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New Orleans Journal Episode Two: Dr. Lutz, Galatoire's, and Urban Gardens

When writing about New Orleans, one scarcely knows where to begin. Last week I just jumped in and provided an overview of our fabulous holiday in the Crescent City, including a description of the incredible home/apartment where we stayed---River House. See Episode One "Ain't No City Like New Orleans." 

I had planned to begin Episode Two with tales of our journey down to NOLA, but I just can't seem to talk about New Orleans without talking about my childhood friend and long time resident of the New Orleans French Quarter, Dr. Brobson Lutz. Brobson makes every trip to New Orleans memorable and all his friends have grand stories to tell. When I mentioned that I planned to write about our dinner with Brobson at Galatoire's, another dear friend, Joe Wade Plunk, sent me the following story. (photo of door at Galatoire's by New Orleans photographer Louis Sahuc.) 

"One has not fully experienced NOLA's finest restaurant until one has dined there with Brobson and his retinue, or at least had Brobson save you a table. I'll never forget the time at Galatoire's when immediately upon being seated, the waiter turned to Brobson, pointed to me and asked, "Is this the gentleman who wanted turtle soup?' Brobson said yes, the waiter immediately brought out a tureen, set it in front of me and opened it to reveal a live little green Woolworth's-style turtle swimming in water. Brobson IS New Orleans for so many of us! "

I cannot top my friend's story, but I can emphasize that not only is dining at Galatoire's always a unique experience, nothing can compare with dining at Galatoire's in the company of  Dr. Brobson Lutz. As always, Brobson arranged an excellent table for the six of us, and we met him at the restaurant at 6 pm on Friday just a few hours after our arrival in the city. Immediately after we ordered our wine (I selected an excellent bottle of Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley), we were presented with an array of appetizers that floated around the table like the ghost of Banquo---a heavenly crab cake (Crabmeat Maison?) and a trio of hors d'oeuvres I can only assume were the Grand Goute' (including shrimp and a number of other delicacies). As Brobson had instructed the waiters in advance, I never glimpsed a menu.

It soon became evident that we were dining family style: a perfect choice by Brobson as it enabled each of us to sample every dish. And what dishes they were! The freshest fish is always served at Galatoires and soon elegantly prepared  "poisson" dishes began rotating around the long table. Galatoire's almost always has pompano on the menu, but the other fish served depends up the season. We had four fish dishes prepared in four different ways. I know that there was one with a delicate meuniere sauce , another with a creamy marguery, and yet another with a crunchy amandine. Before the wine was presented, Brobson sipped on the drink of New Orleans, a Sazerac cocktail. (Randy and I made certain to pick up a bottle of Herbsaint at Martin's Wine Cellar while we were in the city. )

After the wine, came a trio of desserts for which Galatoire's is famous: southern pecan pie a' la mode, their famous bread pudding, and a delightful custard or flan. I went to the online menu for Galatoire's in an effort to identify every dish, but I know that regular customers are often served special dishes so I can only guess. However, the piece de resistance was yet to come----Galatoire's own signature version of Cafe Brulot--and what a production it was. A large silver bowl of hot sweet coffee was infused with brandy and ignited at the table, including a ritual igniting of the table cloth around the bowl. The spectacle was amazing and the cafe brulot delicious. (photo by Louis Sahuc)

All in all, I was reminded of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party as plates of all description flew around the table and a kind of marvelous chaos prevailed. As a lifetime fan of Alice In Wonderland, I have always wanted to attend the Mad Hatter's Tea Party where delightful madness reigned. Now I feel as if I have been there, and it was just a wonderful as I always dreamed it would be.

Following our divine repast, we walked (rather staggered) behind Brobson through the streets of the French Quarter to his lovely home on Dumaine Street. There we sat and talked on his  patio for at least two hours over an aromatic glass of superb Armagnac before calling a cab to take us to our respective lodgings.

The next day (Saturday) we paid a visit to photographer Louis Sahuc whose photographs of New Orleans are internationally known and regaled Louis with tales about Brobson's childhood in Athens, Alabama. Little did we know our exploration of Brobson's New Oleans had just begun. On Sunday Brobson picked up Randy and me after our brunch at the Palace Cafe and took us to his urban gardens off Clio Street when he raises, with the expert help of urban gardener Phillip Soulet, fresh vegetables, fruit trees, herbs, chickens (both hens that lay eggs for the table and Bantam chickens that hatch eggs), and harvests honey from his own hives, artichokes, strawberries, and colorful, fragrant sweet peas. Nell Lutz, Brobson's mother, told me that Brobson has always loved sweet peas (not the kind you eat but the flowers). I wish I had not lost the picture of John Berendt and Randy each holding a bouquet of sweet peas. (photo of Randy taking a picture of Brobson holding a baby Bantam chick)

My next episode will feature pictures and stories from the urban gardens as well as a photo of me holding one of Brobson's chickens. Meanwhile, don't forget to watch Treme' on HBO.

-----Penne J. Laubenthal



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