking of some red beans so red beans and rice it was.

Well my beans were a disaster, I’m embarrassed to say (9 is not the same as Off, but they’re awfully close when you’re running around doing too much at once!) But that force-of-nature Poppy Tooker won her throwdown, of course. Our little Nola-bubble was not completely burst, thanks to Poppy’s win.

And as for the restaurant reviews…to my way of thinking, their being restored is a step in the right direction. It’s a step toward normalcy. It doesn’t mean all the rebuilding is done (far from it), or that restaurants are more important than other things in life (they’re not.) But, in a place as food-centered as Nola, there may be few indicators of life returning to it pre-Katrina days as important than one that says “come to the table.”

Come to the Table – Slow Food Style

And if you want to celebrate authentic foods of various regions with the folks who grow it, catch it, produce it, pickle it, sell it, buy it, write about it, eat it….Come to the Table in San Francisco with Slow Food Nation’s huge Labor Day Event. I have it on good information that Poppy Tooker will be there, along with thousands more who celebrate American food cultures from all regions and all facets. There will be music headed up by Gnarls Barkley, Taste Pavillions welcome you to taste the nation. Everything from organic liquor, artisan cheeses and charcuterie, to chocolate, or Native food products, ice cream, pickles and chutneys will be represented. You will meet producers and growers and sample their products.

Food for Thought – panel discusssions with nationally renowned experts will cover topics from the world food crisis, and local food systems, to fair trade, education and films.

  • Other culinary events to mark on your calendar: click here.

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Whether it's Food & Cooking, Sports, Film, Travel or the Business of Writing can find it all through this page. Use this sidebar and the links below to go directly to whatever strikes your fancy. Jacqueline Church's Facebook profile

Where I’ve been seen, published, cited, syndicated…

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Mark Your Calendars

August 22 - Courtney Hunt's acclaimed film Frozen River at the Coolidge Corner. See Diversions for more.

Caught my eye…

  • The Audubon Insectarium opens in New Orleans. See Getting Down with All that Skitters.
  • Copper River Salmon is so hot, even E!online is commenting on the stars who eat it. Taye Diggs was digging it.
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On Women and Work

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  1. Tales of the Cocktail may be over but the fun continues. Check the blogs and podcasts for all the news that fit to drink!
  2. The Maori art of facial tatooing is called moko. It is a powerful expression of tribal identity which has only recently enjoyed a resurgence as the colonial Christian prohibitions against it have lessened. Go to the Peabody Essex Museum for this rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of this amazing cultural tradition. The documentary I saw at Sundance years ago on moko, was one of the most powerful films I have ever seen.
  3. The Audubon Insectarium is a new and top-notch attraction in New Orleans. We passed by it and wondered why we'd missed it before. Turns out it's just now opening. No time this last trip, but it's on the list for the next time. Check here for info.

What's on my list?

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