Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New Orleans Trip #6: Soul Trunks and Porky Pizzas

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Lunch was fried chicken, stuffing, candied yams, and collard greens for $10 at Praline Connection (542 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA; 504-943-3934) A great deal, and though, as you can perhaps glean from the photo, nothing was screaming love, I did get a sense of experiencing soul food's trunk rather than branches or twigs. Theme, rather than variation. I've eaten soul food all over the south, but never before in New Orleans (where I'd previously concentrated on Cajun).

It's subtly different. For one thing, it's somehow...light. Yes, a surprising descriptor. But grease well-applied - as every French chef knows - gives a certain refined buoyancy. Think lardy piecrust. This, paradoxically, is heavy food which gives an overarching impression of lightness. It made me recall a few previous soul food meals where I attributed the lightness to a lack of soul. Now I know better. Great soul food is light...and this is exactly the sort of "calibration" I came here to pursue!

This isn't great soul food, though, merely good. But it's right, just as even a so-so Brooklyn pizzeria has something to teach out-of-towners about New York slices. I do have better soul food choices on my list, but chose Praline Connection because of its convenient location (I'm doing lots of sitting in with bands on Frenchman Street this week).

Half-priced drinks and pizzas were enjoyed at the bar of Domenica (123 Baronne St; 504-648-6020) in the Roosevelt Hotel for happy hour (7 days 3pm - 6pm). The only thing I love more than dining at the bar is half-priced dining at the bar. Especially when the wines-by-the-glass list is carefully chosen, and the pizza's so terrific that photos require no further comment.

This place appears to do their own butchering/sausage making (a porcine killing field display room is dramatically lit just off the dining area, discordant in this otherwise swank/yuppie-looking joint). The only thing that could spoil such a find would be nasty, grim, supercilious bartenders. Oh, well. I'm getting used to it. Anyway...let's study the record:

Pizza Bolzano (roast pork shoulder, fennel, bacon, sweet onions)

Pizza bianca (toasted fennel, mozzarella, house cured lardo)

This was some sort of fried dough that comes with one of the dishes, and which we managed to score ala carte. That's all I remember. Here's where the drunken haze sets in and I start forgetting details. Drinking in NOLA catches up with you. I'm hardly some boozy college kid, and, indeed, I never became, like, sloppy drunk (it was more of a constant baseline of buzz), but I do recall remarking to my travel companions near the end of the week "Hey, I only had five drinks yesterday!" in complete earnestness, as a proud claim of healthful austerity. Yeesh!

Read the next installment (#7)

Lagniappe: I sat in with this cool street band. Really fun! It's shot from the back (musician's point of view) as I awaited my turn to solo. And, yeah, it's dark. But it conveys the scene faithfully.

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