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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Diary: Tuesday, 10-11-2018. Gathering The Pieces For The New England-Canada Cruise For the Eat Club’s extravaganza in a Cold Climate.)
Repeating cruises from numerous successes in the past, the The New Orleans Eat Club slides into Boston by way of Newark. This includes an Italian Eat Club dinner through the historic districts of Boston. This shows–not for the first time–that the city is strong in its love of Italian cookery. All told, the Eat Clubbers sampled almost everything on the menu in these places. It was not easy. It was lightly raining, and getting cooler every moment. Nevertheless, my wife Mary Ann, a few Eat Clubbers and I kept on going.

On our second day in Boston, we found that the temperatures were dropping. This made things the going a little rough as we made our way to through the check-in lineup. The complicated process took place mostly on the construction area right next door to the check-ins, occasionally introducing some very loud work, but things still moved along.

Many of the Eat Clubbers took my advice to come over to the restaurants in the Omni Boston Parker House Hotel, where we are ensconced before we could head over to the cruise ship. Hotel restaurants are either very appealing or boring. In the Parker House, it was the former, with freshly-baked Parker rolls for which they are famous, and a lunch menu full of Bostonian cuisine–notably cod and its baby variant “schrod” (the latter is just baby codfish). This was a charming early-afternoon lunch, with a lot of the Eat Clubbers meeting one another for the first time. In our exploration of Boston cooking, I was on the lookout for scallops, mussels, and New England seafood chowder.

It kept raining, the temperatures keep dropping, and the Eat Clubbers continued to ready themselves for our exploration of the food of New England.

That began with our first Maine port of call, Bar Harbor. It’s rich with shops and restaurants along the shore. From our last visit here, I remember a lunch of lobster rolls (they look like lobster sandwiches, but taste much better.) Also on my table was a bottle of Moxie, the classic local effervescent drink.

This time, things are not as exciting as they were on our old visit to Bar Harbor. Then the increasing frigidity contained to intervene, making it hard to negotiate around the varying parts of Canada. The historic coal-mining town of Sydney is a good example, especially because the rough surf makes parts of it accessible only by boats.

The most interesting parts of Canada to me are on Nova Scotia. That’s the Cajun ancestral part of Canada from which the Cajuns of Louisiana fled after the British occupiers forced them to leave. Halifax is the most prominent of such takeovers, in the 1700s. Later in the 19-teens, Halifax was subject to the most powerful explosive before the advent of the atom bomb. It’s also the location of many graves of the people who died in the Titanic. The Eat Club has found all this especially interesting. We not only visit the high points of Halifax, but we also have a lobster lunch party every few years.

This year’s Eat Club was a particular doozy, especially given the eighty-two people who attended. Five limousines transported our gang through the best parts of Halifax, the amazing rock formations called Peggy’s Cove. We then took over Shaw’s Landing, a little restaurant that served almost exclusively boiled lobster. The crustaceans come almost directly from the lobster beds nearby. We devoured them with great eagerness. An amazing place, that.
At one point, just after New Orleans was concerned about yet another hurricane, our cruise ship was dealing with hurricane-force winds. Some of the waves were strong enough to knock out windows in some rooms. To say that the scene was scary was an understatement. It was also much less than easy to walk through the ship without holding onto the grips.

All this was worthwhile in that it showed us through the fijord country leading to Quebec. Tall mountainous features made the area more than astonishing on both sides of the geography. This part of Quebec is something new for past cruisers of this area, and well worth the extreme inconvenience of getting around.

I’m just beginning to tell the story of this dramatic part of Canada, which was already deep into parts of the world that few of us had even read about, let alone explore.

And I am only beginning to exploit what had been put before my eyes. The Eat Club–even through we were more than a little grumpy because of the extremes in the climate–still had much to enjoy. I have at least two more parts to share in this visit to Halifax and other exotic places. I’ll keep it coming as the New Orleans Menu continues.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Calas

In a time prior to the emergence of my consciousness, men and women pushing carts through the streets of New Orleans sold these wonderful, aromatic rice cakes. They were so popular in the early part of the century that one of my oldest aunts was nicknamed for them. They have never been widely available in restaurants; the Coffee Pot on St. Peter Street has kept their memory alive almost single-handedly. They make a great breakfast or snack. Here’s a recipe derived from one that a radio listener, who thinks it came from his grandmother, sent me.
CoffeePot-Calas

  • 1 envelope dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked, cooled rice
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Powdered sugar

1. The night before you plan to make these, dissolve yeast into 1/4 cup of warm water. Mix with the rice in a bowl. Cover and let stand in a warm place overnight.

2. The next morning, blend the eggs, rice flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg into the rice. Add just enough water, a little at a time, to incorporate all the dry ingredients. (You may not need any.)

3. Heat the oil to 375 degrees. With a spoon, scoop the rice mixture into ping-pong-size balls. Drop them into the hot oil. Fry for three minutes, till darkish brown. Drain on paper towels.

4. Serve hot, sprinkled with powdered sugar. You can also serve them with syrup.
Makes two or three dozen.

  • 1 envelope dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked, cooled rice
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Powdered sugar

1. The night before you plan to make these, dissolve yeast into 1/4 cup of warm water. Mix with the rice in a bowl. Cover and let stand in a warm place overnight.

2. The next morning, blend the eggs, rice flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg into the rice. Add just enough water, a little at a time, to incorporate all the dry ingredients. (You may not need any.)

3. Heat the oil to 375 degrees. With a spoon, scoop the rice mixture into ping-pong-size balls. Drop them into the hot oil. Fry for three minutes, till darkish brown. Drain on paper towels.

4. Serve hot, sprinkled with powdered sugar. You can also serve them with syrup.
Makes two or three dozen.

AlmanacSquare October 12, 2017

Days Until. . .

Halloween: 19
Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 42

Turning Points In Eating

Christopher Columbus landed on an island in the Bahamas today in 1492. He didn’t “discover” America–lots of people were here already. Perhaps even a few Europeans–Viking stragglers whose forebears arrived a few hundred years before. What Columbus instituted was a major cultural exchange between Europe and the Americas. Part of that was the greatest culinary revolution in human history, as hundreds of new ingredients from the New World made their way to Europe. Within a relatively few years, they changed the way most people cooked. Most noteworthy among these were potatoes, chocolate, the entire range of chile peppers, many strains of leguminous beans. . . and the tomato.

Today’s Flavor

In honor of the arrival of Columbus on these shores, today is World Tomato Day. Of all the native American vegetables that made their ways to Europe after the voyages of Columbus, the tomato had the most widespread effect. Tomatoes are now eaten almost everywhere in the world, including the Far East. Imagine Italian cuisine without tomatoes!

Tomatoes were originally regarded as poisonous by Europeans. They were sort of right: except for the tomato fruit itself, the plant is toxic, a member of the nightshade family (as are potatoes and eggplants). Once that myth was put to rest, a different one grew: that the tomato was an aphrodisiac. It became known as “pomme d’amour”–the “love apple”–in France.

The way in which overripe tomatoes become near-liquid is no doubt what inspired people to make sauces from them. There are hundreds, from ketchup and salsa to marinara and ragu. The makers of the first tomato sauces must have been delighted to employ their over-the-hill produce. And that the result was delicious in an entirely new way, matched by few other food items.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Tomato Lake looks nothing like a tomato. It’s about a half-mile long but only 200 feet wide. More like a zucchini than a tomato. It’s in the northeast corner of Minnesota, famous for its thousands of glacier-scraped lakes. Whoever named the ones around there must have been a hungry vegetarian, because the adjacent lakes–all about the same five-acre size–include Turnip Lake, Peanut Lake, Celery Lake, North and South Bean Lakes, Carrot Lake, Squash Lake, Potato Lake, Pea Lake, Melon Lake, Parsnip Lake, Cucumber Lake, Onion Lake, Kraut Lake, and Strawberry Lake. All these are within about twenty square miles, most of which is marsh between low hills. Quite a wilderness. It’s six miles to the Canadian border on the north and fifteen miles to the Lake Superior shore. Jacob’s, the nearest restaurant, is nineteen miles by hot air balloon in Canada on Whitefish Lake.

Edible Dictionary

orgeat, n.–A sweet, almond-and-citrus-flavored syrup used mostly as a cocktail ingredient, notably for the old drink absinthe suisesse. Orgeat started out as a beverage made from barley, in the same family of things called tisanes. Later, a vogue began for flavoring it with almonds, and over time the barley disappeared and the dominant flavor was that of the nuts. Lemon and orange juices, and later orange flower water, entered the mix. After orgeat fell out of favor as a drink unto itself, its use as a flavoring for other drinks caused it to evolve into the syrup that it is now. It’s a little hard to find, even in well-stocked liquor stores. But some of the more adventuresome bartenders are bringing it back.

Annals Of Weight Loss

Today is the birthday, in 1923, of Jean Nidetch, the founder of Weight Watchers. She started it after battling against her own overweight problem. The original idea was that people trying to lose weight could get together and encourage each other, but it grew to a much larger effort–one big enough that, after fifteen years of its existence, H.J. Heinz bought the company in 1978 for its line of food offerings.

Annals Of Somethingfests

Today is the anniversary of the first Oktoberfest celebration in 1810, in Munich, Germany. It started as a celebration of the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. After skipping a year (Napoleon was active in the area), the festival resumed, and it’s grown ever since. It’s changed into a beer festival, and moved backward on the calendar. Most of Oktoberfest is just about finished when October arrives, since people drink more beer in the warmer weeks of September.

Annals Of Creole Culture

Today is the birthday, in 1844, of George Washington Cable. He was a New Orleans-born journalist remembered for his progressive views of how freed slaves should become full members of the community. He wrote much about New Orleans Creole culture, including no small amount of commentary on the distinctive food of the region. His books–especially Old Creole Days–tell us how well-developed Creole cuisine was even in the late 1800s.

Deft Dining Rule #431

Despite their popularity, fried green tomatoes are not worth eating. Unless they’re topped with something like shrimp remoulade. In which case the tomato will be the worst part of the dish.

Celebrity Chefs

In 1950, Takeshi Kaga was born in Japan. He was the host of the original Iron Chef show, so long ago that all his shows were in Japanese. They dubbed them into other languages, and they’re still being seen around the world.

Words To Eat By

“A number of rare or newly experienced foods have been claimed to be aphrodisiacs. At one time this quality was even ascribed to the tomato. Reflect on that when you are next preparing the family salad.”–Jane Grigson, American food writer.

“A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins.”–Laurie Colwin, American food writer.

Words To Drink By

“Early to rise and early to bed
Makes a male healthy and wealthy and dead.”
James Thurber.