From Brett Anderson, The Times-Picayune: As the local supply of oysters dwindles, Galatoire's executive chef Brian Landry explores more options.
Seafood Restaurant in Metairie is now offering up charbroiled mussels,
left, along with the restaurant's famous charbroiled oysters in hopes
that if there is an oyster shortage, customers will have a comparable
may line up suppliers on the East and West Coasts and import the 40 to
50 pounds of oysters the restaurant serves every day, he said. Or, he
may try something completely different:
"There was an item on
Galatoire's menu for many decades that was called chicken livers en
brochette," said Landry, who stumbled upon the potential oil-spill menu
substitute while researching his restaurant's century-plus history.
"That's an option for us."
There may be no better example of how severely the Gulf of Mexico oil spill
is threatening the craft of New Orleans cooking than the fact that the
standard bearer of French-Creole cuisine has considered substituting
the organ of a farm animal for the meat of a mollusk.
doesn't end there. Landry also said he's toying with the idea of flying
in Dover sole in the event the local finfish supply can't keep up with
his customers' demand for meuniere and amandine.
"That is a
fish very common on French menus," Landry said. "I think it would be a
very easy transition for us to make given that that's the classic
French poisson meuniere."
Relative to the scope of the
catastrophe, the changes to south Louisiana's regional cuisine have
been small thus far, and most people working within the local food
business are still hopeful that they will be temporary.
uncertainty surrounding the health of Gulf fisheries, spurred by price
and supply fluctuations made more alarming by the lack of progress in
plugging the leak, has forced local chefs and restaurateurs to prepare
for a future where a distinctive centuries-old cuisine could look and
taste as if it came from someplace else.
It's in our DNA
whole DNA is set up for scouring our local bounty and using that with
our flavor profile and our perspective," said Adolfo Garcia, whose
restaurants include the Latin-Spanish seafood restaurant RioMar. "With
this problem, they're taking away one of our biggest assets and tools:
to run a restaurant with local seafood."
As live video of oil
exploding from the Gulf of Mexico's floor has joined crawfish boils,
Mardi Gras parades, Jackson Square and flooded shotguns atop the list
of the region's defining images, overstressed leaders have taken to
emphasizing that the disaster is imperiling not just the environment
and the economy but an entire culture.
The word holds broad
meaning in Louisiana. But everyone in the region, particularly in New
Orleans, knows which branch of the culture appears to be in desperate
need of protection.
Canales fillets drum that was caught in the western Gulf at the New
Orleans Fish House on Thursday. Chef Adolfo Garcia of Rio Mar is
concerned that the availability of drum from the Gulf of Mexico is
threatened by the BP oil spill.
could be something that could change Louisiana for 10 to 20 years,"
Garcia said. "It's like that morning when you discover a relative has
cancer and they've been given six months to live. What do you do? You
hang in with them as long as you can, but at some point you know you're
going to be burying them."
Oysters take the hit
Oysters continue to be the
most vexing link in the indigenous seafood chain. Shuttered harvesting
areas have destabilized price and supply for weeks, a problem
exacerbated by the significant number of oyster boats being redeployed
to help rein in the oil.
Some local restaurants, including
Charlie's Seafood -- where oysters are now available only by request --
and Parkway Bakery & Tavern -- which quit serving oyster po-boys in
early May -- have altered their menus in response. The effect elsewhere
has been unthinkable, partly due to the apparent swiftness of its
Last Sunday, Sal Sunseri, co-owner of P&J Oyster
Company, worked the crowd at the first-ever New Orleans Oyster
Festival, boasting at midday that the two-day event had already moved
an estimated 50,000 freshly shucked oysters. On Thursday he was handing
out pink slips to longtime employees as the country's oldest oyster
processor and distributor ceased its shucking operations. P&J,
which has dealt in Louisiana oysters exclusively on all but the rarest
occasions for 134 years, is now sourcing from outside the Gulf.
was also the last day Drago's served raw oysters on the half-shell at
its two New Orleans area locations. The restaurant is still serving its
char-grilled oysters, but as of three weeks ago, the famous dish was
being offered alongside a new alternative: char-grilled mussels from
Canada prepared the same way.
"When we saw that oysters were
starting to get tight, we had to put our brains together to come up
with an idea," said Drago's owner Tommy Cvitanovich. "It's prepared the
same way: same butter, same garlic, some cheese, same bread for
Other chefs are less focused on replacing oysters than
meeting the current skyrocketing demand, as diners overcompensate for
the prospect of a life without them.
"I'm serving more oysters
en brochette than I ever have," said Pat Gallagher of Gallagher's Grill
in Covington, referring to a signature French-Creole dish. "I think
customers are thinking they're not going to be here forever. And if we
get any speckled trout, it flies out of here."
remain a concern for executive chef Darin Nesbit at the Bourbon House,
which is famous for its large, prominent raw oyster bar.
Nesbit, executive chef at the Bourbon House, said he has been
encouraged by the only marginal price increases he's seen from his
seafood suppliers as well as the undiminished availability of redfish
and drum. Both he and Landry mention having recently purchased 200
pound shipments of fresh-caught Gulf shrimp from Ray Brandhurst, the
shrimper whose family sells seafood at the Crescent City Farmers
Oysters, however, remain a concern at the Bourbon
House, which is famous for its large, prominent raw bar. The restaurant
has always showcased Gulf seafood exclusively, and the Oregon oysters
Nesbit recently sampled were not to his liking. As an alternative
fallback measure in the event of a local oyster drought, the chef and
proprietor Dickie Brennan have discussed bringing in scallops to shuck
and broil to-order at the raw bar.
"That's kind of a last resort," Nesbit said, "but it might be kind of cool." READ MORE