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Diary: Tuesday, 10-9-2018: Gathering The Pieces For The New England-Canada Cruise this week.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Super-early this Wednesday, the Eat Clubbers are scheduled to fly out of New Orleans to Boston by way of Newark. We have a couple of days in Boston, including an Italian Eat Club dinner. The next day, we transfer to the Norwegian Dawn–one of NCL’s newer ships–and begin the cruising part of our vacation.

That will take us to Bar Harbor, Maine. From there we cross the Canadian border, then visit a number of Canadian ports. The most interesting of those is Halifax in Nova Scotia, where we will have a special lobster dinner (this is where the best lobsters, mussels, and scallops come from). We bounce around for a few days, hoping that the famously beautiful autumn leaves of that part of the world will dazzle us. After that, we spend a day or two in Quebec City, a place that always impressive me for its history and architecture.

On other matters, I took some advice from one of Norwegian’s advisors. I always arrange for a bar to be reserved for Tom’s Afternoon Martini Club. In it we discuss how things are going, what we might do in the coming days, answer questions, make friends, and clink glasses. I don’t drink many martinis anymore, but it’s such an Eat Club tradition that I always show up for this. In the old days I used to pick up the check for everybody for the gathering. Now, almost everyone in our group gets complimentary drinks for the whole cruise.

Some years ago Norwegian Cruise Lines engaged a new idea on its ships. For most of the history of dining in cruise ships, you would go to your designated table and eat from a small selection. NCL changed this completely by building out a number of restaurants from which you can choose what your tastes prefer. Italian, steak, barbecue, Asian Chinese, and French are the sorts of things you can choose from among. You pay extra for some of these. Some are better than others.

My own favorite element of the entertainment part of a cruise is the karaoke bar or (if they have one) the talent contest. I check again to see if I have any talent. I need to unleash my singing disability now and then.


Pumpkin and Pecan Bread Pudding

This is no ordinary bread pudding. Not only does it have the fall flavors of pumpkin and pecan, but it’s quite rich and is best served not by scooping into bowls, but by slicing like a cake and serving elegantly on plates.

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1 quart half-and-half cream
  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • 2 Tbs. vanilla
  • 1 loaf stale French bread
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 can pie pumpkin (the fresh jack-o’-lantern pumpkin won’t work)
  • 2 Tbs. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 cup pecan pieces

Pumpkin pudding, cinnamon and nutmeg

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

1. In a mixing bowl, blend the sugar, eggs and yolks, half-and-half, whipping cream and vanilla to make a custard mixture.

2. Mix the pumpkin with the cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/2 cup of the custard mixture.

3. Slice the bread into half-inch-thick slices.

4. Coat the insides of two 10-inch cake pans with a generous amount of butter. Line the perimeters with the smallest slices of bread, then cover the bottom with an overlapping bread layer. Pour enough custard mixture over the bread to soak it.

5. Spoon a quarter-inch layer of the pumpkin mixture and about a third of the pecan pieces across the bread. Add another layer of bread, soak it with the custard mixture, and top with the remaining pumpkin mixture and another third of the pecans. Finish with another layer of bread and pecans, and a final soaking with the custard. Repeat this procedure for the other pan.

6. Bake in the preheated 250-degree oven for about an hour and a half. The pudding will rise a great deal, but it will fall again when you take it out of the oven. Remove and cool.

Cut into pie-style slices and serve either warm or cold.

Serves twelve.

AlmanacSquare October 8, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Halloween: 25
Thanksgiving Nov. 23: 48

Today’s Flavor

The International Agency For Food Holidays reports this is National Pesto Day. Pesto is a blend of fresh basil (the top flavor note), garlic, olive oil, grated Parmigiana cheese, and toasted pignoli (pine nuts). It’s named for the pestle and mortar used to grind the ingredients into a near-paste. Some say that’s the only way to make it right, but almost all pesto these days is made in a food processor. (If the food processor had been invented first, the same people would proclaim that it’s wrong to use mortar and pestle.)

Pesto is most often used as a room-temperature sauce for pasta, but it turns up saucing all sorts of other foods. In recent times, clever chefs have had fun substituting other herbs for the basil and other nuts for the pignoli. (That’s because basil isn’t available year-round, and pine nuts are the most expensive part of pesto.) This is the time of year when many of us start making a lot of pesto, to use up the surplus basil we have growing outside before the first frost hits it.

The classic pesto blend is the culinary trademark of Genoa and the surrounding Ligouria area of Italy. Traces of its history go all the way back to Roman times. It has a unique, fresh deliciousness that bespeaks spring and summer. The most traditional chefs refuse to make it in the winter.

Edible Dictionary

Himmel und Erde, German, n.–A salad of cooked but firm apples and potatoes, tossed with crumbled bacon or sausage, and onions cooked in the bacon or sausage fat. The name means “heaven and earth.” It’s a traditional German dish, usually served slightly warm as an appetizer. A nice item to have on a holiday buffet, it’s good with beer or mulled wine.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

In a restaurant dining room in the shank of the evening, if there are many empty tables available, don’t let the host/ess assign you to a narrow table for two even if there are just the two of you. There is no need to wear out all the tables evenly.

Annals Of Sugar

Today in 1901, the trademark of Domino Sugar was registered with the U.S Patent Office. The American Sugar Company of New York City (the world capital of sugar refining) created blocks of sugar in the shape of dominos, and they were so distinctive and popular that the name wound up on all their products. The main American Domino sugar refinery is in Arabi, just east of the New Orleans city limits. It can produce between seven and eight million pounds of sugar per day.

Annals Of One Too Many Cocktails

The Great Chicago Fire started this night in 1871. The destruction was so widespread that few structures were left standing (the Watertower is best known among them). Almost 100,000 people were left homeless. The legend was that Mrs. Patrick O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern and started it, but officially the story is that Pegleg O’Sullivan (the Irish seem to still catch the blame) knocked over that lamp when he entered the barn looking for milk for making whiskey milk punch. Was he having brunch?

Food On The Air

Bandleader Ozzie Nelson and his girl singer Harriet Hilliard were married today in 1935. On this same date in 1944, they premiered in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, a weekly radio sitcom. They moved to television in 1952, where they remained until 1966. Their show captured perfectly the innocence of the Fifties and early Sixties. Watch the show and note that a) Ozzie did not apparently have a job; 2) Harriet was always cooking, but the Nelsons hardly ever ate; and iii) Harriet always dressed as if she were about to go out to dinner, but they didn’t do that, either. This was before most of America discovered the pleasures of the table (we Orleanians knew all about them, of course). They slept in separate twin beds, too. These were the good old days?

Gourmet Gazetteer

Hurricane, Louisiana is in the north central part of the state, fifty-six miles east of Shreveport. Of all places in Louisiana, this one is among the least likely ever to feel the effects of a hurricane–either the storm or the drink variety. It’s a junction of country roads through gently rolling farmland, most of it planted in cotton and soybeans. All the nightlife is in Arcadia, four miles south, where the Country Cottage is the place to eat.

Deft Dining Rule #138

Those visually perfect sliced black olives you find on chain pizzas and in salad bars may as well be made of wax for all the flavor they have.

Food In Science

Harry Gilbert Day was born today in 1906. He spent most of his career determining what roles the chemical elements played in human nutrition. He established those minimum daily requirements you see on the sides of vitamin bottles. He’s best known for developing stannous fluoride–Fluoristan, the cavity-retarding ingredient that made Crest into the best-selling toothpaste in the land.

Food Namesakes

Long-time college football coach Pepper Rodgers took the Big Field today in 1931. . . Actor, singer, and dancer Max Crumm spoke his first lines today in 1985. He won the Grease audition-competition to be in the revival of the play on Broadway in 2008.

Words To Eat By

“A well-made sauce will make even an elephant or a grandfather palatable.”–Grimod de la Reyniere, early French food writer.

Words To Drink By

“Health is what my friends are always drinking to before they fall down.”–Phyllis Diller.

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