Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Restauran Tissue

Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
Restauran Tissue
Or
Chez Wha?
            Welcome, my friends, to the show that never ends; 1500 restaurants and counting in New Orleans, and not counting filling stations, bars, convenience, Mom and Pop and grocery stores that sell food. Restaurants come and go here, sixty-two new ones in the last twelve months; and they go out of business just as fast. And as one goes down in flames, a new one rises from the ashes; the Phoenix Factor. A New Orleanian would have to dine out every night to support them, lucky for us that we have visitors; if the visitors stopped, the restaurant industry would be in the creek, not just up it.
There’s no end to the uninitiated that believe that they can buck the odds and open a successful restaurant that will stand the test of time; also there seems to be no end to the successful owners of places like the Petite Elite Sweet-treatery, Tiny Toney’s Taco Takeouteria or Nunzio’s Newfoundland Noshemporium to try their hand at opening locations two, three or four. Been there, done that. When a person(s) decides to try their hand at making a living feeding people they are in, basically, for a life without a life. Restaurant work doesn’t end at the closing of the day; it’s a twenty-four seven occupation on the scale of walking up to your neck into oncoming surf in Murphy’s ocean. Whatever can go wrong… will. I happen to love the business.
Many establishments host run-of-the mill self-aggrandizing owner/operators with authority issues and indecorous countenances who act like sandbox intimidators when things go awry and effectually unsettle everyone around them when things don’t go their way. They place ‘managers’ in charge and motivate them using a self perpetuating corporate inspiration/submission system, wondering why good people leave and rationalizing that ‘quitters’ cannot take the pressure (that they have created), this is the best way to success: spend your time perfecting surreptitiousness, stay alert to discrepancies in productivity and rationalize that if one site is working up to expectations, two or more would be better for you financially, if not spiritually. Make sure that your staff never work unprofitable schedules, avoid offering benefits and never shy away from terminating the weaker links. To some this is de rigueur.
            Sometimes a person will ask me if I ever miss the work of owning or Cheffing in a joint, Bistro, low brow or high end Gourmangerie, and I tell them yes; that’s because the work is the easy part, it’s all the rest of the stuff that goes along with being a conductor in this field of dysfunctional cacophonic Merry Melody orchestras that tests.
Basically--at the beginning-- passion is its own reward until the challenges start to fly at you like an octopus pitching bedlam fastball in an asylum world series.
            Numero uno, though, is that to be successful you have to be able to pay the bills, the twenty-seven different baseballs that you have to knock out of the park each month to stay in the game. This of course is relative to the dollars you take in and how creative you are at spending them; if you want a pretzel logic, Chutes and Ladders exercise, try conceiving how a sixteen dollar pizza cut twenty ways is divided financially for any culinary entrepreneur.   Slice one goes to the rent; slices two thru five pays the waiters, dishwashers, busboys, bartender; six thru eleven pay for the cost of the pie (averaged out over the whole menu); so now you have nine slices left. Telephone, electricity, gas, water, trash, insurance, linen, alarm system, computer, booze, office supplies, paper goods, taxes and workman’s compensation: munchers in a Pac-Man game eating into your cash flow--- and then the ice machine breaks; the drains back up; a rain storm floods your business closing you down for two weeks.
            The work is the easy part: you get up, suit up, show up and never give up; you become defined by your work and you try to balance empathy and discipline with your staff, knowing that you can never pay them a decent wage and realizing that few of them will ever reach their potential. You try to lead by example, admitting when you’re wrong and having that ‘Come to Jesus’ talk when you have to; you fight your demons on your own time and leave your other life (if you’re lucky enough to have one) at the door, you have a job to do. And you mistakenly expect everyone around you to live up to your standards.
            And then there’s the food and that’s what it’s really about; that’s why you’re here; working ‘the product’ so that your customers are whelmed, the critics approve of you and some crumbs hit the bottom line. And then the dishwasher shows up drunk on Saturday night and passes out in time for the seven-thirty rush; you find out that the cleaning crew is having surf and turf while working; the bartender is giving free drinks to his friends and big tippers. 
            The best thing about working in a restaurant is that you can take your craft with you anywhere in the world; the worst thing about running a restaurant is knowing that this is going to happen with your most talented staff and while the worst of your people will fade away (hopefully before damage occurs) what you’ll be left with will be mules that you can rely upon to do their job but not much more and all the hopes that you have for making a mark on the world will be forgotten as you row, row, row, that boat.
                        Having been around this block more times than I can count, I’ve seen it all from the inside; now, instead, I cook at home every night and leave you with the last line --which is also the first line-- welcome, my friend to the show that never ends.
             
           


How to host your own New Orleans parade

How to Host Your Own New Orleans Second Line
By
Phil LaMancusa
            You’ve seen them in the streets of the French Quarter; anywhere from two to two hundred; they’ve got a band, stilt walkers, jugglers, clowns, drinks, smiles, they’re dancing, throwing beads and waving handkerchiefs to the astonished onlookers who wonder at the banner that reads “Welcome Home Sonny!” or whatever you can imagine as something that a person would want to have a parade for: birth, graduation, Patsy’s divorce or (in many cases) just for the hell of it. Did you know that you can DIY? You can, and I’m going to walk you through the process of giving/having your very own customized Second Line procession, or as we commonly call it: ‘Takin’ It To The Streets!’
            First of all, you could call a service that can provide you with all the bells and whistles including a restaurant destination for an après marche celebratory banquet, they will handle any permits, escorts and accoutrements for your event. Or you can continue to plow ahead on your own; and, by now we’ve all seen the Hannibal Buress stand up routine about having a parade in the streets of the French Quarter and how easy it is to organize and pull off. Well, surprise, it’s a little more complicated than the three minutes or so of humor that he uses and although it isn’t rocket surgery, it’s not like me, cheap and easy; more like a full time job for whoever chooses to take on this challenge.  I did try to follow his directions: “First you go down to the police station and get a permit” he said; to which the answer is: no, you need to get a permit from City Hall (1300 Perdido St. 7th floor) in person or online at nola.gov/onestop. The permit is $100.25 for non profits and $200.25 for everyone else (why the .25? Who knows?).
            Next you’ll need to choose the date, time and route for your procession (at least 15 days in advance of the occasion) because you’ll, obviously, need a police escort to assist you in impeding traffic while you parade worry free (drinks and all). The cost for the police starts at $384.97 for the first (minimum) two and a half hours and goes up; you pay that $384.97 whether you use them 2 ½ hours or not. Your route and size determines the amount of police necessary and for this you will consult with a Special Event Commander. They will have you fill out two forms with your intentions including who you have hired to clean up after you. You can find out more about police pricing at: nola.gov-secondary-employment/pricing.
About that marching band (remember them?); if you go to gigsalad.com/music you will find that there is a plethora of street savvy brass bands ready to take on your group’s event. They will range from $400.00 to $1,200.00 (and up) for an hour and a half (plus tip) depending on size, experience and date of the adventure; again, more time means higher fees.
            Okay, so here’s the scene: say you and your entourage of twenty want to meet at Pat O’Brien’s on St. Peter St. (for drinks) and dance down Royal St. to Toulouse St. over to Chartres and across Jackson Square and end up at Muriel’s for burgers and more booze or a little further to Harry’s Corner for just a throwdown. Swell, that’s a twenty minute walk at most. Figure it will take at least an hour and a half. It’s gonna be like herding cats to get from there to there; alcohol, which many people want for this occasion ( while making most of y’all more jovial) will slow things down more than a tad.             You also need to consider whether you want to have all those accoutrements mentioned above, where and how to get them; did I mention that this will be a full time gig to get your ship off the ground? It will be. You’ll need two people, one who does all the running around grunt work (get Cousin Vinnie) and the other who will hand over their AmEx card and look the other way (Uncle Vito).
            So now, face it, this is not something you want to subject yourself to; I mean, yeah, get Vinnie to do it and Vinnie will have a great story to tell and you’ll have someone that you know that you can blame for any of the components that go awry, of which there will be many possibilities.  Orrrrr… call a company that handles these, and other functions, on an everyday basis. There are a few and I randomly picked MustDoNola.com (855-353-6634) from the Destination Kitchen site and queried them.
            I was told that because of the myriad of details that need the attention that will avoid mishaps, and the need to eliminate any level of stress, inconvenience or confusion that may occur, PLUS the absolute necessity to have this occasion not only go off without a hitch BUT keep things as light hearted and above all FUN for all involved, you NEED professionals who have knowledge and understanding of what it takes, how to do it and how to be virtually invisible to all but the hosts of any event that they’re involved in.  These people offer to take care of every detail of any celebration from greeting your people at the airport (with a band) to sending your guests out to the swamps on tours or to dump a body (just kidding) and in our case, organizing a second line parade through the streets of the French Quarter. They advise me that not only do they know how to spend a person’s hard earned, but also where they can save money and/or get the most bang for the buck.
So, my advice is: get the AmEx from Uncle Vito, give it to Cousin Vinnie and have Vinnie decide to either schlep it himself or “call some people”; relax, come on down to The Big easy, have a few drinks at Pat O’s, and act surprised and thrilled when all of a sudden twenty of your closest friends show up with a band to take you to lunch, ya know what I mean? Who doesn’t love a parade?
           
           
           
           


Alligator

Po Boy views
By
Phil LaMancusa
Billy’s Blues
Or
Lonely at the Top
            It sucks being a giraffe, it’s got to be the worst job on the planet; worse than a donut fry cook, scrap metal junk collector or a manic mechanic on cars. I know it is because I spent a few early morning REMs being a giraffe and I can tell you that I didn’t like it from the beginning until the time that I woke up.
            “First of all, giraffes give birth standing up, so a newborn calf is literally dropped from a height onto the ground where they’re pushed to a standing position and told to get the hell moving before they become some lion’s hors d’oeuvre; father is called a Bull (which he likes fine) while mother is called a ‘Cow’ (fighting words where I come from). The whole gang of ‘em is called a ‘Tower’ as in: “hey Clem, there goes a tower of gy-raffes, must be six or eleben of ‘em!” I’m telling you, it ain’t easy.
            Next, it’s almost impossible to have a dialogue with more than one giraffe at a time, all that head turning hurts your neck, and brother, there’s a lot of neck to hurt. Also, it’s hard to get a decent drink from the water hole without all the other animals making fun of you, you have to eat what’s at the top of the trees and be satisfied with it and monkeys think that your appearance is hysterical and throw things at you. Conversely, giraffes are very good at one on one, giraffe to giraffe, conversation and this sometimes leads to romance and another calf being dropped from a high place to continue to cycle of life, to which I say: thanks… for nothing.  
            So, there you are or more precisely, I am (giraffe-ly speaking), one day, minding your/my own business, swapping jokes with the chimps, and Uncle Ralph says “Okay let’s mosey on”; actually he doesn’t say anything because giraffes don’t talk (imagine having vocal cords that long?). Uncle Ralph, who’s the ‘lead’ bull, just gets a bug up his butt and starts ambling and--what do we know—we can’t see what’s going on, so we follow him; off goes the ‘tower’ all six or eleven of us.
            BAM! There goes a noise and what do you think it is? It’s some pale, hairless biped who has just shot me with a needle and down I go unconscious to be ripped from my family and friends, shipped off to a zoo where there’s not enough room to scratch my assets and I’m put into an ‘enclosure’ with others of my kind and expected to eat dry grass and iceberg lettuce, drink from a water fountain that’s twelve feet in the air, and make nicey nice for the gawking dressed up humans that look to us more ridiculous than an orangutan’s back side. I have nothing in common with any of this.
            Sure, there’s a cute little giraffe heifer from Uganda or some place and she’s giving me the eye; and, I’ll tell you, when a female giraffe starts batting those eye lashes… boy, howdy! But hey, you’re wandering around on packed dirt all day and then enclosed in a dark barn all night (albeit with high ceilings) and face it, how are you going to pitch some woo with a bunch of long neck geeks snoring and snuffling (giraffes snore loud enough to rattle window panes) and wanting to get up into your grill because you accidentally stepped on their hoof or passed gas?
            Okay, so the sweetie sweetie preliminaries between Mary Lou (the heifer) and I are completed in the dark of night and next day she starts nuzzling up to me—in the ‘enclosure’—on the packed dirt—water fountain twelve feet in the air and you/I drop all of your/my reserves and composure and go for it. Suddenly you hear: “Hey Clem, come quick, them gy-raffes is f*kkin’!”  Talk about a bliss buster, total deflation, and you know that your performance will be dudsville and you’ll be the laughing stock of the stockade and you have to live the rest of your days with the shame. And the keepers wonder why you look depressed. Depressed? You don’t know the half of it; don’t get me started on the artificial insemination process.”
            I start to black out, my head is spinning, there is a rushing sound in my ears and a banging, banging and that’s when I wake up; it takes me a minute to get my bearings. I’m in a strange bed, it’s Tuesday and the garbage men are on the street with their usual hullabaloo and cacophonic city wake up call.
            Back to my life and reality; drillers are drilling, billers are billing, killers are killing and the swills are out in force, swilling; if it was a thrill, it would be thrilling…but it’s not.  I need to get up, shower, shave and get to work on time, I need to find water, a clean shirt, and my razor has become dull over night. I have bed head, bags under my eyes and I realize I just screwed up a (giraffe’s) wet dream; I am such a loser but…  I smell coffee.
            And I wake up again, this time for real. The dog’s licking my face, the mug of coffee is within my reach and her voice is saying “good morning, how’d you sleep?” For a minute I’m not sure whether I’m a giraffe having a dream that I’m a human or if I really did have a dream about being a giraffe; but, I reach up and touch her cheek and decide that I’ll be satisfied with what I’m seeing, what I’m feeling. I stretch and say “fine Honey, but you know what? It would really suck being a giraffe.”
                       


Monday, August 14, 2017

Harissa 2017

Harissa 2017 By Philipe LaMancusa
Ingredients
2 medium to large red bell peppers
1 ½ tsp coriander seeds
1 ½ tsp cumin seed
1 tsp caraway seed
5 cloves fresh garlic
½ medium red onion
2 ounces dried ancho chilies
2 ounces dried guajillo chilies
½ c. Aleppo pepper
¼ c. olive oil
1 medium to large red tomato or 2 Tbsp tomato paste and 1/3 c. water
½ c. red wine vinegar
1/tsp salt
2 Tbsp fresh mint (optional)
1 large pinch ground cinnamon (optional)
2 Tbsp smoked paprika (optional)
Method
Roast and peel and seed the red peppers
Toast the seeds lightly and let cool.
Seed, stem dried peppers, cover generously, moderately hot tap water 30 min drain.
Peel the tomato by blanching in boiling water 90 seconds and seed
Now put everything in a food processor and blend until smooth but still chunky

Let cool then jar and refrigerate. Keeps well.
Serve with pita and hummus or use as a rub or a marinate of fish or chicken. 
Pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, rose water more cumin, olive oil, add more garlic, hotter peppers, go CRAZY, man!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Creole Meat Loaf

“THE MEATLOAF“ RECIPE MILL VALLEY, Ca. 1986
5lb ground beef (chuck)
6 oz catsup
2 Eggs
1 ½ C bread crumbs (we made our own)
Sauté until cooked, cool before mixing w/ other ingredients
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 ½ c. chopped onion
¾ c. chopped celery
½ chopped green bell pepper
½ bunch chopped green onion
1 (‘3’ crossed out) shots Tabasco sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2tbsp black pepper
½ Tbsp white pepper
½ Tbsp salt
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cayenne


 Bke at 350 until done (firm) about 45 minutes to an hour. Serve slices (about ten) smothered with the gravy that you made from the pan juices, smashed potatoes and any vegetable that you can think of. Oh, I don't know how to cut down this recipe.

Twelve Years Later

Twelve Years Later
By
 Debbie Lindsey

            Every day I pass her signature, stubborn and indelible, an autograph deeply imprinted from the added force of incompetence and malfeasance.  Katrina the hurricane, not The Flood, seemed to be saving her brute force for others and would have made her debut in New Orleans somewhat unremarkable if only the levees had done their job.  But they didn’t and I am reminded of this when I walk next to the three foot plus water line that remains on the glass door and its curtain that has hung stained since that August day.
            Every year, the anniversary of Katrina and the levee failures is met with diametrically opposing emotions and attitudes.  There are those who choose not to dwell on it and those (like me) who have trouble letting it go.  Some lives were damaged beyond repair and others whose lives were lifted up.  “Survivor guilt” is felt, to varying degrees, by those who lived on the sliver by the river and escaped the waters.  But no one, absolutely no one, was spared the pain.  And there is the collateral damage to families and friends who sat helplessly watching it unfold on televisions across the world.  Sometimes I think my sister, high and dry in Birmingham, was more frightened than we were here in the midst of it all.
            You learn quickly who simply can’t talk about it and respectfully change conversational course; but, most folks seem inclined to swap “war stories”.  Yes, it can be equated to having gone through combat and surviving in a war zone. As with war veterans, there is often that bonding, the camaraderie of commiseration that comes from shared dangers and the experiences of living through something historical.   And historical it was.
Katrina most certainly is something for the history books, and I say “is” as it cannot be placed in the past tense of “was”.  Much of this saga belongs to yesterday, however, we live in a landscape—organic, political, economic, and societal—that is forever changed and/or evolving as a result of Katrina and the levee malfunctions.  There were fifty-three breaches to our various canals and levees.  To date this is the largest residential disaster in U.S. history.  A major American city had its population reduced by half.  This natural and man-made catastrophe stands as this country’s costliest hurricane costing 135 billion just for NOLA.  And to this day these stats differ with a multitude of other sources yet all are shocking and admit to be record breaking.  The death toll will never be certain.
Much has been reported, rumored, and recounted about what took place during those days after the flood waters filled our city.  A great deal has been discredited, such as alligators and sharks swimming about.  Why the media wanted to dismiss this as urban myth is beyond me.  Certainly there were alligators—did they think that the gator was going to stay in Bayou St. John as its waters mingled with lake waters and not crawl or swim beyond some invisible boundary?  Heck a gentleman I knew was hospitalized at Lindy Boggs hospital at the edge of Bayou St. John and told of a rather large alligator in the building’s flooded lobby. As for sharks—well I know a very credible source in Gentilly who watched a fin gliding past his flooded home (just a bull shark perhaps).  When simple over-lapping of nature in otherwise urban environments becomes a “tall tale” you can see how easy it was for people to discount the truly shocking—things that folks simply could not wrap their heads around.
It truly was the wild, wild, west.  Anything could and did happen.  Heinous crimes and heroic deeds.  There was no precedent for the days and weeks that’s followed and certainly nothing was even remotely normal for the next year; and even as a rhythm reminiscent of life before Katrina slowly began to take root it would be years before significant reparations and restorations would outnumber the look and feel of a war zone.
            Lessons were taught and lessons were learned.  We know now to assume the worse from a storm and from our man-made protections.  But, and this is serious, we can never become complacent.  Have a plan, whether it is to stay or to go.  If evacuation is not possible then have every possible safety plan in place along with provisions. Stock non-perishable foods, a can opener, first-aid, pet supplies, solar or battery lighting (never candles—we nearly torched our house during Katrina), have prescriptions filled and zip-locked, and know that those cell phones will not be reliable for extended power outages.  Consider keeping or getting a land-line touch tone phone.  If totally dependent upon a cell then have an external back-up battery, a car adapter to plug in and charge from your car’s cigarette lighter.  Before a possible power loss charge phones, reduce to the cell phone’s lowest power mode, and then back away from that device until truly needed for life-saving communications.
            Also stock-up on lots of water, Pedialyte for hydration (my nerves and tainted foods wrought serious diarrhea), moist-toilettes, bleach, and heavy-gage garbage bags. And remember, that toilet ain’t gonna flush after several days (this is when those garbage bags in addition to cleaning out your refrigerator will be needed).  If you stay for the next flood you must remember what it was like twelve years ago.  And for the many new residents too young to have the Katrina Debacle in their memory’s reference--read about it now. I suggest: Chris Rose’s Pulitzer prize nominated “One Dead in Attic”, Douglas Brinkly’s “The Great Deluge”, and Google “17 of the Best Things Ever Written About Katrina” (HuffPost), for more informative reads. 
I often wonder how many folks I crossed paths with during those couple of days leading up to Katrina’s landfall that are no longer with us.  We were the lucky ones, the fools who rode it out.  And, for no good reason other than sheer luck am I able to sit and write about it today—twelve years later.  Consider this a cautionary tale.

            

Six Pack Spice Info

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Joe’s 2017 (Taco Magic)
Ingredients: Kosher salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, arbol chilies, granulated garlic, onion flakes, Spanish paprika, smoked paprika, leaf oregano, cumin seed.
Uses: 3 tablespoons will well season a pound of meat (fish, chicken) for tacos, enchiladas etc, also good in beans, empanadas, ranchero sauce. Dust on stuff to grill
Greek Fisherman (Lemon Pepper Blend)
Ingredients: Organic lemon peel, black pepper, kosher salt, granulated garlic, dried onion, leaf oregano, dill weed, fennel seed
Uses: Any seafood, salads, shellfish pasta dishes, baked potatoes, cream sauces.
Summer Pie Spice Blend
Ingredients: Allspice, cinnamon, cardamom seed, cloves, ginger, nutmeg
Uses: use on heaping tablespoon for apple peaches pumpkin pies. Use on baked sweet potatoes, candied pecans and mulled ciders
Creole Crack Blend
Ingredients: Kosher salt, paprika, granulated garlic, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, leaf thyme, leaf oregano, leaf basil, cinnamon, and nutmeg
Uses: THIS is the spice to use on everything! Red beans, gumbo, as a blackening, French fries, mac and cheese, avocado, popcorn rims of bloody Mary glasses
Killer Griller (meat seasoning blend)
Ingredients: Kosher salt, smoked paprika, granulated garlic, onion flakes, cayenne pepper, black pepper, crushed red pepper, white pepper, leaf oregano, leaf thyme, leaf basil, peppermint leaf, rosemary leaf, celery seed, yellow mustard seed, cumin seed, coriander seed, allspice berries, seed fennel Uses: Braising, roasting, smoking, grilling beef, pork, ribs, chicken and fish. Use as a rub and in your BBQ sauces.
Ras al Hanout (Moroccan spice blend)
Ingredients: turmeric, cumin seed, ground ginger, Spanish saffron, black pepper, cardamom, seed fennel, mace, cubeb peppers, cayenne, white pepper, cloves, yellow mustard seed, poppy seeds, fenugreek seeds, star anise, granulated garlic, cinnamon bark, mint leaf, allspice, lavender flowers, organic rose petals, nutmeg

Uses:  Any dish that needs a curry like flavor, tagines, roasted cauliflower, sprinkle on fresh melon or mangoes, grilled vegetables and lime in the coconut milk sauce.