DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Diary: 08-11-2018 @ Meribo. With all the restaurants in the vicinity of Covington, Mary Ann and I still often wind up with no place to go for dinner. Tonight, for example. After being turned away tonight from the new Half Shell Oyster House, a flash appeared directing us to Meribo. It’s miles closer to home than the Oyster House and approximately as good for eating.

Meatballs and no spaghetti at Meribo.

Meribo has gone through a classic cycle for new restaurants. When it first opened, getting a table at Meribo was a real challenge. It grabbed an eager clientele of younger diners from the outset, requiring long waits until the everybody was finished with the novelty of the place. Then for awhile it appeared to be in trouble, with a sparse dining room. But that period also faded away, as the chefs worked out new ideas and fell into sync with Covington eaters. Now getting a table has become a challenge again, reservations and all.

And there we were tonight. We were surprised to learn that Meribo has assembled a Coolinary menu, and we took full advantage of it: three courses for $25. This started with a simple but excellent arancini. I don’t know why this is, but in my life so far I’ve never encountered arancini (rolled-up ovals held together with tomato sauce and cheese) that were anything less than delicious. That magic appeared once again, in the first course. Second was represented by MA’s favorite: meatballs. We expanded on the Coolinary with an extra course of two pizzas–one with mushrooms and caramelized onions. The other with olives and soppressata, the thin, dry Italian salami, giving a flicker of muffuletta–or was that my imagination? Both were thin and crisp, closer to flatbread than pizza, really, but it was certainly worth eating.

Still in place at Meribo: that young crowd. A lot of the same people we’d see at Pardo’s, but much closer to home.
Meribo. Covington: 326 N. Lee Lane. 985-302-5533.

Diary: 8/11/2018 @ Zocalo And Black Molé, Oaxaca style. A long-established rank of restaurants and other shops is familiar to anyone who lives or exists on Metairie Road. Over the decades, quite a few restaurants have worked this 2000 block of Metairie Road. Some have been excellent, while others were more curious than good. In the first category were Chez Daniel, the Little Greek, Chateau du Lac, and Vega Tapas Café. And, really, many more. But almost none of these restaurants, even the best of them, made it in the long term.

In Zocalo we may have a more tenacious eatery. The owners already have a Brazilian restaurant called Brasa, right in the middle of the 2000 Metairie Road restaurant row. We’ve diners there a couple of time and found it interesting but not very. It’s a steakhouse, which is not something I’m looking for around there.

What got me back into the building was Zocalo. It has a Mexican menu, but that leaves much to be said. Like Molé with roasted duck, for example. Molé, most readers will know, is the Mexican sauce made with sesame seeds, chilis of many kinds, and bitter chocolate. The latter is one of the best flavors in the world of sauces. I am constantly seeking it.

And here it is at Zocalo. More interesting still is that this is the Oaxaca style of molé, which is almost black in its color. I wasn’t especially hungry when we arrived, but I ate every scrap of the duck confit that formed the basis of the dish. The rest of the menu is equally interesting. I look forward to make my way through the rest of the menu Zocalo soon.

Zocalo. Old Metairie: 2051 Metairie Rd. 504-836-2007.

A few years ago The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (now called “New Orleans & Company”) invented “The Coolinary.” The restaurants are asked to devise a special dinner menu with three courses for around $35-40, and lunch for around $20. This year, over 100 restaurants are serving Coolinary menus. It is the best reason to go out throughout the remainder of August.

Every day, we choose a restaurant that seems to have unusually good Coolinary menus. Today’s is Muriel’s On Jackson Square, a handsome restaurant with a wide variety of dishes, most of it directly in the Creole style. Here’s the $39 Coolinary dinner menu:

Indoor courtyard at Muriel’s.

Choice of Soup
New Orleans seafood gumbo, Fontana’s West End turtle soup or soup of the day
Muriel’s House Salad
Mixed baby greens tossed in a pomegranate vinaigrette with shaved sweet onion and manchego cheese
Shrimp and Goat Cheese Crepes
Goat cheese filled crepes topped with a fresh Louisiana gulf shrimp in a buttery cream sauce of chardonnay, onion, tomato and bell pepper
Savory Gorgonzola Cheesecake
gorgonzola and prosciutto terrine, McIlhenny Farms honeyed pecans, crispy prosciutto and slices of tart green apple

Shrimp and Grits
slow cooked stone ground grits topped with a Louisiana gulf shrimp, leeks and a smoked tomato butter sauce with crispy garlic
Shrimp, mussels, jumbo lump crabmeat and seafood meatballs tossed with andouille sausage and orzo pasta in a sweet vermouth-tomato broth
Pecan Encrusted Baby Drum
Pan sautéed with oven roasted pecans and a Louisiana crabmeat relish laced with a lemon butter sauce
Cajun Demi-Poulet
Oven roasted chicken served with a pan sauté of fingerling potatoes, tasso ham and mushrooms, topped with a roasted garlic veloute
Double Cut Pork Chop
Wood grilled and topped with a Louisiana sugar cane apple glaze, served with pecan candied sweet potatoes and southern style greens

Pain Perdu Bread Pudding
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee

THREE COURSES, $39 price does not include a beverage, tax or gratuity.

To look over other Coolinary menus, go here: coolinaryneworleans.com

AlmanacSquare August 14, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Coolinary Summer Specials Through August 31.

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Corn on the Cob Day. In the parts of America where corn is vital, the sweet corn festivals have already begun, as the vast corn farms move towards harvest. Most of those endless plantings are of what’s called “field corn,” used as livestock feed, corn syrup, ethanol, and the like. The corn we eat off the cob is specially grown and called “sweet corn.” It really is sweet when picked at its prime moment and cooked immediately. Indeed, in the Midwest they talk of the importance of picking the corn, running right into the house where the water is already boiling, and dropping it into the pot as quickly as possible. The sugar in corn does begin turning into starch almost immediately, and a lot of research has gone into figuring out how to preserve that sweetness in the corn we find in the store. (Without much luck.)

Here’s how to boil the good fresh corn on the cob we find out there these days. Bring the pot of water to a boil. Drop the shucked corn in and turn the heat off. Let the corn sit there for five minutes, and start eating. Really, the corn doesn’t need to be cooked–just heated.

An alternative is to grill the whole ears. The technique there is to remove all but the innermost layer of the husk, and put the corn on a moderately hot grill. When you can see the pattern of the kernels browned onto the husk, turn it until the patters is visible all over. Then it’s ready to eat.

The right amount of butter on corn on the cob is enough so that it runs down your arm as you munch away.

There’s a widespread Web rumor that it’s National Creamsicle Day. A Creamsicle is ice cream on a stick surrounded by a sherbet-like, thick layer that tastes like oranges with vanilla, or something like that. It’s the same as a Dreamsicle, except that the latter is made with ice milk in the center.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Sugarcreek is a town of 5331 people in northwest Pennsylvania. It’s at the point where Sugar Creek flows into French Creek. The latter is really a substantial river, whose water in turn flows into the Allegheny, the Ohio, the Mississippi, before again going French (as in Quarter) in New Orleans. Sugar Creek and French Creek both have lots of fish and many species of edible mussels, so the town is lucky in that regard. One would think that a restaurant or two would be in Sugarcreek, but you have to drive two and a half miles downstream for a repast at the French Creek Cafe in Franklin.

Edible Dictionary

tamari, Japanese, n.–A variation of soy sauce, made from the same fermented soybeans but considered of better quality. Most makers and users of tamari boast that the stuff is made entirely from soybeans. (Some soy sauce includes wheat and other ingredients.) Tamari is more viscous and darker than soy sauce. Some tamari also has what seems like a smoky flavor. It’s more often used in the kitchen than at the table, although you could substitute it as a condiment if you liked.

Deft Dining Rule # 349

Flirting with the hostess in a restaurant will not get a man a better table, no matter how good-looking he is. However, beautiful women can get whatever they want from a male host.

Entomology In Food

As if the people in Saharan Africa don’t have enough to worry about, on this day in 2004 a plague of locusts swarmed over the country of Chad, dealing a cruel blow to their scarce food crops. What I wonder is why the locusts went there, where the pickings are slim. Locusts–large grasshoppers with voracious appetites–are edible. In fact, they’re explicitly recommended as kosher in Deuteronomy. I’ve eaten a few. They’re not especially tasty, but I can tell you they’re harmless. I’m thinking that the usual method of cooking them–deep-frying–might be inferior to boiling them as if they were shrimp and serving them, legs and head removed, with remoulade sauce. Next time I run into some fresh locusts I’m going to try that.

Eating In Our Waning Years

Today in 1935, the Social Security Act was signed into law. While it obviously addresses a crying need, there was a great deal of opposition to it. But the plan removed a depressing (especially in the Depression) uncertainty among older people without means, who sometimes could not even afford minimal food and shelter before Social Security brightened up their outlook.

The Saints

It’s the feast day of St. Arnulf of Soissons, who lived in France in the eleventh century. He’s the patron saint of millers of flour and brewers. . . And of St. Werenfridus, a Dutch Benedictine in the eighth century. He’s the patron saint of vegetable gardens–and stiff joints.

Food Namesakes

This is the birthday, in 1966, of actress Halle Berry. . . Russell Baker, a long-time columnist for the New York Times, was born today in 1925. . . Canadian Olympic swimmer Nancy Sweetnam splashed into the world today in 1973. . . Wrestler “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton ran into the big ring today in 1958.

Words To Eat By

“A bad review is like baking a cake with all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it.”–Danielle Steel, mystery author, born today in 1947.

Words To Drink By

“Satiety comes of too frequent repetition; and he who will not give himself leisure to be thirsty can never find the true pleasure of drinking.”–Michel de Montaigne.