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The Gourmets Battle Through Traffic.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 It’s well known that decisions for dining out are often made not by tastes, atmosphere, or other logical considerations, but matters like accessibility. For the last two days, what I’m going to do for dinner has been dictated by the booming Warehouse District, which is much under construction these days. The World War II Museum has particularly moved things around. In my own case, it begins with the time I get out of the the radio station’s parking garage, (about a half-hour). Then about that much again to get through the traffic grid.

The good news is that there are lots of restaurants close to my office. Many of those are places that I really like. Vyoone’s, for example, is two blocks awy, amidst a bunch of other bistros. That has no doubt had a strong impact on Vyoone’s success, which might not have been as successful.

I’ve been to Vyoone’s a bit too often for me to use it as a source of new-restaurant news. But there are many others to add to this employ. Tommy’s is among my favorites, and although I’ve dined there many times over the years, they’ve recently juggled their kitchen and menu. Among the dishes that remained steady were the great backed Tommy’s oysters. In its stead was a tomato basil soup. That’s a dish I can’t resist, and it’s an instant order every time I need to decide on the soupe du jour.

When I finished that, I could tell from my table near a window that Tchoupitoulas was still near at a standstill. I continue with dinner. Next course: pokè salmon trout marinated with baby spinach). That was really more an amuse bouche than a full course. It left room for a spectacular main course: redfish with a crusty semi-meuniere-style, crabmeat-and-butter-topped, crabmeat-topped tour de force. This is exactly what I hope will turn up when I have a seafood entree at Tommy’s. And here it was.

I am tempted to say that this dish triggered the opening of the streets and allowed me–for the first time in some three hours–to head home. I hope this pattern of traffic ends in the coming, even though I can easily become a regular at Tommy’s, long a favorite of mine. I might even be able to hang out with Tommy Andrade, one the great restaurateurs in New Orleans.

Vyoone’s. CBD: 412 Girod St. 504-518-6007.
Tommy’s: 746 Tchoupitoulas St. 504-581-1103.

Exploring Canada With The Eat Club.

Today’s port of call was Sydney, Nova Scotia, and I always feel sorry for this little town. There just isn’t much here. Maybe it’s the solicitous bagpipers welcoming the ship, but I always wish there was just more to it. Turns out there is, just not much in town. Outside, though. . .

The day was sunny and cold, and I promised to eat breakfast with Tom as long as it was off the ship.

Halifax Nova Scotia

We asked a local walking beside us where a particular place was, and he showed us, adding that he eats breakfast at the pizza place a few doors down. This seemed odd, but I was curious.

It was indeed a pizza joint, emphasis on joint. And indeed they served breakfast. All day.

I ordered two eggs medium and breakfast potatoes. Meat choices were bacon, sausage, and bologna. Having grown up in a large family where a meal often featured deli meats, bologna is long off my radar. Tom was wildly adventurous to order french Toast here.

The waitress was delightfully friendly, and we were ignored by the regulars, who appeared to be construction workers.

Out in the street again we ran into a close friend who was also on the trip. He was very briskly walking a mile or two to pick up a car he rented. He offered us the two back seats.

We drove to a little town called Louisburg, through the glorious fall foliage we could only see from afar on the ship. The car rental lady recommended two places for lunch, which appeared to be one of three businesses in town. Both were closed for the season. The other, a coffee shop which served lunch, was also mostly closed. The owner/barista ( and I laugh just writing that word in the context of a place like this) mentioned that it was too bad we couldn’t try his Korean curry. That, here, was a hilarious proposition. The bologna on the breakfast menu was not. I asked if bologna was a “thing” here, which he affirmed. We shared a chocolate chip muffin and sampled a vegan peanut butter cookie, and left after keeping this lonely and chatty shop keeper company for awhile. He did make a fine cappuccino, the guys reported.

Our driver was very interested in a lighthouse purported to be the oldest in North America. But between the coffeeshop and the lighthouse was something large and Gothic-looking on the distant (but not too distant horizon)

The map explained it as a fort, and the women in the car insisted on a peek. Luckily a work call came in for our doctor/driver friend, and he parked to take it. The car inhabitants escaped to check out this place. It was enormous!! And quite striking.

We paid to go in even though we promised a quick look. He was still on the phone. This was a fascinating place and we wound up taking a thorough look, and the driver joined us. Inside the actual fort, a small chapel surprised us. And thrilled Tom, who belted out a quick hymn. “You can’t let acoustics like that just sit there,” he defended.

We could have walked the 1.5 mile path to the lighthouse along the water, but the road was charming, riddled with potholes and fishing boats.

The lighthouse was actually the second in North America, and it was boarded up. It was also a little dangerous, with a warning about falling concrete. Broken above but held together, even I heeded the warnings to stay away. The surrounding scenery was gorgeous but equally treacherous. The ground gave way with each step. We didn’t stay long.

Back at the ship the group scattered. Tom went right onto the ship. Our friend returned the car. His wife shopped at the ship terminal, and I went up the hill to a pub called the Governor, a beautiful place around since 1867. Poutine time.

Why these Canadians stick with their poutine when American cheese fries are so far superior is beyond me, but here was a chance to research the matter. I also got fish and chips in a combo where they sort of “poutined” the fries. This was all too much so I text my friend who was shopping and she walked up the hill to join me. The fish was just okay and she was really underwhelmed by the famous dish. Ever since I saw cheese curds made in Seattle at the very superior Beecher Cheese company, I have had no desire to try them. These were large and covered with a brown gravy so thick it was gelatinous. We both agreed our experiment was not worth eating.

I was glad we had the chance to try this lovely gentrified pub. We walked back to the ship by way of a few more shops.


Lentil Soup

One of the inexplicable miracles of cooking is that it’s apparently impossible to make a bad lentil soup. The worst I ever had was pretty good. The best were so good that they were gobbled up immediately and followed by a second serving. Leftover lentil soup can be refrigerated and will be even better the next day.

Lentil trivia: these little beans are among the few Old World beans that are still widely eaten. (Chickpeas are another.) They’re not closely related to red beans or the other common beans. There is nothing better than lentil soup for when you have a cold.

  • 1 lb. lentils
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 3/4 cup finely diced carrots
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 1 12-oz. can V-8 juice
  • 2 quarts light stock (beef, veal, chicken, or a combination)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. Tabasco

1. Sort through the lentils and pick out debris, then wash them. Lentils don’t need to be soaked for hours like red beans.

2. Melt the butter in a five-quart saucepan or Dutch oven. Sauté the vegetables until they begin to get tender. Add the V-8 juice, the stock, and the lentils and bring the pot to a boil.

3. Lower to a simmer. Add the salt, thyme, pepper, bay leaf, and Tabasco. Cover and simmer for two to three hours, or at least until the lentils are tender. Stir occasionally.

Serves eight.

AlmanacSquare October 25, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Halloween: Oct. 31
Thanksgiving Nov. 22

Food Calendar

Today is National Greasy Foods Day. This reminds me of something a man in the next barber chair said when I was about eight. He was talking about a restaurant. “They don’t have food,” he said. “They just have different flavors of grease.” It was the first time I’d ever heard that there was a difference among restaurants. I’ve been waiting all my life since then to use that line in a review, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Some foods must be a bit greasy, I believe. New Orleans-style hot tamales and chili, for example. We once had a fine Nicaraguan restaurant in Fat City (the name escapes me) that served its red beans from a pot that had a half-inch layer of some kind of fat on top; the beans were terrific.

Perhaps it’s the word that’s the problem. Dick Brennan, Sr. often said that nobody in the food business should ever use the word “grease.” He especially hated to hear the oil used to fry foods called that. I think he was onto something there.

Edible Dictionary

spoonbread, n.–A very moist, thick version of cornbread, made by mixing cornmeal with enough milk, eggs, and butter that, even after it’s baked, it’s more like a pudding than a bread. Most often, it’s made in small portions of a cup or less. It’s usually made rather sweet, enough that it can be served as a dessert. Spoonbread usually doesn’t rise at all. As the name implies, it’s eaten with a spoon. It can be flavored with almost anything used in standard cornbread: cinnamon, fruits, corn kernels, vanilla, bacon, or whatever strikes the fancy of the cook.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Ham Hill rises to 721 feet in the center of Maine. It’s sixty-five miles north of Augusta,the state capital. It’s mostly wooded, but farm fields and cattle pasture takes up a lot of the nearby real estate. After you take an early-morning walk to the top of Ham Hill–it’s not strenuous–come back down and drive five miles south for a ham omelette at The Breakfast Nook in the pleasantly-named town of Harmony.

Food Inventions

In 1955 on this date, the first home microwave oven was introduced by Tappan. It cost $1300, and didn’t sell very well. It took twenty years before the appliance took off. The device was created by Raytheon, which called it the Radarange. With good reason. The technology was born when radar engineers noticed that anything with a water content got hot when it was near a radar transmitter. Microwave ovens got a lot of disrespect in the early years, but it’s hard to imagine a kitchen without one now. I use mine most for warming milk for my cafe au lait.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

Always use round dishes, not square or rectangular ones, to warm food in the microwave. Food in the corners will heat faster than in the center, overcooking those parts.

Restaurant Art

Today is Pablo Picasso’s birthday, in 1884. The groundbreaking artist lived a simple life of great pleasure for himself. He was a native gourmet: he most enjoyed the foods of wherever he lived, when they were prepared well, without needing much in the way of grandeur or ceremony. As far as I know, the only New Orleans restaurant to have an original Picasso on its walls was the extinct LeRuth’s. At the Court of Two Sisters, they have a great trout dish named for the artist. It’s made with strawberries, bananas, kiwis, and other seasonal fruit. Sounds odd, but it’s actually wonderful. I wish they made it more often than as a special.

Tips For Great Servers

When you see a diner looking at the art on the walls around him, he’s not an art lover. He needs something. Find out what and get it.

Food And The Body

In 2000, British researcher Stephen Gray found that Indian-style curries have an addictive effect on the body. That confirmed what many lovers of curries have known for a long time. When you eat the stuff, you want it again the next day. But it mustn’t be a powerful addiction, or that’s all we’d eat.

Food Namesakes

Actress Barbara Cook, who was in the Broadway version of The Music Man and, more recently, in the movie Thumbelina, was born today in 1927. . . Violinist Midori Goto (who usually goes by just her first name, which she shares with a Japanese melon liqueur) was born today in 1971. . . Former runner, now health advocate Allison Roe broke the record in the 1981 New York Marathon. Later, the course was found to be short by 150 meters, breaking not only her record but that of the runner she beat. (I get this info from a fraternity brother of mine who ran in the same race, and remembers well the fuss over the shortness.). . . Kathy “Taffy” Danoff, a singer with the Starland Vocal Band, opened up her tonsils today in 1944. . . American poet John Berryman read his first line of blank verse today in 1914.

Words To Eat By

“I always wanted to write a book that ended with the word ‘mayonnaise.'”–Richard Brautigan, American novelist, who died today in 1984.

“The Americans are the grossest feeders of any civilized nation known. As a nation, their food is heavy, coarse, and indigestible, while it is taken in the least artificial forms that cookery will allow. The predominance of grease in the American kitchen, coupled with the habits of hearty eating, and the constant expectoration, are the causes of the diseases of the stomach which are so common in America.”–James Fenimore Cooper.

Words To Drink By

“Something has been said for sobriety but very little.”