Diary For The First, Second And Third Days Of Christmas (December 26-27,2018),Followed By A Deluge.
I read somewhere that Christmas, despite its peaceful quality, is among the most stressful days of the year. I can vouch for that, speaking as a person who can’t relax if there are things I consider important to do. I’m more satisfied if I have done a lot of cooking and cleanup through the day.
That’s what happened when I went into town to do the first Food Show in five days. It was a slow two hours, but I think most people are feasted out, and my skills at making people hungry are in less demand. Very few members of the radio stations (we have eight of them) are working today.
When I left the air at five, I called MA to learn that she and ML had decided to go to the new location of Habaneros in Covington. This would be our third visit to that restaurant, and by the time I was finished with it I had come to the conclusion that this is not nearly the Habaneros that I remember from its strip-mall location next to the old Pardo’s. What particularly puts me off is that the meats–I’ve had two dishes with beef as a centerpieces, and today’s chicken–have been too tough to eat comfortably. It’s an overcooking matter, I think. I’m going to back away from Habaneros for awhile. It’s clear that the owners and chefs know something, but they need to work on their repertoire. And I suspect and hope they will.
Habaneros 190. Covington: 1331 N Hwy 190
Getting back to the aftermath of Yuletide: An item on my schedule has my nervous attention. I am booked to drive into town for various reasons. One is to show up in person at the radio studios, ready to put alive Food Show on the air. The other is to attend the annual Jesuit High School Class of 1968 Reunion. It takes place between Christmas and New Year’s at the Court of Two Sisters. The restaurant is owned by Joe Fein, who is a classmate. Every year, he subsidizes an hour of Sazeracs and Old Fashioneds, with a large side order of catching up with old friends.
That’s followed by a dinner of osso buco in the upstairs dining room. This year a new wrinkle has been added to by moving from veal osso buco to lamb. Everybody seemed to be pleased by that. The waiter who takes care of our part of the table knows to bring me a bowl of turtle soup instead. Veal, beef, or lamb shanks served on a cold day often get even by giving me an attack of the gout. But this time, somebody sent me a fish fillet instead of the soup. I’m flattered that anyone would care.
But there are worse problems. The weather forecast calls for rain, followed by tornadoes, followed by a tremendous amount of rain followed by floods. I considered dumping out of the reunion, which I have attended most years since it began. But Mary Ann offered to drive me into town drop me off at the Court of Two Sisters, then pick me in time to bring me to the radio station for the Food Show at three. After that, we would head to the Cool Water Ranch, where the serious rain was about to begin.
And much worse problems. At the reunion was a classmate who was not only in the same Jesuit class as mine, but the same grammar school. We were always friends. Last year he was clearly fighting a major health problem. He looked a lot better this year, but he still bemoaned his inability to taste food. Indeed, eating is an ordeal for him. This is a condition that two guys at the radio station also had. They seem to have overcome the condition for the most part. I hope my old classmate does, too. Until then, I will remember him as the Jesuit swimming champion and generally cool guy he was in his halcyon years. And note that he always shows up at the reunions.
This getting-older stuff is really for the birds.
Court of Two Sisters. French Quarter: 613 Royal. 504-522-7273.
Bar Frances is a polished French bistro in a place where one is surprised to find it: on Freret Street. In the restaurant district that emerged after Hurricane Katrina, the restaurants were preoccupied with very informal cafes featuring hamburgers, hot dogs, and other sandwiches, with a few ethnic places. That’s initially what Bar Frances resembles, but its menu speak otherwise. It’s one of the best New Orleans restaurants for 2018. As if to prove that point, the Reveillon menu at $50 for four courses is unique, well conceived, and a great bargain. The bar part of the name is backed up by fine mixology, but this much more than a bar.
Crispy Pork Belly
Chicory, dried shrimp, satsuma and red chili glaze
Duck Egg Yolk Ravioli
Smoked onion broth, pepper jelly
Black garlic, yuzu, grains of paradise, radish sprouts
Butternut squash, dry sherry
Pepitas, radishes, long pepper, honey lavender white balsamic vinaigrette
Romesco, octopus, dill vinaigrette
Slow Roasted Whole Fennel
Blood orange, house-canned summer cherry tomatoes, grilled beets, parmesan
Grilled Lamb Loin
Burnt rosemary spaetzle, pine nut gremolata, natural lamb jus
Plaquemines Parish Honeycomb
Saint-André cheese, sherried apples
Egg Nog Crème Brûlée
Bread pudding crisps
Bar Frances. Uptown: 4525 Freret St. 504-371-5043.
We feature one Reveillon every day throughout the Reveillon season, which runs in most of the Reveillon restaurants until December 31.The snowflake ratings are for the Reveillon menu, not the restaurant in general. Dishes marked with the snowflake symbol ✽ are my recommendations.
December 28 & 29, 2017
The Third Day Of Christmas
From someone who regards you well, here come Tujague’s recipe (for the crawfish they caught in Arabi), two candy canes, green polka-dot pajamas, or (in our own version of the song) two eggs Sardou.
It is also five days until New Year’s Eve. Which isn’t much time to get a dinner reservation if you’re going out. But plenty of time to procure a bottle of Champagne-style sparkling wine. Today’s recommendation: Gruet, made in New Mexico, of all places. But quite good! Basic non-vintage goes for under $20 a bottle.
The Fourth Day of Christmas
This is the day when the four calling birds arrive. Actually, the original lyrics of the song were “four colly birds.” “Colly” is an obsolete Britishism for blackbirds, the kind we’ve heard were once baked in a pie. Never had them that way, but I’ve heard it’s pretty good. In other versions of the song, you go out for a Christmas tree, four colored lights, your true love sends a simulated alligator wallet, and (in my version) you get four quarters of a muffuletta.
Antoine’s reopened for the first time following Hurricane Katrina on this date in 2005. It was the second (after Arnaud’s) of the old-line, grand Creole restaurants to do so, and was a pleasant surprise. So much damage was done to the restaurant’s original building that it almost fell. On this day in 2005, I was walking back to my car after lunch at the Court of Two Sisters and saw the passageway to Antoine’s kitchen open, and saw some cooks standing around. I walked in and met familiar staff. They said it would be opening night, and that two hundred people were already booked. I asked if they could take four more. My family and I were there that night. Things weren’t perfect, but it was an evening I’ll never forget.
Today is National Pepper Pot Day. Pepper pot is a soup whose roots go back to the native people of the Caribbean islands. It’s most often identified with Jamaica, where it’s made with chicken, pork, beef, or all three, with many leafy vegetables. It reminds me a bit of New Orleans gumbo z’herbes, and may in fact be related to it. The odd thing about pepper pot is that it’s not really all that peppery. At least not the versions of it I’ve had.
It’s also National Wine Rotation Day. While wine bottles in storage for future drinking should be disturbed as little as possible, most of us who collect a few wines (as opposed to the really dedicated, avid oenophiles) lose track of what we have on our shelves or in our closets. You might have some older bottles that will soon be past their prime. Pull it all down off the shelf and see what’s up there. Restack the wines with the ones most in need of drinking at the top, and the ones that will last a long time at the bottom. Once a year will prevent sad wine deaths.
Two streams are known as Beef Creek in South Dakota. In the southwest corner of the State, Beef Creek #1 is in cattle country; a lot of great beef is raised in these parts. You might get some of it at the Office Bar & Grill in Oelrichs, five miles north of the mouth of Beef Creek#1 . Beef Creek #2 is 268 miles north of #1, ut the route takes you past Mount Rushmore and the Badlands. Beef Creek #2 comes down from the Grand River National Grassland in the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, and after six miles flows into Darling Creek, in the upper reaches of the Missouri River watershed. It’s twenty-five miles west to the Prairie Lounge, the nearest restaurant.
Brunswick stew, n.–Brunswick stew is the best-known American dish with squirrel meat as a main ingredient. Even so, it’s not much prepared anymore. Selling wild-caught squirrel meat is illegal, and so you will not likely see the dish in a restaurant. If you do, it will be made with chicken in place of the squirrel. A better idea is to make it with rabbit. Other ingredients include bacon, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, and beans. The version made in Louisiana usually contains a noticeable cayenne component (no surprise there). Two Brunswick Counties–on in Virginia, the other in North Carolina–both claim that the dish is named for them.
Deft Dining Rule #23:
Unless you’re literally starving, don’t eat bad food, even if you paid for it.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
When you cook mushrooms, spread them out in the pan. If they pile up, the water they exude as they cook turns to steam and makes them comes out like canned. It’s usually best to add them later rather than earlier in the sauce-building process, but that’s not axiomatic. Nobody wants an axiomatic kitchen, anyway.
Eating Across America
Texas became the twenty-eighth state today in 1845. Among its several nicknames the most descriptive is Land Of Contrasts. From the food perspective, the contrast is between the Mexican-inspired cooking of the western part of the state and the Texas version of Cajun cooking in the east. In the major cities–especially in Houston–the ethnic diversity in the restaurants is among the greatest in the country. Houston has become an extremely good restaurant town in the last twenty years. That said, it must be noted that the typical restaurant in Texas cities and suburbs is an outlet of a chain.
Tenuous Food-Sports Connections
The bowling ball was invented today in 1862, giving rise to this joke:
Q. “What’s the difference between the food at [your least-favorite restaurant] and a bowling ball?”
A. “You can eat a bowling ball!”
Annals Of Avid New Orleans Fans
Today in 1930, Fred P. Newton completed a swim in the Mississippi River from Ford Dam in Minnesota to New Orleans. That’s 1826 miles. He was the first person to make such a swim. He entered the water on July 6; it took him over 700 hours of swimming. It must have been chilly toward the end. He climbed out of the water, walked across the railroad tracks, sat down in the Morning Call, and had three cups of cafe au lait and two orders of beignets, as if nothing had happened.
Popular Food Inventions
Robert C. Baker is a member of the American Poultry Hall of Fame for his success in developing new ways of distributing, cooking, and serving chicken and turkey. He was born today in 1921. He developed the fried chicken nugget in the 1950s, but didn’t patent it. McDonald’s rolled out the Chicken McNugget (which they did patent) in 1979.
Eydie Gormé married Steve Lawrence today in 1957. . . Jeanne Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, was born today in 1721. Madame Pompadour, as she is better known, was the mistress of Louis XV, as well as a master of intrigue. . . Astronaut Nancy J. Currie lifted off today in 1958. She made four shuttle flights and spent over a thousand hours in space, eating the stuff astronauts eat.
Words To Eat By
“Pounding fragrant things–particularly garlic, basil, parsley–is a tremendous antidote to depression. But it applies also to juniper berries, coriander seeds and the grilled fruits of the chili pepper. Pounding these things produces an alteration in one’s being–from sighing with fatigue to inhaling with pleasure. The cheering effects of herbs and alliums cannot be too often reiterated. Virgil’s appetite was probably improved equally by pounding garlic as by eating it.”–Patience Gray, British food writer of the mid-1900s.
Words To Drink By
“When you stop drinking, you have to deal with this marvelous personality that started you drinking in the first place.”–Jimmy Breslin, American newspaper columnist.