Diary: Sat., 11/24/2018. Homebound From LA. Mary Ann was the first one awake, and went for a long walk around the Langham’s endless, rolling fields. That’s her way of bidding farewell to one of her favorite places. I was shortly up and moving myself, making sure I didn’t run into her on her walk, which is the way she mentally sizes up the highs and lows of her visits with Jude and our beloved grandsons. We couldn’t possibly have spent more time with the baby boys, who could not have been more delightful.
At six a.m., I set out for the Terrace Café, whose breakfast is one of my favorite aspects of the Langham. No buffet today, so I ordered their unusual version of huevos rancheros. It’s a wonder we haven’t encountered much Mexican and Southwestern food during our stay. This was about the only such plate I had.
MA showed up at the table at about six-thirty, and she gave me the gist of the day. Of course, every minute up until we climbed aboard the airplane in late afternoon had a plan attached to it. MA never lets a moment pass without an activity to fill it, with “play with Jackson and Bennett” being the preferred item.
The final program was lunch. A couple of blocks away from Jackson’s school is a French café that Jude been to a few times and liked. My first impression was that it was Franco-Pretentious, but that proved to be an illusion. Here was the classic French bistro in its menu and cooking, at moderate prices, given the polish of the eats. The owner was very French but also very friendly and eager to talk and serve.
I began with a butternut squash soup served in a portion big enough for two or three. I thought it was a little too thick, but MA said it was the best she ever tried. MA’s own next course was a salad of Bibb lettuce with a classic French vinaigrette. Entrees: a near-sizzling, toasty chicken paillard for Jude, a petit filet mignon witih pommes frits for Mary Leigh, and some three dozen mussels in the classic buttery broth and smallish mussels for me. That’s another classic French lunch item–one I always welcome, as I did here.
Then a hot chocolate soufflee for dessert. The top part poked out of its dish with such lightness that it seemed cloudlike. Hot souflees are rare in restaurants to begin with. To get one of this perfection made it a lifetime best. The girls went especially wild over the soufflee, and agreed that this was the high point the whole dinner, and the perfect close in this Los Angeles visit. We’ll come here again.
Jude had to get back to work, and couldn’t waste the hour needed to get through the clotted lines of cars approaching the LAX airport. He drove us to a supermarket parking lot, where an Uber car picked us up. Yesterday was the single most traveled day of the year in America. Today was not much easier. It took nearly an hour to get through the LAX jam.
But we were there in time to hang out in the American Express Club while waiting for the airplane. The club offers light snacks, coffees from the basics through cappuccino, a variety of wines, and even cocktails, all included in the $29 entry fee. (You also have to be an American Express card carrier, and be boarding a Delta jet.) The food and wine are barely worth the price, depending on what you make of it. But the place is much more comfortable than waiting in the main gallery.
The homebound flight was the reverse of the incoming one had been. The latter took over five hours. This one took only three hours and was very smooth. During it, I watched a documentary about television contest shows through the decades. It was fascinating. And it was also interesting to see what the famous contest show hosts look like today.
On our way to LA four days ago, we had to park in several immense, improvised gravel lots. Coming back, I wondered whether Mary Leigh’s car would still be there, whether we could find it in the dark, and whether the rumor that the keys were missing was true. But the bags and car and everything else were waiting for us, courtesy of a shuttle driver, who patiently carried us through all the lots until we found our car, with its lights flashing a welcome greeting.
Petit Trois. Los Angeles: 718 N Highland Ave. 323-468-8916.
Drago’s–home of the Original Char-Broiled Oysters, the best one-bite dish in New Orleans–presents an extravaganza of its best new and old dishes. It will be served in the new Lafayette Drago’s, on Wednesday, December 12. 6:30 p.m.
All of the dishes below will be served family-style for $75, inclusive of tax, tip, wines and other beverages. To reserve, call the Metairie Drago’s: 504-888-9254. Or you can reserve by e-mail:
The date is December 12, 6:30 p.m., The $75 admission will be paid at the restaurant when you arrive. Any other questions? Contact me personally by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s the Menu. Amazingly, you will get all the dishes on the menu below for the $75 price. So come hungry! Here’s all of it:
Fleur de lis Shrimp
Crabmeat Mediterranean Salad
Lobster Surf & Turf (half Maine lobster, Shrimp Marco pasta, filet mignon served medium rare, topped with barbecue shrimp, fried eggplant, charbroiled corn
Desserts: Bread Pudding and Cheesecake
Drago’s In Lafayette. Cajun Country: 3151 Johnston Street. 337-706-7077. (Reservations for this dinner: call 504-888-9254.)
Today Is December 4, 2018
Reveillon Dinners. Nightly, now through December.
Eat Club @ Drago’s In Lafayette. December 12.
Christmas December 25.
New Year’s Eve: December 31.
Today is Pork Tenderloin Day. A pork tenderloin is analogous to the tenderloin of beef. It’s a tube-shaped muscle that doesn’t get used a lot by the animal. So it lacks the fibrous quality of most other cuts of meat, has an almost smooth texture, and is very tender. Pork tenderloins have always been around, but it’s only in the last couple of decades that they’ve become wildly popular. It’s about as big around as a child’s wrist, about ten inches long, tapered at the ends, and weighs about a pound. Usually two of them come in a single package. Unless it’s badly trimmed , it’s ready for seasoning and cooking.
Although some recipes call for slicing it into steaks, the best way to cook a pork tenderloin is to leave it whole. It’s compact enough to fit into a medium-large skillet, and even if you wind up doing most of the cooking in the oven it helps to brown it first on top of the stove. That way you can whip up a pan sauce from what’s left behind.
Pork tenderloin is one of the leanest meats we eat, with less fat than a skinless, boneless chicken breast. Yet it’s so tender that unless you grossly overcook it there’s no need to add any further fat to it. The right temperature, I’d say, is about 155 or 160. (That leaves a blush in the center, but it’s well within the bounds of safety for pork.) They also lend themselves to slow smoking. They’re thin enough that you can leave the temperature of the smoker low. I’ve seen some pork tenderloins smoked so gently that they pink “smoke ring” penetrates all the way through, even after it’s fully cooked. That is a wonderful flavor indeed.
Mussel Creek flows about twenty miles through hilly south central Alabama, creating a flat valley floor as it goes. It touches I-65 about a third of the way from Montgomery and Mobile. Mussel Creek–which does indeed contain a number of freshwater mussel species–flows into Cedar Creek, a tributary of the Alabama River. The closest that Mussel Creek gets to a restaurant is the eight miles to Greenville, where the I-65 gives genesis to all the chains you’d find way out on the highway. Bates House of Turkey sounds interesting, though.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
Note that the two pork tenderloins in a package are usually of different sizes, and cook accordingly. On a more superstitious note: If you grill or roast a pork tenderloin whole, and then cut it into fewer than ten slices, you will overdraw your bank account at some time before the next gibbous moon.
Deft Dining Rule #352:
Never order a pork tenderloin in a restaurant before getting the answer to this question: “Is it really a tenderloin, or just plain loin?” If the answer is yes, say, “Okay, but I’ll send it back if it’s as big around as my arm!”
angels on horseback, n., pl.–An oyster wrapped with a short slice of bacon then broiled. The assembly is held together with a toothpick. Sometimes another ingredient is added–a slice of water chestnut and cooked leek are common. In the days of Dickens, this dish was the most common “savory” course—a single bite of something smoky and salty at the end of a meal.
Annals Of Fast Food
The first Burger King opened today in Miami, Florida in 1954. James McLamore and David Edgerton–both graduates of Cornell University’s well-known school of restaurant and hotel management–were inspired by the original McDonald’s in California, and worked up their own version of it. It grew quickly through franchising to become the second-biggest hamburger chain in the world, which it remains today. The first Burger King in the New Orleans area opened in 1965 on Airline Highway near Turnbull. It’s still there.
Gourmets Through History
Actress and singer Lillian Russell was born today in 1861. In the late 1800s, she was considered the ideal beauty, and was the desire of all red-blooded American men. The funny thing about that is that she ate like a horse, and tucked her 185-pound body into corsets to create her very ample hourglass figure. She was the girlfriend of Diamond Jim Brady, a serious gourmet and voluminous eater. Lillian never had any trouble keeping right up with him at the table. The photo shows her before she started really gaining weight.
Wine On Television
Today in 1981, the prime-time soap opera Falcon Crest aired for the first time, on CBS. Described as Dallas with wine, it was set in a California winery (the one in the show is really Spring Mountain Winery in Napa). It was much less about wine than about the romantic intrigues among the characters. It was on the air for nine years.
Rock musician John Cale was born today in 1940. . . Frances Crabbe, an early British feminist, was born today in 1822. . . Lloyd Bacon a supporting actor on many Charlie Chaplin movies, heard “Action!” today in 1889
Words To Eat By
“A hen is only an egg’s way of making another egg.”–Samuel Butler, English writer, born today in 1835.
Words To Drink By
“A cup of coffee–real coffee, home-browned, home ground, home made, that comes to you dark as a hazel-eye, but changes to a golden bronze as you temper it with cream that never cheated, but was real cream from its birth, thick, tenderly yellow, perfectly sweet, neither lumpy nor frothing on the Java: such a cup of coffee is a match for twenty blue devils and will exorcise them all.”–Henry Ward Beecher.