Diary Monday, 10-1-2018. In today’s absurdity, I am having a hard time figuring out what to do, particularly at mealtimes. Example: I am left out of the NPAS rehearsals right now. The Eat Club cruise pre-empts not only the rehearsals I would have attended, but all of the concerts. This is not as draconic as it seems. Our director feels that positioning on the stage is important for the sound. I can’t come and go to my convenience, even if I have been excused or been ill on a given night. If I attend tonight’s session, all I will be allowed is to sit there and listen.
This is a great disappointment, given the songs we’re singing right now. They are my favorites in the genre: the works of Rodger and Hart. I have loved those work since I was a pre-teener. I can sign most of these songs from memory of long ago. And “Where Or When” is my favorite song of them all. I will miss every one of them.
I did the radio show from home, but my mind is off. We have a guest–a butcher whose shop is across the street from the St. Roch markets. He doesn’t have a lot to say, but that’s a disadvantage for guests who are on the air when I am not in the studio. We’ll check with him another time.
Tuesday, 10-02-2018. Tonight’s interview involved another craft merchant. Saunders Conray and his staff operate a bakery called Autonomy in downtown Covington. Mary Ann is intrigued by the place, and so am I. It fills half of a block-wide building. The rest of that structure is taken by an old-style automobile repair shop. Coincidentally, I have used that service as long as we have lived on the North Shore.
Back to the bakery:The new bakery has been largely but not completely renovated. The pastries are in the European style, with elaborate fanning of many layers of pastry fanning out–just the way it does in Italy, France and the like. They’re as delicious as they beautiful.
It might take a while for customers to figure out what’s being offered at Autonomy. Although they claim to serve breakfast, the kind of morning meal we prefer involves eggs, bacon, waffles, and the like. The only time you see pancakes and the like is at the Saturday and Sunday brunch. It’s still not like what they serve at Mattina Bella, to name one nearby competitor.
Autonomy’s many works in pastry are enjoyable, particularly for those with a taste for classic European works in the genre. I have a feeling that after a time, the café will add some familiar items, and the customers will begin to appreciate the high points. Either that, or they’ll need a tire.
The main reason I bring up Autonomy is that whenever I find myself writing away before or after writing pieces like this one, I realize how important that exercise is to me, especially when I’m down. My work–both written and broadcast–is something I can’t live without. Someday, when I write a book based on these diaries, I will recommend working as a great way to improve one’s attitude.
Tuesday, 10/3/2018. Here’s an unexpected problem. Some years ago a reader of this diary sent me a box of collections of matches. Today,I looked the contents over and found many logos, slogans, and menus for restaurants around New Orleans. That was interesting enough to discuss on the air, and a lot of people called with reminiscences.
But today the cat Satsuma knocked over one of the boxes, scattering wood matchsticks all over the floor. l grabbed the broom and dustpan. But what would I do with the sticks? First thought: see if they still catch fire if I run the active side across the side of the box. So where to put the remainders. The very first one did indeed catch a surprising fire. Wrap them up in plastic and put them into the woods? But that seemed to present the possibility of setting a fire. What would the Boy Scout in me do? Finally, a radio listener had the answer: put the matches in a bunch into the Big Green Egg, then light the fire. Nothing will allow a flame to escape the egg, if used properly. Whew.
Autonomy. Covington: 705 Boston St. 985-888-1669.
Pork Tenderloin Diane
Steak Diane is a famous dish from the really old days, and persists in only the few restaurants that still perform a lot of tableside preparation. I thought pork tenderloin might work with the recipe, and played around with it until it did. Beautifully and juicily.
Important: Two kinds of pork loin coexist in the meat department of your grocery store. We call here for pork tenderloins, which are about the size of young child’s forearm. Ask the butcher is there’s any doubt. A tenderloin is much tastier and tenderer than a plain-old pork loin.
- 2 whole pork tenderloins
- 2 Tbs. Creole seasoning
- 2 Tbs. butter
- 1 oz. Bourbon
- 1 Tbs. lemon juice, strained
- 3 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
- 2 Tbs. Tabasco Caribbean-style steak sauce, or Pickapeppa
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 tsp. coarsely-cracked black pepper
- 1 Tbs. French shallots, very finely chopped
1. Slice the tenderloins about an inch thick, and season with Creole seasoning.
2. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat, and sauté the pork until browned on each side. Remove and keep warm.
3. Add the Bourbon to the pan and bring to a boil, whisking to dissolve the browned bits. Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire, steak sauce, and mustard. Stir and cook for a minute, then add the cream. Lower the heat to a simmer.
4. Return the pork to the pan and cook to heat through while coating the pieces with sauce.
5. Place the tenderloin slices on plates, nap with a little extra sauce (if there is any), and top with a light sprinkle of chopped shallots and pepper.
October 4, 2017
Halloween: Oct. 31
Thanksgiving (Nov. 23):
Today is Pan-American Taco Day. Tacos in the United States have changed a lot in the last decade. Here we were, thinking that a hard-fried corn tortilla filled with ground beef, lettuce, and tomatoes was a taco. Maybe it is in some bordertowns, but that item is so odd to most Mexicans that when a Taco Bell opened in Mexico City, Mexicans who had been to America were disappointed not to find the crispy tortillas filled with the salad that we call a taco here.
A more typical Mexican taco is made with a soft flour tortilla filled with grilled meat, peppers, and onions. We have been able to get those ever since Taqueria Corona opened. And even before that, really, although the items was usually listed on menus as “tacos al carbon.” In the aftermath of the hurricane, so many Mexicans and Central Americans came to New Orleans to work on construction projects (and other things) that the phenomenon of taco trucks sprang up. Some of these were allegedly good. Owing to some bizarre lack of luck, I have never found an active taco truck at any time or place, even when following reports given me the day before. As time has gone on, many of the taco truck operators have opened permanent taquerias around town. While these have added a new dimension to the dining scene, I would not say that the phenomenon has blossomed fully yet.
Beantown was originally a small farming town in south central Maryland, eighteen miles north of Washington, DC. It has long since been transformed by the spreading of the nation’s capital into an industrial park, just east of Rockville. Just east is the Redgate golf course with rolling hills and woods–very pretty area. There’s a restaurant called Tex’s Place in the center of what used to be Beanville. Sandwiches, breakfasts, but alas–no beans.
Today is National Vodka Day. Vodka is defined by law as a colorless, odorless spirit with a high alcohol percentage. If it must be odorless and colorless, where is the quality criterion? It doesn’t really exist, of course, and it proves just how effective advertising can be. When mixed with other ingredients, one vodka is just like any other. (I know I will get some flack for saying that, but blind tastings tell the tale.) My feelings abou drinking vodka are about the same as that of my friend Paul LaBruyere, who once said, “I’d as soon pour it down the drain then hit myself over the head with the bottle.”
Annals Of Food Writing
Today in 1933–in the middle of the Depression–a new men’s magazine called Esquire published its first issue. It was the Maxim of its day, and if you were caught reading it you were thought of as a roue. By the time I got to it, in the late 1960s, it had become one of the best magazines on the newsstands. Its articles about food have always been far better than in other general magazines. I particularly recall a 1972 article about the ultimate Christmas feast. It inspired me to do one of my own. The long version of that story is in my book Hungry Town.
Food In Medicine
Today in 2004, Richard Axel and Linda Buck won the Nobel Prize in Medicine. They made major discoveries concerning the sense of smell, the most intriguing of which is that three percent of the genes in humans are responsible for our ability to distinguish and remember at least 10,000 different smells. My favorite aroma: that of a well-aged old Bordeaux red wine.
poolish, French, n.–A small amount of soft, fermenting dough used to begin a yeast culture to make a batch of bread dough. A poolish may contain some dough from a previous day’s batch of dough, as in sourdough bread making. But that’s not essential. A poolish is on the wet, warm side, and the yeasts in it are highly active, ready to leaven an amount of flour and water much larger than itself. Poolish doughs are most often find in rustic country breads and sourdoughs.
Today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the environment, animals, birds, and all other things natural. He is the namesake of San Francisco. And a famous New Orleans dish bears his name: crabmeat St. Francis, created by legendary chef Warren Leruth, who was a devotee of the saint.
Today is the birthday, in 1941, of New Orleans author Anne Rice. She was christened Howard Allen O’Brien. . . Actress and model Rachael Leigh Cook was born today in 1979. Her picture appeared on boxes of Milk-Bones. . . Texas Rangers pitcher Dennis Cook stepped onto the Big Mound today in 1962. . . Actor Eddie Applegate was born in 1935. . . Francesco Crispi, Italian premier in the late 1800s, was born today in 1818. . R.W. “Johnny” Apple, New York Times writer on politics and (occasionally) food, died today in 2006. He liked New Orleans and visited here often, mainly to eat–his favorite pastime.
Words To Eat By
“The local groceries are all out of broccoli,
Loccoli.”–Roy Blount, Jr., humorist and writer, born today in 1941.
Words To Drink By
“The harsh, useful things of the world, from pulling teeth to digging potatoes, are best done by men who are as starkly sober as so many convicts in the death-house, but the lovely and useless things, the charming and exhilarating things, are best done by men with, as the phrase is, a few sheets in the wind.”–H.L. Mencken.