DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, July 21, 2017. Dinner @ Arnaud’s With A Financial Adviser.

In her spare time, Mary Ann likes to invest in the markets, particularly with a guy who a friend of hers said had an interesting batch of stocks that have been giving forth good yields. I have kept my nose out of this, and I don’t know much to start with. Not exactly big pile of money, either.

Arnaud’s was very busy tonight–a good state of affairs for this, the slackest time of the years. But Tales Of The Cocktails is going on, and that brings in hundreds of people, most of them in the spirits business. Yesterday, I was shut out Maypop, where I originally planned to dine. Full house.

The greeters at Arnaud’s didn’t have an agreeable space for me, either. The French 75 Bar–the central source for cocktails at Arnaud’s–was standing room only, with an accompanying roar from the crowd. The hostesses took me then to the other bar–the one between the bathrooms. The one which, in the early days of Arnaud’s rebirth in 1979, was a kind of private bar for the regulars.

The three musicians who play in the Jazz Bistro part of Arnaud’s (same menu and service, slightly smaller dining room) were getting ready to begin their program. I have impressed these guys enough that they have routinely allowed me to join them in a song or two. Unfortunately, with Mary Ann here, there would be no crooning from me. I am not allowed to sing in public while she’s there.

Charles, the longtime Maitre d’–chastised me for accepting my Negroni here, and took me to the French 75, which in the meantime had loosened up a bit. Mary Ann’s broker friend was already there, going through a pile of soufflee potatoes with bearnaise. With him were an attorney friend and their respective dates. It was still too loud to carry on a conversation, but we soon located to the six-top in the main dining room.

The stock broker says that he thinks Arnaud’s is the best restaurant in New Orleans. I would not say that, but I think it is a reasonable comment, especially if the person giving it has a preference for classic Creole-French cooking.

Shrimp Arnaud (remoulade, really)

All our new friends started with shrimp Arnaud, the restaurant’s version of remoulade and arguably the best version of that dish anywhere. I had my usual starter oysters Arnaud. Here are five different baked oysters. This is the finest version around of this much-loved appetizer.

In the rest of the dinner, I saw a steak, a fish with crabmeat, and the blueberry duck. I had the restaurant’s most famous entree. Trout meuniere here is a hybrid of the classic brown-butter version of that dish with the thick, brown sauce made with a little roux and veal stock. I haven’t had it in a long time, and it will be another long time before I do it again.

Everybody is too full for dessert, but I had to order a big cube of bread pudding Fitzmorris just to keep my brand alive.

A jovial evening, if perhaps a little too loud. No deals were struck as far as I know.

Arnaud’s. French Quarter: 813 Bienville. 504-523-5433.

Saturday, July 22, 2017.
Mary Ann’s plans to fly to Great Britain for a week is confirmed when Mary Leigh arranges a few days off her employment and signs onto the scheme. It includes leaving me behind, half to keep the homestead going, and half because I am cast in the Marys’ minds as a wet blanket.

Whenever this happens–and it does rather often–MA treats me very well, breaking her diet so I can have her company for breakfast on weekends and lunches and dinners the few days before she boards the plane. There’s nothing I can do but go along with the program.

I have a three-hour radio show starting at noon, so lunch is out today. Later in the evening, I suggest that dinner take place at Pardo’s, a five-star restaurant in the new mall-ridden part of Covington. We haven’t been in quite a while, and owner Osman Rodas always welcomes us. The restaurant was nearly full, but a few tables were open. Interesting crowd: the customers are either Millennials or Baby Boomers, with almost nobody either older or younger than those categories. The menu strikes me as more tuned to sophisticated boomers than for the younger diners, who would want more adventuresome cooking than this. I think this may be entirely about the North Shore location. When analyzing North Shore restaurants, we see a certain amount of time-and-space divergence among the customers.

Pork chop and lima beans at Pardo’s.

We have a great dinner, one in which we both eat too much. I start with an unusual soup whose color is less than alluring, but whose flavor–which includes a lot of spices and herbs–is fascinating. MA has a massive pork chop for her entree. She loves it, but she feels bad about eating something this big. I don’t share this sentiment and start off with both our scallop-oriented amuses bouche. (MA doesn’t like scallops.) The fish of the day is sheepshead, a favorite of mine. It’s nicely encrusted and, keeping pace with everything else, very generous in portion.

Sheepshead at Pardo’s.

Osman joins us at the table at the end of the repast. He has plans for the future. I’m glad to hear that, because he seems to be ahead of his time most of the time.


Pardo’s. Covington: 69305 Hwy 21. 985-893-3603.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Watermelon Salsa

I’ll bet you’re already guessing that this came about because I found the remains of a partially-devoured watermelon, too ripe to mess with, in my refrigerator. Here’s the other thing that came to mind: when I was growing up, I remember a lot of people putting salt on watermelons. Another recollection: a watermelon and shrimp gazpacho a few weeks ago at Herbsaint. Why don’t you make that into a into a salsa? my wife said. So here it is.

Tacos with watermelon salsa and avocados.

  • 2 cups watermelon pulp, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped fresh ripe tomato, skin and seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro leaves (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 Tbs. Tabasco green pepper sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 Tbs. cider vinegar (or pepper vinegar)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

1. Process the watermelon in a food processor for a few seconds, to make a rough puree. Push through a medium sieve. (Better: run the watermelon through a food mill.)

2. All the ingredients together and allow the flavors to blend for an hour or so in the refrigerator. Serve as is, as a salad, or to add a freshness to tacos.

Makes four cups.

500BestSquareBouillabaisse @ Bistro Daisy

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Bouillabaisse has never had a strong hold on the menus of New Orleans. Its popularity swells and then ebbs, such that it becomes a rarity at times. We are in one of those low points on the graph, and left with only a few versions to choose from. That’s necessary, because among the most interesting aspects of this semi-soup, demi-stew dish is that it’s made differently by almost each chef that takes a shot at it. Right now, Bistro Daisy has one of the most reliable versions. Their version is unique in that it employs only local seafood–shrimp, oysters, crabmeat, and a variety of finfish of varying colors and textures. It’s on Bistro Daisy’s menu almost as long as the restaurant itself has existed. Chef Anton Schulte–who passed through the extinct masterpiece Peristyle and Le Petit Grocery en route to his own restaurant–turns out a full menu of polished bistro eats.

Bistro Daisy. Uptown: 5831 Magazine. 504-899-6987.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare July 27, 2017

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest 10
Coolinary Summer Specials Begin 5 days from today

Drinking Calendar

This is National Scotch Whisky Day. Make mine Dalwhinnie, in a snifter, straight, with a glass of water on the side. Scotch whisky (that’s the right spelling) is made from malted barley (grains that have just begun to sprout) dried over a peat fire. That’s fermented with water to make into what is more or less a primitive beer, which is then distilled. Scotland has over a hundred distilleries, each introducing its own complexities of flavor, much of which is regional. The major regions are Highland, Lowland, Speyside, and Islay. A few subcategories add to the fun. The most popular are Highland malts (a “single malt” denotes the product of one batch in one distillery). The most unusual are the Islay malts, which are dried with seaweed peat, and from that pick up a distinct aroma and flavor of iodine. (Not for everybody.)

Most Scotch, however, is blended. One or more of the single malts is mixed with what amounts to vodka. That’s what you find under the major labels like Chivas Regal and Teacher’s. But serious Scotch drinkers prefer the single malts. The success of those in the past two decades has fired the whole market for brown spirits.

Edible Dictionary

orangemouth corvina, n.–A medium-sized fish found in tropical waters of the Western Pacific Ocean. It’s a member of the weakfish family, and is similar to speckled trout, redfish, and black drum found in the Gulf of Mexico. It is fished commercially, and occasionally finds it way into the New Orleans market. It looks so much like redfish that even restaurant fish buyers have been fooled. Its only drawback is that it comes from such warm waters that it has an abbreviated shelf life.

Culinary Equation

Rob Roy = Manhattan – Bourbon – Cherry + Blended Scotch + Lemon twist

Deft Dining Rule #190

Asking for a Perfect Rob Roy and getting it, without the bartender having to look up the recipe, is the first sign that you’re in a good bar. It is not just a well-made Rob Roy, but a specific formula.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Scotchtown is seventy-two miles north northwest of Manhattan, in New York State. It’s home to 9212 people. It’s part of the Town of Walkill, which almost was the place where the Woodstock Music Festival of 1967 was held until the town said no. Most people who live in Scotchtown do so in a suburban-style tract of streets curving like orbits around a central park. The historic center of town is on the old Goshen Turnpike, which goes back to Revolutionary times. Ironically, I could not find a bar in Scotchtown, so you’ll have to go down to Middletown and pick up a bottle at Circleville Wine & Liquor.

Annals Of Bad Taste

On this date in 1586, Sir Walter Raleigh arrived in England from Virginia, carrying the first samples of tobacco. Shortly thereafter, non-smoking sections would have been marked off in restaurants, if there had been any restaurants at that time. Bob Newhart did a howlingly funny routine once about Raleigh’s explanation to potential new customers of what one did with tobacco. Coincidentally, on this date in 1965, President Johnson signed the bill requiring warning labels on packs of cigarettes. Smoking continues its deserved decline, accelerated by the statewide ban on smoking in restaurants.

Annals Of Famine

Today in 1931, in Iowa and Nebraska, a swarm of grasshoppers descended on the cornfields. In some of them, the cornstalks were eaten all the to the ground. This would only get worse in the Dust Bowl years, when grasshoppers not only ate all the crops, but all the grass that the cattle grazed on, and even the wooden handles of farm tools. And you think you have it bad?

Great Saloon Writers

Today is the birthday, in 1908, of Joseph Mitchell, a long-time writer for The New Yorker. He wrote extensively about what could best be called the hanging-out scene in New York in the 1930s. Two of his best pieces were about McSorley’s Old Ale House (which is still in business and unchanged) and the traditional New York steak banquet, which was a gorge indeed. The best selection of Mitchell’s work is in a book entitled Up In The Old Hotel. One of its many stories tells of the old New York steakhouse, which evolved into the deluxe steakhouses of today.

Food Namesakes

Today is the birthday in 1880, of actor Donald Crisp. . . Santo and Johnny Farina released what would become a rare instrumental Number One hit today in 1959. It was called Sleepwalk. You might not remember it by that name, but if you heard it you’d recognize it. . . Marlow Cook, former U.S. Senator from Kentucky, was born today in 1926. . . Bugs Bunny was born today in 1940, with the release of “A Wild Hare,” the first cartoon to feature the funny bunny. A close relative of Bugs is the mascot on the sign of Da Wabbit, the colorful restaurant in Gretna.

Words To Eat By

“If you are what you eat, then one of the sharks in Jaws is a beer can, half a mackerel and a Louisiana license plate. The other characters in the film are nowhere nearly so fully packed.”–Vincent Canby, longtime movie critic for the New York Times, born today in 1924.

Words To Drink By

“Long ago, it was said that if you drink the right amount of Scotch each day, you will find the secret of Eternal Youth. People have been in pursuit ever since.”–Ian Henderson, South African singer and songwriter.

FoodFunniesSquare

Warnings From The Waitress.

Translated, this means “We thought you’d want all your courses at the same time, so what were we to do when you sent this back to the kitchen until later? Surely you didn’t think we’d make you a new dish, did you?”

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Thursday, July 20, 2017. Manale’s Surrounded By Water.
The Garden District doesn’t flood often, but whenever it does, it becomes harder to get around the neighborhood (and Center City and the Irish Channel) than seems possible. But it is possible, and then some. The last time I had to deal with this, about a year ago, I came very close to going perhaps as much as a foot and a half deep. I always heard that the oldest parts of town were the ones unlikely to flood.

Today’s deluge didn’t begin until I was about two hours into the radio show. Before the program began, the sun was shining. The climate gets stranger every day.

The route I took to avoid the lakes and lagoons all but pointed directly at Pascal’s Manale. Mary Ann had already given me the lecture as to her not wanting to eat with me, because then she would have to eat. (Read that again if you want.) It was a solo dinner that began with a gin and tonic (overpoured, as they always are at Manale’s). I took one sip and then my phone rang. It was Mary Leigh, who hinted that she’d be open to joining me for dinner. I never get tired of dining with my beautiful daughter, and she headed over to join me.

“How about that flooding?” is my first bit of conversation.
“What flooding?” she said. That’s Uptown, all right. It fills up, discharges the tides into Broadmoor, and becomes dry.

Tournedos with bearnaise at Pascal’s Manale.

Topic A: She has decided to join MA on a trip to England and Ireland. There is no itinerary: MA will get a car and they will drive for days on the wrong side of the road until they see all the castles and locations of movies and television shows. They will do this. . .next week? Yes.

This is the reason I am not going. I require knowing where I will spend the night tonight, where and when dinner will be, and what flights we will take to get home. MA improvises almost all of that. She flies on standby. Dinner? Why should we waste time on that? That plan/no plan disagreement between my wife and me is what drives the other one nuts. I wish her well and will cover the home front.

ML shows up at Manale’s a half-hour after we make contact. No problem. I have some raw oysters followed by some pompano with crabmeat. ML has fettuccine Alfredo, followed by a wedge salad. And with Charlie’s Steak House just a block away!

Everything at Pascal’s Manale continues to be stylistically old hat. But it’s a good old hat. ML says that she likes the place more every time she dines with me there.

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


By Mary Ann Fitzmorris
Tuesday, July 25, 2017. Crossing The Pond

(The following is the first of as many reports as the Marys find time during and after their journey to see everything in England, while I sit here at my desk with the dogs and this journal.–Tom)

Road trip! Most people think of jumping into the family car and going to the beach, but the Marys (I’m one of them; the other is our daughter Mary Leigh) cross the ocean, rent a car and try to cover two countries in a week. Two countries whose driving structures are the mirror image of the rest of the world.

This plan, hatched just a few days ago, was sketchy till this afternoon, when we sat in the Delta lounge in Atlanta waiting to leave the country. The trip started its usual way, with suitcases in the car on the way to the airport on Monday–until we got the word that our standby seats evaporated as New York flight cancellation set the dominoes in motion.

A day later, we left New Orleans at 8 a.m., to insure our arrival in Atlanta. The snafus always occur in that one-hour initial leg of any trans-Atlantic flight. We spent the day eating and planning.

This is a food blog, but I can only offer a review of the spread in the Delta lounge, which has evolved into an all-day buffet that is really quite nice. Oatmeal, grits, bagels and eggs and cereal in the morning, with some specialty each day. Today’s was mini quiche Lorraines.

Lunch was a predictable array of salads and soups, cheeses and spreads. We know the menu well, but lately they’ve added a few surprises. Creamy shell mac ‘n’ cheese in one of the lounges (we dropped in on a few). Tuscany fusilli and Turkish rice pilaf in the international lounge. We headed there after stopping for a snack of spring rolls at PF Chang’s, and a $9 slice of Cheesecake at Cafe Intermezzo. (We remember that Atlanta favorite from years ago on “normal” road trips there.)

We waited to board on an outside patio, sipping a delightful blueberry lemonade that packed a punch. This was a welcome precursor to a seven-and-a-half-hour flight. ML spent this time trying to figure out how to fit stops at every manor house in England.

I’m calling it the Chick Flick tour of the UK. It begins as soon as we get in the car tomorrow morning. Oxford, Blenheim, Highclere and a few others before even checking in at the hotel. There will be no time to eat (or interest in eating), except for my quest to find the elusive good fish and chips. And there will be our requisite visit to Laduree. Later in the evening, we will follow the hordes of hopefuls trying to snare a space at Dishoom.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Louisiana Shrimp and Broccoli, Chinese Style

This dish demonstrates the genius of Chinese cookery. Although it includes a large number of ingredients that need to be trimmed or cut up, it’s simple to cook. It’s in the pan only a few of minutes before you serve it. The longest part of the preparation is steaming the rice.

Shrimp and broccoli Chinese style.

Shrimp and broccoli Chinese style.

  • Marinade:
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dry sherry
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • Sauce:
  • 1/2 tsp. dry sherry
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 3 Tbs. water
  • 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. Chinese oyster sauce
  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 3 lbs. large Louisiana shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 lb. broccoli florets
  • 1/2 sliced carrot
  • 2 Tbs. bamboo shoots, sliced
  • 2 Tbs. water chestnuts, sliced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbs. chicken stock
  • Steamed rice

1. Mix the marinade ingredients and coat the shrimp with it. Allow the shrimp to marinate for 30 minutes

2. Mix the sauce ingredients and set aside.

3. Boil the vegetables for two minutes, until tender but still crisp. Remove and reserve.

4. Heat the oil until nearly smoking in a wok over high heat. Fry the shrimp in the oil for about 15 seconds–just until pink. Remove the shrimp, and pour off all but about 1 Tbs. of the oil

5. With the wok still hot, add the garlic and saute until it turns white. Stir in the sauce and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Return the shrimp and vegetables to the wok and stir with the sauce until completely coated.

Serve immediately with steamed rice on the side.

Serves six.

500BestSquareFried Eggplant @ Galatoire’s

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How did the custom begin of having fried eggplant sticks at Galatoire’s? And why are they served with powdered sugar on the side? The answers: fried eggplant (or fried anything, really, including soufflee potatoes) are great with cocktails. And everybody drinks cocktails at Galatoire’s. And eggplants are sometimes a little bitter, and the powdered sugar takes the edge off. They’re seasoned nicely but fried in such a way that they come out a little limp. Before that bothers you, take another sip of that Sazerac on the rocks they serve.

Galatoire’s. French Quarter: 209 Bourbon. 504-525-2021.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare July 26, 2017

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest 11
Coolinary Summer Specials Begin 7 days from today

Restaurant Birthdays

Today is the anniversary of the opening of The Pelican Club. Chef-owner Richard Hughes, after having a hit restaurant called Memphis in New York City, returned to New Orleans to open this well-hidden restaurant on mysterious Exchange Alley. He’s a Louisiana guy who’d been in New Orleans before, making a great impression with his food when he was the chef of Iler Pope’s Dante By The River.

The Pelican Club opened to rave reviews from everybody and large crowds, despite the fact that it came into being almost exactly at the same time that Emeril’s and Bayona opened. It’s as good as ever, with classy, innovative New Orleans food with a few fusions here and there. The summer special menu (now in effect: $39 for three courses) and Reveillon menu make a lot of friends for the restaurant.

Food Calendar

This is Pad Thai Day. Pad thai can be called the national dish of Thailand, and is found on every Thai restaurant’s menu, regardless of its level of ambitiousness. It’s made with rice noodles cooked until soft and then tossed with a chicken, shrimp, peanuts, bean shoots, carrots, cilantro, green onions, and hot red pepper with a bit of chicken stock. It’s usually made quite spicy, as much of Thai cooking tends to be. (Ask to have it “Thai hot” to experience just how extreme the Thai palate likes its pepper levels.)

Pad thai at Thai Pepper.

Pad thai at Thai Pepper.

Pad thai is light enough that it makes a great summertime dish. It’s filling, but doesn’t weigh you down for some reason. It’s such a great dish that other kinds of restaurants have adopted (and adapted) it. The first place I ever saw it outside a Thai kitchen was at Semolina, where it became (and still is) one of the most popular dishes on the menu.

I find that a well-made pad thai accomplishes one of my favorite feats: it tastes better and better as you go through a bowl of the stuff, with the last bite tasting best of all. I can’t remember ever having had a bad version of the dish.

Gourmet Politicians Through History

Today was the low point in the life of one of the great lovers of food and wine, Winston Churchill. Today in 1945, with World War II in its last critical days, he was forced to resign as Prime Minister of England after his party lost its Parliamentary majority. Churchill would return in a few years and round out his long political career. . . An American gourmet and statesman in a league with Churchill–Benjamin Franklin–became our first Postmaster General today in 1775.

Annals Of Japanese Cuisine

In other World War II news, today in 1941 the United States froze all Japanese assets in this country. Since that day, fish for sushi has traditionally been frozen in this country. That’s a joke, but that really is how most fish in most sushi bars arrives. That’s why it’s a big deal when they note that a variety is fresh. They say that freezing the fish kills parasites, but it must also aid in shipping the raw fish around the world.

Annals Of Cheese

Today in 1925, Roquefort became the first cheese in the world to come under the protection of the appellation d’origine controlee laws. Only cheese from the area around the town of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon can be sold as Roquefort. In addition, it must be made with sheep’s milk. Even the breed of sheep–Lacaune–is specified. The sheep must be allowed to graze whenever the weather allows it.

Deft Dining Rule #189

You can tell whether a restaurant’s blue cheese salad dressing is made in house just by asking to have a little extra crumbled blue cheese on top. (You must be ready to pay a little extra, but it’s worth it.)

Gourmet Gazetteer

Pecan is a small town in the low-lying real estate ten miles east of Pascagoula, Mississippi, on US 90. It’s about a mile from the Alabama state line. Before the I-10 was built through just north, Pecan was the first and last stop in Mississippi, depending in which direction you were headed. A few pecan trees remain for former groves, but a spate of big hurricanes in the last couple of decades killed lots of the trees off as salt water washed over the land. The nearest restaurant is Lakeview Catfish House, two miles east in Orange Grove. The orange trees for which that burg was named met the same fate as Pecan’s namesake nuts. It’s all piney woods around there now.

Edible Dictionary

harissa, Arabic, n.–A thick sauce made of hot chili peppers, olive oil, garlic, and various spices from the North African pantry. It’s served at room temperature, usually in a small dish passed around the table, and is most famously used to add some punch to couscous. It’s used in about the same way that we use hot pepper sauce in Louisiana, but it’s thicker, with a texture somewhere between ketchup and salsa. Most of the time harissa is very, very hot, so use it sparingly at first.

Vegetarians Through History

George Bernard Shaw, playwright and philosopher, was born today in 1856. He’s most famous for the plays Man and Superman and Pygmalion. But this department notes his strong feelings about what we should and shouldn’t eat. Here are a couple of his thoughts: “A man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses.” And: “Animals are my friends. I don’t eat my friends.” One more: “Everything I eat has been proved by some doctor or other to be a deadly poison, and everything I don’t eat has been proved to be indispensable for life. But I go marching on.” Frankly, I think he was a little nutty.

Looking Up

Today in 1969, scientists got their first look at the moon rocks brought back by Apollo 11. Whenever the weather gets peculiar, restaurateur and philosopher Dick Brennan, Sr. says, “I’m telling you–they’ve got to put those rocks back on the moon.”

Eating Around The World

Today is independence day for the Netherlands,. In 1581, the country broke away from (strangely enough) Spain. The main contribution the Dutch made to the culinary world was in helping popularize the food of Indonesia, a Dutch colony for a long time. We don’t see too many Dutch chefs in New Orleans, but there is one of note: Hans Limberg, one of the Taste Buds who founded Semolina and Zea.

Food And Drink Namesakes

In 1952, Scott David Cook was born. He would later become CEO of the Intuit software company, which makes Quicken and TurboTax. . . Today is the feast day of George Swallowell, a Catholic martyr in the 1500s. . . Actor Chez Starbuck was born today in 1982.

Words To Eat By

“If the English can survive their food, they can survive anything.”–George Bernard Shaw, born today in 1856.

“When I roast a turkey I put a chicken in the oven, too. When the chicken is burned, the turkey is perfect!”–Gracie Allen, wife and co-star with George Burns of their long-running radio and television shows, born today in 1895.

Words To Drink By

“Champagne for everybody!”–Vivian Vance, upon learning that William Frawley, who played her husband Fred Mertz on “I Love Lucy,” had died. The two never got along. She was born today in 1902.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Two Things Men Care About Most.

They are in eternal conflict, unfortunately, as happiness waits and watches.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Tuesday, July 18, 2017. Twenty-One Years In Two Ways.
Today is the twenty-ninth anniversary of the launching of The Food Show. It’s a miracle in radio broadcasting that such a non-mainstream program would get on the air in the first place, let alone keep going with the same host and station all that time. It’s by quite a bit the longest-running show of any kind in New Orleans radio.

Mary Ann figures strongly in the show’s history. She hired me for the gig, and then made the mistake of going on a few dates with me. It was nine months before we were married, and things kept escalating until we were an actual family with kids.

Our first date was at a wine tasting in the Pontchartrain Hotel. That suggested to MA that we should have our celebratory dinner in the Caribbean Room. The place was nearly empty–but it is a Tuesday in early summer, one of the worst times of the year for restaurant volume. That probably explains the mildly lackluster performance of the kitchen. Dead times are the worst time for restaurants. Nobody can work up any enthusiasm.

We began with amuses-bouche of scallops and shrimp. Then an unusual salad with watermelon and a few other oddities. A seafood gumbo was the low point, which was followed by two recoveries: soft-shell shrimp (which are just like what you’d imagine, with skins so soft that you really could eat them whole. Also here was snapper Pontchartrain–with crabmeat on top, I’m sure you know.

My entree was dicey, I thought: a lamb loin, selling for $42. I was very pleased to find it tender, flavorful, and juicy. It came with an odd turnabout on bearnaise, creating in the end a very sharp–almost like horseradish–sauce.

A thought entered my mind that had never before entertained. Which will last longer: our marriage or our radio show. We plan on sticking together, and I have no plans to retired from the microphone. But at this stage, it wouldn’t be aberrant.

Okay, I thought. Stop. Let it go, because it’s still going and successful. I’m pretty sure.

Caribbean Room. Garden District & Environs: 2031 St. /Charles Ave. 504-323-1500.

Wednesday, July 19,2017. Sala, With No D.
The neighborhood of the New Orleans Marina has long hosted an array of restaurants, although there’s always been a good deal of coming and going. The restaurant that established the vicinity of Robert E. Lee at Pontchartrain Boulevard as a place to look for a meal was the long-gone Masson’s, a very good eatery in its day (the 1950s through the 1990s) and still fondly remembered. After that in longevity is Russell’s Marina Grill, a breakfast specialist ahead of its time.

Others include Wasabi (a long-running sushi bar), Two Tonys (Italian and seafood), Ming’s (a Chinese place) and the latest addition: Sala.

Sala took over the building that over the years has hosted a Ground Pat’i, a big Mexican outfit, and the second location of the Maple Street Café. Its Uptown location has done well for twenty years, but it was never the right concept for West End, and it shut down about a year ago.

Sala’s panneed chicken.

The current establishment comes to use from the family that owns the Peppermill and Café Navarre. And–now long ago but never forgotten–the Buck 49 Pancake and Steak House. The name “Sala” is Italian for “hallway,” with a suggestion of elegance. There’s not a lot of elegance here, but that wouldn’t fit the neighborhood anyway. Instead, we have a mixture of Italian and seafood here, in a place that still resembles the hybrid steakhouse it once was.

Mary Ann said she would meet me, but she changed her mind. I wound up ordering far too much food, starting with fresh-cut fries accompanied by an aioli and parmesan chees. I ate too many of those, but I couldn’t stop.

The soup of the day was potato and leek. Did they serve this hot or cold, I ask the server. She didn’t know. I accepted the hot version, which is certainly more popular than the better (especially this time of year) vichyssoise, which has the same ingredients served quite cold.

After that I had the panned chicken, cut into strips and rearranged as they were before they ere served. I asked to have this served not with the standard linguine, but angel hair with a spicy red sauce. I was happy to get no hesitation from the kitchen about this.

I was stuffed at this point, but for research purposes I tried the zeppole–little dense beignets with powdered sugar. I think I detected a little cinnamon or the like.

The owners, who were on the radio show a few weeks ago, say that things are going well. They certainly had a good crowd at the bar and also at most of the tables. Sala might be able to create a latter-day version of Masson’s.

Sala. West End & Bucktown: 124 Lake Marina Ave. 504-513-2670.

500BestSquareCoconut Creme Pie @ MeMe’s

DishStars-4
The story behind this classic, old-style ice box pie began when my wife went to MeMe’s for a business meeting and chef Lincoln Owens told her something about the pie. It’s not the kind of dessert she typically likes, and she doesn’t really like desserts to begin with. But she took a bite, and told the chef that it was the kind of thing that I would like. They packed a slice for me and Mary almost brought it home. In other words, she ate the whole thing on her way home. I would never get another taste of it until the night og July 24, 2017. MeMe’s had one of its quarterly wine dinners that evening, and Mary Ann joined me for it. Once again the chef offered a slice of the coconut pie and swore that she would save it all for me. Which she did, right before leaving to London. I finally got a taste of the pie, which is indeed very good and really, really rich. End of story. I wish I had remembered to take a photograph of it.

MeMe’s. St. Bernard Parish: 712 W. Judge Perez Dr. 504-644-4992.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Pastry Cream

Pastry cream is the made-from-scratch version of the canned Bavarian cream gunk you find in doughnuts and eclairs from inexpensive neighborhood bakeries. In more polished bakeries, pastry cream supplants bavarian creme. It’s used for things like ice box pies. Pastry cream is not difficult to make, except in one particular: it must be cooled very rapidly after you’re finished making it, because it’s highly prone to bacteria-caused spoilage. Follow Step Three to the letter.

  • 1 quart milk
  • 4 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 1 cup sugar

1. In a bowl, dissolve the cornstarch into 1 cup of milk. Beat the eggs and stir into the milk-cornstarch mixture. Stir in the vanilla.

2. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the remaining milk with the butter and sugar and bring it to a boil.

3. Whisk the reserved cornstarch-milk-egg mixture into the boiling milk. Continue whisking energetically until it returns to a boil and thickens. Remove from the heat, and keep whisking for another minute.

4. It is very important to cool the mixture as rapidly as possible. The best method is to spread it out on a clean metal sheet pan, cover it with plastic wrap, and put it into the coldest part of the refrigerator. Keep refrigerated until ready to use, but don’t freeze it.

Makes about a quart.

AlmanacSquare July 25, 2017

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest 11
Coolinary Summer Specials Begin 8 days from today

Today’s Flavor

This is International Antipasto Day. The word translates from the Italian as “before the repast,” and that’s just where you find it. Restaurants in Italy place it so far ahead of the main part of dinner that the antipasto is typically on a table just inside the front door. Here in New Orleans, most of us know antipasto as a plate of prosciutto, salami, cheeses, and olives, served ice-cold.


While all of those items are commonly found on an antipasto spread, the good ones go far beyond to include a wealth of marinated and fresh vegetables: eggplant several ways, mushrooms, asparagus, escarole, carrots, green beans, and whatever else is fresh. Seafood is also common, particularly cephalopods like squid and octopus. The common thread running through most of this is olive oil, along with garlic and herbs. All of this is served at cool room temperature, releasing maximum flavor and aroma.

When chefs with more recent ties to Italy began opening restaurants here, antipasto began diversifying. The two restaurants that offer the best versions are Andrea’s and Cafe Giovanni. Other Italian restaurants are expanding their selections. And you can buy a fine assortment of antipasto at stores with good gourmet-to-go sections. It’s a great first course, especially in these hot months.

The Web says that today is National Hot Fudge Sundae Day. The most famous hot fudge sundae routinely served around New Orleans is what the waiters call a Walgreen (but not officially) at Antoine’s. It’s a ring of meringue baked stiff, topped with vanilla ice cream, chopped nuts, and chocolate sauce.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Fishtown, Indiana is right on the west bank of the Ohio River, twenty-two miles downriver from downtown Louisville, Kentucky. (The river is the Indiana-Kentucky state line.) Fishtown is a distinct if small community, with a scattering of houses and barns in the surrounding woods, and some open fields right next to the river. Fishing is fairly good in the river, with smallmouth bass being the major player. If you don’t fish, see if you can score a boat to get across the river to the Louisville suburb of Valley Station, where a vast array of fast food places and a cafe called Christi’s are just on the other side.

Edible Dictionary

lox, n.–Cured salmon, usually sliced and served cool, most commonly with toasted bagels and cream cheese. The standard lox–also known as “belly lox”–is not smoked. Although many deli customers say that only this is true lox, the smoked kind has become much more popular. The most common is called Nova lox, for Nova Scotia, which once dominated the smoked salmon supply in Northeast America. The word comes from the old German word for salmon, and is found with different spellings across Northern Europe. Nova lox usually is less salty than belly lox, from being cured a shorter time in a milder brine solution.

Deft Dining Rule #229

An Italian restaurant must have at least ten varieties of antipasto if it is to be taken seriously as cooking faithfully to the cuisine.

Culinary Influences Through History

Today in 1805, former Vice-President Aaron Burr–killer of Alexander Hamilton and paragon of amorality–visited New Orleans with the idea of forming a new country out of the Louisiana Purchase territory. He would have made New Orleans its capital. I wonder what that would have been like. Founded by a complete rogue like Burr, such a thing held the promise of astounding intrigue. What a novel that would make! Hmm.

Food Inventions

The Japanese food company Ajinomoto, which makes about a third of the world’s monosodium glutamate (MSG), was organized today in 1908. One of its founders, Kikunae Ikeda, discovered that soup stocks made with the sea kelp konbu taste good because they contain MSG. He isolated the compound and patented it, thereby creating the basis for the company. MSG has a terrible reputation among consumers, even though no scientific tests have revealed that it causes any ill effects. Cooks have know of its flavor-enhancing properties for a long time. It is more widely used in Creole cooking than most people know.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers. His name translates as “Christ-bearer,” and he’s depicted as carrying the baby Jesus across the water. He likely was mythological. A restaurant in Slidell was once named for him: St. Christopher’s Curve Inn, on US 11 at the point where it swerved away from the railroad tracks, was where everybody stopped for a (bad) bite to eat through the 1970s. Famous local restaurateurs named for the saint include Chris Kerageorgiou, the founder of La Provence; and Chris Matulich, who opened Chris Steak House (and later sold it to Ruth). Both have left us. Chris Vodanovich, who ran Bozo’s for over fifty years, is still with us, but retired. Chris Ycaza manages Broussard’s. Christopher Case is the owner-chef of Christopher’s on Carey in Slidell. I’m sure there are more.

People I’d Like To Dine With Again

The high point of my father’s life. He hit a hole-in-one in an organized tournament in City Park Course #1. That’s him being recognized for this in the center. The unmistakable Joe Gemelli is at left. I don’t know who the other guy is, but if you know I’d love it if you would tell me. I have his hole-in-one on the windowsill next to my desk, to inspire me.

This would be the 107th birthday of Joseph Fitzmorris, my father. He never went to restaurants, but he did have strong ideas about food. He pointed out how much better a poor boy sandwich becomes when the bread is warmed. He had a passion for pasta with brown sauces, which my mother never would make for him for some reason. He loved marrow bones. . . . Also having a birthday today is Clark Marter, The Gourmet Truck Driver. He found my radio show about twenty years ago when the station was left on by the previous driver of his eighteen-wheeler. He’s listened ever since, frequently calls in, has come to a few Eat Club dinners, and will be joining us on the Caribbean cruise next February. Clark is the great-nephew of trumpet great Harry James.

Music To Dine Noisily By

Bob Dylan was booed off the stage at the Newport Jazz Festival today in 1965. He dared to appear with an electric, amplified guitar rather than his customary acoustic equipment. It doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but I wish it were. Why do musicians feel the need to play so loudly? This is true in virtually every place where live music is played, but especially in restaurants. It’s always too loud.

Food Namesakes

The movie about the racehorse Seabiscuit premiered today in 2003. . . Harold Peary, who portrayed The Great Gildersleeve on classic radio and in movies, was born today in 1908. He was a serious gourmet and quite a good singer, but he was best known for his mischievous laugh. . . Bob Lemon became the manager of the Yankees today in 1978. (Second consecutive day that Lemon turned up here.) . . .Relief pitcher Larry Sherry, the MVP of the 1959 World Series, relieved his mother today in 1959.

Words To Eat By

“Always serve too much hot fudge sauce on hot fudge sundaes. It makes people overjoyed, and puts them in your debt.”–Judith Olney, American food writer.

Words To Drink By

“I rather like bad wine. One gets so bored with good wine.”–Benjamin Disraeli, prime minister of England in the late 1800s.

FoodFunniesSquare

Pet Store Rules, Food Department.

They’re simple and obvious, but that doesn’t meen that the dogs in particular will hold back from following these rules for more than a few seconds.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Sunday, July 16, 2017. Trimming.
I grab my big pipe wrench and bend the metal back from the clipping shield blades in my tractor/mower. The blades seem to be out of the way of the shield, but I don’t have time to check it out–it’s radio showtime. Just two hours on the air today, and the audience seems to be aloof.

Even though the sun is beaming down hard upon me, there is enough chance of rain for me not to risk waiting until the heat dwindles a bit. The last few days have brought heatstroke weather.

The mower works fine. A wheel occasionally falls into the many big holes in the lawn, but only two of these incidents bring me to the brink of getting stuck in the hole. I wind up trimming all the acreage between the gravel road and the Cool Water Ranch House. But those holes really throw me around. The grass was so high that I failed to see the holes until it was too late to avoid them. Despite all that, I wind up with the second full lawnmowing this season accomplished.

Mary Ann declares her appetite for dinner. We go to Zea for the first time in many weeks. Zea somehow lives without our former regularity as patrons. Meanwhile, the Taste Buds have closed down their most recent concept Mizado. The restaurant at the corner of Metairie and the I-10 will become a Zea in the next couple of months. The effort to reinvent Mexican cookery in our area continues to be less than successful. Johnny Sanchez seems to be making progress in one sense, and lowering its creative aims at the same time. Where, for example, is the molé poblano? I mean, other than as a daily special?

Back at Zea, I return to my favorites: the tomato-basil bisque, the crab cakes, and ice cream for dessert.

Yes, it was a rather dull weekend.

Monday, July 17, 2017. Chinese Cooking, Old Style.
I can’t remember how long it’s been since the Egg Roll House opened a block or two from Lakeside Mall. So I asked the owners, who was the guest in our three-o’clock hour of the radio show. He says that the restaurant has been there since 1983. That is quite a long time for a place that started out as a doughnut shop, then a basic drive-through Chinese place, and later (but at least twenty years ago) a place where you can eat sushi. Indeed, for many years people often called to tell me that the best sushi in town was to be had at the Egg Roll House. I tried that a few times and found it better than I would have guessed, but not exceptional. This was also true of the Chinese cooking, but the main goal of the place is clear: to serve inexpensive basic Chinese-American dishes at a low price in large portions. You know what you have when the most popular dish in the house is combination fried rice.

But what a location!

I hosted this show from the Cool Water Ranch as I usually do on Monday, even though. NPAS has not begun its schedule of rehearsals yet, and I could go into town if necessary. The truth is, I’d rather be singing.

Eggroll House. Metairie: 3507 Veterans Blvd. 504-887-9364.

Emeril’s Delmonico–which has been a full house every time I’ve been there lately–has rolled out its summer menu. All of Emeril’s New Orleans restaurants have special warm-season events going on, since the first of July. They continue until the end of August.

As is always the case, this menu is not just a gathering of existing fare, but an entirely new collection of dishes. The price for the three-course is $45, which places it five to ten dollars higher than the Coolinary specials we’ll see on August 1. But I’d also say that there’s a little more here than there. On the menus below, the wines listed incur a $40 upcharge, which sends three paired wines, one with each course. A lot of thought went into these choices. This is a five-fleur dinner, all right.

Gnochetti Pasta Al Ragu
Italian sausage, San Marzano tomatoes, zucchini, and fresh ricotta. Cooper Mountain Pinot Noir, Willamette ’13
~or~

Watermelon Feta Salad
Delmonico capicollo, young arugula, toasted, pistachio, sweet basil, aged balsamic
Crémant d’Alsace Rosé sparkling, Dopff & Irion N/V
~or~

Shrimp, Crab, and Mirliton Bisque
Roederer Estate Brute Sparkling N/V
~~~~~

Fried Oyster Bordelaise
Fresh linguine, artichoke, mushrooms, charred tomato, parmesan
Cambria Chardonnay, Santa Maria Balley ’14
~or~

Hanger Steak Marchand De Vin
Sautéed spinach, shoestring potatoes
Justin, Paso Robles ’14
~or~

Bourbon Braised Pork Shank
Bacon-smothered green beans, sweet potato grits, Alabama peach
Bodegas Ysios Rioja Reserva ’11
~~~~~

Vanilla Panna Cotta
Sautéed stone fruit, almond streusel
Blees Ferber Riesling Auslese, Mosel ’06
~or~

Turtle Sundae
Caramel ice cream, pecan brownie, chocolate sauce
Smith Woodsmith, LBV Port ’02


Delmonico. Garden District: 1300 St Charles Ave. 504-525-4937.

AlmanacSquare July 24, 2017

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest 12
Coolinary Summer Specials Begin 8days from today

Annals Of Gelato

Today is the anniversary of the 1905 opening of Angelo Brocato’s ice cream parlor. Brocato began a career of making ice cream in his native Palermo when he was twelve. He immigrated to New Orleans in the early 1900s, and set about realizing a dream: to open his own gelateria as fine as the ones he remembered in Sicily. He did that with a classic parlor on Ursulines Street in the French Quarter in 1905.

The original Angelo Brocato’s remained there until the 1980s, when it moved to North Carrollton Avenue just off Canal. By that time the business was in the third generation of the Brocato family, and had become the gold standard for its spumone, cannoli, cassata, lemon ice, cookies, and dozens of other confections. They were in the throes of celebrating their one hundredth anniversary when the storm came, flooded their parlor and factory deeply. Brocato’s came back, though, picking up right where it left off, to the great delight of ice cream lovers.

Drinking Calendar

Today is National Tequila Day. Tequila is growing in popularity every year, thanks largely to the many new tequilas hitting the market with their many claims to excellence. The best tequila is made by distilling the fermented juice of the blue agave, a desert plant that grows in Mexico and the Southwest United States. (Cheaper tequilas are not always made entirely from agave.) As is true of the better Cognacs, Scotches, and Bourbons, the quality factor in tequila comes from selecting which agave from which locations are used, how carefully the distillation process is, and how long the spirit is aged. As better tequilas come along, aficionados of the stuff grow ever more enthusiastic and particular. And tequila gets ever more expensive. It’s not unheard of for super-premium tequilas going for $50 a shot. I think we’ve been fooled into thinking this is worthwhile.

Edible Dictionary

caffe latte, [LAH-tay], Italian, n.–In Italy, this method of serving coffee blends strong coffee with hot milk. It’s virtually identical to French and New Orleans cafe au lait. Caffe latte is most commonly drunk with breakfast in Italy, and at no other time. In this country, the term has come to represent something well along the way to cappuccino. The coffee for American caffe latte is espresso, and the milk is foamed. The Italians call this concoction caffe macchiato.

The new-style American coffeehouses of the past couple of decades made this variety of caffe latte so popular that it’s usually ordered with just the word “latte.” That means “milk” in Italian. If you order “latte” in Italy, you get a glass of milk. In any case, and I hate to say it, but theirs is better than ours. No place in the world makes better coffee of any kind than what is found in Italian.

Gourmet Gazetteer

There are two Fry Pan Creeks in Idaho. This one is at the base of the panhandle, in the mountainous Nez Perce National Forest, less than ten miles west of the Continental Divide. The creek drains a small lake at 7114 feet, then descends 3400 feet in seven miles to Cub Creek. All of this is in the headwaters of the Snake River, the major tributary of the Columbia. You are far away from civilization on Fry Pan Creek, although you might catch some fish in it. The nearest restaurant is a strenuous twenty-five-mile hike over the Divide to Darby, Montana. There you find not only Trapper’s Restaurant, but a golf club and resort.

Annals Of Food Writing

This is the birthday, in 1802, of the French writer Alexandre Dumas. Although he is best known for his famous stories The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, he also write extensively about food and wine. His great work in that field was Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine, in which he not only held forth in numerous articles about the art of eating, but also had copious notes about wines.

Food And Politics

Today in 1959, Richard Nixon (then the Vice-President) and Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev had a heated discussion while touring a kitchen in Moscow. The event became known as the Kitchen Debate, and kicked up a lot of favorable publicity for Nixon. In an unrelated coincidence fifteen years later on this same date, Nixon was ordered by the Supreme Court to turn over sixty-four subpoenaed White House tapes.

Annals Of Bad Coffee

Nescafe, the first commercially successful instant coffee, hit the Swiss market today in 1938. The process took eight months for the Nestle Company to get right. What happens is that brewed coffee is sprayed into a heated stainless-steel cylinder, where all the water evaporates and crystals of coffee are left behind. This is something like letting your coffee dry up to a crust at the bottom of the pot (and we’ve all done this), then adding water to it and swirling it around till the crust dissolved again. Why anyone would buy that strictly for the slight convenience advantage is incomprehensible.

Food Namesakes

Bob Lemon, a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, hit two home runs today in 1949. Unusual for a pitcher to hit one homer a year, let alone two in one game. . . John Partridge, British actor and singer best known for his performance in Cats, was born today in 1971. . . Banana Yoshimoto, a Japanese novelist, was born today in 1964. Her real name is Mahoko.

Words To Eat By

Today is the birthday, in 1842, of Ambrose Bierce, an American satirical writer whose book The Devil’s Dictionary has provided us with more than a few quotations for this department. Among them:

“Cabbage, n.: A familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man’s head.”

“Chop, n.: A piece of leather skillfully attached to a bone and administered to the patients at restaurants.”

“Custard, n.: A detestable substance produced by a malevolent conspiracy of the hen, the cow and the cook.”

“Edible, adj.: Good to eat and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm.”

“Fork, n.: An instrument used chiefly for the purpose of putting dead animals into the mouth.”

“Mayonnaise, n.: One of the sauces which serve the French in place of a state religion.”

“Rarebit, n.: A Welsh rabbit, in the speech of the humorless, who point out that it is not a rabbit. To whom it may be solemnly explained that the comestible known as toad-in-the-hole is really not a toad, and that ris de veau à la financière is not the smile of a calf prepared after the recipe of a she-banker.”

Words To Drink By

“One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.”–George Carlin.

FoodFunniesSquare

How Naps Fit In At A Barbecue.

Barbecue is, as we know in this enlightened age, requires a mix of slow cooking time and low temperatures in the pit. But depending on the chef, this may or may not allow a relaxed style of enjoyment.

Click here for the cartoon.

EatClubSquare

Upcoming Eat Club Dinners
Lakehouse In Mandeville
Scroll down for details, menus, reservation form, list of reservations and general info about the Eat Club.

Click here to reserve.

The Lakehouse has a long history. It went up on the Mandeville lakefront in the 1840s, and became a restaurant in the 1890s. It’s been that ever since. After repairs of hurricane and fire damage in the past decade, the big two-story house is beautiful, with an expansive view of Lake Pontchartrain. Cayman Sinclair, who has been involved in major North Shore dining for over 20 years, has kept up the historic look while Chef Marlon Hornsby pushes ahead with the Lakehouse’s cuisine. It’s decidedly up to date, but at the same time familiar. The Eat Club will show just how good the Lakehouse is with a dinner on Thursday, July 27. Four courses of classy eats with paired wines, to wit:

U-10 Sea Scallops
English peas, pickled tomatoes, brown-butter croutons, and soft fresh herbs

Louisiana Crawfish Arancini
Fried croquettes of bread crumbs, Parmigiano cheese, Crystal hot sauce butter, celery, preserved lemon. Italian parsley

New York Strip Sirloin Steak
Painted Hills Ranch. Ember-roasted turnips, smoked eggplant puree, crispy leeks, chimichurri butter, Burgundy wine reduction

Dark Chocolate Pâté
Blueberry coulis, spiced pecan-rum butter

The dinner begins around seven, so we can see the sun set. If you arrive late, no problem. Dress is casual. If the weather is really nice, we may decide to serve outdoors on the lawn. The price is $80, inclusive of tax, tip, and wines. You will pay by credit card when you arrive. Reservations are essential; click here to do that. Please let us know a day in advance if you must cancel. The restaurant is at 2025 Lakeshore Drive in Mandeville, a half-block from Girod Street.

RESERVATIONS
If you made a reservation and your name doesn’t appear below, give it another day or two. I track this info manually. If it’s been more than a week, write me at tom@nomenu.com. That’s also the address for questions.

Gavel 2
Albert 2
Baptiste 2
Roubion 2
Berry 1
Juan 2
Estopinal 2
Dauterive 2
Bentivegna 4
Johnson 2
Havener 2
Lousteau 2
Hughes 2
Favret 2

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Saturday, July 15, 2017. A Second Dinner Unearths Steaks and More Crab & Corn Soup at Due North.

A typical Saturday, with a radio show from noon until three p.m. At its end, I attempt to mow the Cool Water Ranch’s three acres. I get the tractor started easily enough, it’s not long before I run the tractor into a cypress knee. Those things are so solidly in the earth that this one stopped the tractor and its engine cold. Trying to fix it, I find that the shield around the cutting blades has been bend, and the blades are hitting it. The only good news about this is that I have had it happen twice in the past, and I know exactly what to do. But I wasn’t going to do it this day, what with rain coming.

After my afternoon crean-up rituals, I address the matter of dinner with Mary Ann, subject to the usual differences in appetites. I thought I could move the process along by suggesting that we revisit the Legacy Kitchen. Mary Ann is already on record as liking the place, and it’s almost brand-new. She can also satisfy her preference for outdoor dining here. It’s a little warm, but tolerable. And we needed a place where Mary Leigh’s dog Bauer can be tied up next to our table. The unusual-looking pooch (hard to explain; I’ll run a photo of him someday) likes to cross the lake to go swimming in the lake.

This Legacy Kitchen is nicknamed Due North. It’s also familiar to a lot of Northshorinians: until a few weeks ago, it was the former N’Tini’s. Of course, it’s too soon to review Due North. I’m sure things will change over the months. On the other hand, we’re going for Menu One for tomes when I’m dining with the Marys.

First, cheese fries to go with an unusual, fruity martini that even the Marys like. I am geting it to memorialize the many classic martinis I had at N’Tini’s, back in the days when I was still drinking those.

Next, it’s tortilla chips with blue cheese. Now corn and crab soup. I had forgotten that this was the soup of the day when we were here a few days ago. Then a big, green salad of the kind ML loves.

We have two standard entrees on the menu. One of them is roasted chicken with a sauce that looks Mexican but isn’t. I couldn’t figure what it was supposed to be. I do know that it was not supposed to be served at cool room temperature.

Mary Ann had the most impressive dish of the evening. Legacy Kitchen has adoped steaks as a specialty, and here was filet of substantial size, tender enough for even my teeth, and bathed in enough sauce to keep it from bring just a steak.

It was a pleasant evening despite the few defects. And, again I tell you, the place just opened.

Legacy Kitchen (Due North). Mandeville: 2981 US 190. 985-626-5566.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Creole Tartar Sauce

There’s no reason why tartar sauce should come from a jar. Whenever we make anything that a tartar sauce will complement, I make a small batch that will be used soon. I never do it the same way twice, but this should give you an idea about the possibilities. This one gets an added zip from cayenne, sweetness from tomatoes, and the unique exotic flavor of capers.

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbs. tomatoes, skin, seeds, and pulp removed, chopped
  • 1/2 Tbs. very small capers
  • 1 tsp. sweet relish, drained
  • 1 tsp. dill relish, drained
  • 1/2 tsp. horseradish
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice, strained
  • Cayenne pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients an hour or two before serving to allow flavors to combine.
Makes about a cup.

500BestSquareBennachin (Jambalaya) @ Bennachin

DishStars_3
For over twenty-five years, the restaurant Bennachin has served the food of central Africa–one of the major ancient homelands of Creole cooking. The restaurant is named for its signature dish–a rice-based plateful that passes for jambalaya. In fact, bennachin is the forerunner of jambalaya. It’s different from any other version you’ve had–but then, isn’t that the story of all jambalayas? They’ll make it with almost anything you ask to have included, and you can specify the heat level. Tomatoes, onions, and peppers come standard.

Bennachin. French Quarter: 1212 Royal. 504-522-1230.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare July 21, 2017

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest 15

Today’s Flavor

Today is allegedly National Junk Food Day, but does that really make it stand out from all the other days on the calendar? We all get hooked by some kind of junk food at some time in our lives. The makers of the stuff know exactly what flavors, colors, and textures address subconscious desires. We’re hard-wired to like sweet food, for example. And high-fat foods. It doesn’t care what kind of sweet or fat it is. So we get trans-fat emulsified with high-fructose corn syrup. Pure garbage.

And we don’t just like it. We develop attachments to certain junk foods, and feel we must be loyal to them. Some people will get mad when I say that this applies to doughnuts. Sno-balls. Candy bars. Fried pies (i.e., Hubig’s). Most hamburgers and most fries. Rationally, we shouldn’t eat any of that stuff. It’s not good for you. Nor does it even taste good–not as good as food made with good ingredients in careful ways. A little bit of good eats gives a lot more satisfaction than a lot of junk.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Winesap is a farming country crossroads in hilly central Kentucky. It’s eighty-four miles south of Louisville. The place is certainly named for the apples that grow in that part of the country. It’s not far away from the Green River–a major tributary of the Ohio–and Mammoth Cave National Park. Beautiful countryside around there. The nearest restaurant to Winesap is Cub Run Cave, five miles west.

Ruined Picnics Through History

On this date in 1861, the first major battle of the Civil War was fought at Manassas Junction. It’s also known as the Battle of Bull Run Creek. So certain were the Unionists that the U.S. Army would rout the Confederates that people actually dressed up and went to the battle site with picnic lunches to watch it. In fact, it was a decisive victory for the South, and gave General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson his nickname.

Edible Dictionary

entomatada, [en-TOE-mah-TAH-dah], Spanish, n.–A soft tortilla, usually made of corn masa meal, rolled up around a filling of cheeses, chicken, shredded or dry beef or pork. The meats are combined with a light sauces of tomatoes, hence the name. It’s the same idea as an enchilada, but with tomatoes instead of chili. As with enchiladas, usually two or three make up a plate.

Food In Literature

Francis Parkinson Keyes (pronounced “kize”) was born today in 1885. She wrote, among many other things, Dinner At Antoine’s. As a result of that book’s popularity, New York food writer Lucius Beebe suggested to the Brennans that they create Breakfast at Brennan’s, which they did. Back to Keyes: the house at the corner of Chartres and Ursulines is named for her.

Ernest Hemingway, whose books always include lots of eating and drinking (because he enjoyed both himself), was born today in 1899. Indeed, in a recent re-reading of A Farewell To Arms, I was struck by the sheer quantity of booze the characters ingested. I couldn’t have kept up with them.

Music To Eat At Little Tables By

One of my favorite girl singers, Kay Starr, was born today in 1922. She was a stunning woman with a powerful voice–a real belter with a jazzy, original style and a great vibrato. She had a bunch of big hits in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but didn’t cross over into the rock era. She’s still singing, I think. . . ¶ I wonder if she’s ever confused with Kenneth Starr, who wasted a lot of time and money going after Bill Clinton in the 1990s. It’s also his birthday today, in 1946. He doesn’t sing nearly as well.

Food Around The World

This is the national holiday of Belgium, commemorating the 1831 crowning of that country’s first king, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. Throughout history, Belgians have joked with a sigh of resignation about their having been conquered and run over by just about every neighboring country, both before and after their independence. In 1831, they rose up against their Dutch rulers, and for a change most of its other neighbors–notably France–were on its side.

From a culinary perspective, Belgium is the most underrated country in Europe. It’s restaurants are mostly French in style, although the Flemish (Dutch) influence makes it distinctive. Not only is Brussels full of great eateries, but other towns–including the smallest ones–show off marvelous dining possibilities.

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Victor of Marseilles. He is one of the patron saints of flour millers. He’s also the patron of cabinetmakers, and where would our kitchens be without them?

Food Namesakes

Barry “The Bean” Whitwam, one of the original members of Herman’s Hermits, was born today in 1946. I think he’s still in the band (which is still performing). . . Sam Bass, a train robber in the 1870s, was born today in 1851. . . Taco Ockerse, a Dutch singer and stage actor, was born in Indonesia today in 1955. He usually goes by just his first name.

Words To Eat By

The key dietary messages are stunningly simple: Eat less, move more, eat more fruits and vegetables, and don’t eat too much junk food. It’s no more complicated than that.”–Marion Nestle, author of the book What To Eat.

Words To Drink By

“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”–Ernest Hemingway, born today in 1899.

FoodFunniesSquare

Do Nice Restaurants Finish Last?

Have you ever noticed how many of the hottest restaurants seem to expect you to follow their rules? Why are the places who are nicest to their customers often regarded as unhip?

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, July 14, 2017. Daniel Bonnot Visits For the First Time in Years. Dinner at Brigtsen’s.

The contenders for the title of Best Native French Chef, With Accent And All, New Orleans Limited, are as follows:

Daniel Bonnot
Gerard Crozier
Roland Huet
Rene Bajeux
Claude Aubert

Of these, only two are still alive, and only one is still cooking. Daniel Bonnot is the one not in a restaurant, and he says that he does not plan to return to that real work ever again. Since he landed in New Orleans in 1970 to build out the first menu of Louis XVI, he has cheffed his own places three times: Chez Daniel (on Metairie Road), 701 (where Herbsaint is now) and Tour Eiffel (across from the Pontchartrain. After those acts ended, he had a wonderful gig in France, where for years he gave cooking and immersion programs in a chateau for a number of years.

In other words, it has been a nice life for Daniel, as even he admits. But that still doesn’t mean that he’s any more eager to get back to work.

He shared all these outlooks and then some during a visit on the radio show today. Daniel is a bon vivant as much as he is anything else. Suffice it to say that we could have talked for hours. Daniel is one of the few people who has been omnipresent throughout my career as a food writer, and the subject of many thousands of my words. If I ever start on a memoir, he’d be near the front of it.

Daniel went off to some event or other. My dining plans fell through when the radio show ended. After taking a nap in my chair (and explaining to colleague at the radio station how I do that) I headed up Magazine Street, knowing full well that nothing will inspire me. When I reached the Riverbend area, I mentally took inventory of the nearby restaurants. We are getting into the slow season for eateries, I mused. I wondered what my luck would be like in a long shot.

The best table at Brigtsen’s, some say.

Brigtsen’s is so well known–not merely to locals, but to visitors to our city from all over the country–that it’s not a place I’d ordinarily attempt without a reservation. But tonight there was magic. A table was emptying as I arrived, and the next occupants were late. Marna Brigtsen–who manages the dining room as if it were in her own home and you were a lifetime friend–had the perfect table for me, in the corner of the front room. “Best table in the house!” Marna said.

Also advantageous at this table were three others whose occupants wanted to talk with me about the usual thing. In an unanimous vote these neighbors and I agreed that if eating delicious food is the goal, this is the arena to play in.

The server gave me the rundown of today’s offerings. A bisque made with chanterelle mushrooms kicked it off. What a wonderful delicacy that is–but no surprise from Frank, who has a thing for bisques and turns them out brilliantly.

Veal sweetbreads @ Brigtsen’s.

I followed that with a rustic scattering of seared veal sweetbreads. That was the peak of the evening, prepared without sauce (maybe there was a glaze) and sliced just the right size for the rich morsels. I can’t recall whether I’ve had that variety meat at Brigtsen’s before, but at this moment I can’t think of a better serving.

Nor could I recall having had a steak at Brigtsen’s in a long time. (That one was blackened prime ribs, decades ago.) The sauce was composed of demi-glace in a marchand de vin sauce with a scattering of tasso. Everything about this plate stood up.

Filet mignon with marchand de vin sauce and the tiniest onion rings in town.

The dessert was distinctive. It looked like a standard creme brulee, but it had two differences: 1) The custard was very light, almost flowing; and b) There was no bruleed sugar across the top. Maybe it sank to the bottom, which it could have. Whatever else could be said, it was lovely.

I think I’ll make a list of restaurants that are so good that it’s a shame I don’t patronize them often. The reason in this case (and others) is that Brigtsen’s is so consistent and excellent that I don’t have to check it often. I could have written everything I just wrote five years ago, without changes beyond a few details. I think I’ll stop in more often before the summer is out.

Riverbend: 723 Dante. 504-861-7610.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Chef Goffredo’s Crabmeat Ravioli

La Riviera was among the best Italian restaurants ever to open in New Orleans. Chef Goffredo Fraccaro created it in 1972 after a few years cheffing a too-grand, unsuccessful Italian restaurant in the French Quarter. His new place was much more ambitious than most local Italian places, and once people got used to the idea of eating an Italian dinner that might not include red sauce and anise-flavored sausage, it became a long-running favorite. It lasted until Hurricane Katrina, after which Goffredo–then in his eighties–retired.

This dish was his most famous, and triggered imitators all over town. It won the 1980 International Crabmeat Olympics in San Francisco. For most of Goffredo’s customers, a dinner at La Riviera wouldn’t have been complete without a starter of this fantastic dish.

It’s best made with homemade pasta dough, which requires a pasta machine. The Atlas machine is the best–an inexpensive, manual gizmo that rolls out pasta to the ideal thinness. You could do it with a roller by hand, but not as well as the machine does. The pasta dough recipe here doesn’t use eggs–Goffredo never did for this, saying the lack of eggs made the pasta lighter. You could buy fresh pasta sheets at the supermarket if you’re not inclined to make your own. One thing you will need is a ravioli form. It’s inexpensive, from a restaurant supply or cookware stores. It makes the assembly much easier and keeps the ravioli size uniform, which makes the final boiling more exact.

Clockwise from bottom left: Goffredo Fraccaro, Warren Leruth, Chris Kerageorgiou, Frank Levy, Phil Johnson.

Lunch with three of New Orleans’s best chefs in 1970s.Clockwise from bottom left: Goffredo Fraccaro, Phil Johnson, Frank Levy, Warren Leruth, Chris Kerageorgiou.

  • Pasta dough:
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. clarified butter
  • Crabmeat stuffing:
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 6 Tbs. softened butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 lb. lump or white crabmeat
  • 1/4 cup very thinly snipped green onion, tender green parts only
  • 1/2 cup cracker crumbs (from unsalted crackers, ground fine in a food processor)
  • 1/4 cup finely (and freshly) grated parmesan cheese
  • Sauce:
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. The easiest way to make the pasta dough is to use a big mixer with a dough hook, but it can also be made by hand. Combine all the pasta ingredients in a bowl and stir to blend. Add 1/2 cup of water and stir until all the flour is wet. If necessary, add no more than one Tbs. more water.

2. If using a mixer, mix the dough using the dough hook until it’s uniformly smooth and damp. It should not be even a little sticky. If making the dough by hand, knead the dough on a clean countertop until smooth. Let the dough rest for about an hour.

3. Pull off a piece of dough about the size of a tennis ball. Run it through the pasta machine a couple of times at about the #6 thickness. Then go down to #3 for a couple of passes, and finally down to #2 once followed by one pass at #1–the thinnest. Dust the rolled pasta sheets with all-purpose flour and set aside, covered with a clean, damp cloth. Repeat until all the pasta is rolled. Extra pasta can be separated with plastic wrap, packed in a food storage bag, and either refrigerated or frozen.

4. To make the sauce, bring the whipping cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Reduce it by about a third. Keep an eye on that pan! Cream can foam up like crazy!

5. Reserve a tablespoon of the butter, and whisk the rest into the reduced cream. Remove the pan from the heat and add the crabmeat. Stir very gently to mix the crabmeat with the cream sauce.

6. Heat the reserved tablespoon of butter in a medium skillet over medium-low heat until the butter bubbles. Add the green onions and cook until limp. Remove from the heat.

7. Add the crabmeat mixture, the cracker crumbs, and parmesan cheese to the skillet, and stir lightly with a spoon until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.

8. Move the crabmeat mixture into a bowl and refrigerate until distinctly cool.

9. To make the ravioli, place the bottom (metal) part of the ravioli form over a sheet of pasta, and with a knife cut all the way around. Make twelve sheets this way.

10. Turn over the bottom ravioli form, and fit a sheet of pasta into it. Use the top (plastic) part to push the pasta sheet down to form pockets. Put about a tablespoon of the crabmeat mixture into each pocket. Brush the exposed pasta lightly with water.

11. Place another sheet of pasta over the first one. Turn the plastic part of the form over (depressions pointing down), and use it to press the top pasta sheet onto the bottom. Push down hard.

12. With a knife, slice the individual ravioli apart. Cover with a clean damp cloth while finishing the rest of the ravioli.

13. To make the sauce, bring the whipping cream to a simmer in a saucepan and reduce by half. Make sure it doesn’t foam over. When reduced, add the butter, salt, cayenne, and white pepper. Whisk to combine and remove from heat, but keep warm.

14. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Drop in the ravioli and cook for five minutes. Drain, then toss with the cream sauce. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Serves 12 appetizers or six entrees.

500BestSquareLemon Ice Box Pie @ Clancy’s

DishStars_3
All of Clancy’s desserts are understated and simple. No flaming, no spun sugar, hardly even any layers. This nice little tart is the restaurant’s most talked-about ending course. Simple, but perfect: a lovely little pie with a rich custard and the ideal lemon component to balance off the sugar. Very good with a glass of Sauternes or Auslese.

Clancy’s. Uptown: 6100 Annunciation. 504-895-1111.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare July 20, 2017

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest 15

Food Calendar

Today is National Creme Brulee Day. Creme brulee is an enriched version of caramel custard, with the caramel transferred from the bottom of the baking dish to the top, in the form of a crust of lightly browned sugar. That’s the brulee part; the word means “burned.” Sometimes it is. The texture of the crust varies greatly. Some makers have a granular topping; in other places, the sugar melts and then re-solidified with a glassy quality. If you encounter one of those, be careful. A shard of this crust cut the inside of my mouth badly once.

The creme brulee concept goes back to at least the 1600s in France. Originally, a white-hot poker pulled from the fire was used to brulee the top. The custard is made with cream instead of the milk used for caramel custard. That keeps it from setting completely. A well-made creme brulee will flow, if very thickly and slowly. The first New Orleans restaurant to serve creme brulee in modern times was Arnaud’s. Now creme brulee has supplanted caramel custard in most of its former range.

Looking Up

This is Moon Day, the day Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon in 1969. A historic event of great importance but few repercussions. What do we do, foodwise? Eat a Moon Pie? The old Charlie’s Delicatessen used to make a muffuletta-like sandwich called “The Moon,” but Charlie’s did not cross over the fold in our history made by Katrina.

Annals Of Oenophilia

Max Zander was born today in 1920. He was the longtime head of Heritage House, New Orleans’ biggest wine wholesaler. Decades before fine wine made its way onto the tables of the mainstream local populace, Max was hosting wine classes, wine dinners and tastings, inspiring people to enhance their lives with good wine. He was accessible and likable, never displaying a hint of the snobbery that scares so many people away from wine. He was as quick to recommend affordable wines as the world’s best. He knew about it all, and shared his knowledge, sophistication, love of life, and friendship with anyone who wanted it. He passed away in 2009, leaving behind a legacy of wine appreciation matched by nobody else in our city.

Annals Of Cheese

On this date in 1801, a thankful Elisha Brown Jr., a farmer, made a ball of cheese weighing nearly a ton. He delivered it to Thomas Jefferson. The president found it overripe. . . More important to us today is what Jesse Williams did at his farm in Rome, New York on this date in 1851. He created the first American cheese factory. Its cheese was uniform in texture, color, and flavor, very much unlike Elisha Brown’s cheeseball, which was made (as most large cheeses were) by pressing many small cheeses together.

Roots Of Our Cuisine

Yugoslavia was born today in 1917. The Pact of Corfu among the Slovenes, Croatians, and Serbs united their countries into one. It didn’t work in the long term, and now each of those groups has its own country again. During much of the history of Drago’s restaurant, it claimed to serve Yugoslavian food. Now it doesn’t, but it does claim Croatian roots.

Edible Dictionary

speckled trout, n.–The common name used along the Gulf coast for what the fish experts call “spotted seatrout.” It’s not a member of the trout family (true trout are freshwater fish in the salmon family), but are related to drumfish. (They actually do make a drumming sound when they’re spawning.) Most specimens are between one and three pounds, although they can grow larger. Its flesh is just off white and very flaky. It is considered a prize catch for eating by fishermen. For over a century it was the favorite fish in New Orleans white-tablecloth restaurants. Overfishing and the resulting over-zealous laws restricted the commercial catch so much that speckled trout has become a rarity in New Orleans. The greatest availability on menus is in late fall into early spring.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Soup Creek runs into a reservoir in one of the uppermost stretches of the Missouri River nineteen miles northeast of Helena, Montana. It rises on the south slope of Hogback Mountain at 7000 feet. Then its water travels twenty miles, dropping 3500 feet, before entering the Missouri to begin its long journey to New Orleans. It’s a seven-mile hike from the end of Soup Creek to a place that can serve a bowl of soup: the Red Fix Inn, in the suburbs of Helena.

Food Namesakes

Paul Cook, the drummer of the Sex Pistols, was born today in 1956. . . .The Champagne Lady, Jo Ann Campbell, who appeared on most of Lawrence Welk’s TV shows, was born today in 1938. . . American novelist Thomas Berger opened his first page today in 1924. . . .German actor Kurt Raab sprouted today in 1941. (Raab is another name for the vegetable broccoli di rape.)

Words To Eat By

“Banish the onion from the kitchen and the pleasure flies with it. Its presence lends color and enchantment to the most modest dish; its absence reduces the rarest delicacy to hopeless insipidity, and dinner to despair.”–Elizabeth Robbins Pennell, American writer, 1855-1936.

Words To Drink By

“The relationship between a Russian and a bottle of vodka is almost mystical.”–Richard Owen, British zoologist, born today in 1804.

FoodFunniesSquare

Adjusting To The Taste Of The Chef.

His language may not mean the same thing to you as it does to him.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Thursday, July 13, 2017. Public Service, Three Days Old. Mary Ann and I were to have dinner tonight, with my choice of venues. But as the radio show went off, she called back to rescind that offer, because she and Mary Leigh were already seated in the bar of a three-day-old restaurant.

It’s called Public Service. Clever name, that–taken from the common moniker of New Orleans Public Service Inc., the company that owned the electric, gas, and transit services in New Orleans for a century.

NOPSI was its nickname. Its headquarters were a big building on Baronne Street where everyone who lived in New Orleans proper would turn up sooner or later. You would pay your electricity and gas bills there, usually after a long wait in line. You’d buy bus tokens. And you’d find a rack of pamphlets on every imaginable subject having to do with home life in New Orleans. Among these pamphlets were hundreds of recipes that were held in such high esteem that Energy–which took over NOPSI some decades ago–compiled a few hundred of the recipes into a book compiled and sold by the United Way as a fund raiser.

The old Baronne Street building followed the trend of recent years in which former office buildings in the CBD have become hotels, condominiums, and apartments. The old NOPSI building is now the NOPSI Hotel. A former manhole cover in front of the entrance shows the old NOPSI logo. And the restaurant is called Public Service.

The bread pudding is good, but could pass as lost bread.

When I arrived, the Marys were digging into an appetizer of black bean hummus. It was well disguised on the plate as a sort of plate coating, not the customary pile. Then came fried, cheese-sprinkled potatoes cut too big to fry properly. A souffle cup of seafood gumbo was disliked by everyone at the table. A filet mignon was reasonably good, but it was sprinkled with a seasoning so loaded with salt that I had to stop after only a bite. I had the vegetarian dish–pasta, mushrooms, a buttery sauce. I got it mainly because its name was Jaxson Tagliatelle–nearly that of my grandson Jackson. I thought this was the best dish of the night. The Marys gave that award to a chocolate pots de creme, one of their favorite things.

The bar was busy when we arrived. I had an Old Fashioned, which was well made but ungenerous, compared with the cocktails of a dozen other places in the neighborhood. If they want to get the local crowd, they need to top those glasses off.

The general manager of the hotel visited our table, and offered to give us a tour of the hotel. MA was interested in this because the hotel met most of her standards for hotel excellence. She may have made a plan for the place before we even began the tour.

Filet @ Public Service.

As part of our tour, we were brought down to the basement of the old building. There was a lot of new and old operational gere, of which was the most interesting was a series of thick-walled, tall safes. During most of its history, NOPSI’s customers paid with cash. The cashiers carried a lot of currency, and had to be bled now and then–into the big vaults. Interesting.

At the end of the tours, the Marys were in agreement with my preference for waiting a few months before dining seriously in a restaurant. Public Service has much reworking in its food service ahead. But the Marys love the place.

Public Service. CBD: 311 Baronne St. 504-962-6527.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Pasta with White Beans and Bacon

In Italy, white beans are widely eaten in all sorts of ways, usually in the company of herbs, sometimes with meats on the fatty side. This is in the latter category, with a taste that’s very similar to those of dishes in Northern Italy. But if you were to replace the pasta with rice, you’d have a classic neighborhood-cafe Creole lunch special.

  • 2 Tbs. bacon fat
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 roasted bell pepper, chopped
  • 8 slices bacon, fried medium crisp, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups cooked white beans (leftovers are best)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 8 oz. (precooked weight) cooked broad pasta, shells, or tubes

1. Heat the bacon fat and the olive oil together in a large skillet. In it saute the garlic, mushrooms, green onions, and roasted peppers until limp.

2. Stir in the bacon, basil, crushed red pepper, white beans and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and heat through. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

3. Serve in a soup bowl with a generous sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

Serves four.

500BestSquareCarnitas @ El Mesquite Mexican Grill

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Carnitas is roast pork cooked slowly until it’s so dense that it’s almost hard. In the process, the fat and cartilage in the meat brings the flavor of the lean (and it’s all lean when it arrives) to a high pitch. It’s identified more with Cuban cooking than Mexican, but that doesn’t stop El Mesquite–the best of the West Bank’s many Hispanic restaurants–from turning out a great version. On a related note, El Mesquite also serves mole poblano, the best Mexican dish of them all.

Chicken with mole and rice at El Mesquite Grill.

El Mesquite Mexican Grill. Gretna: 516 Gretna Blvd. 504-367-1022.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare July 19, 2017

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest 16

Restaurant Namesakes

Today is the birthday, in 1834, of French Impressionist painter Edgar Degas. He lived for a few years on Esplanade Avenue here in New Orleans, in a house that’s now used for catering special events. The excellent French bistro Cafe Degas–a few blocks toward City Park from his former home–is named for him. Eat there today in his honor.

Edible Dictionary

pawpaw, n.–A fleshy, moderately sweet fruit that grows on small trees in the eastern half of the United States. It’s about eight inches long and three inches wide. It’s a member of a large family of tropical fruits, and probably gets its name because of confusion with the papaya. Its flavor is reminiscent of that of a banana, and because of that and its shape it has a lot of nicknames along the lines of “prairie banana.” It’s a berry, though, and juicier than a banana. You will probably never see it in a sort, because as soon as it’s picked it starts not only to ripen but to ferment. They grow here and there around New Orleans but are not common.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Fudges Creek is both a town and a stream that runs through it in central West Virginia. The town is forty miles west of the state capital, Charleston. It’s in hilly country with a good deal of coal mining. Some of the earliest oil wells were in the vicinity. (I hope neither of those gave the creek its name.) Until the real estate bust, many rural weekend homes were being built around there. Fudges Creek’s water runs into Mud River en route to the Ohio and the Mississippi, which puts some of that fudge right here in New Orleans. The nearest restaurant to Fudges Creek is Sassy’s, three miles away in Barboursville.

Food Holidays

Today in the town of Dunmow, Essex, England, it’s Flitch Day. Any married couple that can prove to the satisfaction of a mock jury that they have never wished that they were not married get a “flitch” of bacon–half a pork belly. The tradition dates back to 1104, and it still goes on every four years. Big event there.

Deft Dining Rules #287 and #288

No amount of bacon is enough for your appetite.
Only an amount of bacon too small to satisfy your appetite constitutes healthy eating.

Food Calendar

It is National Daiquiri Day. The daiquiri has evolved from a good, slightly sour drink (rum and lime juice, shaken with ice and something sweet) to a frozen slush for adults, flavored with almost anything you can think of. Drive-through daiquiri stands have become a commonplace, against all conceivable logic. The answer to the question, “Where’s the best daiquiri in town?” is “False.”

The daiquiri is named for a spot on the southern coast of Cuba, near Santiago. The drink is said to have been concocted there around 1905, after the American invasion of the island.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

I heard a joke about daiquiris from a dishwasher about thirty years ago. Seems that an otolaryngologist stopped in a certain bar near his clinic on the way home every afternoon, and was in the habit of ordering a daiquiri with some crushed pecans on top. One day the bartender ran out of pecans. Not wanting to disappoint the doctor, he went out to buy more, but saw that a hickory tree just outside had some ripe nuts. He picked them, toasted them, and grated them. When the physician took a sip at the drink the bartender made with those nuts, a big smile spread across his face. “This is the most delicious daiquiri I’ve ever had,” he said. “What did you do differently?” The bartender smiled back and said, “Well, that’s a hickory daiquiri, doc!”

Food Trademarks

Breyer’s Ice Cream became a registered trademark today in 1921. Ah. . . a good excuse to eat a bowl of the stuff.

Food In Music

In 1963 on this date, the Essex had the Number One pop hit with Easier Said Than Done. I couldn’t make out the lyrics when I first heard it. It sounded to me that they were singing, “It’s easier. . . to eat your candied yak.” I still think of eating candied yak every time I hear the song, even though I know better.

Worst Flavor Of The Day

Today in 2002, nineteen millions pounds of beef suspected of being contaminated with e. coli was recalled by ConAgra. And that’s not candied yak.

Food Namesakes

Dr. Charles Mayo was born today in 1865. He and his brothers founded the Mayo Clinic. . . Lizzie Borden, who was accused by acquitted of applying forty whacks with an axe to her parents, was born today in 1860. . . French artist Polydore Roux began his life’s canvas today in 1792. . . Former major-league pitcher Jimmy Gobble was born today in 1981.

Words To Eat By

“The difference between a rather average cook and a chef is that the chef is never really satisfied with what he is serving. He is constantly trying to achieve the high expectation he has set for himself. He is seeking to develop his palate and to enhance the skills of his palate through cooking, travel, and just being open.”–Bradley Ogden, San Francisco restaurateur.

Words To Drink By

“An alcoholic is someone you don’t like who drinks as much as you do.”–Dylan Thomas.

FoodFunniesSquare

House Rules Can Make A Good Restaurant annoying.

And every place has its peculiar ideas that customers are somehow supposed to know.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Saturday, July 8, 2017. Impastato Cellars With Our Neighbor. A lady who raises horses and chickens near the Cool Water Ranch has become a closer friend in recent years by way of feeding our two dogs and three cats while we are out of town. We watch her menagerie when she’s gone, so that should work out–but we’re gone a lot more than she is. We have offered her cash, but she won’t take it. She prefers being taken out to dinner at the likes of Keith Young’s Steak House, Gallagher’s Grill, and other first-class North Shore restaurants. That is better for us, too, giving us an excuse to eat in some of our favorite places.

It’s time for one of those balancing acts tonight, as we make up for the two and a half weeks we were on the West Coast recently. The restaurant choice is is Impastato Cellars, the spinoff of Impastato’s in Metairie, operated by Joe Impastato’s wife and their daughter (who are both named Mica). Our neighbor liked the place a few months ago, when she was especially pleased by the barbecue shrimp and pasta at the Cellars.

Cellar with table, Impastato Cellars.

Cellar with table, Impastato Cellars.

The menu is pretty much identical to that of the Metairie restaurant, including the $35 five-course dinner of hand every night. The only big change at the Cellars lately is that it’s now open for Sunday brunch. But that’s another story.

I hardly have to relate my menu, but I will. First course is the fettuccine and angel hair asciutta served together. Then artichoke soup, followed by the house salad. The entree is redfish Marianna, the namesake of Joe’s mother. (And Mary Ann, for that matter). This is my favorite dish after the fettuccine at any Impastato’s restaurant, but they made it different from the normal tonight. Instead of the butter-lemon-sherry sauce, it’s a cream sauce. Not terrible by a long shot, but not what I had in mind. (See the book, “Expectations That Ruin Great Cooking,” written but never quite finished.)

It’s a fine dinner, and our neighbor says we can bring her to Impastato Cellars any time we want.

Impastato Cellars. Madisonville: 240 Highway 22 E. 985-845-4445.

Sunday, July 9, 2017. Mattina Bella Solo. Zea, Tomato Bisque, And Crab Cakes. The weather is cool, dry in the morning, and breezy. I undertake my scheme for pulling the lawn tractor out of the muddy hole where it’s been for a week. To my astonishment, the whole scheme works perfectly. I jacked the tractor up about eighteen inches. I place wide, thick boards at right angles on top of the hole but under the wheel. I continue to enjoy the idea that I have built a three-foot-long bridge.

I lower the jack and remove it. The wheel sits right on the bridge, hardly sagging at all. I start the engine which, to my amazement, fires up right away. I put my foot on the gas gingerly. The tractor rolls forward. I take a small turn to the right. It rolls along the ground just as I’d hoped. The bridge stood up strong. I will never again worry about getting stuck in the mud, which has happened a total of about eight times over the twenty-five years we’ve lived here.

The eating scheme for the day has to work around my bridge project, singing at Mass, a two-hour radio show starting at one p.m., and the desk-work backlog. I wind up going to two of the standbys: late breakfast, solo, at Mattina Bella. Dinner with MA at Zea. Tomato-basil soup, a trio of crab cakes, and no dessert.

Monday, July 10, 2017. A New Legacy Kitchen, Due North. The local chain behind the New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Company opened a new concept two or three years ago called Legacy Kitchen. The group has expanded to include four more manifestations of the idea. It’s an oddity as chains go: every location has a secondary concept that alters the menu while at the same time hangs onto the signature dishes. All of these are more American than Creole, although that might escape one’s notice. All the restaurants have fried chicken and waffles, for example. But even that is subject to change: all the Legacy Kitchens have a very good, very Cajun-Creole turtle soup, an oddity in such a place. The latest addition to the organization has the descriptive subtitle “Due North.” The waitress told me that this is because its location is on the same parallel as the Legacy Kitchen in Metairie, so to get from one to the other in a balloon you wouldn’t have to make any turns.

Clever idea, even if is a coincidence. Of more importance is that the Due North location has taken over the restaurant that has been N’Tini’s for about the last ten years. N’Tini’s owner Mark Benfatti is a silent partner with the Legacy guys, but he takes no hand in the menu. The restaurant also has undergone a modest renovation to make it more like the Legacy Kitchen.

Mary Ann and I tried to sample Due North a few days ago, when the Fourth of July closed a lot of restaurants for a few days. Today we followed through. A reminder of N’Tini’s showed itself right away: the restaurant was freezing inside. But the servers were very quick to remedy that and any other gripe we might have had.

It was a light supper for both of us, with sandwiches as entrees. We began with char-broiled oysters. (What restaurant doesn’t have that these days?) I have a crab and corn bisque as the second starter, followed by a fried oyster BLT that fell apart as I ate it, but it was easily enough eating. MA’s bread enclosed barbecue brisket with a side of black beans. My dessert was a single scoop of ice cream, big enough for at least three people. I think they had scoped me out by then.

This new Legacy is within striking distance from the Cool Water Ranch. And MA likes both the food and the look of the place. (Lots of uncoated columns and concrete floors.) So we will probably come here more often than normal. We had tired of N’Tini’s, which had been slipping for some time.

Legacy Kitchen “Due North.” Mandeville: 2981 US 190. 985-626-5566.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017. Three Siblings. The thought of my middle sister’s birthday yesterday had me on the phone inviting the other two to dinner tonight. Inconveniently, the birthday girl is celebrating something else in Seattle, where some other family lives. Tonight is the first time in awhile that I invited my big sister Judy to dinner. I am remiss in my absence, particularly since her her husband passed away last year. More often I dine with my baby sister Lynn, who is here tonight.

We are all at Impastato’s. Mr. Joe was absent. I think he’s in Sicily, his homeland. Billym the dining room boss, says it hasn’t been very busy, but I know a lot of restaurants who would love to have the roomful of people at Impastato’s tonight.

We eat and talk about the usual things. Fettuccine Alfredo and angel hair pasta with the house’s spicy red sauce. Two soft-shell crabs are eaten, one of them by me. More creamy pasta follows. We update family news, of which there is not much. If this had been a few days later, I would have learned about a great aunt who died and requested that she be cremated with no ceremony. She said she wasn’t a believer anymore. She was ninety-two, which sounds as if somebody with influence had liked her well enough.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017. Red’s Chinese. A Second Look At Cavan. A few years ago, a Chinese restaurant with no sign except for a blank red square in front opened in the Bywater. It was the hit of the new restaurant season, and became difficult to penetrate. Today, owner Amy Mosberger came over with her bartender to the radio station to talk. We didn’t unearth any facts other than what hipsters already know.

Dirty fried rice. Very peppery.

Dirty fried rice. Very peppery.

The menu is short and an unpredictable mix of standard Chinese dishes with concoctions we’ve never heard of before. Pastrami from the wok? Now that’s different. Open kitchen attracts a lot of comers, even though it’s pretty hot in there. They tell me that some renovations around the back will allow some club-like activities. Karaoke, for example, late nights several nights a week. I might want to pop in. I already sang “Once In Love With Amy” to Amy Mosberger, and she didn’t tell me that a 1940s-era crooner would not fit in so hip a place.

Red’s Chinese. Bywater: 3048 St. Claude Ave. 504-304-6030.

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Chicken Newsham

You have to exercise more care than usual while making these, but it’s worth it. The flavor is more satisfying than what you usually get from precious little appetizers made in layers. The hardest part is cutting and getting the first one out of the pan. This both looks and tastes Greek (the tzatziki sauce completes the effect). I named it for my late friend John “Chauncey” Newsham, who with his beautiful Greek wife and singer Julia Pappas operated the best Greek restaurant in New Orleans history–the Royal Oak Restaurant and Pub in Gretna.

Chicken wrapped in phyllo, with stuffed grape leaves on the side.

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dill
  • 1 10-oz. bag fresh spinach
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fresh chopped garlic
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice, strained
  • 6 oz. kasseri cheese, thinly sliced
  • Phyllo pastry leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups tzatziki sauce (see recipe)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

1. Rinse chicken and pat dry. With a meat mallet or the side of a heavy cleaver, pound chicken to the thickness of two stacked nickels.

2. Combine the flour, salt, pepper, and dill. Sprinkle (do not dredge) the chicken with the mixture.

3. Heat the olive oil until it shimmers in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken until it lightly browns on both sides. Remove and keep warm.

4. Add 1/4 cup of water to the pan and bring to a boil. Whisk the bottom of the pan to dissolve the olive oil and little bits of browned chicken that may have stuck. Lower the heat to medium-low. Add the spinach, still dripping its wash water, and the garlic. Cook until the spinach softens, stirring carefully (avoid breaking the leaves). After cooking, drain the spinach well.

5. Coat the inside of a glass baking dish or casserole (about 9 x 5 x 2 inches) with olive oil. Place the thinnest chicken slices on the bottom. Top with slices of the cheese, then the spinach. Sprinkle a little of the lemon juice over this, then create another layer in the same way. Top that with the remaining lemon juice, and then with the phyllo pastry.

6. Put the baking dish into the 350-degree oven for 25 minutes, or until a knife poked into the center shows that the inside is hot. The pastry should also be browned by this time.

7. Allow to cool for five minutes. With a sharp knife, cut into squares or rectangles. The best utensil for extracting the first cube is a cake-frosting knife. Serve with two tablespoons of tzatziki sauce.

Serves twelve appetizers.

500BestSquareDuck Tchoupitoulas @ Tommy’s

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In an era when most duck dishes consist of either the grilled breast or the confit of leg, the duck at Tommy’s is unusual in being a half duck, still in one piece. It’s roasted to a crisp skin and a tender interior and fills a plate grandly. Also on there is a slightly sweet, slightly peppery sauce sharpened with vinegar and raspberries. The whole thing is underlined with fresh spinach, and there’s wild rice on the side. In other words, it’s the kind of duck dish that was almost universal twenty years ago. It’s great to know a few places that still roast duck that way. Tommy Andrade’s excellent Creole and Italian restaurant is the best restaurant for this that I know.

This is a variant of Tommy’s duck served at Tomas Bistro, owned by the same people and cooked with a similar style, all right across the street.

Tommy’s. Warehouse District: 746 Tchoupitoulas. 504-581-1103.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare July 18, 2017

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest 17

Food On The Road

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

Food Calendar

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

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

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

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

Deft Dining Rule #715

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

Gourmet Gazetteer

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

Edible Dictionary

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

Food On The Air

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

Food In Art Supplies

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

Food And Drink Namesakes

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

Words To Eat By

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

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

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

Words To Drink By

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

FoodFunniesSquare

The Differences Between Home Cooking And Restaurant Food.

There are some ingredients you can only get in restaurants, but an important one you only get at home.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, July 2, 2017. The post-holiday catchup begins. I get to work on the pile waiting at my desk for me. The emails run somewhere between 250 and 300 messages. I’m giving about two seconds to each, but it still takes all the evening from sundown until after dark. I go as late as I can see straight, at which time Mary Ann asks if I’d like to watch a movie. She’s always urging me to get away from the computer screen and watch the television screen for awhile. She rightly knows that after two weeks of semi-leisure, I want to continue relaxing.

The movie she picks is “The Boss.” In it Melissa McCarthy–whose celebrity is so distant from my tastes in film that it takes me awhile to accept her character, let along feel the kind of merryment that Mary Ann gets from the unlikely protagonist. I don’t fall asleep, nor am I tempted to get back to catching up with the emails. When MA brings out another of McCarthy’s oeuvres (“Spy,” which makes “The Boss” seem realistic), I decide that her following is fired by a semi-cult. MA, at least, gets many more laughs than I do.

Wednesday, July 3, 2017. El Paso Passes With Molé! What happened during our search for a place to have dinner calls for a top-dozen list. The targets: days in the calendar on which restaurants are largely closed. Such days are sometimes unexpected and mess up the day, even if one gives some thought as to where they will find open tables.

Today is a perfect example. It’s the day before the Fourth of July. Almost everybody takes the day off, including most restaurateurs. But this doesn’t occur to many people, who a) don’t recognize The Night Before The Fourth of July as a holiday, and 2) might assume that the official holiday is not tomorrow, but today.

Didn’t we go through all this a few days ago? Apparently we don’t learn. And I say “we” because we were among these dummies. But there was a lucky twist. We had planned to sample the new Legacy Kitchen, which has taken over the former N’Tini’s. Surely they would be open, we thought. Nix.

We move on, an in so doing drive in front of the former Macaroni Grill. MA is unhappy that it is gone, but she gets excited when I tell her that El Paso Grill has opened its second location in the New Orleans area. The Florida-based chain has most of its location in central Louisiana. MA loves Tex-Mex food, and we go for it. Maybe it might even have molé poblano, the best flavor in all of Mexican cooking and one of the world’s greatest sauces. We get very little molé from local restaurants, so I rush right over when I hear that it has been spotted. And we did. And it was very good indeed. All I’d hope for. The rest of the menu was well executed, too.

This cries out for a list of the best restaurants open when you expect them to be open, but they’re not. Next opportunity for this: Labor Day.

El Paso. Mandeville: 3410 Highway 190. 985-624-2345.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017. We Barbecue, Of Course. Mary Ann grew up in a family that seemed always to have a batch of burgers and sausage on the barbecue pit. Her father liked to grill, and her three brothers added to the tradition of grilling on holidays. All of those men have moved to other lives, but we keep the tradition alive. Mary Ann takes charge, of course. Savoie-brand andouille, which has a very hot kick. Thick hamburgers. Grilled vegetables fill the remaining space on the Big Green Egg, which took about an hour to get the heat going to the exciting degree we like. Nobody but me ever cleans out the bottom vent, which is always clogged with nearly-powdered charcoal.

When the sun begins to go down, I take a shot at mowing the Cool Water Ranch’s acres of green fields. They are in desperate need, not having been cut for a month or more. But they’re still pretty wet from all the rain this summer has absorbed. And the holes the dogs dug about eight months ago–I still have no idea why–make driving the little tractor alarming.

The inevitable happened. About a city block from the carport, the right-side rear wheel fell into a hole and stuck there. Trying to get the tractor out of the hole only made the hole deeper. Great. Something else for me to think about. The best I can do right now is to cover the tractor with trash bags and wait until the weekend to unstick it.

Wednesday, July 3, 2017. Porter And Luke. A nice moment transpired at Porter and Luke, the big neighborhood restaurant in Old Metairie. Abut two tables away from me are two grandparents of two boys who looked to be about seven or so. They stay at the table most of the time, but now and then get up to walk around the table, while talking at a volume that I didn’t have to tune in to hear. The boys were having a great time. Their grandparents didn’t have them roped in.

Meanwhile, I start my dinner with a cup of red beans, hold the rice, with extra sauce. I had red beans on my mind when I came to Porter and Luke. But the waiter said that he had some big pompano fillets. Well, one side was filleted. The other still bore the skin, which in a pompano bears a good bit of good-tasting fish fat. It was as enjoyable as I am making it out to be.

When I finished, I walked over to the table with the two generations. I congratulated the grandparents for letting the kids play themselves in the restaurant experience, and weren’t removed from it. It made for happy tables–theirs and mine. Another nice after-effect from spending three days with my 18-month-old grandson.

Porter & Luke. Old Metairie: 1517 Metairie Road. 504-875-4555.

Thursday, July 6, 2017. Inspiration In Carpentry. Peppermill.

In the middle of the night, an idea arrived that told me how I will be able to extricate my lawn tractor from the muddy hole it fell into a few days ago. Thus far, I couldn’t get past the fact that the entire yard was soft and muddy, such that a truck or even a bigger tractor would also get itself stuck.

My idea is so obvious that I’m sure someone else must have thought of it in the past. I put a wide, strong piece of wood on the ground, between the back wheels (the ones stuck in the mud). Then I used a car jack–the one that used to be part of my totaled PT Cruiser–to jack up the back of the tractor about a foot above ground.

Then I would slide some wide boards between the ground and the bottom of the mired wheel. If all goes well, after I remove the jack I will have the shortest bridge in the world, spanning the pit that the wheel had dug out.

I didn’t have time to do this today, but at least I won’t be tossing and turning overnight as I think the problem through. The more I think, the better it sounds.

Dinner solo at the Peppermill. I am waved down by Bob O’Neill, the sames manager of theTimes-Picayune for many years. We have a few mutual friends, most of them from the years when I wrote and designed ads for the newspaper. That was a long time ago–1974. Bob and his wife seem to be in good shape physically and mentally.

Peppermill DiningRoom

I begin my eating with crabcakes with remoulade. Then a dish I don’t recall: chicken Positano, named for a city in the Amalfi Coast in Italy. I’ve been to Positano, and tried to get some laughs aout of the idea of a rival community nearby called Negatano. See, the Negatanese people have bad attitudes about everything. Get it?

Again I tell you, I have been trying to get a laugh with this anecdote for over twenty years. The dish itself was not one of the best things I’ve had at the Peppermill. Chicken, tomatoes, cheese.

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

Three Courses, $39
Plus tax and gratuity

APPETIZERS
Shrimp, Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo

Seafood Martini Ravigote
Maine lobster, gulf shrimp, jumbo lump crabmeat, Yukon gold potato salad

Pelican Club Baked Oysters
On the half shell, applewood smoked bacon, roasted red peppers, parmesan & garlic herb butter

Fritto Misto
Shrimp, calamari, zucchini, Japanese eggplant, mushroom, pickled onions and caper tartar sauce

Clay Pot “Barbequed Shrimp”
Jumbo shrimp, rice noodles, chiles and pineapple, spicy sauce

Korean 24-Hour-Cooked Boneless Baby Back Ribs
With spicy kimchee

Wedge Salad Bowl
Blue cheese dressing, little gem lettuce, applewood smoked bacon, cherry tomato and watermelon radish

ENTRÉES
Pannéed Gulf Fish and Blue Crab

Butterbean succotash, jalapeno hollandaise and meuniére sauce (Add $3)

Crispy Peking Duck Breast
House-made pancakes, jasmine rice, cashew snow pea pods,
Ginger duck demi-glace and assorted condiments

Six-Ounce Filet Mignon and Crab Cake
Almond haricots verts, bearnaise sauce and truffle mashed yukon gold potatoes (Add $4)

Blue Crab Fettuccine
Crab butter, asparagus, sweet corn, pea pods, watercress and lemon gremolata

Vegetarian Market Platter of the Day

One-Pound Whole Maine Lobster, Fried Jumbo Shrimp
With asparagus and lemon cream (Add $5)

Seared Sashimi Grade Tuna and Chinois Salad
Soy wasabi glaze and avocado

DESSERTS
Chocolate Decadence Cake

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

Coconut Cream Pie

Banana Pudding

Choice of appetizer, entree and dessert. Limit 12 guests. Please, no sharing.

Selected Cocktail and Wine Pairings
(Three for $24, mix and match)

SELECTED WINES
Sparkling
Comte de Lafayette Rose France NV

Rosé
Guilhem Rosé Languedoc France ’16

White
Louis Latour Ardeche Chardonnay France ’15
Portal De Callcado Vinho Verde Portugal ’16
Gabbiano Promessa Pinot Grigio Venezia Italy ’15
Pacific Oasis Riesling Columbia Valley Washington ’13

Red
Lago Cerqueira Douro Valley Portugal ’14
Tortoise Creek “Mission Grove” Pinot Noir California ’15
Henry Fessy Beaujolais-Villages Old Vines France ’15
Murphy-Goode Homefront Red Zinfandel Blend California ’11

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Cannoli

Cannoli are a favorite dessert in Sicily, and anywhere Sicilians have roamed–including New Orleans. They’re made by stuffing tubes of sweet, thin dough fried until crispy with sweetened ricotta cheese, usually including jellied fruit, chocolate chips, and pistachio nuts. They are made outstandingly well at Angelo Brocato’s in New Orleans. This recipe is based on the one in La Cucina di Andrea’s, a cookbook I wrote in 1989 with Chef Andrea Apuzzo. The shells are the hard part, but not too bad. While special forms are made for making cannoli, you can also use a six-inch length of broomstick (with the pain sanded off, of course).

Cannoli, dressed up, from VIncent’s.

  • Shells:
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 Tbs. Marsala wine
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • Pinch of cocoa powder
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Filling:
  • 1 lb. ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup mixed jellied fruit (as for fruitcake)
  • 2 Tbs. chocolate chips
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla
  • 1/2 oz. triple sec liqueur
  • Garnish:
  • Chopped pistachio nuts
  • Chocolate shavings
  • Powdered sugar

1. To make the shells, mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add Marsala and stir with a whisk until the mixture turns crumbly.

2. Knead the dough a bit to make it solid, with no air gaps. Roll it out on a board to about the thickness of two stacked nickels. Fold it over and roll it out again, then repeat the process once more.

3. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep saucepan to 375 degrees. While waiting for it to come up to temperature, cut out circles of the dough about five inches in diameter. Wrap them around the cannoli forms.

4. Deep-fry the dough-wrapped forms
until crisp–about five minutes. Remove from the oil and drain. Remove the
forms, and allow the shells to cool.

5. Make the filling by mixing all the ingredients until well blended. When the shells are cool, use a thin knife to scrape the filling into the shells. Be careful not to break the shells. Dip ends of cannoli in pistachio nuts or chopped chocolate bits. Dust with powdered sugar.

Makes 18-24 cannoli.

500BestSquareSpinach Pie @ Byblos

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Spinach pie is better identified as a Greek dish than Lebanese. But the cuisines are related, and the way Byblos makes it seems Greek to me. The lightness is the key. Both the phyllo pastry and the spinach-and-feta filling are puffy, lacking the heaviness we sometimes find in other versions. All the flavors are in balance. The portion is large enough almost to make an entree.

Byblos. Old Metairie: 1501 Metairie Rd. 504-834-9773.

Uptown: 3218 Magazine. 504-894-1233. This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare July 17, 2017

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest 18

Restaurant Anniversaries

This is the birthday, in 1979, of Mr. B’s Bistro. Its opening was a turning point in many ways. It was the first new restaurant opened by the Commander’s Palace side of the Brennan family after it split with Brennan’s on Royal Street in 1973. In the intervening years, they closed four of their six restaurants. Mr. B’s represented the rise of the next generation of Brennans, who opened one restaurant after another thereafter.

More important, Mr. B’s was the archetype for the gourmet Creole bistro–a new kind of restaurant at the time. It was widely imitated in the next decade, and restaurants like Mr. B’s now dominate the dining scene. They serve great food of high intrinsic quality, but in casual dining rooms devoid of pretense and ceremony. It was a perfect match to the tastes of baby Boomers, who were coming into their own in 1979.

Mr. B’s was the last major restaurant to return to action after the hurricane. Its opening brought the number of real restaurants in town to 809–the number we had before the storm. It’s a keystone in the New Orleans restaurant scene. Crab cakes, gumbo ya-ya, barbecue shrimp, bread pudding–all are the best in town.

Annals Of Dining Comfort

This is one of several dates that could be called the anniversary of air conditioning. In 1901 on this date, Willis Carrier started up his air conditioner in a printing plant in Brooklyn. The owners of the place were trying to cool the equipment, not the people running it–although the benefits they enjoyed from the comfortable air were so great that air conditioning spread. First to public buildings, then to homes. Movie theatres found they could attract much larger crowds if they offered respite from the summer as well as entertainment. In climates like ours it was a godsend. Think about what it must have been like to dine in Antoine’s or Galatoire’s before air conditioning on a day like today.

Today’s Flavor

It is National Parsley Day. As mild a flavor as it possesses, parsley adds something. Its mild acidity (ounce for ounce, parsley actually has more vitamin C than oranges do), the fresh, green flavor, the color and texture. . . all contribute that last two percent to a dish.

Parsley is more than a garnish, though. The classic recipe for oysters Rockefeller–the one that doesn’t use spinach–employs parsley by the bunch. So does the lenten Creole soup-stew, gumbo z’herbes. In Lebanese cooking, parsley is used by the fistful in dishes like tabbouleh.

If you have to cook with dried herbs, or if you have a dish that leans toward gloppiness (like crawfish etouffee), or if you have some leftovers you’d like to enjoy again. . . try adding fresh parsley. It brings the flavor and texture right up without altering the flavor of the dish deeply.

Finally, there is the matter that parsley refreshes the breath. That’s a minor point, but it has been used to explain the parsley sprig that comes on many plates (or used to.)

Always pick the leaves off the parsley stems before cutting. It’s tedious, but the leaves have a better flavor than the stems. (Save the stems, though–they’re a great addition to the stock pot.) Chop the leaves finely, using a sharp chef’s knife. A food processor beats it up too much. Don’t chop it much in advance. Parsley loses its fresh charm if it sits out for more than an hour. Forget freezing.

Two other members of the parsley family are out there, and may cause confusion. Cilantro is now almost universally available in supermarkets, and usually displayed right next to the flat-leaf and curly parsley. The leaves look different, but not dramatically. To be certain you have what you want, pick a leaf, break it, and smell it. The salsa-like aroma of cilantro is unmistakable. The other, much less common parsley variant is chervil, whose leaves are smaller than regular parsley. It has a subtle anise-like aroma and flavor.

Edible Dictionary

suppli al telefono, Italian, n.–It translates literally as “telephone wires,” a name that will puzzle anyone who’s seen but not eaten the dish. These are balls of rice about the size of a golf ball, held together with eggs and sometimes with just enough tomato sauce to make the rice a pale orange. In the center is a cube of mozzarella cheese. The balls are rolled in bread crumbs and fried long enough that the interior is very hot. When you cut into it with a fork and lift the bite to your mouth, festoons of cheese stretch between the ball and the fork. These are supposed to resemble telephone wires. The dish is a common appetizer around Italy, especially in Rome.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Orange, Texas, population 18,700, is the easternmost large town in Texas, right on the Sabine River and the Louisiana state line. That gives it the trivial distinction of having the highest-numbered Interstate exit and mile marker anywhere. It’s 880 miles on the I-10 to El Paso. Orange was founded as a port town on the Gulf of Mexico in 1836, and that’s how it’s always made its living. Oranges may be grown there, but not on a large scale; the land is low and marshy in the area. Except for the many fast-food places on the I-10, Orange’s cuisine has been thoroughly converted to Cajun. The best restaurant in town (sez Texas Monthly, a good source) is Robert’s Meat Market And Steakhouse, 3720 W. Park Ave., 409-883-0979.

The Lunch Counter

F.W. Woolworth Co. announced today in 1997 that it would close all the remaining Woolworth’s five-and-dime stores in America, after over a century in business. Although Woolworth’s was the same nationwide, we always considered it a part of the New Orleans scene. The two stores on Canal Street (three blocks apart) were on everybody’s downtown shopping itinerary in the days when everybody shopped on Canal Street. Who doesn’t remember going there for breakfast or for a grilled cheese sandwich with crinkle-cut fries? Other Woolworth’s around town includes two on Magazine Street and one on Oak Street, all of which were anchors in their neighborhoods. Woolworth is still around, under different names–Foot Locker being the most prominent.

Restaurant Namesakes

King George V of England changed his surname today in 1917. He relinquished his German titles (England was at war with the Germans at the time), and proclaimed that his heirs would no longer be called the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but the House of Windsor. It is this name that landed on the Windsor Court Hotel–often lauded in its twenty-five years as the finest hotel in New Orleans.

Fromage Du Jour

Banon (French), [bah-NONH], n.–One of the soft white cheeses made since ancient times in what is now the southeastern French region of Provence. Banon comes from the town of the same name. It’s usually made with unpasteurized goat’s milk, although sometimes sheep’s milk is also used. After being made into small wheels, it gains a thin, snowy layer of mold. Then it’s distinctively wrapped in chestnut leaves and tied with raffia. In its fresh form, it’s spreadable and tangy. As it gets older–especially if it’s been aged in a jar with vinegar and eau-de-vie, a process that can go on for years–it becomes very assertive and harder.

Music To Watch Movies By

The first record released by the Supremes came out today in 1961. It was called Buttered Popcorn. Has anyone ever heard it?

Food And Drink Namesakes

The British satirical magazine Punch published its first issue today in 1841. . . Canadian actress-turned-politician Andrée Champagne popped her cork today in 1939. . . Movie actor Bill Sage leafed out today in 1962.

Words To Eat By

“Approaching the stove, she would don a voluminous apron, toss some meat on a platter, empty a skillet of its perfectly cooked a point vegetables, sprinkle a handful of chopped parsley over all, and then, like a proficient striptease artist, remove the apron, allowing it to fall to the floor with a shake of her hips.”–Bert Greene.

Words To Drink By

Old friends are the best! Age appears to be best in four things; old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.–Francis Bacon.

FoodFunniesSquare

Extreme Overeating.

Probably with reflux. Don’t let this happen to you!

Click here for the cartoon.

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EatClubSquare

Upcoming Eat Club Dinners
Lakehouse In Mandeville
Scroll down for details, menus, reservation form, list of reservations and general info about the Eat Club.

Click here to reserve.

The Lakehouse has a long history. It went up on the Mandeville lakefront in the 1840s, and became a restaurant in the 1890s. It’s been that ever since. After repairs of hurricane and fire damage in the past decade, the big two-story house is beautiful, with an expansive view of Lake Pontchartrain. Cayman Sinclair, who has been involved in major North Shore dining for over 20 years, has kept up the historic look while Chef Marlon Hornsby pushes ahead with the Lakehouse’s cuisine. It’s decidedly up to date, but at the same time familiar. The Eat Club will show just how good the Lakehouse is with a dinner on Thursday, July 27. Four courses of classy eats. with paired wines, to wit:

U-10 Sea Scallops
English peas, pickled tomatoes, brown-butter croutons, and soft fresh herbs

Louisiana Crawfish Arancini
Fried croquettes of bread crumbs, Parmigiano cheese, Crystal hot sauce butter, celery, preserved lemon. Italian parsley

New York Strip Sirloin Steak
Painted Hills Ranch. Ember-roasted turnips, smoked eggplant puree, crispy leeks, chimichurri butter, Burgundy wine reduction

Dark Chocolate Pâté
Blueberry coulis, spiced pecan-rum butter

The dinner begins around seven, so we can see the sun set. If you arrive late, no problem. Dress is casual. If the weather is really nice, we may decide to serve outdoors on the lawn. The price is $80, inclusive of tax, tip, and wines. You will pay by credit card when you arrive. Reservations are essential; click here to do that. Please let us know a day in advance if you must cancel. The restaurant is at 2025 Lakeshore Drive in Mandeville, a half-block from Girod Street.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Shirred Eggs with Crabmeat Remick

The biggest brunch dish I ever served at home was this one. We had a half-dozen friends over at noonish, and they were expecting something special. I gave them a classic crabmeat appetizer that I turned into a terrific egg dish. You don’t see shirred eggs very often, even in restaurants, but I love the style. The technique is to cook the eggs with powerful heat from above after setting them on something savory.

  • 6 slices smoky, thick bacon
  • 1 lb. jumbo lump crabmeat
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 12 eggs
  • Sauce:
  • 1/2 tsp. salt-free Creole seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Tabasco
  • 1/4 cup bottled chili sauce
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbs. Creole mustard
  • 1 green onion, tender green parts only, sliced fine.
  • 1 Creole mustard
  • 1 Tbs. tarragon vinegar

Eggs Remick, before the eggs are added.

1. Slice the bacon into squares and fry till crisp. Drain very well and set aside.

2. Divide crabmeat among six small, shallow au gratin dishes or ramekins. Sprinkle the lot with lemon juice, and heat in 350-degree oven for three minutes.

3. While waiting for crabmeat to warm, blend all the sauce ingredients.

4. When the crabmeat is hot, top each baking dish with an equal portion of crumbled bacon. Pour the sauce right on top, just enough to cover. Then carefully break two eggs onto each dish, keeping the yolk whole.`

5. Turn the oven on broil and place the ramekins under the fire until the eggs have set. The centers of the eggs should be just a little runny. Serve immediately with a warning that the dish is hot!

Serves six.

500BestSquareCrab On Crab @ Cafe B

DishStars_3
During the summer, Cafe B can be relied upon for its continuously creative-yet-familiar seafood dishes, most of which are not available the rest of the year. Last Year, it was a ravioli of Lobster with crabmeat–a dish I hope comes back now and then. This summer we find a doubly-crabby dish, whose centerpeice is a fried soft-shell crab with brown butter sauce. Also on the plate is a crab salad, made with jumbo lump and arugula. You can go either way with this: light entree or an appetizer shared for two. While Cafe B started as a very casual Old Metairie cafe, it has evolved into an excellent bistro where running into friends is inevitable.

Crab on crab.

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

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare July 14, 2017

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest 20

Vive La France!

This is Bastille Day, the French version of the Fourth of July, commemorating the end of the monarchy (for the moment) and the beginning of the French Republic in 1789. Their Revolution had far worse effects than ours did, but the ancien regime it overthrew was much more oppressive than what America had to deal with. It would be awhile before the aristocrats would be gone for good. France still had Napoleon in its unfortunate future.

The French Revolution is often credited for the genesis of the restaurant as we know it. When the nobles were beheaded, the chefs who worked for them had to go out on their own. Then, the only places one would eat outside the home were inns and pubs, but these were strictly for subsistence. The idea of cooking and serving grand food for whoever wanted to pay for it was revolutionary.

It’s currently in vogue to dislike the French, even though the reasons are less than reasonable. In the culinary arena, hating things French seems especially pointless. A friend and fellow food writer had a good line about France: “It’s the mother of us all.”
That’s certainly true in New Orleans. Creole cuisine is founded on French cookery, and although we’ve come far enough that it’s unique to this place, we can’t deny where it came from. Any culture capable of producing this is worth our respect, no matter what momentary other currents may be out there. Eat some French food today.

Food Calendar

This is International Pâté Day. “Pâté” in French comes from the same etymological root that gives us “pasta” in Italian and “paste” in English. The latter word explains the essence of pâté. It’s a meat (or vegetable, fish, or other food) rendered into a spreadable consistency. There’s lots of leeway; pâtés can have chunks or hard bits in them. Or they can be light, smooth mousses. The French have different names for all the possibilities, but pâté can cover them all generically.

The first time I had pâté de foie gras, it reminded me of liver cheese, which I always enjoyed as a kid. Contrary to popular belief, not all pâtés are made with liver. But a lot of them do include liver as a main ingredient, and those are the most popular. It’s just the perfect meat to start with, because of its depth of flavor and smoothness when made into a forcemeat. The livers come from mammals (particularly pigs), but the most famous liver pâtés are those made from birds’ livers. Pâté de foie gras is the smooth forcemeat of fattened goose or duck liver. Most pâtés contain a good bit of fat, both from the meat component as well as from butter.

Pâtés begin a meal well, and that’s when they’re best served, at cool room temperature. Crackers or croutons usually come with them, so you can eat the spreadable kind. But the chunky ones–pâté de campagne, for example–can be eaten with a fork. A platter full of pâtés can easily have no two looking or tasting alike. It’s a great start to a meal, the perfect partner to wine.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Chops Creek is twenty-seven miles north of Augusta, Maine. It’s a tidal stream that runs through an alluvial flat in a valley with low hills on both sides. In Louisiana it would be called a bayou. Its course is parallel to the Kennebec River as it nears the Atlantic Ocean, and just off Merrymeeting Bay. We get a good idea of what kind of activity is in these waterways from the name of the nearest restaurant to Chops Creek: The Five Islands Lobster Company.

Edible Dictionary

coriander, n.–A member of the parsley family, whose leaves have a distinctly sharper flavor than other parsleys. References to coriander on menus or in spice jars almost always mean the seeds of that plant, which have a thin, aromatic sharpness that sets off many other flavors without jumping into the foreground, even if you use a lot of it. The plant’s leaves themselves are most often called by their Spanish name, cilantro, which tastes very different from the seeds. Few people who hate cilantro (and there are many of those) find anything objectionable in coriander.

Deft Dining Rule #115

Beware of complimentary pates served at the outset of dinner. It can kill one’s appetite, especially if it and the restaurant’s bread is good.

Annals Of Cheesemaking

Frederick Louis Maytag was born in Chicago today in 1857. He formed the manufacturing company that became famous for its washing machines and refrigerators. His grandsons began making blue cheeses in Iowa in 1941, and still does. It’s the best-known premium blue cheese made in America, and is still owned by the Maytag family.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Tom Carvel was born today in 1904. He began a chain of ice cream parlors–the first of its kind, paving the way for Baskin-Robbins and all the others. Carvel remains ubiquitous in the Northeast, and has begun to grow more rapidly lately. It currently has over 8000 ice cream parlors around the country.

Food And Drink Namesakes

Northrop Frye, an academic writer who redefined the concept of literary criticism, was born today in 1912. . . Taboo, a Hispanic rapper who performs with the Black Eye Peas, came out of his shell today in 1975. . . Lee Mead, a British actor and singer in musical theater, hit The Big Mark today in 1981.

Words To Eat By

“The perfect lover is one who turns into a pizza at four a.m.”–Charles Pierce, American comedian, born today in 1926.

“A pâté is nothing more than French meat loaf that’s had a couple of cocktails.”–Carole Cutler, American cookbook author.

Words To Drink By

“I am the world’s last barman poet! I see America drinking the fabulous cocktails I make. America is getting stinking on something I stir or shake.”–Tom Cruise, playing a Jamaican bartender named Brian in the movie Cocktail.

FoodFunniesSquare

Prepared Especially For You.

You hear that a lot, but how true is it? Don’t they make the same recipes for everybody? Or is is like this?

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150

Saturday, July 1, 2017. 12:33 p.m. Disorientation. I head across the lake to the radio station to do my Saturday Food Show. There is nobody in the facility except Dave Potter, who produces the show on Saturdays.

“Where is everybody?” I ask.

“What are you doing here?” he asks.

“I’m here for the Saturday show,” I say.

“It’s not Saturday,” he says.” It’s Monday, a company holiday. You’re off.”

I’m off, all right. But I push ahead. “So this is the Third of July?”

“No,” Dave says. “It’s the first. Tomorrow is the second. Monday is the third, and Tuesday is the Fourth of July. You have no show until Wednesday.”

I wave at him and go to my office to dope this out. It’s nothing new for me to get confused about what day of the week it is, especially if a holiday intervenes. The day after a holiday always registers in my mental calendar as a Monday. But this is a bit more confusing than usual. If I get two unusual days off followed by two days of regular schedules, the next day feels like a Friday. All of this is amplified if I’m just coming back from a long vacation–as I am. Two weeks away, returned last night on a crazy-making train. I always talk about this effect on the air, and find that I am not the only one who gets mixed up. Still. . .

“Did you take your meds?” Dave asks, with a laugh. I laugh back.
At my desk, I take the calendar down from the wall and look it over. The graphics help me understand what’s what.

This is not a good night to go to a restaurant on the South Shore. The Essence Festival fills the eateries. I head home. Mary Ann finds, when we start calling possible restaurants for dinner, that most restaurants are closed. We get into the car with Mary Leigh, who is also running from the Essence crowds. We try New Orleans Food and Spirits. Forty-five minute wait. Ox Lot 9: over an hour. Meribo: almost an hour. Another five or six places: same general report.

Fried artichoke hearts and thin-sliced fried onion rings at Crabby’s Shack.

Finally we call the Crabby Shack, where we are told that there was immediate seating, but that they wouldn’t hold a table if somebody shows up before we do. Someone does. In fact, five tables of people beat us there. We decide to tough out our time investment. An hour later, we sit down. Of course, this isn’t the restaurant’s fault, it’s ours.

We devour the usual Crabby Shack goods. Fried artichokes. Big salads. Chicken gumbo. Fried shrimp. Cheeseburger. I eat best of all: blackened red snapper. Excellent.

This is one of those unexpected semi-holidays that nobody expects to find filled up or closed. I will have to compile a list of such restaurants, and possible substitutes.

Crabby’s Seafood Shack. Madisonville: 305 Covington. 985-845-2348.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Fish In A Salt Dome

The late Chef Jamie Shannon cooked this for a dinner I had at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans in 1992. It was one of the first dinners served at the restaurant’s now-famous Chef’s Table. The fish was as delicious as it was dramatic. The whole fish was on a pan covered with a pile of salt in which it had been baked. The salt formed a shell that had to be broken. Amazingly, it was not salty at all–just full of elemental fish flavor. I recommend drum, redfish, red snapper, small grouper, Spanish mackerel, or other nice fatty fish.

  • 1 whole Gulf fish, 2 to 4 pounds, dressed
  • 2 boxes kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

1. The best pan to use for this is an oval pan about 18 inches long by 12 inches wide, and about three inches deep. Cover the bottom with about a half-inch of salt. Place the fish on top of the salt. Now cover the fish with salt so that it mounds up about a half-inch thick at its thinnest part.

2. Using a clean spray bottle, spray water all over the salt until it’s glistening with dampness. Put the pan into the oven at 375 degrees and bake for between 40 minutes (for a two-pounder) to an hour (for a four-pounder). If you want to be exacting, shove (this will not be easy) a meat thermometer through the salt and into the fish when you think it’s nearing doneness. Look for an internal temperature of 125-130 degrees.

3. Remove the fish from the oven and allow it to stand for 10-15 minutes. Break the salt shell, brush off the excess salt and, as you carve the fish, remove the skin. This fish will be so juicy and delicious that no sauce is needed.

Serves two to six, depending on the size of the fish. (Figure about ten ounces per person of whole fish.)

500BestSquareSmoked Salmon And Bagel @ Stein’s Deli

In this well-worn deli, the refrigerator cases are full of meats from both the Jewish and Italian traditions, and are as fine as can be found locally. This is also true of the breads, which are a godsend if one has grown up eating New York bagels and has a hankering for them. New Orleans has as few good sources of excellent bagels as New York has muffuletta bread bakers. Dan Stein brings his bagels in from New York regularly. Add the silky smoked salmon and the usual accoutrements, close your eyes, and pretend you’re in the Apple. It almost works.

Bagel, lox, cream cheese, capers, and dill

Stein’s Deli. Uptown: 2207 Magazine . 504-527-0771.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare July 13, 2017

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest 21

Celebrity Chefs Today

Chef Paul Prudhomme was born today in 1940. He was the youngest of thirteen children, and grew up on a farm near Opelousas. He often said that the goodness of Cajun cooking came from having to sell the best of what they caught and grew, and making secondary foodstuffs taste good. He also said that people who grew up close to the earth, as his family did, had the advantage of having the ultimate in freshness in their food.

Chef Paul first came to our attention when, in 1974, he became chef of La Bon Creole, the restaurant in the Maison Dupuy Hotel that’s now Le Meritage. After a few other gigs, he turned up as executive chef of all of the restaurants operated by the Commander’s Palace branch of the Brennan family. Commander’s became great while he was there, as he introduced an entirely new style of Cajun and Creole cooking.

During those years, Paul began encouraging young people to take up cooking as a profession–not the kind of advice they heard much in those days. He opened his own restaurant on July 3, 1979. K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen (the “K” is for his late wife Kay Hinrichs, a big part of the operation) was an instant hit, and Paul’s celebrity grew exponentially. He remains one of the best-known chefs in America, and his cookbooks began their long and continuing run as best-sellers. After the hurricane, Chef Paul became highly visible locally, giving free food from his spice plant in Elmwood, and camping out on the sidewalk in front of K-Paul’s to encourage the revival of New Orleans.

Chef Paul passed away on October 8, 2015, but his restaurant and cookbooks live on as robust as ever.

Food Calendar

It is National French Fry Day. Fried potatoes are among the greatest culinary creations of all time. Even when they’re badly made, they’re tempting. When well made, they’re irresistible. Chefs and restaurateurs from the lowest to the highest orders brag about their fries as much as about anything. No less a gourmet than Thomas Jefferson proudly served fries at the White House.

A clear uptick in the quality of restaurant French fries appeared in recent years. More of them take the trouble to cut their own from fresh potatoes. That was at one time universal. Even McDonald’s use to have fresh-cut fries, as late as the 1970s. Frozen, pre-blanched, pre-cut potatoes now rule the world. They’re treated with batter or flavorings to approximate the crispness and flavor of the fresh article. That must be done because most French fries are fried in advance. They may be wonderful as they come out of the fryer, but unless something is done they become limp or dry a few minutes later. I understand why fast food restaurants serve frozen potatoes. But why should seafood restaurants, neighborhood cafes, and even some uppity, expensive bistros serve frozen fries?

The answer is distressing. It’s that most Americans are so accustomed to eating frozen French fries that they look askance at potatoes done the right way. The problem is exacerbated by a lack of fry-making skill in some of the restaurants that try to use fresh potatoes.

But the technique is simple. To make great French fries, all you have to do is fry them twice. That way they not only have that great potato flavor, but they’re crisp as well. There’s only one problem: after the first frying, they’re really ready to eat, and some people can’t resist. So there they go. I’ve found a way around this: I fry the potatoes at a lower temperature, but for a long time. The effect is nearly as good as frying them twice. And incomparably better than any frozen fries.

Deft Dining Rule #114

Few tidbits are better with cocktails than crisp, hot, thin French fries made from fresh potatoes.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Okra is a crossroads community on the Tennessee side of the Kentucky state line. It’s 125 miles east-northeast of Nashville. It’s a hilly area, with some rock outcroppings here and there. Horses are raised in a number of farms nearby. When Okrans get hungry, it’s only a mile and a half south to the Farm House Restaurant. No gumbo there, though.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

When buying potatoes for making fries, buy the biggest Russet potatoes you can find. Scratch the skin lightly with your fingernail. If you see even a hint of green, put that spud back.

Edible Dictionary

edacious, (i-DAY-shuhss), adj.–Having a strong appetite for eating, voracious. The connotation is that the edacious person is not merely hungry or even famished, but possessed of a powerful desire to eat for the sake of eating. It comes from the Latrin worde “edere,” which means “to eat.” This is a word we ought to use more often, but with moderation.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Today in 1937, the first Krispy Kreme doughnuts were sold to food stores in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. At first, there was no doughnut shop as such, but after people came by asking to buy them they cut a hole in a wall and started vending them through a window. The recipe for the dough came from a chef in New Orleans, according to the company’s lore. We’ve never tracked down who that might have been. But if I get my hands on that guy, I’ll. . .

Food In Forest Fires

The Sour Biscuit Fire began today in 2002, when a lightning strike ignited a dry forest in Oregon. It spread to Northern California, and by the time it was brought under control it had burned a half-million acres.

Food Namesakes

Pro basketballer Spud Webb was born today in 1963. . . Jazz bass player Leroy Vinnegar was born today in 1928. . . Captain James Cook set out today in 1772 from Plymouth, England, on his second voyage of exploration of the Pacific Ocean. . . This is the birthday, in 100 B.C.E., of Julius Caesar, the first Emperor of Rome and most translated of Latin authors. The Caesar salad is named for him only indirectly.

Words To Eat By

“The hand that dips into the bottom of the pot will eat the biggest snail.”–Wole Soyinka, Nigerian playwright, born today in 1934.

Words To Drink By

“You say potato, I say vodka.”–Megan Mullally as Karen Walker on the television show Will & Grace.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Recipe For A Certain Kind Of Funeral.

Eight legs, plus the aforementioned lemon and butter.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Thursday, June 29, 2017. 6:17 a.m. I get up, don my clothes, collapse the bottom bed (I haven’t used the top one on this trip), then check out the dining car. Indeed, they are serving breakfast. I get the tortilla and omelette with salsa–the same item that I was disappointed by on the first lunch, a week and a half ago. The menu’s name for this is illusive.

Nevertheless, I return to Roomette #7 in the sleeper. I stare out the window and see that we’re in the endless desert flatlands of extreme southern California. We may already be past the California-Arizona state line. The ground is almost denuded of vegetation. Even the cactus and the greasewoods are missing. An interstate highway carries a lot of cars, and a parallel railroad is taking a long freight train in the other direction.

I am hardly the first person to find this environment hypnotic. Painters, writers, musicians, designers, and architects come away from these parched, spooky miles with changed, inspired and reinspired outlooks.

And so it begins for me. From here until Mary Ann collects me (the perfect word for her actions) in New Orleans two days later, I will find my outlook transformed by a mix of puzzlement, isolation, worried concern, and wonder. Hypnotism is a good word for it, but having the right word doesn’t explain my strange thoughts.

The usual concerns of other people are here also mine to be addressed. I’m getting older and will soon have to address that matter, especially as regards my health. When I first started writing professionally about eating forty years ago, I was the only person doing so in New Orleans. Now there are hundreds of people in on the act, most of them amateurs working for free. No reason I should quit because of that, but I can’t ignore the development either.

I didn’t really want to think about such issues during this fun vacation, but to get away from them. But there they are.

When the train works its way through El Paso to that city’s beautiful train terminal (amazing, since only six trains a week use it), we are met by the Burrito Lady. She makes burritos filled with chile peppers in all standard colors, cheese, beans and, if you’re lucky chicharrones. They cost two dollars each. The challenge is that the train is only in the station briefly, and passengers have to move quickly. I was in line, but the horn honked before I could make my purchase.

The temperature was something like 115 degrees, with no shade over the burrito line. I felt like I was being roasted myself.

Out of El Paso the train runs east through textbook Chihuahuan desert. I never get tired of that mix of lush green here and decidedly desert foliage there. A string of large mountain ranges almost overhang the flat desert. Then the tracks cross US 90, whose Westernmost extremity is about fifty miles west. US 90 is the highway companion of the Sunset Route from here all the way to New Orleans.

The train stays with US 90 until it reaches Alpine, where it performs a crew change and some refreshing of the train’s utilities. Then the tracks cross through Paisano Pass in the midst of a rather large mountain range. It emerges from the rocks heading north into a wide valley full of not very much.

It’s now that my Fear Alert Light came on. On our way to Los Angeles, the train experienced overheating of its axles and had to slow down for a time. Nothing bad came of this in the long run.

Today, the train decelerates to something like thirty miles per hour, and it stays at that speed for quite awhile. I hear that this is to make room for an oncoming freight train. But I can’t forget last week. And I know that this train will travel for at least a hundred miles with almost zero habitation along the way. My overly-worrying mind wonders: what if something happens to the locomotive and we are stuck out here. I have seen very few crossroads. The mapping function of my smart phone sees nothing in any direction. On top of that, it’s starting to get dark, and some of the roughest territory in Texas is ahead of us. I keep trying to forget about this–surely a locomotive would be sent out to tow us back in if there were a problem. But what if it derails? Also, if the engine stops running the air conditioning will stop, too. And there is no shelter from the heat here.

Nothing happens, of course. By now I am not quite a basket case, but plenty agitated.

Thank God it’s dinner time. I have been tipping well on both trips, and I get a little bit of special service. I sit with a couple with a wide range of interests. He is a church pastor. His wife is along for the ride. Nice people. They are very interested in what I do, but they don’t seem to be gourmets. I keep my concerns about the train and other matters to myself.

The dining car’s entree for me today is the house special filet mignon, served with a bearnaise sauce from a jar–but that’s better than no bearnaise. The steak, for the second time (I tried it on the ride in from New Orleans a week ago), is nicely seasoned and quite good. I get a half-bottle of generic California Cabernet. It all makes me feel better. But. . .

As happened in the opposite direction in the westward half of this trip, the Sunset Limited stops in San Antonio. There it jettisons several cars–a sleeper, a dining car, and a coach. All these will be hitched to the half of this train that came down from Chicago. The remaining cars of the Sunset Limited continue on to New Orleans, but not before a great movement of cars–sometimes my car. I had a mental problem about this on the way west, even though I’ve been through this routine more about a dozen times before. I keep thinking about the possibility of my going out on the wrong train. I don’t sleep as well as usual tonight, and I awaken early.

And that’s when the weirdness begins. I know as well as I know anything that this train will follow US 90 all the way to New Orleans. I know exactly where that route will go: through Houston, Lake Charles, Lafayette, New Iberia, and Morgan City, then up and over the Huey P. Long Bridge. We did all the above in reverse at the beginning of this voyage.

We get off to a bad start in Houston. From a very peculiar part of town, the train backs up for several miles at a snail’s pace. We go through some very rough neighborhoods. Then, when we work our way into an actual railyard, we must weave in and out of some freights.

I find myself wondering how the train will cross the Calcasieu River at Lake Charles. It looks like the train will ride across the river waters. I didn’t get a good look.

We arrive at Lafayette, where upon the train’s arrival a young woman is honored for something she did recently. (She arrived on the train.) We heard her speech and that of other notables. We move on through the street-running part of New Iberia, where there might be a full-size moving train in the middle of the street you’re on.

Darkness falls. We cross the Atchafalaya River in Morgan City. The bridge looks sturdy enough.

When we get to Schriever, near Thibodeaux, I get it in my mind that there is no railroad track here, but we move on anyway. Of course, there are tracks. I was just imagining their absence.

Midnight. The train is now officially late for the time I asked Mary Ann to pick me up. She has been pleasant and welcoming on the phone so far, but that begins to fade. It’s after midnight.

I don’t remember crossing the Mississippi on the Huey. But it’s dark. I do remember hanging out with a few other passengers, comparing notes, telling jokes, impressing them with my radio show, and wondering if they knew what was going on.

Then the train is moving along on the lake side of the I-10 through downtown New Orleans. I remember that the train made a near-circle around the old Times-Picayune building. This is where a bit of rail called a “wye” allows the train to essentially do a U-turn. It backs into the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal. My big suitcase is on the platform. MA is angry, sitting in the car in front of the station, and being told by the cops to move on. I all but run to catch her. I remember leaving a suit jacket in my roomette. I run back to get it. The train is gone.

There’s a lot of traffic here and everywhere else. It’s the Essence Festival downtown. It’s hard to get around.

MA takes me to the radio station’s parking garage. I go up to where I left my car. It’s still there. When I take it down, I show my card and the gate opens. I drive home.

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Bloomin’ Chicken Salad a la Potpourri

The Potpourri was the last white-tablecloth restaurant operated by the D.H. Holmes department store, one of the two major players in the golden era of shopping on Canal Street. (The other was Maison Blanche, of course.) Holmes always had restaurants in its stores, but that era was near its end when they renovated and renamed the dining rooms on Canal Street and at Lakeside Mall. Potpourri was a fern restaurant, with all the atmosphere and the menu of that 1970s dining style. It did have a lot of regular customers, though, and they liked the Potpourri so much that they still seek recipes for its most famous dishes. The Bloomin’ Chicken Salad was one of these. I get asked about it every year or so. This is, I believe, an authentic recipe from Holmes’s kitchen, but I’m not positive. It tastes about like I remember–which is to say that the first thing you notice in eating it is a decidedly sweet flavor.

Two ingredients in the original recipe are offbeat. One is chicken base, an ingredient used in second-rate restaurants across America. It’s available in (oddly) in gourmet supermarkets and some not-so-gourmet places, next to the canned stock and bouillon cubes. I don’t like bases, so I have given instructions for making a bit of chicken stock. (You have to cook the chicken, anyway). The poppyseed dressing was, I’ll bet, a bottled product the restaurant bought off the shelf. I have given a separate recipe for this sweet stuff. When is the last time you had poppyseed dressing?

  • 2 bone-in chicken breasts
  • 1 small onion, cut up into chunks
  • Stems from a bunch of parsley (optional)
  • Leafy top of a bunch of celery, chopped coarsely
  • 1 tsp. black (or three-color) peppercorns
  • 8 oz. (by weight) slivered almonds
  • ~
  • Poppyseed dressing:
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. Colman’s dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. granulated onion or onion powder
  • 1 Tbs. poppyseeds
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 Tbs. cider vinegar
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbs. chicken base (or stock–see instructions)
  • 2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 heads Boston, bibb, or butter lettuce
  • Seasonal fresh fruits: strawberries, blueberries, melons, mango, pears, apricots, satsuma sections. . . whatever is available that sounds delicious

1. Put the chicken, onion, parsley stems, celery tops, and peppercorns into a saucepan with a quart of water. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for 45 minutes.

2. Remove the chicken. Debone it and put the bones into the saucepan. Return to a low boil, this time uncovered.

3. Chop the chicken into one-inch dice and refrigerate.

4. Toast the almonds in a pan in a toasted oven or a broiler at 400 degrees. When you see the first sign of browning, remove the almonds from the heat and set aside to cool.

5. Make the poppyseed dressing by combining all the ingredients in a bowl and whisking or blending in a food processor or blender.

6. In a bowl, blend the mayonnaise with the chicken base, or with 3 Tbs. of the chicken stock (if still hot, whisk in a little at a time). Add the chopped chicken meat and the sliced celery. Toss until well coated. Refrigerate.

7. Tear the leaves of lettuce into large pieces. Toss with the poppyseed dressing (use your judgment as to the amount) and divide into serving plates. Top with the chicken-celery mixture, then with the fruits, then with the almonds. Serve immediately.

500BestSquareFries With Manchego Cheese. @ Capdeville

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Capdeville is among the most prominent of the many new bars with serious kitchens that we find in the CBD and Warehouse District. This one is a little rougher in its premises, but it draws a substantial after-work-and-later crowd. The burgers are good, but they menu goes far beyond. Since you’re already having a drink, you may as well get fries–which are such an area of specialization that they have their own menu section. They also have a somewhat similar mac & cheese with pancetta, brown butter, fresh sage, peas, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and truffle oil

Capdeville-FriesManchesgoChorizo

Capdeville. CBD: 520 Capdeville St. 504-371-5915.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare July 12, 2017

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest 22

Masters Of Food Research

George Washington Carver was born today in 1864, as a slave. He became one of history’s greatest botanists, gaining particular renown because his discoveries benefited poor farmers. He first advocated the more widespread planting of sweet potatoes by showing all the things it could be used for. He then moved to his most famous specialty: peanuts. He showed not only that peanuts could be used in hundreds of different ways, but also that growing them improved the soil. He did all this while constantly fighting people who wouldn’t take advice from a former slave. His work spoke for itself, however, and by the 1920s, his reputation as a great man was beyond dispute.

Food Calendar

In honor of George Washington Carver, today ought to be National Peanut Something Or Other Day. But there are already many peanut observances on the calendar. And it’s also National Pecan Pie Day. Pecan pie is one of the finest desserts in all of Southern cooking. We eat our share of it in New Orleans. The most famous local pecan pie is the one at the Camellia Grill. Like everything there, it’s a pretty simple recipe. Pecan pie is not easy to make; the problem many cooks have is in getting the custard mixture to set. For that reason, for a long time one of New Orleans’ best restaurants (you’d be shocked if I told you who, but I won’t) took Mrs. Smith’s pies out of their boxes, sliced them up, and served them.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Peach Hill rises 180 feet above sea level, forty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts. There is no higher spot anywhere between the two places. The hill is thoroughly wooded, but houses are evenly spaced along Peach Hill Road and the other highways in the area. A mile north is the Bolton Road House Bar and Grill for a pop and a nosh.

Exercising The Food Away

Today is the birthday of fitness and exercise comedian Richard Simmons. He’s a New Orleans guy, and succumbed to the common local condition of enjoying food so much that he became quite pudgy. When he got into exercise, the zeal of the converted propelled him onto television, where he works his way to the edge of embarrassment for laughs. Here’s his website.

Annals Of Food Advertising

The Green Giant trademark was registered today in 1927. Originally, it was applied to a variety of extra-large peas, but the brand had such resonance that it was extended to package all kinds of vegetables.

Deft Dining Rule #184

If you want to throw off an overbearing waiter, ask him if the peas on the dish that has them (there always seems to be one) are genuine Green Giant peas.

Annals Of The Dinner Table

Josiah Wedgwood was born today in 1730. He was a fanatical perfectionist in the art of pottery, leading him produce the fine dinner china that still bears his name. You know–the plates you were given when you got married, but have never actually used? Wedgwood was also the grandfather of Charles Darwin.

Edible Dictionary

rollmops, n.–Pickled herring, rolled around pickled cucumbers and onions. The roll is pickled by marinating in vinegar and mustard for a few days. Although the roll part of the word is clear, rollmops have no resemblance to a mop. “Mops” is German for “dog’s head,” which clears up nothing. Rollmops are most often seen in kosher-style delicatessens as well as German ones. Pickled herring, in places like New Orleans where it’s never seen, is among the most underrated of delicacies.

Food Namesakes

Willis Eugene Lamb, Jr., who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1955, was born today in 1913. . . Eugene Louis Boudin came out of the casing today in 1824. He was a French Impressionist painter. . . Film director Tod Browning heard “action!” today in 1880. . . Gospel singer Sandi Patty (I think I’ve had one of those from a burger joint at the beach) got the spirit today in 1956. . . British comedian Richard Herring got his first laugh today in 1967.

Words To Eat By

“I never did like chitlins. I think they spelled it wrong.”

“The least-used sentence in the English language is, ‘Can I have your beets?'”–Both these by Bill Cosby. Unfortunately, quotations from Cosby–and there are many good ones related to food–have become taboo. He was born today in 1937, for what that’s worth.

Words To Drink By

“To eat, to drink, and to be merry.”–A toast from Ecclesiastes, 8:15.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Recipe For A Certain Kind Of Funeral.

Eight legs, plus the aforementioned lemon and butter.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Sunday. June 25, 2017. 8:00 a.m.This is the big sightseeing day for the Fitz Family. We begin with our longtime tradition of a big breakfast. The Marys are intrigued by the Tartine Manufactory, a much-praised baker of hand-made sourdough and other breads and pastries. We can see that they’re not exaggerating the artisan quality of these loaves, because our table is a few feet from the mammoth ovens. The aroma of the breads is so alluring that all the girls buy a loaf just for their own uses.

The popularity of Tartine is such that MA must use all her wiles to nail down a table for us. The service is less than welcoming –you have to fend for yourself. That is especially true at the between-breakfast-and-lunch time we are there. Once everything is ordered and paid for, however, we enjoy an array of hybrids of sandwiches and omelettes, punctuated by pastries and good coffee. We take a tour of the bakery. Mary Leigh, a near-professional baker, was especially fascinated by everything Tartine, which she already loved enough to have a couple of cookbooks from the place.

We depart from there with Jude at the helm to drive through Golden Gate Park, across the famous bridge, then into the Muir Woods, north of the Gate. It’s a long drive, winding around on a narrow road in search of. . . what? Jude somehow knows the way, and we keep driving until we get to a spot with both redwood trees and access to the ocean and a beach. MA reports that the water is very cold. I wasn’t for one second going to sample that.

3:46 p.m. It is now that Jude reveals that he has no idea which way is out from Muir Woods. We just turn around and exit the way we entered. The plan was to visit Sausalito, the folksy community across the bay from the city, but it is decreed that there’s not enough time. Instead, Jude, Suzanne, and Jackson all go to a children’s science and arts presentation, adjacent to some fertile fishing piers and almost under the Golden Gate Bridge. The Marys and I walk around in the hot, glaring sun (I still haven’t found a pair of clip-on sunglasses) until I feel a sunburn coming on.

Next we begin a random tour of the Presidio end of the city. Here we stop and walk around in the Palace of Fine Arts, a striking piece of architecture with no obvious utility. At least I am getting my quota of walking accomplished.

We wove through the steep streets until we find Taco-Licious, a new Mexican place that Jude somehow knew about. The appeal of this place was lost on me, but the others–notably Mary Leigh and Jude–found it exciting. A jarring moment occurred when a loud burst came from just outside. This proved to be a big, loud motorcycle starting up. If you have a motorcycle, you can do anything in California. I am especially put off by the way cyclists can ride between streams of traffic, even on freeways at top speed.

7:00 p.m. ML returns to work tomorrow. She leaves for home tonight on a redeye flight–using a buddy pass. On standby. Even though many seats are available, a glitch causes her to miss her flight. Luckily, there’s another flight an hour later, and she makes that one.

Back in San Francisco, MA decides to keep the rental car and head out on an excursion on her own. With a dead cell phone. And my phone in her hand. I start worrying at around nine. To calm down, I decide that she will walk in at about 10:30.

10:08 p.m.Mary Ann returns. She wanted to check out the Presidio. Not much, she says. It’s cool, with a Disney Museum, in old military buildings. And the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

Monday. June 26, 2017. 7:00 a.m. It’s our last morning to be awakened by the sound of the cable cars. Love that sound! Still no coffee in the room. I walk across the street to where a restaurant managed by a former New Orleans fellow used to specialize in breakfast. All gone now. I decide to just wait for the inevitable breakfast ideas of the others. Surely between Jude and Mary Ann an oddball café will be offered, even if it may require going well out of our way from the hotel to the airport.

8:47 a.m. “Outerlands” is the name of the restaurant. Jude found by way of a favorable review in a newspaper. It’s not far from the waterfront, on the route of the commuter trains from south. These short trains are very entertaining to Jackson’s eyes. My grandson likes trains!

The Outerland menu is decidedly West Coast in its tastes, but not far out. Among the choices are: Today’s Doughnut; a sandwich of pork shoulder, pastrami and Swiss cheese; warm mushroom broth with brown rice and greens; and a cast-iron grilled cheese sandwich. I have a malted waffle with walnut and strawberries. We occupy a large bench for a long time.

10:20 a.m.Then we go to the airport. How Jude maneuvered there is a mystery, but I’m glad he’s at the wheel instead of me. He and Suzanne and Jackson and I are on the same flight back to Los Angeles. Mary Ann is on her own, as usual. Everything is calm and conventional. There’s even a kid’s indoor playground next to our gate. Jackson has a fun time with the other kids, even the ones bigger than he is.

11:00 a.m.Then we board.

11:22 a.m. Then we sit there for awhile.

11:46 a.m. Then the captain says there is a hydraulic problem. The engineers come in from ten minutes away. They find another hydraulic problem. They test again. And yet a new bogus reading comes up. The attendants pass out cups of water. They seem very sober. Some of the passengers can be heard saying that they want off this plane.

Noon And then the captain says that the hydraulics are not the problem, but a goobered-up gauge. Now that they have it metered up, everything is okay. It takes a long time in line with the other airplanes before we find out for sure whether all is well. Apparently, it was.

1:22 p.m. I lead the applause when we land in Los Angeles in one piece. Funny habit of mine.

1:34 p.m. Jude picks up his car from the garage, where he has arranged to have it washed and detailed. He delivers all of us home, and all lives except mine return to normal.

Tuesday. June 27, 2017. 6:45 a.m. I have not spent many nights in the abode of Jude, Suzanne and Jackson (JS&J). But I know what I must do and must not do. Essentially, I must avoid awakening Jackson from his midday nap (easy: I take my own nap at the same time), and especially from his overnight sleep. (Around seven-thirty.) Also, I must not arouse the two little dogs that live in the back yard. With the exception of one night when I took a wrong turn in the darkness and briefly awakened Jackson, I committed no sins for the next two mornings.

Jude asks me to scramble some eggs for Jackson and to keep my eye on his oatmeal. Meanwhile, I make coffee from Jude’s Nespresso machine. Then the nanny shows up. Jude and Suzanne leave for the day. And I am pulled into light service as baby sitter/grandfather. Call me “Poppy.” In this I am replacing “Emmie,” the aval name adopted by Mary Ann. In no other way can I fill in for my wife in the parental department. She is simply the best when it comes to little kids having fun.

Jackson and I have hit it off pretty well, though, and for the next three days I am his constant playmate. We do a lot of reading, piano playing, and running around. Last time I saw him, he wasn’t walking. Now he’s not only running but zooming around every environment we find ourselves in.

It’s a long time since I played this role. I am inept when it come to matters like changing diapers. Soon, I remember what the late Ted Brennan said to me after Jude was born. “You are not Mr. Food. You are not a restaurant critic. You are not the guy on the radio. The only thing you are now is Jude’s daddy, period!” That proved very true back then, and once again now.

So we play all day long, without a stop. Occasionally I have to keep him away from dangers. The ballpoint pen at eye level that he insisted on running around with, for example. He showed his strength by resisting my efforts and screaming at me.

Other than such moments, we are the best of friends for the next three days. I’m pleased that he doesn’t run to his parents’ sides when they come home. He likes me, and I like him.

500BestSquareChar-Broiled Oysters @ Drago’s

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It’s a simple dish. That fact kept fancy restaurants from offering it until the it became such a phenomenon that almost every restaurant with a local theme had to add it to the menu. Shucking oysters is the first step, and most chefs don’t want any part of that. So it fell to the city’s great oyster specialist to create and serve them, by the hundreds of sacks per week, to people willing to wait quite some time for them. Are they really as good as all that? Yes. Why? Because the oysters are so good. Which also explains why other restaurants never quite get it up to Drago’s standard.

In the unlikely case that you never had them before, Drago’s char-broiled oysters are shucked fresh, blasted by fire and steam on an open grill, basted with a lot of garlic-herb butter, dusted with Parmigiano cheese, and left on the grill till the juices bubble. Simple, yes. But so good that you can eat dozens of them and still want more.

There’s a reason we chose Drago’s today as the source of one of our 500 Best Restaurant Dishes, even though char-broiled oysters Drago’s style is so widely known that not much more can be said.

Recently, Drago’s in Metairie opened a new dining room, one that can hold about 150 more people and doubling the size of the place. What did they need that for? Anyone who has ever dined at Drago’s knows the answer to this: the wait for a table was so long as to become a deterrent. I have little doubt that the restaurant will remain busy, but the turnover should be much quicker, a very welcome improvement.

The restaurant’s slogan makes a big but true statement: “the best single bite of food in New Orleans.” Yup, I’d go along with that.

Drago’s. CBD: 2 Poydras. 504-584-3911.

||Metairie: 3232 N Arnoult Rd. 504-888-9254. This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

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Drago’s Char-Broiled Oysters

Drago Cvitanovich has been the oyster king of New Orleans for four decades–and that’s saying something. Like most other people in the oyster business, he was a Croatian immigrant. When he opened his restaurant in the 1970s, he kept his ties with his countrymen down the river, and as a result always had the best oysters available.

Drago’s son Tommy, who now runs the restaurant, created this dish in the early 1990s. It became wildly popular, and restaurants all over town now copy the dish. It’s simple enough. The only tough part is obtaining oysters of Drago’s quality (sometimes you can get them directly from the restaurant), and then opening them. Don’t attempt this without freshly-shucked oysters and an outdoor grill.

This is the perfect dish for those who want to enjoy oysters in their unadorned form, but can’t or won’t eat raw. Once you start eating these, you won’t be able to stop. My personal best is four and a half dozen.

By the way, this recipe is the real McCoy. Tommy Cvitanovich has never kept it a secret, for this reason: “You may have the right recipe, but you don’t have my oysters.”

  • 2 lb. butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 Tbs. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • 6 dozen oysters on the half shell
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses, mixed
  • 3 Tbs. chopped parsley

1. Mix butter with the garlic, pepper, and Italian seasoning.

2. Heat a gas or charcoal grill and put oysters on the half shell right over the hottest part. Spoon the seasoned butter over the oysters enough so that some of it will overflow into the fire and flame up a bit.

3. The oysters are ready when they puff up and get curly on the sides. Sprinkle the grated Parmesan and Romano and the parsley on top. Serve on the shells immediately with hot French bread.

Serves eight to twelve normal people, or two serious oyster fanatics.

AlmanacSquare July 11, 2017

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest 23

Celebrity Restaurateurs Today

Drago Cvitanovich was born today in 1922, in a small town near Split, Yugoslavia (now Croatia). He moved to Louisiana along with many of his countrymen, and joined the oyster industry in Plaquemines Parish. He moved to New Orleans in the 1950s, and worked for a time at a restaurant owned by his brother-in-law Drago Batinich. Drago C. opened his own place (also called Drago’s) in 1969, in what later became Fat City. Drago C. passed away February 4, 2017.

Klara and Drago Cvitanovich.

Klara and Drago Cvitanovich.

The new Drago’s menu was half seafood and half Croatian food. It was also half-full, on a busy day. Its specialty always has been oysters. Drago handled that end of the business personally, drawing on his contacts with the oystermen in Empire and thereabouts. The restaurant’s success was a long time in coming, but it did come–especially after it invented char-broiled oysters. That was such a phenomenon that it’s as widely imitated as barbecue shrimp or oysters Rockefeller. Now, led by Drago’s son Tommy, Drago’s is one of the most successful restaurants in town.

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Blueberry Muffin Day. Beware: the “blueberries” in many commercial muffins are actually little bits of dried apple colored blue. However, a good blueberry muffin is wonderful. Make some: blueberry season is ending down here, but it spreads north trough the next couple of months. The most famous blueberry muffins in New Orleans were (and are) those baked at the Pontchartrain Hotel. Although the restaurant offerings of the Pontchartrain are much diminished from their glory days when the Aschaffenburg family owned the place, the blueberry muffins still go on. Actually, they’re a little on the dry side, but they do make a breakfast something special.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Nectar, Alabama is a town of 372 people forty miles north of Birmingham. It’s in a very picturesque, prosperous farming and orchard area, in the foothills of the Great Smokies. Nectar is surrounded by a big, looping bend of the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River, far upstream. A long, historic covered bridge crossed the river at Nectar until 1993, when it was burned down by vandals. Its memory lives on at the Covered Bridge Grill, three miles away from the center of Nectar.

Annals Of Dueling

Today in 1804, the most famous duel in American history came to a bad end when Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton–the man most responsible for assembling the U.S. government as we know it–fell in Weehawken, New Jersey, across the Hudson from Manhattan. Burr, who came out of the deal with a badly damaged reputation, came to New Orleans, where he began starting other trouble. Now, of course, men challenge one another with knives in the kitchen (i.e., the Iron Chef).

Gambling And Food

Today in 1913, within walking distance of the Dueling Oaks, the New Orleans City Park Casino opened. It served as the central refreshment stand for the park (and still does). When we were kids, we associated a visit to City Park with the sno-balls, popcorn, and hot dogs we gleaned from the Casino. Then we climbed all over the big live oaks outside between merry-go-round rides and turns on the swings. Ah, innocent childhood.

Dressing Up For Dinner

Today is the birthday, in 1934, of Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani. I wish I could wear one of his suits, but you need a certain kind of physique for those beautiful duds. Avid eaters rarely have such a shape.

Edible Dictionary

pippin, n.–An apple–generally a good one–from a tree grown from a seed. Since the apples on ungrafted seedling trees are almost never like the apple the seed came from, when a good apple results from such a tree it’s considered a lucky break–a “pippin.” (Most fruit from chance seedlings are very bad for anything but making cider.) The most famous American pippin is the Newtown pippin, a green apple from a tree that grew on Long Island, New York in the 1700s. Trees grafted from that one were grown throughout the American colonies. It is still considered one of the best of the green apples.

Annals Of Overeating

Former U.S. President William Howard Taft was sworn in today in 1921 as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was the first and only man to head two major branches of the Federal government. He was the size of two men, at well over 300 pounds.

Treat Of The Day

Many locations of the 7-11 chain of convenience stores around the world will give you a free 7.11-ounce Slurpee today if you ask. Note the date.

Food In The Wild

Today in 2001, a patrolman in Vancouver was accosted by a duck who walked up and grabbed him by the pants leg. The duck kept pulling the cop, who kept breaking loose, down the street to a catch basin. There, in the drainage, were eight baby ducklings. The policeman fished them out with a vegetable strainer, and the reunited duck family resumed its walk to a nearby pond. I’m thinking of some tale of how delicious they all were in the police kitchen that night, but I can’t bring myself to write it.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Benedict, founder of the Benedictine monks, the first Christian monastic order, in the sixth century. His rule was “Pray and work.” Cooking and baking have always been a big part of the work. The Benedictines at St. Joseph’s Abbey near Covington bake an enormous amount of bread everyday, most of which they give away to the poor.

Food Namesakes

Bobby Rice, pop singer in the 1960s and 1970s, was born today in 1944. He was heard on the Fireballs’ song Sugar Shack. . . Mel Appleby, of the rock duo Mel ‘n’ Kim, was born today in 1966. . . Blind Lemon Jefferson, one of the most influential early blues singers and guitarists, wailed for the first time today in 1897. . . Brazilian physicist Cesare Lattes discovered himself today in 1924. He discovered the pi meson, so small its filling could not be tasted.

Words To Eat By

“Mother: “It’s broccoli, dear.”
Child: “I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.”–E. B. White, long-time New Yorker writer, born today in 1899.

Words To Drink By

“They never taste who always drink.”–Matthew Prior, On a Passage in the Scaligerana.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Least-Welcome Guest During The Holidays.

If she starts talking about her work during a dinner, bring out the earplugs.

Click here for the cartoon.