Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Gem in the Black Pearl

Like a pole dancer with intimacy issues New Orleans doesn't reveal its real nature immediately. Not at first. It makes a big show out of its obvious assets, but its best attributes take time to uncover. That may be a reaction to being a tourist destination. Thanks to two centuries of clever marketing, travelers think they know all about the place.

They're wrong. Take the neighborhoods of New Orleans, for example. Visitors know about the Quarter, Uptown, maybe even the Bywater, but within these famous hoods are subsets -- 72 in all, says the City Planning Commission that cataloged them. They should know. Before living here I had never heard of places like Gert Town, St. Roch and the Black Pearl. The latter's lyrical name is new. The original name for the neighborhood contained an ugly epithet. More on that here.

This week I went to eat lunch in the Black Pearl on Perrier Street at Tartine. (From San Francisco, I immediately think of the great Mission bakery Tartine and their melty, righteous orange rolls.) But this is a bistro, not a bakery, though they do bake their own bread on the premises, and it's good, too. What Tartine New Orleans offers is a good lunch in an informal setting. Tasty sandwiches with crusty, warm bread, salads and tartines, or open-faced sandwich. I ordered the grilled
vegetables. It arrived packed with roasted tomatoes, manchego cheese, herbed olive oil on focaccia with an amazing side of garlic-y white beans. The next time I come I'm ordering the ham with triple cream brie, fig mustard and topped with butter lettuce on a baguette. I hope the beans remain the side. Tartine is owned by Cara Benson, a graduate of Loyola and The French Culinary Institute, who came home to New Orleans with a dream. When I was there she was preparing the lunch with the help of her mom and crew. I think Cara's dream is delicious. I'm returning to the Black Pearl next week for the ham.

Tartine New Orleans; 7217 Perrier Street; 504.866.4860; Reviews

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