Diary For Monday, Feb. 18, 2019: High Miscellany. Looking For Nephew, Finding Impastato’s.
Are there undertakings more frustrating than trying to get computer matters pulled together? That’s how I spent hours in the last couple of days. The problem: getting American Express to compile all the transactions for the year just ended. It’s one of the better services that they give their Platinum cardholders, but it gets harder to use every year. It makes tax returns a lot easier, and I’ve come to depend on that. For an hour and a half their tech guy tried to make the data come to my computer, but after that he said the matter had to be kicked up to the next level. Which had to be delayed for President’s Day. Drat.
A more pleasant part of the day was chorus rehearsal with NPAS. We’re continuing to work on elements of the Mass as written by a number of French composers. Not the easiest endeavor, although I am learning a lot about French pronunciations. As frustrating as some of this music is, learning it takes a lot of mental exertion, and that is worth the effort.
It took all but a little sandwich out of my eating schedule. But this is how I lost those eighty pounds during the last four years.
Another development: today we entered the second week of a new idea I have for keeping the phones busy during the radio Food Show. The deal is simple. I implore my listeners to call in, even if they have nothing up front on their minds to talk about. I noticed that when I go to Dorignac’s Food Center, market, I always run into people I know, or people who know me. A conversation then ensues, with no thought given to the exchange on either side. It just comes naturally, always making both sides smile.
I thought this might have possibilities on a radio talk show, and indeed it has–all but during the very beginning of the show, when getting the first caller is difficult. All last week, this idea worked very well, and by the end of today’s show people were embracing the idea nicely. This is a dream come true.
And so I ask you, gentle reader: between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. every weekday, don’t hesitate, but call me at 504-260-MENU (6368). Don’t bother thinking about what you will say–just let it come out naturally, and I’ll do the same thing. You’ll like the result. And I’ll thank you in advance.
Every day at the end of the Food Show, I call Mary Ann to discover her plans. Today, she was already across the lake, so we would not be sharing dinner. But she will then push me to go to a restaurant I have not yet tried, or one that hasn’t been reviewed in a long time. I appreciate this urging, because, like most people, my inclination is to dine in restaurant I know and like. And I never run out of restaurants I haven’t sampled.
Today, MA’s suggestion is that I go to Nephew, the Metairie restaurant that gives a rebirth to the food that for many years was served at the now-extinct Tony Angello’s. Nephew has gained a lot of attention because Tony Angello’s nephew worked in the kitchen of the old place, and knows how to cook all those classic dishes. This does appeal to me. I never have to have my arm twisted to go to an Italian restaurant.
Problem is, I can’t seem to find the restaurant. This is the third time I’ve tried. People tell me that its near the intersection of West Metairie Ave. and Clearview Parkway. That it’s near the Shell station. And the Krispy Kreme. The Tastee Donuts. I drive all the side streets and the big ones too. But where is Nephew? I am not very good at finding addresses, especially in the dark. This time, I even had my phone telling me how to get there. We had a reservation made. But no dice again. I think I’ll bring along one of the Marys next time. They seem to be able to find everything.
I abandoned the effort and went to Impastato’s. I haven’t been there on over a year, anyway, A house salad with that unique and delicious green dressing. The best fettuccine in my experience, even including in the consideration Alfredo of Rome, where I have dined four times on our cruises. The entree tonight was speckled trout Mariana: pan-sauteed with a lemon butter sauce, artichoke hears and mushrooms. It’s named for Joe Impastato’s mother. Whenever you find a dish named for the owner or chef’s mother, it will be good–especially if both are Italian. And this is great.
Impastato’s singer Roy Picou invited me to sing a few songs. Then Mr. Joe asked me for a few more. Another reason I like to eat at Impastato’s, even though it cramps my dubious vocal ability to sing after just heaving eaten a big dinner.
Nephew. Metairie: 4445 W. Metairie Ave. 504-533-9998.
Impastato’s. Metairie: 3400 16th St. 504-455-1545.
Gulf Fish With Artichokes and Mushrooms
Redfish with a sauce of artichokes, capers, mushrooms, and butter appears on the menus of quite a few New Orleans restaurants. It’s delicious far beyond the promise of its description or even appearance. Trout, redfish, flounder, lemonfish, sheepshead, or striped bass also work for this recipe. So do really big oysters or shrimp.
The dish was invented at Brennan’s, where it still can be had if you describe it. (Its old name, before the rebirth of Brennan’s a few years ago) was Kottwitz. The best practitioners, however, are the Impastato brothers Joe (at Impastato’s in Metairie) and Sal (Sal And Judy’s, in Lacombe). As an option, they will take the idea another step beyond and add crabmeat, shrimp or both. The resulting dish bears the name of the current Saints head coach.
- 4 red snapper, trout, redfish, drum, or sheepshead fillets, 6-8 oz.
- Juice of 1/2 lemon, strained
- 1 cup flour
- 1 Tbs. salt
- 1/4 tsp. white pepper
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 4 Tbs. butter
- 2 fresh artichoke bottoms (or canned)
- 8 artichoke hearts, quartered
- 1/3 cup dry sherry or white wine
- 2 cups sliced white mushrooms
- 2 Tbs. sliced green onions
- 1/4 tsp. chopped garlic
- 1/2 tsp. chopped French shallots
- 1 Tbs. smallest possible capers
- 2 Tbs. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 1/2 sticks butter
1. If using fresh artichoke bottoms for the sauce, poach until soft in water with a little lemon juice and 1 Tbs. salt. Cut the artichokes into eighths and set aside.
2. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the fish fillets. Stir the salt and pepper into the flour with a fork, and dredge the fillets in the seasoned flour. Shake off the excess flour, dip the fillets in the beaten eggs, and dredge through the flour again. Knock off the excess flour.
2. Heat the 4 Tbs. butter over medium-high heat in a large, heavy skillet and sauté until the fish is cooked–about three minutes per side. Remove the fish and keep warm.
4. To make the sauce, add the white wine to the pan in which you sautéed the fish, and whisk to dissolve the pan juices. Bring to a boil until the wine is reduced by two-thirds. Lower the heat to medium and add all the remaining sauce ingredients except the butter. Cook until the mushrooms no longer break when flexed.
5. Lower the heat to almost off, and add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, agitating the pan until the butter has blended in completely.
6. Place the fish on serving plates and top with the sauce.
February 21, 2017
Mardi Gras: March 5
St. Patrick’s Day: March 17
St. Joseph’s Day: March 19
Easter: April 21
Deft Dining Rule #249
Ask which is the worst table in the restaurant, and you’ll never be brought to that table.
hardtack, n.–A rock-hard biscuit made of wheat flour and water, and baked until it’s so dry that it can neither become stale nor get moldy. The history of hardtack is dominated by stories of how it stood between survival and starvation. It has been identified with the military since Roman days, but is particularly associated with sailing ships on long voyages. It’s something you really have to be hungry to eat. And have good teeth.
The Web buzz is that today is National Sticky Bun Day. I haven’t yet mentioned that February is National Potato Month. And today is National Hash Brown Potatoes Day.
Hash browns are a fuzzy concept. In shape they run the gamut from large diced potatoes to finely shredded. They’re usually cooked in a hot grill or skillet, but the other ingredients combined with it ranges from nothing at all to cheese, onions, bacon, ham, and whatever else the cook at the greasy spoon has handy. Everybody has a different preference.
Mine is for the way my wife Mary Ann makes them, which takes advantage of her penchant for burning things. She pre-bakes potatoes a little less than you would for eating. Then she melts some butter in a hot skillet and shreds the potatoes right into the skillet, scattering some chopped green onions as she goes. Then she walks away until she smells something burning, turns the potatoes over, and lets them go a little longer. This technique is terrible for most cooking, but happens to be perfect for hash browns, and the result is irresistible.
Spicy Branch is a stream running down from the foothills of the Appalachians in northeastern Kentucky. Its water runs through several intermediate streams before winding up in the Ohio and then the Mississippi. Cincinnati, Ohio is 129 miles downstream. This is heavily-wooded hills-and-hollows countryside. Reach into the water of Spicy Branch, pull out a bottle of Tabasco, and head for lunch at the A&A Cafe, two miles away in Grayson.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
If you’re going to boil potatoes for any reason, buy potatoes that are all approximately the same size. You wouldn’t believe what a difference this makes not only in texture but flavor, too.
The Food Bill
Today is Food Checkout Day. That’s the day when the average American has earned enough money to pay for all his food for this entire year. That day comes much earlier in this country than anywhere else. On average, we spend about 12 percent of our disposable income on food. In France, it’s 15 per cent. Japan 18 percent, India 51 per cent. Here’s another statistic about food, while we’re at it: only 19 cents of the average dollar spent at the grocery store goes to farmers or other food producers. The rest goes for processing and marketing. I suspect that those of us who like to take a high percentage of our meals in restaurants have a Food Checkout Day much later in the year.
Food Through History
Speaking of breakfast: Today was Mardi Gras in 1950. On that day, the first International Pancake Race took place in Liberal, Kansas. It still goes on every Shrove Tuesday there, and is the premier celebration of a curious association between Mardi Gras and pancakes. It’s one we honor almost not at all here. In Liberal, they invite a team of women from Olney, a town in England (where the tradition began), and the contestants run four hundred yards down a twisting course, flipping pancakes in a skillet as they do. And you’d think they have no fun in western Kansas!
Annals Of Food Writing
It’s the publication date in 1925 of the first edition of The New Yorker, which for my money is still the most interesting magazine in the world. Its longtime editor William Shawn ate in the Algonquin Hotel every day, and ordered the same thing: a bowl of Special K with skim milk. This probably explains why the magazine didn’t run anything about restaurants until a few years ago recently. My wish for the dining out reports in a bigger typeface has come true lately.
Annals Of Popular Cuisine
The first Jack In The Box hamburger restaurant opened in San Diego today in 1951. By my standards, it remains the worst large burger chain there is, barely edging out Hardee’s for that dishonor.
Annals Of Overeating
Today is the birthday, in 1931, of Alka-Seltzer, one of the most effective remedies for an upset stomach. It’s essentially an aspirin cocktail.
People We’d Like To Have Dinner With
Kelsey Grammer was born today in 1955. His character Frasier, on the brilliant television show of the same name, was the first I remember to profess a strong interest in fine dining and wine, and not as a parody, either. The wine-tasting scenes with Frasier’s brother Niles reek with authenticity and captured much of their potential foolishness. The Frasier show even had a radio restaurant critic–a rare bird in real life, I can assure you.
Food And Wine Namesakes
Advertising executive Fairfax Cone was born today in 1903. . . Rap music star Wish Bone was pulled today in 1975. . . Chantal Claret, lead singer for the rock group Morningwood, was uncorked today in 1982.
Words To Eat By
“A bachelor’s life is a fine breakfast, a flat lunch, and a miserable dinner.”–Francis Bacon (how ironic!).
Words To Drink Coffee By
“Making coffee has become the great compromise of the decade. It’s the only thing ‘real’ men do that doesn’t seem to threaten their masculinity. To women, it’s on the same domestic entry level as putting the spring back into the toilet-tissue holder or taking a chicken out of the freezer to thaw.”–Erma Bombeck, born today in 1927.