DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Monday, May 7, 2018. The Offbeat Muffuletta Is On The Railroad Tracks. The Marys head out for their house renovation early in the morning. They’re getting potential contractors to come by and look over the plans. They are finding that one must explain in tiny detail what they wanted done, because it’s possible that a contractor might mis-hear what the Marys want and how much they’re willing to pay for it.

The girls join me for lunch at Lola, the popular salad-and-soup café in Covington. It’s built into an old railroad depot, a caboose that has been converted into a kitchen, and an as-yet unfinished passenger railroad car from the 1920s. The place is always busy at lunchtime, with people taking breaks from goings-on at the St. Tammany courthouse across the street.

The soups are the best part of eating lunch at Lola. They tend to the thick side, rendered so by pureed various vegetables. There is usually some cream in there, and often beans.

The sandwiches are less delectable. They make most of them using house-made foccacia bread, which works with some fillings and not with others. Today I’m eating their version of a muffuletta. The sliced deli meats and the olive salad don’t stand up to the bread. The finished object is better if you scrape the contents off the bread and eat it by itself. I wish Lola opened its much better dinner menu to lunchtime, but the place is already jammed most days.

I am very early when I head over to the NPAS rehearsal site, as we come down to the last few rehearsals until it’s showtime on Friday evening, May 25 and Sunday afternoon, May 27. The unifying theme of the music is the early age of Fifties rock and roll. Also part of the program are other pop songs from the 1970s and 1980s, too. Frankly, it’s not my kind of sound. But programs like this seem to invite good audiences. The tickets are $21, and the show is in the Greater Covington Center at 317 N Jefferson Ave., in downtown Covington. Tickets can be bought online at Tickets@npas.info.

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

Tuesday, May 8, 2018. Eating Seafood In An Italian Restaurant. This is a day that probably have been spent better had I stayed at home. I don’t take nearly enough advantage of that capability.

Today was a perfect example of that. The Marys are as usual obsessed by their renovation house, and aren’t even thinking about having dinner. It won’t be long before they have something to celebrate, anyway. (There’s a birthday tomorrow.)

I go to dinner at Two Tony’s in the vicinity of the lakefront marina. Tony’s has always been both a seafood restaurant and an Italian place. Of the two choices, the seafood is slightly better. The Italian styles here are traditional New Orleans-Sicilian, with all the red sauces and pasta one might be looking for.

The waitress says that easily the best choice today is the soft-shell crab. The season has been underway, but a bit tepid. That was not the case here. The crab is as large a specimen as I have seen in a long time. And the kitchen fried it perfectly. It’s $28 for the single crab, with a salad and a side of pasta. That will strike some as kinda high, but that’s about what softies are going for this season.

I think someone in the kitchen identified me. I am sent an interesting appetizer consisting of fried oysters sitting atop piles of Rockefeller sauce, with a brown meuniere sauce rippled across the whole plate. This is a very nice presentation, and it tasted good, too. I always find Two Tony’s better than I expect, and that certainly is the case here and now.

Two Tonys. West End & Bucktown: 8536 Pontchartrain Blvd. 504-282-0801.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018. It’s my daughter Mary Leigh’s birthday. The number of candles is a datum she doesn’t announce. As for the actual celebration, she wants more than anything to get back to work on her house renovation.

But she does accept a big lunch in one of our favorite places: Keith Young’s Steak House. The Marys’ favorite there is Keith’s enormous and otherwise excellent hamburger. The Young family began its illustrious history by dint of this burger, even though its specialties were always steaks. Keith Young opened his own steakhouse some twenty-something years ago, and continues to serve the best steaks on the North Shore. And a lot of other good food, too.

When we come here for lunch, I always cross my fingers and ask for the great oysters Bienville they serve at dinner. It’s not on the lunch menu, but they usually indulge me with it anyway. But not today. They had a run on the dish yesterday and haven’t finished the supply for tonight. They send me a half-dozen great fried oysters instead. The girls attack the hamburger, of course, and put away a big salad. My entree is the fried, bread-crumb coated crab cake. Some would say that this is more of a stuffed crab than a crab cake. It’s deep fried instead of not-so-deep fried. Somehow, the cakes have the kind of crispness that keeps it on the lighter side. It comes with a cream sauce over pasta. This is, of course, too much food. But that happens here all the time.

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


Kosher Muffuletta

How do you make a ham and cheese sandwich kosher-style, let alone strictly kosher? All you need is a thick garlic bagel, smoked salmon sliced thinly, a sharp but light cheese, and the same olive salad you’d use for a regular muffuletta. And a little cream cheese. Buy a ready-made olive salad, unless you always have your own in the refrigerator. (Making your own takes about two weeks, and you can’t make a little bit of olive salad.) This is a good light lunch.

  • 4 oz. Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup Creole-Italian olive salad
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbs. snipped fresh dill
  • 2 Tbs. small capers
  • 4 garlic bagels, preferably on the large, dense side, sliced in half
  • 6 oz. thinly-sliced cold-smoked salmon
  • 6 oz. ricotta salata cheese at room temperature
  • 4 very thin slices of red onion

1. Set the cream cheese out to warm up to room temperature for about an hour. In a mixer bowl , beat it until it’s fluffy.

2. Put the olive salad, about two tablespoons of the olive oil from the olive salad jar, and the lemon juice into a food processor. Using short bursts, chop it very fine.

3. Add the chopped olive salad to the cream cheese and mix in thoroughly.

4. Toast the bagels (or not, as you like). Spread each side with the cream cheese-olive salad mixture. Sprinkle the capers and dill over each side, and press down with a rubber spatula to hold the capers in place.

5. Slice the ricotta salata as thinly as you can, trying to keep it from crumbling. Lay it down on one side of the bagels, and the salmon on the other. Fold the two bagel halves together.

There is no need to cut this into quarters, like a standard muffuletta.

Serves four.

AlmanacSquare May 9, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Mother’s Day May 134
Greek Festival 15

Food On The Road

Today in 1969, the second (northbound) span of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway opened. The idea of taking the twenty-four-mile trip just to go to dinner had not really been hatched, but it soon would be. Three years after the bridge expansion, Chris Kerageorgiou opened La Provence in Lacombe, and found that a lot of his customers came from the South Shore. Now lots of people do it every day, myself included. La Provence, after twelve years under the aegis of John Besh (who learned his strokes there) has just been sold to a longtime customer. He says that he will not be changing anything at La Provence, which will come as good news to La Provence’s many customers.

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Shrimp Day. Shrimp are probably the favorite seafood of Americans. They’re found on menus of every kind, all over the country. The Louisiana shrimp industry recently supplied more the eighty percent of the American shrimp eaten in this country. That is way down because of ungrounded fears about the oil spill’s effect on our shrimp (there was actually very little), and because of a flood of imported shrimp from Southeast Asia. Why anyone would turn away from Gulf shrimp–arguably the world’s best–to save fifty cents a pound is a mystery to me.

Boiled shrimp.

You can cook shrimp thousands of ways. Here in New Orleans, the best shrimp dishes are New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp and shrimp remoulade. I can’t get enough of either of these two dishes. The two main species are white shrimp and brown shrimp, in alternating seasons. I prefer white shrimp, particularly for broiling, but the distinction is not great.

Shrimp are sized according to the “count” of shrimp per pound. This ranges from under 10 count for grilling and barbecuing, down to 40 or more count for frying, salads, gumbo, and stews.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Sardine, Alabama is is in the south central part of the state, not far from the Florida state line, off I-65. It’s in rolling farmland with some swampy river plains nearby, where they probably catch freshwater fish–but not sardines. The closest place for whole fish (or any restaurants) is in the town of Atmore, eight miles away, and the Dixie Catfish Shack.

Edible Dictionary

boniato, batata, n.–A variety of sweet potato with a lighter color, firmer texture, and starchier flavor than the standard orange sweet potato. When baked, it’s almost as fluffy as a white potato. Boniatos are especially popular in the Caribbean and Florida, and grown in substantial numbers in those places. It’ isn’t related to the true yam, an African plant also widely planted in the American tropics. Boniato is the name most often used, but “batata” is also common, especially in Florida and Cuba.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Whenever you cook shrimp, the moment you have the first thought as to whether they’re cooked well enough is the time to remove the shrimp from the heat, immediately. Overcooked shrimp stick to the shells.

Food Through History

The ten-day Battle of Hamburger Hill began today in 1969. It was a disaster all around, and was the last major ground offensive in the Vietnam War. The tide of American opinion turned against the war as a result.

French king Louis XVI, for whom a very fancy New Orleans French restaurant was named, ascended the throne on this date in 1774. He would be the regal victim of the French Revolution eighteen years later. His namesake restaurant is still here, but only for hotel breakfasts and private parties.

Annals Of Herbal Beverages

Thomas J. Lipton, tea merchant and avid sailor, was born today in 1850, in Glasgow, Scotland. Lipton is the leading name in tea in this country, but it was one of many until it started advertising on radio, with the medium’s most persuasive spokesman: Arthur Godfrey.

Charles Hires began selling a bag of roots, herbs and berries with instructions for making root beer today in 1869. You steeped the bag’s contents in hot water, then strained, sweetened and chilled it. It was the original root beer. Later, soda fountains began dispensing it and adding carbonation. Hires Root Beer, which is still around, is recognized as the first branded soft drink.

Deft Dining Rule #412:

The worst cold root beer is better with a roast beef poor boy sandwich than the best vintage port. However, the roast beef goes pretty well with a grand cru Bordeaux.

Music To Eat Bouillabaisse By

Donovan Leitch, was born today in 1943. According to one of his hit songs, he was mad about saffron. He started out as a Bob Dylan soundalike, but evolved into the ultimate hippy-dippy singer, using just his first name.

Food Namesakes

Movie producer Jeff Apple fell from the tree today in 1954. . . Mike Butcher, a pitcher for the California Angels in the 1990s, took The Big Mound in 1965. . . Another baseball pro, Ken Berry, hit The Big Basepath in 1941. . . Ollie Le Roux, who plays rugby professionally in South Africa, kicked off today in 1973.

Words To Eat By

“The term ‘jumbo shrimp’ has always amazed me. What is a jumbo shrimp? I mean, it’s like Military Intelligence. The words don’t go together.”–George Carlin.

Words To Drink By

“I drink only to make my friends seem interesting.”–Don Marquis.

Pets In The Restaurant: Threat Or Menace?

It isn’t hard enough to deal with the dogs and cats and their insatiable hungers for leftovers. But now we find advocates on behalf of dogs that want to eat healthy while climbing onto the table to grab another biteful.

Click here for the cartoon.

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