DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Saturday, August, 4, 2018. A New Place For Breakfast. An Old Chef For Dinner. The day begins with Mary Ann and I breakfasting at a new spot in Mandeville. Daisy Duke’s is the name, with a mild Cajun-Creole tilt. (The name is a reference to a character in a Southern-style movie.) It first appeared in the French Quarter, and in recent times it expand into other locations in and around New Orleans. The Mandeville site is in the same strip mall where La Carreta operates. (It’s a little hard to see, is why I mention this.)

Daisy Dukes is a rustic, inexpensive café specializing in sandwiches, breakfasts, juices and smoothies. The breakfast is the most varied part of the menu, with many omelettes and breakfast poor boys. It was reasonably good, but I ordered incorrectly. All the main ingredients of the Breakfast Po-Boy are interesting and good, but the sandwich aspect takes over a bit too emphatically. In other words, it sounded better than it was.

All that said, Daisy Dukes may become a regular weekend breakfast venue for us.

After breakfast, I have a full three-hour radio show to broadcast on WWL. That’s normal for this time of year. Also normal will be my getting the afternoon off tomorrow, when football begins to cut me loose on Sundays.

Mary Ann is largely occupied with the upcoming New England-and Canada Eat Club cruise, set to sail in October. I almost hate to bring up this subject, because it inevitable that I’ll get a bunch of requests for information. But we are sold out, particularly among people who want to join our lobster dinner in Nova Scotia.

Later in the afternoon, we decide to have dinner at N’Tini’s, the new (last few months) home of Chef Duke Locicero. His well-liked Café Giovanni in the French Quarter closed late last year. After a hiatus, he wound up as general manager of N’Tini’s. As time drifted by, Duke interposed his signature menu items–most of it Creole-Italian in style. This seems to have caught on with both the relocated St. Bernard Parish crowd and the pre-existing eaters on the North Shore.

Tonight we are served the kind of food I’m talking about. First came two dozen grilled oysters. But Duke says that these were the last char-broiled oysters a la Drago that will be served at N’Tini’s. Duke says his kitchen isn’t set up for grilled oysters, and that he will create a different oyster dish to fill this gap. I’m hoping that he’ll come out with a baked dish along the lines of oysters Mosca, with lots of bread crumbs, garlic, herbs, olive oil, and the like.

Next course: a creamy onion soup for me, meatballs for the Marys, and fried green tomatoes for Mary Leigh. The latter may have been the best I ever had, which is saying something about a dish I never liked much.

Blackened black drum is no not redundant.

My entree is grilled drumfish with crabmeat. This is buttery, heavy on the crab, and very good. Cooking up fish dishes like this is the best eating I’ve found at N’Tini’s since Duke took over.

I think we spent twice as much time talking with the vociferous Chef Duke as we did eating. But that’s why he is in the first string of the guest hosts we bring in to take over my radio show when I’m out of town.

Also something I noticed: the dining room was busy and abuzz with a happy kind of community.
N’Tini’s. Mandeville: 2891 US 190. 985-626-5566.
Daisy Dukes. Mandeville: 1200 W Causeway Approach Suit 13.

Coolinary @ Meauxbar

Late summer is among the most despised times of the year for New Orleans restaurateurs. July, August and September bring the worst of the summer doldrums. Not only are visitors not in town, but locals are out of town. Or working the barbecue pits. Or, in the kind of heat we’ve had lately, or just hanging at home.

But for avid diners, this may be the best time of year to dine out. Restaurants that are inaccessible at other times of the year have lots of space in their dining rooms for you. It’s a great time of year to get to know a waiter at Galatoire’s or become established as a regular at Emeril’s.

This is The Coolinary. Spanning the month of August, Coolinary offers diners three-course dinners for around $40. Over 100 restaurants signed on for the Coolinary this year, so there is much to choose from.

Every day, the New Orleans Menu Daily will suggest a Coolinary that I find particularly appealing. Today’s is Meauxbar, the French bistro on the edge of the French Quarter. Here are their Coolinary specials, which serve a three-course dinner for $30–an unusual deal, even by Coolinary standards. Don’t forget to make a reservation.

Meauxbar. French Quarter: 942 N Rampart. 504-569-9979.

Shiitake mushrooms, brandy cream sauce
Pepper jelly, grilled bread

LA Gulf Fish Amandine
Popcorn rice, haricots verts
Jerk Pork Chop
Coconut rice, field peas, pikliz
French Onion Grilled Cheese
Braised beef and onions, petit salad

Crème Brulee

Meauxbar is open seven nights, with a brunch on Sunday.

August 7, 2017

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials Through August 31.

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, 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 Cafe Degas, 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.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Scramble Creek is in the Cascade Mountains of northwest Washington State, fifteen miles south of the Canadian border. It’s a tributary of the Baker River–another place in the Gourmet Gazetteer. (More on it tomorrow.) Scramble Creek is well named. In its five miles it descends from 5700 feet to 1150–almost a thousand feet per mile. A lot of this is accomplished with two striking waterfalls. It’s a fantastic, scenic wilderness, all of this. No restaurants for a long, hardscrabble distance.

Edible Dictionary

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.