Diary: Tuesday, 7/10/2018. The Sibling Girls. My little sister Lynn called a couple of weeks ago to suggest that she and I and our our sisters Karen and Judy get together to celebrate Karen’s birthday. It was clearly a good idea, as we saw after one of us took a good photograph of the four. It has been a long time since we last were together purposefully.
For obvious reasons, I was asked to choose the restaurant. I suggested Café Adelaide. It’s a block away from the radio station, so I will be able to stay for most of the afternoon. The prices are tolerable, it’s close to the main stream, and served local food.
What I didn’t know was that Café Adelaide was making news that day. The branch of the Brennan family that owns Commander’s Palace also manages Café Adelaide. It announced–while we were still there dining!–that they will cease service at Café Adelaide on August 4. The Loews Hotel, where Café Adelaide is located, will take over the restaurant and bar operations.
My sisters and I knew nothing about all this. We settled in for lunch, most of us getting the two-course lunch combo, and updated one another. The only thing that seemed any different from previous lunches here was that the service personnel seemed to be moving very slowly the whole time we were there.
The food was reasonably decent otherwise. I started with an elegant white bean soup, and followed it with a quartet of “hand pies,” made mostly of lamb. My sisters ate salads with shrimp, if I remember right. We took pictures of one another. Judy is our senior sib, but as always she is easily the best-looking of the four of us, despite being well into her seventies.
A few days later I got an email from the PR lady for the Brennans about the Café Adelaide changes. Seems that the contract for the space had ended, and that the Brennans were moving on to other endeavors. No word as to what those were, other than that the chef and other key Café Adelaide staff would stay with the Brennans.
White Bean Soup With Ham
My wife and I are both nuts for white beans in any form, but I’m especially partial to a light, peppery soup made with them and the flavor of smoked pork. A cut called a smoked pork picnic often goes on sale at the grocery, and when it does, it’s time to make this soup.
- 3-4 lb. smoked pork picnic
- 1 medium onion, cut up
- Stems of one bunch of parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 black peppercorns
- 1/4 tsp. thyme
- 1/4 tsp. marjoram
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 lb. white beans (navy beans), sorted and soaked overnight
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. Tabasco green pepper sauce
- 2 green onions, sliced thin
1. Put all the stock ingredients into a stockpot with about a gallon and a half of water. Bring the pot to a light boil and hold it there for two to three hours, uncovered.
2. When the ham comes easily off the bone, remove the ham and strain the stock. Pick the ham from the bone and reserve.
3. Rinse the stockpot and wipe dry. Add the olive oil and sauté the celery, onion, and garlic until the onions brown slightly. Add the Worcestershire sauce and a little under two quarts of the strained stock. Add the soaked, drained beans, salt, and Tabasco. Simmer, covered, for two hours, until the beans are tender.
4. Strain the soup. Puree the solids in a food processor, then add it back to the broth. Shred as much ham as you’d like in your soup and add it. Adjust seasonings and serve hot. Garnish with green onions.
Reserve the rest of the ham and stock (you can reduce the stock to make it easier to store) for other purposes (jambalaya or pasta dishes, for example).
July 17, 2017
COOLinary menus begin August 1.
This is the birthday, in 1979, of Mr. B’s Bistro. Its opening was a turning point in many ways. It was the first new restaurant opened by the Commander’s Palace side of the Brennan family after it split with Brennan’s on Royal Street in 1973. In the intervening years, they closed four of their six restaurants. Mr. B’s represented the rise of the next generation of Brennans, who opened one restaurant after another thereafter.
More important, Mr. B’s was the archetype for the gourmet Creole bistro–a new kind of restaurant at the time. It was widely imitated in the next decade, and restaurants like Mr. B’s now dominate the dining scene. They serve great food of high intrinsic quality, but in casual dining rooms devoid of pretense and ceremony. It was a perfect match to the tastes of baby Boomers, who were coming into their own in 1979.
Mr. B’s was the last major restaurant to return to action after the hurricane. Its opening brought the number of real restaurants in town to 809–the number we had before the storm. It’s a keystone in the New Orleans restaurant scene. Crab cakes, gumbo ya-ya, barbecue shrimp, bread pudding–all are the best in town.
Annals Of Dining Comfort
This is one of several dates that could be called the anniversary of air conditioning. In 1901 on this date, Willis Carrier started up his air conditioner in a printing plant in Brooklyn. The owners of the place were trying to cool the equipment, not the people running it–although the benefits they enjoyed from the comfortable air were so great that air conditioning spread. First to public buildings, then to homes. Movie theatres found they could attract much larger crowds if they offered respite from the summer as well as entertainment. In climates like ours it was a godsend. Think about what it must have been like to dine in Antoine’s or Galatoire’s before air conditioning on a day like today.
It is National Parsley Day. As mild a flavor as it possesses, parsley adds something. Its mild acidity (ounce for ounce, parsley actually has more vitamin C than oranges do), the fresh, green flavor, the color and texture. . . all contribute that last two percent to a dish.
Parsley is more than a garnish, though. The classic recipe for oysters Rockefeller–the one that doesn’t use spinach–employs parsley by the bunch. So does the lenten Creole soup-stew, gumbo z’herbes. In Lebanese cooking, parsley is used by the fistful in dishes like tabbouleh.
If you have to cook with dried herbs, or if you have a dish that leans toward gloppiness (like crawfish etouffee), or if you have some leftovers you’d like to enjoy again. . . try adding fresh parsley. It brings the flavor and texture right up without altering the flavor of the dish deeply.
Finally, there is the matter that parsley refreshes the breath. That’s a minor point, but it has been used to explain the parsley sprig that comes on many plates (or used to.)
Always pick the leaves off the parsley stems before cutting. It’s tedious, but the leaves have a better flavor than the stems. (Save the stems, though–they’re a great addition to the stock pot.) Chop the leaves finely, using a sharp chef’s knife. A food processor beats it up too much. Don’t chop it much in advance. Parsley loses its fresh charm if it sits out for more than an hour. Forget freezing.
Two other members of the parsley family are out there, and may cause confusion. Cilantro is now almost universally available in supermarkets, and usually displayed right next to the flat-leaf and curly parsley. The leaves look different, but not dramatically. To be certain you have what you want, pick a leaf, break it, and smell it. The salsa-like aroma of cilantro is unmistakable. The other, much less common parsley variant is chervil, whose leaves are smaller than regular parsley. It has a subtle anise-like aroma and flavor.
suppli al telefono, Italian, n.–It translates literally as “telephone wires,” a name that will puzzle anyone who’s seen but not eaten the dish. These are balls of rice about the size of a golf ball, held together with eggs and sometimes with just enough tomato sauce to make the rice a pale orange. In the center is a cube of mozzarella cheese. The balls are rolled in bread crumbs and fried long enough that the interior is very hot. When you cut into it with a fork and lift the bite to your mouth, festoons of cheese stretch between the ball and the fork. These are supposed to resemble telephone wires. The dish is a common appetizer around Italy, especially in Rome.
Bean Settlement is a country crossroads in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, 118 miles west of Washington, DC. It’s in a mix of farm fields and woods, in a pocket of gently rolling hills in the midst of some serious Appalachian folds. It’s a good area for hunting and fishing. The little community includes the historic Asbury Church. (The town was once named Asbury, among other things.) It’s been settled since the mid-1700s. The nearest restaurant is eight miles away, on the other side of the hills, in Moorefield. It’s called the Stray Cat Cafe.
The Lunch Counter
F.W. Woolworth Co. announced today in 1997 that it would close all the remaining Woolworth’s five-and-dime stores in America, after over a century in business. Although Woolworth’s was the same nationwide, we always considered it a part of the New Orleans scene. The two stores on Canal Street (three blocks apart) were on everybody’s downtown shopping itinerary in the days when everybody shopped on Canal Street. Who doesn’t remember going there for breakfast or for a grilled cheese sandwich with crinkle-cut fries? Other Woolworth’s around town includes two on Magazine Street and one on Oak Street, all of which were anchors in their neighborhoods. Woolworth is still around, under different names–Foot Locker being the most prominent.
King George V of England changed his surname today in 1917. He relinquished his German titles (England was at war with the Germans at the time), and proclaimed that his heirs would no longer be called the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but the House of Windsor. It is this name that landed on the Windsor Court Hotel–often lauded in its twenty-five years as the finest hotel in New Orleans.
Fromage Du Jour
Banon (French), [bah-NONH], n.–One of the soft white cheeses made since ancient times in what is now the southeastern French region of Provence. Banon comes from the town of the same name. It’s usually made with unpasteurized goat’s milk, although sometimes sheep’s milk is also used. After being made into small wheels, it gains a thin, snowy layer of mold. Then it’s distinctively wrapped in chestnut leaves and tied with raffia. In its fresh form, it’s spreadable and tangy. As it gets older–especially if it’s been aged in a jar with vinegar and eau-de-vie, a process that can go on for years–it becomes very assertive and harder.
Music To Watch Movies By
The first record released by the Supremes came out today in 1961. It was called Buttered Popcorn. Has anyone ever heard it?
Food And Drink Namesakes
The British satirical magazine Punch published its first issue today in 1841. . . Canadian actress-turned-politician Andrée Champagne popped her cork today in 1939. . . Movie actor Bill Sage leafed out today in 1962.
Words To Eat By
“Approaching the stove, she would don a voluminous apron, toss some meat on a platter, empty a skillet of its perfectly cooked a point vegetables, sprinkle a handful of chopped parsley over all, and then, like a proficient striptease artist, remove the apron, allowing it to fall to the floor with a shake of her hips.”–Bert Greene.
Words To Drink By
Old friends are the best! Age appears to be best in four things; old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.–Francis Bacon.