Diary For WED 12/5/2018: Old-Style Brisket @ Peppermill.
Today I learned that while I was on retreat John Fury passed away at the ripe age of 88. Had I known, I would have said a prayer for him in that holy place.
Mr. John (that’s what everybody called him) spent almost his entire life working in restaurants. His first one was delivering poor boy sandwiches on a bicycle to customers in Mid-City. He was such a crackerjack that he wound up buying the shop from its owner. His ambitions expanded when he and partners opened the Bounty Seafood Restaurant in West End Park in the 1970s. It was not only a good eatery but lent a new contemporary style to West End. Almost all the existing restaurants there were from an earlier era. Bruning’s, for example–founded in 1859.
In 1983, John sold his share of the Bounty to the partners, and opened the much smaller restaurant in Metairie called Fury’s. His value to the Bounty was made clear when it closed some ten years later. Meanwhile, Fury’s attracted a very loyal regular clientele, most of whom still go there often.
Fury’s has the honor of being the longest-running sponsor of my radio show, having begun running spots within a few weeks after we went on the air in 1985. Mr. John asked me to voice the commercials ad lib, saying whatever I wanted to say. That was easy to do with honesty, because Fury’s was and still is the epitome of an easy-to-praise restaurant. They use only fresh seafood, not frozen. And they cook everything to order. The waitress proved that the first time I ordered Fury’s great fried chicken. “That will take twenty-five minutes, darlin’,” she warned me. That is, of course, how fried chicken should be served.
John appeared as a radio guest a few times. Most of the time, he was in his restaurant, although in recent years he’s had trouble getting around. His family has taken care of operation, sticking with his rules for serving great food in a neighborhood-style semi-joint. Fresh, to order. May it live on as long as Mr. John did, and beyond.
Fury’s. Metairie: 724 Martin Behrman Ave. (across Veterans Blvd. from Dorignac’s). 504-834-5646.
As good as it is, Fury’s suffers because the average age of its customers is at the high end. Why this should deter anyone from going to Fury’s is a mystery. But this advice comes from a man who is well traveled down the road of life and likes his restaurants to join him.
Another restaurant that has this meritorious problem is the Peppermill. The prejudice they suffer hides one of the city’s most underrated restaurants. True, they don’t change the menu or the cooking style often, but the groceries are fresh and cooked with care throughout most of the menu. But the food will be very familiar to anyone who was eating in restaurants in the 1970s, when the place opened.
MA gives me grief about my going to the Peppermill more than I ought to. But I like the place. A lot of their menu–notably the seafood–is often exactly what I feel like eating. Tonight, they had a few items I haven’t seen lately.
One such was popular in restaurants around New Orleans for decades: boiled beef brisket. Its availability has faded away to almost zero. Brisket is still alive and healthy at Tujague’s (whose age makes the Peppermill seem cutting edge), but that’s about the extent of the brisket today.
At its best, boiled beef brisket–which, by the way, is a great wintertime dish–is firm, served in thick cubes, with an assortment of vegetables, many of which were in the pot when the beef was boiling (for about four hours).
What the Peppermill served tonight was a bit different from the versions at Tujague’s and the Bon Ton (another oldie where the brisket lives on, but not always). The meat was falling apart, into thick slices, awash in a brown gravy. It could have been served on French bread as a classic roast beef poor boy.
I asked the waitress for the makings of the sauce that dressed brisket in its golden age: a blend of horseradish and ketchup. That’s what you got at the Red Onion, Wise Cafeteria (which had the most powerful horseradish sauce I ever tasted), and Sal & Sam’s—all extinct brisket cooks. I’m happy to see it anywhere.
The other offbeat new item at the Peppermill on this visit came from the bar. The White Christmas Martini combines vodka with white Creme de Cacao. The rim of the glass is encrusted with coarse sugar. It tasted sort if like melted ice cream with alcohol. It was interesting and worth trying, but I’m no fan of cocktails dominated by sweetness. Still, it’s popular and original, and perfect for the season.
I ended this supper as I always do, with the Peppermill’s caramel custard, always among the top two or three, the equal of Galatoire’s. The servers were as friendly as ever, calling me by name and moaning that they haven’t seen me in a long time (about eight months). I might have to come again for that brisket.
Peppermill. Metairie: 3524 Severn Ave. 504-455-2266.
December 7, 2017
Reveillon Dinners. Nightly, now through December.
Eat Club @ Drago’s In Lafayette. December 12.
Broadcast From The Roosevelt. December 13.
Christmas December 25.
New Year’s Eve: December 31.
New Orleans Chefs Hall Of Fame
Chef Chris Kerageorgiou, legendary New Orleans restaurateur and founder of La Provence, was born today in 1927 in Provence. His parents were Greek. Chris began his career cooking on ships (where he met longtime pal Chef Goffredo Fraccaro, of La Riviera). He wound up in New Orleans as the maitre d’ of the Esplanade, the high-end restaurant of the Royal Orleans Hotel. Chris opened La Provence, the first really great restaurant on the North Shore, in 1972. In 2006, shortly after selling La Provence to his protege John Besh, Chris died. He was active until just a few weeks before his passing. He was a real original, with a passion for cooking and for life.
Vincent’s opened today in 1989. Vincent Catalanotto, a waiter and bartender for years, was managing a little cafe with the unlikely name “The Corsican Brothers.” The owners evaporated one day. Vincent, looking around for what to do next, took over the place. “I found out that I could cook as well as all those chefs that’d been screaming at me,” he said. The menu was familiar New Orleans Italian food, yet polished in its way. It was a runaway success, so much so that Vincent never had time to do a decent decorating job on the dining room until the hurricane shut him down. His St. Charles Avenue restaurant was the first significant Uptown restaurant to return after the storm. Both places remain very busy at all hours.
This is National Cotton Candy Day. Cotton candy is spun sugar. Aside from its popularity at festivals and Mardi Gras parades, spun sugar had a brief vogue during the 1950s in classy restaurants. The Brennans bought one for their restaurant, and kept trying to do something with it before giving it up as an impossible mess.
On a more satisfying note, this is Daube Glace Day. Daube glace starts with slowly-cooked beef that’s sliced into near-shreds, then cooked in a mold with gelatin, savory vegetables, herbs and seasonings. It’s a familiar part of the most traditional Creole tables around Christmastime, and many old-style butchers and market delis still make it every year. (The most famous version cones from Langenstein’s.) You eat it with crackers or French bread as a canape, or as a dip. It tastes much better than it sounds, and is a wonderful partner for cocktails or those mulled wines we make this time of year.
Cranberry is a small farming community in northern Maryland, forty-one miles northwest of Baltimore. The place is well named. It’s dominated by an expansive array of cranberry fields, as well as a few pods in which the berries can be corralled for harvesting. (Ripe cranberries pop off the bush when they’re ripe, and float to the surface of the bog or pond, ready to be scooped up.) The rolling landscape and well-kept farms make Cranberry a pretty place. The nearest restaurant is the Dutch Corner, three miles north in Manchester.
zabaglione, [szaba-YO-neh], Italian, n.–Also spelled zabaione; the French spelling is sabayon. A thick custard, somewhere between a sauce and a pudding. It can act as a sauce for a dessert, be the entire dessert itself, or perform any function between the two extremes. Zabalione with a few berries would be the halfway point. Zabaglione can be served classically either warm and chilled. The best versions of the warm kind are made in restaurants at the table. The main difference between zabagione and a standard custard is that no milk or cream are mixed with the egg yolks. Instead, sweet Marsala wine provides the liquid component. (In France, this might be sweet sherry instead.) Most versions of zabaglione are whipped into a very light, fluffy consistency. In
Today is the birthday of Mary Ann Connell Fitzmorris, my brilliant and beautiful wife of nearly thirty years. Not long after, she hired me for my present radio gig; that’s how we got to know one another. She’s not much on gourmet food, great wines, or music. But I love her anyway. More every day. (She does make the best hash brown potatoes I ever ate.)
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
He who forgets his wife’s birthday is surely doomed.
On an unrelated note, today is the seventy-seventh anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Today is the feast day of St. Ambrose of Milan, the “honey-tongued doctor of the Church” in the Fourth Century. He is the patron saint of beekeepers.
The first refrigerator for home use was patented today in 1926 by the Servel Company. Before it came along, we all used iceboxes. Oddly, it was operated not by electricity but by burning gas. Servel continues to make gas-burning refrigerators and air conditioners. They are unusual in having no moving parts. A very small gas flame powers a gravitational refrigerant coil somehow. They apparently last almost forever, and are popular with people who live or camp far from civilization. (They can run on propane.)
Music To Dine By
Louis Prima was born in New Orleans today in 1910. He became one of the most unusual bandleaders in the Big Band era. His sound was so distinctive that listening to only a second of his vocal performance is enough to identify him. He had a song that sounds like it’s about food, although it isn’t, really: Closer To The Bone, Sweeter Is The Meat.
Vaclav Chalupa, a Czechoslovakian rower, was born today in 1967. We’re only one letter away from having a second Taco Bell item among our birthday boys today: Jordi Buritlo, a Spanish tennis star, was born when Vaclav turned five. . . One of American history’s many figures named Hamilton Fish was born today in 1888. This one was a Congressman and a leading proponent of isolationism. . . Australia’s sixth Prime Minister, Joseph Cook, was born today in 1860.
Words To Eat By
“At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well and talk well but not too wisely.”–W. Somerset Maugham.
Words To Drink By
“Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends.”–Tom Waits, razor-blade-throated singer and songwriter, born today in 1949.
Drago’s–home of the Original Char-Broiled Oysters, The Best One-Bite Dish In New Orleans–presents an extravaganza of its best new and old dishes. It will be served in the new Lafayette Drago’s, on Wednesday, December 12.
The newly opened Drago’s in Lafayette will show off its best new dishes with an Eat Club dinner on Wednesday, December 12, 2018, 6:30 p.m. at Drago’s in Lafayette. All of the dishes below will be served family-style for $75, inclusive of tax, tip, wines and other beverages.
To reserve, call the Metairie Drago’s at me at the Metairie location: 504-888-9254. Or you can reserve by e-mail:
The $75 admission will be paid at the restaurant when you arrive. Any other questions? Contact me personally by e-mail: email@example.com.
Here’s the menu. Amazingly, you will get all the dishes on the menu for the $75 price. Come hungry!
Fleur de lis Shrimp
Crabmeat Mediterranean Salad
Lobster Surf & Turf, Served Family-Style
Half Maine Lobster, Shrimp Marco pasta, filet mignon served medium rare, topped with barbecue shrimp, fried eggplant, charbroiled corn