A Taste of Normal
Although I’ve lived in New Orleans for almost 50 years, my stern Midwestern roots still run deep. As this pandemic rages on, I soldier on. As two friends died lonely COVID-19 deaths, I soldiered on. As my income plummeted and my arms ached to hold my grandchildren, I soldiered on. We Midwestern people do not openly share our big emotions with others. Hell, we don’t even share them with ourselves.
So, I was a bit shocked when a few weeks ago, I openly wept in Hunan Wok’s parking lot. I was once again savoring the sheer perfection of their spring rolls and that night they tasted like “normal” and it was more than I could bear.
I am not the only one with a deep yearning for a favorite restaurant or menu item. Kathleen Turpel, owner/creative director of Imaginal Marketing Group, recently posted how she felt about N7, a French restaurant and wine bar located in the Bywater.
“I feel that once I eat here again all will be back to normal, and the last six months will have only been a bad dream with some interesting plot twists,” she said. “It’s time. Thank you N7 for reopening.”
Although I’m not quite ready to sit down inside a restaurant, when guidelines are followed I do applaud the chefs who are bravely tiptoeing into this new world.
One such chef is Nathanial Zimet, chef/owner of Boucherie and Bourrée. He recently reopened Boucherie with a new menu and an expanded outdoor dining area.
“We are excited to have this new enlarged outdoor dining area, giving us more room to spread out physically so we can still be together socially,” he said.
The outdoor dining space, hand built by Zimet and his long-time staff member Amilcar Bautista, features a permanent covering over picnic tables and benches, four-top tables, wisteria-covered trellises and purple chairs to match the vines as they bloom.
“We’ve also rolled out a new menu, which includes a COOLinary prix fixe menu and lots of Cajun favorites,” he said.
The COOLinary prix fixe menu offers such things as a blackened shrimp and grit cake, Hamachi ceviche, whole hog pork cake, Krispy Kreme bread pudding and Thai chili chocolate chess pie.
Zimet is thrilled to be back doing what he loves doing, a job that he says is all encompassing and where there is never a dull moment.
“I’ve always considered Boucherie to be a community hub, a gathering place for the neighborhood,” he said. “Since we’ve been closed for so long, I felt disconnected from New Orleans, from my home.”
Zimet said he’s unsure what the future of NOLA restaurants will look like.
“I’m also every bit as concerned about bars and music venues,” he said. “I cannot imagine a New Orleans without Mimi’s in the Marigny or the Maple Leaf.”
Still, Zimet is hopeful.
“I am forever optimistic, sometimes to a fault,” he said. “But I have faith in my community and the city that I call home. When thinking of the pandemic that we all find ourselves in, it is hard to not draw parallels to Katrina. Although they are completely different, they have both served to bring friends, family and neighbors together.”
Dear Readers, What restaurants do you miss? What restaurant are you happy is reopened? What menu item do you long for?