Tuesday, June 27, 2006

why I am not a restaurant critic...

So I had two of the best meals of my life in New Orleans. The Cafe Adelaide meal was one of the three best Top Restaurant Experiences I've ever had. And then, two days later, at the Delachaise, I had one of the best food times I can remember. Poppy's husband Chris is a chef, and I don't get to see him very often (and I like him) so when Poppy told me he couldn't eat with us as he'd be working that night one one of us suggested we go and eat where he cooks, and let him feed us. And so we did.

The Delachaise is a long bar, the shape of a railroad dining car, and Chris was all the kitchen staff. All of them. Which meant that the meal was the best food I've ever had completely prepared and served by one other person (if you see what I mean). We were lucky in that the bar crowd hadn't really arrived yet, and the other people eating had pretty much finished by the time that we got there, and we were in a booth near the kitchen.

There's a lot to be said for just letting good chefs just feed you, if you trust them. They get to do their best to impress you and if you're lucky you get to be impressed. I'd be hard-pressed to pick a favourite dish out of the dozen plus dishes (none of them too big) Chris brought to the table on Sunday evening -- the BLT-style tomato things were remarkable, the pomegranitey dip the name of which I've forgotten was astonishing, the halibut-and-sweetcorn an amazing foodie mixture of textures and tastes, the forbidden-rice thingie was a delight, the two soups in one bowl gazpacho-roasted cold tomato soup was pretty much perfect, and the desserts and cheeses just kept coming and surprising (and all were delectable, especially the little soft cheese and rosemary honey thing). Oh, and we started with the the two-sauce French fries. The satay sauce.... oh, the satay sauce...

It's such a good thing I don't live in New Orleans. I would rapidly become astoundingly rotund.

I also met many of Poppy's cats and was attacked by her flamingo.

ALA was fun, what I saw of it -- mostly, what I saw was the work in front of me in my hotel room, alas. I went to the Alex Awards presentation, and like the other four people on the panel, I made a short speech. Unlike them, I completely forgot to say anything about the actual book that won the award (which this time was Anansi Boys. Last time I won one, it was Stardust.) (I told them about the last time I was at ALA, though.)

Also attended (as an audience member) a panel for librarians on Graphic Novels, which left me with the distinct feeling that, if I had been a librarian and had known nothing about what was out there in graphic novels and gone to that panel for information, I would have come away with the impression that most graphic novels are manga. Which seemed to do a disservice to the huge range of graphic novels out there -- the panellists were very well-informed and articulate, but only Jackie Estrada in her initial talk about what was out there seemed to be talking about anything that wasn't manga. And when a Japanese librarian got up and asked pointedly whether there were any other kinds of more respectable graphic novels than the boy-love manga the panel had been talking about, they told her about the educational manga that were now available in the US, as if there weren't any other educational or non-fiction graphic novels out there. Good intentions but, sitting in the audience, it felt a bit blinkered. I felt the same way I would have done if all they'd talked about was superhero comics. Good but I'd hoped for much more.

Suw drew my attention to the most bizarre piece of spam she's ever received:

As the co-creator of the Dread Sigil Odegra, I would also love to find "...matching illustrations from independant sources. I have thus far seen a bas-relief serpent, a crude ink drawing, and a written description that likens the Odegra to the M25 London orbital motorway, but I would really like some more input, preferably one from a historical source, or a fraud so well done that it can pass for historical."

Hi Neil!

I need your help! I am a volunteer at 826LA (, located in Venice, CA, and we need help finding some artists to help with our English Language Learner camp we are offering this summer.
The program is designed children whose second language is English. During the program, kids will do lots of different projects so that they can improve their english in all aspects.
One of the projects we wish to do involves comic books! We want to help the kids create their own superhero.
The problem is, we don't have any artists that can pump out reasonable looking superheroes in a short amount of time. I've tried finding any contact info for local comic book artists, but have failed to find anything beyond a pr email. I was wondering if you could post this on your blog and ask for the help of any artists in the Venice, CA or even the SoCal area who would like to help?
Anything would be appreciated. Thanks for your time.


Consider it mentioned -- and I'm sure some of the other places that comics artists gather will happily mention it further.