Monday, February 1, 2010

Patois: Sunday Brunch

Between Sunday restaurant closures and the Saints-Vikings big game, we knew it would be hard to come by dinner last Sunday. Brunch was an obvious choice.

My father wrote recently about brunch not being his favorite meal; I mainly agree. I like to eat when I wake up, and I wake up early. Of course, in New Orleans you wake up a bit later than usual. Sometimes you don't feel like jumping out of bed right away; perhaps you need to lift yourself a bit more slowly, gently, than normal. And then brunch seems perfectly reasonable.

We'd decided on Patois in Uptown. It was a sunny morning, so a ride on the streetcar followed by a brisk walk was just the ticket. By the time we had done all that, a cocktail seemed perfectly reasonable. Pavel had a 'Lady Marmalade': gin, champagne, and a spoon of marmalade steeping in the bottom of the glass. I had a bloody Mary.  Not so original, but bracing just the same.

Pavel's Lady Marmalade
The restaurant was full of people already celebrating the Saints. The game was hours away, but I never once got the feeling the Saints wouldn't win; New Orleanians were sure of it. There were two birthday parties at adjacent tables--double celebrations for them. People chatted across tables.  A daughter and her elderly father sat in a corner, enjoying their time together.

I was all ready for shrimp and grits. And they were, sadly, out of them.  So there is a problem eating late.  But we just ordered anyway: spinach, frisee, and fried oyster salad; sides of grits and greens; a pork belly, fried green tomato, and egg sandwich.  Shortly after we ordered, the party next to ours was given a friendly admonishment to get their orders in:  "We're closing the kitchen one hour early...we all gotta get drunk before the game."  No problem there--the diners were in a bit of a rush as well, wanting to finish brunch in time for a nap before going to the game.
The waiter brought some barely sweet banana muffins, and similarly subtle cheese popovers. Funny thing. While no one bats an eyelash when you order a drink with your breakfast or brunch (on Sunday or Monday!), you often have to ask for coffee. We didn't this time, figuring, when in New Orleans, drink as the New Orleanians do.

The food arrived, and it was good. The greens, especially. I'm predisposed to like any and all greens, but sometimes they're sweeter than I'd like, or have a bit too much vinegar in them for my taste. These were smoky, barely sweet (perhaps simply from growing through a frost) and had the kind of heat that intrigued, but still let you taste your grits.  That's important.

Pavel and I have an ongoing problem with oysters. I, being from the West Coast, like mine small. Pavel, being Czech, likes them big. Well, maybe it doesn't have to do with his land of origin. Anyway,  I think the oysters in New Orleans are an acquired taste, and I don't have it.  To me they are lackluster.  Maybe if I stayed here longer I'd learn to appreciate them properly.  I just read Sarah Roahen's Gumbo Tales (a good book to read if you're heading to New Orleans and are interested in the food, the people, and just how dependent they are on one another).  Her chapter on oysters suggests exactly that (though she warns that some, like M.F.K.Fisher never acquire the taste).  But then, she also describes needing to restrain "...the tidal wave of seawater cut loose with the first bite."  For me, it was more of a soft lapping at the seashore.

But the fried oysters in the spinach and frisee salad were daintly ones, and we were both happy. Isn't that how a vacation should be?

When it was time for dessert, we split the meyer lemon posset, a type of custard.  Partly just because I like saying 'posset', and never get the chance.  But mainly because it was meyer lemon, and silkiness, and came with (added bonus) crumbly lavender shortbread.

We did a good job eating.  I overheard a woman at the next table, just a few minutes past 1, say "what a nice way to start the day!".  She was right--I felt quite accomplished, and the day was not even half gone.


lshere said...

How interesting. Somehow I think of a posset as a quintessentially English food, not something that one would find in New Orleans.

Joanna M said...

Champagne+gin+marmalade = pure genius. Why hasn't the Lady Marmalade caught on more widely? This sounds fantastic and I'm making it very soon...great post - thanks!

Giovanna said...

I don't think you find many possets in New Orleans. But it does sound perfectly at home with the accent! (And it tasted right at home as well).

Joanna--for another marmalade drink (bourbon based instead of gin) check out this post, inspired by an earlier post on The Dinner Files.

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