Meet me at the corner of Third and Fairfax. Or, maybe not.

I was driving by the Grove and the Original Farmer's Market at Third and Fairfax, when the urge for an oyster po'boy from The Gumbo Pot struck. I hadn't had one of these in eons, almost for a year, in fact, since just after the opening of the Grove shopping mall. Not that I have much against the Grove, mind, it's just that the parking at the Farmer's Market has gotten oh-so-very-terrible despite the ginormous parking structure erected where Circus of the Stars used to be held. Not only are the old biddies in their giant Cadillacs in the open lot now, but so are the women who refuse to learn how to drive their Escalades, tourists who have no clue as to how to get to the parking structure, and the frustrated few who just want to run in, get lunch, and leave, but end up circling like vultures for any spot at all. Like me.

As I was making myself dizzy, going around in circles, all I could think of was the po'boy--a not-too-crusty white roll split in half, with some of the fluffy innards pulled out, and ever so lightly spread with mayonnaise, filled with a tumbling of tender shrimp deep-fried in a cajun-spiced breading, a fat squiggle of spicy remoulade, a hefty handful of romaine chiffonade, then topped with the thinnest of tomato and lemon slices. You press down on the sandwich half, bite through the freshly toasty bread, into the cool and crunchy salad, then down to the perfectly cooked shrimp that are crunchy, tender, sweet, and juicy. Aaaah. Add a side of sweet potato slaw or red potato salad, and a basket of sugar-dusted beignets, and you have no finer meal on the east side of the Market. Sorry, Du-Par's. Sorry, Tony's. Sorry, Charlie's.

After fifteen minutes and possibly $5's worth of gasoline later, I finally found a spot perfect for a runaway vehicle on Fairfax to come and slam into my car. No matter, I was famished. I went along the side entrance, only to find it haphazardly blocked with yellow caution tape. DO NOT USE THIS ENTRANCE!! Pray tell, why not?? I found the next three entrances similarly blocked, but managed to find one open by the stalls of fresh fruit (lovely mixed fruit bowls including starfruit and coconut!). Joyously, I skipped along to the Gumbo Pot, only to find it closed. Closed? At 12.30pm on a weekday? Unheard of, for a place that regularly entertains a line of customers that stretches to the steps of the World's Most Earnest Yet Horrific Display of Amateurish Oil Paintings. Not only closed, but there was that caution tape again, blocking off not only the Gumbo Pot, but Charlie's, Tony's, and the rest of the kiosks. In the corner is a man with a giant blowtorch, holding it to the floor, which is absent of the familiar chrome and formica'd patio tables and chairs. "CLOSED FOR RE-ASPHALTING", read a sign that I find. Drrrats.

Oh well. There's always Loteria, the taqueria, for soft corn tacos, filled with beautifully sauteed fresh zucchini and corn, smoky cochinita pibil (pulled pork), chargrilled chicken, or earthy mushrooms with crema, and served with minty green rice and soothing, stewy black beans. What the--? Also. Closed. Expletive deleted. And defeated. I would go get a quick sweet potato dug out from the wood fired barbecued pit at the Bryan's Pit Barbecue, but that is closed as well. What's left? I'd go to Kokomo, but I resist after that last encounter on the patio, which is decidedly lovely, but prone to be filled with self-important cigar smokers with attitude. Tusquella's is better than you would think a counter service seafood bar would be, but there are too many tourists right now. The Chinese place in the corner is not the same since they pulled down the bilingual menus in English and German. As I pass by The Refresher, a cute little Sixties throwback that only sells soft drinks (not even juice!), I come to Pampas Grill. Oh yes! I find its appearance a bit unappealing as it is buffet style, and sterile, but there is no fault with the food. A bit pricey, perhaps, as it is sold by the pound, but mostly worth it. The salad of palm hearts and tiny pear tomatoes is cool and sweet, the green salad is spring and alive. The butternut squash is meltingly tender and vividly tangerine in colour, and the plantains are faultless--crispy and brown on the outside, creamy and pale within. I choose the roasted chicken legs which are frenched and look like fat little quail. The meat has been marinated in olive oil, and predominantly salt and oregano, and it is succulent, tender and flavourful. I would eat it here at the Market amongst the drying asphalt, but as I walk to find a table I realize that there's a reason for the renovation. The asphalt seems to be caving in under my feet, or is that my imagination? It is in rather poor shape, isn't it? Oh well. Time to head back to work anyway.


Spartacus at 2am; The Vixen's appetite is whet.

[Sea-salt popcorn, Mexican hot chocolate, Burgundy snails]

I can't sleep. I can never sleep. Well, no, that's not true, I can never sleep when I'm supposed to--like now, when I have to be up and in the office first thing. Maybe if I just got rid of my bed and installed fluorescent overhead lights, workstation and a pseudo-ergonomic chair with a wonky wheel, I'd be snoozing away....

I ignore the urge for late night reno (no energy--it's not like I haven't been to Home Depot at 3am before), and settle horizontally on the sofa with three pillows that never see the bed anymore, spongebob slippers, a bowl of sea salt-laced popcorn and what's close to a gallon of mexican hot chocolate in that giant Liberace mug D. bought last time he was in 'Vegas. I doubt the caffeine in my drink is doing me any favours, but the combination of the salty, crispy kernels and the silky, spicy, bittersweet brew is too gratifying to be ceased.

The restored version of Spartacus is on. Larry Olivier is literally trying to lather up Tony Curtis in the baths:

Larry/Crassius: Do you eat oysters?
Tony/Antoninus: When I have them, master.
Crassius: Do you eat snails?
Antoninus: No, master.
Crassius: Do you consider the eating of oysters to be moral and the eating of snails to be immoral?
Antoninus: No, master.
Crassus: Of course not. It is all a matter of taste, isn't it?
Antoninus: Yes, master.
Crassius: And taste is not the same as appetite, and therefore not a question of morals.
Antoninus: It could be argued so, master.
Crassius: My robe, Antoninus. My taste includes both snails and oysters.

Ooh, er, get him. He always eats oysters when he has them? Good boy. I think the real reason this scene was cut was because Tony wouldn't have run away from ol' Lar. Snails, oysters--a cunning guy like Antoninus would have no problem with either, both, or anything in between....

D. prefers oysters. I prefer snails.(it goes to show.) Sautéed in butter, garlic, maybe a little shallot and a splash of cognac...or nestled in boiled new potatoes and covered in a persillade of bread crumbs, garlic, and parsley...Vietnamese style, steamed with minced pork, chilis, lemongrass and ginger? Mmmm. Didn't H. say the ordinary garden variety pest was the kind preferred by top chefs? Ewww. (note to self, have a word with the landscaping staff, next time I'm at the Belvedere.)

I don't think I'm ready to go so far.


Hm. I wonder where I left the flashlight....


mexican hot chocolate

1½ oz unsweetened chocolate
¼ c. sugar
1 tbsp instant espresso granules
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Dash of salt
¾ c water
2 c milk

1. Combine chocolate, sugar, espresso, cinnamon, salt and water in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to simmer, stirring constantly.
2. Add milk, heat through but do not let boil.
3. Remove from heat and whip with a wire whisk until foamy.
* normally, I'd add a garnish of orange zest, but I don't remember when I bought the last shrivelled navel in the fridge. I don't even remember what intersection.

serves 2-3, or 1½ blue glass mugs from the Liberace museum

keith floyd's burgundy snails (from floyd on france)

8 cloves garlic
2 shallots
100g/3½oz parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 lemon, juice only
500g/1lb 2oz butter
100 medium snails, cleaned, washed and removed from shells

1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.
2. Mix the garlic, shallots, parsley, salt and pepper and lemon.
3. Push a small amount of butter to the bottom of each clean empty snail shell then add the snails and seal with more butter. or just put on a snail dish and pop into the oven.
5. As soon as the butter is bubbling, remove and serve immediately.

serves 10 as an appetizer, or two greedy guts on a budget holiday in Axaquia--come to think of it, where did Señora G get those snails from anyway??