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.

RecipeSquare-150x150

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.