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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Diary For Mon, 12/3/2018. Back To Frantic & Delicious Normal. It seems a long time since we had 30 people over for Thanksgiving, then immediately flew to Los Angeles for grandson’s birthday–with a four-day stay. Then the big Roosevelt Hotel radio and music extravaganza, followed by four days at Manresa.

Meanwhile, a pile of work mounted at the radio station, where our eager-beaver sales team shook their fingers at me for not writing and recording the commercials they needed right away. Out of town, I couldn’t deliver–but they didn’t know that.

All this happened within a fifteen-day stroke, with nary a break to ease the tensions. Even so, it will go down as one of the most memorable of times of my life, as all the people, jobs, visitations, and discoveries that I cherish enriched every moment of every day. I find myself thinking and saying this: I have never had a happier time than now.

Part of the happiness was today’s adjustment of my world to normal. I showed up at the radio station early, and started in on all those commercials. Of course, the first task was starting the computer where I write scripts. It took almost two hours to become functional. I got two commercials done, but had to stop after that in time for the live two-hour talk show.

Then something interesting happened. When started talking, I heard the voice of Father Anthony, retreat master and a very effective speaker at the retreat just ended. Why was I using his rhythms and modulations? I have my own style, developed over four decades on the air. But, frankly, I liked Father Anthony’s better. When he got to a point where he didn’t know exactly what to say next, he stopped cold and looked into the air above his forehead. Then he would shift to a different point, usually a related idea but often a related matter. Or, sometimes, completely off the subject. It was very effective, and we took in a much larger and more interesting different callers to the show than usual. And nothing would please me more than getting more on-air radio callers.

One of the commercials I needed to cut was an update on The Grille. It’s been a few months since last I ate there. I needed to make sure I felt good about the place and whether there are any new dishes of note.

It being Monday, I had a plate of red beans and rice with hot sausage. In the 1960s and 1970s, I ate at the Camellia Grill often. (The Grille is operated by the same people who run the Camellia Grill.) The Camellia Grill always had red beans on Monday, and they were always terrific.

*One day I was shooting the breeze in front of the Camellia Grill with its owner, Jimmy Shwarz. He was a fascinating guy to talk with, because he had a lot of advanced ideas about how to operate a restaurant that everybody will love. That was a matter on which he was a prophet. Example: One day a restaurant owner from another city went to the Camellia Grill to figure out why it was so successful. Specifically, the out-of-towner asked how many ounces of meat the Camellia Grill used to make its famous sandwiches. Shwartz said, “I have no idea. I tell our cooks to put on enough ham and cheese and corned beef so that the last bite of the sandwich still has meat and cheese on it.”

On this 1970s Monday, I asked Shwarz whether I could have a red bean omelette. The Camellia Grill was and remains a specialist in omelettes, made with all sorts of oddball fillings. One of these was chili with beans. I figured if they could do that, then red bean omelettes would not be far behind. The grill cook knocked out the red bean isotope and plopped it before me. I thought it was pretty good, if not a spectacular creation. But now it’s found on other menus around town. I’m not sure that I created the red bean omelette, but I was among the first.

*The paragraph that follows this asterisk is a perfect example of Father Anthony’s style of changing topics on the run.

Back to The Grille: The red beans were thicker than I like them, but tasted fine. You can get a red bean omelette at The Grill, but I didn’t. After dispatching the beans, I was persuaded by the manager to try one of the pies. I think they’re getting them from an outside source, but the results are polished and good. The one I tried today (I’ve had others in the past) I had a coconut creme pie, whose excellence came from the restrained sweetness and richness. Most pies of most kinds are far too sweet and thick, with bad crusts. This had none of those problems.

So, The Grille passes Tom’s Test, and I write and record the spot.
I’m a lot more effective on Tuesday, and knock out all the urgent spots. All the sales guys understood my excuse–that I was out of town–for not getting their clients served as immediately as usual.

The Grille. Metairie: 2924 Veterans Blvd. . 504-304-3304.

Dinner at Rizutto. It’s a cold and dark night, and on such nights I look for warm, bright tables. The warmth they have covered. Lighting is a matter they should take a look at. It’s so dark in the main dining room that it was impossible to read the fine type in the menu. I opened my cellphone to use its flashlight utility. Half the time, I can’t make that happen. Almost all the time, I can’t figure out how to turn the thing off. The waiter–a young guy half my age, if that old–knew exactly how to turn the light off. The divide between the baby Boomers and the Millennials keeps opening wider, but that is often helpful.

Once I could read, I quickly decided on veal piccata, a dish I haven’t had in quite some time. It’s the simplest of dishes, starting with thinly-sliced veal round. It’s dusted lightly with flour, then seared in a skillet with olive oil, butter (sometimes), and garlic. Parsley, capers, lemon juice and herbs complete the combination.

Veal piccata, with a rococo topping of herbs.

The thinness of the veal is critical. If it gets to the thickness of two stacked nickels, the lack of fat and gelatin in the baby veal can let it get tough. I didn’t have this problem tonight, and while it didn’t melt in the mouth, it was just what I was hoping for. Angel hair pasta–enough to make a meal by itself–came in a big bowl with aglio olio (garlic and olive oil butter to you). Dessert was rich vanilla ice cream studded with knurdles of chocolate and pecans. Nice.

Rizzuto’s. Lakeview: 6262 Fleur de Lis Dr. 504-300-1804.

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.

The newly opened Drago’s in Lafayette will show off its best new dishes with an Eat Club dinner on Wednesday, December 12, 2018, 6:30 p.m. at Drago’s in Lafayette. 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 at me at the Metairie location: 504-888-9254. Or you can reserve by e-mail:
kelsey@dragosrestaurant.com.

The $75 admission will be paid at the restaurant when you arrive. Any other questions? Contact me personally by e-mail: tom@nomenu.com.

Here’s the Menu. Amazingly, you will get all the dishes on the menu for the $75 price. So come hungry!

Starters
Charbroiled Oysters
Fleur de lis Shrimp
Alligator Tacos
Crabmeat Mediterranean Salad

Lobster Surf & Turf, Served Family-Style
Half Maine Lobster, Shrimp Marco pasta, filet mignon served medium rare, topped with barbecue shrimp, fried eggplant, charbroiled corn

Desserts
Bread Pudding
Cheesecake

AlmanacSquare December 6, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Reveillon Dinners. Nightly, now through December.
Eat Club @ Drago’s In Lafayette. December 12.
Broadcast From The Roosevelt. December 13.
Christmas December 25.
New Year’s Eve: December 31.

The Saints

It’s St. Nicholas’s Day. Nicholas of Myra was a bishop in a town in what is now Turkey in the Fourth Century. He is alleged to have revived three murdered boys from the dead. That made him a patron saint of children. His fame spread such that his name was translated into many languages; this is how he evolved into Santa Claus. The tradition on St. Nicholas’s day is for children to leave their shoes out on this night, and find coins in them the next morning. (Or should we have done that last night? I forget.)

Food Inventions


Today is the official birthday of the microwave oven. It was patented on this date in 1945 by the Raytheon Company, whose main business was making radar devices for fighting the Nazis and Japanese. Its essence is the magnetron, a tube that emits microwave-frequency radio waves. Percy Spencer discovered that anything containing water (among other things) had its molecules stirred up by the waves. Water molecules have a slight polarity, and are about the same size as the microwaves. So, as the waves pass around them, they move. Movement=heat. That’s all there is to it. I’ve had a microwave oven since the mid-1970s, and the great miracle in them now is that you can throw a bag of popcorn in there and press just one button to pop it.

Today’s Flavor

Homemade Vegetable Soup Day sounds delicious in the current cold weather. What could be more heart-warming? I have half a brisket I can boil to make the stock. We need some potatoes and tomatoes and carrots and Brussels sprouts and green beans. . . and. . . (recipe later in the newsletter).

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Beef cooked on St. Nicholas’s Day will always be tender. But God helps them that helps themselves, so don’t forget to slice across the grain.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Frost, Louisiana is a small rural community in the junction of State Highways 42 and 63 in Livingston Parish. A cluster of about a dozen houses are at the intersection, with a couple dozen more down the road. All of this is surrounded by pine and cypress woods, the land slowly declining into wetlands. In recent geological history, this was the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River built a lot of land south of there during the most recent tens of thousands of years. The nearest restaurant to Frost is Wayne’s Real Pit Barbecue, five miles north in the town of Livingston.

Edible Dictionary

Blue Vinney, n.–A powerful blue cheese made from cow’s milk in the area of Dorset. The name is a reference to the blue veins in the cheese. It began as a by-product of the making of butter, which is still done on a large scale in that part of England. Although it’s very popular among cheeselovers in England these days, it almost became extinct some forty years ago. It has been suggested that its mention in the famous cheeseshop skit in Monty Python’s Flying Circus brought it back to life. Blue Vinney (sometimes the genuine article is spelled “vinny”) is for those who like big cheese flavors. Some find it too intense, and a bit stinky.

Restaurant Anniversaries

Today is the birthday of the modern Domino’s Pizza. Tom Monaghan opened the first one in 1960 in Ypsilanti, Michigan, a Detroit suburb. It’s an ordinary pizza, made in a conveyor belt oven. But for all that, you could do a lot worse, and they set the standard for the mass-marketed pizza. Years before that Domino’s came on the scene, there was a Domino’s pizzeria in New Orleans, on the corner of St. Charles and Girod, where Herbsaint is now. It was a dumpy place of the kind that all old pizza joints used to be.

Food Namesakes

Otto Graham was born today in 1921. He was a Hall of Fame quarterback for the Cleveland Browns in the 1950s. . . Mass murderer Richard Speck was born today in 1941. “Speck” is a common European term for the smoked version of prosciutto. We’re only lately starting to see it in use here. . . Joseph Lamb, composer of songs in the peak of the ragtime years, was born today in 1887.

Words To Eat By

“I went to this restaurant last night that was set up like a big buffet in the shape of an Ouija board. You’d think about what kind of food you want, and the table would move across the floor to it.”–Steven Wright, the deadpan comedian, born today in 1955.

“I saw a cavalry captain buy vegetable soup on horseback. He carried the whole mess home in his helmet.”–Aristophanes, ancient Greek playwright.

Words To Drink By

“Before Noah, men having only water to drink, could not find the truth. Accordingly. . . they became abominably wicked, and they were justly exterminated by the water they loved to drink. This good man, Noah, having seen that all his contemporaries had perished by this unpleasant drink, took a dislike to it; and God, to relieve his dryness, created the vine and revealed to him the art of making le vin. By the aid of this liquid he unveiled more and more truth.”–Benjamin Franklin.

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