Lorette C. Luzajic

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Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?

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By Lorette C. Luzajic

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? Long before Hurricane Katrina destroyed a big chunk of America's history and an even bigger chunk of the world's soul, Billie Holliday and Louis Armstrong were crooning out a song with this title. Missing New Orleans must be a universal grief, like thirst or hunger, because Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans? has been recorded by dozens of artists, including Tom Waits, Fats Domino, and Alison Krauss.

It's been a good decade or longer since I've set foot on that magic soil, that city of love and heartbreak that's more like some kind of mythical kingdom than anything else. Where else do vampires mingle with other types of undead? Where else is the food voodoo and the voodoo food? Where else will old-timers play saxophone under the moon along the Mississippi river?  Where else do the bars serve bourbon sours 24 hours a day?

You can feel the longing for a place like it's tearing your heart right out of your flesh. Or you call up a friend who might carry the same pain, and head down to Markham Ave's Southern Accent. Now, there are a few restaurants in the city that serve Cajun or Creole food, and there's Cajun Corner, a little grocer and deli with lunch and a few important supplies. They're all lovely. But Southern Accent is one of Toronto's most special secrets. Since 1984, they've been bringing a delicious and festive vibe to the city, adding to the broad meaning of multicultural.

Take your credit card along- you will run up a shocking bill. Forget trying to be frugal. The food is so spectacular that it will be a sin not to order everything your little heart desires. You'll have more drinks than you intended, and dessert for a change. Plus, you'll buy some sauces and dressings to take home with you.

Southern Accent's vividly red painted space spans two floors of a cozy old heritage house. The walls are crammed with colourful eye candy, from art to Mardi Gras posters to all manner of New Orleans brick-a-brack like doubloons, jesters, and so on. Zydeco and blues will accompany your dinner and the whole atmosphere is cheery and cluttered and friendly, very campy. Despite the white tablecloths and price tag, it's very casual and you may even find yourself talking with total strangers at other tables, just like the way things happen in New Orleans.

Last night was no exception. My date started her evening with a martini, Streetcar Named Desire, but it wasn't my first time and so I knew there was no question: Cajun Caesar, two in a row. (The bourbon sours here are worth crossing town for.)

Don't even consider skipping the platter of oysters. Last night's were among the best I'd ever had, so fresh I wondered if the sea had come to Toronto while I wasn't looking. For me, oysters should be bear naked with nothing more than a drop of lemon juice or tequila. But I couldn't resist trying the garlic lime hot sauce on a few for variation, and the heat was so damn fine I promptly ordered a bottle of sauce to take home. (And I found that the garlic lime cayenne sauce mixed with sour cream made quite the chip dip.)

I was devastated to skip the calamari this time around- it's my favourite and you shouldn't miss it. It's never rubbery- just perfectly tender chews of succulent flavours. (Skip this if you're wheat-free like me because of the flour in the spice coating.) I had the piquant shrimp instead, which comes with hush puppies- a kind of ball of dough, which I promptly poured some of the divine garlicky sauce over and fed to my date. I didn't cry about the forbidden gluten, however: I simply picked up the bowl where the shrimp had been and drank the sauce down straight. Hardly ladylike, but hey, at least I didn't burp and lick the plate, an old German tradition to show respect to the chef.

M. ordered the beef brisket, a rich dark piece of meat drenched in maple, Chipotle and dark lager. The entrée comes with seared collards greens and garlic mashed potatoes, the ultimate in gourmet comfort food. If you're like me and love to order up a bunch of appetizers instead of a main, you can't go wrong picking a few of the sides available. I also had the seared collard greens and grilled baby bok choy with chili brown sugar dressing.

Ideally the night should end with a spiked coffee and either the pecan pie or the crème brulee. We opted for the crème brulee, which gave our gorgeous waiter a bit of stiff competition for sweetest dish on the menu. Also popular with whisky and bourbon lovers in the bourbon tasting, but this can be fun for people who usually drink wine or vodka. Learn about notes of sour mash and boldly try the “bourbon or reckoning,” – the Knob Creek 9-year Kentucky straight bourbon. What's the wonderful thing about bourbon, folks? All the glutens have been distilled out of it, so unlike beer, which is swimming in the guilty stuff, gluten avoiders can bring on the Jim Beam.

Walking- or weaving- away from the merry strains of zydeco with a belly full of spicy seafood and southern greens fills up that part of you that misses New Orleans. And a few dollars of your tab goes directly to aid the rebuilding of the devastated city, so consider eating there again soon.

Lorette C. Luzajic
www.thegirlcanwrite.net

 

 

 



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