DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Sunday, January 14, 2018. Taking Friends To Sunday Brunch. Mary Ann has friends in from out of town. On her mind is what she thinks of as an imbalance. Her friend and her husband always seem to pick up the check when they get together for dinner.

It starts as a question–a common one on my radio show. If you know that the last few dinners have been paid for by one side of your table, you feel a need to grab it this time. The problem is that some people plan on paying for the whole dinner no matter what. They don’t know the score so far, so they don’t care what it is anyway. If you always pay, you need not worry about whether it’s your turn. On the other hand, if you keep careful track of whose turn it is, you are likely to leave with the thought that it might have been your turn, and you have it wrong.

The basic truth on this matter is this: People who are out with friends usually take pleasure in covering the whole bill. They don’t care whose turn it is. If they don’t pay, they are deprived of the pleasure of paying. And believe it, that pleasure is for real.

In this case, MA’s friend’s husband seems to believe in the philosophy above. MA was sure he would at least try to pay, even though he always has in the past. MA handed this dilemma off to me, knowing that I’m one of those guys who goes for the check before it even comes to the table. I enjoy that pleasure, myself.

So what about the guy who always pays? What does he miss by not being allowed to pay? Not much, because, frankly, he doesn’t really care who gets the check, as long as nobody at the table is miffed by having to pay.

Hand-cut frites at Ox-Lot 9.

At least, that is how I feel about the matter. I’ll bring this up on the radio today and we’ll see where people stand. It will be more interesting than the other topic du jour: the snow, sleet, freezing temperatures in the teens, and “when will all this come to an end?

All this took place at Ox Lot Nine, one of MA’s favorite restaurants. It was the perfect place for brunch. Our friends found the spot as charming as MA does. We were able to get a table far enough away from the front door that we wouldn’t be run over by banks of frosty air rolling in from Boston Street. Just inside the door was a guy-and-girl duet calling itself Bad Penny Pleasure Makers. They played a delightful collection of hard-to index must. It sounded to my ears like the music of the 1920s and before, played on guitar and washboard. They seemed to have a taste for songs whose verses (the part of the song that most listeners never hear. If they do, the listeners applaud when the better-known chorus clicks in.)

I started with a quintet of beignets with a blueberry compote. I passed it around the table and still managed to get three beignets. MA’s friends both ordered eggs Sardou–a classic for brunch.

MA and I both ordered steak. I have had steak on my mind for a couple of weeks, but it wasn’t exactly the kind of steak I had in mind. MA also went this way, but made a better deal than I did. Hers was called “the Brunch Bowl,” some tender filet tips and a nice seasoning, topped with an assortment of garnishes and vegetables. What came my way appeared to be a cross-cut whole steak, encompassing several cuts. None of these were chewable. I swapped mine with MA’s. The latter was nearly perfect. Mine. . .well, I sent it back. The kitchen was quick to swap the dish out a platter of poutine: fries, roast beef a la poor boy, and cheese. It was the perfect item for starting over again, and we walked out happy. All restaurants miss a mark now and then, but if they’re quick to recify the complaint, they get full rebate from me.

By this time the weather had become actually pleasant. But we had a lot more winter coming out way.

Ox Lot 9. Covington: 428 E Boston St . 985-400-5663.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Veal Chop Valdostana

This is a classic veal dish from Northern Italy–which is where the “Val d’Aosta” of the name is located. It’s a distinctly Italian version of a dish that’s also found else where in Europe, although the Val d’Aosta folks claim it’s original to them. What we have here is a veal chop stuffed with ham and cheese–specifically prosciutto and Fontina. This dish is universal in the Italian restaurants of New York, but you see it only in the most advanced Italian restaurants here. It is a signature dish at Andrea’s. This recipe comes from the cookbook he and I collaborated upon in the late 1980s, when the at the restaurant was at its peak. Chef Andrea Apuzzo is currently celebrating his place’s thirty-third anniversary.

Andrea’s veal chop Valdostana.

  • 4 oz. Fontina cheese
  • 4 large, thin slices prosciutto
  • 4 baby white veal chops, 12 oz. each including bone
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • ~
  • 6 oz. butter
  • 1 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1 Tbs. chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 8 oz. exotic mushrooms (porcini, shiitake, or portobello, to name a few examples), sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

1. Cut the Fontina cheese into four thick, narrow, long slices. Wrap the prosciutto around the cheese. Cut a slit in the side of each veal chop. Insert the prosciutto-wrapped cheese into the slits deep enough so it can’t come out.

2. Mix the salt and white pepper into the flour, and sprinkle this on the veal chops. (Don’t dredge.) Pass each veal chop through the beaten egg to to get it good and wet. Then dredge through bread crumbs to coat thoroughly.

3. Heat the olive oil very hot in a large skillet. Brown the chops, two at a time, to a medium-dark, crusty brown on both sides. Remove the chops and repeat with the second two.

4. Put all four chops onto a roasting pan and into the oven at 450 degrees. Roast the chops for 12-15 minutes, until top is brown and crusty and the cheese is oozing out the sides a little.

5. After cooking all chops, pour the excess oil from the skillet, leaving only a film. Return to medium heat and add the butter, onions, and garlic, and cook until the onions are clear.

6 Add the white wine and bring to a boil, whisking the bottom of the pan to dissolve the pan juices. Reduce the wine by about half, then add the mushrooms and cook until they’re soft.

7. Whisk in the whipping cream and bring to a light boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for two or three more minutes to a light sauce consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

8. Nap the veal chops with the sauce and lots of the mushrooms.

Serves four.

AlmanacSquare January 17, 2017

Days Until. . .

Mardi Gras–28
Valentine’s Day–29

Deft Dining Rule #434:

Before you order a dish described as including spinach, find out whether the spinach will be visible and tastable. If not, it’s just in there to boost sales. Everybody falls for spinach.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Next time you cook spinach for anything, give it a single shake (less than a pinch) of nutmeg. When you eat it, you’ll wonder why it tastes better than usual.

Gourmets In History

Benjamin Franklin was born today in 1706. He didn’t invent the almanac, but he certainly set the standard for the genre with his Poor Richard’s Almanack. It made him into a rich man who could afford the fine food and wine that Franklin enjoyed. In his honor, choose as the next entree you order one that costs the amount of the bill on which Franklin is remembered. Or not: he was famous for his common-sense style of living and doing business.

Food In War

On this date in 1827 the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, was made supreme commander of all British troops, twelve years after he defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. The dish beef Wellington was created in his honor by a chef whose identity has been lost. It’s a seared filet mignon (sometimes a very large section of the tenderloin) covered with foie gras and mushroom duxelles, then wrapped in pastry and baked. It’s a grand dish to see, but just okay in terms of taste. It seems very British, and has a way of being overcooked. I’ve always thought it ironic that beef Wellington is served most often in fancy, very French restaurants.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Leektown, New Jersey is in the southern part of the state, twenty-six miles north of Atlantic City. It’s a flattened X-shaped intersection in the Pinelands that flank the Garden State Parkway. Looks like a lot of trailers are in those woods, and not much town. Leektown is named for the Leek family, which settled there over two centuries ago. For food, Allen’s Clam Bar sounds good. It’s two miles away in Tuckerton.

Today’s Flavor

It’s Hot Buttered Rum Day. A drink dating back to Benjamin Franklin’s times, this is spiced rum served warm; the butter is to make the spices rise to the top, where the aromas can be better released. Interesting when it’s cold outside, but I can think of hundreds of better things to do with rum. Better we should make it Beef Wellington Day.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Today in 1871, Andrew Hallidie patented the design of the cable car, the kind used to this day in San Francisco. When we see a picture of a cable car, three things come to mind. First, the St. Francis Hotel, our favorite hotel in America, and the home of Michael Mina’s fantastic restaurant. The cable car passes right in front of it. Second, we think of Chinatown, because if you hop onto the cable car at the hotel, it takes you there, and to within a block of the Great Eastern, our favorite Chinatown restaurant. Finally, the cable car reminds us of Rice-A-Roni. Television commercials for “the San Francisco treat” (it’s really the Lebanese treat) always showed cable cars with ads for Rice-A-Roni on them. Those ads are still on many of the cars. One more: they remind us of Tony Bennett, and that song, and. . . well, now we want to be in San Francisco.

Edible Dictionary

orange brulot, n.–A flavored, alcoholic coffee served at the end of a grand meal heavy on dazzling presentations. For this one, an orange is cut through its skin all the way around its equator. After loosening the skin from the juicy sections beneath, the skin on both the top and bottom are turned inside out, creating a goblet on top and a stand underneath, with the meat of the orange in the middle. Cafe brulot (coffee flamed with brandy, cloves, and cinnamon) is poured into the top half and served. The oils from the orange skin mix with the coffee to give an interesting aroma and flavor. After you drink the coffee, you eat the orange if you like. Orange brulot was popular in the 1940s through the 1960s in fancy restaurants. It may well now be extinct.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Anthony The Abbott, who lived in the third century. He is the patron saint of butchers, as well as of pigs and those who raise them.

Food Namesakes

Actor Noah Beery was born today in 1882. . . Captain James Cook became the first person to cross the Antarctic Circle intentionally, on this date in 1773. . . Aviation pioneer Norman “Squab” Read was born today in 1891. . . Raphael Ritz, a Swiss artist, was born today in1829. . . Model, former Playboy Playmate, and former Hooters waitress Kimberly Spicer was born today in 1980. . . It’s the birthday (1933) of ventriloquist and puppeteer Shari Lewis, and indirectly also the birthday of her favorite puppet, Lamb Chop.

Food In The Comics

Today in 1929, Popeye the Sailor made his first appearance. He walked into an existing comic strip by Elzie Segar called Thimble Theater, and before long he’d pushed almost all the other characters in the strip into the background and became one of the biggest stars of the comics page. His major contribution to American culture, however, was in making spinach cool. His love of canned spinach was so influential among kids (including this one) that a statue of him stands in front of City Hall in Crystal City, Texas, the spinach-farming capital of America.

Spinach pie.

In New Orleans, we think of something else when we hear Popeye’s name. The national fried chicken chain started here (in Chalmette) was, however, not named for the sailor but for Popeye Doyle, portrayed by Gene Hackman, in The French Connection. That’s what Popeyes creator Al Copeland said, anyway. King Features, which syndicates Popeye, disagreed, and wound up forcing Popeyes Famous Fried Chicken to pay royalties for use of the equally famous sailor’s name. I can’t say I’m nuts about the product Popeyes puts out these days. But when it first opened in 1973, I had it at the top of one of my early Ten-Best lists. That spicy style was something really different back then, and I though it was worth driving miles to get the stuff.

Words To Eat By

“Kill no more pigeons than you can eat.”–Benjamin Franklin, born today in 1706.

“A mother never gets hit with a custard pie. Mothers-in-law, yes. But mothers? Never.”–Mack Sennett, early filmmaker, master of slapstick movies, born today in 1880.

Words To Drink By

“Love makes the world go round? Not at all. Whisky makes it go round twice as fast.”–Sir Compton Mackenzie, English writer, born today in 1883.

FoodFunniesSquare

A Case For Plastic Cups.

Even the best plastic is not entirely see-through. And sometimes you want to know exactly what’s going down your throat.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, January 12, 2018. My dinner idea had me dining at Delmonico, where I would have one of their dry-aged sirloin strip steaks, perhaps after an appetizer of oysters Bienville. But when I rolled up to the corner of St. Charles and Erato, it was clear that the restaurant had a full house coming. I headed toward Uptown with the Magazine Street nexus in mind. But St. Charles was cut in half with one of those halves out of service. This reminded me that things were even worse on Magazine Street, where the Everlasting Uptown Federal Drainage Project was the worst possible scenario of the space between here and there.

I U-turned, caught yet another terrible traffic jam, and decided to just head to Metairie. There I found completely filled facilities at Austin’s and Vincent’s, both. That’s how things usually are here, but I had a feeling that maybe today was my day. But no, unh-unh. I drove around the aforementioned restaurant in search of a spot that might be open. Things didn’t improve.

The fail-safe in this neighborhood (Transcontinental @ West Esplanade) is Cypress. It’s always been a good sleeper, with food that’s always better than one expects. And I always expect it to be quite good.

Cypress and its demi-glace filet mignon.

Last time I was here, it was frigid and rainy. Today, I just had the chill to work around. I made sure I was far away from the front door and its likely freezing drafts. But here is a rate restaurant that has its dining rooms well separated from the outdoors. Good for them.

With the exception of one minor, odd quirk on the part of a waiter (every stanza in his recital of the specials begins with “and today we do have the mirliton and shrimp bisque” and “and tonight we do have the Black Angust filet mignon with demi-glace”) that it gets mildly irritating. A tiny complaint, and this guy is so good at everything else that I should just forget about it. So I will.

The two dishes above were in fact both parts of my order. The mirliton soup is perfect on this cold night, and loaded with a lot of big shrimp. I had a salad, too, and that was about enough. And the record of consistent good eats at Cypress does go on tonight.
Cypress. Metairie: 4426 Transcontinental. 504-885-6885.

Friday, January 12, 2018.
RecipeSquare-150x150

Tex-Mex Chili Sauce

This is half a chili con carne recipe. It has the seasonings and the flavor, but not the meat. I got it from Chef Warren Leruth who, despite his distinction as perhaps the greatest chef in New Orleans history, also liked to cook everyday dishes. If I remember right, this originally was destined for a restaurant chain on which Warren was consulting. I remember that it couldn’t get enough of it, no matter what it was served on. You use it as a sauce, not as a finished dish. It’s good on chicken, pork, and cheese-and-onion enchiladas. But triple all the ingredients, add three pounds of cubed or ground beef chuck at the end of Step 1. and you’re on your way to a good, heart-warming (and heart-stopping) bowl of red.

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbs. chili powder
  • 2 Tbs. paprika
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1 cup beef or veal stock
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbs. Tabasco chipotle pepper sauce

1. Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until it shimmers. Add all the seasonings through the black pepper, and cook, stirring, as if you were making a roux. Cook the seasonings until they’re noticeably darker than they were at the beginning.

2. Remove from the heat and stir in the onions. Keep stirring until the onions are soft and browned–about a minute.

3. Add the tomato puree and the stock, and stir to blend completely. Add all the other ingredients and blend in.

4. Return to medium-low heat, and cook the mixture until all bright red color from the tomato puree is gone. Lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for another ten minutes, stirring now and then. Add a little water if necessary to get a sauce consistency. Add the salt and Tabasco Chilpotle sauce.

Makes about two cups of sauce.

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbs. chili powder
  • 2 Tbs. paprika
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1 cup beef or veal stock
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbs. Tabasco chipotle pepper sauce

1. Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until it shimmers. Add all the seasonings through the black pepper, and cook, stirring, as if you were making a roux. Cook the seasonings until they’re noticeably darker than they were at the beginning.

2. Remove from the heat and stir in the onions. Keep stirring until the onions are soft and browned–about a minute.

3. Add the tomato puree and the stock, and stir to blend completely. Add all the other ingredients and blend in.

4. Return to medium-low heat, and cook the mixture until all bright red color from the tomato puree is gone. Lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for another ten minutes, stirring now and then. Add a little water if necessary to get a sauce consistency. Add the salt and Tabasco Chilpotle sauce.

Makes about two cups of sauce.

AlmanacSquare January 15, 2017

Days Until. . .
Mardi Gras–30
Valentine’s Day–31

Annals Of Food Disasters

Today in 1919, an enormous tank of molasses broke open and flooded downtown Boston with over two million gallons of the sticky stuff. It proved that molasses in January is not all that slow. It moved at over thirty miles per hour, and before it stopped it had destroyed several homes and other buildings. Twenty-one people drowned in the molasses. People would not make gingerbread or pancakes for years afterward, I’ll bet.

Food Inventions

Today in 1889 Daniel Johnson patented a revolving table for dining rooms on ships. People sitting at such a table could turn it to have the food they were interested in come to them, rather than requiring a waiter do it. This concept can be seen in action in a number of restaurants in Mississippi, notably the Dinner Bell in McComb.

The Physiology Of Taste

William Prout was born today in 1785. His work focused on the chemistry of food and the digestive system. He discovered that the stomach does its work with hydrochloric acid. He was also the man who noted that most foods can be classified as either carbohydrates, proteins, or fats. He’d be proud of those nutritional labels on food packages–the ones we’re beginning to consider more important than matters like taste and whether we really need to eat that stuff in the first place.

Today’s Flavor`

It’s National Curry Day. In America, curry is one of the most misunderstood of food concepts. A curry does not necessarily (and probably doesn’t) have the flavor of curry powder, with its powerful flavors of cumin and turmeric. The word “curry” originated in the Tamil language, as the name for a dish cooked with a spiced sauce. That admits of an enormous variety of dishes, with such a wide spread of flavors that the word “curry” becomes as generic as “stew” or “soup.” A good Indian restaurant will have dozens of dishes that they’d call curries, each with its own distinctive ingredients and flavor.

Certain ingredients do turn up in many curries. But the actual spice blend for each curry dish is unique. Some of the most common components are coriander, cardamom, black pepper, cumin, turmeric, mustard, cinnamon, and fenugreek. Cayenne and other red peppers are now also common curry ingredients. Finally, there’s curry leaf, a member of the same family of trees that includes the citrus fruits. All of these are roasted and ground to the same consistency so they blend well.

Curries are found in many Asian cuisines. Thai curries have their own wide variety of tastes, none of which have much in common with Indian curries. The curries you find in Chinese restaurants have another range of distinctive differences. There are even American curries. These, interestingly, are the ones most likely to use curry powder.

Those who love curry know that it’s habit-forming. This is not merely because we like the flavor. There’s scientific evidence that the spices in curry are literally addictive. It’s a very benign addiction, however. The spices in curry all seem to be good for you. They certainly taste good.

Edible Dictionary

budino, Italian, n.–budino, Italian, n.–It translates from Italian exactly into “pudding.” But, like bread pudding in New Orleans, it carries connotations of specialness. It’s not just pudding, but something homestyle and wonderful. It is in fact often made with bread, though that’s only one of many budinos. It can be flavored with almost anything usually served sweet, from vanilla to chocolate and everything in between. It’s not uncommon for it to be flavored with a liqueur. I’ve also heard of savory budinos, but that’s another category. You always eat it with a spoon.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

The best tool for grinding spices is a coffee mill. Buy a separate one from the one you use to grind coffee beans. The flavor of cardamom and peppercorns will not ruin each other, but neither of them is acceptable in coffee.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Curry, Louisiana is one of at least ten places in this country bearing that name. That’s appropriate, considering how many different kinds of curry there are. This one is just a junction on US 84 in Kisatchie National Forest, in Winn Parish, about forty-seven miles north of Alexandria. The nearest restaurant serving curry to the denizens of Curry is the China Restaurant, twenty miles down US 84 in Jena.

Deft Dining Rule #62:

No dish tastes the same in different restaurants. If a restaurant closes, you will have to get unused to the way it cooks its food, and learn to like the best of what’s served elsewhere.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Today in 1990, Campbell’s produced the twenty billionth can of tomato soup, its original product. Canned tomato soup is more useful as an additive than on its own. For example, when added to beef broth along with crushed canned tomatoes, it makes a better soup than just the whole tomatoes alone.

Eating Across America

Today in 1777, Vermont declared its independence not only from its British colonizers, but also from New York, which had controlled it under the name of New Connecticut. Vermont’s most famous food product is its maple syrup, but its major specialty is dairy products, notably Vermont Cheddar cheese.

Food Namesakes

Captain Beefheart (real name: Don Glen Vliet), one of the farthest-out of the far-out rock and blues musicians of the late 1960s and 1970s, was born today in 1941. . . Early baseball pro Grover Lowdermilk stepped onto the Big Diamond today in 1885.

Words To Eat By

“Playwrights are like men who have been dining for a month in an Indian restaurant. After eating curry night after night, they deny the existence of asparagus.”–Peter Ustinov.

Words To Drink By

“The wine urges me on, the bewitching wine, which sets even a wise man to singing and to laughing gently and rouses him up to dance and brings forth words which were better unspoken.”–Homer.

FoodFunniesSquare

Some Celebrities Should Not Appear in Public.

It upsets all the regular customers, who have no idea what kind of weird things celebrities are apt to do.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Thursday, January 11, 2018. Visiting Fausto and Rolando. Every time I have dinner at Fausto’s, a long-established impression stays with me: here is a solid representation of the New Orleans-Sicilian style of cooking Italian food. In fact, I’ll take a wider stride and and say that here is the best collection of Sicilian cookery to be found anywhere around town.

But what does that mean to the typical diner? I started thinking about that while crossing the Causeway after tonight’s supper at Fausto’s. It gave me everything I would have wanted from that meal.

It began with a big bowl of mussels. You’ve got to get your mussels while they’re around, which they are right now. Most servings of mussels are in a highly liquid sauce made of white wine, herbs, olive oil and the mussels in their shells. But the southern Italian version would be to serve the bivalves in a sort of marinara red sauce. That is not as popular among mussel fans–who ought to open up that possibility for a change, even though it goes against what is for me a general dislike for seafood with tomato sauce. Tonight, the only way an eater could not like Fausto’s version of the dish is if he didn’t like mussels.

Arancino at Fausto’s.

So, consider these comparisons. If Tony Angello’s were still around and served mussels, they wouldn’t be as good as Fausto’s, because of the saucy marinara’s contribution.

Comparison Number Two: Pascal’s Manale has the city’s best fancy oyster dishes (and great raw ones, too) and those shrimp. But Fausto’s has them beat on the veal and chicken dishes, and on the predominantly pasta piles. Fausto’s wide spread of variety in those two areas is fascinating. (Best examples: veal saltimbocca and and fried eggplant.)

Comparison Number Three: Little appetizers eaten with the fingers, like the arancini. Hard not to eat a bunch of these on any visit. Ditto for the fried eggplant.

Comparison Number Four: Fettuccine Alfredo. Impastato’s has everybody beat in the serving of fettuccine Alfredo (including Alfredo’s of Rome itself). Fausto’s fettuccine pasta is a little too thick for my tastes–although I do like most of its other pasta shapes.

Comparison Number Five. Rolled-up pasta dishes like manicotti and braciolone are at least as good at Fausto’s as any other purveyors of that kind of thing. It’s in a close tie with Vincent’s in the making of cannelloni. But then Vincent’s is a decidedly Sicilian-New Orleans Italian place itself. Which is my whole point.

Here are a few more balances to sum this up:

Fausto’s versus the nearby new Rizzuto’s (former Tony Angello’s. They want you to get a steak.

Versus Mosca’s . This becomes less obvious after you’ve eaten the chicken Grandee and the Italian oysters and shrimp.) But here again we have Sicilian against anything else.

Andrea’s seafood dishes in general will top almost any other Italian treatments of fish (but not shellfish), but makes Sicilian dishes in the okay realm.

Then you get into the rare incursions by Italian chefs from the Northeast, which cooks a lot like our guys do (the Sicilian influences are very strong in Big Apple Italian restaurants).

Back to real eating: My entree this night at Fausto’s was fettuccine Carbonara, made with a cream sauce with a good bit of prosciutto. Some will point out that this is a Roman dish, not Sicilian. But then I see a lot of Sicilian tastes in Roman cooking.

My dessert at Fausto’s was a slice of spumone. Angelo Brocato is plenty Sicilian enough for me.

And then Rolando (Fausto’s brother) sat down at my table and we reminisced about the many decades this family has cooked great Italian eats.

Fausto’s. Metairie: 530 Veterans Blvd. 504-833-7121.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Chicken Grandee

This dish was made famous at Mosca’s, but it spread to many other restaurants around New Orleans. Each of them cooks it a little differently. (Mosca’s doesn’t use the sausage or bell pepper in theirs.) Feel free to add a few items of your own into the broiling pan. (If this sounds like chicken Vesuvio, then welcome to New Orleans from the Northeast!)

  • 1 whole chicken, about 3 lbs., or three chicken breasts
  • 1-2 Tbs. Italian seasoning
  • 2 lbs. small white potatoes
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeds removed, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 6-8 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs, rosemary
  • 2 tsp. oregano
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • Chopped parsley

1. Cut the chicken up into pieces about a third the size that the Colonel uses. Remove small bones, but it’s okay to leave the big ones. Season the pieces with salt and Italian seasoning.

2. Bring about a quart of water to a light boil. Peel the potatoes and cut them into half-moon-shaped slices about a quarter of an inch thick. Drop them into the boiling water for about two minutes. Drain and set aside.

3. Prick the skins of the sausages a few times with a kitchen fork. In a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, cook the sausages until browned and firm. (They don’t need to be cooked all the way through, but nearly so.) Remove the sausage, and pour off excess fat from the skillet. When the sausage has cooled enough to handle, slice into coins about a quarter-inch thick.

4. Add 2 Tbs. olive oil to the skillet. Raise the heat to high and heat until the surface begins to ripple. Add the garlic and bell peppers and cook until brown around the edges. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

5. Add the chicken pieces to the skillet and brown on all sides. They don’t need to be fully cooked. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the chicken and set aside.

6. Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet and brown the potatoes lightly over high heat, turning once.

7. Put the sliced sausage, pepper, garlic, chicken, and potatoes into a roasting pan, sprinkling the rosemary, oregano, salt, and black pepper as you go and distributing all the ingredients evenly.

8. Put the skillet in the preheated 400-degree oven and roast for 15-20 minutes, uncovered. When the biggest pieces of chicken are cooked all the way through, it’s ready.

Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Serves four.

AlmanacSquare January 12, 2017

Days Until. . .
Mardi Gras–32
Valentine’s Day–33
Food At War

You remember how hot dog makers used to stress that their products were all meat? That stemmed from something that happened on this date in 1943, when the Office of Price Administration introduced the Victory Sausage. It was like a hot dog, except that the meat wasn’t specified, and soybeans were used as filler. It took decades for the wiener to live that down.

Today’s Flavor

This is National Stewed Chicken Day. That’s a whole chicken cooked slowly in a lot of water, which slowly becomes a stock, then a gravy. (Onions, parsley, celery, and other seasoning vegetables are in there, too.) When it comes to the table, the meat is all but falling off the bones. The bird might be pulled apart into primal pieces (leg, breast, thigh, wing), but no more than that. A half-chicken is the right portion per person, accompanied by rice and some kind of vegetable (peas are the classic, but potatoes or carrots are also good). This is a marvelous, homely dish found on fewer menus every year, and that is a shame. Solution: make it at home.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Eatin Fork–which boasts a rare double food name–is in that rich vein of deliciously-named places, in the area where Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina come together. The town is in the most rural part of Kentucky, in the foothills of the Appalachians in southeast Kentucky, ninety-four miles north of Knoxville. These hills are home to a lot of horses, who must enjoy all that green grass between the thick continuum of woods. You will be able to wield an eatin’ fork only if you’re willing to drive the seven miles eat into Barboursville, where you’ll find both Billy Bob’s and the Hillbilly Country Restaurant. Easy to picture both of those.

Edible Dictionary

fra diavolo, Italian, adj.–A range of dishes, most commonly involving shellfish, finished with a peppery sauce if tomatoes, savory herbs, and both red and black pepper. The term means “brother devil,” a reference to 1700s Neopolitan revolutionary figure Michele Pezza. He got the name because as a child he paraded with other young men as a monk. (Complicated story, in the Italian way.) The use of the name to describe the dish in question may have nothing to do with Pezza, because it appears to have been the invention of an unknown Italian-American restaurateur. It was good enough to become widely copied, along with the name. You don’t see it in Italy, says John Mariani, who just wrote a book about such matters.

Deft Dining Rule #549:

Beware of dishes whose goodness is lost on people too young to have heard of them before. Nostalgia is an ingredient that cannot be detected by the palate.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

There’s not a chicken dish in the world that isn’t improved by wiping the chicken first with a lemon wedge.

Big Mouths

Rush Limbaugh was born today in 1951. That would make him almost exactly same age as I am. We are also both being radio windbags. Rush’s favorite restaurant in New Orleans was the old Brennan’s, where he dined on many occasions, according to the late Ted Brennan. His favorite menu was turtle soup, oysters Rockefeller, steak Diane and bananas Foster. That’s actually a pretty good dinner. Strangely enough, today is also Howard Stern’s birthday, in 1954. I find him as unlistenable as I do Rush. . . And in 1959 Bob West was born. He’s the voice of Barney, the big purple dinosaur, who makes much more sense than either of these other guys. But I know nothing of his dietary preferences. (He looks carnivorous.)

Food Namesakes

Actress Farrah Forke was born today in 1967. . . Hattie Caraway became the first woman elected to the United States Senate on this date in 1912. She was already a Senator, filling her late husband’s term. Huey P. Long was a fan of hers. . . American rock guitarist and singer Kris Roe, of the Ataris gave his first riff today in 1977.

Words To Eat By

“I went on a diet, swore off drinking and heavy eating, and in fourteen days I lost two weeks.”–Joe E. Lewis, comedian and actor, born today in 1902.

Words To Drink By

“My grandmother is over eighty and still doesn’t need glasses. Drinks right out of the bottle.”–Henny Youngman, king of the one-liners, born today in 1906.
FoodFunniesSquare

Gaining Sympathy For The Cause The Poor Fishies.

When the fishermen put their catch back into the water, a certain good feeling sweeps over the potential eater.

Click here for the cartoon.

####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, January 10, 2018. One never knows everything going on around him, does one? Yesterday, Mary Ann invited herself and me to a classy shindig tonight at the Abita Brewpub. The main act was a slate of serious opera singers. Not as in “the Grand Old Opry,” but real opera voices, at least two of which were in the operas we attended during the past year. What we didn’t know is that this is a rather regular program, and that seats in the small dining room and bar are hard to obtain. Mary Ann beat me there and found it impossible to get a table. Next time we will know better.

Now it was time to figure out where would go for dinner. I haven’t had a single thing to eat all day, but if that helped the selection process, then, well. . . it made the process more difficult, as it always does when MA and I get to talking about where to have dinner.

The bar at Del Porto.

We turned up at a restaurant with all the distinguishing qualities. Del Porto–which I think is not only the best Italian restaurant on the North Shore, but the best in the New Orleans area–proved that assessment again. We began with a cauliflower soup and a salad. A 22-piece frito misto then took over my attention. On this plate were, as the name suggests, an assortment of fried seafood morsels. This ranged from shrimp and scallops to pompano and a few other attractive scraps.

MA continued to work on that salad, while I indulged myself in a pair of swordfish fillets, firm and cleanly flavored, if a little high at $32. I am finding more and more attraction to swordfish everywhere I dine these days, and this sampling of it equally excellent.

I was stuffed by that time, but the waiter began pushing a plate of donuts, all about the same size of beignets and fried more or less the same way. A light dusting of sugar and cinnamon and some vanilla gelato finished all but one of the donuts.

Back home, we discussed the progress of the Marys’ current projects. I am not allowed to give reports on that until they reach fruition.

Fruit, however, is still allowed.

Del Porto. Covington: 501 E Boston St. 985-875-1006.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Shrimp With Bacon, Hot Peppers, And Mozzarella

When Louisiana brown shrimp or white shrimp are in season (spring and late summer respectively), New Orleans people think of a new way to cook them every day. This one is a great party dish: big shrimp butterflied and stuffed with mozzarella cheese, wrapped in pre-fried bacon or hot Cajun sausage), and broiled. Make a million of these: once people start eating them, they won’t be able to stop.

  • 24 large (16-21 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 8 oz. mozzarella cheese
  • 2 chopped jalapeno peppers
  • 12 slices bacon, cooked until browned but not crisp

1. Wash the shrimp and pat them dry. Butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tail section intact.

2. Cut the cheese into pieces a little smaller than the shrimp. Cut each piece of bacon in half.

3. Fill the center of each shrimp with about 1/4 tsp. chopped jalapeno. Place a piece of cheese in the center. Wrap each shrimp with a piece of bacon, and secure with a toothpick.

4. Place the shrimp on a baking pan or pizza pan and broil until they turn pink. Turn the shrimp and return to the broiler until the cheese begins to melt. Serve immediately.

Makes twenty-four.

AlmanacSquare January 11, 2017

Days Until. . .

Mardi Gras–46
Valentine’s Day–30

Origins Of Creole Cuisine

On this date in 1803, James Monroe and Robert R. Livingston boarded a ship bound for France, where they hoped to buy the Isle of Orleans. That’s the land bordered by the Mississippi River, Bayou Manchac, Amite River, Pass Manchac, Lake Maurepas, Lake Pontchartrain, and the Gulf of Mexico. They hit the jackpot. Napoleon told them he’d like to sell all of Louisiana, from Canada on down, for the United States.

I wonder what New Orleans would be like now if the Louisiana Purchase had not happened. My favorite scenario is that Louisiana would have become an independent nation, with New Orleans as its capital. Its territory would include the main stream of North American commerce, the breadbasket Midwest, and many other riches. There would have been no Civil War, allowing the culture and economy of New Orleans to blossom instead of being stamped out by Reconstruction. We’d have our French, Spanish, and African heritage and food, but with money and power. Imagine!

Today’s Flavor

This is National Warm Milk Day and National Hot Toddy Day. Hot beverages for the morning and the evening. Along different lines entirely is National Rhubarb Day. On this date in 1770, Benjamin Franklin sent some rhubarb to a friend in Pennsylvania, beginning a footnote to American agriculture that still exists. Nobody admits to liking rhubarb a great deal, although it cane me made into interesting things. I’ve had great rhubarb pie (in the diner of a train), and for many years Paul Thomas Winery in Washington State made a wonderful wine from rhubarb. The vegetable has big leaves (borderline poisonous) and a long, red, edible stalk; after trimming, it looks like red celery.

Deft Dining Rule #154:

Eat unusual vegetables with great relish. It will persuade those around you that you’re a real gourmet.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Eaton is a town of 1800 Hoosiers in east central Indiana, seventy-one miles from Indianapolis. It’s a commercial center for the many farms in that part of the state. It’s on the Mississinewa River. Its water winds up in New Orleans through the Wabash, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. In 1876, while attempting to dig a coal mine, the people of Eaton struck a major natural gas reservoir, which contributed to rapid growth of the town in the early 1900s. Eatin’ in Eaton is best at the Country Cupboard, on the western end of town.

This is the third in a series of Gourmet Gazetteer entries beginning with “Eat.”

Annals Of Culinary Education

Ezra Cornell, who made his fortune with the telegraph and the Western Union Company that he co-founded, was born today in 1807. He endowed Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, one of the leading colleges for careers in the hotel and restaurant industries. Albert Aschaffenberg. who led his family’s Pontchartrain Hotel here in New Orleans, was one of many of our local Cornell lights.

Wine Inspirations

Today in 49 BCE, Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River, a gauntlet laid down by the Roman Senate. When the soon-to-be first emperor of the Roman Empire moved his armies into battle against the Roman establishment, it changed the course of history. “Alea jacta est,” Seutonius is supposed to have said to Caesar. (“The die is cast,” meaning that that Caesar had reached the point of no return. What that has to do with the superb Napa Valley wine called Rubicon is less clear, except that it was coined by Francis Coppola, the film director of The Godfather movies certainly show his feel for the dramatic. He reunited two prime vineyards that were part of the original Inglenook winery to grow the grapes for this Bordeaux-style red blend.

Edible Dictionary

sweat, v., trans.–“Sweat the vegetables” is a common instruction in western cooking. It tells the cook to put the vegetables over medium heat in a pan, and to cook them until they become damp and limp. What is happening is that the water inside the cells of the vegetable comes out of the heat-weakened cells of the vegetable. Some vegetables–notably onions and spinach–become distinctly soaked in their own juices from being sweated.

A second, less common, noun and intransitive verb meaning of “sweat” concerns the formation of droplets of moisture and liquid fat on the outside of some cheeses when they warm up to room temperature. This is not entirely undesirable, although the word itself is unappetizing in that context.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Next time you clarify butter, save the foam that you skim off the top and the solids left in the pan after you pour the clarified butter out. Mix this with garlic and parsley and use it for garlic bread.

Annals Of Food Safety

Sir James Paget, a British surgeon and physiologist, was born today in 1814. He discovered that trichinosis–a bad muscle disease–was caused by the small roundworm parasites that most often get into the body from undercooked pork. That caused everybody to grossly overcook pork for over a century. We now know that the trichina worms are killed by a temperature of 139 degrees for nine minutes, which leaves pork medium rare. And that commercial pork hasn’t had the problem to begin with in decades.

Cheese In War And Peace

In the middle of World War I, a beleaguered France took drastic measures today in 1917 and placed price restrictions on Gruyere cheese. The population shook its collective fist.

Food Namesakes

Don Cherry, who had a big hit with the sentimental song Band Of Gold, was born today in 1924. . . Francesco Parmigianino, a Renaissance painter, was born today in 1503. . . The movie Orange County premiered today in 2002, a comedy. . . Gold pro Ben Crenshaw stepped up to The Big Tee today in 1952. (A Crenshaw melon is a variant of a cantaloupe.)

Words To Eat By

“I want a dish to taste good, rather than to have been seethed in pig’s milk and served wrapped in a rhubarb leaf with grated thistle root.”–Kingsley Amis, British novelist.

“Reagan promised everyone a seven-course dinner. Ours turned out to be a possum and a six-pack.”–Jim Hightower, former Texas Agriculture Commissioner and populist columnist, born today in 1943.

Words To Drink By

“How pleasant is the day when we give up striving to be young—or slender.”–William James, American philosopher, born today in 1842.

FoodFunniesSquare

Visual Illusions In Cookies And Chocolates.

If you came upon this scene and were asked to explain it, what would you say?

Click here for the cartoon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, January 10, 2018. One never knows everything going on around him, does one? Yesterday, Mary Ann invited herself and me to a classy shindig tonight at the Abita Brewpub. The main act was a slate of serious opera singers. Not as in “the Grand Old Opry,” but real opera voices, at least two of which were in the operas we attended during the past year. What we didn’t know is that this is a rather regular program, and that seats in the small dining room and bar are hard to obtain. Mary Ann beat me there and found it impossible to get a table. Next time we will know better.

Now it was time to figure out where would go for dinner. I haven’t had a single thing to eat all day, but if that helped the selection process, then, well. . . it made the process more difficult, as it always does when MA and I get to talking about where to have dinner.

The bar at Del Porto.

We turned up at a restaurant with all the distinguishing qualities. Del Porto–which I think is not only the best Italian restaurant on the North Shore, but the best in the New Orleans area–proved that assessment again. We began with a cauliflower soup and a salad. A 22-piece frito misto then took over my attention. On this plate were, as the name suggests, an assortment of fried seafood morsels. This ranged from shrimp and scallops to pompano and a few other attractive scraps.

MA continued to work on that salad, while I indulged myself in a pair of swordfish fillets, firm and cleanly flavored, if a little high at $32. I am finding more and more attraction to swordfish everywhere I dine these days, and this sampling of it equally excellent.

I was stuffed by that time, but the waiter began pushing a plate of donuts, all about the same size of beignets and fried more or less the same way. A light dusting of sugar and cinnamon and some vanilla gelato finished all but one of the donuts.

Back home, we discussed the progress of the Marys’ current projects. I am not allowed to give reports on that until they reach fruition.

Fruit, however, is still allowed.

Del Porto. Covington: 501 E Boston St. 985-875-1006.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Shrimp With Bacon, Hot Peppers, And Mozzarella

When Louisiana brown shrimp or white shrimp are in season (spring and late summer respectively), New Orleans people think of a new way to cook them every day. This one is a great party dish: big shrimp butterflied and stuffed with mozzarella cheese, wrapped in pre-fried bacon or hot Cajun sausage), and broiled. Make a million of these: once people start eating them, they won’t be able to stop.

  • 24 large (16-21 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 8 oz. mozzarella cheese
  • 2 chopped jalapeno peppers
  • 12 slices bacon, cooked until browned but not crisp

1. Wash the shrimp and pat them dry. Butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tail section intact.

2. Cut the cheese into pieces a little smaller than the shrimp. Cut each piece of bacon in half.

3. Fill the center of each shrimp with about 1/4 tsp. chopped jalapeno. Place a piece of cheese in the center. Wrap each shrimp with a piece of bacon, and secure with a toothpick.

4. Place the shrimp on a baking pan or pizza pan and broil until they turn pink. Turn the shrimp and return to the broiler until the cheese begins to melt. Serve immediately.

Makes twenty-four.

AlmanacSquare January 11, 2017

Days Until. . .

Mardi Gras–46
Valentine’s Day–30

Origins Of Creole Cuisine

On this date in 1803, James Monroe and Robert R. Livingston boarded a ship bound for France, where they hoped to buy the Isle of Orleans. That’s the land bordered by the Mississippi River, Bayou Manchac, Amite River, Pass Manchac, Lake Maurepas, Lake Pontchartrain, and the Gulf of Mexico. They hit the jackpot. Napoleon told them he’d like to sell all of Louisiana, from Canada on down, for the United States.

I wonder what New Orleans would be like now if the Louisiana Purchase had not happened. My favorite scenario is that Louisiana would have become an independent nation, with New Orleans as its capital. Its territory would include the main stream of North American commerce, the breadbasket Midwest, and many other riches. There would have been no Civil War, allowing the culture and economy of New Orleans to blossom instead of being stamped out by Reconstruction. We’d have our French, Spanish, and African heritage and food, but with money and power. Imagine!

Today’s Flavor

This is National Warm Milk Day and National Hot Toddy Day. Hot beverages for the morning and the evening. Along different lines entirely is National Rhubarb Day. On this date in 1770, Benjamin Franklin sent some rhubarb to a friend in Pennsylvania, beginning a footnote to American agriculture that still exists. Nobody admits to liking rhubarb a great deal, although it cane me made into interesting things. I’ve had great rhubarb pie (in the diner of a train), and for many years Paul Thomas Winery in Washington State made a wonderful wine from rhubarb. The vegetable has big leaves (borderline poisonous) and a long, red, edible stalk; after trimming, it looks like red celery.

Deft Dining Rule #154:

Eat unusual vegetables with great relish. It will persuade those around you that you’re a real gourmet.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Eaton is a town of 1800 Hoosiers in east central Indiana, seventy-one miles from Indianapolis. It’s a commercial center for the many farms in that part of the state. It’s on the Mississinewa River. Its water winds up in New Orleans through the Wabash, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. In 1876, while attempting to dig a coal mine, the people of Eaton struck a major natural gas reservoir, which contributed to rapid growth of the town in the early 1900s. Eatin’ in Eaton is best at the Country Cupboard, on the western end of town.

This is the third in a series of Gourmet Gazetteer entries beginning with “Eat.”

Annals Of Culinary Education

Ezra Cornell, who made his fortune with the telegraph and the Western Union Company that he co-founded, was born today in 1807. He endowed Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, one of the leading colleges for careers in the hotel and restaurant industries. Albert Aschaffenberg. who led his family’s Pontchartrain Hotel here in New Orleans, was one of many of our local Cornell lights.

Wine Inspirations

Today in 49 BCE, Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River, a gauntlet laid down by the Roman Senate. When the soon-to-be first emperor of the Roman Empire moved his armies into battle against the Roman establishment, it changed the course of history. “Alea jacta est,” Seutonius is supposed to have said to Caesar. (“The die is cast,” meaning that that Caesar had reached the point of no return. What that has to do with the superb Napa Valley wine called Rubicon is less clear, except that it was coined by Francis Coppola, the film director of The Godfather movies certainly show his feel for the dramatic. He reunited two prime vineyards that were part of the original Inglenook winery to grow the grapes for this Bordeaux-style red blend.

Edible Dictionary

sweat, v., trans.–“Sweat the vegetables” is a common instruction in western cooking. It tells the cook to put the vegetables over medium heat in a pan, and to cook them until they become damp and limp. What is happening is that the water inside the cells of the vegetable comes out of the heat-weakened cells of the vegetable. Some vegetables–notably onions and spinach–become distinctly soaked in their own juices from being sweated.

A second, less common, noun and intransitive verb meaning of “sweat” concerns the formation of droplets of moisture and liquid fat on the outside of some cheeses when they warm up to room temperature. This is not entirely undesirable, although the word itself is unappetizing in that context.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Next time you clarify butter, save the foam that you skim off the top and the solids left in the pan after you pour the clarified butter out. Mix this with garlic and parsley and use it for garlic bread.

Annals Of Food Safety

Sir James Paget, a British surgeon and physiologist, was born today in 1814. He discovered that trichinosis–a bad muscle disease–was caused by the small roundworm parasites that most often get into the body from undercooked pork. That caused everybody to grossly overcook pork for over a century. We now know that the trichina worms are killed by a temperature of 139 degrees for nine minutes, which leaves pork medium rare. And that commercial pork hasn’t had the problem to begin with in decades.

Cheese In War And Peace

In the middle of World War I, a beleaguered France took drastic measures today in 1917 and placed price restrictions on Gruyere cheese. The population shook its collective fist.

Food Namesakes

Don Cherry, who had a big hit with the sentimental song Band Of Gold, was born today in 1924. . . Francesco Parmigianino, a Renaissance painter, was born today in 1503. . . The movie Orange County premiered today in 2002, a comedy. . . Gold pro Ben Crenshaw stepped up to The Big Tee today in 1952. (A Crenshaw melon is a variant of a cantaloupe.)

Words To Eat By

“I want a dish to taste good, rather than to have been seethed in pig’s milk and served wrapped in a rhubarb leaf with grated thistle root.”–Kingsley Amis, British novelist.

“Reagan promised everyone a seven-course dinner. Ours turned out to be a possum and a six-pack.”–Jim Hightower, former Texas Agriculture Commissioner and populist columnist, born today in 1943.

Words To Drink By

“How pleasant is the day when we give up striving to be young—or slender.”–William James, American philosopher, born today in 1842.

FoodFunniesSquare

Visual Illusions In Cookies And Chocolates.

If you came upon this scene and were asked to explain it, what would you say?

Click here for the cartoon.

####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Tuesday, January 9, 2018. Treats And Drinks From Out Of The Past. After a couple of weeks during which Mary Ann went on strike against setting up guests for the radio show, the first guest in the her order appeared. Phyllis Luscy and her family have opened an unusual shop in the French Quarter, next door to Tujague’s. It sells soft drinks and candy, but not just any old.

Her inventory carries a strong nostalgic quality, because most of it comes from brands that aren’t exactly still on sale. Nehi Peach pop is the most recognizable one. I favored Nehi drinks–particularly the creme soda, which had not yet become blue yet. It was clear and colorless in the days when I would walk from our house on the corner of Ursulines and Marais to the Sweet Shop on the corner of St. Philip and Treme, in the center of the Treme neighborhood. I was five years old, and would make this walk alone with my nickel. I would buy a Nehi if it were available, and 7-Up if it weren’t. When selecting the 7-Up, I always avoided the green bottles branded with an abstract girl in a bathing suit, ready to refresh herself one way or another. (I still considered girls to be aliens.)

I was five years old when I was a regular at the Sweet Shop, which also scooped ice cream and sold ten-cent bags of Dickey’s Potato Chips, made in New Orleans and “Untouched By Human Hands.”

Those are the kinds of goods that Phyllis and her mom are selling next to Tujague’s. The story becomes further interesting. Phyllis’s mother was for a long time the owners of the original Deanie’s restaurant. Not the one at Bucktown or in the French Quarter, but the one that used to sell breakfast and lunch to the industrial companies around the intersection of Annunciation and Tchoupitoulas, before it became the Warehouse District. The family also had another Deanie’s on Hayne Boulevard in New Orleans East. All of these were very good restaurants in their day. (And things are still rolling on Hayne.)

They call the new place the Rocket Fizz. They have many more old soft drinks, including a root beer made with caramel and a mellow flavor that may qualify as the best root beer I ever tasted. I’m going to use it next time I bake a ham. Nu-Grape is another in the extensive drinks on the list. Those of the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers will recommend the drinks as well as the candy bars. Phyllis tells me that many of these old brands are no longer being made, but if someone approached the owner of the name and the recipe for one of these oldies, it may well return from the deal.

I think I’ll go over there to check to see whether there’s any chance that Dr. Nut–the best-tasting fizzy drink in world history–will come back. Failing that, I’ll hope to find Moxie, the antique beverage in New England. On all of our cruises to Maine, I’ve served Moxie to my fellow cruisers at dinner.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Chicken Chasseur

“Chasseur” is French for “hunter.” So this dish has the flavor you’d expect from a cook who spent a lot of time prowling the woods. Mushrooms, for one thing, are in there. And the dish is simply prepared, because what hunter goes around making cream sauces? This dish comes from the kitchen of the old Delmonico’s, with a few updatings here and there.

Chicken chasseur.

  • 1 chicken, cut up
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. powdered thyme
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire

Preheat the over to 350 degrees.

1. Combine the flour with the salt, pepper, and thyme. Dust the chicken pieces lightly with the seasoned flour.

2. Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof skillet and cook the garlic, bell pepper, and green onions until the onions are limp. Add the chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned all over.

3. Place the entire skillet into the oven and bake for 25 minutes, turning chicken once.

4. When the juices from the thigh run clear when you prick it with a fork, remove the skillet from the oven. Remove chicken pieces and keep warm.

5. Deglaze the pan with the wine, sherry, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat while scraping the bottom of the pan and stirring to distribute the ingredients.

6. Add mushrooms and Worcestershire. Cook until mushrooms begin to turn tender. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Spoon pan contents over the chicken and serve.

Serves two to four.

EatClubSquare

Click here to reserve.

From the days when the Marigny and the Bywater sections began to flower with restaurants, the Country Club has been part of it. It has passed through a number of menus and service styles, none as good as the current regime. The current flavors are mostly imbued with contemporary Creole, bringing to the table that mix of familiar Louisiana ingredients as well as enough modern eating that the food feels original. Historically,that’s the kind of menu that the Eat Club has most enjoyed.

So here we are. The date is Thursday, January 25. Service begins at about 6:30 p.m.. Come early if you like for for cocktails (on you). We’ll have four courses with paired wines for $75 inclusive of tax, tip, and wines. We sit in tables of six to eight. I move around from table to table to shoot the breeze and discuss the eats and drinks. Payment is made at the restaurant at the beginning of dinner, by cash or credit cards. If you have any questions, write to me at tom@nomenu.com.

Eat Club Menu

The front door of Country Club.

Eat Club @ Country Club, 634 Louisa St., 6:30 p.m., Thursday, January 25.

Click here to reserve.

Eat Club Menu

Roasted Mushroom Vol-au-vent
Crispy mushrooms, poached egg and roasted garlic hollandaise
Wine: Wines to be selected

Shrimp Courtbouillon
Big fresh Louisiana white shrimp, yellow tomatoes, Creole Trinity and parmesan polenta
Wine: Wines to be paired

Lamb Ragout
Lamb Shanks Braised in Red Wine
Wine: French mirepoix with leeks, cipollini onions, collard greens and sweet potato gnocchi. Wines to be paired.

Lemon Cake With Lemon Ice Cream
House-made genoise soaked in limoncello and layered with lemon curd, served with lemon ice cream

Click here to reserve.

AlmanacSquare January 10, 2017

Days Until

Mardi Gras–45
Valentine’s Day–46

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Bittersweet Chocolate Day. Bittersweet chocolate is really more for cooking than for eating, although some like it. It’s less sweet than semi-sweet. Great for making chocolate mousse, or for chocolate sauce to go over something that’s already very sweet.

Here in New Orleans, you are encouraged to celebrate Fancy Creole Chicken Day. A number of dishes, all developed about a century ago, are mainstay in local restaurant, particularly the older ones. All of them amount to a half chicken, baked or sometimes grilled, topped or surrounded with some kind of hash. The most popular are:

Chicken bonne femme. “Good woman’s chicken” is covered with cubed potatoes, garlic, parsley, and other savory bits. The famous version is cooked at Tujague’s, where it’s the best dish in the house.

Chicken Clemenceau. Named for the Premier of France during World War I, its garnish is mushrooms, peas, butter, onions, and a good deal of garlic. Galatoire’s makes the definitive version.

Chicken Pontalba. This is what I think is the best of all. The roasted chicken is topped with fried potato cubes, grilled ham, green onions, and bearnaise sauce. Chef Paul Blange, the first chef at Brennan’s, created it in the 1940s. The Palace Cafe makes the killer Pontalba.

All of these are wonderful Creole classics, and not all that hard to make at home. The most time-consuming part is cooking the chicken.

Kitchen Innovations

Today is the birthday (1949) of George Foreman, the former heavyweight boxing champ. After retiring from the ring, he began a new career after of devising and selling countertop grills. It’s a brilliant product: it seems like something you need, even though it’s probably going to be one appliance too many. Its primary merit is that it grills both sides of something at the same time. They need that capability in fast-food restaurants, but I can’t say I’ve ever wished I could do that. Still, lots of people like Foreman grills.

The Physiology Of Taste

Neils Stensen, born today in 1683 (and also known as Nicolaus Steno), discovered Stensen’s duct. That’s what moves saliva from the gland that makes it to the mouth. We don’t think of saliva too much (with good reason), but it plays a more important role in eating than most people know. Aside from making it easier to swallow food, it actually begins the digestion process. If you put a cracker in you mouth, chew it up, but don’t swallow it, you can taste the starches begin to turn to sugars, by the action of enzymes in saliva.

Edible Dictionary

pulla, Finnish, n.–A slightly sweet yeast bread made in Finland, particularly around the holidays. It has a few things in common with New Orlealns king cake, but without the frosting. It’s also a little like challah, but not as eggy. Most of the time a loaf of pulla is braided and contains cardamom seeds and raisins.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

If you’re going to go through the trouble of deboning a leg of lamb, you may as well stuff the place where the bone was it with something. Think lamb sausage, bread crumbs, and garlic.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Eaton Creek carries water–sometimes a lot of it–four miles down the west slope of Cannibal Plateau, a wilderness area in west central Colorado. This is the heart of the Rocky Mountains, and in its four-mile run it drops some 3600 feet. It flows into the Gunnison River three miles north of Lake City, a small resort town with some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. The Tic Toc Diner is probably where you’ll be eatin’.

This is the second in a series of Gourmet Gazetteer entries beginning with “Eat.”

Deft Dining Rule #214:

In case you haven’t heard, the old rule requiring lamb to be served with mint jelly has been repealed. It never was a good idea.

Annals Of Tea

Today in 1839, tea from India arrived in markets in London and the rest of England. It was much less expensive than the tea from China–enough so that a critical mass of people were able to afford to drink tea routinely for the first time. It was the beginning of the mass popularity that tea still enjoys in Britain, where they like the stuff so much that they even drink it on hot weather. They say it cools them off.

Annals Of Inedible Mushrooms

Today is the birthday (1911) of Norman Heatley, who develop effective methods of extracting penicillin from bread mold. Its healing ability had already been discovered, but getting the active ingredient out of the mold was challenging until Heatley figured out how to grow it. He used kitchen equipment: cookie tins, pie pans, butter churns, and roasting pans. His work allowed enough penicillin to treat sick and wounded soldiers in World War II, especially on and after D-Day.

Food Namesakes

Wallace Berry, composer and author of books on music theory, was born today in 1928. . . Chandra Cheesborough, born today in 1959, was a gold-medal Olympic runner in 1984. . . British broadcaster Alistair Cooke began the job that would make him most famous today in 1971, as host of Masterpiece Theatre.

Words To Eat By

“Today the biggest decisions I make aren’t related to the heavyweight title. They are whether I visit McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, or Jack-in-the-Box.”–George Foreman, whose birthday it is today.

“Chicken may be eaten constantly without becoming nauseating.”–Andre Simon.

Words To Drink By

“Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors, and miss.”–Robert Heinlein.

FoodFunniesSquare

Pasture To Table.

In this case, it’s butcher shop to hat. And since the return of the bun in both women’s and men’s millenary, this may indicate the existence of many of hidden hamburgers.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Monday, January 8, 2018. The Best Red Beans Across The Lake. Mary Ann has a tire problem that she needed assitence with. But the shop where the two bad tires is across the street from Lola, a maker of excellent soups, salads, and (most interesting of all) highly creative sandwiches. We have been going there mostly for weekend dinners over the years since they opened. We only recently discovered how good those soups and salads can be.

Most of the specials here are actually sandwiches in disguise. A few months ago I went after their Monday rec beans to see what they have going on there. Not altogether surprising was a plate of beans almost perfectly in accordance with what I think of as the optimal beany characteristics. The beans are soft but just barely so, the beans being mostly separate from each other and the mashed-up sauce. I asked to have Creole hot sausage with the beans and was told that they didn’t have it as an option. That was accurate, but it hid the fact that the sausage scattered through the beans–and the five-inch link of it that came with the beans–was in fact a hot sausage. In fact, I think it may have been Vaucresson’s fantastic hot sausage in hiding. In other words, in the sausage department this was everything I wanted from a plate of red beans. Even the portion size contributed to the pleasure. Most restaurants serve way too big a plate of red beans, which creates the illusion of cheapness. Nothing cheap about the ingredients or cooking at Lola, so it wasn’t an overload.

Yep, what we have here was total satisfaction from this lifelong red-beans-loving palate.

Other than that, the day was less than charming, with enough rain overnight to fill the gutters outside. And for most of it to flow away by the end of the radio show. At that point I went to the NPAS rehearsal site, arriving about an hour early. I never quite know when I should show up. We got right to work on a repertoire of new songs, some of which I’d never heard and others at the peak of familiarity (Beatles and Elvis selections, to name two.) Some of the singers ran a test with their solos, but mine doesn’t get checked out by our director until next week. I wasn’t in good voice, anyway. Must be the insanely cold weather from last week, still lingering on.

Lola. Covington: 517 N New Hampshire. 985-892-4992.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Cherry Bounce

In South Louisiana, cherry trees don’t get enough days of freezing weather in the winter to grow cherries of any particular merit. However, wild cherry trees are everywhere. (I have several growing in the woods around the Cool Water Ranch.) The cherries they produce are small and extremely tart. And the birds have a way of getting them all. But some people have enough good trees to get quite a few cherries, and they make this liqueur with them. You might be tempted to make this with good fresh cherries from the store, but it doesn’t work: the cherries have to be sour. While different makers of this use different liquors for the marinade, it seems to me that vodka is the way to go. It has no flavor of its own, and lets the subtle cherry taste come through.

  • 3 quarts wild cherries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. anise seeds
  • 1 1/2 liters vodka of decent quality

Wild cherry fruit

1. Rinse the cherries in cold water. Removed the excess water with a salad spinner or towel. Remove all leaves and stems.

2. Heat 1/2 cup of water in a clean saucepan until wisps of steam come off the top. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves completely. Remove from the heat.

3. Pour the cherries and the anise seeds into a one-gallon glass jug with a tight-fitting cap. Add the simply syrup from step 2 to the jug. Cap the jug tightly and shake it like crazy for about five minutes.

4. Add the vodka and shake to blend. Cap the jug loosely, so air can get out, and store it in a cool, dry, dark place for a few months. (Mark the date on the bottle so there will be no doubt.)

5. After at least two months, strain the contents of the jug through cheesecloth or a coffee filter set into a clean sieve. (The latter will take a long time; the bigger the filter, the better.)

6. Serve as a digestif with coffee. Have something else ready as an after-dinner drink in case some don’t like it–an inevitability.

Makes about 2 liters.

AlmanacSquare January 9, 2017

Days Until

Mardi Gras–46
Valentine’s Day–47

Eating Across America

Connecticut, The Nutmeg State, became United State Number Five today in 1788. The nickname commemorates a fraud. Nutmeg, a tropical spice, cannot be grown there. But it was expensive enough that some early Yankee con men carved nuggets of what looked like nutmeg from wood and sold it as such to anyone they could fool. The tradition lives on: now Connecticut’s specialty is insurance.

Today’s Flavor

In honor of the statehood of Connecticut, this is National Nutmeg Day. Nutmegs are the fruits of a small tree native to the East Indies. It’s really two spices in one: the nutmeg itself, which looks like a pecan but smaller, and mace, which is a lacy covering around the nutmeg. Both are used in recipes.

Mace has a more powerful aroma, but nutmeg has the more intense flavor. Indeed, a little nutmeg goes a long way, especially when used in a savory dish. Like what? Sneak a pinch into cream sauces and bechamel. You won’t taste nutmeg, but you’ll notice an improvement in the finished dish.

Most of us have jars of nutmeg that should have been thrown away years ago. The old stuff has as much flavor as the grated wood that gave Connecticut its unlikely nickname. The best way to use nutmeg, of course, is to grate your own as you need it–if you can find the damn nutmeg grater.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

No dish ever needs a little more nutmeg. You might think so, but what’s happening is that you so seldom use the spice that you already put it in there.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Campbell’s Soup was made a trademark by the Patent Office today in 1906. The first of their soups was tomato. . . In other food branding news, today in 1984, Wendy’s premiered a strange new advertising campaign that added a new catchphrase to American speech: “Where’s the beef?” The line was delivered by Clara Peller to a fellow octogenarian to express her disappointment with the product of a competing burger joint.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Nutmeg Creek comes tumbling down from the High Sierras into the Feather River, as the latter cuts a gorge through the mountains on its way into California’s Central Valley. The creek ends at a spot about ninety-four miles north of Sacramento, and just above Lake Oroville, formed by a dam on the Feather. This is dramatically beautiful country, with Feather Falls not far from there. But the nearest dining is in the well named River Restaurant in Oroville, twenty-seven miles away.

Deft Dining Rule #239:

The world’s most underrated combination of flavors is seafood with beans. Any kind of either tastes great together.

Music To Eat Vitello Tonnato By

Domenico Modugno was born today in 1928. The Italian singer had a Number One hit in the United States–in Italian, yet!–with a song titled Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu. It was better known as Volare. One of the most familiar songs in the world, it is heard in Italian restaurants everywhere. Spunto, a short-lived restaurant on St. Louis Street (in the building where Nola is now), played Volare at top volume every half hour. The waiters would go around the room warning that it was about to start, so as not to alarm the patrons.

Edible Dictionary

oiseau sans tete, French, n.–Throughout Western Europe, restaurants serving a traditional menu often have a dish or two that seems, from the name, to be made with some small, unidentified bird. In fact, these are slices of veal or beef that have been rolled around a stuffing of ground meat, sausage, or pate. They’re tied with string, browned, and sauced, and when the process is finished it’s easy to see why they’re called “birds without heads.” These dishes are delightful–unless you think you’re getting a real bird. “Veal birds” is how the idea is usually rendered in English.

Food In The Funnies

Today is the birthday, in 1901, of Chic Young, who created the Blondie comic strip. It’s more about her husband Dagwood than Blondie. Dagwood is an iconic chowhound, although he doesn’t appear to be an ounce overweight. His finest creation is an overloaded sandwich on a whole loaf of French bread. It contains every known foodstuff, including whole fish. Such things have come to be known as a Dagwood Sandwich. A few years ago news came of the development by New Orleans-based chain of Dagwood Sandwich Shoppes. There are a few of them around the country, but none here.

Food Namesakes

It’s the birthday, in 1913, of actor Eric Berry, who appeared in the film Double Exposure, among others. . . Wally Mary Stiefel McBride Baker was born today in 1898. She was the oldest person in history from Delaware. She passed away in 2009 at 111 years old. . . Television personality Beth Troutman saw the Big Tally Light come on today in 1977.

Words To Eat By

“Richard Nixon committed unspeakable acts with cottage cheese.”–Jay Jacobs, the former New York restaurant critic for Gourmet. It’s Richard Nixon’s birthday (1913).

Words To Drink By

Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe
Rain may fall, and wind may blow
And many miles be still to go
But under a tall tree will I lie
And let the clouds go sailing by
―J.R.R. Tolkien

FoodFunniesSquare

The Secret Identities Of Familiar Dishes.

This one you know better by its French name, “Soupe du Jour.”

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Saturday, January 6, 2018. I don’t have a radio show today, nor one tomorrow. I have a solo breakfast at Mattina Bella, and for the first time I have something good to read there. After failed calls too numerous to count, the digital help department of The New Yorker Magazine–to which I have subscribed since I was in my early teens–has solved my inability to read their articles on my smart phone. I am ecstatic about this. All that leaves me now is to make the same magic happen with Audible, my source of audio books for my long treks across the Causeway.

The Marys and I spend an hour or so cooking for one another. Mary Leigh made up a potato soup. It was robustly tasty, but needed bechamel to add a lacking richness. I would have peeled the potatoes, too. I eat potato skins when it’s a baked spud or fries, but they don’t play well in a soup.

Mary Ann had a big batch of shrimp, crabmeat and oysters. She cooked and everybody ate the first two items during a party last week. She froze the oysters, at the advice of her friend Maria, who is in the seafood wholesale business and who knows quite a lot about handling seafood. I always thought that freezing oysters was not a good idea, but a couple of years ago I had to admit that the bivalves do indeed survive the arctic temperatures.

A spectacular oyster pan roast, topped with browned parmigiano cheese.

They were still frozen when MA passed them on to me to deal with as I pleased. I surprised myself by finding a pair of muffin tins, each with a dozen pockets about an inch and a half in diameter. I can’t be the only person who knows this, but if you put an oyster in each of the pockets, then top it with a thick sauce (think Rockefeller, Mosca, Drago’s char-broiled, or the like). The muffin tins then go into the oven in the broiler setting, and broiled until they start bubbling. You eat them mouth-searingly hot.

My particular concoction is made with seasoned bread crumbs, chopped garlic, an assortment of dried herbs (tarragon, chervil, and the like). Melted butter and extra-virgin olive oil get stirred in last. Then the muffin tin gets the broiler. A few minutes later, the kitchen smells wonderful. (If you think garlic smells swell, which everyone in my family agrees that it does.)

The eating was typical for us. The Marys love the sauce from baked oysters, but they don’t like the oysters themselves. All those come to me, and the event is consummated. The flavors are reminiscent of those of Drago’s famous grilled oysters. I don’t get them exactly right, of course, because these are not Drago’s oysters.

It’s a wonder I don’t see this recipe anywhere. It’s so simple and so good that I recommend it to everybody.

Sunday, January 7, 2018. Return to a Restaurant I Don’t Really Like, And I find It’s Improved A Bit Better. The Chimes is the favorite restaurant of the Marys, but they know better than to ask me to join them, because with a few exceptions, I can’t stand the place. I do allow openings almost anywhere, however. One of those is the Sunday brunch at The Chimes.

Although the platters they make in that department arrive at the table in a presentation that makes it look as if it had been thrown onto the plate. It’s called Eggs Pontchartrain, croissants topped by a few slices of bacon at the bottom. Poached eggs with hollandaise on top of that. Cheese grits, an enormous improvement over the grits they have been serving in its initial years in their earlier days. Toasty little French bread pistolettes, with a buttery flavor and a soft but not too) crust. The server stayed on top of the game the whole time we were there.

All the while I worked on this, the Marys complained about the fact that their favorite at The Chimes is a big salad, which didn’t work well with the ice coldness of it. But the nicest thing about today is that after a week, we have had a break from the freezing (and I mean in the teens and twenties) that has had me worrying about my pipes around the Cool Water Ranch House all week long. Today, we have daytime temps in the sixties, and I can take a walk.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Ham and Goat Cheese Bread

This is good not only in a basket of breads for the dinner table, but also as a tangy breakfast item. Either this way or that, pop it into the oven until it smells marvelous. You can bake the entire amount of dough in a loaf pan and make one big bread, but I prefer the small muffin-sized version. If you can get it, use the New Orleans-made Chisesi ham, which has the perfect taste and texture for this.

  • 8 oz. fresh (not aged or feta) goat cheese
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. Creole mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 lb. smoked ham, thinly sliced then cut into pieces the size of quarters.
  • Generous pinch cayenne
  • 3 cups unsifted self-rising flour

1. Combine the goat cheese and cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer, and mix until fluffy.

2. Add the eggs, one at a time, while the mixer is running. Wait until the mixture is smooth before adding the next egg. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go.

3. Gradually add the buttermilk, mustard, salt, and cayenne, and mix till completely blended.

4. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Fold in the ham, and then add the flour. Mix the flour in with a wooden spoon to make what will be a very wet dough.

5. Spoon the dough into buttered muffin tins, filling to just below the top. Or put the dough into a buttered 9″x5″x3″ loaf pan.

6. Bake the muffins at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, or until puffed and brown. If making a loaf, lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake for one hour.

7. Let the loaf cool completely before attempting to slice. Refrigerate or freeze any unused part of the loaf.

Makes one loaf or twelve muffins.

EatClubSquare

Eat Club @ Country Club, 6:30 p.m., @
Scroll down for details, menus, reservation form, list of reservations and general info about the Eat Club.

Click here to reserve.

From the days when the Marigny and the Bywater sections began to flower with restaurants, the Country Club has been part of it. It has passed through a number of menus and service styles, none as good as the current regime. The current flavors are mostly imbued with contemporary Creole, bringing to the table that mix of familiar Louisiana ingredients as well as enough modern eating that the food feels original. Historically,that’s the kind of menu that the Eat Club has most enjoyed.

So here we are. The date is Thursday, January 25. Service begins at about 6:30 p.m.. Come early if you like for for cocktails (on you). We’ll have four courses with paired wines for $75 inclusive of tax, tip, and wines. We sit in tables of six to eight. I move around from table to table to shoot the breeze and discuss the eats and drinks. Payment is made at the restaurant at the beginning of dinner, by cash or credit cards. If you have any questions, write tO me at tom@nomenu.com.

Roasted Mushroom Vol-au-vent
Crispy mushrooms, poached egg and roasted garlic hollandaise
Wine: Wines to be selected

Shrimp Courtbouillon
Big fresh Louisiana white shrimp, yellow tomatoes, Creole Trinity and parmesan polenta
Wine: Wines to be paired

Lamb Ragout
Lamb Shanks Braised in Red Wine
Wine: French mirepoix with leeks, cipollini onions, collard greens and sweet potato gnocchi. Wines to be paired.

Lemon Cake With Lemon Ice Cream
House-made genoise soaked in limoncello and layered with lemon curd, served with lemon ice cream

Click here to reserve.

AlmanacSquare January 8, 2017

Days Until. . .

Mardi Gras– 48
Valentine’s Day– 48

Annals Of Bacon And Beans

The Battle of New Orleans was fought in the vicinity of Chalmette two hundred years ago today. It was the the last battle in the War of 1812. The war had already ended, but word hadn’t reached the 7500 British troops. They slogged through the swamps in what is now St. Bernard Parish, where they met defeat in Chalmette by Andrew Jackson’s collection of 3100 back-bayou defenders. Who took a little bacon and a little beans, so that a rhyme could be made with a mispronunciation of “New Orleans.” The battle was a rout, with 2000 British killed. It turned Andrew Jackson into a hero both here and nationally. His statue stands in the most prominent possible place in New Orleans.

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Vol-Au-Vent Day. Or, to translate into Creole, Pattie Shell Day. Made in sizes from that of a thimble to that of a coffee mug, vol-au-vents are made of two layers of puff pastry cut into circles. The top layer has a hole cut in the center. When stacked and then baked, they become cups to contain concoctions that typically run to the rich and saucy. The name translates “fly on the wind,” which suggests the ideal lightness of these puff pastry cups.

Puff Pastry Shell, also known as vol-au-vents.

Unlike the smaller patty shells, vol-au-vents are usually made with a cap of pastry to cover the contents to keep them from cooling. The cap is always tilted off center, so the contents inside the vol-au-vent can be seen. Larousse Gastronomique says that vol-au-vents were invented and named by Marie-Antoine Careme, famous French chef and author of the nineteenth century.

In New Orleans, vol-au-vents are most often made into a dish called oyster patties–little vol-au-vents filled with oysters in thick sauce, baked a little more to make them crusty. Nine out of ten of these are terrible, usually because the the sauce is too thick. In the hands of a skillful chef, however, vol-au-vents can be fantastic. The best I ever had was a sweetbreads and mushroom dish made by Chef Denis Rety at the short-lived but brilliant Le Chateau in Gretna. The vol-au-vent was about five inches across and three inches deep, and was delicious enough to compete with the goodness of the creamy sauce and rich sweetbreads. You’d never know it was a close cousin to the gross little oyster patties forced upon you at wedding receptions.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

If you have a delicious dish whose consistency registers as glop to some diners, and if it doesn’t seem right to serve over rice or pasta, bake it in a vol-au-vent. Everyone will find it very fancy.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Eaton is a small in sparsely-populated northeastern Maine, five miles from the Canadian border and at mile marker 117 on US 1. Its small concentration of houses is near the crossing of the New Brunswick Southern Railway. Just to the east is a natural lake formed by Crooked Brook. Fishing is great in there. Good thing, because the closest restaurant eatin’ is twenty-four miles east in McAdam, Canada: The Family Cafe.

Edible Dictionary

oyster sauce, n.,–A prepared sauce found in bottles in the Asian section of the supermarket. It’s dark brown and very thick, spreadable but not pourable. A staple of Chinese cooking oyster sauce is made with actual oysters, soy sauce, salt, sugar, and water. It’s used to flavor and darken Chinese sauces. One story has it that a cook making an oyster soup forgot that it was on the fire, and when he checked the pot he found a thick, dark sludge. He bravely tasted it and liked the flavor, and started making it on purpose. Oyster sauce has been used in Chinese cooking since the latter 1800s.

Annals Of Candy

Walter E. Diemer, the inventor of bubble gum, was born today in 1905. (He also died on this date, in 1998.) Diemer was working for the Fleer Chewing Gum Company as a bookkeeper, but his interest in the product was fervent enough that he often fooled around in the test kitchen. He made a five-pound sample of pink gum that was both softer and more stretchable than standard gum base. It was tested in a store in Philadelphia, and became an immediate hit. Diemer not only created the gum but the technique for blowing gum bubbles, which he had to teach to his salesmen. He said that the most amazing thing about his gum was not its popularity but the fact that most of it is still pink, as if that were part of its essence. Fleer still makes Dubble Bubble.

Food At Sea

Today in 2004, the RMS Queen Mary 2 was christened by Queen Elizabeth II, the granddaughter of Queen Mary. At the time, it was the largest cruise ship in the world, and hailed as the peak of luxury. The Eat Club has traveled on the QM2 twice: an Atlantic crossing and a cruise from New York to Quebec and back. The latter was among of the most enjoyable cruises we have ever taken.

Music To Eat Banana Sandwiches By

Today is Elvis Presley’s birthday, in 1935. About twenty-five years ago a line of wines bearing Elvis’s name and likeness appeared. “Was this Elvis’s favorite wine?” I asked the distributor. “Elvis didn’t drink wine,” he said. “But if he had, this is the wine he would have liked.”

The Saints

This is the feast day of Saint Erhard of Regensburg, who lived in Bavaria in the 600s. He is one of many patron saints of bakers.

Politics And Food

Tonight in 1992, the first President Bush, attending a state dinner in Tokyo, became nauseous and lost his lunch in the lap of the Japanese Prime Minister. The White House explanation was that Bush had stomach flu, a euphemism for food poisoning. Make up your own sushi joke.

Food Namesakes

Soupy Sales, a deliciously wacko comedian who was on TV a lot in the 1960s–frequently with a pie flying in the direction of someone’s face–was born today in 1926. . . Bill Graham, the leading impresario of rock music in San Francisco in the Summer of Love (1967), began his trip today in 1931.

Words To Eat By

“All knives and forks were working away at a rate that was quite alarming; very few words were spoken; and everybody seemed to eat his utmost, in self-defense, as if a famine were expected to set in before breakfast time tomorrow morning, and it had become high time to assert the first law of nature.”–Charles Dickens, referring to the way we eat in America.

Words To Drink By

“Americans may be drinking fewer alcoholic beverages, but they are certainly eating more of them than ever before. Wittingly or un.”–Marian Burros, food writer for the New York Times.

Extra Calendar Page

Today, the Monday after Epiphany, is Plow Day. That’s the day when farmers return to work after the twelve days of Christmas, plus whatever else the calendar allows them to get away with–one day, this year. Here in New Orleans, we wind up postponing anything serious for a month or two longer. Epiphany is the first day of Carnival, and we turn a lot of our attention to that celebration. So, if we did do any plowing around here, it wouldn’t get started in earnest until Ash Wednesday.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Oldest Of Culinary Dislikes.

Poems have been written on this subject.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Thursday, December 28, 02017. A Wrap On Christmas.

We have a social engagement running behind schedule. Chef Andrea seemed genuinely disappointed when, last year, he was out of the restaurant when our one-year-old grandson Jackson visited us. Andrea loves kids, and he wanted to feast his eyes on Jackson, as much as if the two of them were blood relatives, and with thorough sincerity.

Also at the table were my big sister Judy, who was looking very lovely. And my little sister Lynn and niece Holly. All of them are here because we have sort of a tradition to have lunch together between Christmas and New Year’s. Having Jackson–now two, and shortly to return to Los Angeles with his family–made the day special. But I had to leave in the middle of the lunch, because the radio show requires my attendance.

Jackson puts on some wonderful performances. He remembers the names of all the restaurants we visit, which tickles the owners tremendously. “Mattina Bella!” he said to a laughing Vincent Riccobono, who makes good pancakes. “Chef Andrea!” called up a big grin on the chef’s face. Everybody loves my blue-eyed grandson. This kid is a public relations marvel.

Friday, December 29, 2017. Wild Day In The Cold. Too much going on. The day began with an extra-early crossing of the bridge and an interview with Newell Normand, the former sheriff of Jefferson Parish. He is now the morning talk show host on WWL radio. He must have done some studying, because he sounds as if he’s had the skill down for many years. I was the interviewee, with Newell asking me where I’d recommend dining out on New Year’s Eve, three days hence. I didn’t bring up the matter that, like Dean Martin, I almost never go out on New Year’s Eve, because the restaurants are filled with amateur eaters and (in Dino’s case) drinkers.

However, that question comes up a lot on my own show, so I have enough answers to make it seems as in I know what I’m doing. That takes about an hour, during which Newell and I strike up a rapport.

That done, I penetrate the French Quarter for the annual Jesuit Class of 1968 reunion at the Court of Two Sisters. Parking on the Friday between Christmas and New Year’s packs the restaurants to the rafters. That is almost literally true, since we usually have our gathering on the second floor. I get a place to park only by getting on Rampart Street near the old Municipal Auditorium. There I find a small lot that dispenses parking tickets by machine. I’ll remember this for next year.

The usual conversation as to whether the Sazerac cocktail is almost identical to the Old Fashioned breaks out, but not for long. I have a joke to add. Seems that a new waitress approaches a table and asks whether the people sitting there would like a cocktail.

“I’d like an Old Fashioned,” says the patron.

“An old fashioned what?” asks the rookie waitress.

It’s a good stag party, with thirty-five Blue Jays in attendance. Pretty good for a bunch of guys looking ahead to the fiftieth anniversary of our common graduation. Which datum adds up to the fact that we are mostly in our late sixties.

There is one aspect of this I find very distressing, enough that I don’t feel comfortable about bringing it up hire and now.

Striking a happier note is Eddie Gros, who was a close friend when we were in the same class at St. Rita’s in Harahan. He’s a Jesuit priest now, with extensive accomplishments in Latin America.

I limit my Sazerac intake to one. I send back the osso buco that has become the standard entree at these gatherings. Osso buco gives me the gout, however, so I ask for something else. Which turns out to be a very pretty red snapper with a tasty, creamy white sauce.

Ro Jé French Restaurant

New Orleans East: 6940 Martin Dr.
1975-1983

When the eastern half of New Orleans began to build itself in the 1970s, everyone expected the area to become another Metairie. All the pieces were there: the major regional shopping mall, the suburban tract homes, the supermarkets. When a critical mass of Orleanians moved there, restaurants appeared.

The early restaurants in New Orleans East were very good. Already there was a community of seafood houses along Hayne Boulevard, rivaling those in West End Park. That made sense, given the proximity to the lake. But a nicer surprise was the number of more ambitious places, with beautiful dining rooms, advanced menus with a French touch, and complex food. The best of those was Crozier’s, a five-star French bistro. It opened in 1976 and was very successful. New Orleans East also had more excellent Chinese places than any other part of town.

At the peak of the development came a grand French-Creole restaurant called Ro Jé. The name was manufactured from Rosemary and Jerry Schroeder, the owners. I always thought that they should have respelled it Roget’s, followed by a description of the place as “Delicious, wonderful, toothsome, scrumptious, magnificent, tasty, savory, marvelous, and formidable!”

Ro Jé took itself quite seriously. In its early years, this was a successful strategy. The casual gourmet restaurant was still years away. Enough well-heeled customers lived in New Orleans East to keep the place busy, if the food were good.

It was. Consistent, too. I know, because I ate there a lot. The new owner of New Orleans Magazine (which I edited then) moved our offices from the CBD to the Kenilworth Mall–at the intersection of I-10 and Morrison Drive. His main business was a magazine selling used airplanes, and it made sense for that to be close to the airport. Didn’t make a lot of sense for New Orleans Magazine, but the guy was proud of writing all his own rules.

Ro Jé was across the parking lot from our new offices. The boss lunched there almost every day. I had other restaurants I needed to check for my restaurant reviews, but nevertheless I dined at Ro Jé more often than anywhere else.

As consistent as Ro Jé was, it was also safely far back from the cutting edge of cuisine. And that was a time when the edge wasn’t all that sharp. It was a time when all the major restaurants in New Orleans had interchangeable menus. It was the perfect thing for the suburbs: upscale, but familiar.

It was pleasant in other ways. Fernando Barahoma–the dining room manager–assembled an extraordinarily well-skilled and beautiful staff of hostesses and waitresses. They wore Edwardian chambermaid uniforms, to show that their pulchritude was no accident.

The premises were an optical treat, too, probably because Jerry Schroeder was in the construction business. The two rooms were lit by chandeliers. Tables were comfortable and well-spaced.

The style of cooking was a standard New Orleans Italian French, plus a few continental surprises (more bearnaise and peppercorn cream sauce than normal for those times). Yet the prices were affordable enough for frequent patronage. In the 1970s, a three-course dinner went for less than ten bucks. Not one of the entrees passed that mark, not even steak. And the portions were generous, too. Even adjusted for inflation, it was a great bargain.

Ro Jé most unusual and exciting dish was escargots Forestier. Snails were much more common in those days than now, and as yet nobody had discovered the idea of broiled the escargots in mushroom caps. The sauteed crab fingers and sauteed shrimp were also buttery, garlicky, and satisfying.

Ro Jé strew a lot of crabmeat around, usually in the company of hollandaise. At lunch the three-dollar “Ro Jé Sandwich” was nothing but crabmeat and hollandaise–lots and lots–on an English muffin. They also made crabmeat Remick, a favorite dish of mine to this day. It’s a small casserole with a remoulade-like sauce, bacon, and lots of crabmeat. Crabmeat crepes–with hollandaise. Yum.

Good gumbo and turtle soup. Salads, as they were everywhere in the 1970s, were terrible.

Fish here was reminiscent of the way they did it at Galatoire’s, if not quite as good. Trout amandine or meuniere were inevitable, of course, both with sizzling butter and a light brown, crunchy exterior. Redfish Ro Je was–can you guess?–topped with crabmeat and hollandaise.

This was the last place I ever saw chicken Kiev in a New Orleans restaurant. The big pleasure was cutting into it and watching the gush of hot butter and parsley. Here the eating is as much or greater a pleasure, the chicken breast nicely breaded and
sauteed.

The veal was not the incredibly tender kind the Elmwood Plantation and Broussard’s was spoiling us with in the 1970s. But they served lots of it in dishes like veal Oscar (crabmeat and hollandaise again, white asparagus spear). The steaks were decent, and came with French sauces.

Ro Jé only over-reached itself with one dish: its rack of lamb, roasted with pastry crust and a too-liberal Rockefeller-spinach layer. It all smothered the lamb.

Desserts came flamed or not. The wine list was nothing much, but that was true of all but a handful of restaurants then.

Ro Jé began to go down when the neighborhood demographics and the restaurant business rebalanced in the 1980s. A lot of its customers were Uptowners, who had few nearby restaurants. When the gourmet bistros like Clancy’s, the Upperline and Gautreau’s began popping up in 1983, the game was over for New Orleans East eateries. Even the brilliant Gerard Crozier had to move to Metairie to survive.

Ro Jé’s owners sold the place and went into the catering business (in which they are still engaged.) The chef–a talented, personable South American guy named Leopoldo Hirsch took over under the name Poldi’s. His food was good and his prices low. but the neighborhood didn’t support him. Formal dining in the suburbs was soon to die out entirely.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Semolina’s Creole Sauce

This is a fresh-tasting version of Creole sauce, developed by the Taste Buds (the three guys who developed Zea and Semolina over the years. It was made to complement Semolina’s excellent pasta jambalaya, one of the most popular dishes on their menu. (Although the dish was originally created by Mr. B’s.) Only one location of Semolina is still in business: on the south side of the Clearview Mall in Metairie. It preserves this and many interesting sauces that would otherwise be extinct. As well most Creole sauces should be. Most of them are closer to spaghetti sauce than the fresh modern version.

  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1 Tbs. parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp. garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. basil
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup whole canned tomatoes with juice, diced
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1 cup stock (shrimp or chicken)
  • 1/2 tsp. Crystal hot sauce

1. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, parsley, garlic, basil, cayenne pepper, white pepper, black pepper, salt, bay leaves, sugar and green onions. Cook until the bell pepper turns bright green and the onions begin to become transparent.

2. Stir in tomatoes, tomato puree, stock, and hot sauce. Bring to a boil, then cook at a simmer about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Makes about two cups.

AlmanacSquare January 5, 2017

Days Until. . .

Carnival Begins 1.
Mardi Gras & Valentine’s Day 39.

Eleventh Day of Christmas

Eleven pipers will be piping. Some old lady is trying to cross Veterans Highway with eleven Schwegmann bags. Allan Sherman got an automatic vegetable slicer that works when you see it on television but not when you get it home. Andy Williams’s friend brought gifts for one and all. And in my own attempt at this song, I’ll barbecue for you eleven jumbo shrimp. Tomorrow is Twelfth Night, the end of the Christmas season, and the beginning of the Carnival season.

Annals Of Food Research

Nobody (including him) knew what day he was born, so we note that this is the day in 1943 when George Washington Carver died. The son of a slave, Carver made revolutionary discoveries in agriculture, most of them motivated by a desire to help poor farmers in the South. He is best known for turning peanuts into a major cash crop. He also encouraged the wider consumption of sweet potatoes. He was brilliant enough that Henry Ford, among others, wanted to hire him. But he stayed at Tuskegee Institute and dedicated his life to helping the lot of poor farmers.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Eaton is a town of 8400 people in west central Ohio, twenty-five miles west of Dayton. It was founded in 1806, and named for General William Eaton, a hero of the war against the Barbary pirates in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The town grew quickly because it was at the junction of north-south and east-west turnpikes. If I were eatin’ in Eaton, I’d go the the Red Mule Inn, right in the middle of town.

This is the first in a series of Gourmet Gazetteer entries beginning with “Eat.”

Edible Dictionary

yam, n.–Around Louisiana, the word “yam” means nothing other than the sweet potato we grow widely here. But that’s not strictly a correct usage. The sweet potato–a New Word vegetable–is not related even distantly to a true yam. That’s a root vegetable, genus Dioscorea, that originally grew mostly from Africa through Asia. Its roots are much thicker, yellower, and more bitter than the sweet potato. It also contain bitter elements that need to be cooked out. The roots burrow deep into the soil, and they’re hard to harvest, especially in Africa (which gave the yam its name). People usually ate them only when there was nothing else. The Africans brought them to the Caribbean, where they remain popular. If you ever encounter true yams, they’ll probably be involved in a dish with Caribbean roots (no pun intended).

Food Inventions

Today is the birthday, in 1914, of Aaron Lapin, the inventor of whipped cream in an aerosol can. He called it Reddi-Wip, and it really was (and still is) whipped cream, not plastic stuck together with vegetable gum that commonly comes from a can. Reddi-Wip was made with light cream, although they have a fattier and creamier version.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine And Food Writing

The trademark Home of the Whopper was issued to Burger King on this date in 1965. That very year, Burger King became the first restaurant I ever dined in on my own, with my own money. It was the one on Airline Highway near Turnbull, the first location of the franchise in New Orleans. I had a Whopper, fries, and a Coke. I got there on my bicycle after a ride of about three miles. I was fourteen.

Food Calendar

Because of the item about Reddi-Wip above, today is National Whipped Cream Day. As long as it’s real whipped cream, we love it. It’s easy enough to make, even by hand. You may use either regular or heavy whipping cream. Gadgets have even been developed to use light cream, half-and-half, or even skim milk to make whipped “cream,” but you’d be better off using less of the real thing instead of more of that less satisfying stuff.

It’s fortunate that the whipped cream observance should be today, because we are now well into the Louisiana strawberry season. We bought some real beauties from a roadside stand yesterday, and my daughter has already eaten three pints of them. Sweet and wonderful, with or without whipped cream.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

When making your own whipped cream: a) Keep the cream cold; 2) Whip in a back-and-forth, not circular, motion, and iii) Don’t overbeat, or the whipped cream will break into butter and whey.

Etymology Of Dish Names

Today is the birthday, as far as we know, of the word hamburger. It first appeared in the expression “hamburger steak” on this day in 1889, in the Union-Bulletin newspaper in Walla Walla, Washington. It was in an ad for a restaurant that served a popular dish among the many German immigrants: the Hamburg steak, made of ground beef.

Restaurants And The Economy

The Consumer Age in America was born on this date in 1914, when Henry Ford announced a new plan for the employees of the Ford Motor Company. He reduced the work week to five days of eight hours a day, with no reduction in pay. He also set the minimum wage at five dollars a day. “We believe in making 20,000 men prosperous and contented rather than follow the plan of making a few slave drivers in our establishment multi-millionaires,” Ford said.

Ford was widely criticized in business management circles for this decision, but it transformed the country. Ford employees, with more money and time on their hands, spent it on leisure pursuits. One of the first things they did was buy cars. Now the American economy is largely fired by consumer spending, as a result of the trend Ford set in motion. We certainly wouldn’t have our enormous restaurant industry were it not for the prosperity of the average American.

Food Namesakes

Tracy Ham, a Canadian professional football quarterback, passed into life today in 1964. . . Michael DeWine, a Congressman from Ohio, was born today in 1947. . . And the aforementioned Reddi-Wip inventor Aaron Lapin was born today in 1914. “Lapin” is the French word for rabbit.

Words To Eat By

“When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘that knowledge is for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.'”–George Washington Carver.

“Nothing important has ever come out of San Francisco, Rice-a-Roni aside.”–Comedian and writer Michael O’Donoghue, born today in 1950.

Words To Drink By

“When your companions get drunk and fight,
Take up your hat and wish them good night.”–Unknown, Irish.

FoodFunniesSquare

Do The Effects Of Aging Extend Beyond Wine And Prime Steaks?

This has been studied only very slightly, and we still don’t know. Except, of course, the inevitable increases in prices.

Click here for the cartoon.

####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Dining Diary By Mary Ann Fitzmorris, For A Change.

We’re Southerners, okay? Not Chicago, or Boston, or Missoula. We don’t do “real winter.” So when I saw the Abita town fountain frozen over, I decided to RSVP (this time, regrets) an invitation to what promised to be a spectacular way to ring in 2018. It was to be a party in the presidential suite on the top floor of the Westin Canal Place Hotel to see the midnight fireworks.

I hope the hosts–who I know are reading this) forgive me in this lifetime. It was so bitterly cold I wouldn’t leave the house yesterday even to get black eyed peas. Besides, Tom was going to have his own NYE fun checking the pipes every fifteen minutes outside to make sure they don’t freeze up. I didn’t have the heart to pull him away from that. I decided to hunker down for the evening and cook. We have lots of food we didn’t get to at Christmas.

I began with leftover lump crabmeat that didn’t wind up in the crab cakes Benedict our son and his family. I dropped it into a saucepan with chopped scallions and butter and capers. Capers were always a failproof food item for me–until I did this night’s recipe.

Something was off with it. I didn’t swoon when I tasted it. I grabbed some cream and cream cheese (heavy artillery) and parmesan cheese, and put it all in a baking dish. It went into the oven I’m using in this cold in lieu of a fireplace. We devoured this quickly with some Stacy’s fire roasted jalapeno pita chips.

We popped the bubbly at about 8:30 and I brought out some new potato slices topped with scallion sour cream and caviar, dusted lightly with sea salt.

I also sliced some cooked Italian sausage links and layered them with sliced Brussels sprouts in a baking dish, alternating them for visual effect, then I poured sautéed onion and jalapeno over them to bake.

Hummus made with blackeye peas.

Black eye peas are, to me, a success-proof food item. Disguising them is the only option. In the past they have found their way into baked beans where the cabbage was cole slaw, or a fresh cilantro dressing salsa, or hummus. Today I did a four-bean hummus which will not show up in pics. Hummus is a homely dish at best, so imagine it with black beans and kidney beans as well as the peas.

And I finally roasted the poor root veggies that never make it to the oven for Christmas. I also made more sweet potatoes. If you’re still doing sweet potatoes with mini marshmallows and brown sugar, I have one word for you. Reboot!! It’s 2018!
(All recipes are below)

Satisfied with my promises to keep the pipe project going, Tom went to bed, leaving me all alone to cook the traditional foods for the first day of the new year in my non-traditional way.

Outside was a nearly-full moon. I moved onto the kitchen deck in the cold. The sky was exquisite, as it can be only in rural settings away from city lights. The overcast sky was stuffed with nearly perfect rows of fluffy clouds, dotted only by an occasional very bright star peeking through. I stood all alone in the bitter cold, at perfect peace and almost giddy happy about prospects for 2018.

Within minutes it was 2018 and the country neighbors blew up their thousand dollars right over the tree line. Fabulous show, I felt just for me, though I know better. I sipped my champagne with a huge smile on my face, until I could bear the cold no longer. It went on for a bit, and I went in and out on the kitchen deck until it was finished.

I enjoyed my quiet time in these last minutes of the year just passed. I was grateful to ponder the final six weeks of 2017, and their profound (and even divine) message for me. The last month of 2017 was so dreadful I had to give myself a pep talk each morning. But the very last bit of news I received in 2017 makes it seem that 2018 will be a thrill ride-a little scary but totally exhilarating.

I wish the same for you. Buckle up!

Crab Dip

1 lb lump crabmeat
1/2 cup cream cheese
Bunch chopped scallions
1/3 stick of butter
1/2 cup cream or half and half
Tbs. capers (optional)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese.
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (optional)

1. In a skillet, heat butter and scallions.

2. Add cream cheese, cream and parmesan till melted. Gently toss in crab and transfer to baking dish. Add bread crumbs and bake at 350 till bubbling.

Hummus

Take your favorite hummus recipe and replace half the garbanzo beans with black eyed peas and other beans.

Fingerling Appetizers

Small fingerling potatoes
Bunch scallions
4 oz sour cream
Caviar
Sea salt (optional)

1. Bake potatoes at 350 till done
2. Slice cooled potatoes (skin on) into 1/4″ slices.
3. Chop scallions finely and mix into sour cream, placing a teaspoon on top of each piece.
4. Place caviar in top and lightly dust with sea salt

Sweet Potatoes

5 small but long sweet potatoes
3/4 stick butter
5 Tbs. cinnamon
4 Tbs. turmeric
5 Tbs. curry powder
4 Tbs. ginger
3 Tbs. nutmeg
3 Tbs. cumin

Peel potatoes and slice lengthwise, then into quarter inch pieces. Place in 2 ” glass baking dish. Sprinkle each spice and on top And place the butter on top. Bake at 350, checking often to coat all pieces with the melted butter.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Meatballs And Spaghetti

Two meatballs stand out in my memory of eating that famous American-Italian dish. (It surprises many American travelers that meatballs are rarely seen in Italy.) The first was the gigantic, ultra-light “diamond-studded” meatballs created by Diamond Jim Moran at the old La Louisiane. (He actually used to put diamonds in them for very special customers.) The other great meatballs were the ordinary-looking ones that Chef Goffredo Fraccaro made at his now-gone La Riviera. They were famously crusty and delicious.

The sad part of this tale is that neither meatball is being made anymore. So we must do them ourselves, or at least try. This recipe makes a meatball with the incomparable lightness of Moran’s, and the crusty meatiness of Goffredo’s. Here are the tricks:

1. Use stock-soaked bread instead of breadcrumbs.
2. Use a bit of ground pork with the ground beef.
3. Beat the eggs to a near-froth.
4. Handle the meatballs as little as possible when rolling them.

Get a pot of smooth red sauce ready before you start, because that’s where these will go at the end of the process to finish cooking.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • 2 lbs. ground meat, consisting of up to 1 lb. ground pork (you can use less if you like, or none) and the rest ground beef round
  • 1 four-inch piece stale French bread, crusts cut away
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 12 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • Vegetable oil for frying

1. Break the ground meat up into a bowl and toss with fingers dripping with cold water to blend the two kinds.

2. Break the bread up into small pieces, and mix into 1/4 cup cold water with a fork until it has the texture of mashed potatoes. Add this to the meat, along with all the other ingredients except the eggs and oil. Again, wet your hands with cold water and toss the ingredients loosely to distribute them evenly.

3. With a wire whisk or blender (an immersion blender works very well), beat the eggs into a fine froth. Pour this evenly into the meat mixture.

4. Wet your hands again with cold water and caress the mixture into balls two to two and half inches in diameter. Handle the meatballs as gently as possible, compacting them just enough to make them stick together. Don’t worry is there are cracks as fissures, as long as they’re not about to break wide open.

5. Heat the oil about a quarter-inch deep in a skillet over medium-high heat. Put in enough meatballs to allow them to be rolled around easily. Roll them around every minute or so to brown them evenly. This will take ten to fifteen minutes, depending on the size of the meatballs.

6. When the meatballs are browned, remove from the pan and place into a pot of simmering tomato sauce. Cook for at least ten minutes, until no pink is left in the center.

Remove the meatballs from the sauce. Put cooked pasta into a bowl and pour the sauce over it. Toss to coat the pasta completely. Serve with a meatball on the top or size. (One of these is enough.)

Makes eight to twelve meatballs.

AlmanacSquare January 4, 2017

Days Until. . .

Carnival Begins 2.
Mardi Gras 54.

Tenth Day of Christmas

Here come the leaping lords. I don’t know what that’s all about, and I don’t think I want to know. Also silly: the chromium combination manicure, scissors and cigarette lighter in Allan Sherman’s version of the song. In another: mistletoe arrives today, too late for the parties. Benny Grunch goes to the Tenneco Chalmette Refinery for some reason. In our own take on the Twelve Days song, today we’d like to simmer for you ten cups of red beans to go with the nine cups of rice and eight links of sausage from the last two days.

tenlordsleapingHere come the leaping lords. I don’t know what that’s all about, and I don’t think I want to know. Also silly: the chromium combination manicure, scissors and cigarette lighter in Allan Sherman’s version of the song. In another: mistletoe arrives today, too late for the parties. Benny Grunch goes to the Tenneco Chalmette Refinery for some reason. In our own take on the Twelve Days song, today we’d like to simmer for you ten cups of red beans to go with the nine cups of rice and eight links of sausage from the last two days.

Today’s Flavor

This is National Spaghetti Day. As much as I love pasta, whenever I encounter spaghetti in the strictest sense of the word, I’m glad that we don’t eat it often. The thinner string pastas–spaghettini, vermicelli, angel hair–have taken over. Thicker spaghetti doesn’t roll up onto a fork, or hold as much sauce. This is because, ounce for ounce, the thinner the pasta, the more surface area it has.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Breaking spaghetti to fit into a storage jar is carrying organization a little too far.

Gourmet Gazetteer

After tumbling three miles through the mountainous Boise National Forest at about seven thousand feet, Oxtail Creek ends in the perfect place: Bull Creek. That flows southward into the Payette River, a tributary of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Oxtail Creek’s end is ninety-eight miles north of the city of Boise, and is a good hiking and fishing area. The nearest restaurant are an eighteen-mile hike due east to Cascade, where among other choices is the Whistle Stop.

Food In Show Biz

The movie Chocolat, about a new-in-town single mother who works her way into the hearts of her neighbors in a small French town by making excellent chocolate pastries premiered today in 2001.

It’s also the birthday of fictional chocolate magnate Willy Wonka–as a trademark for the line of candy bearing the character’s name. Issued today in 1972.

Food On The Air

Today was the premiere, in 1932, of the Carnation Contented Hour, a music variety show on radio sponsored by Carnation Evaporated Milk, the milk from contented cows. Would you prefer milk from a contented cow or a singing cow? I have one of the Carnation shows in my collection; I wish I had more. Good music back then.

Sounds Like A Food Story, But Isn’t

Today in 2006, the first female Beefeater was confirmed. Best known for gracing the label of the bottle of the namesake gin, the Beefeaters–more properly known as Yeoman Warders–have been guarding the Tower of London for over five hundred years. All of them were men until then. But it’s not the rough-and-tumble job it once was. Beefeaters now mainly entertain visitors to the Tower.

Edible Dictionary

cipolline, [chip-oh-LEE-neh], Italian, n.–A medium-large, mature onion with the appearance of having been flattened, such that its equator bulges outward. It is related to the true shallot, and has more complexity of flavor than the standard white or yellow onion. Although it’s used as a base of flavor in stocks and sauces, it’s often used for pickling, brunoise as a garnish in a salad or other cold dish, or as the onion component of a kebab. Cipollini are most popular in Italy, but have become more common in American supermarkets. They’re interesting to cook with.

Eat Club Namesakes

Today is the birthday, in 1837, of Charles Stratton, a midget known in the world of entertainment as General Tom Thumb. I only bring this up because an Eat Club regular who travels here from Little Rock to attend our dinners has the same real name and stage name. He’s not a midget, though, so his circus career didn’t amount to much, forcing him to do very well in more conventional businesses.

Food Namesakes

J. Danforth Quayle, the vise-prisedint under George Bush I, was borne tooday in 1947. . . Arthur Berry, an early British Olympic soccer star, was born today in 1888. . . Wilhelm Beer, an astronomer who drew the first known map of the moon based on telescopic observations, was born today in 1797. . . Jon Appleton, an American classical composer, was born today in 1939.

Words To Eat By

“No man is lonely while eating spaghetti; it requires so much attention.”–Christopher Morley.

“Nothing spoils lunch any quicker than a rogue meatball rampaging through your spaghetti.”–Jim Davis, author of the comic strip “Garfield.”

“Eating food with a knife and fork is like making love through an interpreter.”–Anonymous.

Words To Drink By

“We live in stirring times—tea-stirring times.”–Christopher Isherwood, British writer, who died today in 1986.

FoodFunniesSquare

Great Eating Truths #68305035.

The hunger and thirsts that greet the new day have puzzling effectiveness.

Click here for the cartoon.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Dining Diary By Mary Ann Fitzmorris, For A Change.

We’re Southerners, okay? Not Chicago, or Boston, or Missoula. We don’t do “real winter.” So when I saw the Abita town fountain frozen over, I decided to RSVP (this time, regrets) an invitation to what promised to be a spectacular way to ring in 2018. It was to be a party in the presidential suite on the top floor of the Westin Canal Place Hotel to see the midnight fireworks.

I hope the hosts–who I know are reading this) forgive me in this lifetime. It was so bitterly cold I wouldn’t leave the house yesterday even to get black eyed peas. Besides, Tom was going to have his own NYE fun checking the pipes every fifteen minutes outside to make sure they don’t freeze up. I didn’t have the heart to pull him away from that. I decided to hunker down for the evening and cook. We have lots of food we didn’t get to at Christmas.

I began with leftover lump crabmeat that didn’t wind up in the crab cakes Benedict our son and his family. I dropped it into a saucepan with chopped scallions and butter and capers. Capers were always a failproof food item for me–until I did this night’s recipe.

Something was off with it. I didn’t swoon when I tasted it. I grabbed some cream and cream cheese (heavy artillery) and parmesan cheese, and put it all in a baking dish. It went into the oven I’m using in this cold in lieu of a fireplace. We devoured this quickly with some Stacy’s fire roasted jalapeno pita chips.

We popped the bubbly at about 8:30 and I brought out some new potato slices topped with scallion sour cream and caviar, dusted lightly with sea salt.

I also sliced some cooked Italian sausage links and layered them with sliced Brussels sprouts in a baking dish, alternating them for visual effect, then I poured sautéed onion and jalapeno over them to bake.

Hummus made with blackeye peas.

Black eye peas are, to me, a success-proof food item. Disguising them is the only option. In the past they have found their way into baked beans where the cabbage was cole slaw, or a fresh cilantro dressing salsa, or hummus. Today I did a four-bean hummus which will not show up in pics. Hummus is a homely dish at best, so imagine it with black beans and kidney beans as well as the peas.

And I finally roasted the poor root veggies that never make it to the oven for Christmas. I also made more sweet potatoes. If you’re still doing sweet potatoes with mini marshmallows and brown sugar, I have one word for you. Reboot!! It’s 2018!
(All recipes are below)

Satisfied with my promises to keep the pipe project going, Tom went to bed, leaving me all alone to cook the traditional foods for the first day of the new year in my non-traditional way.

Outside was a nearly-full moon. I moved onto the kitchen deck in the cold. The sky was exquisite, as it can be only in rural settings away from city lights. The overcast sky was stuffed with nearly perfect rows of fluffy clouds, dotted only by an occasional very bright star peeking through. I stood all alone in the bitter cold, at perfect peace and almost giddy happy about prospects for 2018.

Within minutes it was 2018 and the country neighbors blew up their thousand dollars right over the tree line. Fabulous show, I felt just for me, though I know better. I sipped my champagne with a huge smile on my face, until I could bear the cold no longer. It went on for a bit, and I went in and out on the kitchen deck until it was finished.

I enjoyed my quiet time in these last minutes of the year just passed. I was grateful to ponder the final six weeks of 2017, and their profound (and even divine) message for me. The last month of 2017 was so dreadful I had to give myself a pep talk each morning. But the very last bit of news I received in 2017 makes it seem that 2018 will be a thrill ride-a little scary but totally exhilarating.

I wish the same for you. Buckle up!

Crab Dip

1 lb lump crabmeat
1/2 cup cream cheese
Bunch chopped scallions
1/3 stick of butter
1/2 cup cream or half and half
Tbs. capers (optional)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese.
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (optional)

1. In a skillet, heat butter and scallions.

2. Add cream cheese, cream and parmesan till melted. Gently toss in crab and transfer to baking dish. Add bread crumbs and bake at 350 till bubbling.

Hummus

Take your favorite hummus recipe and replace half the garbanzo beans with black eyed peas and other beans.

Fingerling Appetizers

Small fingerling potatoes
Bunch scallions
4 oz sour cream
Caviar
Sea salt (optional)

1. Bake potatoes at 350 till done
2. Slice cooled potatoes (skin on) into 1/4″ slices.
3. Chop scallions finely and mix into sour cream, placing a teaspoon on top of each piece.
4. Place caviar in top and lightly dust with sea salt

Sweet Potatoes

5 small but long sweet potatoes
3/4 stick butter
5 Tbs. cinnamon
4 Tbs. turmeric
5 Tbs. curry powder
4 Tbs. ginger
3 Tbs. nutmeg
3 Tbs. cumin

Peel potatoes and slice lengthwise, then into quarter inch pieces. Place in 2 ” glass baking dish. Sprinkle each spice and on top And place the butter on top. Bake at 350, checking often to coat all pieces with the melted butter.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Meatballs And Spaghetti

Two meatballs stand out in my memory of eating that famous American-Italian dish. (It surprises many American travelers that meatballs are rarely seen in Italy.) The first was the gigantic, ultra-light “diamond-studded” meatballs created by Diamond Jim Moran at the old La Louisiane. (He actually used to put diamonds in them for very special customers.) The other great meatballs were the ordinary-looking ones that Chef Goffredo Fraccaro made at his now-gone La Riviera. They were famously crusty and delicious.

The sad part of this tale is that neither meatball is being made anymore. So we must do them ourselves, or at least try. This recipe makes a meatball with the incomparable lightness of Moran’s, and the crusty meatiness of Goffredo’s. Here are the tricks:

1. Use stock-soaked bread instead of breadcrumbs.
2. Use a bit of ground pork with the ground beef.
3. Beat the eggs to a near-froth.
4. Handle the meatballs as little as possible when rolling them.

Get a pot of smooth red sauce ready before you start, because that’s where these will go at the end of the process to finish cooking.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • 2 lbs. ground meat, consisting of up to 1 lb. ground pork (you can use less if you like, or none) and the rest ground beef round
  • 1 four-inch piece stale French bread, crusts cut away
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 12 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • Vegetable oil for frying

1. Break the ground meat up into a bowl and toss with fingers dripping with cold water to blend the two kinds.

2. Break the bread up into small pieces, and mix into 1/4 cup cold water with a fork until it has the texture of mashed potatoes. Add this to the meat, along with all the other ingredients except the eggs and oil. Again, wet your hands with cold water and toss the ingredients loosely to distribute them evenly.

3. With a wire whisk or blender (an immersion blender works very well), beat the eggs into a fine froth. Pour this evenly into the meat mixture.

4. Wet your hands again with cold water and caress the mixture into balls two to two and half inches in diameter. Handle the meatballs as gently as possible, compacting them just enough to make them stick together. Don’t worry is there are cracks as fissures, as long as they’re not about to break wide open.

5. Heat the oil about a quarter-inch deep in a skillet over medium-high heat. Put in enough meatballs to allow them to be rolled around easily. Roll them around every minute or so to brown them evenly. This will take ten to fifteen minutes, depending on the size of the meatballs.

6. When the meatballs are browned, remove from the pan and place into a pot of simmering tomato sauce. Cook for at least ten minutes, until no pink is left in the center.

Remove the meatballs from the sauce. Put cooked pasta into a bowl and pour the sauce over it. Toss to coat the pasta completely. Serve with a meatball on the top or size. (One of these is enough.)

Makes eight to twelve meatballs.

AlmanacSquare January 4, 2017

Days Until. . .

Carnival Begins 2.
Mardi Gras 54.

Tenth Day of Christmas

Here come the leaping lords. I don’t know what that’s all about, and I don’t think I want to know. Also silly: the chromium combination manicure, scissors and cigarette lighter in Allan Sherman’s version of the song. In another: mistletoe arrives today, too late for the parties. Benny Grunch goes to the Tenneco Chalmette Refinery for some reason. In our own take on the Twelve Days song, today we’d like to simmer for you ten cups of red beans to go with the nine cups of rice and eight links of sausage from the last two days.

tenlordsleapingHere come the leaping lords. I don’t know what that’s all about, and I don’t think I want to know. Also silly: the chromium combination manicure, scissors and cigarette lighter in Allan Sherman’s version of the song. In another: mistletoe arrives today, too late for the parties. Benny Grunch goes to the Tenneco Chalmette Refinery for some reason. In our own take on the Twelve Days song, today we’d like to simmer for you ten cups of red beans to go with the nine cups of rice and eight links of sausage from the last two days.

Today’s Flavor

This is National Spaghetti Day. As much as I love pasta, whenever I encounter spaghetti in the strictest sense of the word, I’m glad that we don’t eat it often. The thinner string pastas–spaghettini, vermicelli, angel hair–have taken over. Thicker spaghetti doesn’t roll up onto a fork, or hold as much sauce. This is because, ounce for ounce, the thinner the pasta, the more surface area it has.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Breaking spaghetti to fit into a storage jar is carrying organization a little too far.

Gourmet Gazetteer

After tumbling three miles through the mountainous Boise National Forest at about seven thousand feet, Oxtail Creek ends in the perfect place: Bull Creek. That flows southward into the Payette River, a tributary of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Oxtail Creek’s end is ninety-eight miles north of the city of Boise, and is a good hiking and fishing area. The nearest restaurant are an eighteen-mile hike due east to Cascade, where among other choices is the Whistle Stop.

Food In Show Biz

The movie Chocolat, about a new-in-town single mother who works her way into the hearts of her neighbors in a small French town by making excellent chocolate pastries premiered today in 2001.

It’s also the birthday of fictional chocolate magnate Willy Wonka–as a trademark for the line of candy bearing the character’s name. Issued today in 1972.

Food On The Air

Today was the premiere, in 1932, of the Carnation Contented Hour, a music variety show on radio sponsored by Carnation Evaporated Milk, the milk from contented cows. Would you prefer milk from a contented cow or a singing cow? I have one of the Carnation shows in my collection; I wish I had more. Good music back then.

Sounds Like A Food Story, But Isn’t

Today in 2006, the first female Beefeater was confirmed. Best known for gracing the label of the bottle of the namesake gin, the Beefeaters–more properly known as Yeoman Warders–have been guarding the Tower of London for over five hundred years. All of them were men until then. But it’s not the rough-and-tumble job it once was. Beefeaters now mainly entertain visitors to the Tower.

Edible Dictionary

cipolline, [chip-oh-LEE-neh], Italian, n.–A medium-large, mature onion with the appearance of having been flattened, such that its equator bulges outward. It is related to the true shallot, and has more complexity of flavor than the standard white or yellow onion. Although it’s used as a base of flavor in stocks and sauces, it’s often used for pickling, brunoise as a garnish in a salad or other cold dish, or as the onion component of a kebab. Cipollini are most popular in Italy, but have become more common in American supermarkets. They’re interesting to cook with.

Eat Club Namesakes

Today is the birthday, in 1837, of Charles Stratton, a midget known in the world of entertainment as General Tom Thumb. I only bring this up because an Eat Club regular who travels here from Little Rock to attend our dinners has the same real name and stage name. He’s not a midget, though, so his circus career didn’t amount to much, forcing him to do very well in more conventional businesses.

Food Namesakes

J. Danforth Quayle, the vise-prisedint under George Bush I, was borne tooday in 1947. . . Arthur Berry, an early British Olympic soccer star, was born today in 1888. . . Wilhelm Beer, an astronomer who drew the first known map of the moon based on telescopic observations, was born today in 1797. . . Jon Appleton, an American classical composer, was born today in 1939.

Words To Eat By

“No man is lonely while eating spaghetti; it requires so much attention.”–Christopher Morley.

“Nothing spoils lunch any quicker than a rogue meatball rampaging through your spaghetti.”–Jim Davis, author of the comic strip “Garfield.”

“Eating food with a knife and fork is like making love through an interpreter.”–Anonymous.

Words To Drink By

“We live in stirring times—tea-stirring times.”–Christopher Isherwood, British writer, who died today in 1986.

FoodFunniesSquare

Great Eating Truths #68305035.

The hunger and thirsts that greet the new day have puzzling effectiveness.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, December 29, 2017. Wild Day In The Cold. Too much going on. The day began with an extra-early crossing of the bridge and an interview with Newell Normand, the former sheriff of Jefferson Parish. He is now the morning talk show host on WWL radio. He must have done some studying, because he sounds like he had it down. For a change, I was the interviewee, with Newell asking me where I’d recommend dining out on New Year’s Eve, three days hence. I didn’t bring up the matter that, like Dean Martin, I almost never go out on New Year’s Eve, because the restaurants are filled with amateur eaters and (in Dino’s case) drinkers.

However, that question comes up a lot on my own show, so I have enough answers to make it seems as in I know what I’m doing. That takes about an hour, during which Newell and I strike up a rapport.

That done, I try to penetrate the French Quarter for the annual Jesuit Class of 1968 reunion at the Court of Two Sisters. Parking on the Friday between Christmas and New Year’s packs the restaurant to the rafters. That is almost literally true, since we usually have our gathering on the second floor. I get a place to park only by getting on Rampart Street near the old Municipal Auditorium. There I find a small lot that dispenses parking tickets by machine. I’ll remember this for next year.

The usual conversation as to whether the Sazerac cocktail is almost identical to the Old Fashioned breaks out, but not for long. I have a joke to add. Seems that a new waitress approaches a table and asks whether the people sitting there would like a cocktail.

“I’d like an Old Fashioned,” says the patron.

“An old fashioned what?” asks the rookie waitress.

It’s a nice party, with thirty-five people in attendance. Pretty good for a bunch of guys looking ahead to the fiftieth anniversary of our common graduation. Which datum adds up to the fact that we are mostly in out late sixties. One aspect of this I find very distressing, enough that I don’t feel comfortable about bringing it up.

Sitting next to me is Edwin Gros, who was a close friend when we were at St. Rita’s in Harahan. He’s a Jesuit priest now, with extensive accomplishments in Latin American.

I limit my Sazerac intake to one. I send back the osso buco that has become the standard entree at these gatherings. Osso buco gives me the gout, however, so I ask for something else. Which turns out to be a very pretty red snapper with a tasty, creamy white sauce.

The gathering keeps going, but I must depart at two-ish. I go on the air at three. It has been a little to busy for me. And I keep thinking there’s something else I was supposed to have done but have not.

Casa Borrega.

Warehouse District & Center City: 1719 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. 504-427-0654.
4 Fleur BreakfastNo Breakfast SundayNo Breakfast MondayNo Breakfast TuesdayNo Breakfast WednesdayNo Breakfast ThursdayNo Breakfast FridayNo Breakfast Saturday
LunchNo Lunch SundayNo Lunch MondayLunch TuesdayLunch WednesdayLunch ThursdayLunch FridayLunch Saturday
DinnerDinner SundayNo Dinner MondayDinner TuesdayDinner WednesdayDinner ThursdayDinner FridayDinner Saturday

Casa Borrega

Warehouse District & Center City: 1719 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. 504-427-0654. Map.
Casual.
AE DC DS MC V
Website

The search for Mexican food in New Orleans usually brings up the word “authentic,” meant to set apart restaurants serving hard-to-find dishes from those aimed at the Tex-Mex category. I know of no Mexican restaurant in these parts that’s really “authentic.” No restaurant has the combination of ingredients, cooks, customers, and menu to claim strict authenticity. But some come close. Casa Borrega may be the best on that small list. It starts with the best locally-produced mole poblano–the fantastic bitter-chocolate-and-chile concoction that may be the world’s best sauce. Good start. Now look at the rest of the menu and note that you either a) see lots of dishes you’ve only had in Mexico City or 2) some marvelous versions of Mexican-American standards.

The two co-owners (partners in both senses of the word) come from Mexico City and San Francisco. That cross-pollination creates a fascinating restaurant, both in terms of the cooking and the environment. The restaurant is in the Oretha Castle Haley corridor, in a handsome Greek-revival two-story. The interior decor will grab you by the eyes in numerous ways. When you talk about it, you’ll make a big deal about the dining rooms.

The kitchen goes all over the Mexican plane, with dishes you’ve never heard of that still manage to be familiar. Very few Tex-Mex combos appear. Fear not; you’ll find something as delicious as offbeat. Better stylle, take advantage of this lesson in Aztec flavor.
»»=BEST DISHES
PARA EMPEZAR
Guacamole & chips
Homemade tortilla chips and salsas
»»Elote o Esquites (grilled corn on the cob or
whole corn kernels, epazote, cotija cheese, mayonnaise,
chili powder, lime

»»Queso o Choriqueso
Melted cheese, pico de gallo, fresh tortilla chips
Option: add chorizo

Piña, Pepino & Jicama
Pineapple, cucumber and jicama (mango or orange) with lime, chile tajin

ANTOJITOS (Small Plates)
»»Ceviche (Fresh Gulf Fish and Shrimp) marinated in lime juice, cucumber, radish, avocado, onion, tortilla chips, saltines

Coctel de Camaron (shrimp cocktail, avocado and pico de gallo, chips or saltines
San Antonio Nachos (enough for two)
Housemade tortilla chips smothered in refried
beans, picadillo OR pollo with Monterrey Jack,
Queso Chihuahua, Mexican sour cream, Pico de
Gallo, jalapeños optional

Flautas (Chipotle chicken flautas, crema Mexicana, Queso fresco)
Quesadilla de Papa (Two fried potato quesadillas Mexico City street-style, crema, queso, shredded lettuce)

PLATILLOS TIPICOS (Classic Entrees)
Pozole Mexican hominy soup with pork in a spicy red
broth with radish, cabbage, chile, tortillas

»»Camarones al Tequila (Gulf shrimp in butter, garlic, tequila, with rice and side salad)
»»Borrego de Oro (tequila marinated lamb, grilled nopalitos, cebollitas, lamb consommé, corn tortillas

Chile Relleno
Large Poblano pepper battered and filled with cheese, veggies OR picadllo served tomato salsa, rice and side salad

»»Carne a la Tampiqueña (New York strip steak, veggies on the
grill

»»Enchilladas de Pollo con molé (Three chicken enchiladas in mole sauce with onion and sesame seeds)

Enchiladas Mexicanas (Three chicken enchiladas with red and green salsas, crema, Queso Fresco

TACOS & QUESADILLAS
»»Lisi’s Lengua, Carne Asada, Pollo, o pescado frito (Angus beef, tongue, grilled steak, Halal grilled chicken, or fried fish tacos with onions, cilantro, lime & tomatillo salsa (Mexico City street
style) served on corn tortillas (flour tortillas available)

Alambres (Grilled steak, chicken OR Portabello with chopped
bacon, bell peppers, onions, cheese, salsa, warm corn tortillas

Quesadilla Plate
Large flour tortilla, melted white cheese, choice of filling, pico de gallo . Fillings: chipotle chicken, Cochinita Pibil, Angus steak, chorizo.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Moo-Shu Pork

My all-time favorite local Chinese restaurant–now gone, unfortunately–was the Peking in New Orleans East. There Kenny Cheung made everything by hand from scratch, never taking a shortcut or using second-rate ingredients. He had a terrific version of this, one of the most elegant, subtle dishes in the Mandarin style of Chinese cookery. (Unfortunately, Kenny has long since left the restaurant business.) The more exotic ingredients are available at the several Oriental groceries around town.

After preparing the recipe, you spread very thin, lightly griddled (just enough to warm them) flour tortillas with hoisin sauce (available in jars in most supermarkets). Spoon on a little less of the pork mixture than you might think right, fold over one end to prevent leaking, and roll it up. (It should look something like a burrito.)

Moo-shu pork can also be made with chicken, or in a vegetarian version that replaces the meat with big, meaty mushrooms (portobellos or shiitakes).

ChinaTown-MooShuChicken

  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 cup dried tree ear mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup tiger lily flowers
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 10 oz. pork loin, cut into matchstick-size strips
  • 2 cups light chicken stock
  • 12 thin flour tortillas
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce

1. Combine the soy sauce, sugar, salt, cornstarch, and 1 Tbs. of cold water to dissolve everything. Reserve.

2. Soak the tree-ear mushrooms and the tiger-lily petals in just enough warmed water (not from the hot-water tap) to cover them. Soak for 45 minutes to an hour.

3. Heat 1/3 cup of vegetable oil in a wok or skillet until moderately hot, and pour in the beaten egg. Cook, whisking lightly, for 15-20 seconds. Pour the entire pan contents through a strainer, collecting the oil in a bowl. Set the strainer with the eggs aside to drain.

4. Return 1 Tbs. oil to the wok or skillet. Over the highest heat you can get, stir-fry the pork strips for about one minute, until browned on the outside. Remove and reserve.

5. Wipe the wok out, leaving a light film of oil. Strain out the mushrooms and tiger lily petals, shaking most but not all of the water out. Add to the pan and cook for two or three seconds. Add the chicken stock and the soy sauce mixture from step 1. Bring to a boil and cook for three minutes, until the sauce thickens.

6. Return the pork strips and the egg curdles back to the wok and stir into the mixture. Cook for another 30 seconds or so, then spoon onto serving plate.

7. Serve with flour tortillas or Chinese thin pancakes, with hoisin sauce and snipped green onions.

Serves two to four.

AlmanacSquare January 4, 2017

Days Until. . .

Carnival Begins 1.
Mardi Gras 56.

Tenth Day of Christmas

Here come the leaping lords. I don’t know what that’s all about, and I don’t think I want to know. Also silly: the chromium combination manicure, scissors and cigarette lighter in Allan Sherman’s version of the song. In another: mistletoe arrives today, too late for the parties. Benny Grunch goes to the Tenneco Chalmette Refinery for some reason. In our own take on the Twelve Days song, today we’d like to simmer for you ten cups of red beans to go with the nine cups of rice and eight links of sausage from the last two days.

tenlordsleapingHere come the leaping lords. I don’t know what that’s all about, and I don’t think I want to know. Also silly: the chromium combination manicure, scissors and cigarette lighter in Allan Sherman’s version of the song. In another: mistletoe arrives today, too late for the parties. Benny Grunch goes to the Tenneco Chalmette Refinery for some reason. In our own take on the Twelve Days song, today we’d like to simmer for you ten cups of red beans to go with the nine cups of rice and eight links of sausage from the last two days.

Today’s Flavor

This is National Spaghetti Day. As much as I love pasta, whenever I encounter spaghetti in the strictest sense of the word, I’m glad that we don’t eat it often. The thinner string pastas–spaghettini, vermicelli, angel hair–have taken over. Thicker spaghetti doesn’t roll up onto a fork, or hold as much sauce. This is because, ounce for ounce, the thinner the pasta, the more surface area it has.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Breaking spaghetti to fit into a storage jar is carrying organization a little too far.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Hominy is forty-four miles northwest of Tulsa, Oklahoma, on OK99 in the Osage Indian Reservation. It’s a good-sized town, with about 2600 residents. About a quarter of them are Native Americans. It’s the home of a bluegrass music festival every June. There’s no question that corn was grown here and turned into hominy at one time, and perhaps still. But oil wells and cattle ranching are the economic story now. The obvious place to dine is the Hominy Diner, right in the center of town. Try the grits.

Food In Show Biz

The movie Chocolat, about a new-in-town single mother who works her way into the hearts of her neighbors in a small French town by making excellent chocolate pastries premiered today in 2001.

It’s also the birthday of fictional chocolate magnate Willy Wonka–as a trademark for the line of candy bearing the character’s name. Issued today in 1972.

Food On The Air

Today was the premiere, in 1932, of the Carnation Contented Hour, a music variety show on radio sponsored by Carnation Evaporated Milk, the milk from contented cows. Would you prefer milk from a contented cow or a singing cow? I have one of the Carnation shows in my collection; I wish I had more. Good music back then.

Sounds Like A Food Story, But Isn’t

Today in 2006, the first female Beefeater was confirmed. Best known for gracing the label of the bottle of the namesake gin, the Beefeaters–more properly known as Yeoman Warders–have been guarding the Tower of London for over five hundred years. All of them were men until then. But it’s not the rough-and-tumble job it once was. Beefeaters now mainly entertain visitors to the Tower.

Edible Dictionary

dolmades, [dole-MAH-dehss], Greek, n. pl.Grape leaves, rolled around a stuffing to resemble sausages and cooked. Most of the time, the rolls are then cooled and served at room temperature The stuffing admits of a wide range of ingredients. The most common concoction is rice, olive oil, parsley, dill, onions, pine nuts, and a light touch of spices in the cinnamon-nutmeg range. Dolmades can also be served hot, usually with a stuffing of lamb, eggs, dill, oregano, and bread crumbs. That kind is usually topped with a warm sauce, with avgolemono being the classic. (“Egg-and-lemon” sauce, the Greek answer to hollandaise.) Since you almost never get just one dolma (the singular form), the plural “dolmades” is the word you see on menus.

Eat Club Namesakes

Today is the birthday, in 1837, of Charles Stratton, a midget known in the world of entertainment as General Tom Thumb. I only bring this up because an Eat Club regular who travels here from Little Rock to attend our dinners has the same real name and stage name. He’s not a midget, though, so his circus career didn’t amount to much, forcing him to do very well in more conventional businesses.

Food Namesakes

J. Danforth Quayle, the vise-prisedint under George Bush I, was borne tooday in 1947. . . Arthur Berry, an early British Olympic soccer star, was born today in 1888. . . Wilhelm Beer, an astronomer who drew the first known map of the moon based on telescopic observations, was born today in 1797. . . Jon Appleton, an American classical composer, was born today in 1939.

Words To Eat By

“No man is lonely while eating spaghetti; it requires so much attention.”–Christopher Morley.

“Nothing spoils lunch any quicker than a rogue meatball rampaging through your spaghetti.”–Jim Davis, author of the comic strip “Garfield.”

“Eating food with a knife and fork is like making love through an interpreter.”–Anonymous.

Words To Drink By

“We live in stirring times—tea-stirring times.”–Christopher Isherwood, British writer, who died today in 1986.~~~
AlmanacSquare

Carnival Begins6.
Mardi Gras 57.

Read entire article.

FoodFunniesSquare

Peculiar Little Pieces Of What Could Be Food.

If you figure out the meaning of any of this, please don’t reveal it to anyone who might be a chef.

Click here for the cartoon.

####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150 It would have been a wonderful night for there to be NPAS
rehearsal tonight, but we’re in the off-season. Singing always calms me down. However, I do get an invitation to dinner from Mary Leigh, who is on her way home and has a hankering for a wedge salad with blue cheese dressing at the Acme in Covington. We split a dozen grilled oysters in our unique way: I get all the oysters and she gets all the butter, garlic, parmesan, and peppers to dip the toasted French bread.

For my side of the table, for some reason I yearn for a hamburger. The waitress said it was pretty good, but I still should have known better than to order a burger in a restaurant primarily engaged with frying and grilling seafood. The big puck was good enough, but a hamburger has to be something for me to use up my annual quota (1.2 hamburgers of normal size per month.

We don’t talk about this much, but ML is thinking about buying a house. This would be a brave episode, but if she pulls it off whe will be younger than I was when I bought my first house (in Gentilly, for $11,000. The Marys are interesting is something more substantial. They watch those television shows in which people renovate houses to within a hairs-breadth of being destroyed totally.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017. I liked the dinner I had last week at Porter and Luke in Old Metairie that I go there again tonight. Another reason for me to sample it again is that the place is running live commercials on the radio show, and if I fill them with information they’re more interesting.

Like last time, I begin with the soup of the day, which in this case is a very tasty cauliflower bisque. I’ve always liked things like that. It’s creamy, but doesn’t get offensive about it.

I ask the waiter to give me a great idea for my dinner in one word. He doesn’t waste a second: “catfish!” he says. Fried catfish, after a couple of decades of oblivion, seems to be making a major return to popularity. Some of this can be written off to the enormous piles of fish that we have been seeing. The Porter and Luke version certainly fits that description. Golden brown (that’s menu-speak in restaurants, but in this case it applies) fillets about five inches long and an inch and a half wide. Crisp, nicely seasoned, and just what I was in the mood for. And better than that burger yesterday.

Wednesday, December 20, 2019. Gin And Turtle. My most pervasive hunger is for baked oysters, on the half-shell or gratin-style. Oysters Rockefeller, Mosca, or whatever. So I thought it was a great idea when “Mr. Ed” McIntyre–owner of the restaurants that hold his name–installed quite a few such dishes when he took over the former Bozo’s. He added not only Rockefeller oysters but Bienville, Drago’s-style, and amandine, to name just a few. I loved the first two or three dozen of these, but I think they ought to fine-tune the recipes and technique. Lately they’ve been looking less than appetizing. Most versions of these things fall down in the sauce department. You could still do a lot worse than to have Mr. Ed’s oysters, but I know he could make them better.

I draw a new waitress, and I joke around with her as I usually do. She’s so flexible that I let her sell me a cocktail, which I wasn’t especially up for. A gin and tonic wasn’t the perfect drink for the weather anyway. I think I’m going to back away even from the single shot of sherry that comes with a cup of turtle soup. (As traditional as it is, sherry ought to be in the soup pot, but not on the soup plate. The bitter taste is better cooked out.)

Regardless of that, the soup is reasonably good.

Thursday, December 21, 2019. Stonehenge At Home. It’s the first day of winter, and the pine trees in the woods surrounding the Cool Water Ranch lay down their Stonehenge-like shadows at unfamiliar angles. Almost bizarre to see, but then they’re gone until next year. Many phenomena become fascinating when taken seriously.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Red Beans and Rice

Red beans and rice is the official Monday dish in New Orleans, found on that day in restaurants of almost every kind all over town. It’s also a good dish to serve on chilly days, of which we’re having quite a few lately. Although most people agree on the recipe, the trend in recent years–especially in restaurants–has been to make the sauce matrix much thicker than I remember growing up with. This version is the old (and, I think, better) style, with a looser sauce.

I have, however, added two wrinkles. One came from a radio listener, who advised that beans improve greatly when you add much more celery than the standard recipe calls for. That proved to be correct. Also, the herb summer savory (sometimes just called “savory” in the spice rack) adds a nice flavor complement. If you can’t find savory, use oregano, or just leave it out.

Red beans are classically served with smoked sausage, but they’re also great with fried chicken, oysters en brochette, or grilled ham. But the ultimate is chaurice–Creole hot sausage–grilled to order and transferred, along with all the dripping fat, atop the beans.

  • 1 lb. dried red beans
  • 1/4 lb. bacon or fatty ham
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 12 sprigs parsley, chopped
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. savory
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Tabasco
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion tops
  • 2 Tbs. chopped parsley

1. Sort through the beans and pick out any bad or misshapen ones. Soak the beans in cold water overnight. When ready to cook, pour off the soaking water.

2. In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, fry the bacon or ham fat till crisp. Remove the bacon or ham fat and set aside for garnish (or as a snack while you cook).

3. In the hot fat, sauté the bell pepper, onion, celery, parsley and garlic until it just begins to brown. Add the beans and three quarts of water. Bring to a light boil, then lower to a simmer. Add the salt, bay leaf, savory, black pepper, and Tabasco.

4. Simmer the beans, uncovered, for two hours, stirring two or three times per hour. Add a little water if the sauce gets too thick.

5. Mash about a half-cup of the beans (more if you like them extra creamy) and stir them in into the remainder. Add salt and more Tabasco to taste. Serve the beans over rice cooked firm. Garnish with chopped green onions and parsley.

The Ultimate: Grill some patties of Creole hot sausage and deposit it, along with as much of the fat as you can permit yourself, atop the beans. Red beans seem to have a limitless tolerance for added fat.

Meatless Alternative: Leave the pork and ham out of the recipe completely, and begin by sautéing the vegetables other than the beans in 1/4 cup of olive oil. At the table, pour extra-virgin olive oil over the beans. This may sound and look a bit odd, but the taste is terrific and everything in the plate–beans, rice, and olive-oil–is a proven cholesterol-lowerer.

Serves six to eight.

AlmanacSquare January 2, 2017

Days Until. . .

Carnival Begins 6.
Mardi Gras 44.

Happy New Year!

This is the last time I’ll wish you a Happy New Year in this space. But you and I will keep on saying that to people we meet for at least a couple of weeks. When do you stop saying “Happy New Year!”? I asked that question on the radio about fifteen years ago. It became a contest, to guess the last consecutive day on which someone would say “Happy New Year!” on the air. The date was May 17. “Happy New Year!” became a catchphrase on the show, reaching its ultimate expression in 2010, during which someone said the phrase every day of the year. That has persisted every year since. New listeners must be puzzled to hear not one but numerous people say “Happy New Year!” in August on the program.

The Eighth Day of Christmas

Eight maids may show up a-milking. In other versions of the same song, we’re alerted to the fact dat you ate by your mama’s, have gold and silver tinsel for your tree, received an indoor plastic birdbath, and ate (our own lyrics) eight links of sausage.

Food Calendar

Back to those eight maids a-milking: The first of them brings skim milk, which tastes terrible but keeps your bones strong. The second has one per cent milk–too weak for coffee, but you can make good Creole cream cheese from it. The maid sells two-percent milk, which is tolerable for cereal, but not for mashed potatoes or bread pudding. Maid Number Four has whole, three-and-a-half-percent milkfat milk. Good old regular homogenized, which these days sells less well than two-percent. Behind her is a maid with four-plus-percent milk, made by smaller dairies like Smith’s Creamery. You have to shake it, because the cream still rises to the top of the bottle, like in the old days. This stuff is fantastic for making cafe au lait.

Milkmaid Five has light cream–also known as coffee cream. That’s is hard to find around New Orleans, although it’s common in the Northeast. For most purposes, instead of that we’ll have to use what the next maid has: half-and-half. Half cream and half milk, with about the milkfat content of light cream but not quite as good. (It’s about fifteen percent.)

Now here’s the milkmaid with whipping cream at around thirty percent, good enough for making whipped cream. But for sauces, what we want is the offering of Milkmaid Eight, who has heavy whipping cream–forty percent butterfat. Put it in a jar and shake it, and you can make your own butter.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Wheat is a mountain town of about seventy people in the very hilly northwestern panhandle of West Virginia, five miles from the southwest corner of Pennsylvania. Wheat is in a valley formed by the Little Fishing Creek, a tributary of the Ohio River, into which it flows fifteen miles downstream. It’s hard to figure wheat growing in the continuous hills and dales around there, but maybe long enough ago it happened. Or some guy named Wheat lived there. For food, it’s an eight-mile drive up Highway 8 to Miss Blue’s Restaurant in Hundred.

Edible Dictionary

cappelletti, Italian, n., pl.–Also spelled capaletti. A stuffed pasta resembling a hat. The word literally means “little hat.” Cappelletti are made with two circles or squares of pasta, one of which is made to bulge a little by pushing one’s finger into its center. The stuffing–usually cheese, sometimes mushrooms, rarely meat–fills the depression. That’s all pressed down onto a flat pasta sheet. Cappelletti’s most common use is in a broth, especially a beef consomme. Making cappelletti by hand is very time-consuming, but it lowers your blood pressure by at least twenty points.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Here’s how to open a coconut. Buy a quarter-inch drill bit and wash it. Use it only for this purpose, and store it in a kitchen drawer. With a cordless drill, drill into one of the eyes, and drain out the coconut water. Drink it! It will be sweet and it’s very healthful. Then take the coconut outside and put it on concrete. Hit it hard with a hammer until it cracks open. A good fresh coconut’s meat will fall from the shell. If it doesn’t, use an oyster knife to separate it. Be careful! It’s easy for your hand to slip while doing this.

Eating Around The World

Today in 1492–which would prove a big year for the country–the last stronghold of the Moors in Grenada fell to the forces of Ferdinand and Isabella, and modern Spain was born. The long Islamic domination of the Iberian peninsula blended with the previous Roman influence to create a rich and unique Spanish culture. Its food, architecture, and music are among the world’s most influential, from Latin America to the Phillippines. In this country, we’re just beginning to learn about the goodness of Spanish cooking, but we never seem to get any farther along than that.

Eating Across America

Georgia, the Peach State, became the fourth of the United States on this date in 1788. It was the first Southern state to ratify the Constitution.

Clear-Air Dining

Today in 2007, smoking was banned in Louisiana restaurants, a move that a majority of people have wanted for years. Among them: most restaurateurs, who found the enforcement of smoking and non-smoking sections made both sides angry. Any fears about lost business don’t seem to have come to pass. . . Coincidentally, today in 1966 was the first day on which cigarette packages were required to carry health warnings, the first step along the way to destroying the addictive popularity of what even smokers call “coffin nails.”

Deft Dining Rule #222

The era of the two-course dinner in gourmet restaurants is now officially underway. Any more than that is now considered a major feast. This rule is in conflict with another one that says that the era of small plates is in force.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Basil the Great, a Greek church leader in the Fourth Century, one of the few saints with a food name. We also celebrate St. Macarius of Alexandria. Before he became a monk in 335, he made and sold pastries, candies, and fruit confections. For that reason he is the patron saint of bakers of fancy pastries.

Annals Of Overindulgence Remedies

Aspirin was first sold in tablet form on this date in 1915 by the drug’s inventor, the German pharmaceutical company Bayer. Too bad. They really needed it the day before, the morning after a wild New Year’s Eve party. (Or maybe not. This was right in the middle of World War I.)

Food Namesakes

Defrocked TV minister Jim Bakker (pronounced “baker”) was born today in 1939. . . Perfect-game pitcher, Cy Young Award winner David Cone stepped onto the big mound on this date in 1963. . . Nathaniel Bacon was born today in 1647. He led a power struggle that became known as Bacon’s Rebellion in the early Virginia colony. . . On this day in 1929, Evelyn “Bobbi” Trout set a new women’s world record for flying endurance by being airborne for over twelve hours. . . Apsley Cherry-Garrard, a British explorer of the Antarctic and the author of the well-named Worst Journey In The World, left on his life’s journey today in 1886.

Words To Eat By

“My illness is due to my doctor’s insistence that I drink milk, a whitish fluid they force down helpless babies.”–W.C. Fields.

“The human body has no more need for cows’ milk than it does for dogs’ milk, horses’ milk, or giraffes’ milk.”–Michael Klaper, M.D.

Yeah, but I wouldn’t mind trying all of those!
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ReveillonDinnerSquare

5SmallSnowflakes

New Years’ Eve @ Pelican Club

No other restaurant makes more of the Reveillon season than Chef Richard Hughes’ Pelican Club. He keeps serving his comprehensive Reveillon menu for weeks after the others have cut it out. Embedded in that selection is a New Year’s Eve dinner that I expect I would like. And you probably would, too. Here it is, a magnificent feast perfect for the season,

Four courses, $100, include amuse bouche, salad or soup, Appetizer, Entree, Dessert

Louisiana Fried Oyster
Melted brie crouton with jalapeno pineapple chutney
~~~~~
Creamy Lobster White Truffle Bisque
Turtle & alligator soup, aged sherry
~or~
Pelican Club Baked Oysters
On the half shell with applewood smoked bacon, roasted red peppers, parmesan & garlic herb butter with chipotle aioli
~~~~~
Iron Skillet U-12, Heads-on BBQ Shrimp
With old New Orleans rum pepper butter sauce & garlic foccacia

~or~
New Year’s Good Luck Korean Boneless BBQ Baby Back Ribs
Long noodles, homemade kimchee & cucumber mint salad seafood martini ravigote
~or~
Maine Lobster, Gulf Shrimp, Lump Crabmeat, Gold Potato Salad
~or~
Goat Cheese Salad
Baby greens, walnuts, grapefruit & creamy Dijon EVOO dressing
~~~~~
Mississippi Rabbit
3-Cheese Stone Ground Grits Foie Gras, Shitake Mushrooms, Country Ham, Marsala Demi-Glace
~or~
Butter Poached Lobster
Scallops, shrimp & applewood smoked bacon, Meyer lemon beurre blanc, truffle mashed potatoes, sugar snap peas (add $5)
~or~
Black Drum With Crabmeat Hollandaise
Shrimp, tasso & cornbread stuffed mirliton, & sugar snap peas
~or~
Duo of Duck
Pan-seared breast, confit leg, Asian BBQ, Louisiana citrus and strawberry sauce and dirty rice
~or~
8-oz. Filet Mignon
Marchand De Vin Sauce, Foie Gras, Mushroom Bread Pudding Onion rings & asparagus (add $4)
~or~
Rack of Lamb
Marinated & roasted, rosemary pesto crust, port-mint demi-glace, truffle mashed potatoes & asparagus (add $4)

~or~
Desserts (Choose One)
Coconut Cream Pie
Chocolate Decadence Cake
White & Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding
Grand Marnier Crème Brulee
Bourbon Pecan Pie
The Pelican Club.

French Quarter: 615 Bienville. 504-523-1504.

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Tortilla Espanola

Spain and Latin America have common roots in their food. But they are not the same, as this dish illustrates well. The word “tortilla” brings to mind the wrappers around burritos, tacos, and enchiladas, made of flour or masa-style cornmeal. But that’s only because Mexican and other Latin American cuisines are much more common in this country than Spanish cookery is. In Spain, a tortilla is a chunky potato pancake, served not as a base for other ingredients, but all but itself, usually as an initial course in a meal. It’s so much better than it sounds that it’s underrated even in Spanish eateries. Yet, it’s not hard to make–although it takes several hours, most of which is taken up waiting.

Spanish tortilla.

  • 1 lb. red potatoes (or Yukon Golds)
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 6 oz. olive oil
  • 8 eggs, beaten in a large bowl
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. coarsely-ground black pepper

1. Peel the potatoes, cut them top to bottom, then in half-moon slices about as thick as three stacked quarters.

2. Slice the onions the same way as the potatoes, but half as thick. Combine the potatoes and onions in a 10-inch skillet. Toss them together until evenly distributed.

3. Pour the olive oil over the potatoes and onions, and place over medium-high heat. Stir the pan gently every minute or so, turning the contents over so they don’t brown. You are not frying them. Cook until the potatoes are soft and no crunch remains in the onions.

4. When that point is reached, move the skillet off the burner and let it sit there for eight to ten minutes, until it’s just barely warm to the touch.

5. With a slotted spoon, transfer the potato-onion mixture into the bowl of beaten eggs. (Save the excess olive oil.) Add the salt and pepper to the eggs, potatoes and onions, and toss lightly.

6. Cover the bowl and put it in the refrigerator for two hours to overnight.

7. When ready to serve, heat a skillet (preferably nonstick) over the lowest possible heat with the leftover olive oil. (You need about 2 Tbs. of oil; add more if necessary.) Add the egg-potato-onion concoction to the pan and cook until you see the egg component starting to congeal.

8. Get a plate big enough to cover the skillet completely. Place it on top of the skillet, hold it in place, and turn both the plate and the skillet over, so the mixture is now upside-down on the plate. With a jerk of the wrist, slip the pancake back into the skillet, and cook until browned–about four minutes. Let it cool, slice into pie slices, and serve..

Serves four to six.

AlmanacSquare December 28, 2016

Days Until. . .
Christmas 3.
Carnival Begins 10.
Third Day Of Christmas

Someone who loves you may send: Three French hens. Or t’ree French breads. Three boughs of holly. A calendar book with the name of my insurance man. Or (in our new version of the song) three beignets.

Restaurant Anniversaries

Today in 2003, Ralph’s on the Park opened. The building–across the street from City Park–had housed the Tavern on the Park and a string of other establishments dating back to the 1860s. It took Ralph Brennan almost two years to repair structural damage and perform a sparkling renovation. The city’s avid eaters awaited the restaurant eagerly because of its chef: Gerard Maras, who wound up staying just a year and a half. The name of the restaurant wasn’t decided upon until right before opening night. Everybody in town had an idea. (Mine: “Park Place.”) All the bad luck Ralph’s had in construction was reversed after Hurricane Katrina, which caused minimal damage to the restaurant.

Annals Of Annals

Today is the birthday, in 1732, of the almanac that created the genre: Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack, which he published for twenty-five years. It made his fortune, and allowed him to indulge in, among other things, the advanced pleasures of food and wine. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were also gourmets. It’s been a long time since we had such a person in the White House.

Music To Eat Seafood By

On this date in 1928, Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five recorded West End Blues, now considered a seminal work both for Armstrong and jazz in general. Written by King Oliver, it was about the resort community on Lake Pontchartrain, which at the time had clubs and dance halls in addition to the restaurants we knew it for. West End very much has the blues these days. Katrina left nothing standing. Since the park is outside the levee system, it’s unlikely that restaurants will be built at West End ever again. But one does hear about such plans now and then.

chowder, n.–

Edible Dictionary

chowderchowder, n.–Chowder is one of several culinary categories that can be described as something between a soup and a stew. The broth usually involves seafood, while the more solid parts almost always includes potatoes. The main flavoring elements are fish or shellfish (clams and scallops in particular). Bacon or something like bacon (pork cracklings, for example) give chowder its most distinctive flavors.

The kind of chowder described above is the one most popular in the Northeastern part of America, and particularly in New England. When I find myself in New England, I eat clam chowder at almost every meal. The Yankees make it very thick. One cookbook says it should be almost as solid as mashed potatoes. I don’t go along with that. Nor do I care much for the tomato-laces Manhattan style of clam chowder, which comes under heavy fire from New Englanders.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Sugar Land is at the center of a flat, damp plain where sugar cane was formerly grown in great profusion. But being twenty miles from downtown Houston, the waves of development ran over the sugar fields in the 1980s, and now the entire area is filled with housing tracts, shopping malls, manufacturing plants, and office buildings. If you know what a sugar cane field looks like, you can see a few of them living on. The sugar refinery that operated for 160 years closed in 2002. The 80,000 people who live in Sugar Land are quite affluent, with an average income of over $100,000. You will have no trouble finding a place to dine in Sugar Land. The Live Oak Grille is pretty good.

Food Inventions

chewinggumThe first U.S. patent issued for chewing gum came out today in 1869. It was not a success. In fact, it appears never to have entered the marketplace. William Finley Semple’s formula used rubber as a base.. The idea seems to survive in some restaurants, particularly in certain recipes for calamari.

dishwasherAn invention with far greater effect on our eating habits was that of the automatic dishwasher. It was created by a woman: Josephine Garis Cochran, who patented it today in 1886. When she showed it off at the Columbian World Exposition in Philadelphia a few years later, its fame spread. Her business grew into the KitchenAid Corporation.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

If you have more than four parties of twenty or more a year, and you’re redoing your kitchen, put in two dishwashers. You won’t believe how convenient that is. (If you stick with this rule: never have both of them filled with clean dishes at the same time.)

Deft Dining Rule #150:

If you ever encounter a bird stuffed with some kind of pate on a restaurant menu, by all means order it. It will almost never be less than superb.

Food Calendar

Today is National Amuse Bouche Day. The “amuse” is a small complimentary appetizer, served even before the appetizer. (The perfect thing three days before the new year begins.) It was once a delightful touch that made us more amenable to paying higher prices in classy restaurants. But we have now come to expect it now in any first-class place. To counteract this jaded response, some restaurants have begun serving two amuses. An amuse-bouche ought to be one bite of something really expensive, like truffles or foie gras or crabmeat. Unfortunately, we’re seeing amuses that aren’t much. A slice of tomato with an asparagus tip is not very amusing.

Food And The Law

Today in 1973, the Endangered Species Act was passed in this country. Some of its provisions brought the United States into line with several international laws regarding animals and plants whose continued existences were in question. That occasioned a menu change at T. Pittari’s Restaurant in New Orleans, which had become famous for serving wild game, some of it very exotic–lion, for example, and hippopotamus. No doubt other restaurants around the country had to adjust, too.

Food And Literature

On this date in 1817, a famous literary dinner in London was hosted by British painter Benjamin Robert Haydon. Its purpose was to show his new painting, “Christ’s Entry Into Jerusalem.” But it is remembered more for the first meeting of John Keats and William Wordsworth. Our Food Namesakes Department notes that essayist Charles Lamb was also there.

Food Namesakes

Today in 1821, operatic composer and gourmet Gioacchino Rossini (who created the foie-gras enhanced steak dish that bears his name) moved to Bologna. . . Today is the birthday, in 1963, of Willow Bay, former model turned news anchor. She is the sister of Eric Bay, who owned the Maple Street restaurant Nautical and also managed the last incarnation of La Louisiane. . . Marty Roe, singer with the country group Diamond Rio, was born today in 1960. . . Terry Butcher, a British professional soccer player, came along this day in 1958.

Words To Eat By

“A film is just like a muffin. You make it. You put it on the table. One person might say, ‘Oh, I don’t like it.’ One might say it’s the best muffin ever made. One might say it’s an awful muffin. It’s hard for me to say. It’s for me to make the muffin.”–Denzel Washington, actor, born today in 1954.

Words To Drink By

“Everyone who drinks is not a poet. Some of us drink because we’re not poets.”–From the movie Arthur.

FoodFunniesSquare

Why Certain Restaurants Serve Certain Dishes.

We’ve all encountered some dishes and flavors that are so boring and mediocre that you wonder who made the decision to serve them.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Thursday, December 28, 02017. A Wrap On Christmas.

We have a social engagement running behind schedule. Chef Andrea seemed genuinely disappointed when, last year, he was out of the restaurant when our one-year-old grandson Jackson visited us. Andrea loves kids, and he wanted to feast his eyes on Jackson, as much as if the two of them were blood relatives, and with thorough sincerity.

Also at the table were my big sister Judy, who was looking very lovely. And my little sister Lynn and niece Holly. All of them are here because we have sort of a tradition to have lunch together between Christmas and New Year’s. Having Jackson–now two, and shortly to return to Los Angeles with his family–made the day special. But I had to leave in the middle of the lunch, because the radio show requires my attendance.

Jackson puts on some wonderful performances. He remembers the names of all the restaurants we visit, which tickles the owners tremendously. “Mattina Bella!” he said to a laughing Vincent Riccobono, who makes good pancakes. “Chef Andrea!” called up a big grin on the chef’s face. Everybody loves my blue-eyed grandson. This kid is a public relations marvel.

Friday, December 29, 2017. Wild Day In The Cold. Too much going on. The day began with an extra-early crossing of the bridge and an interview with Newell Normand, the former sheriff of Jefferson Parish. He is now the morning talk show host on WWL radio. He must have done some studying, because he sounds as if he’s had the skill down for many years. I was the interviewee, with Newell asking me where I’d recommend dining out on New Year’s Eve, three days hence. I didn’t bring up the matter that, like Dean Martin, I almost never go out on New Year’s Eve, because the restaurants are filled with amateur eaters and (in Dino’s case) drinkers.

However, that question comes up a lot on my own show, so I have enough answers to make it seems as in I know what I’m doing. That takes about an hour, during which Newell and I strike up a rapport.

That done, I penetrate the French Quarter for the annual Jesuit Class of 1968 reunion at the Court of Two Sisters. Parking on the Friday between Christmas and New Year’s packs the restaurants to the rafters. That is almost literally true, since we usually have our gathering on the second floor. I get a place to park only by getting on Rampart Street near the old Municipal Auditorium. There I find a small lot that dispenses parking tickets by machine. I’ll remember this for next year.

The usual conversation as to whether the Sazerac cocktail is almost identical to the Old Fashioned breaks out, but not for long. I have a joke to add. Seems that a new waitress approaches a table and asks whether the people sitting there would like a cocktail.

“I’d like an Old Fashioned,” says the patron.

“An old fashioned what?” asks the rookie waitress.

It’s a good stag party, with thirty-five Blue Jays in attendance. Pretty good for a bunch of guys looking ahead to the fiftieth anniversary of our common graduation. Which datum adds up to the fact that we are mostly in our late sixties.

There is one aspect of this I find very distressing, enough that I don’t feel comfortable about bringing it up hire and now.

Striking a happier note is Eddie Gros, who was a close friend when we were in the same class at St. Rita’s in Harahan. He’s a Jesuit priest now, with extensive accomplishments in Latin America.

I limit my Sazerac intake to one. I send back the osso buco that has become the standard entree at these gatherings. Osso buco gives me the gout, however, so I ask for something else. Which turns out to be a very pretty red snapper with a tasty, creamy white sauce.

Ro Jé French Restaurant

New Orleans East: 6940 Martin Dr.
1975-1983

When the eastern half of New Orleans began to build itself in the 1970s, everyone expected the area to become another Metairie. All the pieces were there: the major regional shopping mall, the suburban tract homes, the supermarkets. When a critical mass of Orleanians moved there, restaurants appeared.

The early restaurants in New Orleans East were very good. Already there was a community of seafood houses along Hayne Boulevard, rivaling those in West End Park. That made sense, given the proximity to the lake. But a nicer surprise was the number of more ambitious places, with beautiful dining rooms, advanced menus with a French touch, and complex food. The best of those was Crozier’s, a five-star French bistro. It opened in 1976 and was very successful. New Orleans East also had more excellent Chinese places than any other part of town.

At the peak of the development came a grand French-Creole restaurant called Ro Jé. The name was manufactured from Rosemary and Jerry Schroeder, the owners. I always thought that they should have respelled it Roget’s, followed by a description of the place as “Delicious, wonderful, toothsome, scrumptious, magnificent, tasty, savory, marvelous, and formidable!”

Ro Jé took itself quite seriously. In its early years, this was a successful strategy. The casual gourmet restaurant was still years away. Enough well-heeled customers lived in New Orleans East to keep the place busy, if the food were good.

It was. Consistent, too. I know, because I ate there a lot. The new owner of New Orleans Magazine (which I edited then) moved our offices from the CBD to the Kenilworth Mall–at the intersection of I-10 and Morrison Drive. His main business was a magazine selling used airplanes, and it made sense for that to be close to the airport. Didn’t make a lot of sense for New Orleans Magazine, but the guy was proud of writing all his own rules.

Ro Jé was across the parking lot from our new offices. The boss lunched there almost every day. I had other restaurants I needed to check for my restaurant reviews, but nevertheless I dined at Ro Jé more often than anywhere else.

As consistent as Ro Jé was, it was also safely far back from the cutting edge of cuisine. And that was a time when the edge wasn’t all that sharp. It was a time when all the major restaurants in New Orleans had interchangeable menus. It was the perfect thing for the suburbs: upscale, but familiar.

It was pleasant in other ways. Fernando Barahoma–the dining room manager–assembled an extraordinarily well-skilled and beautiful staff of hostesses and waitresses. They wore Edwardian chambermaid uniforms, to show that their pulchritude was no accident.

The premises were an optical treat, too, probably because Jerry Schroeder was in the construction business. The two rooms were lit by chandeliers. Tables were comfortable and well-spaced.

The style of cooking was a standard New Orleans Italian French, plus a few continental surprises (more bearnaise and peppercorn cream sauce than normal for those times). Yet the prices were affordable enough for frequent patronage. In the 1970s, a three-course dinner went for less than ten bucks. Not one of the entrees passed that mark, not even steak. And the portions were generous, too. Even adjusted for inflation, it was a great bargain.

Ro Jé most unusual and exciting dish was escargots Forestier. Snails were much more common in those days than now, and as yet nobody had discovered the idea of broiled the escargots in mushroom caps. The sauteed crab fingers and sauteed shrimp were also buttery, garlicky, and satisfying.

Ro Jé strew a lot of crabmeat around, usually in the company of hollandaise. At lunch the three-dollar “Ro Jé Sandwich” was nothing but crabmeat and hollandaise–lots and lots–on an English muffin. They also made crabmeat Remick, a favorite dish of mine to this day. It’s a small casserole with a remoulade-like sauce, bacon, and lots of crabmeat. Crabmeat crepes–with hollandaise. Yum.

Good gumbo and turtle soup. Salads, as they were everywhere in the 1970s, were terrible.

Fish here was reminiscent of the way they did it at Galatoire’s, if not quite as good. Trout amandine or meuniere were inevitable, of course, both with sizzling butter and a light brown, crunchy exterior. Redfish Ro Je was–can you guess?–topped with crabmeat and hollandaise.

This was the last place I ever saw chicken Kiev in a New Orleans restaurant. The big pleasure was cutting into it and watching the gush of hot butter and parsley. Here the eating is as much or greater a pleasure, the chicken breast nicely breaded and
sauteed.

The veal was not the incredibly tender kind the Elmwood Plantation and Broussard’s was spoiling us with in the 1970s. But they served lots of it in dishes like veal Oscar (crabmeat and hollandaise again, white asparagus spear). The steaks were decent, and came with French sauces.

Ro Jé only over-reached itself with one dish: its rack of lamb, roasted with pastry crust and a too-liberal Rockefeller-spinach layer. It all smothered the lamb.

Desserts came flamed or not. The wine list was nothing much, but that was true of all but a handful of restaurants then.

Ro Jé began to go down when the neighborhood demographics and the restaurant business rebalanced in the 1980s. A lot of its customers were Uptowners, who had few nearby restaurants. When the gourmet bistros like Clancy’s, the Upperline and Gautreau’s began popping up in 1983, the game was over for New Orleans East eateries. Even the brilliant Gerard Crozier had to move to Metairie to survive.

Ro Jé’s owners sold the place and went into the catering business (in which they are still engaged.) The chef–a talented, personable South American guy named Leopoldo Hirsch took over under the name Poldi’s. His food was good and his prices low. but the neighborhood didn’t support him. Formal dining in the suburbs was soon to die out entirely.

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Semolina’s Creole Sauce

This is a fresh-tasting version of Creole sauce, developed by the Taste Buds (the three guys who developed Zea and Semolina over the years. It was made to complement Semolina’s excellent pasta jambalaya, one of the most popular dishes on their menu. (Although the dish was originally created by Mr. B’s.) Only one location of Semolina is still in business: on the south side of the Clearview Mall in Metairie. It preserves this and many interesting sauces that would otherwise be extinct. As well most Creole sauces should be. Most of them are closer to spaghetti sauce than the fresh modern version.

  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1 Tbs. parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp. garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. basil
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup whole canned tomatoes with juice, diced
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1 cup stock (shrimp or chicken)
  • 1/2 tsp. Crystal hot sauce

1. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, parsley, garlic, basil, cayenne pepper, white pepper, black pepper, salt, bay leaves, sugar and green onions. Cook until the bell pepper turns bright green and the onions begin to become transparent.

2. Stir in tomatoes, tomato puree, stock, and hot sauce. Bring to a boil, then cook at a simmer about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Makes about two cups.

AlmanacSquare January 5, 2017

Days Until. . .

Carnival Begins 1.
Mardi Gras & Valentine’s Day 39.

Eleventh Day of Christmas

Eleven pipers will be piping. Some old lady is trying to cross Veterans Highway with eleven Schwegmann bags. Allan Sherman got an automatic vegetable slicer that works when you see it on television but not when you get it home. Andy Williams’s friend brought gifts for one and all. And in my own attempt at this song, I’ll barbecue for you eleven jumbo shrimp. Tomorrow is Twelfth Night, the end of the Christmas season, and the beginning of the Carnival season.

Annals Of Food Research

Nobody (including him) knew what day he was born, so we note that this is the day in 1943 when George Washington Carver died. The son of a slave, Carver made revolutionary discoveries in agriculture, most of them motivated by a desire to help poor farmers in the South. He is best known for turning peanuts into a major cash crop. He also encouraged the wider consumption of sweet potatoes. He was brilliant enough that Henry Ford, among others, wanted to hire him. But he stayed at Tuskegee Institute and dedicated his life to helping the lot of poor farmers.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Eaton is a town of 8400 people in west central Ohio, twenty-five miles west of Dayton. It was founded in 1806, and named for General William Eaton, a hero of the war against the Barbary pirates in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The town grew quickly because it was at the junction of north-south and east-west turnpikes. If I were eatin’ in Eaton, I’d go the the Red Mule Inn, right in the middle of town.

This is the first in a series of Gourmet Gazetteer entries beginning with “Eat.”

Edible Dictionary

yam, n.–Around Louisiana, the word “yam” means nothing other than the sweet potato we grow widely here. But that’s not strictly a correct usage. The sweet potato–a New Word vegetable–is not related even distantly to a true yam. That’s a root vegetable, genus Dioscorea, that originally grew mostly from Africa through Asia. Its roots are much thicker, yellower, and more bitter than the sweet potato. It also contain bitter elements that need to be cooked out. The roots burrow deep into the soil, and they’re hard to harvest, especially in Africa (which gave the yam its name). People usually ate them only when there was nothing else. The Africans brought them to the Caribbean, where they remain popular. If you ever encounter true yams, they’ll probably be involved in a dish with Caribbean roots (no pun intended).

Food Inventions

Today is the birthday, in 1914, of Aaron Lapin, the inventor of whipped cream in an aerosol can. He called it Reddi-Wip, and it really was (and still is) whipped cream, not plastic stuck together with vegetable gum that commonly comes from a can. Reddi-Wip was made with light cream, although they have a fattier and creamier version.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine And Food Writing

The trademark Home of the Whopper was issued to Burger King on this date in 1965. That very year, Burger King became the first restaurant I ever dined in on my own, with my own money. It was the one on Airline Highway near Turnbull, the first location of the franchise in New Orleans. I had a Whopper, fries, and a Coke. I got there on my bicycle after a ride of about three miles. I was fourteen.

Food Calendar

Because of the item about Reddi-Wip above, today is National Whipped Cream Day. As long as it’s real whipped cream, we love it. It’s easy enough to make, even by hand. You may use either regular or heavy whipping cream. Gadgets have even been developed to use light cream, half-and-half, or even skim milk to make whipped “cream,” but you’d be better off using less of the real thing instead of more of that less satisfying stuff.

It’s fortunate that the whipped cream observance should be today, because we are now well into the Louisiana strawberry season. We bought some real beauties from a roadside stand yesterday, and my daughter has already eaten three pints of them. Sweet and wonderful, with or without whipped cream.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

When making your own whipped cream: a) Keep the cream cold; 2) Whip in a back-and-forth, not circular, motion, and iii) Don’t overbeat, or the whipped cream will break into butter and whey.

Etymology Of Dish Names

Today is the birthday, as far as we know, of the word hamburger. It first appeared in the expression “hamburger steak” on this day in 1889, in the Union-Bulletin newspaper in Walla Walla, Washington. It was in an ad for a restaurant that served a popular dish among the many German immigrants: the Hamburg steak, made of ground beef.

Restaurants And The Economy

The Consumer Age in America was born on this date in 1914, when Henry Ford announced a new plan for the employees of the Ford Motor Company. He reduced the work week to five days of eight hours a day, with no reduction in pay. He also set the minimum wage at five dollars a day. “We believe in making 20,000 men prosperous and contented rather than follow the plan of making a few slave drivers in our establishment multi-millionaires,” Ford said.

Ford was widely criticized in business management circles for this decision, but it transformed the country. Ford employees, with more money and time on their hands, spent it on leisure pursuits. One of the first things they did was buy cars. Now the American economy is largely fired by consumer spending, as a result of the trend Ford set in motion. We certainly wouldn’t have our enormous restaurant industry were it not for the prosperity of the average American.

Food Namesakes

Tracy Ham, a Canadian professional football quarterback, passed into life today in 1964. . . Michael DeWine, a Congressman from Ohio, was born today in 1947. . . And the aforementioned Reddi-Wip inventor Aaron Lapin was born today in 1914. “Lapin” is the French word for rabbit.

Words To Eat By

“When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘that knowledge is for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.'”–George Washington Carver.

“Nothing important has ever come out of San Francisco, Rice-a-Roni aside.”–Comedian and writer Michael O’Donoghue, born today in 1950.

Words To Drink By

“When your companions get drunk and fight,
Take up your hat and wish them good night.”–Unknown, Irish.

FoodFunniesSquare

Do The Effects Of Aging Extend Beyond Wine And Prime Steaks?

This has been studied only very slightly, and we still don’t know. Except, of course, the inevitable increases in prices.

Click here for the cartoon.

####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Dining Diary By Mary Ann Fitzmorris, For A Change.

We’re Southerners, okay? Not Chicago, or Boston, or Missoula. We don’t do “real winter.” So when I saw the Abita town fountain frozen over, I decided to RSVP (this time, regrets) an invitation to what promised to be a spectacular way to ring in 2018. It was to be a party in the presidential suite on the top floor of the Westin Canal Place Hotel to see the midnight fireworks.

I hope the hosts–who I know are reading this) forgive me in this lifetime. It was so bitterly cold I wouldn’t leave the house yesterday even to get black eyed peas. Besides, Tom was going to have his own NYE fun checking the pipes every fifteen minutes outside to make sure they don’t freeze up. I didn’t have the heart to pull him away from that. I decided to hunker down for the evening and cook. We have lots of food we didn’t get to at Christmas.

I began with leftover lump crabmeat that didn’t wind up in the crab cakes Benedict our son and his family. I dropped it into a saucepan with chopped scallions and butter and capers. Capers were always a failproof food item for me–until I did this night’s recipe.

Something was off with it. I didn’t swoon when I tasted it. I grabbed some cream and cream cheese (heavy artillery) and parmesan cheese, and put it all in a baking dish. It went into the oven I’m using in this cold in lieu of a fireplace. We devoured this quickly with some Stacy’s fire roasted jalapeno pita chips.

We popped the bubbly at about 8:30 and I brought out some new potato slices topped with scallion sour cream and caviar, dusted lightly with sea salt.

I also sliced some cooked Italian sausage links and layered them with sliced Brussels sprouts in a baking dish, alternating them for visual effect, then I poured sautéed onion and jalapeno over them to bake.

Hummus made with blackeye peas.

Black eye peas are, to me, a success-proof food item. Disguising them is the only option. In the past they have found their way into baked beans where the cabbage was cole slaw, or a fresh cilantro dressing salsa, or hummus. Today I did a four-bean hummus which will not show up in pics. Hummus is a homely dish at best, so imagine it with black beans and kidney beans as well as the peas.

And I finally roasted the poor root veggies that never make it to the oven for Christmas. I also made more sweet potatoes. If you’re still doing sweet potatoes with mini marshmallows and brown sugar, I have one word for you. Reboot!! It’s 2018!
(All recipes are below)

Satisfied with my promises to keep the pipe project going, Tom went to bed, leaving me all alone to cook the traditional foods for the first day of the new year in my non-traditional way.

Outside was a nearly-full moon. I moved onto the kitchen deck in the cold. The sky was exquisite, as it can be only in rural settings away from city lights. The overcast sky was stuffed with nearly perfect rows of fluffy clouds, dotted only by an occasional very bright star peeking through. I stood all alone in the bitter cold, at perfect peace and almost giddy happy about prospects for 2018.

Within minutes it was 2018 and the country neighbors blew up their thousand dollars right over the tree line. Fabulous show, I felt just for me, though I know better. I sipped my champagne with a huge smile on my face, until I could bear the cold no longer. It went on for a bit, and I went in and out on the kitchen deck until it was finished.

I enjoyed my quiet time in these last minutes of the year just passed. I was grateful to ponder the final six weeks of 2017, and their profound (and even divine) message for me. The last month of 2017 was so dreadful I had to give myself a pep talk each morning. But the very last bit of news I received in 2017 makes it seem that 2018 will be a thrill ride-a little scary but totally exhilarating.

I wish the same for you. Buckle up!

Crab Dip

1 lb lump crabmeat
1/2 cup cream cheese
Bunch chopped scallions
1/3 stick of butter
1/2 cup cream or half and half
Tbs. capers (optional)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese.
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (optional)

1. In a skillet, heat butter and scallions.

2. Add cream cheese, cream and parmesan till melted. Gently toss in crab and transfer to baking dish. Add bread crumbs and bake at 350 till bubbling.

Hummus

Take your favorite hummus recipe and replace half the garbanzo beans with black eyed peas and other beans.

Fingerling Appetizers

Small fingerling potatoes
Bunch scallions
4 oz sour cream
Caviar
Sea salt (optional)

1. Bake potatoes at 350 till done
2. Slice cooled potatoes (skin on) into 1/4″ slices.
3. Chop scallions finely and mix into sour cream, placing a teaspoon on top of each piece.
4. Place caviar in top and lightly dust with sea salt

Sweet Potatoes

5 small but long sweet potatoes
3/4 stick butter
5 Tbs. cinnamon
4 Tbs. turmeric
5 Tbs. curry powder
4 Tbs. ginger
3 Tbs. nutmeg
3 Tbs. cumin

Peel potatoes and slice lengthwise, then into quarter inch pieces. Place in 2 ” glass baking dish. Sprinkle each spice and on top And place the butter on top. Bake at 350, checking often to coat all pieces with the melted butter.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Meatballs And Spaghetti

Two meatballs stand out in my memory of eating that famous American-Italian dish. (It surprises many American travelers that meatballs are rarely seen in Italy.) The first was the gigantic, ultra-light “diamond-studded” meatballs created by Diamond Jim Moran at the old La Louisiane. (He actually used to put diamonds in them for very special customers.) The other great meatballs were the ordinary-looking ones that Chef Goffredo Fraccaro made at his now-gone La Riviera. They were famously crusty and delicious.

The sad part of this tale is that neither meatball is being made anymore. So we must do them ourselves, or at least try. This recipe makes a meatball with the incomparable lightness of Moran’s, and the crusty meatiness of Goffredo’s. Here are the tricks:

1. Use stock-soaked bread instead of breadcrumbs.
2. Use a bit of ground pork with the ground beef.
3. Beat the eggs to a near-froth.
4. Handle the meatballs as little as possible when rolling them.

Get a pot of smooth red sauce ready before you start, because that’s where these will go at the end of the process to finish cooking.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • 2 lbs. ground meat, consisting of up to 1 lb. ground pork (you can use less if you like, or none) and the rest ground beef round
  • 1 four-inch piece stale French bread, crusts cut away
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 12 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • Vegetable oil for frying

1. Break the ground meat up into a bowl and toss with fingers dripping with cold water to blend the two kinds.

2. Break the bread up into small pieces, and mix into 1/4 cup cold water with a fork until it has the texture of mashed potatoes. Add this to the meat, along with all the other ingredients except the eggs and oil. Again, wet your hands with cold water and toss the ingredients loosely to distribute them evenly.

3. With a wire whisk or blender (an immersion blender works very well), beat the eggs into a fine froth. Pour this evenly into the meat mixture.

4. Wet your hands again with cold water and caress the mixture into balls two to two and half inches in diameter. Handle the meatballs as gently as possible, compacting them just enough to make them stick together. Don’t worry is there are cracks as fissures, as long as they’re not about to break wide open.

5. Heat the oil about a quarter-inch deep in a skillet over medium-high heat. Put in enough meatballs to allow them to be rolled around easily. Roll them around every minute or so to brown them evenly. This will take ten to fifteen minutes, depending on the size of the meatballs.

6. When the meatballs are browned, remove from the pan and place into a pot of simmering tomato sauce. Cook for at least ten minutes, until no pink is left in the center.

Remove the meatballs from the sauce. Put cooked pasta into a bowl and pour the sauce over it. Toss to coat the pasta completely. Serve with a meatball on the top or size. (One of these is enough.)

Makes eight to twelve meatballs.

AlmanacSquare January 4, 2017

Days Until. . .

Carnival Begins 2.
Mardi Gras 54.

Tenth Day of Christmas

Here come the leaping lords. I don’t know what that’s all about, and I don’t think I want to know. Also silly: the chromium combination manicure, scissors and cigarette lighter in Allan Sherman’s version of the song. In another: mistletoe arrives today, too late for the parties. Benny Grunch goes to the Tenneco Chalmette Refinery for some reason. In our own take on the Twelve Days song, today we’d like to simmer for you ten cups of red beans to go with the nine cups of rice and eight links of sausage from the last two days.

tenlordsleapingHere come the leaping lords. I don’t know what that’s all about, and I don’t think I want to know. Also silly: the chromium combination manicure, scissors and cigarette lighter in Allan Sherman’s version of the song. In another: mistletoe arrives today, too late for the parties. Benny Grunch goes to the Tenneco Chalmette Refinery for some reason. In our own take on the Twelve Days song, today we’d like to simmer for you ten cups of red beans to go with the nine cups of rice and eight links of sausage from the last two days.

Today’s Flavor

This is National Spaghetti Day. As much as I love pasta, whenever I encounter spaghetti in the strictest sense of the word, I’m glad that we don’t eat it often. The thinner string pastas–spaghettini, vermicelli, angel hair–have taken over. Thicker spaghetti doesn’t roll up onto a fork, or hold as much sauce. This is because, ounce for ounce, the thinner the pasta, the more surface area it has.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Breaking spaghetti to fit into a storage jar is carrying organization a little too far.

Gourmet Gazetteer

After tumbling three miles through the mountainous Boise National Forest at about seven thousand feet, Oxtail Creek ends in the perfect place: Bull Creek. That flows southward into the Payette River, a tributary of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Oxtail Creek’s end is ninety-eight miles north of the city of Boise, and is a good hiking and fishing area. The nearest restaurant are an eighteen-mile hike due east to Cascade, where among other choices is the Whistle Stop.

Food In Show Biz

The movie Chocolat, about a new-in-town single mother who works her way into the hearts of her neighbors in a small French town by making excellent chocolate pastries premiered today in 2001.

It’s also the birthday of fictional chocolate magnate Willy Wonka–as a trademark for the line of candy bearing the character’s name. Issued today in 1972.

Food On The Air

Today was the premiere, in 1932, of the Carnation Contented Hour, a music variety show on radio sponsored by Carnation Evaporated Milk, the milk from contented cows. Would you prefer milk from a contented cow or a singing cow? I have one of the Carnation shows in my collection; I wish I had more. Good music back then.

Sounds Like A Food Story, But Isn’t

Today in 2006, the first female Beefeater was confirmed. Best known for gracing the label of the bottle of the namesake gin, the Beefeaters–more properly known as Yeoman Warders–have been guarding the Tower of London for over five hundred years. All of them were men until then. But it’s not the rough-and-tumble job it once was. Beefeaters now mainly entertain visitors to the Tower.

Edible Dictionary

cipolline, [chip-oh-LEE-neh], Italian, n.–A medium-large, mature onion with the appearance of having been flattened, such that its equator bulges outward. It is related to the true shallot, and has more complexity of flavor than the standard white or yellow onion. Although it’s used as a base of flavor in stocks and sauces, it’s often used for pickling, brunoise as a garnish in a salad or other cold dish, or as the onion component of a kebab. Cipollini are most popular in Italy, but have become more common in American supermarkets. They’re interesting to cook with.

Eat Club Namesakes

Today is the birthday, in 1837, of Charles Stratton, a midget known in the world of entertainment as General Tom Thumb. I only bring this up because an Eat Club regular who travels here from Little Rock to attend our dinners has the same real name and stage name. He’s not a midget, though, so his circus career didn’t amount to much, forcing him to do very well in more conventional businesses.

Food Namesakes

J. Danforth Quayle, the vise-prisedint under George Bush I, was borne tooday in 1947. . . Arthur Berry, an early British Olympic soccer star, was born today in 1888. . . Wilhelm Beer, an astronomer who drew the first known map of the moon based on telescopic observations, was born today in 1797. . . Jon Appleton, an American classical composer, was born today in 1939.

Words To Eat By

“No man is lonely while eating spaghetti; it requires so much attention.”–Christopher Morley.

“Nothing spoils lunch any quicker than a rogue meatball rampaging through your spaghetti.”–Jim Davis, author of the comic strip “Garfield.”

“Eating food with a knife and fork is like making love through an interpreter.”–Anonymous.

Words To Drink By

“We live in stirring times—tea-stirring times.”–Christopher Isherwood, British writer, who died today in 1986.

FoodFunniesSquare

Great Eating Truths #68305035.

The hunger and thirsts that greet the new day have puzzling effectiveness.

Click here for the cartoon.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Dining Diary By Mary Ann Fitzmorris, For A Change.

We’re Southerners, okay? Not Chicago, or Boston, or Missoula. We don’t do “real winter.” So when I saw the Abita town fountain frozen over, I decided to RSVP (this time, regrets) an invitation to what promised to be a spectacular way to ring in 2018. It was to be a party in the presidential suite on the top floor of the Westin Canal Place Hotel to see the midnight fireworks.

I hope the hosts–who I know are reading this) forgive me in this lifetime. It was so bitterly cold I wouldn’t leave the house yesterday even to get black eyed peas. Besides, Tom was going to have his own NYE fun checking the pipes every fifteen minutes outside to make sure they don’t freeze up. I didn’t have the heart to pull him away from that. I decided to hunker down for the evening and cook. We have lots of food we didn’t get to at Christmas.

I began with leftover lump crabmeat that didn’t wind up in the crab cakes Benedict our son and his family. I dropped it into a saucepan with chopped scallions and butter and capers. Capers were always a failproof food item for me–until I did this night’s recipe.

Something was off with it. I didn’t swoon when I tasted it. I grabbed some cream and cream cheese (heavy artillery) and parmesan cheese, and put it all in a baking dish. It went into the oven I’m using in this cold in lieu of a fireplace. We devoured this quickly with some Stacy’s fire roasted jalapeno pita chips.

We popped the bubbly at about 8:30 and I brought out some new potato slices topped with scallion sour cream and caviar, dusted lightly with sea salt.

I also sliced some cooked Italian sausage links and layered them with sliced Brussels sprouts in a baking dish, alternating them for visual effect, then I poured sautéed onion and jalapeno over them to bake.

Hummus made with blackeye peas.

Black eye peas are, to me, a success-proof food item. Disguising them is the only option. In the past they have found their way into baked beans where the cabbage was cole slaw, or a fresh cilantro dressing salsa, or hummus. Today I did a four-bean hummus which will not show up in pics. Hummus is a homely dish at best, so imagine it with black beans and kidney beans as well as the peas.

And I finally roasted the poor root veggies that never make it to the oven for Christmas. I also made more sweet potatoes. If you’re still doing sweet potatoes with mini marshmallows and brown sugar, I have one word for you. Reboot!! It’s 2018!
(All recipes are below)

Satisfied with my promises to keep the pipe project going, Tom went to bed, leaving me all alone to cook the traditional foods for the first day of the new year in my non-traditional way.

Outside was a nearly-full moon. I moved onto the kitchen deck in the cold. The sky was exquisite, as it can be only in rural settings away from city lights. The overcast sky was stuffed with nearly perfect rows of fluffy clouds, dotted only by an occasional very bright star peeking through. I stood all alone in the bitter cold, at perfect peace and almost giddy happy about prospects for 2018.

Within minutes it was 2018 and the country neighbors blew up their thousand dollars right over the tree line. Fabulous show, I felt just for me, though I know better. I sipped my champagne with a huge smile on my face, until I could bear the cold no longer. It went on for a bit, and I went in and out on the kitchen deck until it was finished.

I enjoyed my quiet time in these last minutes of the year just passed. I was grateful to ponder the final six weeks of 2017, and their profound (and even divine) message for me. The last month of 2017 was so dreadful I had to give myself a pep talk each morning. But the very last bit of news I received in 2017 makes it seem that 2018 will be a thrill ride-a little scary but totally exhilarating.

I wish the same for you. Buckle up!

Crab Dip

1 lb lump crabmeat
1/2 cup cream cheese
Bunch chopped scallions
1/3 stick of butter
1/2 cup cream or half and half
Tbs. capers (optional)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese.
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (optional)

1. In a skillet, heat butter and scallions.

2. Add cream cheese, cream and parmesan till melted. Gently toss in crab and transfer to baking dish. Add bread crumbs and bake at 350 till bubbling.

Hummus

Take your favorite hummus recipe and replace half the garbanzo beans with black eyed peas and other beans.

Fingerling Appetizers

Small fingerling potatoes
Bunch scallions
4 oz sour cream
Caviar
Sea salt (optional)

1. Bake potatoes at 350 till done
2. Slice cooled potatoes (skin on) into 1/4″ slices.
3. Chop scallions finely and mix into sour cream, placing a teaspoon on top of each piece.
4. Place caviar in top and lightly dust with sea salt

Sweet Potatoes

5 small but long sweet potatoes
3/4 stick butter
5 Tbs. cinnamon
4 Tbs. turmeric
5 Tbs. curry powder
4 Tbs. ginger
3 Tbs. nutmeg
3 Tbs. cumin

Peel potatoes and slice lengthwise, then into quarter inch pieces. Place in 2 ” glass baking dish. Sprinkle each spice and on top And place the butter on top. Bake at 350, checking often to coat all pieces with the melted butter.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Meatballs And Spaghetti

Two meatballs stand out in my memory of eating that famous American-Italian dish. (It surprises many American travelers that meatballs are rarely seen in Italy.) The first was the gigantic, ultra-light “diamond-studded” meatballs created by Diamond Jim Moran at the old La Louisiane. (He actually used to put diamonds in them for very special customers.) The other great meatballs were the ordinary-looking ones that Chef Goffredo Fraccaro made at his now-gone La Riviera. They were famously crusty and delicious.

The sad part of this tale is that neither meatball is being made anymore. So we must do them ourselves, or at least try. This recipe makes a meatball with the incomparable lightness of Moran’s, and the crusty meatiness of Goffredo’s. Here are the tricks:

1. Use stock-soaked bread instead of breadcrumbs.
2. Use a bit of ground pork with the ground beef.
3. Beat the eggs to a near-froth.
4. Handle the meatballs as little as possible when rolling them.

Get a pot of smooth red sauce ready before you start, because that’s where these will go at the end of the process to finish cooking.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • 2 lbs. ground meat, consisting of up to 1 lb. ground pork (you can use less if you like, or none) and the rest ground beef round
  • 1 four-inch piece stale French bread, crusts cut away
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 12 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • Vegetable oil for frying

1. Break the ground meat up into a bowl and toss with fingers dripping with cold water to blend the two kinds.

2. Break the bread up into small pieces, and mix into 1/4 cup cold water with a fork until it has the texture of mashed potatoes. Add this to the meat, along with all the other ingredients except the eggs and oil. Again, wet your hands with cold water and toss the ingredients loosely to distribute them evenly.

3. With a wire whisk or blender (an immersion blender works very well), beat the eggs into a fine froth. Pour this evenly into the meat mixture.

4. Wet your hands again with cold water and caress the mixture into balls two to two and half inches in diameter. Handle the meatballs as gently as possible, compacting them just enough to make them stick together. Don’t worry is there are cracks as fissures, as long as they’re not about to break wide open.

5. Heat the oil about a quarter-inch deep in a skillet over medium-high heat. Put in enough meatballs to allow them to be rolled around easily. Roll them around every minute or so to brown them evenly. This will take ten to fifteen minutes, depending on the size of the meatballs.

6. When the meatballs are browned, remove from the pan and place into a pot of simmering tomato sauce. Cook for at least ten minutes, until no pink is left in the center.

Remove the meatballs from the sauce. Put cooked pasta into a bowl and pour the sauce over it. Toss to coat the pasta completely. Serve with a meatball on the top or size. (One of these is enough.)

Makes eight to twelve meatballs.

AlmanacSquare January 4, 2017

Days Until. . .

Carnival Begins 2.
Mardi Gras 54.

Tenth Day of Christmas

Here come the leaping lords. I don’t know what that’s all about, and I don’t think I want to know. Also silly: the chromium combination manicure, scissors and cigarette lighter in Allan Sherman’s version of the song. In another: mistletoe arrives today, too late for the parties. Benny Grunch goes to the Tenneco Chalmette Refinery for some reason. In our own take on the Twelve Days song, today we’d like to simmer for you ten cups of red beans to go with the nine cups of rice and eight links of sausage from the last two days.

tenlordsleapingHere come the leaping lords. I don’t know what that’s all about, and I don’t think I want to know. Also silly: the chromium combination manicure, scissors and cigarette lighter in Allan Sherman’s version of the song. In another: mistletoe arrives today, too late for the parties. Benny Grunch goes to the Tenneco Chalmette Refinery for some reason. In our own take on the Twelve Days song, today we’d like to simmer for you ten cups of red beans to go with the nine cups of rice and eight links of sausage from the last two days.

Today’s Flavor

This is National Spaghetti Day. As much as I love pasta, whenever I encounter spaghetti in the strictest sense of the word, I’m glad that we don’t eat it often. The thinner string pastas–spaghettini, vermicelli, angel hair–have taken over. Thicker spaghetti doesn’t roll up onto a fork, or hold as much sauce. This is because, ounce for ounce, the thinner the pasta, the more surface area it has.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Breaking spaghetti to fit into a storage jar is carrying organization a little too far.

Gourmet Gazetteer

After tumbling three miles through the mountainous Boise National Forest at about seven thousand feet, Oxtail Creek ends in the perfect place: Bull Creek. That flows southward into the Payette River, a tributary of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Oxtail Creek’s end is ninety-eight miles north of the city of Boise, and is a good hiking and fishing area. The nearest restaurant are an eighteen-mile hike due east to Cascade, where among other choices is the Whistle Stop.

Food In Show Biz

The movie Chocolat, about a new-in-town single mother who works her way into the hearts of her neighbors in a small French town by making excellent chocolate pastries premiered today in 2001.

It’s also the birthday of fictional chocolate magnate Willy Wonka–as a trademark for the line of candy bearing the character’s name. Issued today in 1972.

Food On The Air

Today was the premiere, in 1932, of the Carnation Contented Hour, a music variety show on radio sponsored by Carnation Evaporated Milk, the milk from contented cows. Would you prefer milk from a contented cow or a singing cow? I have one of the Carnation shows in my collection; I wish I had more. Good music back then.

Sounds Like A Food Story, But Isn’t

Today in 2006, the first female Beefeater was confirmed. Best known for gracing the label of the bottle of the namesake gin, the Beefeaters–more properly known as Yeoman Warders–have been guarding the Tower of London for over five hundred years. All of them were men until then. But it’s not the rough-and-tumble job it once was. Beefeaters now mainly entertain visitors to the Tower.

Edible Dictionary

cipolline, [chip-oh-LEE-neh], Italian, n.–A medium-large, mature onion with the appearance of having been flattened, such that its equator bulges outward. It is related to the true shallot, and has more complexity of flavor than the standard white or yellow onion. Although it’s used as a base of flavor in stocks and sauces, it’s often used for pickling, brunoise as a garnish in a salad or other cold dish, or as the onion component of a kebab. Cipollini are most popular in Italy, but have become more common in American supermarkets. They’re interesting to cook with.

Eat Club Namesakes

Today is the birthday, in 1837, of Charles Stratton, a midget known in the world of entertainment as General Tom Thumb. I only bring this up because an Eat Club regular who travels here from Little Rock to attend our dinners has the same real name and stage name. He’s not a midget, though, so his circus career didn’t amount to much, forcing him to do very well in more conventional businesses.

Food Namesakes

J. Danforth Quayle, the vise-prisedint under George Bush I, was borne tooday in 1947. . . Arthur Berry, an early British Olympic soccer star, was born today in 1888. . . Wilhelm Beer, an astronomer who drew the first known map of the moon based on telescopic observations, was born today in 1797. . . Jon Appleton, an American classical composer, was born today in 1939.

Words To Eat By

“No man is lonely while eating spaghetti; it requires so much attention.”–Christopher Morley.

“Nothing spoils lunch any quicker than a rogue meatball rampaging through your spaghetti.”–Jim Davis, author of the comic strip “Garfield.”

“Eating food with a knife and fork is like making love through an interpreter.”–Anonymous.

Words To Drink By

“We live in stirring times—tea-stirring times.”–Christopher Isherwood, British writer, who died today in 1986.

FoodFunniesSquare

Great Eating Truths #68305035.

The hunger and thirsts that greet the new day have puzzling effectiveness.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, December 29, 2017. Wild Day In The Cold. Too much going on. The day began with an extra-early crossing of the bridge and an interview with Newell Normand, the former sheriff of Jefferson Parish. He is now the morning talk show host on WWL radio. He must have done some studying, because he sounds like he had it down. For a change, I was the interviewee, with Newell asking me where I’d recommend dining out on New Year’s Eve, three days hence. I didn’t bring up the matter that, like Dean Martin, I almost never go out on New Year’s Eve, because the restaurants are filled with amateur eaters and (in Dino’s case) drinkers.

However, that question comes up a lot on my own show, so I have enough answers to make it seems as in I know what I’m doing. That takes about an hour, during which Newell and I strike up a rapport.

That done, I try to penetrate the French Quarter for the annual Jesuit Class of 1968 reunion at the Court of Two Sisters. Parking on the Friday between Christmas and New Year’s packs the restaurant to the rafters. That is almost literally true, since we usually have our gathering on the second floor. I get a place to park only by getting on Rampart Street near the old Municipal Auditorium. There I find a small lot that dispenses parking tickets by machine. I’ll remember this for next year.

The usual conversation as to whether the Sazerac cocktail is almost identical to the Old Fashioned breaks out, but not for long. I have a joke to add. Seems that a new waitress approaches a table and asks whether the people sitting there would like a cocktail.

“I’d like an Old Fashioned,” says the patron.

“An old fashioned what?” asks the rookie waitress.

It’s a nice party, with thirty-five people in attendance. Pretty good for a bunch of guys looking ahead to the fiftieth anniversary of our common graduation. Which datum adds up to the fact that we are mostly in out late sixties. One aspect of this I find very distressing, enough that I don’t feel comfortable about bringing it up.

Sitting next to me is Edwin Gros, who was a close friend when we were at St. Rita’s in Harahan. He’s a Jesuit priest now, with extensive accomplishments in Latin American.

I limit my Sazerac intake to one. I send back the osso buco that has become the standard entree at these gatherings. Osso buco gives me the gout, however, so I ask for something else. Which turns out to be a very pretty red snapper with a tasty, creamy white sauce.

The gathering keeps going, but I must depart at two-ish. I go on the air at three. It has been a little to busy for me. And I keep thinking there’s something else I was supposed to have done but have not.

Casa Borrega.

Warehouse District & Center City: 1719 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. 504-427-0654.
4 Fleur BreakfastNo Breakfast SundayNo Breakfast MondayNo Breakfast TuesdayNo Breakfast WednesdayNo Breakfast ThursdayNo Breakfast FridayNo Breakfast Saturday
LunchNo Lunch SundayNo Lunch MondayLunch TuesdayLunch WednesdayLunch ThursdayLunch FridayLunch Saturday
DinnerDinner SundayNo Dinner MondayDinner TuesdayDinner WednesdayDinner ThursdayDinner FridayDinner Saturday

Casa Borrega

Warehouse District & Center City: 1719 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. 504-427-0654. Map.
Casual.
AE DC DS MC V
Website

The search for Mexican food in New Orleans usually brings up the word “authentic,” meant to set apart restaurants serving hard-to-find dishes from those aimed at the Tex-Mex category. I know of no Mexican restaurant in these parts that’s really “authentic.” No restaurant has the combination of ingredients, cooks, customers, and menu to claim strict authenticity. But some come close. Casa Borrega may be the best on that small list. It starts with the best locally-produced mole poblano–the fantastic bitter-chocolate-and-chile concoction that may be the world’s best sauce. Good start. Now look at the rest of the menu and note that you either a) see lots of dishes you’ve only had in Mexico City or 2) some marvelous versions of Mexican-American standards.

The two co-owners (partners in both senses of the word) come from Mexico City and San Francisco. That cross-pollination creates a fascinating restaurant, both in terms of the cooking and the environment. The restaurant is in the Oretha Castle Haley corridor, in a handsome Greek-revival two-story. The interior decor will grab you by the eyes in numerous ways. When you talk about it, you’ll make a big deal about the dining rooms.

The kitchen goes all over the Mexican plane, with dishes you’ve never heard of that still manage to be familiar. Very few Tex-Mex combos appear. Fear not; you’ll find something as delicious as offbeat. Better stylle, take advantage of this lesson in Aztec flavor.
»»=BEST DISHES
PARA EMPEZAR
Guacamole & chips
Homemade tortilla chips and salsas
»»Elote o Esquites (grilled corn on the cob or
whole corn kernels, epazote, cotija cheese, mayonnaise,
chili powder, lime

»»Queso o Choriqueso
Melted cheese, pico de gallo, fresh tortilla chips
Option: add chorizo

Piña, Pepino & Jicama
Pineapple, cucumber and jicama (mango or orange) with lime, chile tajin

ANTOJITOS (Small Plates)
»»Ceviche (Fresh Gulf Fish and Shrimp) marinated in lime juice, cucumber, radish, avocado, onion, tortilla chips, saltines

Coctel de Camaron (shrimp cocktail, avocado and pico de gallo, chips or saltines
San Antonio Nachos (enough for two)
Housemade tortilla chips smothered in refried
beans, picadillo OR pollo with Monterrey Jack,
Queso Chihuahua, Mexican sour cream, Pico de
Gallo, jalapeños optional

Flautas (Chipotle chicken flautas, crema Mexicana, Queso fresco)
Quesadilla de Papa (Two fried potato quesadillas Mexico City street-style, crema, queso, shredded lettuce)

PLATILLOS TIPICOS (Classic Entrees)
Pozole Mexican hominy soup with pork in a spicy red
broth with radish, cabbage, chile, tortillas

»»Camarones al Tequila (Gulf shrimp in butter, garlic, tequila, with rice and side salad)
»»Borrego de Oro (tequila marinated lamb, grilled nopalitos, cebollitas, lamb consommé, corn tortillas

Chile Relleno
Large Poblano pepper battered and filled with cheese, veggies OR picadllo served tomato salsa, rice and side salad

»»Carne a la Tampiqueña (New York strip steak, veggies on the
grill

»»Enchilladas de Pollo con molé (Three chicken enchiladas in mole sauce with onion and sesame seeds)

Enchiladas Mexicanas (Three chicken enchiladas with red and green salsas, crema, Queso Fresco

TACOS & QUESADILLAS
»»Lisi’s Lengua, Carne Asada, Pollo, o pescado frito (Angus beef, tongue, grilled steak, Halal grilled chicken, or fried fish tacos with onions, cilantro, lime & tomatillo salsa (Mexico City street
style) served on corn tortillas (flour tortillas available)

Alambres (Grilled steak, chicken OR Portabello with chopped
bacon, bell peppers, onions, cheese, salsa, warm corn tortillas

Quesadilla Plate
Large flour tortilla, melted white cheese, choice of filling, pico de gallo . Fillings: chipotle chicken, Cochinita Pibil, Angus steak, chorizo.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Moo-Shu Pork

My all-time favorite local Chinese restaurant–now gone, unfortunately–was the Peking in New Orleans East. There Kenny Cheung made everything by hand from scratch, never taking a shortcut or using second-rate ingredients. He had a terrific version of this, one of the most elegant, subtle dishes in the Mandarin style of Chinese cookery. (Unfortunately, Kenny has long since left the restaurant business.) The more exotic ingredients are available at the several Oriental groceries around town.

After preparing the recipe, you spread very thin, lightly griddled (just enough to warm them) flour tortillas with hoisin sauce (available in jars in most supermarkets). Spoon on a little less of the pork mixture than you might think right, fold over one end to prevent leaking, and roll it up. (It should look something like a burrito.)

Moo-shu pork can also be made with chicken, or in a vegetarian version that replaces the meat with big, meaty mushrooms (portobellos or shiitakes).

ChinaTown-MooShuChicken

  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 cup dried tree ear mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup tiger lily flowers
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 10 oz. pork loin, cut into matchstick-size strips
  • 2 cups light chicken stock
  • 12 thin flour tortillas
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce

1. Combine the soy sauce, sugar, salt, cornstarch, and 1 Tbs. of cold water to dissolve everything. Reserve.

2. Soak the tree-ear mushrooms and the tiger-lily petals in just enough warmed water (not from the hot-water tap) to cover them. Soak for 45 minutes to an hour.

3. Heat 1/3 cup of vegetable oil in a wok or skillet until moderately hot, and pour in the beaten egg. Cook, whisking lightly, for 15-20 seconds. Pour the entire pan contents through a strainer, collecting the oil in a bowl. Set the strainer with the eggs aside to drain.

4. Return 1 Tbs. oil to the wok or skillet. Over the highest heat you can get, stir-fry the pork strips for about one minute, until browned on the outside. Remove and reserve.

5. Wipe the wok out, leaving a light film of oil. Strain out the mushrooms and tiger lily petals, shaking most but not all of the water out. Add to the pan and cook for two or three seconds. Add the chicken stock and the soy sauce mixture from step 1. Bring to a boil and cook for three minutes, until the sauce thickens.

6. Return the pork strips and the egg curdles back to the wok and stir into the mixture. Cook for another 30 seconds or so, then spoon onto serving plate.

7. Serve with flour tortillas or Chinese thin pancakes, with hoisin sauce and snipped green onions.

Serves two to four.

AlmanacSquare January 4, 2017

Days Until. . .

Carnival Begins 1.
Mardi Gras 56.

Tenth Day of Christmas

Here come the leaping lords. I don’t know what that’s all about, and I don’t think I want to know. Also silly: the chromium combination manicure, scissors and cigarette lighter in Allan Sherman’s version of the song. In another: mistletoe arrives today, too late for the parties. Benny Grunch goes to the Tenneco Chalmette Refinery for some reason. In our own take on the Twelve Days song, today we’d like to simmer for you ten cups of red beans to go with the nine cups of rice and eight links of sausage from the last two days.

tenlordsleapingHere come the leaping lords. I don’t know what that’s all about, and I don’t think I want to know. Also silly: the chromium combination manicure, scissors and cigarette lighter in Allan Sherman’s version of the song. In another: mistletoe arrives today, too late for the parties. Benny Grunch goes to the Tenneco Chalmette Refinery for some reason. In our own take on the Twelve Days song, today we’d like to simmer for you ten cups of red beans to go with the nine cups of rice and eight links of sausage from the last two days.

Today’s Flavor

This is National Spaghetti Day. As much as I love pasta, whenever I encounter spaghetti in the strictest sense of the word, I’m glad that we don’t eat it often. The thinner string pastas–spaghettini, vermicelli, angel hair–have taken over. Thicker spaghetti doesn’t roll up onto a fork, or hold as much sauce. This is because, ounce for ounce, the thinner the pasta, the more surface area it has.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Breaking spaghetti to fit into a storage jar is carrying organization a little too far.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Hominy is forty-four miles northwest of Tulsa, Oklahoma, on OK99 in the Osage Indian Reservation. It’s a good-sized town, with about 2600 residents. About a quarter of them are Native Americans. It’s the home of a bluegrass music festival every June. There’s no question that corn was grown here and turned into hominy at one time, and perhaps still. But oil wells and cattle ranching are the economic story now. The obvious place to dine is the Hominy Diner, right in the center of town. Try the grits.

Food In Show Biz

The movie Chocolat, about a new-in-town single mother who works her way into the hearts of her neighbors in a small French town by making excellent chocolate pastries premiered today in 2001.

It’s also the birthday of fictional chocolate magnate Willy Wonka–as a trademark for the line of candy bearing the character’s name. Issued today in 1972.

Food On The Air

Today was the premiere, in 1932, of the Carnation Contented Hour, a music variety show on radio sponsored by Carnation Evaporated Milk, the milk from contented cows. Would you prefer milk from a contented cow or a singing cow? I have one of the Carnation shows in my collection; I wish I had more. Good music back then.

Sounds Like A Food Story, But Isn’t

Today in 2006, the first female Beefeater was confirmed. Best known for gracing the label of the bottle of the namesake gin, the Beefeaters–more properly known as Yeoman Warders–have been guarding the Tower of London for over five hundred years. All of them were men until then. But it’s not the rough-and-tumble job it once was. Beefeaters now mainly entertain visitors to the Tower.

Edible Dictionary

dolmades, [dole-MAH-dehss], Greek, n. pl.Grape leaves, rolled around a stuffing to resemble sausages and cooked. Most of the time, the rolls are then cooled and served at room temperature The stuffing admits of a wide range of ingredients. The most common concoction is rice, olive oil, parsley, dill, onions, pine nuts, and a light touch of spices in the cinnamon-nutmeg range. Dolmades can also be served hot, usually with a stuffing of lamb, eggs, dill, oregano, and bread crumbs. That kind is usually topped with a warm sauce, with avgolemono being the classic. (“Egg-and-lemon” sauce, the Greek answer to hollandaise.) Since you almost never get just one dolma (the singular form), the plural “dolmades” is the word you see on menus.

Eat Club Namesakes

Today is the birthday, in 1837, of Charles Stratton, a midget known in the world of entertainment as General Tom Thumb. I only bring this up because an Eat Club regular who travels here from Little Rock to attend our dinners has the same real name and stage name. He’s not a midget, though, so his circus career didn’t amount to much, forcing him to do very well in more conventional businesses.

Food Namesakes

J. Danforth Quayle, the vise-prisedint under George Bush I, was borne tooday in 1947. . . Arthur Berry, an early British Olympic soccer star, was born today in 1888. . . Wilhelm Beer, an astronomer who drew the first known map of the moon based on telescopic observations, was born today in 1797. . . Jon Appleton, an American classical composer, was born today in 1939.

Words To Eat By

“No man is lonely while eating spaghetti; it requires so much attention.”–Christopher Morley.

“Nothing spoils lunch any quicker than a rogue meatball rampaging through your spaghetti.”–Jim Davis, author of the comic strip “Garfield.”

“Eating food with a knife and fork is like making love through an interpreter.”–Anonymous.

Words To Drink By

“We live in stirring times—tea-stirring times.”–Christopher Isherwood, British writer, who died today in 1986.~~~
AlmanacSquare

Carnival Begins6.
Mardi Gras 57.

Read entire article.

FoodFunniesSquare

Peculiar Little Pieces Of What Could Be Food.

If you figure out the meaning of any of this, please don’t reveal it to anyone who might be a chef.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 It would have been a wonderful night for there to be NPAS
rehearsal tonight, but we’re in the off-season. Singing always calms me down. However, I do get an invitation to dinner from Mary Leigh, who is on her way home and has a hankering for a wedge salad with blue cheese dressing at the Acme in Covington. We split a dozen grilled oysters in our unique way: I get all the oysters and she gets all the butter, garlic, parmesan, and peppers to dip the toasted French bread.

For my side of the table, for some reason I yearn for a hamburger. The waitress said it was pretty good, but I still should have known better than to order a burger in a restaurant primarily engaged with frying and grilling seafood. The big puck was good enough, but a hamburger has to be something for me to use up my annual quota (1.2 hamburgers of normal size per month.

We don’t talk about this much, but ML is thinking about buying a house. This would be a brave episode, but if she pulls it off whe will be younger than I was when I bought my first house (in Gentilly, for $11,000. The Marys are interesting is something more substantial. They watch those television shows in which people renovate houses to within a hairs-breadth of being destroyed totally.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017. I liked the dinner I had last week at Porter and Luke in Old Metairie that I go there again tonight. Another reason for me to sample it again is that the place is running live commercials on the radio show, and if I fill them with information they’re more interesting.

Like last time, I begin with the soup of the day, which in this case is a very tasty cauliflower bisque. I’ve always liked things like that. It’s creamy, but doesn’t get offensive about it.

I ask the waiter to give me a great idea for my dinner in one word. He doesn’t waste a second: “catfish!” he says. Fried catfish, after a couple of decades of oblivion, seems to be making a major return to popularity. Some of this can be written off to the enormous piles of fish that we have been seeing. The Porter and Luke version certainly fits that description. Golden brown (that’s menu-speak in restaurants, but in this case it applies) fillets about five inches long and an inch and a half wide. Crisp, nicely seasoned, and just what I was in the mood for. And better than that burger yesterday.

Wednesday, December 20, 2019. Gin And Turtle. My most pervasive hunger is for baked oysters, on the half-shell or gratin-style. Oysters Rockefeller, Mosca, or whatever. So I thought it was a great idea when “Mr. Ed” McIntyre–owner of the restaurants that hold his name–installed quite a few such dishes when he took over the former Bozo’s. He added not only Rockefeller oysters but Bienville, Drago’s-style, and amandine, to name just a few. I loved the first two or three dozen of these, but I think they ought to fine-tune the recipes and technique. Lately they’ve been looking less than appetizing. Most versions of these things fall down in the sauce department. You could still do a lot worse than to have Mr. Ed’s oysters, but I know he could make them better.

I draw a new waitress, and I joke around with her as I usually do. She’s so flexible that I let her sell me a cocktail, which I wasn’t especially up for. A gin and tonic wasn’t the perfect drink for the weather anyway. I think I’m going to back away even from the single shot of sherry that comes with a cup of turtle soup. (As traditional as it is, sherry ought to be in the soup pot, but not on the soup plate. The bitter taste is better cooked out.)

Regardless of that, the soup is reasonably good.

Thursday, December 21, 2019. Stonehenge At Home. It’s the first day of winter, and the pine trees in the woods surrounding the Cool Water Ranch lay down their Stonehenge-like shadows at unfamiliar angles. Almost bizarre to see, but then they’re gone until next year. Many phenomena become fascinating when taken seriously.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Red Beans and Rice

Red beans and rice is the official Monday dish in New Orleans, found on that day in restaurants of almost every kind all over town. It’s also a good dish to serve on chilly days, of which we’re having quite a few lately. Although most people agree on the recipe, the trend in recent years–especially in restaurants–has been to make the sauce matrix much thicker than I remember growing up with. This version is the old (and, I think, better) style, with a looser sauce.

I have, however, added two wrinkles. One came from a radio listener, who advised that beans improve greatly when you add much more celery than the standard recipe calls for. That proved to be correct. Also, the herb summer savory (sometimes just called “savory” in the spice rack) adds a nice flavor complement. If you can’t find savory, use oregano, or just leave it out.

Red beans are classically served with smoked sausage, but they’re also great with fried chicken, oysters en brochette, or grilled ham. But the ultimate is chaurice–Creole hot sausage–grilled to order and transferred, along with all the dripping fat, atop the beans.

  • 1 lb. dried red beans
  • 1/4 lb. bacon or fatty ham
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 12 sprigs parsley, chopped
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. savory
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Tabasco
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion tops
  • 2 Tbs. chopped parsley

1. Sort through the beans and pick out any bad or misshapen ones. Soak the beans in cold water overnight. When ready to cook, pour off the soaking water.

2. In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, fry the bacon or ham fat till crisp. Remove the bacon or ham fat and set aside for garnish (or as a snack while you cook).

3. In the hot fat, sauté the bell pepper, onion, celery, parsley and garlic until it just begins to brown. Add the beans and three quarts of water. Bring to a light boil, then lower to a simmer. Add the salt, bay leaf, savory, black pepper, and Tabasco.

4. Simmer the beans, uncovered, for two hours, stirring two or three times per hour. Add a little water if the sauce gets too thick.

5. Mash about a half-cup of the beans (more if you like them extra creamy) and stir them in into the remainder. Add salt and more Tabasco to taste. Serve the beans over rice cooked firm. Garnish with chopped green onions and parsley.

The Ultimate: Grill some patties of Creole hot sausage and deposit it, along with as much of the fat as you can permit yourself, atop the beans. Red beans seem to have a limitless tolerance for added fat.

Meatless Alternative: Leave the pork and ham out of the recipe completely, and begin by sautéing the vegetables other than the beans in 1/4 cup of olive oil. At the table, pour extra-virgin olive oil over the beans. This may sound and look a bit odd, but the taste is terrific and everything in the plate–beans, rice, and olive-oil–is a proven cholesterol-lowerer.

Serves six to eight.

AlmanacSquare January 2, 2017

Days Until. . .

Carnival Begins 6.
Mardi Gras 44.

Happy New Year!

This is the last time I’ll wish you a Happy New Year in this space. But you and I will keep on saying that to people we meet for at least a couple of weeks. When do you stop saying “Happy New Year!”? I asked that question on the radio about fifteen years ago. It became a contest, to guess the last consecutive day on which someone would say “Happy New Year!” on the air. The date was May 17. “Happy New Year!” became a catchphrase on the show, reaching its ultimate expression in 2010, during which someone said the phrase every day of the year. That has persisted every year since. New listeners must be puzzled to hear not one but numerous people say “Happy New Year!” in August on the program.

The Eighth Day of Christmas

Eight maids may show up a-milking. In other versions of the same song, we’re alerted to the fact dat you ate by your mama’s, have gold and silver tinsel for your tree, received an indoor plastic birdbath, and ate (our own lyrics) eight links of sausage.

Food Calendar

Back to those eight maids a-milking: The first of them brings skim milk, which tastes terrible but keeps your bones strong. The second has one per cent milk–too weak for coffee, but you can make good Creole cream cheese from it. The maid sells two-percent milk, which is tolerable for cereal, but not for mashed potatoes or bread pudding. Maid Number Four has whole, three-and-a-half-percent milkfat milk. Good old regular homogenized, which these days sells less well than two-percent. Behind her is a maid with four-plus-percent milk, made by smaller dairies like Smith’s Creamery. You have to shake it, because the cream still rises to the top of the bottle, like in the old days. This stuff is fantastic for making cafe au lait.

Milkmaid Five has light cream–also known as coffee cream. That’s is hard to find around New Orleans, although it’s common in the Northeast. For most purposes, instead of that we’ll have to use what the next maid has: half-and-half. Half cream and half milk, with about the milkfat content of light cream but not quite as good. (It’s about fifteen percent.)

Now here’s the milkmaid with whipping cream at around thirty percent, good enough for making whipped cream. But for sauces, what we want is the offering of Milkmaid Eight, who has heavy whipping cream–forty percent butterfat. Put it in a jar and shake it, and you can make your own butter.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Wheat is a mountain town of about seventy people in the very hilly northwestern panhandle of West Virginia, five miles from the southwest corner of Pennsylvania. Wheat is in a valley formed by the Little Fishing Creek, a tributary of the Ohio River, into which it flows fifteen miles downstream. It’s hard to figure wheat growing in the continuous hills and dales around there, but maybe long enough ago it happened. Or some guy named Wheat lived there. For food, it’s an eight-mile drive up Highway 8 to Miss Blue’s Restaurant in Hundred.

Edible Dictionary

cappelletti, Italian, n., pl.–Also spelled capaletti. A stuffed pasta resembling a hat. The word literally means “little hat.” Cappelletti are made with two circles or squares of pasta, one of which is made to bulge a little by pushing one’s finger into its center. The stuffing–usually cheese, sometimes mushrooms, rarely meat–fills the depression. That’s all pressed down onto a flat pasta sheet. Cappelletti’s most common use is in a broth, especially a beef consomme. Making cappelletti by hand is very time-consuming, but it lowers your blood pressure by at least twenty points.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Here’s how to open a coconut. Buy a quarter-inch drill bit and wash it. Use it only for this purpose, and store it in a kitchen drawer. With a cordless drill, drill into one of the eyes, and drain out the coconut water. Drink it! It will be sweet and it’s very healthful. Then take the coconut outside and put it on concrete. Hit it hard with a hammer until it cracks open. A good fresh coconut’s meat will fall from the shell. If it doesn’t, use an oyster knife to separate it. Be careful! It’s easy for your hand to slip while doing this.

Eating Around The World

Today in 1492–which would prove a big year for the country–the last stronghold of the Moors in Grenada fell to the forces of Ferdinand and Isabella, and modern Spain was born. The long Islamic domination of the Iberian peninsula blended with the previous Roman influence to create a rich and unique Spanish culture. Its food, architecture, and music are among the world’s most influential, from Latin America to the Phillippines. In this country, we’re just beginning to learn about the goodness of Spanish cooking, but we never seem to get any farther along than that.

Eating Across America

Georgia, the Peach State, became the fourth of the United States on this date in 1788. It was the first Southern state to ratify the Constitution.

Clear-Air Dining

Today in 2007, smoking was banned in Louisiana restaurants, a move that a majority of people have wanted for years. Among them: most restaurateurs, who found the enforcement of smoking and non-smoking sections made both sides angry. Any fears about lost business don’t seem to have come to pass. . . Coincidentally, today in 1966 was the first day on which cigarette packages were required to carry health warnings, the first step along the way to destroying the addictive popularity of what even smokers call “coffin nails.”

Deft Dining Rule #222

The era of the two-course dinner in gourmet restaurants is now officially underway. Any more than that is now considered a major feast. This rule is in conflict with another one that says that the era of small plates is in force.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Basil the Great, a Greek church leader in the Fourth Century, one of the few saints with a food name. We also celebrate St. Macarius of Alexandria. Before he became a monk in 335, he made and sold pastries, candies, and fruit confections. For that reason he is the patron saint of bakers of fancy pastries.

Annals Of Overindulgence Remedies

Aspirin was first sold in tablet form on this date in 1915 by the drug’s inventor, the German pharmaceutical company Bayer. Too bad. They really needed it the day before, the morning after a wild New Year’s Eve party. (Or maybe not. This was right in the middle of World War I.)

Food Namesakes

Defrocked TV minister Jim Bakker (pronounced “baker”) was born today in 1939. . . Perfect-game pitcher, Cy Young Award winner David Cone stepped onto the big mound on this date in 1963. . . Nathaniel Bacon was born today in 1647. He led a power struggle that became known as Bacon’s Rebellion in the early Virginia colony. . . On this day in 1929, Evelyn “Bobbi” Trout set a new women’s world record for flying endurance by being airborne for over twelve hours. . . Apsley Cherry-Garrard, a British explorer of the Antarctic and the author of the well-named Worst Journey In The World, left on his life’s journey today in 1886.

Words To Eat By

“My illness is due to my doctor’s insistence that I drink milk, a whitish fluid they force down helpless babies.”–W.C. Fields.

“The human body has no more need for cows’ milk than it does for dogs’ milk, horses’ milk, or giraffes’ milk.”–Michael Klaper, M.D.

Yeah, but I wouldn’t mind trying all of those!
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ReveillonDinnerSquare

5SmallSnowflakes

New Years’ Eve @ Pelican Club

No other restaurant makes more of the Reveillon season than Chef Richard Hughes’ Pelican Club. He keeps serving his comprehensive Reveillon menu for weeks after the others have cut it out. Embedded in that selection is a New Year’s Eve dinner that I expect I would like. And you probably would, too. Here it is, a magnificent feast perfect for the season,

Four courses, $100, include amuse bouche, salad or soup, Appetizer, Entree, Dessert

Louisiana Fried Oyster
Melted brie crouton with jalapeno pineapple chutney
~~~~~
Creamy Lobster White Truffle Bisque
Turtle & alligator soup, aged sherry
~or~
Pelican Club Baked Oysters
On the half shell with applewood smoked bacon, roasted red peppers, parmesan & garlic herb butter with chipotle aioli
~~~~~
Iron Skillet U-12, Heads-on BBQ Shrimp
With old New Orleans rum pepper butter sauce & garlic foccacia

~or~
New Year’s Good Luck Korean Boneless BBQ Baby Back Ribs
Long noodles, homemade kimchee & cucumber mint salad seafood martini ravigote
~or~
Maine Lobster, Gulf Shrimp, Lump Crabmeat, Gold Potato Salad
~or~
Goat Cheese Salad
Baby greens, walnuts, grapefruit & creamy Dijon EVOO dressing
~~~~~
Mississippi Rabbit
3-Cheese Stone Ground Grits Foie Gras, Shitake Mushrooms, Country Ham, Marsala Demi-Glace
~or~
Butter Poached Lobster
Scallops, shrimp & applewood smoked bacon, Meyer lemon beurre blanc, truffle mashed potatoes, sugar snap peas (add $5)
~or~
Black Drum With Crabmeat Hollandaise
Shrimp, tasso & cornbread stuffed mirliton, & sugar snap peas
~or~
Duo of Duck
Pan-seared breast, confit leg, Asian BBQ, Louisiana citrus and strawberry sauce and dirty rice
~or~
8-oz. Filet Mignon
Marchand De Vin Sauce, Foie Gras, Mushroom Bread Pudding Onion rings & asparagus (add $4)
~or~
Rack of Lamb
Marinated & roasted, rosemary pesto crust, port-mint demi-glace, truffle mashed potatoes & asparagus (add $4)

~or~
Desserts (Choose One)
Coconut Cream Pie
Chocolate Decadence Cake
White & Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding
Grand Marnier Crème Brulee
Bourbon Pecan Pie
The Pelican Club.

French Quarter: 615 Bienville. 504-523-1504.

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Tortilla Espanola

Spain and Latin America have common roots in their food. But they are not the same, as this dish illustrates well. The word “tortilla” brings to mind the wrappers around burritos, tacos, and enchiladas, made of flour or masa-style cornmeal. But that’s only because Mexican and other Latin American cuisines are much more common in this country than Spanish cookery is. In Spain, a tortilla is a chunky potato pancake, served not as a base for other ingredients, but all but itself, usually as an initial course in a meal. It’s so much better than it sounds that it’s underrated even in Spanish eateries. Yet, it’s not hard to make–although it takes several hours, most of which is taken up waiting.

Spanish tortilla.

  • 1 lb. red potatoes (or Yukon Golds)
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 6 oz. olive oil
  • 8 eggs, beaten in a large bowl
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. coarsely-ground black pepper

1. Peel the potatoes, cut them top to bottom, then in half-moon slices about as thick as three stacked quarters.

2. Slice the onions the same way as the potatoes, but half as thick. Combine the potatoes and onions in a 10-inch skillet. Toss them together until evenly distributed.

3. Pour the olive oil over the potatoes and onions, and place over medium-high heat. Stir the pan gently every minute or so, turning the contents over so they don’t brown. You are not frying them. Cook until the potatoes are soft and no crunch remains in the onions.

4. When that point is reached, move the skillet off the burner and let it sit there for eight to ten minutes, until it’s just barely warm to the touch.

5. With a slotted spoon, transfer the potato-onion mixture into the bowl of beaten eggs. (Save the excess olive oil.) Add the salt and pepper to the eggs, potatoes and onions, and toss lightly.

6. Cover the bowl and put it in the refrigerator for two hours to overnight.

7. When ready to serve, heat a skillet (preferably nonstick) over the lowest possible heat with the leftover olive oil. (You need about 2 Tbs. of oil; add more if necessary.) Add the egg-potato-onion concoction to the pan and cook until you see the egg component starting to congeal.

8. Get a plate big enough to cover the skillet completely. Place it on top of the skillet, hold it in place, and turn both the plate and the skillet over, so the mixture is now upside-down on the plate. With a jerk of the wrist, slip the pancake back into the skillet, and cook until browned–about four minutes. Let it cool, slice into pie slices, and serve..

Serves four to six.

AlmanacSquare December 28, 2016

Days Until. . .
Christmas 3.
Carnival Begins 10.
Third Day Of Christmas

Someone who loves you may send: Three French hens. Or t’ree French breads. Three boughs of holly. A calendar book with the name of my insurance man. Or (in our new version of the song) three beignets.

Restaurant Anniversaries

Today in 2003, Ralph’s on the Park opened. The building–across the street from City Park–had housed the Tavern on the Park and a string of other establishments dating back to the 1860s. It took Ralph Brennan almost two years to repair structural damage and perform a sparkling renovation. The city’s avid eaters awaited the restaurant eagerly because of its chef: Gerard Maras, who wound up staying just a year and a half. The name of the restaurant wasn’t decided upon until right before opening night. Everybody in town had an idea. (Mine: “Park Place.”) All the bad luck Ralph’s had in construction was reversed after Hurricane Katrina, which caused minimal damage to the restaurant.

Annals Of Annals

Today is the birthday, in 1732, of the almanac that created the genre: Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack, which he published for twenty-five years. It made his fortune, and allowed him to indulge in, among other things, the advanced pleasures of food and wine. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were also gourmets. It’s been a long time since we had such a person in the White House.

Music To Eat Seafood By

On this date in 1928, Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five recorded West End Blues, now considered a seminal work both for Armstrong and jazz in general. Written by King Oliver, it was about the resort community on Lake Pontchartrain, which at the time had clubs and dance halls in addition to the restaurants we knew it for. West End very much has the blues these days. Katrina left nothing standing. Since the park is outside the levee system, it’s unlikely that restaurants will be built at West End ever again. But one does hear about such plans now and then.

chowder, n.–

Edible Dictionary

chowderchowder, n.–Chowder is one of several culinary categories that can be described as something between a soup and a stew. The broth usually involves seafood, while the more solid parts almost always includes potatoes. The main flavoring elements are fish or shellfish (clams and scallops in particular). Bacon or something like bacon (pork cracklings, for example) give chowder its most distinctive flavors.

The kind of chowder described above is the one most popular in the Northeastern part of America, and particularly in New England. When I find myself in New England, I eat clam chowder at almost every meal. The Yankees make it very thick. One cookbook says it should be almost as solid as mashed potatoes. I don’t go along with that. Nor do I care much for the tomato-laces Manhattan style of clam chowder, which comes under heavy fire from New Englanders.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Sugar Land is at the center of a flat, damp plain where sugar cane was formerly grown in great profusion. But being twenty miles from downtown Houston, the waves of development ran over the sugar fields in the 1980s, and now the entire area is filled with housing tracts, shopping malls, manufacturing plants, and office buildings. If you know what a sugar cane field looks like, you can see a few of them living on. The sugar refinery that operated for 160 years closed in 2002. The 80,000 people who live in Sugar Land are quite affluent, with an average income of over $100,000. You will have no trouble finding a place to dine in Sugar Land. The Live Oak Grille is pretty good.

Food Inventions

chewinggumThe first U.S. patent issued for chewing gum came out today in 1869. It was not a success. In fact, it appears never to have entered the marketplace. William Finley Semple’s formula used rubber as a base.. The idea seems to survive in some restaurants, particularly in certain recipes for calamari.

dishwasherAn invention with far greater effect on our eating habits was that of the automatic dishwasher. It was created by a woman: Josephine Garis Cochran, who patented it today in 1886. When she showed it off at the Columbian World Exposition in Philadelphia a few years later, its fame spread. Her business grew into the KitchenAid Corporation.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

If you have more than four parties of twenty or more a year, and you’re redoing your kitchen, put in two dishwashers. You won’t believe how convenient that is. (If you stick with this rule: never have both of them filled with clean dishes at the same time.)

Deft Dining Rule #150:

If you ever encounter a bird stuffed with some kind of pate on a restaurant menu, by all means order it. It will almost never be less than superb.

Food Calendar

Today is National Amuse Bouche Day. The “amuse” is a small complimentary appetizer, served even before the appetizer. (The perfect thing three days before the new year begins.) It was once a delightful touch that made us more amenable to paying higher prices in classy restaurants. But we have now come to expect it now in any first-class place. To counteract this jaded response, some restaurants have begun serving two amuses. An amuse-bouche ought to be one bite of something really expensive, like truffles or foie gras or crabmeat. Unfortunately, we’re seeing amuses that aren’t much. A slice of tomato with an asparagus tip is not very amusing.

Food And The Law

Today in 1973, the Endangered Species Act was passed in this country. Some of its provisions brought the United States into line with several international laws regarding animals and plants whose continued existences were in question. That occasioned a menu change at T. Pittari’s Restaurant in New Orleans, which had become famous for serving wild game, some of it very exotic–lion, for example, and hippopotamus. No doubt other restaurants around the country had to adjust, too.

Food And Literature

On this date in 1817, a famous literary dinner in London was hosted by British painter Benjamin Robert Haydon. Its purpose was to show his new painting, “Christ’s Entry Into Jerusalem.” But it is remembered more for the first meeting of John Keats and William Wordsworth. Our Food Namesakes Department notes that essayist Charles Lamb was also there.

Food Namesakes

Today in 1821, operatic composer and gourmet Gioacchino Rossini (who created the foie-gras enhanced steak dish that bears his name) moved to Bologna. . . Today is the birthday, in 1963, of Willow Bay, former model turned news anchor. She is the sister of Eric Bay, who owned the Maple Street restaurant Nautical and also managed the last incarnation of La Louisiane. . . Marty Roe, singer with the country group Diamond Rio, was born today in 1960. . . Terry Butcher, a British professional soccer player, came along this day in 1958.

Words To Eat By

“A film is just like a muffin. You make it. You put it on the table. One person might say, ‘Oh, I don’t like it.’ One might say it’s the best muffin ever made. One might say it’s an awful muffin. It’s hard for me to say. It’s for me to make the muffin.”–Denzel Washington, actor, born today in 1954.

Words To Drink By

“Everyone who drinks is not a poet. Some of us drink because we’re not poets.”–From the movie Arthur.

FoodFunniesSquare

Why Certain Restaurants Serve Certain Dishes.

We’ve all encountered some dishes and flavors that are so boring and mediocre that you wonder who made the decision to serve them.

Click here for the cartoon.

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