When it comes to childhood memories, I have hundreds, one happier than the next, and I never lose sight of how lucky I am for that. I wish I had the time and mental capacity to list each of them one by one for my sons to keep; I would also have to throw in a few idiosyncrasies that were provided with those memories. With a Southern upbringing comes a bit of baggage ... some good, some odd little things you never will fully understand, but you find yourself giving in to them year after year.
For instance, although it is already reaching the 90-degree mark, I cannot bring myself to wear white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. I couldn't do it even when I lived in California. Although my purse does not match my shoes most of the time, I hear my mother disapproving in the back of my head and I feel a bit awkward about it. I still hear it is wrong for ladies to drink out of straws and if you smoke a lady should not "flick" her cigarette, but rather roll it. (I am happy to say I have never smoked.) There is more ... a lady who tells her age will tell anything ... and then there are a few helpful cues such as "never serve a Mint Julep without crushed ice." With the maternal minutiae come some things that are very helpful in life or at least in tending bar.
Maybe it is the tradition of white after Memorial Day that makes white linen an essential during the month of June. There is a traditional lunch that started many years ago with some of my childhood girlfriends: in June we all go to Galatoire's, in New Orleans, for lunch. It actually is almost a two-day affair. White linen is required and pearls are the perfect accessories for a Friday afternoon at Galatoire's. We may take it a bit too far with the tiaras, although they usually don't show up until after the initial Mint Juleps or brandy milk punches as we gather upstairs before lunch.
Founded in 1905 by Jean Galatoire, the restaurant has continued its tradition of classic fare done simply and to perfection, and for this reason it has continued to live up to its stellar reputation. In its fourth generation, Galatoire's remains to this day family-owned and operated. The appetizers alone are worth going for and I find they go better with Champagne than Mint Juleps. But it is always good to begin a long afternoon at Galatoire's with brandy milk punch. My favorite appetizer is sinful—it is their fried eggplant and soufflé potatoes Béarnaise. For something a bit lighter, try New Orleans's best shrimp rémoulade, and how can you go to New Orleans and not order oysters Rockefeller or their classic crabmeat maison? They never ever hold back on the quantity or quality of their lump crabmeat.
Chief Operating Officer Melvin Rodrigue oversees Galatoire's Restaurant. Mr. Rodrigue works closely with David Gooch (grandson of Leon), Justin Frey (grandson of Justin), and Executive Chef Brian Landry. They make a marvelous team. I have had the pleasure of working in my kitchen with Melvin and Chef Brian last summer for our Natchez Food and Wine Festival. We were wearing white—white chefs' jackets, cotton, not linen.
Before my June outing to New Orleans, whether it is still technically spring or whether I have crossed over to white yet, when the thermometer registers above 89 degrees it is time for drinks with crushed ice. Whether it is simple as strawberry lemonade, almond iced tea, or my orange-scented Mint Julep, none would be as good without crushed ice. I am sure it has to do with the way crushed ice melts faster than cubes to provide a fabulously slushy, cool drink. Crushing ice is probably the easiest recipe I will ever give you. Luckily you have several outlets for crushed ice. If you have a Sonic drive-in in your area, they sell bags of crushed ice, or you can purchase the Deni 6100 Automatic Ice Crusher for about $25. And there is always the old-fashioned way: put ice cubes in a towel and beat with a long-handled spoon. There are even videos online to show you how to do this.
Here are some very easy drinks for summers that are even better over crushed ice. If it is past Labor Day, the Juleps taste the best when you are wearing white linen, and pearls really set it off. I am also including Galatoire's shrimp rémoulade recipe.