April 16

Eggs Benedict

Days Until. . .

Jazz Festival 11
Mother's Day 24

Restaurant Milestones

Today in 2007, Mr. B's Bistro opened for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. It was the last major restaurant to reopen, among those we knew were coming back. The damage was freakishly severe, the result of waterfalls cascading from the parking garage above. Managing partner Cindy Brennan kept most of her staff together through the twenty-month closing, and chef Michelle McRaney and many of the old waiters were there to pick up where they left off. By a wonderful coincidence, Mr. B's brought the number of open restaurants in New Orleans to 809--exactly the number that were open the day before Hurricane Katrina.

Local Food Legends

Ruth Fertel died today in 2002. The world's most successful female restaurateur, she bought the old Chris Steak House on Broad Street in New Orleans with almost all the money she had in 1965. She turned it into the leading chain of premium steakhouses, with over a hundred locations around the globe. Ruth's Chris, as she renamed it, is among the top steakhouses in all of its cities. Although the quality of the beef and the sizzling butter are hallmarks, those were already in place when Ruth came in. She brought to the steakhouse a customer-is-right attitude among all the staff. If you're willing to pay Ruth's top-dollar prices, you could have anything you wanted within reason, without question.

Deft Dining Rule #378 (Ruth's Law):

If you are spending more than fifty dollars in a restaurant, you have the right to remain at the table as long as you please.

Today's Flavor

Today is National Eggs Benedict Day. Eggs Benedict are the best known of the catalog of fancy poached-eggs-with-sauce dishes popular at upscale breakfast places and brunch restaurants. Many stories exist as to who invented it, or who it was named for. All the recipes are about the same, however. Poached eggs rest on Canadian bacon or ham, which in turn are atop English muffins or a Holland rusks. (The latter is a styrofoam-like bread that's resistant to the water that comes off the eggs.) The whole thing is covered with hollandaise and, if you're in a really classy place, some slivers of truffle. We've always thought that the eggs-on-eggs aspect of the dish (hollandaise is mostly eggs and butter) is peculiar, but we can't gainsay the goodness of a well-made plate of eggs Benedict. Main problem: not all cooks know how to poach eggs. The yolks should stand up like spheres, not flattened, and be completely covered with very thick hollandaise. And the ham or Canadian bacon should be grilled.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

When you want a light supper, nothing's as good as a well-made egg dish with a great sauce and something like crabmeat, smoked salmon, or prosciutto.

Edible Dictionary

beluga caviar, n.--The most prized and expensive of all caviars is no longer legally available in the United States. It's the roe of the beluga sturgeon, which lives in the Caspian Sea and (in much smaller numbers) in the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea. It is considered an endangered species, hence the American import ban. The Caspian Sea is the world's biggest lake, and straddles the border between Russia and Iran--both of which continue to harvest the 2000-pound fish for caviar. The eggs are the largest of all the sturgeon roes, with a metallic gray color and a magnificent flavor that is best appreciated with no garnishes of any kind. Maybe conservation efforts will make it possible to taste it again.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Salty is a rural crossroads in the ranching country of central Texas, fifty-three miles northeast of Austin. While you'd hardly identify it as a town now, around the turn of the last century it had three schools, a post office, and a church. The area has been settled since 1860. It's named for Salty Creek, one of the uppermost watersheds of the Brazos River. If you get hungry in Salty, drive four miles west to Thorndale, where Carol's Restaurant is waiting to serve you. Try the pretzels.

Music To Dine By

Composer Henry Mancini was born today in 1924. He specialized in big, lush, romantic arrangements and powerful movie music. Among his many musical works with tenuous food connections are The Days Of Wine And Roses and the score for Breakfast At Tiffany's. His first big hit, Mr. Lucky, was the theme music for my radio show for a number of years.

Food And Medicine

Today in 2004, a large study of men with gout (it's almost exclusively a male ailment) revealed that drinking alcoholic beverages contributes to the formation of uric crystals in the joints. That gives rise to the sharp pain. It seems that the drink that causes the most problems is beer. Wine is the least offensive. It has long been known that men with gout tend to read publications like this one, because they eat and drink well. They also seem to be more active sexually. (I'm not making that up.)

The Saints

St. Drogo (Dreux in French) was a hermit who lived in Belgium in the Twelfth Century. He is the patron saint of coffeehouse owners.

Wine On Television

Today in 1956, the famous winemaking episode of I Love Lucy first aired. In it, Lucille Ball gets into a vat of grapes and starts stomping them. By the end of the scene, she's in a fight with the other grape-crushing women, and all of them wind up wrestling in the grapes (Red grapes, of course.) Hilarious to this day.

Food Namesakes

Bill Spooner, guitarist with the rock band The Tubes, was born today in 1949. . . Hockey star Gary Galley hit the Ice Of Life today in 1963. . . Pro golfer Trey Maples was born today in 1971--in a food-named place, yet: Wheat Ridge, Colorado. By the way, have you tried Wheat Ridges with a good garlic-and-sardine dip?. . . British actor Nick Berry walked onto The Big Stage today in 1963. . . Pro tennis player Dennis Pate hit the baseline today in 1962. Wait--he doesn't pronounce it with an accent on the "e"? Never mind. . . Joan Bakewell, a television host and journalist in Great Britain, was born today in 1933. . . Another British author with bread in his moniker, Mark Baker, had his personal Page One today in 1985. . . German poet Sarah Kirsch had her first stanza today in 1935. (Kirsch is a German cherry brandy.)

Words To Eat By

"He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it hath already committed breakfast with it in his heart."--C.S. Lewis.

Words To Drink By

"I never drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast."--W.C. Fields.