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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Quebec City to New Orleans is not the easiest route home, even though the airport is modern and handsome. It took me and Mary Ann awhile, as we waited in the usual airline lines. The first jump took us on a tiny plane from Quebec to Philadelphia, of all places. After that, we managed to get onto a big plane that took us all the rest of the way to New Orleans.

While we were in the Philadelphia airport, Mary Ann insisted that we should sample the city’s cuisine. There are some. The most famous is Geno’s Philly Cheese Steak. This is a lot like New Orleans roast beef poor boys, except that the filling of the bread is made up of roasted, shredded beef served with melted cheese, grilled onions and bell peppers with a meaty sauce. I used to make Philly cheese steaks at home years ago. And there’s always some sandwich vendor or other in New Orleans who tries to make it here. I can’t think of one at the moment, though. And the one I had at the Philly airport didn’t impress me even a little. I left behind two thirds of an enormous sandwich.

Given our circumstances, I was astonished that we made it to New Orleans at just about midnight. I would have put my money on our being stranded in Philly, but through some magic MA made it happen.

I was back on the radio the very next day after we got back from Quebec. There was a lot going home over there, with more to come later in the week. The most interesting plan came from the Roosevelt Hotel, which wants me to host a monthly hour from the hotel, with food, music, wine, and other celebrations. The management is subtly interested in recalling the years when WWL radio was on the air in the Roosevelt. That sort of thing is right up my alley. They might even have me singing a little Big Band with the real musicians.

The Roosevelt’s venue for most of this is the Fountain Lounge. That goes back decades as a space for serving easygoing food, although for a period in the 1980s it became the most formal restaurant in the history of New Orleans dining–the Sazerac Restaurant.

The menu at the Fountain Lounge is in the new age of dining, in which the menus are designed to be composed of several small sources. In order to demonstrate the idea, the management and I ate through the whole menu. You choose three each from the ten possibilities for $18.93 (that’s the date the Roosevelt first opened). I started with beef with beet and goat cheese salad, followed by a poor-boy slider with roast beef debris. For dessert, twelve-layer banana tart, a brilliant offering that resembles a Baked Alaska.

The special $18.93 is already available every weekday. It is then followed by all the holiday specials for which the Roosevelt is famous.
Fountain Lounge. CBD: 123 Baronne, Roosevelt Hotel. 504-648-1200.

Discovering Canada And Enjoying The Foliage.

By Mary Ann Fitzmorris

It has happened only twice that high winds kept our cruise ship from docking. Both times it was a place I’d never been, and really wanted to go.

In 2014 we skipped Tunisia, and last week we had to pass up Prince Edward Island. To food lovers, PEI is known for its superb mollusks. To everyone else, “Anne of Green Gables.”

Anticipating our stop, I brought along the book. It turned out to be all I did, in lieu of stopping in port that day. Early in the morning, the “voice in the ceiling”, (as the ship’s captain liked to call himself) told us it was too windy to dock in PEI. We could barely hear him under the whistling winds.

I got up, walked ten feet, and got back into bed, where I remained the next 24 hours. Nearly 20 of those, the ship shuddered, creaked, and pitched in 20 foot swells and 75 mph winds. It was revealed the following day that the cabin crews on the 5th floor burst into rooms to board up windows. Water blew in six of them and the restaurant and casino had water damage.

I lay face up in bed under covers, afraid to move for fear of getting sick. On all previous cruises, this would have been a heinous way to spend a day, but I pulled out the copy of “Anne of Green Gables”, I brought. Within minutes I was swept far away and back in time to Avonlea, a place I would see today only in my mind.

This tale of the most adorable human in literature (in my experience) utterly bewitched me. I couldn’t help but imagine how the real world might be different if more people had hearts so full of love and wonder, and minds even half as perceptive as the young heroine.

While I was lying motionless all day, Tom was walking the ship visiting with people and singing whenever he was allowed.

I asked for some soda crackers from one of his trips out. It was the perfect meal for such a day.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Gratin of Pumpkin

I originally served this dish at one of my Thanksgiving dinners, in another effort to use the meat of the jack o’lantern-style pumpkins so cheap that time of year. I’ve made it often since. It’s a variation on the French classic gratin dauphinois.

  • 1 medium pumpkin
  • 5 cloves garlic, 2 of them chopped
  • 2 lbs. carrots, peeled and cut on the bias into 1/4-inch-thick coins
  • White pepper
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 pint half-and-half
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1 cup bread crumbs

Gratin of Carrots

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If you have a convection oven, set it on convect.

1. Cut open the pumpkin from top to bottom. Scrape out all the seeds and fibers. Cut the pumpkin into eighths. Carve the meat out in pieces as large as you can, starting about a quarter inch inside the shell. Slice the meat about one-eighth inch thick.

2. Crush the three garlic cloves, and use them to wipe the inside of a 12-by-8-inch glass baking dish. Discard what’s left of the garlic.

3. Shingle the pumpkin and carrot slices along the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle some of the chopped garlic, white pepper, and parmesan and gruyere cheeses. Lay down more layers of the pumpkin and carrots, with garlic and cheese in between. Finish with a generous layer of the cheeses.

4. Beat the egg yolks and mix with the half-and-half and nutmeg. Pour the half-and-half over the casserole. Wrap a relatively tight seal of aluminum foil over the top of the dish, and put it in the preheated 350-degree oven for an hour and ten minutes.

5. Raise the oven temperature to 400. Remove the foil, sprinkle bread crumbs in a thin layer over the top, and return uncovered to the oven. Continue baking until the crust browns.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to rest and cool for at least fifteen minutes before serving.

Makes about twelve side portions.

AlmanacSquare October 29, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Thanksgiving Nov. 22

Turkey Day

Not Thanksgiving, yet, but the National Day of the modern country of Turkey. The Ottoman Empire, defeated in World War I, ceased to exist today in 1923. In its place was a republic led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. In the next few years, the sultanate was abolished and the country became officially secular. Turkey is now quite modern, although still unambiguously Islamic. All the cuisines we think of as Middle Eastern originally came from Turkey. The Ottoman Empire’s long influence installed the Turkish style of cooking from Greece through Israel and Egypt across to Morocco.

Today’s Flavor

This is National Oatmeal Day. Oatmeal began to be eaten as a hot breakfast porridge in Scotland. Most of the ways we eat oatmeal in this country are similar to the Scottish recipes. The two kinds of oatmeal both come from the same grain. Steel-cut oatmeal–made by chopping the grains–is preferable, but takes longer to cook. Rolled oatmeal is made by steaming the grains, then squashing them between rollers. Some nourishment and flavor are lost in that process, but it’s so much more convenient that it dominates the market.

Since oats are historically grown in cold areas, that’s where you find most oatmeal. The competition from grits as the preferred hot cereal in the South adds to the relative rarity of oatmeal there. However, everybody makes and eats oatmeal muffins and cookies, especially since the discovery that they lower cholesterol.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Pudding Hollow, New York is indeed a low spot in the hills of Adirondack Park, on Ridge Road off NY 28N. It’s in a winter ski area and is almost entirely wooded. A few chalets and lakes are nearby. It’s 250 miles upstate of New York City. The most interesting dining–and we base this on the names alone–are the Lucky Leprechaun and Owl At Twilight, both about four miles away in Olmstedville. Here’s a map.

Edible Dictionary

Hangtown fry, (Archaic), n.–This nearly-dead dish of oysters and eggs still shows up on menus now and then, particularly on the West Coast. But the story is worth telling. During the California Gold Rush, a prospector who had a good strike wandered into a cafe in the boom village of Hangtown (now Placerville). “Give me the best food in the house!” he said. The cook said the most expensive food he had were oysters, and that he could fry them and serve them with eggs and bacon. That sounded good to the prospector, who enjoyed a big plate of them. Someone else saw him eating the dish, and the next thing you know, people were eating fried-oyster omelettes all over California. The one time the dish showed up in New Orleans was at Houlihan’s Old Place on Bourbon Street. The dish’s popularity was no doubt depressed by its name.

Turning Points In Cooking

Today in 1929 was Black Tuesday, the day Wall Street laid an egg (as Variety reported). The stock market lost about a fifth of its value in one day, an event often noted as the beginning of the Great Depression. Those hard times changed eating habits for a lot of people. Many of us know (or were descendants of) folks whose styles of cooking were very frugal. My own mother (and most people of her generation) were that way. One of the first books written by legendary food writer M.F. K. Fisher was on this subject: How To Cook A Wolf, referring to the proverbial wolf at the door. Those who filled the gaps left when the fearful backed away from work and life did well.

World Record Food

Today in 2000 J.J. Tranfield–a butcher working for Asda Stores in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England–completed a sausage which, if rolled out straight (disregarding the curvature of the Earth, which it followed) would be thirty-six and three-quarters miles long, a world’s record. It was served with a bowl of red beans the size of the North Sea.

Deft Dining Rule #202

If a restaurant owner complains to you about how tough times are right now, he is trying to persuade you of the necessity of his lowering standards. Expect a less than perfect meal.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Before you add oats to cookies or muffins, put them into a skillet over medium heat, dry, and let them brown a little around the edges. Gives a nice toasty flavor.

Food Namesakes

Steven Sweet, drummer for the heavy metal band Warrant, was born today in 1965. Their song Cherry Pie went platinum. . . Yankee shortstop Frank Baker was born today in 1946. . . LaVern Baker was inducted into the Rock and’ Roll Hall of Fame today in 1990.

Words To Eat By

“Good taste is innate, and knowing with certainty when and how to break the rules–and when not to–is a talent few possess.”–Michael McLaughlin, food writer, author of The Mushroom Book.

Words To Drink By

“Woman first tempted man to eat; he took to drinking of his own accord.”–Unknown, from Four Hundred Laughs by John R. Kemble, 1902.