The bar where we’d made our Sunday brunch reservation wouldn’t let us in. This was New Orleans, where people go to laissez les bons temps rouler. But two in our group weren’t quite 21, so we had to find another place to let our good times roll.
The night before had been a blur of music, dancing, bowling, beer, and crawfish étouffée at the famed Rock ‘n’ Bowl. Nearly two dozen friends and family had gathered from across the country to celebrate a milestone birthday for our pal Barry. Now, roughly twelve hours later, our numbers had diminished somewhat. But the hearty souls who’d survived were hungry, and a few were getting kind of squirrelly.
We wandered past a small café called Jagerhaus. “French - Toast - Ruben” their sign boasted. Was this a single dish, or two separate ones? It didn’t matter. The staff welcomed our sprawling group and once I saw the menu, it was all about the flammkuchen.
The dish belongs to Alsace, a region of France that borders Germany. The “flaming cake” consists of a flatbread topped with crème fraîche, caramelized onions, matchsticks of bacon, and cheese – typically baked in wood-burning oven until the crust is crisp and the cheese is bubbly. In French it’s called a tarte flambée. Other adaptations may have sausage, eggs, or vegetables but it was hard to resist the traditional version, which arrived with slices of melted brie and a lovely pinched crust.
Before long we were feeling a whole lot better, because good food that we discover serendipitously does just exactly that. It smoothes the rough edges of our moods. It makes memories.
And then it disappears.
The sated diners wandered off to shop and sightsee for the rest of the afternoon. Since some of the visitors would be ending their trip in just a few hours, a couple of us did the only thing that made sense: We started planning where we’d gather that evening for our next meal, the last we’d share together, and the one that would send the travelers on their way home.