Tuesday, September 14, 2021

When a Celebrity Comes to Town by Ellen Byron

Jenn McKinlay: It's a fabulous day for us when our dear friend Ellen Byron comes to to visit the Reds! Let's all bask in her latest Cajun Country Mystery and read about her recent adventures with Hurricane Ida, shall we? 



Ellen Byron: New Orleanians will tell you that their city was truly the first foodie city. They’re not wrong. While cities like New York have a storied history of fine restaurants, The Big Easy has been home to legendary locations like Antoine’s since the mid-1800s. And New Orleans has had star chefs before star chefs were a thing. Leah Chase, Paul Prudhomme, and of course, Mister “Bam!” himself, Emeril Lagasse.

 Emeril is from Massachusetts, not Louisiana. But he does have some bona fides in that his father was French-Canadian, as were the original Acadians expelled from Canada in the mid-eighteenth century. (Say the word “Acadian” fast and you get “Cajun.”) Lagasse’s culinary path took him to New Orleans, where he followed in the footsteps of legendary Cajun chef Paul, replacing him as Executive Chef at the iconic New Orleans eatery Commander’s Place. Emeril ran the Commanders Kitchen for over seven years, until he left to launch Emeril’s, his flagship restaurant.



I had my first Lagasse meal at Emeril’s in the mid-1990’s. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed visits to other outposts like Nola in the French Quarter and Delmonico’s on St. Charles Avenue. I used the Lagasse empire, which includes locations in states from Nevada to Florida, as inspiration for the empire created by Phillipe Chanson, the star chef in my latest Cajun Country Mystery, Cajun Kiss of Death

 


 

 

Phillipe isn’t Emeril, of course. While Phillipe has the famous chef’s business smarts, he leans more toward the late Anthony Bourdain in his charisma and personality, although he’s much sketchier than either Bourdain or Lagasse. And to justify why a celebrity chef would open a restaurant in a tiny village like the Pelican of my series, I had to look beyond the big cities to small towns turned foodie destinations because a famed chef made the specific choice to plant his or her culinary flag there. (El Bulli, famed restaurant once lodged in the picturesque Spanish town of Roses, is the classic example.)El Bulli - Wikipedia

 On a recent trip to NOLA, I walked by Emeril’s. Due to the pandemic, the restaurant was shuttered, its windows covered with sheets of metal. 


 Hurricane Ida has pushed back the September 2nd reopening and a new date hasn’t been announced as of my writing this post. (Nola and Delmonico’s are also closed with no start date listed but Meril’s, his latest venture, is open.) I know there will be visits to Emeril’s New Orleans eateries in my future. And If I ever have the chance to meet him in person, I’ll share how he helped inspire the plot to Cajun Kiss of Death. But luckily for him, he’s had way better luck than Phillipe Chanson, the chef in my mystery.

 

Readers, what’s a famous restaurant in your town?

 

 


Cajun Kiss of Death Synopsis

 

The next shot from Cupid’s bow may be fatal in USA Today bestselling, Agatha Award-winning author Ellen Byron’s hearty and delightful seventh Cajun Country mystery.

 

In Pelican, Louisiana, Valentine's Day has a way of warming the heart, despite the February chill. But the air at Crozat Plantation B&B turns decidedly frigid when celebrity chef Phillippe Chanson checks in. And when the arrogant Phillippe--in town to open his newest Cajun-themed restaurant--perishes in a fiery boat crash, Maggie Crozat's dear friend JJ lands in very cold water.

Did JJ, proprietor of Junie's Oyster Bar and Dance Hall, murder Phillippe because he feared the competition? Might Maggie's mother, Ninette, have bumped off the chef for stealing one of her cherished recipes? Or was the culprit a local seafood vendor, miffed because Phillippe was somehow able to sell oysters for a remarkably reasonable price, despite an oyster shortage?

Maggie had planned to devote her February to art lessons in New Orleans, a present from her sweetheart, Bo. But now she has to focus on helping her friend and her mother cross a murder charge off the menu. Meanwhile, Maggie receives a series of anonymous gifts that begin as charming but grow increasingly disturbing. Does Maggie have an admirer--or a stalker? And are these mysterious gifts somehow related to Phillippe's murder?

Blood may be thicker than water, but this case is thicker than gumbo. And solving it will determine whether Maggie gets hearts and roses--or hearse and lilies--this Valentine's Day.

 

Purchase link: Cajun Kiss of Death by Ellen Byron: 9781643857381 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

 

Bio

Ellen’s Cajun Country Mysteries have won the Agatha award for Best Contemporary Novel and multiple Lefty awards for Best Humorous Mystery. She writes the Catering Hall Mystery series, which is inspired by her real life, under the name Maria DiRico. Ellen is an award-winning playwright, and non-award-winning TV writer of comedies like WINGS, JUST SHOOT ME, and FAIRLY ODD PARENTS. She’s written over two hundred articles for national magazines but considers her most impressive credit working as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart. Ellen is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America. 

 CONTACT ELLEN:


Newsletterhttps://www.ellenbyron.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ellenbyronauthor/

https://www.facebook.com/CateringHallMysteries/

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/ellenbyronmariadirico/

Bookbub:

https://www.bookbub.com/profile/ellen-byron

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/maria-dirico

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/23234.Ellen_Byron?from_search=true&from_srp=true

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19130966.Maria_DiRico?from_search=true&from_srp=true

 

 

Newsletter:https://www.ellenbyron.com/

 

85 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your newest book, Ellen . . . I’m looking forward to finding out who did the dastardly deed!
    Your New Orleans restaurants sound just wonderful . . . .

    [Happy Book Birthday, Hank!]

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  2. Happy Book Birthday Hank!

    Tavern on the Green
    Sardi's

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    1. Dru, such great choices! I have wonderful memories of both.

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  3. Welcome Ellen and I wish you many sales! I also hope New Orleans is back to normal soon--I hate hurricane season! We don't have a famous restaurant in our little CT town, but Jacques Pepin does live here:). We spotted him a couple of weeks ago at a lovely French restaurant in town. We wondered why they wouldn't give us the nice table outside that was empty. I glanced over 20 minutes later and it all became clear. Jacques was in the house! He's a doll and we're proud to have him as our local celebrity.

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    1. Yeah, that's what I want to know as well, Hallie!

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    2. That is so cool, Lucy! He seems like such a nice man.

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    3. I had no idea he lived there, Roberta! How cool is that?

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    4. Oh, that is SO cool! LOL, you reminded me of the time we ate at Spago's in Beverly Hills. Wolfgang Puck was doing his rounds among the tables and asked us how everything was. You should have seen the look on his face when my mother complained about something! I wish I remembered what it was. But leave it to her!

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  4. There's no famous restaurants in my town but that's okay. I've eaten at a couple of places that had some kind of celebrity tie-in and I've found that it's more about the "celebrity" than the quality and quantity of the food.

    I'll stick to my less famous but consistently good places that don't make me feel like I'm being ripped off when the bill comes.

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    1. High price does not mean excellent food. We could probably do an entire week of blogs on food disappointments!

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    2. My husband and I are ALL about finding small mom and pop restaurants and supporting them, wherever we go.

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  5. Love you, Ellen! I can't believe I haven't read this yet. Must remedy that ASAP.

    No famous restaurants or chefs here, but our neighborhood Phat Cats Bistro SHOULD be more famous than it is.

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    1. (I discover the new book on my Kindle - and somehow didn't start reading it...)

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    2. Noting the name if I'm ever in your 'hood, Edith!

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    3. Edith, love you too! Thank you so much for picking up the book!

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  6. ELLEN: I LOVED reading the Cajun Kiss of Death. Interesting that Emeril's empire was the inspiration for Phillipe's restaurant chain. I had a memorable meal at Delmonico's while in NOLA for Bouchercon 2016.

    Alas, no famous restaurants here in Ottawa but the food scene is getting better here.

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    1. I have a friend who lives in the area and he shares many of his food adventures - it does look like it's getting pretty good up there.

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    2. Grace, thanks so much! We did Happy Hour at Delmonico's. that's my trick for enjoying the pricier places in any city, wink, wink.

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  7. Looking forward to reading Cajun Kiss of Death, and so glad you and your daughter made it through Ida safely.

    I live at the other end of the Acadian diaspora - the St. John Valley of Maine. We have no famous restaurants here, although there is no shortage of fabulous Acadian foods. Ployes anyone? Yum.

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    1. Buckwheat pancakes as thin as crepes. You spread butter on them, roll them up and nibble. Heaven. https://www.ployes.com/ This is my neighborhood. Our house and 167 acres are in the forested hills near the top of the photo. Bouchard farms is about three miles from my house.

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    2. I love les galettes! (What I heard them called in Brittany and in Quebec.)

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    3. Oh, I love Acadian food. I have several favorite eateries in Nova Scotia that feature that cuisine.

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    4. Lucky you, Kait! Acadian food AND the gorgeous state of Maine.

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  8. Ellen, hi, welcome to JRW. I'm on page 135 of Cajun Kiss of Death and I am loving it, as usual. I love the dynamic between Bo and Maggie now that they are married.
    Somehow she is still in someone's bull's eye. Will there be more books in this series?

    We live in a town that is hopping with fine restaurants. There are several incredible local chefs and several amazing restaurant groups. Not everything has survived the pandemic, but most have stuck it out! My favorite is Max's, their Oyster Bar and Max Downtown and Trumbull Kitchen. Carbone's has been in Hartford longer than I have and the two new Carbone's restauants in the suburbs have made it through, too. Chef Billy Grant's Bricco is still packed and there are more great places to dine.

    Last summer our town narrowed the driving lanes, put extra outdoor seating in the street in place of parking spots and surrounded them with sturdy concrete barriers. The restaurants decorated their new seating areas and spaced out tables to accommodate more diners. They did it again this summer and it's terrific. Vaccination levels are high here, but people are still cautious. Mask mandates are back when indoors.

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    1. I'll have to swing through that area when I'm back. I haven't been to Carbone's in forever.

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    2. Carbone's used to be my mother's absolute favorite restaurant! As a famous restaurant where I live, I think I'll go with the (somewhat goofy) Louis' Lunch and their claim that they invented the hamburger. Do not ask for ketchup!
      -Melanie

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    3. These all sound so good. I know northwestern CT! My family had a cottage on Bantam Lake for 36 years. I miss it a ton. And thrilled you're enjoying the book. I'm afraid it's the last in the series. sigh... BUT I've got the Vintage Cookbook Mysteries coming in June, and a possible spinoff from this series featuring Grand-mere.

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    4. Jenn, if you swing through the area, I'll meet you for lunch!
      Melanie, yes, Carbone's still has that je ne sais quois. We go to Carbone's Kitchen in Bloomfield all the time. Yummy Italian food. Louis' Lunch is famous!
      Ellen, sorry to hear it's the last of the series but I have enjoyed it thoroughly! I have the first of you new series in my TBR pile, and look forward to the Vintage Cookbook debut.

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  9. I love good food - love to READ about it - and love love love to read about it in Ellen's Cajun Country mysteries.

    Where I grew up there were many great restaurants, and the one of my parents frequent haunts was Chasens. Supposedly Elizabeth Taylor loved their legendary chili. For my mother, the piece de la resistance was roast beef bones. There was a limited supply every night, since the dish was made with the leftover bones from a standing rib roast. I assume they were seasoned spicey (mustard? hot sauce?) and roasted crisp. Not to a six-year-old's palate, I'm afraid.

    They also had an absolutely sensational cake - a dobos torte, which I adored. I tried to bake one once - a dozen thin layers are cooked on the BACK of a frying pan, one at a time. Very Martha Stewart. Very not me. Equaled only in a sidewalk cafe in Vienna where I ate decades later.

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    1. My Greek friend Marios, a great cook (who hosted legendary bourbon-soaked dinner parties when we all were in grad school together), swore the best meat was next to the bone. He would broil lamb bones with oregano and I don't know what else. Delicious!

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    2. My mother would surreptitiously collect the bones from everyone's plate and then feast in the kitchen. I never saw bones on a menu, but it would have been my mother's favorite dish!

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    3. Hallie, you do know that Chasen's became a Bristol Farm but they saved a section of it where you can sit and eat. It's awesome! And NOLA has its own vesion of a dobos torte - Doberge cake. Try a slice next time you're there!

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  10. Ellen, just finished Cajun Kiss of Death last week--as always, loved being back in Pelican with the clan & friends. We're famous, or should be, for our Main Street Cafe--many small towns across the country have their own version--great food, great prices, great location. Come on in, whenever you're around, although parking can be a problem on Saturday mornings ;-)

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    1. Check, check, check - I love local eateries the most.

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    2. I love ALL Main Street cafes, so I hope I get to enjoy yours someday. And thanks so much for reading the book! xo

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  11. Congrats on your latest! I've enjoyed splendid meals in NOLA (Court of Two Sisters, Cafe Degas, and Elizabeth's for Sunday brunch) but my most memorable meal was a year we assembled all the kids in DC for Thanksgiving and enjoyed dinner at L'Auberge Chez Francois in Great Falls. The founder greeted us in the dining room and the food was superb. Best Thanksgiving dinner ever.

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    1. Is L'Auberge Chez Francois affiliated with Chez Francois on H Street? In the 1960s during protests, Chez Francois would set up a buffet of whatever food they had pre-prepped and serve it. Thinking back now, how decadent to have gourmet food at a demonstration. At the time, I fell in love with their vichyssoise. Never had better. Years later when we moved to the DC area, I made it a point to eat at the restaurant at least once a year. It was a budget stretcher, but worth ever penny.

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    2. I love the Court of Two Sisters! Soooo good.

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    3. That sounds wonderful, Margaret! And I know you've had many, many great dining experiences in NOLA! ;-) Does your daughter still live there?

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  12. Back in the day, my town was New York City, where I landed a gig writing restaurant reviews. Best job ever. I got to eat in really game-changing restaurants, like Danny Meyer's Union Square Cafe, which introduced New York to the California mentality of unpretentious dining focused on fresh, local ingredients to which he added Asian accents. But my favorite restaurant was Brendan Walsh's Arizona 206, which taught us big city folks the joys of Southwestern cooking.
    PS: Can't wait to read Cajun Kiss of Death!

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    1. Amy, restaurant reviewer in NYC?! It has to be one of the most coveted jobs in the world!! You were paid to dine. Just WOW!

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    2. I remember when SW cooking came to NYC. I think our own Los Dos Molinos is still there.

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    3. Amy, I am SO jealous! We were living in NY at the same time but I couldn't afford going to cool restaurants. Lucky you!

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  13. I was going to say that there is no famous restaurant here in my neck of the woods and that I had never even eaten in a famous restaurant. But then I remembered the locally famous restaurant of my college town - Brooks' House of Bar-B-Q, possibly the best barbecued chicken ever! They are not just famous in Oneonta, NY but all over the east central part of the state. And beyond.

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    1. OMG, I always say that my three favorite letters are B, B, and Q! And my cousin went to SUNY Oneonta. I went to SUNY Binghamton for a year and a half before I transferred to Tulane.

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  14. How have I missed this series? It sounds like fun.

    Cincinnati is a foodie town from way back. Until the Maisonette closed several years ago it was the only five-star restaurant in the US east of the Mississippi. Think of that: not in NYC, not in Atlanta or Boston or DC. Cincinnati, Ohio. It was classic French, and where everyone went for the really big milestones in life, with impeccable service. In its heyday in the 1970s there were competitors that came close, too, like the also five-star Gourmet Room with its Joan Miro mural and view from the 20th floor of the Terrace Hotel, one of the first buildings in the world with air conditioning.

    Now we still have excellent restaurants, like Nicola's, Boca, Via Vite, and others. The astonishing Orchids at Palm Court in the magnificent Art Deco and historic Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza is Ohio’s only AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Four Star rated restaurant. And one of Paul Prudhomme's proteges has been serving authentic Cajun down the road from us at Brew River for about a dozen years.

    And now I'm hungry!

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    1. Karen, it's a fabulous series! You have some delightful binge-reading ahead of you.

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    2. Oh, Karen, it's a fabulous series. I'd read all the books when they were released, but this summer, I treated myself to a binge. It was so much fun to read them one after the other. You will love them.

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    3. Karen, these restaurants all sound amazing. I was in Cincinnati once years ago and it seemed like a great city. And Edith and Kait, thank you SO much for the shout-outs!! xoxo

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  15. Congratulations, Ellen!

    I don't know if they are precisely famous, but LeMont and Monterey Bay Fish Grotto, both up on Mount Washington, boast some amazing views of the city skyline to go along with the food.

    Oh, Hank - loved the launch last night!

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    1. Now I want fish, lol. And I love skyline views!

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  16. Phoenix and Scottsdale are foodie towns. Barbara Peters and her husband Rob are dialed into the local scene if you ever need a recommendation. My fave place is Barrio Cafe - Silvana Salcida Esparza is the chef and her take on Mexican food is out of this world. I am WAY too intimidated to talk to her, however.

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    1. Jenn, I still have that plane ticket I bought in 2020 for the event we were going to do at Poisoned Pen. Rain check???

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  17. "solving it will determine whether Maggie gets hearts and roses--or hearse and lilies-"
    Cleverly put.
    Poor LA.. They just keep getting hit with storms!

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    1. Oh Libby, it's awful. Our daughter was supposed to fly back to Houston today. I happened to be with her when we had to evacuate and we drove there. She and her dad were going to fly back today, get her car, then drive to NOLA. but - Hurricane Nicholas! So we had to postpone YET AGAIN. Now it's going to be Sunday.

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  18. Hank, Happy Book Birthday! Great event last night. Looking forward to receiving my book. It's almost close enough to drive over and pick it up!

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  19. Next best thing to eating food is reading about it in a mystery. Congrats, Ellen, on today's launch!

    No world-famous restaurants in Winnipeg that I know of, but lots of good places to eat. At one time, this city had the most restaurants per capita (fewer than one million population) in Canada, for whatever that is worth.

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    1. Wow, that's amazing. I've had some great food in Canada, especially Vancouver, one of my fave cities in the world.

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  20. Congrats on your pub day, Ellen! Despite warnings of books being pushed back and paper shortages, etc., this is turning out to be a boss September for books.

    No famous restaurant in my town, but the food scene has definitely improved in my area. We've gone from having a single breakfast-and-lunch cafe to an excellent pizza place, a small brewery, and a real restaurant that serves very good new American cuisine.

    You don't have to convince me a celebrity chef would open a restaurant in a small town, however; I remember reading about Fäviken Magasinet, a gourmand's destination in the northern Swedish forests, 470 miles from Oslo. Sadly, it closed in 2019, but for eleven years they had a such a following reservations for the entire year filled up on the first day the book was opened.

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    1. Oh, I would have LOVED that. Darn, sorry I missed even dreaming about a visit there!

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  21. Ellen, how did I not know about the latest book? I thought I was up to date on all of them. At least I now can look forward to reading it!

    I don’t think any of the restaurants in my town are famous, but there are some restaurants that I love and that many other local people love, too. I kind of hope they never become famous!

    DebRo

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    1. LOL, Deb, I hear you. And those are exactly the restaurants I'd want to know about if I visited you!

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  22. A famous restaurant in my town? We are mostly chains. Although there is Backwoods Inn, a local steak place not too far from me. It's parking lot even showed up in an episode of Charlie's Angels. (The original first season.) The sign for the restaurant wasn't in the episode, but it was clearly the restaurant to anyone who has ever been there.

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    1. Mark, is that in Mission Hills? I went to a BBQ place there when I did the LAPD Citizens Police Academy.

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    2. Not, Backwoods Inn is less than a mile from my front door.

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  23. Emeril was after my time in New Orleans. I left in the early 70s. We ate at Arnaud's, Antoine's, Galatoire's, and Brennan's. Also best muffalettas were at Central Grocery. Best fresh seafood was at one of the Bucktown dives on the lake at the yacht basin. Houston is quite an international foodie town. I don't know who's famous and who isn't. Anthony Bourdain was happy as a clam whenever he visited. We do have a Brennan's here, a branch of the New Orleans family. Loved your latest book, Ellen. Nothing like a snarky chef!

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    1. Pat, thank you! And what's great is every restaurant you mention is still there - and will be, God willing, for a while. I love some of the Bucktown places. I.e. Russell's, which has an oyster omelet to die for!

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  24. Happy pub day, Hank!! I keep checking my front porch!!

    Great post, Ellen! I love reading about chefs, so am going to snap this book up. My parents loved New Orleans and some of my favorite childhood memories are of being taken to Commander's Palace, Antoine's, Brennan's, and the Court of Two Sisters. I did go to Emeril's during the NOLA Bouchercon but was not terribly impressed. Dallas has some celeb chefs like Dean Fearing and Stephen Pyles, and my town a few miles up the freeway is quite foody. Our local barbecue place is ranked one of the best in Texas, and they just reopened after a bad fire on New Year's Eve.

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    1. Deborah, your parents did write by you, taking you to those classic eateries! If I ever get to Dallas, I'll be hitting you up for that BBQ place. I love it!

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  25. HANK,

    Happy Pub Day!

    ELLEN,

    Hope that you and your family got out of New Orleans before the Hurricane Ida hit. You were travelling to NOLA around the same time?

    Yes, there is a famous restaurant in my town. CHEZ PANISSE, which was started by Alice Waters. It is a farm to table gourmet restaurant in Berkeley. You have to call on the phone to make reservations. Luckily, before the pandemic, I was able to ask in person if I could make reservations and got the email contact information. My family had a celebration there about five years ago.

    Diana

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    1. Diana, Chez Panisse is one of the most famous restaurants in the world. And I happened to be in NOLA and had to evacuate with Eliza. I wrote about it here: https://www.ellenbyron.com/post/hurricane-ida-our-evacuation-timeline

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    2. Ellen,

      Thanks! I just read your blog and I am so glad that you and Eliza made it back to Los Angeles. And now it looks like Hurricane Nicholas is headed for Texas. Hope that your friends in TX are OK.

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  26. Happy Pub Day, Hank and Ellen!!! So much great reading ahead. Yay!!!

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  27. Hi Ellen,and big Congrats! I really need to catch up on your series. You know my dad & oldest niece were Tulane alums, so since I lived in NOLA as a kid, then would often go visit family, I've been lucky to eat at so many good and famous places there. After moving around for a few years, Texas became my adopted home. I've lived in many areas of the state and most of them have great food. Even if the chef's not "famous" they can still please the palate outside of Houston, Austin & Dallas! We like a lot of local 'joints', too!

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  28. Congratulations, Ellen! Can't wait to read. While we just lived outside NOLA for a year, I did manage to gain 10 lbs! The food was the best I've ever had. Even the fast food restaurants seemed gourmet1 Looking forward to the book.

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