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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Diary: 11/13/2018: Sharp Variants. When we moved to the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain in 1990, we quickly came to the conclusion that restaurants over there were either marginally good, or wildly better than other restaurant in the same category. There were no everyday steak houses, just Keith Young’s or Gallagher’s Grill. If you didn’t go to the excellent Trey Yuen, you were in some intolerable Chinese buffet. Dakota or some average Creole bistro. The Acme Oyster House Then And Now. (Puzzle: Which was better?)

For awhile it seemed that this difference was evening out, and most restaurants were at least pretty good, balanced by even more terrific places during the last decade or so. But lately it seems to me that the variance is from reasonably decent to nothing at all on one end of the spectrum to brilliant restaurants that are at least as good as South Shore eateries (think Del Porto, Oxlot 9, and the nor-deceased and much regretted La Provence).

Pardo’s owner Osman Rodas.

The restaurateur most responsible for these condensations is Osman Rodas. He emerged from the Emeril and Brennan worlds to open a place called Pardo’s in 2012. Almost immediately, he created a brilliant place to eat with equally excellent sidearms (wine and cocktail lists, wood-fired pizza oven, well-trained service staff, fine sense of where the currents of cuisine are). By the second or third time I visited the place, I decided it was a five-star place.

Pardo’s has been a little less good during the last year or so, due to issues with the landlord. But it was interesting to hear him tell how he was going to turn a somewhat rackety building on the western outskirts of old Mandeville, on LA 22. I thought it was an iffy location, but the first look I had of the entrance told me that here was a handsome restaurant from back to front and then back again through the courtyard. It’s amazing to see what an improvement Osman made to the place, with its heavy use of marble, big windows, quiet floors, and placement of tables and bar. As it had in the original place, the new Pardo’s is already has a hip, young-adult clientele mixed with some equally with-it Boomers like me and you.

Sheepshead at Pardo’s.

I was there on opening night, and had the kind of cooking that was such a hit in the old spot. Osman, who has a thing about first-class steaks, has a four-or-five-steak competition on the levels of aging and grade. Also here is more than a little seafood including some species we don’t see often.

The wine cellar isn’t quite loaded up yet, but that’s normal. Parking looks a little deficient, but that may be an illusion. Total: the probable return to the lofty ratings that kept the place so well oiled before the move. It will be awhile, though, as I allow Osman to settle in. Bravo so far!

Pardo’s. Mandeville: 5280 LA Hwy. 22. 985-893-3603.

AlmanacSquare November 14, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

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

Food Calendar

Today is National Guacamole Day. The word translates from the language of the aboriginal Mexicans as “avocado sauce.” They were eating it and avocados–a pure American food–long before the arrival of the Spanish. Although guacamole carries with it a sort of secret-recipe cachet, in fact it’s easy to make. The key is in limiting the recipe to ingredients that the Aztecs would have used. The originators seem to have had it down cold. So we’re talking about native American plants: avocados, chile peppers, cilantro, onions, and tomatoes. No dairy products. No black pepper. Two ingredients of non-Aztec origin that can pass are olive oil and lime juice, both used in small proportions and mainly to keep the concoction from spoiling too fast.

Guacamole is everywhere in restaurants, and much of it is even good. Only recently has the spectre of pre-made guacamole reared it’s ugly head; avocados have until recently resisted all efforts at packaging. On the other hand, some restaurants (notably Sun Ray Grill, in New Orleans) now make their guacamole to order, sometimes right at the table. In Mexico, guacamole is almost always made to order, even in the tourist-pitched restaurants.

The only problem with guacamole is that good, ripe avocados are not always available. One must plan ahead, buying the avocados days before you’ll serve them. If I can only get Florida avocados or stone-hard, underripe Hass avocados, the dish is off the table. Guacamole is a house specialty of mine. My guests expect to find it when they come over, even for Thanksgiving.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Pease is a town of some 250 people in central Minnesota, sixty miles north of the Twin Cities. The uninterrupted Midwestern cornfields south of Pease start to break up around there. The town was originally a station on the Great Northern Railway, but that’s gone now. An interesting census statistic is that not one single person claiming to be African American lives in Pease. This does not bode well for those of us with a preference for the New Orleans taste in our food cuisine. But we’ll keep an open mind and go to the Pease Cafe in the middle of town, and ask them whether they know that “pease” is the original name what we now call the pea.

Edible Dictionary

garbanzo bean, n.–Also known as the chickpea. A round, dense, pale tan bean, grown and eaten since prehistoric times in the Middle East. It remains one of the most common ingredients in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. Ground up, it’s the principal ingredient in hummus and falafel. Most garbanzos are sold dried or canned, although there is such a thing as fresh. They grow in pods of two bright green beans, looking like peas. Since they dry quickly, these pods are almost never seen. The hardness of the bean must be addressed in any recipe using them. Even after being soaked or cooked for a long time, they remain very firm. Food processors have made them much more commonly used.

Deft Dining Rule #523

Adding a layer of guacamole to a Mexican dish that already has three or more ingredients inside the tortilla cannot be guaranteed to make the dish better.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez


When making guacamole, combine all the ingredients except the avocado first. Then scoop out the avocados and add them as quickly as possible. Mix only until the avocados are chunky, not a mash.

Annals Of Food Writing

Prosper Montagne was born today in 1865. He was one of several brilliant French chefs who remade French cuisine in the early 1900s, and streamlined kitchen operations by organizing cooks better and simplifying presentations. But his finest legacy is the creation of Larousse Gastronomique, an encyclopedic treatise of French cookery, still being published in many languages. It’s considered the last word on the subject.

Today’s Worst Flavors

Today in 2003, a bunch of people were sickened with hepatitis A after eating at restaurant in Pittsburgh. Three died. Green onions proved to be the vector. Always wash your vegetables and your hands before eating. And never eat your hands. . . On the very same day, a man in Chennai, India ate two hundred live earthworms in just over twenty seconds, beating the previous record of ninety-four worms in thirty seconds. That achievement was by an American named Hogg–no joke. C. Manoharan’s feat was performed in front of official observers for Guinness. Earthworms are edible, but who would want to? Some years ago McDonald’s was accused of substituting earthworms for beef. It disproved the charge by noting that earthworms are much more expensive than beef is.

Food Namesakes

Today is the birthday (1954) of Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State in the Bush II admin. . . Prince and the NPG had a number one hit on this date in 1991 with a song entitled Cream.. . . Accordionist Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural of Buckwheat Zydeco was born today in 1947. . . John Steuart Curry, who was a painter and maker of lithographs, was born today in 1897. . . Harrison Salisbury, long-time New York Times journalist, was born today in 1908. . . British wrestler Shirley “Big Daddy” Crabtree, who had a sixty-two-inch chest, wrestled his way into the world today in 1930. . . Leo Hendrik Baekland was born today in 1863. He was the inventor of Bakelite, which is considered the first plastic.

Words To Eat By

“To be always intending to live a new life, but never find time to set about it–this is as if a man should put off eating and drinking from one day to another till he be starved and destroyed.”–Sir Walter Scott.

“In the last analysis, a pickle is a cucumber with experience.”–Cookbook author and wit Irena Chalmers. Today is alleged to be National Pickle Day.

Words To Drink By

Three first-growths.

Three first-growth wines from the Windsor Court’s cellar.

“When I find someone I respect writing about an edgy, nervous wine that dithered in the glass, I cringe. When I hear someone I don’t respect talking about an austere, unforgiving wine, I turn a bit austere and unforgiving myself. When I come across stuff like that and remember about the figs and bananas, I want to snigger uneasily. You can call a wine red, and dry, and strong, and pleasant. After that, watch out.”–Kingsley Amis.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Split Pea Soup

I loved split pea soup as I was growing up, but could never get it right until I parted with tradition and left out the ham. I think it comes out much better using a vegetable stock. This split pea soup is meatless and fatless. It is everything I ever wanted in a split pea soup. The cilantro gives it a fantastic fresh flavor. Replace it with parsley if you don’t like cilantro. This soup is better the second day. Especially if it’s a cold, rainy day, as it has been for the last few days and the next few, too.

  • 1 lb. split peas
  • Stock:
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 large onion or 1 large leek, cut up (if using the leek, wash it very well after pulling it apart)
  • 3-4 carrots, cut up
  • Stems from a bunch of cilantro or parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 Tbs. mixed peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. marjoram
  • Soup:
  • 1 rib celery, sliced into narrow, short sticks
  • 1 green onion, sliced fine
  • 20 sprigs cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 Tbs. Tabasco green pepper sauce
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

1. Sort through the split peas and remove any foreign matter. Rinse the peas in a strainer, then put them into a bowl with about gallon of water. Soak overnight, or at least four hours.

2. Combine all the stock ingredients with three quarts of water. Bring to a light boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook for about an hour. Strain the stock into a clean pot, and discard the stock vegetables.

3. Pour off the soaking water from the peas, and add the peas to the pot of vegetable stock, along with all the other soup ingredients. Bring to a light boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for two hours.

4. Pass the soup through a food mill, or push through a coarse sieve. You can also strain the soup and process the solid parts with a food processor, stopping short of a puree. Add the near-pureed peas to the soup. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and Tabasco to taste.Serves eight.

Thanksgiving is not the busiest day in the year for restaurants, but it is the time when things have a way of becoming most frantic. It’s also a day in which finding a reservation is most difficult. Calling ahead months is a very good idea, particularly if you’re planning on having Thanksgiving dinner with many family members and friends. Tables in famous restaurants are also hard to nail down. Finally, if what you want from the restaurant is a big feast, it’s essential to make your reservation in, say, September or earlier.

There is an escape if you still don’t have a reservation a few days ahead of Turkey Day. When you call a few says or hours before dinner time, laugh to show that you understand how dear Thanksgiving tables are, then ask whether there are any last-minute cancellations you can fill. That works even for the toughest seats.

The Thankgiving experience is is different from other meals in other ways. Buffets–which have almost disappeared from fine dining in recent years–have a way of popping up in many restaurants. Most of these are high-end hotels. If you go that route, know that it will be much more expensive than what you remember from years ago. It may even go higher than $100.

On the other hand, Thanksgiving has a way of inspiring restaurants to create special menus that may be surprising. Three courses for $around 50 have been common in recent years. And there are always children’s menus.

All that said, here is my list of the forty best restaurants for Thanksgiving in 2018. Enjoy!

Andrea’s. Metairie 2: Orleans Line To Houma Blvd: 3100 19th St. 504-834-8583. Special menu: three courses, $40. Regular menu also available. 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

Annadele Plantation. Covington: 71518 Chestnut St. 985-809-7669. Three courses from a special menu, $48, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Arnaud’s. French Quarter: 813 Bienville. 504-523-5433. A special four-course menu for $47, with a mix of traditional Thanksgiving dishes and Arnaud’s specialties.

Bistreaux. French Quarter: 1001 Toulouse St. 504-586-8000.

Borgne. CBD: 601 Loyola Ave (Hyatt Regency Hotel). 504-613-3860. A special four-course menu, plus a limited regular menu.

Bourbon House. French Quarter: 144 Bourbon. 504-522-0111. Regular menu and Thanksgiving specials, entrees $26-32.

Brennan’s. French Quarter: 417 Royal. 504-525-9711.

Broussard’s. French Quarter: 819 Conti. 504-581-3866. An especially beautiful setting, with the courtyard open.

Cafe Adelaide. CBD: 300 Poydras St. 504-595-3305. Special menu, 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. A large a la carte menu at regular prices (entree in the mid-$20s) is abetted by a special three-course, $38 menu whose centerpiece is turducken–a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey, with stuffings. It’s a dish more talked about than cooked, but if you want to try it, here it is.

Café B. Metairie 1: Old Metairie: 2700 Metairie Road. 504-934-4700. Special menu, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Three courses, $32-$46.

Chophouse. CBD: 322 Magazine St. 504-522-7902. This high-end steakhouse is promoting its steaks as an alternative to the standard turkey dinner. If that appeals to you, there they are. Handsome place.

Commander’s Palace. Uptown 1: Garden District & Environs: 1403 Washington Ave. 504-899-8221. Special menu. Very likely already to be sold out.

Compere Lapin. CBD: 535 Tchoupitoulas. 504-599-2119.

Criollo. French Quarter: 214 Royal. 504-523-3341. The new restaurant in the Monteleone Hotel serves its second Thanksgiving. It’s a handsome restaurant with an imaginative, current New Orleans-style menu.

Crystal Room. CBD: Le Pavillon Hotel, 901 Poydras. 504-581-3111. Buffet, a bit less expensive than in the other hotels, and for that reason fills up early. Food is good as buffets go.

Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse. French Quarter: 716 Iberville. 504-522-2467. Regular dinner menu and Thanksgiving specials, 3-9 p.m.

Five Happiness. Mid-City: 3605 S Carrollton. 504-482-3935.

Fleming’s Steak House. Metairie 2: Orleans Line To Houma Blvd: 3064 N. Causeway Blvd.. 504-799-0335.

Latil’s Landing. River Parishes: In Houmas House Plantation. 225-473-9380. This is the grand restaurant in Houmas House Plantation, on the River Road, halfway from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Buffet, noon-4 p.m. $55, $25 children.

Lebanon’s Cafe. Uptown 4: Riverbend, Carrollton & Broadmoor: 1500 S Carrollton Ave. 504-862-6200.

Lüke. CBD: 333 St Charles Ave. 504-378-2840. John Besh’s most popular restaurant. Special menu.

M Bistro. French Quarter: 921 Canal. 504-524-1331. The flagship dining room of the Ritz-Carlton offers a high-end buffet 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Maple Street Cafe. Uptown 4: Riverbend, Carrollton & Broadmoor: 7623 Maple. 504-314-9003. Both locations, special menu. Three courses, $25, $13 children. under 12. Noon-7 p.m.

Mr. B’s Bistro. French Quarter: 201 Royal. 504-523-2078. Special menu, featuring free-range turkeys. Noon-8 p.m.

Muriel’s. French Quarter: 801 Chartres. 504-568-1885. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Special menu, three courses, $45.

Palace Cafe. French Quarter: 605 Canal. 504-523-1661. Regular menu with Thanksgiving specials (entrees $26-42), 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

Ralph’s On The Park. City Park Area: 900 City Park Ave. 504-488-1000. Very substantial special menu, three courses $46-54.

Red Fish Grill. French Quarter: 115 Bourbon. 504-598-1200. Buffet 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m., $47, kids $15, under 6 free. It’s not an enormous hotel-style buffet, but the food is fresh and distinctly Creole. Lots going on for the kids.

Restaurant des Familles. Marrero To Lafitte: 7163 Barataria Blvd. 504-689-7834. Way out on the bayou twenty minutes from downtown, and quite an environment. Special menu.

Rib Room. French Quarter: 621 St Louis St83. 504-529-7045. Special menu. four courses, $37-51. 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.

Roosevelt Hotel. CBD: 123 Baronne, Roosevelt Hotel. 504-648-1200.

Roux On Orleans. French Quarter: 717 Orleans (Bourbon Orleans Hotel). 504-571-4604. The restaurant of the Bourbon Orleans, a block in back of St. Louis Cathedral. Buffet from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Adults $59, tax and tip included (!).

Royal Sonesta Ballroom. French Quarter: 300 Bourbon. 504-553-2278. Now that R’evolution is the main dining room at the Sonesta, the holidays bring forth special arrangements. The buffet you remember from the days of Begue’s is now in the hotel’s big ballroom. $75 is the price; $35 6-12 years, free under that. Seatings begin at 10:30 a.m., with the final seating at 1:30 p.m.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Metairie 2: Orleans Line To Houma Blvd: 3633 Veterans Blvd. 504-888-3600. Thanksgiving specials ($40, complete dinner) and regular menu, both locations. Noon-8 p.m.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House. CBD: 525 Fulton St. 504-587-7099. Thanksgiving specials ($40, complete dinner) and regular menu, both locations. Noon-8 p.m.

Tujague’s. French Quarter: 823 Decatur. 504-525-8676. Usual table d’hote dinner, with fresh turkey and other Thanksgiving dishes, about $40. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Vacherie. French Quarter: 827 1/2 Toulouse St. 504-207-4532. This boutique hotel in the French Quarter (it’s where Louis XVI used to be) hase continually expanded the reach and goodness of its restaurant, particularly on holidays. Thanksgiving brings a buffet from noon until 4 p.m. The price is $39 adults, $18 children.

Windsor Court Grill Room. CBD: 300 Gravier. 504-522-1994. Special menu, four courses, $95. It’s offered all day long: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

AlmanacSquare November 14, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

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

Food Calendar

Today is National Guacamole Day. The word translates from the language of the aboriginal Mexicans as “avocado sauce.” They were eating it and avocados–a pure American food–long before the arrival of the Spanish. Although guacamole carries with it a sort of secret-recipe cachet, in fact it’s easy to make. The key is in limiting the recipe to ingredients that the Aztecs would have used. The originators seem to have had it down cold. So we’re talking about native American plants: avocados, chile peppers, cilantro, onions, and tomatoes. No dairy products. No black pepper. Two ingredients of non-Aztec origin that can pass are olive oil and lime juice, both used in small proportions and mainly to keep the concoction from spoiling too fast.

Guacamole is everywhere in restaurants, and much of it is even good. Only recently has the spectre of pre-made guacamole reared it’s ugly head; avocados have until recently resisted all efforts at packaging. On the other hand, some restaurants (notably Sun Ray Grill, in New Orleans) now make their guacamole to order, sometimes right at the table. In Mexico, guacamole is almost always made to order, even in the tourist-pitched restaurants.

The only problem with guacamole is that good, ripe avocados are not always available. One must plan ahead, buying the avocados days before you’ll serve them. If I can only get Florida avocados or stone-hard, underripe Hass avocados, the dish is off the table. Guacamole is a house specialty of mine. My guests expect to find it when they come over, even for Thanksgiving.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Pease is a town of some 250 people in central Minnesota, sixty miles north of the Twin Cities. The uninterrupted Midwestern cornfields south of Pease start to break up around there. The town was originally a station on the Great Northern Railway, but that’s gone now. An interesting census statistic is that not one single person claiming to be African American lives in Pease. This does not bode well for those of us with a preference for the New Orleans taste in our food cuisine. But we’ll keep an open mind and go to the Pease Cafe in the middle of town, and ask them whether they know that “pease” is the original name what we now call the pea.

Edible Dictionary

garbanzo bean, n.–Also known as the chickpea. A round, dense, pale tan bean, grown and eaten since prehistoric times in the Middle East. It remains one of the most common ingredients in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. Ground up, it’s the principal ingredient in hummus and falafel. Most garbanzos are sold dried or canned, although there is such a thing as fresh. They grow in pods of two bright green beans, looking like peas. Since they dry quickly, these pods are almost never seen. The hardness of the bean must be addressed in any recipe using them. Even after being soaked or cooked for a long time, they remain very firm. Food processors have made them much more commonly used.

Deft Dining Rule #523

Adding a layer of guacamole to a Mexican dish that already has three or more ingredients inside the tortilla cannot be guaranteed to make the dish better.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

When making guacamole, combine all the ingredients except the avocado first. Then scoop out the avocados and add them as quickly as possible. Mix only until the avocados are chunky, not a mash.

Annals Of Food Writing

Prosper Montagne was born today in 1865. He was one of several brilliant French chefs who remade French cuisine in the early 1900s, and streamlined kitchen operations by organizing cooks better and simplifying presentations. But his finest legacy is the creation of Larousse Gastronomique, an encyclopedic treatise of French cookery, still being published in many languages. It’s considered the last word on the subject.

Today’s Worst Flavors

Today in 2003, a bunch of people were sickened with hepatitis A after eating at restaurant in Pittsburgh. Three died. Green onions proved to be the vector. Always wash your vegetables and your hands before eating. And never eat your hands. . . On the very same day, a man in Chennai, India ate two hundred live earthworms in just over twenty seconds, beating the previous record of ninety-four worms in thirty seconds. That achievement was by an American named Hogg–no joke. C. Manoharan’s feat was performed in front of official observers for Guinness. Earthworms are edible, but who would want to? Some years ago McDonald’s was accused of substituting earthworms for beef. It disproved the charge by noting that earthworms are much more expensive than beef is.

Food Namesakes

Today is the birthday (1954) of Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State in the Bush II admin. . . Prince and the NPG had a number one hit on this date in 1991 with a song entitled Cream.. . . Accordionist Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural of Buckwheat Zydeco was born today in 1947. . . John Steuart Curry, who was a painter and maker of lithographs, was born today in 1897. . . Harrison Salisbury, long-time New York Times journalist, was born today in 1908. . . British wrestler Shirley “Big Daddy” Crabtree, who had a sixty-two-inch chest, wrestled his way into the world today in 1930. . . Leo Hendrik Baekland was born today in 1863. He was the inventor of Bakelite, which is considered the first plastic.

Words To Eat By

“To be always intending to live a new life, but never find time to set about it–this is as if a man should put off eating and drinking from one day to another till he be starved and destroyed.”–Sir Walter Scott.

“In the last analysis, a pickle is a cucumber with experience.”–Cookbook author and wit Irena Chalmers. Today is alleged to be National Pickle Day.

Words To Drink By

“When I find someone I respect writing about an edgy, nervous wine that dithered in the glass, I cringe. When I hear someone I don’t respect talking about an austere, unforgiving wine, I turn a bit austere and unforgiving myself. When I come across stuff like that and remember about the figs and bananas, I want to snigger uneasily. You can call a wine red, and dry, and strong, and pleasant. After that, watch out.”–Kingsley Amis.

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