Walker’s BBQ. New Orleans East: 10828 Hayne Blvd. 504-241-8227.

Walker’s appeared on Hayne Boulevard so quickly after Katrina that it was a godsend to the people in its neighborhood. Almost everything in New Orleans East was destroyed, but Walker’s building is right up on the lakefront and free of major flooding. And the supply of customers was infinite, what with all those people in the extended neighborhood with lots of work and few sources of food and drink. More to come. . .

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Pan-Seared Halibut @ Gautreau’s

500BestSquare Halibut is not a local fish, but we can forgive it that. It’s one of the best of the exotic species we find on New Orleans menus. Chef Sue Zemanick at Gautreau’s features it as often as she can get it fresh (usually and best from Alaska). She cuts thick rectangles from the enormous fillets, and either sears them or roasts them under an herbal crust. It has become a signature dish at the Uptown bistro. Read entire article.

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July 6 In Eating.

AlmanacSquare Today is National Fried Chicken Day. In the 1960s and before, fried chicken was considered a gourmet dish, featured with total respect in fancy food magazines like Gourmet. Then, just as they did to the hamburger, the mass-production restaurants moved in on fried chicken and ruined its reputation. Fortunately, good fried chicken still exists, although it requires some diligence to either find it in a restaurant or make it yourself.

The main criterion of fried chicken excellence is the crust. Different from most fried foods, a crispy coating on fried chicken is not necessarily a good thing. The best fried chicken I’ve had in my life had a rather thin, non-crisp coating. What it did have, though, was an interesting flavor dominated by herbs, with pepper as a background flavor. Much of that flavor comes from marinating. I like to use buttermilk as a marinade, because it tenderizes as well as flavors the chicken. It also seems to make the coating stay on better. Read entire article.

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Celebrate Bastille Day In A French Bistro

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Vive La France Night July 14 At The Flaming Torch

The Flaming Torch dates back a couple of decades, including a long time when they actually cooked with flaming torches. Now it’s a modern French bistro, and like all such restaurants it celebrates Bastille Day–the French equivalent of the Fourth of July in the U.S. The owner and artist of the restaurant is the charming Zohreh Khaleghi, who presents five courses of French food and French wines. Some of the dishes tonight are rarely seen in New Orleans anymore. I may have to wax my mustache for the proper gallic touch.


Click here for the menu and to make reservations.

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Bruschetta

RecipeSquare-150x150 Bruschetta is the forerunner of garlic bread, popular in Italy for at least 500 years. The essential ingredient is a loaf of bread in the Tuscan style: with a thick, dark crust and a coarse interior, with an up-front yeasty flavor. French bread will do in a pinch, but it’s worth buying a loaf of bread in a rustic style to make this. Bruschetta is the perfect appetizer to make when you have a surplus of tomatoes. The riper they are, the better. Read entire article.

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Diary |26|2015: First Taste Of Chappy’s.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Even though Magazine Street is the most interesting part of town for fans of gourmet bistros, an address on the Street Of Dreams is no guarantee of success. The restaurant on the corner of Magazine and Webster, despite the comings and goings of good chefs and a lot of buzz, can’t be said to have established a strong clientele. Now the place has a new name and a new personality in the kitchen. For some twenty years, Chef John Chapman operated a restaurant called Chappy’s in Long Beach, Mississippi. He developed a following there, enough to keep him going after Hurricane Katrina wiped his restaurant off the face of the earth. Last year, Chappy (he is a one-name figure to everyone who knows him even a little) moved on. More to come. . .

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How To Make A Great Hamburger

RecipeSquare-150x150 The hamburger leads a lot of popularity contests. It may be the most often cooked dish in American homes. The space that ground meat takes up in most supermarket meat counters is evidence of that.

The appeal of grilled ground meat is enormous. It’s found in almost every cuisine in the world. Even though its origin was as a way to make the less-desirable majority of meat in an animal palatable, something about this mixture of lean and fat and connective tissue grabs you.

And a good hamburger is very good indeed.

Everybody who takes the cooking of hamburgers seriously has his (it’s usually men who get worked up about this) list of musts and must-nots. And so do I. Read entire article.

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Hamburger @ Keith Young’s Steak House

500BestSquare My wife, who is wild about hamburgers, says that this is the best in the five-parish area. That makes sense to me, because everything else that proceeds from Keith Young’s grill is so impressive. I’d never think about ordering a hamburger here–the steaks are just too appealing. But Mary Ann,. who goes there a lot more often than I do, always gets the burger. It’s like the old-style chopped sirloin steak, but served on a bun. Good luck trying to pick this up and eat it. It’s knife and fork food to me. More to come. . .

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July 3 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It is Seafood With Beans Day. Fish and beans are a natural flavor and texture combination. The goodness of the match came to me a few years ago when, for some reason, I had three different dishes along those lines in as many days at various restaurants around town. I remember one was scallops and lentils at Ralph’s on the Park, and another was redfish with crowder peas (or something like that) at GW Fins. In both cases, the seafood was on top of the beans, so the combination was unavoidable. After the third of the dishes (whatever it was), my eyes were opened. And I’d like to open yours. Next time you have some seafood and you’re wondering what to serve with it, think beans. It inevitably works brilliantly. keep on reading. . . .

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Mexican Birds Have A Drinking Problem.

FoodFunniesSquare

Mexican Birds Have A Drinking Problem.

And the ones that get deepest into the bottle develop a weight issue, too.

Click here for the cartoon.

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Diary 6|25|2015: Return To Franklin.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 I grab a seat at the bar, where the same bartender is there with the same slightly confusing advice as to whether I should get the hanger steak or the bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin. I didn’t catch his words exactly, but it was along the lines of, “Well, the beef is good if you’re in a beefy mood, with the essence of cattle with that hanger steak kind of gamy quality. On the other hand, that pork tenderloin is extra porky with all that bacon, and the chef doesn’t overcook the pork, so it has that special flavor from pork that’s still a little pink.” It was about ten percent in the direction of talking in a foreign language, but his advice was good enough that I had no trouble in deciding on the pork. I like servers who give their wares some thought, which this guy clearly had. More to come. . .

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Porterhouse Steak For Two @ Ruth’s Chris Steak House

500BestSquare They don’t sell a lot of these forty-ounce slabs of prime beef at Ruth’s Chris, but that seems to be fine with them. Even at the lofty price they charge (last time I looked, it was gaining on $100), the profit margin isn’t great. It takes a lot of time and attention on the part of the broiler chef, and is a little difficult to serve. But this is the finest steak on Ruth’s menu, a bone-in job carved up in the kitchen to make it easier to dig into. If you want to be certain you’re eating a prime filet mignon here, get this. The porterhouse always has a large filet on one side of the bone. Read entire article.

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July 2 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Anise Liqueur Day. Anisette–a generic name for that spirit–was once very popular around America. Its anise flavor is what most people identify as like licorice. Many other liqueurs have it–notably absinthe and its many substitutes (Pernod, Ricard, and the locally-produced Herbsaint). You also find that flavor in Greek ouzo, and Italian Strega, Galliano and Sambuca. Those have largely supplanted the generic anisette in bars and homes. Not only do they make interesting cocktails, but they’re often used in cooking. The most famous dish with anise liqueur as an important flavor is oysters Rockefeller. Around New Orleans, the sauce is almost always doused with Herbsaint. More to come. . .

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Why Baskin-Robbins Never Got Into Ice-Cream Trucks

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Why Baskin-Robbins Never Got Into Ice-Cream Trucks

It wouldn’t be energy-efficient. And it might cause traffic backups.

Click here for the cartoon.

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Diary 6|24|2015: Tiroditos. Aunt Sally. More Tiroditos.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 The waitress tells us that one of the appetizer specials is tiroditos of red snapper, served with avocado, micro-herbs, citrus juice, and popcorn. (Popcorn is a common garnish for ceviche in South America.) I tell her that she will not believe it, but this is the second time today I have been offered that same dish–right down to the minor ingredients. She almost gasps audibly. I’m amazed, too, given that the tiroditos idea is decidedly in the bet-you’ve-never-heard-of-this category for adventuresome chefs.
More to come. . .

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Castillo’s

ExtinctSquare-150x150Carlos Castillo was a unique character. He was knowledgeable on many matters, and maintained a small library of books on many abstruse topics next to his table in the dining room. He could talk for a long time on the history of Mexico and its cuisine. And give you full dogma about how authentic Mexican food needs to be cooked, down to the tiniest details. More to come. . .

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Nouvelle Pompano en Papillote

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RecipeSquare-150x150 There are few worse travesties than the pompano en papillote found in traditional New Orleans restaurants. It starts with the best fish there is–one so good that sauces tend to detract from, not add to, the flavor. Then this great fish goes into a parchment bag with the gloppiest kind of light-roux, white-wine, three-or-four-seafood sauce. What comes out is anonymous, if rich. Read entire article.

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Claypot Subgum Tofu, Chicken Or Shrimp @ Five Happiness

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500BestSquare Chinese claypot-baked dishes are offbeat and delicious, and the one they make with tofu, subgum vegetables (an assortment of many vegetables) and chicken or shrimp at the Five Happiness is a particularly good one. It’s also on the lighter side, and when the proverbial hunger creeps up a few hours later you can feel good that you’re losing a few ounces. Read entire article.

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July 1 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is Canada Day, that country’s equivalent of the Fourth of July. Is there Canadian food? Yes. A good deal of the beef we eat is Canadian. Most of the lobsters that turn up in our stores and restaurants come from Canadian waters, which produce the greatest number of homards in the world. Also setting a standard of excellence are the mussels from Prince Edward Island (often noted as P.E.I. mussels on menus.) Their scallops are good, too. On the West Coast, Canadian salmon and halibut are classy enough that they’re widely distributed. One culinary horror story has been expanding from Canada lately: poutine. That’s French fries topped with brown gravy and cheese curd (something like rubbery ricotta). Yuck! Read entire article.

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What Does The Pillsbury Doughboy Have To Worry About?

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What Does The Pillsbury Doughboy Have To Worry About?

Perhaps that little giggle of his hides nervousness about the dangers that are as closes as his bed.

Click here for the cartoon.

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Diary 6|23|2015: Nathan’s In Slidell Revisited.

One of the sales guys at the radio station asked me whether I would voice commercials for Nathan’s in Slidell. I am unusually lucky to have veto power over which commercials are on my show. I also have total control over what I say in the spots. It’s been quite some time since the last time I dined at Nathan’s, and I felt I’d better take a look at the place before getting behind it again. We arrive in Slidell at what I suspect is the worst possible time. Dinner…

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Dozen Most Underrated Restaurants

CremeDeLaCremeSquare-150x150
Rated by whom? That’s a problem. Very few real critics are out there giving ratings of New Orleans restaurants. Most ratings now come from readers, each of whom have a different system, so that three stars can mean anything from very good to terrible.

So maybe we’d better rename this endeavor The Dozen Most Under-Appreciated Restaurants. The meaning is clear. These are the eateries whose cooking, service, wine and other indexes of excellence are much better than their reputations or volume might imply.
More to come. . .

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Creme Brulee

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RecipeSquare-150x150 Creme brulee appeared in New Orleans in the early 1980s (Arnaud’s served the first one), and over the years it supplanted the once-universal caramel custard. It’s now on almost every non-Asian menu. The difference between creme brulee and caramel custard is that the former is made with cream and has the sugar crusted on top; the latter is made with milk and has sugar caramelized into a syrup at the bottom of the baking cup.

Creme brulee must be baked very carefully and slowly, or it will not reach its proper perfect semi-flowing state. You can’t do it in standard custard cups; much better are shallow (an inch or so deep) glass or ceramic ramekins or au gratin dishes. They also have to be straight-sided, so there’s no thin rim of custard to burn when you blast the sugar topping. Read entire article.

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Double-Cut Pork Chop @ Nola

500BestSquare The double-cut pork chop–an item absolutely unknown to New Orleans restaurant menus until about ten years ago–has become one of the most popular entrees around town. There are many good ones, and if you think you’ve found the best, by all means keep eating it. But consider the one at Nola, Emeril’s most casual restaurant. Two aspects of it appeal greatly. First, the crusty, Creole-seasoned exterior. Second, the highly reduced, almost sticky pork glace that blend with caramelized onions to make the sauce. I like the garnish, too: Bourbon-flavored sweet potatoes, and shrimp and pecan relish. The best dish in the house, and the best pork chop in town. Read entire article.

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June 30 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Ice Cream Soda Day. This sounds like one of those hot dogs-apple pie-baseball kinds of things, but when’s the last time you had an ice cream soda? Even ice cream parlors rarely have them anymore. The reason: the lack of the kind of soda fountain making an ice cream soda requires. It mixed carbon dioxide with water, then shoots it in a thin, string stream into the other soda ingredients. And that you don’t see too much since around 1980.

Here in New Orleans, an ice cream soda is very likely to be a nectar soda. The flavor “nectar” is unique to this city. A pink syrup best known these days as a sno-ball flavor, it blends the flavors of almond and vanilla with a little citric acid to produce a distinctive and delicious hybrid. Read entire article.

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Existential Dining #540w8.

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Existential Dining #540w8

The setting is World War II, Pacific Theater. Otherwise, it sounds a lot like now.

Click here for the cartoon.

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Diary 6|20, 21, 22|Up To, Away From Father’s Day.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Restaurateurs are telling me that Father’s Day–once only a joke based on Mother’s Day–has become almost as busy a dining day as Mother’s Day. At least in terms of customer counts. Mother’s Day still creates the biggest one-day influx of dollars of the year. Moms want to see a big feast in a fancy place. Dads have an appreciation for watching the budget, and prefer less formal restaurants. Steak houses, seafood joints, Mexican food, Vietnamese. . . that’s what fathers like. Especially when it’s time for the ultimate irony: the dads’ paying of the bill. Mary Ann says. . . More to come. . .

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Rocky & Carlo’s. St. Bernard Parish: 613 W St Bernard Hwy. 504-279-8323.

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Rocky’s is as intense and unreconstructed a piece of whereyaat culture as exists. It’s an old bar and cafeteria-style restaurant serving poor boys (both familiar and unspeakable varieties) and ridiculously overloaded homestyle platters, without a hint of delicacy. Watch other diners carefully, and see some offbeat but quintessentially local tastes express themselves. (Example: baked macaroni and cheese drenched with brown gravy.) This is not brilliant food. But it’s hard to imagine New Orleans without Rocky & Carlo’s. More to come. . .[divider type=""] More to come. . .

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Lemon Ice Box Pie

RecipeSquare-150x150 I have no idea where I got this recipe, but I’ve had it so long that I think of it as mine. I thank whoever gave it to me. (Another mystery so familiar to those of us who save everything.)
Read entire article.

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Burning Man Roll @ Little Tokyo

500BestSquare One of the best of the large specialty sushi rolls, the Burning Man is made with spicy tuna inside the rice layer, with peppered, seared tuna, avocado, green onion, and hot sauce on the outside. The roll is probably named for the summer music and cultural event in the deserts of Nevada, but it’s otherwise of uncertain origin. I can’t find any mention of it outside New Orleans. It’s a specialty of the several Little Tokyo sushi bars, as well as a few other Japanese restaurants that spun off the Little Tokyo chain. What I like about it particularly is that it has no crispies, no crab salad, and no crab stick. It leaves a pleasant little burn in its wake. Read entire article.

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June 29 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is Veal Chop Day. Veal chops were very hip in the 1980s. Every restaurant that served them found its customers raving about the dish. This popularity faded in the 1990s, and now veal chops are uncommon except in Italian restaurants, and not all of those serve them. One reason for this, beside the fading vogue, is the high cost.

The standard veal chop is cut from the rib roast. It’s analogous to prime rib in beef. Two relatively new varieties of veal chops are sometimes seen. Veal racks come from the far-forward end of the rib cage. They have small “eyes,” so are usually served two or three at a time. Also making more appearances than previously are the veal T-bone and veal porterhouse. Both contain parts of the tenderloin and strip loin, separated by the bone. I think veal tenderloins and veal strip steaks are underappreciated. I prefer them to rib chops–if they’re cooked properly.

Veal chops need. . . More to come. . .

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We’ve Had This Table.

FoodFunniesSquare

We’ve Had This Table.

And the funny thing is that there are many others just like it in restaurants around town.

Click here for the cartoon.

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Diary 6|18, 19|2015: Kin. Desi Vega’s.

Thursday, June 18, 2015. Kin, A Tiny But Fine Broadmoor Restaurant. My friend, dermatologist and groomsman Dr. Bob called Monday to see if I’d like to join him for dinner tonight. We are both baching it. His fiancee is out of town, and MA is, of course, two thousand miles away in her Eden-like hotel. The restaurant Dr. Bob suggests is Kin, a new, much-discussed bistro in the unlikely location of Washington Avenue near Earhart Blvd. The place is too new for my guidelines, but Dr. Bob has a knack…

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Ristorante Del Porto. Covington: 501 E. Boston St. 985-875-1006.

For me, all Italian food falls into two categories. There’s the cooking that blows me away every time I go to Italy, or to a few restaurants in this country. And then there’s everything else. I like the food in the latter category, but not nearly as much as I like the former. In New Orleans we only occasionally get the memorable stuff. Even when it appears, it has a way of morphing into Category Due. Del Porto is the only restaurant in the New Orleans area that has managed to keep that amazing, herbal, rustic, robust style of cooking over the long term. More to come. . .

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Peach, Raspberry and Almond Torte

RecipeSquare-150x150 This is a great dessert I adapted from a similar item served at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. (They host a food writer’s conference every year, which is why I was there.) All of the fruits needed are in season right now, but other fruits can be substituted in their seasons. It’s It’s terrific as is, with a zabaglione or custard sauce, or with ice cream. Read entire article.

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