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Diary 11/12/2018: During the sixth downpour yesterday (Monday,) I took delivery of a roast beef poor boy that is consistently misnamed. It came from the kitchen of DiMartino’s in Covington, and it wasn’t the first time I had one of these. I have had similar luck at the other three locations of DiMartino’s, all of which are on the West Bank.

Let me amplify. DiMartino’s–which has been specializing in muffulettas for decades–delivers a roast beef of such perfection that it doesn’t deserve to be called a “poor” boy. A “great boy” or a “fantastic boy” would be closer. It starts with an extraordinary bread, the crust of which is crisp and thick enough to stand up to the gravy in the sandwich. I can’t think of a better loaf of poor boy bread–perhaps because it starts as a whole loaf per sandwich, not just a slice off a longer loaf. This makes a major improvement. Meanwhile, whoever roasts the beef and then makes the gravy has that art down perfectly, too. I have been hunting for great poor boys since I was a boy of eleven, and this one stands up to the best of all time. To add a few more items: the dressings are fresh and crisp. The gravy comes in just the right amount. Really, this is the sandwich that all others should be compared with. The price (around $10) is a great deal. The only thing that’s needed is a location other than the West Bank and the North Shore. It’s worth the trip from wherever, though. The Covington location is also a great-looking place.

DiMartino’s:
Marrero: 6641 West Bank Expy. 504-341-4096.
Covington: 700 S Tyler St. 985-276-6460.
Gretna: 1788 Carol Sue Ave. 504-392-7589.
Algiers: 3900 General De Gaulle Dr. 504-367-0227.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 By Mary Ann Fitzmorris
–Maydan, Washington D.C. (Begun yesterday.)

One of my all-time favorite travel stories involves donuts. And Turkey. . .the country.

Our family wandered around Izmir for hours and stumbled into a neighborhood where tables were set with white tablecloths and at the head table was a small group of guys manning some fryers. These were beignets that looked like donuts with holes in the middle but with a powdered sugar coating. Basic white paper plates, each bearing three donuts were handed to a patient crowd big enough for the line to stretch nearly a block.

When the Fitzmorris family stumbled into this local event, a hush of wonder came over this crowd and all eyes fixated on the interlopers. It was not hostile- quite the contrary. We were immediately called to the front of this long line and handed plates of donuts. Our entreaties to pay for them were enthusiastically denied with the reply, “No! No! No! For Allah!” Hands held to the sky.

We were so touched by this charming expression of goodwill among people that it warms my heart to this day to think of it.

That experience came immediately to mind when I read about the hottest new restaurant in America, Maydan in Washington DC. I made a mental note to try it the next time I was there, which happened to be just last week in September.

This is one of those super-hip places with the coveted rolling window for reservations that opens online every two months, or something. I didn’t have that luxury, nor would I do that. C’mon!

But walk-ins are welcome, and this becomes quite competitive. When the bar fills immediately after opening at 5pm, hopefuls are allowed to sort of hang after your name is put on the list. Sort of an online cancellation line. You are asked to state your “Forget it time”, and you are waiting for someone who reserved two months ago to not show. Hmmmm. Then these people are given a fifteen minute grace period.

What’s so special about all this?

The owners of this place drew inspiration from traveling the Middle East collecting experiences just like the one I mentioned and crafted a menu and vibe for people just like me, who would love to visit all the “Stans” (Uzebkistan, Kazakstan, and the like) but aren’t as brave as these guys.

The place does not disappoint.

Maydan is located in the gentrified U Corridor off -14th street, down an alley. The dining “adventurers” follow printed signs stuck to poles and building corners with tape. Finally there is a very thick and wide medieval door with no other markings.

Inside, very friendly people greet you in a tiny vestibule whose walls and doors are covered with rags that excite you! Just like the ones on camels in the desert!!!
Or in a bin at the Walmart fabric section, but I choose to believe the former)

Behind the inside door is a gigantic wooden hearth with leaping flames and hot wood stacked in metal bins. All kinds of food is cooking on open grills. Very authentic! (Maybe our house reno permit process has jaded me, but how are big open flames happening in downtown DC?) Who cares? Looks incredible, smells divine.

I had to eat here but it was not to be that night. I mentioned it to someone way more tech savvy than me and he just looked for a reservation on Open Table for the next night. Incredibly, there was one for two people open at 5pm. I could drop in on the way to the airport.

I was happy not be one of the hopeful walk-ins this time. We were seated upstairs, which is still very cool but the action is downstairs. Remember that if you go. And go.

The menu is divided into “From the fire”, and, . . .not. The condiments section at $1 per allows you to try exotic stuff in tiny clay dishes without a huge investment. I have never sampled anything quite like these things. One, called Toum, was garlicky and lemony and fluffy like mashed potatoes. And one had me fearing for my life when I thought my throat was closing up. I settled it down with handfuls of nanish-like pita and all the water on the table.

Surprising, but the Beiruti hummus was just ordinary. Not nearly as exciting as I imagine Beirut. We had a fatoush salad that was among some of the best things I’ve ever tasted.

I love kebaps, so it was hard to pick just one thing from that section. Making a boring choice, we went for beef tenderloin with Omani spices. This was nearly raw, and went back immediately.

When it came back cooked it was good, but I’m not sure about those Omani spices. We also got carrots slathered in something orange spiced with Harissa and charred. These were delish. The Halloumi, grilled, thick slices of cheese, were charred perfectly and covered with honey and peanuts, but also had smoky and spicy notes from an Egyptian Dukkah spice blend. I always tell myself I’m not falling for this cheese thing on menus like this, but I always do. This time I did not regret it.

There wasn’t time for dessert, but I’ll bet they are interesting. For once, we ordered exactly the right amount of food. There was nothing left.

Maydan is the kind of dining experience one can only have in the Third World or in a First World capital like DC. I was grateful for the opportunity.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Pickled Okra

Sounds peculiar, but these thigns have a lot of uses, from sparking up a salad to looking good in a bloody mary or other cocktail. This is a canning routine, which I’ll assume you know how to execute. (If not, there are many references.)

  • 4 lbs. small (3 inches), whole, unblemished okra
  • 16 large cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 16 fresh hot red peppers (or the bottled kind)
  • 1 jar celery seed
  • 1 jar dill weed
  • 1 bunch fennel, tops only, sliced
  • 1 quart vinegar
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt

1. Leave the okra whole, although trim the stem to a minimum. Wash the okra well. Jam them (alternating tip and stem ends) into sterilized canning jars with a couple of cloves of garlic, a few slices of onion, a couple of hot peppers, 1/2 tsp. celery seed, 1/2 tsp. dill weed, and a stick of fennel.

2. Boil a quart of vinegar thinned with a cup of water, and stir in the kosher salt until dissolved.

3. Pour the hot vinegar mixture into the jars to cover the okra. Seal the jars with new lids and store in a pantry.

The okra will be ready to eat after about two months, and will keep a long time unopened.
Makes 8-10 pints.

AlmanacSquare November 13, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Thanksgiving: Nov. 23
Christmas: Dec. 25
Eat Club @ Roosevelt. Nov. 28.
New Year’s Eve: December 31

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

The hot dog-style wiener was invented today in Vienna (called Wien by its citizens, who call themselves Wieners). The inventor was Johann George Lehner, who today in 1806 began selling what he called wienerwurst. That means “Vienna sausage.” This must be an example of divergent evolution, since a hot dog has little in common with those awful little sausages we, for some reason, stock up on when hurricanes head our way. In any case, the wiener was just another sausage in a land of sausages until it was popularized by the World’s Fair in St. Louis of 1904. Now it’s the hot dog.

Annals Of Canned Fruit

Today in 1895, the first shipload of canned pineapple left Hawaii for the mainland. Where would we be without pineapple? In addition to its natural uses in desserts, it turns up in some unexpected places. The inclusion of pineapple in spicy Vietnamese shrimp and seafood soup is intriguing and good. Antoine’s Alciatore sauce is a brown savory sauce made with caramelized pineapple; they serve it on steaks and (better) lamb chops. Pineapple juice is an effective tenderizer for tough cuts of beef. Pineapple would be pretty good in bread pudding. In moderation, anyway. Speaking of that. . .

Today’s Flavor

Today is alleged to be National Indian Pudding Day. That’s made with cornmeal and molasses, usually with a little spice, too. It has the texture of grits. Not a biggie. But here in New Orleans, we celebrate National Bread Pudding Day.

Arnauds-BreadPudding2014

Bread pudding is found all over the country, but nowhere is it better or more popular than in New Orleans, where it’s all but the official regional dessert. No two bread puddings are alike. You find heavy versions and light ones. Some made with raisins, some with fruit, some with neither. Some with a lot of vanilla or cinnamon and some with less. There are chocolate (white and dark) bread puddings, banana bread puddings, praline bread puddings. You can even make bread pudding into a savory side dish with ingredients like mushrooms and cheese.

One thing all makers of bread pudding agree upon are the basic ingredients: bread (preferably stale French bread), eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla. From there almost anything goes, as long as the flavor is rich. Even so, it’s not expensive to make. Which is one of the reasons that bread pudding appears on the menus of New Orleans restaurants ranging from the most humble to the most expensive.

My own variation on the theme is something I learned from my mother. She topped hers with a layer of meringue, which she then toasted a little with a quick pass through a hot oven. In a slightly different form, that is the famous bread pudding soufflee at Commander’s Palace.

The final fillip of creativity in a good bread pudding is the sauce. Like the pudding itself, this receives a wide range of interpretation. It can be a custard, or a very dilute butter cream, or chocolate sauce. It’s common for the sauce to contain rum, brandy, or whiskey, in various degrees ranging from the barely detectable to the equivalent of an after-dinner cordial. Infinite variability make a great dessert.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Whiskey Ford is in the middle of a moist, thick lowlands woods twenty-five miles west of Beaumont, Texas, a couple miles north of US 90. It’s the point where travelers a long time ago crossed Willow Creek with their horses and cattle. The banks there are lower than they are for a long way north and south. Why it’s named for whiskey is unknown, but it’s easy to imagine. The nearest place that might have food to go with the whiskey is Fesco’s Good Eats, four miles northeast in Sour Lake.

Edible Dictionary

chocolate mint, n.–The flavors of chocolate and mint go so well together that it seems almost too good to be true that there is a variety of mint plant that actually does have a chocolate aroma as well as a peppermint flavor. The chocolatiness is mostly in the nose, however. And the stuff tastes a little greener than spearmint would. Still, it’s a great garnish on fresh fruit.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

The bigger you make a bread pudding (up to the size of your largest baking dish), the better the bread pudding. Those made with a dozen eggs or more are the best.

Food In Film

Today in 1939, John Steinbeck’s famous novel The Grapes of Wrath, about the lives of people who worked in agriculture in California, was published. I picked grapes once for Cakebread Cellars, and can’t imagine what it must be to do that under the pressures of the harvest. Fortunately, most of that is done by machines these days.

Food Inventions

Today in 1930, a gizmo called a Rotolactor was installed in a daily laboratory in New Jersey. It was an automated system for milking cows. It looked like a merry-go-round. Fifty cows climbed aboard and were milked, washed, and dried so efficiently that the thing could handle almost 1700 cows a day. The Rotolactor was invented by Henry Jeffries, and was one of the major marvels of the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

Food Namesakes

Civil War Brigadier General Edward Burd Grubb was born today in 1841. . . Ginger Aldren, the girlfriend of Elvis Presley who had the misfortune of being the person who found him dead, was born today in 1956.

Words To Eat By

“If you could make a pudding wi’ thinking o’ the batter, it ‘ud be easy getting dinner.”–George Eliot.

Words To Drink By

“If you know someone who tries to drown their sorrows, you might tell them sorrows know how to swim.”–Unknown author.

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