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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Diary || Monday, May 14, 2018. || MA and I have our standard Monday lunch at New Orleans Food & Spirits. We split a half-dozen broiled oysters, but I wound up getting far more than my fair share. MA doesn’t like extra-large oysters. I cross my fingers that all the oysters coming my way are extra-large.

Many years of research tell me that the bigger the oyster, the better the flavor. This idea was most dramatically tested some twenty years ago when Jamie Shannon–then the chef at Commander’s Palace–obtained some extraordinarily large oysters the size of dinner plates. The had come from oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, and were allowed to grow to a nearly-obscene size. You had to eat them with a knife and fork. This episode occurred back in the days when Dick Brennan Sr., food writer and teacher Marcelle Bienvenue and I had dinner together at Commander’s Palace on the second Tuesday of every month. Those monster oysters remain the best-tasting I ever ate.

To return to lunch with MA, she ate more than her share of grilled-oyster butter and French bread, while I gobbled down all the gigantic oyster meats themselves. She also had a shrimp salad, while I had a house salad free of romaine lettuce. The warnings about e-coli infection in those salad greens are still coming out. I don’t think we had any reportage of that contamination in New Orleans, but the restaurants just rush past the question. Or pointed out that there was no romaine lettuce in the house salad. I tested that thesis myself, with the standard salad. Also on my plate was a cup of red beans and rice, because it is Monday, after all. And the lunch-special blackened catfish with pecans, a la meuniere. This is a great lunch, one I avail myself of much too frequently.

We talk about upcoming cruises perhaps in the works. Mary Ann still is agitating for Great Britain and Ireland, China, and Alaska. We also learned lately from the limousine operator who had driven us around Nova Scotia in previous cruises would not be able to take us to a roadside eatery serving enormous lobsters right out of the water. Reason: the Canadian officials said that it didn’t have the proper sanitation. This was always one of the best parts of this cruise, so we are looking around for a restaurant that can serve our gang a big lobster feast.

I hosted the daily radio show from the Cool Water Ranch, then dismissed myself to the NPAS rehearsal venue. I was the first one there, for some reason. Also, our conductor moved me to front and center of the Tenor section. Lord knows it’s not for my accuracy of pitch or rhythm.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018. || The Near-Camellia || Mary Ann called the air-conditioning man, and he brought our hard-working compressor back to life. It has been living on borrowed time, said the repairman of twenty years ago. But the house is ideally chilly when I get home. It even used much less Freon than in the past.

I have my second dinner at The Grille. The owner is Hicham Khodr, who also owns the Camellia Grill, the Gumbo Shop, NOLA, and a few other well-known restaurants. Any accusations that the Grille resembles the Camellia Grill in any way other than that they both serve hamburgers and omelettes are inaccurate. Having been a Camellia Grill customer for a lot of its history, I say that the idea that it’s been copied is fanciful.

I order a Santa Fe omelette, the likes of which I can safely say have no counterpart in the classic Camellia Grill menu. It was a mix of ground beef, hot peppers and queso. The lightness of the Camellia Grill’s omelettes was nowhere to be felt or tasted. It was, however, a very good omelette, if you give the place credit for having an original piece of work.

Both this Grille and the old Grill are, in their essence, American diners. There’s a bit of New Orleans in the poor-boy sandwiches, but not a lot. The essence of the Camellia Grill had more to do with its service style than its food. Long-time old Camellia Grill waiter Harry Tervalon–was a genuine character and fought for his customers when things went off the rails. The waiters at The Grill shoot the breeze a bit, but it isn’t especially entertaining.

If they could bring this place up to a more jovial scene, it could turn into something. The location–next to the new Trader Joe’s–is already full of people.
The Grille. Metairie. 504-522-1800.


Crawfish Willy Coln

In the 1970s, Chef Willy Coln came to New Orleans town to run the kitchens of the Royal Sonesta hotel. After several years there, he opened his own terrific German restaurant on the West Bank. He closed it after about ten years, then worked for over a decade as executive chef of the Inter-Continental Hotel. Here is one of the dishes he developed for the hotel’s Veranda Restaurant, where it was served as an appetizer.

Crawfish in pastry a la Willy Coln

  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 Tbs. French shallots, chopped
  • 1 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1 Tbs. chopped green onions
  • 1 lb. crawfish tails
  • 1 oz. brandy
  • 2 Tbs. fresh tomato, peel and seeds removed, chopped
  • 1/2 cup crawfish stock
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 4 sheets puff pastry dough, 3 inch square (available at better grocery stores)
  • 1 beaten egg yolk

1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium skillet until it bubbles. Saute the shallots, garlic, and green onions until limp.

2. Add the crawfish tails and saute until heated through. Carefully pour the brandy over the skillet contents and touch a flame to it. (If you’re comfortable with flaming things and have firefighting resources.) When the flames die down (or all the alcohol boils away), stir in the tomato and the crawfish stock and bring to a boil.

3. Stir in the whipping cream, salt, and cayenne and heat through (but do not boil). Adjust seasonings and remove from the heat. Spoon into small ramekins and serve.

4. For an impressive presentation, top each ramekin with a piece of the puff pastry. Push it down around the sides to form a cap. Brush the pastry with beaten egg and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven until the top browns lightly. When your guests cut into the pastry cap, the wonderful aroma will hit them in the face.

Serves four.

AlmanacSquare May 17, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

New Orleans Wine And Food Experience May 25-27
Greek Festival May 25, 26, 27

Food Calendar

Today is National Chocolate Fondue Day. Chocolate fondue is the traditional final course of a fondue dinner, served after you’ve been through the bread dipped in melted cheese and the meats passed through hot oil or hot broth. It is clearly the favorite kind of fondue, involving cubes of pound cake and various fresh fruits, dunked in the molten chocolate long enough to coat it. You eat it still warm from the pot, and the end of long fondue forks. The chocolate is usually combined with cream or evaporated milk (otherwise it might seize up) and some flavored liqueurs or even coffee. Fondue has never been common in New Orleans, because it’s the sort of eating that is best done when it’s cold outside. Which it is only about three months a year, if that.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

You can melt chocolate in a double boiler or in a microwave oven, but no matter how you do it don’t wander far. Taking your eyes off melting chocolate is like punching a button in an elevator with your eyes closed, and you don’t even get to meet new people.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

On this date in 1989, retired Rolling Stone guitarist Bill Wyman opened an American-style restaurant in London called Sticky Fingers. Its menu reads like a cross between those of Houston’s and Outback. Its website features an almanac of its own. For example, we learn that on this date in 1968, Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull moved into 48 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London. However, the site does not report that on this day in 1975, Mick punched a restaurant’s window in, and had to be taken to the hospital for twenty stitches. Wyman’s place has no connection with an American chain of barbecue places with the same name.

World Food Records

On this day in 1985, Les Anderson caught a ninety-four pound, four-ounce chinook salmon in Alaska–a record. He used rod and reel, yet. I wonder what such a thing would taste like, or whether you’d even try to eat it.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Crawfish Creek is a small tributary on the Illinois side of the Wabash River, in the southernmost wedge of the state. It’s forty-four miles north of Evansville, Indiana. Crawfish Creek really does have crawfish in it. Indeed, twenty-four species of crawfish are found in Illinois. These are pretty small , and if they’re caught by people at all they’re used for bait. (Birds love them, however.) Crawfish Creek travels eighteen miles, and in its lower reaches is good for fly fishing. The place to dine is the Nostalgia Restaurant, three miles south in Mt. Carmel.

Food And The Arts

Sandro Botticelli, who painted the iconic “Birth of Venus,” was born today in 1444. His masterpiece is known to foodies as “Venus on the Half Shell.”

Annals Of Food Research

Elvin Charles Stakman, a plant pathologist, spent his life combatting world hunger by researching and fighting diseases in food plants, notably wheat, corn and other cereals. His passion for his work was fueled as much by concern for the poor (especially in Mexico) as by scientific imperatives. He was born today in 1885.

Edible Dictionary

aglio olio, aglio e olio, Italian, n.–Literally, “garlic and oil.” This is among the simplest of pasta dishes, served tossed with a sauce made by cooking chopped fresh garlic, parsley, and crushed red pepper in olive oil until fragrant. It’s found in Italian restaurants everywhere, particularly in the South. It has the reputation of being a poor man’s dinner, but this should not be taken to besmirch either its goodness or its popularity. Pasta aglio olio is known in New Orleans as pasta bordelaise.

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Pascal Baylon, a lay Franciscan brother who lived in sixteenth-century Spain. He worked as a cook, and is one of many patron saints of cooks.

Food Namesakes

Sir Nicholas Hickman Ponsonby Bacon, 14th Premier Baronet (an hereditary knighthood in England) was born today in 1953. . . The famous racehorse Seabiscuit died today in 1947, at fourteen. . . Sugar Ray Leonard, the boxer, was born today in 1956.

Words To Eat By

“It is part of the novelist’s convention not to mention soup and salmon and ducklings, as if soup and salmon and ducklings were of no importance.”–Virginia Woolf.

Words To Drink By

“Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer.”–Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Notes From A Well-Equipped Kitchen.

Cleanliness is important, of course. But so are proper electrical plug-ins, and the avoiding of short circuits. When’s the last time you checked your countertop?

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