I should have known the moment I landed in New Orleans last Friday night that lots of restaurant leftovers were looming.
Why? Because when I order in a New Orleans restaurant, I convince myself that I might never get to that restaurant again. Which, of course, is preposterous and absolutely untrue. I have been to New Orleans probably 20 times in the last 30 years, for nonfood business purposes, on assignment to write about the city's astonishing food and music culture, and with my family.
So convincing myself I might never get to these New Orleans restaurants again is the ultimate overeater's rationalization. It is true, however, that these days, now that I'm in eating-everything-just-less-of-it mode, I like to order lots of things just to try them, even if I'm with only one or two friends. Either way, I end up with a ton of leftovers.
How I dispose of those leftovers, and whether I should even lay claim to them, are two questions that loomed over every meal in New Orleans. Hell, they loom over every meal everywhere. How do other people deal with the restaurant leftovers problem?
So there I was Friday night in Mosca's, one of my all-time favorite New Orleans-area restaurants (it's about 15 miles outside the city in Waggaman, a town most people would never get to otherwise), chowing down with Jane and Michael Stern and the rest of their Roadfood crew. There were no baked oysters left over. There never are. But we had ordered too much chicken grande, roasted with tons of fresh rosemary and garlic and doused with olive oil, so there I was, facing a leftover quandary the first time I had stepped foot in Mosca's in at least 20 years. It was a do or die moment for my diet, or so I thought.
Our server at Mosca's came back with our white plastic container of chicken grande leftovers, and since nobody else seemed to want them (they were all a helluva lot smarter than me) I said I would take them. It was Mosca's Chicken Grande, for Christ's sake, I may never get back there again, I thought to myself.
I took it back to my hotel. By the time I carried it up to my room, the take-out container had started leaking. The bag and the box were an unholy mess. I put it in the bathroom in my room. The next morning I opened it, grabbed a piece of chicken, and took a bite. The chicken was dry and greasy. It turns out that chicken Grande from Mosca's doesn't travel well at all. I realized I was at a New Orleans crossroads leftover-wise. I took a deep breath, grabbed the bag with the chicken, and brought it down to the street, where I unceremoniously dumped it in a garbage can at the corner of Royal and Iberville in the French Quarter. It was a leftover liberation moment for me. I had licked my New Orleans leftover problem, at least for the time being.
Two hours later my friend Pableaux Johnson and I were eating lunch at Bozo's, one of my favorite places for fried seafood po-boys in New Orleans. Bozo's had moved from city to a nearby suburb Metairie about twenty years ago, and I hadn't been there in nearly that long, so we ordered a lot of food: gumbo, barbecued shrimp, oyster po'boy, shrimp po'boy, and a cheeseburger po'boy. I took a few bites of everything we ordered and-gasp-neither of us took the leftovers out of the restaurant. It was another small step for serious eater kind.
On Saturday night I ate with my friend Lolis Eric Elie at the great Louisiana chef Donald Link's new Butcher Shop, where he serves seriously delicious sandwiches made with house-cured meats and sausages. We ordered a duck pastrami sandwich, a beef pastrami reuben, a muffaletta made entirely with housemade cold cuts, a pizzetta, and a couple of other tapas. Lolis needed those leftovers to fuel what was going to be a late night of writing, so he took all of our leftovers home.
Having at least temporarily licked my New Orleans leftover problem I resolved to also come to grips with my New Orleans final solution issue. Whenever I leave New Orleans I usually stop at some classic New Orleans spot on my way to the airport to pick up something to eat on the plane. I have eaten everything from ham biscuits with debris from Mother's to pecan pie and red beans and rice from the Camellia Grill on airplanes. Messy, maybe. Delicious, definitely.
This time I had the cab take me straight to the New Orleans airport without stopping. I bought two bananas at the airport. I don't know if I have licked my New Orleans leftover problem for good, but during this week of Passover it was good to find out that at least this time, this trip to New Orleans was not like all the others.
I of course took my trusty sidekick Thinner to New Orleans, so I knew that even with my new leftover regimen I had gained a pound or two there. But I have been ever vigilant the rest of the week. I was even really careful at my family's seder last night, though my sister-in-law Carol's brisket and matzo ball soup, and Vicky's matzo crunch and Lemon Nut Torte were seriously, seriously delicious. Between New Orleans and the seder, I would be happy with an even week. Here we go: 222.
I had lost a pound in New Orleans, probably a pound of leftovers happily left in the restaurants they were served in.
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