DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Diary For Sun., 1/20/2019. By Mary Ann Fitzmorris.

Ah, what a difference a week makes! A week ago our daughter Mary Leigh and I had a great time watching the Saints game at Vitascope Hall in the Hyatt, as I reviewed last Monday.

We repeated it all for the Rams game, starting much earlier. The crowd seemed doubled in size and fanaticism. Such fun! After we put our names on the hours-long wait for a table, ML went off to visit friends at nearby tailgates. I began this wait where we did last week, but a little voice inside gently suggested it was might not end like last week, and I wanted to join the party while the crowd was still happy.

It was cold but gorgeous outside, so I first ventured over to Copper Vine Winepub first. I sat alone on the balcony in the cold sunshine. The Vintage Club next door was rocking. Endless parades of people below us were entertaining enough for the price of admission, which in this case was a Second-Line Blonde Batture. It wasn’t long before I tried the brunch I saw being delivered to the full house of sane people inside. Remaining outside, of course. How else would I know someone had fashioned a boat into a car?

While I waited for my pork belly and stone ground grits, I was joined by a steady trickle of excited fans, including a few I knew. One of them mentioned having given away two tickets. Why didn’t we tell him we wanted to go? ML was sick about that for most of the game, but I was happy to be watching it from a distance.

About this time the another guy I knew walked out onto the balcony. It was fun to visit with him, enough to distract ML from her close brush with attending the game. My brunch almost enticed him to eat, but he was quite committed to a liquid celebration.

The plate in front of me had three large pieces of deep-fried pork belly. (Yes, I know. Divine, huh?) Beside those was a large pile of kinda cold and lumpy stone grits under a poached egg with hollandaise on top, dusted with a pinch of microgreens. These used to annoy me but I welcome them now since I found out how good they are for you.

All this was an ordinary plate of food, which surprised me. I’m sure a return trip without the atmosphere of celebratory madness and a crowd of people everywhere inside would yield a more representative sample of what they do. Usually very pleasing, to me anyway.

ML left for Champions Square, to visit the guy she’s seeing. He’s one brush stroke away from being one of those painted-belly fans. So it was mutually agreed that he would take a pal to the game. She texted to say our table at Vitascope was ready, and I moved on. Walking to the Dome through such an electrical field, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like at the Coliseum after a contest back in the day.

Vitascope Hall is our preferred place for a game. Located in the Who Dat Nation, the excitement is there, but not the crowds. We really enjoyed it last week, but not so much today. After waiting the two hours for our name to come up, we were cozy in our little private cubbyhole when a family of four approached at kickoff time to stuff themselves into our reserved cubby. The mom didn’t ask, just assumed I’d capitulate. I said no, then saw the first ten minutes of the game being missed as we disagreed over the appropriateness of having strangers join us against our will.

ML and I had a backup plan if our two-hour wait for a cubby failed us. Ubiquitous screens with volume cranked high allowed for watching the game in the public spaces, replete with comfy sofas and food everywhere. There was no need for the interlopers to crash our party.

The waiter tried to explain this to them, but only after I got the manager was the conflict wrapped. We missed the first ten minutes, casting a pall over this festive event for me.

Like last week, this waiter was already resigned to no turning of his tables during the next three hours, but happily accepted his fate.

Since I had already eaten brunch at Copper Vine, all this waiting was on ML, who couldn’t get to the chicken tenders basket last week. It was first up today, and came with three too-large breasts of chicken fries in a crispy batter. She chose white fries which were unremarkable.

When the waiter came around again we went for the turkey club BLT with sweet potato waffles. This, I could have made at home, and it would have been better. Wheat bread, not even toasted, with an ample pile of too-thick but tasty turkey, good bacon and lettuce and tomato with mayo.

The burger is the thing to get here, verified by the one we got last week. Also the pizza looks promising, but we had no room.

Too soon it was over. Everything. To give a total cliche, “Bless You, Boys! It was a helluva ride!”

Vitascope Hall. CBD: 601 Loyola Ave (Hyatt Regency Hotel). 504-561-1234.
Copper Vine Winepub. CBD: 1001 Poydras St. 504-208-9535.

Alternatives To Crowds.


By Tom Fitzmorris

I don’t like crowds. I don’t like them in Mardi Gras parades or the idea of them in Saints games. Or in airports or in traffic james. I don’t like them in religious gatherings. Or in lines to buy anything.

Most especially, I don’t like crowds in restaurants. And I love restaurants. But don’t tell me about one that has the best food and service you’ve ever discovered, because I will probably go to your discovery, and then be tortured by this great restaurant again and again, wishing it were not do crowded and not so noisy. Because noise is the worst part about crowds. Especially in restaurants.

The Marys spent most of the day in extraordinarily dense crowds, as described in MA’s piece above. Before they left me home alone to attend the Saints-game fringe, MA was kind and loving enough to make for me one of her marvelous omelettes, filled mostly with seasoning vegetables.

Then I went into ritual mode, and went to St. Jane’s not only to sing at Mass, but to run through all the hymns. Tonight, I am filling in as a full-fledged cantor, a job I rarely get the opportunity to perform. But my scheme backfired. The 10 a.m. Mass had a totally different menu of songs from the ones I would later lead at the 6 p.m. service.

After the morning rubrics, I abetted MA’s omelette with a dessert waffle at Mattina Bella. Not the very sugary fruit-preserve waffles they feature most weeks. Just a plain waffle, made perfect by the addition of real maple syrup. Mattina Bella buys those little jars of the stuff, but they don’t put them out automatically. It’s free, but you have to ask for it. The flavor is incomparably better than the basic corn-syrup stuff you find on most pancakes and waffles.

I spend the afternoon working on a large assortment of projects I never have time for during the week. One of these is to see if I ca can resuscitate a nice little Nikon camera I bought on board the ship that took us to New England and Canada when we cruised there this past October. I lost the camera’s charging unit and the cable. Although I have dozens of spare cables hanging around my office, none of them was the right one, and in checking them out I may have ruined the camera, which I see as a great way to take photos for this newsletter. The ones I get from my smart phone are erratic.

I threw in the project until it hit me that I could probably find a new charging unit and cable on line. Indeed, I did. I placed the order for $25, barely getting it done in time for me to get over to the church for a run-through rehearsal for my big performance. Tricia Reed, who is in charge of the parish’s music, doesn’t hesitate to correct me on a note or a beat. This is what I like about singing in serious choirs. I always learn something.

My worst bugbear as a singer is that I often lose my way in the sheet music. I did that a couple of times tonight, but the congregation kept going and it didn’t sound terrible. I don’t think it did, anyway. But the crowd for the 6 p.m. Mass was sparse. The Saints had just lost their shot at the Super Bowl. Long as I was in church, I said a prayer for the Marys, who will have to work their way home through an angry mob radiating away from the Superdome.

Having searched everywhere for the lost charger and cable for my cool little Nikon camera, and then ordering new ones last night, the inevitable occurred today. The original, lost hardware turned up. It worked perfectly. Can’t find something you lost? Buy a new one. The old one will reappear almost immediately. Especially if it’s expensive or the order is non-refundable.


Artichoke Balls

These are popular at many a New Orleans table during the holidays, especially at Thanksgiving. They’re easy to make and hard to resist eating. They should still be soft when you take them out of the oven; browning is not really a goal.

  • 2 cans artichoke hearts packed in water
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 anchovy (optional)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp. basil
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Romano cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Dump the liquid from the cans of artichokes and rinse the artichokes. Twice. Drain well.

2. Reserve two tablespoons of the bread crumbs on a small plate.

3. Put the artichoke hearts and all the remaining ingredients into a food processor. In bursts of two or three seconds each, process to thoroughly mix all the ingredients, and to cut the artichoke hearts into pieces about the size of your little fingernail.

4. Roll the mixture into balls about an inch in diameter. Then roll them around lightly in the plate of reserved bread crumbs, to pick up a very light bread crumb crust.

5. Place the balls on a greased baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until the bread crumbs on the outside just begin to brown.

6. Allow to cool, then serve. These are better at warm room temperature than either hot or cold.

Makes two to three dozen.

AlmanacSquare January 23, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Mardi Gras: March 5.
Chefs’ Charity for Children: Jan. 28.
Got Gumbo Competition: Feb. 7.
Valentine’s Day: Feb. 14.

Annals Of Winemaking

On this date in 1862, the first European-variety wine grapevine cuttings arrived in California. Agoston Haraszthy, a native of Pest, Hungary, arrived in Sonoma, where he had a good deal of vineyard land, with about 100,000 vines. He had lots of problems, mainly because the endemic root louse called phylloxera was killing the non-resistant European vines. But ultimately his efforts brought him fame as the Father of California Winemaking. His winery, Buena Vista, lives on (in name, anyway) to this day.
Today is one of two days called the birthday of John Hancock, whose handwriting was so rococo that he has become almost the patron saint of elaborate penmanship. But what brought him to the forefront of the American Revolution was that one of his ships (that was his business), carrying a full load of wine, was seized by the British. The outrage that caused fueled Revolutionary fervor. He ultimately got his ship back, and many drank to the cause as a result. He was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence, as any schoolchild knows. The year of his birth was 1737. Hancock’s birthday inspired the naming of January 23 as National Handwriting Day. As a long-time user of fountain pens that make bold strokes, I observe.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

When you boil eggs, use standard balsamic vinegar in the boiling water. It will turn the shells a little brown, telling you at a glance which ones in the refrigerator have been boiled.

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Confit Of Duck Day. A confit of duck is made by cooking duck pieces–most commonly leg quarters–in the fat rendered from the duck skin. Originally, this was a way of preserving duck meat. After it was cooked, it remained in a jar with the fat, and could hold up that way for months, without refrigeration. When it was time to eat it, the duck was broiled or baked, and the fat that saturates it makes it crisp on the outside, in sort of the same way bacon becomes when cooked in its own fat. Meanwhile, the inside of the duck leg becomes extraordinarily tender inside, and almost melts in the mouth.

Obviously, this is a delicious item, and a great way to use the duck legs. Since the breast cooks at a different rate, many chefs now grill the breast and make a confit of the legs. If you’re lucky, you get both on the plate. If not, you get one or another. (Thus the restaurant that used to serve a half duck may now be getting two entrees out of what used to be one entree.)

The local gold standard for duck confit has long been Gautreau’s, which served the melt-in-the-mouth savory as an appetizer. Some other outstanding versions come from Lilette and Muriel’s. As good as a confit of duck is, even better is confit d’oie. That’s the same idea, made with the geese raised for foie gras is made in France.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Eatontown is a borough and a township in Monmouth County, off the heavily-populated Jersey Shore. It’s well within the metropolitan area of New York City, fifty-three miles southeast of Manhattan. Eatontown is rather heavily populated, with 14,00 residents. This entire part of America is loaded with good Italian restaurants. To eat in town in Eatontown, go to Veccia Cucina (“the old kitchen”), dead center of the burg.

Edible Dictionary

mustard greens, n.–One of the most popular of the many greens used in Southern American cooking. It’s also the source of the small brown seeds ground to make prepared mustard. It has been cultivated since prehistoric times in southern Asia, and is widely used in the cuisines from China to the Middle East. It has a sharper flavor than those of most other greens. Here in New Orleans, it’s almost always included in gumbo z’herbes, the green gumbo served at Lent. It’s raised in many areas as a cover crop. It has the property of absorbing toxic metals from the soil, and is used to clean up hazardous waste sites. (You wouldn’t eat that batch, one assumes.)

Deft Dining Rule #749:

For an illustrative datum, the next time a waiter offers to top a dish with crabmeat, ask what the price difference will be. You will learn why this practice is so widespread.

Annals Of Royalty

The sixty-four years Victorian Period in England (and a lot of other places) came to an end with the death today, in 1901, of Queen Victoria. She was succeeded by her son, Edward VII. When he first addressed Parliament, he relaxed a rule that his mother had insisted upon in her presence, by saying, “Gentlemen, you may smoke.” That dictum made him a hero in the cigar industry, one company of which named its best-selling line of stogies King Edward The Seventh. . . .Today is the birthday, in 1957, of Princess Caroline of Monaco. She is the daughter of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier. Royalty dines well.

Looking Up


Looking Up

Today in 1975, the asteroid Eros passed within ten million miles of the Earth, which is a close approach indeed. It is shaped roughly like a red bean.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Bernard of Vienne, who lived in France in the eight century. He’s the patron saint of farmers and animal herders. It’s also the feast day of St. Emerentiana, of the third century. You ask for her intercession if you have a stomach ache. And it’s also St. Urban of Langres Day. His intercession will save you from alcoholism. He’s the patron saint of those who make wine barrels.

Food Namesakes

All the food names have to do with music today, for some reason. On this date in 1969, the rock group Cream released its last album, Goodbye. We had just discovered them, it seemed, and they were gone. . . Fats Domino and Chuck Berry were among the first inductees into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, today in 1986. . . Jazz saxophonist Benny Waters was born today in 1902. . . Early blues singer Leadbelly was born today in 1888. . . Richard Berry, who composed the ultimate rock party song Louie, Louie, died today in 1997. . . Mark Curry, a rap singer also known by a second food name Chop D.I.E.S.E.L., started complaining today in 1972.

Words To Eat By

“A well made sauce will make even an elephant or a grandfather palatable.”–Grimod de la Reyniere, author of one of the earliest French cookbooks.

Words To Drink By

“Man being reasonable must get drunk;
The best of life is but intoxication;
Glory, the grape, love, gold-in these are sunk
The hopes of all men and of every nation.”
–Lord Byron.