Ray Cannata's got a good thing going on. The opinionated and outgoing Presbyterian minister who's trying to eat at every restaurant in New Orleans (in addition to, you know, running a church and helping to rebuild homes), his mission has taken him to the best eateries the city has to offer.
On Friday, Cannata ate at the Bayou Beer Garden and chatted over a burger and a plate of disco fries with a handful of folks. "I have no pretensions as a food critic. I'm just the guy who shows up and eats and has lots of opinions." Asked about his favorite meal so far, he (emphatically) said he couldn't say. He's tried to narrow it down but could only come up with 107 best meals:
I go to The Company Burger and I'm like, "This is the best food experience of my life." Then I go to Commander's Palace and I'm like, "This is the best food experience of my life."Making his mission more difficult is the fact that his list keeps growing.
This answers a question we raised a few weeks ago, about what he does regarding new openings. Answer: He adds it to the list. When we agreed to join Cannata and others at the BBG, he had 7 restaurants left. By the time we got there on Friday, it was back up to 9. When the Times-Pic got the list of every restaurant he'd eaten at, it was 719 long. By the time they ran it, he was well over 720. At one point, he had eaten at 500-some restaurants and had 1 to go. But then he left town for over a month and by the time he came back, the list had grown yet again.
One of the unexpectedly nice things about New Orleans, Cannata says, is that "People don't care here if you get fat." Even still, he's come up with a novel way to count calories: "I leave a forkful on the plate each time. I figure that's 3 forkfuls a day, a thousand a year. That must be worth 5 or 10 pounds a year."
Cannata's "Last Supper" is still planned for October 21 at the St Charles Hilton, with tickets at $200 a head being used to raise funds for ongoing rebuilding efforts. Besh Steakhouse will be the official last meal of Cannata's endeavor. Until the next restaurant opens.