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THE

Defender Picks

 

LUNDI

April 24th

Zurich Golf Classic

City Park, 11AM

Kick off to a 4-day stop on the PGA Championship tour

 

Crystal Energy Healing & Dream Play

1112 Mandeville St., 2PM

Talk dreams and crystals

 

Andrew Jackson Hotel Ghost Hunt

Andrew Jackson Hotel, 4PM

Sleepover ghost tour at the infamous hotel

 

International Sculpture Day

Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 5:30PM

Artists Tara Conley, Rachel David, and Ashley Pridmore will discuss their work

 

Big Easy Entertainment Awards

The Orpheum Theater, 6PM

29th annual event

 

New Orleans Baby Cakes

Shrine On Airline, 7PM

Baby Cakes go up against the Omaha Storm Chasers

 

Movie Screening: La Bataille de Solférino

Cafe Istanbul, 7PM

French film about the 2012 presidential election, following Macron and Le Pen's victories during this weekend's round one

 

Cacao Ceremony

Nola Yoga Loft, 7:30PM

Set intentions for the Full Moon and share a cacao elixir

 

Ooh Poo Pah Doo Monday Blues

Carver Club, 8PM

Hosted by the bar's owner Miss Judy Hill

MARDI

April 25th

Earth Day Celebration

City Park, 4PM

Kiddie crafts, cooking demos, native plant sale, yoga, and more

 

April Hobnobber

The Country Club, 5:30PM

Sip and socialize, with complimentary wine and live music

 

Movie Screening: Ipileaye

Ashé Cac, 6PM

Story of the creation of the world 

 

Pony Up for Horses

Eiffel Society, 6PM

A benefit to aid horses in need

 

Vinyasa & Vino

Nola Yoga Loft, 6:30PM

All-levels yoga following by wine and dinner

 

Swing in the Oaks

City Park, 7PM

Annual free outdoor concert feat. Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra

 

New Moon Medicine Circle

Yes, Yoga., 7:30PM

Celebrate the cycle with visualizations, meditations, journaling, ritual, and group energy healing

 

Aaron Cohen Band

Gasa Gasa, 9PM

Local faves, feat. Danny Abel Band, Shhh

 

High Profile | New Orleans Nightlife Awards

Sidney's Saloon, 10PM

Celebrate NOLA's nightlife with Garlic Junior, Jassy, and DJ Visqueen

MERCREDI

April 26th

Wednesdays at the Square

Lafayette Square, 5PM

Feat. Flow Tribe and Robin Barnes

 

Blackout Poetry Workshop

Norman Mayer Branch Library, 5PM

Teen poetry event in blackout poetry of public library books

 

Evenings with Enrique

City Park, 5PM

Feat. Raphael Bas

 

Vietnamese Style Crawfish Boil

Black Penny, 6PM

The famous boil across from Armstrong Park returns

 

Paradigm Pizza & Pies

Paradigm Gardens, 7PM

Urban farm hosts outdoor dinner, with Ancora Pizzeria

 

Eat Your Science

Saenger Theatre, 8PM

Alton Brown live

 

Movie Screening: Annie Hall

Catahoula Hotel, 8PM

Rooftop screening of the Woody Allen classic

 

Sound Observatory New Orleans: The Shape of Jazz to Come

Three Keys, 9PM

This month's event features Ashlin Parker Trio 

JEUDI

April 27th

 

NOLA Distilling Co. Grand Opening

NOLA Distilling Company, 3PM

Live music from Colin Lake, food from Frencheeze & La Cocinita food trucks

 

Movie Screening: Jazz Fest Shorts

The Old U.S. Mint, 6PM

Films from the inaugural 1970 Jazz Fest

 

Threadhead Thursday

City Park Botanical Gardens, 6PM

Feat. Marcia Ball, Brass-a-Holics, and Paul Sanchez & the Rolling Road Show

 

Sum 41 & Pierce the Veil

House of Blues, 6:30PM

The 'We Will Detonate!' tour

 

International Jazz Day

New Orleans Recreation Development Commission, 7PM

Celebration of jazz music and its influence

 

Jazz & Heritage Gala

Hyatt Regency, 7PM

19th annual benefit feat. a Neville Family Funktion and more

 

St. Paul and the Broken Bones

Orpheum Theater, 9PM

Birmingham band promotes second album "Sea of Noise" 


McClure's Method

A New Orleans Restaurant Veteran Finds Balance in Barbecue



RIVERBEND -- Tilting a glass of strong iced coffee, Neil McClure laughs at a recollection of two friends trying to give him a break from his late night post monitoring the hickory logs inside the firebox of his Lang 84” smoker during a recent marathon session.

 

“They couldn’t even give me an hour before they came knocking at the window.  ‘Neil, we screwed up the fire.’ The fog had rolled in, the fire got low, they didn’t stoke it enough, I don’t know.  It just started losing temperature, and I’m like, ‘Y’all go to bed.  You’ve had enough drink.  You don’t even know how to tend fire.’”   

 

McClure recently traded his high stress, night-and-weekend-eating schedule as general manager of Dante’s Kitchen for a lower stress, graveyard-through-swing rotation in which his chief concern is to “watch the fire.”  In many other situations this phrase would seem metaphorical. But for an enterprising purveyor of traditional barbecue, it means just what it means. 

 

McClure loads up a chamber of his smoker with hardwood logs and sets it alight around 1 a.m.  Ten hours later, he opens the doors to customers of his popup inside of Dante’s. Until then, however, his job is to maintain an even fire that will slow cook his beef briskets, pork butts, racks of ribs, and chickens.  He opens the door to the wood chamber every half hour or so to check on it, using the blackened blade of a shovel to shift wood, rearrange embers, and settle new logs into prime position.  The goal is to avoid the white smoke of a dying fire.

 
McClure's Barbecue
Where: Dante's Kitchen, 736 Dante Street
When: Lunch Mon-Friday 11:30-1:30, Dinner Tues 6:30-8:30
Prices: Family style dinner $16.50, Lunch prices vary; Catering available

 

“When you’ve got a clean burning fire, it emits what has been termed ‘thin, blue smoke’… It’s hard to see sometimes.  If it’s really burning good you can barely see anything.”

 

Maintaining the heat throughout the smoker is important so that each individual piece of meat inside gets cooked as consistently as its neighbor, and avoiding the white smoke means the resulting barbecue won’t have a heavy creosote flavor.

 

The result of these long hours keeping the flame is outstanding barbecue and also a tired, slightly discombobulated version of McClure by the end of service, especially on Tuesday nights when he powers through to serve dinner family style. Replicating an after-church big bowl, shared-plate style experience was McClure's original plan for his own restaurant, but that approach became hard to incorporate in a lunch setting due to quick turnover at the tables. His Tuesday night crowds, though, are more open to this Southern traditional version of Bacchanal where you simply step through the door, grab a beer or two out of the ice tub, have a seat and let the food arrive. 

 

Even though McClure put a quick stop to the endless servings of meat—“One guy came in and ate a rack and a half, and I realized how bad a decision that was as a business person”—his fleet-footed staff are ready to replenish empty bowls of slaw, potato salad, and mac ‘n cheese. McClure obviously takes a pride in having his sides made fresh every day and on not taking shortcuts or dumping ingredients out of Sysco bags.  He has taken many trips through barbecue country, tasting and soliciting advice. While he learned a lot about the meat, he also noticed that side dishes could be an afterthought -  even in some high profile joints. 

 

“Maybe that’s the New Orleans foodie in me being kind of snobbish on sides, but it really was one of my efforts early on," he said. "I can’t sell beans out of a can…I cook things from scratch because that’s how we cook in New Orleans.  And maybe that’s where Louisiana barbecue will come into its own nature, just taking better care of the food.”

 

McClure acknowledges that a big part of the ongoing evolution of New Orleans’ barbecue palate is the amount of transplants from throughout the South that have arrived and slowly raised an awareness of the different techniques and flavors out there.  He freely admits to trying to knock off other restaurants’ sauces and provides seven bottles to every table that represent different capitals of consumption.

 

There is a tomato and molasses sauce flying the Kansas City banner.  He added some Louisiana heat to a mayo, cider vinegar, and pepper sauce he borrowed from Gibson’s in Decatur, Alabama.  And in paying tribute to the rival regions of the cradle of barbecue, North Carolina, he has both a sweet and tangy Western and a vinegar-based Eastern variety.

 

Not being a native of any of these places, he has used the ample time he has alone in the night to work on the flavor profiles and consistency of these sauces, and experimentation is popular with many of the diners who have no allegiance of their own either. 

 

Over the past few months his customers have fed McClure second helpings of positive reinforcement, and he is eagerly on the search for the right space and the right investors to make his own location a reality.  He has enjoyed a little more of a symbiotic relationship inside of Dante’s than other popups might have— if you consider working six shifts in a week “popping up”—but it is apparent that his transition from being the general manager of a place to being the guy who borrows the space is nearing its end.  He is still trying to kick the habit of saying “we” when referring to the established restaurant and notes that the logistical issues can be restrictive for both parties.  He is considering transitioning to operating in another restaurant’s space to move along and learn new lessons while planning his ideal method of operations. 

 

One thing he knows for sure:  the standalone McClure’s Barbecue won’t be beholden to finicky point of sale systems or overzealous wine reps. 

 

“Pen and paper,” he says, referring to how he would prefer to run tickets and balance the register.  “No more waking up in the middle of the night dreaming that the system has gone down.” 

 

Almost every neighborhood from Mid-City to the Irish Channel is a possible target, but finding a space that is willing to deal with his particularly delicious-smelling carbon footprint is an obstacle. 

 

“Wherever the wind’s blowing that’s where my business is coming from…But that’s also going to be a problem," he says. "A couple places I’ve already looked at on Freret weren’t interested in having smoke around them in their buildings.” 

 

While he might have to give up on the idea of family style, he thinks he may be able to incorporate a weekly Whole Pig Pickin’ that will encourage communal eating. 

 

“We all stand around the table eating crawfish, right?” he says.

 

He also wants to facilitate the incubation of other talents like his and offer up his future home to promising popups once a week. 

 

“You gotta pay back karma,” he says.

 

Wherever McClure ends up, he will be taking his process with him, including the long hours and methodical preparation.  He’s not an open-up and step-back type of guy. 

 

“It’s why my wife has not wanted me to do my own thing for the sixteen years we’ve been together," he says. "And now she’s kind of cool with it because she sees that I’m a lot happier.” 

 

McClure’s reroute onto the path of simplicity has him spending more time with his sons now that he’s off weekends and nights, and he has an excuse to tap out right before bath time.  In his time alone he has learned to track constellations across the sky and notice the varieties of dawn that color the riverside levee.  “It’s all about keeping it simple,” he says.  The goal is to avoid the white smoke of a dying fire.  You either know how to do it or you don’t."

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Contributors

Renard Boissiere, Linzi Falk, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Dead Huey, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via

Photographers


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.

Editor

Alexis Manrodt


Editor Emeritus

B. E. Mintz

Editor Emeritus

Stephen Babcock

Published Daily