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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Diary: 9/11/2018: K-Paul’s Louisiana Cooking. Mary Ann continues with her program of choosing restaurants nightly for dinner that I either a) have never been to before or 2) have not dined in for a long time. Today’s such selection is K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, which has a third quality. This is the first time I’ve dined here since Chef Paul Prudhomme passed away.

On top of that, I was been officially banned from dining for over twenty years by Chef Paul. I had actually dined there numerous times, but the staff allowed me in when Chef Paul wasn’t in the restaurant–which was most of the time. There was one episode in which Chef Paul was in house, and there was a short interlude between the chef and Mary Ann. He let me know that he still didn’t like me, but did nothing further.

As for me, I never knew what it was that I did to offend him in the first place. Paul and I were friends when he first came to town, and he appeared often on my radio show in the 1970s and 1980. If I knew how I turned him off, I would have apologized. There’s no question that Paul was one of the great forces in the local cuisine, and we would not be where we are now were it not for him. I was deeply sorry for his death. My talks with Chef Paul Miller (who runs the restaurant now and for a long time before) tells me that I am as welcome as anyone now.

Now, we were here primarily to see how K-Paul’s was playing the Coolinary and Restaurant Week. Answer: they were offering their standard Creole and Cajun dishes. Mary Ann had the chicken andouille gumbo. Turtle soup for me. Both were excellent.

I put into play my feeling that good-quality pork chops are usually better than more expensive steaks of equivalent quality. This one was thick, juicy, blackened at the exterior and stuffed with the usual Cajun stuff. A red wine sauce with prosciutto finished the creative effort.

MA had the pan-fried flounder with a cream sauce and a side of jambalaya. The latter was in the Creole style, with a good bit of tomato in it. MA doesn’t like it made that way, but the world didn’t end. Bread pudding for my dessert, nothing as usual for MA.

We were seated upstairs, which is a bit of a climb. The wait staff was dressed up and attentive. Those who think of K-Paul’s as a rustic kind of place might have found the downstairs table a little more formal than they might have expected.

The Restaurant Week menu was still in force, and was one of the more appealing for this year’s promotion. The price of $39 for the three courses is an outstanding deal.

Mary Ann’s luck with parking was in force. She knows a spot on Bienville Street which, if you’re there at about a quarter to six p.m., you can get a perfectly legal spot for nothing. There’s something eerie about this, but I have learned to just let it happen.

K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. French Quarter: 416 Chartres. 504-596-2530.

Eat Club Dinner @ Trenasse
Wednesday, September 26 2018

In the Hotel Inter-Continental. CBD: 444 St Charles Ave. 6:30 p.m. $85, inclusive of tax, tip and a wine tasting.
Reservations: 504-680-7000.

When we first discovered Trenasse a few years ago, it was hard to believe that a casual hotel restaurant could be this good. Beginning with a magnificent study of oysters, our dinner proceeds through dishes that blend Creole and Southern dishes, many of which are quite original.

Hour-Long Oyster Reception
Rockefeller, Bienville, garlic butter, gratin, smoked gruyere & panetta, Intercontinental, cold smoked Gulf oyster duke’s vinegar, thyme, chili, horseradish crème, micro arugula.

FIRST COURSE
Braised Lamb Carbonara
Bucatini, lamb debris, black eyed peas, poached egg

SECOND COURSE
American Red Snapper
Crispy potato rosti, ham hock gravy, arugula salad

THIRD COURSE
Boudin Stuffed Rabbit Loin
Cornmeal spoon bread, vinegar braised collard greens, rabbit reduction

FOURTH COURSE
Compressed Watermelon
Blackberry gel, white chocolate mousse, vanilla macaron, raspberry dust, mint.

RESERVATIONS
To attend this dinner, you must phone the restaurant’s reservation desk at 504-680-7000. Payment is made at the restaurant the night of the dinner. Credit cards are preferred.

Attire is casual. Most guests are seated in tables of six to eight, with Tom Fitzmorris moving from table to table. If you’re like to sit with your friends, show up early to get the seat you’d prefer. If you can’t make it, please let us know a day ahead. See you there!–Tastefully yours, Tom Fitzmorris.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Broiled Mushrooms With Italian Sausage

This was a clean-out-the-refrigerator dish we threw together one night when friends suddenly came over. Like us, they’d recently been to Italy. So I thought of this, which was so obvious that someone must have done it somewhere before. But I don’t remember ever having had it, so here it is. We liked them a great deal.

  • 4 links Italian sausage
  • 1 lb. whole white mushrooms, medium size (1-2 inches diameter)
  • 2/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 10 sprigs flat-leaf Italian parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 1/3 cup shredded Fontina or mozzarella cheese

Preheat the broiler to 450 degrees.

1. Remove the casings from the sausages. Break the sausage into a skillet over medium heat. Cook while working the sausage into small pieces with a kitchen fork, until the sausage begins to brown. Pour off any excess fat.

2. Add the crushed red pepper, oregano, and salt. Add 1/2 cup of water, turn the sausage and continue to break up the pieces until all the pink is gone.

3. Add the parsley and bread crumbs and mix in well. Add a little water or chicken stock if needed to keep the mixture from being very dry. (It should not be very wet, either.) Remove from the heat.

4. While the sausage is cooking, remove the stems from the mushrooms. Slice off a sliver the size of a dime from the top of the mushroom cap to make a flat area.

5. While the sausage mixture is still warm, use a teaspoon to stuff the bottom of each mushroom. Pile as much stuffing on as will stay in place, with some perhaps crumbling off. Place the mushrooms stuffing side up on a baking pan. Top with a generous pinch of the shredded cheese (as much as you can get to stay put) on top of the stuffing.

6. Broil until the cheese melts and begins to brown. Remove and serve very hot.

Serves eight to twelve.

AlmanacSquare September 13, 2017

Days Until. . .

Restaurant Week: September 11-16. Fettuccine Frenzy: Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays through September @ Middendorf’s.

Food Calendar

Today is National Peanut Day. Peanuts are a remarkable food, highly nourishing both the to eater and to the grower. [Mention George Washington Carver here.] They’ve suffered a dip in reputation in recent years, because of the one percent of Americans who have allergies to them. This number has doubled in recent years, likely because of the reverse placebo effect. Now we see advisories on candy bars and other products that say “This product was manufactured in a plant that processes peanuts.”

However, for most people peanuts offer nothing but pleasure. They’re a better snack than a candy bar. Peanut butter is an essential product in most homes, especially those with kids. Peanut butter pie is a great dessert, if made with a light hand and some chocolate (recipe elsewhere in today’s edition). And peanuts appear all over the menu, from Vietnamese peanut sauce for dipping spring rolls to peanut soup (a traditional dish in the Carolinas that seems ripe for exploitation here).

The best source of peanut information comes from the National Peanut Board, whose website offers hundreds of recipes, amusing trivia, and even facts about the allergy issue. And this: no trans-fats in peanuts!

Gourmet Gazetteer

Nut Plains, Connecticut is about seventeen miles east of New Haven, and about ninety-three miles from New York City. It looks like an affluent area, with large houses on spacious lots, and the Guilford Lakes and golf courses nearby. The restaurants are two miles away in Guilford. The place that grabs my curiosity is Place. That’s it. The name of the place is Place.

Annals Of Chocolate

Milton Hershey, who founded the chocolate manufacturing company that made his name famous, was born today in 1857. He ignored the methods used by European chocolatiers and developed his own way of making milk chocolate. The Hershey process involved slightly soured milk. That flavor is widely disdained by many makers of chocolate, but it remains the standard for chocolate in the United States. Once his company was successful, Hershey pulled away from it, donating most of it to a charitable foundation. He spent the rest of his life traveling.

Edible Dictionary

stevia, n.–An extract from a New World tropical plant whose leaves have a sweet flavor, but little carbohydrate content. In the world of artificial sweeteners, the extract of stevia leaves is the current darling of the industry, with a great deal of research going on. The public has been slower to accept it, largely because stevia has a flavor reminiscent of licorice. This works better for some uses (fruit-flavored drinks and teas) and less well in others (coffee). The word “stevia” is the genus name for a wide range of plants, many of which are sources of the sweetener. Stevia is the active ingredient in teh pale-green packets you’re starting to see along with the pink, blue, and yellow envelopes.

Annals Of Table Etiquette

Miss Manners (real name Judith Martin) was born today in 1938. As she notes in her book, etiquette is more than knowing which fork to use–even though knowing which fork to use is what inspired etiquette as we know it. Louis XIV is often credited with making the first really big deal about table manners. Those who failed to practice them became outcasts.

Many rules of table etiquette have fallen from practice in this increasingly casual era. That doesn’t make them any less worthwhile. Here are a few that are largely unknown, but which I think would add a great deal to dining pleasure:

1. Dessert, no matter what it is (even ice cream) should be served with a tablespoon (oval soup spoon) and a salad fork.

2. It’s perfectly acceptable to pick up lamb chops, pork chops, and similar items with bones and nibble off them.

3. Asparagus can be picked up with the fingers and eaten, whether cold or hot. (Unless they’re so saucy and limp that doing so might make a mess.)

4. Bread should be broken off the loaf at the table, not sliced. The piece you tear off should be enough to get you through the next course or so. Only butter one bite at a time, after tearing that off your piece.

5. The butter knife–that flat-bladed thing with the notch near the end of the blade–should be used only to transport butter from the common butter dish to your own bread and butter plate. The actual buttering is done with your table knife.

Or just forget about it all, do it your way, and miss out on the additional enjoyment eating by the rules provides.

Music To Dine Elegantly By

Today in 1925 was the birthday of Mel Torme, one of the all-time great singers of the Great American Songbook. He was singing professionally by age three, and stuck at it until he died in 1999. His nickname was “The Velvet Fog,” which defined his unique sound exactly. But he didn’t like it, as he told me during his engagement in the Blue Room about thirty years ago. All night long he gave the smokers in the grand old ballroom grief. . . Another terrific singer was born today in 1916. Dick Haymes was Frank Sinatra’s replacement twice, with Harry James’s and Tommy Dorsey’s bands. Big, rich baritone, but not a lot of emotion.

Music To Eat Ice Cream By

Little Richard recorded Tutti Frutti, one of his most famous hits in his wild style, on this date in 1955. All-a-rooti!

Food Namesakes

American singer and songwriter Fiona Apple was born today in 1977. . . Dutch writer Nicholas Beets was uprooted today in 1814. . . Relief pitcher Dan Quisenberry racked up his thirty-ninth save of the year, a record, today in 1983. I like a good quisenberry pie, don’t you?. . . TV soap opera actor Jason Cook was born today in 1980. . . Actress Ann Dusenberry was born today in 1958. I like a good dusenberry pie, don’t you?

Unforgettable Dinners

Today in 2001, fourteen people joined me at a big, oval-shaped table adjacent to the wine cellar of the Windsor Court Hotel’s Grill Room. We were there for one of our Eat Club dinners, which at that time had gone on almost every Wednesday for eight years.

Meat and three at Windsor Court’s lunch.

The attendance was limited to fifteen because the restaurant was planning an unusually ambitious repast, even by their five-star standards. (And because that’s all the table would accommodate.) It was as spectacular as promised. I remember sea scallops the size of filets mignon, venison filets as the main course, and a full evening of unusual and wonderful wines.

All who signed up for the dinner showed up. It was something of a miracle. All around town, restaurants were nearly empty, as people cocooned themselves at home in reaction to what had happened two days before. As fabulous as the food and wines were, talk about it lasted only a minute or two before falling back to Topic AAA. It would be weeks before restaurants saw anything like normal dining room populations. And months before I stopped thinking about the meaning of the attack all the time.

Words To Eat By

“Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands–and then eat just one of the pieces.”–Judith Viorst.

“I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can’t stop eating peanuts.”–Orson Welles.

Words To Drink By

“I never drink coffee at lunch. I find it keeps me awake for the afternoon.”–Ronald Reagan.

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