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Diary For Fri., 2/15/2019. Dinner @ Galliano, But Not Before Waiting On The Sidewalk. Immense Portions. Heavy Pepper.

I have been ambiguous about Galliano since it opened. Taken as a whole, that’s also the way people I’ve spoken to felt about the place. It occupies a spot in the Warehouse District that became familiar when Philip Lopez opened Root there. Root proved to be too brilliant and is now extinct. The same fate befell the related Square Root, which in 2016 was trying to be the best restaurant in New Orleans. It closed less than two years after it opened, and is now the excellent Gris Gris.

Galliano When It Was Root.

Meanwhile, the guys who opened the very good and busy Restaurant Rebirth took over the Root location, and engaged Chef Ricky Cheramie. His Cajun roots made him a good candidate for a more casual and familiar kind of restaurant than has been mentioned here so far. So out came the bright green plastic chairs and peculiar music from the former Root. The decor reverted to Warehouse Modern: stout wood columns, exposed brick walls, a very large bar and a concrete floor. My wife Mary Ann, who has no taste for rustic looks, took a dislike to it immediately. Which is why I am only now getting around to review Galliano, even as a fair amount of mail from people who like the place told me so. One of these was an avid NOMenu Daily reader in Chicago, who just last week told me that only a week before he had a great dinner at Galliano.

The dinner I had there last Friday impressed me less. It began when, having walked the three blocks from the radio studio to the restaurant, I saw a Closed sign and eight people lingering on the sidewalk at Galliano. Another sign said that opening time is 5:30. The time was 5:25, said the hostess, who, after I pushed my way inside, said that I would have to wait the five minutes. On the chilly, windy street. She told me that she couldn’t let me in without also allowing the other eight people waiting for the official opening time. Write a synonym for “ridiculous” here.

They were friendly enough after that, and gave me no resistance to my request for a table instead of a high bar chair.

I had a glass of wine and thought about the food. The soup of the day–crab and corn, I think–sounded good. So did the chicken-andouille gumbo. But I was grabbed by an appetizer called Onion Ring Calas. Calas are fried rice cakes that were popular around New Orleans a hundred years ago, but rarely seen now. Thought I’d try it. The red onion rings were coated with a beer batter, and this was the calas aspect. It was enough food to split at least four ways. It also was so imbued with red pepper that I broke out into a sweat. (Not a harmful condition, but over the top on the flavor side.) It didn’t resemble any other calas I’ve ever had.

The entree I fancied was another relic from the past. The menu called it Coubion. I steeled my palate for what the menu further said was called courtbouillon in French-Cajun cuisine. Well, I know what courtbouillon is, and it’s a favorite of mine, a broad and very generous assortment of local seafood: shrimp, oysters, Gulf fish, crawfish, and crab claws, all cooked slowly in a deep, warm broth.

Well, at least they’re consistent. Once again, we had enough food for two to four hungry people for $32. And it was immersed with a sweaty amount of red pepper. I can easily imagine that some people would find this wonderful, the high pepper level making a strong statement about Louisiana flavors. Reminiscent of Chef Paul Prudhomme’s early years. For me, a little went a long way, and a lot would be total overload.

The waitress, who was dubious about me after the 5:25 p.m. issue, became amusing, helpful, and efficient. The restaurant filled with young adult diners, and the music went to loud pop. Everyone was very casually dressed, and the clientele and the restaurant seemed to have reached a concord. I like Restaurant Rebirth better. But vive la difference.

Here’s a stray fact about Galliano. The name is also that of a town on Bayou Lafourche as the highway to Grand Isle heads into the Gulf of Mexico. That’s Cajun country, all right–although with different food than what you find in Lafayette. Galliano is probably an adaptation of the familiar Italian name Gagliano, the name of some of the most prized violins in the world. I did not detect any violins while I was there.

Galliano. Warehouse District & Center City: 200 Julia St. 504-324-4065.

Touring Houston: Eating, Other Pursuits.
By Mary Ann Fitzmorris

On our grand eating tour of Houston, we also had meals at some hotels. In New Orleans we have so many exceptional restaurants, one needn’t ever eat in a hotel. But Windsor Court at lunch and Rib Room at dinner, and of course R’evolution come to mind as places hotel food can hold its own with the free-standing restaurants.

Today’s Houston food tale begins at the Royal Sonesta there, which I learned is a slightly upscale version of the Sonesta chain. Our Royal Sonesta is also part of the plus version of the Sonesta brand.

To be honest, the restaurant in the hotel had no special ambience. Neither did its Table One, the unique Chef’s table dining experience in the kitchen. And my worries about eating too much on the trip went away when the first course was put before me.

Chef Robert Graham is a serious gourmet, whose food is imaginative, polished, meticulously assembled before you, and often raw. (That last part cuts way down on consumption for me.) But it is apparent watching the chef and the other more adventurous diners around me that this guy has it.

We started with a poached quail egg atop cucumber risotto, cradled by some caviar, with the requisite micro greens for garnish. Chef Graham’s food is pretty.

The next course, I ate. No polite tasting here. A roll of mashed potatoes was flanked in spots by discs of fried fingering potatoes and delicately sprinkled with sorrel and honey. This was beautiful, and delicious. Another raw course followed, this one salt cured hamachi over apples that were cut into thin shoots uniform enough to challenge a mandoline. The main course was pan seared scallops and slices of buttery steak over a parsnip puree. Also great.

Dessert was equally beautiful. Chocolate caramel peanut crunch chocolate mousse triangles with a caramel and corn flake glaze. Quite fine.

All of these courses were paired with wines and champagnes painstakingly selected by the chef to complement his art.

The next morning we dropped in at Hotel Granduca, which was just voted a top 25 hotel in the Trip Advisor traveler’s Choice Awards. It’s a slice of Tuscany tucked away in the quiet part of the Westheimer/Post Oak area of Houston. The owners are from northern Italy, which is apparent everywhere. Their sister property in Austin is also a crowd favorite. Breakfast was rather ordinary, but the lavish surroundings made it quite pleasant.

Dinner was at Lucienne in the Hotel Alessandra, a new boutique property downtown. The dining room’s most unique feature is its curtains, which are specially made to spoof our modern lifestyle. A quick glance offers scenes from 18th century France, but closer inspection reveals IPads and IPhones and tablets in fervent use by everyone. They are quite proud of their unexpected and fun design feature.

Chef Jose Hernandez is sending out spectacular food from this kitchen. We shared a crudite salad in pea puree that was perfection. That was followed by a glazed pork belly dish over corn relish and cilantro salad, a Russian salad with lobster, and sweetbreads in a Barigoule sauce. A third course of grilled octopus with gnocchi and spinach wowed the table, leaving the tagliatelle with black trumpet mushrooms for me.

We had duck with a hibiscus sauce, perfectly tender lamb loin, Dean & Peller New York steak, and short ribs, which may have been some of the best I’ve had. And I’ve had some! There was a vegetarian turnip steak over tomato ragout you’d need to be vegan to love, and an unfamiliar fish called Dorade with a cumin sauce. Yummy.

For dessert there was a gorgeous apple tart and a peculiar chocolate mousse in a white chocolate globe that was interesting to crack. And great wines to match the food. With cocktails, cocktails, and more cocktails.

And then we went to Irma’s Southwest Grill for margaritas. They’ve just relocated to a spiffy new space in an office building downtown.

The morning we left, we stopped in for a hotel brunch buffet downstairs at the Four Seasons. My favorite thing about this stay was the free hot chocolate in the lobby that warmed me on the way to the room every night. Quatro is another hotel restaurant that looks like a hotel restaurant, but the brunch buffet is full of locals, and with good reason.

fresh eggs benedict on bread with tomato and ham

I started with breakfast. I ask you, is there much better than a pile of high quality crispy bacon on a hotel buffet? No, usually, but today, yes, actually. Right next to it was another huge pile of hash browns-the real ones!!!Not fried cubed potatoes, not any other kind of bastardization of one of God’s greatest gifts. Not as good as mine, but these are the kind that inspired mine.

I ordered an omelet and was pretty much done. The waiter encouraged me to have a look at it all, and I soon saw why large parties of Houstonians create long lines at the valet each Sunday.

The next station was any sort of salad imaginable, next to a raw and boiled seafood bar.There is a separate oyster bar.

And then you step into the actual kitchen for the remainder of this buffet. Two carving stations and the usual long table of chafing dishes of vegetables and starches and chicken with mushrooms, etc. In this buffet, though, there was an additional station for just pastas and sauces.

As was the case through most of this weekend, I was already full.
I took a slice of smoked brisket because I never pass on brisket, and salmon (gotta get those Omega-Threes!)and a few bites of salad to accompany the protein. The brisket made me wish I hadn’t gone ham on those hash browns. It was crusty and peppery, as all good brisket should be.

Desserts? Forget it. Though I did take a peek just to see.
And yes, they were gorgeous.

I drove away from Houston vowing to spend my immediate future on the 21 day fast inspired by the book of Daniel in the Bible. Chris Pratt has made it all the rage. Daniel had a higher motivation than me though. If I fail, an unfriendly scale awaits me, not fires or hungry lions. Whew!

Note:
We didn’t only eat and drink in Houston. Some sights we saw that I’d definitely recommend are the Old Cistern, The Menil Collection Museum, and Kuhl-Linscomb shopping. And of course, Galleria area shopping.

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Barbecue Brisket

The meat most closely identified with the Texas style of barbecue is brisket, which is more commonly found around New Orleans in its boiled form. Brisket needs to be cooked very slowly for its goodness to emerge, and that’s why it’s such a natural for barbecue.

I’ve always done my briskets on a large barbecue pit instead of a smoker. I get this idea from my Texas-born buddy Oliver Kluna, who grew up on barbecue brisket and who showed me the ropes. The astonishing thing about what he does is that he uses no wood: just the smoke from the charcoal. I usually add oak wood I pick up from the ground at the Cool Water Ranch.

Barbecue Wagyu beef brisket.

  • 1 beef brisket, preferably flat end, 4-8 lbs.
  • Salt-free Creole seasoning
  • Salt

1. Start a natural-wood charcoal fire in your pit, with all the charcoal on one side of the grate. If you’re using wood chips (which you will have to if using gas), wrap them in heavy aluminum foil and punch a few holes in the resulting packet. (No need to soak them.)

2. Trim the brisket of the really thick slabs of fat, but don’t be too aggressive–you should never cut into the lean. Don’t worry about the fat in the middle, if there is some.

3. Mix two parts Creole seasoning with one part salt. (For the big brisket, this will be about 1/4 cup seasoning with 2 Tbs. salt.)

4. Coat the outside of the brisket liberally with the seasoning.

5. Place the meat on the grill fatty side up, with the thicker end facing the fire, as far away from the heat source as possible. To keep direct heat from the fire from hitting the meat, hang a curtain of aluminum foil between the two. Close the lid and maintain a 225-to-250-degree temperature inside, adding coals and wood now and then. There is no need to turn the brisket, but you might move it around on the grill so the bottom is more evenly smoked.

6. The brisket is done when the internal temperature, measured with a meat thermometer, hits 165 degrees. This takes three to five hours, depending on the size of the brisket and the heat in your grill.

7. Let the brisket rest for about 20 minutes before slicing. Whatever fat remains can easily be removed before slicing. Slice against the grain of the meat for easy, tender eating. Note that the direction of the grain changes as you cut; change with it.

Serve with warm barbecue sauce and cole slaw. Serves two people per pound.

AlmanacSquare February 19, 2019

Upcoming Deliciousness

Mardi Gras: March 5
St. Patrick’s Day: March 17
St. Joseph’s Day: March 19
Easter: April 212

Food Calendar

Today is National Rock Cornish Game Hen Day. Cornish hens are little chickens, and in terms of flavor and cooking that about sums it up. They’re a cross of two chicken breeds, developed specifically for marketing purposes in the 1960s. They were given a gourmet cachet, and so appeared on the menus of many fancy restaurants. They’re smaller than regular chickens because they develop a large breast at a young age, and are harvested after only a few months.

We like Cornish hens, because you can serve a whole one per person without tremendous waste. Like chickens, they are especially good when roasted on a rotisserie. Brining them makes a big improvement in moistness of the meat–as it does with chickens and turkeys. Because they’re so small, you can stuff them with various things and roast them without much possibility of a food-safety problem. The best Cornish hen we ever had was the one they used to have at Arnaud’s, stuffed with a rough pork pate and served with a wine and tomato sauce.

The most unusual good Cornish hen preparation is what Joe Sobol used to do at Frankie’s Cafe. He’s coat them with a seasoned flour and deep fry them, whole. It was fried chicken on the hoof, more or less, and that actually worked.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Beer Bottle Crossing, Idaho is an uninhabited pass through mountains high enough to keep a snow cap much of the year, in the central part of the state, 135 miles north of Boise. It’s ten miles to the nearest places to eat and drink, in Donnelly, on the other side of Lake Cascade. The two places we liked best there are Vigilantes Restaurant and The Little Fire Fly.

Edible Dictionary

beef short ribs, n., pl.–beef short ribs, n., pl.–A strip of beef about two inches wide and eight or so inches long, cut across the lower end of of the longest ribs in the cow. The meaty part of short ribs lies on the top of the ribs, facing outward in the animal. That is the opposite of the lean part of the rib roast. The short ribs connect with the short plate, at the bottom of the cow, behind the brisket and in front of the flank. Short ribs contain a lot of bone, cartilage, and fat, all of which touches the thin lean part. For this reason, it’s a very good cut for slow, moist cooking–although in some places (notably Korea) they grill them straight out. The meat pulls away from the bone and throws off a lot of natural jus. It’s a great cut for making roast beef debris poor boys. In recent years, short ribs have become very popular among chefs, largely for their very low cost compared with steaks.

Food In Science

Gottlieb Sigismund Kirchhof was born today in 1764. He was interested in the fermentation process that brews beer, and in his research he discovered how to make glucose– -the simplest of all natural sugars. He also developed a method for refining vegetable oil that made that product easy to manufacture in large quantities.

Great Moments In Gluttony

Diamond Jim Brady attended a dinner party in New York City today in 1910, and consumed four pounds of roast beef, seven dozen oysters, and almost three gallons of orange juice. He and his girlfriend Lillian Russell–thought of by American men of the time as the ideal of womanly beauty–often had meals like that, and she kept right up with him.

Annals Of Junk Food And Drink

Today in 1912, the first prize toy was inserted in boxes of Cracker Jack. The candy-coated popcorn with nuts was already nineteen years on the market, but the free prize really boosted sales. We were surprised to learn that these days you no longer get a toy in your box of Cracker Jack (I guess we haven’t had any in awhile). Instead, the prize is a card with games and fun facts and jokes. Bet it was some dumb liability problem.

Cherry Coke in bottles and cans was introduced in 1985. It success hinged on the fact that it was, in fact, not new at all. People now over forty probably ordered a cherry Coke in a drugstore soda fountain, where it was made by squirting cherry syrup into the glass before filling it the rest of the way with Coca-Cola. Here’s a little known fact: Cherry Coke is made with New Coke.

Food In Peace And War

The Cod War broke out today in 1976 between Iceland and Great Britain. No shooting took place, but the two countries were at each other’s diplomatic throats over right to the dwindling populations of the fish. Who cares about cod? Nobody whose food choices are made according to taste, of course. But the economic importance of codfish was so great that a whole book has been written about it. A good one, too, by Mark Kurlansky. It’s called Cod. It explains why you can’t find codfish to make codfish cakes anymore: the cod are gone.

Annals Of Beer

The Tsingtao Brewery was founded today in 1903 by a company of Germans and British, who wanted to have recognizable beer for Europeans living in China. The original brewery (there are many now) was in Qingdao (the modern spelling of the place name) in Shandong province. There the Germans found superb spring water coming from the nearby mountains. The beer is a classic pilsner in style. You find Tsingtao in almost every Chinese restaurant in America, but you may have given up on it for awhile in the late 1990s, when pollution in China gave their barley an unpleasant flavor aspect. Now most of the grain comes from France, Canada, and Australia.

Food On Broadway

The William Inge play Picnic opened today in 1953 in New York City. If you ever saw the play or the movie, you know the people in it don’t much eat–although they do drink. You get the idea they don’t really enjoy picnics much.

Food Records

Today in 1999, the biggest strawberry shortcake ever baked was assembled in Plant City, Florida, where they grow a lot of strawberries in the winter (as we do here). It weighed more than three tons. I wonder whether they used real whipped cream.

Food And Drink Namesakes

Actress Margaux Hemingway was born today in 1955. She was named for the great Bordeaux red wine chateau, which her parents claim to have been drinking the night she was conceived. Her grandfather, Ernest Hemingway, was the author of A Moveable Feast, among many other classic works of literature. . . . John Fishman, drummer with the rock band Phish, was born today in 1965. . . Danielle Berry, creator of early computer games, was born as Daniel today in 1949.

Chefs On Parade

Today is the birthday of Aaron Burgau, the chef of the exciting, French-tinged Uptown restaurant Patois. He was born on this day in 1973.

Words To Eat By

“I don’t like to say that my kitchen is a religious place, but I would say that if I were a voodoo priestess, I would conduct my rituals there.”–Pearl Bailey.

Words To Drink By

“They drink with impunity, or anybody who invites them.”–Artemus Ward.

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