Bill Coyne Thursday, November 19, 2020 Comments Off on Traditions

Some years ago, our son played football for Sulphur High. He played throughout his high school career. But some of the neatest activities were those he engaged in away from the gridiron and stands. 

One such event was the annual dinner Helmets to Heels that was organized by coach Wainwright. Football players and their mothers were treated to dinner in a fashionable banquet setting, where they shared memories and stories. 

My wife always thinks about family first. She suggested our daughter and I go out for our own dinner on the night of Helmets to Heels. This little tradition has carried on throughout the years for all. We still take a special night to do this for each other’s company. My daughter and I take turns choosing the restaurant, and we don’t reveal the choice until that night.  I can attest there have definitely been some hits and misses along the way. 

This year, it was my turn to choose, and I was going to make sure my choice was going to make up for past experiences. So, my choice … Restaurant Calla (mic drop).

Once I revealed the locale, I could see in her face a bit of acceptance. So, we got dolled up and headed down the road. 

I’d never had the opportunity to dine there. I hadn’t realized the entire restaurant was located on the second floor. 

After a quick lift on the elevator, the doors opened to the aroma of garlic and a pretty view. We were met by the host, who, with a rather nonchalant demeanor, asked if I had reservations. I confirmed we did. We were escorted to our table. 

First impressions — it was very well thought out, very open, trendy and inviting. The layout definitely had a touch of modernization, a little Californiacation. It was something we were definitely not accustomed to seeing as far as design in Southwest Louisiana and I was digging it. 

Once we were seated, we were greeted by our server Lindsey, who pointed out that the menus were now QR code scanned and available on our smart phones. She then requested our drink order. My daughter ordered a simple soda; myself, I was definitely in the mood for an extra dirty martini, vodka. 

The floor was busy, nearly all the tables were full and there was a good crowd. As my daughter and I looked over the menu, we saw that it was a nice kind of petite menu. Although it offered quite a few choices, it was not so expansive that we got lost in options and found ourselves thumbing through the menu over and over as we tried to narrow down the choices. 

At this point our drinks were delivered. Now, the soda, you really can’t mess that up, right? So, no problem there. However, when the dirty martini was placed before me, it was a bit sad looking. If you are familiar with martinis of the sort, you know they are garnished with three olives. My martini was naked. Lindsey apologized and claimed the bar was out of olives. (Insert sound of needle scratching across the record.) I didn’t know whether this was a precursor to the end result, but it was a questionable development. 

The importance of the evening was not going to be impacted by a lack of olives. Reading through the menu, everything sounded amazing. Usually, we agreed on an appetizer and contrasting entrées because that allowed each a variety of tastes and allowed me to have more to write about. This night was different, though. With so many amazing options on the menu, we decided it would be best to just do a free-for-all: order what you think you would like to try and have it brought to the table. This night was a night of indulgence. 

We started with a simple order of French fries to share. Hand-cut, thin fries in herbs were offered with a garlic aïoli and a side ketchup. From there, my daughter ordered a wedge salad with pan-seared bacon, confit tomato, green onion, pepitas with a chili buttermilk dressing. 

A post had been popping up on my feed about a ravioli dish being featured. I had to try this. I made it my second course. It’s an herbed ricotta, egg yolk ravioli, garnished with pickled leeks, bathed in a warm beurre fondue. It was good. I appreciate the time and attention given to this dish, but I’m not convinced it was worth the price for one ravioli. 

We were pacing ourselves through the evening. It was time for entrees. My daughter ordered the seared scallops over lemon risotto, fennel salad, fronds and lemon zest. I opted for the seared red snapper topped with a sweet and spicy miso butter, garlic potatoes and vegetables. The entrees were most likely two of the best dishes we’d experienced in some time. The scallops were perfect; the snapper had an amazing mouthwatering taste with that touch of crisp sear, along with the fresh al dente vegetables. 

We were pretty much full at this point, but there’s always room for dessert, at least a shared dessert. Ary picked out a slice of beautiful cake.  

I had been redeemed. From start to finish it was a perfect evening aside from the missing olives, which is really not that big a deal. The setting, the ambience, the service, the food, the end result. I set the bar high for next year’s choice. I won. 

But did I? Did any of us? Unfortunate news came after Hurricane Laura that Calla had announced it was closing permanently. If you never had the opportunity to dine at Calla, you definitely missed out. It’s always heartbreaking to witness the closing of a restaurant, for any reason, and I’m sorry to see this happen.

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