Diary 4|10|2015: Queedle? Juggling Bananas Foster.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Last year, I finally discovered the identity of this bird. It’s a wood thrush, a yellow and white bird about the size of a blue jay. I got that data from an audio link on the internet. I still have never actually seen the bird. But I hear him, loudest in the early morning, taking most of the daytime hours off, then returning with a low-energy version of his song as the sun goes down. Welcome back, friend.

Also just back from faraway places with strange-sounding names are the Marys, who arrived last evening. They resumed their routines as timely as the Queedle-deep did. Mary Leigh begins a new job, working a few days a week at Sucre, the glitzy pastry and candy shoppes on Magazine Street and in the French Quarter. ML keeps extending her expertise as a baker. More to come. . .

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Cava. Lakeview: 789 Harrison Ave. 504-304-9034.

Cava just ended its first year in business, and Danny Millan must be breathing a sigh of relief. This is the first restaurant proprietorship in his long career, and he went through all the usual problems of launching a new eatery. The place was jammed at the beginning, creating issues of staffing, inconsistency, and noise. He worked his way through all of that, and now that the novelty-seekers have moved on to gripe forever in social media, Cava has leveled off with a strong regular customer base and very good cooking. More to come. . .

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Freshwater Trout Marigny

RecipeSquare-150x150 This is a variation on the local classic trout Marguery, with a lighter and easier-to-make sauce. For once, this is a dish that’s designed to be made with true trout, rather than the good fish we called speckled trout around here. (You could use specks, but I think rainbow or ruby red trout or even salmon would be better.) Read entire article.

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Oysters Cinisi @ Sal And Judy’s

500BestSquare Almost every Italian restaurant here has its version of baked oysters with bread crumbs, olive oil, garlic, and parmesan cheese. It’s a dish that’s such a natural that it’s almost always great. Some version are more creative than others, and Sal Impastato’s take is the most creative of all. Mixed in with all the usual ingredients is an oddly delicious one: Italian sausage. That goes better with the other flavors than you might imagine. It also makes it almost impossible for one person to finish an entire order. Spread it around! Read entire article.

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April 17 In Eating

AlmanacSquare phosphates, n., pl.–Bubbly drinks made with phosphoric acid, once widely used in soda fountains to add sharpness to the flavor of sodas. They were particularly popular in fruit-flavored drinks, such as cherry, orange, and lemon. Even before the soda fountain disappeared from the scene, phosphates went out of style. Some health authorities say that it causes problems in absorbing calcium in the body. Citric acid had largely replaced phosphates in bottled soft drinks, although they’re still used by some bottlers. Read entire article.

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Nothing Here But Us Leftovers.

FoodFunniesSquare

Nothing Here But Us Leftovers.

More often than not, leftovers can’t really be called food.

Click here for the cartoon.

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Diary 4|7|2015: Day One, French Quarter Festival.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 I am broadcasting two radio shows from the French Quarter Festival instead of just one. The crowds are surprisingly large, and they begin at Canal Street. No less thick in the square itself. Indeed, they seem as great as the convergence we see on Saturdays and Sundays. That continues as I leave at six. The bands have only another hour to play, but the crowds seem to think it will go on all night. Marci Schramm, the executive director of the festival, says that at certain tunes during the next four afternoons, over twenty bands will play simultaneously. (In different places, I hope.) More to come. . .

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Dozen Best Garlic Restaurants

CremeDeLaCremeSquare-150x150Garlic is good. It’s exciting. It’s earthy, ethnic, aromatic, sharp. It’s good for you. A case could be made that there is no such thing as too much garlic. Here are my favorite dishes that have garlic right up front in their flavor profiles. We have enough restaurants with a passion for garlic around New Orleans that I extended the list from our usual dozen to a dozen and a half. More to come. . .

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Eggs Benedict

RecipeSquare-150x150 Eggs Benedict is about a century old, but it’s not really known who invented it, or who Benedict was. (There are several claimants.) I’m suspicious of the dish in restaurants, because it’s the only fancy egg dish that is very well known nationwide. So a lot of cooks who really don’t know what they’re doing try to make it, with predictable results. ¶ Although the classic version used Canadian bacon, I like eggs Benedict better when made with a thick piece of grilled or (better) baked ham. But other substitutes are interesting. Prosciutto, for example. Smoked salmon isn’t bad. Read entire article.

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Salt-Baked Crab @ Kim Son

500BestSquare The dish, a Vietnamese specialty, is a misnomer. There’s more pepper than salt. And it’s not really baked, but stir-fried and finished briefly in the oven. It is, however, really made with crab–good lake blue crabs cut into quarters, cooked with a tremendous amount of garlic and pepper. ¶ It’s a major mess to eat–along the lines of boiled crabs. But once you start eating this, you’ll find it impossible to stop, particularly during the best months of crab season (early and late summer). ¶ Also good are the scallops and shrimp done in the same style. At a significantly higher price, Kim Son also does salt-baked Maine lobster. There’s always someone in the dining room eating that. All if it is lusty eating. Read entire article.

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April 16 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Eggs Benedict Day. Eggs Benedict are the best known of the catalog of fancy poached-eggs-with-sauce dishes popular at upscale breakfast places and brunch restaurants. Many stories exist as to who invented it, or who it was named for. All the recipes are about the same, however. Poached eggs rest on Canadian bacon or ham, which in turn are atop English muffins or a Holland rusks. (The latter is a styrofoam-like bread that’s resistant to the water that comes off the eggs.) The whole thing is covered with hollandaise and, if you’re in a really classy place, some slivers of truffle. We’ve always thought that the eggs-on-eggs aspect of the dish (hollandaise is mostly eggs and butter) is peculiar, but we can’t gainsay the goodness of a well-made plate of eggs Benedict. Main problem: not all cooks know how to poach eggs. The yolks should stand up like spheres, not flattened, and be completely covered with very thick hollandaise. And the ham or Canadian bacon should be grilled. Read entire article.

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Just Getting Into Wine.

FoodFunniesSquare

Just Getting Into Wine.

The last thing you’ll need to indulge the hobby takes up a lot of room.

Click here for the cartoon.

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Diary 4|8|2015: Cowbell Eclipses An Old Memory.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 I passed in front of Cowbell a few times lately, and was reminded that I have not been there in a long time. Another good reason for going is that a renovation of the converted old gas station appears to be nearly finished. At the very least, that will bring under cover many more tables. A lot of people prefer dining outside at Cowbell, but given the heavy traffic on Oak Street and Leake Avenue and the wide-open concrete apron, it’s something less than peaceful out there. The renovation closes in just enough low walls and high roof to make the place much more appealing. More to come. . .

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Cafe Florida

ExtinctSquare-150x150Cuba has been on our minds lately, as we look forward to the opening of the island and its unique, distinctive cuisine. Cuban restaurants long have cooked their food in the New Orleans area. Café Florida was among the most memorable of local Cuban cafes. A quaint cafe in the neighborhood of Ochsner Hospital, it served a big menu of convincing Cuban food. A Cuban friend explained this: Ochsner historically has attracted many patients from Latin America. I do recall seeing hospital staffers speaking Spanish there. More to come. . .

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Homemade Potato Chips

RecipeSquare-150x150 Homemade potato chips can’t be beat. They may not look as good as the ones from a bag, but they sure do taste better. And you eat them hot! We start making chips at the end of a batch of French fries, using the ends of the potatoes. The challenge is in slicing them, for which you absolutely need a machine of some sort. ¶ Buying the right potatoes is critical. Get the largest Idaho russets you can find in the bin. Scratch the skin lightly with your fingernail. If there’s even a hint of green between the brown of the skin and the white of the flesh, put that one back. Read entire article.

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Smoked Soft-Shell Crab @ Redemption

500BestSquare Back in the 1980s, when Christian’s was one of the most popular restaurants in town in its unique antique church quarters, its brilliant chef Roland Huet had a wild idea. He had been playing around with cold-smoked fish–notably salmon and amberjack. How would soft-shell crabs smoke? he wondered. He tried, and thought the technique had promise. Four smokers later, he had it perfected, and a dish so good that diners would dispatch it in just a few bites became a Christian’s classic. ¶ Christian’s didn’t return after the hurricane, unfortunately. When the old church became a new restaurant called Redemption, the customers immediately began to ask for the smoked soft-shell. Only when Chef Greg Picolo showed up in 2011 was the deed done. And you can have this unique appetizer (or entree, with two crabs) again. Read entire article.

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April 15 In Eating

AlmanacSquare This is Pommes de Terre Soufflees Day. Soufflee potatoes were said to have been invented by accident in the 1840s by a chef named Collinet. He was in service to Louis-Philippe, the last king of France. ¶ The king was to travel on the first train from Paris to St. Germain-en-Laye, where Collinet would serve lunch prepared for him. When the train was seen approaching the station, the chef began frying potatoes–the king’s favorite treat. ¶ But the train arrived without the king onboard. Louis-Philippe got cold feet about this new conveyance, and decided to follow the train on his horse-drawn coach. The train surprised everyone with its speed, and the king arrived quite a bit later. Collinet had no more potatoes to fry. All he could do was heat the oil again, and drop the original batch of potatoes back in to crisp them up. He was taken aback when they puffed up like balloons. ¶ Collinet had an apprentice by the name of Antoine Alciatore, who would later wind up in New Orleans. He founded the restaurant that bears his name, and to this day it’s the most famous place to have soufflee potatoes. Read entire article.

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Politics In Table Settings.

FoodFunniesSquare

Politics In Table Settings.

It’s never been explored how the traditional placing of china and silverware make inadvertent statements that my upset other diners.

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Diary 4|7|2015: Best Chefs In Louisiana.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 To give one example, Lenny Minutello–the owner of the Happy Italian, a neighborhood restaurant in Harahan–was there with a dish consisting of big poached shrimp wrapped with dry-cured ham, placed atop some barely-steamed, nicely seasoned and buttered baby spinach. This was so good that I kept going back for more. No wonder both Lenny and his daughter were honored as among the Best Chefs In Louisiana–the first father-daughter such performance in the event’s history. More to come. . .

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Singha Thai. CBD: 828 Gravier St. 504-581-2205.

I’ve found that some restaurants go well beyond being popular, and become so adored by their regulars that one can’t take the comments you hear about it seriously. ¶ Singha Thai is such a place. A side effect of this is that a certain number of people go to the restaurant with wildly high expectations triggered by the loyal fans. ¶ Any reports you hear that Singha Thai is the best Thai restaurant in America (or the worst), that it’s a terrific bargain or a total ripoff, that portions are enormous or minuscule, or anything else extreme should be ignored. The reality: here is the standard Thai menu, turned out reasonably well, if not always brilliantly. More to come. . .

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Fried Catfish

~~~
RecipeSquare-150x150 Read entire article.

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Eggs Hussarde @ Brennan’s

500BestSquare This is one of the two poached egg dishes that made breakfast at Brennan’s famous. It’s a variation on eggs Benedict, with a slice of tomato atop ham. The eggs go on top of that, with both a brown sauce and hollandaise over the top. The super-fresh eggs sit up like golf balls. Read entire article.

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April 14 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Hush Puppy Day. Hush puppies are an important part of a well-balanced mess of fried catfish. We see them on other fried seafood platters, too. ¶ Most of the time the role of hush puppies is strictly as cheap filler, and that’s probably how they came to be in the first place. ¶ The story (no idea whether it’s true) is that the cook carrying food from the kitchen across the courtyard to the dining room of the main house had to do so with dogs running underfoot. To quiet them, she made some of the coating for the fish or chicken into a ball, fried it up, and threw it to the dogs. Who, of course, went after it. ¶ Hush puppies can be raised to a higher level. By incorporating onions, bell peppers, parsley, and perhaps some fresh corn and a little jalapeno, one comes out with a hush puppy that is stands alone. ¶ The best hush puppies I ever ate were and are at Cuevas Fish House, an all-you-can-eat fried whole catfish place near Picayune Mississippi. Read entire article.

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Are Restaurant Critics Squares?

FoodFunniesSquare

Are Restaurant Critics Squares?

This seems to state that reportage on the excellence of food in restaurants is by definition as hip as barbershop-quartet singing.

Click here for the cartoon.

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Partridge Wine Dinner Tomorrow, Windsor Court

http://nomenu.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/EatingNowSquare6-200×200.png Richard Partridge–born a Hoosier and made an electrician–is one of the surprisingly large number of winemakers who start out from a far-flung point and work their ways in. In this case, Richard makes some 500 cases a year of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in Napa. That is a very small output, with the usual advantages–mainly that of being able to do almost everything by hand, one vine at a time. More on this. . .

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Diary 4|5, 6|2015: Solo. Odd Man. Panang Curry.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 after the radio show I head out for dinner at the Thai Spice in Covington. My system is clamoring for a dinner made mostly of vegetables in a spicy sauce. Thai food fits that bill ideally. I get my favorite dish here: panang (Indonesian-Malaysian) curry with pork, three-stars spicy out of a possible four. It steams the top of my head, which is the way I like it. It is the perfect meal for the way I feel. More to come. . .

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Bayona. French Quarter: 430 Dauphine. 504-525-4455.

Susan Spicer is rare among chefs of her caliber. She’s affected neither by the river of her celebrity nor the drift of culinary fashion. Her career path always has been charted by her own curiosities. Not a hint of commercialism or voguishness about it. ¶ Her restaurant Bayona celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary last week. It’s a lovely, understated place, reflecting her personality and style. Its main room feels generous and comfortable. The other, smaller rooms are intimate but in a cool way. When the weather is decent, you can dine outside. ¶ If a measure of a restaurant is the number of its former cooks who have gone on to open their own good restaurants, then Bayona ranks high. Its most celebrated alumnus is Donald Link, who owns Herbsaint, Cochon and Peche. Other former Bayona hands are scattered throughout the country. Meanwhile, Susan keeps encouraging the careers of everyone who works with her, while keeping a solid base of local and visiting customers happy. More to come. . .[divider type=""]

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Thai Green Curry With Shrimp

RecipeSquare-150x150 Thai cookery has been one of my favorite flavor palettes since the first time I tasted it. In recent years we’ve been treated not only to some terrific new Thai restaurants, but also to new Thai dishes in non-Thai restaurants. ¶ One of the most distinctively good dishes in Thai places is green curry, the spiciest of their curries. ¶ This one is made with eggplant and shrimp; it can also be made with chicken. It’s fiery with pepper, mellow with coconut milk. The ingredients were once hard to find, but now you’ll find all of them in any decent-size supermarket. The cooking technique is the same as is used in Chinese cooking, with rapid cooking in a wok. Read entire article.

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Alligator-Stuffed Mushrooms With Sauce Piquant @ Restaurant des Familles

500BestSquare This appetizer was the first course in one of our Eat Club dinners a couple of years ago. The picturesque restaurant is on the bayou of the same name. ¶ It is is not uncommon for an alligator to emerge from the bayou and look through the big windows into the dining room. In fact, a rather large one did that very thing the night of our dinner. She must have been mad that we were eating an alligator dish. Which was much better than I expected–alligator not having a particularly strong flavor. The dish has become a signature on the menu. Read entire article.

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April 13 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Baron Philippe de Rothschild was born today in 1902. At age 20, he took over management of Chateau Mouton, which his great-grandfather bought in 1853. For the next two decades, he was single-minded in the pursuit of first-growth status for Mouton, which had been a second growth in the great Bordeaux classification of 1855. His motto: “Premier ne puis, second ne daigne. Mouton suis.” (First I am denied, second I disdain. I am just Mouton.) Read entire article.

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Cooking With Wine, Episode #4239.

FoodFunniesSquare

Cooking With Wine, Episode #429

We discover a major course in which wine is appropriate only in very small amounts.

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Eat Club Dinner 4/22: Impastato Cellars, North Shore

EatClubSquareImpastato Cellars opened a little over a year ago, with the same menu as in Impastato’s in Metairie. That means that we’ll find the same fresh fish, baby white veal, and (best of all) the paper-thin, house-made fettuccine Alfredo, everybody’s favorite Impastato dish. Joe Impastato himself will drive across the lake for the evening, while his daughter Mica–who manages the North Shore location–will be our hostess. The rest of it will be familiar to those who have been with us in Metairie: terrific food generously served, liberally poured wines of interest, and a very good time.

Here’s the menu–subject to changes that usually improve the selection. Wines will be paired with the courses, but they haven’t been selected yet.

Seafood Appetizers
Sauteed crab claws, shrimp remoulade, stuffed mushrooms, crabmeat cannelloni, Italian baked oysters
Wine: Prosecco

House-Made Pasta With Crawfish
Thin noodles with a sauce of crawfish, cream and Parmesan cheese

Romaine And Tomato Salad
With the house Italian dressing

Fresh Gulf Fish, Veal Or Soft-Shell Crab Peyton
With crabmeat, shrimp, artichokes, mushrooms, sherry-lemon butter sauce
~or~
Spiedini
Roast pork stuffed with Italian bread crumbs, garlic, olive oil and ham, with fresh mushrooms
~or~
Grilled Filet Mignon

 

All The Desserts in the House
They’ll bring them to the table, and you pick the one (or two) you like.

 

Impastato Cellars

4/22/2015
Madisonville: 240 Highway 22 E. Map.
$85 inclusive of tax, tip and wines
Click here to reserve.

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Eat Club: Cafe Giovanni, Thursday, April 23

With the festival season in full swing, Chef Duke Locicero has discovered that even with week after week of streets filled with casual food booths, there’s still a desire for a relaxing, unique evening of original Italian cooking, with live music that doesn’t make your ears ring afterwards. The Eat Club is always ready for that. And it’s been many months since the last time we visited. Since the seafood is peaking in the Louisiana estuaries right now, the theme is a no-brainer: crabmeat, shrimp, and crawfish, along with the best finfish in the market on Thursday, April 23. Seven courses. Seven wines! One of the wines, Chef Duke says, is on his list at $100 a bottle!

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French Quarter Festival, Today Through Sunday.

FrenchQFestHeader-400

NOMenu’s Guide To The Food At The Festival.

Lots of new vendors this year! All restaurants rated, with information on where each vendor can be found. Click here to go there.

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Diary 3|3, 4|2015: Antoine’s On Good Friday, Easter Crawfish.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Even though I abstained from meat, I wonder whether having dinner at Antoine’s is really in the spirit of Good Friday. Is it enough that Pope John Paul II dined at the old restaurant? And that part of the tour given by the waiters is the wall full of photos of His Holiness during his visit? Then I remember that Bernard Guste–the seventh “proprietor”of Antoine’s–told me once that lots of people used to show up for Good Friday lunch at Antoine’s, where they would eat bacalao–salted, dried codfish, that pan-European taste in the lenten season. But not even the oldest waiters at Antoine’s remember that. More to come. . .

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