Diary 3|21, 22|2015: New Mole Source. Jazz At Chateau Kole.

It’s a beautiful day, but it wasn’t supposed to be. The chill doesn’t matter to Mary Ann who–if there are tables outside and the weather is even borderline tolerable–will admit only of Al Fresco for our meals together. A new location of La Carreta is open. For many years, the place near Wal-Mart in lower Covington was the Ground Pat’i. That just-okay burger place shut down for good months or years ago. (Ground Pat’i has never been on my radar, except during a short period in the 1990s when then-seven-year-old…

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Mr. B’s Bistro. French Quarter: 201 Royal. 504-523-2078.

#15 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

In 1979, the Brennans revolutionized the the New Orleans dining scene around by opening Mr. B’sthis, the archetype of the casual, contemporary Creole bistro. Now restaurants like Mr. B’s dominate the scene. Its kitchen creates innovative and excellent Creole dishes from top-rung fresh ingredients, but serves them in an easy, informal way. Hickory-grilled fish, now common, was pioneered here; so was pasta as a non-Italian main course. Although a scan of the menu suggests that red meats are the main specialty, the seafood dishes are almost without exception the best versions anywhere of numerous contemporary Creole classic dishes. More to come. . .

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Tom’s Broiled Oysters

RecipeSquare-150x150 This is a dish I improvised one day when I had some beautiful oysters that I needed to use soon, and only fifteen minutes to cook and eat. To my palate, this is one of the best oyster dishes I’ve ever had, and one of the best dishes I’ve ever devised. If someone hasn’t beaten me to it, which is possible, since it’s almost ridiculously simple. ¶ The first time I made this, I was in so much of a rush that I used all dried herbs. That worked fine, but it was much better with fresh herbs–even if the only one you can get is parsley. . Read entire article.

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Raw Oysters On The Half Shell @ Acme Oyster House

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The oldest oyster house in New Orleans passed its century birthday in 2010 with bigger crowds than ever it its history. And even though that was in the middle of the BP disaster, the three locations kept the oysters shucking, only occasionally using non-Louisiana bivalves. It’s safe to say that more New Orleanians had their first raw oysters at the Acme’s marble bars than anywhere else. Although more impressive raw oysters can be found, the Acme is always at least close to the top, and rarely disappoints. Their grilled oysters ere first-class, too. More to come. . .

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March 30 In Eating

AlmanacSquare This is Frog Legs Day. Most people turn up their noses at the idea of eating frog legs, but if they had ever tried them (and they probably haven’t), they would wonder what the problem was. Frog legs have a texture similar to but lighter than chicken. There is no flavor affinity at all, no matter what you’ve heard. Nor do they taste like fish. The only meat that reminds me of frog legs is alligator. ¶ Bullfrogs–whose legs can be larger than chicken wings–are the most common along the Gulf Coast. More prized are the legs of smaller frogs from a genus known descriptively enough as “edible frogs.” They’re usually sold by the pair, and include the small foot. ¶ Frog legs are mild enough in flavor that they’re usually served with a light butter sauce, often with a touch of garlic and herbs. Read entire article.

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Origins Of The Tea Bag.

FoodFunniesSquare

Origins Of The Tea Bag.

They go back much farther than you supposed.

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Updated SU|March|29|2015

UnderTheTableSquareAntoine’s 175th Anniversary Makes News.

Unlike its 150th birthday, which passed with hardly a mention even from the management, the celebration of Antoine’s history this year has brought a lot of attention to the restaurant. Here’s a big article that came out a few days ago in the Washington Post. For once, the place wasn’t beat up for its honest historic cuisine. It’s worth reading here.


Emeril’s Celebrates 25 Years.

A celebration the twenty-fifth birthday of Emeril’s Thursday at lunch Thursday. Emeril invited a bunch of media people for the occasion. It was mostly a congratulatory affair, but one good question was asked: What does Emeril have in mind as the next step for his restaurant collection? He didn’t have an answer beyond saying that he thinks his present concepts have gone as far as they can, and that any new restaurant will likely be something entirely new of the group. I hope he puts one here.

 


Greg Sonnier Gone From Kingfish.

During the luncheon at Emeril’s, it came out that Chef Greg Sonnier has left Kingfish under uncertain circumstances. Nobody is sure of the reason or the instigator. Greg was at Kingfish since it opened. Where he will go now is unknown. Nobody asked me, but I think the best move would be to open something a lot like his big hit Gabrielle, which was destroyed by Katrina. Meanwhile, Kingfish’s new chef Nathan Richard–recently of the Bombay Club–is not saying what if anything will be changed. He has a handful right now, I’d think.

 

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Diary 3|19, 20|2015: Loop. Acropolis. A Life Well Lived.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 To Lake Lawn Cemetery to bid farewell to Dick Brennan, Sr., who died at 83 last Saturday. I have already written at length about what the man meant to me. That long story was made short by a lady who knows both of us, as well as the intersection in our worlds. “If it hadn’t been for Dick, my career would not be the same, if it existed at all,” I told her. “You wouldn’t even be the same person if it hadn’t been for Mr. Dick!” she said, as if correcting me. But she is exactly right. More to come. . .

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Pêche. Warehouse District: 800 Magazine St. 504-522-1744.

#6 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

New Orleans has always been one of the great cities in America for the eating of seafood. But it must be admitted that for a few decades we were in a bit of a rut, with seafood menus that were interchangeable both among the casual places and the gourmet restaurants. ¶ By going down to the basics of fishing and cookery, Pêche–along with a half-dozen or so other places with the same goals–have redrawn the field. It would be a wonderful thing if these new rules went into force in many more restaurants. ¶ Except for a a bit of beef for those who can’t or won’t eat seafood, Pêche is a where you go strictly to satisfy an appetite for fish. The provenance of the seafood is made clear by the number of items that vary day to day. ¶ The outstanding dish is the whole fish of the day. It’s almost always a local species, and is likely to proceed from the large hearth right behind the much larger oyster bar. The kitchen doesn’t limit itself to local or even American styles of cooking. Latin American and Spanish ideas are particularly in evidence. More to come. . .

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Fire-Roasted Salmon

RecipeSquare-150x150 Spring and early summer are the best times to eat salmon in New Orleans. This is the time of year when Pacific salmon becomes available. Even though it’s not a local fish, it’s so good and so unique in so many ways that we can’t ignore it. ¶ This is my favorite way to prepare salmon, one I’ve seen in two disparate places: Scandinavia (Sweden and Finland) and California (at the Meadowood Resort). The whole side of salmon is tied to a grill (in one case, a grill made of wooden poles). Then it’s propped up in front of a hot fire–on the ground, or in a fireplace. More to come. . .

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Italian Salad @ Tessie’s Place

500BestSquare Wait! Out-of-town reader of Italian extraction, don’t get mad–please listen! All around New Orleans for several generations, neighborhood Italian restaurants owned by thoroughly Italian people have included on their menus something they call a “wop salad,” derived from the Sicilian dialect word “guappo,” which is a well-dressed, seemingly urbane but fun-loving young man. ¶ It’s a collection of olives, peppers, celery, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and lettuce with a garlicky vinaigrette. Only three restaurants still use the old name on their menus. But all such restaurants still offer the same thing under the name “Italian salad.” Read entire article.

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March 27 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It is National Paella Day in America. Paella is catching on. While we have always been able to find a restaurant around New Orleans that serves paella, until very recently we never needed more than the fingers of one hand to count them. ¶ Nor were the ones we found especially good–again, until recent years, with the broadening of all ethnic dining in New Orleans. Always, any chef that made this most famous of Spanish rice dishes could be counted on to be very proud of it. Enough so that paella is usually the most expensive item on menus that offer it. ¶ Paella comes in many forms, with a long list of possible ingredients. But it simmers down to this: rice, olive oil, and stock (usually chicken) are cooked in a big pan with poultry, sausages, or seafood, plus peas, beans, and savory vegetables. It’s flavored with saffron if it’s a good version. In the cheaper editions, annatto gives the color of saffron, but not the unmistakable flavor and aroma. Read More. . .

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Next spinoff toy: Macaroni and Cheesehead.

FoodFunniesSquare

Kids Usually Love To Play With Food.

Next spinoff toy: Macaroni and Cheesehead.

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Diary 3|18|2015: Eat Club At Impastato Cellars.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 At Impastato Cellars on the North Shore, Joe Impastato has lately taken a hand in managing the place (although he’s still looking for a good manager so he can stay on the South Shore most of the time). He’s also spending a lot of time in the kitchen. His daughter Mica really runs the Cellars. I know all about how much fathers want to help out their daughters. Especially when the daughter is in the family business. More to come. . .

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Impastato’s. Metairie: 3400 16th Street. 504-455-1545.

#7 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

One of the most important goals a restaurant must have is a good source of first-class raw materials. Even in the realm of seafood–which you’d think should be very abundant in our part of the world, but isn’t–the person who buys food for a restaurant kitchen must either 1) pay top dollar; b) know somebody well-connected to the commercial fishermen; or iii) spend a lot of time on the phone tracking the every-changing seafood markets. Joe Impastato and his brother Sal do all three of those things. At Impastato’s, for example, I often find soft-shell crabs when nobody else has them. Live soft-shells, at that. Can’t fake that. More to come. . .

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Mary Ann’s Spinach And Mushroom Dip

RecipeSquare-150x150 My wife Mary Ann loves to improvise dips. This is one of her two or three best. She never makes it the same way twice, so if you get the urge to add garlic, bell peppers, bacon, crawfish, crabmeat, or whatever else sounds good to you, try it! The Food Police have been disbanded. Read entire article.

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Stuffed Baby Artichokes @ Vincent’s

500BestSquare Baby artichokes are so small that you can eat them entirely, stem and leaves and teeny soft spines and all. The stuffing at Vincent’s is more like a heavy coating, with bread crumbs, herbs, and garlic. Surrounding them are slices of prosciutto and parmesan cheese. Fantastic! When we discovered this at the Uptown Vincent’s, even my daughter–not one to try new dishes often–loved it at first taste. A great appetizer, large enough to split. Read entire article.

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March 26 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Spinach Day. Spinach was first grown in what is now Iran about 1500 years ago. It spread to all parts of the world, almost immediately replacing other green leaves wherever it went. ¶ Spinach is among the most healthful and delicious of all those we eat. It’s rare among them in that it’s eaten raw as often as cooked. Its flavor is distinctive but not strong. The younger the spinach, the more tender the leaves and better the flavor. ¶ And then there’s the Popeye connection. From it we learn that eating spinach turns funny-looking pipsqueaks into powerful heroes. That’s because of its reputed but overstated iron content. ¶ Popeye continues to inspire the eating of spinach, enough so that today in 1937, farmers in Crystal City, Texas–the spinach-growing capital of America–put a statue of Popeye in its town square. Read entire article.

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What Your Favorite Cocktail Says About You.

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What Your Favorite Cocktail Says About You.

It’s really amazing how accurate these predictions are. But, like life, you need a thick skin.

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Hogs For The Cause This Weekend

EatingNowSquare-150x150 The mania for smoked, barbecued, roasted, and cured pig continues to spiral upward. Nowhere is this more in evidence than at the seventh annual Hogs for the Cause. It’s in the new City Park Festival Grounds–on Wisner at Friedrichs, near Christian Brothers School. It’s a competition, an eating opportunity, a music festival, and a charitable fundraiser all in one. Eighty teams of cooks need follow only one rule: their dishes must center on pork. Otherwise, they can do whatever they want. More on this. . .

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Diary 3|17|2015: Sts. Patrick & Joseph. Katrina + 10.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Matt Murphy is the perfect guest for our Round Table show on St. Patrick’s Day. He was in the second string at Commander’s Palace when Jamie Shannon died, but Tory McPhail got the tap on the shoulder. Matt knew he’d have to move up or move out at that point, so he moved to the top rung at the Ritz-Carlton on Canal Street. Not exactly a downward trajectory. His next gig was to open the Irish House under his own aegis. Being a native of Dublin and a very engaging. More to come. . .

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Sal and Judy’s. Lacombe: 27491 US 190 . 985-882-9443.

#8 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

It doesn’t matter much who you are. It’s going to be tough getting a table at Sal and Judy’s on moment’s notice. That’s even if you know Sal. ¶ Everybody knows Sal. Sal is one of the nicest guys in the restaurant business. He comes across as an Italian immigrant who hasn’t quite figured things out, letting his customers fill him in. In reality, Sal is one of the most savvy restaurateurs around. Nobody except Paul Prudhomme or Emeril can match his success in marketing his sauces, salad dressings, seasonings, and olive oil, which are everywhere in New Orleans supermarkets. (They’re successful largely because they really duplicate the flavors served in the restaurant.) ¶ Meanwhile, the food in house is worth a trip across the lake and the trouble of making a reservation well in advance. More to come. . .

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Oysters Ambrosia

RecipeSquare-150x150 This was created at Commander’s Palace by Sebastian “Chef Buster” Ambrosia, who might have the best name I ever heard for a chef. For many years, Chef Buster hosted a cooking show on WWL Radio. He served this dish in every restaurant he headed, and it was always the best dish in that restaurant at the time. It’s as Creole as something can be: seafood with a brown sauce. “It’s good, hearts!” as Chef Buster would say. Read entire article.

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Pan-Seared Drumfish With Mussels @ Rue 127

500BestSquare Rue 127’s entree list may have the greatest percentage of major specialties of any gourmet bistro in town. This is the best of their fish dishes (at least since the salmon they used to do went off). The fish is already excellent before the mussels, bacon cubes, and poblano peppers come into play. The only thing missing is a big Chardonnay. And several are on the wine list. Read entire article.

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March 25 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Either yesterday, today, or tomorrow can be considered the anniversary of Emeril’s. I was there today in 1990, the second evening of pre-opening dinners. The restaurant opened to the public March 26. Things went wrong, as they always do in new restaurants. But Emeril’s former employer–Ella Brennan of Commander’s Palace–told him, “Change nothing.” He didn’t, and the place took off. It’s hard to believe now, but that was not a foregone conclusion at the time. Emeril had not even begun to achieve the stardom he now enjoys outside New Orleans. It wasn’t quite just another new restaurant. Read entire article.

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When A Boy Gives Breakfast To His Dog

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When A Boy Gives Breakfast To His Dog. . .

The dog may not seem grateful enough.

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Diary 3|15, 16|2015: Chefs’ Soiree. A Major Departure.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 I go to the Chef’s Soiree at the Bogue Falaya State Park in Covington. It’s the best running of this 31-year event that we can remember. The weather is perfect. Delectable food comes from every booth. All the longtime chefs are here. Pat Gallagher has his usual kebabs of steak and squash and shrimp bisque–and the longest lines. But many other restaurants are near his level of goodness. Best new addition: Isabella’s Pizza, which for a long time was mediocre but now is baking its pie in wood-fired ovens, to excellent effect. Benny Grunch and the Bunch play for most of the four hours. The wines are much better than in past years, and it was even possible to get a reasonably good cocktail. More to come. . .

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Katie’s. Mid-City: 3701 Iberville. 504-484-0580.

#9 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

Some of the best restaurants took the longest to return after the hurricane, and their customers were among the happiest to finally see them return. That was a mixture of longing the the past followed by a well-planned bolt into the future. ¶ No restaurant proved that theory better than Katie’s. Scott Craig and his partners made the resurrected Katie’s into the best neighborhood restaurant ever, expanding its former specialties to embrace even more than its big old menu had. ¶ The seafood side of this energy is especially impressive. Here is the best fried seafood platter in town, and that’s only the beginning of it. More to come. . .

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Crabmeat (Or Shrimp or Crawfish) Nachos

RecipeSquare-150x150 Here in Louisiana, we’re lucky that as one of our favorite crustaceans goes out of season, another comes in. These nachos, which are seriously delicious as a pass-around appetizer, are very easy to make. ¶ Use whichever seafood is looking good (lobster, though not local, would also work), but only one of them. (I’m not persuaded that crabmeat and shrimp together is as good as one or the other alone, assuming good quality to begin with.) ¶ The idea for this (but not the exact recipe) comes from Casa Garcia, whose two restaurants in New Orleans offer something like this as an appetizer. Read entire article.

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Crabmeat Au Gratin @ Keith Young’s Steak House

500BestSquare There’s only one rational reason why, if you can here with crabmeat on your mind, you would hesitate to order the crabmeat au gratin for an entree. The crabmeat is all jumbo lump. The cheese component is under control, slightly sharp in flavor and not melted into a wad on top. There’s enough here to make a meal. So here’s the source of reluctance: Keith Young’s crab cakes are every bit as good as the au gratin, and perhaps even a little better. Read entire article.

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March 24 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It’s Stuffed Crab Day. And the dish needs to be remembered. Once ubiquitous on menus all along the Gulf Coast and upthe Atlantic, stuffed crabs have been shoved aside by its upscale cousin, the Baltimore-style crab cake. ¶ Crab cakes give stuffed crabs an image problem. It is the nature of a stuffed crab to contain other ingredients than crabmeat. And the crabmeat is usually claw meat, at that. ¶ From a flavor perspective, however, a well-made stuffed crab (also known as a deviled crab) easily rivals a crab cake. The best versions have a good crab flavors that comes not only from the crabmeat but also the crab stock the bread component is wet down with. Green onions, bell pepper, fresh parsley, cayenne, and even a little bacon add further interest to a good stuffed crab. Read entire article.

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When A Boy Cooks Breakfast For His Girlfriend For The First Time.

FoodFunniesSquare

When A Boy Cooks Breakfast For His Girlfriend For The First Time. . .

He is almost certainly asking for trouble.

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Diary 3|13, 14|2015: Redemption. Cupcakes.

No critic with decent ability to discriminate between the good and the not-so-good can claim to be without prejudice. Certain works of art will fail to appeal to even a thoroughly fair critic, just because he or she doesn’t have a taste for that category. I read a few years ago about Robert Parker, the most accomplished wine critic in the history of that endeavor. He admitted that after many years spent covering all kinds of wine from everywhere in the world, he gave up tasting sweet white wines. Even…

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Tommy’s Cuisine. Warehouse District: 746 Tchoupitoulas. 504-581-1103.

#10 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

New Orleans differs from most other great restaurant cities in that its menus are dominated by seafood. Even in grand old restaurants in which beef and lamb are prime, it’s the allure of the fish and shellfish that sets them apart. ¶ Part of this can be explained by the difficulty of buying good seafood. Although that’s easier here than in most places, it still requires spending lots of time on the phone tracking down the good stuff. ¶ With a long history of great food and service and a chef who came from Galatoire’s, Tommy’s seafood side is very strong. You could eat here ten times without ever leaving the fish, oysters, shrimp, crawfish, soft-shells, and especially the crabmeat. More to come. . .

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Redfish On The Half-Shell

RecipeSquare-150x150 This is a great and simple way to cook a redfish, drum, or any other fish around four or five pounds. It should be done outdoors, because it has only one drawback: in the first few minutes of cooking, the burning scales give off an aroma that is less than appetizing. It doesn’t show up in the finished fish, however, and is soon gone. ¶ As it cooks, the scales will burn very black. However, they will protect the fish from cooking too much, and the juices of the fish will steam up through the fillet. You don’t even need to turn the fish! ¶ A number of restaurants have adopted this as a specialty. The most famous of them is the drumfish Tommy at Drago’s, the recipe for which evolved into the restaurant’s famous char-broiled oysters. Read entire article.

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