Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Orleans: Calas Cakes, Fake Siblings, a Quiet Jazz Hall

One of the first places where we ate, following Central Grocery (and Felix's for oysters the night before -- check out a comparo with their across-the-street rivals, Acme here) was The Old Coffee Pot. We were ready for a good Southern breakfast. We crossed Bourbon Street, as it seemed we had to do, no matter where we were going, passed a closed Preservation Hall and were seated in the main room, below and to the side of one of the most singular chandeliers I had ever seen. Not that I noticed it myself.

"Look up~~" Compatriot murmured.
It's so small and subtle, no wonder I didn't see it.

14' ceiling mandatory. Luckily these abound in NoLa.
There's just SO much going on with it. I love it.
The waitress came over. "You identicals? You twins?"

We laughed and shook our heads, no, no.

"~~But you're sisters--"

"No, no we get that a lot, but no~"
The waitress shook her head vigorously and roped in nearby diners. "They look like SISTERS! Don't they look like sisters!" The next two tables peered over at us and they nodded their heads, "Oh yeah, yes they do!"  Mmmp, mmp, mmp! What did we think we were doing, coming across as so similar, with no blood ties? This ushered in regular false sister sightings (sometimes, girlfriend sightings), with us at the center; where strangers were utterly convinced of their rightness. Collectively speaking, New Orleans is confident we're related. We get this every once in a long while here, but it was definitely in overdrive there. Comp usually chalks it up to superficial similarities in our appearances and to people not really being observant, but I like to think it also reflects us being sympatico, and behaviors associated with that: the negotiating over menu options together, excitement over food, watching other people, etc.

Related or not, we both know how to eat well.

I suspect the french toast (lost bread) had turmeric to give that nice orange tint.

Mine was good, but I must say Comp's was better: Creole fried rice fritters called Calas cakes.  They are slightly sweet, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg; between a certain earthiness and nuttiness, they feel wholesome-- even though they're fried. This of course, could be me lying about the relative health of food I like, which I am prone to do. But oh, how I wish they would travel up here!

Poor, ignored grits. you were lovely, too. Creamy, salty and buttery.
We looked up every once in a while. And chatted with the traveling Brits at the next table over. Here's another shot of the place.
Calm in the middlin' morn, busy-busy during weekend brunch time. We spent our latest night on Saturday, listening to rousing jazz at the Spotted Cat on Frenchman Street. After a 3 AM bedtime and a longish line of drinks over many hours, I must confess I was the worse for wear the following day. Grits sounded comforting. We returned to the Old Coffee Pot, only to find ourselves in the dining room purgatory of the outer hall. Some people had tables outside; the relative cold was chastened by one of the largest space heater things I have seen, hanging about ten feet above our heads. I mourned our unfed state, but was also haggard enough to be mostly content with standing and staring about. Compatriot found a zine from a nearby shelf -- if there's anything to read anywhere, she'll find it -- and riffled through rants slagging tourists (maybe it was written by community members of the service industry? I think). They turned the outdoor speakers onto funk and soul music at a blaring level; this seemed mean. The waitresses alternately ignored and acknowledged the unbrunched lot of us (we got a "Hi honey-- HEEEEEEeeeeeeeEY!" which gave us hope we would not be turned away unfed.)
Once released from purgatory, I felt the need to gleefully document from the other side. I hoped to get a really woeful expression, but I refrained from taking several shots.

And then, happily, there was coffee, and grits and a biscuit with butter and honey. A good biscuit, finished off this way, is one of my favorite favorite food things: I think my Dad originally turned me onto that.* We sighed and ate and C kindly ordered a breakfast plate that included Calas cakes, so we could revisit those as well. One of us smiled, or said hello to one of the waitresses we had crossed paths with. "They LOOK like twins, but they ain't twins," she muttered as she walked past.
Before we left for the afternoon, three waitresses gathered nearby and discussed it once again (one we hadn't met before); my favorite line from the exchange was the mysterious, "Even if they're NOT sisters, they're GONNA be sisters!"

*Little did I know, it was a three biscuit day! At GW Fins that night, a small, slightly sweet biscuit was placed on a wee plate to the side of both of our place settings. I ate one and suddenly a pair of tongs silently darted in from the dining room's gloom with another: Biscuit Fairy! This kind of servant is exceedingly rare. And shy. But appreciated.

In case you missed it, her pin reads, "Tipping is not a town in China."
The famed Preservation Hall. Just a little further down on Saint Peters Street
Fully intended to go, but did not make it inside.

1 comment:

  1. I must go to Nawlins. Must. Just reading this made me acutely aware of how hungry I am for this kind of food. After Nashville and Charleston I do believe I'm quite ready to eat my way through another southern city.