Eating: Drago’s

The Original Charbroiled Oysters at Drago's.

The Original Charbroiled Oysters at Drago’s.

I married well for a number of reasons.  One reason is that Cristina has family in Panama City Beach, Orlando, Washington DC, Italy, and Australia.  It is truly a chore to have to travel to these locations to see family. (By the way Cristina…when are we going to Australia?).  Another is that when they come to New Orleans they want to eat at places they can only eat at here.  Not a bad deal, if you ask me.  This time it was Drago’s.

Drago’s is known for oysters but they do have a lot of stuff on the menu.  Most of the pasta’s are really good as is the shrimp and grits.  The only thing I think they do poorly is fried foods.  There is a complete lack of seasoning in the food as if they are cooking for people with high blood pressure.  Being someone who has high blood pressure, if we are going to cheat and eat fried foods then please season the hell out of it.

However, you really should not go to Drago’s for the fried seafood.  If you have developed a taste for oysters, which I admit is an acquired taste, then you go to Drago’s for oysters.

First, we had a few appetizers.  Their cheesy appetizers are excellent.  Moreover, this comes from someone who is not supposed to eat cheese food.  I had to stop myself to make sure I could eat my oysters.

Cristina’s mom ordered the shrimp and grits.  Having had them once before, they are very good.  Cristina’s step-dad went with an eggplant dish that looked very good even if the shrimp were smaller than the shrimp in the shrimp and grits. Cristina does not like eggplant so it is one of my go to dishes to order when we are out.

However, tonight, for Cristina and I, it was about the oysters.

Cristina is a charbroiled girl.  For any readers outside of the area, a charbroiled oyster is an oyster covered with cheese and butter and broiled until they are charred.  Simply put, they take a great food and make it better.  Drago’s serves the oysters with bread, which allows the diner to consume all the leftover butter and cheese.  In addition, it saves Drago’s some time from cleaning the oyster shells. And the plate.

Since this is an “R” month, I went with a dozen raw.  What were put in front of me were 12 beautiful creatures.  Large, plump, and briny, this was the best meal I have had this year.  If I had not had a large lunch, I would have had a second dozen.

Raw Oysters at Drago's

Raw Oysters at Drago’s

If you like oysters, few places that you can go are as good as Drago’s.

Eating: A Tale of Two Chain Restaurants

Recently, for various reasons, we did something we rarely do. We ate at chain restaurants. Now, we are not snobs. I could eat at IHOP anytime anyone suggests it. Cracker Barrel is truly a tradition for us when on the road and that comes from both sides of our families. We patron the local chains like Zea’s, Copeland’s, and New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Company on occasion. We love that chicken from Popeye’s Fried Chicken. Yet, in an area like New Orleans it does not make sense to go to the national chains often. There are too many other cheaper local choices.

While I don’t expect much from the food at a chain restaurant, I do expect a lot from the service. This is what they are supposed to be good at. This is why people go to them because they are experts at treating people well. This is not a food review or a restaurant review. This is a look at how two national chain restaurants made mistakes and how they went about fixing them.

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Eating: The English Tea Room

The English Tea Room

The English Tea Room

Cristina has been very indulgent of my new tea obsession. She has encouraged me to get the right tools I need and does not say a word when I buy a new tea just randomly. So, when I took her to the English Tea Room in Covington for Valentine’s Day she did not complain.

The English Tea Room is in Old Covington. It is a beautiful small house converted into a restaurant. The décor is pretty much everything British you can think of. Instead of being too much, it is very charming especially since they made every room a theme.

Having had lunch, we ordered scones. And of course tea.

I went with the classic Darjeeling, while Cristina went with the Strawberry Kiwi fruit tea. The Darjeeling was smooth and a little toasty. In other words, it was perfect. Cristina’s fruit tea was not sweet but wonderfully tart.

I purchased some loose leaf teas for home and the Strawberry Kiwi was one of them. In fact, I do not drink alcohol often but it seems perfect for a vodka infusion. The other two teas I purchased were a black tea called Windsor Castle, which is a blend of Darjeeling, Assam and Kenya teas. The other was a white tea called Tangier Lemon. After a few more brews, I will start posting reviews of those.

Now, if you do not like tea, you should still go to the English Tea Room. The scones were that good. Sweet and filling, they make for a perfect desert. Every dish that came out to a neighboring table looked delicious.

I cannot wait to run out of tea to go back.

Listening: The Replacement’s Songs for Slim

It is no secret that my favorite band of all time is The Replacements. The Replacements are more than a band to me; their music was there for me whenever I needed them in the way a good friend is. Now, in a very small way, I can return the favor.

 

Last February, the replacement Replacement guitarist, Slim Dunlap, suffered a serious right brain stroke that landed him in the hospital for nine months. According to the Songs for Slim website, he will probably need around the clock care for the rest of his life.

 

Quite a few artists have gotten together to create the aforementioned Songs for Slim. Some of these artists include Lucinda Williams, Jakob Dylan, the Jayhawks, Frank Black, Steve Earle and Craig Finn. That is enough to open my pocketbook.

 

Oh, and the Replacements made an EP.

 

This is not a full-blown reunion. Chris Mars, the drummer, is a full-blown visual artist now and did not feel comfortable performing with the other two. The other two, Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson, understood. However, Chris Mars did contribute a song to the cd a cover of a slim song called Radio Hook Word Hit.

The other songs are Paul and Tommy with a band covering Slim and some other artists. The EP was first pressed into a very limited 10” vinyl and auctioned off. Unfortunately, I did not know about it at the time and did not get to participate. Fortunately for Slim, I would not have won any of the auctions. In fact, they raised 105,743.42 from the auction.

 

Busted Up, a Paul and Tommy cover of a Slim song, is just a rock song. Paul, sounding amazing, has fun with the vocals and some of the pronunciations of the words. Chris plays all of the instruments on Radio Hook Word Hit and brings out the pop side of the song. I truly believe after listening to this song and Chris’s solo album that he could have been the Replacements Dave Grohl, for whatever that’s worth, if he would have stuck with music.

 

The final three songs, by Paul and Tommy and the band, are covers from all over the musical arc. They cover a seventies singer-songwriter song, a classic country song, and a show tune. They come off at first as silly. Then you realize, after a few listens, they are perfect and actually serious. You realize that this is the band that put Gary’s Got a Boner right before Sixteen Blue on the same album. The first song is about, well, you know, but the second song is what every single sixteen year old feels: confusion, angst, desire, scared. The first cover, Gordon Lightfoot’s I’m Not Sayin’, seems light and just Paul and Tommy having fun. Yet, if you have read interviews with Slim in the past years, which Paul had, Slim did not seem to have fun with the Replacements toward the end. In the song, the protagonist is not saying he is sorry to his lover but he is saying he will try. Maybe I am reading too much into this, but this is the closest that Paul can come to an apology. Lost Highway is a country song that the Replacements just rock out. It sounds nothing like country. For me, it is the hidden gem of the album, because it is great to just hear Tommy and Paul go for broke. The final song is Everything’s Coming Up Roses from Gypsy. The song is what is great about the Replacements. It should not work. It should fall apart at any second. Paul should not try to sing it. Yet, it turns out to just be glorious and fun and a great song to include on the record.

 

Even, if, everything might not turn up roses.

The EP is available in iTunes and a 12″ vinyl should be ready for record store day.