April 13

Peach Cobbler

<strong>Baron Philippe de Rothschild </strong>was born today in 1902. At age 20, he took over management of Chateau Mouton, which his great-grandfather bought in 1853. For the next two decades, he was single-minded in the pursuit of first-growth status for Mouton, which had been a second growth in the great Bordeaux classification of 1855. His motto: "Premier ne puis, second ne daigne. Mouton suis." (First I am denied, second I disdain. I am just Mouton.)

Days Until. . .

Easter --3 Jazz Festival--15

Eating Around The World

The Songkran Festival, Thailand's celebration of the new year, begins today and continues until April 15. The exciting, absurdly healthy food of that country has become extraordinarily popular around America. The flavors of Thai curries, noodle dishes, and spicy soups always get me going. Most dishes are jammed with fresh vegetables and herbs. The cuisine has been popular long enough that more than a few chefs of other kinds of restaurants have borrowed Thai flavors. You even see that in chain restaurants.

Annals Of Winemaking

Baron Philippe de Rothschild was born today in 1902. At age 20, he took over management of Chateau Mouton, which his great-grandfather bought in 1853. For the next two decades, he was single-minded in the pursuit of first-growth status for Mouton, which had been a second growth in the great Bordeaux classification of 1855. His motto: "Premier ne puis, second ne daigne. Mouton suis." (First I am denied, second I disdain. I am just Mouton.) He reached his goal in 1973. Baron Philippe also created the world's first branded wine in Mouton Cadet. And the first French-California partnership in Opus One. He was a revolutionary. It's also the birthday of America's first boutique winemaker. Thomas Jefferson--who in addition to his achievements as a statesman and philosopher was a serious gourmet and wine lover--was born today in 1743. He planted vineyards in Virginia using vines from Bordeaux, and thought that some day American wines could rival French wines. But his favorite wine was Chateau Lafite.

Deft Dining Rule #236

Never order a famous, very expensive wine just to be on the safe side. You're already on the safe side by ordering wine at all.

Edible Dictionary

larb, Thai, n.--A warm-and-cool salad found widely on Thai and other Southeast Asian menus. Its origins are in Laos, but few restaurant serve that cuisine. In Thai restaurants around New Orleans, larb is almost always made with beef, although it can authentically be made with pork, duck, chicken or (rarely) fish. The meat part of the dish is on the spicy side, with chili peppers used in the cooking. Mint, basil, and other herbs are involved, as are crunchy greens and vegetables, all served as raw salad ingredients. It's a good appetizer for two to four people, or an entree for one.

Observances

It is Holy Thursday (also called Maundy Thursday), the commemoration of The Last Supper and the institution of The Eucharist. The Last Supper was a Passover seder, so we have a pretty good idea what Jesus and his apostles ate. The bread would have been unleavened. So all those pictures that show Jesus holding what looks like the end of a loaf of French bread are inaccurate. In many homes and restaurants in New Orleans--most notably Dooky Chase's--gumbo z'herbes is traditionally eaten today. Gumbo z'herbes has nearly no resemblance to seafood or chicken gumbos. In its strictest form, it has no meat in it at all, and is made entirely of vegetables, including many green vegetables (hence the name). Other versions have only seafood. The trend lately is to include not only meat, but lots of it. Leah Chase's famous version has brisket and chaurice sausage. Since Holy Thursday is not strictly part of Lent, all this is fine, as long as the leftovers don't show up tomorrow (Good Friday).

Today's Flavor

It's Peach Cobbler Day. Peach cobbler is easy enough to make: you bake some fresh peach slices with a little sugar and cinnamon until they're soft. Then you drop spoonfuls of sweetened biscuit dough into the baking dish, mix them up, and bake again until it browns. Not enough restaurants serve peach cobbler. The best I ever had around here was at the Coffee Pot on St. Peter Street, where they'd serve it, only on Saturdays, in a big beer schooner with whipped cream. Its only drawback was that it was very sweet, which is a hallmark of the dessert. I think it would be better if made with fresh peaches and less sugar.

Bad Taste Through History

In 1883, Alferd Packer was convicted of acts of cannibalism. Since this happened in Wild West Colorado, he became a folk hero. After he served his sentence, he became a vegetarian, and supported himself by selling autographs and memorabilia. There's a museum of his stuff, and a web site. His name, by the way, is indeed spelled Alferd--that's not a typo.

Music To Eat Barbecue By

Bob Nolan, the long-time leader and baritone of The Sons of the Pioneers, was born today in 1908. The group--founded by Roy Rogers, and appearing in many of his movies--was the most famous of the many cowboy harmony groups in the 1930s through the 1950s. In addition to having an immediately recognizable voice, Nolan wrote hundreds of songs, of which the most famous are Cool Water and Tumbling Tumbleweeds.

Annals Of The Soda Fountain

Today is the birthday, in 1852, of F.W. (Frank Winfield) Woolworth. He founded the dime store chain that bore his name. While most of what they sold were dry goods, most of us remember Woolworth's (or, as they pronounced it on Magazine Street, "Woolswoit's") for its lunch counter. Many breakfasts, burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, and malts were enjoyed at Woolworth's in those pre-fast-food times. It was a very big deal when I was a kid.

Culinary Royalty

Today is the birthday, in 1519, of Catherine de Medici. She was the granddaughter of Lorenzo ("The Great") de Medici, one of the major figures behind the Renaissance in Italy, and a practitioner of a high style of living. Catherine inherited a taste for the finer things. Legend has it that when she married King Henry II of France, she brought her Italian chefs with her. Supposedly, those chefs inspired French grand cuisine. Italian chefs love that story, but it's not really true. French cuisine was already fairly well developed by that time, if not quite up to the level to which the Medicis were accustomed. Still, Catherine was quite a woman. Among other accomplishments, she was the mother of three French kings.

Food Namesakes

Actor Harry Leek--better known as Howard Keel (leek spelled backwards) was born today in 1919. He was in Dallas on TV, as well as Kiss Me, Kate and other movies. . . Janet Cook won a Pulitzer Prize today in 1981 for an article she later admitted she made up. (The award was taken away.) . . . Schalk Burger, a professional rugby player from South Africa, hit the Big Field today in 1983.

Words To Eat By

"An apple is an excellent thing--until you have tried a peach."--George du Maurier.

Words To Drink By

"Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted ox and hatred."--Unknown origin.