DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Monday, July 18, 2016.
A Spectacular Dinner At MeMe’s In Chalmette.

Almost since the day I found out how excellent is MeMe’s in St. Bernard Parish, we have been talking with the owners about having an Eat Club dinner there. For reasons known only to the owners–who need all their seats for busy nights–they will only stage special menus on Monday nights. That even includes their own monthly wine dinners, which go off monthly.

But Monday is a problem for me most weeks. (Singing rehearsal.) But this time of year my Mondays are open. Mary Ann–who has wanted to hold a MeMe’s Eat Club as much as the rest of those involved–saw that coming. And so here we are, with a full house.

The new bar @ MeMe's.

The new bar @ MeMe’s.

The MeMe’s folks have another offbeat idea that I think I will borrow from them. Their original restaurant was so small that it was tough to stage a special dinner. They discovered that people would understand platooning. So a quarter of the diners show up
very early in the evening. Another batch will turn up around seven, and a third at around eight. I had my doubts about this, but it actually seems to work. I’m sure some of this owes to dining habits in St. Bernard, which has many early diners and many fast eaters.

I arrive as fast as I can after the radio show ends, at around six-thirty. The dining rooms (there are two of them now, from a recent doubling of the restaurant’s footprint) are full. Many tables are well along in enjoying the five courses.

Creole tomato salad with a pizazz.

Creole tomato salad with a pizazz.

MA and I have a deuce table that would be a terrible spot on any other night. It’s in the stream of food and drink from the kitchen and the bar. But being here I have people coming over to talk all night long. We agree on almost everything about the dinner. The salad of crabmeat, Creole tomatoes (no place raises better tomatoes than St. Bernard Parish) and cucumbers makes a spectacular beginning.

Three of MeMe's best oyster appetizers.

Three of MeMe’s best oyster appetizers.

Things only get better when the oysters Bangkok and Rockefeller appear. Chef Lincoln Owens has many oyster arrows in his quiver, all of them good enough to make anybody’s top-oysters list.

The dish of the night: redfish with a chili and garlic sauce.

The dish of the night: redfish with a chili and garlic sauce.

Next comes a total surprise. Imagine how good something like this sounds: “Pan-seared redfish with grilled lettuces, chili, garlic and a pineapple-mango infusion.” It sounds very hip. But it is far better than just original. From the time the first orders of this make their way to the tables, I hear people proclaim this the dish of the night. Even Mary Ann agrees with me about that. About half the people I talk with wonder how they might get seconds. I am not exaggerating the deliciousness of this.

Pork loin and kale.

Pork loin and kale.

After those three peaks, we ease off the walls of flavor with a tender pork loin, roasted simply and surrounded by shredded sweet potatoes made to look like a bird’s nest. This also had its share of fans, although how to top those last two courses would be a challenge.

Dessert trio, with special attentio the coconut cream pie on the left.

Dessert trio, with special attentio the coconut cream pie on the left.

Much fuss is made over the three-way dessert, one part of which is a frozen coconut cream pie. MA doesn’t often eat desserts, and then only chocolate ones. And she doesn’t like coconut, either. But when she was at MeMe’s last week they gave her three of these little pies and asked her to give one to me. I never tasted it: she ate all three. And that is saying something.

The big question people have about MeMe’s is how it is that they have a chef of Lincoln’s caliber. His past history is top-notch, and his food is borderline incredible. We learn that he has a family matter to which he is devoting all his love and energy, and keeping him in St. Bernard Parish. That’s a good enough answer for me.

FleurDeLis-4-Small

MeMe’s. St. Bernard Parish: 712 W. Judge Perez Dr. 504-644-4992.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016.
The Miracle Dog. Checking In At Austin’s.

The Marys load the dog Susie into the SUV and take her to the vet. She clambers aboard on her own four legs, as if this were a fun outing. A few months ago, she couldn’t walk. The veterinarians unanimously said that she has inoperable bone cancer, and that her days are numbered. But after four changes of a splint on that leg–in which an x-ray showed the front right leg bone completely broken–Susie is getting around on her own. How is it that she’s walking? Even running and jumping? She’s not as frisky as she was, but this still seems a miracle, the vets say.

The Marys spend the day with newly-arrived Dave (formerly known here as “The Boy”). ML and her fiance are still working on wedding plans, with MA in their immediate midst. I hardly see them at all today.

I head into town at midday, trying to get all my radio station work done so I can depart this Friday on a ten-day vacation. Mary Ann is guest-hosting the show the entire week, and eager to get on with it. We are experimenting with ways to handle one of the most time-consuming problems I have when I take time off: the commercials I ad lib. Usually I record all of them, but that takes twenty or thirty hours. Mary Ann says that anything I can do, she can do too. And that she will voice the spots during her editions of the programs. I ask her to give me a demonstration. Without any hesitation, she knocks out the spot. While driving, yet. It sounds good–maybe even better than what I do. She has the advantage of having a sultry voice. Since most of my listeners are men, that’s a plus.

Crabmeat-crowned guacamole.

Crabmeat-crowned guacamole.

To dinner at Austin’s in Metairie, a restaurant where I can seldom get a parking space, let alone a table. But it’s a hot Tuesday, a depressant to business. The dinner I have shows something less than the best I’ve had here in the past. I begin with a cold avocado dish–nearly guacamole, topped with a lot of jumbo lump crabmeat. How much of it is determined by tactile sensations: it’s so dark in Austin’s that I’m always glad I have my camera light with me when I dine there.

Soft-shell crab amandine @ Austin's.

Soft-shell crab amandine @ Austin’s.

I really want a steak, but that’s what I had last time. Instead, the waiter informs me of some very large soft-shell crabs. I get this with the same garnish that would top trout amandine. The oil wasn’t hot enough to crisp the crab the way it should have. This is a frequent problem with big softies: they have a way of steaming themselves instead of crusting up.

It seems that every member of the staff knows who I am, including a few who I remember from their days in one or another major downtown restaurant. A lot of waiters move to the suburbs when they get to be my age.

FleurDeLis-4-Small

Austin’s. Metairie: 5101 West Esplanade Ave. 504-888-5533.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Fresh Pizza Sauce

One of the best ideas I got from Chef Andrea Apuzzo when I was working on his cookbook is that pizza sauce does not have to be cooked. This, at last, revealed the problem with all pizza sauce! The following concoction may seem a little too runny, but trust me–it works, and has a marvelous fresh flavor.

Pizza at Andrea's.

Pizza with fresh tomato sauce alla Andrea.

  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, juice strained out and reserved for another recipe
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. chopped garlic (or more, if you love garlic)
  • 6-10 leaves fresh basil
  • 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and process for about 20 seconds. That’s it! Do not cook; just ladle it right on the pizza crust and top with cheese and whatever else you like.

Makes enough for about eight twelve-inch pizzas.

500BestSquareSmoked Oysters @ Nathan’s

DishStars-4
The menu at this Slidell bistro is evenly divided three ways. You have the basics of local cookery (seafood platters, steaks, pasta). The dishes Chef/owner Ross Eirich picked up during his stint as executive chef at Galatoire’s. And–most interesting–the original dishes he’s dreamed up in the four years since Nathan’s opened. This one is particularly impressive. Flour smoked in house coats the oysters, which are then fried. Over the top goes a honey butter sauce whose sweetness is subtle. Finally, crumbles of blue cheese. It’s much better than it sounds. And it sounds pretty good. It’s certainly Nathan’s signature appetizer these days.

Nathans-SmokedOysters

Nathan’s. Slidell: 36440 Old Bayou Liberty Rd. 985-643-0443.

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

AlmanacSquare July 21, 2015

Days Until. . .

Eat Club Dinner @ Flaming Torch 15
Eat Club Dinner @ Trenasse 8
Satchmo Summer Fest 13

Today’s Flavor

JunkFoodToday is allegedly National Junk Food Day, but does that really make it stand out from all the other days on the calendar? We all get hooked by some kind of junk food at some time in our lives. The makers of the stuff know exactly what flavors, colors, and textures address subconscious desires. We’re hard-wired to like sweet food, for example. And high-fat foods. It doesn’t care what kind of sweet or fat it is. So we get trans-fat emulsified with high-fructose corn syrup. Pure garbage.

And we don’t just like it. We develop attachments to certain junk foods, and feel we must be loyal to them. Some people will get mad when I say that this applies to doughnuts. Sno-balls. Candy bars. Fried pies (i.e., Hubig’s). Most hamburgers and most fries. Rationally, we shouldn’t eat any of that stuff. It’s not good for you. Nor does it even taste good–not as good as food made with good ingredients in careful ways. A little bit of good eats gives a lot more satisfaction than a lot of junk.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Wild Oat Peak rises to 3992 feet in the Coastal Range of central California, 138 miles south southeast of San Francisco. It’s in a wilderness area, reachable only by four-wheel-drive roads and hiking trails. Tree coverage is spotty; it’s an arid area. Wild Oat Springs, on the southern slope of the peak, is the source of Wild Oat Creek, which a half-mile down its bed is blocked by Wild Oat Dam. One can only speculate how many young men thought it might be a good idea to come up here to sow their wild oats. More certain is that it’s a rough twenty-mile hike to the nearest restaurant, the Apricot Tree, just of the I-5 to the northeast.

Ruined Picnics Through History

PicnicOn this date in 1861, the first major battle of the Civil War was fought at Manassas Junction. It’s also known as the Battle of Bull Run Creek. So certain were the Unionists that the U.S. Army would rout the Confederates that people actually dressed up and went to the battle site with picnic lunches to watch it. In fact, it was a decisive victory for the South, and gave General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson his nickname.

Edible Dictionary

SaladeNicoisesalade Nicoise, French, n.–An entree-size salad composed of tuna, green beans, potatoes, green onions, lettuce, tomatoes, anchovies, and hard-boiled eggs, with a simple vinaigrette dressing. Or that’s the way it’s done in America. In Nice and around the Cote d’Azur–from which the salad hails–the recipe usually omits the lettuce, potatoes, and even the tuna. Where tuna is found in the salad, the traditional variety is canned tuna. It was that way even in this country until the 1980s. Then fresh tuna became widely available and popular, due to the influence of sushi. Now most restaurants sophisticated enough to serve salade Nicoise use fresh, seared, very rare tuna, served cool. Those are usually French bistros, whose menus almost always include this salad.

Food In Literature

Francis Parkinson Keyes (pronounced “kize”) was born today in 1885. She wrote, among many other things, Dinner At Antoine’s. As a result of that book’s popularity, New York food writer Lucius Beebe suggested to the Brennans that they create Breakfast at Brennan’s, which they did. Back to Keyes: the house at the corner of Chartres and Ursulines is named for her.

Books

Ernest Hemingway, whose books always include lots of eating and drinking (because he enjoyed both himself), was born today in 1899. Indeed, in a recent re-reading of A Farewell To Arms, I was struck by the sheer quantity of booze the characters ingested. I couldn’t have kept up with them.

Music To Eat At Little Tables By

One of my favorite girl singers, Kay Starr, was born today in 1922. She was a stunning woman with a powerful voice–a real belter with a jazzy, original style and a great vibrato. She had a bunch of big hits in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but didn’t cross over into the rock era. She’s still singing, I think. . . ¶ I wonder if she’s ever confused with Kenneth Starr, who wasted a lot of time and money going after Bill Clinton in the 1990s. It’s also his birthday today, in 1946. He doesn’t sing nearly as well.

Food Around The World

BelgianFlagThis is the national holiday of Belgium, commemorating the 1831 crowning of that country’s first king, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. Throughout history, Belgians have joked with a sigh of resignation about their having been conquered and run over by just about every neighboring country, both before and after their independence. In 1831, they rose up against their Dutch rulers, and for a change most of its other neighbors–notably France–were on its side.

From a culinary perspective, Belgium is the most underrated country in Europe. It’s restaurants are mostly French in style, although the Flemish (Dutch) influence makes it distinctive. Not only is Brussels full of great eateries, but other towns–including the smallest ones–show off marvelous dining possibilities.

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Victor of Marseilles. He is one of the patron saints of flour millers. He’s also the patron of cabinetmakers, and where would our kitchens be without them?

Food Namesakes

Barry “The Bean” Whitwam, one of the original members of Herman’s Hermits, was born today in 1946. I think he’s still in the band (which is still performing). . . Sam Bass, a train robber in the 1870s, was born today in 1851. . . Taco Ockerse, a Dutch singer and stage actor, was born in Indonesia today in 1955. He usually goes by just his first name.

Words To Eat By

The key dietary messages are stunningly simple: Eat less, move more, eat more fruits and vegetables, and don’t eat too much junk food. It’s no more complicated than that.”–Marion Nestle, author of the book What To Eat.

Words To Drink By

“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”–Ernest Hemingway, born today in 1899.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Insatiable Appetite Meets Its Match.

There is no better way to decrease one’s hunger than to find a restaurant where they don’t know how to cook.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Sunday, July 17, 2016.
The Regular Hangout.

After my holy singing gig, I go for gasoline for the lawnmower. That will prove to be a waste of time, as we get hammered by an astonishing, lightning-filled soaker of a rainstorm. Instead, I spend the afternoon cleaning bathrooms. We have been alerted to a visit to the Cool Water Ranch by a non-Fitzmorris. What we really need is for the two bathrooms on the first floor to be rebuilt thoroughly. But that won’t happen until well beyond Mary Leigh’s wedding. The official priority of the bathrooms seems to be “Last In Line.” Which means it may never be done.

Acme-WaitressAvailable

Mary Leigh and I have a late lunch at the Acme Oyster House, a regular stop for the two of us for many years. She notes that her favorite Acme dish–the iceberg wedge salad with blue cheese and tomatoes–has gone from the $4.95 price it required when we first found it on the menu, to $6.95 now. But that’s not as inflationary as the fried oysters remoulade, which was also $4.95 when I first ran into it. It’s now $9.95. My theory about the dish–an appetizer–is that it’s an outlet for raw oysters too small to serve at the bar. The increase may prove that wrong.

There’s a new menu at the Acme, ML notices. We go through it thoroughly–not only looking for price changes but anything new. We find nothing. We both believe that the place needs to make some changes. Even the specials are tiresome, mainly because they recur interminably. And now that wild-caught local catfish is easily found, there is no excuse for the Acme to serve whatever that is subbing for cat.

Before all this is a minor crisis. I can’t find my wallet, not even after searching for an hour. Brainstorm: maybe it’s in that spot on the bookshelves in my office where I always leave the wallet. Bing! There it is. MA has more proof that I am becoming a real nincompoop in my old age.

But during our nearly-nostalgic hour at the Acme, we have a nice daddy-daughter tete-a-tete. I can feel the love she sends across the table. I hope she receives mine.

I drop ML off at The Chimes, where she will meet up with her cousins, the only three women I know who make ML look even a little plain. This is the third time ML has been to The Chimes on this visit, and it’s only been a week since she flew in from Washington, D.C. The Marys have also been to La Caretta twice, once today. They love their regular hangouts.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

How this dish caught on to the degree that it has surpasses my understanding, but one thing’s for sure: no restaurant will tell the secret of the recipe. That is, I can assure you, because there is nothing to it, and they don’t want you to know that. I predict that in years to come a network of pipelines will be built to deliver spinach-artichoke dip to chain restaurants and your favorite grocery store.

Levity aside, I point out that this version of spinach-artichoke cheese dip is much loved the stylish wife Mary Ann, who just a day before I published this made an enormous vat of the stuff for our daughter Mary Leigh’s bridal shower.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Spinach Artichoke Dip

  • 1 cup green onions, chopped finely
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 stick butter
  • 2 10-oz. bags fresh spinach, washed and picked of big stems
  • 1 can artichoke hearts packed in water
  • 8 oz. Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 4 oz. whole-milk mozzarella, shredded
  • 4 oz. sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 dashes Tabasco
  • 1/3 cup very finely grated Romano cheese
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dill
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1. In a large saucepan over low heat, sauté the green onions and the garlic in the butter until the onions turn soft.

2. Add the spinach, still wet from washing. Cook until it wilts. Remove from the heat.

3. Drain, rinse, and break the artichoke hearts into small pieces with your fingers, and add to the pan. Add all the other ingredients except the Monterey Jack and combine well.

4. Turn the mixture into a glass baking dish. Top with the Monterey Jack. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, until the cheese has melted. You can also do this step in the microwave, six to ten minutes on 70 percent power, turning the dish every two minutes. (Microwave ovens vary greatly, however, so monitor this closely.)

Serves ten to fifteen.

  • 500BestSquareBangkok Oysters @ MeMe’s

    DishStars-4
    One of the strongest courses at MeMe’s is the array of ideas Chef Lincoln Owen has with regard to oysters. On any given night he has at least four versions baked or grilled on the half shells. Some are classics, like the very well-made Rockefellers. But the best yet is what the chef calls “Bangkok oysters.” It’s easy to pick out from the platter: it’s the one with the brilliant red color. The first flavor that makes the jump to your palate is as sharply flavored as it looks, the sauce having been made from sriracha pepper sauce, among other things. There’s a little cheese in there to balance the flavor out. If I ate here every day, I’d still include the Bangkok version in my order.

    Meme's baked oysters. The Bangkok oysters stand out.

    Meme’s baked oysters. The Bangkok oysters stand out.

    MeMe’s. St. Bernard Parish: 712 W. Judge Perez Dr. 504-644-4992.

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

    AlmanacSquare July 20, 2015

    Days Until. . .

    Eat Club Dinner @ Flaming Torch 16
    Eat Club Dinner @ Trenasse 9
    Satchmo Summer Fest 14

    Food Calendar

    Today is National Creme Brulee Day. Creme brulee is an enriched version of caramel custard, with the caramel transferred from the bottom of the baking dish to the top, in the form of a crust of lightly browned sugar. That’s the brulee part; the word means “burned.” Sometimes it is. The texture of the crust varies greatly. Some makers have a granular topping; in other places, the sugar melts and then re-solidified with a glassy quality. If you encounter one of those, be careful. A shard of this crust cut the inside of my mouth badly once.

    The creme brulee concept goes back to at least the 1600s in France. Originally, a white-hot poker pulled from the fire was used to brulee the top. The custard is made with cream instead of the milk used for caramel custard. That keeps it from setting completely. A well-made creme brulee will flow, if very thickly and slowly. The first New Orleans restaurant to serve creme brulee in modern times was Arnaud’s. Now creme brulee has supplanted caramel custard in most of its former range.

    Looking Up

    MoonLandingThis is Moon Day, the day Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon in 1969. A historic event of great importance but few repercussions. What do we do, foodwise? Eat a Moon Pie? The old Charlie’s Delicatessen used to make a muffuletta-like sandwich called “The Moon,” but Charlie’s did not cross over the fold in our history made by Katrina.

    Annals Of Oenophilia

    Max Zander was born today in 1920. He was the longtime head of Heritage House, New Orleans’ biggest wine wholesaler. Decades before fine wine made its way onto the tables of the mainstream local populace, Max was hosting wine classes, wine dinners and tastings, inspiring people to enhance their lives with good wine. He was accessible and likable, never displaying a hint of the snobbery that scares so many people away from wine. He was as quick to recommend affordable wines as the world’s best. He knew about it all, and shared his knowledge, sophistication, love of life, and friendship with anyone who wanted it. He passed away in 2009, leaving behind a legacy of wine appreciation matched by nobody else in our city.

    Annals Of Cheese

    On this date in 1801, a thankful Elisha Brown Jr., a farmer, made a ball of cheese weighing nearly a ton. He delivered it to Thomas Jefferson. The president found it overripe. . . More important to us today is what Jesse Williams did at his farm in Rome, New York on this date in 1851. He created the first American cheese factory. Its cheese was uniform in texture, color, and flavor, very much unlike Elisha Brown’s cheeseball, which was made (as most large cheeses were) by pressing many small cheeses together.

    Roots Of Our Cuisine

    YugoslavianFlagYugoslavia was born today in 1917. The Pact of Corfu among the Slovenes, Croatians, and Serbs united their countries into one. It didn’t work in the long term, and now each of those groups has its own country again. During much of the history of Drago’s restaurant, it claimed to serve Yugoslavian food. Now it doesn’t, but it does claim Croatian roots.

    Edible Dictionary

    speckled trout, n.–The common name used along the Gulf coast for what the fish experts call “spotted seatrout.” It’s not a member of the trout family (true trout are freshwater fish in the salmon family), but are related to drumfish. (They actually do make a drumming sound when they’re spawning.) Most specimens are between one and three pounds, although they can grow larger. Its flesh is just off white and very flaky. It is considered a prize catch for eating by fishermen. For over a century it was the favorite fish in New Orleans white-tablecloth restaurants. Overfishing and the resulting over-zealous laws restricted the commercial catch so much that speckled trout has become a rarity in New Orleans. The greatest availability on menus is in late fall into early spring.

    Gourmet Gazetteer

    Potato Patch is an uninhabited spot on the map of New Mexico. It’s on a high mesa (8178 feet, to be exact) in the San Francisco Mountains, nine miles from the Arizona state line. It’s a campground for hikers, with a small lake that feeds an intermittent stream. A dirt road can take you there, through an arid landscape scattered with desert shrubs and small trees. The nearest restaurant is ten miles away in Reserve: Ella’s Cafe, home of a great barbecue burger.

    Food Namesakes

    Paul Cook, the drummer of the Sex Pistols, was born today in 1956. . . .The Champagne Lady, Jo Ann Campbell, who appeared on most of Lawrence Welk’s TV shows, was born today in 1938. . . American novelist Thomas Berger opened his first page today in 1924. . . .German actor Kurt Raab sprouted today in 1941. (Raab is another name for the vegetable broccoli di rape.)

    Words To Eat By

    “Banish the onion from the kitchen and the pleasure flies with it. Its presence lends color and enchantment to the most modest dish; its absence reduces the rarest delicacy to hopeless insipidity, and dinner to despair.”–Elizabeth Robbins Pennell, American writer, 1855-1936.

    Words To Drink By

    “The relationship between a Russian and a bottle of vodka is almost mystical.”–Richard Owen, British zoologist, born today in 1804.

    FoodFunniesSquare

    Does This Qualify As A Job In The Restaurant Industry?

    Or is it a bad dream?

    Click here for the cartoon.

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    SummerDiningSpecials

    Emeril’s: Three Courses, $35.

    All three of Emeril’s New Orleans restaurants have rolled out their summer menus, leading the charge into the distressingly slack time that is July, August and September. This is, of course, great news for avid diners. Each of the restaurants will offer a different menu, and we begin with the flagship restaurant of Emeril’s universe.

    This begins during Tales of the Cocktail restaurant Week, which runs today (July 18) through June 25. $35 for three courses. Also available is a wine-pairing option. The will be another summer menu at Emeril’s and his other restaurants next week and beyond.

    Vichyssoise
    ~or~

    Hot smoked salmon
    Corn salad

    ~or~

    Grand isle shrimp al ajilo
    Lime, house baguette
    ~or~

    Smashed cucumber, blue crab salad
    ~or~

    Seaweed, hazelnut, smoked soy
    ~or~

    Quail yakitori
    Charred local chilis, jasmine rice
    ~or~

    Swordfish acqua pazza
    Local tomatoes, house sourdough, basil

    ~~~~~

    Greek yogurt panna cotta
    ~or~

    Seasonal fruit salad
    ~or~

    Granola, chocolate mousse trifle
    ~or~

    Caramel banana jam, pecan crunch
    ~~~~~

    Emeril’s

    Warehouse District & Center City: 800 Tchoupitoulas. 504-528-9393. www.emerils.com/restaurant/1/Emerils-New-Orleans/.

    NOMenu invites restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events to tell us, so we might add the news to this free department. Send to news@nomenu.com.

    DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, July 13, 2016.
    Hanger At Café B.

    I like traveling as much as the next guy, but there are things I hate about it, mostly all the get-ready I have to do before I hit the road. Today, I was handed four radio scripts that must be done in the next couple of days. It it had been just one a week before it goes on the air, I would have read it without a hiccup, and got it done in one take. But because the deadline, I have to do the spots many times over to nail it. It doesn’t help that I have to do this during a news bread, with not a minute to spare.

    To those who, reading this, shake their heads at my petty complaints from a guy who really has an easy life. . . well, you’re right, of course. So I will say no more about this.

    The Marys have their share of assignments, what with ML’s wedding less than two months away. Today, they finally line up the band for the reception after they get a good listen to the ensemble at a club on Bourbon Street. Of all places: Mary Leigh has always had an aversion to that storied part of our city. But these musicians have the sign my daughter wants to hear.

    We discuss this over dinner at Café B in Old Metairie. Its chef Chef Michael Uddo is a terrific culinarian who we have known since he and his brother operated the G&E Courtyard Grill in the late 1980s. But for some reason, whenever I go to Café B, Michael has just left for the day. Oh, well.

    Egtgplant sticks at Cafe B.

    Egtgplant sticks at Cafe B.

    I have no complaints about the cooking or the service, though. We begin with some fried eggplant sticks. The Marys dined at Café B long before I went there for the first time, and therefore got Café B’s original, much less good menu. Their order seems to remain along those lines: a hamburger and a wedge salad.

    Chef Michael Uddo from Cafe B, at NOWFE's Grand Tasting.

    Chef Michael Uddo Tasting.

    I have something much more interesting: the hanger steak with a demi-glace and bearnaise. They conquer the big problem with hanger steaks: the toughness–by cooking it quickly with a lot of heat, and by cutting it exactly perpendicular to the grain of the meat. The waiter says that this is the longest-running entree on the menu, and a serious specialty. Makes perfect sense.

    I am also impressed that whoever writes the menus at Cafe B knows that the name of the dish is spelled “hanger,” not “hangar.” As far as I know, none of these steaks have ever been prepared in a storage facility for aircraft.

    Thursday, July 14, 2016.
    Kenton’s Is Right Where I Left It.

    The Marys are busy all day buying fabrics which they will turn into bridesmaid’s dresses and other matters about which I haven’t the slightest understanding. I remove myself from this no-man’s land and have dinner at Kenton’s. The handsome new restaurant on Magazine at Nashville is quite busy–probably because the popular outdoor dining area’s heavy rain, fallen already or on the way.

    Kentons-Pasta

    Tonight I enjoy the best dinner I’ve had at Kenton’s in four visits so far. It’s not just satisfaction. I now have a subject for my CityBusiness column. I suppose every other food writer in town has already reviewed Kenton’s. But I can claim to have the most up-to-date review in the market. It doesn’t include any of the food about which the kitchen has changed its mind since Day One. Also, I get to write about the restaurant at its peak in the near term. Finally, I give my readers a four- rather than a three-fleur-de-lis eatery to consider.

    I begin with one of the first rosé wines I have ordered in a very long time. The rosés that come my way–usually in wine dinners–are more than enough to make me feel up to date on that scene.

    The starter special is house-made, thin string pasta, tossed with a few slivers of vegetation and a buttery sauce with something spicy in it. This was even better than the engaging waitress led me to believe–enough so that I felt guilty about eating all this pasta. (It wasn’t all that big, actually.)

    Kentons-RoastedDrum

    The entree is assembled with the most unusual coloring I think I’ve ever found before me for eating purposes. The roasted drumfish has a sauce in a deep, saturated green. Never saw anything like that before. The fish, in contrast, is a brilliant white. Submerged in the green sea is an assortment of beans. And we have a magic formula:

    Beans + Seafood = Deliciousness

    And it does indeed work this evening.

    Kentons-IceCreamParfait

    I finish the dinner with an ice cream parfait put together in a fanciful way. When the check comes, a young woman sitting with her friends or relatives at the next table over asks me if I am who I am, which brings the evening to a nice finish.

    A few hours later and a few blocks away, a less pleasant event occurs at the Noodle and Pie, a small café. The restaurant was closing when a pair of robbers forced the employees back inside to turn over the cash they had on hand.

    Having been the victim of robberies in this category during my Time Saver years, I keep thinking of ways to address this. What worked for us at the Time Saver was to have almost zero cash on hand, with a safe that can’t be opened except in broad daylight by armed guards. I also believe that restaurants ought to accept nothing but credit cards. Unfortunately, the law says that anyone doing business in America must accept the legal tender.

    I congratulate the Noodle and Pie operators for reopening only two days later. We must act as if nothing happened, but with our shields up.

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

    RecipeSquare-150x150

    Cole Slaw

    Cole slaw is an essential part of my barbecue menu. My wife, who is not given to giving unwarranted praise, and who is a cole slaw fan, says this is the ultimate. And you know she’s never wrong. This makes quite a bit–enough to serve twenty or thirty portions. But if you don’t need that much, scale back the ingredients or store some of the shredded vegetables without the dressing in a food storage bag, and refrigerate.

    Cole slaw.

    Cole slaw.

    • 1 head green cabbage
    • 1 head red cabbage
    • 2 bunches green onions
    • 1 lb. carrots
    • Dressing:
    • 1 quart mayonnaise
    • 1 1/4 cup cider vinegar
    • 2 Tbs. yellow mustard
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 2 Tbs. celery seed
    • 1 1/2 tsp. dill weed
    • 1/4 tsp. tarragon
    • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp. jalapeno Tabasco
    • 1 cup buttermilk

    1. Shred the cabbage to get shreds as thin and as long as possible. You could also chop it if you prefer it that way. Peel and shred the carrots. Chop the green onions as fine as possibly, by hand. Toss all the vegetables together in a big bowl.

    2. Mix all the dressing ingredients together, whisking to blend as each is added. Pour about half the dressing over the vegetables, and add enough more to coat but not to make a puddle of dressing in the bottom of the bowl.

    Serves twenty to thirty.

    500BestSquareThree Appetizers @ Cafe Minh

    DishStars-4
    The essence of Minh Bui’s restaurant is that the Vietnamese native spent many years working in some of the best restaurants in New Orleans before he opened his own place. (Commander’s Palace, to name one.) Out of this comes a blend of Vietnamese and Creole tastes throughout the menu. A fine meal can be made by having three of the most popular Cafe Minh appetizers instead of an entree, for example:

    Coconut shrimp
    Crab cake, wasabi rémoulade
    Diver scallops, Japanese eggplant, sweet chili soy sauce

    All three dishes (and many others on the menu) are as eminently edible as they are unique blends of textures and tastes.

    FleurDeLis-4-Small

    Cafe Minh. Mid-City: 4139 Canal. 504-482-6266.

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

    AlmanacSquare July 18, 2015

    Days Until. . .

    Eat Club Dinner @ MeMe’s (Chalmette) Tonight! Sold Out!
    Satchmo Summer Fest 17

    Food On The Road

    Today in 1936, the first Oscar Meyer Wienermobile was built in Chicago. It was a tremendous hit, especially with kids, and the hot dog-shaped cars (now more like RV’s) have been on the road ever since. They appear in parades and at festivals, driven by young people just out of college. Crews of three or four of them drive one of the six Wienermobiles around the country. I’ll bet that’s a great experience. We’ve had the Wienermobile crews on my radio show many times in the past, and they’re well-spoken representatives with a unifying talent for making awful puns about hot dogs. They come here to participate in Mardi Gras parades. In the New Orleans parades, they’re required by the law against commercial displays in parades to cover up the company logo. But you’d have to be really out of it not to recognize the Wienermobile for what it is.

    Food Calendar

    CaviarChampagneIt is National Caviar Day. The word “caviar” connotes luxury and gourmandise. The best caviar is among the most expensive and rarest foods in the world. Indeed, the king of caviars–from the endangered beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea–has become so rare that it lately has been banned from import into the United States. But not all caviar is expensive; not all of it is good.

    You know that caviar is fish eggs, but there’s more to it than that. Eggs in fish are enclosed by a pouch, and held together by a membrane. Like every other part of a fish, roe is highly perishable. The challenge and expense in making caviar is to separate the eggs and to somehow keep them from spoiling. The latter job is usually accomplished through the addition of barely enough salt to do the job.

    You probably eat more caviar than you think you do. Tobiko, for example, is the tiny caviar you get on sushi rolls. (It’s from flying fish.) Around New Orleans, we eat a great deal caviar from bowfin (choupique, as we call the fish). If you dine in Greek restaurants you may enjoy a great appetizer spread called taramasalata, made with carp caviar.

    I do hope it’s possible to enjoy beluga caviar again someday. It’s best all by itself–no onions, sour cream, capers, or anything. Maybe some little bread underneath. (I use small, non-sweet waffles for that.) But if the beluga sturgeon must be left alone to preserve the species, then we must not eat any more beluga caviar, no matter how delicious it is.

    Deft Dining Rule #715

    Eating a great deal of caviar can give you a buzz. It is not all coming from the Champagne that you’re drinking with it.

    Gourmet Gazetteer

    Apple is a crossroads in cattle ranching and farming country in southeast Oklahoma. It’s ten miles north of the Red River and the Texas state line. It’s also right next to a growing reservoir called Lake Hugo, which spreads out from the banks of the Kiamichi River, a tributary of the Red. All the restaurants are ten miles away in Hugo, where there’s a bunch of fast food plus the intriguing Angie’s Circus City Diner.

    Edible Dictionary

    beluga caviar, n.–The most prized and expensive of all caviars, it is no longer legally available in the United States. It’s the roe of the beluga sturgeon, which lives in the Caspian Sea and (in much smaller numbers) in the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea. It is considered an endangered species, hence the American import ban. The Caspian Sea is the world’s biggest lake, and straddles the border between Russia and Iran–both of which continue to harvest the 2000-pound fish for caviar. The eggs are the largest of all the sturgeon roes, with a metallic gray color and a magnificent flavor that is best appreciated with no garnishes of any kind. Maybe conservation efforts will make it possible to taste it again.

    Food On The Air

    OldRadioAt five minutes after ten in the morning on this date in 1988, I threw a microphone switch and began a new daily radio talk program called The Food Show. It broadcast from the original 1925-vintage studios of WSMB, on the roof of the Maison Blanche Building. It’s now the longest-running New Orleans radio show of any kind in history: same station, same host, same concept. I’d been on the radio since 1974 with a variety of shows on several stations, but this gig took on a life of its own. The Food Show has survived nine format changes for 1350 AM, four sets of owners, and a close brush with extinction of the station. The show is an anomaly in radio programming; not many reach their twentieth anniversary. I know of nothing comparable in any other city. And what other radio show shares a birthday with the Wienermobile?

    Food In Art Supplies

    Today in 1994, Crayola began selling scented crayons. My two favorites are Garlic-Sardine and Huitlacoche.

    Food And Drink Namesakes

    David Cone pitched a perfect game on this date in 1999 for the Yankees. . . Soap actor Dolph Sweet experienced his first episode today in 1920. . . Syd Mead, an industrial designer who created cars and gizmos for movies, invented himself today in 1933. . . Canadian actor Carl Grain was harvested today in 1978.

    Words To Eat By

    “Caviar is to dining what a sable coat is to a girl in evening dress.”–Ludwig Bemelmans.

    “There is more simplicity in the man who eats caviar on impulse than in the man who eats grape-nuts on principle.”–G.K. Chesterton.

    “There is, we feel, a decent area somewhere between boiled carrots and Beluga caviar, sour plonk and Chateau Lafitte, where we can take care of our gullets and bellies without worshipping them.”–J.B. Priestley.

    Words To Drink By

    I cannot eat but little meat,
    My stomach is not good;
    But sure I think that I can drink
    With him that wears a hood.
    Bishop Still, in Gammer Gurton’s Needle.

    FoodFunniesSquare

    But What Does It Taste Like?, Iteration 452-52-4f

    Beware of strategies involving food that leave out mention of the cook and the kitchen!

    Click here for the cartoon.