I was in my beloved New Orleans a few weeks ago, with no agenda but to soak up as much Rob Kellner juju as I could get. Chuck had to work almost the whole time we were there, so Rob and I had a good bit of mother-son time. We went to a few museums, ate at almost no restaurants I’d ever been before, and took care of what my friend Bevin calls “doing the needful” – oil change and grocery shopping.
Rob picked us up at the airport, took us to our hotel, and then we headed to Felix Oyster Bar on Iberville in the French Quarter for dinner. Okay, so I went to a few restaurants I’d been before. Two or three. If you haven’t already read my ode to Felix’s, I’ll sum up now by saying
just go. Not fancy at all, just fresh, delicious food. Best char-grilled oysters in town. www.felixs.comThen we walked a block on the dug-up Bourbon Street – road work is making it even more disgusting than usual, with no where to go to dodge the drunks and hucksters. We elbowed our way to the Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta to hear the legendary Germaine Bazzle and her band. Miss Germaine is a jazz vocalist who sings scat, and can mimic a muted trumpet. She’s 85, looks 15 years younger than that, and was a joy to see.
On Monday Rob and I went to the beautiful Botanical Garden in City
Park, where we saw enormous lily pads and riotous orchids.
Then we had lunch at Parkway Bakery & Tavern (parkwaypoorboys.com). Rob had been before, but I hadn’t. There is usually a long line to the order counter in the dining room, but here’s an insider tip: sit down at the bar in the front of the Bakery, and the bartender will order for you.
There were some screamingly loud tipsy women at the bar when we sat down, so we thought about moving to a table outside, but the bartenders were pouring half price fresh mango margaritas, so we stuck it out.
In the evening Rob collected me and we drove to the Westbank, across the river, to the House of Hope Fellowship in Harvey, where Rob is the accompanist. I had been hoping to attend a church service since Rob started playing there almost a year ago. What a welcoming, uplifting sermon and congregation! Several ladies of the church came up and gave me a hug, and said how much they treasure Rob. “Me too!” I said.
On Tuesday Rob and I went to the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old US Mint, where we saw an exhibit about the women of New Orleans Jazz (including a clip of Miss Germaine singing!), and a photo essay about musicians in traditional brass bands written and photographed by the father of Rob’s friend and colleague, the brilliant trumpeter Aurelian Barnes. We had lunch at a quirky place called Shank Charcuterie , a one-man operation, with house-made smoked meats. (www.shankcharcuterie.com) Boudin! Yum.
Wednesday we wandered through the Impressionists and later artists at the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park. Later we lunched at Brown Butter Southern Kitchen – amazing Brussels sprouts!(www.brownbutterrestaurant.com).
While grocery shopping, we rescued a grasshopper from the broccoli bin at Whole Foods, and resettled her on an outdoor window-box of asparagus ferns.
On Wednesday afternoon we went to Angelo Brocato’s, a famous Italian bakery and ice cream shop in Mid-City (www.angelobrocatoicecream.com) We had gelato, an eclair, a chocolate cannoli, and a few bakery cookies, including lemon ricotta cookies. The eclair and cannoli were delicious, the gelato was sublime, but the cookies? Meh. I told Rob I could do better. I mean no disrespect to Angelo Brocato’s, which is a gem. But I think my cookie is better – more lemony and moister.
Here’s my recipe. Rob, look for your package in a few days.
Lemon Ricotta Cookies
- 2 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 stick unsalted butter, very soft
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
- zest of two lemon, finely grated, divided
- 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
Combine first three ingredients and set aside. Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in eggs. Add ricotta cheese, zest, lemon juice, and vanilla and blend completely. Add dry ingredients and stir gently until just combined. Cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or non-stick foil. Using two spoons or a cookie scoop, measure out tablespoons of batter onto prepared sheets. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until edges just begin to brown. Remove from oven and cool on parchment for 20 minutes.
Icing: Blend together confectioners sugar, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, and zest of one lemon. Dip cooled cookies into icing, and let set on parchment until icing hardens. Store in airtight container.
Makes about 5 dozen.