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Diary For Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. Red Beans Into Quesadillas. Return To The Chorus.

A funny thing happened when I went to lunch today. As usual on a Monday, I had red beans on my mind. Abita Roasting Company sounds like the name of a coffeehouse. It is that, but it’s also a maker of basic pastries and other sweets, along with an extensive and creative lineup of breakfast dishes. Beyond that, one also finds an array of sandwiches, salads, and plate specials.

One of the latter is red beans, and those are among the best red beans on the North Shore. Not only are the beans cooked perfectly, but the variety of attending proteins fills the appetite. My favorite is the hot sausage, the ultimate meat garnish for red beans. The beans also come with unique savory pancakes, made with cornmeal and corn flour.

Red beans, Johnnycake, hot sausage @ Abita Roasting

Red beans and rice with hot sausage

All that is what I had in mind when I headed over there at around one in in the afternoon. “I’ll bet you don’t have red beans and rice today,” I said in a jocose manner to the waitress. “Then you would win the bet,” she said. “Something happened when they were cooking the beans, and they had to take them off the menu. Sorry!”

“Not forever, I hope?” I asked.

“Oh, no!” she reassured me. “Just today. Come back next week!”

But this left me with a finished appetite in my brain. I came here wanting my beans. Nothing on the menu could substitute. I went through the menu over and over, finally settling on the chicken quesadilla. Abita Roasting Co. has a number of Mexican-inspired (meaning far from authentic) dishes. This one sounded best.

What came out was a big surprise. It looked like a pizza, but the crust had the texture of croissant, stretched in a circle across six big slices. In the middle was a lot of queso–mostly shredded cheddar and Monterrey jack, with gratings of onions, peppers, and chicken. Very Texas in style. There was enough here for three people. Finishing the platter were extra-large French fries–we used to call these “steak fries” that had the texture and flavors of hand-cut potatoes. So, a lot better than I expected, for about twelve dollars.

This onslaught of cheese moved me to announce cheese as the day’s topic on the radio show. I don’t remember that we ever did cheese as a question of the day. The closest we ever did was a poll as to whether the voter like or hated blue cheese. There is no in between on that matter. Blue cheese haters won the contest, but not by a convincing lead.

As for my own cheese poll, nobody called. Whatever force continues to reduce the number of calls to my radio show is still nulling out the program.

Abita Roasting Company. Covington: 1011 Village Walk. 985-246-3345.

I was so busy durig the last half of 2018 that I couldn’t attend even the minimum of rehearsals for NPAS–the Northlake Performing Arts Society, a chorus in which I have sung tenor for the last six years. I greatly enjoy being in that group, especially during the time I missed. One of the major programs focused on the music of Rodgers and Hart, my favorite composers since my age was in single digits. I missed it all, busied by travel and dealing with a minor but irritating heath issue. For the same reasons, I didn’t attend even one Christmas concerts with NPAS. Thank goodness I kept singing in St. Jane de Chantal Parish every Sunday.

Tonight, I returned to the church where NPAS rehearses, eager to find out that my fellow singers would look down at me for not having held up my end of the staff. I was very happy to hear even the singers I don’t know very well welcome me back and wonder where I’ve been for six months. Back in the pew, I’m happy to say.

Eat Club Goes To Alaska Aboard Queen Elizabeth 2

Ten nights, round trip to and from Vancouver, departing June 10, 2019.
Click here for more information

AlmanacSquare January 9, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Mardi Gras March 5.
Got Gumbo Competition Feb. 7.

Eating Across America

Connecticut, The Nutmeg State, became United State Number Five today in 1788. The nickname commemorates a fraud. Nutmeg, a tropical spice, cannot be grown there. But it was expensive enough that some early Yankee con men carved nuggets of what looked like nutmeg from wood and sold it as such to anyone they could fool. The tradition lives on: now Connecticut’s specialty is insurance.

Today’s Flavor

In honor of the statehood of Connecticut, this is National Nutmeg Day. Nutmegs are the fruits of a small tree native to the East Indies. It’s really two spices in one: the nutmeg itself, which looks like a pecan but smaller, and mace, which is a lacy covering around the nutmeg. Both are used in recipes.

Mace has a more powerful aroma, but nutmeg has the more intense flavor. Indeed, a little nutmeg goes a long way, especially when used in a savory dish. Like what? Sneak a pinch into cream sauces and bechamel. You won’t taste nutmeg, but you’ll notice an improvement in the finished dish.

Most of us have jars of nutmeg that should have been thrown away years ago. The old stuff has as much flavor as the grated wood that gave Connecticut its unlikely nickname. The best way to use nutmeg, of course, is to grate your own as you need it–if you can find the damn nutmeg grater.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

No dish ever needs a little more nutmeg. You might think so, but what’s happening is that you so seldom use the spice that you already put it in there.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Campbell’s Soup was made a trademark by the Patent Office today in 1906. The first of their soups was tomato. . . In other food branding news, today in 1984, Wendy’s premiered a strange new advertising campaign that added a new catchphrase to American speech: “Where’s the beef?” The line was delivered by Clara Peller to a fellow octogenarian to express her disappointment with the product of a competing burger joint.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Gumbo, South Dakota is an uninhabited place in the sparsely-populated western plains of the state, 114 miles east of Rapid City. Why it’s called that is a mystery. It doesn’t appear on all maps, and probably with good reason. You will have to drive nearly thirty miles over a dirt road to the nearest restaurant. And I’ll bet the Bull Creek Cafe doesn’t even serve gumbo!

Deft Dining Rule #239:

The world’s most underrated combination of flavors is seafood with beans. Any kind of either tastes great together.

Music To Eat Vitello Tonnato By

Domenico Modugno was born today in 1928. The Italian singer had a Number One hit in the United States–in Italian, yet!–with a song titled Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu. It was better known as Volare. One of the most familiar songs in the world, it is heard in Italian restaurants everywhere. Spunto, a short-lived restaurant on St. Louis Street (in the building where Nola is now), played Volare at top volume every half hour. The waiters would go around the room warning that it was about to start, so as not to alarm the patrons.

Edible Dictionary

oiseau sans tete, French, n.–Throughout Western Europe, restaurants serving a traditional menu often have a dish or two that seems, from the name, to be made with some small, unidentified bird. In fact, these are slices of veal or beef that have been rolled around a stuffing of ground meat, sausage, or pate. They’re tied with string, browned, and sauced, and when the process is finished it’s easy to see why they’re called “birds without heads.” These dishes are delightful–unless you think you’re getting a real bird. “Veal birds” is how the idea is usually rendered in English.

Food In The Funnies

Today is the birthday, in 1901, of Chic Young, who created the Blondie comic strip. It’s more about her husband Dagwood than Blondie. Dagwood is an iconic chowhound, although he doesn’t appear to be an ounce overweight. His finest creation is an overloaded sandwich on a whole loaf of French bread. It contains every known foodstuff, including whole fish. Such things have come to be known as a Dagwood Sandwich. A few years ago news came of the development by New Orleans-based chain of Dagwood Sandwich Shoppes. There are a few of them around the country, but none here.

Food Namesakes

It’s the birthday, in 1913, of actor Eric Berry, who appeared in the film Double Exposure, among others. . . Wally Mary Stiefel McBride Baker was born today in 1898. She was the oldest person in history from Delaware. She passed away in 2009 at 111 years old. . . Television personality Beth Troutman saw the Big Tally Light come on today in 1977.

Words To Eat By

“Richard Nixon committed unspeakable acts with cottage cheese.”–Jay Jacobs, the former New York restaurant critic for Gourmet. It’s Richard Nixon’s birthday (1913).

Words To Drink By

Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe
Rain may fall, and wind may blow
And many miles be still to go
But under a tall tree will I lie
And let the clouds go sailing by
―J.R.R. Tolkien