DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, April 29, 2016.
Kenton’s In The Courtyard.

Rain came and went several times today, but by the time I signed off the radio show at six, the Jazz Festival was rolling right along. And Mary Ann’s plan to have dinner on the sidewalk at Kenton’s looked like a bearable risk.

MA will go to almost any extreme to have dinner outdoors. And she is smitten by Kenton’s, which pulls together a classy clinetele with the al fresco aspect, including the peppery traffic on that narrow part of Magazine Street at Nashville. “It’s the New Orleans Uptown version of Nantucket or the Hamptons,” she says. Yes, I suppose so–right down to the tearing down of the modest building that stood at that corner, and building a handsome new structure that looks as if it had been there longer than the old place or its neighbors.

Even more fun were the people who stopped by our table. First was Matt Grau, the guy who directs all the alumni stuff at Jesuit High School. He was a Blue Jay the same time I was, same class.

Then Jennifer Aschaffenburg, daughter of Albert Aschaffenburg of Pontchartrain Hotel fame. The Pontchartrain is soon to reopen, with John Besh at the helm of the food and beverage areas. The excitiement is building there.

And here’s Tim Williamson–founder of the Idea Village, among other worthy projects. Tim and I worked together in building InsideNewOrleans.com–one of the first major guides to local restaurants on the web. They hired both of us and further staff with high hopes in 1998. It was not to last, but I was already writing this daily food report before INO got started, and I kept it up (with these words) after.

Kenton’s–named for a high-end bourbon whiskey, a theme in the restaurant–has a menu that leans decidedly in the direction of small plates. We built a dinner of them, plus one entree-size item. Most of the four starters involve raw or nearly raw fish. That was not entirely my doing. Mary Ann says she didn’t get those things (she never touches raw fish). The waiter says we ordered them, and we are certainly charged on the check.

So MA watches me eat some ceviche-style fish, a kind of savory corn custard topped with fresh water fish roe, a smoked black drum pate, and smoked oysters–a variation on the Drago’s thing, but with the cooking a good deal more delicate. All of this is quite good.

The entree we split is described as pork belly. It may well have come from that part of the pig, but the fat that usually attaches itself to slices like this is largely missing. It’s almost all lean. Tell you the truth, I kind of liked this, although those who like the richness of braised pork belly the way the gourmet kitchens do it might be disappointed.

MA has a small salad, and I have a scoop of sorbet for dessert. At the beginnin of the evening, I had a Manhattan, but with no special bourbon. Every time the waiter came by, two or three fellow diners were standing around in conversation with us. I never had the chance to look over the bourbon collection, and the waiter got tired of waiting (I don’t blame him).

From the standpoint of its buzz, its looks, and its clientele. Kenton’s is a strong contender for best new restaurant scene of the year so far. Shaya may have them topped for originality, but not in any other way. A lot of Kenton’s food is a little too chic, but that won’t last forever.

Kenton’s. Uptown: 5757 Magazine St. 504-891-1177.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Hummus

My wife says that I make the best hummus she ever tasted. She is always right. So. . .

Although most cookbooks say you should use dried chickpeas (picked, washed, and simmered as for red beans), the ones written by Lebanese authors and the chefs I know all say to use canned. One other tip: use more lemon juice than you might think right.

Kafta with hummus.

Kafta with hummus.

  • 4 large cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 3 Tbs. fresh, strained lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. Louisiana hot sauce
  • 7 Tbs. tahini
  • Paprika or sumac (can be found in Middle Eastern grocery sections)

1. Put the garlic cloves and the salt into a food processor and process until chopped finely. Add a tablespoon of water, scrape down the sides of the processor, and run it again to almost produce a paste (you won’t quite, but it will be close enough).

2. Drain all the liquid from chickpeas, and rinse them with fresh water. Add the chickpeas, the lemon juice, hot sauce, and olive oil to the food processor. Run until the mixture is smooth. Add 1/4 cup of water, and process for another minute or so.

3. Scoop the mixture into a bowl. Add the tahini and mix in with a whisk. Taste the mixture and add more tahini, hot sauce, or salt to taste.

4. Spoon the hummus onto a large platter, working the pile out towards the edges, leaving a rim at the edge like that of a pizza crust.

5. Pour a thin stream of the extra-virgin olive oil around the top of the hummus. Dust the top lightly with the paprika or sumac.

Serve with pita bread, toasted and cut into six slices.

Serves eight.

500BestSquareVeal Tanet @ Andrea’s

DishStars_3
The dish was the joint creation of a chef and a customer. Attorney Ron Tanet asked Chef Andrea Apuzzo, when he was chef of the Royal Orleans, to pannee a big slice of veal and serve it atop a stack of romaine leaves, with tomatoes and an Italian vinaigrette. The resultant dish, a wonderful contrast of cool and warm, crisp and meaty, is an uncommonly delicious light lunch. It’s available at Andrea’s anytime. It’s still on the menu at the Rib Room, where it started. And it’s turned up at Clancy’s, too. All it needs is a squirt of lemon juice over the top.

Andrea’s. Metairie: 3100 19th Street. 504-834-8583.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare May 2, 2015

Days Until. . .

Mother’s Day 7
New Orleans Wine And Food Experience 24

Today’s Flavor

It is Truffle Day. Let’s quickly note that chocolate truffles–the rich confections of chocolate and cream–only look like a real truffles. A true truffle is the fruiting body of one of a large family of mushrooms. Most of the fungus the hairlike underground mycelia that collect nourishment from decomposing plant matter. Instead of sending up a toadstool to spread its spores, the kind of fungus that makes truffles grows a dense nodule, usually on or near the roots of a tree. These nodules emit an attractive aroma that causes animals to dig them up and eat them, distributing the spores in the process.

The aroma is what makes certain truffles so valuable. It’s similar to that of the sexual pheromone of the animals who like them. Including people. This is most true of white truffles from northern Italy. In season (the fall), pigs and dogs can easily smell them out, even though they’re several inches underground. The human olfactory sense isn’t as acute, but up close we pick up the smell frequency of these things. The reason seems to be that it fires off brain cells involved in our finding a mate. Which is why they have such allure.

Black truffles also are European. The best come from the Perigord region of France, where the cuisine includes many dishes involving truffles. They’re more subtle than the white truffles, and while they don’t elicit as strong basic animal response, they’re very good if they’re fresh. When they’re not, they taste like nothing at all.

Attempts to cultivate truffles have not born much fruit. They taste more like dirt to us than anything else. In France and Italy, the location of the truffle-producing mushrooms is a secret that a father will not even impart to his son, save on his deathbed.

Deft Dining Rule #466

If a dish said to contain truffles is not significantly more expensive than similar truffle-free dishes on the menu, you will not be able to detect the truffle flavor or aroma in it.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Dumpling Hill is in a narrow ridge of mountains rising from the high plains in western Nebraska. Its name describes it well: it looks like a lump of wet dough dropped from the sky that made a splat on the ground. It is almost certainly volcanic in origin, and rises to 4144 feet, about 200 feet about the plain. Climbers consider it a mild challenge to climb. It’s ninety-three miles as the crow flies northwest from Cheyenne, Wyoming, the nearest major city. But you don’t have to go that far for something to eat. That can be found six miles away at the Branding Iron in Bayard.

Edible Dictionary

tripletail, n.–A fish found throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. It swims up the Gulf Stream and into the Atlantic, so fishermen in the Carolinas sometimes catch it. There it’s better known by its other name–blackfish. The size and position of the dorsal and anal fins give the illusion that the fish has three tails. Tripletail is an exceptionally good eating fish. In size, color, and texture, its fillets are something like those of speckled trout or redfish, and can be cooked all the same ways. Unfortunately, because it doesn’t school, it’s not regularly available. Only restaurants that actively work the market every day buy it. In fact, finding tripletail on a menu usually means you’re in a pretty good place.

High Living On The High Seas

Today in 1969, the Queen Elizabeth II departed London on her maiden voyage to New York. The age of transatlantic travel by ship was over, but the QE2 managed to attract passengers with its gilded service and food. By the standards of today’s cruise ships, the QE2 of those days would be considered small and ordinary now–with one exception. It was the fastest large passenger ship on the seas, capable of doing over thirty-two knots. It could sail backward faster than other cruise ships can go forward. It was retired in 2009.

Annals Of Food Writing

Good Housekeeping has always carried many articles about cooking, food buying, and kitchen techniques. It published its first edition today in 1885. Clearly aimed at women, its focus has broadened to include many matters well outside what its title might suggest. Is sex, for example, really considered part of housekeeping?

Music To Eat Hot Dogs By

“Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack. . . ” That line is from Take Me Out To The Ballgame,
by Albert von Tilzer. He registered a trademark on the song on this date in 1908.

Legends Of Wine

Julio Gallo, who began what became the world’s largest winery with his brother Ernest, accidentally drove off the side of a mountain in the wine country and died today in 1995. He was 82.

Food Namesakes

Mickey Bass III, jazz composer and performer, was born today in 1943. . . Peggy Bacon, artist and printmaker, was born today in 1895. . . Actor William Bakewell hit The Big Stage today in 1908. . . Teenage actress Kay Panabaker came out of the oven in Orange, Texas today in 1990.

Words To Eat By

“If I can’t have too many truffles, I’ll do without truffles.” —Colette.

Words To Drink By

“Wine gives a man nothing. . . it only puts in motion what had been locked up in frost.”Samuel Johnson.

FoodFunniesSquare

Dinner In Hell.

It’s a lot like dinner on Earth, except that the food never gets cold. Both other annoyances persist. For example. . .

Click here for the cartoon.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Thursday, April 28, 2016.
New Orleans Style: Casualness Strikes Again.

The long-term shift away from all formality in restaurants continues, to my distress. Mary Ann and I encountered a perfect example of this at dinner tonight. New Orleans Style is a new (six months or so in business) café in a building that has seen many restaurants open and close. Including, most memorably, the back-and-forth Thai restaurants Thai Spice and Thai Pepper. It has also seen some time as a seafood house and as a Bali H’ai-style tiki restaurant.

The new opening is primarily a seafood operation for dining in, although there’s also a retail fresh fish and shellfish aspect. And a full menu. Whichever you employ, you begin by standing in line leading to the fast-food-style order window. You hope that by the time you reach the order-taker you have gone over the whole menu on the wall behind her. And of the two pages of specials on the counter.

Then you sit down with a number in a booth and wait for the food to come. In the dining room are several people who for all the world look and act like waiters. They bring the food to the table and pick up all the empty plates afterwards. When I had to run down a knife (you pick up your own utensils from a rack between the iced tea and the Cokes) one of these waiters said he would fetch one for me, and he did. Another one brought another fork. In all, the wait staff came to our table seven times. I tipped then $10 on a $37 check.

If the waiters had made only one more stop at our table, we could have placed our order from the comfort of the table instead of while standing up and being rushed to make a decision.

The order-at-the-counter thing is something I’ll never understand. We are used to it in sandwich shops and from restaurants that also have drive-throughs. But this place had trout amandine, crab cakes and pasta, steaks, and other real food. Out in the country, most restaurants operate this way. But I don’t see Covington as rural, exactly. (I feel qualified to say that, living as I do in Abita Springs for over twenty-five years). One thing I’m sure of is that this service format is not New Orleans style. Across the highway from where this restaurant sits is Three Rivers Road, which leads to some pretty remarkable real estate.

The primary reason people go out to eat is to be served. This restaurant has decided to downplay that and minimize service. It might work. As I said, this is the direction of the entire restaurant business. But I will never like it.

Mary Ann, who likes to gainsay my pronouncements, says that this is indeed the kind of restaurant that is likely to attract the people of the area. She also gives me grief when I complain about the fact that once again it seems impossible to get a roast beef poor boy that does not fall apart into a soaked, hand-covering mess by there being too much gravy. I asked for very little gravy. I had to get the aforementioned knife to cut the sandwich into smaller pieces, because it was disintegrating from the first bite.

And the sandwich would have been better if they had toasted the bread. Nothing improves a poor boy sandwich like a quick pass through the oven right before it goes out. But I have beaten that drum for forty years with little result.

“You have so much trouble with all that because you want things that most people don’t want,” MA tells me. “A lot of gravy is how they like it. It’s your problem if you want it a different way.” Of course, that’s true. But I refuse to accept the notion that demanding better quality is a bad idea. Especially when it would cost nothing to get it. How much does it cost a restaurant to leave something off a sandwich?

Mary Ann has a salad and a plate of angel hair pasta topped with two big crab cakes. These were more like what they used to call “crab chops” in the glory days of West End Park. Stuffing is how it came across to me. Not my idea of a crab cake.

I am here today largely because I have taken a number of calls from my radio listeners praising New Orleans Style. I think it may yet be too soon for a review, though, and I’ll write all this off.

Meanwhile, I am having a cranky day. The computer problems that broke out a week ago have forced me to take the old unit to the fix-it shop. And this morning a maddening thing happened when I tried to load WordPerfect (yes, I still use that word processor) into the new computer. A screen told me I had reinstalled WP X6 too many times. (Three or four times in three years.) I had to upgrade to WPX7, I was told. I can’t get along without the program, so I ponied up the $160. The very next day, an ad that popped up after I used WPX7 for the first time told me that WPX8 had just been released, and that I can get it for $120. I screamed at the screen, but hereby offer forgiveness. They refunded me the first purchase and let me have the new software at the new price.

And, on a more sympathetic note, the dog Susie is putting up with her cancer-induced broken foreleg. Her days are numbered, but the number appears to be higher than we thought. She barely gets around, but except for climbing steps, she does indeed stay on the move.

New Orleans Style. Covington: 1536 N. Hwy 190. 985-888-1770.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Oyster and Artichoke Soup

The idea of making a soup from oysters and artichokes belongs to Chef Warren Leruth, who may not have discovered how well the two things go together, but who surely made the most of it. The soup is prepared two ways in the restaurants of the city: with cream and without. The original potage Leruth had no cream, and neither does this one.

Bowl of artichoke soup garnished with Mascarpone and marinated artichoke crostini.

Bowl of artichoke soup garnished with Mascarpone and marinated artichoke crostini.

  • 4 fresh artichokes
  • 1 pint of oysters
  • 1 quart oyster water (if available)
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. Tabasco

1. Wash and trim the hard ends of the leaves of the artichokes, and remove all bruised leaves. Cut the artichokes in half.

2. Drain the oysters and rinse them. Strain and save all the oyster water, and add enough plain water to make six cups in a saucepan. Add the artichokes, lemon, onion, thyme, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 40 minutes.

3. Remove artichokes from the liquid. When cool, remove leaves, separate hearts and bottoms, and dispose of the choke. In a food processor or blender, puree the soft meat from the leaves. Pull apart the hearts. Dice the bottoms finely.

4. Make a light roux from the butter and flour. Whisk this into the liquid and return to a boil. Add the pureed artichokes and boil for 10 minutes.

5. Chop the oysters coarsely, reserving a dozen the big, good-looking ones.

6. Strain soup through a fine sieve into a clean pot. Add the chopped oysters, the leaves from the hearts, the diced artichoke bottoms, salt and Tabasco to taste. Heat to a simmer, then add the whole oysters. Simmer two more minutes, then serve.

Serves six.

500BestSquareCochon De Lait @ Cochon

<DishStars-4
The namesake dish of the wildly popular Cajun restaurant in the Warehouse District was not very impressive the first couple of times I had it. Since then it’s become the best dish in the place, as it should be. It’s a lot of work, but simple, really: roast a whole suckling pig slowly, but not too slowly, and the meat starts falling off the bone with a melt-in-the-mouth flavor. Just the right amount of fat works its way through everything.

Cochon and cracklings.

Cochon and cracklings.

Cochon. Warehouse District: 930 Tchoupitoulas. 504-588-2123.

We find this dish to be among the 500 best in New Orleans area restaurants.

AlmanacSquare April 29, 2016

Days Until. . .

Jazz Festival Continues through the weekend.
Mother’s Day 8
New Orleans Wine And Food Experience 27

Annals Of Presidential Eating

On this date in 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt visited New Orleans for the dedication of Roosevelt Mall in City Park, a project of Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. Lots of great Art Deco bridges, statues, and markers remain from that. Then they went to lunch at Antoine’s, and New Orleans mayor Robert Maestri asked a question that became immortal: “How do ya like dem ersters, Mr. President?”

FDR-AtAntoines

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Shrimp Scampi Day. Although that dish is a fixture of Italian menus, its name is a contradiction. Like “beef lamb.” Shrimp and scampi are two different animals. A scampo (singular) is a largish (about five inches) crustacean with a hard shell, living in the Adriatic Sea. Along the Italian coastline scampi are caught and cooked in olive oil, herbs, wine, and lemon juice. True scampi don’t live here in this country. The closest substitute is langoustine. But big Gulf of Mexico shrimp work just fine. So, shrimp scampi. It works as either an appetizer or as an entree.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Fruitland is a town of seven hundred people in east central Iowa, thirty-seven miles west of the Quad Cities. It’s bounded by the Mississippi River on the east and US 61 on the west. Both of those connect Fruitland directly with New Orleans. The town is on a sort of island, with a former route of the Mississippi wrapping around the west side. Fruitland’s post office and city hall were destroyed by a tornado in 2007. The place to eat is Good Earth, a mile from the center of town.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

If the shells stick to the meat when you cook shrimp, you’re cooking them too long. The right moment to stop cooking shrimp is the first time you wonder whether they’re done.

Deft Dining Rule #614:

Shrimp always taste better if cooked with the shells and heads still in place.

Edible Dictionary

cucuzza, [cuh-KOOT-sah], Italian, n.–A long, green squash developed originally in the Mediterranean islands, especially popular in Sicily. They range in size from about a foot to a yard long, and about two to three inches in diameter. They usually swell towards the end opposite the stem. Cucuzzas have thin, edible green skins and a pale green interior. The texture and flavor are reminiscent of those of the mirliton (chayote). They can be used like a squash in cooking, including the familiar Italian dish of stuffing them with bread crumbs, herbs, olive oil and garlic. They’re best when young and flawless. Cucuzzas are widely grown around New Orleans, always on fences, because of the length of the vegetable. More than a few jokes have been made about its shape, contributing to its popularity.

Music To Dine By

This is the birthday of jazz master Duke Ellington, born today in 1899. Take The A Train. . . Mood Indigo. . . a thousand more works of genius, still played now mostly in avant-garde venues.

Food Namesakes

Chili Davis, playing for the Kansas City Royals, became the seventy-fifth baseball player to hit three hundred home runs. What kind of person tracks this kind of data? . . . French military leader and statesman Georges Boulanger was born today in 1837. (Boulanger is “baker” in French.). . . Film director John Waters called for action today in 1946. . . Captain James Cook, a frequent visitor to this department, made his first landfall on Australia today in 1770.

Words To Eat By

Artichoke“Life is like eating artichokes. You have got to go through so much to get so little.”–Thomas Aloysius Dorgan, American cartoonist, born today in 1877.

Words To Drink By

“There is no such thing as ‘fun for the whole family.'”–Jerry Seinfeld, born today in 1954.

Words To Drink By

The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whiskey. By diligent effort, I learned to like it.”–Winston Churchill.

FoodFunniesSquare

Where Do The Special Local Foods Come From?

To says that they come from the garden doesn’t really say much.

Click here for the cartoon.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Oyster and Artichoke Soup

The idea of making a soup from oysters and artichokes belongs to Chef Warren Leruth, who may not have discovered how well the two things go together, but who surely made the most of it. The soup is prepared two ways in the restaurants of the city: with cream and without. The original potage Leruth had no cream, and neither does this one.

Bowl of artichoke soup garnished with Mascarpone and marinated artichoke crostini.

Bowl of artichoke soup garnished with Mascarpone and marinated artichoke crostini.

  • 4 fresh artichokes
  • 1 pint of oysters
  • 1 quart oyster water (if available)
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. Tabasco

1. Wash and trim the hard ends of the leaves of the artichokes, and remove all bruised leaves. Cut the artichokes in half.

2. Drain the oysters and rinse them. Strain and save all the oyster water, and add enough plain water to make six cups in a saucepan. Add the artichokes, lemon, onion, thyme, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 40 minutes.

3. Remove artichokes from the liquid. When cool, remove leaves, separate hearts and bottoms, and dispose of the choke. In a food processor or blender, puree the soft meat from the leaves. Pull apart the hearts. Dice the bottoms finely.

4. Make a light roux from the butter and flour. Whisk this into the liquid and return to a boil. Add the pureed artichokes and boil for 10 minutes.

5. Chop the oysters coarsely, reserving a dozen the big, good-looking ones.

6. Strain soup through a fine sieve into a clean pot. Add the chopped oysters, the leaves from the hearts, the diced artichoke bottoms, salt and Tabasco to taste. Heat to a simmer, then add the whole oysters. Simmer two more minutes, then serve.

Serves six.

500BestSquareCochon De Lait @ Cochon

<DishStars-4
The namesake dish of the wildly popular Cajun restaurant in the Warehouse District was not very impressive the first couple of times I had it. Since then it’s become the best dish in the place, as it should be. It’s a lot of work, but simple, really: roast a whole suckling pig slowly, but not too slowly, and the meat starts falling off the bone with a melt-in-the-mouth flavor. Just the right amount of fat works its way through everything.

Cochon and cracklings.

Cochon and cracklings.

Cochon. Warehouse District: 930 Tchoupitoulas. 504-588-2123.

We find this dish to be among the 500 best in New Orleans area restaurants.

AlmanacSquare April 29, 2016

Days Until. . .

Jazz Festival Continues through the weekend.
Mother’s Day 8
New Orleans Wine And Food Experience 27

Annals Of Presidential Eating

On this date in 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt visited New Orleans for the dedication of Roosevelt Mall in City Park, a project of Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. Lots of great Art Deco bridges, statues, and markers remain from that. Then they went to lunch at Antoine’s, and New Orleans mayor Robert Maestri asked a question that became immortal: “How do ya like dem ersters, Mr. President?”

FDR-AtAntoines

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Shrimp Scampi Day. Although that dish is a fixture of Italian menus, its name is a contradiction. Like “beef lamb.” Shrimp and scampi are two different animals. A scampo (singular) is a largish (about five inches) crustacean with a hard shell, living in the Adriatic Sea. Along the Italian coastline scampi are caught and cooked in olive oil, herbs, wine, and lemon juice. True scampi don’t live here in this country. The closest substitute is langoustine. But big Gulf of Mexico shrimp work just fine. So, shrimp scampi. It works as either an appetizer or as an entree.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Fruitland is a town of seven hundred people in east central Iowa, thirty-seven miles west of the Quad Cities. It’s bounded by the Mississippi River on the east and US 61 on the west. Both of those connect Fruitland directly with New Orleans. The town is on a sort of island, with a former route of the Mississippi wrapping around the west side. Fruitland’s post office and city hall were destroyed by a tornado in 2007. The place to eat is Good Earth, a mile from the center of town.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

If the shells stick to the meat when you cook shrimp, you’re cooking them too long. The right moment to stop cooking shrimp is the first time you wonder whether they’re done.

Deft Dining Rule #614:

Shrimp always taste better if cooked with the shells and heads still in place.

Edible Dictionary

cucuzza, [cuh-KOOT-sah], Italian, n.–A long, green squash developed originally in the Mediterranean islands, especially popular in Sicily. They range in size from about a foot to a yard long, and about two to three inches in diameter. They usually swell towards the end opposite the stem. Cucuzzas have thin, edible green skins and a pale green interior. The texture and flavor are reminiscent of those of the mirliton (chayote). They can be used like a squash in cooking, including the familiar Italian dish of stuffing them with bread crumbs, herbs, olive oil and garlic. They’re best when young and flawless. Cucuzzas are widely grown around New Orleans, always on fences, because of the length of the vegetable. More than a few jokes have been made about its shape, contributing to its popularity.

Music To Dine By

This is the birthday of jazz master Duke Ellington, born today in 1899. Take The A Train. . . Mood Indigo. . . a thousand more works of genius, still played now mostly in avant-garde venues.

Food Namesakes

Chili Davis, playing for the Kansas City Royals, became the seventy-fifth baseball player to hit three hundred home runs. What kind of person tracks this kind of data? . . . French military leader and statesman Georges Boulanger was born today in 1837. (Boulanger is “baker” in French.). . . Film director John Waters called for action today in 1946. . . Captain James Cook, a frequent visitor to this department, made his first landfall on Australia today in 1770.

Words To Eat By

Artichoke“Life is like eating artichokes. You have got to go through so much to get so little.”–Thomas Aloysius Dorgan, American cartoonist, born today in 1877.

Words To Drink By

“There is no such thing as ‘fun for the whole family.'”–Jerry Seinfeld, born today in 1954.

Words To Drink By

The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whiskey. By diligent effort, I learned to like it.”–Winston Churchill.

FoodFunniesSquare

Where Do The Special Local Foods Come From?

To says that they come from the garden doesn’t really say much.

Click here for the cartoon.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Key Lime Pie

The rich, tart pie is named for the funny little limes that grow in the Florida keys. Those are almost impossible to find in stores, but regular limes offer plenty enough sacrifice in the amount of time it takes to juice them out. Remember to wear plastic gloves while juicing limes, as something in the skins will make you feel as if you had toothpicks shoved under your fingernails the day after if you don’t.

If you’d like to bake your own pie shell, see the recipe for

Key Lime Pie

The rich, tart pie is named for the funny little limes that grow in the Florida keys. Those are almost impossible to find in stores, but regular limes offer plenty enough sacrifice in the amount of time it takes to juice them out. Remember to wear plastic gloves while juicing limes, as something in the skins will make you feel as if you had toothpicks shoved under your fingernails the day after if you don’t.

Mini Key Lime pies

  • 10-inch pre-baked pie shell
  • 4 oz. Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate
  • Filling:
  • Juice and pulp of 10 limes
  • Zest of 2 limes
  • 5 whole eggs
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 oz. softened butter

1. Melt the chocolate in a microwave oven in 30-second bursts, stirring it between each until it’s completely melted, smooth, and pourable. (This can also be done in a bowl over a pan of boiling water.)

2. Pour the chocolate into the pie shell. With a spoon, spread it around to coat the inside of the pie shell evenly.

3. Combine all filling ingredients except the butter in a metal bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water. Whisk briskly until the mixture thickens and becomes fluffy–about 10-15 minutes.

4. When the mixture has reached the desired thickness, whisk in the butter.

5. Pour the mixture into the pie shell. Put the pie into the refrigerator to set for about two hours.

6. Decorate pie with shaved chocolate, whipped cream, or lime slices.

Serves eight to ten.

500BestSquarePeach And Blueberry Cobbler @ Mat & Naddie’s

DishStars_3
In season (spring and early summer) this is such a marvelous dessert that your internal control mechanism is overruled–even though it’s clearly as jammed with calories as it seems. Not so sweet as most cobblers, this has freshness and elegance. Bad news: like most dishes at Mat & Naddie’s, this one comes and goes, depending on what else is coming from their bakery. I don’t see it on the current online menu, for example. But if they happen to feature the P&B cobbler, don’t miss it.

Mat & Naddie’s. Riverbend: 937 Leonidas. 504-861-9600.

This dish is ranked in NOMenu’s list of the 500 best dishes in New Orleans restaurants.

AlmanacSquare April 28, 2016

Days Until. . .

Jazz Festival Resumes Today
Mother’s Day 9
New Orleans Wine And Food Experience 28

Restaurant Anniversaries

CharliesExtToday in 1932, Charlie’s Steak House opened on Dryades Street a block off Napoleon Avenue–right where it is today. Charles Petrossi started it, and turned it over to his children decades later. One of them–Dottye Bennett, who waited tables in the restaurant for decades–still shows up at Charlie’s now and then. Matthew Dwyer, who bought Charlie’s and renovated it after the hurricane, continues to roll along with the place, which is as close as you could get to what it was before the storm without applying grime to the new walls.

Today’s Flavor

The celebration of the best part of crawfish season here in Louisiana continues. Today is Crawfish Pie Day. Crawfish pie became famous outside the precincts where it’s most enjoyed through the agency of Hank Williams’s hit song Jambalaya. That song created a three-way combo that Cajun restaurants offer to this day: jambalaya, crawfish pie, and filé gumbo. Crawfish pie starts with the same ensemble of ingredients you’d use to make crawfish etouffee, but with no tomato and less liquid. It’s also enriched with a little cream and thickened with a touch of egg. Although the classic crawfish pie is made in a standard (but small) pie shell, my preference is to make it as a turnover, baked or fried.

BlueberriesIt is also National Blueberry Pie Day. Blueberries aren’t in season yet–our bushes here at the ranch have nothing yet, and this is as far south as it gets–save, of course, for Chile, from which almost all blue- and blackberries come this time of year. In any case, blueberry pie sounds better than it is. For the blueberries to hold a berry texture, they must float in a thick matrix, which is too often made super-sweet. Blueberries are so marvelous in their fresh state that this comes across to our palates as a parody. But then, I like blueberry jam on my toast.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Orange is a small farming community in northeast Pennsylvania. It’s 1145 feet up in the hills overlooking the Susquehanna River valley, with Scranton to the east and Wilkes-Barre to the south, each about ten miles from Orange. The place to eat around there is the Checkerboard Inn, which boasts that it makes fine cocktails as well as appetizing food. It’s five miles away in Trucksville.

Celebrity Chefs Today

Today is the birthday (although he won’t tell me which one) of Richard Hughes, the chef-owner of the five-star Pelican Club. Richard first attracted our notice when he worked for Iler Pope at Dante By The River (where Brigtsen’s is now). He then moved on to New York City, where he was the chef at a well-liked restaurant called Memphis. (Despite the name, it served Louisiana food.) He and some chef partners started the Pelican Club in July of 1990. After the hurricane, Richard took full control of the restaurant. As star chefs go, he’s one of the quietest, and seems to enjoy flying his restaurant below the radar.

Speaking of star chefs: Alice Waters, the founder of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, was born today in 1944. Her inspiration was in tirelessly searching for the best possible ingredients, and encouraging farmers to raise better quality foodstuffs, with as few artificial additives and techniques as possible. She led the movement toward organic foods in restaurants, and in doing so became one of the three or four most influential figures in the modern American restaurant industry. Here’s a good site that tells about her and her ideas.

Annals Of Food Research

We don’t think of sugar beets often, but in fact a great deal of sugar is extracted from them, particularly in Eastern Europe. The man who developed the method for extracting the sucrose, Franz Karl Achard, was born today in 1753. As far as I know, sugar beets are rarely eaten as is.

Edible Dictionary

salmonberry, salmonberry, n.–A large, orange-red berry similar in shape and appearance to blackberries and raspberries, but a bit larger. They grow on bushes instead of vines, and the bushes are perennial–not biannual like blackberries. They look and are very juicy, but their flavor isn’t as tasty as that of the other members of its family. They grow along the West Coast, from northern California northward. They’re found in particular profusion in the temperate rainforests of the Alaska panhandle. The bears love them. They’re very pretty to look at.

Turning Points In Dining

W.H. Carrier patented the modern air conditioner on this date in 1914. This was an incomparable for restaurants in places like New Orleans. Try to imagine dining at Galatoire’s or Arnaud’s on a 95-degree day in August with 85 percent humidity with nothing more than the arsenal of ceiling fans to keep patrons cool. (If you can’t, go to Southern Italy in July and dine anywhere.) Thank you, Mr. Carrier!

Annals Of School Lunches

Remember the student who was apprehended at his grammar school and had his pack searched, because he appeared to be carrying a gun? And that it turned out to be a very large burrito wrapped in aluminum foil? It was in Clovis, New Mexico, today in 2006.

Music To Do Shots By

Today in 1958, the mostly-instrumental song Tequila, by The Champs, hit Number One on the pop charts. The only word spoken (not really sung) in the number is the title.

Deft Dining Rule #838:

You can have fun picking and eating wild berries, but no matter how many you find and eat, you will still need lunch afterwards.

Food Namesakes

Appropriate for today, Canadian singer Dorothee Berryman was picked today in 1948. . . Today is the birthday, in 1930, of James Baker III, cabinet member in the Reagan and Bush I administrations.

Words To Eat By

“A person who can get a good table at Chez Panisse at the last minute is a very important person indeed. Royalty begins with Alice Waters.”–Willard Spiegelman.

“I’ve got a lot of ham in me.”–Actor Lionel Barrymore, born today in 1878.

Words To Drink By

“I drink no more than a sponge”–Francois Rabelais, French author.

FoodFunniesSquare

What Exactly Does Farm-To-Table Mean?

Well, it depends on the milieu. This one comes from the perspective of a comic strip. Only three out of four get it.

Click here for the cartoon.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Sunday, April 24, 2016.
A Lavish Home-Cooked Salmon Dinner.

I awaken very early to implement all the strategies I thought about instead of sleeping overnight. I’ve figured out how to connect the two machines so I can move articles from one to the other. By the time I go to Mass, my despair is falling away.

The choir loft has more people in it than I’ve ever seen. Standing room only. And I am a little late. I stand during most of the service anyway. A couple of hymns that go well with my range and style cheer my soul.

I run a couple of errands, then get back to work on the computer project. Meanwhile, Mary Ann decides to cook a grand feast whose elements all fit into her current diet. It centers on salmon, a very large, pretty flank of which she buys at Mandeville Seafood after waiting in line behind some twenty people. That place is moving many sacks of crawfish in both live and boiled form this time of year. And lots of other good fish, too. This is the kind of outfit I feel very good about doing commercials for.

By four o’clock–not an abnormal time for us to dine on a Sunday–MA has the salmon broiled with an appetizing layer of olive oil, herbs, and seasonings. It is further garnished with pesto sauce, made with fresh basil, parsley, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. Its deep green color makes for a beautiful contrast with the orange color of the salmom.

Mary Ann likes to have a lot of side dishes. She bakes some sweet potato sticks, simmers baby lima beans with a big chunk of ham she finds in the freezer, and broils okra with olive oill and crushed red pepper. I find a cube of bread pudding for my dessert. And I kill what’s left of a bottle of Chardonnay, which has become oxidized. It’s a flaw, but there’s something about that nutty flavor that I rather like.

Good think I took my walk before sitting down to this. Doing that, taking a nap, and eating the dinner, I am in much better spirits than I was this morning.

Unless I think about the dog Susie, who is hopping around on three legs with energy. One of the vets said that she is best off trying to get around, instead of just lying there. But still her prognosis is bleak. And so are our moods.

Monday, April 25, 2016.
A Great New Place For Red Beans, Hot Sausage, And Johnnycakes.

For the first time since I installed the new computer, I attempt to produce a full newsletter from it. I find that some files are missing, which gives me a fright. A new problem–one unrelated to the computer massacree–emerges when a lot of subscribers get a newsletter with the right headlines but the wrong articles. I have no idea how that happened. But it’s always something.

After the new edition goes out, I head out for lunch, the only meal I will have today. It occurrs to me that the Abita Roaster might have just what I wanted: a plate of red beans with hot sausage. The Abita Roaster in Covington is allied with the Abita Springs Café in the center of the namesake eatery. It’s also hooked up–particularly on the coffee end of things–with a little coffeehouse and breakfast spot in Madisonville. The place I am headed today is the best-looking of the bunch, with a substantial breakfast and lunch menu.

All my previous visits have been about breakfast. I am glad to see the chalkboard on the sidewalk announcing the presence of red beans and rice for ten dollars. (Which reminds me: I am very happy to hear that Alexander Hamilton will remain on the ten-dollar bill. The women who were supposed to take his place will wind up on the twenty, I hear.)

You can get your red beans with fried catfish, smoked sausage, or a pork chop. I ask the waitress for a hot sausage patty. She says she’ll check on that, but I already have altered a few breakfast dishes to being made with the hot sausage, so I know they’ll do it.

Red beans and rice with hot sausage and a jonnycake at Abita Roasters.

Red beans and rice with hot sausage and a jonnycake at Abita Roasters.

They do it, and well. The beans themselves are vaguely smoky and luscious, with firm beans in just the right amount. And the sausage is just fatty and spicy enough for its assignment. But here’s a thing: a corn cake, made to look like a pancake but with a yellower color, made with cornmeal. That makes it a johnnycake, or perhaps even a hoecake–although that latter oneadds less than nothing to the dish. The corncake is about five inches in diameter, and the perfect bread for a plate of beans. Jum, jum. And my Monday feels good.

The radio show rocks and rolls for a change–except in the last half-hour. Lots of new voices today, some of them belonging to people who are in town for the Jazz Festival.

To chorus rehearsal. It begins with an announcement from our conductor Alissa Rowe that she had been given tenure at Southeastern U., where she is a professor in voice. Good for her. I am having a hard time with some of the current music. I will write that off to fatigue following the grueling weekend, whose problems are slopping over into the new week. And the dog Susie’s problems aren’t helping our moods, either.

Abita Roasting Company. Covington: 1011 Village Walk. 985-246-3345.

FoodFAQs-200x200Q. I’ve heard that you can make hollandaise sauce in a blender, and that it comes out just as well as making in the traditional way, and maybe even better. Is this right? How is it done?

A. I used to make hollandaise that way all the time, a result of my reading Richard and Rima Collin’s landmark The New Orleans Cookbook. Many years later, I found an even more astute practitioner: Julia Child, who in her first Mastering the Art Of French Cooking shocked the world by saying that hollandaise made that way is at least as good as hollandaise made by hand.

Blender hollandaise is much less prone to problems. It also is not quite as good as hand-made hollandaise, but the margin of error wipes out that advantage.

A serving dish of asparagus with hollandaise sauce

A serving dish of asparagus with hollandaise sauce

Start with three egg yolks, a teaspoon of lemon juice, a teaspoon of red wine vinegar, and a generous pinch of cayenne pepper. Put that all into a blender and run it just until everything is mixed thoroughly. Then melt two sticks of salted butter in a saucepan until it bubbles. Run the blender on medium speed while adding the butter in a very slow drizzle. After half the butter is in, add a tablespoon of water to the blender container, heat the butter again, then add the remaining butter, as slowly as before. On my first attempt, I got a nice fluffy hollandaise. Which is a wonderful thing to have at hand. You can set the blender container in a pan of warm water to hold it for awhile.

500BestSquare2-200x200DishStars-4
Few ethnic dishes have come so far from obscurity to popularity as quickly as banh mi. It’s a sandwich that in these parts is usually called a Vietnamese poor boy. The shape and the bread are close to identical to the local sandwich, but the fillings are different.

The meats are offbeat, the sauces are peppery, and the greens are wildly various. BahnMiThe improbably low prices prices are also delightfully different. Dong Phuong bakes the bread in house, and supply a lot of other Vietnamese restaurants with it. The bread is so good that you could eat it as is, hot out of the oven, and love it. The word “bahn mi” means “bread,” but the common connotation is the sandwich.

Dong Phuong. New Orleans East: 14207 Chef Menteur Hwy. 504-254-0214 .

This dish is ranked #184 in NOMenu’s list of the 500 best dishes in New Orleans restaurants.

AlmanacSquare April 26, 2016

Days Until. . .

Jazz Festival resumes2
Mother’s Day 15

Food Calendar

PretzelThis is National Pretzel Day. Most of us first encounter pretzels in their small, hard form, the kind you get in a bag for a crunchy, salty snack. When I was a kid, the most common pretzels were sticks, sold in small rectangular boxes for a nickel. Now the traditional pretzel shape, which was supposed to represent a boy’s arms when at prayer (the story has it that the original pretzels were the reward for learning one’s prayers), dominates the pretzel market. Soft pretzels, long a street food in New York City and elsewhere, have become more widely available, especially in food courts in malls and airports. They’re made of a bread dough that doesn’t rise very much, and so has a dense texture. They’re habit-forming. I have thought for a long time that pretzels are long overdue to turn up in the bread baskets of restaurants trying to offer something a little different.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Beer begets pretzels, and vice-versa.

Food And The Law

Today in 2006, Chicago passed its infamous ban on foie gras in restaurants. The law was pushed by people who say that the process of raising ducks for foie gras–the fattened liver, brought about by overfeeding the birds– is inhumane. This is widely disputed. Despite the law, some restaurants continued to serve foie gras, and restaurants outside the city limits of Chicago that never served the expensive delicacy before started selling a lot of it. Two years later, the ban was struck down, and the city has returned to its senses. (Especially the sense of taste.)

Essential New Orleans Figures

John James Audubon was born today in 1785 in what is now Haiti. He moved to France in his youth and began drawing birds–the art that made him famous. He came to the United States when he was eighteen, moving around the country for the rest of his life. He spent enough time in New Orleans that, after the Cotton Centennial Exposition of 1884 closed, its site was named Audubon Park. Which, appropriately enough, is the home of the Audubon Zoo.

Audubon Park’s claim to culinary fame is the Zoo To-Do, which may be the most copied charitable fundraiser in the world. It’s the most remunerative non-medical fundraiser in the country. Begun in 1972, it was an original idea: chefs from the city’s best restaurants came in to serve their best specialties, while wine and cocktails were being poured, music played, and patrons walked around in formal dress. It’s still a sellout every year. This year’s Zoo To-Do is Friday, May 6, 7 p.m. until midnight. Click here for tickets.

Edible Dictionary

farro, n.–An early form of cultivated wheat grown in the Mediterranean since prehistoric times. It’s also known as emmer or spelt, but some authorities claim that it’s subtly different from both. It’s cooked and eaten as whole grain, especially in Italy. A soup of farro is still popular there, thought of as very homely. In this country, farro is largely the province of health food stores and their customers, but in the past few years some chefs have begun cooking it to add variety to the grain side of their menus.

Eating In City Park

Coincidentally, this is the birthday, in 1822, of Frederick Law Olmsted. He was the father of large, natural city parks, starting with New York’s Central Park. Our own City Park was developed along Olmsted’s principles. An exception was made to Olmsted’s design for Central Park when the Tavern on the Green was built in it. That restaurant, with sales of over $37 million a year, was the busiest independent restaurant in America until it went bust and closed in 2009.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Sweeten Creek flows five miles out of the very hilly terrain in south central Missouri, three miles north of the Arkansas state line. It cuts a 100-foot-deep valley as it heads toward Lick Creek. That’s a tributary of the White River, which in turn flows into the Mississippi. This is pretty countryside, great for hiking. Not so good for dining out. The closest interesting eatery is called Stacked and Steamed, six miles away in Gainesville.

Food In Music

Mashed Potato Time, a dance record by Dee Dee Sharp, hit Number One on the pop charts today in 1962. To do the Mashed Potato, you pretend that a baked potato is on the floor, and you’re mashing it with your foot. (I am not making this up. I actually did this dance on a 1960s television show for teens.)

Food and Drink Names

A play called Jelly’s Last Jam opened today for 569 performances on Broadway, about Jelly Roll Morton. . . Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe, the first person to build and fly an airplane in England (in 1908), was born today in 1877. . . Pete Ham, a member of the Beatles soundalike group Badfinger, was born today in 1947. . . Olympic basketball player Robert Boozer was born today in 1937.

Words To Eat By

“A food is not necessarily essential just because your child hates it.”–Katherine Whitehorn.

Words To Drink By

“It takes only one drink to get me drunk. The trouble is, I can’t remember if it’s the thirteenth or the fourteenth.”–George Burns.

FoodFunniesSquare

And You Wouldn’t Believe What Goes On In The Kitchen.

It’s supposed to bring out the juices and flavor, they say.

Click here for the cartoon.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, April 23, 2016.
Not Fun.

It’s not often that I dine on the North Shore when I spend most of the day on the South Shore. But Mary Ann calls with the idea of having dinner at the Lake House in Mandeville. That works right into my needs: the big old white building on the old Mandeville lakefront has had me ad-libbing commercials lately, and I was running out of material. I also hear that we will be doing an Eat Club dinner there in the next few months.

Lake House in the gloaming.

Lake House in the gloaming.

The sun is setting just as we arrive from different directions. The weather is so perfect that people are dining on the first and second floors, on the patio in front, and into the lawn. This is Mary Ann’s favorite kind of dining environment. And since it’s not raining, blasted with sunshine, windy, or any other deterrent, I like it too.

We know a lot of the people there, both on the staff and among the customers. The two guys named Scott who used to operate a coffee shop and dining room a few blocks away are there with their beautiful dogs. Helen, a waitress who turns up in many restaurants at one time or another, is making cocktails here.

A little bit darker.

A little bit darker.

The menu is much wider than I remember from the last two or three years of dining at the Lake House. I begin with corn and crab bisque while Mary Ann devours a wedge salad. I get a Hereford filet mignon with a garlic butter. Very tender, very flavorful. Who grows Hereford cattle in these parts? Mary Ann thinks it’s good, too, and takes about a third of it, and gets a side order of braised spinach as a side.

Also on hand is an Italian guitarist and singer. He is quite listenable, and kept his gig going non-stop for a couple of hours. This is a very pleasant way to spend an evening. I’m always very happy to find this kind of goodness in restaurants who run commercials in my various media.

Lake House. Mandeville: 2025 Lakeshore Dr. 985-626-3006.
Saturday, April 24, 20176.
A New Character On The Radio.

Among the least pleasant aspects of my very pleasant radio career is dealing once in awhile with cranks. My show gets fewer of these than any other I know, probably because the nature of the program weeds out most of the oddballs. But every now and then one of them decides to become a regular caller. We have one of these on every Saturday lately. He has a typical modus operandi. He sounds normal to the call screener, and even starts out with reasonably intelligent questions or comments. Then he mumbles something about my getting a check as I leave the restaurant (if it’s one that I like) or not getting a check (if I don’t like the place). I think what he’s trying to say is that I surely must be paid off by places that he thinks are less good than I think, and that I am not being paid off by the places that he likes but I don’t. He uses a different voice every time. And when he’s finished, he hangs up.

I’d actually be happy to address his feelings without his having to go through all this trouble. But cranks are not very good at comebacks. So I am left with one recourse: I will turn him into a star. I will promote his appearances on the show, and make up a funny story about the guy and what he does in the rest of his week. Regular listeners will look forward to these, and suddenly the crank will see that, far from detracting from the program, he has become an interesting part of it.

I only wish I had a show next Saturday. It’s the annual NFL draft, which WWL turns into a big festival.

Mary Ann and I lunch at La Carreta in Covington. which is in the middle of a few stores I need to get to, for items needed in the Big Computer Meltdown. That will occupy my every waking hour the rest of the day. The process of moving all the data from the old one to the new is maddening, and when I go to bed at around midnight I am in a logjam of procedures, each of which takes me farther away from getting the job done. It is not helping that the dog Susie, whose life is near its end, casts a pall over our household. I do not sleep well.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Seared Salmon With Spinach And Beurre Blanc

The Steak Knife is an excellent Lakeview restaurant that has long been liked by its many regulars from the neighborhood. (Quite a few people from other parts of town make it there, too.) There’s much more to it than steaks. Owners Bob and Guy Roth include quite a bit of seafood in the Steak Knife’s menu. This dish isn’t on the menu anymore, but I always liked it.

Seared salmon with spinach

Seared salmon with spinach

  • 10 oz. fresh spinach, washed and picked of large stems
  • 3 Tbs. flour
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 3 Tbs. milk
  • Pinch pepper
  • 1 oz. baby Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 1 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 4 salmon fillets, 8-10 oz.
  • 1/4 cup chopped French shallots
  • 1/4 tsp. green peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 sticks butter, softened

1. Prepare the spinach by transferring it with all the water that clings to the leaves after washing to a saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender but still with some body. Remove the spinach to a bowl and set aside.

2. In the same saucepan, make a bechamel sauce over medium-low heat by stirring the 2 Tbs. butter and the flour together until the two are blended. Then whisk in the milk, a little at a time, until it blends into a fluffy sauce. Add the cheeses and stir in until incorporated. Add the spinach back to the saucepan and combine with the sauce. Set aside.

3. Blend the salt, pepper, and lemon juice into the olive oil. Dip the salmon fillets in the oil, shake off the excess, and place on a hot grill or under a preheated broiler on a preheated rack. Sear the salmon for about three minutes on each side, then set aside and keep warm. (Test for doneness: insert a kitchen fork into the thickest part of the fish, hold it there for five seconds, then carefully touch the tines to your lips. If they feel warm at all, the fish is ready.)

4. While the salmon is cooking, make the sauce. Combine the shallots, peppercorns, bay leaf and wine together and bring to a boil. Cook until most of the wine has evaporated. Add the cream and reduce the liquid by about one-third.

5. Strain the sauce into a warm skillet. Whisk in the butter, a little at a time, over very low heat. Add the lemon juice and the capers.

6. Divide the spinach among four plates. Place the salmon fillets atop the spinach, and nap with the sauce.

Serves four.

500BestSquareRabbit Terrine @ Chateau du Lac

DishStars-5
Chef Jacques Seleun makes a number of terrific pates. This one is, like most rabbit dishes, has a lightness that you don’t expect. That, and the flavor of rabbit livers (or duck livers, if the former isn’t available) make for a great start to a meal. They finish it off with pistachios and those little cornichon pickles that go so well with the terrine. (A terrine is a chunky, solid pate you eat with a fork instead of spreading.) Perhaps the greatest accolade for this classy appetizer is that my wife–who steers clear both of rabbit dishes and most patés–finds this one irresistible.

Charcuterie at Chateau du Lac.

Charcuterie at Chateau du Lac. The triangular items on the left are the rabbit terrine.

Chateau du Lac. Old Metairie: 2037 Metairie Rd. 504-831-3773.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare April 25, 2015

Days Until. . .

Mother’s Day 13

Edible Dictionary

rabbit wings, n.–I won’t insult your intelligence by noting that rabbits don’t have wings. However, the number of similarities rabbit has to chicken inspires more than a few kitchen jokers to call the front legs “wings.” Like chicken wings, they’re not loaded with meat, but the upper parts are very tender and light. Most recipes call for frying them. But if you stew a rabbit, the results are all good, including the way the wings come out.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Rabbit Creek flows about nine miles through northeastern Iowa. It’s hilly enough that the many streams in that part of the state form distinct valleys, with good farming at their bases. The creek joins Bear Creek, which flows into Turkey Creek, and then into the Mississippi River. The end of Rabbit Creek is forty-eight miles west of Dubuque, and five miles from Edgewood, where is Graffiti’s, the nearest local cafe.

Food On The Air

RadioToday in 1874 Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of radio and the man for whom Marconi Drive next to City Park is named, was born in Bologna. His patent (number 7777) came from England. Where would we be without him? We’d have to sit around writing letters or something. In Marconi’s honor, tune in our radio show, from three to six p.m. today on 1350 AM.

Drink And Topology

Felix Klein, the inventor of the Klein bottle, was born today in 1849. A Klein bottle has no inside or outside; the two merge into one continuous side. Problem: it requires four dimensions. If you find yourself drinking from a Klein bottle, you’ve had too much. (Or, really, nothing: a Klein bottle has no volume.) Klein bottles have their own web site, with pictures of projections of Klein bottles in three-dimensional space.

People We’d Like To Have Dinner With

This is the birthday, in 1940, of Al Pacino. Of course, we’d go someplace Italian, but which place? It would have to have cannoli. We’d also invite Talia Shire, the sister of Francis Coppola. Talia also has a birthday today (1946). Both Pacino and Shire were in The Godfather, and since Francis himself might be in town for the Jazz Festival, he could come too. What an unforgettable dinner!

Deft Dining Rule #520:

In a restaurant, the person who sits with his back to the wall is the one most likely to pick up the check for that table. If he doesn’t, he’s a fraud.

Music To Dine By

Ella Fitzgerald was born today in 1917. “The only thing better than singing is more singing,” she said. The same is true of listening, if it’s to her. She was one of the creators of scat singing. Her records with one of the other scat masters–Louis Armstrong–are delicious in their contrasts.

Annals Of Canned Milk

Today is the anniversary of the 1974 Carnation Revolution, which changed Portugal from a dictatorship to a liberal democracy. Although the first thing I thought of when I saw this was a famous rhyme allegedly sent in by a contestant for a contest put on by Carnation Milk. Maybe you’ve heard it:

Carnation Milk is the best of all
No teats to pull, no pails to haul
No barn to clean, no hay to pitch
Just punch a hole in the son of a bitch.

Today’s Flavor

Zucchini Bread Day sounds appealing–for about ten seconds. That’s why it’s evolved in Louisiana into Crawfish Bread Day. Crawfish bread is made by covering an underbaked loaf of French bread with crawfish, cheese, a sauce like crawfish etouffee and herbs, then baking it. It is not widely available except at festivals–notably the New Orleans Jazz And Heritage Festival, which begins this Friday.

The Saints

It’s the feast day and birthday (1270) of Louis IX, king of France. He achieved sainthood for his exemplary life and devotion to the Church. On the other hand, he was captured during the Eighth Crusade by the Egyptians, and had to be ransomed for one and a half times the annual income of France at the time. St. Louis Cathedral, the focal point of New Orleans, is named for him, as is the city of St. Louis, Missouri.

Food Namesakes

In 1932, the most famous player in the history of the Harlem Globetrotters, Meadowlark Lemon, was born. . . Stu Cook, bassist with Creedence Clearwater Revival, was born today in 1945. . . Fish, a Scottish progressive rock singer and composer, was born today in 1958. His real name is Derek Dick. . . Karel Appel, a Dutch painter, was born today in 1921. . . C.B. Fry, ace cricket player and one-time holder of the long-jump record, was born today in 1872. . . The United States lease on the Corn Islands, off the east coast of Nicaragua, came to an end on this date in 1971. . . Italian poet Torcuato Tasso died in Rome today in 1595.

Words To Eat By

“Eating at a new, highly recommended restaurant is like a Very Important Blind Date, a contract with uncertainty you enter into with great expectation battling the cynicism of experience. You sit waiting, wondering about the upcoming moments of revelation. Somewhere in the back of your head is the dour warning that disappointment is inevitable but you don’t really believe it or you wouldn’t be there. The best eaters are always optimists.”–Stuart Stevens, American author.

Words To Drink By

“Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.”–Edward R. Murrow, CBS news reporter, born today in 1908.

FoodFunniesSquare

Coffee In Roman History.

Now we know where Starbucks et al. came up with those unique words it uses for almost everything.

Click here for the cartoon.

JazzFestFoodJazz Festival Food: Our Search For The Best Eats.

The food scene this weekend is dominated by the Jazz Festival, where the eats are as good as the music, and in exactly the same way. In the past few years of the Jazz Festival, the food offerings seem to have reached a plateau. A few new vendors appear, but they fade into the familiar array. It’s a long time since anything alarmingly new and different has turned up. But isn’t this what we want from the Festival? It’s certainly true of us Baby Boomers, who were just reaching the age of majority at the time of the first JazzFest in 1970. It’s a ritual, with our strange kind of hippie nostalgia. Enough other things have changed in our lives without the Jazz Festival’s becoming unfamiliar, too.

Here’s our annual list of all the food being served at the Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fair Grounds. I have annotated it with ratings on a scale from zero to three notes. Here’s what they mean:

MusicNoteRating1Recommended. Try it if the dish appeals to you.

MusicNoteRating2Outstanding. Taste this even if if you wouldn’t ordinarily do so.

MusicNoteRating3Essential. Not to be missed.

These are my own recommendations, based on past years. Your mileage may vary.

Click here for the list and ratings.