by Kevin Allman
But the praise was particularly passive-aggressive; if Ozersky was your visiting uncle, he'd be the one telling you that you look so much better now that you've shaved off some of that weight (though you could still use a good haircut). After assuring us of his Crescent City bona fides ("I've been going to New Orleans for most of my life, as I have family there, and as a result have eaten many, many, many meals in the food-crazed city — but rarely any really good ones"), Ozersky goes on to explain:
There was a tendency, in many of the city's most celebrated restaurants, to pile crabmeat on top of everything, mix in some French or Italian stuff, and call it a day. If innovation did come, it was frequently horrific: even as I write this, a menu at one of the city's most famous restaurants includes a "French pastry layered with melted Brillat-Savarin cheese, strawberry jam, brown sugar bacon & sticky bourbon infused honey." Blech!
To which I say, gently: Maybe your family eats in the wrong places, Ozersky; the crabmeat-and-butter formula is far from universal in New Orleans ... these days, it's more the image of New Orleans food one might expect from an uninformed tourist. And the French pastry mentioned is on the dessert menu at Commander's Palace; it doesn't sound particularly appealing to me, either, but I've also learned to try anything that comes out of Tory McPhail's kitchen.
More after the jump, including a second helping of the Alan Richman debacle reheated Ozersky-style, as well as the Huffington Post discovering drive-thru daiquiris ... and a grave insult to New Orleanian drinking habits, served up by The Daily Beast ...
What's going to piss off a lot of people in the Ozersky article is this nugget:
Alan Richman pissed off practically the entire English-speaking world with his thoughtful but ill-timed criticisms of New Orleans food in 2006, but he wasn't actually wrong: a lot of New Orleans cuisine was overwrought, old-fashioned and generally lame.
For those who missed it: Richman was a critic who came to town less than a year after we were all reeling from the floods after Katrina, and went on to pronounce New Orleans food sucky (and Creoles to be "imaginary," but that's another discussion). The Full Richman, with whom Ozersky seems to agree:
New Orleans was always a three-day stubble of a city, and now, courtesy of Katrina, it’s more like five. The situation is worse, of course, in the devastated areas, where the floodwaters and the winds did their work. I know we are supposed to salvage what’s left of the city, but what exactly is it that we’re trying to cherish and preserve? I hope it’s not the French Quarter, which has evolved into a illogical mix of characterless housing, elegant antiques stores, and scuzzy bars, a destination for tourists seeking the worst possible experience. The entertainment values are only marginally superior to those of Tijuana, Mexico. Of course, there’s the food. I’m not certain the cuisine was ever as good as its reputation, in part because the people who have consumed, evaluated, and admired it likely weren’t sober enough at the time of ingestion to know what they were eating...
(Brett Anderson at The Times-Picayune refuted the slur and basically called Richman an asshole, a sentiment elaborated upon by New Orleans magazine food writer Robert Peyton who took a router to Richman's rear end in a response that got national attention.)
Anyway, congrats to Sylvain, Patois and La Provence; it's just a shame they got praised at the expense of, well, everywhere else.
• The Daily Beast concocted one of their regular "Top Whatever Number" lists, this one being The Top 40 Drunkest Cities in America. New Orleans came in at ... No. 25, well behind other famous besotted cities like Burlington, Vt. (No. 6), Sioux City, Iowa (No. 14) and even Sacramento, Calif. (No. 23). We are, however, not drunker than Las Vegas (No. 36), which makes me wonder what The Daily Beast editors were drinking (or smoking) (or shooting) (or freebasing) when they drew up this list.
• And speaking of year-end lists: The Huffington Post made a list of the top 10 Worst Drinking Trends of 2010 — and No. 6 was drive-thru daiquiri bars. Not sure why drive-thru daiquiri bars are a trend (they don't exist outside parts of Louisiana, and they're certainly not new), but it's good to see the HuffPo producing some original material. Happy New Year, Arianna!