My friend Michael called me unexpectedly yesterday and invited me to his holiday home in New Orleans. It sounded cool from the get-go. He rented it as a surprise vacation home for he and his husband, Darren. Darren’s family lives in New Orleans, and Michael and Darren live in Houston. They love to entertain, so, a separate vacation residence for privacy and parties fit the bill. Michael told me I couldn’t miss it. It was an old Sinclair Gas Station. An old gas station reinvented as a bed and breakfast… now, that had to be cool!
I drove through the rain to arrive at the Mid-City residence. The crowd had already gathered, and I met Darren’s cousins and Aunts and nieces and nephews. Trentacosta is Italian, and Darren dubs it his Dago Christmas Party. When I got there, one guest was buttering garlic bread for the oven, another was putting the finishing touches on the salad and still more were pouring bowls full of olive oil, basil and black pepper for dipping French Bread. I was surprised to see a couple I recognized, and I went over to say hi. After a few minutes, we realized we knew each other from Michael’s Memphis parties. Michael’s parents drove down from Pontotoc MS for the festivities. We laughed about seeing each other again, and then again about how I’d met Michael long ago in Michigan while working for Whirlpool. I hung out with them while the family put the dinner together.
We had salad, some amazing homemade lasagne with everything made from scratch including the pasta noodles. The salad was amazing, and, as one cousin put it, the lasagna was crazy good. After dinner, we had a King Cake. It’s the first one I’ve had since I’ve been down here, and I haven’t seen them for sale in a long while. It’s a Louisiana tradition to serve this large donut-shaped cake at parties until Mardi Gras. Each cake has a plastic baby inside. Whoever gets the baby has to buy the next cake or have the next party. This was apparently a very special King Cake from Manny Randazzo’s. Everybody said it was the best, and it was pretty darn good. I didn’t partake of the rum cake because I heard comments that you’d be drunk off one slice, and I somehow thought a piece of that cake might count as alcohol consumption. Oh, and my favorite dessert of the night and maybe of this century was Michael’s Mom’s Sour Cream Coconut Cake. OMG … it was so good!
After dinner, Michael’s Dad Danny told me that he had worked for Sinclair Oil many moons ago. He said the company was a very rich small oil company in the days he worked for them, and, together with the giant Exxon they built the pipeline up in Alaska. He left after they were purchased by another company that was a cutthroat corporation. I checked out their website, and Sinclair is still in operation, but I couldn’t figure out if they are owned by another company or not. At any rate, Danny showed me around the gas station. They had decorated with emblems of Mobile Oil, Lion Oil and a real gas pump right beside the Christmas tree. He told me how the old gas pumps worked.
I loved the family, and Michael told me I would. They were very friendly and very welcoming to a party crasher from Baton Rouge that was friends with the in-law. One of them got hooked on my blog and couldn’t stop reading at the dinner table. Apparently, most of them had read my blog that I’d written on Michael a long time ago, so it gave us a connection point. We talked about food …. and then ate more food …. oh, yeah … and then we talked about food, too. I definitely knew I was in New Orleans.
Toward the end of the night, Michael’s parents and I watched a group of people stirring up a huge glass pitcher of Old-Fashioneds. Find the recipe here. They put fruit in the bottom, poured in bourbon and bitters and stirred. Then, they decided it wasn’t strong enough, so they added more. Michael’s Mom was very concerned that the driver might be drinking that before he left, but we couldn’t really figure out who was drinking it nor who was driving. The pitcher of the amber drink held about a half gallon.
In the meantime, two of the kids were racing around the gas station pushing an infant in a laundry hamper. They were all laughing that this could never happen with a first child. Only a third child would be let loose with such wild abandon. I went on the roof to see the glow in the dark couch and up to the loft bedroom to see the vintage car bumper headboard. To get to the roof, I had to walk up a tight spiral staircase, and I VERY slowly walked down. I would have hated to have descended that staircase with some of those Old-Fashioneds in my gut. It was scary enough sober.
I had to drive back to Baton Rouge which was about an hour and a half drive, so I left out a little early. As I was hugging my new friends goodbye, cousin Amanda came up and started screaming in a little girl voice, “It can’t be…. It can’t be….” Michael was consoling her and asking Darren what happened to the pitcher of elixir that was sitting on the counter. I thought a real fight was going to break out with Darren claiming that there was only fruit left in the bottom, and Michael and Amanda – in tears – saying it was a full pitcher. It all ended with Amanda hugging Micheal and asking, “What will we do, Michael.” I’m sure they figured it out. But, I think Darren got the short end of the stick on that.
I enjoyed my Dago Christmas Party. At one point, we tried to introduce Ashok to their Westies, but, to say the least, it did not go well. I thought we were going to have an all out dog fight right at the door. It was worse than the Old-Fashioned Pitcher crime that took place later. So, I got back in the car and drove with Ashok back to Baton Rouge getting home after midnight. I was so glad I went. They were a really cool family. I really enjoyed seeing Michael’s parents again, and I LOVED that little bed and breakfast place. It was a great party house. Now, that I think about it, it was my first party in New Orleans since my return home. That is pretty darn special. Thank you, Michael, for inviting me, and, Darren, for sharing your family with me. I had a great time.