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The Most Alluring Of Hamburgers

DiningDiarySquare-150×150 Diary: 9/17/2019. After several days of goings-on, I settle into an easy routine. The only lunch was one-sixth of a ham-and- roast beef poor boy, left over for some kind of snack provided to the construction guys hired by daughter, who is renovating a house on her own, and were able to get some work done. The relentless rains of the past couple of months made building difficulty to impossible. Today the only impediment is the scorching sunshine, which brings temperatures in our area nearly to the 100-degree level. Very uncomfortable.

My Mondays are usually relaxing, with the spectre of singing with NPAS later in the day. But everything is off-kilter today as we hold the pre-cruise party for the eighty-two people who will be coming with the Eat Club. in Mid-October, we will go to New England and eastern Canada, as we have four times in the past. What makes this cruise spectacular is that over eighty people will be on the roster.

As it usually is, the pre-cruise dinner tonight was held at Drago’s, where lobster is easily available. (The actual New England cruise is dominated by lobsters, scallops, mussels, and clams.) Drago’s gave us a great deal on the dinner, and let us take over a big part of their usually full main dining room. We went through hundreds of Drago’s famous char-grilled oysters.

Although this is my program, Mary Ann has taken from me the job of organizing the event. For which I am grateful. She’s good at that task, and I hate it. This leaves me with only the jobs of presiding over Eat Club dinner tables on the ship, and the mood-perking nature of Tom’s pre-dinner Martini Club. I started leading that little group in its early days, when I could actually drink martinis in quantities that could lead to a party. Now that I am nearly finished with drinking alcohol, my main import to the evening is to bring in the good moods.

Besides, in the early Martini Club Days, we did a lot of picking up the checks for one another, as friendships grew. But now almost every member of our group has invested in the free-drinks come-on that the ships use as enticements to joviality and sales.

It is interesting however, to field the many questions we’re asked by Eat Club Cruisers. The Norwegian Cruise Lines were well ahead of the game when they all but eliminated the traditional dining rooms on cruise ships, wherein you show up at a certain table at a certain time and order from the day’s menu at no extra charge, other than perhaps a dislike for the other people at your table.

Now the food department of the ship offers a dozen or more specialty restaurants, ranging from steak to French to Asian to barbecue to Italian to who knows what. We have arranged for all our Eat Clubbers to get four dinners in these specialty eateries for free. For some reason, this has kicked off an incomprehensible puzzlement on the part of our cruisers. They’re responding to Norwegian’s brilliant new marketing methods, but they treat it as if it were the most precious reservation in the world.

We wrapped up our pre-party party at Drago’s and I struck out for home. Mary Ann would linger for quite awhile, to answer the never-ending questions from our cruisers. But it was now late, and the number of questions asked is for all practical purposes infinite.

Drago’s. Metairie: 3232 N Arnoult Rd. 504-888-9254.

Wednesday, Another New Approach to Hamburgers. And Fried Catfish. I have not often agreed to announcing radio commercials about hamburgers. They’re so commonplace, and so badly understood on both sides of the equation that I feel apologetic even about bringing the subject up. I remember the days when, barely into my adulthood, I ate hamburgers nearly every day. This was ameliorated, I believed, by eating only the perceived-excellent Bud’s Broiler’s hamburgers.

A lot of water has since flowed. After paying slight attention to burgers for years, and, I find myself surrounded by hamburgers that actually are very good.

This takes long explanation. Here goes: the best hamburgers follow the rules of any other dish that gets made and praised. If you buy first-class ingredients. . . if the cook who grills a well-assembled pays close attention to whia he or she is doing. . .and if the details have attention paid to them. . . there’s a strong chance that the hamburger that gets such attentions will come out of the process as a highly edible dish.

The guys who operate New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Company restaurant are hip to most of the above. But there are many more matters of note. One that is not enough appreciated, for example, is the size of the hamburger patty. There are lots of hamburgers in circulation that make excellent burgers up to a point. That point is that the meat is so overly thick that it can’t be eaten comfortably. To give an example, the hamburger at Zea fits these descriptions. For the most part, it’s excellent. But the remaining 95 per cent left is very difficult to eat. Not being able to eat a dish is a black mark against it.

I hope the above will explain what follows. The New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Company–when they stay with their specialties–almost always gets it right. The only obvious strike involves consistency. . . but not so badly that one would pass on the uneaten 95 percent.

New Orleans Hamburger has asked me to create some commercials for them. They have allowed me to say whatever I want, and I have the last say about almost everything. I have made up my mind that if reasonable objections arise, I will back away. And the management takes this encouraging stand: “We like the stories you put into your spots.” Well, I’d like to hear that, myself. I’d better get back to work.

New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Co. Uptown: 4141 St Charles Ave. 504-247-9753.
AlmanacSquare September 19, 2017
Days Until. . .

Summer ends December 224. Fettuccine Frenzy: Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays through September @ Middendorf’s.

Today’s Flavor

It’s Fried Eggplant Day. There seems to be wide agreement as to what constitutes perfect fried eggplant: a greaseless, dark-brown exterior with a bread-crumb crust and a light interior. This can be had by cutting the eggplant either into disks or sticks, but the sticks–perhaps because of their resemblance to French fries–are more popular. Especially when they’re cut very long, as they can be if you utilize the entire length of the eggplant.

Two problems. First, eggplant can be bitter, especially if there are many seeds inside. You can tell this without cutting the eggplant by noting the size of the scar left on the bottom of the eggplant (the end opposite the stem). The bigger that blotch is, the more seeds in the eggplant, and therefore the more likely it is to be bitter.

The second problem is that nothing soaks up oil like eggplant. Here’s how to keep that under control. First, coat the eggplant with a dusting of flour then egg wash before applying the seasoned bread crumbs. Second, fry the eggplant in very hot oil–about 385 degrees. That will result in a very dark color on the outside, but the inside cooks so quickly that the oil won’t have a chance to get in.

Fried eggplant is usually served with parmesan cheese to shake over them and a marinara sauce to dip them in. Or, in the old Creole places, with a dish of powdered sugar (to kill the bitterness). I like them with bearnaise sauce or even a light garlic mayonnaise.
Edible Dictionary

Literally, “sweet of milk,” or “milk candy.” Dulce de leche is made by cooking sweetened milk until it browns and gets a caramel flavor. It resembles caramel custard somewhat in flavor, but without the eggy quality. It’s often made with sweetnened condensed milk. Some people put an upopened can of condensed milk into a pot of boiling water or an oven to make dulce de leche, but that is not a safe practice.
Deft Dining Rule #4

Don’t order what you think a restaurant should do well, but what it actually does well.
Food In Popular Music

The Four Seasons (the singing group, not the salad dressing) had a Number One hit with Sherry on this date in 1962. . . The same record survey showed the instrumental Green Onions, by Booker T and the MG’s, at Number Four.
Music To Drink Espresso By

“Mama” Cass Elliot, the lead female singer of the folk-turned-pop group the Mamas and the Papas, had a mama today in 1941. She had a magnificent, soaring voice with a lot of upper range for a folk singer. She died of a heart attack at thirty-three, while on tour as a solo performer. Her obesity caused a strange, untrue story to disseminate that she choked on a ham sandwich. Another odd story–this one true–is that she once sang an ad jingle for Hardee’s Hamburgers.
Gourmet Gazetteer

Crab Pond
is the name of two small lakes in the vast

Adirondack State Park in upstate New York, about ninety miles north of Schenectady. The two Crab Ponds are only about five miles apart, but in different counties. They’re both surrounded by tall mountains, with the 2500-foot Pharoah Mountain rising some 1200 feet about the ponds’ shores. A trail that rises to the top of that mountain connects the two Crab Lakes–and that’s the only way you can get to them. Both are superb for fishing and backpacking. You’d better pack a lunch, too. The nearest restaurant is Southwoods, a seven-mile hike into the interestingly-named town of Paradox.
Annals Of Clean Dining Rooms

Today in 1876, an appliance used in almost every restaurant with carpets was patented. Melville Bissell invented the carpet sweeper in his shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was motivated by his wife’s adverse reaction to dust. The carpet sweeper does what a broom does, but in a way that scatters less dust around.
Food Namesakes

Lol Creme, a rock musician whose most famous group was 10cc, was born today in 1947. . . Actor Randolph Mantooth was born today in 1945. . . Yankee pitcher Catfish Hunter won his two hundredth game today in 1976, and became only the third pitcher to do that by his thirty-first birthday. . . Today in 1676, Nathaniel Bacon Jr. rebelled against Virginia colonial governor William Berkeley and burned Jamestown. . . Scott Baker, a big-league pitcher, was born in Shreveport today in 1981.
Words To Eat By

“How can people say they don’t eat eggplant when God loves the color and the French love the name?”–Jeff Smith.
Words To Drink By

“There are two things that will be believed of any man whatsoever, and one of them is that he has taken to drink.”–Booth Tarkington, American author.
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.

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