DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, September 13, 2017. The Most Spartan Menu Of The Year. So Why Do I Feel Great?

During the Great Hurricane Paranoia of recent weeks, I felt it imperative to load up with some halfway decent food, just in case. Nothing along the lines of canned red beans, Vienna sausage, or (heaven preserve me) potted meat food product. My emergency food is for shorter interruption of civilization. So I have a pound of deli ham, turkey, salami, and Swiss cheese. Two loaves of frozen multi-grain bread. This wouldn’t be enough for a Katrina interruption (we were out of our powerless house for six weeks then), but for the inevitable week or so with no restaurants open.

I don’t believe that most people realize how much they have become dependent on the restaurant business in keeping us from going hungry. We all recall what happened when, after K, the people who were told to take refuge in the Superdome were shocked when they found no food vendors there. Nor food from any other source, either. (See “You’re doing a great job, Brownie!”

When it became clear that I would not need my food stash for either Harvey or Irma, I figured it was time to and make some sandwiches. I rarely eat lunch, so at first this was novel. By today, hoever, it looked like I needed to pick up the pace on the turkey. The sandwich I made was just under two inches of deli turkey. Tasted good, this I know. But I’d never had quite that much in one in a sandwich. And I never will again either, because during the night a familiar stinging ache moved into the space next to my big toe. The Gout. I know it when I feel it, and I was feeling it now. It was the turkey, I’ll bet. I would limp along all day today before it began to fade. Which, fortunately, it did. Gout doesn’t get me too badly. It’s said to favor men (women get it only rarely) who enjoy eating well (that would be me), drink even better (check box #2), and indulge to an above-average degree in the romantic arts.

Well, two out of three isn’t bad.

Thursday, September 14, 2017. Tujague’s Reworks Its Menu For Restaurant Week.

The word I am getting from restaurateurs is that the Coolinary program and the current Restaurant Week have been very good in stirring up business. That there were 102 restaurants doing the Coolinary, the number rose to 115 for the related Restaurant Week. People love a sale.

I have been touting one of these every day for the past month or so. One I was thinking about featuring was Tujague’s, but there have been so many to choose from and that I’ve held back on the famous restaurants.

But today I was in the mood for Tujague’s. Whatever that means. For most people familiar with the 1856-founded restaurant think about the five-course table d’hote dinner Tujague has offer through its history. But owner Mark Latter reinvented the menu completely two or three years ago. He kept the old table d’hote, but in small type. The new eats are much better than the old.

The Restaurant Week menu at Tujague’s is superb. Three courses. I began with a dozen steamed mussels, each one nearly perfect, in a half-rich cream sauce. I suspect this comes from Chef Guy Sockrider, who had turned out food like this at Muriel’s, Tomas Bistro, and a few other places. He fits right in at Tujague’s, where he has cooked for a year now.

The waiter recommended other seafood, but they were edged out by the lemonfish, a piscine favorite of mine. It was the healthiest meal I’ve had in awhile, with only a little butter and steamed broccoli.

Dessert was peche Melba. First time I’ve seen that anywhere but Antoine’s in a long time.

This is an excellent lineup of food for $38. Apparently the word is out. By the time I headed home, the main dining room was full, as were two private party rooms. This even though Decatur Street and its sidewalks are a tremendous mess. But this is the time of year that’s best for renovations inside and out.

Tujague’s. French Quarter: 823 Decatur. 504-525-8676.

Storyville is well named. In its heyday (the late 1890s-1910s), any time the neighborhood came up in conversation, there was a story–usually a bawdy one. Although prostitution and corruption that attends it were much less than savory, the Storyville years saw the emergence of a new culture in New Orleans. Jazz, back-alley cooking, and lascivious art all flourished in that time and place.

The Historic New Orleans Collection–one of the city’s best sources in the study of New Orleans history–is running an exhibit called “Storyville: Madams and Music.” Since food is involved, it seemed to make a great subject for a dinner at Dickie Brennan’s Tableau. It’s not in Storyville, but the Jackson Square location is a great location for the six-course dinner.

The date of the dinner is October 11. Tickets are $100 unless you book a space between now and September 20. That gives you an $85 admission. Whatever you pay, the dinner includes tax, tip, cocktails and wines.

Drinks Historian Elizabeth Pearce–who is The Historic New Orleans Collection’s co-curator of the Storyville presentation, along with Pamela D. Arceneaux will be there to tell the stories. I think I will attend this one, to see if there’s any truth to the story of the Peacemaker poor boy sandwich. It says that it was a peace offering a not-so-gentleman brought home to his wife after he had spent an evening in Storyville. (The ingredients are fried oysters and shrimp, bacon, and cheese.)

Local Radishes
Butter and sea salt, house pickled vegetables, Pissaladiere, flatbreads, Leidenheimer breadassorted olives;

Potage Printaniere

Chicken consommé, diced local vegetables, truffle dumpling

Gulf Shrimp Joinville
Spicy seared Gulf shrimp, oyster patty, crawfish velouté

Rabbit Rillettes
Roasted rabbit, lardons, tarragon, rose peppercorns, quince jam, warm baguette

Petit Filet of Beef Mahogany Hall-Pan
Seared filet, fusion of sauces Bordelaise and Bavorois, potato croquette, asparagus bundle

Jelly Roll Morton
Raspberry jelly roll, salted chocolate bark, Crème Anglaise, raspberry coulis

Tableau

French Quarter.: 616 St. Peter St. 504-934-3463. www.tableaufrenchquarter.com.

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

RecipeSquare-150x150

Smoked Cheddar Arancini

I have almost never met arancini I didn’t like. They’re round spheres of rice, usually with a plug of cheese in the center. “Arancini” means “little oranges,” so named because from a distance and with blurred vision that’s what they look like. I found this recipe on a Wisconsin Cheese promotional website, developed by Chef John Caputo of Chicago’s Bin 36 restaurant. It gets an interesting new dimension from the smoky cheese. You can vary this recipe by adding a little ham or other kinds of cheeses to the centers of the balls. Another variation I made once was to replace one of the cups of water with strained marinara sauce during the cooking of the rice.

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 10 oz. Arborio rice (the kind used for risotto; about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cup grated smoked cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups plain bread crumbs, preferably freshly grated
  • Peanut or canola oil for frying
  • Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 Tbs. prepared horseradish
  • 1 tsp. Tabasco chipotle pepper sauce (or 1 Tbs. smoky barbecue sauce)

1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the rice and stir until you smell a toasty aroma.

2. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Stir until the rice absorbs the wine.

3. Lower the heat to medium-low. Add 1/2 cup water with 1/2 tsp. of salt dissolved in it. Stir lightly until the rice has absorbed it all. Repeat this process twice. Then stir in just enough water that the rice is becoming sticky but the grains are not disintegrating. This differs from rice to rice, but the typical amount of water total is about two cups.

4. Dump the rice onto a metal pan and spread it out about a half-inch deep. Put the pan into the refrigerator to cool the rice.

5. When the rice is cool, wet one hand and spoon about 2 Tbs. of rice into it, spreading it out in your palm. Pick up about a teaspoon of the grated cheese and put it in the center of the rice. Close your hand to enclose the cheese into the rice. Wet the other hand and roll the rice into a ball.

6. Roll the rice ball in the flour to coat lightly. Shake off excess. Dip the ball into the beaten egg, and shake off that excess. Finally, roll the ball through the bread crumbs. Repeat until you run out of rice. Place the finished balls on a pan and, when finished, refrigerate. You can do the recipe up to this point in advance.

7. To cook the rice balls, heat the oil to 350 degrees. Drop the rice balls in, four to six at a time. Roll them around to brown evenly to a medium brown crispness–about three minutes of frying. Drain in a fine sieve over a pan.

8. Mix all the sauce ingredients and serve at cool room temperature with the rice balls.

Serves six.

AlmanacSquare September 18, 2017

Days Until. . .

Summer ends 4. Fettuccine Frenzy: Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays through September @ Middendorf’s.

Food Around The World

Today is Independence Day in Chile, which declared its intent to dislodge its Spanish colonizers today in 1818. Fast forward 173 years, and we find Chile emerging as a major producer of excellent wines at such attractive prices that they caught on quickly in the United States. Chilean wines have two unusual tales to tell The first is that it’s one of the largest winegrowing area in the world growing French wine grapevines on their own roots. The phylloxera root louse has not (yet) arrived there, is why. Second, Chile recently discovered that a grape variety they’ve been calling Merlot is actually Carmenere, an old French variety that is probably extinct in France itself. All of that is secondary to the fact that Chilean wines, grown on volcanic soils at the same latitudes as the other great wine-producing areas of the world, are excellent.

Annals Of Cheese

Elmer Maytag was born today in 1883. He was the son of the founder of the Maytag Corporation, the maker of washing machines and other large household appliances. He is of special concern to us because, as president of the company, he started a dairy farm in Iowa in the 1940s. The farm–still owned by the Maytag family–developed a cow’s-milk blue cheese that has become the leading such cheese in America. Eat some crumbles of Maytag blue today in his honor.

Annals Of Cookies

Today is the birthday, in 1956, of Debbi Fields, the founder of Mrs. Fields, whose cookie-baking stores in malls and downtowns all over America sell those soft, warm, gooey cookies everybody seems to love. She is as famous for having been a young mother with no business experience when she opened her first store in Palo Alto, outside San Francisco, in 1977. An apocryphal story, circulating on the Web for years, has it that a customer at a Mrs. Fields asked for the cookie recipe. She was told the price was one ninety-five, and bought it. A charge for $195 showed up on her. To get even, she published it all over the place. The same story is told about Neiman Marcus. Both versions are pure myth.

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Blue Cheeseburger Day. The standard cheeseburger–the most popular main dish in America–is so common that more than a few makers of them are always on the lookout for an interesting variant on the idea. The one that’s making the greatest inroads these day uses blue cheese in top of the beef. The hamburger restaurants trying to climb upscale have found this one particularly successful. Their customers are not only intrigued by the notion, but willing to spend a much higher price than they would for a cheeseburger with a slice of American, or even grated Cheddar.

Like other cheeseburgers, this one gets much of its allure from the widespread notion that any dish can be improved by adding cheese. This is clearly not so, but in the absence of better ideas (hamburger joints, even the expensive ones, are not exactly on the cutting edge), cheese appears. And the more offbeat the cheese, the better.

In my opinion the combination doesn’t work well. The main problem is the heat of the burger. The flavors of melted blue cheese are completely out of whack. I like hamburgers, and I like blue cheese, but I’d rather separate them. Take the lettuce and tomatoes off the burger along with the blue cheese, make it into a side salad, and you have two dishes, both of which are better than the one they were made from.

Deft Dining Rule #766:

Anyone who eats blue cheeseburgers only does so when other people are watching. This is especially true if it’s Maytag blue cheese on there.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Banana Lake is a long (about quarter mile), narrow (you can throw a rock across it) body of water in northwestern Montana. It’s just west of the Flathead Indian Reservation. The mountains surrounding the valley where Banana Lake collects its scant water are crisscrossed with ski runs. It’s high, wide, big-sky country. The nearest restaurant is The High Plains Cafe in Plains, four miles west.

Edible Dictionary

fritot or friteau, [free-TOE], French, n.–A small piece of meat or seafood, dipped into a light batter and fried. The most common foods made into fritots are frog legs, oysters, crawfish, mussels, and small pieces of fish. They’re usually served on a platter with a variety of items as an appetizer.

Delicious Roles In Television

James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano on the television show The Sopranos, was born today in 1961. He won all the awards one could win for that role, one of the most complex ever portrayed on the tube. Tony Soprano liked to eat braciole, a dish better known around New Orleans as braciolone.

Food On The Air

The Columbia Broadcasting System went on the air today in 1927. From its earliest days it broadcast many cooking shows. Many advertising dollars were attracted to such programs. The hosts would have to speak very slowly, repeating everything twice, so that listeners could get the recipes down. It made for stultifyingly boring listening. That’s why I rarely give recipes on my radio food show. When I do, I run right through them, giving the general idea, and telling people to go online for the details. The last food show on CBS Radio was a five-minute daily shortie with Chef Mike Roy in the late 1960s. CBS announcers signed off all its radio shows in the Golden Age with, “This is CBS, the Co-LUM-biaah Broadcasting System.” I keep that tradition alive when we go to CBS on my Saturday shows on WWL.

Music To Eat Popsicles By

Today is the birthday, in 1944, of singer Michael Franks, whose most memorable song was Popsicle Toes. Interesting, unique style he had. . . but after listening to five or six of his songs in a row, you about had it for the next six months. Hey! He has a food name!

Food Namesakes

Speaking of franks, we begin with a rare double food name: Bun Cook, a pro hockey player in the Hall of Fame, born today in 1904. . . American classical composer Norman Dinnerstein started eating today in 1937. . . John Berger, an artist and art critic in England, gave his first opinions (perhaps while eating blue cheese!) today in 1926.

Words To Eat By

“A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.”–Advisors of Debbi Fields, who created Mrs. Fields’ cookies. She was born today in 1956.

Words To Drink By.

“Love, with very young people, is a heartless business. We drink at that age from thirst, or to get drunk; it is only later in life that we occupy ourselves with the individuality of our wine.”–Isak Dinesen.

FoodFunniesSquare

You Get More Waffle Per Square Inch.

It also matches the layout of our iPhones. But mainly, how much syrup storage do you need for such a temporary use?

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Monday, September 11, 2017. This Too Has Passed. Back To Second Tenor, Which Heals My Soul. Or Was It The Red Beans And Hot Sausage?

Something in the chemistry of my brain changed on this day thirteen years ago. It took two years for me to get over thinking about it all the time. I still think about it now and then, but other cares have intervened. But who can’t say all this?

After working hard and well through the morning, I invoked the magical qualities of a big plate of red beans and rice to cheer me. My choice this week is Abita Roasters in Covington, where is sold a candidate for best red beans in town. The texture and seasoning are perfect. The hot sausage brings the perfect amount of orange, peppery rendered fat. On this side is a corn pancake–an interesting touch I’ve never seen elsewhere. I return to my empty home–MA departed yesterday evening–and finish my work.

After the radio show, I depart for NPAS’s rehearsal hall. There, after a week off, we resume the work on the gospel and spiritual program we have coming up in a month or so. (We’re not a religious chorus; it just happens that this is the theme for our next show.) I am not having the best time learning some of this, but it still cheers me up to work on it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last couple of years, it’s always to have enjoyable activities outside the work and the worrying.

All that is on my mind mainly because of the stresses of the recent hurricanes. One of my longtime but seldom-pursued hobbies is to keep track of the weather. It’s not working when disaster hangs in the balance.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017. Barbecue. Crisis at the home office. I had nearly the entire NOMenu newsletter finished when it happened. The gizmo into which all my computers and ancillary tools started playing three-note beeps. The visual accompaniment was a blank monitor and all the blue lights dead in the internet modem. What the. . .?

The more I look, the worse things get. Did a rogue surge of electricity come though from–Florida, maybe? That state faces five million people without power after the hurricane that just passed through. I remove cables and replace them, turn this or that off and back on, and check a bunch of other possibilities. Nothing yet when I had to leave for the radio station. All I can think about was what would happen if something happened to my data. It’s backed up, but. . .

We are visited at the radio show by Alex Hill. He’s the owners of two shops selling Dickey’s Barbecue. It’s a chain out of Texas, but MA and I concur that its cue is more than a little good. Alex brings a box of ribs, brisket, and pork, to make this point again.

When the show ends I head for home, with a stop at Office Depot. My thoughts led to a particular cable that might be causing the problem. Or maybe the surge protector. I re-install both it, and after a few more plug-ins I see the glorious image of the computer monitor. It glows with words. I have only very rarely in my life felt a greater relief.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. Covington: 69292 LA21. 985-871-2225. Slidell: 61103 Airport Rd. 985-720-0070.

SummerDiningSpecials

Tableau @ Restaurant Week

With just three days left in this year’s Coolinary/Restaurant Week program, we take a look at what’s on the menu at Tableau, Dickie Brennan’s restaurant on Jackson Square. It’s not only a beautiful place, but it has the feeling of having been there for a hundred years or more. The main building is in fact that old or older, having been La Petite Theatre du Vieux Carre for most of its history. (The theater is still there.)

In this final summer weekend, Tableau has lunch (two courses, $20), brunch ($35, three courses) and dinner ($39, three courses). It all comes back to normal Monday morning.

Gulf Shrimp Remoulade
Poached Gulf shrimp, white remoulade, hard-boiled egg, fried green tomato, green tomato relish~or~

Turtle Soup

>
~or~

Tableau Salad
Mixed greens, bacon, red onion, brioche croutons, Pecorino Romano, lemon-garlic dressing
~~~~~

Black Drum
Roasted seasonal Covey Rise vegetables, leeks, citrus beurre blanc
~or~

Chicken Tableau
Herb-roasted chicken breast, crispy boneless thigh, potatoes Tableau, béarnaise, chicken demi-glace
~or~

Charred Cauliflower Steak
Toasted chickpeas, spinach, tabbouleh, tahini and olive oil marinade
~or~

Filet of Beef
6-oz. prime filet, potato gratin, béarnaise

~or~

Grilled Gulf Yellowfin Tuna
Salade Nicoise, Covey Rise Farms vegetables, poached egg, lemon vinaigrette
~~~~~

Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee
Traditional custard, caramelized sugar
~or~

Tarte A La Bouille
Rustic Cajun sweet dough, vanilla custard, Old New Orleans Rum caramel sauce
~or~

Bananas Foster Cheesecake
Chocolate covered pecan toffee, Old New Orleans Rum caramel sauce

Tableau

French Quarter.: 616 St. Peter St. 504-934-3463. www.tableaufrenchquarter.com.

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

RecipeSquare-150x150

Vol-Au-Vent of Louisiana Seafood

This is a delectable combination of fresh local shellfish in a rich, slightly spicy sauce. The vol-au-vent (a large version of what Orleanians call a “patty shell”) can be bought fresh from a French baker.

Vol-au-vent of various Louisiana seafoods.

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 Tbs. chopped French shallots
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Pinch saffron threads
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Pinch ground ginger
  • 3 lbs. crawfish tails
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fresh tarragon, chopped (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
  • 6 large vol-au-vents (puff pastry shells)

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the green onions and shallots until they’re limp.

2. Add the wine and bring it to a boil. Reduce until most of the liquid is gone. Add the cream, saffron, salt, pepper, cayenne and ginger, and bring to a light boil. (Also add tarragon at this point if using dried.)

3. Add crawfish tail meat. Cook for two more minutes, agitating the pan, until the heat is distributed equally throughout the now-steaming crawfish.

4. Put the vol-au-vents into the preheated oven for about two minutes. Remove from the oven, and spoon the crawfish into a puff pastry shell, until crawfish and sauce run over the top and onto the plate.

Serves six.

AlmanacSquare September 15, 2017

Days Until. . .

Restaurant Week: 2. Fettuccine Frenzy: Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays through September @ Middendorf’s.
Summer ends 7

Gourmets Through History

Today is the birthday in 1857 of William Howard Taft, the twenty-seventh President of the United States. He weighed over 300 pounds, a record for the chief executive. Big guys were common in those days of massive eating. Banquet menus from that time make today’s wine dinners look like snacks. Taft, after he finished his term as President, became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Turning Points In Eating

Marco Polo was born today in 1254. The explorer from Venice traveled widely in the Far East, establishing trade with those lands. The primary commodity: spices. Marco Polo is often credited with having brought pasta to Italy from China, but pasta was already there. Still, there was once a restaurant in Gretna (in the building where Kim Son is now) named for Marco Polo. Its menu combined Chinese and Italian food. Not a big hit.

Eating Around The World

This is Independence Day for most Central American nations. Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica all broke away from Spain today in 1821. There is without question a distinctive Central American cuisine. It has two sets of roots, in Spanish cookery and in that of the native pre-Columbian populations. It’s based on the foodstuffs native to the area: corn, chile peppers, and beans.

Each Central American country has its own particular dishes, and many of them have different styles of cooking on their east and west coasts. One items found in all of the countries is the tamal–cornmeal and a little meat enclosed in a banana leaf. But even that shows big differences as you move around the isthmus.

New Orleans has never had many Central American restaurants. The most persistent was Pupuseria Divino Corazon, a Salvadoran cafe in Gretna that is no longer with us. New Salvadoran restaurants have opened since the hurricane, notably the two locations of Pupuseria Macarena. We’ve occasionally had Nicaraguan and Honduran restaurants, even very good ones. Someday we’ll support them long enough for them to become permanent.

Today’s Flavor

In honor of the independence of the five Central American nations today in 1821, this is Pan-American Tres Leches Day. In any restaurant where you find it, tres leches cake can be counted on to be the best dessert in the house. Meaning “three milks,” tres leches is made by layering a firm yellow cake with marshmallow cream, then soaking the whole thing in condensed milk, evaporated milk, and fresh milk. A good deal of variation appears in the recipes. Not all of them use the marshmallow cream. Some use fresh cream instead of one of the milks. Coconut milk also shows up in some. Crushed fruit, rum, and nuts in others. There’s some dispute about its origins, but it seems to us that Nicaragua has the best claim. Tres leches is now found in almost every Central American restaurant in the United States. With good reason: it’s wonderful.

Deft Dining Rule #2

Eat it where it lives. To paraphrase: When in El Salvador, eat pupusas.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Musselman is in central Ohio, fifty-three miles south of Columbus. It’s surrounded by farmland, but is in a 300-foot-deep valley, wooded on both sides, cut by the North Fork of Paint Creek. By way of the Scioto and Ohio Rivers, the water in the creek winds up in New Orleans. No mussels in the creek; the town is named for an old family in the area. An old, now-abandoned main line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad passes through the middle of Musselman’s ten or so structures. It’s a six-mile drive east into Chillicothe for a bite to eat, at Dakota’s Roadhouse.

Edible Dictionary

levain, [leh-VANH]–n., French–A leavening agent for bread dough, made by the action of living, multiplying yeasts on a small amount of flour and water. It creates what’s also known as a mother, sponge or sourdough starter. This is added to a batch of dough. Some of the dough is then returned to the levain to feed it. By doing this, a levain can be kept alive for many years. The advantage of using it instead of commercial yeast is the much more interesting flavor in the resulting bread. Levains are popular in rustic French bakeries and among enthusiastic amateur bakers. It’s widely believed that the best levain comes from yeasts just captured from the air by a mixture of flour and water left out in an open window.

Annals Of Candy

Today in 1995, the tan M&M’s were replaced by blue ones, as a result of a poll of M&Ms eaters that revealed a groundswell of interest in a blue piece. Interestingly, the tan M&Ms entered the pouch to replace purple ones in the 1940s.

Music To Drink Cheap Wine By

Jimmy Gilmer was born today in 1940. He had two rock radio hits, both with food/drink titles, that appeared six years apart. The first was Sugar Shack, in 1963. The second, with a completely different sound and under the name The Fireballs, was Bottle Of Wine. It blistered the radio in 1968.

Music To Drink Cognac By

Bobby Short, perhaps the greatest male American cabaret singer in history, was born today in 1926. For decades, he played in the Cafe Carlyle in New York City, a little club that was packed with his fans every night. I’m one of them. Short had a preference for the standards, rendered in a unique, sassy, jazzy way. He accompanied himself brilliantly on the piano as he sang with enough vibrato to shake leaves off a tree. He died in 2005, but his albums are still available. I’d recommend My Personal Property.

Food Namesakes

David Stove, an Australian philosopher, was born today in 1927. . . His countryman Terry Lamb, professional rugby football player, hit the Big Field today in 1961.

Words To Eat By

“Dessert is probably the most important stage of the meal, since it will be the last thing your guests remember before they pass out all over the table.”–The Anarchist Cookbook.

Words To Drink By

“A drunk was in front of a judge. The judge says ‘You’ve been brought here for drinking.’ The drunk says ‘Okay, let’s get started.'”–Henny Youngman.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Source Of Bad Barbecue.

Found at last! We knew that there had to be a central place from which all those bad ribs come.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Saturday, September 9, 2017. My sparse head of hair looks about the same, even as the length of time since my last haircut grows. Then, suddenly, I look absolutely awful, and the haircut becomes an emergency. The shop that takes care of this has erratic hours on Saturdays, the only day I can get a trim. I have a backup shop that has done such a good job that I think I’ll just stick with them.

The lady who does the cutting–in what looks like a former bathroom–is a listener to the radio show, and so gives me better than usual service. Even Mary Ann noticed how nicely cut my hair was. But anything would be better than the homeless look I entered the salon with.

My radio show is truncated by football. I have only one hour on the air. Tomorrow, I have no show at all. I am ready for this time off. I’ve gone seven days a week for seven months. It’s not punishing, but it’s nice not to have to think about it.

A wedding MA’s family is coming. It involves a cousin of Jude and Mary Leigh. This is the Washington, D.C. branch of MA’s family, who took us into their Maryland home after Hurricane Katrina. Those months marked a complete turnaround for our family. We haven’t been the same since. The wedding is up there. A party for the New Orleans part of the clan takes place tonight in MA’s sister’s Metairie home. How ironic that the Marylanders should be here while another hurricane, one just as bad, is messing up our world again.

Sunday, September 10, 2017. A Rare Day Off Air. So, Brunch. Without a radio show today, and with Mary Ann set to leave for Los Angeles this afternoon, MA demands a nincer-than normal breakfast. She means by that Ox Lot 9, the handsome restaurant in the Southern Hotel in Covington. She says that it’s the best-designed restaurant she knows. Since atmosphere is what she cares for above all other indices, that is saying something.

Ox Lot 9 at the Southern Hotel.

Ox Lot 9 at the Southern Hotel.

Ox Lot 9 is indeed a great-looking place, and its service staff has become deft. I find the food a bit on the contrived side. My entree is a great example of this. The menu calls it a nest, and indeed that’s what it looks like, with fried strips of leeks and grilled brussels sprouts dominating the look. I find it hard to eat, or even to lift with a fork. On the other hand, the dish is interesting, what with a pair of poached eggs in the “nest.” I ask for some fried oysters from another dish, to give the dish more substance. That does the job for me. The only part left to be assembled is a trio of beignets with an unusually fine texture. And then we leave happy.

Ox Lot 9. Covington: 428 E Boston St. 985-400-5663.

Mary Ann leaves this afternoon on Spirit Airlines, ready to be the full-time nanny of our two-year-old grandson for a week or so. Nothing could make her happier than to play with Jackson all day long.

It’s a beautiful day. I need no longer worry about the possibility of the powerful Hurricane Irma’s showing up in New Orleans. It’s bad enough as it tracks though most of Florida and causes appalling destruction.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the temperature to go down so I can cut the grass–something that hasn’t been done in months. It’s so tall that I can’t see the many holes dug by the dogs a couple of years ago. The mower also gets choked by all the previously-cut cut grass on the ground. At one point, the little tractor enters a hole too big to escape. But now I know how to solve that, and an hour later I’m back at the mowing job. The piles of grass look weird, but what else can I do? I am rather proud, frankly.

I go from that to working on my tax return. It’s really been a day of greater-than-normal accomplishment, if I may brag.

SummerDiningSpecials

Josephine Estelle @ New Orleans Restaurant Week.

A ten-day-long reprise of the Coolinary, New Orleans Restaurant Week features menus similar to those we enjoyed through the Coolinary. Most of the restaurants and prices (generally $39) are the same, too. This is the first appearance in the Restaurant Week on the part of Josephine Estelle, an Italian trattoria in the grand premises that once was the main showroom of Barnett’s furniture store. The style of cooking is a bit different from New Orleans Italian flavors, but in good ways.

Green Salad
Green goddess, radish, crouton~or~

Oysters

>
Calabrian butter, parmesan, lemon
~or~

Meatballs
Guanciale, tomato, parmesan
~~~~~

Rigatoni
Pork “sugo” (gravy), pickled peppers, prosciutto
~or~

Lasagna
Maw Maw’s gravy, parmesan
~or~

Flounder
Cornmeal, turnip, mustard green, black eye peas
~~~~~

Peanut Butter Budino
Caramel ganache, graham, pretzel, peanut, cream cheese whip
~or~

Affogato
Stumptown espresso, vanilla gelato

Josephine Estelle

CBD: 600 Carondelet St. 504-930-3070. osephineestelle.com/.

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

RecipeSquare-150x150

Pineapple Au Poivre

Combining pineapple, peppercorns, and ice cream will probably sound as strange to you as it did to me when Chef Gerard Thabuis proposed it. After a stint as chef at Brennan’s, he opened his own restaurant, La Savoie, in Metairie. (He has since passed away.) This was his signature dessert: slices of pineapple seared in butter, flamed in spirits, with a thickening, sweet sauce riddled with green peppercorns. Surprisingly, the dish it most resembled in flavor was bananas Foster, but it was a long way from that. I watched his technique and, after playing with it a bit, I came up with this close match with what I remember.

Use the kind of green peppercorns packed in brine or vinegar–not the dried kind, which never soften up. (Many supermarkets put these on the shelf next to the capers, which they strongly resemble in appearance.)

Pineapple au poivre.

  • 1 fresh pineapple
  • 6 Tbs. butter
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 4 oz. pineapple juice
  • 2 Tbs. green peppercorns, packed in brine, drained
  • 2 oz. dark rum (not 151 proof!)
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream

1. Peel and core out the pineapple. Slice the meat of the pineapple into three-quarter-inch-thick slices. Collect all the juice that emerges and reserve. Optional: If you have a juice extractor, cut the core into chunks and run it through the machine to get all that juice.

2. In a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat half the butter until it bubbles. Add the pineapple slices in one layer, and brown them around the edges on each side. Remove and reserve, keeping all the juice in the pan.

3. When all the pineapple slices are browned, lower the heat to medium-low. Add the remaining butter, the brown sugar, and all the pineapple juice. Bring to a light boil, stirring lightly to dissolve the sugar. Allow the sauce to thicken to about the consistency of cane syrup.

4. Return the pineapple slices to the pan (you can put them all in there now). Sprinkle the peppercorns over the pineapple and stir lightly to distribute

5. (Optional.) Measure the rum into a glass and pour into the pan. (Never pour spirits directly from the bottle into a hot pan.) Bring to a boil, and if you like and if your kitchen is safe for flames, touch a flame to the pan and flambee the pineapple. Let the flames die down and remove from the heat.

6. Serve the pineapple slices over the ice cream and top with a generous amount of sauce.

Serves six to eight.

AlmanacSquare September 14, 2017

Days Until. . .

Restaurant Week: September 11-17. Fettuccine Frenzy: Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays through September @ Middendorf’s.
Summer ends 8

Food Calendar

This is International Shish Kebab Day. Stringing pieces of food on a stick and roasting it over an open fire is such simple but delicious method of cooking that it’s been practiced since prehistory. The word has been traced back to the oldest Middle Eastern languages. The method not only has tremendous flavor and aroma appeal, but uses meat very efficiently. A lot of meat comes in pieces substantially smaller than a roast or a steak. Even when they don’t, it’s easier and faster to cook small pieces of meat than large ones.

But small pieces of meat have a way of falling into the fire. The shish–the skewer–solves that problem elegantly. The skewer holding kebab meat together takes many forms, from short wire rods to large vertical spindles that are more like rotisseries. All are considered kebabs; the shish is an option. The homeland of kebabs stretches from India to Morocco, and from there they’ve spread almost everywhere else in the world.

Local Culinary Personalities

Today is the birthday of Mike “Mr. Mudbug” Maenza, in 1959. His family was in the produce business for a long time. He started his own company to do crawfish boils for big parties. It grew into a major producer of prepared sauces, soups, and other dishes for restaurants all over the country. If I gave you a list of the restaurants that buy finished dishes from Mr. Mudbug, you’d be astonished. It’s all good stuff, though.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

If you want to grill shrimp on skewers, use two of them per portion. That way, when you turn the shrimp, they can’t rotate. So no shrimp wind up getting cooked twice on the same side.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Milkwater is the uninhabited location of a water well and tank on the Navajo Indian Reservation in the Four Corners area of Arizona. A range of lightly-forested mountains rise 300 feet just to the west of Milkwater. To the east is a vast, treeless desert plain, leveled by the Crystal Creek, whose usually-dry bed runs about a mile away. You will find only water here. The nearest restaurant is the Junction. It’s about eighteen miles by hot-air balloon, but fifty-six miles by road–and those are gravel roads.

Edible Dictionary

en brochette, French, adj.–On a skewer, French style. Dishes en brochette are known as pinchos in Spain, shish kebabs in the Middle East, souvlaki in Greece, and satays in the Far East. They can be grilled, fried, or set up on a rotisserie. The advantage of the method is that it employs pieces of food too small to be cooked conveniently if they’re loose. The most common brochette in New Orleans involves oysters, which are usually fried and napped with brown butter for an appetizer.

Restaurant Namesakes

Today in 1927 Isadora Duncan, dancer and free spirit, died when her long, flowing scarf became entangled in the wheels of the convertible sports car she was driving in Nice, France. A very good restaurant here in New Orleans once bore her name. Isadora was where the Allegro Bistro is now, on the ground floor of the Energy Center at Poydras and Loyola. A painting depicting the moment before her demise hung on its wall.

Food In Science

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was born today in 1849. The Russian scientist is most famous for his experiments with dogs. He found that any kind of stimulus a dog associated with food would make the dogs salivate. This worked not only for the sight and smell of food, but any activity that routinely preceded the dogs’ being fed. This became known as a “conditioned reflex,” and it works on people as well as dogs. For example, just the thought of the Supreme Court building in the French Quarter makes me hungry for turtle soup at Brennan’s, across the street.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Notburga, who lived in the thirteenth century in Tyrol (now Austria). She is a patron saint of waiters and waitresses. She worked as a maid for a wealthy family that threw its leftovers to the pigs. Notburga would surreptitiously collect the food and give it to poor, hungry people instead. In one of the stories about her, she was caught doing this by her employers, who demanded to know what she had in her apron. When she opened it, the food had turned to wood shavings and vinegar.

Today’s Worst Flavor

Today in 2006, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it had found fresh bagged spinach contaminated with e. coli bacteria. For weeks afterward, no spinach salads were served anywhere, and fresh spinach became hard to come by.

Food Namesakes

Constance Baker Motley, the first African-American woman to be elected a New York state senator or appointed to a Federal judgeship, was born today in 1921. . . Erieatha “Cookie” Kelly married Magic Johnson today in 1991. . . Deryck Victor Cooke, a British composer, was born today in 1919. . . British pop singer Amy Winehouse uncorked today in 1983.

Words To Eat By

“The most usual, common, and cheap sort of food all China abounds in, and which all in that Empire eat, from the Emperor to the meanest Chinese; the Emperor and great Men as a Dainty, the common sort as necessary sustenance. It is called Teu Fu, that is paste of kidney beans. I did not see how they made it. They drew the milk out of the kidney beans, and turning it, make great cakes of it like cheeses, as big as a large sieve, and five or six fingers thick. All the mass is as white as the very snow, to look to nothing can be finer. Alone, it is insipid, but very good dressed as I say and excellent fried in Butter.”–Friar Domingo Navarrete.

Words To Drink By

“We frequently hear of people dying from too much drinking. That this happens is a matter of record. But the blame almost always is placed on whiskey. Why this should be I never could understand. You can die from drinking too much of anything–coffee, water, milk, soft drinks and all such stuff as that. And so long as the presence of death lurks with anyone who goes through the simple act of swallowing, I will make mine whiskey.” —W. C. Fields.

FoodFunniesSquare

Was Ice Cream In The Original Cone?

Here we have evidence that the distinctive shape of this carrier of food was used for many other edibles before ice cream came along. The usual fine research and draftmanship of Kliban.

Click here for the cartoon.

####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Thursday, September 7, 2017. Emeril In Town.
Mary Ann plans to return to Los Angeles in a few days, after just having returned after nine days spent with Jude’s family. Now Jude learns that he must attend another week long orientation for his amazing new job. (I am not being snarky here. His new position is a humdinger in every regard.) Jude’s wife Suzanne also works full-time, and a long-term babysitter is needed for every day next week. No greater pleasure is there for Mary Ann to step into this breach.

But she feels somewhat sorry for me, and she tries to lessen my loneliness by having a party. I have a moderately large anniversary to celebrate–forty-five years of writing a weekly restaurant review. So we go to someplace big: Emeril’s.

The restaurant is moderately full. The city is getting over the hurricane drama that decimated southeast Texas. There was a good chance that Harvey would cause serious flooding in New Orleans and vicinity. For the most part, the city managed to dodge that, although no small number of people in western Louisiana were beat up, flooded, and stranded.

The Marys and me are the totality of our celebration at Emeril’s. I began with a Manhattan cocktail, without even asking about the special way they have to mix it. Most of the ingredients are allowed to age for a goodly long time. I don’t remember ever encountering such a strategy. It left a distinctly smoky aroma and flavor on the palate. Interesting, but I’m not sure I’d ask for that again.

First course for me was an appetizer made with snails, sweetbreads, garlic and butter as the main ingredients. It came to the table sizzling and aromatic with the garlic. Something else different. I would have preferred French bread to the house-made bread Emeril’s serves, at least for this dish. Garlic butter is irresistible when sizzling.

“Emeril is here!” Mary Ann said. I couldn’t see him from my angle, but the server passed by and we asked whether it were indeed the man himself. Yes, she said. I was surprised that there wasn’t a buzz among the customers because of this rare presence.

Emeril Lagasse was standing at the edge of the kitchen, talking with a chef I didn’t recognize. I tapped on Emeril’s shoulder and asked him what he was doing there. He explained that tonight was the night when Doug Braselman takes over as Chef De Cuisine of Emeril’s on Tchoupitoulas. He replaces David Slater, who has held that position since 2008.

“David is going to work with me directly on the development side of the restaurants,” Emeril said. What with some dozen restaurants, I imagine there is a lot to be developed.

This the the first time I’ve seen Emeril since the twenty-fifth anniversary of the restaurant’s opening. He was upbeat and friendly, and suggested that he will be spending more time in New Orleans and less in New York City.

This turned the whole nature of the dinner around. I had a unique dish combining a big slab of redfish (I think) with spaghetti and a red sauce. This is not my cup of tea, but something called to me about it. I re-learned that full-sized, old-style spaghetti is my least favorite shape of pasta. But it worked reasonably well anyway.

The dinner ended with a bomb of desserts, with a half-dozen or so sorbets and ice creams. Dessert was always strong here. But the Marys are, as usual, staying away from sweets. Fun evening anyway.

Emeril’s. Warehouse District: 800 Tchoupitoulas. 504-528-9393.
####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Tuesday, September 5, 2017. My doctor’s office called to tell me that all my numbers are in order. Among them is the one that warns of oncoming diabetes. But everything’s cool and I am reasonably healthy, if in dire need of a haircut. The nature of my coiffeur is that it looks fine for weeks, then suddenly turns into the hairdo of Morgus.

I get to town early, trying to make it to a welcome meeting for the whole staff for our new market manager–the big boss over our eight radio stations. I arrive just in time to see the core managers leaving for a more private lunch. They’re all smiling. Good sign.

With three hours before I go on the air, I have the rare opportunity to have lunch–a meal I almost never eat. I have it at the Bon Ton Café. I eat there once a year in early winter, and seldom any other time. I have a salad with a Creole-mustardy dressing, followed by a platter of fried catfish. It is very good, as it always is, crisped to order. Side of mustard greens on the side. I can’t remember the last time I had mustard greens, but I remember where I was at the time: the Flambeau Room, the restaurant in the University Center at UNO. That was the first restaurant I ever reviewed in print, back in 1972. Mustard greens were popular in those days, and I’d developed a liking for them, in places like the Coffee Pot in the Quarter and the Buck Forty-Nine Steak House. It is pure coincidence that the greens would turn up (pun intended) right now, when I am celebrating forty-five years since the Flambeau Room serving.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Irma is setting records for its power. It’s in the middle of the Atlantic, which is too far out for future trajectories to mean anything. It could certainly hit New Orleans, although at the moment the computer projections have it taking a sharp right turn as it approaches Florida. The turn is good news for New Orleans, and bad for Miami. Either way, I’m tense. The Marys are as usual disdainful of my concerns.
Bon Ton Cafe. CBD: 401 Magazine. 504-524-3386.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017. Smoothie And Barbecue. The image makers for Smoothie King are on the radio with me today. I am aware that the healthy, chilly vendors of the beverage have a much higher profile than it did when I first invited the King’s minions to go on the air with me, some twenty years ago. The name covers one side of the Arena next to the Superdome, which I imagine must be an exquisitely effective promotion for the place.

In fact, I have no idea how big it is. Around the country, they have 910 smoothie shops. That is not a typo. And it’s still a New Orleans-based business.

We taste a few of the most recently popular smoothie. Some of them taste like a liquid salad from a blender. A little mental adjustment may be needed for this new concept. And there was plenty more where that came from.

After the show I call Mary Leigh for supper, and she is free. She also supplies us with an idea on where to eat: the Smokehouse Grill. It’s in the space on the corner of Hammond Highway and Lake Avenue where many previous restaurants, good and not so good, have resided. ML had some food from there, but not a comprehensive amount.

It’s early, but the population of the dining is small even in that light. The server is efficient and knows the menu well. Although a sign outside says “Not Just Bar-B-Q,” barbecue is clearly the mainstay. Some of the items on the “more-than-just BBQ” list include chicken wings, crawfish bread, crab cakes, chicken and fettuccine Alfredo, fried seafood platters, three thick steaks, and grilled fish.

But the barbecue did seem like the obvious stroke for me on my first visit there. I have “the Hog 9,” a sandwich on a hamburger bun, piled high with smoked pulled pork with cole slaw and barbecue sauce. It is enormous, and shows no glaring problems. I’d say the smoke aspects of the total flavor were less than I like to find, and that the meat was a bit on the dry side. That could be fixed with more sauce. Or they could smoke the shoulders more delicately.

Smoke House Grill. Bucktown: 200 Hammond Highway. 504-252-4797.

SummerDiningSpecials

Rosedale For Coolinary/Restaurant Week

One of the most interesting new openings in 2017 is Susan Spicer’s new neighborhood cafe. Rosedale is named for the small residential sub-neighborhood in the foot of Lakeview. The casual-fun aspect of a lot of the food won a substantial number of regular customers, which still keep the dining room busy. The menu’s regular menu is somewhat abbreviated, and this shows in the Coolinary/Restaurant Week special menus. It’s a good value: $26 for the three-course dinner, $20 for a two-course lunch.

Restaurant Week–of which this is a part–runs from September 11 through 17. I’d call ahead for a reservation, even though you probably won’t need it. Do note that the restaurant is closed all day on Monday and Tuesday.

Cantaloupe Soup
~or~

Shrimp Puppies

>
~or~

Farm Peach Salad
~~~~~

Des Allemandes Catfish
Greens and mirliton chow chow
~or~

Creole Eggplant Parmesan
~~~~~

Sorbet
~~~~~

Ice Cream Sandwich
~~~~~

Bread Pudding
~~~~~

Rosedale

Lakeview: 801 Rosedale. 504-309-9595. rosedalerestaurant.com.

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

RecipeSquare-150x150

Trout Meuniere Old Style

The word “meuniere” is a reference to the miller of wheat, whose wife (according to French lore) cooked everything coated with flour. The original French style of trout meuniere was coated with seasoned flour, sautéed in butter, and then topped with the browned butter from the pan. This is still more or less how the dish is done in some restaurants–notably Galatoire’s.

But there’s a Creole version of the sauce for trout meuniere. I like it better than the French classic. It was invented by Count Arnaud Cazenave (namesake of Arnaud’s restaurant) . While trying to stabilize the sauce so the fish could be fried instead of sautéed, Arnaud’s chefs added a bit of stock and roux to the butter and lemon. At its best, this sauce is incredibly good, and works not just on trout but also on other fried seafoods, notably oysters.

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 Tbs. salt-free Creole seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 fillets speckled trout, 6-8 oz. each
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/4 cup veal or beef stock
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice, strained
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • Peanut oil for frying

1. Combine the flour, Creole seasoning and salt in a wide, flat-bottomed bowl (a soup bowl is perfect).

2. Rinse the trout fillets and pat dry. Dredge the fish through the seasoned flour, and knock off the excess. Place the fish in a pan on waxed paper and set aside.

3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When it begins to bubble, stir in 1/3 cup of the leftover seasoned flour and make a roux, stirring constantly, until it’s a medium brown.

4. When the right color is reached, remove the roux from the heat and whisk in the stock, lemon juice, Worcestershire, and vinegar. Keep whisking until the sauce is smooth. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting to keep it warm while you prepare the fish.

5. You can pan-fry the fish in butter if you like, but it’s more common in New Orleans to fry it in about an inch of 375-degree oil. Either way, cook till golden brown (about two minutes per side.)

6. Nap with the sauce and serve with lemon wedges.

Serves six.

AlmanacSquare September 8, 2017

Days Until. . .

Restaurant Week: September 11-17. Fettuccine Frenzy: Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays through September @ Middendorf’s.

Deft Dining Rule #195

Rotisserie chicken is the most foolproof dish in restaurants, everywhere on earth.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Float Bayou flows about four miles from a marsh called News Lake into Cales Creek. All of these water features are remnants of oxbow lakes created when the Mississippi River, four miles west, changed its course. All this is a mixture of farming and hunting country. It’s thirty-two miles by car south to Natchez. The nearest place to dine if you don’t catch any channel catfish is Annie Mae’s Cafe, across the river in Waterproof, Louisiana.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

Leave one layer of husk leaves around corn on the cob, and put the ears right on the grill. When the pattern of the kernels shows up as light browning on the husk, the corn is ready to eat.

Our Celebrity Chefs

Today is the birthday in 1953 of Vincent Catalanotto, the owner of Vincent’s Italian Cuisine. Vincent worked for years as a bartender and a waiter around town before taking over a failed Italian cafe in Metairie. He didn’t have a chef, so he did the cooking himself. A fried soft-shell crab with a red sauce mixed with garlic butter became a popular specialty. “That dish told me that I could cook as well as all these idiot chefs who used to scream at me all the time,” he said. He built a distinctive New Orleans-Italian menu, and within a year the place was a phenomenon. Its food has always been much better than its looks. The second location in the former Compagno’s on St. Charles Avenue opened about ten years after the first one. Back in 1977, Vince and I worked together at a fancy French restaurant called Romanoff’s. His irreverent (to put it mildly) sense of humor was already full speed back then.

Edible Dictionary

Texmati rice, n.–The brand name for a variety of rice created by crossing basmati rice from the Middle East with long-grain rice grown in Texas. It’s an aromatic rice, which means that it emits an aroma when cooking that puts on in mind of roasted nuts or popcorn. It’s the most widespread American aromatic rices, although there are many others–most of them with basmati in their past.

Music To Eat Veal Parmigiana By

Frank Sinatra, whose music we hear in Italian restaurants more than any other, got his big break today in 1935. He and a group called the Hoboken Four appeared on Major Bowes Amateur Hour, and were a sensation. He soon would be the boy singer with Harry James’s big band, and his career went ballistic from there. Sinatra was the only act ever to have major success after appearing with Major Bowes.

Food Namesakes

Two Peppers: Claude Pepper, who represented Florida in Congress for many decades, was born today in 1900. . . And golfer Dottie Pepper won the LPGA tournament today in 1996 . . .Early TV comic genius Sid Caesar was born today in 1922. The Caesar salad was not named for him. . . Clarence Cook, author and art critic, opened his life today in 1828.

Words To Eat By

“I’m at the age where food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact, I’ve just had a mirror put over my kitchen table.”–Rodney Dangerfield.

Words Not To Eat By

“Roumanian-Yiddish cooking has killed more Jews than Hitler.”–Zero Mostel, actor, who died today in 1977.

Words To Drink By

“Drink a glass of wine after your soup and you steal a ruble from your doctor.”–Russian proverb.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Meat Race Is On.

How much can be piled on? How thick can you make it? Not mentioned: how many pounds of cheese?

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 The following was mistakenly published yesterday in incomplete form. It was about dinner that day, September 3. Here’s the whole story in one piece:

Mary Ann suggests that we have supper at Due North in Mandeville–the former N’Tini’s. Our appetizer has become a no-brainer: grilled oysters, in the style of Drago’s. Mary Ann says that she thinks these are the best of their kind. Of course, that’s the current method of saying “they were excellent.” If you don’t say they’re as good as Drago’s, you mustn’t have liked them. Further example: “[Steakhouse name] is as good as Ruth’s Chris.” With all that verbal competition, you’d think Ruth’s Chris would be gone by now. But it isn’t.

Anyway, Due North’s grilled oysters are almost as good as Drago’s. Turn it around and you have this equally-true statement: “The grilled oysters at Drago’s are as good as Due North’s.”

The soup of the day is tomato basil. This is a very popular dish in chain restaurants. It’s also something I like a great deal. For a few years, I went to Zea for Sunday suppers because the soup du jour on Sundays was tomato-basil. And here it is again–even on the same day of the week as Zea’s.

My entree is redfish St. Charles, the most reliable seafood dish on the menu at the Legacy Kitchen (the alternate name for Due North). It’s grilled redfish with asparagus, exotic mushrooms, and garlic and herb butter. My luck in ordering this has been very good, with the fish never yet overcooked. Mary Ann gets an assortment of tacos, the best of which are filled with big shrimp.

A funny aspect about specialty-local chain restaurants is that they run the air conditioning too low. That was also true when this was N’Tini’s. At this time of year, the women customers are always underdressed (in fine style but largely exposed), and the men aren’t wearing jackets to pass off to the women. I didn’t bring a thermometer to check this exactly, but my guess is that Due North today was in the 65-degree vicinity. Is it the waiters or the cooks who set the thermostats?

“My main job as restaurant owner is to adjust the thermostat in the dining room about once every five minutes, as people ask me to do.”–Frank Bailey, former restaurateur.

Monday, Labor Day, September 4, 2017. Restaurants don’t like to open on Labor Day, and it’s easy to understand why. Hardly any restaurants are open because nobody goes out to eat. Except, perhaps, for hamburgers or fried chicken–and even the chicken is iffy. Most people invite friends with whom they can share a grill-load of smoky meats.

One other category of restaurant does seem to do well on Labor Day: Mexican places. As was confirmed by a call from MA while I was working on emergency measures in case Hurricane Harvey came our way.

So far, it’s been hard to tell where or when it will show up. It might have been easier to keep track of places where Harvey’s flooding rainstorms will not show up. One of those proved to be the Cool Water Ranch in Abita Springs. We got quite a lot of rain, but the network of ditches, rivers, and streams kept up with it. I had my water jugs ready, as well as a tub of water for maintenance of the home front.

The Marys are out and about as if nothing were going on. I was doing all the fretting. They think I am nuts. They call to say that I should meet them for lunch at La Carreta. The sun comes out. ML’s dog Bauer happily eats leftover tortillas. I feel better about things, now that the ordeal is over for most of us in the New Orleans area. That doesn’t count, however, the three other hurricanes headed in our general direction.

Another business that’s closed on Labor Day is a live radio station. The music stations and the recorded shows and yammering political programs are on the air. But all the live talkers (except Tommy Tucker and Dave Cohen on WWL) get the day off. I’m off, because we learned long ago that on federal holidays (Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, for example) absolutely nobody listens to me, and even fewer call me on the air.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Corn Macquechoux

“Macquechoux” is the Cajun French rendition of a word used by the Native Americans who lived in what is now Louisiana. It meant “cooked corn,” so “corn macquechoux” is redundant. But never mind. It’s a delicious and common side dish in Cajun country, good enough that it’s made its way into New Orleans Creole cooking. The corn is cooked down with all the ingredients of a Creole sauce and a lot of butter. The corn becomes soft and almost a stew, but the kernels don’t disintegrate. In some families, enough sugar is added to the concoction to make it unambiguously sweet.

Macquechoux can be turned into an entree by adding crawfish tails, small shrimp, or diced andouille sausage to the mix. Those variations are typically made with more pepper than for a side dish.

  • 5 ears fresh yellow corn
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 2 small, ripe but firm tomatoes, seeds and pulp removed, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • Tabasco jalapeno sauce to taste
  • For an entree:
  • 2 lbs. fresh Louisiana crawfish tails or medium shrimp or andouille sausage (the latter diced)

1. Shuck the corn and rinse with cold water. Hold the corn upright with the tip of the ear on a shallow plate. With a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the ear. When finished, use the knife to scrape the ears to extract as much of the corn “milk” as possible. Do this for all the ears.

2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the butter until it bubbles, and add the onions, bell peppers, and celery. Cook until they soften.

3. Lower the heat. Add the corn and the corn milk, and all the other ingredients up to and including the cayenne. Cover and cook, stirring every few minutes, for 20-25 minutes. If the mixture becomes so dry that it’s hard to stir, add a little half-and-half to loosen it up.

4. Adjust the seasonings with salt and Tabasco jalapeno sauce. Serve as a side dish with almost anything.

For an entree:
If using shrimp, add them to the butter in step 1 before the vegetables, and cook until they turn pink. Remove and reserve. Add the shrimp back to the pot, with all their juices, when the corn has about five more minutes to cook.

If using crawfish tails, add them to the corn when it has about ten minutes left to cook. Use extra Tabasco.

If using andouille, cook the dice in a pan to extract some of the fat. (This can also be done by wrapping the andouille in a paper towel and microwaving it for two minutes or so.) Add the andouille to the corn when it has about ten minutes left to cook.

Makes eight side dishes or four entrees.

SummerDiningSpecials

Toups South @ Restaurant Week

Toups South–allied with Toups Meatery in the City Park vicinity–a few months ago took over the former Purloo, next door to the Southern Food and And Beverage Museum. Owner Isaac Toups adjusted his Mid-City menu for the likes of this, their summertime Coolinary/Restaurant Week offering. It’s a good deal at $35 for three dinner courses. Also here is a two-course lunch menu, selling for $20.

Restaurant Week–of which this is a part–runs from September 11 through 17. I’d call ahead for a reservation, even though you probably won’t need it. Do note that the restaurant is closed all day on Tuesday.

Lagniappe
Complimentary glass of wine with purchase of prix fixe meal

Heirloom Tomato Salad

>
Home made ricotta, white anchovy, olive vinaigrette
~or~

Fried Gulf Oysters
Charred pepper aioli, picked sweet peppers
~or~

Chilled Sweet Corn & Coconut Soup
Herbs and chili oil
~~~~~

Grilled Gulf Shrimp
Shaved summer squash, eggplant puree, cherry tomato vinaigrette
~or~

Pork Confit
Braised greens, Louisiana popcorn rice, mustard jus
~or~

Louisiana Chantrelle Ravioli
Sweet corn, roasted peppers, white wine butter sauce
~~~~~

Panna Cotta
Granita, shortbread cookies
~or~

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
Seasonal fruit, whipped cream
~or~

Daily Milkshake
~~~~~

Toups South

Center City: 1504 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.. 504-304-2147. toupssouth.com.

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

AlmanacSquare September 7, 2017

Days Until. . .

Restaurant Week: September 11-17. Fettuccine Frenzy: Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays through September @ Middendorf’s.

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Summer Squash Day. There’s something virtuous about eating squashes, and I can tell you what that is: they have almost zero food value other than fiber and beta carotene. If you’re trying to lose weight, they’re a great thing to fill out your plate; you can eat all you want and add nothing to your waistline. On the other hand, they’re also more or less free of any significant flavor. Their flesh contains so much water that they don’t work out particularly well in a casserole, either. All that said, we come back to the first premise: they make you feel virtuous when you eat them.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Nut Creek is a small tributary of the Chattahoochie River, in west central Georgia, sixty-two miles southwest of Atlanta. It is well named: most of its four miles are flanked by pecan groves. You might be able to catch some fish at the spot where Nut Creek enters the Chattahoochie. If not, you’re five miles west on Highway 34 from Lakeside Bar-B-Que in Franklin.

Namesakes Of Great Dishes

This is the birthday of French playwright Victorien Sardou, in 1831. His plays were famously advertised by the Art Nouveau poster artist Alfonse Mucha; they’re still being sold, and you’d probably recognize them immediately. But Sardou is more famous for a popular fancy egg dish. Eggs Sardou was created by Antoine’s here in New Orleans, in the dramatist’s honor. The original recipe had poached eggs on artichoke bottoms with some chopped anchovies, all topped with hollandaise. Brennan’s revised the dish, dumping the anchovies and adding creamed spinach. That version of eggs Sardou is the one that became a hit. Thousands of orders of it go out of New Orleans kitchens every year.

Annals Of Cheesemaking

Today in 1995, a Canadian company called Agropur made a cheddar cheese weighing 57,508.5 pounds for Loblaws Supermarkets, in Granby, Quebec, Canada. That set the record, according to Guinness. Over a half-million pounds of milk went into the making of the big cheese.

Food In The Funnies

Today in 1930, the comic strip Blondie made its first appearance in newspapers. Dagwood quickly evolved from a playboy into the nutbar husband of former flapper Blondie Boopadoop (that was her last name, all right). Soon he made culinary history by creating the sandwich that’s named for him, loaded with every food imaginable. He’s still eating them, while remaining very thin for a guy who eats the equivalents of a half-dozen poor boys a day.

Food On The Radio

Today is the birthday, in 1944, of Garrison Keillor, the creator of A Prairie Home Companion on public radio, and of its “sponsor” Powdermilk Biscuits. I’ve been trying to duplicate the recipe for those, but I can’t seem to locate organic powdermilk. Keillor has retired from his unique show, which has a new host and sound, neither of which is even close to being as entertaining as their predecessors.

Food And Gas Stations

Today in 2000, taxi drivers in France began what they called Operation Escargot. It was a protest against high gasoline prices. They drove their cabs very slowly through cities, snarling traffic badly. They also sprayed the insides of their taxis with air freshener that smelled like garlic butter.

Edible Dictionary

salamander, n.–A small broiler, usually mounted at eye level above the stoves in a restaurant kitchen, used to put a final glaze or crust on a dish. The original salamanders were large pucks of cast iron on the ends of poker-like handles. These were set into a fire until the became red-hot, then held over the gratin dish until the top browned or bubbled. The name comes from the myth that the amphibian of the same name could walk through fire unharmed. “Run this under the salamander” is a well-known command in a restaurant kitchen.

Food Inventors

Luther Crowell was born today in 1840. He invented the paper bag with a flat bottom, of the kind used universally in grocery stores until plastic bags took over. He also invented a machine that assembled and folded the sections of a newspaper, so the supermarkets could run ads to fill those paper bags.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Claude, after whom the artery running through the Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Wards is named. He is also St. Cloud, patron of another Mississippi River city, in Minnesota. Claude was the grandson of Clovis, the first French king. I’d suggest him as patron saint of poor boy sandwiches, since they were invented on the street bearing his name (at Martin’s, corner of Touro). . . It’s also the feast day of St. Gratus of Aosta (Italy), the saint traditionally called upon for help with fear of insects. Remember him next time you find a bug in your salad. St. Gratus is also one of the many patron saints of vinegrowers.

Food Namesakes

Anthony Quayle, actor in The Bourne Identity and other movies, was bourne today in 1913. . . Dr. Michael DeBakey, who pioneered the use of artificial hearts, was born today in 1908. . . U.S. Ambassador to Sweden and Canada, W. Walton Butterworth was born in New Orleans today in 1903.

Words To Eat By

“High-tech tomatoes. Mysterious milk. Supersquash. Are we supposed to eat this stuff? Or is it going to eat us?”–Anita Manning, reporter for USA Today.

Words To Drink By

“Here’s to love, that begins with a fever and ends with a yawn.” Welsh toast.

FoodFunniesSquare

The World’s Worst French Restaurant.

I’m not sure I understand why I think this is funny.

Click here for the cartoon.

####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Saturday, September 2, 2017. The hurricane rains just keep on coming, but not ferociously enough to create any really bad flooding around New Orleans and the North Shore. The only deep puddles today were around the Superdome. It’s a good thing, because there are reputed to be 100,000 people in town for the Decadence Festival.

I host the usual weekend editions of The Food Show. Somehow, we manage to keep talking about eating and drinking instead of Topic A. This is also true of the Sunday program, after which I head out in search of something to eat.

I haven’t had a thing all day. Unsure of what I felt like eating, I wind up at Forks and Corks. There, on the neutral ground in front of the restaurant, I see a marker board with specials. One of them sounds very good: a filet with a sauce made largely of demi-glace, and with a side of a grits casserole. I ask the waiter about this, and he smiles. “That’s the best special tonight,” he says. I thought so. Gimme that.

Something else I saw on the neutral ground was an recommendation of the a Ramos gin fizz. That ancient New Orleans drink is something you see in bars very sure of themselves. The lady who makes it up was just learning. I’ll bet she doesn’t make a lot of drinks using egg whites and orange flower water. The resulting drink comes in the largest pour I’ve ever seen in a Ramos, which usually emerges in a collins glass. Despite all that, this is an enjoyable drink, easy on the alcohol (which I welcome).

After a small salad, the filet arrives. It’s tender, rare, juicy, and rich with the demi. The grits cake is really, really good.

How lucky I am to eat and drink like this while many of my fellow citizen are now homeless or worse. While sipping the fizz, I decide to reprise what I did during the Baton Rouge flood from some months ago. I sent out renewal notices to subscribers who are due. I then send half of what comes in to the Second Harvest Food Bank, which is assisting the stranded people not only in Louisiana but Texas as well. I’m hoping I can send the Food Bank an offering in four figures. (Peer into the future: this will be exceeded in a few days.) My readers are classy givers.

Sunday, September 3, 2017. After Mass I don’t have time to catch breakfast. I do stop at Home Depot and buy the missing piece for my string mower. I make it back home in time for the two-hour Sunday food show, after which I spend over an hour trying to figure out how to get the string mower working. At last, I’m there, although I’m not sure I have it exactly right. But it cuts the grass well, although there’s no way I will cut two acres that way. I’d be happy if I can mark the holes that keep stopping the progress of the lawn tractor. One way or another, I finally cross this maddening barrier. The older I get, the harder it is to take things apart and reassemble them.

Mary Ann suggests that we have supper at Due North in Mandeville. For the third day in a row, I have a chunk of steak, because MA says that she likes them. And for the fifth of six time, we find the restaurant (it used to be N’Tini’s) freezing cold. Why do restaurants do this? Used to be it was the other way around.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Macadamia-Broccoli Stir-Fry

My wife told me we had a lot of broccoli in the house, and that she wanted to try something new with it. Here’s what we came up with, using other surplus items off the shelf. It’s more or less Chinese. Came out good!

  • 1 bunch (1 lb.) fresh broccoli
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp, crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced diagonally
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts

1. Cut broccoli tops into florets and stems into two-inch-long, 1/4-inch-wide strips.

2. Heat the oil very hot in a large, heavy skillet. Add broccoli and crushed red pepper, and stir-fry until the broccoli just begins to soften–a little over a minute.

3. Combine orange juice, 1/4 cup water, sugar, ginger, and salt in a cup and add to the skillet. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring now and then, until the broccoli stems are almost tender. Add carrots and cook until tender.

4. Lower heat to low medium. Remove the broccoli and carrots. Dissolve cornstarch into 1/4 cup water, and stir into skillet. Cook and stir until sauce thickens. Return the vegetables to the pan along with the macadamia nuts. Heat through and serve.

Serves four.

SummerDiningSpecials

Crescent City Brewhouse

Something about the idea of a brewhouse with a full menu seems to go against the grain. Kind of place that does burgers and ribs but not much more. That is not the case at the Crescent City Brewhouse. The kitchen has ambitions, and the beer–all of it brewed right there in the building–is interesting. But the food is fine New Orleans casual eats. A jazz band plays every night live, adding to the pleasure. The Brewhouse has a good Coolinary/Restaurant Week (Sept. 11-17) menu, with a lot of variety and deftness in the kitchen. It’s also an excellent bargain, what with three courses for $30.

Seafood Gumbo
Shrimp, crab and andouille sausage in a rich roux base broth~or~

Shrimp Beignets

>
Sweet gulf shrimp folded into pillow of fried savory donuts, crab boil aioli, housemade pickles
~or~

Evelyn’s Boudin Balls
Slow cooked pork, crawfish, rice and Cajun seasonings rolled and fried; served with red pepper coulis, B&B pickles
~or~

Beer Garden Salad
Baby greens, vine ripe tomatoes, calamata olives, crispy cucumber and housemade croutons, buttermilk ranch dressing
~~~~~

Shrimp and Grits
Seared jumbo gulf shrimp and cured ham, grits in a hot buttery sauce
~or~

Grilled Skirt Steak
Cooked medium, topped with chimichurri sauce and French fried potatoes
~or~

Redfish Acadiana
Fresh gulf fish, broiled with corn and crawfish maque choux, broccoli raab
~or~

Southern Roasted Duck
Slow roasted duck quarter partially deboned. Served with homemade andouille cornbread dressing and southern greens, glazed with a pepper jelly au jus
~~~~~

Bread Pudding
Praline sauce
~or~

Crème Brulee

Crescent City Brewhouse

French Quarter.: 527 Decatur. 504-522-0571. www.crescentcitybrewhouse.com.

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

AlmanacSquare September 6, 2017

Days Until. . .

Restaurant Week: September 11-17. Fettuccine Frenzy: Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays through September @ Middendorf’s.

Annals Of Dark Days

Today in 2005, New Orleans suffered a low point in its history. Uncontrollable flooding of over eighty percent of the city caused by Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge and the levees it pierced had the city in complete chaos. Fires and looting were going on all over town. Mayor Nagin ordered everyone who was still in the city to leave. More than a few continued to hold out in the French Quarter, however, and would continue to do so. Johnny White’s Bar stayed open. Elsewhere around town, new horrors unfolded moment by moment. One piece of good news: the first restaurants in the area to reopen did so, on the North Shore.

Today’s Flavor

It’s National Fresh-Cut French Fry Day. Perhaps the most convincing proof that popularity has a way of settling on mediocrity is that over 99 percent of all French fries served in America–in homes as well as restaurants–start as frozen, pre-cut potatoes.

It’s understandable. Preparing fresh-cut fried potatoes is not easy. We have learned this in our own kitchen, where our kids clamor for fries whenever they detect a weakness in our hesitancy. For a long time, we blanched the fries in boiling water for a couple of minutes, set them aside to dry, then fried them in rather hot oil. We kept coming up with greasy, limp fries unless we took them out when they’d just begun to brown, let them cool, then drop them into even hotter oil for a few seconds.

One day we tried lowering the temperature of the oil. I started at 325 degrees, with a fistful of fries that had not been blanched, but were just sitting in cold water since they’d been cut. (You must do this, or the starches start turning brown.) The fries took a long time to brown, but ultimately they were absolutely perfect: crisp, not greasy or soggy, soft on the inside. I kept going with the oil at that temperature, disregarding the fact that whenever I added a new batch of potatoes the oil temperature dropped by quite a bit. But then it recovered before the potatoes were even close to being cooked, and that gave the fries a good long frying. I suspect that the effect is the same as frying twice, but in one long step instead of two short ones. I also learned that one must limit the number of fries in the pot at one time to a little less than you might be inclined to put in there.

One other thing: when you buy the big, white, russet potatoes for this, scratch the skin with your fingernail. If you see any hint of green, put that potato down and find some that go from brown right to white under the skin. As for the oil, I generally use canola oil, but corn oil worked perfectly on one batch.

Annals Of Food Stores

Despite predictions that it would fail, the first Piggly Wiggly opened on this date in 1916 in Memphis. It was unlike any other grocery store of that time in being self-service. Shopping baskets, open shelves, no clerks to shop for the customer–unheard of!

Food Inventions

Today in 1899, Carnation Evaporated Milk was introduced by Eldridge Amos Stuart in Kent, Washington. He saw a demand in places where fresh milk was unavailable. He specifically was thinking about prospectors heading for the Yukon. Evaporated milk has over half the water boiled away from it, which makes it shelf-stable in a vacuum can. The process has the added effect of producing a much richer liquid, imitating some of the qualities of cream, but at a lower price. Many of us in the Baby Boom generation remember evaporated milk as our parents’ coffee creamer of choice; that preference has largely faded.

Stuart took the name “Carnation” from a brand of cigar; he thought it was strange for a stogie, but perfect for creamy canned milk. We cannot bring up Carnation Milk without republishing, for the zillionth time, a bit of doggerel allegedly written about it a century ago:

Carnation milk is the best in the land
Here I sit with a can in my hand
No teats to pull, no hay to pitch
You just punch a hole in the son of a bitch.

Fortunately, this appears to be just an urban legend.

Gourmets Through History

Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, was born today in 1757. Lafayette was a French nobleman who felt it his duty to assist the Americans in their revolution, and did so with such ardor, never accepting recompense, that he is one of only six people ever to have been named an Honorary Citizen of the United States. He is also the man who is honored by all the things named “Lafayette” in New Orleans and Louisiana, where he is particularly admired because of the area’s French heritage. He gave up his titles and participated in the French Revolution, a thankless task in those insane times. (He ultimately spent years in prison and lost everything.) He was a man of refinement. I think there ought to be a restaurant in New Orleans named for him, but to my knowledge there never has been.

Edible Dictionary

poularde, French, n.–A fat female chicken, bigger than a poulette (fryer) but not as big or as old as a hen. It’s not often done anymore, but classically a chicken was spayed to become poularde. Like many neutered animals, it began putting on weight after the procedure. This made her especially suitable for roasting. The word is no longer common in restaurants (although I remember when it was). But it seems the kind of thing we maybe ought to bring back.

Deft Dining Rule #306:

You’re not in a great French restaurant unless a sauce spoon appears in your place setting at some point during the meal.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Wisconsin boasts two Squash Lakes. One is in the northeast corner of the state, twenty miles south of the Michigan state line. That one looks more like a horse’s head than a squash, really. It’s in a mix of farmland and woodlands, with hundreds of other small lakes in the vicinity. The most promising place to eat is Era Dining House, on Catfish Lake Road in Eagle River, three miles north. The other Squash Lake is a forty-mile drive southeast. It’s a good deal larger, with three lobes, the northern one is shape like a dog’s head. Its shores are dotted with docks, so the fishing must be good. Four miles west on US 8 is a restaurant called Ulterior Motives. Three more miles the same road has a junction with US 51, which you can drive all the way down to New Orleans.

Annals Of Scotch

Joseph Kennedy, the father of President John F. Kennedy and his brothers Bobby and Teddy, was born today in 1888. He led an almost impossibly lucky life in politics and business, always seeming to be in the right place at the right time. His family’s fortune came from the liquor business, and even through Prohibition it somehow managed to thrive–by bootlegging, it has been rumored. Kennedy is sometimes credited with making Scotch whisky popular in this country.

Food Namesakes

Sir Edward Appleton was born today in 1892. He discovered the layer of the atmosphere that reflects radio waves, thereby allowing long-distance transmission of shortwave signals, as well as those of stations on the AM band now. . . The pop-rock group Bananarama had a Number One hit today with Venus. . . Roger Waters, composer and bass player for Pink Floyd, became another brick in the wall of humanity today in 1943. . . Country singer Mark Chesnutt was born today in 1963. . . Bob Lemon was named manager of the Yankees for the second time today in 1981.

Words To Eat By

“Reagan promised everyone a seven-course dinner. Ours turned out to be a possum and a six-pack.”–Jim Hightower, populist politician and Texas Agriculture Commissioner.

Words To Drink By

“A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside.”–
Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

FoodFunniesSquare

Onion-Slicing Tears

The other side of this common kitchen syndrome.

Click here for the cartoon.

####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, September 1, 2017. End To Beginning. Austin's.

I was the second person to see the face of my son Jude, beat only by the obstetrician. Mary Ann topped both of us with the best commentary: "That's the sweetest little face I ever saw!"

As I was looking at that face, a strange image emerged in my mind. The sweet face was beginning a potentially wonderful life. The farthest it would go was that the day when, a wizened old man, Jude completed his life. That image has never spooked me. It's weird, but the inescapable other end of a long, wonderful road. All but meaningless then, but who knows what, where, or when. To end this on the most positive of notes, he's farther along in his life than I was at that age. By quite a bit.

All this is on my mind because today in 1972, I wrote my first weekly restaurant review column, a new feature in the UNO campus newspaper that week. On that day, I didn't really have an idea of what I was going to do for a living. I was drawing illustrations for other articles, but I knew I didn't have the talent for that. I kept trying to break into radio, which was much more difficult then than it is now. I did get a job as one of the original staffers at WWNO, but I would not get an on-air gig for a few years yet.

When the 1972-1973 school term term ended, I started selling my restaurant reviews in the Vieux Carre Courier, then later in Figaro. Both these were weekly tabloids aimed at a young crowd. After writing these columns for a couple of years, I began getting assignments from New Orleans Magazine and even some regional publications. All of this was about food and wine, and it became clear that my career would concern itself with the culinary arts.

If on the day my first review came out in print I had an inkling of where it might lead, I would have been impressed with myself. Nowadays, I'm on the lookout for an old guy who looks a lot like me, and who has been doing everything I do for as long as I have. If you see him, tell him I said that he should get an HD radio right away, so he can hear me better.

To dinner at Austin's in Metairie. I somehow managed to get an easy table and even a parking space,two commodities that are not always available at "Mr. Ed" McIntyre's upscale restaurant names for his son. It's a great example of what I call "Suburban Creole" and almost always a good place to eat.

The staff seemed to be looking for me to arrive, and were more than accommodating in matters from the best table in the bar to amazement at the amount of weight I've lost. The bar's denizens were apparently composed of friends in groups of a half dozen or more. The servers knew most of these pople, and the days of the week on which they regularly show up.

The young guy who took care of me was on top of things throughout the evening. He offered no counter-intelligence concerning the dishes I ordered. I began with a gin and tonic--very generous. Then a house salad with remoulade dressing, good enough.

Austin's, although it has a wide-ranging menu--has been largely a steakhouse in recent years. It has had its ups and downs in that specialty, but the last two have been excellent. So was this one, a basic New York strip of about twelve ounces. This is my third steak in a week--don't know why. But that's an index of how good this one was. So is this: I devoured almost every scrap of the beef. That's saying something.

"Who had the panneed veal and fettuccine?"

A pianist with a jazzy repertoire began playing when I reached a halfway point in the evening. Austin's is a jumping' place this days. And when I departed, the parking lot was full, as usual. This even with the dark gloom spreading around our quarter of America. Hurricane Harvey seems determined to stay alive.
Austin's. Metairie: 5101 West Esplanade Ave. 504-888-5533.

SummerDiningSpecials

Restaurant Week @ Salon Restaurant By Sucre.

The Coolinary season is over, except for a handful of restaurants that are keeping those special menus going for few weeks more. Meanwhile, the same organization that pulled together the Coolinary has another program in the middle of this month. It's called Restaurant Week, and it runs from September 11 through 17. The restaurants, menu and prices are identical to the Coolinary list. Indeed, I always wonder why they shut down the Coolinary, and then two weeks later reopen it. But we may as well take advantage to this quirk.

Today's selected Restaurant Week place is this spinoff of the Sucre bakery and chocolatier on Magazine Street. It's a full-service restaurant, but with the feel of a sophisticated diner with a major dessert component. Here's the menu, which for $$28 brings you three courses. The only other thing you need to know aside from the menu details is that Salon is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday through Monday (no TU or WE).

Beet Salad
Goat cheese, granola, chocolate~or~

Al Fresco Plate

>
Prosciutto, melon, burrata, bruschetta
~or~

Spiced Butter Shrimp
Garlic and sambal on baguette
~~~~~

Croque Benedict
Chive buscuit, sauce mornay, soft boiled egg, raclette cheese, crystal hollandaise
~or~

Lamb Burger
Tzatziki, Mediterranean salad
~or~

Steak Frites
Seared flatiron steak, garlic herb frites, red eye gravy
~~~~~

Dessert
Choice of Sucré dessert

Salon By Sucre

French Quarter: 622 Conti St. 504-267-7098. http://www.restaurantsalon.com/.

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

RecipeSquare-150x150

Filet Mignon Sandwiches

Here's the perfect thing for Mardi Gras, Fourth of July or Labor Day party food. It's a genuine steak, so it fits the farewell-to-beef tradition of Carnival. And yet they're small, portable, finger-feeding sandwiches. This recipe uses French bread, but not in the poor-boy style. New Orleans French bread is too light. Better are kaiser rolls, or something similarly crusty.

Filet mignon sandwich, dressed.

  • 16 slices heavy French bread, cut about an inch thick
  • 8 slices beef tenderloin, about an inch thick
  • Creole seasoning
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced crimini or portobello mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. coarsely-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp. tarragon
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Season the filets to taste with Creole seasoning. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat and, before it can get a chance to brown, add the filets. (You might need to do this in two batches.) Cook to just below the desired degree of doneness.

2. Lower the heat to medium-low. Add the brandy to the pan and bring to a boil. (See precaution below.) After the alcohol has boiled off (about a minute), whisk the pan to dissolve the browned bits of beef and the butter.

3. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes, salt, pepper, marjoram and tarragon and simmer for about four minutes, until the mushrooms are tender. Add the green onions and parsley and cook about another minute. Turn off the heat.

4. Slice each filet across into two slices. Put the filet slices into the sauce and let them sit in the sauce for a few minutes.

5. Toast the bread. Place a filet slice on a slice of bread, and add a little sauce. Add another slice of filet and more sauce. Top with another slice of bread.

Serves eight.

AlmanacSquare September 5, 2017

Days Until. . .

Restaurant Week: September 11-17.

Gourmets Through History

LouisXIV-2Today in 1638 was the birthday of Louis XIV, king of France for fifty-two years. "The Sun King" built the Palace at Versailles, which set a standard that continues to be copied by autocratic rulers around the world. The regal court also defined the French aristocracy's ideas of high living, hauteur, and corruption. As a rare good result, French cuisine rose to previously unimagined heights. Louis demanded feasts that would last all day. From that came the new idea of serving food in courses. Table etiquette became important, with forks emerging as de rigueur tableware for the first time. All of this was The Sun King's strategy for keeping the rest of the nobility off balance, and so to enhance his power. It worked.

Annals Of New Orleans Hangouts

Today in 1964, The House Of The Rising Sun climbed to Number One on the pop music charts, where it would remain for three weeks. It was a dark song that began:

There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it's been the ruin of many poor boy
And God, I know I'm one.

The original House Of The Rising Sun was a brothel that operated at 826-830 St. Louis St. from 1862 (when New Orleans was occupied by Union troops) until 1874, when it was closed due to complaints by neighbors. It was next door to the Hermann-Grima House. It was named for Madame Marianne LeSoleil Levant (the last two names mean "rising sun" in French). The British invasion group The Animals--led by Eric Burdon--performed it. When the song came out, there was no business by that name here, but there is now--a bar at 333 Bourbon. I'm concerned about those ruined poor boys in the song. Was the gravy burned, the meat tough, the mayonnaise curdled, or what?

Edible Dictionary

frappe, [fra-PAY], French, n.--A frappe is an icy cocktail that can be described to any New Orleanian person by calling it a very juicy sno-ball. Finely-crushed ice fills the glass, and the liqueur is poured in. The ice, as it melts, dilutes the drink, giving the effect of a very strong first sip, and increasingly mellower ones therafter. Among the most common frappes were those made with absinthe substitutes, most notably Ojen. Ojen has been absent from the scene for a number of years, but it has lately turned up at Brennan's--one of the restaurants that used a lot of it. Although clear in the bottle, Ojen gave a frappe made with it a pale lavender hue. Pernod, one of many French anise-flavored liqueurs, makes a pale green frappe.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Squid Bay is 131 miles west of Juneau, Alaska, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. That would be an island in these parts; the land consists of mountains poking out of the water. It's in Glacier Bay National Park. The bay is shaped like an arrowhead, and is surrounded by dense temperate rain forest. It rains here about 300 days a year. This is the wilderness, so if you're hungry start fishing. You might get some calamari to fry.

Annals Of Funny Cookbook Authors

Justin Wilson died today in 2001. The Cajun comedian evolved into a Cajun cook, and one of the earliest and still most-watched television chefs. His cookbooks remain best-sellers.

Annals Of Beef

Today in 1867, a small herd of cows entered the first railroad cattle cars, and took a train trip from Abilene, Kansas to Chicago. This was the beginning of Chicago's business as the major beef-packing town in the United States. Although the Union Stock Yards are now gone, Chicago's renown as a steak town remains. (Although New Orleans is, I'd say, on a par with it for our quality of steak-eating.)

Food In The Movies

Today in 2008, a new comedy film called I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With premiered, written and directed by one Jeff Garlin, who was also the star.

Food Namesakes

Jerry Rice caught his 127th touchdown pass today in 1994, setting the record. . . Blind track star Graham Salmon (who possesses a rare double food name) was born today in 1952. . . Daniel Mace, Tennessee Congressman, was born today in 1811. . . Former Arkansas governor Francis Adams Cherry was born today in 1908. . . Frank Farina, Australian soccer pro, kicked off today in 1964.

Words To Eat By

"Food, love, career, and mothers: the four major guilt groups."--Cathy Guisewite, creator of the just-ended comic strip "Cathy," born today in 1950.

"When I saw the dancing chicken, I knew I would create a grand metaphor—for what, I don't know."--Werner Herzog, film director, born today in 1942.

Words To Drink By

"It's like gambling somehow. You go out for a night of drinking and you don't know where your going to end up the next day. It could work out good or it could be disastrous. It's like the throw of the dice."--Jim Morrison, lead singer for The Doors.

FoodFunniesSquare

Thinner Waistline, In Two Dimensions.

Losing weight is easier if you don't have to apply the effort to every measurement. This may leave some people flat.

Click here for the cartoon.

####

Thursday, August 31, 2017.

The entire day is pretty, with only a few small clouds in a bright background of blue. That despite the whitecaps that covered the lake. From the Causeway I could see the water coming up higher than normal. When I arrived downtown, the bright sun stayed on the job, but the wind was well above kite-flying velocity. The hurricane may be over with, but there’s still evidence of its presence.

Bill De Paola, the CEO of Dat Dogs, showed up for the radio show. He brought a lot of his dogs with him. The kind you eat, enclosed by buns. Haven’t had a Dat Dog in awhile. I sampled a few. The Slovenian dog has a new name, but it’s as good as ever. Dat Dog’s is selling the inimitable hot sausage from Vaucresson, the city’s most revered sausage maker. Vance Vaucresson will be proud of what we had to say about his family’s great work.
I wing it during the second hour, but the show goes reasonably well. Afterwards, I call ML to see if she’s available for summer. She is, but not until half-past six. Perfect! I take a twenty-five minute nap in my freezing cold office, and wake up much refreshed.

ML and I go to Two Tony’s in West End. ML had not been there before. Evidence remains that despite her good luck as a commercial artist and designer, she is still a kid in some ways. She orders spaghetti and meatballs. For me the manicotti, which she says looks like Italian hot tamales. The fish is very mild; it needs some red pepper. Otherwise, I like it.

On the way home, a towering, dark cloud runs around the west-to-north horizon. Occasional sparks of lightning way up in the topmost clouds tell me that, even though it’s close to Kentucky now, this Harvey storm is still active. What did I say a few days about it’s being a living thing?

All the way, no raindrops fall. The half-moon, on the other hand, is high and bright.

When I watch the ten o’clock news, I find that there are two nascent tropical storms on the Atlantic and another inside Mexico. All are possible candidates for a visit to our place on the Earth. And there’s not a thing that can be done about it. I think that’s the worst part.
Two Tonys. West End & Bucktown: 8536 Pontchartrain Blvd. 504-282-0801.

Little time was wasted when the New Orleans restaurant community, remembering the assistance that New Orleans received after Hurricane Katrina, have begun raising funds to reciprocate the favorite. In the next couple of money, you will see many creative efforts to help Houstonians. A great example of this is what the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group has planned for this weekend. This Saturday and Sunday (September 2 and 3), five of Ralph’s restaurants have a special menu of desserts and cocktails. All of the money taken in from selling these items will go to the Hurricane Harvey Hospitality Employee Relief Fund, administered by the Greater New Orleans Foundation. This organization was formed after Hurricane Katrina, and resulted in helping many displaced restaurant people to stay in New Orleans after K. Now it has revived itself toward the same ends, but in Houston. We owe them one.

Here’s a list of the restaurant involved with this, and the desserts and cocktails involved:

Brennan’s (417 Royal. 504-525-9711)
World Famous Bananas Foster
Bananas, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, rum, New Orleans Ice Cream Co. vanilla bean ice cream, flambéed tableside. $10

Napoleon House (500 Chartres. 504-524-9752)
Original Pimm’s Cup
British gin-based liquor and lemonade with a splash of lemon-lime soda and cucumber garnish. $7

Red Fish Grill (115 Bourbon 504-598-1200)
Double Chocolate Bread Pudding
Dark and semisweet chocolate bread pudding with white and dark chocolate ganache and chocolate almond bark. $9

Ralph’s on the Park (900 City Park Ave. 504-488-1000)
Madagascar Chocolate Bar
Buttermilk chocolate cake, Madagascar chocolate crémeux, hazelnut mirror glaze, candied hazelnuts, Frangelico milk bottle. $10

Café B (2700 Metairie Rd. 504-934-4700)
Lemon Doberge Cake
Vanilla sponge cake and lemon curd filling, whipped cream and white chocolate bark. $9

AlmanacSquare September 1, 2017

Days Until. . .

Labor Day:2…

Oysters R In Season

Today is the beginning of the oyster-eating season. Not that any dedicated oyster-eater has abstained from eating the succulent bivalves throughout the warmer months. Indeed, I pick up the pace in the summer, because raw oysters are refreshingly cold.

Half-dozen raw oysters.

The idea that oysters should not be eaten in months without an “R” began, like most of our oyster culture, in New York City. New York’s harbor once teemed with oysters. Before refrigeration, delivering oysters to places where people ate them was an open invitation to pathogens in the oysters, and people got sick. The prohibition against raw oysters in non-R months was not a tradition, but an actual law. The advent of refrigeration, especially when it began to start on the oyster boats, solved that forever.

There’s also the matter of the spawning habits of oysters in summer. Sometimes it results in a milky liquid that can be off-putting, even though it’s harmless. The oysters get flabby this time of year, too, and sometimes shrink dramatically when cooked. (Restaurants hate this, because they get the blame for what is really a natural state of affairs.)

Food Calendar

As we begin September, we learn that it’ s National Biscuit Month, Better Breakfast Month (bake biscuits!), National Chicken Month, National Cholesterol Education Month (I think we already know too much), National Honey Month, National Mushroom Month, National Organic Harvest Month, National Papaya Month, National Potato Month, and National Rice Month. But for me, it’s Oyster Month.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Herbamount sounds like a place where recipes are exact. Perhaps they are. It’s a small farming community in central Indiana, forty miles southwest of Indianapolis. Herbamount is well over a century old; three churches that were there in 1875 are still in use. It was originally called Pine City, then “Herbemont”–a spelling still used on the main road through the place. Somehow the name evolved into Herbamount. The nearest restaurant is six miles northeast, in Monrovia. It’s Charlotte’s Country Cafe, where they measure all the basil, oregano, and dried parsley.

Edible Dictionary

yuca, Spanish, n.–The starchy root of a bushy, annual plant native to South America. Its cultivation has spread to dry, hot areas around the world, enough so that it’s the third-most-eaten starchy vegetable on earth. It’s also known as cassava and manioc in other parts of the world. In Latin American cooking–where we are most likely to find it in this country–it’s peeled, boiled, and fried as a side dish. Its culinary origin is probably Colombia, but it’s found throughout Central America and the Spanish Caribbean islands. Yuca is unrelated to yucca, the tall Southwestern desert plant with the dagger-like leaves.

Deft Dining Rule #129

The oyster fishery is in decline in any place where restaurants charge on a per-oyster basis.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

When cooking oysters, when the edges of the oyster begin to curl, remove them from the heat. That means they’ve begun to shrink, and you neither want nor need that to happen.

Forty Years Of Food Writing

The first restaurant review under my byline came out in print today in 1972. It was in The Driftwood, the campus newspaper at LSUNO (now the University of New Orleans). One of these days, I’m going to dig out that article and reprint it in its embarrassing entirety. It was the first of some 2000 restaurant review columns. The column moved to the Vieux Carre Courier after I graduated, then to Figaro, and finally in 1980 to CityBusiness, where it is still being published. (And in this newsletter, of course.) I can’t prove that it’s the longest-running one-author restaurant review column in the world, but I’m pretty sure it is. I invite anyone who knows of a longer-running column to bring it forward.

Food Namesakes

Jazz saxophone great Art Pepper was born today in 1925. . . Today in 1878, Emma M. Nutt became the first female phone operator in America, in Boston. . . Two Bacons: Today in 1676, Nathaniel Bacon led an uprising against the British governor in Jamestown, Virginia. It resulted in the town’s being burned to the ground, ad became known as Bacon’s Rebellion. And Ezekiel Bacon, a Massachusetts Congressman in the early 1800s, was born today in 1776. . . In 1875, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan, was born. . . Classical composer John Bake was born today in 1787.

Words To Eat Oysters By

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy, and to make plans.”–Ernest Hemingway.

“Before I was born my mother was in great agony of spirit and in a tragic situation. She could take no food except iced oysters and champagne. If people ask me when I began to dance, I reply, ‘In my mother’s womb, probably as a result of the oysters and champagne — the food of Aphrodite.'”–Isadora Duncan.

“He was a very valiant man who first adventured on eating oysters.”–King James I.

“I have long believed that good food, good eating is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure.”–Anthony Bourdain.

Words To Drink By

“Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it.”–Alfred Jarry.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is essential for making certain good cocktails like mint juleps and old fashioneds. And it’s also nice to have to sweeten iced tea, thereby eliminating the long, clanky stirring. Make a lot of it (as this recipe does). and store it in a well-sealed plastic container in the refrigerator.

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water

Combine the sugar and water in a very clean saucepan and bring to a light boil for five minutes. Brush any granules of sugar which may stick to the side of the pan down into the syrup, or the syrup may re-granulate. Refrigerate.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Meat Race Is On.

How much can be piled on? How thick can you make it? Not mentioned: how many pounds of cheese?

Click here for the cartoon.

####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, August 30, 2017. It was raining good and hard when I awakened, the heaviest rain we’ve had since Harvey moved in. Suddenly, the rain stopped. The sun came out. The wind decreased to nothing. I walked out to the mailbox (about a block away from my front door, so I bring an umbrella). The ditch that collects the water from the fields and the road are only about two-thirds full, and rushing right along.

This is a beautiful sight to me. The worst flood we ever had here at the Cool Water Ranch came about twenty-five years ago, when it covered the ground completely to about a foot deep and made the road impassible. We’ve never had anything close to that again. I know why: whoever is in charge of drainage in St. Tammany Parish hollowed out all the ditches, rivulets, creeks, brooks, and branches, and scoops out the debris regularly ever since. We don’t have pumping stations or levees; gravity does all the work, and very well.

I have long been interested by waterways large and small, to an extent that it seems an obsession to the Marys. They think I spend too much time reading and thinking about it. She should understand this, because MA’s brother is a major engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers, and was heavily involved in the construction of enormous water works on the West Bank. I guess it just doesn’t seem like much of a hobby for me to think about.

MA calls to check on me. She says that I should quit studying Accuweather every few minutes. “Why don’t you just go to Gallagher’s for lunch and have a good time with something you love?” she told me. I was about finished with the newsletter, so I did that. Pat Gallagher’s Covington location was busy enough that I got the last table. Once in place, I called MA back to let her know I’d followed her advice. “I’m at Gallagher’s,” I tell her. “Now what should I do?” She was nice enough to give me the laugh I was looking for.

What I found at Gallagher’s Grill was a $16 three-course lunch. It all sounded vey good. I start with turtle soup, which made this a four-coarse lunch. Then came a very generous and well-diversified salad with remoulade dressing. The entree is a big fillet of fried catfish topped with chopped, toasted pecans in a light brown meuniere sauce. Although that was a lot like the lunch I had at New Orleans Food and Spirits two days ago, the flavors were different enough.

Haricots verts with almonds.

The fish came with haricots vert. Green beans and fish have become a very popular ensemble lately. I like the idea except for one thing: haricots verts (the thin little green beans loved by the French) are challenging to eat. They don’t respond to the tines of a fork. The best way to eat them is with the fingers, which seems to be permissible in terms of etiquette. After all, we may eat asparagus that way.

The dessert is a sort of peach bread pudding, although they called it by another name.

No rain fell while I was lunching, but the skies cut loose about five minutes from home. A deluge. But I have an umbrella and can park under my carport for the first time in years. Until recently it has been a cluttered pad of junk, not open to cars.

Darryl Reginelli was my guest on the radio show. He’s in the studio downtown. I am in my office in Abita Springs. Although this seems clumsy at first, it works very well, and results in our getting a lot of guests we might otherwise not have on the air.

Darryl goes way back with the radio show. We held a few Eat Club dinners there in the 1990s. Those were in his original restaurant, which was more a gourmet Creole-Italian bistro than a pizza place. An oddity of the original Reginelli’s was that it made a specialty out of polenta. That never really caught on, but it was pretty interesting.

Darryl’s pizzerias have done well, and are set for expansion. Ti Martin–one of the owners of Commander’s Palace–is now a partner. They’re expanding and reworking the concept such that now there are are ten Reginelli’s. Unfortunately, one of them is in Houston, where is the really big story about Hurricane Harvey. Darryl tells me that he and many others in the New Orleans restaurant community have already begun sending aid to their brethren in Houston. Houston was an enormous help to New Orleans after Katrina, and the local restaurateurs are eager to reciprocate.

I spend the remainder of the day working in my office, performing a much-needed clean-up. I must find my missing, brand-new laptop. After three or four hours (and several weekends during the last few months), I find it. Now all I have to do is load it up with data, which is so time consuming that I’m almost glad to have this break in my usual routines.

In the ten o’clock newscast on Channel Six, Margaret Orr announces that Hurricane Harvey is officially no longer a tropical storm. But, she says, there’s lots of rainwater that will yet fall. On the other hand, not much of this rain it seems to be headed my way. I look forward to going into town tomorrow for the first time this week.

Gallagher’s Grill. Covington: 509 S Tyler. 985-892-9992.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Chicken Pannee

Although panneed veal is the classic New Orleans version of this Italian-inspired dish. restaurants serve more chicken pannee than veal or anything else. That’s because it’s perceived as lighter (although the actual difference in calories and fat is very small). And for cooking at home, appropriate cuts of chicken are easier to find at the supermarket than veal.

The word “pannee” is is used as a noun, adjective, or even a verb. It means that the food at the center (it could be almost anything, meat, seafood, or vegetable) is coated with bread crumbs and fried in a pan with about a quarter-inch depth of hot oil. Whether the word is a reference to the pan or to the breading (“pain, the French word for bread) is in dispute. What we know for certain that panneed anything is good, and chicken is among the best possible options for the technique.

  • 8 boneless chicken breasts, or tenderloins
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. salt-free Creole seasoning
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Canola or olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated bread crumbs
  • Fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbs. small capers
  • 1 lemon, cut into eight wedges

1. Pound the chicken between two pieces of waxed paper until each piece is about twice its original size.

2. Mix the salt and Creole seasoning into the flour, and lightly dust (don’t dredge!) the chicken. (Best way to do this: put the flour-salt-seasoning blend into a cheese shaker, and shake it onto the chicken.)

3. Pass the chicken through the beaten egg. Shake off the excess. Then dredge through the bread crumbs. If you have time, put the chicken cutlets onto a pan lined with plastic wrap, cover with another sheet of plastic wrap, and refrigerate for from two hours to overnight.

4. Heat about a half-inch of oil in a heavy skillet (cast iron is perfect) over medium-high fire, until a pinch of bread crumbs fries vigorously. Cook the chicken, as many pieces as will fit without overlapping, for about a minute and a half per side, or until the exterior is golden brown. Remove and drain for a minute in a large sieve. Keep the pieces warm as you cook the remaining pieces.

Serve garnished with parsley and capers, with a wedge of lemon to squeeze over it. Serve with pasta bordelaise on the side.

Serves four to eight.

SummerDiningSpecials

Last Day Of Coolinary @ Upperline

The Upperline marks thirty years of its summer-long garlic festival. This year, the garlic menu merges with nearly everything else on the menu to create this year’s most extensive Coolinary Menu. Nine appetizers, seven entrees, and seven desserts unite in the most diverse summer menu out there. Three courses sell for $39, with only two upcharges (for foie gras and the lamb shank). This is a fitting end to the Coolinary season today. But it’s conceivable that they will keep the menu going a bit longer. You need a reservation at the Uppelrine anyway, so it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Even if you can’t get the price, the menu itself remains more or less permanently. It’s available every night Wednesdays through Sundays.

Creole Tomato Gazpacho
Crab guacamole, grlic crisps~or~

The Original Fried Green Tomato

Shrimp rémoulade
~or~

Spicy Shrimp
Jalapeño cornbread and garlic aïoli
~or~

Andouille & Duck Etouffée
Louisiana pepper jelly
~or~

Seared Foie Gras
Boudin, pepper jelly & yam mustard (add $7)
~or~

Goat Cheese & Mixed Green Salad
Crispy sweet potatoes & cane vinaigrette
~or~

Watercress, Mixed Greens, Stilton and Pecan Salad
Stilton vinaigrette

~or~

Turtle Soup
With sherry
~~~~~

Cane River Country Shrimp Sauté
Sautéed shrimp, mushrooms, bacon & garlic over creamy parmesan cheese grits
~or~

Creole Squash & Zucchini Boats
Garlic Shrimp ala Muddy Waters sauce (made famous by Anthony Uglesich), garlic, jalapenos & anchovies
~or~

Sautéed Baby Drum Fish Meunière
~or~

Grilled Drum Piquant with Hot & Hot Shrimp
Two shrimp stock reduction sauces: jalapeno sauce & habanero sauce
~~~~~

Creole Veal Grillades
Mushrooms, bell peppers & parmesan cheese grits
~or~

Lamb Shank
Braised in red wine, osso buco style (add $4)
~or~

Famous 12-Hour Roast Duck Quarter
Ginger peach or garlic port sauce
~~~~~

Crème Brûlée
~or~

Louisiana Pecan Pie
~or~

Honey-Roasted Garlic Ice Cream Sundae
~or~

Creole Bread Pudding
With toffee sauce
~or~

Stilton Cheese & Pecans
~or~

Irish Coffee
~or~

Brandy Alexander on the Rocks

Upperline

Uptown: 1413 Upperline. 504-891-9822. www.upperline.com.

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

AlmanacSquare August 31, 2016

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End Today

Today’s Flavor

National Squid Day reaches its tentacles around our dining and cooking today. As fried things go, few are as appealing as a pile of fried calamari. It seemed to be made of two different animals, the golden rings crosscut from the bodies, scattered with the fried spiders from the head section. When fried lightly and sent out immediately afterwards, they’re impossible to stop eating.

Squid

Fried calamari around New Orleans are neither as common nor as good as they once were. The restaurant that did them best–La Riviera–was a Katrina casualty. The best now are at Sandro’s (Metairie: 6601 Veterans Blvd. 504-888-7784.) The all-time greatest local squid restaurant no longer serves them at all. Before charbroiled oysters, Drago’s had a magnificent squid platter including fried, stuffed, and grilled squid, all delicious.

Squid come in every imaginable size. They can be as small as your little finger or big enough to fight a sperm whale to the death. The ones as big as your arm often turn up on sushi bars, panes of their bodies cut out and crosshatched to make them chewable. They’re very tough and not very flavorful.

Squid2

Smaller squid are better. They’re best fried with a light but well-seasoned coating, preferably with a little marinade of something lemony. (Lemon juice would work perfectly.) While many restaurants serve calamari with a side order of red sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, that wouldn’t be necessary if they were lighter and seasoned better.

Edible Dictionary

Scotch egg, n.–Scotch egg A boiled egg covered with a thick coating of sausage, and then fried. To make them, the egg is boiled medium hard, the shell is removed, and a finely-chopped mixture of sausage, bread crumbs, and enough egg to hold the mixture together is patted around the egg. The entire assembly is then fried. In England and in British pubs the world over, these are served as bar snacks, usually cold. Some people make them at home, where they’re typically served warm. The dish was invented in the 1850s by Fortnum and Mason, the famous London department store. (Then and now, it had a large food department.)

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

When cleaning squid that are very fresh, beware that it may still be alive. It has a small beak that can bite. It feels like a nip from a small fingernail clipper.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Pecan was a small rural town in the center of the Florida peninsula, fifty-one miles south of Jacksonville. The good news: pecan groves do grow in the area. Bad news: most of this former farmland is now the most unsavory kind of industrial zone, with waste water ponds, railroad spurs, and a large junkyard nearby. Let’s get out of here and calm down with a drink. The nearest place to do that is Little Italy On The St. John’s River, about a half-mile away from where Pecan used to be.

Food In Publishing

William Shawn, the second and longest-serving editor of The New Yorker magazine, was born today in 1907. Shawn ran the highbrow publication throughout its glory years, and was among the most influential figures in American literature. He rarely published his own words, and never allowed his name to appear in the magazine. He lunched at the Algonquin Hotel every day with his writers, ordering the same thing every day: a glass of orange juice and a bowl of Special K cereal with skim milk. No wonder the magazine only recently began writing about restaurants.

Music To Forget Food By

This is the anniversary, in 1969, of the New Orleans Pop Festival, our answer to Woodstock. It took place in the Louisiana International Speedway near Gonzales. The organizers offered free camping (although not free admission) and quite a musical lineup: Chicago, Canned Heat, Country Joe and the Fish, the Grateful Dead, It’s a Beautiful Day, Iron Butterfly, Janis Joplin, Oliver (the worst act there), Santana, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Youngbloods. . . and Dr. John, then known as the Night Tripper. The event is seldom recalled, perhaps because many of us who were there can’t remember anything about it. Drugs were everywhere. The food situation was unspeakable. But 1969 was the low point for New Orleans cuisine in the last half of the twentieth century anyway.

Annals Of Drinking

Robert F. Borkenstein was born today in 1912. He invented the Breathalyzer, one of the first machines for determining the level of a person’s blood alcohol. It gave the cops a tool to keep drunk drivers off the road–an unarguably important development. However, a side effect was the demise of fine-dining restaurants located far from population centers. When the New Orleans Police Department cracked down on drunk drivers in the 1980s, it devastated volume at restaurants like LeRuth’s on the West Bank and Crozier’s in New Orleans East. People started dining closer to home.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Arthur Godfrey was born today in 1903. Godfrey started brilliantly in radio, then became the biggest star on early television. Godfrey invented the TV talk show as we know it. A Prairie Home Companion is essentially an updated version of Arthur Godfrey Time, which ran on CBS radio for twenty-seven years. CBS built a theater especially for his television variety show; it’s still in use as the Ed Sullivan Theater, the home now of David Letterman. Godfrey was such a master of ad-libs that he was for a long time the only person allowed to work without a script on network radio. Godfrey’s commercials made Lipton the dominant tea brand in America. For all that, so little of his work was recorded that he’s almost unknown to anyone under the age of sixty.

Food Namesakes

Jeff Frye, pro baseball pitcher, was born today in 1966. . . John Parsons Cook, a Congressman from Indiana, was born today in 1817. . . Burton Y. Berry, ambassador to Turkey and Greece in the 1950s, was born today in 1901. . . Actor Chris Tucker was born today in 1972. (“Tucker” is Australian slang for food.)

Words To Eat By

“We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink.”–Epicurus.

Words To Drink By

“A man ought never to get drunk above the neck.”–Unknown.

Or–even more important–below the waist.

FoodFunniesSquare

Which Species Of Shark Is Best?

Look. If you don’t think this is funny. you’re thinking too hard. Now back to the flying hamburgers. . .

Click here for the cartoon.

####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Tuesday, August 30, 2017. How ironic!
It’s the twelfth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. As bad as that storm was, the weather aberration currently operating under the name Harvey seems hell-bent on topping Katrina. Watching the radar and observing the rainfalls, it seems to me almost as if Harvey were a living being, one that hates us for some reason, with an intent to destroy us.

“Us” in this case means the residents of Houston, who have already had to collect victims from rooftops, but in much greater numbers than Katrina called for. Many enormous fundraising efforts have already made their plans to bring in the wherewithal to help out the thousands (really!) of now-displaced people.

But unless you haven’t been paying attention to radio, television, and webs, you must already know this. The total situation is so outlandishly horrible that it boggles the mind. My mind keeps coming back to the spectre of a living evil that seems to counteract every turn for the better.

I did the radio show from home. My entire food intake was a turkey sandwich. And I wrote my newsletter. Sticking with my regular assignments strikes me as the way to go. I can’t say I’m finding it easy. It’s hard to think, even though I know that this too shall pass.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Cold-Smoked Gulf FIsh

All the fish in the tuna family have a higher-than-average oil content, and so are perfect for smoking. This will work for many kinds of fish: salmon, mackerel, tuna, pompano, freshwater trout (including fish like steelhead trout). The fish picks up a terrific smoke flavor throughout, without getting a barbecued taste.

My technique is instructed by Chef Roland Huet, the original chef at Christian’s, who developed this for that restaurant’s great smoked salmon.

  • 1 lb. of skinned fillet of mackerel, salmon, pompano, fresh-water trout, or any other good, moderately oily fish.
  • 1 lb. salt
  • 1/2 lb. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

Smoked mackerel, an under-appreciated Gulf fish, but not for everybody.

1. Fillet and skin the fish, removing any blood lines you may encounter.

2. Dissolve all the other ingredients in a gallon of cold water. Marinate the fish in the brine for twelve hours, refrigerated

3. Using a fruit wood (cherry, apple, or grapevine), cold-smoke the fish at 75-90 degrees for two hours. The thicker the fish, the longer it should remain in the smoker.

4. Slice the smoked fish at a very narrow bias into slices as thick as two stacked coins. Serve dressed with extra-virgin olive oil, dill, and cracked black peppercorns

Serves twelve appetizers.

SummerDiningSpecials

Coolinary @ SoBou

SoBou was the first overtly Millennial restaurant in New Orleans. From the outset, you ordered whatever meal you were in the mood for (and that could be almost any combination of snacks, appetizers, entrees and desserts) and just keep adding to it as you drank a cocktail or a glass of wine. Or, whatever. The name means “South of Bourbon,” conjured up by Ti Martin and Lally Brennan, the owners of Commander’s Palace.)

It’s getting late for the Coolinary season, and I wish I’d consider this Coolinary menu sooner. The menu offers more variety than most, served in several dayparts–breakfast, lunch, dinner, or brunch. I’ve presented the dinner menu here, which sells (depending on the entree) for between $28 and $36. That buys you a cocktail, an appetizer, an entree, and dessert.

Welcome Cocktail
Ms. Laura’s seasonal punch of the day~~~~~

Creole Tomato & Pickled Mirliton Gazpacho

~or~

Cracklin’ Crusted Pork Belly Steam Bun
~or~

Gumbo du Jour
~or~

Yellowfin Tuna Cones
~~~~~

Smoky Oysters en Escabeche
~~~~~

Crispy Chicken on the Bone $23
~or~

Buffalo Trace Bourbon Braised Short Rib $31
~or~

Louisiana Geaux Fish & Heirloom Tomatoes $32
~or~

Smoked Boudin Stuffed Fried Quail $34
~or~

Shrimp al Ajillo $27
~~~~~

Pecan Pie Not Pie
~or~

Bananas Foster Parfait
~or~

SoBou Chocolate Coma Bar

SoBou

French Quarter: 310 Chartres St.. 504-552-4095. www.sobounola.com.

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

AlmanacSquare August 30, 2017

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End: 2.

The Day Of No Restaurants

Today in 2005 was a really bad day in New Orleans. Katrina was gone, but the levees parted and the city filled with water. The flood would cover eighty percent of its formerly dry land with several feet of water, and remain for weeks. It would be a couple more days before FEMA and other governmental agencies got a grip on how bad things were. Orleanians in exile knew exactly how awful the situation was, as we gaped at what we saw on CNN. And the worst was still yet to come. I remember drinking many martinis and feeling powerless, homeless, and jobless. I hadn’t yet started wondering what would happen to our restaurants. On this day five years ago, the number of them in operation was zero. That had never happened to any culinary capital in history.

For a lot of us, the current disaster in Texas makes us relive the Katrina episode. As happened after Katrina, there people in Houston have been made homeless. And every person or organization is gearing up to help.

Today’s Flavor

This is National Seafood Stuffing Day. Restaurants from the lowest to the highest price categories stuff seafood dressings into all sorts of other foods. But what is it, really? Usually, a combination of claw crabmeat, tiny shrimp, bread crumbs, and herbs. In flavor, it ranges from bready, oil-logged, and tasteless to marvelous, fluffy, moist concoctions that add magic to whatever it stuffs.

Seafood stuffing can be dangerous. The temptation to make it out of a little bit of seafood and a lot of bread gives a bad name to what can be, when made well, a delicious thing. Stuffing can be actually stuffed into something (as in a stuffed fish, lobster, or soft-shell crab) or wrapped around the outside of the stuffee (as in stuffed shrimp). Or it can be served all by itself (as in stuffed crabs, which starts with only the shell of the crab, if even that).

The secret of good seafood stuffing is in starting with cubes of stale bread, rather than bread crumbs. You then soak the cubes in a flavorful seafood stock. Then mix it with as much seafood as you can, of a quality you would eat even if it were served by itself.

Food And Wine In Show Biz

Today in 1968, the Beatles recorded the first songs on their new Apple label. One of them was their all-time biggest hit, Hey Jude,. It entered the charts at Number Ten (the highest entry level for any record ever), then became Number One for nine weeks.

Today is the birthday, in 1908, of actor Fred MacMurray, who had a long career in radio, movies, and television. His ranch in Sonoma became a vineyard, and under the management of the Gallo family has become a great source of Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir. Their reserve Pinot Noir I find particularly drinkable.

Shirley Booth, whose most famous role was as the eponymous maid on the 1960s television show Hazel, was born today in 1898. Talk about a show that would make no sense today! Hazel was a live-in maid who did all the cooking and serving for an upscale but not especially wealthy American family of three. She was a wisecracking busybody who bossed her employers around. Shirley Booth played another food-and-drink-related role, as Miss Duffy in the long-running radio comedy series “Duffy’s Tavern.” In real life, she was the wife of Ed Gardner, who created the series and played Archie, the manager of a sleazy dive in which inedible food and bad drinks were served to a bunch of lowlifes.

Annals Of California Wine

Today is the birthday, in 1812, of Agoston Harazthy, considered the father of winegrowing in California. A native of Pest, Hungary, he brought thousands of vineyard cuttings to Sonoma County, planting what became the Buena Vista vineyards. His work to solve the problem of the phylloxera root louse–endemic in America–saved the vineyards of Europe when the louse found its way there.

Deft Dining Rule #194

When you hear someone rave about a wine because it comes from pre-phylloxera vines, you are listening to someone whose reception of flavor comes largely from self-hypnosis.

Edible Dictionary

malacia, [muh-LAY-she-uh], n.–A strong desire to eat spicy, peppery food. It comes from a Greek word that means “softening,” and in medicine it means just that (about cartilage, mostly). How it got this other meaning is inclear. But it’s a good word, isn’t it? I know I’ve felt malacia at times.

Bridges To Fine Dining

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway opened today in 1956. A 23.86-mile, two-lane span (now the southbound span) opened as the longest bridge in the world. Lake Pontchartrain lies north of New Orleans; high water pushed into it by Hurricane Katrina caused the levees to break. (The Causeway, however, remained passable.) Its greatest effect was the development of the other side of the lake, now a major suburb of New Orleans. About twenty years ago I ran an April Fool review of a restaurant on the lower level of the mid-lake turnaround on the older span. Every now and then a radio listener calls about it. Come to think of it, that would be a good place to build an exit to a man-made island in the middle of the lake, with hotels, casinos, and restaurants there. Why not?

Politics In Food

Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long, the most famous political figure in the history of the state, was born today in 1893. The lore about his life and ideas fill many books. What we’re interested in here is that promise he made to his constituents of “two chickens in every pot.”

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Fiacre, who lived in Ireland in the seventh century. He is the patron saint of gardeners. His images depict him carrying a shovel and a bundle of vegetables.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Tasso, Tennessee is thirty-eight miles northeast of Chattanooga, between US 11 and the Norfolk Southern Railway, both of which go straight to New Orleans. Tasso and nearby Tasso Heights are exurbs of Chattanooga, with well-developed subdivisions. We’d bet against finding Cajun food around there, although barbecue is a likelihood. The nearest place to eat is Antonio’s Corner Restaurant, two miles south on the rail line.

Food Namesakes

Coy Bacon, pro football player in the 1970s, was born today in 1942. . . Peggy Lipton, television actress, turned on today in 1947. . . R. (Robert) Crumb, the most famous and best of all the underground comix artists, was born today in 1943. . . Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice set an inglorious record today in 1984, by grounding into a record thirty-third double play of the year. He would run that total up to thirty-six. Otherwise, he was a great hitter. . . Samuel Whitbread, who would become the head of the largest brewery in England, was born today in 1720.

Words To Eat By

“I’m a salty, greasy girl. I give every French fry a fair chance.”–Cameron Diaz, born today in 1972.

“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.”–John Gunther, American author, born today in 1901.

Words To Drink By

“A man cannot make him laugh; but that’s no marvel; he drinks no wine.”–William Shakespeare.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Opposing Point Of View.

It’s always being invoked at the restaurant dinner table, but there doesn’t seem to be a point of agreement. You can’t have both sides at the same time.

Click here for the cartoon.

####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Monday, August 28, 2017. I awaken just a little earlier than usual, although I didn’t sleep much during the hour before I officially arose. Official wake-up time is when the cat Satsuma begins whimpering outside my bedroom door. That greeting is followed immediately by the stampede of the big dogs Suzie and Barry, who figure that if any member of the family is getting something to eat, then why shouldn’t they also?

I get right to work, because I know that act will focus my mind away from the obvious obsession du jour. If nothing else, this sends a lot of finished work through my hands. My CityBusiness column, for example. It takes a long time to write one of those.

My food supply will take me through the next ten days, at least. My lunch is a sandwich of Cajun-style ham from Chisesi, whose ham is the standard of the New Orleans sandwich industry. This new Cajun version looks the same as what goes onto a muffuletta, but a residue of the brown-red seasoning announces a spicy background flavor and a bit more smoke than usual. Good stuff. But where is my Creole mustard? I put the sandwich together with the Mrs. Drake’s picture of mayonnaise and yellow mustard, which fills the bill.

I handle the radio show clumsily. I can’t ignore the situation on the ground, but I don’t really want my show to get serious. It has always been a respite from the vast stores of bad news and paranoia producers already on the air. You can’t listen to that kind of stuff all the time or you’d go nuts. Which never does feel good.

I am not surprised that we don’t get many calls today. It’s a Monday, and there are distractions. But I get through it okay, with the help of a few regular callers.

Afterwards, I go to supper at New Orleans Food and Spirits. I thought that I’d better have red beans and rice, accompanied by the excellent grilled catfish with pecans. This is such a good dish that it surpasses my usual disdain for catfish cooked any way but fried. It hits the spot, and is not so heavy that it interferes with my singing.

And NPAS does indeed hold its regular rehearsal. We are working on a collection of gospel songs and spirituals. Ours is an entirely secular chorus, but we don’t think there’s any reason to omit this important American music, despite its religious aspects. In the first two or three songs, I perform terribly. I lose my place in the music and am far off the tones, let alone the rhythms. It’s only on the third song that I return to the beam. And then the rehearsal breaks up. I’m cheered to see as we leave that it’s not raining. In fact, the half-moon is clearly visible. To quote the last song on our sheet, “Ain’t-a that good news?”

SummerDiningSpecials

Coolinary @ Press Street Station

Press Street Station is a non-profit arm of the New Orleans Center For The Creative Arts, where high school-aged students study within their particular atistic endeavors–in this case, the culinary arts. In its short history it has sent many young people, taught by professionals, into the hospitality industry. All proceeds from Press Street Station go to the support of the program. The food is surprisingly creative and the young people are very capable.

The Coolinary menu is the only one whose main meal is Sunday brunch. That’s one of the most popular parts of the menu at Press Street Station. The three-course Coolinary there is $36. There’s also a lunch menu for $20, served every day except Wednesday, when the place is closed.

Corn Shortcakes

Spiced cane syrup, goat cheese butter, seasonal jam~or~
Citrus Cured Salmon
Crispy potatoes, cream cheese, red onion, capers, roasted red pepper puree
~or~

Sourdough Toast & Head Cheese
~or~
Peach jam, haloumi
~~~~~

Bywater Benedict
Boudin patties, biscuits, collard greens, poached eggs, hollandaise
~or~

Marigny Benedict
Summer vegetable relish, guajillo puree, flatbread, poached eggs, smoked tomato hollandaise
~or~

Breakfast Sandwich
Roasted pork, pickled onion, fried egg, queso chihuahua, jalapeno & cilantro puree on lepinja served with fries
~or~

Gulf Shrimp Salad
Shrimp, new potatoes, preserved lemon, olives, sumac dressing

~~~~~

French toast
Sweet potato brioche, blueberries, lemon syrup
~~~~~

Key lime pie
Spiked whipped cream

Press Street Station

Marigny:: 5 Press St. 504-249-5622. pressstreetstation.com/.

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

RecipeSquare-150x150

Feelings’ Peanut Butter Pie

The Marigny restaurant called Feelings has changed hands a few times over the years, and I haven’t sampled the place currently under that name. Despite that, I will never forget three of the desserts from the original Feelings. I never liked peanut butter pie until I had this one. It was a trendsetter: more than a few restaurants and bakeries around town make a fluffy peanut butter pie like this now, and some of them even give Feelings credit for it.

  • Crust:
  • 3 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • Filling:
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 can condensed milk
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 pint whipping cream, whipped
  • (*The restaurant actually uses 10 oz. of Cool Whip instead)
  • Garnish:
  • Shaved chocolate
  • Peanuts

1. Make the crust by combining the vanilla wafer crumbs and the butter in a food processor. Press it into the sides and bottom of a nine-inch pie pan.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine the first four ingredients until well blended. The texture should be like a thick batter.

3. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the whipped cream carefully. It’s not necessary to get all the streaks out; it’s better to stop short of complete blending than to lose the air incorporated in the whipped cream.

4. Using the rubber spatula again, load the filling into the pie shell. Top with the peanuts and shaved chocolate. Refrigerate.

Makes one pie.

AlmanacSquare August 29, 2017

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End: 2.

Memorable Weather Reports

Hurricane Katrina–one of the two or three most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in history–swept across New Orleans this morning in 2005. It changed everything, in ways we’re still discovering. Everyone who was here then, will talk about that event the rest of our lives. And take pride that, even in our sometimes raucous way, we lived through it and kept our identity.

As unlikely as it may seem to people who have never been here, our eating culture was one of the strongest forces that pulled us back together into a coherent city. We saw that in the very earliest recovery, when the first thing most returnees wanted to do was to eat some real New Orleans food. It started with red beans and poor boys and gumbo, but we were very quickly back to oysters Bienville, soft shell crabs, slow-roasted duck, and all the rest of it. If all that and the restaurants that served them hadn’t come back as quickly as they did, many people who came back would have wondered why they did, and left again.

The day that New Orleans becomes Anywhere, USA is the day she dies.

Our Famous Restaurateurs

On the other hand, some wonderful things happened this date. It’s the birthday, in 1960, of Ti Adelaide Martin. She and her cousin Lally Brennan own and manage Commander’s Palace and Cafe Adelaide. Ti is the daughter of Ella Brennan, one of the most accomplished of American restaurateurs. Ti clearly learned a lot from her mom. But even her mom learned a few new lessons in their struggles to reopen Commander’s Palace after Katrina. It took a year and a half–much longer than anyone ever imagined. But when it open, it resumed its position as the city’s top restaurant.

Today’s Flavor

By coincidence, Today is Eating Away From Home Day. That’s what most of us in the New Orleans area had to do on this distressing day in 2005. And it’s what an increasing number of people across America do every day. Just before the 2008 recession, more meals in this country were eaten out of the home than in it. That reverted to the opposite statistic during the slack years. But dining out is once again edging towards a majority of U.S. meals.

It is also More Herbs, Less Salt Day; Lemon Juice Day; Chop Suey Day (see below), and Swiss Winegrowers Day (the Swiss drink almost all of their wine themselves, so to hell with that).

Edible Dictionary

Muscadine, n.–A white grape variety native to North America. It grows wild throughout the South, and is the most common variety of grape found there. It is also cultivated for eating or making wine. Muscadine wines–also called scuppernong–is almost always made sweet, and often with a high alcohol percentage that comes from fortifying it with brandy. It’s not a great wine, but it does have the panache of being a local product.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Margarine City? Almost. “Oleopolis” is a Greek way of saying “oil city.” And, in fact, there is an Oil City five miles downstream on the Allegheny River. Oleopolis is at the bottom of a 400-foot gorge dug out by the river, right on the banks. There’s nothing extra-virgin or even edible about the oil in the name. This is the area where the world’s first successful oil wells were drilled. All the restaurants nearby are in Oil City. The Yellow Dog Lantern sounds interesting.

Annals Of Dieting

Dr. Nathan Pritikin was born today in 1915. The diet plan that bears his name posited that a high-carbohydrate, low-fat regimen would not only result in weight loss, but also prevent heart disease, from which he believed he was suffering. The thinking these days is that the opposite is true, but dieting vogues swing as often and popular style of cooking. But in the 1970s it was all the rage, enough that some restaurants opened with menus the kept to the Pritikin Plan. I went to one such, and found it among the worst I ever reviewed. Losing weight is a laudable goal. Eating with pleasure is also important. Tricky to achieve both goals with the same meal.

Annals Of Chinese Food

Today in 1896, Li Hung Chang, ambassador and military hero from China, visited New York City. Things Chinese were very much in vogue, as that country’s opening to the West for the first time revealed a fascinating world. Chang was feted with grand dinners, but he rejected all that, insisting that his own chefs cook for him. This was allegedly the moment when and where chop suey was invented, but that’s unlikely. “Chop suey” translates idiomatically into “mixed food in small pieces,” which describes a great deal of Chinese food. So it was probably pretty generic when Americans first encountered it when Chinese people began appearing in large numbers. That was in California in the 1860s, during the building of the Central Pacific Railroad. Now, think about this: when was the last time you saw the words “chop suey” on a menu?

Deft Dining Rule #524:

Never eat in a Chinese restaurant that specializes in chop suey, unless the place is over fifty years old.

Books About The Table

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., the father of a Supreme Court Chief Justice, was born today in 1809. He wrote The Autocrat Of The Breakfast Table, the first in a series of novels with the words “breakfast table” in their titles. They were about life in New England.

Food Namesakes

Actress Rebecca de Mornay was born today in 1962. (Mornay sauce is a bechamel with cheese added). . . Edward Denny Bacon was born today in 1860. He was a British author and the curator of the King’s stamp collection. . . Kyle Cook, lead guitarist of the American rock band Matchbox Twenty, was born today in 1975.

Words To Eat By

“You don’t get ulcers from what you eat. You get them from what’s eating you.”–Vicki Baum, Austrian-American writer, who died today in 1960.

Words To Drink By

“Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”–Rev. William A. Spooner, for whom the expression “spoonerism” is named. He died today in 1930.

FoodFunniesSquare

A Collection Of Eating Extremes.

Bet you wouldn’t want to try these ideas. Which is why the people at Ripley’s have investigated them for you.

Click here for the cartoon.

####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Saturday, August 26, 2017.
Hurricane Harvey (shouldn’t we change the name that city on the West Bank, and perhaps the canal and tunnel, too?) is laying waste to southeastern Texas, doing its worst to Houston. It’s a category four. If it can be even worse, I hope I won’t know about it. The storm is not supposed to come to New Orleans, but every report projects its coming a little closer to our hometown. I can’t take my mind off it.

I fight this gloom with my best weapon: I fold myself into my routines. First the usual tour to the supermarket for cat food, pick up dry cleaning. Then I stop at Home Depot to price a generator. $400. Think I’ll pass. If I get it, I won’t need it. Of course, if I don’t get it, I’ll kick myself later. Anyway the storm’s not coming here, is it? I stop at the bank to pick up some cash. The banks’s computer is very slow to deliver. That’s strange. The same problem turned up at Home Depot and at the dry cleaners. I know it’s not on my end. Checked all my accounts as usual this morning. The bank finally gives me the money that I will give to the cleaners, and away I go.

To work. I have three hours on the radio today. The storm hardly comes up at all with my listeners and callers, but the newscasts are full of the latest.

Being on the radio ought to be stressful. But I am always at easy when the mike is open and all I need to do is attract some callers. It worked as always today.

After the show, I take a nap. After about an hour, I hear footsteps and other noises in the kitchen. The cat, probably. But then the cat Satsuma appears, and I see the silhouette of a human appear in the door. It gives me a start.

It’s Mary Leigh. What she doing here? Walking her dog, she says. She comes all the way to Abita Springs from downtown for that. I ask whether she’s like to have lunch or dinner. No, she says. Maybe later, or tomorrow. The sun is beaming down and it’s in the nineties. She can’t leave her dog Bauer alone either in her car or with my dogs, who are very territorial.

She departs. I have the house to myself, and it will stay like that all day. I guess I’d better plan to go out to dinner, or I’ll be stuck here at home with the reports on Harvey.

I go to Di Martino’s, whose roast beef poor boy had turned out to be one of the best in the area. But the restaurant and parking lot are jammed with people. Half-hour wait. I drive around aimlessly and then have an inspiration. I haven’t dined at Fazzio’s–a long-running Italian restaurant in Mandeville–in years. I can’t think of a reason why. Probably MA doesn’t like the look of the place. But Fazzio’s has undergone a serious renovation. Gone is the big, busy bar full of smokers. (It has been awhile.)

I find on the menu just what I feel like eating. It’s called Veal Anne. It’s pasta with medallions of veal in a very rich sauce with mushrooms and artichoke hearts. I love that combination. This version of it is too rich, really, but I eat most of it anyway. Along with a Caesar salad and a side of fettuccine Alfredo. Which is also too rich. I take a statin anyway. But statins depress one’s mood, so I’ve heard. And I am in no mood to be further depressed.

Fazzio’s. Mandeville: 1841 N Causeway Blvd. 504-624-9704.
####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150

The Harvey Chronicles. Friday, August 25, 2017.

I began writing this journal in 1970. It typically had a musing quality, and covered everything in which I was personally involved. Its peak of relevance was in the years after the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The typical question I read from readers asked after the state of the New Orleans restaurant and food world. I answered these one by one with a mix of facts and speculation. One day, I sent out twenty-two such replies, and decided that it was time to put all the information on my web site. Thus began a daily count of the restaurants that had reopened. My database at the time showed that the day before the hurricane, 809 restaurants were open. The number the day after Katrina was zero. As I write this, the number is 1506.

Also as I write this, Hurricane Harvey is ripping southern Texas apart, and it’s just getting started. The way the atmosphere is stacked right now, Harvey will sit there for days, continuing to wreak havoc. A tendril of this nearly-aimless force will send a great deal of rain every place along the Gulf Coast, perhaps even to the New Orleans area. It will catch the city at a time when its famous drainage pumping apparatus is at a weak pass.

I don’t want to think about this too much, but we cross our fingers for our friends in Houston, who will probably get kicked around badly.

I feel it necessary to back away from the usual culinary focus of the Dining Diary and keep my eyes on this maelstrom from hell. We knew it would come along sooner or later, but that doesn’t make it less nerve-wracking today. Katrina actually was a benefactor for my family, opening unexpected doors. I felt a little guilty about that, and I hope every person in my world gets through this without major damage.

As I did the day before Katrina, I volunteered to be part of the radio coverage on WWL Radio, if it comes to that. I hope it doesn’t. We have a show today with a food-related guest, but I have a feeling we find it hard not to focus on Harvey, starting with stocking a larder of food in case we are held as meteorological hostages.

I invite you to call me at 504-260-6368. I’ll be on as usual from three until seven this afternoon on 105.3 FM, HD2. This is on the digital radio I’ve been urging you to do.

This is a time for the upbeat attitudes of the next generation. My daughter Mary Leigh had dinner with me at Mondo last night. When I outlined my anxiety over the hurricane, she told me that I was going overboard, and that I ought to calm down. She lives in New Orleans these days, and she’s not concerned even a little by the storm. She waved me off when I suggested that she might think about evacuating. Which at this time really doesn’t seem called for. My wife Mary Ann, who is with our son and his family in Los Angeles, laughed at my concerns. Again, I think she’s probably right, and I am grossly overreacting. But somebody has to do it.

Good luck. Say your prayers. Keep in touch with everybody. And if you think I’m being an old wimp, please tell me.

SummerDiningSpecials

Coolinary @ Mondo.

As we near the end of the Coolinary season, we find an unexpected menu from this always-clever restaurant. Mondo is one of Chef Susan Spicer’s two casual restaurants, and unusual in that it is both a neighborhood eatery and an experimental kitchen. Most of the menu is totally original both in its ingredients and its flavors. What comes out of this is a simpler, less expensive array of Coolinary dishes at an attractive price: $28 instead of the standard $39. The Coolinary menu goes until August 31, every night except Sunday.

Ajo Blanco Gazpacho
(Cold soup of white garlic)
~or~

Duck Boudin Balls
Grilled peach relish
~or~

Watermelon and Jicama Salad
Honey lime dressing and crispy tortilla strips
~~~~~

Gulf Shrimp Pad Thai
~or~

Turkish Lamb-Stuffed Eggplant
~or~

Fig and Burrata Pizza
~~~~~

Mango Empanadas
~or~

House Made Sorbet
~or~

Pot de Crème
~~~~~

Mondo

Lakeview: 900 Harrison Ave. 504-224-2633. www.mondoneworleans.com.

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

AlmanacSquare August 25, 2017

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End: 6.

Roots Of Creole Cooking

On this date in 1718, several hundred French colonists showed up in Louisiana to secure the French claim to the territory. Many settled in what was soon to become New Orleans. They wanted to eat food like what they had in France, but had to make do with the local vegetables and animals. A new cuisine was born.

People We’d Like To Drink With

Sean Connery was born today in 1930. His order of a “vodka martini, shaken, not stirred” in the James Bond movies altered the classic martini recipe forever. Gin was the original spirit component of the drink. The “shaken, not stirred” aspect may seem like pure perfectionism on the part of the Bond character, but it recognizes a decline in the quality of ice. If you have good, really cold, pure, hand-cut ice, a martini should definitely be stirred.

Food Calendar

Today is National Martini Day. Martinis went out of vogue in the 1970s, when everybody started drinking wine. But they’re too good to be kept down, and a new appreciation formed in the 1990s. In New Orleans, the Bombay Club kept the flame alive and continued to glorify the drink, putting some real effort into making them well.

Martinis are so popular that the name has become a synonym for cocktail. Anything served in a slant-sided martini glass is now called a martini. Some of these aren’t even drinks. Seafood martinis–shrimp, crabmeat, lobster, or crawfish in a martini glass with some kind of cold sauce–are especially popular.

The original martini, according to a number of sources, consisted of gin and white vermouth, stirred with chunks of ice, strained into the famous glass, then garnished with an olive. The proportion of gin to vermouth was between 50-50 and 75-25. The large presence of vermouth in the early martini is confirmed by something obvious: vermouth is the primary product of the Martini and Rossi company, for which the drink is named.

The vogue now is for dry martinis, the vermouth component approaching zero. I’ve seen menus that say their dry martinis are made with gin shaken with ice in front of a bottle of vermouth, or some such joke. But I think the taste of vermouth is essential to the drink–more so than the olive.

Deft Dining Rule #854

If you don’t know what brand of gin makes the best martinis for your palate and why, you’re just drinking them for the aftereffects.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

A martini without vermouth is like gumbo without filé, fish and chips without malt vinegar, smoked salmon without capers, a roast beef poor boy without mayonnaise, Champagne without bubbles, barbecue without dry rub, escargots without garlic butter. . . [This might go on for hours. Let’s stop now.–Tom.]

Food On The Air

This is the birthday of television cook Rachael Ray, born today in 1968. The first time I saw her on television, I thought it was a cooking show for kids, starring a teenage chef. She was around thirty then. She still seems like a teenager on the tube, which probably explains her success.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Louis IX, the king of France from age eleven (1226) until he died on this date in 1270. He was in the thick of the Eighth Crusade, was captured, and had to be ransomed. St. Louis Cathedral and the city of St. Louis, Missouri are both named for him. He’s the patron saint of that city and of New Orleans. He is also the patron saint of distillers, which strikes me as very appropriate, given his New Orleans connection.

Kitchen Accidents Through History

Today in 1857, a Chinese cook was blamed for burning down the Gold Rush town of Columbia. Chinese immigrants had already established their cuisine in California, but this was a setback, because the town banned all Chinese after the incident. Too bad. The guy made an unforgettable moo goo gai pan.

Food And Drink In The Movies

Today in 2006, a movie premiered with the name How To Eat Fried Worms. The same day, another film called Beerfest hit the screen for the first time. How interesting. Paired food and beverage movies.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Egg Hill is in the northeast corner of Maryland, twenty-five miles west of Wilmington, Delaware. It rises 401 feet–one of the highest points in the area–and is completely covered with woods. An enormous auto junkyard is just west. On a more appetizing note, the nearest eatery is a mile and a half away in Pleasant Hill: Uncle Bob’s Western Corral.

Edible Dictionary

crubeens, Irish, n.–An appetizer made by boiling pig’s feet with bay leaves, pulling the meat from them, coating them with a mixtures of mustard and egg, rolling them in breadcrumbs, and frying them. The resulting nuggets are eaten with the fingers as a snack or appetizer. Or with beer, one imagines.

Food Namesakes

Hal Fishman, who was a television news anchor for many years in Los Angeles, made his very first appearance today in 1931. . . Lise Bacon, who held a number of high offices in Quebec and nationally in Canada, was elected to life today in 1932. . . Janet Chow, who came in second in the Miss Hong Kong contest in 2006, was born in Canada today in 1983. . . Captain James Cook sailed from London on his first expedition today in 1768. Read this department daily and learn where he went on this and other voyages. He’s the most-mentioned person here.

Words To Eat By

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

Words To Drink By

“All the charming and beautiful things, from the Song of Songs, to bouillabaisse, and from the nine Beethoven symphonies to the martini cocktail, have been given to humanity by men who, when the hour came, turned from tap water to something with color in it, and more in it than mere oxygen and hydrogen.”–H.L. Mencken.

FoodFunniesSquare

What The Guy At The Other Table Is Eating Always Looks Better.

But sometimes this invidious disposition can depress you far beyond the realities involved should indicate.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Monday, August 21, 2017.

Mary Ann flew to Los Angeles today so early in the morning that I didn’t remember hearing her leave. She couldn’t be happier about spending a week or more with her precious grandson (and mine).

I compensate for my loneliness with my semi-annual physical checkup. At the end of it, while eating breakfast at the Cracker Barrel (more about that later), I decide that this is the best physician I’ve ever had. I threw a bunch of miscellaneous issues before him. Without adding another prescription or calling for any surgery, he set my mind at ease in almost every matter that concerns me. The one exception is something so common with men my age that I don’t even think of it much anymore.

The doctor’s office is near that immense array of shopping centers around the intersection of I-12 and LA 21. Here is found the largest cluster of chain restaurants on the North Shore. Among these is the Cracker Barrel, the mainstay for people traveling cross-country. It’s particularly a haven for people looking for breakfast. When the kids were little, we went to the Cracker Barrel a few times, pulled there mostly by the souvenirs and games that fill the place. But early on, we came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to be a favorite. Mary Leigh gave her first restaurant review: She thought Shoney’s was better.

However, a few years ago, after seeing the doctor (different guy from now), having a hunger for breakfast and enough time to do so, I ordered up. I did not raise my rating of the place, though, where I found the eggs overcooked and the bacon without flavor. (Too lean, would be my analysis.) Worst of all were the grits, which I believe are the worst I have ever encountered. Icky texture, little flavor of any kind. . . two bites were all I could handle.

The next time I had a doctor appointment, I remembered that meal. Yet I had breakfast at the Cracker Barrel again. I was happy that this time around everything was reasonably decent. They got the eggs right, and the bacon had more to give than before. I didn’t try the grits, having decided that they are hopeless.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Mint Julep

The mint julep is considered a cliché Old South drink by some. But a good one is about as refreshing a cocktail as ever slaked a midsummer night’s thirst. It’s best

Mint julep served in traditional stainless steel cups.

served in the classic metal cups, which get frosty on the outside if you made it right. I use those great small-batch Bourbons to make this, since Bourbon is such a big part of it. Either that or Maker’s Mark.

  • About 20 fresh mint leaves, plus more sprigs for garnish, washed gently in gold water
  • 8 oz. simple syrup (see recipe)
  • 8 oz. Bourbon whiskey
  • Crushed ice

1. Put the mint leaves in a cocktail shaker with the simple syrup. Crush the leaves with a “muddler,” a blunt-end wooden stick (the back end of a honey server works perfectly).

2. Add the Bourbon, and fill the shaker with crushed ice. Put the top on the shaker and shake vigorously until the outside is frosty.

Strain the juleps into four old-fashioned glasses (or silver julep cups) filled about three-fourths full with crushed ice. Add a sprig of mint.

Serves four.

SummerDiningSpecials

Coolinary @ Tommy’s Cuisine.

Tommy’s has always had two sets of personalities. It can serve French-Creole bistro-style food, but it can just as easily send forth a full dinner of Italian dishes. It can become ambitious under the management of Tommy Andrade, one of the city’s most experienced first-class restaurateurs. Or it can turn out simple dishes at lower-than-average cost (the Coolinary here is $14 less expensive than the standard $39 price). It has a wide repertoire in its regular menu, but the Coolinary carte is brief and to the point. Regardless of which way one turns, a polished, excellent dinner results.

Dining room @ Tommy’s.

The Coolinary dinner is available at Tommy’s every night.

House Salad
Mixed greens, Roma tomatoes, red onion, balsamic vinaigrette, and garlic croutons

Caesar Salad
Romaine lettuce, herbed croutons, shaved parmigiana cheese

Creole Turtle Soup
With sherry

Veal Marsala
Medallions pan seared with mushrooms, Marsala wine, tagliatelle pasta and haricots verts

Shrimp Linguine
Jumbo shrimp sautéed with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil and roma tomatoes tossed in marinara sauce

Pecan Praline Bread Pudding
With bananas in Foster sauce

Tommy’s Cuisine

Warehouse District.: 746 Tchoupitoulas. 504-581-1103. www.tommyscuisine.com.

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

AlmanacSquare August 24, 2017

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End: 7.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Chef George Crum invented potato chips today in 1853. He worked in a resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. The chips were meant as an insult to a customer who complained that Crum’s fried potatoes were too thick. The chef sliced them paper-thin, fried them, and sent them out. The customer loved them, and so did the chef. And they took off in popularity from there. Few restaurants serve freshly-fried potato chips locally; more ought to.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Riceville is in southern Mississippi, twenty-five miles northwest of Gulfport. This is in a sparsely populated, heavily wooded, occasionally marshy countryside, and in the bend of Riceville Road where USGS maps show the town of Riceville there is no sign of present habitation. Numerous streams through area fight a battle over which route water will flow to the Gulf of Mexico, with the forces of the Wolf River on the west and those of the Biloxi River on the east. Over time, these streams have torn up a lot of the lower Appalachian Mountains, and created large deposits of gravel. Those are mined here and there around Riceville. No rice fields in evidence, though. The nearest restaurant is nine miles away in Kiln. It’s called the Halfway Cafe, although which road it cleaves in twain is hard to tell.

Deft Dining Rule #125

A fish and chips vendor without malt vinegar is like an oyster bar without Tabasco, an Italian restaurant without Parmigiano cheese, or a sushi bar without wasabi.

Today’s Flavor


It is National Gyros Day–but only in the United States. Gyros, pronounced any way you like but most commonly “ghee-rho,” is a staple of American Greek restaurants. It may have been invented in this country, although that’s not certain. It is uncommon in Greece, except where American tourists congregate. No classical Greek dish is like it, although Lebanese shawarma is similar. It’s certainly not old; no mention of it has been found earlier than the 1970s.

Gyros is a processed blend of finely-chopped lamb and sometimes beef with seasonings, pressed into a tapering cylinder which is then mounted on a vertical rotisserie. Assuming the stuff is sold at a reasonable pace, the outside of this cylinder gets a little crust from the flame it passes on every rotation. The chef slices it off from top to bottom.

Gyros is serves as either a platter or a sandwich. In either case, it’s accompanied by pita bread, tzatziki sauce (a white sauce of yogurt, cucumber, and dill) lettuce, and tomatoes. If it’s a sandwich, sometimes it’s stuffed into the pocket of the pita, and sometimes the pita is wrapped around it like a taco shell. Despite its processed, fast-food aspect, gyros is pretty good. It’s certainly a great change of pace from the hamburger, which it resembles in enough ways to become popular.

Edible Dictionary

Creole cream cheese, n.–A moist, white variation of cottage cheese. A staple at the breakfast table throughout New Orleans for decades, Creole cream cheese contains no cream (unless you add some at the table), and it’s just barely a cheese. The word “clabber” captures it exactly. It’s made by triggering the separation of milk into curds and whey. Most (but not all) of the latter is poured off. The most popular way to eat Creole cream cheese in its golden age (the middle of the 1900s) was with fresh fruit and sugar. For some reason, the taste for Creole cream cheese did not pass on to the Baby Boom generation, and the popularity of the product plummeted in the 1980s. All the diaries who once sold it stopped making it. There was a revival of interest in Creole cream cheese in the 1990s, when some chefs started using it to make cheesecakes.

Disastrous Interruptions Of Dinner

Mount Vesuvius’s most famous eruption–the one that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum–occurred on this date in 79 AD. From the excavations in the lava we’ve been able to learn much about the lifestyles of the Romans at that especially rich time in their history. What a strange coincidence that the earthquake that hit Italy overnight last night (2016) should have occurred on this date.

Annals Of Breakfast

Today in 1869, Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York patented a waffle iron. Although waffles existed for hundreds of years, and Thomas Jefferson brought a patterned waffle iron back from the Netherlands (where they have long been popular), Swarthout’s breakthrough was in creating the grid pattern we now identify with waffles. In those days before electricity, the iron was heated over an open fire or in an oven.

Movie Restaurants

Alice’s Restaurant, a movie about the place where “you can get anything you want, excepting Alice,” premiered today in 1969. It grew out of a long, folky, humorous song performed by the movie’s star, Arlo Guthrie. The recording was better than the movie, a prime piece of pop culture of the late 1960s.

Looking Up

Today in 2006, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of its status as a full-fledged planet. Back in the days when New Orleans had five-digit phone numbers, we dialed PLUTO to get the correct time. Before you got it, you’d hear an ad for Coca-Cola. Example: “Take five! Coke brings you back alive! Four thirty-one p.m.” To this day, whenever I think of Pluto I think of an ice-cold six-ounce bottle of Coke. What a great ad buy that was! And how antique such a service seems to be now!

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Bartholemew, one of the Apostles. He is much revered in Italy, and in Florence he is the patron saint of cheesemakers and salt merchants.

Food Namesakes

Baseball outfielder Tim Salmon was born today in 1968. . . British comedian Stephen Fry was born today in 1957. . . John Cipollina, guitarist with Quicksilver Messenger Service, a major band in the Summer of Love in San Francisco, was born today in 1943. . . Max Beerbohm, a British artist of caricatures, was born today in 1872. . . . Kenny Baker, who played R2D2 in the Star Wars movies, hit the Big Stage today in 1934.

Words To Eat By

“Lyon is full of temperamental gourmets, eternally engaged in a never-ending search for that imaginary, perfect, unknown little back-street bistro, where one can dine in the style of Louis XIV for the price of a pack of peanuts.”–Roy Andries de Groot, American food writer.

Substitute “New Orleans” for “Lyon” and “joint” for “bistro,” and the sentence remains true.

Words To Drink By

“A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring;
Their shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Alexander Pope.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Power Of The Potato.

It’s the real reason why hamburgers are so popular. It’s the fries that the customers really want.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Sunday, August 20, 2017. MA spent a big slice of the day trying to arrange her flights to Los Angeles tomorrow. Usual complicated negotiations with the airline and its buddy passes. The less you know about these standby tickets, the better off you are. I refused to become involved, myself. On the other hand, left to my own devices, I’d take the two-day-each-way train. But I know better than to suggest this to my spouse, who considers my love of trains idiotic or worse.

MA’s trip is more urgent than usual. While she will spend most of her time playing with and reading to our twenty-two-month-old grandson Jackson, there is another ball in play. Our son Jude is soon to begin a terrific new job, one that will require him to take a week-long orientation out of town. His wife also works full time, so some gaps in childcare need to be filled. Mary Ann could not be more delighted than to be tapped for that job. She’d move to Los Angeles and be a full-time nanny for Jackson if she could.

Not to discourage this, I told her that she might have a problem getting a flight scheduled to fly on Eclipse Day. Millions of people are traveling around the country over the next three days, and filling all the transportation. (Except, probably, the trains.) But this didn’t appear to be the case, as people try to figure out how to observe the event at home.

MA felt as though she can’t leave town without blessing me with a special dinner somwhere I like. First thought: La Provence. But they’re not open after the radio show. I tell her it really doesn’t matter to me where we eat, as long as we can be together. Last chance: Ox Lot 9. But it’s full. We wind up a block away at Mattina Bella, which requires about a half-hour wait for a table today.

We have just enough time for us to sit down, eat quickly, and get back home so I can present the radio show on time. And that about does it. She will leave tomorrow morning before dawn, and I resume my familiar pattern of living for one. I am only a little reassured by the thought that I lived alone reasonably from 1970 until 1989. Blowing that idea away is the fact that I have been married for twenty-eight years now.

SummerDiningSpecials

Coolinary @ Muriel’s, Among Biggest & Best.

Even before the 2017 Coolinary began, Muriel’s was launched a special summer menu with more variety and better food than than found in most other places. Chef Erik Venay keeps coming out with new ways to express the local flavors and ingredients. He speaks my language, that’s certain. That Creole “Bayou-baisse,” for example. Muriel’s, despite its touristy location, ought to be on every Orleanian’s five best French Quarter restaurants. The dinner price is $35 for three courses–a shade lower than the Coolinary average. It’s there every night of the week. During the week, there’s also a $20 two-course coolinary lunch.

Choice of Soup
New Orleans seafood gumbo, Fontana’s West End turtle soup or soup of the day
~or~

Muriel’s House Salad
Mixed baby greens, pomegranate vinaigrette, shaved sweet onion and Manchego cheese
~or~

Shrimp and Goat Cheese Crêpes
Buttery cream sauce of chardonnay, onion, tomato and bell pepper

Savory Gorgonzola Cheesecake
Prosciutto terrine, honeyed pecans, tart green apple
~~~~~

Shrimp and Grits
Slow-cooked stone ground grits, Louisiana gulf shrimp, leeks, smoked tomato butter, crispy garlic
~or~

Bayoubaisse
Shrimp, mussels, jumbo lump crabmeat and seafood meatballs tossed with Andouille sausage and orzo pasta in a sweet vermouth-tomato broth.
~or~

Pecan Encrusted Baby Drum
Pan sautéed with, oven roasted pecans, Louisiana crabmeat relish, lemon butter sauce
~or~

Cajun Demi-Poulet
Oven-roasted chicken, pan sauté of fingerling potatoes, tasso, and mushrooms, roasted garlic
~~~~~

Pain Perdu Bread Pudding
Candied pecans and rum sauce
~or~

Flourless Chocolate Cake
Crème anglaise & raspberry coulis
~or~

Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée

Muriel’s

French Quarter: 801 Chartres. 504-568-1885. www.muriels.com.

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

AlmanacSquare August 23, 2017

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End: 8

Today’s Flavor

This is National Sponge Cake Day. Not to be confused with angel food cake, sponge cake is another word for genoise, a light cake made with eggs beaten with sugar, after which the flour and other ingredients are added. In other words, a typical fine cake.

More interesting is another observance on this date: Gravy Day. Gravy. Not sauce. But what, after all, is the difference?

The Penguin Companion to Food says, “Gravy in the British Isles and areas culturally influenced by them is. . . well, gravy, a term fully comprehensible to those who use it, but something of a mystery in the rest of the world.” The French (and restaurateurs who are trying to avoid the common sound of “gravy”) have a word for it: “jus.”

Gravy begins with the juices and browned bits that come from cooking meat. That’s thinned or deglazed with stock or water, in the pan where the meat was cooked. Then it’s thickened up again (maybe) with a little flour or roux. A good gravy will be a little dirty with flecks of meat.

The most celebrated gravy in New Orleans is the one that wets down a roast beef poor boy. But there are as many more as there are meats to throw it off and take it on. Chicken gravy. Turkey gravy. Ham gravy, and its Southern variation, red-eye gravy. (Made in the pan where you just grilled the ham steak by adding a bit of coffee to it. Yuck.)

Confusing everything is the localism “red gravy,” for Italian-style tomato sauce. It is not unique to New Orleans, but if you use the expression, you’re thought of as local.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Burger, Tennessee is a junction just about on top of the main ridge of the Appalachian Mountains, not far from the Great Smoky Mountains. The mountains rise to 1300 feet, about 300 feet above the waters of Burger Branch, which cuts a dramatic valley through the area. Burger is some seventy miles from the world headquarters of Krystal, the leading purveyor of sliders in the South. A little closer to Burger as a source for burgers is Tellico Junction Cafe, three miles from Burger in Englewood. I wonder why someone hasn’t opened Burger Burger here.

Edible Dictionary

birch beer, n.–A variation on root beer, created in the 1880s as a competitor to the new and highly successful Hires Root Beer. It genuinely does use birch bark and sap as one of its flavoring ingredients, along with herbs and vanilla. It has a lighter flavor and color than root beer. Some varieties of birch beer are very pale or even colorless. It’s more popular in the Northeast and into Canada, but birch beer was common in New Orleans in the 1950s through the 1980s because it was the primary fizzy beverage sold by Royal Castle, a chain of hamburger restaurants. Royal Castle is still in existence in its hometown of Miami.

Eating Around The World

Today in 1821, Spain signed a treaty allowing its former colony Mexico to become an independent nation. It was triggered by political instability in Spain, which was occupied by Napoleon at the time. Mexico–heir to one of the world’s richest and most distinctive culinary traditions–was as different from Spain as the United States is different from Great Britain. Mexican food and culture expand in the U.S. every day. That’s also true in New Orleans since the hurricane, although I don’t think we’ve seen anything spectacular yet from the influx.

Annals Of Eating Like A King

Today is the birthday, in 1754, of King Louis XVI, the last king of France before the Revolution. He and his wife Marie Antoinette were guillotined, but while his reign lasted he and Marie had it pretty good. The old Louis XVI French Restaurant–originally in the Marie Antoinette Hotel–attempted to duplicate that dining grandeur in the 1970s. Under Chefs Daniel Bonot and Claude Aubert, it succeeded. The restaurant is still in existence, but only for breakfast and private events.

Annals Of Amphibians

The Goliath frog –the largest frog ever caught, weighing seven and a half pounds–was found today in 1960 in Guinea. It was the size of two chickens. One frog fed a family of eight. But it was very tough. The sauce was the inevitable garlic and herb butter.

Drinking On Stage

A play called Ten Nights In A Barroom premiered in New York City on this date in 1858. It was about to play in New Orleans, until the local producers learned that it was a cautionary tale about the evils of drinking, and canceled it for fear nobody would understand the point they were trying to make.

Food In War

On this date in 1944, the Allied forces liberated Marseilles in France, releasing bouillabaisse from the Axis stranglehold.

Overeating In The Comics

Today in 1919, the comic strip Gasoline Alley premiered. It is still being published, although not in New Orleans. (You can read it on line here.) Originally, it depicted a bunch of guys standing around talking about their automobiles, which were still a new thing back then. Then one of them–Walt Wallet–adopted a baby left on his doorstep. From that moment, all the characters aged in real time–a new idea in the comics. Walt is still alive in the strip, and is now about 130 years old. He has always been an overweight chowhound. The baby, Skeezix, is now almost a centenarian. Walt’s other son Corky owns a diner.

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Rose of Lima. She is the patron saint of vanity, which ought to make her the patron saint of restaurant critics. (And television chefs, too.)

Food Namesakes

Johnny Romano, the all-star catcher for the White Sox in the 1950s and 1960s, was born today in 1934. . . James Roe, a professional football player, took the Big Snap today in 1973. . . Robert Mulligan, a movie director, said “Action!” today in 1925. . . Basketball pro Kobe Bryant was born today in 1978.

Words To Eat By

“It may not be possible to get rare roast beef, but if you’re willing to settle for well done, ask them to hold the sweetened library paste that passes for gravy.”–Marian Burros, New York Times food writer.

Words To Drink By

“I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.”–Erma Bombeck.

FoodFunniesSquare

Your Choice Of Teas. . .

. . . becomes a joke when the restaurant’s cherrywood box of exotic teas needs to be restocked.

Click here for the cartoon.

####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Thursday, August 17, 2017. Sushi, All Alone In The Corner.

Among the most memorable series of dinners partaken by my entire immediate family when we had kids was a half-dozen or more meals at the Osaka restaurant in Covington. Osaka is one of the then-expanding bunch of Japanese places specializing in hibachi cookery, the kind originally popularized by Benihana in the 1970.

Many diners have gone through the hibachi routine, in which eight or so people sit around a big flat-top grill and watch the chef bang shrimp, slice beef, throw vegetables in the air, and flinging various condiments on a sizzling, somewhat smoke-making grill. The chef whips around his knives, steel spatulas, and fork, sending this piece flying through the air and slicing up that piece into shreds.

All this is something to see the first time you see it. If you’re a kid, you’ll get a huge kick from the show (it is at least as much a show as it is a cooking demo). You, as the parent who likes to see kids laughing, will also enjoy the juggling act.

We would return to Osaka again and again. And then the day came when we pitched the idea of going to Osaka to the kiddos, and saw them look at one another, then at us, as they shook their heads.

That was the end of the teppan-yaki episodes for us. That was not just about their growing into young adults, but a shifting of their tastes. I was proud of Jude and Mary Leigh the day they wrote off the concept and moved on to. . . well, Fogo De Chao.

As for me, I never did like Japanese hibachi. I put up with it because the kids loved it so much in the beginning. And I could always move over to the sushi bar, where other chefs conducted themselves more within tasteful guidelines.

I haven’t been to the Osaka in years. The one I attended today is on Causeway Boulevard near the Wal-Mart in Covington. (There are also Osakas in the vicinity of the big malls on the other side of Covington and in Slidell.)

I remember not much liking the sushi on my last meal at Osaka. But it was quite good today. I started with some clear soup, then moved to a Burning Man roll (tuna, avocado, a good bit of red pepper) and a smaller vegetable roll to add texture.

While I had the quiet sushi bar to myself, the families at the hibachis were having the usual fun. The chef was good at imitating steam locomotives with both sound and steam. Those kids awere loving it. It was nice to remember the times we went to Osaka with Jude’s Boy Scout troop. Now they’re all grown up, and know better.

Osaka 21. Covington: 70340 Hwy 21. 985-809-2640.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Stuffed Artichokes

Stuffed artichokes, Italian style, are an old New Orleans favorite. They’re at their best in springtime, when the new crop of artichokes appears. The stuffing is mostly bread crumbs and garlic. Not everybody likes (or understands) stuffed artichokes. My wife does; I don’t. This recipe came from the old Toney’s on Bourbon Street, which sold them by the hundreds.

Stuffed artichokes, with plenty of olive oil, bread crumbs and garlic.

  • 4 fresh medium artichokes
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/8 tsp. sugar
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • One large lemon

1. Thoroughly wash artichokes. Carefully trim off top inch off each. Trim the stem so that the artichokes will sit straight up. With scissors, trim off points of leaves. Soak artichokes 30 minutes in 1/2 gallon of water with 2 tsp. salt dissolved.

2. Meanwhile, sauté garlic in a large skillet in the olive oil. Add all the remaining ingredients except the lemon and continue cooking, stirring frequently, over low heat until everything is well blended.
3. To stuff artichokes, spread the outer leaves and spoon in the stuffing, starting from the top and going around to the bottom. Form foil cups around the bottom half of each artichoke.

4. Place stuffed artichokes into a large kettle or Dutch oven with an inch of water in the bottom. Squeeze lemon juice liberally over all. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes. Do not boil dry. Artichokes are done when inner leaves can be pulled out easily. If you can lift the artichoke by its inner leaves, it’s not done.

5. Allow to cool until you can touch them, and dig in. Also good cold as a late-night snack–in moderation, and only if your mate eats them with you.

Serves four.

SummerDiningSpecials

New Tujague’s Embraces The Coolinary.

It’s just a few years since Mark Latter transported Tujague’s into the present era of Creole cooking. Where once was a limited table d’hote menu that offered you a choice of “take it” or “leave it,” now the kitchen has a range as broad as that of any other Creole gourmet bistro. On the other hand, it would be wrong for a century-and-a-half restaurant to be entirely on the cutting edge. The menu for the Coolinary show how the current and trandional styles are getting along. It also a new menu since last year, which tells me that they’re committed to keeping things fresh. Meanwhile, Tujague’s remains the dean of New Orleans table d’hote restaurants.

Blue Crab Claws
Creole white remoulade
~or~

Shrimp & Goat Cheese Crepes
Chardonnay creole cream
~or~

Charbroiled Oysters
Garlic parmesan butter
~~~~~

Eight-Ounce Flatiron Steak
Pommes frites & beurre maître d’hôtel
~or~

Grilled Gulf Swordfish
Yukon gold mashed potatoes & steamed broccoli, sun-dried tomato & basil beurre blanc
~or~

Pan Roasted Muscovy Duck Breast
Parsleyed Brabant potatoes, haricot vert & a Burgundy cherry gastrique
~~~~~

Madagascar Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée
Blueberry compote
~or~

White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Maker’s Mark caramel sauce
~~~~~

The price for the three-course dinner is $38–a smiling one dollar less than the standard Coolinary ticket. The Coolinary dinner is served seven nights.

Tujague’s

French Quarter: 823 Decatur. 504-525-8676. www.tujagues.com.

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

AlmanacSquare August 22, 2017

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End: 9.

Annals Of Food Under Pressure

Today is the birthday in 1647 of French-born inventor Denis Papin. He invented the pressure cooker. He noted that water boils at a higher temperature when under pressure, thereby cooking food faster. But he missed on the big chance. He saw that the lid of a pressure cooker had tremendous force pushing it up (in fact, he created a pressure valve to keep the thing from blowing up), and figured that this could be made into some kind of engine. But he didn’t quite finish that invention, leaving it to James Watt.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

It’s National Spumone Day. The importance of spumone in New Orleans was demonstrated when Angelo Brocato’s–New Orleans premier maker of Italian ice cream for over 100 years–reopened in 2006. Its antique ice cream parlor on North Carrollton Avenue was welcomed back to action by a genuine festival.

Spumone is a Sicilian-style layered ice cream. The way Brocato’s makes it, the layers are pistachio, torroncino (vanilla with ground almonds and cinnamon), a bright yellow, lightly lemony flavor that has an Italian name I can’t remember, and strawberry. It’s sold in wedges, six of which make a half-gallon of ice cream. It’s the best-selling flavor at Brocato’s, with good reason. The mix of flavors is delightful, all of them rich and light at the same time. It’s great to have it back again at Brocato’s, as well as in stores and restaurants.

Oddly, when we were in Sicily in the summer of 2006, we saw no spumone in any of the many gelaterias we raided. Maybe you have to find an old stand out of the tourist areas.

Annals Of The High Life

Today is the birthday in 1893 of Dorothy Parker, one of the great writers on the party scene in New York in the 1920s through the 1950s. She wrote mostly for The New Yorker, and was a prominent member of the Round Table of authors at the Algonquin Hotel. She was most famous for her humorous, light verses, along the lines of this famous one: “Men seldom make passes/At girls who wear glasses.” She was the first to observe that “Eternity is two people and a ham.” And she wrote the definitive poem about martinis, a subject she knew much about:

I love a good martini
One, or two at the most
After three I’m under the table
After four I’m under the host.

Annals Of Eating Healthy

The inventor of granola was born today in 1867. Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner postulated what dietary experts are telling us now: that we should eat less meat and refined carbohydrates, we should eat more vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains. He created a mix he called muesli, of oats, nuts, and dried fruit. This evolved into granola in this country. I don’t know whether to thank him or curse him.

Music To Drink Cheap Wine By

Today in 1970, Eric Burdon and War’s record Spill The Wine peaked on the pop charts at Number Three. Spill the wine. . . dig that girl. That’s almost the entire lyric of the song. Eric performed a classic New Orleans song, House of the Rising Sun, with his group of the time, The Animals.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Cayenne, Massachusetts is in the south central part of the state, a suburb of Springfield. It’s next to the Springfield Country Club, and a mile west of the Connecticut River. The nearest place to eat is in a shopping mall a half-mile east, where among the many chain restaurants is one that sounds independent: Bottega Cucina.

Edible Dictionary

cevapcici, [cheh-VOP-chi-chi], Croatian, n., pl., dim.–A small sausage-shaped roll of chopped meat, usually beef but sometimes including lamb. They’re grilled, sometimes on a skewer, and almost always served with raw onion rings. One of the most popular treats at parties held by the many Croatian families in Southeast Louisiana, cevapcici are surprisingly more delicious than their plain appearance suggests. You can’t stop eating them. The word is the diminutive plural of cevap, which evolved from the Turkish work kebap (kebab). Modern Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and the other Slavic states in the Balkans were under the control of the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years until a century ago, and picked up many elements of its cuisine.

Deft Dining Rule #470:

If a pizzeria doesn’t offer calzones, there’s a strong likelihood that the place is using pre-made, partly-baked dough for its pizza crusts. Which puts it in the lower end of the quality scale.

Food Namesakes

Captain James Cook claimed Australia for Great Britain on this date in 1770. His ships were the first European ones to land there with empire in mind. . . The last of some eleven million VW Rabbits was completed on this date in 1984. The design is still around, but they call it the Golf now, which has always been its name in Europe. . . Basketball pro Michael Curry was born today in 1968, and by strange coincidence Denise Curry, also a basketball player who won gold in the 1984 Olympics, was born on this date in 1959. . . The soft-rock group Bread hit Number One with Make It With You on this date in 1970. . . On a more classical note Candido Lima, a pioneer in creating serious music with computers, was born in Portugal today in 1939. . . Peppermint Patty, a flirtatious tomboy who called Charlie Brown “Chuck,” appeared for the first time today in 1966 in the comic strip Peanuts.

Words To Eat Spumone By

“Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.”–Jim Fiebig, relationship author.

“I doubt whether the world holds for anyone a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice cream.”–Heywood Broun, American writer of the mid-1900s.

Words To Drink By

“When your companions get drunk and fight, take up your hat and wish them good night.”–Unknown.

FoodFunniesSquare

Breaking The Rules When Comparing Fruit.

It goes on at the supermarket all the time, and inexplicably ends many arguments among unevenly-matched wits.

Click here for the cartoon.

####
SummerDiningSpecials

New Tujague’s Embraces The Coolinary.

It’s just a few years since Mark Latter transported Tujague’s into the present era of Creole cooking. Where once was a limited table d’hote menu that offered you a choice of “take it” or “leave it,” now the kitchen has a range as broad as that of any other Creole gourmet bistro. On the other hand, it would be wrong for a century-and-a-half restaurant to be entirely on the cutting edge. The menu for the Coolinary show how the current and trandional styles are getting along. It also a new menu since last year, which tells me that they’re committed to keeping things fresh. Meanwhile, Tujague’s remains the dean of New Orleans table d’hote restaurants.

Blue Crab Claws
Creole white remoulade
~or~

Shrimp & Goat Cheese Crepes
Chardonnay creole cream
~or~

Charbroiled Oysters
Garlic parmesan butter
~~~~~

Eight-Ounce Flatiron Steak
Pommes frites & beurre maître d’hôtel
~or~

Grilled Gulf Swordfish
Yukon gold mashed potatoes & steamed broccoli, sun-dried tomato & basil beurre blanc
~or~

Pan Roasted Muscovy Duck Breast
Parsleyed Brabant potatoes, haricot vert & a Burgundy cherry gastrique
~~~~~

Madagascar Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée
Blueberry compote
~or~

White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Maker’s Mark caramel sauce
~~~~~

The price for the three-course dinner is $38–a smiling one dollar less than the standard Coolinary ticket. The Coolinary dinner is served seven nights.

Tujague’s

French Quarter: 823 Decatur. 504-525-8676. www.tujagues.com.

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

AlmanacSquare August 22, 2017

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End: 9.

Annals Of Food Under Pressure

Today is the birthday in 1647 of French-born inventor Denis Papin. He invented the pressure cooker. He noted that water boils at a higher temperature when under pressure, thereby cooking food faster. But he missed on the big chance. He saw that the lid of a pressure cooker had tremendous force pushing it up (in fact, he created a pressure valve to keep the thing from blowing up), and figured that this could be made into some kind of engine. But he didn’t quite finish that invention, leaving it to James Watt.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

It’s National Spumone Day. The importance of spumone in New Orleans was demonstrated when Angelo Brocato’s–New Orleans premier maker of Italian ice cream for over 100 years–reopened in 2006. Its antique ice cream parlor on North Carrollton Avenue was welcomed back to action by a genuine festival.

Spumone is a Sicilian-style layered ice cream. The way Brocato’s makes it, the layers are pistachio, torroncino (vanilla with ground almonds and cinnamon), a bright yellow, lightly lemony flavor that has an Italian name I can’t remember, and strawberry. It’s sold in wedges, six of which make a half-gallon of ice cream. It’s the best-selling flavor at Brocato’s, with good reason. The mix of flavors is delightful, all of them rich and light at the same time. It’s great to have it back again at Brocato’s, as well as in stores and restaurants.

Oddly, when we were in Sicily in the summer of 2006, we saw no spumone in any of the many gelaterias we raided. Maybe you have to find an old stand out of the tourist areas.

Annals Of The High Life

Today is the birthday in 1893 of Dorothy Parker, one of the great writers on the party scene in New York in the 1920s through the 1950s. She wrote mostly for The New Yorker, and was a prominent member of the Round Table of authors at the Algonquin Hotel. She was most famous for her humorous, light verses, along the lines of this famous one: “Men seldom make passes/At girls who wear glasses.” She was the first to observe that “Eternity is two people and a ham.” And she wrote the definitive poem about martinis, a subject she knew much about:

I love a good martini
One, or two at the most
After three I’m under the table
After four I’m under the host.

Annals Of Eating Healthy

The inventor of granola was born today in 1867. Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner postulated what dietary experts are telling us now: that we should eat less meat and refined carbohydrates, we should eat more vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains. He created a mix he called muesli, of oats, nuts, and dried fruit. This evolved into granola in this country. I don’t know whether to thank him or curse him.

Music To Drink Cheap Wine By

Today in 1970, Eric Burdon and War’s record Spill The Wine peaked on the pop charts at Number Three. Spill the wine. . . dig that girl. That’s almost the entire lyric of the song. Eric performed a classic New Orleans song, House of the Rising Sun, with his group of the time, The Animals.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Cayenne, Massachusetts is in the south central part of the state, a suburb of Springfield. It’s next to the Springfield Country Club, and a mile west of the Connecticut River. The nearest place to eat is in a shopping mall a half-mile east, where among the many chain restaurants is one that sounds independent: Bottega Cucina.

Edible Dictionary

cevapcici, [cheh-VOP-chi-chi], Croatian, n., pl., dim.–A small sausage-shaped roll of chopped meat, usually beef but sometimes including lamb. They’re grilled, sometimes on a skewer, and almost always served with raw onion rings. One of the most popular treats at parties held by the many Croatian families in Southeast Louisiana, cevapcici are surprisingly more delicious than their plain appearance suggests. You can’t stop eating them. The word is the diminutive plural of cevap, which evolved from the Turkish work kebap (kebab). Modern Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and the other Slavic states in the Balkans were under the control of the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years until a century ago, and picked up many elements of its cuisine.

Deft Dining Rule #470:

If a pizzeria doesn’t offer calzones, there’s a strong likelihood that the place is using pre-made, partly-baked dough for its pizza crusts. Which puts it in the lower end of the quality scale.

Food Namesakes

Captain James Cook claimed Australia for Great Britain on this date in 1770. His ships were the first European ones to land there with empire in mind. . . The last of some eleven million VW Rabbits was completed on this date in 1984. The design is still around, but they call it the Golf now, which has always been its name in Europe. . . Basketball pro Michael Curry was born today in 1968, and by strange coincidence Denise Curry, also a basketball player who won gold in the 1984 Olympics, was born on this date in 1959. . . The soft-rock group Bread hit Number One with Make It With You on this date in 1970. . . On a more classical note Candido Lima, a pioneer in creating serious music with computers, was born in Portugal today in 1939. . . Peppermint Patty, a flirtatious tomboy who called Charlie Brown “Chuck,” appeared for the first time today in 1966 in the comic strip Peanuts.

Words To Eat Spumone By

“Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.”–Jim Fiebig, relationship author.

“I doubt whether the world holds for anyone a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice cream.”–Heywood Broun, American writer of the mid-1900s.

Words To Drink By

“When your companions get drunk and fight, take up your hat and wish them good night.”–Unknown.

FoodFunniesSquare

Breaking The Rules When Comparing Fruit.

It goes on at the supermarket all the time, and inexplicably ends many arguments among unevenly-matched wits.

Click here for the cartoon.

####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, August 16, 2017. Café B. G&E Courtyard Revisited.
In the early years of my radio show, one of the most celebrated discoveries by our listeners was the G&E Courtyard Grill. The restaurant was operated by Michael and Mark Uddo–fraternal twins whose ancestors created the Progresso food-packing family. Progress would become a national brand of canned tomatoes in the Italian style. The family also had a major macaroni-making aspect, in the building that is now Muriel’s on Jackson Square.

Michael and Mark went their separate lives, but both had careers in the food service industry. Michael seemed to have a way of returning to the neighborhood of the G&E, which was where Cane & Table is now. What made the brothers split up in the first place was the landlord of G&E’s building wanted a higher rent than the Uddo brothers wanted to spend. Michael spent at least two stints in Café Sbisa, with other restaurants in between.

Michael lately has been working for Ralph Brennan at Café B–a restaurant that almost from opening day has been a better place to eat than most of us expected.

All of these memories came cascading out of my brain when I had dinner there todnight. As usual, Michael wasn’t there (our schedules don’t plug into one another’s). But evidence of his passing were clear when the waiter told me the soup of the day was oyster Rockefeller soup. That idea seems facile. I mean, you make an batch of oysters Rockefeller sauce, add some oyster water and oysters to liquefy the concoction, then serve it.

Pretty straightforward concept. But when Michael Uddo made that soup du jour twenty-eight years ago at the G&E Courtyard Grill, it excited everybody. It wasn’t long before it started to be copied in the many Creole gourmet bistros that dominated the dining scene back then.

The immense bowl that was sent out to me on this latter day threw an immediate switch. It was as good as I remember it, and I found it so good that I burned my esophagus as the scorching potage made its way down. Wonderful. Just like I remember it.

My friend, fraternity brother, and judge Johnny Lee turned up and took my attention away from the hot soup until it cooled cool down to edible levels, thereby doing a second good deed for me in recent years. (He arranged a twenty-five-year renewal of marriage vows for Mary Ann and Me in St. Peter’s Basilica. The one in Rome.)

I followed the soup with pompano served with a bunch of morsel-size vegetables. Here was another fillet of pompano that struck me as the alternate species that we see more of every year. It’s well above average in flavor and texture, but it’s not quite as fine as the pompano we know from the likes of Antoine’s and Galatoire’s.

In a few words, here was another excellent supper from Café B, whose reputation seems only to improve. Some day, Michael Uddo will still be on hand when I’m in the house. I hope the Rockefeller soup will be there that night.

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

SummerDiningSpecials

About two years ago the Windsor Court transformed its lunch menu into a sort of meat-and-three style. This is so delightful that it has increased the frequency my wife and I have lunch over there by quite a bit. We clearly aren’t the only ones who like this, because the Grill Room has used it as the concept for their Coolinary Dinner. The $39 dinner has almost completely backed away from the standard categories, to replace them with simpler ideas, as per this menu. You pick any three items from it. Very appealing–and you’ll probably want to add something in an a la carte way (a surcharge).

FIELD: Field Baby Lettuces
Citrus dressing, lemon zest
~or~

Beets & Blackberries
Goat cheese croquette, smoked white fish, pears, beet leather, blackberry coulis, walnuts
~or~

Cauliflower
Roasted, pureed, pickled, raisins, chili flakes
~or~

Mushroom Fricassee
Quail egg yolk, bordelaise, white bean puree, rye, truffle aioli, shaved manchego

~~~~~

FARM: Balsamic Glazed Pork Belly
Heirloom tomatoes, watermelon, buttermilk dressing
~or~

Duck Breast
Puy lentils, seared pear, pancetta, mustard cream
~or~

Spring Lamb Rack
Morels, English peas, house-made lamb bacon, braised lettuce, pearl onion petals, saffron potatoes
~or~

Wagyu Short Rib
72 hour braise, patatas bravas, carrots, & soubise sauce
~~~~~

SEA: Crawfish Rangoon
Pickled apple slaw, pepper jelly glaze

The Grill Room Classic Crab Cakes
Smoked tomato aioli, arugula, cold pressed olive oil
~or~

Togarashi Seared Gulf Tuna
Asparagus ribbons, crispy ginger, chili thread, satsuma oolong broth

Windsor Court Grill Room

CBD: 300 Gravier. 504-522-1994. www.grillroomneworleans.com.

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

AlmanacSquare August 18, 2017

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 14

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Ice Cream Pie Day. The ice cream pie was most celebrated locally at the Pontchartrain Hotel, whose Caribbean Room restaurant served a classic version. Mile-High Ice Cream Pie, as they called it, had layers of vanilla, chocolate, and peppermint, topped with a thick layer of meringue, then a flow of warm chocolate sauce. When I was in my early twenties I ate a whole piece once. The waiter registered astonishment and said, “It’s the policy of the house that when you finish a mile-high pie, you can have another slice free!”

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Birthday dinners with chills and flames
Call forth cheap thrills and easy games.
Ice cream mounds are simple to make
Open freezer, whipped cream shake,
Light the candles, sing the ditty.
Nothing to it! The smiles are pretty.

Annals Of Seafood

This is the day on which, according to local lore, the soft-shell shrimp appear in the nets of the shrimp fishermen. We know soft-shell crabs well enough, and soft-shell crawfish appear now and then. But soft-shell shrimp are almost unheard of. The probable reason: fishermen save them for themselves. Who could blame them? Although even regular shrimp shells are moderately edible (I pull the heads and legs off, but eat the rest shell and all), you can completely devour these. All you need to do is cut off the eye stalks and the beak-like rostrum and, with care, the rest is edible. Soft-shell shrimp are particularly appealing as barbecue shrimp. I have no leads for suppliers, but keep your eyes open for them.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Hazelnut Knob is in the Great Smoky Mountains. It straddles the North Carolina-Tennessee state line, which runs along the ridgeline at around 3650 feet. A hiking trail follows the state line, so you can walk to the top of Hazelnut Knob. The knob itself is a number of rock outcroppings that do look like the namesake nuts. All this is 116 miles east of Chattanooga, Tennessee by automobile. Better pack a lunch: it’s a ten-mike hike to the nearest restaurant, Tellico Beach Drive-In, on the Tennessee side.

Edible Dictionary

shrub, A syrup-like ingredient used mostly by mixologists to add fruity flavors to a cocktail. They usually begin with berries, which are crushed and strained into the texture you’d want if you were making jam from the berries. Fruit juices, vinegar (made with cider or the like), and sugar are the remaining additives. The word shrub is a reference to the low bushes on which the berries grow. Shrubs have been around a long time, and were particularly favored in the Revolutionary era of the 1700s. They have lately become more popular than they have been in a decade, as bartenders search for little-known ingredients with authenticity for their new concoctions.

Restaurant Namesakes

Genghis Khan died today in 1224, after conquering more land than any single person in history. A long-running restaurant bearing his name, owned by violinist Henry Lee, operated for twenty-five years on Tulane Avenue. It moved downtown, but didn’t last long there. Henry Lee himself passed away in 2017, after spending his last years in Houston and New Orleans, teaching music to young people. He was also the first-chair violinist of the New Orleans Philharmonic Orchestra for many years. He made sure that live musicians were always playing at Genghis Khan.

Food Namesakes

The Spitfire Grill won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival today in 1996. . . Dan Quayle was nominated as George Bush I’s running mate, right here in New Orleans, on this date in 1988. . . Comic actress Elayne Boosler was born today in 1952. . . In the Athens Olympics in 2004, Paul Hamm won the men’s gymnastics all-around gold medal by the closest margin in history. . . Former basketball pro Fat Lever had the Big Tipoff today in 1960.

Words To Eat By

“Health food may be good for the conscience but Oreos taste a hell of a lot better.”–Robert Redford, born today in 1937.

Words To Drink By

“Drink today, and drown all sorrow;
You shall perhaps not do it tomorrow;
Best, while you have it, use your breath;
There is no drinking after death.”–Ben Jonson.

FoodFunniesSquare

Food Humor Is Well Grounded And Familiar.

Here we have a comic strip that has the ability to refer to itself, and can conjure up not only a look but a flavor.

Click here for the cartoon.

####
DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, August 11, 2017. Paladar 511.
Last week Mary Ann informed me that her next conquest of a new local restaurant would take place at Paladar 511. That works for me, because I’ve heard a lot of reports–all glowing–since the place opened a bit over two months ago. Some of the rumors stressed the hipness of the place, but radio callers who dwelled on the subject go on to make it sound like the must-visit restaurant of the moment.

That feeling seems to be shared by Paladar’s customers, who filled the place so thoroughly that we couldn’t even score a few seats at the bar. But now that I’ve taken in the scene, I’m eager to get back here soon. I think the girls will go along with that. I hope somebody makes a reservation this time.

MA and I were out and about because we’d been invited to an event at the Audubon Aquarium. It was orchestrated by one of the seafood marketing agencies in Louisiana. MA saw the invitation and liked the sound of the event. There would be food and wine, that we knew.

What else was there was hard to figure. A half-dozen chefs were there cooking–if you can call it that– up an array of chilled, marinated seafood. With the exception of a stew along the lines of shrimp etouffee, all of the food was ceviche, sashimi, seared but mostly raw tuna, and the like of that. All of that appeals to me, but MA doesn’t so much as check out dishes dominated by nearly-raw fish. We are there about twenty minutes, if that long. I did persuade her to sample crabmeat West Indies, a Gulf Coast delicacy in which the crabmeat is served cold, but thoroughly cooked.

As for the content of the event, I fully endorse the stand of the Louisiana Seafood Marketing Board and outfits like it. We have to preserve our seafood species from extinction, and it’s possible to do that while still keeping the commercial markets open to restaurants, chefs, you and I. Lots of sustainable species out there.

During our short visit, I ate enough to not need supper. MA didn’t want to eat to begin with. We headed for home. Not a very good day for my gourmet investigations.

Saturday, August, 12, 2017. Lakehouse.
We learned today that Jude has scored a big new job. He made an impressive jump that has attempted since spring, when it looked daunting. What he landed in the last couple of days is well beyond that goal. I am not allowed to be even a little more specific. I can say that he has gone far beyond what my career was like at his age. I wasn’t married or a father then, either. I am far beyond pride in his success and happiness.

MA and I decide on Nuvolari’s for dinner. We call for a reservation, but they have none. MA says we ought to just go inside and wait until I am recognized, at which point a lot of people believe I start being treated like an important person. It didn’t work. Nobody there knows me. Which is good as far as I’m concerned.

We go around the corner to the Lakehouse, where we had a good Eat Club dinner recently. The ground floor is filled with a birthday party. The celebrant saw me approaching the door, and wondered whether I would be attending his party. I couldn’t tell whether he thought that would be a good or a bad idea.

When I finally find a manager, he tells me that all the a la carte dining has moved to the second floor, and that we would be welcome there. Not only that, but we got one of MA’s beloved outdoor tables. And to top the occasion, the waitress Helen took care of our table. She was our regular server at several restaurants on the North Shore (notably N’Tini’s, which is Due North now) for many years.

It’s still daylight when we land, but the darkness and romance soon set in. (Not for us, but one can dream.)

I begin with toasts topped with very tender duck meat, surrounded by a scattering of corn and a slightly sweet, buttery sauce. I thought this was pretty good. There was a bit too much of it for an appetizer.

As the darkness fell over the Causeway, I get a generous fillet of pan-seared tripletail. That’s a celebrated fish in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast. Its fins are so muscular that they look like extra tails and arms, too, if you have a good imagination. I found this excellent.

Mary Ann was not as lucky. She ordered short ribs, one of her favorite meat dishes. But this one has been cooked either too long or at too high a temperature, and was difficult to eat. She was miffed, because she was cut out of a dinner with a usually-favorite dish. She didn’t like the sauce, either, which was sweet to the taste–not one of her favorite qualities.

But we’ll be back, especially now that the Lakehouse is actually serving walk-ins on Saturday nights, something they have not done in years. The clientele for the food and the ambience here cry out for it all.

SummerDiningSpecials

Coolinary @ Vacherie, $25

If you have a taste for hidden, little-known restaurants with surprisingly good menus, Vacherie is a fine example of the genre. It’s the small, mildly elegant restaurant of the boutique Hotel Ste. Marie on Dauphine at Toulouse. The owners also operate a couple of other bistros in the French Quarter, the customers of which seem to include a lot of French Quarter residents. Its Coolinary menu is an even better deal than most, with the three-course dinner selling for $25. Otherwise, the place is above standard and charming. The Coolinary menu is available every day except Sundays.

Seafood Gumbo
Jasmine rice
~or~
Fried Green Tomatoes
Remoulade sauce
~or~
House Salad
Choice of dressing
~~~~~
BBQ Shrimp & Grits
Pork belly-smothered collards and French bread
~or~
Southern Fried Chicken Breast
Roasted potatoes and brussels sprouts
~or~
Broiled Drumfish

Lemon butter, jasmine rice, and chef’s vegetables
~or~
Vegetarian Entrée of the Day
~~~~~
Bread Pudding
Whiskey sauce
~or~
Pecan Pie
~or~
Chocolate Torte
~or~

Carrot Cake
Cream Cheese Frosting
~~~~~
Vacherie

French Quarter: 827 1/2 Toulouse St. 504-207-4532. www.vacherierestaurant.com.

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

RecipeSquare-150x150

Tripletail With Sizzling Crabmeat and Herbs

The excitement in this dish comes from the ability of clarified butter to be made extremely hot without burning. Hot enough to sizzle anything it’s poured over. The butter looks harmless when you bring it to the table, but spoon it over the crabmeat and fresh herbs, and it crackles and sizzles, with drama and a wonderful aroma. This also works on a steak.

  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (about half a bunch)
  • 1 Tbs. capers, chopped
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 dash Worcestershire
  • Juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 4 oz. white crabmeat
  • 4 8-oz. fillets tripletail (or trout, redfish, drum, sheepshead, or other white fish)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 cup clarified butter

Preheat the broiler and broiler pan.

1. Combine the parsley, capers, garlic, and crabmeat in a small bowl. Sprinkle with the Worcestershire and lemon juice and toss to distribute the ingredients equally.

2. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper. Broil about four inches from the flame until the slightest hint of browning is seen around the edges. Check the fish to see if it’s cooked in the center of the thickest part (it should be). If not, broil just a minute longer or less.

3. Place the fish fillet on the serving plate. Top with a small pile (not a scattering) of the crabmeat-and-herb mixture.

4. In the smallest saucepan you have, heat the clarified butter till a flake of parsley immediately sizzles in it. Spoon the butter while still very hot over the fish and its topping, which will sizzle when the butter hits it. It’s most dramatic to do this at the table, but be very careful: the heat of the butter presents a burning hazard if it gets splashed.

Serves four.

AlmanacSquare August 16, 2017

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 16

Edible Dictionary

chicken-fried steak, n.–A slice of lean beef pan-fried with a medium-thick coating of flour and bread crumbs. The beef usually comes from a less-expensive part of the cow, and is pounded to make it tender. The coating is applied in three steps, starting with a thin coating of flour, followed by an egg wash, then by either more flour or bread crumbs. It’s cooked in a pan of hot, shallow oil, although lard, rendered beef fat, or shortening were once used. Chicken-fried steak is classically served with “cream gravy,” which isn’t really a gravy, and rarely contains cream. Really, it’s a bechamel with pan drippings, salt and pepper. Chicken-fried steak is almost certainly a descendent of German and Austrian dishes like wiener schnitzel, with a rustic touch. Its point of origin is probably Texas, where a lot of people with that heritage immigrated.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Whiskyville is seven miles off the south shore of Lake Erie, in northern Ohio. It’s old farming country in decline, with an unusually large number of abandoned railroad lines crossing the countryside. The presence of a large trailer park is no bonus. But what would you expect of a town called Whiskyville? The restaurant in the area is Farmer Boys, just west of the crossroads that gives Whiskyville its center. Big double burgers are the specialty.

The Beginnings Of A Great Cocktail

Today in 1498, on his third voyage, Christopher Columbus landed on the beach of the island of Margarita, off the coast of what is now Venezuela. He was met on the beach by Jimmy Buffett, who, in 1948. . .oh, wait. I transposed two numbers and now. . . well, never mind.

However, it’s also National Rum Day. Until the storm, New Orleans had the only rum distillery in the United States, making N.O. Rum. Logically enough, this is also Baba au Rhum Day. Rum baba–a cake soaked with rum mixed with syrup–was once a popular dessert in New Orleans restaurants. The old Chris Steak House made an especially good one. But I don’t think any restaurant serves it anymore.

The Gourmet Of The Opera

Gioacchino Rossini was one of the great composers of opera, a dedicated gourmet, and the man for whom the foie-gras-topped dish filet de boeuf Rossini is named. He didn’t just like it: he created it. Today in 1846, he got married. He never composed another opera. “Why do you waste all that time writing all that stuff for big women to howl?” his wife probably told him.

Annals Of Oyster-Eating

Grand Central Station began construction in New York City today in 1904. It’s the last of the Apple’s great train stations, and also the home of the fabulous old Oyster Bar and Restaurant (that’s it’s official name). In a unique space with its arching tile ceilings, they serve not only great oysters from all over the world, but a lengthy list of daily fish specials. The oyster bar was a New York creation that we adopted, as much as we think of the institution as our own.

Wine Pioneers

Today is the birthday of Fess Parker, who was a hero to many guys my age who were little boys in the 1950s, when he played Davy Crockett. After his acting career ended, he did well in many other ventures, including the excellent winery that bears his name in Southern California. The label features a small coonskin cap in gold. It was one of the biggest thrills of my radio career to have him as a guest on my show about ten years ago. I was saddened to hear of his passing in 2020. He was 86. He’ll always be the king of the wild frontier to me.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Roch, a well-known name in New Orleans food history. The St. Roch Market, on the street with the same name at the corner of St. Claude, was one of the last neighborhood public markets. Like all the rest was made obsolete by the advent of supermarkets. In recent decades, it was the home of a seafood restaurant, which later opened branches in New Orleans East and Covington. Roch (pronounced “rock”) was a French nobleman, alleged to have been born with a birthmark in the shape of a cross. He lived in the 1300s, when plague was running rampant. He caught it himself, and while waiting to die in the woods outside Montpelier, he was kept alive by a dog who brought him food every day. He is much revered in Italy, where he’s called St. Rocco. There have been some spinoffs of the New Orleans St. Roch connections, notably the restaurant Avo and the restaurant on the corner of Lafitte and Jefferson Streets in Mandeville.

Food Names

Singer Eydie Gorme was born today in 1932. . . Bill Spooner, who was a member of the rock group The Tubes, was born today in 1949. . . Ebenezer Sage, a Congressman from New York in the early 1800s, was born today in 1765.

Words To Drink By

“Let us candidly admit that there are shameful blemishes on the American past, of which the worst by far is rum. Nevertheless, we have improved man’s lot and enriched his civilization with rye, bourbon and the Martini cocktail. In all history has any other nation done so much?”–Bernard De Voto, American novelist.

“Beer is not a good cocktail party drink, especially in a home where you don’t know where the bathroom is.”– Billy Carter.

Words To Eat By

“If the material world is merely illusion, an honest guru should be as content with Budweiser and bratwurst as with raw carrot juice, tofu and seaweed slime.”–Edward Abbey.

FoodFunniesSquare

Inside Joke For Radio Listeners.

If you have listened to The Food Show on 105.3 FM, HD2 for any length of time, you will get either a groan or a chuckle from this episode of Mandrake, The Magician.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, August 9, 2017. Terrible Lunch. I went to a little restaurant that turned out to be the worst place to eat I’ve found in many a decade. There’s almost nothing worth saying about it, except that someone who doesn’t understand cooking and eating should take some training before starting in on that business, even if the person believes he can do it with his whole heart. There’s more to it than that.

After having left behind ninety percent of my order, am still in keeping with my basic dietary regimen: I don’t eat lunch often. Here’s one I escaped from unharmed.

And perhaps I should be thankful to the Terrible Restaurant for creating a startling contrast with our dinner, which could not have been better. It’s Mary Ann’s idea to have dinner at Keith Young’s Steakhouse in Madisonville. It’s in the top three or four restaurants on the North Shore. Further proof of this arrested our eyes when we arrived: on this Wednesday night in the dead of summertime, Keith Young’s is entirely full, with a private party or two on top of that. Even Keith and his wife (who manages the dining room) are astonished by how busy they are in this usually-slack season.

Keith Young's (and my) oysters Bienville.

Keith Young’s (and my) oysters Bienville.

I am less amazed. Everything that comes to our table lives up to its popularity. We start with eight oysters Bienville, the recipe for which Keith says he got from my cookbook. I think he cooks it better than I do, and I’m pretty good at it. Mary Ann has taken to eating this sort of thing lately, so I don’t have to pack away the whole eight.

Keith tells us that he has two steak specials he thinks we ought to try. They’re both familiar, and were turned out unusually well. One is a spinalis, the cap of a beef rib roast. I suspected that MA would love this, and she did. Very tender, that, with a crusty near-blackened quality at the edges.

Bone-in filet-mignon.

Mine is a bone-in filet mignon, cut in a way I’ve never seen before. The bone covered about half of the exterior sides. Unusual. It’s also expensive, which might explain everything. Worth every dime, I’d say. More important, though, is that this is the tenderest steak of any kind that I’ve , had in a long while. I’ve put up with too many chewy filets lately. This one was the kind of beef I hope to have every time.

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

RecipeSquare-150x150

Fish On The Half Shell

If you cut big fillets from a redfish or drum and leave the skin and scales on, you can grill it over a hot fire without having to turn it. The skin and scales get black, but the fish stays moist because it’s steaming in its own juices. You absolutely must do this outdoors, because the smell of the burning scales in the beginning is not the nicest thing you will ever sniff. (Don’t worry–it won’t show up in the flavor of the fish.)

  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 4 large fillets of drum, redfish, or sheepshead, skin and scales on
  • 6 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
  • 4 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • Salt and cracked pepper to taste

1. Mix the wine, olive oil, soy sauce and lemon juice in a broad bowl big enough to fit the fish. Marinate the fish for about a minute, skin side up.

2. Place the fish skin side down on a very hot grill. Mix the garlic, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper into the butter, and spread it on top of the fish.

3. Grill the fish without turning until the very top of the fish is distinctly warm to the touch. It’s best when some of the butter falls into the flames and smokes up over the fish. The scales will char

4. Serve with lemon wedges.

Note: depending on the species, cutting fish like this often leaves bones in place. Tell your guests to be aware of that.

Serves four.

SummerDiningSpecials

Among the hundred-plus restaurants participating in the Coolinary program, Avo has one of the best menus. Add the qualification of Italian , and it becomes the very best in that category this year. Not only has chef Nick Lama turned out an all-Sicilian menu that sounds spectacular–and probably is, judging from the ten or so times I’ve dined there. Adding to the appeal is that the $35 three-course repast gives three choices in all three of the courses. And the story keeps getting better. For an extra $18, you get glasses of Italian wine paired with with each of the courses. That’s why I began with accolades for this already well established Uptown trattoria. My specific recommendations are marked by the > sign in the menu below.

>Charred Octopus
Pork butter, black garlic, pineapple, calabrian chiles
~or~

Fried Calamari
Tomato pesto, savory lemon curd, parsley
~or~

>Heirloom Tomato Salad
Marinated field peas, lunch box peppers, quinoa
~~~~~

>Duck Confit
Arancini, giardiniera, red cabbage
~or~

Linguine & Clams
Fresh soppressata, herb pangrattato
~or~

>Chicken Marsala Cappelletti
Mushroom, Marsala reduction, herb puree
~~~~~

>Affogato
Vanilla gelato, espresso
~or~

Zeppole
Chocolate-hazelnut sauce, banana gelato
~or~

Tiramisu
Ladyfingers, espresso, amaretto, mascarpone cheese, cocoa
~~~~~

The only drawback is that Avo offers this menu Monday through Thursday evenings. Just makes your reservations carefully.

Avo

Uptown: 5908 Magazine. 504-509-6550. www.restaurantavo.com.

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

AlmanacSquare August 15, 2017

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End: 17.

Annals Of Food Writing

Today in 1912 was is the birthday of Julia Child. Even after her death in 2004, she remains the all-time greatest television chef, as well as one of the most honored and accomplished authors of cookbooks. I was lucky enough to have dinner with her once, at Begue’s. I was surprised by how down-to-earth and unpretentious she was, and also that her unique voice and bearing were not just television affectations but entirely real. That night, she liked the oyster Rockefeller flan.

My favorite aspect of Julia’s shows were that if she made a mistake or something didn’t come out quite right, she’d admit it. You never see that on television now, even though we all know from eating in restaurants that all chefs make mistakes.

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day.
A good lemon meringue pie is wonderful, especially if you take that old recipe from your grandmother and cut the amount of sugar by at least a third (in both the lemon custard and meringue parts). We seem to have had a taste for much sweeter desserts forty or fifty years ago than we do now. Making a lighter pie crust is a worthy goal, too. Take liberties. I once had a pie that was creme brulee on the bottom and lemon meringue on the top. Fabulous.

Throw a meringue pie (leave out the lemon) one at someone you love someday soon. It’s great fun. On his birthday in 1981, the publisher of the newspaper where my restaurant review column has appeared for thirty years received a meringue pie in the face from my hand. He’s gone, but I’m still there. So just go ahead and do it. Note: a pie can only be thrown at a man. Most women fail to grasp the humor.

Essential Ingredients

Speaking of pie crusts: Crisco was released today in 1911 by Procter and Gamble, the soap people. (Soap and fat are largely the same product.) The advance that made Crisco popular was that it was pre-creamed and shelf-stable. That accomplishment was achieved through hydrogenation. In more recent times, it’s been found that hydrogenated fats–especially those with high trans-fatty acids–are rather bad for you to eat. So Crisco developed a new formula involving zero trans-fats. I like the stuff, and find it a good, clean product that’s hard to replace in certain baked goods, notably biscuits and pie dough. Although the trans-fat issue did move me to start using butter instead in many recipes. Isn’t that a turnabout! One of the reasons Crisco was created was to replace animal fats.

Edible Dictionary

beef daube, daube [DOBE], n.–Beef cooked slowly in its own juices and other liquids, including seasoning liquids like wine, Worcestershire, or vinegar, plus savory vegetables. After it’s tender, the beef is sliced or shredded. In classic French cookery (which the word first appeared, in the 1700s), daube was cooked in the oven in a terrine or a baking dish, until the liquids had mostly evaporated. Then it was sliced and eaten as it was. It could also be blended with seasoned gelatin, and served cold. The latter survives in New Orleans as daube glace, a popular appetizer in the Christmas season. It’s sort of a beef version of hogshead cheese, and eaten in much the same way. As is true of many French dishes, it’s made with much more pepper here. Another version of daube is made by slicing the beef and simmering it in an Italian red sauce, then serving it with spaghetti. Although it’s still made in many homes, it’s become a rarity on menus.

Annals Of Drinking

Elvin Jellinek was born today in 1890. He was the first scientist to study intensively the causes and effects of alcoholism. He suggested that the condition be treated as a disease, not as a sin. In his day, alcoholics were thought of as merely weak-willed people, an approach that did little to address or correct the problem.

Citrus At War

The Satsuma War began today in 1863, between British would-be colonizers and the Japanese. Satsuma is a province of Japan. It’s where the original satsuma fruit was grown, the ancestors of all those trees in Plaquemines Parish that will give us their succulent orbs in a month or so.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Pork Creek runs through the mountains of central Idaho. It’s a 201-mile drive from Boise–but a very beautiful, winding trip through the Rocky Mountains. It’s only about a mile long, but it drops over 1000 feet down the high peaks, collecting enough water to keep the stream wooded while the surrounding area is mostly bare. It flows into Morgan Creek, a tributary of the Salmon River–the River Of No Return. The nearest restaurant for satisfying an appetite for pork now that you’ve been to Pork Creek is a nine-mile hike over the mountains, then a nine-mile hitchhike down US 93 to Challis, where you find the Y-Inn Cafe.

Annals Of Military Cuisine

Napoleon Bonaparte was born today in 1769, on the island of Corsica. He left his mark on world history in such a pervasive way that he even crops up repeatedly in discussions of our own local special food interest. The Napoleon pastry, the Napoleon House, chicken Marengo, and Pascal’s Manale (on Napoleon Avenue) come to mind immediately, and it wouldn’t be hard to think of many more. In recent years, chefs have taken to calling any layered dish a Napoleon of this or that. Napoleon was a gourmet, and a personal chef was essential to him even in the field of battle.

The Saints

This is the day, in 1534, when St. Ignatius Loyola organized the Jesuits. I wouldn’t be who I am without their influence. Whatever else can be said about the Jesuits, I’ve always noticed that when you are in their company, you eat well. (Anyone who’s been to Manresa Retreat House on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge can vouch for that.)

Food And Drink Namesakes

Bert Berry, a pro football player, was born today in 1975. . . Elias M. Fries, a Swiss botanist whose specialty was mushrooms, was born today in 1794. . . Congresswoman Maxine Waters was elected to life today in 1938.

Words To Eat French Food By

“The French complain of everything, and always.”–Napoleon Bonaparte, born today in 1769.

“Life itself is the proper binge.”–Julia Child, born today in 1912.

Words To Drink By

“Drinking is the soldier’s pleasure.”–John Dryden.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Problem With Heirloom Vegetables.

They don’t look familiar. So how can you avoid confusing the good ones with the not so good?

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Tuesday, August 8, 2017. Cypress, Through The Rain. It happens about once a month on the radio show. Someone will call in and say that he has found one of the best restaurants in Metairie, one that nobody else knows about.

“You must be talking about Cypress, on Transcontinental just off West Esplanade!” I say. There’s a short silence.

“Yes, that’s it,” the caller says. “How did you know?”

The answer to that last question has nothing to do with my skills as a reporter. It’s a mystery. Everybody who dines at Cypress says the same things about the place. How you don’t expect food of this caliber to turn up in a hard-to-see café jammed between several other restaurants, a bank, and a few office buildings–all of which create the illusion that a terrific restaurant might not even be here. But there it always is, even better than the last time I sampled it.

This time, for example, I notice that the service staff is much more personable and polished than it was last time. The waiter at my table gave lots of details and personal preferences as we went through the menu and specials.

But this was an easy one to plan. The chef had just made a batch of turtle soup with real turtle meat, not something easily available. No doubt I would have that. A basic little salad comes in between that and the entree. The waiter was very high on the sea scallops. They are big ones, with a buttery sauce and orzo pasta pretending to be rice underneath it all.

There was one minor problem with the scallops. It’s one about which many chefs–even some of the very best very good ones–should pay more attention to. Scallops are dredged up from the bottom of the beds in which they congregate. In the process, a fair amount of silt and fine sand get scooped up in the scallops’ shells. This can neither be seen nor tasted, but it lends a gritty texture when it gets between your teeth. Fortunately, that can be avoided by rinsing the scallops under cold water before seasoning and cooking. It takes nothing from the bivalve itself, but adds something to the eating experience.

For dessert I have peppermint ice cream. I am told that this comes from Angelo Brocato’s, which explains its excellence.

Cypress. Metairie: 4426 Transcontinental. 504-885-6885.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Chocolate and Cafe Au Lait Mousse

I’ve long been fascinated by the cocoa-like flavors I get from the intense New Orleans-style coffee and chicory I drink every morning. I thought it might be interesting to make chocolate mousse with an admixture of some of my coffee, and it was. (Good, too.) To make good chocolate mousse, understand that it’s mainly chocolate and whipped cream, plus something to get the two to come together. It’s best right after being made; the frothy texture disappears after it’s refrigerated. Although Mary Leigh, my daughter and the Princess of All Things Chocolate, says she prefers the firmer texture of the latter. She’s the one I used to make it for, but she does it better than I do now.

French chocolate mousse in a glass topped with whipped cream

  • One pound Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup very strong, warm coffee and chicory
  • 1/4 cup warm milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sugar

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

2. In another bowl, whip the egg yolks until they become distinctly lighter in color. Combine the coffee and hot milk, and add it slowly to the egg yolks, whisking as you go.

3. Add the chocolate slowly to the egg-and-coffee mixture, and whisk well until the mixture is just barely warm and well-blended.

4. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then add the sugar and vanilla. Continue beating until stiff. With a rubber spatula, blend the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Do this gently, and don’t worry that it will not be an absolutely uniform mixture.

5. Whip the whipping cream in a metal bowl. Remember that cream whips best when cold, and that if you overwhip it will break into butter and buttermilk.

6. If the chocolate mixture is still warm, let it continue to cool to room temperature. Then fold in the whipped cream with the rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Do this gently, and keep at it until you have a uniform texture.

7. Spoon the mousse into serving dishes, or pipe it in with a pastry bag for a more elegant presentation. You can also top it with shaved chocolate or a strawberry.

Serves six to eight.

SummerDiningSpecials

Coolinary @ Maypop

The most adventuresome venue for a Coolinary dinner is this unique, Asian-tinged establishment in the CBD. There’s not a thing on the menu that you’ve ever had before (unless you’ve gone back there a few times). Even the style of the cooking and the decor of the premises resist inclusion in any category. All this is from the hand of Chef Michael Gulotta, he of Mo-Pho, Tana, and a few other strong efforts.

A fruit salad at MayPop. Get it while it’s here in the Coolinary.

Despite the uniqueness of the menu, you find yourself intrigued by most of the food here. The only challenge is figuring out which dishes are starters or shared plates, and which are entrees. The Coolinary does most of that for you, with the three-course dinner presented here for $36. Dishes marked with a > are my recommendations. The restaurant is open lunch and dinner seven days a week, with dim sum on Sundays.

Chilled Summer Melon Soup
Melon salad, coconut yogurt, house salami, cocoa granola
~or~

>Chaat Salad
Coconut cucumber ranch, green tomato relish, cashew bánh xèo crisp
~~~~~

>Wok Fried Egg Noodle with Jumbo Shrimp
Turmeric curry, field pea salad
~or~

Hot Chicken Vindaloo
Buttermilk fried chicken, crispy sticky rice cakes, pickled strawberries
~~~~~

>Taste of Chilton County Peaches
Sorbet, sake-poached, brûlée, with almond streusel and roasted white chocolate
~or~

Maypop Tart
Gingersnap crust, five-spice meringue
~~~~~

Maypop

CBD: 611 O’Keefe Ave. 504-518-6345. maypoprestaurant.com/.

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

AlmanacSquare August 14, 2017

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End: 18.

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Corn on the Cob Day. In the parts of America where corn is vital, the sweet corn festivals have already begun, as the vast corn farms move towards harvest. Most of those endless plantings are of what’s called “field corn,” used as livestock feed, corn syrup, ethanol, and the like. The corn we eat off the cob is specially grown and called “sweet corn.” It really is sweet when picked at its prime moment and cooked immediately. Indeed, in the Midwest they talk of the importance of picking the corn, running right into the house where the water is already boiling, and dropping it into the pot as quickly as possible. The sugar in corn does begin turning into starch almost immediately, and a lot of research has gone into figuring out how to preserve that sweetness in the corn we find in the store. (Without much luck.)

Here’s how to boil the good fresh corn on the cob we find out there these days. Bring the pot of water to a boil. Drop the shucked corn in and turn the heat off. Let the corn sit there for five minutes, and start eating. Really, the corn doesn’t need to be cooked–just heated.

An alternative is to grill the whole ears. The technique there is to remove all but the innermost layer of the husk, and put the corn on a moderately hot grill. When you can see the pattern of the kernels browned onto the husk, turn it until the patters is visible all over. Then it’s ready to eat.

The right amount of butter on corn on the cob is enough so that it runs down your arm as you munch away.

There’s a widespread Web rumor that it’s National Creamsicle Day. A Creamsicle is ice cream on a stick surrounded by a sherbet-like, thick layer that tastes like oranges with vanilla, or something like that. It’s the same as a Dreamsicle, except that the latter is made with ice milk in the center.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Newton, Massachusetts is the ancestral home of the Fig Newton cookie. It’s a suburb of Boston but a pretty big place in its own right, an amalgamation of thirteen villages–among them Newton Centre, Newton Corner, Newton Highlands, Newton Lower Falls, Newton Upper Falls, Newtonville, and West Newton. Its name, which the people clearly love, is a contraction of “Newtowne.” The city is a little too sophisticated to have a Fig Newton monument or anything like that, but on the one hundredth anniversary of the cookie (in 1991) there was a festival featuring a performance by the singer Juice Newton.

Edible Dictionary

grissini, Italian, n., pl.Bread sticks. They’re found in a jar or glass on tables in a few Italian restaurants around New Orleans (Vincent’s, most notably), and almost all of them in the Northeast. They’re usually the size of pencils, both in length and circumference. They’re crunchy all the way through. Their function in a meal doesn’t become clear until a glass of wine or a cocktail arrives, after which grissini seem essential. It’s the crunch more than the taste that satisfies. Most authorities say they originated in Turin.

Deft Dining Rule # 349

Flirting with the hostess in a restaurant will not get a man a better table, no matter how good-looking he is. However, beautiful women can get whatever they want from a male host.

Entomology In Food

As if the people in Saharan Africa don’t have enough to worry about, on this day in 2004 a plague of locusts swarmed over the country of Chad, dealing a cruel blow to their scarce food crops. What I wonder is why the locusts went there, where the pickings are slim. Locusts–large grasshoppers with voracious appetites–are edible. In fact, they’re explicitly recommended as kosher in Deuteronomy. I’ve eaten a few. They’re not especially tasty, but I can tell you they’re harmless. I’m thinking that the usual method of cooking them–deep-frying–might be inferior to boiling them as if they were shrimp and serving them, legs and head removed, with remoulade sauce. Next time I run into some fresh locusts I’m going to try that.

Eating In Our Waning Years

Today in 1935, the Social Security Act was signed into law. While it obviously addresses a crying need, there was a great deal of opposition to it. But the plan removed a depressing (especially in the Depression) uncertainty among older people without means, who sometimes could not even afford minimal food and shelter before Social Security brightened up their outlook.

The Saints

It’s the feast day of St. Arnulf of Soissons, who lived in France in the eleventh century. He’s the patron saint of millers of flour and brewers. . . And of St. Werenfridus, a Dutch Benedictine in the eighth century. He’s the patron saint of vegetable gardens–and stiff joints.

Food Namesakes

This is the birthday, in 1966, of actress Halle Berry. . . Russell Baker, a long-time columnist for the New York Times, was born today in 1925. . . Canadian Olympic swimmer Nancy Sweetnam splashed into the world today in 1973. . . Wrestler “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton ran into the big ring today in 1958.

Words To Eat By

“A bad review is like baking a cake with all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it.”–Danielle Steel, mystery author, born today in 1947.

Words To Drink By

“Satiety comes of too frequent repetition; and he who will not give himself leisure to be thirsty can never find the true pleasure of drinking.”–Michel de Montaigne.

FoodFunniesSquare

What A Mess You Can Make With Espresso.

And even more so with the makings of latte.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150

Sunday, August 6, 2017.

The big news is the heavy flooding that took place on the South Shore today, creating scary-deep water features throughout large parts of the city. From what I can see on television, this was reminiscent of the floods in the 1980, which were at least as awful as this one. My best man Oliver, who lived upstairs with his wife, helped me to jack up all my typesetting equipment on bricks to keep it all above water. But this also took a toll on Oliver’s building. We had at least six inches of water inside. It would happen three times in the eight years I lived there. This familiarity does nothing to ease the pain of people who caught this flood. The Cool Water Ranch, meanwhile, has had no problems.

Mary Ann said that she would allow us to go out to one of my favorite places today, mentioning La Provence. But we learn only that the restaurant under new ownership (this took place a few weeks ago) will no longer remain open through the afternoon and early evening on Sunday nights. Drat! That was one of my favorite meals on the North Shore, one that I enjoyed many (but apparently not enough) times over the years. The place now closes at four in the afternoon. That probably means an end to the enjoyment of listening to Ronnie Kole playing his piano and allowing me to sing alongside him.

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Crabmeat And Brie Dip

Remember the Maple Street restaurant called Nautical? This was their signature appetizer. They served it spread over slices of grilled French bread, but almost any way you serve it is good. (I prefer giving each person his own little ramekin of it with some French bread crescents or homemade Melba toast.) This is a great way to use up Brie or Camembert that’s approaching the end of its life. (If that’s what you have, add a half-teaspoon of lemon juice.)

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 lb. white crabmeat
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/3 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 rib celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 4 oz. Brie cheese, rind removed
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper

1. Heat the butter over medium heat in a saucepan until it bubbles. Cook onions, peppers, celery and garlic until all the vegetables are soft and just beginning to brown.

2. Add the wine and the Worcestershire, bring to a boil, and reduce the liquid by about half. Add the cream, bring to boil, then immediately lower to a simmer.

3. Add the cheese in small cubes, stirring until melted. Remove from the heat. If the mixture is very thick, thin it with a little water or (better) crab stock.

4. Add the crabmeat, stirring it in so gently that you don’t break the lumps. Serve warm with toasted bread.

Makes about three cups, enough for a party with 12-18 people.

SummerDiningSpecials

Coolinary And A Week Of Lobsters @ GWFins.

GWFins, the city’s best seafood restaurant, has not one but two summertime specials. The first is a conventional Coolinary dinner a bit more varied than most, with three choices in all three courses. That goes for $39, and has one limitation: the Coolinary menu is not available either on Friday or Saturday.

Later in the summer and somewhat unscheduled is a week’s worth of special menus centered on the lobster. This occurs during the peak of the lobster season. Its focus is less on low prices as it is about the particular goodne3s of the lobsters.

SAMPLE MENU (Changes nightly.)
Blue Crab Pot Stickers

Country ham, creamy pea shoot butter
~or~

Firecracker Tuna Tacos
Ginger slaw, avocado aioli, wasabi caviar
~or~

Heirloom Beet Salad
Baby Arugula, pecans, goat cheese, pickled red onions, sherry vinaigrette
~~~~~

Wasabi Crusted Gulf Wahoo
Seared rare, sticky rice, pickled ginger, slaw, sweet soy butter
~or~

Chicken Crusted Drum
Chicken crust, white sweet potatoes, green beans, chanterelle mushrooms, pecans, brown butter
~or~

Duroc Pork Chop
Mashed white sweet potatoes, sautéed kale-ette, port wine cherry chutney
~~~~~

Peaches & Cream
Almond cake, raspberry coulis
~or~

Pecan Pie
Vanilla Ice Cream
~or~

Cappuccino Panna Cotta
Chocolate crumbs, coconut cream
~~~~~

French Quarter: 808 Bienville. 504-581-3467. www.gwfins.com.

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

AlmanacSquare August 11, 2017

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End: 20. Three-course dinners $39 (or less). All the menus can be found here.

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Green Onions Day. Green onions are miraculous, especially when used as a last touch to a dish that needs a certain something. They don’t work universally (nothing does), but I find myself sprinkling green onions almost as often as salt and pepper when I’m finishing a savory dish.

Green onions are nothing more than the first shoots of regular onions. They have a good taste, but not especially a strong one. Certainly not as assertive as mature yellow onions or garlic. In their raw or near-raw state, they have a pleasing sharpness accented with a peppery quality. Their magic lies as much in their fresh crunch as their flavor. They enliven the food they garnish without really altering its flavor.

Crispness and vivid fresh flavor is what you want from green onions. The smaller the stalks, the better the taste. The flavor and texture of green onions change from top to bottom. The top parts are tough; be ruthless about disposing of them. By contrast, as you approach the white end, the flavor sharpens dramatically.

Green onions were once commonly called “shallots” around New Orleans, but that’s dying out as we use more real shallots in our cooking. “Scallions” is another, more accurate word for them.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Chili is a small farm town in north central Indiana, in the center of corn country. It’s sixty-five miles west-southwest of Fort Wayne, home of the annual Chilifest in October. Chili is where Washonis and Flower Creeks flow into the Eel River, which marks a spot where the Wisconsin Glacier once stopped and melted. The Eel is a tributary of the Wabash River, whose waters make it all the way to New Orleans. Chili’s good people mostly cook and eat at home, but if you must go to a restaurant from there it’s only four miles west to Denver, and the Denver Hotspot Restaurant.

Edible Dictionary

galette, French, n.– A word with almost as broad a range of meanings as “cake.” It’s a kind of cake, in fact, with one refinement that covered the entire range of galettes: it’s flat, and much thinner than it is wide or long. Beyond that, galettes come in form ranging from the galette du roi–the king cake of Northern France, served at the beginning of the Carnival season on the feast of the Epiphany. That galette is made of puff pastry layered with almond paste–very different from the New Orleans king cake. (Chef Jean-Luc Albin makes this kind of king cake at Maurice’s Bakery.) Another common kind of galette is a round cake of shredded potatoes, grilled with butter. About the size of a hamburger pattie, it’s usually served at breakfast. Yet another galette is a stuffed buckwheat pancake, filled or topped with cheese.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

Green onions should never be put through a food processor if you’re using them as garnish; you must slice them, as thinly as you can, using a very sharp knife or kitchen shears, immediately before adding them.

Restaurants In The Comics

Today in 1953, in Walt Kelly’s brilliant satirical comic strip Pogo, Pogo (a possum) pushed a flatboat through the swamp with his friend Albert (an alligator). The boat had different name each time it showed up. New Orleanians perked up when they saw this one: “The S.S. Owen Brennan.” Owen Brennan was the founder of the Brennan restaurant business–the brother of Ella, Dick, John. Adelaide, and Dottie Brennan. Walt Kelly was one of Owen’s thousands of friends. Kelly has another New Orleans connection: he drew Jayson, the Jesuit Blue Jay. Kelly’s artwork is still emblazoned on nearly everything at Jesuit High School.

Food Coincidences Through History

Robert the Bruce, heroic king of Scotland from 1306 to 1329, was born today in 1274. A different Robert Bruce, the grandson of Willie Maylie (who owned the restaurant of the same name) was the only executive chef in the history of the now-gone New Orleans location of Smith and Wollensky. Which was where Maylie’s used to be. And so. . . well, see if you can think of something. I’ve lost track of Robert Bruce lately.

Food Inventions

Today in 1742, Benjamin Franklin introduced what became known as the Franklin stove. It wasn’t really a stove, but a fireplace. It used fuel more efficiently and radiated more heat into the room. His original had smoke problems, but they were resolved by other inventors. The Franklin stove was in wide use by the turn of the century. Franklin intentionally did not patent the invention, wanting it to go immediately into the public domain. When’s the last time you heard any inventor do that?

Food In Politics

Today in 1995, President Bill Clinton ordered full diplomatic relations to resume between the United States and Vietnam, thereby opening the way for bubble tea to be introduced to American eaters.

Annals Of Food Research

This is the birthday, in 1858, of Christiaan Eijkman, who discovered that a lack of vitamins in your food can make you sick. Specifically, he found that people who ate a diet mostly of polished white rice got a weakening disease called beriberi. It could be prevented by eating brown rice. Or taking Vitamin B.

Food Namesakes

Jim Kale, the bass guitarist with the rock group Guess Who?, was born today in 1943. . . Speaking of leafy, thick greens, Catherine Collard, a classical pianist, was born today in 1947. . . David Rice Atchison, who organized the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, was born today in 1807. He was a U.S. Senator, and president pro tempore of the Senate. He was officially President of the United States for one day, when Zachary Taylor, not wanting to be inaugurated on a Sunday, caused a vacancy in the chief executive’s office. . . Richard Mead, a famous London doctor of his day, was born in 1673 today. . . Pro hockey player Floyd Curry hit the Big Ice today in 1925.

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, author of A Guide For The Greedy in the early 1900s.

Words To Drink By

Words To Drink By
“A small amount of wine, such as three or four cups, is of benefit for the preservation of the health of human beings and an excellent remedy for most illnesses.”–Maimonides, Talmudic scholar of the 1100s.

FoodFunniesSquare

Figuring Out The Pieces In A Food Court’s Floor Plan.

The bread bakery would be in the back, of course. The burger shop on the right side. And the cupcakes will be on the left. And. . .

Click here for the cartoon.

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Sunday, August 6, 2017. El Paso Mexican Grill.

I like the name of this new Louisiana-based chain. It comes right out and says that the place is Tex-Mex, without having to get into that impossible business of authenticity. It admits that the food is right on the border.

The Marys join me for dinner there. ML is on the North Shore with her dog Bauer, who likes to go swimming. He will also allow himself to be tied up outside a restaurant if he may park right next to the table.

The Marys both like Mexican food, and I think I have them intrigued by El Pasoi. This is my second visit to the new El Paso in Mandeville. What was just a possibility the first time was a proven fact now. El Paso cooks molé poblano–my favorite dish in all of Mexico. It comes to the table atop enchiladas of cheese and chicken, with a flow of the molé in just the right amount. The flavor–which involves bittersweet chocolate, chile peppers, and many spices–is as fine a version as I’ve had anywhere.

Mole sauce over enchiladas with cheese and chicken.

I don’t know why the stuff is such a hard sell. The Marys are much less excited about it, and they are not the only ones. There is decidedly a learning curve for appreciating it. Getting more people to try it is one of my crusades. It is not. But it has been suggested by my correspondents that this is my way of trying to influence other people for my own satisfaction. I do think I’m doing people a favor by turning them on to this treat. Which, by the way, is very well liked throughout Mexico (especially in Pueblo and Oaxaca) and in American border states. Plenty of it in Texas, especially in Houston and San Antonio.

Queso dip with chorizo sausage.

I think I will play around with Creole dishes that involve the use of molé ingredients. In one of his television appearances, John Besh threw a few chunks of bitter chocolate into a red wine sauce for beef. I tried that myself in a different dish and liked the outcome greatly.

The radio show that ran before the Marys and I went to dinner as tilted by the crisis of flooding around town. When a major news item takes over the attentions of listeners, I have to decide whether to stay with the food-and-wine focus or to take calls about the flood. Although WWL is the definitive local emergency station, it seemed to me that our reporters in the news department had the flood well covered.

After Katrina, I faced this same matter, and found that most people who called me were more interested in bringing their lives back to normal than in figuring out whose problem the flood was. They wanted to know which restaurants, food markets and other food sources were back open.

Today, I told the story of T. Pittari’s, the famous restaurant on Claiborne Avenue that went through three major floods before throwing in the towel and closing. The people who called in about this talked more about Pittari’s unique food than the floods.

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

Monday, August 27, 2017. N.O. Food & Spirits For Red Beans. Mary Ann is back, and that means we will resume frequent lunches of red beans and rice and salad at New Orleans Food & Spirits in Covington. They’re still among the best in town.

The new season of singing with NPAS begins. I arrived at the venue early, to make sure I wouldn’t miss anything. I am also trying to interest one of the sopranos or altos in joining me in a romance-theme program that NPAS will put in in February. I already have the music purchased: “If I Loved You” by Richard Rodgers, the best composer of the Tin Pan Alley era. (In my opinion, anyway.) I sang this on a number of occasions with the female singers at Café Giovanni, including very nice harmony parts for both the boy and the girl. All I need, as always, is the girl. (That’s the title of another good song.) I wish MA were interested in singing, but she is not and she never will be. She certainly has the voice.

RecipeSquareCrab Cakes a la Charley G’s

Crab cakes were the most talked-about specialty in the years when Charley G’s had a restaurant in Metairie. (They still operate in their home town of Lafayette.) Their solution to the challenge of making the greatest amount of crabmeat stick together in the least amount of binder was solved by pushing the crab lumps into a matrix of bechamel. (That’s what you get when you whisk milk into a blond roux.)

The bechamel was not only soft and neutral in flavor, but it could hold the onions, bell peppers, celery, and other ingredients you’d like to be present in the cake. As for bread crumbs, they only form a light coating on the outside, so they can lend a toasty flavor. Here’s what they showed me on my old WVUE television show. Some of the seasoning ingredients are off the mainstream. Don’t worry about it; substitute or leave them out. (You won’t make them exactly the same way the restaurant does, anyway.)

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 lb. lump crabmeat
  • 1/2 Tbs. Creole seasoning
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbs. Tiger sauce (bottled; available at the supermarket)
  • 1 qt. heavy cream
  • 1 oz. chicken demi-glace (optional)
  • 1 Tbs. granulated onion
  • 1 Tbs. granulated garlic
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 stick melted butter
  • Flour for dredging
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 sticks margarine, clarified

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan to smoking. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery and saute until wilted and slightly caramelized.

2. Transfer to a deep baking dish capable of holding 2 1/2 quarts. Add crabmeat, Creole seasoning, green onions, parsley, and tiger sauce. Toss with a rubber spatula to mix well. Set aside.

3. Combine cream, chicken demi-glace, granulated onion, and granulated garlic in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.

4. In a bowl, combine flour and melted butter to make a white roux. Once cream has come to a boil, lower the heat and add the roux. Whisk until the very thick sauce begins to pull away from the sides of the pot.

5. Pour the bechamel into the crabmeat mixture and fold until the crabmeat is well distributed. Chill overnight, uncovered.

6. Divide and shape into 16 cakes, all about the same size.

7. Blend eggs into milk. Dust the cakes with flour. Dip into the egg-and-milk wash, then dredge in the flour again.

8. Heat the margarine over medium-high heat, with enough margarine in the pan to come about halfway up the cakes. Sizzle four crabcakes at a time until golden brown. Turn cakes, lower the heat, and cook until the bottoms are crusty and golden brown.

Serve with remoulade sauce or tartar sauce–or nothing at all.

Serves 6-8 crab cakes.

SummerDiningSpecials

Coolinary At Antoine’s; Three Courses, $39

Antoine’s plays the Coolinary game two different ways. The first is their $20 lunch menu, available all year long and including three courses. The other is more like a Coolinary dinner menu, also offering three courses, but amplified in terms of ingredients and portions. The price is twice that of lunch, but still a great bargain at $39.
Both of the menus are made up mostly of classic Antoine’s dishes, with a few selections while others are new ideas in a traditional vein. Both lunch and dinner menus are available on Monday through Saturday respectively. The only unusual restriction is that your table is limited to 15 or fewer guests.

Antoine’s dining room is about to fill to capacity.

LUNCH MENU: $2017
Charbroiled Oysters
Louisiana oysters topped with garlic, herbs, butter, olive oil and Romano cheese

~or~

Vichyssoise
The classic cold potato soup flavored with chicken broth and finished with cream
~or~

Demi Wedge Salad
Iceberg lettuce wedge, cherry tomatoes, carrots, bacon, and roasted pecans with Roquefort vinaigrette
~~~~~

Broiled Louisiana Drumfish
Onion rice, Créole Béarnaise sauce
~or~

Veal and Grits
Floured, fried veal, mushroom Madeira wine sauce, buttered grits

~or~

Grilled Pork Chop
Cheesy Yukon mashed potatoes, port wine cranberry sauce
~~~~~

Red Velvet Cake
Cream cheese icing
~or~

Pecan Bread Pudding
Cinnamon, golden raisins, pecans, praline rum sauce
~or~

Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Sundae
Vanilla ice cream atop pound cake with chocolate fudge sauce, nuts, and a cherry on top
~~~~~

DINNER MENU: Three Courses, $39.
Alligator Bisque
A well-seasoned sherry wine-laced alligator bisque
~or~

Popcorn Crawfish Salad
A popcorn crawfish and tricolor beet salad with a balsamic honey mustard dressing

~~~~~

Roasted Quail
Onion and bacon rice topped with a mushroom burgundy sauce
~or~

Grilled Salmon
Artichokes and spinach topped with crabmeat and Béarnaise sauce
~~~~~

Pecan Bread Pudding
A cinnamon, raisin and pecan bread pudding topped with a warm rum sauce
~or~

Strawberry Cheesecake
A creamy cheesecake topped with a strawberry sauce
~~~~~

Antoine’s

French Quarter: 713 St Louis. 504-581-4422. www.antoines.com.

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

AlmanacSquare August 10, 2017

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End: 21. Three-course dinners $39 (or less). All the menus can be found here.

Today’s Flavor

It’s National Banana Split Day. A banana split is delicious, because of the underrated affinity bananas and ice cream have for one another. (Cf. bananas Foster.) But how can anyone eat an entire banana split? I get full and queasy just thinking about it, but I’m not sixteen anymore. Today is also National S’Mores Day. S’Mores, created by the Girl Scouts, consist of graham crackers, Hershey bars, and marshmallows made into a sandwich and heated to near melting over a campfire. They are as irresistible as their name implies.

BananaSplit

Gourmet Gazetteer

Mango, Florida is thirteen miles east of Tampa. It’s an old suburban neighborhood with a rural quality, between Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. and the railroad tracks. Newer neighborhoods surround it with houses on smaller lots. No evidence of mango trees can be seen, but the weather might allow cultivation in protected spots. A cluster of fast food, Asian restaurants and a Waffle House are on MLK, within walking distance of any home in Mango.

Edible Dictionary

rib cap, n.–Also known as spinalis or spinalis dorsi, this is a layer of lean meat that covers the side of a rib roast opposite the bones. The rib cap is separated from the ribeye by a thick layer of fat. When removed, it has a convex shape, like a beanie. The rib cap is about three quarters of an inch thick, and is marbles with quite a bit of fat, even when the grade of the beef is low. The rib cap is became popular among chefs in around 2008, when some meat purveyors began selling it as a separate cut. Fortunately, that practice has not become widespread. It’s extraordinarily tender, and can be grilled or roasted.

Strange coincidence: last night (August 9, 2017), my wife Mary Ann ordered this very cut of steak for dinner at Keith Young’s Steak House, with no advance planning. It just happened!

Food Entrepreneurs

This is the birthday, in 1814, of Henri Nestle, the founder of the chocolate company that bears his name. A great deal of his success came from his breakthrough in making milk chocolate, which is credited with making chocolate candy possible. His business began with nut oils, bottled water, and lemonade. He invented infant formulas, which until that time were unheard of. He saw it as a way for undernourished children with distressed (or absent) mothers to stay healthy. Nestle is now one of the biggest producers in the world of all kinds of food.

Food In Show Biz

Jimmy Dean was born today in 1928. The sausage line he started spun him off but kept his name a few years ago, saying that they wanted a different spokesman. Hunh? He should have started Seth Ward Sausages then. That’s his real name. . . Clara Peller, the old lady in the commercials for Wendy’s that made “Where’s the beef?” a national catchphrase, was born today in 1917. . . The movie American Pie 2 came out today in 2001. No more pie in it than in American Pie 1.

Deft Dining Rule #511

Tarte Tatin, regardless of which master French baker makes it, is not as good as a well-made American apple pie.

Annals Of Cola

Today in 1985, the original formula of Coca-Cola returned to the market as Coke Classic after being replaced briefly and to much public derision by New Coke. However, New Coke has conquered the rest of the world. It’s only in America and Canada that Coke Classic is the standard.

The Saints

It is the feast day of St. Lawrence, who managed the Church’s meager funds when it was still being persecuted by Rome. He is the patron saint of brewers, cooks, confectioners, and restaurateurs.

Food Namesakes

William Henry Fry was born today in 1815. He was a composer who has been called the father of American opera. His most famous work was Leonora. . . Actor Noah Beery, who was on The Rockford Files among other things, was born today in 1913. . . Pepsi Nunes, who writes about environmental issues and history, was born today in 1952. . . Leonard Lickorish, an authority on the business of tourism, was born today in 1921. . . Jay Cooke, a financier who raised a great deal of the money needed for the Union to prosecute the Civil War, was born today in 1821.

Words To Eat By

“Never work before breakfast; if you have to work before breakfast, eat your breakfast first.”–Josh Billings, American humorist of the late 1800s.

Words To Drink By

“potable, n.–Suitable for drinking. Water is said to be potable; indeed, some declare it our natural beverage, although even they find it palatable only when suffering from the recurrent disorder known as thirst, for which it is a medicine. Upon nothing has so great and diligent ingenuity been brought to bear in all ages and in all countries, except the most uncivilized, as upon the invention of substitutes for water. To hold that this general aversion to that liquid has no basis in the preservative instinct of the race is to be unscientific–and without science we are as the snakes and toads.”–Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Missing Pieces In Your Life

Might have something to do with an ingredient left out of a dish in your eating. But chances are that its more likely to be about one item too many.

Click here for the cartoon.

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Thursday, August 3, 2017.

Somehow, Mary Ann and I get into one of our more familiar debates, in which she says that my wanting to go out to eat every day keeps her from losing the amount of weight she has planned. “Just don’t join me,” seems the obvious answer, after which she usually just comes along anyway. I’d do anything she wants, if only I could figure what that is.

I suggested that MA write a journal of the British Isles trip she and ML just finished. I had no idea she would deliver such a long compu-script. It runs about two dozen pages. I tried to pull it together for publication, but it’s so complex that I had to ask her to put it all in order. This wound up taking about three days with both of us working on it. Once done, however, I think it would up interesting. After only a few days after we posted it in the NOMenu, it was attracting a fair number of readers. We did this in lieu of going out to lunch and dinner today. (I manage to subsist on the leftovers of that roast beef poor boy I got from Di Martino’s on Monday.)

Friday, August 4, 2017. Ralph’s On The Park.

Mary Ann contacts me at some point during the day and proposes dinner. We almost go to two or three restaurants when she suggests Ralph’s on the Park. The current summer menu at Ralph’s–the one that brings three appetizers and a glass of wine for $33–appeals to MA, especially when she sees three or four vegetable dishes as parts of the offer.

Before we get there, however, we get tangled in the road work being performed in the center of the Canal Street Cemeteries district. What is needed is a connection between the end of the Canal streetcar with the end of the Canal Boulevard bus. Right now, a passenger traveling from Mid-City to Lakeview has to pick his way through two blocks of hazardous gaps, traffic signals, stop signs and the like. But building this new connection makes it extremely difficult for cars to get from, say, the I-10 at Metairie Road to the old Bud’s Broiler on City Park Avenue. They say it will take four weeks, but nobody seems to have known that we would have heavy rain here every day for who knows how long.

Accumulated rainwater also made it hard to park at Ralph’s. The closest spot that didn’t have six inches of water against the curb was three blocks away. Of course, I could have used the free valet parking. Why didn’t I? Beats me.

Once inside, I began with a Manhattan, to ease the tensions of the Canal streetcar massacree. Mary Ann picks a couple of elements for her wine-and-three. A crab and mango salad. Charred Brussels sprouts. And, curiously, a filet mignon. She and I split that. I also have sea scallops, a little on the small side but numbering up to six, which seems fair enough.

The restaurant was close to full, and the place was a shade noisy. But as the previous seating left, things became more peaceful. We did not revive yesterday’s mutually testy conversation, and find ourselves both enjoying the evening.

Ralph’s On The Park. City Park Area: 900 City Park Ave. 504-488-1000.
Saturday, August 5, 2017.

Bosco’s. A guy who called me during the radio show today wanted to know where he might find the kind of Italian salad that he remembered from years gone by. He also was looking for corroboration of his side in a long-running discussion he and his father have. His dad says that Italian salad dressing is nothing but oil and vinegar. I said that his father is certainly wrong, but to have mercy, because most dads have to put up with many assertions that they are wrong every day.

I certainly have experienced this. It’s hardest to take when it comes from one’s kids, especially if one had a long periods in which Dad was the source of all knowledge. Indeed, Mary Leigh is clearly starting to consider me a nincompoop. (When she reads this, she will likely think, “What does he mean, I’m starting to believe that?)

But harder to take were the numerous corrections my son Jude ordered me to accept during my stay at his house last month. But Jude is already a more successful person than I am, so what can I say?

Anyway, I told the man on the radio phone that if he wants to taste a great Italian vinaigrette that clearly has ingredients other than oil and vinegar, he should get the house salad at Bosco’s in Mandeville. It includes most notably a good bit of lemon juice in the dressing.

So we took our across-the-street neighbor–who watches over our dogs when we’re away–to dinner at Bosco’s. Indeed, the salad dressing is as good as ever. As long as we were there (and it’s been a good while since), we ordered a lot of food. I started with Sicilian-style mussels–cooked in their shells and served in a red sauce. What impressed me most after that was a new dish called “Chicken Greco.” This is layers of chicken, eggplant and cheese, all of which come together into something like a light lasagna. Very good.

Bosco’s chicken Marsala.

Mussels Sicilian style.

ML and our neighbor ate light. MA got a huge pile of shrimp remoulade with white remoulade sauce, which she was able to split with everyone at my table.

White-style shrimp remoulade.

I expressed my long feeling that the reddish remoulade sauce–like the ones at Galatoire’s, Arnaud’s, Tujague’s, Antoine’s and the Upperline–are my preference. The girls rushed up to say I am clearly wrong, that white remoulade is the way to go, that red remoulade is just another one of Tom’s Old-Fartisms, never eaten by those with up-to-date tastes. Well, shut my mouth!

Bosco’s. Mandeville: 2040 La Hwy 59. 985-624-5066.

SummerDiningSpecials

Brown Butter Southern Kitchen

Brown Butter is one of the newer restaurants in the heart of Mid-City on Bienville at Carrollton. Tucked away just off the corner, two blocks from Canal Street, the restaurant runs a pleasantly assorted menu ranging from seafood to near-barbecue and roasted meats. As the name claims, it’s interested in Southern cooking, which is not the same thing as Creole and Cajun cookery. The Coolinary dinner takes advantage of all these qualities, and pulls them together in a comfortable neighborhood-eatery.

The dinner edition of Brown Butter’s consists of a choice of four entrees, surrounded by a pair of salads and a single dessert, for $39. It’s available Monday throgh Saturday nights. Also here is a Coolinary lunch of two courses for $20, served Saturday and Sunday only.

Salad of Seasonal Greens
Red onion, carrots, radish, crispy smoked pig ears and buttermilk dressing, fresh cheese
~or~

Chilled Sweet Corn Soup
Pickled shrimp, yogurt
~~~~~

Beef Short Ribs
Yellow stone-ground grits, crispy onions, arugula peanut salad
~or~

Smoked Half Chicken
Red chili lacquered, Mexican street corn salad, Cotija cheese
~or~

Pan Roasted Gulf Fish
Greek yogurt, roasted baby eggplant, tomato, onion, chickpeas

~~~~~

Vanilla Bean Bread Pudding
Brown butter rum sauce
~~~~~

FleurDeLis-3-Small

Brown Butter

Mid-City: 231 N Carrollton Ave. 504-609-3871. http://www.brownbutterrestaurant.com/.

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AlmanacSquare August 9, 2017

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End: 22. Three-course dinners $39 (or less). All the menus can be found here.

Annals Of Fishing

On this date in 1593, Isaak Walton was born in England. He was to write a book that not only set down everything one could know about fishing at that time, but set the standard for books that studied any particular field. It was called The Compleat Angler. Its antique spelling lives on as a common affectation. The book was more about catching fish for food than for sport, although fun was part of it too.

Annals Of Smoking

Cigar-BrandyToday in 1902, King Edward VII was crowned as the monarch of England, succeeding Queen Victoria, his mother. His first official act when he appeared before Parliament was to rescind an edict of the late Queen with this line: “Gentlemen, you may smoke.” He smoked a dozen cigars a day, plus a pack of cigarettes. That’s why a popular line of inexpensive cigars was named for him.

Food Calendar

This is National Rice Pudding Day. Rice pudding is one of those dishes that’s much loved but rarely eaten. It’s brought up on the radio show six or seven times a year always with an undertone of longing for some wonderful memory of the past. It even has a cherished old French name: riz au lait. I have a recipe for it in today’s newsletter. (It’s also in my cookbook, if you have it.)

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

To really love rice pudding, you must be over seventy.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Mushroom Farms, Pennsylvania is thirty-one miles east of Scranton, in the Pocono Mountains. They really do grow and package mushrooms in the area, which is wooded and hilly enough that many wild mushrooms probably grow, too. Maybe some of them turn up on the pizzas you can order for dinner at Napoli Pizza, a half-mile away.

Cookbooks Through History

CookbookLadyThis is the birth date, in 1762, of Mary Randolph. She married into one of the most prominent families of Virginia and lived a life of privilege, until her husband fell into disfavor with Thomas Jefferson and lost his job. Their fortunes declined. Mary Randolph opened a boarding house, where her skills at running a large manor made it a success. She wrote a cookbook called The Virginia Housewife, . It is considered the first major work on the subject of Southern cookery. Written for women with genteel lifestyles, it was carefully assembled, and included exact measurements of ingredients–a rare quality in recipes of the time.

Edible Dictionary

Szechuan pepper, n.–The husks of the fruits of Zanthoxylum piperitum and related plants, all native to central China. When used in combination with other hot peppers (usually red chilies), Szechuan peppers create the distinctive hot flavors and sensations found in the dishes from the Szechuan region. The peppers are unusual in that the husks, not the seed inside, are used in cooking. It doesn’t have much of a flavor, per se; it works on nerve endings to make them more receptive to other flavor sensations. True Szechuan peppers are not often found in American Chinese restaurants, which usually get by with only the red chili peppers.

Annals Of Public Buildings

The Superdome’s first public event–a loss for the Saints against the Houston Oilers in a pre-season game–took place today in 1975. Best food: the SuperDog, created by the now-gone local King Cotton meat-packing company. The dog was indeed bigger than normal, and better, too, with an interesting spice and garlic component. . . Today in 1173, construction began on the Campanile in Pisa, Italy. Better known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, its image is seen somewhere in three out of four American Italian restaurants. I wonder how many pizzerias with the name “Tower Of Pizza” there are around the world. We have one here, of course.

Food Namesakes

Claude I. Bakewell, former U.S. Congressman from Missouri, was born in St. Louis today in 1912. . . Baseball pro Mike Lamb was born today in 1975.

Words To Eat By

“Blessed be he that invented pudding, for it is a manna that hits the palates of all sorts of people; a manna better than that of the wilderness, because the people are never weary of it.”–Francois Maximilien Mission, French writer.

Words To Drink By

“Drinking is a way of ending the day.”–Ernest Hemingway.

FoodFunniesSquare

Rewriting A Visit To The Butcher.

I’d like to replace the thought balloon in the last panel with, “Some chef with that restaurant serving things you never heard of before bought it all.”

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Saturday, July 29, 2017. Things wouldn’t be so boring if it would stop raining every day. The lawn has grown high again. I’m still working with no success on my my string lawn trimmer. It’s missing either a part or an instruction–both of which are in an owner’s manual whose location I know not. Aside from all that, I have at least been able to take about two-thirds of my walk around the grounds–but on the third lap, at which time I have been walking briskly for over an hour–it started to rain and I couldn’t finish up.

Dinner is a large cheese pizza from Pizza Man in Covington. Owner Paul Schrem is taking the day off, a common strategy now that his son has more or less taken the reins. I get the cheese pizza mainly because I have never done so. My standard pizza–I get it nine out of ten times–is called “the Board,” made with fresh spinach, feta cheese, olive oil, garlic, herbs, capicola spicy ham, and olive oil. Just wanted to see what they could do with a New York-style pie. It suited me fine, and fed me for several days, as I back away from restaurants I visit frequently.

Without Mary Ann around to denigrate the contents, I have been watching more television than I have in over twenty years. I don’t think that’s going to continue. Tonight I watched Saturday Night Live for the second or third recent time. Is it just me and my superannuated memories of its golden years, or has this program become really terrible?

Sunday, July 30, 2017. I have breakfast at Mattina Bella, shooting the breeze with Vincent Riccobono. After that, I spend most of the day cleaning out my office at home. And doing a two-hour radio show, of course. It is very busy on the phones. And I’m surprised that nobody said anything about the debacle last week when I arrived over an hour late to go on the air.

Monday, July 31, 2017. Clusters of clouds destined to become serious thunderstorms were gathering along Lunch Row, the stretch of LA 21 that has the most appealing array of restaurants in downtown Covington. I know I’m in trouble when I make the turn onto 21st Street, which will only take me closer to the many chain restaurants in the shopping mall district.

I wind up in a restaurant that is itself a chain, but not a big one. DiMartino’s began as a muffuletta specialist on the West Bank decades ago. Its North Shore place is better looking and more comfortable than those are, especially since the management dropped its order-and-pick-up-at-the-counter setup a few months ago.

A few years ago I had a roast beef poor boy here and didn’t find it especially good. But I’m always ready to try a dish or a restaurant again. I’m very happy I did this time. The bread was a whole loaf, like the braided, sesame-seeded Italian-style kind you see in Italian places. And Di Martino’s menu is more Italian than anything else. So we’re off to a good start. The roast beef was sliced perfectly, was a little on the rare side, and had the right amount of gravy (not too much, in other words).

Most important: it’s delicious. As good a roast beef as I’ve had in a long time. The denser bread and the limited gravy made for a sandwich that didn’t fall apart after a few bites. It was also big enough that I took half of it home and made two lunches out of it.

So this was my idea of a great day, even though I had to battle with a thick, forceful, white sheet of rain that made it difficult to find my turn to go home–let alone make the turn.

I think the Marys may be on their way home from Shannon in Ireland, but I’m not sure. I can’t reach them on the phone, although they can get me. But they don’t. As usual, they are flying standby, and the Dublin airport is not amenable to jumping on board and flying with no notice today. What MA thinks of as fun is incomprehensible to me.

SummerDiningSpecials

The Fountain Lounge is just off the magnificent lobby of the big old Roosevelt Hotel, in the space where the Sazerac Restaurant was in its heyday. (Before that, the same spot was called “The Fountain Lounge,” so the hotel cannot be called uneconomical in its use of names.) Nowadays it comes across as a handsome bar, with a substantial menu of cocktail lounge food.

The Coolinary version of this is brief and to the point. For $35, you get a three-course dinner in which the only decision to be made is whether you will have the pan-seared Gulf fish of the day with crawfish, or to ask for the filet mignon. The Fountain Lounge’s Coolinary menu is available every night except Monday from four until ten p.m.

The room also offers a Coolinary lunch on weekdays. The price is $20 for an heirloom-tomato and basil soup, followed by a grilled pork tenderloin with grits and collard greens.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts
Miso honey dressing, toasted almonds
~~~~~

Pan Seared Local Fish
Corn maque choux, local crawfish tails
~or~

Pan Seared Bistro Filet
Pomme puree, haricot verts, crispy shallots, red wine reduction
~~~~~

Pecan Pie
Steen’s cane syrup custard, brown butter tart crust, bourbon salted caramel, lemon mascarpone creme anglaise

Fountain Lounge

CBD: 123 Baronne, Roosevelt Hotel. 504-648-1200. www.therooseveltneworleans.com/dining/sazerac-restaurant.html.

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

RecipeSquare-150x150

Red Bean Soup

I’ve been predicting for years that our allegiance to red beans would result in its being served widely as a soup instead of as a main course. This has not come to pass. But I love a good red bean soup. I always order it when I run into it. And when I don’t, I make it myself.

The mystery ingredient here is summer savory–or just plain savory. It’s an herb related to oregano, and is known as the herb for beans. It’s not found in every supermarket spice rack, but it’s not impossible to find, either. If you can’t find it, use oregano, or just leave it out.

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 cup finely slivered carrots
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1 tsp. summer savory
  • 1 quart beef or veal broth
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 6 cups cooked red beans (or 3 cans Blue Runner red beans, if you’re rushed)
  • 3/4 lb. andouille or smoked sausage, sliced as thin as you can
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. Louisiana hot sauce
  • 2 green onions, chopped

White bean and chorizo soup.

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until it ripples, then add the carrots, celery, onions, and savory. Cook until the vegetables are tender.

2. Add the beef broth and return to a simmer.

3. Puree the red beans in a food processor, and add them to the pot.

4. Microwave the andouille on paper towels for one minute on high, to remove the excess fat. Add the andouille and cook for at least another ten minutes.

5. Add salt, pepper and hot sauce, and serve topped with chopped green onions for garnish.

Serves six to eight.

AlmanacSquare August 7, 2017

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 24 Three-course dinners $39 (or less). All the menus can be found here.

Annals Of Entrances

The revolving door was patented today by one Theophilus Van Kannel in 1888. Relatively few restaurants in New Orleans have revolving doors. There’s Mr. B’s, Copeland’s, three of the four Dickie Brennan’s restaurants, and that’s about it. Revolving doors keep cold blasts from blowing into a warmed space. Many restaurants here–especially those with only one set of doors–would do well to install them. But winter is so short that, by the time the proprietors have decided to go ahead and address the problem, it’s warm again–and then the project goes on hold for another year.

Today’s Flavor

It is National Garlic Bread Day. Garlic bread is a cheap thrill, and I almost feel ashamed of myself for liking as much as I do. There’s nothing to it: you chop or puree garlic, mix it with butter, add some kind of herbs (maybe), spread it on French bread, and pop it into the oven until it browns. Not much to that, no. But try to stop eating it after it emerges, hot and fragrant, from the oven.

Garlic bread is traditionally associated with Italian restaurants. It’s an Americanized version of bruschetta, made by topping rounds of bread with olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and tomatoes. A well-made bruschetta is as much better than standard garlic bread than pizza is better than cheese toast. Lately, quite a few restaurants have begun offering a bruschetta of this or that, often because it’s easier to charge for bruschetta than for garlic bread.

But back to the latter. The best versions in town become so by adding other ingredients to the garlic and butter. My favorite version is the one at Brennan’s, whose topping is essentially the same bourguignonne butter they serve with snails, plus a good bit of Parmesan cheese and Creole seasoning. The famous garlic bread at Commander’s Palace gets its distinction from the addition of dill to the mix. They also really load on the butter–a bit too much of it, I’d say. All sorts of other herbs can be used to make garlic bread different, perhaps even better. Oddly enough, almost anything seems to work, except very dry, bitter herbs like rosemary.

People We’d Like To Dine With

Two funny radio greats have birthdays today. The first is Stan Freberg, born today in 1926. His innovative commercials compete with his comedy records and his legendary radio show as his signal achievement in the medium. The second is Garrison Keillor, who created A Prairie Home Companion. That show was a revival of radio variety programs common in the 1940s, but with an entirely contemporary sound. Keillor retired from Priarie Home Companion a year or so ago, but still voices a daily mini-show called the Writer’s Almanac.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Kidney Creek runs through the Ottawa National Forest on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, about twenty miles from the Wisconsin state line. The creek is ensconced in marshes for all of its three miles, and drains into Perch Lake, one of many glacier-formed lakes in that part of the world. The fishing is excellent all around there. They don’t call it Perch Lake for nothing. If your luck is bad, it’s a ten mile ride north to Bill’s Grill in Sidnaw.

Edible Dictionary

File gumbo.

gumbo, n.–A thick, chunky soup most identified with the cooking of Southeast Louisiana. The word is used to define at least three broad ranges of dishes: seafood gumbo, chicken gumbo, and gumbo z’herbes. Gumbo has such a long history and has been made by people of so many different backgrounds that it only one statement can be made about it with certainty: that no two gumbos are alike. Even calling it a soup puts one on thin ice, because many gumbos are much more like stews than soups. While this openness to interpretation may seem to allow virtually any ingredient, in fact the components and final flavor profile must fall within certain limits. Yet nobody can define what those are, and no ingredient is absolutely essential for an authentic gumbo. It may be that the only way one can learn what makes a real gumbo is to live in Louisiana for an extended time and eat many gumbos. The word most likely is from a Central African word for okra, a major component of many–but not all–gumbos.

Deft Dining Rule #771

If you eat more than four slices of garlic bread, you won’t have room for your entree. If you can eat more than eight, you will.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

When spreading the garlic butter on a loaf of bread, use what seems like the right amount of the mixture. Then add the same amount on top of it, and it will come out perfect.

Food Namesakes

Australian Olympic (1996) soccer star Kevin Muscat was born today in 1973. (Muscat is a grape variety that makes many great sweet wines, notably Muscat Beaumes de Venice from the Rhone Valley.). . .Legal scholar and author Charles E. Rice was born today in 1931. . . Cricket pro Dominic Cork was born today in 1971.

Words To Eat By

“Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn.”–Garrison Keillor, born today in 1942.

“Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese.”–Billie Burke, American actress, the Good Witch of the North in The Wizard Of Oz, born today in 1884.

Words To Drink By

“Youth is intoxication without wine.”–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
And the appeal of feeling young again fills many glasses.

Travel Diary

During July 2017, Mary Ann and Mary Leigh Fitzmorris took an excursion around the British Isles. I suggested to MA that she write a journal during the trip, with emphasis on her charge-ahead style of traveling, in which almost every activity, hotel, flight, and highway is improvised. In this she travels at breakneck speed toward unknown destinations. This is why I am not allowed on MA’s itineraries. Our daughter ML has picked up a lot of MA’s style. Between the two of them they completed a soujourn that would drive me nuts, and I them. Enjoy this unique approach to travel!–Tastefully yours, Tom Fitzmorris.

Click here for the Marys-In-England Diary.

FoodFunniesSquare

Tough Eggs.

On both sides of the culinary status, they all walk away inedible.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, July 28, 2017. Filippo Is The House Of Fans.

A certain kind of restaurant–difficult to identify, let alone define–shows an quality that many other restaurants would love to incorporate: the certain something that makes all their regular customers love them.

Even more curious is the way that such restaurants are less than magnificent in their surroundings, and often serve food that’s something less than unforgettable. (Remember Tony Angello’s?)
Ristorante Filippo is one of those. It occupies a small building with minimal accoutrements (the climb to the bathroom, for instance). Although it has long been a restaurant, Filippo’s predecessors manage to inherit their customers.

Here’s how such restaurants can be discovered. The customers will be heard waxing enthusiastic about what a hidden gem the place place is. Indeed, if you tune in to other tables, you will hear almost nothing but glowing accolades. If there are four peple at a table, it becomes almost a battle as to who gives the most loving appreciations.

Chef Filippo.

I must admit to feeling this way about the restaurant of Phil Galliano, the owner and chef. Even though it’s maddening to know that the best dish in his house–the chicken spiedini, a stuffing of bread crumbs, herbs, garlic, a little cheese and a few more herbs–will probably not be available when you want it most. Or ever, for that matter.

I was ecstatic to learn, while I was there last week, that all I ever needed to do was call ahead for a reservation, and ask for the spiedini. The waitress told me that this strategy works. I’ll believe it when I see it (my name is Thomas, after all). And taste it, of course.

In the meantime, I must begin with oysters areganata, a variation on the dish that is known by many people as oysters Mosca. This time, I asked them to make up a bowl of angel hair pasta with the same ingredients as the oysters–including the oysters themselves. The server checked on that and then delivered.

The rest of the menu was good, too. The house salad, with it
s excellent Italian vinaigrette. A creamy seafood soup that used to go by the name of Phil’s mother. And a crescent of spumoni from Angelo Brocato. One table over was a half-dozen well-groomed young women came to my table to say hello. Worse things can happen. They love the restaurant too, or did I need to even say that?

So we know that the kitchen is trustworthy. Meanwhile, we keep hoping that Phil Galliano moves someday to a bigger restaurant in which he can stretch his taste and abilities, which are not inconsiderable.

In the meantime, you and I can exchange opinions about what a great dining secret is Ristorante Filippo.

Ristorante Filippo. Metairie: 1917 Ridgelake (just off Causeway Boulevard, just river side of I-10. 504-835-4008.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Quail With Figs

Chef Hubert Sandot founded Martinique restaurant–named for his native island–some fifteen years ago. It has since been passed on to new owners twice, each of whom brought a new style to the restaurant. When Hubert was still around town, he cooked with very little in the way of dairy products. As a result, his food tended to be elemental and light. This dish is a great example of that. It cooks very quickly. It cooks very quickly. Outside of fig season, this works with apples or raisins (or both).

  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 4 ripe, medium-size figs, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 4 quail, deboned except for legs and wings, butterflied
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Madiera or tawny port wine
  • Chopped parsley

1. Heat the butter in a skillet and saute the garlic and the figs for about a minute.

2. Season the quails with salt and pepper. Add them to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat for about three minutes on each side.

3. Remove the quail and keep warm on a serving plate. Add the wine to the skillet and bring to a boil. Nap the sauce over the quail and garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Salt and pepper can be added to taste.

Serves four

SummerDiningSpecials

As it has every year since the Coolinary summer menus began, Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse is in the thick of it. Its menu has improved with every passing year. Each of the three courses gives us a choice of two possibilities. And steak–which had been left out of the menu in prior years, despite the ill logic–is now one of the entrees.

Turtle Soup
~or~

Louisiana Crab and Mirliton Slaw Salad
~~~~~

Grilled Yellowfin Tuna Steak
Heirloom tomatoes, peppery arugula, crispy shallots, basil pesto
~or~

6 oz. Filet Mignon
Rosemary roasted red potatoes, red wine demi-glace
~~~~~

French Toast Bread Pudding
Irish whiskey sauce
~or~

Dark Chocolate Mousse
~~~~~

Three courses, with two choices in each, for $39. A lunch version of the Coolinary menu, with two courses and some differences from the dinner selection, goes for $20. The dinner menu is available seven nights. Lunch is served only on Friday.

Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse

French Quarter: 716 Iberville. 504-522-2467. www.dickiebrennanssteakhouse.com.>

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

AlmanacSquare August 4, 2017

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest begins today, through the weekend.2
Coolinary Summer Specials End 27 day from today

(though some places will keep the Coolinary going a week or two more.

Music To Eat Red Beans And Rice By

It’s Louis Armstrong’s birthday, in 1901. He claimed to have been born on the Fourth of July, but official records say otherwise. After all these years, it’s mostly jazz buffs who understand just what a sweeping effect he had on the music of America. And the music of rest of the world, for that matter. You can learn fast enough: listen to the jazz Satchmo made in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, and it all becomes clear. Another way: Terry Teachout’s terrific biography, Pops. That was one of his other nicknames. He signed his letters with the ultimate New Orleans valediction: “Red Beans and Ricely Yours.”

Food Calendar

In honor of Louis Armstrong’s birthday, today is Red Beans and Rice Day. It’s lucky that we eat lots of red beans in New Orleans. Of all the beans, red beans (also called kidney beans, but not by anyone I know) may be the most salubrious. Loaded with soluble fiber, they have the ability to absorb and remove fat from your digestive tract–perhaps even from your blood. We counteract those good effects by cooking beans with ham fat and eating them with sausage. But they’re still among the healthiest meals we eat.

Like many New Orleanians, I have a lifelong habit of eating red beans on Mondays. Indeed, I had a bowl of red beans last night. My mother cooked them every week, sure as the sunrise. I don’t eat red beans every Monday, but they’re always on my mind then. The lore is that it was laundry day, and the homemaker didn’t have time to cook anything that required a lot of attention. Red beans simmer for hours. (It has been pointed out that in most homes every day is laundry day, but never mind.) Red beans are also inexpensive enough that the longshoremen in the family could eat enormous servings of them and be both satisfied and well-nourished. Beans and rice together provide a complete protein, and make a fine meatless diet.

Red beans, rice, and sausage.

The most plausible source of our bean-eating habit is the Caribbean, where the beans of choice were black beans. Those didn’t grow around here, but red beans did. (Most of the red beans we eat now grow in New York and Michigan.) A few local farmers do grow red beans, though. If you ever see fresh red beans, try them. They need no soaking, cook quicker, and taste better.

The major culinary issue surrounding red beans is how thick the sauce between them should be. My mother’s beans were firm and discrete, in a sauce that would be runny by today’s standards. I still prefer them that way. Others like the liquid component to be much thicker. Some have no whole beans at all. Eat ’em your way.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Baker, FL 32531 is forty-eight miles northeast of Pensacola, Florida, in the western extreme of that state’s panhandle. It was established as a town in 1907, along a trail that since pre-Columbaian times was used by the people living there to migrate as necessary. A general store opened there in 1908. It’s still there, and is now the Baker Block Museum, full of artifacts from the area. Raising cattle has long been a major business. About 7200 people live in Baker now. The place to eat is the Gator Cafe, right in the center of town.

Annals Of Snack Food

Today is also National Chocolate Chip Day. Every day is chocolate chip day in our house. My wife’s idea of a proper breakfast is a dish of chocolate chips and a glass of milk. My daughter bakes a big, soft chocolate chip cookie every chance she gets. I note that in recent years dessert chefs have shown too great an interest in chocolate chips, shoving them into all kinds of desserts where they don’t belong. Two particularly inappropriate places: bread pudding and cheesecake.

Annals Of Wine Marketing

By tradition, this is the day in 1693 when Dom Perignon, a Benedictine monk, tasted a bottle of Champagne wine that had gone through a second fermentation, thereby giving it bubbles, and said, “Come quick! I am tasting stars!” This is supposed to have been the creation of bubbly Champagne as we know it. The tale seems to be more legend than fact, but it has such a memorable ring to it that the makers of Champagne Dom Perignon do nothing to gainsay it.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

This day in 1970, Poppin’ Fresh–a.k.a. the Pillsbury Doughboy–was registered as a trademark in the U.S. Patent Office. He was created by adman and novelist Robert Ross. Originally, the Doughboy’s squeaky voice was performed by deep-voiced radio and cartoon actor Paul Frees. A few years ago, a funny obituary of Poppin’ Fresh ran in the Florida Herald, and has been circulated widely on the Web. Here it is. Next time you’re with someone eating beignets who gets a little too much powdered sugar around the mouth, ask whether he or she has been making out (or worse) with Poppin’ Fresh.

Edible Dictionary

cannellini, n., Italian.Very closely related to red (kidney) beans, but with an ivory color. The flavor is different enougt that anyone who knows that red bean taste will immediately tell which are red beans and which are cannellinis. It creates a fun visual effect to make a pot of red beans and cannellini beans together. Cannellini beans are similar to Great Northern beans, but according to the people behind the well-known Camellia beans, they are two different strains. There are at least as many different beans than there are of cheeses.

Food And Drink Namesakes

Composer Arthur Butterworth was born today in 1923. . . Poet and multicultural writer Allison Hedge Coke expressed her first though today in 1958.

Words To Eat By

“But since he stood for England
And knew what England means,
Unless you give him bacon
You must not give him beans.”–G.K. Chesterton.

Words To Drink By

“brandy, n. A cordial composed of one part thunder-and-lightning, one part remorse, two parts bloody murder, one part death-hell-and-the-grave and four parts clarified Satan.–Ambrose Bierce, in his satirical The Devil’s Dictionary.

FoodFunniesSquare

An Oh-So-Familiar Dining Dilemma.

When nobody in the house has any ideas about dinner plans.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, July 26, 2017. Where Have I Been Since My Last Visit to Bistro Daisy?Tony and Diane Schulte, the owners of Bistro Daisy, were guests on the radio show a few days ago. Which made me wonder why it’s been so long since last I fined there. I think chef Anton’s cooking is not just original and first-class in terms of both ingredients and techniques, but it’s also a bargain, with most entrees in the $20s. The Schultes have a long history of great dining, having run the kitchens first at Peristyle and the La Petite Grocery later.

I vacillate between the mussels and the bouillabaisse, and wind up with the first as an appetizer, and the restaurants mushroom-dusted chicken. The latter has been a specialty since the Schultes opened up this shop. Interesting idea: grind up dried exotic mushroom and use them to coat an airline breast of chicken. Then it’s cooked with a bit of fat coming from somewhere. It’s a signature dish, and among its fans are many Bistro Daisy regulars from since the place opened. I am one of those, and so there before me at entree time is the chicken.

Desserts involved a cinnamon ice cream in something, and I ask to be served just that as a finale. I have one glass of wine with all this, which I bring up in case the remainder of today’s activities cast suspicion.

Bistro Daisy. Uptown 3: Napoleon To Audubon: 5831 Magazine. 504-899-6987.

Why I walk around the house without turning at least one good-size light glowing, with the bedroom floor strewn with at least two people’s clothing, and perhaps a big dog or two athwart my would-be path is. . .well, not very smart. I zig to avoid one item, then zag on another, and find myself anti-cantilevering down to the floor. Tonight’s episode in this series allows me to catch the corner of the bed, but only after my face hits to corner of the wall and my glasses flies across the room. This invokes a problem that should be much more common than it is: if you can’t see where your glasses went, it’s nearly impossible to find them.

All this happens in two or three seconds. It takes longer to find the glasses. I find a flashlight (I always know where that is) and manage after fifteen minutes to see the glasses way back in the corner of the room. How did they get so far? But at least now I can look into the mirror and see that I have a small scrape above my right eyebrow. Doesn’t look too bad. But I am still rattled.

Thursday, July 27, 2017. Eat Club @ Lakehouse.
Even though we have the usual number of Eat Club diners when we hold a dinner on the North Shore–which is to say about 30 percent no-shows– the regulars in that number swelled the attendance, and it turned into a good party. For me, anyway. More than the usual number of women attendees found me and gave me kisses and hugs. I continue to notice that I am getting more such attention in recent months than I remember from ther past.

It certainly was a fine dinner. We begin with big, sliced sea scallops with fresh green peas, pickled tomatoes, and whatever “soft fresh herbs” are. Then came an interesting variation on arancini. This is an Italian idea, in which rice is held together by red sauce into a ball, with a sorta-semi red sauce on the plate. Chef Marlon stuffed these with some crawfish tails, and the final result this was the dish of the night,I thought.

The big player in this menu was a strip sirloin from the Painted Hills Ranch, whatever that brings to the table. What few bites I got fulfilled the need for red meat in a menu like this. But that’s as far as it went. The a la carte version of this dish at Lakehouse is much better.

What everybody was losing his or (more likely) her mind was the final course, described as dark chocolate pâté. This is loaded with dense chocolate and richness, with blueberry compote to boot. The Eat Clubbers remained in the restaurant longer than usual, but that always happens. Something about looking out into the lake.

Lakehouse. Mandeville: 2025 Lakeshore Dr. 985-626-3006.
SummerDiningSpecialsWe used to celebrate summertime at Dick and Jenny’s because it was the only time of year when you wouldn’t have to wait a long time for a table. Now that they take reservations, life is a lot easier. And we’re free to note that Dick & Jenny’s is ready to go with its annual Coolinary menu. Two choices in three courses, starting this week.

Corn-Fried Oysters
House remoulade, southern coleslaw
~or~

Duck Strips
Almond crusted duck tenderloins, sweet chili sauce
~~~~~

Praline Chicken
Airline chicken breast stuffed with triple cream brie, pecan risotto, savory
~or~

Fried Green Tomato Burger
Half-pound of Angus beef, bacon, cheddar, Creole aioli, mixed greens
~~~~~

Peach Crumble
Louisiana peaches, crumbles, with vanilla bean ice cream

The price for these summer sessions on Tchoupitoulas Street is $35 for the three-course repast of starter, entree, and dessert. You have two options for the appetizer and the entree. The special Coolinary menu is not available on Tuesdays (when D&J is always closed). It’s uncertain whether the menu is open today, even though the restaurant itself definitely is.

Dick & Jenny’s

Uptown: 4501 Tchoupitoulas. 504-894-9880. www.dickandjennys.com.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Chicken-Andouille Gumbo

This is my favorite style of gumbo. I’ve enjoyed it literally all my life: this is basically my mother’s recipe, a regular part of her weekly cooking regimen. It’s made in the old style, which is to say that the broth is not as thick as has come to be the vogue in most restaurants these days. We called it filé gumbo, because Mama put file (powdered sassafras leaves) only in chicken gumbo, and okra only in seafood gumbo. The filé goes in at the table, and then only a pinch for aroma.

Our family added an uncommon (but not unheard of) touch to this. We always ate this with a baked sweet potato on the side. We’d scoop out have a spoonful of sweet potato, and fill the rest of the spoon up with gumbo. It makes me hungry even to think about that.

This is one of those soups that gets better after it sits in the refrigerator for a day. You might consider doing that, which will also reduce the amount of time needed on the stove by about a third.

  • 1 6-lb. hen
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 sprigs chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 quarts chicken stock (or water)
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. Tabasco
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 lb. andouille or smoked sausage
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2-3 cups cooked rice
  • Filé powder

1. Cut the chicken into pieces a bit smaller than for frying. Sear them in 2 Tbs. of the oil in a large kettle or Dutch oven over fairly high heat. Keep turning the chicken pieces until they brown on the outside; they should not cook through.

2. Remove the chicken and reserve. Add the flour and the rest of the oil to the pot and make as dark a roux as you can. The critical instruction about making a roux is to avoid burning it. This is accomplished by constant stirring and watching the heat.

3. When the roux is medium-dark, turn down the heat and add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and parsley. Sauté them in the roux until the onions are clear and have begun to brown a little.

4. Return the chicken pieces to the pot, along with the chicken stock or water, salt, pepper, Tabasco, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook for about an hour.

5. Slice the andouille into one-inch-thick discs. Wrap them in paper towels and microwave them on medium power for about three minutes, to remove excess fat. Add the sausage to the gumbo pot.

6. Simmer the gumbo for at least another hour, up to two hours. Stir every now and then. If you plan to serve it the next day, just cook it thirty minutes, let it cool to warm, cover, and refrigerate. You might want to strip the chicken meat (see next step) while waiting for the gumbo to cool.

7. When you’re ready to serve, remove the chicken and strip the meat off if you haven’t already. Slice the chicken into bite-size pieces and return it to the pot. (You can also just leave the pieces as is if you’re among family.) If you made it in advance, bring it up to a simmer for about a half-hour. Add the green onions, and simmer for another three or four minutes.

8. Serve over cooked long-grain rice with a pinch or two of filé at the table.

Serves six to ten.

AlmanacSquare August 3, 2015

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest
2

Coolinary Summer Specials End 27

Food Calendar

It’s National Watermelon Day. The National Watermelon Promotion Board seems to know nothing about this. However, they do have a wealth of information and recipes here.

WatermelonMy old traffic reporter Don Wilbanks once gave me some slices of golden watermelon, which I’d never tasted. The color of a cantaloupe, it’s not as sweet as red watermelon, but good. Watermelon is my daughter’s favorite flavor of hard candy. However, watermelon has only occasionally showed up in gourmet settings. I suppose this is because the fruit conjures up images of sitting outside in the grass and eating huge hunks of it, not caring how messy you get in the process. You can’t eat just a little bit of watermelon.

As much as we consider watermelon a major local eating presence, it’s not from around here. The vine originated in Africa, almost certainly in the Nile Valley. It spread all over the world from there. The Chinese have been growing and eating it for at least a millennium. One last fact about this refreshing fruit: the rind is as nutritious as the sweet flesh in the center.

Gourmet Gazetteer

The small rural crossroads called Oats is seventy miles northeast of Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. Oats is on Boggy Gully, a half-mile downstream from a dam that forms Harold’s Millpond. The sluggish, swampy waterway leads through others like it to the Pee Dee River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The town name is also spelled Oates, in honor of Bill Oates, who bought land here in 1824 and began a plantation. By the 1880s, the town had grown large enough to have a school. About 150 people live there now, and farming is still dominant. That’s not enough to support a cafe in the town, but you can eat at Mr. B’s (no connection with the one on New Orleans), two miles away in Hartsville.

Edible Dictionary

A sauce or dressing served at room temperature, usually over salads and cool, crisp vegetables. It’s an emulsion of oil in vinegar and water, often with other flavoring elements added. Mustard is almost universal in vinaigrettes. Herbs, onions, garlic, and ground pepper are common. Cheeses find their ways into some vinaigrettes. Other sources of variety come from the kind of vinegar used, with balsamic vinegar currently enjoying a vinaigrette vogue. A fading usage of the word refers to a cold dish–fish, poultry, meat, or vegetables–marinated in a vinaigrette or other tart, light sauce.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

You can tell whether a melon was picked at the right ripeness by fingering the spot where the stem was. If it’s jagged, it was picked before it should have been, and will never get really ripe.

Annals Of Elegant Dining

Martha Stewart was born today in 1941. A great deal of her advice involves creative ways to serve food and lots of recipes, although whenever I read such articles in her magazine I get the idea that everything is conceived more for effect on the brain and eye than on the palate. Still, her ideas have certainly changed the way food is served in American households with ambitions to elegance.

Annals Of Bad Food

This is the day in 1975 when the Superdome was dedicated. It has since been part of many unforgettable moments in New Orleans history. But nobody in the Superdome’s management ever seems to say, “Why don’t we offer something really good to eat in here?” I once heard one of the former operators of the Dome’s food services claim that for Saints games, they have to start frying the chicken fingers at the midnight before. Boy, I’ll bet those are good.

Some good food infiltrates anyway, as during the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience’s Grand Tastings in May. Maybe it will inspire something permanent. Like, how hard could it be to find a vendor who will serve a great poor boy? Or great pizza? Or a great hot dog? If Zephyr Stadium can do it, why not the Dome?

Restaurant-Enhancing Inventions

ElevatorElisha Graves Otis, who invented an automatic braking system that made elevators safe and therefore useful, was born today in 1811. Unlike in other places, Otis’s invention had little effect on the New Orleans dining scene, which continues to find people reluctant to dine anywhere but on the ground floor.

Long Reaches For Almanac Entries

Today is the birthday, in 1801, of Sir Joseph Paxton, the English landscape designer and architect who created the Crystal Palace in the London Exhibition in 1851. He announced once that he’d like to build a community on the American prairie. The citizens of Prairie City, Illinois thought that if they renamed their town Paxton, the architect would build his town there. So they did. But he never set foot in the place. I did, however–twice. On a trip to Chicago in 1972, we stopped for a terrific catfish dinner there in a 1940s-style downtown diner called Carman’s Arcade Cafe. I returned in the mid-1980s and found Carman’s was still there, but the catfish wasn’t as memorable. And now you have too much information.

Music To Eat Rice-A-Roni By

Today is the birthday, in 1926, of Tony Bennett. Only Frank Sinatra is heard more often in Italian restaurants. Sinatra himself said the he thought Tony Bennett was the best interpreter of the American popular song. Although he’s recorded better songs, his most famous hit–I Left My Heart In San Francisco–sends a chill of longing to be in that city there down my spine. I think I’ll listen to it now.

Food Namesakes

Hamilton Fish, Secretary of State in the Grant administration, was born on this date in 1808. Did he come from Roe? No, but . . Reginald Heber Roe, early proponent of education and tennis in Australia, served himself up today in 1850. . . Boxer and martial arts fighter Eric “Butterbean” Esch started putting on weight today in 1966. He weighs almost 400 pounds.

Words To Eat By

“Some people kiss as if they were eating watermelon.”–Saadat Hasan Manto, Pakistani writer of short stories.

“If I can’t have too many truffles I’ll do without.”–Colette, French writer on living well. She died today in 1954.

Words To Drink By

“To Gasteria, the tenth muse, who presides over the enjoyments of taste.”–A toast by Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a French chef and cooking authority of the 1800s.

FoodFunniesSquare

What A First-Class Dinner Can Result In.

Brief happiness bracketed by some excellent wines and beautiful clothing. No place for casual style here!

Click here for the cartoon.

SUBSCRIBER NOTE
Yesterday you didn’t receive an e-mail edition of the NewOrleans Menu Daily. Nor did the top articled make it into print. Reason: I had an eye examination, complete with dilated pupils, that made it almost impossible for me to read a computer screen. We’re catching up on everything that should have appeared yesterday. I am flattered by the number of people concerned as to what happened. Please accept my apology.

SummerDiningSpecialsWe used to celebrate summertime at Dick and Jenny’s because it was the only time of year when you wouldn’t have to wait a long time for a table. Now that they take reservations, life is a lot easier. And we’re free to note that Dick & Jenny’s is ready to go with its annual Coolinary menu. Two choices in three courses, starting this week.

Corn-Fried Oysters
House remoulade, southern coleslaw
~or~

Duck Strips
Almond crusted duck tenderloins, sweet chili sauce
~~~~~

Praline Chicken
Airline chicken breast stuffed with triple cream brie, pecan risotto, savory
~or~

Fried Green Tomato Burger
Half-pound of Angus beef, bacon, cheddar, Creole aioli, mixed greens
~~~~~

Peach Crumble
Louisiana peaches, crumbles, with vanilla bean ice cream

The price for these summer sessions on Tchoupitoulas Street is $35 for the three-course repast of starter, entree, and dessert. You have two options for the appetizer and the entree. The special Coolinary menu is not available on Tuesdays (when D&J is always closed). It’s uncertain whether the menu is open today, even though the restaurant itself definitely is.

Dick & Jenny’s

Uptown: 4501 Tchoupitoulas. 504-894-9880. www.dickandjennys.com.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Chicken-Andouille Gumbo

This is my favorite style of gumbo. I’ve enjoyed it literally all my life: this is basically my mother’s recipe, a regular part of her weekly cooking regimen. It’s made in the old style, which is to say that the broth is not as thick as has come to be the vogue in most restaurants these days. We called it filé gumbo, because Mama put file (powdered sassafras leaves) only in chicken gumbo, and okra only in seafood gumbo. The filé goes in at the table, and then only a pinch for aroma.

Our family added an uncommon (but not unheard of) touch to this. We always ate this with a baked sweet potato on the side. We’d scoop out have a spoonful of sweet potato, and fill the rest of the spoon up with gumbo. It makes me hungry even to think about that.

This is one of those soups that gets better after it sits in the refrigerator for a day. You might consider doing that, which will also reduce the amount of time needed on the stove by about a third.

  • 1 6-lb. hen
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 sprigs chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 quarts chicken stock (or water)
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. Tabasco
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 lb. andouille or smoked sausage
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2-3 cups cooked rice
  • Filé powder

1. Cut the chicken into pieces a bit smaller than for frying. Sear them in 2 Tbs. of the oil in a large kettle or Dutch oven over fairly high heat. Keep turning the chicken pieces until they brown on the outside; they should not cook through.

2. Remove the chicken and reserve. Add the flour and the rest of the oil to the pot and make as dark a roux as you can. The critical instruction about making a roux is to avoid burning it. This is accomplished by constant stirring and watching the heat.

3. When the roux is medium-dark, turn down the heat and add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and parsley. Sauté them in the roux until the onions are clear and have begun to brown a little.

4. Return the chicken pieces to the pot, along with the chicken stock or water, salt, pepper, Tabasco, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook for about an hour.

5. Slice the andouille into one-inch-thick discs. Wrap them in paper towels and microwave them on medium power for about three minutes, to remove excess fat. Add the sausage to the gumbo pot.

6. Simmer the gumbo for at least another hour, up to two hours. Stir every now and then. If you plan to serve it the next day, just cook it thirty minutes, let it cool to warm, cover, and refrigerate. You might want to strip the chicken meat (see next step) while waiting for the gumbo to cool.

7. When you’re ready to serve, remove the chicken and strip the meat off if you haven’t already. Slice the chicken into bite-size pieces and return it to the pot. (You can also just leave the pieces as is if you’re among family.) If you made it in advance, bring it up to a simmer for about a half-hour. Add the green onions, and simmer for another three or four minutes.

8. Serve over cooked long-grain rice with a pinch or two of filé at the table.

Serves six to ten.

AlmanacSquare August 3, 2015

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest
2

Coolinary Summer Specials End 27

Food Calendar

It’s National Watermelon Day. The National Watermelon Promotion Board seems to know nothing about this. However, they do have a wealth of information and recipes here.

WatermelonMy old traffic reporter Don Wilbanks once gave me some slices of golden watermelon, which I’d never tasted. The color of a cantaloupe, it’s not as sweet as red watermelon, but good. Watermelon is my daughter’s favorite flavor of hard candy. However, watermelon has only occasionally showed up in gourmet settings. I suppose this is because the fruit conjures up images of sitting outside in the grass and eating huge hunks of it, not caring how messy you get in the process. You can’t eat just a little bit of watermelon.

As much as we consider watermelon a major local eating presence, it’s not from around here. The vine originated in Africa, almost certainly in the Nile Valley. It spread all over the world from there. The Chinese have been growing and eating it for at least a millennium. One last fact about this refreshing fruit: the rind is as nutritious as the sweet flesh in the center.

Gourmet Gazetteer

The small rural crossroads called Oats is seventy miles northeast of Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. Oats is on Boggy Gully, a half-mile downstream from a dam that forms Harold’s Millpond. The sluggish, swampy waterway leads through others like it to the Pee Dee River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The town name is also spelled Oates, in honor of Bill Oates, who bought land here in 1824 and began a plantation. By the 1880s, the town had grown large enough to have a school. About 150 people live there now, and farming is still dominant. That’s not enough to support a cafe in the town, but you can eat at Mr. B’s (no connection with the one on New Orleans), two miles away in Hartsville.

Edible Dictionary

A sauce or dressing served at room temperature, usually over salads and cool, crisp vegetables. It’s an emulsion of oil in vinegar and water, often with other flavoring elements added. Mustard is almost universal in vinaigrettes. Herbs, onions, garlic, and ground pepper are common. Cheeses find their ways into some vinaigrettes. Other sources of variety come from the kind of vinegar used, with balsamic vinegar currently enjoying a vinaigrette vogue. A fading usage of the word refers to a cold dish–fish, poultry, meat, or vegetables–marinated in a vinaigrette or other tart, light sauce.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

You can tell whether a melon was picked at the right ripeness by fingering the spot where the stem was. If it’s jagged, it was picked before it should have been, and will never get really ripe.

Annals Of Elegant Dining

Martha Stewart was born today in 1941. A great deal of her advice involves creative ways to serve food and lots of recipes, although whenever I read such articles in her magazine I get the idea that everything is conceived more for effect on the brain and eye than on the palate. Still, her ideas have certainly changed the way food is served in American households with ambitions to elegance.

Annals Of Bad Food

This is the day in 1975 when the Superdome was dedicated. It has since been part of many unforgettable moments in New Orleans history. But nobody in the Superdome’s management ever seems to say, “Why don’t we offer something really good to eat in here?” I once heard one of the former operators of the Dome’s food services claim that for Saints games, they have to start frying the chicken fingers at the midnight before. Boy, I’ll bet those are good.

Some good food infiltrates anyway, as during the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience’s Grand Tastings in May. Maybe it will inspire something permanent. Like, how hard could it be to find a vendor who will serve a great poor boy? Or great pizza? Or a great hot dog? If Zephyr Stadium can do it, why not the Dome?

Restaurant-Enhancing Inventions

ElevatorElisha Graves Otis, who invented an automatic braking system that made elevators safe and therefore useful, was born today in 1811. Unlike in other places, Otis’s invention had little effect on the New Orleans dining scene, which continues to find people reluctant to dine anywhere but on the ground floor.

Long Reaches For Almanac Entries

Today is the birthday, in 1801, of Sir Joseph Paxton, the English landscape designer and architect who created the Crystal Palace in the London Exhibition in 1851. He announced once that he’d like to build a community on the American prairie. The citizens of Prairie City, Illinois thought that if they renamed their town Paxton, the architect would build his town there. So they did. But he never set foot in the place. I did, however–twice. On a trip to Chicago in 1972, we stopped for a terrific catfish dinner there in a 1940s-style downtown diner called Carman’s Arcade Cafe. I returned in the mid-1980s and found Carman’s was still there, but the catfish wasn’t as memorable. And now you have too much information.

Music To Eat Rice-A-Roni By

Today is the birthday, in 1926, of Tony Bennett. Only Frank Sinatra is heard more often in Italian restaurants. Sinatra himself said the he thought Tony Bennett was the best interpreter of the American popular song. Although he’s recorded better songs, his most famous hit–I Left My Heart In San Francisco–sends a chill of longing to be in that city there down my spine. I think I’ll listen to it now.

Food Namesakes

Hamilton Fish, Secretary of State in the Grant administration, was born on this date in 1808. Did he come from Roe? No, but . . Reginald Heber Roe, early proponent of education and tennis in Australia, served himself up today in 1850. . . Boxer and martial arts fighter Eric “Butterbean” Esch started putting on weight today in 1966. He weighs almost 400 pounds.

Words To Eat By

“Some people kiss as if they were eating watermelon.”–Saadat Hasan Manto, Pakistani writer of short stories.

“If I can’t have too many truffles I’ll do without.”–Colette, French writer on living well. She died today in 1954.

Words To Drink By

“To Gasteria, the tenth muse, who presides over the enjoyments of taste.”–A toast by Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a French chef and cooking authority of the 1800s.

FoodFunniesSquare

What A First-Class Dinner Can Result In.

Brief happiness bracketed by some excellent wines and beautiful clothing. No place for casual style here!

Click here for the cartoon.

SummerDiningSpecialsWe used to celebrate summertime at Dick and Jenny’s because it was the only time of year when you wouldn’t have to wait a long time for a table. Now that they take reservations, life is a lot easier. And we’re free to note that Dick & Jenny’s is ready to go with its annual Coolinary menu. Two choices in three courses, starting this week.

Corn-Fried Oysters
House remoulade, southern coleslaw
~or~

Duck Strips
Almond crusted duck tenderloins, sweet chili sauce
~~~~~

Praline Chicken
Airline chicken breast stuffed with triple cream brie, pecan risotto, savory
~or~

Fried Green Tomato Burger
Half-pound of Angus beef, bacon, cheddar, Creole aioli, mixed greens
~~~~~

Peach Crumble
Louisiana peaches, crumbles, with vanilla bean ice cream

The price for these summer sessions on Tchoupitoulas Street is $35 for the three-course repast of starter, entree, and dessert. You have two options for the appetizer and the entree. The special Coolinary menu is not available on Tuesdays (when D&J is always closed). It’s uncertain whether the menu is open today, even though the restaurant itself definitely is.

Dick & Jenny’s

Uptown: 4501 Tchoupitoulas. 504-894-9880. www.dickandjennys.com.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Chicken-Andouille Gumbo

This is my favorite style of gumbo. I’ve enjoyed it literally all my life: this is basically my mother’s recipe, a regular part of her weekly cooking regimen. It’s made in the old style, which is to say that the broth is not as thick as has come to be the vogue in most restaurants these days. We called it filé gumbo, because Mama put file (powdered sassafras leaves) only in chicken gumbo, and okra only in seafood gumbo. The filé goes in at the table, and then only a pinch for aroma.

Our family added an uncommon (but not unheard of) touch to this. We always ate this with a baked sweet potato on the side. We’d scoop out have a spoonful of sweet potato, and fill the rest of the spoon up with gumbo. It makes me hungry even to think about that.

This is one of those soups that gets better after it sits in the refrigerator for a day. You might consider doing that, which will also reduce the amount of time needed on the stove by about a third.

  • 1 6-lb. hen
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 sprigs chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 quarts chicken stock (or water)
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. Tabasco
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 lb. andouille or smoked sausage
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2-3 cups cooked rice
  • Filé powder

1. Cut the chicken into pieces a bit smaller than for frying. Sear them in 2 Tbs. of the oil in a large kettle or Dutch oven over fairly high heat. Keep turning the chicken pieces until they brown on the outside; they should not cook through.

2. Remove the chicken and reserve. Add the flour and the rest of the oil to the pot and make as dark a roux as you can. The critical instruction about making a roux is to avoid burning it. This is accomplished by constant stirring and watching the heat.

3. When the roux is medium-dark, turn down the heat and add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and parsley. Sauté them in the roux until the onions are clear and have begun to brown a little.

4. Return the chicken pieces to the pot, along with the chicken stock or water, salt, pepper, Tabasco, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook for about an hour.

5. Slice the andouille into one-inch-thick discs. Wrap them in paper towels and microwave them on medium power for about three minutes, to remove excess fat. Add the sausage to the gumbo pot.

6. Simmer the gumbo for at least another hour, up to two hours. Stir every now and then. If you plan to serve it the next day, just cook it thirty minutes, let it cool to warm, cover, and refrigerate. You might want to strip the chicken meat (see next step) while waiting for the gumbo to cool.

7. When you’re ready to serve, remove the chicken and strip the meat off if you haven’t already. Slice the chicken into bite-size pieces and return it to the pot. (You can also just leave the pieces as is if you’re among family.) If you made it in advance, bring it up to a simmer for about a half-hour. Add the green onions, and simmer for another three or four minutes.

8. Serve over cooked long-grain rice with a pinch or two of filé at the table.

Serves six to ten.

AlmanacSquare August 3, 2015

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest
2

Coolinary Summer Specials End 27

Food Calendar

It’s National Watermelon Day. The National Watermelon Promotion Board seems to know nothing about this. However, they do have a wealth of information and recipes here.

WatermelonMy old traffic reporter Don Wilbanks once gave me some slices of golden watermelon, which I’d never tasted. The color of a cantaloupe, it’s not as sweet as red watermelon, but good. Watermelon is my daughter’s favorite flavor of hard candy. However, watermelon has only occasionally showed up in gourmet settings. I suppose this is because the fruit conjures up images of sitting outside in the grass and eating huge hunks of it, not caring how messy you get in the process. You can’t eat just a little bit of watermelon.

As much as we consider watermelon a major local eating presence, it’s not from around here. The vine originated in Africa, almost certainly in the Nile Valley. It spread all over the world from there. The Chinese have been growing and eating it for at least a millennium. One last fact about this refreshing fruit: the rind is as nutritious as the sweet flesh in the center.

Gourmet Gazetteer

The small rural crossroads called Oats is seventy miles northeast of Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. Oats is on Boggy Gully, a half-mile downstream from a dam that forms Harold’s Millpond. The sluggish, swampy waterway leads through others like it to the Pee Dee River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The town name is also spelled Oates, in honor of Bill Oates, who bought land here in 1824 and began a plantation. By the 1880s, the town had grown large enough to have a school. About 150 people live there now, and farming is still dominant. That’s not enough to support a cafe in the town, but you can eat at Mr. B’s (no connection with the one on New Orleans), two miles away in Hartsville.

Edible Dictionary

A sauce or dressing served at room temperature, usually over salads and cool, crisp vegetables. It’s an emulsion of oil in vinegar and water, often with other flavoring elements added. Mustard is almost universal in vinaigrettes. Herbs, onions, garlic, and ground pepper are common. Cheeses find their ways into some vinaigrettes. Other sources of variety come from the kind of vinegar used, with balsamic vinegar currently enjoying a vinaigrette vogue. A fading usage of the word refers to a cold dish–fish, poultry, meat, or vegetables–marinated in a vinaigrette or other tart, light sauce.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

You can tell whether a melon was picked at the right ripeness by fingering the spot where the stem was. If it’s jagged, it was picked before it should have been, and will never get really ripe.

Annals Of Elegant Dining

Martha Stewart was born today in 1941. A great deal of her advice involves creative ways to serve food and lots of recipes, although whenever I read such articles in her magazine I get the idea that everything is conceived more for effect on the brain and eye than on the palate. Still, her ideas have certainly changed the way food is served in American households with ambitions to elegance.

Annals Of Bad Food

This is the day in 1975 when the Superdome was dedicated. It has since been part of many unforgettable moments in New Orleans history. But nobody in the Superdome’s management ever seems to say, “Why don’t we offer something really good to eat in here?” I once heard one of the former operators of the Dome’s food services claim that for Saints games, they have to start frying the chicken fingers at the midnight before. Boy, I’ll bet those are good.

Some good food infiltrates anyway, as during the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience’s Grand Tastings in May. Maybe it will inspire something permanent. Like, how hard could it be to find a vendor who will serve a great poor boy? Or great pizza? Or a great hot dog? If Zephyr Stadium can do it, why not the Dome?

Restaurant-Enhancing Inventions

ElevatorElisha Graves Otis, who invented an automatic braking system that made elevators safe and therefore useful, was born today in 1811. Unlike in other places, Otis’s invention had little effect on the New Orleans dining scene, which continues to find people reluctant to dine anywhere but on the ground floor.

Long Reaches For Almanac Entries

Today is the birthday, in 1801, of Sir Joseph Paxton, the English landscape designer and architect who created the Crystal Palace in the London Exhibition in 1851. He announced once that he’d like to build a community on the American prairie. The citizens of Prairie City, Illinois thought that if they renamed their town Paxton, the architect would build his town there. So they did. But he never set foot in the place. I did, however–twice. On a trip to Chicago in 1972, we stopped for a terrific catfish dinner there in a 1940s-style downtown diner called Carman’s Arcade Cafe. I returned in the mid-1980s and found Carman’s was still there, but the catfish wasn’t as memorable. And now you have too much information.

Music To Eat Rice-A-Roni By

Today is the birthday, in 1926, of Tony Bennett. Only Frank Sinatra is heard more often in Italian restaurants. Sinatra himself said the he thought Tony Bennett was the best interpreter of the American popular song. Although he’s recorded better songs, his most famous hit–I Left My Heart In San Francisco–sends a chill of longing to be in that city there down my spine. I think I’ll listen to it now.

Food Namesakes

Hamilton Fish, Secretary of State in the Grant administration, was born on this date in 1808. Did he come from Roe? No, but . . Reginald Heber Roe, early proponent of education and tennis in Australia, served himself up today in 1850. . . Boxer and martial arts fighter Eric “Butterbean” Esch started putting on weight today in 1966. He weighs almost 400 pounds.

Words To Eat By

“Some people kiss as if they were eating watermelon.”–Saadat Hasan Manto, Pakistani writer of short stories.

“If I can’t have too many truffles I’ll do without.”–Colette, French writer on living well. She died today in 1954.

Words To Drink By

“To Gasteria, the tenth muse, who presides over the enjoyments of taste.”–A toast by Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a French chef and cooking authority of the 1800s.

FoodFunniesSquare

What A First-Class Dinner Can Result In.

Brief happiness bracketed by some excellent wines and beautiful clothing. No place for casual style here!

Click here for the cartoon.

SUBSCRIBER NOTE
Yesterday you didn’t receive an e-mail edition of the NewOrleans Menu Daily. Nor did the top articled make it into print. Reason: I had an eye examination, complete with dilated pupils, that made it almost impossible for me to read a computer screen. We’re catching up on everything that should have appeared yesterday. I am flattered by the number of people concerned as to what happened. Please accept my apology.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Tuesday, July 25,2017. Crossing The Pond.

The Marys are in Atlanta for a long time, but they ultimately get what they want: flights to London on their low-price passes. In first class, yet. Mary Ann brushes all obstacles aside, again.

My little sister Lynn calls, and recalls that I mentioned Maypop to her, and suggested that we could have dinner there. I need one more dinner there to have the kind of facts that I will build into a review. Lynn is a fan of Asian food, and a semi-vegetarian. Both of those characteristics are inherent in Maypop’s concept.

Lynn is highly literate and notices things that would be lost on me. She didn’t have to ask what a maypop is, for example. It’s a much-loved wildflower in the southern U.S. Lynn was charmed especially by a painting of maypop in the dining room.

Hard fruit salad at Maypop.

We order several courses of dishes ranging from salads to charcuterie and fish to oysters and pasta. We agree on two matters. First, here is an assortment of food whose flavors are heading off in in many directions, all intriguing. Not much thought has gone into plate aesthetics–quite a lot of the menu seems to be thrown onto the plate. Or maybe they did think about it, and here’s what they came up with.

Lamb belly at Maypop.

The chef and owner–who does not give himself much billing in the restaurant–is Michael Gulotta, a man who has a track record of trying new ideas, resulting in some unique enjoyment for his customers. Lynn and I sample six dishes, almost all of which new to us. Oysters, speckled trout, shrimp (and in one occasion, ruby-red shrimp) and soft shell crab tell us that we might be in New Orleans. A charred oyster dish with squid ink pasta says the opposite.


The best dish of the evening is roasted lamb belly, whose strata of fat and lean are about equal in depth. The fatty part fires up the other flavors. That takes care of about a third of the menu, and this is my fourth meat at Maypop. Only one datum is steady across these experiences: no two courses here will remind a diner of the last time he was here.

I now am ready to write the review for publication next week.

As I was digging around for facts about Maypop, I discover that Altamura–where I’ve spent about $400 researching the review that will pay back around the same amount of money. Restaurant critics aren’t wealthy. They just act that way.

Maypop. CBD: 611 O’Keefe Ave. 504-518-6345.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Pan-Sauteed Catfish With Cajun Crawfish Butter

Most good catfish dishes start by frying the catfish, and this one is no exception. But when good crawfish are in the market, it’s fun to add a sauce to the dish. I like this because it breaks away from the usual tartar sauce. Serve the crawfish sauce around the fish, not over it, to keep the fish crispy.

Note: this seems like a very complicated recipe, but that’s just because of the number of ingredients, most of which you already have in your pantry. Read through the procedure all the way first, and you’ll see everything fall together.

  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil for frying
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 Tbs. chopped garlic
  • 1 small tomato, pulp and seeds removed, diced
  • 1 link andouille or smoked sausage, sliced about 1/8 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 8 oz. fresh Louisiana crawfish tails
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • 1 tsp. salt-free Creole seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 8 four-ounce catfish fillets
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne

1. Make the sauce first. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium high heat until it shimmers. Add green onions, mushrooms, garlic, tomatoes, and andouille, and cook for about two minutes.

2. Add the wine and lemon juice and bring it to a boil. Then add the crawfish. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half.

3. Lower the heat to almost nothing and add the butter in big chips, a little at a time. Work the butter into the sauce by agitating the pan. Remove from heat and season to taste with Creole seasoning and salt. Remove the pan from the heat and cover.

4. Stir the salt, pepper, and cayenne into the flour. Dust the catfish fillets very lightly with the seasoned flour.

5. Mix the cornmeal with the salt, pepper, and cayenne. Beat the eggs and mix with the milk. Dip the catfish fillets into the egg wash, shake off excess, then dredge through the seasoned cornmeal.

6. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet until it shimmers. Saute the catfish until lightly brown on both sides, turning only once. (About two minutes per side). Drain on paper towels for no more than fifteen seconds.

7. Place two fillets on each plate, with the sauce between them. Warm the sauce a little if necessary.

Serves four.

AlmanacSquare August 1, 2017

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest 4
Coolinary Summer Specials End 31 day from today

(though some places will keep the Coolinary going a week or two more.

Today’s Flavor

August is National Catfish Month. Catfish is like nothing else in the seafood world. If you have a recipe or a hankering for catfish, and there is no catfish, you just have to put your plans on hold until you do.

Although members of the catfish family are found throughout most of the world, the South has the two or three best varieties. We also have the country’s largest catfish farming area–around Yazoo City in northern Mississippi. That puts a great deal of farm-raised catfish into our markets and restaurants.

A bit too much, I’d say. Farm-raised catfish never reaches the excellence that the best wild catfish boasts. The best catfish is smaller than what the farms like to raise, and has a cleaner flavor.

In my opinion, no method of cooking catfish beats simply coating it with seasoned cornmeal and frying it. The only improvements come from marinating the fish briefly in the likes of mustard, hot sauce, Worcestershire, or lemon. If you find yourself with large catfish fillets, slice them with a very sharp knife on the bias into smaller, thinner pieces for a cleaner, better flavor.

Fried catfish requires no sauce, either; you can eat it like popcorn. That’s impossible if the fish is too thick, or coated in too coarse a meal. The best coating is a mixture of corn meal and corn flour with salt and Creole seasoning. Then all you need is a pan of oil at 375 degrees, some paper towels, and you’re a minute away from enjoying some of the world’s finest seafood eating.

Food Around The World

This is the anniversary of the Swiss Confederation in 1291–the beginning of Switzerland as we know it. This is the country’s national day. What should we do? Eat Swiss cheese? If so, make sure it’s really Swiss cheese. Drink Swiss wine? If you can find it. What wines is made in Switzerland is mostly drunk in Switzerland. Be peaceful and neutral? That’s Switzerland, all right.

Food In Show Biz

This was the birthday, in 1941, of Jerry Garcia, a legendary figure in rock music and most recognizable member of the Grateful Dead. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor Cherry Garcia is an homage to his memory. . . Speaking of portly guys with beards, today is Don DeLuise was born today in 1933. He passed in 2009, finally settling the comic question as to whether he and lookalike Chef Paul Prudhomme were the same person. They are not.

Hooch Through History

The Whiskey Rebellion began today in 1791. The good old boys in the Appalachians–then the frontier of the United States–objected to having to pay nine cents a gallon tax on their hooch. They attacked and harassed tax collectors until George Washington, leading a militia of 13,000 soldiers personally, put the revolt down. The highly unpopular tax–instituted by Alexander Hamilton to pay off debts from the Revolutionary War–only lasted another decade. It was the first taxpayer revolt in the new country, and the first threat to Federal power. The new nation passed the test.

Annals Of Motel Dining

The first Holiday Inn opened, outside Memphis, on this day in 1952. It turned the motel concept into a unique brand, advertising “the best surprise is no surprise.” Stevie Wonder once said he liked Holiday Inns because all their rooms were exactly the same. These days, the motel concept is moving towards extinction, and Holiday Inn and its like are heading ever upscale. All but the very cheap ones now more resemble classic hotels. They even have food, which most of them did not even as late as the 1980s. But don’t get your hopes up. Good food is still beyond the horizon.

Inventions In Eating

Shredded wheat was invented on this date in 1893. It took two guys to do it. But who really cares?. . . Joseph Priestley, who was indeed a minister, discovered oxygen today in 1774. Thank God.

Bad Moments In Dining

Today in 10 BC, the future fourth Roman Emperor, Claudius, was born. He was allegedly killed by poison mushrooms fed to him by his wife Agrippina, to allow Nero to assume the purple.

Annals Of Candy

The Mars Bar was introduced today in 1932, in Europe. It was nearly identical to what we call the Milky Way. The American Mars Bar, which came later, was different, with almonds instead of peanuts and a darker chocolate coating. As for me, when I think of Mars Bar I think of a seedy lounge I saw once in Chicago.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Sugartown is a Quaker country crossroads twenty-two miles west-northwest of Philadelphia. It has been a center of trading for farmers in the area since the late 1700s. Its heritage is preserved in Historic Sugartown, a development that tells the history of the town and the surrounding area and preserves local architecture. The place is misnamed for Eli Shugart, who ran a tavern in the middle 1800s. The place to eat is a mile south, the Clock Tower Cafe.

Edible Dictionary

coush-coush, n. Also spelled cush-cush.–A breakfast porridge made by combining cornbread made with coarse-ground cornmeal with milk, cream, or Creole cream cheese. Oddly, it seems to have descended through a very complicated path from the couscous of Northern Africa, although it has little in common with it. It was much enjoyed by Creoles and Cajuns born early in the 1900s, but is an endangered dish. It’s best known to most people from a Cajun cheer for the Louisiana State University football team (it rhymes when delivered with a Cajun accent):

Hot boudin and cold coush-coush
Come on Tigers, let’s push push push!

Deft Dining Rule #405

Of all things fried to a golden brown, that color brings the most pleasure when seen on fried catfish.

Food Namesakes

Mervyn Kitchen, a famous cricket player, was born today in 1940. . . Classical conductor Oskar Fried was born today in 1871. . . Helen Sawyer Hogg, a Canadian astronomer, was born today in 1901.

Words To Eat By

“Fish should smell like the tide. Once they smell like fish, it’s too late.”–Oscar Gizelt, long-time manager of Delmonico in New York.

Words To Drink By

“I love everything that ‘s old–old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine.”–Oliver Goldsmith, She Stoops to Conquer.

FoodFunniesSquare

One Of The Most Disappointing Moments In Childhood Eating.

It is an enhancement of your food, and yet it also qualifies as playing with your food. No child should be without this experience.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Sunday, July 23, 2017. I Don’t Know Where I Am.

Mary Ann makes it official: tomorrow she will fly to London with Mary Leigh, and the two of them will travel around the British Isles for about a week. It’s an all-girl trip, so I am out of the program, conveniently left behind to take care of the dogs, the bills, cutting of grass, and everything else.

MA is always very nice to me on the day or so before she heads out on one of her famous journeys. Today’s offering is my pick of place for Sunday brunch. We go to Impastato Cellars, which since Easter is open for Sunday brunch.

The place is very busy when we arrived, but we have a reservation. We go over the menu with Mr. Joe (he of Impastato’s in Metairie) and his daughter Mica. The menu is more or less what they serve at dinner. with a couple of egg dishes added to the list. I know that the kitchen will prepare almost anything a customer asks for, so I ask for poached eggs with hollandaise over angel hair pasta asciutta, with a bit of grilled Italian sausage. Everybody says that think this would make a great dish.

And then my phone began to make a tune. It’s the producer at the radio station, reminding me that I go on the air at 1 p.m. My face gets cold and pale. 1 p.m. was a half-hour ago. I can do the show from home, but Impastato’s is another half-hour away.

In the 29 years I have hosted The Food Show, I have been very late only twice in the past. The first was the announcement that D. H. Holmes would close the doors of its Canal Street department store. A mob headed downtown to get the expected bargains. WSMB, my station back then, was in the Maison Blanche Building, a block from Holmes. I was stuck in traffic for a bit over an hour, listening to my predecessor on the air playing all my jingles over and over.

The second time was on the Causeway, when the bridge was shut down for very dense fog and a tornado warning. Tommy Cvitanovich at Drago’s, where I dined later, famously said, “That’s great. Tornado coming, but because of the fog you can’t see it.”

And now this. I think I will be able to hold on to my show. But being an hour late will go down in my record. You just don’t do that in radio. Although it happens to everybody sooner or later. Arthur Godfrey went on at length about his time.

After the show, Mary Ann and I went out to lunch at La Carreta. She didn’t stay at Impastato Cellars. I wish she had, and brought home the leftovers. That brunch dish I made up was appetizing me. It would have been better than the three-way enchilada plate that I had instead.

Back home, I once again told MA how much cleaning of the house I will be able to do while she is gone. A dumpster full of stuff. Empty cosmetics boxes. Little scraps of fabric that will never be sewn. And then I realize that I am only daydreaming.

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

Monday, July 24, 2017. Off They Go, Back They Come.
The Marys leave for England so early in the morning that MA tells me to go back to sleep after one last kiss. The next I hear of them is about a dozen hours later, when the tell me that cancelled flights all over the country have rendered her standby tickets worthless for today. Indeed, it’s raining pretty hard in the New Orleans area, too.

I was hoping that the Marys would come to their senses regarding this formless, erratic journey. But I know better. When MA decides she wants to do something, she always does it, come hell or high water. Once again, she and ML leave in the dead of night. We do not have another meal together. I suggest to her that she keep a journal in the same style as this one. She does so, in great length. I’ll see how it does with the NOMenu audience. Is she getting ready to take over my job?

SummerDiningSpecialsWe used to celebrate summertime at Dick and Jenny’s because it was the only time of year when you wouldn’t have to wait a long time for a table. Now that they take reservations, life is a lot easier. And we’re free to note that Dick & Jenny’s is ready to go with its annual Coolinary menu. Two choices in three courses, starting this week.

Corn-Fried Oysters
House remoulade, southern coleslaw
~or~

Duck Strips
Almond crusted duck tenderloins, sweet chili sauce
~~~~~

Praline Chicken
Airline chicken breast stuffed with triple cream brie, pecan risotto, savory
~or~

Fried Green Tomato Burger
Half-pound of Angus beef, bacon, cheddar, Creole aioli, mixed greens
~~~~~

Peach Crumble
Louisiana peaches, crumbles, with vanilla bean ice cream

The price for these summer sessions on Tchoupitoulas Street is $35 for the three-course repast of starter, entree, and dessert. You have two options for the appetizer and the entree. The special Coolinary menu is not available on Tuesdays (when D&J is always closed). It’s uncertain whether the menu is open today, even though the restaurant itself definitely is.

Dick & Jenny’s

Uptown: 4501 Tchoupitoulas. 504-894-9880. www.dickandjennys.com.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Stewed Okra And Tomatoes

A man called me on the radio show recently with a request for a recipe he remembers as having been made by his grandmother. All he knew was that it was made with okra, had a vaguely pink color, and was delicious.

Okra stwe with tomatoes.

I was surprised that he had never tracked that one down. It’s an old-fashioned Creole dish that was popular as a side dish for a long time, but is now a rarity. I was also surprised that I had never written a recipe for it myself, even though I have cooked it a few times. For this old recipe went to annother old source: “Cooking With Entergy,” a great collection of the thousands of recipes New Orleans Public Service Inc. used to mail with its bills and brochures. This recipe is a little different from theirs. I knock back the salta bit.

Another interesting step I remember comes from my mother’s okra gumbo recipe. To get rid of the gel in the okra (also known as “slime”), she fried the okra with the bacon fat. That seems to do the trick.

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. okra, sliced
  • 2 Tbs. bacon drippings
  • 3 1/2 cups chopped medium tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves only (or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves

1. In a heavy skillet, heat the bacon drippings, then add the okra and onions. Cook until the gel inside the okra more or less disappears (about three minutes).

2. Add the tomatoes and remaining ingredients. Cook for a minute, then lower the heat.

3. Cover the pan and simmer the contents for 25-30 minutes.

Serves four.

AlmanacSquare July 31, 2017

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest 5
Coolinary Summer Specials Begin 1 day from today

Today’s Flavor

Sharpen the knife and get out the meat mallet, because this is National Scaloppine Day. Scaloppine (plural of scaloppina, since you rarely cook just one) are thin, small slices of meat. Other words for the same thing include cutlets, medallions, medaillons, escalopes, and collops. The meat most often turned into scaloppine is veal, but chicken is not far behind and gaining. Pork makes excellent scaloppine, and other meats can be used, too.

Scaloppine are usually cooked in a hot pan with a little butter or olive oil. The cooking is very brief, the time measured in seconds, not minutes. The juices and browned bits left in the pan are the beginnings of a wide range of sauces, among which piccata (white wine, lemon, butter, and capers), marsala (made with the fortified wine of the same name) and parmigiana (with tomato sauce) are the most popular. But cooks with even a little imagination can deglaze that pan with almost any liquid after the scaloppine are cooked, and add an almost infinite range of other ingredients.

A few points are essential. The first is to make sure the meat (other than chicken) is cut across the grain. This is especially important for veal. Pre-sliced veal in the supermarket is almost always cut along the grain, making for very tough meat. The meat used for scaloppine should have a uniform texture over a wide area. Round is excellent in that regard, and relatively inexpensive. Loins cut from rib racks is pricier but makes beautiful scaloppine.

Getting thin scaloppine can be accomplished by slicing very thinly or by pounding, or by doing both. Finding a good pounder is essential. Everybody’s pounder is different My favorite, until it fell apart from all the banging, was what looked like a stainless-steel hockey puck with a handle on one flat face. A chef friend has a heavy, oddly-shaped piece of cast iron that looks like foundry scrap. My mother used an old, heavy, small Coca-Cola bottle.

Today is also Jump For Jelly Beans Day for the pre-school constituency. And Cotton Candy Day and National Raspberry Cake Day. As we bring July to a close, we note that it’s been National Baked Bean Month, National Culinary Arts Month, National Hot Dog Month, And National July Belongs To Blueberries Month.

Edible Dictionary

crostini, Italian. cross-TEE-nee. Noun, plural.The best description of crostini is that they’re a hybrid of garlic bread and croutons. The bread part of it is cut from a dense loaf with crust covering at least one face of the elongated cubes. The top, on the other hand, should reveal the inner part. All of this should be decidedly dry and crisp. Although crostini can be dressed with something as simple as olive oil, most of the time the topping includes the likes of chopped tomatoes, garlic, fresh herbs (especially basil) herbs, grated Parmigiana or Romano cheese, and perhaps even olives. Crostini are often used as an amuse bouche at the beginnning of a meal, sometimes there’s a charge for crostini. This is something you should know before you order.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Vinegar Hill is a neighborhood just south of Poplar Bluff, in the southeastern corner of Missouri. The main line of the former Missouri Pacific Railroad, along with one of its larger yards, is nearby. On the other side of the tracks is US 61, a direct connection with New Orleans. The restaurant in Vinegar Hill is Sullivan’s Cafe. I wonder if it makes a good salad dressing.

Deft Dining Rule #810

When a restaurant menu includes more than three variations on veal scaloppine, it’s just mixing and matching sauces and toppings to make it seem more various than it really is.

Music To Dine By

The jazz pianist Hank Jones was born today in 1918. He was highly respected in jazz circles for his elegant, highly listenable improvisations. Many jazz keyboard players refer to him as an influence–even though he was not well known to most casual jazz listeners. Any restaurant playing his music would find people lingering on for an after-dinner drink. He passed away in 2010, but he has quite a discography that will live on.

Food And Weather

Today in 1921, it rained frogs in Connecticut. And that wasn’t the only time. Apparently a big enough storm can sweep frog eggs and frogs themselves from trees into the sky, to fall down much later and very far away from the frogs’ homes. So pray for rain, and get the flour, butter and garlic ready.

Food Namesakes

Amazing! We have four people born on this date whose name is Cook! In 1963, Norman Cook, singer with the group The Housemartins, flew into the world. . . Former Playboy Playmate Victoria Cooke was born today in 1957. . . and South African cricket pro Jimmy Cook was born today in 1953. . . Philip Cook, Jr., a brigadier general in the Confederate Army and later a Congressman, was born today in 1817. . . It’s the birthday, in 1958, of Bill Berry, the drummer in the group R.E.M. . . Jean DuBuffet, a French artist, began eating all she could today in 1901.

Words To Eat By

“Omit and substitute! That’s how recipes should be written. Please don’t ever get so hung up on published recipes that you forget that you can omit and substitute.”–Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet.

Words To Drink By

“We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana, as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy!”–Benjamin Franklin.
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TOM SEZ: My wife Mary Ann is writing a parallel diary to mine about her trip with our daughter Mary Leigh this week to Great Britain. As she prefers, Mary Ann is improvising everything, and really racking up the miles on the rental car. I am taking a day off from the diary for a doctor’s appointment.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, July 26, 2017. Our Delta flight touched down at Heathrow at 7:05 a.m. to the minute. We went immediately to the Hertz office, a long bus ride from the airport.

I was nervous about driving in England, and that concern was exacerbated by the rental agent who kept talking about “incidents” and renters being responsible for “the full value of the car.” I was also informed that Ireland requires a $5,000 deposit!

We were assigned a new Audi. Getting into driving on the right side of the road was unsettling. Good thing we headed straight out of town.

Our first stop was Highclere, the manor house where Downton Abbey is filmed. ML is a lukewarm fan of the show, but an ardent admirer of the house. She checked the website to discover no tickets online. Such a thing never deters me, because things happen . Besides, driving the grounds is permitted. The weather was cold and rainy, which we expected to reduce the crowds. It did, and we walked right up and got tickets, because they are plentiful. Walk-ins are welcome, and 1,500 a day appear on average.

ML was a little disappointed with the weather, but it was a perfect British day. A mist hung in the air, settling on the surrounding hills. Flocks of sheep grazed everywhere, and the gardens are magnificent. The house is smaller than we expected, both outside and in. It is owned by Lord and Lady Carnarvon, who live in a house down the glen with their young son. Pictures of the family are everywhere, humanizing the house.

At Highclere filming is extensive. After ML was absolutely sure she was satiated gawking there, we drove on to Oxford, a charming university town so full of roaming crowds that words cannot adequately express.

We tripped over people for awhile till we came upon a very cool place called Thaikuin, serving street food. Picture a very Asian TGIFriday’s. ML got a great Pad Thai as good as she’s ever had.
Lots of parent/child combos in here. Understandable, but who were all these other people? Could they really be tourists?

Yes.

On to Basildon Park, which “Pride and Prejudice” fans (of the 1995 version) would recognize as Netherfield. Another beautiful house with less beautiful grounds, so we didn’t stay long. Besides, it was a long day and my navigator was asleep. Around 6 p.m. we arrived at Hotel Xenia, a boutique hotel in Kensington, where we immediately fell asleep for thirteen hours.

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Tortellini Veronese

Chef Felix Sturmer, who I’ve lost track of, did this dish for an Eat Club dinner when he was at the former Westin Canal Place. Its the best dish I ever made with those little bay scallops that sometimes come our way in the supermarket. But the bigger sea scallops are usually of much higher quality, so this recipe calls for those. It’s also good with crawfish tails. I wouldn’t use it with anything subtle (crabmeat, for instance), because the cheese in the tortellini competes hard.

  • 1 lb. (dry) cheese tortellini
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup French shallots, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 lb. sea scallops, cut crosswise into three thin slices each, or 1 lb. crawfish tails, cooked (if you can’t get scallops)
  • 1 Tbs. fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbs. chopped red pepper
  • 5 pitted black olives, washed and chopped
  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • 3 oz. pine nuts, toasted

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil with a tablespoon of salt. Add the tortellini and boil until cooked, about six to eight minutes. Drain and keep warm. Reserve 1/2 cup of the water the pasta boiled in.

2. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it bubbles. Add the shallots, garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook until fragrant, then add the wine. Bring the wine to a boil and hold it there for a minute.

3. Lower the heat to medium-low. Add the sliced scallops and cook for about two minutes.

4. Add all the other ingredients except the pine nuts. Return a a light simmer. Check the seasonings and adjust with salt and pepper. Add a little of the pasta water if the sauce is too thick.

5. Add the pasta to the pan and, with two large spoons, toss until the pasta is well blended with the sauce ingredients.

6. Garnish with toasted pine nuts. (You toast pine nuts by putting them into a metal pan under a broiler, and watching them closely. The second you see them begin to brown, take them out.)

Serves four.

500BestSquareSoft-Shell Crab Grenobloise @ Cafe Lynn

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You won’t likely see this on the printed menu, but unless soft-shells are completely unavailable it appears on the markerboard in the dining room. “Grenobloise” means that capers are involved, in a buttery sauce that’s more scattered around than poured on top of the crab. The better to keep it crisp. Chef Joey Najolia may have picked up this classic French idea during his years as chef de cuisine under Chris Kerageorgiou at La Provence. Cafe Lynn has improved over the years, not only in its cooking by also its premises. The much nicer new spot has a French bistro look.

Soft-shell crab @ Cafe Lynn. It's a cabdidate for best soft-shell in town.

Soft-shell crab @ Cafe Lynn. It’s a candidate for best soft-shell in town.

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

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

AlmanacSquare July 28, 2017

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest 9
Coolinary Summer Specials Begin 4 days from today

Food Calendar

It’s National Milk Chocolate Day. Milk chocolate became popular in the United States when Milton Hershey rejected methods already perfected in Europe for blending milk into chocolate and devised his own. His technique–still a closely-guarded secret–caused the milk to sour a little, giving Hershey’s chocolate a distinctive taste that Europeans find unappetizing. But it’s so well established as the flavor for milk chocolate here that everybody imitates it, to one degree or another. Milk chocolate is in decline these days, however, as dark chocolate takes over more and more of the market because its alleged health benefits.

Deft Dining Rule #118

A restaurant with a bowl of mint-flavored chocolates at the entrance charges on average a dollar more for everything than a restaurant with Starlight mints.

Edible Dictionary

white chocolate, n.–A version of standard milk chocolate from which cocoa liquor has been omitted. Since the liquor is what gives the chocolate flavor, white chocolate doesn’t qualify as chocolate at all. It does have the same texture, thanks to cocoa butter–the fats that come from the processing of cacao seeds. Cocoa butter has a melting point at about the temperature of your mouth, and so eating white chocolate is reminiscent (except in flavor) of eating true milk chocolate. Sugar, milk solids, and vanilla round out the recipe. So the flavor is not chocolate but vanilla.

Annals Of Vegetables

Potatoes are widely eaten throughout Europe, and each country has a special way of preparing them. But none of that existed before this date in 1586, when Thomas Harriot brought the first spuds to England. They came from Columbia, not far from where the plant originated. It’s hard to imagine what European food was like before potatoes and all the other New World plants arrived. I guess when they wanted French fries they had to use parsnips.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Duckville is an unincorporated town of about 125 people in central Massachusetts. It’s on the small but otherwise well-named Swift River, in rolling, mostly wooded countryside. Duckville was once a station stop on the Boston and Maine Railroad, whose track now dead-end there. The town has become a neighborhood of Bondsville, just south. There’s a Subway in Ducktown, but you have a better shot at getting duck three miles south at Pinocchio’s Restaurant. Unless they’re lying about that.

Music To Eat Gumbo By

Delfeayo Marsalis, jazz trombonist and arranger, was born in New Orleans today in 1965. He is one of the several brilliant musicians who are the sons of jazz piano great Ellis Marsalis.

Kitchen Inventors

Earl Tupper was born today in 1907. As a chemist working for DuPont, he picked up scrap pieces of polyethylene and messed with it. From those experiments came the food containers that bear his name. Critical to the product’s usefulness was the design of the lids, inspired by the airtight lids of paint cans. (If only he’d invented a way to keep the lids with their matching containers in the pantry when you’re looking for them.) At first, Tupperware was sold at retail like any other product, but in the 1950s his marketing manager came up with the idea of selling them exclusively at parties in people’s homes.

Big Mouths

The comedian Joe E. Brown was born today in 1892. He portrayed a fey wise guy–a popular character in the 1930s and 1940s. He was best known for his enormous mouth, which he opened wide to yelp, “Hey! Heaaaaeay!” He could fit an entire apple in his mouth.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Many sources say that on this date in 1900, Louis Lassing created the hamburger at his lunch wagon in Connecticut. But I don’t believe that or any other citations of the hamburger’s origin. Ground, grilled meat appears too often in too many cuisines in too many parts of the world for anyone to claim originality. And I couldn’t find anything about this Lassing guy in my books.

Annals Of Food Writing

The first edition of the New Orleans Menu to be distributed electronically was published today in 1997. N. O. Menu was already in print for over twenty years when I pulled a few articles together and sent them to people by e-mail. It started with a few hundred addresses collected from radio listeners. I wasn’t quite sure whether doing this were even legal. Nothing untoward happened, so I continued to send the newsletter out every week. It increased in frequency to three times a week six months later, then to every weekday six months after that. Even after losing a lot of subscribers after the storm, some 40,000 people read one edition or another of The New Orleans Menu every week.

Food Namesakes

Rachel Sweet, musician, was born today in 1962. . . Marilyn Quayle (Mrs. Dan) was borne todaye in 1949. . . Austrian philosopher Karl Popper was born in 1902 on this date. A “popper” can be either a food (peppers stuffed with something or other, usually meat) or a drink (beer with a liqueur stirred into it–yuck).

Words To Eat By

“Research tells us fourteen out of any ten individuals likes chocolate.”–Sandra Boynton, American greeting-card author and artist.

Words To Drink By

“The worse you are at thinking, the better you are at drinking.”–Terry Goodkind, sci-fi writer.

FoodFunniesSquare

Wines Of Dubious Origin Arrive In U.S.

They’re caught by TSA, because of contraband hidden inside the bottle. On an unrelated note, this cartoon contains a useful illustration. If you have a corkscrew like the one shown here, throw it away and get a good one. You’ll thank me later.

Click here for the cartoon.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

RecipeSquare-150x150

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.

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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

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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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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.

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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.

####

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.

RecipeSquare-150x150

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

DishStars_3
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.

####
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.

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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.