by Max Brantley
The current issue of Oxford American is all about food.
I've been enjoying some on-line extras related to the subject this morning. Here, the magazine asks a variety of foodies about their favorite Southern foods, most overrated, last meals and the like. Capital Hotel chef Lee Richardson and bottled water magnate Breck Speed are among those interviewed.
They didn't ask me, but I decided to take the survey:
UPDATE: And since I enjoyed it, I've set up our own little survey on some of the same questions. You can participate by going here and voting.
LAST SOUTHERN RESTAURANT MEAL: If Buster Holmes still dished up red beans and rice and hot sausage at Orleans and Burgundy in New Orleans, that would be it. And I'd plug a nickel in the box to hear Oscar Peterson play "Girl Talk" one more time.
SINGLE BEST DINING EXPERIENCE IN THE SOUTH: How to choose? Chez Ocha in Lake Charles in its prime (sauteed speckled trout with brown butter and lump crab). Jazz brunch at Commander's Palace, from turtle soup to bread pudding souffle. A three-hour lunch at Galatoire's, probably including stuffed eggplant. A perfect shrimp buster sandwich and frozen mug of draft beer at Herby K's in Shreveport. That $80 dollar dinner on which I blew a $50/wk. raise and then some at Restaurant Jacques and Suzanne WAY back in the day
MOST OVERRATED SOUTHERN FOOD ITEM: I'm with Lee Richardson. Sweet tea. And, much as I love fried catfish: Some of it's bad, but most of the rest of it is about the same -- good, but not platonic.
HOW COULD SOUTHERN CUISINE IMPROVE: Learn to fry potatoes like the Europeans do. Crisp.
CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT: Cole slaw.
DISH THAT SHOULD BE RESURRECTED: Head cheese.
FAVORITE FOODSTUFF: Tabasco in every form or flavor, but some particulars include their chipotle-flavored hot sauce, their spicy mayo and the hot sweet pickles.
FAVORITE MICROBREW: Fabacher. (I know.)
BEST DESSERTS: I'll stick with Trio's Peter Pan and raspberry cream pies and the seasonal strawberry shortcake. Back in the day when Borden's operated retail ice cream shops across Louisiana, their sundae made with Elmer's Goldbrick chocolate topping made in New Orleans and peppermint ice cream had its charms.
STRANGEST SOUTHERN-FRIED FOOD: Boudin balls. (Also the best.)
GROUND-BREAKING SOUTHERN CHEF: Lee Richardson is doing mighty good things at the Capital Hotel. I wish they'd sell the house pickles by the jar and the spiced pecans by the box to give as gifts, just to name a couple of the small custom touches that add to an impressive whole. The pulled pork sandwich in the bar remains a wonder.