by Max Brantley
An open line commences. But:
* A reminder, if you didn't already know from Rock Candy, print, etc., that our Ninth Pub or Perish, the literary love child of the gifted David Koon of the Times' staff, begins at 7 p.m. tonight at the upstairs room at Lulav, 220 W. 6th.
People reading their work include Little Rock young-adult novelist Trenton Lee Stewart, author of "The Mysterious Benedict Society" series. Others include Arkansas writers Loria Taylor, Amy Manning, Rhett Brinkley, Clint Murphy, Hope Coulter and Nickole Brown.
* Sorry not to be there, though I'm not complaining about New Orleans. I've been going to meetings of a legal group between meals and have heard, among others, a presentation from Mara Leveritt on the West Memphis Three case (she's receiving an award from the group for her work tonight); a tribute to retired federal Judge G. Thomas Eisele, with whom I had dinner last night and chatted a tiny bit about his days as legal advisor to Winthrop Rockefeller, and an impassioned speech on trial advocates from William Ginsburg, who achieved the rare feat of appearing on all five major TV Sunday news shows in one day during his representation of Monica Lewinsky. We saw a new special effects movie at the World War II museum, expanded to even more impressive dimensions since our last visit. Tonight, dinner and maybe a trip to the brass band stage. The town is swamped with people for the French Quarter Festival, a free event with maybe 20 venues in a relatively tight area, generally featuring local talent, some terribly underappreciated.
Lunch (above), for those who follow eating adventures, was at Butcher, the meat market, sandwich shop and charcuterie that is the even more casual little brother to Cochon, Donald Link's hot homage to my part of the world on Tchoupitoulas in the warehouse district. Like me, he grew up in Lake Charles, La. Dare I question his press clippings a tiny bit? He's Frenchified some of the Cajun favorites of my youth. Hoghead cheese was less gelatinous and less gristly, more like a smooth pate or rillettes than the gutsy and peppery grocery store head cheese I love. His "hot" boudin was surprisingly mild and meatier than I'm accustomed to. I like lots of distinct grains of rice in this Cajun sausage and also an obvious dose of pork liver, missing from his more refined version. Both were great, though. I'm nitpicking. His homemade bread-and-butter pickles and chow chow were the perfect tangy, crunchy counterpoints to the various proteins, including an acclaimed pork belly sandwich. The same for a salad of chopped cucumbers and tomatoes (Louisiana tomatoes have started trickling in somehow) with lots of fresh herbs. I've saved for later a bacon praline. How bad could it be? If you visit and have a crowd, be sure to check out the torpedo-shaped pretzel. It's fat, stuffed with cheese, bacon and ham and toasted. It's served with a dollop of the house Creole mustard, juiced with Abita beer. I pined over being unable to order a hot dog all the way, having seen a steaming fat frank loaded with house chili pass by. Another day.
PS — See that Mountain Valley sparkling water in the background? I've found it everywhere we've been in New Orleans. Wish I could say availability was the same in Little Rock, less than an hour up the road from the source.