Visit the main website
Author of the Faye Longchamp Archaeological Mysteries
Checkout Floodgates and the rest of the books!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Elegance at Galatoire's

A couple of years ago, I made a research trip to New Orleans as I prepared to write Floodgates .  Since I'm getting so much positive feedback from my posts about last week's research trip to south Louisiana in preparation to write Plunder.  I remember being shocked to see how much of the city still looked like a war zone.  And I remember being very pleased to see that the historic French Quarter had survived intact, so I urged my readers to take their vacation dollars to New Orleans and have a really good time.

Not being the type to drop a lot of cash in the Bourbon Street bars, I did my part for the local economy by eating very, very well.  This post about my scrumptious meal at Galatoire's caught the attention of the restaurant's historian, and she asked my permission to quote from it in the next edition of her history of Galatoire's. I said yes, of course, and I hope maybe I'll get an extra-nice table on my next trip to the Big Easy.  :)  I'm re-posting special articles from the past this week, while I'm traveling.  I hope you enjoy this one.
Elegance at Galatoire's

Last week, I spent some time grieving about the unresolved state of the restoration of New Orleans.  This week, I think I'll change to focus to a more positive part of the story.  I'll tell you about a lovely evening I spent there, an evening that reflected the best parts of an old and rich culture.  I had dinner at Galatoire's.
I've always wanted to eat at Galatoire's ( ), ever since I was a little girl and my parents would get dressed up and drive to New Orleans for elegant events my father's company held there.  A couple of years ago, my yen to try the place grew even stronger when I made a dish called Eggplant Galatoire's from one of my favorite cookbooks.  It was probably the most fabulous thing I've ever made--eggplant stuffed with crabmeat and breadcrumbs and onions and seasonings and topped with a luscious sauce.  I was seized by the need to eat Eggplant Galatoire's at Galatoire's, but it took me until this month to make it happen.  (It was delicious, too.)
I learned that eighty percent of the Galatoire's experience--and it is an experience--lies in the atmosphere and service.  This is not to diminish the food, which is fabulous, but I've had fabulous food in other places.  I've never, however, been asked as I was seated whether I had a favorite server I'd like to request.  I've never sat in a restaurant that had been owned by the same family for its entire 103-year history that's still serving some of the original dishes from a long-ago Victorian era.  (In fact, the whole experience put me in mind of Ann Parker's ongoing guide to Victorian manners, elsewhere in this blog.)  I've never seen emerald-green wallpaper, handblocked to match the wallpaper that has always hung on those walls, because--well, because it just can't change.
Everywhere I went in New Orleans, I was reminded of the special character of the people who work in the hospitality industry there.  They know how to make you feel pampered, but that's true in many cities.  Nowhere else, however, have I ever encountered such a well-defined balance in demeanor.  At Galatoire's, as in so many other places in the city, the waitstaff was attentive without being obsequious or snooty.  The attitude seemed to be, "We're professionals and we're glad you're here.  How can we help you have a good time?" 
Somehow, they conveyed the feeling that, provided the men in your party showed up in a coat and tie (because some standards can never be lowered), then there would never be a velvet rope at the door or a bouncer deciding whether you were good enough for Galatoire's style of pampering.  Considering that I got a three-course meal for roughly what I paid for my entree at another, less old-school, restaurant around the corner that I'm almost certain you've heard of, then I'd say it was a rather egalitarian experience.  And I think everyone deserves a little elegance now and then.
Stay tuned next week for more of my nattering about New Orleans.  I want us to remember what they've been through, and I want people who have vacation dollars to spare to go down there and have a good time.  It's the most pleasant way to do the right thing that I can imagine.

No comments:

Post a Comment