Diary Thursday, 7/12/2018. I have an appointment with the doctor at a time that leaves my schedule of the day in shambles. At three-thirty in the afternoon, I still haven’t had lunch. Or, for that matter, breakfast, either. On the other hand, I am in the Riverbend part of town, which I don’t visit often enough for review purposes. And here is Mikimoto, the sushi bar about which I speak often during the radio show. (The place runs a couple of commercials a week on the Food Show.)

On the inside part of the sushi bar, the chefs are working hard on what I imagine is prep for the dinner hour. The customer side of Mikimoto’s dining room isn’t very busy this time of day. But that gives us time to ask about the more arcane part of the menu. Which is enormous here. The chef’s-special sushi rolls alone run to a full one hundred possibilities.

That made for some interesting names I don’t recall from earlier days. “Wholly Roll,” for example. “Sex And The City Roll,” for another.

I start with a marvelous dish I found here a few years ago. It consists of two large mussel shells–the kind with the iridescent green interiors, the size of oyster shells. Inside these are a half-dozen cooked, warm mussel meats, floating in a genteel sauce made of mayonnaise and caviar at its center. I could not name a more elegant or delicious dish than this.

I have a cup of clear soup, then move on to a sushi variation called “hotate.” This is fresh–non-frozen–sea scallops. It lacks the rice part of sushi, but the chef says that an exception is made for this particular presentation. The flavor is as good as the mussel thing a few minutes earlier, but in its own vivid way. A final note: the price of this is $8.50. I let it arrive at that price, to see what it’s all about. It makes an exquisite flavor and texture. A way to make an impression on a wealthy dining companion, perhaps.

I have tuna tatake next, in which the tuna is seared around the edges after being marinated in a spicy blend that comes across as South American. The plate is further filled out with shredded carrots and other crunchy vegetables there more for visual than flavor.

I was surprise to get out of here for around $25. Next time, I must concentrate on the sushi. Or on some appetizers haven’t tried yet. There are still many such. I might even bring myself to experience the drive-through pick-up aspect of Mikimoto, in which you call ahead than just gather your sushi in a line that wraps around the restaurant. (It used to be a bank branch.)

Then, I head home.

Vincent’s Garlic-Thyme Chicken

Vincent Catalanotto and I first met when we both worked as waiters in a fancy French restaurant called Romanoff’s in 1977. Years later, he opened up a wildly successful Italian restaurant in Metairie. This is my take on one of the best dishes there, a favorite on the menu since the place opened.

  • 1 whole cut-up chicken, or four chicken breasts (skin on)
  • 1 Tbs. salt-free Creole seasoning
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 heads fresh garlic, the cloves sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Roasted garlic chicken

1. Season chicken pieces with Creole seasoning and salt.

2. Melt butter in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Sauté chicken pieces until browned all around. It will first stick to the pan, then release; turn it when it does.

3. Push the chicken to one side of the pan and add the wine to the pan bottom. Bring it to a boil, then scatter the thyme sprigs and the garlic slices among the chicken pieces.

4. Add a cup of water to the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil. Then put the whole pan into the preheated 400-degree oven and bake for 30 minutes. When juices run clear from the thighs when jabbed with a kitchen fork, remove from the oven.

5. Place the chicken and half the garlic on a serving plate and keep warm.

6. Remove the rest of the garlic and the pan juices to a food processor and process into a puree. Strain into the pan and bring back up to a light boil. Reduce to sauce consistency. Spoon over the chicken and serve.

Serves four.

Briquette

Average entree price $27>
CBD: 701 S Peters St. 504 302-7496
Dinner seven nights. Casual. AE DC DS MC V
briquette-nola.com

ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS

The fastest-growing segment of the New Orleans restaurant market during the past year or two fulfills predictions made at the time leading up to the 1984 World’s Fair. In a section of the city that most locals considered forbidding, what is now well-known as the Warehouse District, things remained that way for many years to come. A few off-mainstream restaurants (selling barbecue, for example, in a town that was famous for not knowing much about it) and those catering to the lunch business managed to survive).

But then Katrina hit. In the healing afterwards, the first major new post-K restaurant appeared in Cochon, whose owner Chef Donald Link would shortly become a celebrity nationwide, winning all the awards. Link and his affiliate restaurants opened a half-dozen more of them. Meanwhile, Emeril kept on anchoring the neighborhood. Since then, the place to be for cutting-edge restaurants was along the uptown half of the riverfront. This brings us to the present, which finds that the Creole Culinary restaurant group now numbers nearly thirty restaurants, many of them in the Warehouse District.

WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY

Briquette is operated by A. J. Tusa, who has had numerous restaurants in and around the Morial Convention Center for years. Briquette is certainly the best of Tusa’s restaurants, with a handsome dining room and an interesting menu of hip Creolisms. Two aspects of Briquette stand out. Its chef spent a few years working with Gerard Crozier, who was one of the best French chefs in the history of New Orleans dining.

WHY IT’S GOOD
The impressive side of Briquette is that on any given night they’ll have a half-dozen or more whole finfish available. Several of these are sold as whole fish. Of these they not only have a selection of species, but enough specific specimen to make the place come across like a really good-looking fish market.
The swordfish, for example, has been marvelous every time I tried it. When they get things together, this will be a good place for visitors to New Orleans will find some good Creole eating before or after their meetings and expositions.

DINING ROOM
The expansive room is what’s left of a substantial molasses factory dating back to the 1800s. The low-hanging ceilings are dotted with interesting lighting fixtures and a color scheme that lends a rustic feeling. The wait staff is a mix of hospitable but not always well informed servers. This already seems to be just a relic of the young age of the restaurant.

DOZEN BEST DISHES
Caramelized sea scallops, charred poblano butter, fried goat cheese grits
Broiled Louisiana oysters, smelt roe béchamel, chili butter
»Steamed Prince Edward Island mussels, garlic butter, pommes frites
»Alaskan Halibut, glazed brussels sprouts
Florida Swordfish, jerked shrimp beurre noisette
Louisiana Redfish on the Half Shell
»Whole Greek Sea Bass, fennel slaw, lemon garlic aioli, olive and caper misto
»Snapper Pontchartrain, lump crab meat, Hollandaise
Angus Backstrap, pan seared foie gras, »smoked blue cheese Dauphinoise potatoes
»Veal Sweetbreads, caper demi butter, popcorn rice dressing, wilted market greens
»Meyer Lemon Cloud, poached meringue, charred lemon Anglaise, fresh red berries, Cracked Caramel Dust.

AlmanacSquare July 18, 2017

Days Until. . .

COOLinary menus begin August 1.

Food On The Road

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

Food Calendar

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

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

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

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

Deft Dining Rule #715

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

Gourmet Gazetteer

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

Edible Dictionary

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

Food On The Air

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

Food In Art Supplies

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

Food And Drink Namesakes

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

Words To Eat By

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

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

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

Words To Drink By

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