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Jackson Square is one of the most picturesque places to be found anywhere.

Strolling on Decatur Street

Strolling on Bourbon Street from the Cafe du Monde

Having a few Bloodys and Hurricanes at Pat's

(extracted from one of Dan Ellis' novels)     
     “When our hosts arrived at Antoine’s Restaurant, we were waiting in the customary line outside, but when the Brazos arrived, our party was immediately ushered in by the Maitre d' who escorted us to the Mystery Room for seating.  
     “The occasion happened to be that Nana was celebrating her birthday week and I believe she was 42 or 43 years' old.  I distinctly recall that she wore a mother of pearl comb that crowned her short cropped glossy hair, and she gestured with the use of an exquisite hand-painted fan that was held lightly in her tapering fingers.
     “I noticed her pert pug nose which did not detract from her pleasant and alert smiling face.  Although small in stature, she had a trim figure and stood erect.  And I well recall that Nana did not try to analyze the effect she produced on her guests as she was just absolutely stunning.  She wore a red velvet dinner dress with a flat scalloped overskirt that was fastened up the back with small black velvet buttons and she was wearing a parure of exquisite emeralds.  Even her evening bag and slippers had obviously been selected to match her contagious radiance.  Everyone was made conscious of this fact as she chatted first with one and then the other of us.
     “It was easy to tell that clothes alone could not have created the strong illusion of grandeur that she permeated.  And it was easy to tell that she wasn't a woman who liked to gossip, but one who liked to tell stories.  She was quick to introduce us to our surroundings when she exclaimed, “I’m terribly intrigued with this room, I don’t know why I should find it so attractive, because it’s rather plain, isn’t it?  There’s nothing particularly distinctive about it, except the signed photographs of presidents and other celebrities and the fresh sawdust covering the floor.
     I remember showing my ignorance by stating, “Well, I don’t understand why it’s called the Mystery Room.
     “Nana immediately spread her fan, clicked it against her temple, and then related, “One of the early family owners, Jules Alciatore, had a special painting that hung on the wall showing an old gentleman with a bald pate.  Well, if a person studied the painting carefully, one would soon discover the image of a nude woman, because within the arrangement of the whiskers – and the shading of colors, was the likeness of a naked girl.  But, needless to say, someone stole the portrait and ever since, the room has been called the Mystery Room.
     I commented, “That's astounding,” as my wife kicked my leg.

     “Nana wasn't at all perturbed at my boorish remark, instead she continued, “The same menu has been in use for more than 60 years, besides the main dining room there are 15 other rooms, but the 1840 Room is another one of my favorites because it is a reproduction of an original early Antoine’s private dining room which contains oil paintings of the descendancy of each of the Alciatore family proprietors.  Antoine’s is to New Orleans, as Delmonico’s was to New York, or the Café Anglais to Paris.

     I prompted again with my wife once more kicking me, “How do you know all this.  Did you buy a book?”
     “No, I asked the waiters and the owners and they provided me with all my questions satisfied.  Did you know that customer’s orders are taken without paper and pencil, and each person's selections are committed entirely to memory?  No matter the number of persons seated at a table – or the languages they speak?”
     Dr. Brazo just smiled at her while basking in her own wonderful recall for such trivia as he stated proudly, “Nana goes on about such commentaries and even more so regarding the fine antique pieces we have in our Gulfport home.”
     At that moment, the waiter arrived with menus and Nana squealed, “Oh, monsieur, we don't need menus tonight.  This is my birthday and I look forward to everyone enjoying the dishes that are most famous to the house and are definitely mine by endorsement.”
     She continued, “We will have Caesar Salad prepared individually for each of our guests, and naturally, your Soup of the Day.  And we will have Pomano en Papillotte for our main course.  And I want the Wine Master brought to our table so that Mr. Ebonardy can choose our reds and whites.
     “Then, I knew that it was payback time, she threw me a curve expecting me to fail or survive, but I was up to the challenge.  Immediately, before the Head waiter left, I said, 'And, because it is the birthday of our most gracious and beautiful hostess, my present to her is to have her share with all of us a drink to her health with the sparkling essence of Dom Perignon.' ”
     “Oh, wonderful,” she remarked.  Then she snapped her fan shut and said, “And how about Taittinger – is that also one of your favorites?”
     I almost chocked on a sip of water as she continued, “The origins of Champagne Taittinger date back to the original house founded in 1734 by Jacques Fourneaux – but it was  Pierre Taittinger who started his company in 1931 that gets the credit.  Since 1960, the house has been headed by Pierre's son, Claude Taittinger, who is also the winemaker.”
     “That evening, Nana didn't stop.  When the main course was served, six waiters came into the room to place the sumptuous plate before each of us almost simultaneously.  And, then, by this time, none of us were surprised as our entertaining hostess spoke out, If you don't already know, 'Pompano en Papillotte was introduced by Jules Alciatore as a creation to commemorate a visiting French aerial balloonist whose intricate stunts were world renown.  The result was a Pompano fish  prepared in a white wine sauce placed inside a fluffed-up, brown bag, then further heated in the oven to retain its succulent flavors.' ”
     “Then, it was my turn as the wines were brought in and poured after I had first smelled each of the corks and dutifully bathed my tongue into each tasting goblet to my satisfaction.
     “I then stood up to comment as I raised a glass of Chardonnay Pinot Grigio, 'White wines vary as much in color as they do in taste.  Generally, though, as unripe fruit tends to be too green, so too is an unripe wine.  You can anticipate much of the wine's flavor simply by its hue.  A pale yellowish green color often indicates youth and bitterness, while brown indicates a decaying wine.   But this glass is nicely aged as indicated by its golden yellow color.'  And, then I added, 'For you who wish to savor a good red, we have Cabernet Sauvignon as my selection in honor of the birthday of our most gracious and charming hostess.'  “
     “At that, everyone clapped, even Nana, as I could tell that she was pleased by my presentation and well chosen selections of wines.”
     “The evening was polished off with Crepes Suzette and Café Brulo Diabolique.  When served, the lights were dimmed and our eyes feasted upon the beautiful blue flames emanating from the burning brandy within the cups and saucer presentation.”
     “Once more for emphasis, Nana clapped her fan and recited, 'After tasting his Café Brulot Diabolique, a writer for the New York Sun had written that this is the quintessence of Hell's best, brewed in the pit where all incomparable sinners take their vows and declare that death hath no sting and the grave no victory.' ”

Dan Ellis Books

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