The fanciest of New Orleans restaurants when I arrived here nearly 60 years ago were Arnaud’s, Antoine’s, Delmonico, Brennan’s, Commander’s Palace, Galatoire’s. The Court of Two Sisters was mostly a tourist favorite, and the venerable Tujague’s was the go-to place for boiled beef and more casual dining.
Also doing business were the great Kolb’s, Casamento’s, Domilise’s, Acme Oyster House, Parkway Bakery and Tavern, Pascal’s Manale, Napoleon House, Dooky Chase, and the Camellia Grill. Paul Prudhomme’s and Emeril Lagasse’s celebrity was still in the future.
It was at the wonderful Fitzgerald’s on the lake front that I first saw Orleanians devouring piles of crabmeat and crawfish—surrounded by piles of shells—and slurping oysters from the half-shells. I shuddered at the sight, and then not very long afterward, I joined them.
For Chinese food, my husband and children of several years later and I went to Young’s, also out on the lakefront near Masson’s Beach House, a fancier place to dine. I think that Young’s and the House of Lee on Veterans were two of very few Asian restaurants here at the time—I sort of remember a place in the Quarter and may have missed one in the eastern part of the city.
Ten or so years later I visited London for the first time and found what I considered to be a deplorably short supply of really good food. But have you ever heard of Brit cuisine? I think not.
And then, after several trips to most of Europe, my husband and I scheduled a tour of Greece and its islands and found we had arrived in a culinary paradise.
Moussaka, spanakopita, baklava, hummus, dolmades—we loved them all. While sightseeing, we stopped at street stalls where vendors shaved hot, juicy meat from spinning lamb shanks and served it on warm pita bread. We feasted on tomatoes garnished with feta cheese and black olives and drank mugs of cold, cold Fixx beer, savoring dishes of pastitsio and Greek yogurt.
This is all to get you in the mood for this year’s festival on the grounds of the Holy Trinity Cathedral on Bayou St. John at 1200 Robert E. Lee Boulevard. Check out Greek Fest New Orleans 2016
for full information about the event that opens Friday, May 27
and runs through Sunday, May 29
. Here’s the gist of it:
Take a guided tour of the cathedral—the oldest center of the Greek Orthodox faith in the Americas—partake of the delicious dishes provided by the master cooks of the fest committee, watch the Hellenic Dancers perform, taste some more of the wonderful food, listen and dance to live Greek music, eat again, and relax on the bayou while the children enjoy the Athenian Playground.They’ll be hungry, so kid food will be provided while you peruse things that can make you a fabulous Greek cook at home.
There will be ready to serve items, an assortment of cookbooks if you want to start from scratch, fresh and imported ingredients including an array of cheeses: Manouri (semi-soft fresh goat milk cheese), Kefalotiri (hard salty cheese from sheep milk), Kasseri (medium-hard cheese from sheep milk), Mizithra (Greek whey semi-hard cheese from sheep milk), Feta; and Kalamata olives from the city of Kalamata in the southern Peloponnese.
Shop a selection of homemade dips: Eggplant Salad Dip, Hummus, Skordalia (garlic spread), Tzatziki (light yogurt and cucumber dip), Taramousalata (red cavier spread).
Finish by buying some of the spices for sale, and you’re all set to enjoy some good Greek food at home.
Greek fest opens at 5:00 P.M. on Friday and at 11 A.M. on Saturday and Sunday (the day you can get in free if you wear a toga).