Tom & Mary Ann Celebrate Thirty Years As Partners. . .On The Orient Express, London To Venice.

We’ve told one another, thought about the premise, and decided that since one’s thirty-year anniversary comes only once in a lifetime, we would make a big fuss over ours. Mary Ann has long said that one item on her bucket list is to travel on the Orient Express, the famous deluxe passenger train. As for me, I love trains generally. And so, the two of us will spend the next week and a half on the rails, going black tie for dinner, and meeting interesting people.

However, dragging a laptop around and pounding away at it would take a lot away from the adventure. We’ll take lots of notes and have many stories to tell about the trip. This means that the NOMenu Dining Diary will go on hiatus. But I expect we’ll have a lot to share when we return. And, as we have done in the past, when we go on vacation we make up the missing newsletters by adding the same number of editions to your Five-Star Edition subscription. You might also give a whirl to the vast number of articles on this website. Just punch around, particularly in the Restaurants And Recipes departments. Thanks for your patronage.Tastefully yours,
Tom Fitzmorris

Chef’s Soiree, The Great North Shore Food Event, Is This Sunday.

Chefs’ Soiree For Children, which is easily the most auspicious gourmet event on the North Shore. With tickets at $145, it rivals in size, variety, and potential fun even the best similar events on the South Shore. All the best chefs from the vicinity (and many from over there, too)put out so much food that you can forget about trying all of it. This is also true of the wines and spirits to be sampled. I’m told that some forty or more wines will be there.

I suspect that many of the long-time attendees at the Soiree come year after year for the nostalgia it puts on the table. Many of the chefs date back to the times when La Provence’s Chef Chris Kerageorgiou and his like were fixtures here.

There was a lot of flexing of my New Orleans Incest Rule (which states that only 500 people live in New Orleans, and that this explains why you run into so many of the same people in every venue. This time, I realize that musicians Michael and Denise Wagner have been playing at the Soiree for decades. But I sing with them in the same choir that they lead! How is that possible? They are among the 500 people, that’s how.

One of the highlights of the Soiree is the raffle to give away a new Mustang. Last year, I put $100 on the raffle, so I could give one of the Marys a new car. But my daughter Mary Leigh reminds me that I am not a Mustang kind of person by a long shot. As if I should wine, the winning would be so wrong for a guy like me, and. . . I don’t know what to do next. (I didn’t win.)

The Soiree is a benefit for a few local charities who help children. Foster children’s matters to name one. Children who have suffered in ways too unsavory to think about, let along read about. You’ll want to help, and the excellence of the food and drink will make that easy.

Tickets for the Soiree are nearly sold out. The web site is chefssoiree.com. Tickets can also be had from Braswell’s pharmacy.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150

Diary For Mardi Gras, 3/5/2019. It was a very cold but sunny day, with the usual radio broadcast on WWL Radio from Gallier Hall on the parade routes of Zulu and Rex. Followed by the last steak dinner until Easter.


It has been unusually cold for the past several days, but it was supposed to warm up a bit today. That was not to be the case. The temperature continued to sink, while the winds not only got more brusque moment by moment, but shifted their directions unpredictably and constantly. Meanwhile, the volume of the disc jockey’s music reached a painful level, as it does every year.

On the other hand, it has been many years since I saw a better Mardi Gras parade. Zulu topped all its records, with a better array of bands then I remember. The immense LSU band was especially excellent. Angela Hill and and Newell Normand co-hosted the broadcast with me, which added a lot to our coverage. I’m proud to have performed this job for some twenty years, but Angela and Newell are much better known than I am, so we got a great reaction from the audience.

A sirloin strip steak with Collard Greens at Crescent City Steak House.

Part of my long-running Mardi Gras traditions is a last-steak-before-Lent dinner at the Crescent City Steak House. I began doing that about forty years ago, when I was the only person in the restaurant. It was good, though, and I’ve kept returning annually. The Eat Club figured into the ritual, and the number of other customers continued to grow. I’m not taking the credit for this, but the Crescent City is now a packed house on Mardi Gras. They save a table for me every year. Quite a few of the diners wanted to say hello personally. Two good-looking girls actually screamed when I introduced myself. Mary Ann, who was watching all this and shaking her head, said that she’s there to keep all this from going to my head.

Something different this year was our dining in one of the four private rooms. They have long been in the Crescent City’s main dining room, but we’d never eaten in one of them before.

Also a first-time choice was our getting a T-bone, which MA thought would be a good idea. That’s a variation on a porterhouse, with most of the strip on one side of an island of bones and filet mignon on the other. It might be a long time before I have this again–I’m usually a New York strip kind of guy.

Fig cookies from Krasna’s trees.

By this time, Krasna Voijkovich–whose late husband John founded the Crescent City, another of the many well-known New Orleans restaurateurs who were born in Croatia–was giving me something she makes every year on Mardi Gras. Beef tripe is not for everybody, but a few of us out there like it. This year it seemed to have just come off the stove, with a great pepper spice in the flavor.

The dinner and (for us) and the Mardi Gras season at an end, Mary Ann and I returned to thoughts about the big trip that begins a little over a week from today. There is much to be done in that regard.

Crescent City Steak House. Mid-City: 1001 N Broad. 504-821-3271.

AlmanacSquare March 12, 2019

Upcoming Deliciousness

March 11
Days Until. . .

St. Patrick’s Day–March 17

St. Joseph’s Day–19

Easter–April 1

Restaurant Anniversaries
The Palace Cafe opened today in 1991. Envisioned as a more casual version of Commander’s Palace, it was at first managed by cousins Ti Martin, Dickie Brennan, Lauren Brennan, and Brad Bridgman. When the Commander’s Brennans split up their properties, the Palace Cafe went to Dick Brennan’s side of the family. The place opened with an emphasis on seafood and rotisserie dishes, but over the years the restaurant evolved into a jack of all flavors Creole.

The building has quite a history. It was originally the landmark Werlein’s music store, founded in the 1840s. The renovation took a long time. Meanwhile, many speculated as to what would happen to familiar “Werlein’s For Music” neon sign on the roof, which could be seen far up Camp Street. The New Orleans Menu held a contest for the best name that could be made by rearranging the letters. I wish I could remember what the winner was.

Today’s Flavor
It is White Chocolate Bread Pudding Day, in honor of the Palace Cafe, which invented the dessert. The speed with which it spread to other restaurants was testimony to its appeal and goodness. There must be a hundred restaurants serving it now. What’s strange is that most of the restaurants offering it, while having a version nowhere near as good as the original, claim it as their own idea. I think that if a restaurant is going to copy another restaurant’s dish, the menu ought to give credit to the inventor.

Legendary Local Chefs
Rosa “Mamita” Hernandez was born today in 1902. She passed away in 2007, at 105. She was the owner and chef of El Ranchito, one of our city’s first Mexican restaurants, on Elysian Fields near Claiborne until it closed in the early 1980s. Rosa made everything from the tamales to the great mole sauce from scratch. If that little place could serve mole, how is it that so few Mexican restaurants now can manage it?

Gourmet Gazetteer
Frogtown, Illinois is forty-four miles east southeast of St. Louis, Missouri. It’s a spot on one of the ramrod-straight roads that run at right angles, spaced equally through the cornfields. Frogtown consists of a group of large barns and silos, a few houses, and a cemetery. After a rain in the summer, millions of frogs appear and begin to sing in something like harmony. The nearest non-chain restaurant is the Hen House, three miles west in Okawville.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
The most unrewarding job in the kitchen is making pie crust.

Deft Dining Rule #228:
A restaurant that makes all its own desserts from scratch, and has many of them, is a better restaurant than a comparable place that doesn’t. It’s a big commitment to the diner, one not many restaurants are willing to make.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine
On this date in 1986, the Popsicle was redesigned. The former two-stick model allowed itself to be broken in two pieces so you could share it with a friend. It was replaced by a one-stick design, more in line with the behavior of those spoiled-rotten, selfish kids of today.

Edible Dictionary
deviled, adj.–Also devilled. Describes a food whose insides have been removed, chopped, seasoned, and replaced from whence they came. The most common example is deviled eggs. The yolks come out of hard-boiled eggs, are blended with seasonings and vegetables, and then replaced in the hole where they came from. Typical added ingredients include mustard, pepper, green onions, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pimiento, although almost anything that tastes good would work. A deviled crab has the meat removed from the shell, chopped, mixed with a panoply of seasonings, re-stuffed into the shell, then cooked. Deviled ham is a the same idea, except that it is usually stuffed in something other than a ham. Some authorities claim that the name came about because of the sharpness of the seasoning. But it’s really the chopping and mixing with other things that makes a dish deviled.

Eating Around The World
Mount Etna in Sicily erupted today in 1669, killing thousands and creating tremendous damage. That part of the Italy is still volcanically active. In the sea between Sicily and the Italian mainland is an island volcano called Stromboli, famous for sending out plumes of smoke almost all the time. Stromboli’s steaming gave its name to a foldover pizza filled with cheese, sausage, and tomatoes. When it’s served, a hole is punched in the top, from which steam and lava-like cheese and sauce erupt. Cool.

Music To Drink Champagne By
Lawrence Welk was born today in 1903. His band was called The Champagne Music Makers. Everything, no matter how corny it later becomes, seems hip at some time. I have a recording of a disk jockey show from 1939 that introduces Lawrence Welk’s orchestra as “that clever new band.”

Food Namesakes
Italian poet Torcuato Tasso was born in Sorrento today in 1544. . . Savannah transvestite entertainer Lady Chablis was born today as Benjamin Knox in 1957. . . American author Christopher Rice wrote Page One of his life today in 1978. . . Mark Stein, the lead vocalist of the slow-rhythm psychedelic band Vanilla Fudge, was born today in 1947.

Words To Eat By
“It is no less difficult to write sentences in a recipe than sentences in Moby Dick. So you might as well write Moby Dick.”–Annie Dillard, American writer.

Words To Drink By
“Long ago, it was said that if you drink the right amount of Scotch each day, you will find the secret of Eternal Youth. People have been in pursuit ever since.”–Ian Henderson.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

The most unrewarding job in the kitchen is making pie crust.

Deft Dining Rule #228:

A restaurant that makes all its own desserts from scratch, and has many of them, is a better restaurant than a comparable place that doesn’t. It’s a big commitment to the diner, one not many restaurants are willing to make.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

On this date in 1986, the Popsicle was redesigned. The former two-stick model allowed itself to be broken in two pieces so you could share it with a friend. It was replaced by a one-stick design, more in line with the behavior of those spoiled-rotten, selfish kids of today.

Edible Dictionary

deviled, adj.–Also devilled. Describes a food whose insides have been removed, chopped, seasoned, and replaced from whence they came. The most common example is deviled eggs. The yolks come out of hard-boiled eggs, are blended with seasonings and vegetables, and then replaced in the hole where they came from. Typical added ingredients include mustard, pepper, green onions, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pimiento, although almost anything that tastes good would work. A deviled crab has the meat removed from the shell, chopped, mixed with a panoply of seasonings, re-stuffed into the shell, then cooked. Deviled ham is a the same idea, except that it is usually stuffed in something other than a ham. Some authorities claim that the name came about because of the sharpness of the seasoning. But it’s really the chopping and mixing with other things that makes a dish deviled.

Eating Around The World

Mount Etna in Sicily erupted today in 1669, killing thousands and creating tremendous damage. That part of the Italy is still volcanically active. In the sea between Sicily and the Italian mainland is an island volcano called Stromboli, famous for sending out plumes of smoke almost all the time. Stromboli’s steaming gave its name to a foldover pizza filled with cheese, sausage, and tomatoes. When it’s served, a hole is punched in the top, from which steam and lava-like cheese and sauce erupt. Cool.

Music To Drink Champagne By

Lawrence Welk was born today in 1903. His band was called The Champagne Music Makers. Everything, no matter how corny it later becomes, seems hip at some time. I have a recording of a disk jockey show from 1939 that introduces Lawrence Welk’s orchestra as “that clever new band.”

Food Namesakes

Italian poet Torcuato Tasso was born in Sorrento today in 1544. . . Savannah transvestite entertainer Lady Chablis was born today as Benjamin Knox in 1957. . . American author Christopher Rice wrote Page One of his life today in 1978. . . Mark Stein, the lead vocalist of the slow-rhythm psychedelic band Vanilla Fudge, was born today in 1947.

Words To Eat By

“It is no less difficult to write sentences in a recipe than sentences in Moby Dick. So you might as well write Moby Dick.”–Annie Dillard, American writer.

Words To Drink By

“Long ago, it was said that if you drink the right amount of Scotch each day, you will find the secret of Eternal Youth. People have been in pursuit ever since.”–Ian Henderson.