DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Sunday, November 12, 2017. So here’s the deal. Mary Ann’s dog Bauer allows only restaurants where he can be tied up next to our table. The other option leaving the dog in the car, but on hot days that won’t cut it. The dining people wind up having to make all the adjustments. There must be a better way. But here we are again, eating from the menu of La Carreta.

Another development: Saul Rubio, the owner of La Carreta, was at the Mandeville location with news that the first La Carreta on the South Shore will open this week. It’s on Magazine Street, where the family has had another Mexican under a different name. He invites MA and me to come over to see the new look and taste the menu, which Saul says will include molé poblano, my favorite dish in the world. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Monday, November 13, 2017. Lola Sandwiching Again. Mary Ann so much liked the menu of soups and sandwiches last week at Lola in Covington. Once again we have a pair of hearty, thick soups, followed by a big salad for MA and a sandwich of turkey and ham on a rough-hewn bread seemingly baked for precisely for this sandwich. We encounter one of Mary Ann’s nieces, who recently announced their engagement. They’re sitting at the adjacent outdoor table (it is a lovely day) and they both look like models for LL Bean. I buy a lot of LL Bean clothing, but it doesn’t transform me into a wholesome, well-shaped guy. (However, MA does indeed have that look, and always has.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017. First taste of the Uptown Saffron NOLA. Among the most unconventional schedules for a local restaurant is the one that puzzled people for a decade or more on the West Bank. Arvinder Vilkhu and his family operated a catering facility in Gretna. There, one evening a week, Saffron NOLA one that kicked up much discussion as to whether the restaurant would ever extend its a la carte menu operation more often.

A few months ago Dickie (Arvinder’s nickname) found a possible location for that expansion. Uptown, at that. Getting renovations and all the permits together (never an easy matter in Orleans Parish) kept the project running slow.

The new Saffron NOLA has been worth waiting for, according to the many people who’ve sent me their thoughts about the place. My daughter Mary Leigh has a taste for Indian food, and offered to join me to a taste of Saffron NOLA tonight.

The first thing we noticed is that the place looks great. Perhaps it has to, being across the street from the phenomenally busy Shaya. A lot of that crowd has crossed the way to find a full, bustling house. The crowd is young, well dressed and hip. Dickie’s son Ashwin orchestrates the busy service staff.

The menu is not much like the ones served by the few other other Indian places around New Orleans. The list of dishes available is surprisingly short, and they are curiously assembled. For example, about ten small plates are meant to be served with naan–the claypot-oven-baked bread for which Indian kitchens are known. Indeed, here are the lightest versions of naan I’ve ever tasted. You eat that assortment of small plates with it, and see if you can pick out the saffron flavor. Here are lamb dishes and goat dishes. A good bit of shrimp and–of course, numerous vegetable-only items.

I’m tempted to say that we tried everything here, but that will take up a few more surveys. But it’s safe to say that in most of the indices by which Uptowners measure restaurants, Saffron NOLA is off to a strong start.

And I finally have something else to dine upon when ML and I are at the table together.

Arnaud’s Table d’Hote Menu For Thanksgiving.

Restaurants approach the holidays differently. But if they put any effort into the holiday at all, what emerges is an appealing menu. Arnaud’s offers two options. One is a three-course dinner for $40 served every night of Thanksgiving week except for Thanksgiving itself. For an extra $18 per person, they’ll match wines all the way down.

On Thanksgiving night, you get a more ambitions table d’hote for $55. Here’s that menu:

Shrimp Arnaud
Fresh Gulf shrimp marinated in our famous tangy Creole Remoulade Sauce

Wild Mushroom Bisque

Roasted Walnuts

Little Gem Salad
Fennel, apple, chicory, roasted pecans, Stilton cheese and Sherry Vinaigrette

Herb Crusted Gulf Fish
Pan-seared and served with seasonal Succotash and smoked tomato butter

Traditional Roasted Turkey
Cornbread or Oyster Dressing, Cranberry Sauce, candied yams and snap beans

Roasted Pork Loin
Sugar Can-Ginger Glace, mustard greens and potato gratin

Pumpkin Roulade
Chocolate Hazelnut Nougatine

Pecan Pie
Rum Punch mousse

Arnaud’s

French Quarter: 813 Bienville. 504-523-5433. www.arnauds.com.

NOMenu invites restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events to tell us, so we might add the news to this free department. Send to news@nomenu.com.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Filet Mignon Pontalba

This is a variation on chicken Pontalba, a dish created by the legendary chef Paul Blange in the early years of Brennan’s. I used the idea with steaks for a charity dinner where I didn’t think I could get away with serving a chicken dish as an entree. It was almost as good as with chicken. And the chicken version is so spectacular that a slight downtick still leaves a magnificent dish. It sounds like a lot of work (and maybe it is), but none of it is hard, and the dish wows people. It’s a great centerpiece for a handsome holiday dinner with family and friends.

Filet mignon with bearnaise sauce, green beens, red bell pepper, sesame seeds and rosemary.

  • 3 lbs. white potatoes, peeled and sliced into small cubes
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 6 filet mignons, 6-8 oz. each
  • 1/2 lb. smoky ham, cut into tiny dice
  • 4 green onions, sliced thinly
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. Tabasco
  • 1 1/2 cups bearnaise sauce (see recipe)

1. Heat the oil to 375 degrees and fry the potato cubes until browned. Drain and keep warm in a 200-degree oven.

2. Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbs. butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and broil the steaks, three at a time. They will stick to the pan, then release somewhat. At that point turn them with a metal spatula (not a fork) and cook the other side to the preferred degree of doneness. Add the remaining butter and broil the remaining steaks. Remove from the pan and keep warm in the oven.

3. Lower the heat under the skillet to medium-low. Add the wine to the pan and whisk to dissolve the pan juices and browned bits. Let half the wine boil away, then add the ham, green onions, mushrooms, Worcestershire, and Tabasco. Cook until the mushrooms are tender–about three minutes. Lower the heat as low as it will go.

4. Add the fried potatoes, and toss with the other ingredients to distribute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Place a filet mignon on each warm serving plate. Scatter the pan contents around the steak. Spoon about 3 Tbs. bearnaise sauce over everything and serve immediately.

Serves six.

AlmanacSquare November 20, 2017

Days Until. . .

Thanksgiving: 3.
Christmas: 33.
New Year’s Eve: 40.

Food Calendar

National Roast Duck Day. Roast duck is a dish that only ambitious diners order in restaurants. Chef give their duck dish added attention for that reason. It also alerts the kitchen that the table is likely to be more discriminating than most. So make sure somebody orders duck at your table tonight.

It’s also a great enhancement to the Thanksgiving table.

Seven Days Till Thanksgiving

This would be the perfect day to buy the ham, if you’ll have one on the table for Thanksgiving. You don’t need to do anything to it beforehand, but it’s such an important part of our dinner that I I can’t take the risk that I can’t find a Chisesi ham in the stores. Just keep it in the refrigerator until Thanksgiving morning, and you’ll have that potential problem avoided. I’ve already told you, but as each day passes, the chances of your getting a desirable restaurant reservation for Thanksgiving dwindles.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Gingerbread Island is a small lump of land rising from the tidal Seekonk River, which separates Providence and East Providence, Rhode Island. The island is just south of an abandoned railroad bridge over the river. There’s nothing on Gingerbread Island, and all my efforts to figure out why it has that name have come up with nothing. However, something about gingerbread puts me in a Victorian frame of mind, which leads me to suggest having lunch or dinner at Victoria’s, just over the west bank of the Seekonk.

Edible Dictionary

Jonathan apple, n.–An American apple variety whose name is more familiar than the apple is common. It’s one you won’t see in the supermarket, but very possibly you will in roadside stands all over the Eastern half of the country. Jonathans are a little on the sour side, which its fans mentions as its best quality. The smooth skin that fades from red into yellow, but when you bite into it you find that it’s tougher than most apple skins. It’s not known for certain where it came from or who Jonathan was, but it first came to public attention in the 1820s. The tree is only a little taller than a man.

Annals Of Popular Food

Today in 1965, Kellogg’s introduced Pop Tarts. They were unfrosted, thin, flat rectangles of something like pie dough filled with an even thinner layer of something like preserves. The original flavors were strawberry, blueberry, apple-currant, and cinnamon. They were a big hit, especially with kids, and most especially with kids who’d been forced to eat the likes of raisin bran for breakfast until that time. The frosting was added a couple of years later, sweetening the Tarts further and, of course, making them even more popular.

Today’s Worst Flavor

Today in 2002, the State of Louisiana set a bounty on nutria, at four dollars per animal. The gigantic rodent, introduced to the state’s swamps by Edward McIlhenny of Tabasco fame, found the place very much to its liking and continues to eat vegetation voraciously, such that marshes are denuded in spots. An earlier effort to promote the eating of nutria meat–in which quite a few local chefs were involved–failed badly. With good reason: in texture, appearance, and taste, nutria is unappetizing. What would you expect from a big orange-toothed rat? The things are still running amok.

Food Namesakes

Alistair Cooke, long-time host of Masterpiece Theatre, was born in Britain today in 1908. . . A movie called Nuts, starring Barbra Streisand, premiered today in 1987. . . Drew Ginn, Australian Olympic rower in 1996, was born today in 1974. . . Dutch World War II resistance fighter Ferdinand van der Ham was born today in 1916. How appropriate! . . Pro football quarterback Greg Cook was born today in 1946.

In a class by himself was R.W. “Johnny” Apple, who not only has a food name but was a food writer, mostly for the New York Times. That interest was secondary to his main gig, which was as a political reporter and analyst for the Times. His writing about food, however, was clearly fired by real passion. He was as knowledgeable about where to eat anywhere (including New Orleans, where he visited often) as any of the Times’s restaurant critics. Today is his birthday, in 1934. He died in 2006.

Words To Eat By

“More than any other in Western Europe, Britain remains a country where a traveler has to think twice before indulging in the ordinary food of ordinary people.”–Joseph Lelyveld, long-time editor of the New York Times.

Words To Drink By

“It is most absurdly said, in popular language, of any man, that he is disguised in liquor; for, on the contrary, most men are disguised by sobriety.–Thomas de Quincy, British writer of the 1850s.

FoodFunniesSquare

Good Exercise Before Thanksgiving Dinner.

Especially if you get a cart with a can of cranberry sauce stuck in one of the wheels. But who can do it all in one repetition?

Click here for the cartoon.

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thanksgivingpageheader

Updated November 16, 2017. Come back for more restaurants and info. If you own, work for, or have a favorite restaurant that’s open on Thanksgiving but isn’t on this list, please let me know what’s going on at your restaurant by email: tom@nomenu.com.

Thanksgiving is the greatest feasting day on the calendar. It includes everybody in America–even those who don’t want to be included. For most people the menu is traditional and homestyle, using ingredients that are neither expensive nor unusual. Still, we all expect Thanksgiving to be a grand feast. The everyday is not good enough.

If you’re cooking at home, you have generations of experience behind you and millions of recipes to refer to. Still, every year, every cook tries to make the dinner better. Fortunately, there’s not just one way to prepare a turkey or a ham or all the side dishes that make Thanksgiving so rich and plentiful. That makes the holiday better still.

ThanksgivingVignette-CornucopiaBut the biggest change in Thanksgiving feasting in my lifetime is the growth in the number of people who dine out on that day. Not all that long ago, only the lonely and travelers were found in restaurants on Thanksgiving. No more. Restaurants are full of Thanksgiving diners now, most in large family groups. The holiday has become one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants that choose to open. Unfortunately, the number of restaurants open on Turkey Day is not enough to handle the demand. You should make reservations as soon as you decide to dine out on Thanksgiving. And get ready for prices that will probably be a bit more expensive than the ones you’re accustomed to.

Below is our annual list of Thanksgiving restaurants. It is still in flux. You’d be surprised how long some restaurant wait before making their Thanksgiving plans. Or how late they’ll change them. I’ll update the list daily to keep up with interesting last-minute openings. Many restaurants book up the 1-3 p.m. seatings very quickly. So be ready to take another time.

ThanksgivingVignette-Pumpkins

Andrea’s. Metairie 2: Orleans Line To Houma Blvd: 3100 19th St. 504-834-8583. Special menu: three courses, $45. Regular menu also available. 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

Annadele Plantation. Covington: 71518 Chestnut St. 985-809-7669. Three courses from a special menu, $48, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Arnaud’s. French Quarter: 813 Bienville. 504-523-5433. A special four-course menu for $47, with a mix of traditional Thanksgiving dishes and Arnaud’s specialties.

Borgne. CBD: 601 Loyola Ave (Hyatt Regency Hotel). 504-613-3860. A special four-course menu, plus a limited regular menu.

Bourbon House. French Quarter: 144 Bourbon. 504-522-0111. Regular menu and Thanksgiving specials, entrees $26-32.

Brennan’s. French Quarter: 417 Royal. 504-525-9711. Open, but fully committed.

Broussard’s. French Quarter: 819 Conti. 504-581-3866. An especially beautiful setting, with the courtyard open.

Cafe Adelaide. CBD: 300 Poydras St. 504-595-3305. Special menu, 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. A large a la carte menu at regular prices (entree in the mid-$20s) is abetted by a special three-course, $38 menu whose centerpiece is turducken–a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey, with stuffings. It’s a dish more talked about than cooked, but if you want to try it, here it is.

Café B. Metairie 1: Old Metairie: 2700 Metairie Road. 504-934-4700. Special menu, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Three courses, $32-$46.

Chophouse. CBD: 322 Magazine St. 504-522-7902. This high-end steakhouse is promoting its steaks as an alternative to the standard turkey dinner. If that appeals to you, there they are. Handsome place.

Commander’s Palace. Uptown 1: Garden District & Environs: 1403 Washington Ave. 504-899-8221. Special menu. Very likely already to be sold out.

Compere Lapin. CBD: 535 Tchoupitoulas. 504-599-2119.

Criollo. French Quarter: 214 Royal. 504-523-3341. The new restaurant in the Monteleone Hotel serves its second Thanksgiving. It’s a handsome restaurant with an imaginative, current New Orleans-style menu.

Crystal Room. CBD: Le Pavillon Hotel, 901 Poydras. 504-581-3111. Buffet, a bit less expensive than in the other hotels, and for that reason fills up early. Food is good as buffets go.

Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse. French Quarter: 716 Iberville. 504-522-2467. Regular dinner menu and Thanksgiving specials, 3-9 p.m.

Domenica. CBD: 123 Baronne (Roosevelt Hotel). 504-648-6020. Special menu, $55.

Five Happiness. Mid-City: 3605 S Carrollton. 504-482-3935.

Fleming’s Steak House. Metairie: 3064 N. Causeway Blvd.. 504-799-0335.

Fountain Lounge. CBD: 123 Baronne, Roosevelt Hotel. 504-648-1200. The Roosevelt Hotel will certainly serve a Thanksgiving buffet somewhere, but they haven’t announced the details. My guess is that it will be in the Blue Room and expensive.

Heritage Grill. Metairie 2: Orleans Line To Houma Blvd: 111 Veterans Blvd. 504-934-4900. Buffet 11 a.m.-5 p.m. $45 adults, child’s menu available. This is a sleeper, a Ralph Brennan restaurant with very good food and one of the only buffets in Metairie.

Latil’s Landing. River Parishes: In Houmas House Plantation. 225-473-9380. This is the grand restaurant in Houmas House Plantation, on the River Road, halfway from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Buffet, noon-4 p.m. $55, $25 children.

Lebanon’s Cafe. Uptown 4: Riverbend, Carrollton & Broadmoor: 1500 S Carrollton Ave. 504-862-6200.

Lüke. CBD: 333 St Charles Ave. 504-378-2840. John Besh’s most popular restaurant. Special menu.

M Bistro. French Quarter: 921 Canal. 504-524-1331. The flagship dining room of the Ritz-Carlton offers a high-end buffet 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Maple Street Cafe. Uptown 4: Riverbend, Carrollton & Broadmoor: 7623 Maple. 504-314-9003. Both locations, special menu. Three courses, $25, $13 children. under 12. Noon-7 p.m.

Mr. B’s Bistro. French Quarter: 201 Royal. 504-523-2078. Special menu, featuring free-range turkeys. Noon-8 p.m.

Muriel’s. French Quarter: 801 Chartres. 504-568-1885. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Special menu, three courses, $45.

Palace Cafe. French Quarter: 605 Canal. 504-523-1661. Regular menu with Thanksgiving specials (entrees $26-42), 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

Ralph’s On The Park. City Park Area: 900 City Park Ave. 504-488-1000. Very substantial special menu, three courses $46-54.

Red Fish Grill. French Quarter: 115 Bourbon. 504-598-1200. Buffet 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m., $59, kids $15, under 6 free. It’s not an enormous hotel-style buffet, but the food is fresh and distinctly Creole. Lots going on for the kids.

Restaurant des Familles. Marrero To Lafitte: 7163 Barataria Blvd. 504-689-7834. Way out on the bayou twenty minutes from downtown, and quite an environment. Special menu.

Rib Room. French Quarter: 621 St Louis St. 504-529-7045. Special menu. four courses, $37-51. 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.

Roosevelt Hotel Ballroom. CBD: 123 Baronne, Roosevelt Hotel. 504-648-1200.

Roux On Orleans. French Quarter: 717 Orleans (Bourbon Orleans Hotel). 504-571-4604. The restaurant of the Bourbon Orleans, a block in back of St. Louis Cathedral. Buffet from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Adults $59, tax and tip included (!).

Royal Sonesta Ballroom. French Quarter: 300 Bourbon. 504-553-2278. Now that R’evolution is the main dining room at the Sonesta, the holidays bring forth special arrangements. The buffet you remember from the days of Begue’s is now in the hotel’s big ballroom. $75 is the price; $35 6-12 years, free under that. Seatings begin at 10:30 a.m., with the final seating at 1:30 p.m.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Metairie 2: Orleans Line To Houma Blvd: 3633 Veterans Blvd. 504-888-3600. Thanksgiving specials ($40, complete dinner) and regular menu, both locations. Noon-8 p.m.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House. CBD: 525 Fulton St. 504-587-7099. Thanksgiving specials ($40, complete dinner) and regular menu, both locations. Noon-8 p.m.

Tujague’s. French Quarter: 823 Decatur. 504-525-8676. Usual table d’hote dinner, with fresh turkey and other Thanksgiving dishes, about $40. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Vacherie. French Quarter: 827 1/2 Toulouse St. 504-207-4532. This boutique hotel in the French Quarter (it’s where Louis XVI used to be) hase continually expanded the reach and goodness of its restaurant, particularly on holidays. Thanksgiving brings a buffet from noon until 4 p.m. The price is $39 adults, $18 children.

Windsor Court Grill Room. CBD: 300 Gravier. 504-522-1994. Special menu, four courses, $95. It’s offered all day long: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, November 10, 2017. La Crepe Nanou. I just made a note to myself suggests that I write a piece for this department. It would be a roll call of restaurants which, although they are widely agreed to be unique and enjoyable, don’t get talked about very much. You can say about all of them, “I don’t know why we don’t eat there more often than we do,” I hear people say. There must be a reason for this, but I’ll save that for later, after we savor the deliciousness of La Crepe Nanou.

La Crepe opened in the early 1980s. In both time and place, the restaurant was nicely meshed. The Baby Boom Orleanians were taking over the restaurant scene, changing the food into kind that the Boomers became accustomed to, but served in a more casual way.

A center of these developments was Uptown New Orleans. Despite the affluence of the people who lived around there, Uptown didn’t have many serious restaurants. The Boomers changed that. Areas that attracted a particularly large number of young diners were the vicinities of Prytania and Magazine Streets near Upperline. That’s where La Crepe Nanou set up shop. Good place for lunchers and very casual dinner patrons. At first, most of the business was in the namesake crepes–both the kinds you had with ham and cheese and the like and the dessert crepes.

The French touch in the menu caused something unexpected to occur. After a few years, La Crepe evolved into a full-service French bistro, with a large percentage of dishes that had no crepes at all. In place of that, we saw roasted chickens, steak with frites, mussels, whole fish, charcuterie plates, and more.

That is what La Crepe Nanou became, and still is today. It’s the most French of the city’s bistros, down to the loose service that real French cafes espouse.

I wound up at Nanou this evening, after not finding easy access to other dinner locales. The Upperline neighborhood has much easier parking than, say, Magazine Street.

My supper began in the classic Crepe Nanou style. The maitre d’ said he had no tables to offer me, but added that if I waited at the bar he’d find something for me. (I don’t think he knew my secret identity.)I stood with a glass of Rhone rose for about forty minutes. If the weather hadn’t been a little wet and cold, the people on the waiting list would have spilled out onto the sidewalk, where they would almost always run into someone they knew. It made the wait not just tolerable but enjoyable–something to look foward to as part of the dinner.

When I finally sat down in the unique middle dining room with its glowing, colorful walls and ceilings, I got to work on the first of three courses of appetizers. The first was a crock of onion soup. Perfect on this chilly night. Then came veal sweetbreads with the classic lemon and caper butter. I finished up with a big order of mussels. They are a candidate for best mussels in the town. Beyond that, mussels are entering the best season of the year. Dee-lish.

Dessert came enclosed in a crepe. I recalled a lineup of girl friends who, one at a time but on a number of occasions in the mid-1980s (how anyone can have two romances going on at the same time is a mystery to me), shared various sweet, flaming crepes. Tonight’s involved chocolates and hazelnuts. (But no girlfriend.)

Lovely evening, though, and everything I want La Crepe Nanou to be.

La Crepe Nanou. Uptown: 1410 Robert. 504-899-2670.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Creole-Scotch Eggs

It’s a goofy concept, I’ll admit. But it’s actually good. It descends from an old (almost extinct, in this country) British recipe for hard-boiled eggs coated with a layer of sausage and bread crumbs, then fried. In giving it a New Orleans twist, I am using Creole hot sausage (chaurice) or spicy Italian sausage. Take your pick. Then we cover it with hollandaise, to mellow it out. And because every great New Orleans egg dish has hollandaise. Eggs on eggs. With butter.

  • 6 large eggs
  • Hollandaise:
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1 stick plus 3 Tbs. butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 3/4 lb. Creole hot sausage or spicy Italian sausage, bulk or removed from casings
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp. marjoram
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil

1. Put the eggs in a saucepan of enough cold water to cover it by about an inch. Turn on the heat and bring the water to a boil. As soon as it boils, remove the pan from the heat, cover it, and let it stand for 17 minutes. (Use a timer.)

2. While waiting on that, make the hollandaise. Whisk the egg yolks and the vinegar briskly in a metal bowl set over a saucepan with about an inch of simmering water at the bottom. If you see even a hint of curdling in the eggs, take the bowl off the heat, but keep whisking. Keep going back and forth from the heat until the mixture turns thick and lightens in color. Whisk in a tablespoon of warm water.

3. Begin adding the softened butter, a pat at a time. After about a fourth of the butter is in there, you’ll begin to see a change in the texture of the sauce. At that point, you can step up the addition of the butter a bit, and keep going till all the butter is incorporated.

4. Whisk in the cayenne and the lemon juice. Add a cup of cold water to the hot water in the saucepan. Put the bowl with the sauce on top of it. Cover the bowl with a plate. That should keep it nice and warm. Check it every now and then and give it a whisk.

5. When the timer goes off for the hard-boiled eggs, pour off the water from that pan and fill it with cold water until the eggs are cool to the touch.

6. Put an egg between the palms of your hands and, with a bit of pressure, roll the eggs until the shell is cracked all over. This should break the membrane between the shell and the egg white, and make it easy to peel. Peel all the eggs this way.

7. Divide the sausage into six wide patties about a quarter of an inch thick. Press down on each to make it solid (the opposite of what you’d do for a meatball or hamburger). Season with the salt.

8. Wet your hands. Wrap each egg with a sausage patty, squeezing the seams together with thumb and forefinger to seal it all around.

9. The rest of this is like pannee. Put the flour in a dish and roll the coated eggs in it to make a thin skin of flour. Dip each coated egg into the beaten egg to coat lightly. Mix the marjoram and salt into the bread crumbs, and roll the eggs around in the crumbs to coat well.

10. Heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees in a medium saucepan. Drop two of the eggs into the pan and fry, rolling them around every ten seconds or so until well browned. Drain in a sieve place over a bowl. (That lets them stay crisp.) Repeat for the other eggs.

11. Let the eggs cool for a few minutes. Cut in half and served with a tablespoon of hollandaise over each half. Serve with a snifter of single-malt Scotch (optional; I recommend Dalwhinnie) while your son or daughter plays “When The Saints Come Marching In” on the bagpipes (also optional).

Serves 6-12 appetizers.

AlmanacSquare November 15, 2017

Days Until. . .

Thanksgiving: 8.
Christmas: 39.
New Year’s Eve: 46.

New Orleans Restaurant Anniversaries

Cafe Giovanni opened today in 1991. Chef Duke Locicero partnered with “Mr. John” Santopadre in a new kind of Italian trattoria, in a block of Decatur Street that was in the throes of a renaissance. Among Cafe Giovanni’s many signatures is a group of opera-quality singers who perform many nights a week. The food was lusty, original, and as New Orleans in its flavors as it is Italian. Duke closed the restaurant after the difficult summer of 2017. Where he plans to cook in the future is not known as yet, but I’d be surprised if his talents didn’t return to the market.

On this date in 2001, Zeke Unangst opened a seafood restaurant, Zeke’s, on Metairie Road. Zeke had been running the dining room at his brother’s place, the now-gone West End Cafe. Zeke and his restaurant were riding high until Hurricane Katrina. Then a freak succession of infections that started while he was evacuated took his life two months after the storm. He was just in his forties. His restaurant re-opened briefly after the storm, but then closed and reopened a couple times more under new names. It is now Porter & Luke’s.

Today’s Flavor

Who will bite for the notion that today we should celebrate National Raisin Bran Day? I like raisin bran, but it deserves a day of celebration about as much as Phillips-head screws do.

It is also said to be National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. That makes good sense, because it’s a week and a half until Thanksgiving, and you need room in your refrigerator for the defrosting turkey. And space for all the semi-prepared dishes before the dinner, and leftovers after. What do you need that slice of pizza from three weeks ago for, anyway? And that empty plastic container–what’s it doing in the refrigerator? The same thing as that empty carton of cream, is what. Clean out your refrigerator!

Gourmet Gazetteer

Gingerbread Island is a small lump of land rising from the tidal Seekonk River, which separates Providence and East Providence, Rhode Island. The island is just south of an abandoned railroad bridge over the river. There’s nothing on Gingerbread Island, and all my efforts to figure out why it has that name have come up with nothing. However, something about gingerbread puts me in a Victorian frame of mind, which leads me to suggest having lunch or dinner at Victoria’s, just over the west bank of the Seekonk.

Annals Of Fast Food

The first location of Wendy’s opened today in Columbus, Ohio. The year was 1969, and the manager was Wendy’s father, Dave Thomas. Wendy’s pioneered the drive-through window and a much more expensive hamburger. From a taste perspective, any advantage it has is minuscule. Their claim to serve hamburgers hot off the grill is made possible by cooking the burgers at such a low temperature that they get a terrible texture. You may eat all of mine. After a long slump, Wendy’s was bought by the same outfit that runs Hardee’s and Arby’s.

Edible Dictionary

oxtail, n.–This is literally the tail of a cow. It has a bone in the center at the top end, but this tapers off to a cartilaginous appendage as it heads to the rear. It’s surrounded by a layer of meat which gets progressively thinner. As a muscle, its only job is to wag the tail. So it’s reasonably tender and has a very good flavor. The great use for oxtails is in making beef stock for soup. The cartilage gives up a lot of gelatin, which lends a marvelous mouthfeel to a broth. (There’s no better beginning for a French onion soup.) The meat can be pulled apart into strings and bundled together for a nice presentation. In the store, oxtails are usually cut into inch-thick (actually, inch-long) segments.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

There’s nothing that makes a drink look more appealing than clear ice cubes, but your icemaker probably makes them cloudy. Next time you invite people over for cocktails, boil some water in a very clean pot, let it cool, and freeze it in an ice tray. Voila! Clear cubes.

Music To Dine Formally (Formerly) By

Annunzio Mantovani was born today in 1905. Recording under his last name alone, Mantovani became the king of instrumental background music in the late 1950s into the 1970s. It became known as “elevator music,” but it was very widely played by Muzak in restaurants, office lobbies, and shopping malls. The sound was dominated by large string sections, sounding almost classical but playing familiar songs. Radio stations playing the likes of Mantovani’s music were very popular for over a decade, going out of style in the 1970s. The advent of satellite radio brought the Mantovani style back in style. At least a little.

Food Namesakes

Felix Frankfurter, U.S. Supreme Court Justice from 1939 till 1962, was born on this date in 1882 (in Vienna, Austria). . . Another national political figure, Senator Howard Baker, was born today in 1925. . . And another baker, Sara Josephine Baker, a physician who greatly improved health care for babies and children in New York, was a baby herself today in 1873. . . William Fries, who recorded the CB radio trucker song Convoy under the name C.W. McCall, was born today in 1928. . . Clyde McPhatter was born today in 1938. He’s the falsetto voice on the Drifters’ version of White Christmas.

Words To Eat By

“My son would walk to the refrigerator-freezer and fling both doors open and stand there until the hairs in his nose iced up. After surveying $200 worth of food in varying shapes and forms, he would declare loudly, ‘There’s nothing to eat!'”–Erma Bombeck.

Words To Drink By

“A taste older than meat, older than wine. A taste as old as cold water.”–Lawrence Durrell, referring to olives.

FoodFunniesSquare

A Feverish Turkey.

They always know when they’re running a little temperature.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Thursday, November 9, 2017. Pascal’s Manale Doesn’t Get Old. A lot of people are in town for a convention of some 30,000 people, and the streets are full. I know that when I head over to Pascal’s Manale, the chances are great that there will not be a table for me.

Manale’s is one of those places that may be better known among frequent visitors to New Orleans than it is among locals. That condition often leads to the trappings of a tourist trap. But not in this case. The out-of-towners find the restaurant on their own, know just where to sit, what time to show up, and what dishes to order. If they’re really experienced, they know not to go to Manale’s when a big game is in town. And that you always get Thomas to shuck a half-dozen oysters before you order a cocktail. It’s a two-for-one deal, that: you not only get candidates for the best raw oysters in town (the cooked ones are good, too) but you also are given a life lesson from the sage voice of Thomas.

The last soft-shell crab for the season.

Even at my age, I am not on a par with the real regulars here, who come in with large chunks of their families, and whose waiters know what the order will be for the entire table. That aspect of the place isn’t quite like those of Antoine’s and Galatoire’s, but close.

Bob De Felice–one of the four siblings who have manage Manale’s for the last twenty or thirty years–drifts to my table and sits down. Bob has a second job of interest. A skilled scuba diver, he’s one of a number of volunteer divers who help keep the Audubon Aquarium on an even keel. A young woman who is a member of the next generation of Manale’s owners–is managing the dining room, or seems to be.

I start with oysters Rockefeller and Bienville. Wherever I find those two classics, I get them–especially when the record is good, as they are here. Next is a fried soft-shell crab. But we are at or perhaps beyond the season for softies. This is probably my last one for the year.

I have a side dish of fettuccine Alfredo. Like almost every other restaurant with a lot of pasta on the menu, Manale’s fettuccine is thicker than I like it. The difference between this and the paper-thin variety gives much better flavor release, without all those carbs. But it’s hard for a restaurant with so much momentum to make changes.

Once again, I didn’t have barbecue shrimp. It was a creation of Manale’s , of course. But I don’t ordfer it often. Too many other dishes I love here. And others can fill in my gap.

Pascal’s Manale. Uptown: Napoleon To Audubon: 1838 Napoleon Ave. 504-895-4877.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Mirliton and Shrimp CourtbouillonSoup

“Mirliton” (pronounced as a French word) is the New Orleans name for the vegetable also known as a chayote or vegetable pear. They were much liked around town, and used in many different ways. This is one of the most interesting: a great light soup that we enjoyed at Le Parvenu until it closed. Chef Dennis Hutley–who dreamed it up–describes it as “cappuccino style.” By that he means a thin layer of non-sweet whipped cream that floats on top.

Mirliton and shrimp in the old style of Tujague’s.

  • 2 medium mirlitons
  • 2 lbs. medium whole shrimp
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 Tbs. diced celery
  • 1/4 cup diced carrots
  • 2 Tbs. diced onions
  • 1/4 cup thinly-sliced leeks
  • 1/2 Tbs. chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup sweet white wine (German Riesling, sweet Chenin Blanc)
  • 1/2 tsp. liquid crab boil
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper

1. Pare the mirlitons and peel the shrimp. Put the trimmings, shrimp shells and heads, and the bay leaf into a small saucepan with two cups of water. Bring up to a light boil, then reduce to a simmer. Keep the simmer going for 20-30 minutes, during which you can do the next step.

2. Dice the mirlitons. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook and stir into a blond roux for two minutes. Add all the vegetables except the mirlitons and cook over low heat for five minutes, until all vegetables are soft.

3. Stir the shrimp and mirlitons into the vegetables. Add the wine and bring to a boil for two minutes. Strain the stock from the shrimp shells into the saucepan along with the crab boil, and stir.

4. Warm the cream and stir into the soup. Bring to a simmer and cook about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves four.

AlmanacSquare November 14, 2017

Days Until. . .

Thanksgiving: 9.
Christmas: 40.
New Year’s Eve: 47.

Food Calendar

Today is National Guacamole Day. The word translates from the language of the aboriginal Mexicans as “avocado sauce.” They were eating it and avocados–a pure American food–long before the arrival of the Spanish. Although guacamole carries with it a sort of secret-recipe cachet, in fact it’s easy to make. The key is in limiting the recipe to ingredients that the Aztecs would have used. The originators seem to have had it down cold. So we’re talking about native American plants: avocados, chile peppers, cilantro, onions, and tomatoes. No dairy products. No black pepper. Two ingredients of non-Aztec origin that can pass are olive oil and lime juice, both used in small proportions and mainly to keep the concoction from spoiling too fast.

Guacamole is everywhere in restaurants, and much of it is even good. Only recently has the spectre of pre-made guacamole reared it’s ugly head; avocados have until recently resisted all efforts at packaging. On the other hand, some restaurants (notably Sun Ray Grill, in New Orleans) now make their guacamole to order, sometimes right at the table. In Mexico, guacamole is almost always made to order, even in the tourist-pitched restaurants.

The only problem with guacamole is that good, ripe avocados are not always available. One must plan ahead, buying the avocados days before you’ll serve them. If I can only get Florida avocados or stone-hard, underripe Hass avocados, the dish is off the table. Guacamole is a house specialty of mine. My guests expect to find it when they come over, even for Thanksgiving.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Pease is a town of some 250 people in central Minnesota, sixty miles north of the Twin Cities. The uninterrupted Midwestern cornfields south of Pease start to break up around there. The town was originally a station on the Great Northern Railway, but that’s gone now. An interesting census statistic is that not one single person claiming to be African American lives in Pease. This does not bode well for those of us with a preference for the New Orleans taste in our food cuisine. But we’ll keep an open mind and go to the Pease Cafe in the middle of town, and ask them whether they know that “pease” is the original name what we now call the pea.

Edible Dictionary

garbanzo bean, n.–Also known as the chickpea. A round, dense, pale tan bean, grown and eaten since prehistoric times in the Middle East. It remains one of the most common ingredients in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. Ground up, it’s the principal ingredient in hummus and falafel. Most garbanzos are sold dried or canned, although there is such a thing as fresh. They grow in pods of two bright green beans, looking like peas. Since they dry quickly, these pods are almost never seen. The hardness of the bean must be addressed in any recipe using them. Even after being soaked or cooked for a long time, they remain very firm. Food processors have made them much more commonly used.

Deft Dining Rule #523

Adding a layer of guacamole to a Mexican dish that already has three or more ingredients inside the tortilla cannot be guaranteed to make the dish better.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

When making guacamole, combine all the ingredients except the avocado first. Then scoop out the avocados and add them as quickly as possible. Mix only until the avocados are chunky, not a mash.

Annals Of Food Writing

Prosper Montagne was born today in 1865. He was one of several brilliant French chefs who remade French cuisine in the early 1900s, and streamlined kitchen operations by organizing cooks better and simplifying presentations. But his finest legacy is the creation of Larousse Gastronomique, an encyclopedic treatise of French cookery, still being published in many languages. It’s considered the last word on the subject.

Today’s Worst Flavors

Today in 2003, a bunch of people were sickened with hepatitis A after eating at restaurant in Pittsburgh. Three died. Green onions proved to be the vector. Always wash your vegetables and your hands before eating. And never eat your hands. . . On the very same day, a man in Chennai, India ate two hundred live earthworms in just over twenty seconds, beating the previous record of ninety-four worms in thirty seconds. That achievement was by an American named Hogg–no joke. C. Manoharan’s feat was performed in front of official observers for Guinness. Earthworms are edible, but who would want to? Some years ago McDonald’s was accused of substituting earthworms for beef. It disproved the charge by noting that earthworms are much more expensive than beef is.

Food Namesakes

Today is the birthday (1954) of Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State in the Bush II admin. . . Prince and the NPG had a number one hit on this date in 1991 with a song entitled Cream.. . . Accordionist Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural of Buckwheat Zydeco was born today in 1947. . . John Steuart Curry, who was a painter and maker of lithographs, was born today in 1897. . . Harrison Salisbury, long-time New York Times journalist, was born today in 1908. . . British wrestler Shirley “Big Daddy” Crabtree, who had a sixty-two-inch chest, wrestled his way into the world today in 1930. . . Leo Hendrik Baekland was born today in 1863. He was the inventor of Bakelite, which is considered the first plastic.

Words To Eat By

“To be always intending to live a new life, but never find time to set about it–this is as if a man should put off eating and drinking from one day to another till he be starved and destroyed.”–Sir Walter Scott.

“In the last analysis, a pickle is a cucumber with experience.”–Cookbook author and wit Irena Chalmers. Today is alleged to be National Pickle Day.

Words To Drink By

“When I find someone I respect writing about an edgy, nervous wine that dithered in the glass, I cringe. When I hear someone I don’t respect talking about an austere, unforgiving wine, I turn a bit austere and unforgiving myself. When I come across stuff like that and remember about the figs and bananas, I want to snigger uneasily. You can call a wine red, and dry, and strong, and pleasant. After that, watch out.”–Kingsley Amis.

FoodFunniesSquare

A Feverish Turkey.

They always know when they’re running a little temperature.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, November 15, 2017. Best New Restaurant Of The Year So Far? As long as they were here, I asked the plumbers to perform a couple more small repairs. The senior plumber changes out a big valve that has been leaking. This valve can shut off everything above ground–a handy ability to have when we get really cold weather. I like having these guys around, and I am now thinking about getting them and their associated electricians to fix a few small issues. It would be great to have the ceiling fan that hasn’t worked in twenty years to be in operation.

Mary Ann gladdens my heart when she says that she’d like to have dinner with me. Specifically, she wants us to try Curio, a restaurant I mentioned to her after its chef was on the show a couple of weeks ago. Curio is yet another restaurant from the Creole Culinary Restaurant Group, which in the past few years has escalated its list of properties into the more than twenty restaurants, in every category.

Before landing here, Curio chef Hayley Vanvleet had stints at Meauxbar and Peche, where she turned out terrific, imaginative, French-inflected food. In addition to that is a somewhat classical flavor. Even dishes that sound original have a familiar quality. She suggested that because of this, Curio is ready for review. This was convincing both to me and MA–even taking into account Mary Ann’s liking of restaurants that just opened. As in a month or so ago.

The restaurant is in a great location–Bienville at Royal, a block from Mr. B’s, and half a block from the Pelican Club. Good vicinity, that. The place had been an antique store in a row of other antique stores. The space is narrow, but with big windows that are left open if the weather is tolerable. The upstairs dining room gives onto a balcony that gives a great look at the corner. The environment thrilled MA, who is more influenced by surroundings than by food.

But Chef Hayley was turning out some great eats, too. A light pâté made with smoked trout pushed MA’s button, and she considered asking for an entree of that. But here came candied fried pork ribs. Candied? The notion was real and fun. Another rib dish went down the same road with a sweet sauce over beef short ribs.

While she worked on that, I enjoyed a tilt against dozen or so steamed mussels with coconut
MA is a salmon lover, especially when she can get wild-caught fish. Here I had a large bowl of steamed mussels in a brothy sauce with more red pepper than I expected, and a Thai-like coconut milk. But I like that.

MA’s entree was grilled salmon in a variety new to me: Bakkafrost, from the North Atlantic’s Faroe Islands. MA loves salmon, and here was the way she liked it. A black eye-pea gumbo didn’t taste like gumbo to me, and that was the first strikeout of the night. The kitchen bounced back with chicken Clemenceau in an offbeat approach to that century-old Creole-French dish. That was the dish for me.

By the end of this overfeed, both of us were elated by what we found–even when a Curio dish is in direct competition with longtime favorite dishes in nearby favorite restaurants. I have been dubious about this Creole Culinary thing, but with this restaurant they show surprising ability. Let’s see what it does in the long run.

Curio. French Quarter: 301 Royal St. 504-717-4198.

Thanksgiving @ Red Fish Grill & Heritage Grill

One of the biggest changes in the restaurant selections for Thanksgiving Day has been the nearly total disappearance of the buffet. However, Ralph Brennan’s restaurant group has kept buffets alive, if in a more casual way than in the grand style we used to find. The Red Fish Grill and the Heritage Grill’s buffet are particularly amenable to family groups, in both the price and the selection of dishes. Here’s a look at the buffet offerings, which will vary as the day wears on:

Metairie: Heritage Grill
111 Veterans Blvd. | 504-934-4900
Adults: $45 | age 12 and under $16 | free for children under 6
10 am – 4 pm
Endless Champagne $12
Endless Mimosas $15

Menu
Turducken Gumbo with herbed dirty rice
Butternut Squash Soup
Redfish Bisque
Seasonal Baby Greens, housemade dressings & traditional accompaniments

Roasted Covey Rise Farm Vegetables
Creole Potato Salad
Blue Crab Pasta Salad with Creole tomato aioli

Seafood Display
Shucked Oysters with cocktail sauce, mignonette, crackers
Bloody Mary Oyster Shooters
Salmon Pastrami with purple cabbage choucroute
Louisiana Boiled Shrimp Remoulade
Grilled Redfish Salad

Yellowfin Tuna Tartar on crispy wonton
Blackened Shrimp Salad

Main Dishes
Grilled Redfish with sweet potato and Andouille hash and Louisiana Citrus Butter
BBQ Shrimp, Parmesan grits, green onions
Crispy Catfish with bacon braised mustard greens & ravigote
Carving Station: Cajun fried Tanglewood farms turkey breast, turkey gravy, satsuma cranberry sauce
Herb Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Andygator mustard sauce, Steen’s cane syrup glaze
Roasted Prime Rib with Horseradish dill crème and au jus

Sides
Alligator Sausage Cornbread Stuffing
Gulf Oyster Dressing
Baked Macaroni & Cheese
Green Bean & Wild Mushroom Casserole
Praline Candied Whipped Sweet Potatoes
Shrimp & Mirliton Casserole

Kids Buffet:
Turkey, Fried Shrimp, Chicken Fingers
Fries, Green Beans, Mac and Cheese, Sweet Potatoes, Cookie Bar
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
French Quarter: Red Fish Grill
115 Bourbon. 504-598-1200.
$59 adults, $16 kids 6-12, free for children under 6.
10 am – 4 pm

Soups
Oyster and Artichoke Soup
Turducken Gumbo

Salads
Green Bean and Grape Tomato Salad Feta Cheese, Shallots, Basil, Red Wine Vinaigrette

Butter Lettuce and Shaved Apple Salad Radish, Candied Walnuts, Pomegranate Seeds and Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

Main Dishes
Louisiana Clambake Redfish, Shrimp, Clams, Mussels, Tasso, Corn, Garlic, White Wine
Slow Braised Beef Cheeks

Carving Station
Tanglewood Farm Herb Roasted Turkey Breast Traditional Gravy
Smoked Ham Sweet Bourbon Glaze

Sides
Traditional Dressing
Boudin, Cider, and Golden Raisin Corn Bread Dressing
Steen’s Meringue Sweet Potato Casserole, Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Butternut Squash, and Braised Onions
Cherry, Ginger and Cranberry Sauce
Sweet Potato Rolls & Butter

Dessert
Harvest Pumpkin Bread Pudding Custard, Rich Pumpkin Based Bread Pudding, Praline Sauce, Candied Pecans,
Granny Smith and Gala Red Apples with Brown Sugar Cinnamon and Ginger and Oatmeal Brown Sugar Crumble

Petite Fours Pecan Tartlets, Marshmallow Sweet Potato Bite Pies, Petite Cajun Custard Tartlets with Seasonal Fruit, Pumpkin Spice Macaron, Salted Caramel Chocolate Truffle, Espresso Chocolate Mousse Cups

RecipeSquare-150x150

Trout Eugene

Trout Eugene is pan-sauteed speckled trout with a lemon butter sauce with crabmeat and shrimp. Not a rare dish in white-tablecloth restaurants around town. It became famous under the name trout Eugene at the Caribbean Room at the Pontchartrain Hotel. It is also one the menu at Cafe Sbisa, where it has been served regularly for a long time. This is one of the rare times when Louisiana speckled trout might be available in the store or in restaurants. I have never discovered who Eugene was, but I’ll bet he was a waiter who could jack up the size of his checks by offering to top a good piece of fish with crabmeat and shrimp. How could anyone with a healthy appetite resist?

  • Sauce:
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. French shallots, chopped
  • 12 medium (20-25 count) shrimp, peeled
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 Tbs. lemon juice, strained
  • 1/2 cup shrimp or crab stock
  • 1 stick butter
  • 8 oz. lump crabmeat
  • 6 sprigs flat-leaf Italian parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 4 fillets of speckled trout, about 6-8 oz. each.
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 stick butter

1. Make the sauce first. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and the shrimp and cook until the shrimp turn pink. Lower the heat to medium.

2. Add the wine, lemon juice, and stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce the liquid to about one-fourth the original volume, then lower the heat to as low as it will go.

3. Cut the stick of butter into pats and whisk them in to make a creamy-looking sauce. Add the crabmeat, and agitate the pan until the crabmeat is heated through. Cover the pan and turn off the heat.

4. Mix the salt and pepper into the flour. Dust the trout fillets liberally in the seasoned flour.

5. Heat the 1/2 cup of butter over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Saute the trout, two fillets at a time, until golden brown–about three minutes per side.

6. Place a trout fillet on each serving plate and top with the sauce.

Serves four.

AlmanacSquare November 13, 2017

Days Until. . .

Thanksgiving: 10.
Christmas: 42.
New Year’s Eve: 49.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

The hot dog-style wiener was invented today in Vienna (called Wien by its citizens, who call themselves Wieners). The inventor was Johann George Lehner, who today in 1806 began selling what he called wienerwurst. That means “Vienna sausage.” This must be an example of divergent evolution, since a hot dog has little in common with those awful little sausages we, for some reason, stock up on when hurricanes head our way. In any case, the wiener was just another sausage in a land of sausages until it was popularized by the World’s Fair in St. Louis of 1904. Now it’s the hot dog.

Annals Of Canned Fruit

Today in 1895, the first shipload of canned pineapple left Hawaii for the mainland. Where would we be without pineapple? In addition to its natural uses in desserts, it turns up in some unexpected places. The inclusion of pineapple in spicy Vietnamese shrimp and seafood soup is intriguing and good. Antoine’s Alciatore sauce is a brown savory sauce made with caramelized pineapple; they serve it on steaks and (better) lamb chops. Pineapple juice is an effective tenderizer for tough cuts of beef. Pineapple would be pretty good in bread pudding. In moderation, anyway. Speaking of that. . .

Today’s Flavor

Today is alleged to be National Indian Pudding Day. That’s made with cornmeal and molasses, usually with a little spice, too. It has the texture of grits. Not a biggie. But here in New Orleans, we celebrate National Bread Pudding Day.

Bread pudding is found all over the country, but nowhere is it better or more popular than in New Orleans, where it’s all but the official regional dessert. No two bread puddings are alike. You find heavy versions and light ones. Some made with raisins, some with fruit, some with neither. Some with a lot of vanilla or cinnamon and some with less. There are chocolate (white and dark) bread puddings, banana bread puddings, praline bread puddings. You can even make bread pudding into a savory side dish with ingredients like mushrooms and cheese.

Bread pudding @ Frankie & Johnny's.

Bread pudding @ Frankie & Johnny’s.

One thing all makers of bread pudding agree upon are the basic ingredients: bread (preferably stale French bread), eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla. From there almost anything goes, as long as the flavor is rich. Even so, it’s not expensive to make. Which is one of the reasons that bread pudding appears on the menus of New Orleans restaurants ranging from the most humble to the most expensive.

My own variation on the theme is something I learned from my mother. She topped hers with a layer of meringue, which she then toasted a little with a quick pass through a hot oven. In a slightly different form, that is the famous bread pudding soufflee at Commander’s Palace.

The final fillip of creativity in a good bread pudding is the sauce. Like the pudding itself, this receives a wide range of interpretation. It can be a custard, or a very dilute butter cream, or chocolate sauce. It’s common for the sauce to contain rum, brandy, or whiskey, in various degrees ranging from the barely detectable to the equivalent of an after-dinner cordial. Infinite variability make a great dessert.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Whiskey Ford is in the middle of a moist, thick lowlands woods twenty-five miles west of Beaumont, Texas, a couple miles north of US 90. It’s the point where travelers a long time ago crossed Willow Creek with their horses and cattle. The banks there are lower than they are for a long way north and south. Why it’s named for whiskey is unknown, but it’s easy to imagine. The nearest place that might have food to go with the whiskey is Fesco’s Good Eats, four miles northeast in Sour Lake.

Edible Dictionary

chocolate mint, n.–The flavors of chocolate and mint go so well together that it seems almost too good to be true that there is a variety of mint plant that actually does have a chocolate aroma as well as a peppermint flavor. The chocolatiness is mostly in the nose, however. And the stuff tastes a little greener than spearmint would. Still, it’s a great garnish on fresh fruit.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

The bigger you make a bread pudding (up to the size of your largest baking dish), the better the bread pudding. Those made with a dozen eggs or more are the best.

Food In Film

Today in 1939, John Steinbeck’s famous novel The Grapes of Wrath, about the lives of people who worked in agriculture in California, was published. I picked grapes once for Cakebread Cellars, and can’t imagine what it must be to do that under the pressures of the harvest. Fortunately, most of that is done by machines these days.

Food Inventions

Today in 1930, a gizmo called a Rotolactor was installed in a daily laboratory in New Jersey. It was an automated system for milking cows. It looked like a merry-go-round. Fifty cows climbed aboard and were milked, washed, and dried so efficiently that the thing could handle almost 1700 cows a day. The Rotolactor was invented by Henry Jeffries, and was one of the major marvels of the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

Food Namesakes

Civil War Brigadier General Edward Burd Grubb was born today in 1841. . . Ginger Aldren, the girlfriend of Elvis Presley who had the misfortune of being the person who found him dead, was born today in 1956.

Words To Eat By

“If you could make a pudding wi’ thinking o’ the batter, it ‘ud be easy getting dinner.”–George Eliot.

Words To Drink By

“If you know someone who tries to drown their sorrows, you might tell them sorrows know how to swim.”–Unknown author.

FoodFunniesSquare

Good Exercise Before Thanksgiving Dinner.

Especially if you get a cart with a can of cranberry sauce stuck in one of the wheels. But who can do it all in one repetition?

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Monday, November 13, 2017. The day is dominated by efforts to get a plumber to fix a water pipe under our house. Of course, he arrived at exactly the time I went on the air, and nobody else was around. Our problem will have to wait until tomorrow. Meanwhile, we have no easily-available water. The less about that, the better.

When the time comes for me to head over to chorus rehearsal, I find that what looks like a mammoth fire engine is blocking my street, and won’t be moving for awhile. Not soon enough for me to make it to the rehearsal. Maybe this is karma for the days lately when I was there an hour early (so I could make sure I was auditioned for a solo number that will occur in February). The only thing I get to eat all day is a Chisesi ham sandwich on whole grain bread. I guess even restaurant critics eat in a spartan way now and then. On the other hand, the distinctive flavor of Chisesi ham has made me happy since I was in my single-digit years. Its flavor never seems to change.

Meanwhile, MA remains on the South Shore, there to spend the night at our daughter Mary Leigh’s apartment, so she can get a good shower and I live as I have so many times in the past–solo.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017. Stop Squirting. The plumber arrives in time to work his way under the house, there to find the problem–a pinhole in a copper pipe. We have seen this before, some 20 years ago. It’s soon fixed, but leaving me not enough time to get to the radio studio in time. So I just did the program from home. Once again, the value of the apparatus that lets me do that shows its usefulness.

After the show, MA and I both have Zea on our minds, because of the conversation we had Sunday with Gary Darling. He’s a now-retired member of the three Taste Buds, who own Zea. Zea will not be going away. It’s quite busy today. We grab our usual four-top in the bar, where if the conversation bogs down, we’ll have a football game we don’t care about to hold our attention.

I have not had Zea’s rotisserie lamb in a long time. Long enough to see that they’ve shifted from lamb rib racks to lamb sirloin. Although it’s a little tough here and there, for the most part it’s not only tender but its generous, translucent gravy gives a terrific lamb flavor. Zea now allows diners to have whatever cut of rotisserie they want, instead of featuring certain cuts on certain days. This new lamb dish will get me in more often, I’ll bet. On the other hand, you can still get the tomato basil soup only on Sundays.

Thanksgiving @ Compere Lapin

Something about the rustic, autumnal feeling of this time of year seems to be perfectly in line with the cuisine of Compere Lapin. Chef/owner Nina Compton has her Thanksgiving Day menu well planned and ready for you, your family or friends to feast in the CBD restaurant. The three-course menu gives a pair of choices all the way down. Service begins at 1 p.m. and goes through the afternoon until 8 p.m. Here’s the menu:

Roasted Fall Vegetable Salad
Spiced pecan butter~or~

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

With Louisiana shrimp
~~~~~

Mojo Turkey
~or~

Agnolotti (Vegetarian)
Small pasta pockets, pumpkin seed granola
~~~~~

Extras (Choice Of Two)
Biscuit stuffing, Jerk sweet potatoes, or Green beans, fontina fondue and crispy shallots
~~~~~

Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Ice-Cream
Pomegranate
~or~

Cheesecake
Spiced cookie crumble and satsumas

Compere Lapin’s bartender and cocktail maven Abigail Gullo has brought in come interesting spirits, and a list of cocktails especially for the occasion. The price is $75 plus tax and tip.

Compere Lapin

CBD: 535 Tchoupitoulas. 504-599-2119. comperelapin.com.

NOMenu invites restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events to tell us, so we might add the news to this free department. Send to news@nomenu.com.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Crawfish And Corn Beignets

In classic French cookery, a beignet is the same thing as a fritter: just about anything fried with a thick batter coating. The starting point for this is choux pastry–the same soft dough used to make cream puffs or profiteroles, but without sugar. All you need once you have that made is some crawfish tails. This is a good dish to make with the smaller tails we get at the beginning or the end of the crawfish season. Out of season, you can make this with small shrimp or even claw crabmeat. White remoulade sauce is the perfect last touch.

Crawfish beignets.

Crawfish beignets.

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 5 Tbs. salted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup boiled crawfish tails, chopped coarsely
  • 1 green onion, tender green parts only, very finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
  • Vegetable oil for frying

1. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, blend the milk with a half-cup of water. Cut the butter into chunks and add it to the water. When the water comes to a boil, remove it from the heat.

2. Add the flour and stir it into the liquid with a wooden spoon until well blended. Return to low heat and continue to stir until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan.

3. Remove the pan from the heat again and add two of the eggs, stirring quickly to blend into the batter. Stir in the other eggs, one at a time, and keep stirring until smooth and completely blended. Turn the batter out into a metal bowl to cool.

Heat the oil in a deep saucepan to 350 degrees.

4. Combine the crawfish tails, green onions, and corn in a bowl. Add pinches of salt and pepper and toss to distribute the ingredients equally.

5. When the batter is cool enough to handle, scoop up a heaping tablespoon and form it into a ball. Push your finger into its center to form a well. Put a scant teaspoon of the crawfish mixture into the well, and close the ball up, working it with your fingers a little until some of the contents start poking out a little.

6. When you have about eight or ten beignets made, start frying them at 350 degrees. If they’re close to round, you won’t need to turn them. They take six to eight minutes to fry to a medium brown.

Makes ten or so.

AlmanacSquare November 10, 2017

Days Until. . .

Thanksgiving (Nov. 23) 13.
Christmas: 45.
New Year’s Eve: 52.

Today’s Flavor

This is National Satsuma Day. Those juicy citrus fruits from Louisiana are at the peak of their season right now. Satsumas come originally from the old Satsuma Province, on the island of Kyushu in Japan. The tree that grows them appears to have been a mutation of a kind of orange tree. In Japan, they’re called “mikans.” They came to this country in 1878, and are better known as mandarins (another reference to the Far Eastern origin, although that’s a Chinese word) or tangerines.

orange2The satsumas in Southeast Louisiana–brought by Jesuit missionaries fresh from Japan–are different from those found in most other parts of America, and are close to the original Japanese import. The skins are thin, but have large oil pockets that flavor your fingers as you peel them off. As we all discover as children, the skin is very easy to remove, and the sections usually come apart without breaking open. The flavor is distinctly different from that of an orange. I find that when I make juice with even a half a satsuma with four or five oranges, I can immediately notice the satsuma flavor.

Satsuma trees are hardier than oranges. Except in the areas that were totally flooded with storm surge water after Katrina, most of the satsuma crop survived the storm and have produced good crops since then.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Satsuma, Louisiana is twenty-four miles east of Baton Rouge, close enough that it’s become a suburb of the state capital. Satsuma began as Stafford, a station on the Baton Rouge, Hammond and Eastern Railroad (still a main line, part of the Illinois Central). It was renamed Satsuma because the Post Office already had a Stafford, Louisiana when it opened shop here in 1911. And because there was a satsuma grove nearby. There may be satsuma trees still around there, but typical winter temperatures probably keep that from becoming a major farming endeavor. If you’re hungry in Satsuma, you’ll have to drive four miles east into Livingston, and find Mike’s Grill.

Edible Dictionary

lemonfish, n.–Also known as cobia and ling, lemonfish is a large, white-fleshed Gulf fish. It can grow as large as 100 pounds, but in any size it’s considered a prize catch. The fillets of even a moderate-size lemonfish can be as much as two or three feet long and four inches thick. The name is a reference to a citrusy taste that the fish is alleged to possess, although that has eluded my palate. The best way to cook lemonfish is to cut it into thick slabs, season it generously, and grill it. It’s thick enough to encrust without overcooking, and firm enough to stay in one piece when cooking. Lemonfish sushi is also terrific, with ponzu, green onions, and a squirt of hot sauce.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Whenever you find yourself with blemish-free oranges and a few minutes on your hands, scrape the zest off the skins and freeze it in a plastic food storage bag. Remember it when a sauce needs a little something.

Annals Of Vegetable Gardening

Washington Atlee Burpee was born today in 1858. He created the world’s largest seed company by developing many new varieties of vegetables and flowers that one could only grow by planting Burpee’s Seeds. Is this a food name?

The Saints

This is the memorial day for a patron saint of gardeners. St. Tryphon was a gooseherder in Phrygia in the third century, and a martyr.

Annals Of Winemasters

Andre Tchelistcheff, the scientist who sent California winemaking on the path that led to its excellence and influence, died today in 1994 at the age of 93. He spent many years at Beaulieu Vineyards, then had a long career as a consultant for wineries all over California, especially in Napa. His innovations included everything from cold fermentation and strategies for fighting grapevine diseases.

Music To Eat At Sea By

Today in 1975, the iron ore ship Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior. Gordon Lightfoot had a hit with a song about the disaster. The most heart-breaking lyric in it was:

When suppertime came the old cook came on deck
Saying “Fellows, it’s too rough to feed ya.”

Now that’s a disaster.

Military Food And Drink

Today is the birthday of the United States Marine Corps, founded in 1775 at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. (A tun is a barrel for beer.) Samuel Nicholas, commissioned by the Continental Congress to convene a battalion, recruited the first Marines in the tavern on this date. Mother’s Restaurant, which for many years was owned by two generations of Marines, proudly displays a banner identifying itself as Tun Tavern New Orleans.

marineinsigniaAmong the many other Marines who’ve cooked famously in local restaurants is Sgt. John Besh, who just opened his new American Sector restaurant in the World War II Museum. He saw action before his chef days, in the first Gulf War. I wore a Marine uniform for a year in the JROTC at Jesuit High School, where I learned how to disassemble and clean an M1 rifle from actual Marines. Semper fi!

Food Namesakes

Sesame Street came to television on this date in 1969. . . Sir Tim Rice, who wrote the lyrics to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music for Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, and other musicals, was born today in 1944. . . George Washington Cook, Union soldier and early Colorado politician, was born today in 1851. . . English record producers Roy Thomas Baker, who produced for the Rolling Stones, The Who, and David Bowie, began his Big Record today in 1946. . . Sounds like a food name, but isn’t: George Fenneman, the great announcer for You Bet Your Life and Dragnet on both radio and television, was born today in 1919.

Words To Eat By

“And I’ve seen
Toasts to Tangerine
Raised in every bar across the Argentine. . . “–Johnny Mercer, American songwriter and singer.

Words To Drink By

“To Gasteria, the tenth Muse, who presides over the enjoyments of Taste.”–Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Countdown To The Feast.

Other related observances are calculations such as “Days after Thanksgiving before the mess has been cleaned up,” and “Number of days before Thanksgiving back-dates to the day you have to be finished cleaning up if you could do all the cleaning beforehand.”

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Sunday, November 6, 2017. Mary Ann is thrilled with her recent handiwork. The crippled dog Susie is walking up and down from the ground to the deck on the long, relaxed incline that the Marys conspired to build. Susie continues to be miraculous.

I was inspired by MA’s efforts that I bought a new, heavy duty set of pruning shears, with which I will clip the trails through the woods after a year of rampant growth. The wisteria is also getting out of control, so I went around the house snipping away at it. In doing so I encounter a leak coming from a pipe under the house. I didn’t have to think twice about this. I’ll have to get the plumber over to fix this. Thus is born one of the most maddening three-day ordeals in some time, as I wait for the plumber to come out and fix this. By the second day, our only source of water comes from a faucet on the side of the well pump outside, and we have no hot water at all. I ask permission of diary readers to let this story play out without my having to think about it anymore. The plumber would take care of it on Tuesday. I’ve not been so relieved in a long time.

Back on the dining front, the big meal of the day is the annual Men Can Cook competition that takes place every year at the St. Tammany Courthouse’s parking garage. I have been a judge of this for the past several years. The other judges come from a variety of food-writing media people, none of whom I had met before. I am flattered that all of them know me.

More important than any of that is that this event draws quite a crowd of people who come for the food and the Four Unplugged. The proceeds go to an organization that steps in to help abused and neglected children.

The competition itself is quite a big deal. Some thirty dishes were cooked up, then presented to us somber judges. We judged them on a scale of one to seven–not a spread that calculates that into my five-star system.

Remember this event for next year. (If you don’t, I’ll remind you of it here.) It’s different from most such festivals in that the food was almost without exception good to extraordinarily excellent. A mix of New Orleans and Mexican dishes was not only good to eat, but looked professional, too. And they all got the food out when it was still hot. I was very much impressed by it all. All the cooks were going out on a limb to make their food stand out.

After my judging duties, I wandered around with the rest of the crowd. One of the people I encountered was Gary Darling, who was one of The Taste Buds. That made him one of the creators of Semolina and Zea. And he had quite a career before that. Which is why I was taken aback when he told me that he had retired. He still owns a piece of the restaurant outfit, but isn’t in the day-to-day operation anymore.

But that was close enough for me to ask him what the deal was about Mizado, the hip Mexican restaurant that the Taste Buds devised a couple of years ago.

I broke my heart,” he says about Mizado. I am right with him in that feeling. “It had a lot of regular customers, and it was breaking even. But investors don’t always go along.”

If you didn’t get a chance to try Mizado, know that it was a delightful place with a big, bustling, noisy, colorful, and highly original menu. So what was the problem? Who ever knows? The only hope now is that some of the Mizado dishes might wind up on the menu at Zea. That tried-and-true bistro took over the Mizado space as of a few months ago, on I-10 at City Park Avenue. That brings one into potential contact with the traffic mess on Canal Boulevard and Metairie Road.

If Gary Darling is serious about retiring, (and I think he is), this brings to an end a long career as a cutting-edge chef. First place I met him was at the Enraged Chicken, an utterly unique restaurant in the Irish Channel in the 1970s. He spent a long time working with Al Copeland and Copeland’s. He had restaurants on the North Shore and elsewhere. He left his mark on the business in his many years at it.
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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Saturday, November 5, 2017.I have a three-hour radio show for a change. The subjects run all over the place, which is the best dynamic for a call-in program.

I am hungry. The Marys are hard at work on a project on the house. All of a sudden, MA is enthusiastic about cleaning the front deck, using a high-pressure maching to do rthe job. ML is helping out, as the only serious carpenter in the family at the moment.

At sunset, ML abandons us for an evening spent with some of her cousins of the same age. This leaves MA and I to have dinner. It also saddles us with ML’s dog, who always comes cross the lake so he can go swimming and then to get tied up in a restaurant while the human participants find a pet-tolerant restaurant. We wind up at Forks and Corks. Upon arrival, we get a table on the front patio, where we can tie the pooch up so he can be in the open but not free roving.

Forks and Corks continues to improve. Today we begin with something they call firecracker oysters. These are fried, then topped with lumps of blue cheese and a spicy sauce. Kind of like Buffalo chicken wings, but with oysters in lieu of chicken. One bite tells me I have tried this before. But I do like it enough to have it again.

That’s almost big enough to make into an entree, and that’s what I do. The other food for me is an interesting vegetable soup with a large variety of ingredients.

We were not long into this dinner when the mosquitoes start working on us. We adjourn into the main dining room, where I am greeted by a guy who was with us on our first Eat Club cruise.

MA and I have a pleasant conversation through the remainder of the dinner. The dog sleeps in the car–it’s dark now, so that’s no problem.

Forks & Corks. Covington: 141 TerraBella Blvd. 985-273-3663.

Thanksgiving 2017 Pelican Club

No restaurant quite reaches the variety, value, and availability that the Pelican Club does. Any special event that comes along during the year finds Richard Hughes and his wide-ranging menus. This is particularly true of the holiday season. For the first time, the Pelican Club is offering a Thanksgiving Day dinner. The cornucopian aspect of the menu’s four courses is matched by no other restaurant. Five soups, eight appetizers, eight entrees , and five desserts come together in a $58 four-course dinner (plus tax and tip, of course). That pays for a choice of soups,with only a few small upcharges for the really fancy stuff.

Reservations are essential, and begin at 11:30 a.m. Continuous seating from then until 7 p.m. I would strongly urge you make reservations as soon as possible. You and I are not the only ones who know about this secret. The restaurant is on the corner of Exchange Alley and Bienville Street, across from the Monteleone Hotel’s parking garage.

SOUPS
Turtle Soup, Aged Sherry
Cream of Oyster and Mirliton
Shrimp, Smoked Duck, AndouilleGumbo
Cream of Oyster and Mirliton
Carrot Ginger Lime Soup *

APPETIZERS AND SALADS: Baked Escargot in Casserole

Baked Escargot in Casserole

Pelican Club Baked Oysters
Applewood smoked bacon, parmesan and garlic herb butter

Scallop Stuffed Artichoke
Seared sea scallops served with lemon beurre blanc

Seafood Martini Ravigote
Maine lobster, Gulf shrimp, jumbo lump crabmeat, potato salad

Goat Cheese Salad
Toasted walnuts, grapefruit, creamy olive oil dressing

Mushroom Ravioli, Gulf Shrimp, Italian Sausage
Spinach, Herbsaint green-peppercorn sauce

Wedge Salad Bowl
Buttermilk blue cheese dressing, little gem lettuce,
smoked bacon, cherry tomato, watermelon radish

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower & Sunchoke Casserole *
Fresh herbs, cashew cream, toasted bread crumbs

Mississippi Quail
Three-cheese stone ground grits, mushroom foie gras marsala demi-glace (add $2)

ENTREES: Slow Roasted Turkey Roulade
Mushroom gravy, sausage dressing, house-made orange-cranberry relish, Bourbon pecan sweet potatoes, haricots verts

Crispy Almond Duck Half
Louisiana citrus cane vinegar sauce, wild rice jambalaya

Roasted Acorn Squash *
Apricots, fig, pecans, bread and sage stuffing, mushroom sauce, Muhammara haricots verts, braised red cabbage

Panneed Gulf Fish and Blue Crab
Butter bean succotash, jalapeno hollandaise, meuniere sauce

Whole Crispy Flounder
Citrus chili sauce, sea scallops and jumbo shrimp, jasmine rice, baby vegetables

Eight Ounce Filet Mignon
Truffle mashed potatoes, haricots verts, choice of marchand de vin or bearnaise sauce (add $4)

Rack of Lamb
Marinated, roasted, rosemary pesto crust, truffle mashed potatoes, haricots verts, port-mint demi-glace (add $4)

DESSERTS White and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding
White and dark chocolate sauces

Vanilla Bean and Brandy Crème Brulee
Topped with fresh berries

Bourbon Pecan Pie
Vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce

Flourless Chocolate Decadence Cake
Almonds and mint chocolate ice cream

Coconut Basil Sorbet *
Cookies and fruit

Pelican Club

French Quarter: 615 Bienville. 504-523-1504. www.pelicanclub.com.

NOMenu invites restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events to tell us, so we might add the news to this free department. Send to news@nomenu.com.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Clarified Butter

The process of clarifying butter does two things: it boils out the water (of which there is a great deal in butter) out, and it causes the milk solids to fall out of suspension. Some of the solids will rise to the top as foam, but most will fall to the bottom. You will lose a third to a half of the quantity of butter you started with. So, if you start with two sticks of butter, you’ll end up with a quarter to a third of a cup of clarified butter.

The amazing thing about clarified butter is that it will hold up for a long time, even off refrigeration (although I recommend keeping it chilled). It can also be heated much hotter than most fats without burning. (The threat of fire, however, is always there, so be careful.)

  • 2-4 sticks butter (unsalted preferred)

Heat the butter into a small saucepan over the lowest heat and let it sit there. It will take about 20 minutes, and is finished when the bubbling has stopped almost completely. Spoon out the foam, then pour the rest of the butter carefully away from the solids on the bottom. If you want to be thorough, you can strain the butter through cheesecloth.

AlmanacSquare November 8, 2017

Days Until. . .

Thanksgiving (Nov. 23) 15.
Christmas: 47.
New Year’s Eve: 54.

Annals Of Spirits

Today in 1789 is supposed to be the day that a Baptist minister named Elijah Craig distilled the first whiskey made from corn mash. This was in Bourbon County, Kentucky. Craig was quite a businessman. It is not known, really, what year he started his distillery, let alone the day, but this date is traditional as the birthday of Bourbon. There’s an expensive, eighteen-year-old, single-barrel Bourbon named for him that’s pretty good.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Napoleon is a city of just under 10,000 people in the northeast corner of Ohio, an even 100 miles south-southwest of Detroit. It was founded in 1836, and has always been a manufacturing town, albeit one with a bit more natural beauty in its countryside than most. The Maumee River, where you can actually catch fish, flows through town and on into Lake Erie. Many restaurants are in Napoleon, but Spengler’s–founded in 1879 and still going strong as a downtown cafe and saloon. Their menu is bereft of napoleon pastry, but some other restaurant must have it, wouldn’t you think?

Edible Dictionary

Rainier cherry, n.–A variety of cherry grown mostly in Washington State, the Rainier was developed in 1952 by one Harold Vogel. It’s pale red and yellow, and is known for its sweetness. It’s one of the sweetest cherries in the market, but it doesn’t travel especially well. We will be seeing it in markets in June–if they get here. It’s well enough liked that it has its own day of celebration: July 11. They are much loved in Japan, where it’s said they can sell for a dollar each.

Today’s Flavor

This is National Cappuccino Day. The combination of espresso coffee with foamed milk is often had after dinner, which is the wrong time. It’s really a morning beverage, with the milk and all. It also works–if your system can stand the caffeine–as a late-night drink, in sort of the way we drink cafe au lait here in New Orleans.

Most cappuccino is made with far too much foamed milk. It should form a layer, not a pile, as it does in the contemporary American coffeehouses. Here’s my test for telling when the froth on a cappuccino is just right. Sprinkle two packets of sugar over a circular area an inch in diameter. It will sit there for awhile, then slowly start sinking, while at the same time moving toward the center. The sugar ultimately falls through a small hole, rather suddenly. If the sugar just sits there interminably, the froth is too thick. If the granules fall right through, the froth is too thin.

The name “cappuccino” is a reference to the Capuchin monks, whose hooded habits were the same color as that of a well-made cappuccino. However, an alternative explanation is that “cappuccino” means “out of order” in Italian. (The early machines often were.) But that’s just a joke.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

Just as is true with wine, a coffee blended from several kinds of beans will always have more interesting flavors than all one kind.

The Saints

This is the feast day of the Four Crowned Martyrs: Castorus, Claudius, Nicostratus, and Simpronian. They were stone carvers, but they’re also patron saints of cattle for some reason.

Food Namesakes

Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on this date in 1977. He was openly gay, which was a big deal back then. . . Today in 1990, Darryl Strawberry signed a five-year contract with the Dodgers. . . Alan Berger of the rock group Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, was born today in 1949. . . Frank Gouldsmith Speck was born today in 1881. He was an anthropologist who specialized in Eastern Native Americans. (Speck is smoked prosciutto.)

Words To Eat By

“The truffle is not a positive aphrodisiac, but it can upon occasion make women tenderer and men more apt to love.”–Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, French culinary author and chef.

Words To Drink By

“A drink is shorter than a tale.”–Unknown.
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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Thursday, November 3, 2017. Blake’s On Poydras. New restaurants keep opening in the Central Business District. Some of them are even good. The owner and chef of Blake’s visited the radio show a couple of weeks ago, and revealed the restaurant as a typical business-breakfast-and-lunch kind of place, with a Southern style. It’s nothing like Horinoya, the predecessor sushi bar at the location. (The owners of Horinoya retired about a year ago.)

My daughter Mary Leigh and I wound up at Blake’s, the result of our not being able to decide where we’d have dinner tonight. She lives in the neighborhood, and that made it easier. It was getting late in the evening, and Blake’s was winding things up for the day. They were ready to serve anything on the menu, however. That included an appetizer of salmon that has been poached in butter. This is an idea that was spreading a few years ago, and a good one. Butter is warmed up to a temperature in the low 100s, and allowed to cook until the fish is done. This creates a pale color but a nice texture and flavor. It’s a little subtle for my taste, but the use of wild-caught salmon will appeal to Mary Ann.

ML went with her default entree, especially for a basic diner menu: the house hamburger. Nice thick job that she said was good. In between this and the entrees is some gnocchi which tasted as if they had been made with sweet potatoes. Not a bad idea, if it wasn’t that. My entree was a special of the fish of the day. At $15–which is representative of the pricing here–it was a good bargain.

I wasn’t expecting Blake’s would prove also to be a good-looking restaurant. I’ve dined in that space many times over the years, and this is the best look they’ve ever had. The food is better, too. Overall, it needs a bit of polish. And I need to try their breakfasts, which are a major feature. And I wonder what it’s like here before Saints games, only a six or so blocks away.

Blake’s On Poydras. CBD: 920 Poydras. 504-679-0991.

Friday, November 4, 2017. Vincent’s, Metairie, And Its Unusual Dishes. As is true of most Italian restaurants, the menu at the Metairie location of Vincent’s is much bigger than you expect to find when you open it. One reason for this is that the restaurant itself is not very large. My table,for example, has four chairs. But a column in the spot where Chair Number Four would be throws things off. It’s a little cramped, but not enough to get worked up about it.

Vincent, a personal friend going back to 1977, always has a brain full of dishes he think I should try. Today: rabbit. How about the seared tuna with a highly varied (and good) garnish.

VIncent’s In Metairie

I ask, “how about the oysters Rockefeller?” “You like that?,” asks Vincent, dubiously. I get the Rockefeller anyway. It needs a different name, because the oysters are fried (and delicious,” but the sauce is not Rockefeller sauce but steamed spinach. I let it go. Then I get a salad, and that tuna special. It’s supposed to be a special, anyway, but it’s on the menu all the time. Says one of the waiters, “The tuna is one of the best dishes on the menu.” I believe him, and he proves to be correct.

I finish dinner with a slice of spumoni. And then Vincent and I exchange restaurant gossip. His son, who is in the upper echelon of Vincent’s management, comes over, but not for long. Hard worker, that guy.

In sum, Vincent’s lives up to what I’ve always said about it: a four-star restaurant in a two-star place. Always love the eating here, from the simple dishes to the complex.

Vincent’s. Metairie: 4411 Chastant St. 504-885-2984.
Vincent’s. Riverbend: 7839 St Charles Ave. 504-866-9313.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Brisket And Vegetable Soup

I love homemade vegetable soup. My mother used to make this from time to time, and it was never often enough. (She also served us Campbell’s vegetable soup, which instructed us in the differences between prepared and homemade.) I rediscovered this style of vegetable soup when I started going to old places like Tujague’s, Galatoire’s, and Maylie’s, where they used the stock from boiling briskets to make the soup.

What gives this soup a great edge is to boil all the vegetables except the carrots (which lend a nice color to the soup) separately, not in the soup itself. That way, when you add them right before serving, they’re all vivid and firm and full of flavor.

  • 1 1/2 gallons brisket stock
  • A pound or two of boiled brisket (optional)
  • 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand, with juice
  • 1 small cabbage, cored and chopped coarsely
  • 1 onion, cut up
  • 1 turnip, peeled and cut into half-inch cubes
  • 2 lbs. carrots, cut into coins about a half-inch thick
  • 2 lbs. red potatoes, peeled and cut into half-inch cubes
  • 1 lbs. fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into one-inch pieces
  • 4 ribs celery, cut into three-inch-long, narrow sticks
  • 2 ears corn, kernels cut off the cobs
  • 1/2 tsp. basil
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. Tabasco
  • 2 Tbs. salt

1. Put the brisket stock into a kettle or stockpot. Add the canned tomatoes and juice, after crushing them with your fingers. Bring the stock to a light boil, the lower to a simmer. Cut the brisket (if you’re including it) into large cubes, removing any interior fat. Add the meat to the stock.

2. Bring a separate stockpot three-quarters full of water to a light boil. As you cut the vegetables in the order given in the ingredient list, add them to the pot. (Some vegetables take longer to cook than others.)

3. When the potatoes and carrots are soft, strain them and add them to the brisket stock. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for at least a half hour

4. When ready to serve, season to taste with Tabasco and salt. Add all the vegetables and return to a light boil until everything is heated through.

Serves about eight, with lots of leftover soup for the next day.

AlmanacSquare November 7, 2017

Days Until. . .

Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 16
Christmas: 42
New Year’s Eve: 49.

Today’s Flavors

It’s National Bittersweet Chocolate With Almonds Day. My wife is tuned into that big-time; that might be her favorite kind of chocolate.

It’s also International Bearnaise Day. A strong case can be made that bearnaise is the world’s most delicious sauce. Maybe that’s because it’s the first serious French sauce many of us encounter. If bearnaise shows up at the table, you’ll consume every bit of it.

Bearnaise is a child of the mother sauce hollandaise, a rich emulsion of egg yolks and butter with a little lemon juice or vinegar. It becomes bearnaise when the aromatic herbs tarragon, chervil, and chives–usually simmered in a little wine or tarragon vinegar if dried herbs are used–are stirred in. What emerges is a magnificent mingling of richness, thickness, aroma, and mellow herbaceousness.

Restaurants serve either a lot of bearnaise or none at all. It’s not a sauce that can be made in quantity and then refrigerated for later use. It has to be kept just warm and frequently stirred, or else it falls apart. The best bearnaise is made immediately before it’s served, and that’s tricky enough that most restaurants avoid the commitment.

The best place to look for bearnaise is a restaurant that specializes in steaks and lamb chops. While bearnaise goes well with many dishes (I actually think the ultimate partner for it is roast chicken), red-meat roasts really lend themselves to it. French or French-inspired restaurants also usually make it well, strictly as a point of honor.

Food Advertising

Today in 1965, Poppin’ Fresh, the Pillsbury Doughboy, was born. He is still alive, despite the obituary that you’ve seen a few hundred times on the internet. (If you haven’t, here it is.) I once heard someone at the Cafe du Monde in New Orleans remark that his dining partner–who’d just taken a bite from a well-powdered-sugared beignet–looked as if she’d just had a heavy necking session with the Doughboy. Woo-hoo!

Food Through History

Christopher Columbus returned to Spain today in 1504 after his fourth and last voyage to America. He still believed he’d encountered some unknown strand of Asia. That was wrong, but he was right about many other things–among them the potential of chocolate. He brought cocoa beans with him, along with the instructions for turning them into a drink–which is what chocolate exclusively was for a long time after its European introduction. It was a big hit among the wealthy, and the Era Of Chocolate began.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Chili Creek flows through oak woods three miles in south central Oklahoma, about two-thirds the distance from Dallas to Oklahoma City. The creek is a tributary of Buckhorn Creek, which widens into Lake of the Arbuckles, a reservoir built in the 1960s. It’s loaded with fish like sac-a-lait, catfish, and largemouth bass. It’s otherwise a recreational area. The most intriguing restaurant nearby is Le Cajun, six miles north of Chili Creek.

Edible Dictionary

paglia e fieno, [PAHL-yah-ee-fee-AY-noh], Italian, n.–“Straw and hay,” literally. Using both white and green noodles (usually fettuccine or tagliatelle), but you can get away with spaghetti gives the appearance of a bird’s nest made with green and not-so-green materials. In fact, there is little difference between the flavors of regular pasta and spinach pasta. So it’s a fun thing. A cream sauce including green peas is almost universal. A little meat is in most recipes–prosciutto, ribbons of beef, or morsels of Italian sausage are popular, particularly if this is serves as an entree.

Deft Dining Rule #111

No food exists that is not at least pretty good when panneed.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

The trick to keeping the crust on pannee meats is to pound the meat thin, dust it lightly with flour, pass it through an egg wash, and then dredge it in the bread crumbs. If the meat can sit in the refrigerator a little while before being fried, so much the better.

Booze In Broadcasting

Today in 1996, the American liquor industry decided to give its blessing to broadcast advertising of its products. Spirits had never been promoted that way; now, ten years later, ads for whiskey, vodka, gin, rum and the rest of it are still rare. Wine advertising on radio and television has become common, however.

Music In Restaurants

Al Hirt was born today in 1922. The bearded trumpet virtuoso began his career as on the old Dawnbusters show on WWL radio, then started performing and recording solo. He sold millions of record albums over the years, and his club on the corner of Bourbon and and St. Louis was one of the classiest places on the strip. Jumbo (as he was called by other musicians) was famous for doing extraordinarily long sets–over an hour and a half at times. He once had a restaurant in the French Market, a steak house along the lines of Ruth’s Chris, around back of where the Morning Call used to be and the Gazebo is now.

Food Namesakes

“The Ultimate Disaster Movie” (but not for the reason you’re thinking) was the subtitle of Bean, released on this date in 1997. Brit humor. . . Joe Cobb was born today in 1916. He was in the Our Gang movies as Joe. . . Billy Graham, America’s most famous preacher, was born today in 1918. . . Jean Shrimpton, the sophisticated, beautiful British model who was Mick Jagger’s girlfriend in the 1960s, was born today in 1942.

Words To Eat By

“Bearnaise sauce is simply an egg yolk, a shallot, a little tarragon vinegar, and butter, but it takes years of practice for the result to be perfect.”–Fernand Point, influential French chef of the first half of the 1900s.

Words To Lose Your Lunch By

“It’s all right, the white wine came up with the fish.”–Herman J. Mankiewicz, Hollywood movie producer, born today in 1897. He said this after getting sick at a banquet.

FoodFunniesSquare

In French, Even Cat Food Sounds Delicious.

Where would you prefer to dine? “La Cuisine” or “The Kitchen”?

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, November 2, 2017. Café B Continues The Pleasure. Café B has been on my mind lately. Its menu of semi-gourmet Creole bistro food has long appealed to me above all other common styles of cooking in these parts. I am clearly not the only person who feels this way. The last two or three times, I was unable to secure a table, even after waiting a while. Ralph Brennan and his people (Michael Uddo in this case) have a good grip on whay appeals to the Old Metairie palate.

I began with some fried eggplant sticks with a reddish aioli. The sticks are usually a bit thicker than these, and that’s how I like them. On the other hand, any more of these would have been too much for an appetizer. Especially the soup of the day, which is artichoke-and-mushroom, with a light creaminess. The entree is swordfish, sent forth with the house specialty of reduced balsamic vinegar figuring into a sauce that otherwise inclused some nice spaghetti squash (non-carb pasta, because it’s not carb to begin with). Wild mushrooms and charred vidalia onion. Sword fish has been gaining in appeal to me, and this is an explanation why.

I get some ice cream that incorporates pecans and bourbon whiskey. Interesting that the bourbon didn’t prevent the melting, as it usually does when blended with anything frozen.

Great dinner. Mike Uddo is, absent as he always a seems to be when I show up.

Café B. Old Metairie: 2700 Metairie Road. 504-934-4700.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Pricklypear Jelly

At the Cool Water Ranch, the only crops we’ve ever succeeded in growing are those that need zero help from humans. One of these is the purple fruits (called “tunas” in Spanish) that grow on an enormous pricklypear cactus at one corner of the house. The cactus blooms with beautiful yellow flowers every Mother’s Day, and produces a few buckets of fruit in time for Thanksgiving. I found that running the fruits through a juice extractor removes all the seeds and spines. And these spines are no fun to get caught in your finger.

I make a batch of jelly with the tunas some years, and syrup in others. I never know which it will be until after it’s in the jar. The recipe is the same. Sometimes it sets, sometimes it doesn’t. I think it has something to do with taking it off the heat at exactly the right time. But since I only get one shot a year at making this, I can’t claim great skill. Fortunately, both the jelly and the syrup are good, and I go through all of it in a year.

  • 5 cups pricklypear juice
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 3 boxes pectin
  • 9 cups granulated sugar

1. Blend the pricklypear juice, lemon juice, apple juice and pectin together in a saucepan. Heat to a light boil, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Add the sugar and bring to another full rolling boil, then boil for two more minutes. Do not go past that time, or the jelly won’t set.

2. Fill the sterilized canning jars almost to the top with the liquid. Seal with new caps and process according to standard canning procedure.

Makes about a dozen six-ounce jars.

AlmanacSquare November 6, 2017

Days Until. . .

Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 15
Christmas: 40
New Year’s Eve: 47.

World Food Records

Today in 1993, the biggest peanut butter and jelly sandwich ever was made in (appropriately) Peanut, Pennsylvania. It was forty feet long and used 150 pounds of peanut butter. The jelly was kept to fifty pounds to keep the ants from going nuts. It was a poor boy sandwich, by the way, but not dressed. Parenthetically, let’s note that this is Peanut Butter Lover’s Month, according to Skippy.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Baked Mountain–which sounds like a dessert to me–is in the last place you’d expect to find a feature with that name: in Alaska. Specifically, near the top of the Alaska Peninsula, in Katmai National Park and Preserve. Baked Mountain rises to 3800 feet, nearly 2000 feet higher than the bottom of the Valley Of Ten Thousand Smokes just two miles away. A fair-size glacier pours down that valley. Nothing baking around there. If you didn’t come with food, you’re in trouble: no towns,let alone restaurants, are anywhere within 75 miles.

Today’s Flavor

Today is Pan-American Nacho Day. Nachos were created by Ignatio Anaya, whose nickname was Nacho. (Say “Ignatio” and you’ll see why.) In his restaurant in the bordertown of Piedras Negras, Mexico, he created a dish he named for himself: Especiales de Nacho. It was fried tortilla chips topped with melted cheese and jalapenos. It became a hit, and mutated into chips covered with all kinds of stuff from the Mexican steam tables.

Deft Dining Rule #718

The maximum number of ingredients that can top an order of nachos before they become limp and gross is three.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

If you want to make your own tortilla chips but don’t feel like frying them, brush corn tortillas with olive oil on both sides, cut them into quarters, then arrange them on a cookie sheet. Bake them in the oven at 375 degrees for five minutes.

Edible Dictionary

stamp and go, Jamaican, n.–The classic Jamaican native breakfast, composed of three kinds of fritters. One is made with fish–traditionally dried, salted codfish, soaked overnight before frying. The second is ackee, a starchy tree fruit which resembles scrambled eggs. The third is callaloo, a spinach-like green leafy vegetable. The name comes from the rapidity with which it’s cooked and served, and the way people pick it up from a cook and walk away with it.

Annals Of Sensitivity

Today in 1981, Edy’s–maker of a line of premium ice creams–bought a quarter-million-dollar insurance policy on the taste buds of its chief tester and flavor developer, John Harrison. A quarter-million? Is that all? My poor taste buds have given me more pleasure than that.

Annals Of Prohibition

Today in 1911, Maine law made it illegal to sell alcoholic beverages within its borders. It became the first dry state. No wonder they call themselves Maniacs. No more gin and Moxie for awhile.

Annals Of Beer Marketing

Director Mike Nicholls was born today in 1931. Early in his career, he did voice-overs for the famous series of cartoons advertising Jax Beerhere in New Orleans, with Elaine May doing the female voices.

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Leonard of Noblac, who lived in the early France in the sixth century. He is the patron saint of grocers.

Food Namesakes

Glen Frey, a member of the rock group The Eagles, was born today in 1948. . . American Olympic hockey star Laurie Baker was born today in 1976. . . Today in 1583, the first European explorer to land in Texas did so. His name was Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, which translates “cow’s head.”. . . Jim Pike, one of the singers in the close-harmony group The Lettermen, gave out his first note today in 1934.

Words To Eat By

“Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.”–Charlie Brown.

Words To Drink By

“It reminded him of his Uncle Seamus, the notorious and poetic drunk, who would sit down at the breakfast table the morning after a bender, drain a bottle of stout and say ‘Ah, the chill of consciousness returns.'”–Molly O’Neill.

FoodFunniesSquare

Mixed Metaphors Lead To Humor In Eating.

Defending yourself from a broken pizza knife.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Tuesday, October 31, 2017. Another Look At Tableau, On Halloween. Mary Ann’s dinner idea du jour is to get a balcony table at Tableau, Dickie Brennan’s restaurant on Jackson Square. She wasn’t as much interested in the food (she isn’t, most of the time) as she was the costumed Halloween fun-seekers in the French Quarter. For that purpose, our vantage point was ideal. One lineup after another passed us on the sidewalk below, most of them done up in entertaining getups. If there was a theme, it was in the bushy hair many of them wore. Not all of those came by this detail by birth. There were a few kids in the groups that passed us. But Halloween has become a different sort of celebration, as wild visually as Mardi Gras but a good bit more civilized.

In between cadres of witches and pumpkins, we turned our attention to the menu. This is the fifth or sixth dinner we’ve had at Tableau. With only a couple of exceptions, I come to the same conclusion: this is a restaurant designed for and aimed at visitors to New Orleans. For locals, there is less appeal.

This begins with the greetings we get when we walk in. They don’t seem strongly interested in us, and when they finally get around to us we were are asked questions like “Where are you from?” and, “Now let me explain gumbo to you.” The servers are friendly and attentive enough. But when I’m in my home town, I don’t want to feel what the visitors feel when they come from. . . where did she says she came from?

The menu is a collection of basic bistro New Orleans food. Some dishes have little more than a name change separating them from an old offering. Chicken Tableau, for example, is a reworked chicken Pontalba. (I was happy that the waiter knew what I was referring to.) The cooking is decent–only one dish out of five that we tried had a major flaw. That was the braciolone, wildly misspelled on the menu, but also a long way from what we eat around here. We sent it back.

We started off with oysters vol-au-vent, an expanded version of oyster patties. I like this okay, as MA did with Crystal shrimp and the fried oyster appetizer. Her entree was a standard black drumfish. I had redfish Bienville, which was nothing like what the name might suggest, but well assembled. I finished with an interesting Cajun dessert called tarte a la Bouilli–a custard enclosed in a water-cooked pastry that was a hot item around town a few years ago. I actually like this, even though it’s on the heavy side. (Enough for two.)

Courtyard at Tableau.

Courtyard at Tableau.

I must end in generalities. This beautiful restaurant, done up in an old style and enclosed by the most historic part of the whole city (St. Louis Cathedral is across the street, as are the Cabildo, Jackson Square, and the Upper Pontalba), makes it easy for outsiders to get a simple taste of New Orleans. It’s not adventuresome or especially skillful. But the prices are a good deal lower than we are used to finding from a Brennan. This prevents the feeling that the place is underperforming for its customers. If you give me a steak for about $20, as they do at Tableau, I won’t expect the kind of steak that sells around town for $50 or $60, as the major steakhouses Including Dickie’s own these days.

It was a fun evening, but I still find it Tableau less than what I expected it to become. Ah, yes–expectation versus reality will get you every time.
Tableau. French Quarter: 616 St. Peter St. 504-934-3463.

Pre-Theatre Dinners @ Red Fish Grill

It’s a new Golden Age for those of us who like to go to the many entertainment venues that have emerged in the last few years. It’s inevitable that a lot of theater-goers are looking for good restaurants to visit before showtime. Some restaurants have responded with special menus designed to be served in a modest amount of time. One of the first restaurants to jump on this bandwagon is the Red Fish Grill, which has offered appealing menus with local flavors for many years now. They just revised the theater menu to serve a two-course dinner for $29. Here’s the menu, which gives three choices from each of the two courses:

House Chopped Salad
Romaine, local tomatoes, croutons, roasted tomato dressing, red onions, cucumbers, Parmesan cheese~or~

Redfish Bisque

Tomatoes, brandy, green onion oil
~or~

Soup of the Day
*$1 upcharge for Alligator & Sausage Seafood Gumbo

Grilled Half Chicken
Hot sausage, dirty rice, Creole white BBQ sauce, purple cabbage slaw, jalapeño cornbread
~or~

Creole Jambalaya Risotto
Gulf shrimp, andouille sausage, grilled chicken, roasted tomatoes
~or~

Wood Fire-Grilled Shrimp, Pompano or Black Drum
Covey Rise vegetable medley, choice of sauce

It’s available every night from four until seven when there’s something going on at one of the major theaters. Those are:
Saenger, Orpheum, Mahalia Jackson, Smoothie King Center and Mercedes Benz Superdome.
All you have to do is make a reservation, and mention to the reservationist that you want the pre-theater menu. And then show up, of course.

Red Fish Grill

French Quarter: 115 Bourbon. 504-598-1200. www.redfishgrill.com.

NOMenu invites restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events to tell us, so we might add the news to this free department. Send to news@nomenu.com.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Rabbit With Soft Fruits And Peppers

Most of the time, rabbit dishes in Louisiana are surrounded by highly savory, peppery sauces. However, the tender meat pairs well with sweet highlights. That’s an idea from Eastern Europe, where lighter meats such as rabbit are more common than they are in these precincts. I tried the concept and was very pleased. Next thing I want to try is adding a bit more pepper for a sweet heat thing. If you get to it before I do, let me know if it’s a keeper.

  • 1 rabbit, about 4 pounds, cut up
  • 2 Tbs. salt-free Creole seasoning
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 2 oz. brandy
  • 2 cloves
  • 8 ripe apricots or 3 peaches, peeled and pitted
  • 1/2 cup late-harvest white wine (Chappellet Late-Harvest Chenin Blanc is what I used for testing this)
  • 1/2 tsp. Tabasco
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice, or rice and wild rice blend

1. Rinse and dry the rabbit pieces. Combine the Creole seasoning, salt and flour, and coat the rabbit pieces with the mixture.

2. Heat the butter in a heavy skillet. Brown the rabbit pieces all around. Remove from the pan and set aside.

3. Add the brandy to the pan and bring to a boil while whisking the pan to dissolve the browned bits at the bottom. Careful! The brandy can catch fire, which is okay for flavor but potentially dangerous!

4. When most of the brandy has evaporated, add 1/2 cup of water to the pan, along with the cloves, apricots and the rabbit pieces. Lower the pan to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook until the rabbit legs are tender.

5. Remove the rabbit pieces and keep warm. Add the wine and Tabasco, and bring to a boil. Reduce for five minutes, then pour the pan contents into a food processor. Puree, then strain.

6. Clean the pan and return the sauce and the rabbit to it, simmering until everything is hot and combined. Add a little water if the sauce is too thick, and salt and pepper to taste.

7. Serve with rice.

Serves four.

AlmanacSquare November 3, 2017

Days Until

Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 21
Christmas: 57
New Year’s Eve: 64.

Roots Of Our Food Culture

Today in 1762, Spain acquired Louisiana from France. The Spanish had a long enough run to leave behind a distinct stamp on New Orleans culture. The architecture of the French Quarter, is really more Spanish than French. The Cabildo was a Spanish institution. Bayona, Susan Spicer’s restaurant, is named for the Spanish name for Dauphine Street. Spanish cooking influenced Creole food, making it quite a bit different from French food, even though the French names survived. Jambalaya, for example, is a form of paella.

Today’s Flavors

It has been posited by someone who clearly knows nothing about figs that this is National Fig Week. More logical is National Pepper Month, which could come at any time. My taste for black pepper seems to keep growing, such that there’s almost no such thing as too much of it. The main problem with most chefs’ versions of barbecue shrimp? Not enough black pepper by half.

All that said, the main observance on this date is National Chili Day. That’s because this is the time of year for the Annual Terlingua Chili Championship Cookoff in Terlingua, just outside Big Bend National Park in West Texas. The most famous of all chili cookoffs, it was founded in 1966 by Frank X. Tolbert and Wick Fowler. Terlingua in those days was truly a ghost town, a former mercury mining village in the most hostile imaginable desert environment. Now it’s a resort, with more people living there than it did in its mining years. The forty-third running of the cookoff begins this Saturday, with every participant claiming that only his version is real Texas chili.

Chili con carne is almost impossible to find in a New Orleans restaurant anymore. I’m talking about a bowl of ground or shredded or cubed beef or maybe other meats, stewed down with spices (notably cumin, chile powder, and cayenne). And, of course, chile peppers, onions, garlic, and other savory vegetables. Some people call the police at the mere mention of adding beans–usually red beans–to the pot. But lots of people do that, and it’s not bad.

Chili con carne is unarguably a Texas dish, going back at least to the 1850s. Even then it had a reputation as a low-down food. Which probably explains why those who make in for the many chili competitions in Texas and elsewhere build their chili-cooking routines into dogmas of almost religious ferocity.

Cooking Calendar

Today is National Men Make Dinner Day. There is an organization behind this movement, and it even has a website. Okay, we of the male persuasion accept the charge, and will get right on it. We cook real food anyway. Doesn’t say anything on the website that it has to be low-anything, or include lots of vegetables and a nice salad. Also, I don’t see any reference to this day as Men Clean Up The Kitchen Day. So. Here are some thick sirloin strips and some bog potatoes ready to be baked. And away we go.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

The critical element of a well-made chili is a layer of clear, orange grease (there is no other word for it) floating atop the unstirred pot.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Little Neck is a neighborhood in the borough of Queens, and so is officially part of New York City. It doesn’t look like it, through. The houses and street layout are more like those modern American suburbs than the Big City. Little Neck is named for Little Neck Bay, an inlet from Long Island Sound, just north. Here is where the clams that once were the best in the world were harvested. Pollution brought an end to most of the clam beds a hundred years ago, but some of them have recovered in recent times. Littleneck clams are still found in restaurants, but very likely come from other places along the Atlantic coast. The best restaurants in Little Neck are Italian: Il Toscano and Giardino. Both have great clams.

Edible Dictionary

frozen custard, n.–The original soft-serve ice cream, made by enriching a standard ice cream mix with eggs. This not only gives the resulting product a more opulent flavor, but softens it a bit. Frozen custard also differs from regular ice cream in not being frozen as hard as ice cream–which gets chilled down to as low as 40 degrees below zero F. The higher temperature at which frozen custard is served ass further to its rich taste and mouthfeel. Frozen custard has become a rarity, as most soft-serve ice cream has gone over to vegetable-oil blends or frozen yogurt. If you find it anywhere, don’t miss it.

Deft Dining Rule #218:

Never order a bowl of chili con carne from a restaurant that doesn’t have crackers in a basket on the table.

Eating Around The World

This is Independence Day in Panama, celebrating the breakaway of that country from Colombia. The split was largely the doing of the United States and Theodore Roosevelt, who wanted to have a cooperative government in place so the Panama Canal could be built and controlled by the U.S. The food of Panama is much like that of Colombia, whose food has more in common with the cooking of Central America and the Caribbean than with the rest of South America. Seafood is big, but so is beef. The ceviche served in Panama is unusual in being very peppery, and usually served with a side order of popcorn. (I’m not kidding.) Here’s a web site with a recipe for Panama-style ceviche.

Annals Of Food Marketing

Frozen bread was marketed for the first time today in 1952. A baker in Chester, New York had the idea, inspired by Clarence Birdseye (the inventor of quick-frozen food). It works so well that you have eaten a great deal of frozen bread without knowing it. That baked-in-house bread you see in most supermarkets starts as frozen dough. If you freeze a loaf of New Orleans French bread, you can make it seem as if it had just been baked by rubbing the outside with wet hands, then running it through the oven at 350 degrees until it gets crusty. And let’s not even bring up how much better brown ‘n’ serve rolls are than they have any right to be.

Food Namesakes

We begin with the most famous food namesake of them all: John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich. He was born in England today in 1718. After attending Eton and Cambridge, he served in the House of Lords and in the highest ranks of government. His life was full of travel and adventure. But he is best remembered as the person for whom the sandwich is named. Meat served between slices of bread (hardly a new idea) began to be referred to as a “sandwich” as early as the 1760s. The usual story is that he was so engaged at the gambling tables that he asked for something he could eat without leaving the game. But Montagu was a workaholic, not a playboy, and it’s more plausible that what he didn’t want interrupted by a full meal were his duties. The Sandwich Islands were also named for Montagu. They’re now called the Hawaiian Islands.

Ken Berry, an actor who appeared on quite a few television shows (notably F Troop and Mama’s Family) was born today in 1930. . . Karel Salmon, a composer whose best known works are songs based on Greek themes and Jewish hymns, was born today in 1897. . . Writer John Esten Cooke, a novelist who wrote mostly about the Confederate South in a very formal style (The Wearing of the Gray was his best known), was born today in 1830. . . Italian Composer Vincenzo Bellini was born today in 1801. The cocktail of the same name is, however, named for artist Giovanni Bellini. . . Wilfred Trotter, a British physician who was an early neurosurgeon, was born today in 1872. (A “trotter” is what Brits call a pig’s foot.)

Words To Eat By

“Chili represents your three stages of matter: solid, liquid, and eventually gas.”–Dan Conner, a character on the Roseanne show. Coincidentally, this is Roseanne’s birthday, in 1952.

Words To Drink By

“Tequila may be the favored beverage of outlaws but that doesn’t mean it gives them preferential treatment. In fact, tequila probably has betrayed as many outlaws as has the central nervous system and dissatisfied wives.”–Tom Robbins.

FoodFunniesSquare

Some Cooks Take Only Their Own Advice.

But then again, their taste in eating is as eccentric as their cooking methods.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Monday, October 30, 2017. Great Sandwiches @ Lola. Mary Ann is on for lunch, and the place she suggests is Lola, the restaurant operated by the husband-and-wife chef couple Keith and Nealy Frentz. Lola (no apostrophe-s) is two restaurants in one. In the evening, it’s a gourmet bistro. In daytime, it’s a lunch house with an excellent array of sandwiches, made with good deli meats, house-made breads, and well-assembled salads of find greens and vegetables. Perhaps it’s because I went there a few times while I was on jury duty (the courthouse is across the street), I consigned the place to the fast-lunch category. Which is why we never went there at midday.

The lunch we had made that response clearly inaccurate. We started with a pair of homemade hot soups made with shredded beef, potatoes, and white cheddar. A little cream was in there, with just enough red pepper. The sandwiches were equally rustic and good, served on focaccia with a filling of ham, roast pork, cheese and greens. It was almost like a Cuban sandwich, but with a more interesting texture. Both orders came with good piles of salad. The grilled salmon salad with French dressing (made with blue cheese and tomatoes went to Mary Ann.

We were sitting outside, of course. Although the temperatures were on the cool side–and it’s about time they did–it was not uncomfortable for us to sit next to the ancient but recently- added railroad passenger car next to the deck. (The building is the old Covington Railroad Depot from the 1940s and before.)

MA likes the environment well enough that we now have a new restaurant for lunch on Mondays. (She picks restaurant according to atmosphere, not food, and she freely admits that.)

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

RecipeSquare-150x150

Pumpkin Soup With Tasso

Every October, people begin asking me what they can cook with all those beautiful and inexpensive pumpkins out there–especially if they have children. That’s the wrong kind for pumpkin pie, but it does make interesting savory dishes. This soup gets a bit of spice and smokiness from the tasso–the Cajun-style cured ham. (Buy the very dry, crusty, peppery kind.) It’s also a little rich. Go nuts and serve it in a pumpkin shell, if that’s not too Martha for you.

  • 1 medium-large pumpkin, 5-7 lbs.
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 oz. Bourbon
  • 4 oz. tasso, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp. Tabasco garlic hot sauce
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 green onion, tender green part only, finely sliced

1. Cut a round hole in the top of the pumpkin about five inches in diameter. Scrape out the seeds and juicy membranes and discard. Then scrape out the flesh of the pumpkin, leaving about a inch-thick shell if you’re planning on using it as a soup tureen.

2. Chop the pumpkin flesh roughly in a food processor. Measure out between four and five cups worth.

3. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onions until soft. Add the Bourbon and bring to a boil. (Careful–it might catch fire if the flame touches it. This is not undesirable, but use caution. Maybe do this outside.) Add the pumpkin, marjoram, Tabasco, and broth. Bring to a light boil and lower to a simmer. Cook for about a half-hour, or until the biggest pumpkin pieces have no crunch at all.

4. Puree the saucepan contents in a food processor (in batches, of course). Strain through a coarse-mesh strainer back into the rinsed saucepan. Add the tasso and cream, stir, and return to just below a simmer. Cook for about ten more minutes, then add salt and Tabasco to taste, and a little water to thin out the soup if necessary. Note: Tasso is salty and peppery, so taste before seasoning. You should do that all the time, anyway.

5. You can serve the soup out of the pumpkin shell if you like. Garnish with thinly-sliced green onions.

Serves eight.

AlmanacSquare November 2, 2017

Days Until

Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 22
Christmas: 58
New Year’s Eve: 65.

Today’s Flavor

Today is Deviled Eggs Day. Deviled eggs used to be common as an appetizer around New Orleans. The most famous place for them was Maylie’s, which served them with remoulade sauce. It sounds strange, but it’s actually very good. Arnaud’s revived the idea a few years ago and had them on their lunch menu as “The Count’s Eggs.” No lunch there at the moment, though. So if we’re going to eat deviled eggs remoulade, we have to make them ourselves.

Annals Of Royal Food Proclamations

marieantoinetteToday is the birthday, in 1755, of Marie Antoinette, the queen of France. Aside from her famous recommendation that certain people eat cake (actually, she recommended that they eat brioche), she had a New Orleans hotel named for her on the corner of Toulouse and Dauphine. That was the original location, in 1970, of Louis XVI French Restaurant, named for Marie’s husband. The restaurant later moved to where it is now, on Bienville off Bourbon.

Gourmet Gazetteer

There are two Rum Creeks in Alabama. One of them runs northwest eleven miles alongside the old Montgomery Highway and the current Kansas City Southern Railroad main line, meeting Cypress Creek at the outskirts of Tuscaloosa. The outflow of Rum Creek is right behind a Waffle House and a Hooters. Not promising. How about Costas Barbecue, another three blocks away? The other Rum Creek is ninety-two miles south of the first one, seventy-seven miles west of Montgomery. It’s a tributary of the Alabama River at a spot where the Alabama has reservoir characteristics. Although this Rum Creek is only four miles long, it’s wider and has better fishing. The nearest restaurant is eleven miles south in Camden: the Southern Seafood and Steak House.

Edible Dictionary

chocolate mint, n.–The flavors of chocolate and mint go so well together that it seems almost too good to be true that there is a variety of mint plant that actually does have a chocolate aroma as well as a peppermint flavor. The chocolatiness is mostly in the nose, however. And the stuff tastes a little greener than spearmint would. Still, it’s a great garnish on fresh fruit.

Deft Dining Rule #204:

If you order two Napoleon pastries for yourself at one time, you may expect to hear the French lady on the other side of the counter exclaim, “mon dieu!”

Food Records

Today in 1978, fishermen off the coast of Newfoundland caught the largest squid ever: fifty-five feet long, almost two tons. These giant squid are known to battle sperm whales to the finish in a fair fight. One fried ring feeds a family of twelve.

Food In Show Biz

The Soup Nazi–a guy who made great soups but who put his customers through hell to get them–appeared for the first time today in 1995 on the Seinfeld television show. The character was based on that of Al Yeganeh, who ran the Soup Kitchen International in Manhattan. It has become a small chain of souperies in the last couple of years.

Food In Art

Today is the birthday, in 1837, of Emile Antoine Bayard, a French painter and illustrator. Among his best-known works are the drawings in several of Jules Verne’s novels. He is remembered (barely) on the menu at Antoine’s with a salad. It had a Cubist look, with an artichoke heart stuffed with a mix of minced celery, parsley, and green onions, topped with a rolled anchovy stuffed with caviar. As weird as this sounds, it is of interest because the chopped part of this is the starting point for Antoine’s oysters Rockefeller recipe. Salade Bayard is no longer on the menu–it never was very popular, and my then-waiter Joe Guerra refused to let me order it. probably–but I always liked it.

Food Namesakes

Danny Cooksey, a television actor who played Sam on Diff’rent Strokes, was born today in 1975. . . Former Saints tackle Chris Port was born today in 1967. . . British cricket star Fred Bakewell stepped up to life’s wicket today in 1913. . . Long-time Kentucky Congressman Romano Mazzoli, whose name sounds like a dish, was born today in 1932. . . The Spruce Goose, the largest airplane ever built, was taken on its first and last flight today in California in 1947. The pilot was Howard Hughes, who designed it.

Words To Eat By

“They say that a good cook can ignite sparks by the way he kisses. The way I see, just because a guy can turn on the stove doesn’t necessarily make him a good cook.”–Stephanie Powers, who played the girl from U.N.C.L.E. on the 1960s television show. She was born today in 1942.

Words To Drink By

“I have seen all, I have heard all, I have forgotten all.”–Marie Antoinette, born today in 1755.

FoodFunniesSquare

Halloween Breakfast.

The major curse here involves the pounds you will add by routinely eating a standard stack of five flapjacks.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Sunday, October 29, 2017. My Girls, The Carpenters. The Marys have become industrious lately. And when Mary Ann hunkers down on a project, she accomplishes astonishing results. She is fueled largely by the news that our Los Angeles-based son Jude, with his wife and son, will be here for Christmas this year. MA will not let them see our house in its current condition. That was a big surprise, but one that delights MA. As for ML, she is already putting in a long day at the office (where she creates environmental art that sometimes uses a welding torch). But when MA declares that a goal must be reached, ML becomes her carpenter.

MA’s particular task is to build a twenty-five-foot-long ramp that rises about three feet from the patio surface to the top of the deck. This is to allow our old dog Susie to walk from the lawn to the living room, something she could no longer handle on her own. The dog has bone cancer, declared some two or three years ago, and rendering her three-legged. It’s a miracle she’s alive, say all the veterinarians.

The Marys worked with scrap piled up in the carport for years, and perhaps decades. ML has also bought a new table saw, a nail gun, and a few other brand-new tools. We have performed a lot of work on the Cool Water Ranch House over the thirty years we’ve lived here. Meanwhile, my old table saw and circular saw, covered with dust, sit on my old work table. They work fine, but don’t live up to the Marys’ standards.

The so-far of it is amazing. The girls knocked out this project in two days. We are all astonished that Suzie took one look at the ramp and walked right up to the top, where the food was. I will never again deride MA for her sometimes overreaching ideas.

Choriqueso would be good in an omelette.

Choriqueso would be good in an omelette.

As for me, it’s a normal Sunday. I sing at Mass as usual. The Marys follow their routine of having midday lunch at La Carreta in Covington. There we ate two tubs of choriqueso, a Tex-Mex egg dish with steak in chilpotle sauce, salads piled high in front of both ladies, and my usual dessert of Mexican-style flan. And we all get back to work until it gets dark outside.

We have turned the traditional work assignments around, with my two beauties nailing and sawing away, while I spend the afternoon at my desk, writing and keeping the NOMenu going.

La Carreta. Covington: 812 Hyw 190. 985-400-5202.

3 Fleur
EntreePrice-11
BreakfastNo Breakfast SundayNo Breakfast MondayNo Breakfast TuesdayNo Breakfast WednesdayNo Breakfast ThursdayNo Breakfast FridayNo Breakfast Saturday
LunchLunch SundayLunch MondayLunch TuesdayLunch WednesdayLunch ThursdayLunch FridayLunch Saturday
DinnerDinner SundayDinner MondayDinner TuesdayDinner WednesdayDinner ThursdayDinner FridayDinner Saturday

Acropolis Cuisine

Metairie 2: Orleans Line To Houma Blvd: 3841 Veterans Blvd. 504-888-9046. Map.
Casual.
AE DC DS MC V
Website

ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
A peculiar new evolution is occurring among ethnic restaurants in New Orleans. And, I suspect, everywhere else. We are enjoying a wider range of international cuisines. Twenty years ago, if you wanted to eat Korean, Colombian, Turkish, Peruvian, or Ethiopian food hereabouts, your choices were between few and none. Now we have all those, and their numbers are increasing.

The strange part is that the ethnic cuisines that have been here a long time have faded as other styles from the same general part of the earth moved in. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the market for Greek food. I remember when we had ten or twelve. Now there are one or two (depending on where the borderline is between Middle Eastern and Greek, which are related to one another but different. Why? Because the Middle Eastern category restaurants–now numbering two dozen, has lured customers away from the particular Greek hunger. It’s almost like the Trojan War.

WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Although New Orleans is home to a large, active, long-term Greek community, it has never had many good Greek restaurants. Despite its small size, Acropolis has a large menu of the Greek standards. Meanwhile, the presence of pizza and pasta makes it family-friendly.

WHAT’S GOOD
In both the Greek and Italian sides of its menu, Acropolis brings familiar, homestyle dishes to an unusual degree of sensual goodness. The best way to go is to order the daily complete dinners, four courses long, for between $20 and $25. How you can devour four courses of this is your problem.

BACKSTORY
The Acropolis is the current manifestation of a tenuous string of restaurants going back to an old cafe and taverna called Teddy’s Grill, in the CBD in the 1950s. The present owners (there have been several) still have a few dishes from the old days–notably the six-onion soup under a pastry crust. Acropolis opened its present location in 1999, and caught the attention of those of us who love the cuisine. (Greeks, curiously, are not especially good customers, because they cook this kind of food at home and think they do it better than any restaurant does.)

DINING ROOM
The tables are a little crowded into a small, usually full dining room. The restaurant and its strip mall are a little hard to see unless you know exactly where on Veterans it is. (Does “a block before Cleary” help?) It appears that there are virtually no parking spaces in front, but there are more behind the restaurant (and a rear entrance, too).

BEST DISHES
Starters
»Roasted garlic and potato soup
Soup of the day
»Fried calamari
»Hummus
Spinach and cheese pie
Baba ghannoush
»Stuffed grape leaves
Cheese pie
Fried ravioli
Appetizer sampler
»Acropolis salad
»Traditional Greek salad

Sandwiches
»Gyro pita wrap
California pita wrap
»Souvlaki pita wrap
Veggie pita wrap
Entrees
»Moussaka
»Lasagna al forno
»Roasted Mediterranean-style chicken

Rosemary filet of chicken
»Chicken parmigiana
Veal parmigiana
»Gyros platter
Char-broiled double cut pork chops
»Braised lamb chops
»Slowly grilled chicken kabobs
Shrimp kabobs
»Pork tender kabobs
Combo kabob

Desserts
»Baklava
»Bread pudding
»Tiramisu
Baklava sundae

FOR BEST RESULTS
The markerboard with its table d’hote lunch and dinner specials offers the most interesting eating here.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Many Greek dishes that never turn up in New Orleans would be nice to find here. The staff needs to visit Chicago’s Halsted Street, which has fifty or sixty Greek eateries.

FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.

  • Dining Environment
  • Consistency +2
  • Service+1
  • Value +2
  • Attitude +2
  • Wine & Bar
  • Hipness
  • Local Color

 

SPECIAL ATTRIBUTES

  • Open Sunday lunch and dinner
  • Open Monday lunch and dinner
  • Open all afternoon
  • Unusually large servings
  • Quick, good meal
  • Good for children
  • Easy, nearby parking
  • Reservations accepted

RecipeSquare-150x150

Guacamole Soup

I came up with this one for a midsummer dinner party. It was a long meal and the weather was very warm. I wanted a cold soup, and was originally thinking about gazpacho, but while shopping I saw some nice avocados and thought, why not? This is more than just watered-down guacamole. You need to puree it, which guacamole really shouldn’t be. Also, although you want to serve the soup cold, chilling avocados for any length of time causes them to turn very dark and unappealing. So you must make it right before serving. One more thing. Although I won’t even try to make guacamole dip without Hass avocados, this soup works well with even the big, shiny Florida avocados–as long as they’re completely ripe and soft to the touch.

  • 3 tomatillos
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 10 sprigs cilantro, leaves only, chopped
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 small cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbs. Tabasco jalapeno pepper sauce
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes, skinned and seeded (depending on size)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 5 medium Hass avocados (or 3 Florida avocados), fully ripe
  • 2 cups light chicken stock
  • Garnish:
  • Sour cream
  • Red onion
  • Cilantro leaves
  • Chopped fresh tomato

1. Microwave the tomatillos on 70 percent power for four minutes. Let them cool, then peel them and cut into quarters. Remove the seeds, then chop.

2. Combine the tomatillos in a non-metallic bowl with all the other ingredients except the avocados. Then scoop the meat out of the avocados and add it to the mix. Stir.

3. In batches, process the mix in a food processor to a rough puree.

4. Whisk in the chicken stock (or water). Taste and adjust salt and pepper levels. (Use hot sauce for the pepper part.)

5. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the soup, and refrigerate for no more than an hour. Serve in chilled bowls. Garnish with sour cream, chopped cilantro, chopped fresh tomato, and chopped onion.

Serves eight.

AlmanacSquare November 1, 2017

Days Until

Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 23

The Saints

It’s All Saints Day, a big holiday in New Orleans. At one time in the not-so-distant past it was even a day off for city workers. The tradition is to visit the graves of all your relatives on All Saints Day, after weeding them and adding fresh flowers the day before.

Some of my earliest recollections of dining out are associated with All Saints Day. My family rode out on the Canal Cemeteries streetcar to dress up the tomb of my maternal grandmother. After my mother and her sisters did that (it never was the brothers), we had lunch at Lenfant’s. We seldom dined in restaurants, so those visits stand out in my memory. I remember being thrilled by Lenfant’s. My mother, on the other hand, complained about the prices and the sub-optimal cooking. She was such a terrific cook that she was a hard target indeed for anyone else’s food.

Historic Restaurant Openings

Brennan’s opened the bar in its new location on Royal Street today in 1955. It would be a few more months before full food service began. Meanwhile, diners wanting eggs Hussarde and steak Stanley were still getting those Brennan’s classics at the corner of Bourbon and Bienville, the restaurant’s original location.

Today’s Flavors

Various sources claim that this is National Deep Fried Clams Day. Which is almost reason enough to stay home. We don’t like clams much in New Orleans, even though they grow by the millions in Lake Pontchartrain. Nobody seems to have eaten them much, other than some Native Americans a long time ago. Maybe they were onto something.

Another source says it’s National Vinegar Day. That has more possibilities. Vinegar is essential for salad dressings and such, but it’s always in the back of my mind of sauces. Next time you make up a recipe that calls for lemon juice, and the lemon flavor is less essential than the acidity, try using vinegar instead. (A good-quality wine vinegar, I’d better say.) I’ve taken to adding it to hollandaise sauce, and like the result.

The source of the word “vinegar” is interesting. It comes from the two French words, vin aigre, which means “sour wine,” with a secondary, idiomatic meaning “sick wine.” In all my years of wine tasting, I’ve never encountered a bottle of wine that had gone to vinegar. However, I once had a little wooden barrel that was charged with “mother,” the enzyme that converts wine to vinegar. You’d pour leftover wine into it, and within just a day or two it would have turned it all to an excellent vinegar. I’d occasionally open the little spout and let a few drops run into a spoon, then let friends take a sniff if it. They always said the same thing: “That made my mouth water!”

Gourmet Gazetteer

Butterfield is a town of about 180 people eighteen miles southeast of Hot Springs. Its main growth came when a main line of the Missouri Pacific Railroad came through the rolling countryside. It began as a farming community, but has more of a suburban character now. Not enough to have a restaurant, but two miles away plenty of them line I-30. Nothing spectacular, though. How’s about Larry’s Pizza?

Edible Dictionary

rouille, [roo-YEE], French, n.–A room-temperature sauce best known for seasoning and thickening bouillabaisse. It’s the stuff spread on the crouton floating atop of the broth. Sometimes it’s served on the side. Classically, rouille was made with bread crumbs, olive oil, hot peppers and garlic. In recent times it has evolved into a variation on aioli, a flavored mayonnaise. The bread crumbs have departed in favor of lemon juice, saffron, and red pepper flakes. The word means “rust,” for its original color and texture. It’s now more a dark orange and smooth.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

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

Deft Dining Rule #892:

If you’re offered a balsamic vinaigrette in a restaurant, ask which balsamic vinegar they use. If you don’t get an answer, they didn’t really make it themselves, and it probably isn’t made with real balsamic.

Food Namesakes

The Broadway musical Top Banana, with unmemorable music by the great Johnny Mercer and starring Phil Silvers, opened on Broadway today in 1951. . . Ruud Cabbage, a star soccer player for the Dutch FC Twente team, was born today in 1966. . . Grantland Rice, one of the most famous sportswriters in history, was born today in 1880. . . Nobel Peace Prize winner Philip Noel-Baker was born today in 1886. . . Pro baseball outfielder Coco Crisp stepped up to the Big Plate today in 1979.

Annals Of Fine Writing

George Safford Parker was born today in 1863. He didn’t invent the fountain pen, but he refined it so much that he could be said to have created the first modern version of it. Parker is still one of the leading names in the pen industry. I have been writing with Parker fountain pens since 1964. The one I use now for almost all my handwriting is a much-renovated Parker 75 I bought in 1974. If you have an autographed copy of any of my books, it was signed with that good old pen.

Words To Eat By

“Serve the dinner backward, do anything but for goodness sake, do something weird.”–Elsa Maxwell, American writer, who died today in 1963.

Words To Drink By

“In most households a cup of coffee is considered the one thing needful at the breakfast hour. But how often this exhilarating beverage, that ‘comforteth the brain and heateth and helpeth digestion’ is made muddy and ill-flavoured! You may roast the berries to the queen’s taste, and grind them fresh every morning, and yet, if the golden liquid be not prepared in the most immaculate of coffee-pots, with each return of morning, a new disappointment awaits you.”–Janet McKenzie Hill, cookbook author in the late 1800s and early 1900s, collaborator with Fannie Farmer.

FoodFunniesSquare

It Is What It Says It Is.

Perhaps the best comic list for Halloween this year.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, October 27, 2017. Port Of Call. The radio guest today was Mike Moliere, who has been the general manager of the Port of Call practically since its beginning in 1953. The hamburger specialist has changed so slightly over the years that I would only guest at ways in may have changed. My first visit there was in 1967, when I went there with a bunch of other 16-year-old friends from Junior Achievement at the end of our school year. With a demographics like that, it’s easy to understand why we found the place the apotheosis of the hamburger joint.

What I didn’t know is that it was originally posited as a Polynesian-style steak specialist, with a bar serving the same kinds of drinks you would have found at the extinct Bali H’ai. But one day they ran out of baked potatoes for the steaks. Instead of substituting fries for the baked, they offered burgers instead of steaks that night. The combination had such impact on the customers that the burger-baked potato combo became the signature dish–even though they continued serving the steaks.

The Polynesian touch was most visible in a big net stretched across the ceiling. I’ve said this before, but. . .well, I hope I never see what’s in that net after all these years.

Another unique story involves the ground beef used for the burgers. It’s all chuck roast, but it meters the amount that comes from the fattiest part of the chuck so that it tops out at eighty percent. The patties are made by hand–long the job of a Central American lady who would grab a wad of ground beef, pat it a few times, and wind up with exactly eight ounces, every time.

The Port of Call was one of the first restaurants to open after Hurricane Katrina. Even the management admitted that seeing a line running two blocks down Esplanade Avenue was a mind-blower of some weight. A lot of people considered getting a Port of Call Burger as evidence that things were going to be all right.

Mary Ann called with the news that she was in town, and could tolerate dinner with me at Public Service. I always go with her suggestions. And I found a legal parking space around the corner from the old New Orleans Public Service, Inc., now the NOPSI Hotel.

The dinner was reasonably good, but this place is going on too long without making menu changes. Some of this, I understand, is due to an accident that has hobbled the chef. But now that we’ve been for dinner four times, we find ourselves looking at dishes we’ve already tried.

My entree was unusual. The Public Hamburger is almost a Cuban sandwich with pork belly, aioli, manchego cheese and avocado. MA liked it better than I did. We also had a “flat” (current restaurant jargon for pizzas that aren’t really pizzas, or else they would have called them that). The round bread held tomatoes, cheeses, and herbs. Good with drinks, I imagine.

But MA loves the premises, and I must say I find it comfortable, too. But they could do with more variety and perhaps a toning-down of many dishes.

Saturday, October 28, 2017. I Am Reinstated At Jesuit High School For The Evening. Sort Of. Short story, for those who haven’t heard or read it before. I started high school at Jesuit but, after a very bad junior year, I didn’t graduate from there. All my fault. I had a car (one of the few Juniors who did), and I worked far too many hours a week (around thirty-five) at the Time Saver instead of studying. I flamed out in three courses: Latin Third Year, Greek Second Year, and something else I can’t remember. I and my scholarship were released from the school. Again I tell you, I deserved this. I bear no ill will. I’m still friends with most of my Jesuit classmates. I still go to all the reunions (we have one every year), and–best of all for the sake of my soul–I have often been asked by the school to participate in various activities, and I always do. The best of these is the annual fund-raising auction. I have been the guest auctioneer many times, usually in a duet with the president of the school. I would do anything for Jesuit, and I am especially happy to do this.

The party took place this year in The Cannery, a handsome, spacious special event venue. The food–most of which had been prepared by one of several caterers who gave their services anonymously–was the best ever for the event. Example: a deviled egg stuffed with a mousse of smoked trout. I ate about five of them. And about two dozen of the oyster shooters right next to them.

Also pleasant was the Jesuit Jazz Ensemble, whose numbers includes eight saxophones, about the same number of clarinets, and a half-dozen trumpets. Even though I had to stand in the cold outside to hear it, I listened to them most of the night.

The ladies who run this event (most of whom have sons at Jesuit) had a great theme: the disco years. The costumes were painfully amusing. The pain was in remembering platform shoes–high heels for men, which gave a hint of what an agony must high heels be for women.

And I felt other tendernesses in my heart. These parents of current Blue Jays are young enough to be my son. There was a fair number of old-timers from the likes of the Class of 1954, but I saw only one other member of my would-be class (1968). But that’s the way calendars work.

I finished high school right on time at Archbishop Rummel. It’s an excellent school, and I had a wonderful year there. But I still have my old Jesuit name tag hanging on my bulletin board at home.

One more comment on The Cannery, anent of nothing: The last time I was here, I was the moderator for a fundraiser hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association. Hmm.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Stir-Fried Satsuma Shrimp

When satsumas start coming in from Plaquemines Parish, we eat them by the sack. But I never cooked with them until my son’s Cub Scout troop picked a short ton of them.

Stir-fry dishes, in order to come out right, require a great deal of heat and either a wok or one of those wok-like skillets. Flat-bottomed woks are better for most home cooks, and essential if you have an electric stove. You have to preheat the wok for about ten minutes before you start cooking. And the pieces of food, particularly meats, need to be cut up smaller than your instincts tell you.

This concoction is very good served atop a spring mix salad, with a few satsuma sections scattered about, in a warm-cool contrast. This dish was inspired by something I found in “Hot Wok,” one in a great series of books about Asian cooking for American cooks by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sanderson.

  • 2 lbs. medium shrimp, peeled
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 green onions
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 Tbs. canola oil
  • 1 Tbs. chopped garlic
  • Zest of 1 satsuma (or mandarin or tangerine)
  • 1/2 cup satsuma juice, strained
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam; optional)
  • 1 Tbs. hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp. Asian hot sauce (or Louisiana hot sauce, like Crystal)
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley

1. Spread the pecans on a pizza pan and put them into a preheated 350-degree oven. Toast the pecans, shaking them around a time or two, for about five minutes. Remove and cool.

2. Slice the shrimp into four or five pieces each, crosswise.

3. Remove the seeds and stem of the bell pepper, and slice it into small dice. Slice the green onions into quarter-inch lengths.

4. Combine the satsuma juice, fish sauce, hoisin, hot sauce, cornstarch, and cilantro, and stir to blend completely.

5. Preheat the wok for ten minutes over the highest heat you have. Add the canola oil and roll it around to coat the sides of the wok. Add the garlic and satsuma zest and cook for a few seconds, then add the shrimp. Stir-fry constantly until the shrimp turn white at the outside–about 30 seconds.

6. Add the bell pepper and green onion and stir-fry for another 15 seconds or so. Let the vegetables remain crisp. Add the satsuma-juice mixture and stir it around until it thickens, which it will in about 15 to 30 seconds, depending on the heat you’ve been able to work up.

7. Add the pecans. Add salt to taste, and spoon out onto a warm platter.

Serves two entrees or four to six appetizers.

AlmanacSquare October 31, 2017

Days Until. . .

Halloween: Tonight!
Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 24

Observances

Tonight is All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints Day. An old, old holiday that dates back to the pagan Celts, perhaps before the time of Christ. The food connections now mostly involve candy, but. . .

The largest group of current New Orleans restaurant customers are from the first generation never really forced to grow up–the Baby Boomers. We didn’t get over Halloween, and so many of us go out in search of some pleasure to replace the bag of candy we still, down deep inside, feel should be coming our way today. That puts us in restaurants. It started last Friday, where at Galatoire’s the downstairs dining room was filled with people in semi-costumes. A group of women will hold their annual Witches’ Dinner tonight at Clancy’s. Things would really be bad if they didn’t. And many restaurants have special menus, decorations, and other fun. It’s an interesting and unique night for dining out.

Today’s Flavor

Today allegedly is National Candy Apple Day. But they tell kids not to eat candy apples they find in their trick-or-treat bags. Just as well. What a perverse thing to do to the perfection that is an apple.

Of more interesting note, today is National Quail Day. Quail is a dark-meat bird, easily raised on farms, and not particularly expensive. The birds are so little and cute and have such a gourmet reputation that most chefs get pretentious in preparing them–not always to good effect. But the pinnacle of quail cookery is simple: debone the bodies, butterfly them, season them well, and just grill them over an open fire.

But what we usually get instead is quail stuffed with something. This allows the quail to look like it actually has a substantial enough torso that perhaps a restaurant can get away with serving just one quail as an entree. But one quail is nothing but an appetizer, no matter what you do to it. Especially since the food value of eating a quail may be exceeded by the amount of work required to eat it.

The stuffing can be good, but not usually. That’s because it usually involves seafood. I may be off your beam on this, but I believe that seafood and poultry do not go together well. The effect is particularly distressing in the case of a seafood-stuffed quail, because there’s not enough of either seafood or quail to make a statement without the other getting in the way.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that quail are better cooked and served unstuffed, two at a time. The best quail chef in New Orleans–Pat Gallagher of Gallagher’s Grill in Covington–has always served them that way.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Wild Rice, North Dakota is six miles south of Fargo, very close to the Red River of the North, the border with Minnesota. It’s on the winding Wild Rice River, which flows into the Red. The tributary is flanked by just the kind of natural wetlands where wild rice grows, and it does. The Wild Rice Bar and Grill is right there for lunch and dinner. I’d recommend the duck with wild rice, but this seems like a hamburger and short order place.

Edible Dictionary

Northern Spy, n.–A crunchy, tart, mostly-green apple that has been largely replaced in markets by the Granny Smith. Northern Spies taste better, but they’re more fragile, both in growing and in supermarket distribution. They are prone to some diseases, and have thin skins that bruise easily. In the apple-growing areas of the Northeast and Midwest, however, they are still often seen in roadside stands. As they ripen, parts of the skin turn a light, rosy red. They make it into a lot of apple products–applesauce, apple butter, and cider notably.

Deft Dining Rule #10

When entertaining visitors from out of town who have never or rarely been to your city, always take them to a restaurant with which you’re familiar. Better still, to a restaurant where you are known. It will be a better evening than one even in a much better restaurant about which you know nothing.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

The most essential use for expensive kitchen shears will not be revealed until the first time you try to butterfly quail.

Food In Science

Carl Von Voit was born on this date in 1831. His life work was determining how the body uses food, and how certain foods have particular effects on the metabolism. He would have been the first to be able to write nutritional analyses on the sides of food packages.

Roots Of Our Food Culture

The Louisiana Purchase was ratified by Congress today, the United States doubled in size, and New Orleans became an American city. . Whew. If that hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have had had FEMA to help us after the hurricane. And we wouldn’t have that buffet restaurant in Metairie called the Louisiana Purchase.

Music To Eat Wherever You Want By

This is the birthday (1944) of Texas writer, musician, comedian and counter-culture hero Kinky Friedman. He had a minor hit in the early 1970s with We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To You. It begins with his exclusion from a lunch counter, and gets increasingly irreverent and political. It has elements of a protest song, but with humor.

Beverages In War (Sounds Like)

Today in 1917 the Battle of Beersheba was fought in what is now Israel, but then was part of the Ottoman Empire. A brigade of Australian horsemen conducted what is considered the last successful cavalry charge in world warfare history against the Ottomans, in the middle of World War I.

Food Namesakes

The comedy actor John Candy was born today in 1950. . . The rap singer Vanilla Ice (who has gone back to his great real name, Rob Van Winkle) began life in 1968 on this date. . . Actress and blues singer Ethel Waters was born today in 1896. . . American balloonist Charles LeRoux was stirred up into life today in 1856.

Words To Eat By

“A pasty costly-made,
Where quail and pigeon, lark and leveret lay,
Like fossils of the rock, with golden yolks
Imbedded and injellied.”–Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Words To Drink By

If all be true that I do think,
There are five reasons we should drink;
Good wine—a friend—or being dry—
Or lest we should be by and by—
Or any other reason why.
John Sirmond, French writer of the 1600s.

FoodFunniesSquare

Who Left My Best French Chef’s Knife Lying Around?

These things cost way over $100, and here I see somebody’s playing with it.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Monday, October 23, 2017. Red Beans & Catfish. “If I Loved You.” I didn’t mean to do so, but lunch was really two lunches. If you get red beans and rice on Monday at New Orleans Food & Spirits, they vouchsafe you the possibility of blackened catfish meuniere on the side. A variation on the idea brings basic fried catfish instead. I held back on that too, because the fish involved was a large fillet.

“But you could also get the catfish strips,” offered the waitress.

Yes! That did sound a little less an overeating. But after all the times I’ve come here lately, how is that I didn’t know that the catfish add-on, was a major serving of fried catfish The price at which this was sold gave no clue that such a pile would be coming. And let’s not forget the swimming-pool portion of red beans that followed. Nor can I ignore the general goodness of all of this. NOF&S continues to be phenomenal throughout its menu. If only I could talk them into hot sausage. . .

New Orleans Food & Spirits fried pecan catfish, lunch portion.

New Orleans Food & Spirits fried pecan catfish, lunch portion. A lagoon of red beans are beyond the crest of the pecan-crusted catfish.

The radio show was unusually busy for a Monday. Mainly, we lamented the postponement of the Po-Boy Festival, which should have happened yesterday, but which was wiped out buy a stringent rainfall. What else is new?

I showed up extra early for chorus rehearsal. I do this mainly to get forgiveness for my not having performed for any of the three performances NPAS put on over the weekend. (I couldn’t get around the radio show.)

More important is that today we are auditioning for a unique show at the Quail Farm in February. The program is called “Date Night.” Although most of what NPAS does is choral, now and then the singers are allowed solos. I knew immediately what my number will be: “If I Loved You,” from “Carousel.” When a man sings this song–I think it’s more often sung by women–there’s a good bit of irony. We guys already know (because they have told us so) that women don’t find us fully satisfactory in our attentions to them. But for a man to sing the song, the sopranos have to give a little more than usual. Or am I nuts?

Well, I passed the audition, judged by our brilliant director, Alissa Rowe. Now all I have to do is get my defective memory cogent enough to remember the lyrics. (And the words, too.)

RecipeSquare-150x150

Carpetbagger Steak

It’s an odd-sounding idea: a steak stuffed with oysters, served with a sauce of beef essence and more oysters. But the flavors of the two ingredients are most agreeably complimentary. The hard part of making this dish is making demi-glace, the ultimate reduction of an intense stock from roasted veal bones. If you don’t want to go to the trouble, beg a restaurant at which you’re a regular customer to sell or give you some. (You can also find demi-glace in some gourmet grocery stores now.) For four servings of this dish, you need only about a half cup of the stuff.

Two restaurants are responsible for having invented this idea: chef Roland Huet at the extinct Christian’s and Brad Hollingsworth at Clancy’s, which still has it on the menu most of the time.

Filet mignon steak on a plate with well-hidden oysters.

  • 4 filet mignons, cut from the big end of the tenderloin, 8-10 oz. each
  • 20 medium-large fresh oysters
  • 1 cup Pinot Noir or other dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup demi-glace
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbs. clarified butter

1. Salt and pepper the steaks. With a sharp paring knife, cut a slit about an inch and a half wide and most of the way through the steak.

2. Place the oysters into a stainless-steel or enamel saucepan or skillet. Pour in the wine, and bring the wine to a boil. Cook until the oysters begin to curl. Remove the oysters and continue to simmer the wine until it’s reduced to about three fluid ounces.

3. Stuff one of the oysters into each of the steaks.

4. Lower the heat. Stir in the demi-glace and return to a simmer. Whisk in the butter, one pat at a time. Add salt and pepper. Keep warm.

5. Cook the steaks in a hot skillet with a little clarified butter, adding more as necessary to sear the outside of the steaks. Cook to the desired degree of doneness. Place on a serving plate. Surround the steak with four oysters. Nap the sauce over the steak and the oysters. Serve hot.

Serves four.

EatingNowSquare-150x150

MeMe’s Wine Dinner This Monday

The excellent Creole bistro MeMe’s in Chalmette continues its series of wine dinners, staged every few Mondays. One of those Mondays is next week, November 6. Chef Lincoln Owens has a five-course menu featuring Delicato Family Vineyards,which has been on the scene in California for ninety years. He and MeMe owners Chuck and RaeAnn Williams renovated the tiny original restaurant make it much more comfortable. They bring serious dining to St. Bernard Parish, which has never had this kind of cookery and service before.

MeMe’s wine dinners are a little different from most in that you can make a reservation at any time during the evening, with open seating starting at 5 p.m. The price for the five-course dinner with wines is $60, plus tax and tip. A representative from the wine dealer will be there to tell what went into the bottles. The menu speaks for itself:

Roasted Squash Soup
Mini pumpkin bowls with fresh herbs and roasted pumpkin seeds

Grilled Hearts of Romaine With Pears

Shaved parmesan topped with a cane syrup vinaigrette and spiced pecans

Apple-Brined Roasted Chicken Breast
Fresh corn grits with wilted spinach and
finished with an apple jus

Slow-Cooked Maple Braised Pork Loin
Back bean-smothered sweet potatoes and a sweet savory sauce

Pumpkin Chimichanga with Vanilla Crème

MeMe’s

Chalmette: 712 W. Judge Perez Dr. Reservations essential at 504-644-4992. www.memesbarandgrille.com.

AlmanacSquare October 30, 2017

Days Until. . .

Halloween: 1
Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 25

Our Outstanding Chefs

Today is the birthday of Chef Gunter Preuss, the longtime owner of Broussard’s. He retired in 2013 when he sold the grande dame restaurant to its present owners. He was born in Berlin in 1936, which must have been. . . interesting. He came to New Orleans in the middle 1960s, and developed the menu for the Sazerac restaurant in the Roosevelt (later the Fairmont) Hotel, when the restaurant was a glittering new addition to the hotel’s dining options. He later opened his own restaurant, the five-star Versailles on St. Charles Avenue, in 1972. Eleven years later, Gunter and a partner bought Broussard’s. As time went on he bought out the partner, closed the Versailles, and focused on Broussard’s. The restaurant came a long way under Gunter, cooking New Orleans food with European polish. A bon vivant, Gunter and his wife live in the Quarter and are dedicated Orleanians, still showing up at Broussard’s often.

Food Inventions

Today in 1894 Domenico Melegatti won an Italian patent on an apparatus for producing pandoro on a commercial scale. Pandoro is a rich, eggy, sweet, yeast cake that looks sort of like a bundt. It’s name means “bread of gold,” and its was so expensive to make in the days before easily-available sugar that it was only on the tables of the nobility. Now we can all enjoy it, along with its close cousin pannetone. Both of them are traditional Italian treats around the holidays.

Today’s Flavor

This is Cochon de Lait Day. Cochon de lait is a small pig, still suckling its mother’s milk (hence the name). It’s roasted whole over an open fire. It’s a mainstay of festivals at this time of year throughout Southeast Louisiana. My direct experience with it came from roasting them at Boy Scout campouts. One of the other dads had rigged up a rotisserie, and the forty-pound pig roasted on it from eight in the morning until about five in the afternoon. What came out was eminently tender, smoky, and wonderful. Forty pounds might be a bit large for cochon de lait, but the idea is the same. The typical way to roast them is to butterfly the pig on a flat metal rack, which is then propped up in front of the fire and turned every now and then.

Such a process goes beyond what most restaurants want to undertake. Very few restaurants offer cochon de lait these days. The most prominent is Donald Link’s appropriately named Cochon, where the whole idea is to recapitulate all that Cajun butcher shop cookery in the Acadiana.

If you want to try it yourself, the hard part is getting a pig. Langenstein’s will order one for you. I like the product, but having watched the process a few times I must say it’s not something I’m inclined to perform myself–even though my wife has been badgering me for years to dig a pit and try. She may ultimately win out, but I hope not.

Today is also to be National Candy Corn Day. A great deal of candy corn has been purchased for distribution tomorrow across America. Candy corn is another one of those foods (to stretch the definition) like blue cheese, liver, and anchovies: you either love it or you hate it.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Today in 1952, Clarence Birdseye–the inventor of frozen food as we know it–presented his new frozen peas to a waiting world. Peas became much more popular after they didn’t need to be shelled. . . Today in 1989, the Smith Dairy of Orrville, Ohio made the world’s record milk shake: 1575 gallons. The flavor is unknown.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Two towns in Illinois are named Walnut. The larger of them is out in the cornfields of north central Illinois, 116 miles west of Chicago. It’s home to about 1500 people. A main of the Burlington Railroad used to pass through, but it’s been dismantled. The two restaurants downtown ate Konz’s and the Walnut Cafe. The other Walnut, IL is eighty-six miles south. It’s one farmhouse and ancillary buildings, twenty-six miles southeast of Peoria. The only thing it has in common with the Walnut upstate is its being surrounded by cornfields. Small as this Walnut is, you need travel less than two miles down Highway 6 to the nearest restaurant: Gil’s Country Inn.

Edible Dictionary

kugelhopf, Also spelled gugelhopf. German, n.–A sweet yeast cake, usually made with a fluted tube pan (the kind used for bundt or angelfood cakes). It’s a darker, breadier cake with a coarser texture than most cakes. It often contains some fruits and nuts, and is usually topped with powdered sugar–although sometimes the topping is a light sugar glaze. Kugelhopf is one of the best breakfast cakes, and serves well as a coffee cake. Great for a late-night snack; less appropriate for dessert at dinner.

Deft Dining Rule #901

Cochon de lait roasted by a bunch of guys standing around an open pit drinking beer will always be incomparably better than that which comes from a restaurant.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

Slow and low is the most delicious way to cook a whole pig. But too slow and too low will kill you.

Annals Of Food Writing

Andrew Jackson Downing, who wrote about landscaping in the early 1800s, was born today in 1815. His landmark book was The Fruits and Fruit Trees of America. He was an influence on Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed many of the major American city parks.

Food Namesakes

Today in 1974, pitcher Catfish Hunter won the American League Cy Young Award. . . Television actor Ken Berry was born today in 1933. . . . The man who created the Little Golden Books we all read as children, Albert Rice Leventhal, was born today in 1907. . . American actor Rex Cherryman took The Big Stage today in 1897.

Words To Eat By

“Any part of the piggy
Is quite all right with me
Ham from Westphalia, ham from Parma
Ham as lean as the Dalai Lama
Ham from Virginia, ham from York,
Trotters, sausages, hot roast pork.
Crackling crisp for my teeth to grind on
Bacon with or without the rind on
Though humanitarian
I’m not a vegetarian.
I’m neither crank nor prude nor prig
And though it may sound infra dig
Any part of the darling pig
Is perfectly fine with me.”–Noel Coward, British songwriter.

Words To Drink By

“Cigarettes and coffee: an alcoholic’s best friend!”–Gerard Way.

And then, out he goes for a Big Mac.

FoodFunniesSquare

Generations Of Jack-O-Lanterns.

Yet another food that gets better with aging.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Thursday, October 19, 2017. I Eat Like A Normal American. This doesn’t happen to me often, but sometime between the fifteen-grain whole toast with four-berries jam and the three quarters of turkey and ham finger sandwiches, or perhaps the mirliton-and-banana bread baked by Helen at the radio station. . . somewhere the middle of all that, I lost my appetite.

The only exceptional part of these nibbles were Susan Spicer’s bread (holding the sandwiches together) and the mirliton and banana bread. Otherwise none of this is exceptional. At the end of the day, I was hungry for nothing more than a small ice cream sandwich from Walgreens (they say the ice cream is made from the same recipe that the drugstores served when they had fountains.

While I was at Walgreens, I had a flu shot and a pneumonia shot from an exceptionally pretty pharmacist/nurse. This did not keep me from thinking that I might be getting the flu from the shot–I was a little queasy for the next two days, after which I returned to normal. I’m sure I mentally caused that problem. I’m very good at that.

Saturday, October 21, 2017. Keith Young’s Steak House, With Keith Off Site. The Marys want to have dinner at Keith Young’s Steak House, our favorite on the North Shore and perhaps the whole area. Neither Keith nor his beautiful and friendly wife Linda were in the house. Some months ago, they opened a stunning reception operation in Mandeville, and that’s where they were tonight.

If their absence made a difference, we didn’t feel it. The restaurant was full, with a bar full of people waiting. I was one of those. In fact, I was there before the Marys were. They took long enough for me to have a sudden need for a martini. It would be the first such cocktail in five or six months. I enjoyed it as well as I had before I decided to quarantine my favorite post-Katrina tipple for awhile. The bartender made the drink with less cutting edge than usual, but that suited me fine. I think it may also have
healed (if that’s the word) the after-effects of yesterday’s flu shot.

I get my own recipe of oysters Bienville (that’s what Keith told me, anyway) like I always do. New York strip for my entree–perfect as usual. Same report from the Mary’s with their 14–oz. ribeye. A wedge salad was in there somewhere. Another great dinner.

Keith Young’s Steak House. Madisonville: 165 LA 21. 985-845-9940.

Sunday, October 22,2017. Sunday Brunch @ Café Lynn With Friends. We are invited to join our friends the Billeauds. We have remained in touch as our daughter and their two went to the same schools, then moved on to their own lives. We’re not that close with any other people who we’re not related to.

We have something new in common now. We’re all trying to figure out the next step in life what with all the changes pursuant to the kids’ heading out on their own. Desiree Billeaud takes the spotlight today. She is working out the details of retirement. She seems to be ready for that–in fact, happy. That’s something MA and I haven’t discussed even in passing. Maybe the tons of mail we get on the subject makes up for this.

I don’t know who suggested that we meet up at Café Lynn, but it’s a consistently fine little bistro in Mandeville. Its owner Joey Najolia opened the place after spending several years of cooking and learning from Chris Kerageorgiou at La Provence. He has stayed with his own take on French-Creole food, and that is a very good thing.

I’ve dined there many times, nut this is the first time I’ve done lunch. What came to the table was impressive: crab cakes with hollandaise and poached eggs. Lots of that going on around the mostly-full tables. Good stuff.

Chuck offers to buy a bottle of wine to share. I’m still feeling the effects of the martini from last night. What’s that about? It’s not the first time. But I keep that to myself.

I don’t think we get together with friends often enough. Indeed, this could be true of many people, perhaps all of them. When’s the last time the average American went out to dinner with friends?

Cafe Lynn. Mandeville: 2600 Florida St. 985-624-9007.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Gratin Dauphinois

This is potatoes au gratin with class. I am no fan of the melted-Cheddar-topped potato gratins the steakhouses serve, popular though they may be. This French classic gets all the same things accomplished with a much better flavor. Make more than you think you’ll need, because people always want seconds of this. And the refrigerated leftovers are easily resuscitated by a little microwaving.

  • 4 large potatoes (about three pounds), peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 8 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • White pepper
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop the potatoes into it. Cook for five minutes. Drain and cool.

2. Crush the garlic cloves, and use them to wipe the inside of a 12-by-8-inch glass baking dish. Discard what’s left of the garlic.

3. Layer the potato slices all the way across the bottom of the dish, sprinkling the cheeses and a little salt and white pepper between the layers.

4. Beat the egg yolks and mix them into the whipping cream. Pour the mixture over the potatoes. It should come up about two-third of the way to the top. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake in the oven for an hour.

5. Remove the foil. Combine the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese, and sprinkle in a thin layer over the top of the potatoes. Return, uncovered, to the oven. Continue baking until the crust browns. (If you have a convection oven, set it to convect.)

6. Remove from the oven and allow to rest and cool for at least fifteen minutes before serving.

Makes about twelve generous side portions.

AlmanacSquare October 27, 2017

Days Until. . .

Halloween: 5
Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 29

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Baked Potato Day. The world’s greatest food authorities love baked potatoes as well as the common man does. James Beard told me once, “Most people don’t understand how good a perfect baked potato can be, without even any butter or salt. When it’s very fresh and plucked at the perfect time, of course.”

Paul Prudhomme said the same thing. When he was growing up, the kids in the big Prudhomme family went to the garden too pull up potatoes. When they had enough, they’d run inside to start cooking them. He said you could easily tell the difference between those and store-bought.

Few of us have enjoyed these brink-of-goodness revelations. But we still like our baked potatoes. Restaurants rarely serve them well, because it takes over an hour to properly bake a potato, and it’s only at peak right as it comes out of the oven. As a result, baked potatoes in restaurants are usually overbaked, or kept at a decent state by being steamed rather than baked.

To bake potatoes at home, the starting point is critical: large russet potatoes, without any hint of green in the skin (lightly scratch the skin with your fingernail to check this). And no hint of sprouting, of course. While preheating the oven to 375 degrees, scrub them under cold running water. Then put them right on the oven rack in the center of the oven. If you have a convection oven, use the convection feature. Bake them for between an hour and an hour and fifteen minutes (longer for bigger potatoes). That temperature is lower than what most people use, but I prefer it because it allows a bit more margin for error, and it makes the skin better for eating. (I always eat the skin of a baked potato. Do you?)

Gourmet Gazetteer

Gumbo Lake is in an unlikely place, at least from the perspective of use Louisiana gumbo-lovers. In the high (5000 feet) dry plains of northeastern Wyoming, it’s a far piece from anywhere. The nearest town you might know is Rapid City, South Dakota, the gateway to Mount Rushmore–182 roundabout miles east. Don’t go to Gumbo Lake for water to make a pot of the soup, because much of the time it’s bone-dry. The wind blows, the cattle are ranched, oil and gas are pumped up, and that’s about the whole story. The nearest restaurant is a Subway, ten miles west in the little town of Wright. Right.

Edible Dictionary

succotash, n.–Corn and lima beans cooked together. Sometimes other ingredients go into the pot too–tomatoes and bell peppers are common–but they play a subsidiary role. Different varieties of bean are sometimes substituted, byt limas are the classic. Corn is the unchanging ingredient, as can be seen int he name of the dish. “Succotash” is of Native American origin, meaning “stewed corn.” In the 1970s, jazzman Herbie Hancock re-released an LP depicting a single lima bean and a single kernel of corn in tight close-up.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

If you’re pressed for time and need baked potatoes, you can speed the process by starting the cooking process in a microwave oven. The formula is two minutes for each large potato in the microwave. Turn them over and repeat the nuking. Then finish the baking in a 400 degree oven for about a half-hour.

Deft Dining Rule #644

Baked potatoes should only be ordered in restaurants where at least six baked potatoes can be seen on other tables.

Physiology Of Eating

Today in 1975, the American Medical Association endorsed Dr. Henry Heimlich’s method of delivering assistance to people choking on food. The rescuer puts his arms around the victim from behind, clasps his hands, positions this double fist right between the navel and the sternum, and gives a sudden, upward-diagonal jerk. This often pushes a blast of air from the lungs into the windpipe, blowing out the food caught in the throat. It can also crack a rib, but that’s a lot less serious than the death that comes very quickly if the victim can’t breathe. If you don’t know how to do this, learn.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Planet Hollywood opened its original New York location today in 1991. It got a lot of publicity because among its owners were Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Demi Moore. A New York friend who should have known better told me he stood in line for two hours to eat in the place then. We had a Planet Hollywood in New Orleans for awhile, but it died a well-deserved death. We only go for real restaurants here.

Food In Sho-Biz

John Cleese was born in England today in 1939. He was one of the original writers and performers in Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but he may be even more famous as Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers, the insane show about a hotel pretending to be a first-class operation while failing at everything, especially food.

Annals Of Etiquette

Emily Post was born today in 1872. She grew up amidst wealth and refinement in Baltimore and New York. In the summer, she spent her time (very appropriately) at Tuxedo Park, a New York resort developed by her father. She went on to write a newspaper column about manners, and Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, published in 1922. The book is now in its seventeenth edition, currently being written by Emily Post’s great-great-granddaughter Peggy Post. Here’s a website.

Food Namesakes

James Cook, the British sea captain who discovered the Sandwich Islands (we now call it Hawaii, but still this qualifies the guy for a double food name award), was born today in 1728. He also discovered Australia and many other places in the South Pacific. That’s why his name comes up more often in this department than any other. . . Actress and Donald Trump wife Marla Maples was born today in 1963. . . Astronaut Michael Baker blasted off his life today in 1953.

Words To Eat By

“Bread that must be sliced with an axe is bread that is too nourishing.” —American writer Fran Lebowitz, born today in 1950. She has a few other good food quotations:

“Breakfast cereals that come in the same colors as polyester leisure suits make oversleeping a virtue.”

“Cheese that is compelled by law to append the word ‘food’ to its title does not go well with red wine or fruit.”

“Large, naked, raw carrots are acceptable as food only to those who live in hutches eagerly awaiting Easter.”

“My favorite animal is steak.”

Words To Drink By

“Civilized adults do not take apple juice with dinner.”–Fran Lebowitz.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Coffeeshop Proliferation Changes Halloween.

Mainly, if affects the vampires out that night. It seems that morning never comes.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, October 18, 2017. Good Tastes At Trinity. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the Channel 12 Seasons of Good Tastes was underway for this year, and that the menu I’d seen for at least one of them sounded very attractive. I also admitted with some chagrin that although the Good Tastes dinner are a lot like my Eat Club dinners, it seems that Channel 12 was a few months ahead of me when we premiered the Eat Club. Given that I think the Eat Club was the best stroke of imagination I ever had, this made me write too much on the subject. I figured I could make up for that by giving WYES an extra plug for their upcoming dinner at Trinity. Aislinn Hinyup–the public relations pro at WYES–was more appreciative than usual, and to make up for that I would also attend her dinner, along with a half-dozen people who had been to many of our Eat Club dinners.

Was that worth all the words? I’m sure it will be for Chef Isolani, who also had been on my radio air a few days ago to tout this dinner.

It lived up to all this hoopla. It began with bay scallops, something we almost never see around New Orleans. bay scallops are the little ones, the size of miniature marshmallows. They are usually barely edible, and usually fried. But when the little guys come in fresh from Florida waters–as these did–they are very good. Especially in the company of a corn-based broth, avocado slices, and pickled onions.

The chef was in the running for an award from Community Coffee. What he had to do was cook a dish with some coffee in the recipe somehow. Also in there was some pork belly and escarole. Those last three ingredients are not my cup of tea–or coffee, either. But I had to vote my conscience. Sorry, chef. Maybe he won anyway, since all fifty-something people in the dining room were also voting.

The next two entrees were a large jump upward. We have the breast, the confit of leg, and the foie gras of an unfortunate duck. Some beets in there, too. And fried parsnips. This was not merely a standard collection of gourmet items, but an explanation why duck done those three ways is very, very good.

That dish was paired with a Barolo, which was nice enough. The next course was even better. A filet of Wagyu beef (once again, it was no more special than a standard well-prepared steak) was served simply, with truffled sweet potatoes. Second best dish of the night (the duck was first). And the best wine partner. Altesine Brunello di Montalcino. One of the great Italian red, this was on the money in coordinating food and wine flavors.

Warm plums were the dessert, asking the question why we eat plums so seldom. Creme anglais for richness, amaretto crumbs for the crackling, and mint for that great minty flavor.

A marvelous dinner, at which I ingested more wine than I have in awhile. That will make me sorry in coming days, but for tonight, we live.

Trinity. French Quarter: 1117 Decatur St. 504-325-5789.

Louisiana Seafood Festival

The reasons that the words “Louisiana Seafood Festival” taking place this weekend don’t bring a clear idea of what, where, why, and how the event are:
1. The name “Louisiana Seafood Festival” could apply to quite a few events like it.
2. The festival has moved around a lot since its beginning. Perhaps you remember the three years it was on Fulton Street? How about the ones at Lafayette Square? The long-ago years when it was near the Old U.S. Mint?
3. The prices are a bit higher than those of comparable festivals. To be exact, you pay $10 for a day’s admission, $25 for all three days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). Children 12 and under are free when with a paying adult. The food costs extra, with most dishes in the $7-$9 range. That price brings you a plate a bit bigger than you’d get at, say, the French Quarter Festival.

So here’s a closer look at the reasons you might choose this as your big eat-a-thon this week.

1. The Festival runs along the riverside in Woldenberg Park. Nice place.
2. Live music will emanate from the venue all day. (Opens at 11 a.m. all three days, and closes at $9 on Friday and Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday.
3. It will go on rain or shine. The rain part might be late Saturday, but the forecast for the other times look very good. In case of rain, there are tents.
4. The event is managed by the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, whose many functions include encouraging young people to learn the skills in New Orleans’s biggest employment category. (Recently, the LHS has also been helping the disaster-stricken folks in Texas and Florida.)
5. In addition to the aforementioned attractions, the Festival will feature cooking demonstrations by name chefs, arts and crafts, and a lot of food people you probably know.

Here is the web page where you can buy tickets, thereby saving what could be a wait in line. Perhaps I will see you there.
Tickets To The Seafood Festival.

And here is the long list of the cooks who will be in the kitchen on the site, cooking everything fresh before you.
Here’s the list of food that will be served at the Seafood Festival.

: . .

NOMenu invites restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events to tell us, so we might add the news to this free department. Send to news@nomenu.com.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Miss Verba’s Pimiento Cheese

MARY ANN SEZ: Tom gets a lot of cookbooks in the mail. They’re a great source of entertainment for me and our daughter Mary Leigh. They’re great to look at, and occasionally we cook from them. One we especially like–because it’s beautiful and serves up a lifestyle as well as recipes–is Frank Stitt’s Southern Table. He’s the Emeril of Birmingham, and the chef-owner of the superb Highlands Grill there. One of the first pages describes a cherished employee and her famous pimiento cheese dip. I made the recipe as instructed. Frank and the food stylists who took the pictures of the dip don’t lie. It’s killer. So good that my daughter was compelled to remark, “Mom, save some for the guests!” It’s simple to make, but take her advice: Make two batches so the guests can have some!

I give the recipe as it comes from the book, but I made a few changes to my tastes. (That’s allowed.) I note those in the ingredient list.–Mary Ann Fitzmorris.

  • 3 large red bell peppers
  • I lb. sharp yellow cheddar, shredded
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/2 cup homemade mayonnaise (I use Blue Plate)
  • 1 tsp. sugar (didn’t use that)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Hot sauce to taste

1. Heat up the broiler to 550 degrees. Put the bell peppers on a metal pan, and put them about three inches below the heat. Check them every minute or so. When the skins become black and blistered at the tops of the peppers, turn them with tongs. Repeat the process until the peppers are black over most of their exteriors. the

2. Remove the peppers and let them cool until you can handle them. Peel the thin, darkened skin off. Cut out the stem and pull out the seeds. Cut the peppers in half and remove the vane-like membranes inside. Chop the remaining soft red flesh finely.

3. Combine the roasted peppers with all the other ingredients in a bowl, thoroughly. Serve with toasted rustic bread or crackers.

Makes about 50 bite-size nibbles.

AlmanacSquare October 26, 2017

Days Until. . .

Halloween: 6
Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 30

Annals Of Breakfast Cereal

C.W. Post was born today in 1854. He was inspired to invent Grape Nuts cereal by a stay in the sanatorium of Dr. John Kellogg. Kellogg and his brother Will were vegetarians and early proponents of processed cereal, and Post got that religion himself. Around Grape Nuts he built the Post Cereal Company, which became (and still is) Kellogg’s strongest competitor. Post’s other interesting creation was Postum, a roasted grain beverage that was supposed to be better for you than coffee. Problem: it tasted nothing like coffee, and not very good. Post was quite a businessman; his company evolved into General Foods Corporation.

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Pumpkin Day, the day on which the most pumpkins are sold nationwide, for obvious reasons. The pumpkins that we carve into jack ‘o lanterns are no great waste of food. Most of the pumpkin we eat is made from an entirely different kind of pumpkin. Jack ‘o lantern pumpkins are certainly edible, but should be approached with the same methods you’d use for a squash (which it is). I like pureeing the meat and stuffing it with herbs into ravioli, and serving it with a cream sauce. Or making a gratin-style side dish.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Pumpkin Center is an unincorporated community in Southeast Louisiana. A small agricultural nexus, it has become a suburb of Hammond, eight miles east. Aside from the presence of Pumpkin Center Road, it’s hard to tell where the place starts and stops. Pumpkin Center indeed grew pumpkins a hundred or more years ago, but it also grew just about everything else. The nearest restaurant of note is Tin Lizzy’s Landing, a half-mile west on LA 22.

Annals Of Fishing

Today in 1979, the largest bluefin tuna ever caught came out of the water in Nova Scotia, weighing about 1500 pounds. Bluefins are among the fastest swimmers in the sea. They are also among the most expensive and desirable fish in sushi bars. The meat is distinctly different from the more common yellowfin (“ahi”) tuna. Bluefin tunas are so big that sometimes slices of sashimi from it have no flake structure at all, just a very fine meaty texture. It’s a delicious eat. They’re caught all over the place, including in the Gulf. I expect that they will become endangered in the not-too-distant future.

Deft Dining Rule #200

If you need predictability from a restaurant, find one where the chef has been there a long time. If you want novelty, find one with a history of hiring young chefs who stay a year or two and then open their own places. You can’t have both.

Edible Dictionary

fricassee, [frih-kah-SAY], French, n.–A light, creamy stew with meats or seafood and vegetables. Like “restaurant” and “saute,” fricassee is a French word that’s penetrated deep into teh English dictionary. Now it’s most often used in talking about American country cooking. Originally, a fricassee was similar to a pannee–slices of meat, usually on the light side (in both flavor and color, such as chicken or veal), fried in butter. That evolved into a dish in which the meat slices cooked with vegetables (mushrooms being most common) and a sauce that was t least a little bit creamy. In country cooking, the sauce tends to be along the lines of “cream gravy,” made with milk and flour. Fracassees have become more common in recent times, with upscale restaurants making more refined sauces and using better meats and seafood.

Food Namesakes

John P. Roux, former South African cabinet member, was born today in 1942. . . Olympic diver Cinnamon Woods was born today in 1971. . . Russian architect Konstantin Thon was born today in 1794. (“Thon” is French for “tuna”.). . . Former Alabama governor Albert P. Brewer was born today in 1928.

Words To Eat By

“My favorite word is ‘pumpkin.’ You can’t take it seriously. But you can’t ignore it, either. It takes ahold of your head and that’s it. You are a pumpkin. Or you are not. I am.”–Harrison Salisbury, New York Times journalist.

“What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past like the rich pumpkin pie?”
John Greenleaf Whittier.

Words To Drink By

“A sweetheart is a bottle of wine, a wife is a wine bottle.”–Charles Baudelaire.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Coffeeshop Proliferation Changes Halloween.

Mainly, if affects the vampires out that night. It seems that morning never comes.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Tuesday, October 17, 2017. An Inviting Presentation At Sea. A few years ago a cruise ship hired me to give talks about New Orleans food, Hurricane Katrina, and related topics that–thank goodness–charm visitors to New Orleans. I also hosted several dinners along the way. The cruise was in the Caribbean, and after the three days of my gig I regretfully left the ship and flew home. It was all pleasant enough that I looked into the possibility of my conducting cruises like this with some frequency. But the logistics–especially those necessary to keep the radio show going while I am sailing–creates one job too many for me.

This week, a similar invitation from a different ship came in the email. Asked whether I’d be up for the same sort of undertaking in a few months. It was the right idea at the right time for me, so the deal is done. The capper is that Mary Ann says that she would like to come along with me. The cruise line accepted the idea and even paid for her air fare. We have not taken a cruise together in a few years. (See “Too Busy” in The Encyclopedia of Life’s Mistakes.)

On a related note, I had a meeting after the radio show with one of the people who organizes Jesuit High School’s annual auction and food-heavy fundraiser. I’ve attended these often over the years, first as father of my son when he was a Blue Jay, and afterwards a few times as the auctioneer. People tell me I’m good at that, although I don’t exactly know what I bring to the job.

It was a convivial evening at Café Adelaide for the lady from Jesuit and me. It got even better when Lally Brennan–co-owner with her cousin Ti Martin of Commander’s Palace and Café Adelaide–saw me struggling to get a table. The Jesuit lady (I didn’t ask to use her name here, so I haven’t) had some details to discuss about the auction. The original plan was to do this in the Swizzle Stick Bar–Café Adelaide’s trend-setting, excellent lounge. But the place was packed and more than a little noisy.

Lally took over and gave us the perfect table for our meeting. That proved to be a good move for Lally, because it moved the Jesuit lady and me to stay for a light dinner.

Well, almost light. I began with the turtle soup, which comes from Commander’s Palace, and is therefore one of the best examples of that genre. The Jesuit Lady has an entree-size salad of a variety of unusual greens and root vegetables. The central protein was lamb belly–a meat that has been very intriguing in other instances. The name of the dish is “Rub My Belly.” J.L. proved herself a gourmet with this choice and other reports of restaurants she likes.

My entree was a stack of lacquered redfish fillets, pan-broiled to near-perfection. I don’t use that cliche often, but it was appropriate in this case. Café Adelaide keeps its formulations simple, but the ingredients are always stand-alone excellent.

About two hours later, we had all the plans pulled together for the auction. The J.L. was so engaged with the event that I thought I’d trot out the great flaw in her asking me to do this. Although would do anything for Jesuit and remain friends with all the guys in my class of 1968, I did not graduate from there. The failing was all mine, and I have no sabers to sharpen about the school’s decision to let me go. But it’s still an empty space in my life. What can be done about that, I don’t know. I was just hoping that I wouldn’t be found out and dismissed from the auction. I don’t think that will happen, mainly because I plan to sing the Alma Mater at the end of a very successful auction.

Cafe Adelaide. CBD: 300 Poydras St. 504-595-3305.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Onion Soup With Seven Onions And Peppers

This is a classic French onion soup, with a spicy twist. Try really hard to find the oxtails to make it. They’re not essential, but they give the soup an ideal mouthfeel and flavor. And make sure you remember which seven onions and seven peppers you used, because someone will want to know. This is especially impressive if you have a crouton covered with melted cheese floating on top. Below is the trick for doing that. The finished soup will be great for this first cold weather of autumn.

The soup of seven onions and seven peppers.

  • 3 lbs. oxtails or beef soup bones
  • 1 tsp. marjoram
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 each large yellow, red, and white onion
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 1 leek, cut open and well cleaned
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 Tbs. chopped chives
  • Enough of any seven peppers to make 1 1/2 cups when sliced, mixing hot and mild varieties. (Examples: red and green bell, serrano, jalapeno, cayenne, wax, poblano, cascabels)
  • 1/2 cup tawny Port or sherry
  • Salt
  • 6 inches of a loaf crusty, dense bread
  • 3 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

1. In a large soup pot over high heat, brown the oxtails or beef bones until rather dark. Add a gallon of water, the marjoram and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook for two hours (or longer if possible). Strain the stock and set aside. (You can do this a day or two ahead, and refrigerate the stock, which will congeal.)

2. Slice open the peppers and remove all seeds and membranes. Slice the onions and peppers as thin as possible.

3. In a large heavy pot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until it shimmers, then add all the onions except the chives and the garlic. Cook, stirring every two minutes or so, until the onions have browned rather darkly. This will take as much as a half-hour, but is essential to getting the sweetness of the onions. Then add the garlic and the peppers.

4. Add the port or sherry, and cook until most of the liquid is gone. Add the beef stock. Cook for about 30 minutes. Add salt to taste. and serve garnished with snipped chives and shredded cheese.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

5. Slice the bread into eight slices, cutting on the bias to make the slices barely fit inside the bowls or crocks in which the soup will be served. Sprinkle about 2 Tbs. of shredded cheese over each slices. Place them on a baking pan and put them into the oven at 400 degrees. When the cheese melts and begins to bubble, remove the bread. Leave the oven on.

6. Ladle the soup into ovenproof bowls, cups, or crocks. Place a slice of bread, cheese side down, into each crock. Divide the remaining cheese among all the bread slices in the crocks. Put the crocks on a baking pan and put them into the oven until the cheese melts and browns a little. Serve immediately, warning guests that the soup is very hot.

Serves eight.

Serves eight.

AlmanacSquare October 25, 2017

Days Until. . .

Halloween: 7
Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 31

Food Calendar

Today is National Greasy Foods Day. This reminds me of something a man in the next barber chair said when I was about eight. He was talking about a restaurant. “They don’t have food,” he said. “They just have different flavors of grease.” It was the first time I’d ever heard that there was a difference among restaurants. I’ve been waiting all my life since then to use that line in a review, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Some foods must be a bit greasy, I believe. New Orleans-style hot tamales and chili, for example. We once had a fine Nicaraguan restaurant in Fat City (the name escapes me) that served its red beans from a pot that had a half-inch layer of some kind of fat on top; the beans were terrific.

Perhaps it’s the word that’s the problem. Dick Brennan, Sr. often said that nobody in the food business should ever use the word “grease.” He especially hated to hear the oil used to fry foods called that. I think he was onto something there.

Edible Dictionary

spoonbread, n.–A very moist, thick version of cornbread, made by mixing cornmeal with enough milk, eggs, and butter that, even after it’s baked, it’s more like a pudding than a bread. Most often, it’s made in small portions of a cup or less. It’s usually made rather sweet, enough that it can be served as a dessert. Spoonbread usually doesn’t rise at all. As the name implies, it’s eaten with a spoon. It can be flavored with almost anything used in standard cornbread: cinnamon, fruits, corn kernels, vanilla, bacon, or whatever strikes the fancy of the cook.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Ham Hill rises to 721 feet in the center of Maine. It’s sixty-five miles north of Augusta,the state capital. It’s mostly wooded, but farm fields and cattle pasture takes up a lot of the nearby real estate. After you take an early-morning walk to the top of Ham Hill–it’s not strenuous–come back down and drive five miles south for a ham omelette at The Breakfast Nook in the pleasantly-named town of Harmony.

Food Inventions

In 1955 on this date, the first home microwave oven was introduced by Tappan. It cost $1300, and didn’t sell very well. It took twenty years before the appliance took off. The device was created by Raytheon, which called it the Radarange. With good reason. The technology was born when radar engineers noticed that anything with a water content got hot when it was near a radar transmitter. Microwave ovens got a lot of disrespect in the early years, but it’s hard to imagine a kitchen without one now. I use mine most for warming milk for my cafe au lait.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

Always use round dishes, not square or rectangular ones, to warm food in the microwave. Food in the corners will heat faster than in the center, overcooking those parts.

Restaurant Art

Today is Pablo Picasso’s birthday, in 1884. The groundbreaking artist lived a simple life of great pleasure for himself. He was a native gourmet: he most enjoyed the foods of wherever he lived, when they were prepared well, without needing much in the way of grandeur or ceremony.

As far as I know, the only New Orleans restaurant to have an original Picasso on its walls was the extinct LeRuth’s. At the Court of Two Sisters, they have a great trout dish named for the artist. It’s made with strawberries, bananas, kiwis, and other seasonal fruit. Sounds odd, but it’s actually wonderful. I wish they made it more often than as a special.

Tips For Great Servers

When you see a diner looking at the art on the walls around him, he’s not an art lover. He needs something. Find out what and get it.

Food And The Body

In 2000, British researcher Stephen Gray found that Indian-style curries have an addictive effect on the body. That confirmed what many lovers of curries have known for a long time. When you eat the stuff, you want it again the next day. But it mustn’t be a powerful addiction, or that’s all we’d eat.

Food Namesakes

Actress Barbara Cook, who was in the Broadway version of The Music Man and, more recently, in the movie Thumbelina, was born today in 1927. . . Violinist Midori Goto (who usually goes by just her first name, which she shares with a Japanese melon liqueur) was born today in 1971. . . Former runner, now health advocate Allison Roe broke the record in the 1981 New York Marathon. Later, the course was found to be short by 150 meters, breaking not only her record but that of the runner she beat. (I get this info from a fraternity brother of mine who ran in the same race, and remembers well the fuss over the shortness.). . . Kathy “Taffy” Danoff, a singer with the Starland Vocal Band, opened up her tonsils today in 1944. . . American poet John Berryman read his first line of blank verse today in 1914.

Words To Eat By

“I always wanted to write a book that ended with the word ‘mayonnaise.'”–Richard Brautigan, American novelist, who died today in 1984.

“The Americans are the grossest feeders of any civilized nation known. As a nation, their food is heavy, coarse, and indigestible, while it is taken in the least artificial forms that cookery will allow. The predominance of grease in the American kitchen, coupled with the habits of hearty eating, and the constant expectoration, are the causes of the diseases of the stomach which are so common in America.”–James Fenimore Cooper.

Words To Drink By

“Something has been said for sobriety but very little.”–John Berryman, American poet, born today in 1914.

FoodFunniesSquare

Halloween: The Dangerous Apples Are Improving.

You can trace them right back to local producers, who use no alar or anything else you wouldn’t want your kids to eat. Except for one thing. . .

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Monday, October 16, 2017. Shut Out Of Rehearsal. Today was to be the dress rehearsal for the NPAS performances this weekend. When I arrived, there was nobody there. I know what this meant: the rehearsal is somewhere other than our usual place. And I had no idea where that was. Probably my fault. Unfortunately, the Northlake Performing Arts Society (a chorus) is rigorous with its rules, one of which is that if even a valued voice (I am not one of those) misses dress rehearsal, he or she can’t be in the performance. This is not a complain about that. The rule has a positive effect by making everyone take the performance seriously. I have learned a great deal about singing by following rules like this rigorously.

But I wouldn’t have been able to sing anyway, because the unusual scheduling had the performance in the middle of my radio show, which gets first priority always. This made for a dull day. MA was out and about. I had already eaten a big lunch (red beans with hot sausage at Abita Roasters. I spend the rest of the day after the show ended by going through 415 email messages. I am now cross-eyed until bedtime.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Corn and Pepper Salad

Remember Mexicorn? It’s Green Giant’s canned corn with some little green and red peppers, completely devoid of hotness. I remember eating it when I was a kid and wondering what the point was of the peppers. I saw it on the shelf and started thinking about how good such a thing would be if it actually had a little kick. As, of course, it would if Mexicans ate Mexicorn.

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 Anaheim pepper
  • 4 large ears fresh corn
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced green onions, tender parts only
  • 1 bunch watercress, well washed and picked of big stems
  • 1/4 cup very thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. Tabasco jalapeno pepper sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

1. Roast the peppers under the broiler until the skins are dark brown. Turn them frequently to brown and blister the surface all around. Remove the peppers to a covered bowl and let them steam for a few minutes.

2. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, pull the stems out, cut the peppers open, and remove the seeds and membrane from the inside. Peel the brown skin off. Do all this over the bowl and save the juices.

3. Slice the peppers into medium dice and toss with the collected juice in a large bowl.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Shuck the corn and put it into the boiling water. When the water returns to a boil, turn the heat off and let the corn steep in the water for five minutes more.

5. When cool enough to handle, cut to corn off the cob with a sharp knife. Add to the bowl with the roasted peppers.

6. Whisk the garlic, vinegars, Tabasco, and salt to make a vinaigrette. Pour it over the corn and pepper salad.

7. Cover and refrigerate long enough to cool. Add the watercress leaves, green and red onions, and toss.

Serves eight to twelve.

AlmanacSquare October 24, 2017

Days Until. . .

Halloween: 8
Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 32

Food Calendar

We hear that it’s National Bologna Day. Bologna isn’t the very lowest form of cold cuts–that condemnation belongs to luncheon loaf–but it’s pretty bad. It’s sort of like the inside of a pork-and-beef hot dog on a large scale. The city of Bologna in Italy knows nothing of it, and should sue. I found a recipe for a baloney sandwich called the Bourbon Street Special at the Oscar Meyer web site. It’s like a muffuletta made by someone who’s never eaten one.

Our Favorite Bistros

Today in 2010, Rue 127 opened, just off the key corner of Canal and Carrollton. It took over a tiny restaurant that had been an excellent, engaging, but little-known Middle Eastern restaurant, renovated the place handsomely, and opened with all of its 33 seats. The chef and owner was Ray Gruezke, who came from the kitchen of Le Foret after a shakeup in that still-new restaurant. Ray has expanded the restaurant a little, but it’s about as big as it will ever be (unless they move or add a story.) The food has always been classy and delicious. Chef Ray also has a barbecue restaurant nearby–Frey Smoked Meat Co., at 4141 Bienville, around the corner from Rue 127.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Bologna Creek, Oregon is in the mountainous, lightly-populated northeast corner of the state, 215 miles east-southest of Portland. It flows into the John Day River, a tributary of the Columbia. Two forks of the creek rise in Bologna Basin, then join to flow through Bologna Canyon between the 4000-foot peaks of Negro Knob and Thorn Spring Butte. Bologna Creek brings down enough alluvial matter to block the flow of the John Day enough to back it up a bit. In a wet year it chinook salmon swim up the creek. Giving the cattle ranchers in the area a respite from all that bologna. Another alternative is the Day Creek Lodge, a mile away up the John Day from the Bologna Confluence.

Edible Dictionary

garbure, French, n.–A thick, wintertime soup made with potatoes, beans, cabbage, root vegetables of the season, and herbs. After all that cooks down enough to become thick enough to hold a spoon upright, an assortment of confits of birds, sausages, and ham goes in, with enough fat to enrich the soup greatly. Garbure is popular in southwestern France, especially in the town of Bearn. It probably has origins in the Basque culture in that area. Two traditions attend the making and eating of garbure. One involves the order in which the vegetables are added, so that they all become cooked simultaneously. The other is saving a sip of wine until all the solids in the soup have been consumed, and then adding it to the broth. This is supposed to have a salutary effect on the foie.

Deft Dining Rule #477

Beware of any restaurant menu that mentions emulsions more than twice. It means the chef is more caught up in his technique than in making you happy.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

If your hollandaise breaks, add a tablespoon of warm water and see if it re-emulsifies. If not, start over again with just one egg yolk, whisking over gentle heat until it gets thick, then whisk in the broken sauce a little at a time.

Music To Eat Sashimi By

Today in 1975, John Lennon released an album of his greatest hits. It was called Shaved Fish. Yoko Ono really needs to open a sushi bar with that name.

Annals Of Candy

Good and Plenty was introduced today in 1894. It’s the oldest branded candy in America, and is still going strong under the Hershey umbrella. A single Good and Plenty is a little tube of licorice inside a thick candy shell.

Food In Music

Today in 1929 (which, incidentally, was the day the stock market crashed and triggered the Great Depression), Rudy Vallee began broadcasting his radio show, sponsored by Fleischmann’s Yeast. Vallee was a heartthrob for his looks and his singing. He had the boyish charm that makes girls swoon. Why that should translate into sales of yeast is hard to figure, but he did help Fleischmann’s become the dominant brand of yeast in America–a position it still holds. Rudy Vallee’s expiration date was July 3, 1986.

Food Inventions

Hippolyte Mège Mouriés, a major food chemist in the dawn of that science, was born in France today in 1817. In 1869, he won the prize offered by Emperor Louis Napoleon III to create an acceptable butter substitute: margarine. He used more or less the same process by which fat can be made into soap. He came up with many other ideas, including a process that greatly reduced the amount of wheat needed to make bread, and a method of canning meat.

Nathaniel Wyeth was born today in 1911. He invented polyethylene terephthalate, a plastic that can be made into thin-walled bottles strong enough to hold carbonated beverages under pressure. As in two-liter bottles of Big Shot pineapple drink.

Food Namesakes

George Crumb, a composer who won a Pulitzer Prize, was born on this date in–again! 1929! Black Monday! Here’s another odd coincidence: Crumb was from West Virginia, and today is the day its citizens voted to form a new state, at the outset of the Civil War in 1861. . . Motown Records founder Berry Gordy received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today in 1996. . . Santo Farina, who played steel guitar with his brother Johnny on the classic 1950s tune Sleepwalk, was born today in 1937. It was the last instrumental to hit Number One for five years. . . Jose Serrano, U.S. Congressman from New York, was born today in 1943. . . Lazar Weiner, who composed dozens of Yiddish songs, was born today in 1897. . . . Tila Tequila, Singapore-born, Vietnamese-heritage, American model, was born today in 1981. . . Professional golfer Ian Baker-Finch teed off his life today in 1960.

Words To Eat By

“My favorite sandwich is peanut butter, baloney, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and mayonnaise on toasted bread with catsup on the side.”–Hubert H. Humphrey.

No wonder we didn’t elect him President.

Words To Drink By

“And Noah he often said to his wife when he sat down to dine,
‘I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.'”
G.K. Chesterton, British writer of the 1800s.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Halloween Witches, #6305

Two approaches to a burning fire with a black cauldron full of boiling water.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Sunday, October 15, 2017. A few months ago the Taste Buds closed down Mizado, a Mexican restaurant on Metairie Road across from the cemeteries (about which I have a roundabout death tale, in a moment). The official word was that the restaurant wasn’t productive enough. This once again shows the strange business patterns of the restaurant business. Seems to me every time I was there the place was running at capacity. I must have been at Mizado only on its good days.

Mizado’s main dining room.

Mizado has been replaced by another location of the Buds’ flagship brand Zea. Lately I’ve heard more than the average number of opinions about Zea, most of them making the points that the menu doesn’t change often enough (I agree). I also am told that the place is too expensive (I’d go along with that only halfway). The truth may be bundled up in this observation: although my family (which these days is usually just MA and ME) doesn’t go there nearly as much as we once did. And when we do, we get the same dishes we’ve stuck with for years.

Indeed, that might be so familiar to regular readers here that I might not have to say that our dinner at Zea tonight started with the good tomato-basil soup, moved to a house saald without the cheese (why is a mass of shredded cheese always on top of the otherwise pile of good greens?), and finished with the flavor of the month of crab cakes (always very good). MA had a salad. There’s plenty of room in there for some new flavors. Why not have some of the dishes that were on the card at Mizado? That would be refreshing and include a lot of flavors we don’t get even from most other Mexican places.

But I am not in the consulting business.

Now, I reach back to the first graf of this piece (how you like my slinging around those old bits of newspaper jargon? I was a newspaper guy in my younger journalistic days.) And I note that the rebuilding of the intersection of Canal Street, Canal Boulevard, and City Park Avenue may be the most disruptive street work in recent transit and driving history. It has people all around Mid-City, Old Metairie, and the Park neighborhood figuring out entirely new routes through the town. It forces drivers to travel on back streets so pick-marked with holes that it might make an interesting video game.

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Hash Brown Potatoes

My wife Mary Ann has a unique style of cooking. She recognizes only two settings on a stove burner–Off and High. Her default cooking gambit is to put the pan of food on a burner on High, leave the room to do something else, and check back when she smells something burning.

That approach (which I do not recommend) happens to be the perfect technique for cooking hash brown potatoes. Hers are the best hash browns I’ve ever eaten. She wows everybody else with them, too. I can’t duplicate them myself, because my instincts will not allow me to do so. But here’s how it goes.

It’s best to bake the potatoes a day or more in advance (perhaps while you’re baking something else) and refrigerate them. They shred better that way.

  • 5 lbs. medium white potatoes
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 green onions, tender green tops only, finely sliced
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

1. Bake the potatoes, skins on, in the center of a preheated 450-degree oven for 40 minutes. This will be a bit less than the time needed for edible baked potatoes. Cool the potatoes, then refrigerate.

2. When you’re ready to cook, remove the potatoes from the refrigerator and cut in half, but leave the peels on.

3. In a skillet over the highest heat, melt 2 Tbs. butter until it sizzles. Using the big holes on a hand grater, grate the potatoes right into the pan, sprinkling some green onions as you go, until the pan is nearly full. Cook without turning until the bottom appears to be on the verge of burning. Turn (either the whole thing or as much as you can at a time) and cook the same way on the other side.

4. Dump the pan of hash browns into a serving dish, and keep it warm in the oven while you repeat the process for the rest of the potatoes. Or you can stop right there if that’s enough for the meal involved. The rest of the potatoes can be made into hash browns on another occasion.

Serves eight to twelve.

AlmanacSquare October 23, 2017

Days Until. . .

Halloween: 9
Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 33

Today’s Flavor

Today in 1989, Hungary became a fully independent republic again, ditching the Communist government supported by the former Soviet Union. Hungary. Home of Tokai, one of the world’s great (and underappreciated) sweet wines. And the homeland (and best sources of) paprika. Paprika looms large in Hungarian cuisine, one we have been able to enjoy here in New Orleans very rarely in restaurants. And that’s why today is Paprika Day.

Paprika is a simple enough substance: it’s simply dried, powdered red pepper. The species is capsicum annuum, the familiar bell pepper. However, in Hungary they’ve hybridized a variety that’s long and narrow, with a bit more heat. Hungarian paprika ranges from sweet (not spicy, in other words) to very hot. Often the hot varieties get that was from having cayenne added to them–not a big deal, since cayenne is closely related to this pepper, anyway.

Before the new era of gourmandise dawned in the late 1970s, paprika was widely overused to add color to wan-looking dishes. That use, and paprika in general, fell out of favor. But it has other contributions to make. I like it particularly as an ingredient in cold sauces, notably remoulade. The version at Arnaud’s has a lot of paprika in it. Also, the old (and apparently departed) house salad dressing at Ruth’s Chris was a vinaigrette with a lot of paprika and Parmesan cheese. Paprika is also a big ingredient in my version of barbecue shrimp. Think about paprika again, especially the spicy kind.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Satsuma, Texas is in the northwest corner of the Houston suburbs, which have so surrounded the little town that it’s all but lost its identity. Satsuma was founded in 1909, and named for some satsuma orchards a developer planted in the area. The town was a stop on the Houston and Texas Central line of what became the Southern Pacific Railroad, an important gateway west. But it didn’t catch on as a railroad town or anything else except for a church and a general store for the ranchers in the area. There’s a little open land left, but not much. Maybe for a hundred satsuma trees. If you’re hungry, you won’t have to go far. Many of the Houston chains have restaurants nearby. Pho Kim Vi, a Vietnamese restaurant, is a half-mile off.

Edible Dictionary

crabmeat Remick, n.–An appetizer-size casserole of lump crabmeat mayonnaise, chili sauce (a lot like ketchup), dry mustard, and bacon. It is much, much better than it sounds. The dish is baked until the sauce filters down through the crabmeat and the bacon sizzles. John Mariani says that it was created in 1920 at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, and named for William Remick, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. It has all but disappeared from menus except in New Orleans, where the Caribbean Room at the Pontchartrain Hotel brought it back when the restaurant reopened in 2016. However, they haven’t kept it as a steady item. Even in New Orleans, it’s rarely seen, which is a shame.

Food Inventors

Nicholas Appert was born today in 1749, in Chalons-Sur-Marne, France. Appert changed the world of food by finding that if you fill a container with food, heat it to the boiling point of water, and seal the container in an airtight way, it will preserve the food in something like a natural state for extended periods of time. In other words, Appert invented canning, now the most widely-used method of preserving food in the world. Appert also invented the bouillon cube, a highly-reduced stock with salt and a bit of starch added to keep it from spoiling. It’s an easy, if not particularly good, way of obtaining a quick stock.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Have a spray bottle full of water handy when you’re grilling fish on a charcoal grill. Get the heat way up there, and every now and then shoot a few stream of water into the hot coals. Billows of steam will come up, adding a blast of moist heat to the fish and keeping it tender. (The spray bottle should not be one that used to have some chemical in it previously, of course.)

Food In Crime

Today in 1935, The Chophouse Massacre took place in Newark, New Jersey. Dutch Schultz, the leader of the Jewish branch of organized crime around New York, was murdered in the men’s room of the Palace Chop House and Tavern, along with several of his henchmen. He was eating a mutton chop at the time. Since then, mutton chops have become very unpopular.

Annals Of Dessert

Today is the birthday, in 1845, of French actress Sarah Bernhardt, one of the most celebrated performer of her time. A widely-sold pastry in New Orleans bakeries was named for her. The bakery most famous for it was the now-extinct Dixiana Bakery on North Broad Street, which claimed to have invented it. No bakery makes it anymore, but it is remembered by enough people that any food writer here is often asked for a source, or at least a recipe. It’s complicated, to say the least. It involved making a yellow layer cake and then topping it with a sweetened yeast dough, of the kind used for doughnuts. It’s covered with a red glaze made with rum and currant jelly. It sounds very difficult, and not very good–but the nostalgia eaters wish for it fervently.

Deft Dining Rule #139

The best place to dine alone in a restaurant, even if you’re not drinking, is at the bar. Restaurateurs take special care of people dining at the bar, because they add value to a restaurant’s space. You may even get a free glass of wine (but don’t expect it).

Food Namesakes

New Orleans R&B girl singing group The Dixie Cups has a birthday today: Barbara Ann Hawkins, one of its members, was born today in 1943. . . Gummo Marx, the least-known of the Marx Brothers (he acted with them for awhile, then became their business manager), was born today in 1893. . . Nobel Prize in Physics winner Ilya Frank was born today in Russia in 1908.

Words To Eat By

“If it weren’t for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of the television, we’d still be eating frozen radio dinners.”–Johnny Carson, the most entertaining personality in the history of television, born today in 1925.

Words To Drink By

“Happiness is finding three olives in your martini when you’re hungry.”–Johnny Carson.

FoodFunniesSquare

Halloween Breakfast.

The major curse here involves the pounds you will add by routinely eating a standard stack of five flapjacks.

Click here for the cartoon.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Saturday, October 14, 2017. A Culinary Couple. First half of the day is routine, including the absence of a radio show due to the football games that take over large spreads of prairie on the schedule. For some reason, I don’t have breakfast, alone or with one of the Marys.

So I’m good and hungry when MA and I begin an inevitable consideration of dinner tonight. MA says–as she often has lately–that we should go to Lola. That’s the Keith and Nealy Frentz’s restaurant in the old Covington railroad depot. It’s a nice relic of another age, with a big water tower above the depot. Boarding a train here is the way you traveled from Covington and Mandeville to New Orleans, by way the eastern shore of Lake Pontchartrain, until the 1930s or so. The building has two old train cars adjacent to it. One of these is a caboose, and is used by the Frentzes as their kitchen and walk-in cooler. The other is waiting for a renovation into a dining room.

The Frentzes met one another when they were both working in the kitchen of Brennan’s on Royal Street. That was long before Brennan’s underwent its tremendous rebirth a few years ago. That background made their restaurant excellent from the beginning. I’m especially interested in them right now, because I’m working on an article about couples who manage or otherwise work in restaurants. The Frentzes are perfect candidates for the piece. Both of them cook, serve, and perform all the jobs restaurant owners must handle.

And then we set about eating too much food. We start with an order of crab claws and a pile of Buffalo oysters. Same thing as Buffalo chicken wings, but with oysters in the center instead of chicken. The dish was invented at the Red Fish Grill, and is now found in many restaurants.

Inside the depot of Lola.

Next came something even more original: arancini, the Sicilian fried balls of rice with this or that in their centers. In this case, the middle was occupied by red beans, of all things. Good to eat, though. Then I had the soup of the day, a thick fall-squash job.

The entrees were drumfish amandine, turned out with expertise. And a pork loin that has been seared to a crisp. A big plate of food, and a very good one at that. Lola (not to be confused with the Spanish restaurant Lola’s on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans) does it again.

Over the years we have dined at Lola, we often encountered Ed Birdsong, who sat immediately to my left in the classrooms of Jesuit High School. He wasn’t at Lola today, but the remembrance of those days adds more to my anticipation of the Jesuit fund-raising auction. I have been the auctioneer several times, and they’ve asked me again. Perfect timing: this spring will be the fiftieth anniversary of the graduation of my class. More to come on that in the next couple of weeks.

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

Oktoberfest @ Emeril’s.

As the month of October wears on, a number of restaurants that never before did anything special for the German celebration of Oktoberfest have done so. Emeril’s is one of these, with a special menu that began October 19 and will persist to the end of the month.

The menu below brings a five-course dinner for $60, plus plus. Five beers have been selected to pair with each course for an additional $18. That adds up to the most elaborate Oktoberfest we’ve seen this year. We must be taking the celebration seriously. Which sounds like fun.

Charred Winter Greens
Fennel, frill, beer braised cherries, Steen’s cane syrup vinaigrette, Roquefort blueWine: Beer: Cane Break, Parish
~~~~~

Chicken & Apple Sausage “Pigs in a Blanket”

Pretzel, crispy cheddar spaetzle, beer cheese
Wine: Beer: Nola Blonde Ale, Nola Brewery
~~~~~

Curry Grilled Ora King Salmon Cabbage Roll
Crispy steak fries, garlic aioli, curry broth
Wine: Beer: Holy Roller IPA, Urban South
~~~~~

Chappapeela Pork Shank
German root vegetable salad, crunchy mustard pork jus
Wine: Beer: Amite Duroc Porter, Chappapeela Farms Brewery
~~~~~

Pretzel Bread Pudding
Pecan ice cream, brown butter caramel, roasted pecans
Wine: Beer: Southern Pecan Brown Ale, Lazy Magnolia

Emeril’s

Warehouse District:: 800 Tchoupitoulas. 504-528-9393. http://emerilsrestaurants.com/article/celebrate-oktoberfest-emerils.

NOMenu invites restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events to tell us, so we might add the news to this free department. Send to news@nomenu.com.

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Beignets

Beignets are a distinctive part of the New Orleans breakfast, although they’re enjoyed even more as a late-night snack. Our beignet is a square of straightforward dough fried until it puffs up and becomes golden brown. It’s covered with powdered sugar, placed on a plate with two more if its kind, and sent to the table or counter, where the person who ordered it is already sipping café au lait.

The best beignets have two qualities that rarely come together. First, they’re doughy enough that there’s more than just air inside. Second, they’re not so heavy that they sink to the bottom of the fryer.

The beignets in the French Market are made with a yeast dough, which is fine for a large operation but unnecessarily involved for home use. I prefer something similar to a biscuit dough.

Beignets with cafe au lait

Beignets with cafe au lait

  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 3 Tbs. Crisco
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1. Combine the flour and Crisco in a bowl with a wire whisk until it resembled coarse cornmeal, with perhaps a few lumps here and there.

2. Warm 3/4 cup of water in the microwave oven until barely warm to touch. Dissolve the sugar in it.

3. Whisk the flour into the water to combine completely, using a kitchen fork to blend. Work the dough as little as possible.

4. Turn the dough out on a clean counter and dust with a little flour. Roll it out to a uniform thickness of about a quarter-inch. Cut into rectangles about two inches by four inches. Cover them with a moist, clean towel and let them rise for a few minutes.

5. Pour an inch of oil into a skillet and heat to 325 degrees. When the beignet dough squares have softened and puffed up a little, drop four to six at a time into the hot oil and fry until light brown. Turn once and fry the other side. Drain on paper towels. It’s all right to fry the misshapen dough pieces from the edge of the dough sheet.

6. Dust with powdered sugar and serve hot.

Makes 12-15 beignets.

AlmanacSquare October 20, 2017

Days Until. . .

Halloween: 12
Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 35

Today’s Flavor

Today is Last Chance For Rumtopf Day. Rumtopf (also spelled rhumtopf) is a traditional German holiday dessert of fresh fruit marinated in rum. In its most traditional form, it takes all year to make. But if you start today it will still be very good by Christmas, if not with the variety you could have had.

Here’s how. In a large (gallon) glass jar or ceramic crock, load about two inches deep of washed, fresh seasonal fruit. The fruit you use should be a little underripe. Almost anything works, from berries to bananas. Mix two cups of simple sugar syrup with a cup of light rum, and pour it over the fruit until it’s covered. Keep buying and adding layers of fruit, trying for a contrast in colors and shapes. Always top it off with the syrup-rum mixture. Keep doing this until the jar is full. You don’t need to do it all in one day. It will keep without refrigeration, as long as the rum soaks everything. When Christmas rolls around, you scoop out the fruit and serve it over ice cream. Delicious!

Gourmet Gazetteer

Sassafras, KY 41759 is an unincorporated town of 675 people in the eastern bootheel of Kentucky, about ten miles from the Virginia state line. Its in the hilly, wooded countryside on the western slope of the Appalachian Mountains, in a flat spot created by the Yellow Creek as it approaches Carr Fork, a tributary of the Kentucky River. The flow from there goes to the Ohio, then the Mississippi, and winds up in downtown New Orleans. A substantial main line of the CSX Railroad passes through Sassafras. The nearest restaurant is a quarter-mile away: D&G Barbeque, serving that distinctive Kentucky style barbecue.

Edible Dictionary

Cannelloni with two sauces.

Cannelloni with two sauces.

cannelloni, Italian, n., pl.–Sheets of pasta rolled into tubes around a rich stuffing. Although the usage differs from place to place, around New Orleans cannelloni are usually stuffed with a mixture of ground beef or veal with parmesan cheese, herbs or spinach (optional), and a little tomato sauce. The stuffed tubes are then flooded with either white or red sauce (some restaurants use both) and run under the broiler until bubbly. The word means “big candles,” which is sort of what they look like after being rolled. Cannelloni can also be made with a filling of cheese, with or without spinach. Locally, that variation is usually called manicotti (meaning muff–literally “hand-cooker.”) For many, cannelloni and manicotti were their first steps beyond spaghetti and meatballs as they explored the big world of pasta.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

The wide rubber bands around bunches of broccoli should be saved, until common sense tells you to stop. Wrap one around the lid of a hard-to-open jar. It will give your hand more traction.

Music To Peel Fruit By

Today in 1955, The Banana Boat Song was recorded by Harry Belafonte. It’s better known by its most famous words: Day-O! Day-ay-ay-o. Daylight come and me wan’ go home! A beautiful bunch of ripe bananas. . . etc.

Food Through History

Today in 1940, with the Nazis running rampant around Europe, the Netherlands began rationing cheese. That was for the Dutch something like crawfish being rationed to the Cajuns.

Sports Figures In Food

This is the birthday, in 1931, of Yankee baseball great Mickey Mantle. He was a partner in a sports bar and restaurant named for him on Central Park in New York City. There’s also a Mickey Mantle Steakhouse in Oklahoma, where he was born.

Food Namesakes

Robert Trout, one of the earliest broadcast journalists, went to work for CBS today in 1932. . . Middleweight Sugar Ray Robinson had his last boxing victory–his one hundred seventy-fourth!–today in 1965. . . Jelly Roll Morton, one of the seminal figures in early jazz piano, was born today in 1890, here in New Orleans. His real name was Ferdinand LeMothe. . . . Augustus Octavius Bacon was born today in 1839. Apparently his parents wanted him to become Emperor, but he only made it from Georgia to the US Senate. . . Olive Thomas, a beautiful young actress and Ziegfield girl, was born today in 1894. . . Stephen Raab is a German comedian and television personality. born today in 1966. (“Raab” is one of the names of the vegetable also known as broccoli di rape.)

Words To Eat By

“Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music out of doors, played by somebody I do not know.”–John Keats.

Words To Drink By

“And Mocha’s berry, from Arabia pure,
In small fine china cups, came in at last.
Gold cups of filigree, made to secure
The hand from burning, underneath them place.
Cloves, cinnamon and saffron, too, were boiled
Up with the coffee, which, I think, they spoiled.”–Lord Byron

FoodFunniesSquare

All Counting Of Food Items Is Always By The Dozen.

Doing so makes the savoring of the eventual dish more enjoyable.

Click here for the cartoon.

####

A Revisit To Rizzuto’s

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday The Thirteenth Of October, 2017. Our luck is good as we barely get a reservation in the nearly-full house that Tony Angello built. The Marys wanted to return to Rizzuto’s. Last (and first) time we were there, everybody went Italian, just as the lady who manages the dining room told us that while the red-sauced Sicilian-inspired Italian dishes were excellent, the steaks are what the place is really all about. We promised that we’d go the beef route next time.

And so we do. A big (16-oz.!) strip sirloin, medium rare, Pittsburgh-style seared, coming close to floating in a lagoon of herbal butter. It was everything I hoped for, including the price: $45. That’s a big number for an unaccompanied entree, but is an attractive buy in a USDA Prime, aged, big slab ‘o beef. All three of us agreed that it could stand with the big-name beef mongers’ work.

The rest of the meal was good, too. It began with a featured cocktail called “the Italian Job.” Mary Ann, who almost never drinks cocktails, found this delicious. Citrus and otherwise juicy, the Job was good enough that she also tried a second cocktail. This one was an experiment from the bartender, and includedf tropical juices of many kinds. They were too big to finish, but otherwise ideal.

The appetizers were robust, too. Mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat and nearly sizzling in butter. Enormous meatballs with marinara. This was today’s homage to Italy. Also on the table was ML’s favorite salad, a wedge with blue cheese. And creamed spinach with absurdly too much cheese, floating around in soft nubbins. It was the only dish we had that I would suggest re-thinking.

Dessert was pots de creme for the girls (they can’t resist that choco-custard dessert). For me, gelato stracciatella with small chunks of chocolate.

The price was $138.44 plus plus–less than I expected. I wasn’t trying to lowball. Everything on the table was food we loved. Of course, one can spend a lot more, particularly if you invest in the Wagyu beef in several cuts.

I almost hate to say this, but even people who were regulars of Tony Angello in his heyday will find Rizzuto’s an improvement over the good old days. Time does go on, doesn’t it?

Rizzuto’s. Lakeview: 6262 Fleur de Lis Dr. 504-300-1804.

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Devil’s Food Cake

Here’s my devil’s food cake. It may be a lot different from yours–fluffier, for one thing. I am not claiming to be a better baker than you. Just different. By the way, what makes the difference between devil’s food and just plain chocolate cake? It’s the red food coloring. It’s the opposite effect from what you get when adding very dark food coloring to red velvet cake.

  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 drops red food coloring
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cups self-rising flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

1. Melt the chocolate in a microwave oven in 30-second bursts, stirring it between each until it’s completely melted and smooth. (This can also be done in a bowl over a pan of boiling water.)

2. With a mixer, beat the eggs until they become very light and almost foamy.

3. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar to the eggs. Beat until the sugar is no longer gritty.

4. When the melted chocolate has cooled until just warm to the touch, pour it into the beaten egg, and stir it in with a rubber spatula. It’s okay for there to be streaks. Add 1/3 cup of milk, vanilla extract, and red food coloring. Stir until the streaks are almost gone.

5. In a separate bowl, beat the remaining sugar and the butter into the flour until it has the texture of cornmeal. Add 1 cup of milk, and stir first with a kitchen fork then with a rubber spatula until all the flour is damp. (Add a little more milk if necessary.)

6. Spoon the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. With a rubber spatula, stir until well blended.

7. Spoon the batter into a deep, buttered baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Serves eight.

AlmanacSquare October 19, 2017

Days Until Halloween: 12
Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 35

Great Inventions In Dining

Today in 1879, Thomas Edison worked out the details of the electric light bulb and built the first one. The effect of that invention on human behavior is almost incalculable. What were restaurants like before electric lighting? Although many most of their business by day (Tujague’s, for example), surely Antoine’s and other venerable dining rooms were open at night. Gas lighting was common. Gasoliers still exist in some French Quarter buildings. There’s one in the Gold Room upstairs at Brennan’s. I asked once to have the electric lights turned off so we could see what it was like to eat by gaslight alone. I must say it made the food and the ladies look better.

Today’s Flavor

It’s Seafood Gumbo Day. Seafood gumbo is much more distinctly a New Orleans dish than chicken gumbo. Which is not to say it’s better. But while you can get chicken gumbo from Campbell’s, canned seafood gumbo is a rarity. So is edible seafood gumbo in places outside Southeast Louisiana.

The number of variations on seafood gumbo in New Orleans is equal to the number of cooks preparing it. Each version is regarded by the cook and his or her cadre of supplicant eaters as the One True Seafood Gumbo. The diversity is a good thing. It means the dish is still a living thing.

That said, a few guidelines that ought to be followed. Okra, for example, seems essential. It gave gumbo its name, and in combination with the local seafood it creates the classic gumbo flavor. The second essential is a shrimp or crab stock. Many recipes don’t include that, but those that do are clearly better. Stocks are easy to make, take less than an hour, and use cheap ingredients (shrimp or crab shells).

Then there’s the roux. Although the vogue in recent years favors rouxless gumbo, it makes the gumbo better. Medium-dark in color, it should be a smaller pecentage of a seafood gumbo than for a chicken gumbo.

The most controversial matter in the making of seafood gumbo is whether it should contain any tomato. I think it should–but not very much. It not only adds another flavor dimension, but solidifies the gumbo’s Creole bona fides.

The final touch in a great gumbo is to have the seafood added at the last minute. The shrimp, crabmeat, or crab claws should be just barely cooked in advance, then added to the gumbo only enough ahead of serving to allow them to heat through. That avoids hard little shrimp and soft crabmeat. Oysters should go in raw, right before serving, with a couple minutes of simmering before serving.

Seafood gumbo is, more than any other Creole dish, the one that is least often successfully exported. To eat a good one, you have to be somewhere around here.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Bacon Hill is a collection of very modest houses at the northernmost extreme of Chesapeake Bay, in the northeast corner of Maryland. It’s wedged between the Old Philadelphia Road (from Baltimore) and the former Pennsylvania Railroad (now the main line of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor). The area is swampy and not very inviting, with landfills, junkyards, and a power plant. The physical Bacon Hill rises to 210 feet just west of town, and has the greatest concentration of houses in the area. It’s across the highway from the nearest place to eat in these precincts: the Seven East Deli.

Food At War

Today in 1917, volunteers working for the Salvation Army began frying doughnuts for American troops fighting in France during World War I. This was not the first appearance of the doughnut–it has been around since 1847. Nor is it the origin of the name “doughboy,” a name for American soldiers in World War I. In fact, I’m not sure why I brought this up.

Wine In War

Today in 1453, the British were pushed out of Bordeaux, France, bringing the Hundred Years’ War to an end. However, the presence of Englishmen in that prime wine district had a lasting effect. To this day, many Bordeaux wine chateaux are owned by families with roots in England. And the English have always been the greatest consumers of the best Bordeaux wine, even creating an English word for it: claret.

Food Science

Today in 1688, English physician William Cheselden was born. He discovered that the secretions of the alimentary canal are what digests food. Before his noting this, it was believed that food was digested by muscular action in your innards. You can prove he was right by holding a bite of cracker in your mouth for a few minutes. You will detect after awhile that it starts to turn a little sweet. This is caused by the digestive action of saliva. And I’m once again not sure why I brought this up, either.

Edible Dictionary

gluten, n.–A pair of proteins that occur in wheat (and a few other grains) which, when joined by having water added to flour made from the grain, become elastic. When you stir, stretch, and knead the dough that results, the gluten binds into a texture that captures bubbles from the leavening agent, and causes what you make from the dough to rise, and to get a distinctive “crumb.” The formation of gluten strands is desirable in making most bread and pasta; less so in cakes and biscuits. That’s why working the dough is necessary for the former, and to be avoided for the latter. Hard wheat tends to form a strong gluten; soft wheat a tender one.

All of it causes many digestive problems for people who have an allergy to glutens. But that’s another story for a different kind of web site, of which there are many.

Food Writer Hall Of Fame

Today in 2000, Julia Child was awarded the French Legion of Honor. She won that for her long championing of French cooking, beginning with her first book and television show, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. That work woke Americans up to the possibility that they could cook in the French style, and many people took it up.

Food Namesakes

Pro footballer Reggie Rusk kicked his life off today in 1972. (A rusk is the hard, light bread you find under eggs Benedict. . . Speaking of: Ruud Bread, pro soccer player, was born today in 1962. . . Jazz trumpeter Don Cherry died today in 1995.

Words To Cook By

“Stock to a cook is voice to a singer.”–Unknown. But no wonder there is so much inedible cooking out there lately.

Words To Write Cookbooks By

“Having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes.”–John LeCarre, novelist, born today in 1931.

Words To Drink By

“For each glass, liberally large, the basic ingredients begin with ice cubes in a shaker and three or four drops of Angostura bitters on the ice cubes. Add several twisted lemon peels to the shaker, then a bottle-top of dry vermouth, a bottle-top of Scotch, and multiply the resultant liquid content by five with gin, preferably Bombay Sapphire. Add more gin if you think it is too bland. I have been told, but have no personal proof that it is true, that three of these taken in the course of an evening make it possible to fly from New York to Paris without an airplane.”–Isaac Stern, classical violinist.

FoodFunniesSquare

Here Are Two Upcoming Wine Dinners You Might Be Interested In.

And the best part of the fun is that it’s perfectly seasonal, with locally-sourced ingredients, all farm to kettle.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Thursday, October 12, 2017. I often find myself rounding the corner of what used to be the Pan-American Life Building on Poydras at St. Charles. It seems to me that the corner (but nothing else obvious) has been desolate in recent times. The image fades when I make the corner into the gravitation of the adjacent Inter-Continental Hotel, which is elegant and lively, and has a restaurant I visit frequently: Trenasse.

But some weeks ago (or perhaps months) I noticed that the desolate corner I mentioned had something going on within its walls. One more glance told me that it couldn’t be anything but a sushi bar.

My daughter Mary Leigh has an apartment not far from here, and she knew all about the place. It’s called Tsunami, she said. Let’s go there for dinner soon, we said simultaneously. That was funny: she doesn’t eat seafood.

But the place looked cool–both in the sense of style evinced by the others in there (the Pan-Am building is anything but empt, and across from the busy One Shell Square) and in the temperature of the dining room (freezing cold, it semed to me, though ML was getting along.)

I read the menu over and over, waiting for something of interest to turn up. Not much did.

ML fared better. She had an order of gyoza. That’s a stuffed dumpling with a porky flavor she liked. Then she had a Thai beef salad, which also passed her acceptance.

My order brought an oversized pile of mostly-raw fish, most of which was salmon and tuna. The most interesting item was trout (not speckled, but river trout, which tastes like salmon) with truffle oil. That was quite good. And there was something called a Grand Isle, which was mostly rice.

While nothing incompetent came to the table, this still registered with me as the most boring Japanese restaurant I’ve been to in some time. Then it hit me: this is a new location for a chain. Not a big chain–four locations total. But with the hallmarks of chain operation. And the prices were a little high.

I have come here too soon in its evolution.

Tsunami Sushi. CBD: 601 Poydras St. 504-608-3474.

Wolfram Koehler, a German guy descended from several generations of brewmasters, is the owner-brewmasters for this big, lively restaurant overlooking the river. The center of the action is the polished-copper microbrewery, which produces a half-dozen lagers. What could be a better venue for the celebration of Oktoberfest? And here it is, with a menu that changes the German dishes every day.

The beers are quite satisfying in their flavor and freshness. It goes well with the food, which is more adventuresome than you might expect. You get three courses (appetizer, entree, dessert) for prices between $27 and $29. Here are the menus for the rest of October, with the possibility of more additions.

Wolf Koehler.

Wolf Koehler.

Appetizer
Roasted Beet Salad
Bavarian mustard vinaigrette

Vienna Schnitzel 29
Pan fried veal cutlet with lemon caper butter and fried potatoes

Trout Schnitzel 28
Pan fried filet of trout, lemon butter, spatzle, and roasted brussels sprouts

Schweinebraten 27
Grilled pork loin, warm potato salad, sauerkraut, and Oktoberfest demi

Dessert:
Apple and Cardamom Fried Pie
Vanilla ice cream and caramel

Crescent City Brewhouse. French Quarter: 527 Decatur St. 504-522-0571.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Trout Smilie

Smilie is the nickname of Rodney Salvaggio, who opened a restaurant by the same name in Harahan in the 1970s. He sold it years ago. It was torn down in 2016 to make room for a gas station. Salvaggio is now one of the owners of Mr. John’s Steakhouse and Desi Vega’s. This dish is a classic coming together of Creole and Italian flavors. Rodney cooked this for a television show I used to do, and I like the dish enough to keep it in my repertoire. Other good fish to use are drum, small amberjack, or flounder.

  • 4 trout fillets, 6-8 oz. each
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 8 oz. lump crabmeat
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine

Trout Smilie.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1. Salt and pepper the trout fillets and set aside.

2. Coat the bottom of a baking pan with some of the melted butter. Sprinkle a thin layer of bread crumbs over the bottom of the pan, and lay the trout over it. Spoon 1 Tbs. of butter over each fillet and sprinkle with enough bread crumbs to coat the fish.

3. Divide the crabmeat four ways and top the trout with it. Sprinkle chopped green onions over the fish. Douse each fillet with the rest of the butter and the lemon juice.

4. Bake the fish at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Two minutes before removing the fish from the oven, spoon 1 Tbs. of wine over each fillet. Serve immediately.

Serves four.

AlmanacSquare October 18, 2017

Days Until. . .

Halloween: 13
Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 36

Today’s Flavor

The United States took over the territory of Alaska on this day in 1867, having bought it from Russia for $7.2 million. In Alaska, this day is celebrated as Alaska Day. The best salmon in the world comes from Alaska, as does some incredibly good halibut.

Logically enough, this is National Baked Alaska Day. It was the fancy dessert phenom in the last half of the 1800s. Every major restaurant in America served it. The idea, if not the name, was a bit older. French chefs discovered that if you put ice cream inside a thick layer of meringue, the millions of egg-white bubbles insulate the ice cream, so that you can actually brown the thing in a hot oven without melting the ice cream. (It helps that meringue browns very quickly.)

Baked Alaska almost disappeared when restaurants shucked off classicism for innovation in the 1980s. It’s mostly old restaurants that still have it. It’s the signature dessert (literally, because each one is signed) at Antoine’s, where it’s not only the best dessert but also the definitive version of baked Alaska. Antoine’s omits the widespread practice of flaming baked Alaska at the table. That is not great loss. On the other hand, they’ve begun serving chocolate sauce with it, which to me distorts the flavors.

Alaska @ Ox Lot 9

I make a bread pudding version of baked Alaska that comes out pretty and delicious. Lately, I’ve wondered whether the baked Alaska idea could be applied to some other foods. The best I came up with was a baked Alaska-style tuna sushi using unsweetened egg whites with some wasabi and soy sauce stirred in. Some day I must try that.

Restaurateurs In Sports

Today is the birthday, in 1939, of Mike Ditka, hero as both player and coach for the Chicago Bears. He is less renowned in New Orleans, where he operated a very good restaurant on St. Charles Avenue shortly before being fired as coach of the Saints. After Ditka left town, the restaurant went into decline and closed. It had been Mike’s on the Avenue (different Mike) before Ditka came along. It reverted back to Mike’s On The Avenue later, before becoming Desi Vega’s Steak House three years ago. Meanwhile, Mike Ditka’s restaurant is still going strong in Chicago.

Food In Show Biz

The musical Raisin opened what would be a long run off Broadway today in 1973. It was a musical version of Lorraine Hansbury’s 1959 play “A Raisin In The Sun,” one of the great African-American works of theatre.

Food In History

Today in 1776 Betsy Flanagan served a chicken dinner to an assortment of Revolutionary American troops under Washington and French soldiers with Lafayette. She stole the chickens from a neighbor whose sympathies were not with the Revolution. Flanagan owned a tavern (which served as a restaurant in those days), and she also dispensed drinks to the soldiers. She decorated them with the tail feathers of the chickens and called the drinks Cock Tails. The story is of dubious veracity, but it’s still worth remembering on this date.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Luke, apostle and evangelist. He is the patron saint of butchers and brewers.

Food In Science

Remember cyclamates? They were powerful artificial sweeteners that for a time replaced saccharin in soft drinks. It was so sweet that a teaspoon of it had the sweetness of three dump trucks of sugar. (Or something like that.) Today in 1969 cyclamates were banned for human use, because it was found to be a likely carcinogen.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Hare is a small farming town, forty-seven miles northeast of Austin, Texas. It was founded when a farmer named William Caesar (no connection with the salad) started growing crops and cattle in the 1880s. It was named for the many jackrabbits in the area. It had a church and a school by 1890. At one time it had its own newspaper, blacksmith, and slaughterhouse. Hare still boasts a general store. No restaurant, though. You have to drive two and a half miles south to Martha’s Sandoval Cafe for a bite to eat. Probably won’t be rabbit.

Gourmets Through History

Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès was born today in 1753. He was a statesman who is remembered as having assembled the Napoleonic Code, which is to French law almost what the Constitution is to the Unites States. This is of interest to us in Louisiana, where our French heritage left behind a lot of Napoleonic Code in our laws–notably those having to do with succession of heirs. Cambacérès was also a gourmet of the highest order, and when he held dinners they were the equals of any. He oversaw the kitchen personally, and was so compulsive about perfection that, if you showed up late for his feasts, you were denied entry to the table, no matter who you were.

Edible Dictionary

keftedes, Greek, n., pl.–Meatballs made of ground beef (most common), lamb, or a combination of the two. Onions, bread or bread crumbs, and herbs are also part of most recipes. Keftedes are smaller than American-Italian meatballs, but otherwise quite similar. They’re usually fried in a little oil, and served either dry or with a sauce that usually includes a bit of tomato. Like many Greek dishes, this one comes from the Middle East, as is clear from the name (kafta or any of its variant spelling point to ground meat rolled up into a ball or sausage). The most distinctive Greek aspect is the inclusion of oregano or mint with the meat.

Deft Dining Rule #197

The correct response to being offered a slice of doberge cake is to squeal with delight, and then surreptitiously to refrain from eating any.

Food In Literature

A.J. Liebling, one of the great journalists of the twentieth century, was born today in 1904. He wrote voluminously for The New Yorker, on as broad an array of subjects as you could imagine. But a favorite topic was eating and drinking, which Liebling did in full measure. He very much liked Louisiana; one of his major pieces was about Louisiana Governor Earl Long. His book Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris is one every serious eater should read.

Food Namesakes

Chuck Berry, the early rock ‘n’ roll artist who had the greatest influence on the rock of the 1960s, notably the Beatles, was born today in 1926. . . Today in 1870, Benjamin Chew Tilghman patented the process of sand blasting. . . Freida Pinto, an Indian-born actress, came out of the pod today in 1984. . . . Today in 1697, the Venetian landscape artist Canaletto was born. His name sounds like a kind of Italian ice cream, but isn’t.

Words To Eat By

“The primary requisite for writing well about food is a good appetite.”–A. J. Liebling, American journalist, born today in 1904. Here’s another quotation of his:

“In the light of what Proust wrote with so mild a stimulus, it is the world’s loss that he did not have a heartier appetite. On a dozen Gardiner’s Island oysters, a bowl of clam chowder, a peck of steamers, some bay scallops, three sauteed soft-shelled crabs, a few ears of fresh picked corn, a thin swordfish steak of generous area, a pair of lobsters, and a Long Island Duck, he might have written a masterpiece.”

Words To Drink By

“Alcohol is a misunderstood vitamin.”–P.G. Wodehouse.

FoodFunniesSquare

Halloween Food Toon #1: Zombies Go Out To Dinner

And although lots of chefs have gone to serving more organ meats, this one hasn’t become popular quite yet. Maybe Monday night.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Tuesday, October 12, 2017. Trinity’s Chef Checks In. I feel minor chagrin in knowing that my idea for the Eat Club was superseded by WYES, the public television station, by at least half of a year.

I’ve always considered our Eat Club dinners to be among the best ideas I ever had. We began holding weekly dinners in 1993 at the latest. But Channel 12 had almost exactly the same idea in 1991. The idea of “The Season Of Good Tastes” was to have chefs in excellent restaurants to prepare a multi-course dinner paired with wines. The chef and the wine providers gave short descriptions.

All of this was presented with a good bit of formality. It was still unusual to find such food-wine events unless you were a member of a gourmet society. But the audience quickly became younger and more casual. It was also very popular, with reservations having to be planned well in advance.

Most of that is also true about my Eat Club dinners. WYES, a non-profit organization, kept all the money for its worthwhile operations. Nor did I ever get a nickel from the Eat Club dinners. The customers paid the restaurants involved, although the bargains were very attractive to the customers.

Our first dinner, at Bella Luna, involved a six-course dinner with wines for $40. The first course was fettuccine Alfredo, with fresh white truffles–among the world’s most expensive foods–shaved over the pasta by Chef Horst Pfeifer.

The only other major difference between Channel 12’s dinners and hours was that we had dinners almost every week. WYES had a dozen or so dinners a year. For most of its history, the Eat Club was an every-week event, all year long. Sometimes we did more than one a week. One week we had four dinners.

But I have to give WYES the credit for the innovation. At this time of year, they’re doing more dinners than the Eat Club does anymore.

The chef for WYES’s next dinner was with us on the radio today. Michael Isolani is the executive chef at Trinity, the French Market-neighborhood replacement for the extinct Maximo’s. This is one of the best of the many new restaurants to in that recently revived part of town. Although I’ve dined at Trinity a half-dozen times, this was the first time I’d met Michael. Doing so explained a lot of his menu and style. Little details like the house-baked bread, the lineup of many kinds of oysters, the open counter where you can watch all the cooking, and lively personalities among the servers.

His menu sounds so good that I signed up for it. Tomorrow night, October 18, 6:30 p.m., $95 inclusive of tax, tip and wines (something else they have in common with the Eat Club). Here’s the menu:

Bay Scallops
Corn broth, avocado, pickled red onion, basil

Coffee-Rubbed Sticky Pork Belly
Parmigiano crema, bitter escarole

Half a Duck
Seared breast, confit leg, foie gras, beets, parsnip crisp, jus

Wagyu Ribeye and Marrow
Truffle spicy sweet potatoes, pumpkin seed

Warm Plums
Honey crème anglaise
Mint, amaretto crumbs, plum bubbles
Dessert served with Community Coffee

Reservations can be had (if they have any left) from WYES at 504-486-5511.

Now: If anyone sits with me, will this be a Season of Good Tastes Dinner or an Eat Club event?

RecipeSquare-150x150

Fresh Marinara Sauce

This is the kind of red sauce we make most often at home. It’s cooked only a few minutes, so the freshness of the tomatoes doesn’t turn into sweetness. The flavor of fresh basil–which we have growing out on our sunniest deck during the warmer months–is a top flavor note.

In that and some other ways, this is not your Sicilian grandmother’s recipe for red gravy. However, you can get close to that by letting the pot of sauce simmer at a low temperature for a few hours, stirring often and not allowed to get very thick. This sauce will be especially good with the likes of braciolone, for example.

Spaghetti and meatballs and marinara sauce.

  • 2 cans whole plum tomatoes with basil
  • 4 fresh, ripe plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Leaves of six sprigs of Italian parsley, chopped
  • 15 leaves fresh basil, chopped

1. Drain and reserve the juice from the canned tomatoes. Put the tomatoes in a food processor and chop them almost into a puree. (You can also do this by squeezing the tomatoes with your fingers in a bowl.)

2. Cut off the stem end and cut an X on the smooth end of each fresh tomato. Drop them into boiling water for about fifteen seconds. After they cool a bit, peel the tomatoes, squeeze out the seeds and pulp, and chop them finely.

3. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over high heat until it ripples. Add the garlic, crushed red pepper, and oregano and cook for a minute. Add all the tomatoes and stir, maintaining the heat, until you have a pretty good boil. Lower the heat, add one cup of the reserved juice, and return to a low boil.

4. Add the salt, parsley and basil, and continue cooking for about ten minutes, stirring once in awhile. You can cook it longer for a sweeter sauce, but I think it tastes best right at this point.

Makes about six cups of sauce.

ADDITION: Yesterday’s New Orleans Menu Daily included a recipe for braciolone. At the end, I referred to a big pot of sauce as a finishing touch, but enough people asked me for the specifics of making that sauce that here it is, above. And here is the again for those who just came in. Braciolone recipe.

AlmanacSquare October 17, 2017

Days Until. . .
Halloween: 14
Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 37
Today’s Flavor

Someone has proclaimed this National Pasta Day. The National Pasta Association makes no note of this, but they have a pretty good web site, describing most of the common shapes of pasta, telling you (with a cartoon logo) that you should eat pasta three times a week, and explaining why American pasta is the best there is (a falsehood). One thing we know for sure about pasta is that almost everybody likes it, and that it or some variation is now eaten almost everywhere in the world.

Pasta-RedWine

Many stories purport to explain the origins of pasta. The story that Marco Polo brought it from China to Italy seems to be untrue (there are references to maccheroni before his time). But it does seem to have first been eaten in the Far East. It’s such a simple food that it seems likely that anyone who turned grain into flour figured it out. Pasta is flour and water blended together to make a thick paste (the Italian word for which is “pasta”) which is then dried. In that form it can be stored for long periods of time without deterioration. Which is the explanation behind many dishes we eat. In this case, the preservation method created something inherently good to eat, and its popularity spread.

Many books have been written about pasta. We will limit ourselves here to a few favorite facts and tips:

Use thin pasta for thin sauces, thick pasta for thick sauces, shaped pasta for chunky sauces.

Cook pasta in an oversized pot with enough water that when it’s at a rolling boil, the pasta also rolls around.

The best way to serve most pasta is to drain it, put it into the pan with the sauce, toss it around, then put it on the plate. Our American style of dumping the sauce over a mound of pasta on a plate is backwards, and prevents the sauce from properly coating the pasta.

Fresh pasta is best when you’re making a dish requiring sheets of pasta: lasagna, ravioli, cannelloni, and that sort of thing. Otherwise, use good quality dried pasta. It has a better texture.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Lavender is a small town occupied with raising peaches and pecans in northwest Georgia. It’s nestled in a gap between two ridge lines that rise 300 feet above the flatter land. Turnip Mountain is on the west, Lavender Mountain on the east. The town is eighty-three miles northwest of Atlanta, and nine miles from Rome. The Central of Georgia Railroad main line runs through town, and has a yard nearby for servicing a large clay pit. What about food? Go to Martha’s Skillet, three miles south of Lavender.

Edible Dictionary

The most popular meat topping for pizzas in America, pepperoni sausage is familiar to everyone. But what exactly is it? It’s a variation on salami, a blend of pork and beef with about 20 percent fat. Garlic, salt, black pepper and red pepper flavor pepperoni. The resulting sausage–which can be as much as three inches in diameter–is air-dried until it gets hard. It’s always sliced very thin, the better to release the fat when it’s baked. This is where problems start to occur in pepperoni. The fat renders out and makes the crust greasy, or worse. It’s for that reasons that I almost never order it, knowing that someone else on the table will let me have a slice or a bite of pepperoni. It’s also very common on antipasto assortments, eaten as is.

Cocktails In The Sky

Today in 1949, Northwest Orient Airlines served cocktails, wine, and beer on one of its flights–the first time alcoholic beverages had ever been served to passengers on a plane in flight. It’s so obviously a good idea it’s a wonder they waited so long. Cocktail service went down with all other kinds of food and drink service in the 1980s, but a few bright spots remain. The Mile-High Mojitos on Delta were good enough to prove that it could be done.

Annals Of Food Entrepreneurship

Too many kids are introduced to pasta through the agency of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Charles Kraft, who with his brother James founded the Kraft Cheese Company, was born today in 1880. It broadened in the 1940s enough to rename itself Kraft Foods. Nobody could ever accuse Kraft of shooting too high. They brought us Velveeta, American cheese food, aerosol spray cheese, spreadable cheese in little jars, Parkay margarine, and lots of other uninteresting products. And that miserable macaroni and cheese on a box.

Famous Names In Cognac

Louis XIII was crowned king of France today in 1610. He was eight years old, and his father, Henri IV, had just been assassinated. With Cardinal Richelieu as his protector and advisor, he reigned for thirty-three years. Remy Martin named its most expensive, oldest Cognac for him. Louis XIII Cognac has a substantial amount of century-old brandy in its blend, and is currently selling for upwards of $1600 a bottle. The bottle itself is a collector’s item, made of Baccarat crystal in a Belle Epoque design. I have one of these, although the Cognac itself is long gone.

Deft Dining Rules #300

Unless money doesn’t matter at all to you, under no circumstances should you ever say these words in a bar: “Bring me the best Cognac in the house!” Louis XIII Cognac, which a surprising number of restaurant bars have in stock, sells for well over $100 a shot. And there are others in that category.

Annals Of Beer

In London today in 1814, a wooden tank containing some 135,000 gallons of beer failed, and the wave of beer that emerged blew out several other tanks. Nearly 400,000 gallons of beer flooded the town. The beer wave peaked at around fifteen feet, destroying two houses and killing nine people. Talk about storm surges!

Food Namesakes

Gundaris Pone, composer and conductor, took the podium of life today in 1932. . . William “Candy” Cummings, a pitcher from the earliest years of baseball, inventor of the curve ball, and Hall of Fame member, stepped onto the Big Mound today in 1848. . . Rapper Eminem was born today in 1972. . . Mark Peel, Australian writer and historian, was born today in 1959. . . American hockey pro Francis Bouillon hit the Big Ice today in 1975.

Words To Cook By

“Those who forget the pasta are condemned to reheat it.”–Unknown, born today in 1903.

Words To Drink By

“There is no danger of my getting scurvy [while in England], as I have to consume at least two gin-and-limes every evening to keep the cold out.”–S. J. Perelman, American comic screenwriter, who died today in 1979.

FoodFunniesSquare

A Revival Of A Rock Vogue From 30 Years Ago.

It was the only time when hardware stores became mixed up with jewelry shops.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, October 11, 2017. An Unexpected Ending. The radio station is in a restaurant row that would have seem impossible twenty-five years ago has been flourishing ever since. In it Tchoupitoulas Street becomes the Canal Street of the New Warehouse District. Emeril’s and Barcadia, Cochon and Butcher, Tommy’s Cuisine and Legacy Kitchen, Restaurant Rebirth and El Gato Negro, and a new Emeril’s (Meril) have turned this into a neighborhood with so much pedestrian traffic that you stop worrying whether you’ll be shot at. And that doesn’t even count a dozen or so bar hangouts, some of which completely take over their banquettes (in both senses of that word).

At the center of all this, as far as I have been concerned, is the corner of Tchoup and Julia. There we find Emeril’s, the king’s float for the neighborhood, with two superlative restaurants across the street: Tommy’s and Tomas Bistro. Those two embody what I love most in a restaurant: a strong base built on Creole-French-Italian cooking, in restaurants that are at the same time distinctly New Orleans and reasonably funky-hip. They are managed by Tommy Andrade, who will go down in the annals of local dining as the man who brought fine dining to a maximum experience, with good food too.

A few months ago, however, Tommy sold his two restaurants and his wine bar to Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts. These are the people who in recent years have taken over these restaurants (or built them from scratch:

Broussard’s
Bombay Club
Boulevard
Kingfish
Café Maspero’s (Decatur St.)
Pierre Maspero’s (Chartres St.)
Royal House

. . . and a number of less auspicious operations serving the likes of pizza, daiquiris, and burgers in a sports bar. I count 22 restaurants altogether, but that’s today’s number.

This outfit is well financed and educated in the service industry, or at least seems to be. Every interface I’ve had with them speaks highly of their ability to get even the details of all the major restaurants in their orbit tasteful, interesting, elegant, and sensitive. They have New Orleans roots, but it’s a bit much for me to have figured out.

That praise accorded, I still felt a bold spot in my chest when this evening I walks the two blocks from the studio to Tomas Bistro. Except for his Golden Age in the 1970s and 1980s at the old Sazerac in its Fairmont days, Tommy has never assembled a better restaurant.

I knew the whole story that was about to follow when I approached Tomas’s front door. It looked funny. I looked deeper and saw nothing. From the bar on out, all the tables were gone and the place was in darkness.

Where to go now? I crossed Tchoup and took a look inside NOSH. Its initials mean “New Orleans Social House.” It’s primarily a bar, but there’s enough food here to take care of a hunger of the stomach. (I can sum it up by asking you to divide the menu at Zea by two. Except for a few guys who appeared to have come straight from the Convention Center, the customers were denizens of the Millennium Generation, about two-thirds female, and showing up either alone or with a half-dozen others. Their conversations necessarily are loud, so they can be heard over other lively discussions.

As inevitably happens these days, a manager computed who I was. He welcomed me and said that if I needed any information other service he would be happy to help.

The person I was hoping to find was Tommy Andrade. And, without my even having to ask, he appeared from amidst the NOSH crowd. He told me that when the sale of his restaurants went through (and he benefited very well in that) he asked to continue as the boss, and keep his longtime staff. The CCRC approved that, and everybody was happy. (Not faking it, either.)

But after a few months, the direction of upper management as regards Tommy’s three operations shifted. I knew it would go something like this. These places would address themselves to the young crowd that makes up most of the restaurant market in the coming decades. Tommy and I talked in generalities about this, and he admitted that the new direction probably will be the way to go for most restaurants and catering facilities.

Tomas Bistro had a robust business in the reception hall business, which by its nature is all about younger customers. We noted that we’re both in our sixties, and have to look harder for restaurants in our favored style. (Tommy and I like to think ourselves as Creole-French gourmets.) We are consoled by the idea that there will always be at least a few restaurants who understand that taste.

I had a small supper at the bar. I started with oysters on the half-shell (after the bartender checked to see whether they had any). Then came a pair of sushi-like appetizers made with tuna, avocado, and caviar. Pretty good, but better still along that line was a platter of tuna poké.

Tommy and I talked a little longer, then he went home. Another member of the staff showed me how the dining rooms between NOSH and Tommy’s Cuisine have been renovated. The look is antique, but much nicer than it had been. The new owners have a big budget for such improvements.

I had heard enough, mainly because its so loud in NOSH. I walked down Tchoupitoulas to the radio parking garage and struck out for a real dinner. I mean, really struck out. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to eat.

I sure am going to miss Tomas Bistro and Tommy’s.

Tommy’s Cuisine. Warehouse District & Center City: 746 Tchoupitoulas. 504-581-1103.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Braciolone

The above is the correct spelling of a dish served all over New Orleans Italian restaurants. In other parts of the country, a smaller version of the same dish is known as braciole. It’s not often prepared at home except by old-time cooks, because it’s more than a little bit of work. However, it’s a good cheap red-sauce thrill when made well.

Braciolone

  • 4 slices veal round, about 1/4 inch thick, 4 inches wide and 6 inches long
  • 2 cups seasoned Italian bread crumbs
  • 12 slices lean, smoky ham or prosciutto, very thinly sliced
  • 12 slices provolone cheese
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced thin
  • 8 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped garlic
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 quarts marinara sauce (recipe below)

1. Pound out the veal until tender, and about twice its original dimensions. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top of each slice and press down to stick.

2. In layers, top the veal with ham, provolone, boiled egg, ham, parsley, and garlic.

3. Carefully roll up the veal in the direction of the narrow dimension, for a jellyroll effect. Tie the roll securely with string.

4. Dust the roll lightly with flour seasoned with the salt, and white pepper. Heat olive oil in a skillet and brown the veal roll lightly on all sides. Remove veal roll and drain.

5. Heat the tomato sauce in a large saucepan. When it simmers, add the veal rolls and cook 45-55 minutes, to allow sauce to penetrate all the way through.

6. Remove veal rolls from sauce. Remove string, and slice on the bias into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. Serve with extra sauce, pasta, and grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves eight.

AlmanacSquare October 16, 2017

Days Until. . .
Halloween: 15
Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 38

Restaurant Birthdays

Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House opened today in 2002. It was planned to be the seafood equivalent of Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, just a half-block away. But it evolved into a general Creole restaurant, a touch on the casual side, with more than a few dishes originally made popular at Commander’s Palace years before. The restaurant has an unusually large oyster bar, which is one of its finer points. There was a little controversy about its opening: Dickie’s cousin Ralph Brennan, who already had a seafood restaurant at that intersection, was a little miffed at first. But both restaurants seem to be doing very well, so that’s been forgotten.

Today in 1997, Artesia opened in Abita Springs. The owner was Vicky Bayley, who also operated Mike’s On The Avenue, on Lafayette Square. She wound up selling Mike’s to Mike Ditka’s, moving to Artesia and then–after a few more openings–returning to Mike’s On The Avenue. Artesia is gone now, but it’s worth remembering because it was where John Besh rose to national prominence. He went from there to open Restaurant August, the beginning of his now eight-restaurant empire. Vicky kept Artesia going for a few more years, then closed some months before Katrina. The delightful premises of Artesia–an old resort hotel–are still waiting for a new owner.

Food Calendar

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations celebrates World Food Day on this date every year. The observance calls attention to the need for greater research and investment in growing more and better food, for the millions who remain hungry around the world. Here’s a web site with more about this.

Today’s Flavor

It is also National Lamb Chops Day. Lamb chops were, at one time, on the menus of every kind of restaurant. Around the 1970s, they started moving upscale. Perhaps that’s because lamb prices increased a lot. Or it may have been because the still-young Baby Boomers found lamb’s flavor too assertive. When they grew up and their palates became more sophisticated, they found racks of lamb waiting for them on the white tablecloths, and rediscovered their goodness. The proliferation of Middle Eastern restaurants brought lamb chops back down to affordable prices, and people have resumed eating them at home.

Lamb leg

There are two principal varieties of lamb chops, with very different flavors and textures. The more common kind cut from the rib rack. This gives us the classic lamb chop, with a curved bone ending in a round eye of meat, surrounded by a good amount of fat. But the lamb T-bone is gaining in popularity. With a sirloin on one side of the bone and tenderloin on the other, it sounds wonderful and is far from bad. But it contains less fat and tends to be less tender. It’s also harder to grill uniformly and a little troublesome to eat, because you have to dig the meat away from the disproportionately large bone. They’re a bit less expensive, fortunately. It would allay some confusion if restaurants serving lamb T-bones called them that instead of lamb chops.

There’s another divide among lamb chops: their origins. The smaller ones typically come from Australia and New Zealand, the world leaders in lamb husbandry. They’re small because the animals they use are younger than the ones preferred in America. American lamb chops are about double the size of the Down Under variety, and have a better flavor, in my opinion.

Lamb chops

The best thing that happened to lamb chops in recent history is the obsolescence of mint jelly. That garnish may have been necessary when muttony, strong lamb was common, but it obliterates the flavor of good lamb. Many restaurants still serve it because some people expect it. But bearnaise sauce or a good lamb jus or demi-glace–perhaps with a touch of fresh mint in those sauces–are vastly better. They’re also wonderful encrusted with black pepper. And the Lebanese practice of serving lamb with hummus as a sort of sauce is also complimentary to these delicious, special chops.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Burrito Creek is ten miles northeast of San Luis Obispo, California. It flows down the mountains of the Santa Lucia Wilderness, beginning at a spring at 1900 feet and descending three miles northeast to join Rinconada Creek on a flat, dry plain at 1200 feet. The water winds up in the Pacific by way of the Salinas River.

There’s an interesting place to eat three miles away from the mouth of Burrito Creek. The Rinconada Dairy raises sheep and makes cheeses of high quality with ewe’s milk. You can spend a few days there, gathering your own eggs for breakfast and the like.

Burrito Creek is named for a generic small donkey, not a Mexican wrap sandwich. .

Edible Dictionary

piccata, adj.–A pan-seared preparation of thin slices of veal, chicken, or other protein, served with a pan sauce of butter or olive oil with white wine and lemon juice. An almost universally-served dish in American Italian restaurants. Very similar to veal francesca. The word “piccata” is a reference to the old practice of jabbing the meat to work fat into it, to tenderize the often-tough veal.

Since I mentioned that. . . Having to work some fat into a veal dish is necessary because a) veal is very low in fat, and 2) countermeasures are needed to keep the veal from becoming chewy and tough. That’s ironic, because veal is usually chosen because of its alleged tenderness.

Deft Dining Rule #721

The minimum acceptable number of rib bones for an entree of lamb chops in a serious restaurant is three. If they’re Australian or New Zealand chops, the number rises to six.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

A lamb rack cooked whole and sliced after cooking will be tenderer and juicier than double–cut chops, and incomparably better than single chops.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Gallo (also known as Gall and Gallinus), who was a missionary to the Alpine countries in the 600s. Perhaps because of his name (it means “rooster” in Latin), he is the patron saint of chickens and geese.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza, was born today in 1937. He started his ubiquitous take-out pizza business on a $500 loan and did pretty well–making decent if not fantastic pizzas. The conveyor-belt oven is the center of his operation, baking a pizza much faster but without the magical crispness of the crust. This is certainly true: Domino’s is better than the convenience pizza of twenty or thirty years ago. But not nearly as good as a New York-style pizza made in a traditional stone oven.

Food In Show Biz

Today in 1941, the Will Bradley Band–whose best-known number was Beat Me, Daddy, Eight To The Bar–recorded a song called Fry Me, Cookie, With A Can Of Lard. Neither the song nor the dish caught on. . . Today in 1939, the comedy The Man Who Came To Dinner opened to huge success on Broadway, based on an incredibly obnoxious and pompous writer. Sounds familiar, somehow.

Food Through History

Today in 1793, Marie Antoinette–wife of King Louis XVI, already a victim of the French Revolution–was beheaded. The rabble quoted her alleged “let them eat cake” comment as evidence that she should be killed. (Actually, she suggested that, if they had no bread, the peasants should eat brioche–itself a kind of bread.) Thinking about that makes me think twice about telling people that they shouldn’t eat frozen food.

Food In Science

Today is the birthday, in 1875, of Henry Sherman, an early researcher on nutrition. He made the first estimates of the ideal amounts of each of the vitamins we should consume daily. He also announced that spinach is not as enormously nutritious a food as Popeye says.

Food Namesakes

Missouri Congressman Alan Wheat was born today in 1951. . . R&B singer Sugar Pie DeSanto warbled her first notes today in 1935. . . Baseball Hall of Famer Goose Goslinstepped up to the plate of life today in 1900.

Words To Read Restaurant Reviews By

“Critics? I love every bone in their heads.”–American playwright Eugene O’Neill, born today in 1888.

Words To Eat By

“But beef is rare within these oxless isles;
Goat’s flesh there is, no doubt, and kid, and mutton;
And, when a holiday upon them smiles,
A joint upon their barbarous spits they put on.”–Lord Byron.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Funniest “Peanuts” Ever.

It has no food or wine connection, but I couldn’t resist showing you this one.

Note: no second amendment statement is here intended.

Click here for the cartoon.