April 28

Richard Hughes. Alice Waters. Tequila. Crawfish Pie. Blueberry. Huckleberry. Threatening Burrito. Air Conditioning.

The celebration of the best part of crawfish season here in Louisiana continues. Today is Crawfish Pie Day. Crawfish pie became famous outside the precincts where it's most enjoyed through the agency of Hank Williams's hit song Jambalaya. That song created a three-way combo that Cajun restaurants offer to this day: jambalaya, crawfish pie, and filé gumbo. ¶ Crawfish pie starts with the same ensemble of ingredients you'd use to make crawfish etouffee, but with no tomato and less liquid. It's also enriched with a little cream and thickened with a touch of egg. Although the classic crawfish pie is made in a standard (but small) pie shell, my preference is to make it as a turnover, baked or fried.

Days Until. . .

Mother's Day--12

Restaurant Anniversaries

Today in 1932, Charlie's Steak House opened on Dryades Street a block off Napoleon Avenue--right where it is today. Charles Petrossi started it, and turned it over to his children decades later. One of them--Dottye Bennett, who waited tables in the restaurant for decades--passed away in 2017 in her 90s. She still showed up at Charlie's now and then nearly to the end of her life. Matthew Dwyer, who bought Charlie's and renovated it after the hurricane, continues to roll along with the place, which is as close as you could get to what it was before the storm without applying grime to the new walls.

Today's Flavor 

The celebration of the best part of crawfish season here in Louisiana continues. Today is Crawfish Pie Day. Crawfish pie became famous outside the precincts where it's most enjoyed through the agency of Hank Williams's hit song Jambalaya. That song created a three-way combo that Cajun restaurants offer to this day: jambalaya, crawfish pie, and filé gumbo. Crawfish pie starts with the same ensemble of ingredients you'd use to make crawfish etouffee, but with no tomato and less liquid. It's also enriched with a little cream and thickened with a touch of egg. Although the classic crawfish pie is made in a standard (but small) pie shell, my preference is to make it as a turnover, baked or fried. It is also National Blueberry Pie Day. Blueberries aren't in season yet--our bushes here at the ranch have nothing yet, and this is as far south as it gets--save, of course, for Chile, from which almost all blue- and blackberries come this time of year. In any case, blueberry pie sounds better than it is. For the blueberries to hold a berry texture, they must float in a thick matrix, which is too often made super-sweet. Blueberries are so marvelous in their fresh state that this comes across to our palates as a parody. But then, I like blueberry jam on my toast.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Grape, Arkansas is thirty-one miles east of Little Rock, halfway to Hot Springs. This is working up into the hills of the Ozarks, where grapes for wine and juice have been grown since the 1870s. Substantial vineyards surround the fork in the road that is Grape. The town is in the valley of the Moccasin Creek; Stillhouse Hollow is nearby. So some of that juice was made into white lightning, like as not. All the restaurants are in Benton, five miles away on I-30.

Celebrity Chefs Today 

Today is the birthday (although he won't tell me which one) of Richard Hughes, the chef-owner of the five-star Pelican Club. Richard first attracted our notice when he worked for Iler Pope at Dante By The River (where Brigtsen's is now). He then moved on to New York City, where he was the chef at a well-liked restaurant called Memphis. (Despite the name, it served Louisiana food.) He and some chef partners started the Pelican Club in July of 1990. After the hurricane, Richard took full control of the restaurant. As star chefs go, he's one of the quietest, and seems to enjoy flying his restaurant below the radar.Speaking of star chefs: Alice Waters, the founder of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, was born today in 1944. Her inspiration was in tirelessly searching for the best possible ingredients, and encouraging farmers to raise better quality foodstuffs, with as few artificial additives and techniques as possible. She led the movement toward organic foods in restaurants, and in doing so became one of the three or four most influential figures in the modern American restaurant industry. Here's a good site that tells about her and her ideas.

Annals Of Food Research

We don't think of sugar beets often, but in fact a great deal of sugar is extracted from them, particularly in Eastern Europe. The man who developed the method for extracting the sucrose, Franz Karl Achard, was born today in 1753. As far as I know, sugar beets are rarely eaten as is.

Edible Dictionary

serviceberry, n.--An edible and quite delicious berry that grows on small trees. They're distantly related to apples. Serviceberries grow throughout most of the eastern half of the United States and into Canada, where they like them quite a lot. (There, they're called saskatoons; the city in Saskatchewan is named for them.) Birds love serviceberries, which is why they rarely make it to market. Trees must be completely covered with netting for any fruit to make it to ripeness. They're very dark purple when at their best, which is usually in June. (Hence another name for them: juneberries.)

Turning Points In Dining 

W.H. Carrier patented the modern air conditioner on this date in 1914. This was an incomparable for restaurants in places like New Orleans. Try to imagine dining at Galatoire's or Arnaud's on a 95-degree day in August with 85 percent humidity with nothing more than the arsenal of ceiling fans to keep patrons cool. (If you can't, go to Southern Italy in July and dine anywhere.) Thank you, Mr. Carrier!

Annals Of School Lunches

Remember the student who was apprehended at his grammar school and had his pack searched, because he appeared to be carrying a gun? And that it turned out to be a very large burrito wrapped in aluminum foil? It was in Clovis, New Mexico, today in 2006.

Music To Do Shots By 

Today in 1958, the mostly-instrumental song Tequila, by The Champs, hit Number One on the pop charts. The only word spoken (not really sung) in the number is the title.

Deft Dining Rule #838:

You can have fun picking and eating wild berries, but no matter how many you find and eat, you will still need lunch afterwards.

Food Namesakes 

Appropriate for today, Canadian singer Dorothee Berryman was picked today in 1948. . . Today is the birthday, in 1930, of James Baker III, cabinet member in the Reagan and Bush I administrations. 

Words To Eat By 

“A person who can get a good table at Chez Panisse at the last minute is a very important person indeed. Royalty begins with Alice Waters.”--Willard Spiegelman."I've got a lot of ham in me."--Actor Lionel Barrymore, born today in 1878.

Words To Drink By

“I drink no more than a sponge”--Francois Rabelais, French author.