May 10

Asparagus

Days Until. . .

Mother's Day 4 New Orleans Wine And Food Experience 15 Greek Festival 15

Food On The Road

Today in 1969, the second (northbound) span of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway opened. The idea of taking the twenty-four-mile trip just to go to dinner had not really been hatched, but it soon would be. Three years after the bridge expansion, Chris Kerageorgiou opened La Provence in Lacombe, and found that a lot of his customers came from the South Shore. Now lots of people do it every day, myself included. La Provence, after twelve years under the aegis of John Besh (who learned his strokes there) has just been sold to a longtime customer. He says that he will not be changing anything at La Provence, which will come as good news to La Provence's many customers.

Today's Flavor

Today is National Shrimp Day. Shrimp are probably the favorite seafood of Americans. They're found on menus of every kind, all over the country. The Louisiana shrimp industry recently supplied more the eighty percent of the American shrimp eaten in this country. That is way down because of ungrounded fears about the oil spill's effect on our shrimp (there was actually very little), and because of a flood of imported shrimp from Southeast Asia. Why anyone would turn away from Gulf shrimp--arguably the world's best--to save fifty cents a pound is a mystery to me. You can cook shrimp thousands of ways. Here in New Orleans, the best shrimp dishes are New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp and shrimp remoulade. I can’t get enough of either of these two dishes. The two main species are white shrimp and brown shrimp, in alternating seasons. I prefer white shrimp, particularly for broiling, but the distinction is not great. Shrimp are sized according to the "count" of shrimp per pound. This ranges from under 10 count for grilling and barbecuing, down to 40 or more count for frying, salads, gumbo, and stews.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Grape, California is an extinct farming community where grapes and other crops were grown. That was before a string of densely-populated suburbs took over every square inch of the San Bernardino Valley, just east of Los Angeles. Grape became noted on railroad maps for a line connecting the Southern Pacific with the Santa Fe main lines. Grape now is in the middle of enormous shipping facilities filled with trailers being filled for travel. Despite the hostility of that environment, it's only a few blocks to the nearest restaurant, Tacos Unicos.

Edible Dictionary

boniato, batata, n.--A variety of sweet potato with a lighter color, firmer texture, and starchier flavor than the standard orange sweet potato. When baked, it's almost as fluffy as a white potato. Boniatos are especially popular in the Caribbean and Florida, and grown in substantial numbers in those places. It' isn't related to the true yam, an African plant also widely planted in the American tropics. Boniato is the name most often used, but "batata" is also common, especially in Florida and Cuba.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Whenever you cook shrimp, the moment you have the first thought as to whether they're cooked well enough is the time to remove the shrimp from the heat, immediately. Overcooked shrimp stick to the shells.

Food Through History

The ten-day Battle of Hamburger Hill began today in 1969. It was a disaster all around, and was the last major ground offensive in the Vietnam War. The tide of American opinion turned against the war as a result. French king Louis XVI, for whom a very fancy New Orleans French restaurant was named, ascended the throne on this date in 1774. He would be the regal victim of the French Revolution eighteen years later. His namesake restaurant is still here, but only for hotel breakfasts and private parties.

Annals Of Herbal Beverages

Thomas J. Lipton, tea merchant and avid sailor, was born today in 1850, in Glasgow, Scotland. Lipton is the leading name in tea in this country, but it was one of many until it started advertising on radio, with the medium's most persuasive spokesman: Arthur Godfrey. Charles Hires began selling a bag of roots, herbs and berries with instructions for making root beer today in 1869. You steeped the bag's contents in hot water, then strained, sweetened and chilled it. It was the original root beer. Later, soda fountains began dispensing it and adding carbonation. Hires Root Beer, which is still around, is recognized as the first branded soft drink.

Deft Dining Rule #412:

The worst cold root beer is better with a roast beef poor boy sandwich than the best vintage port. However, the roast beef goes pretty well with a grand cru Bordeaux.

Music To Eat Bouillabaisse By

Donovan Leitch, was born today in 1943. According to one of his hit songs, he was mad about saffron. He started out as a Bob Dylan soundalike, but evolved into the ultimate hippy-dippy singer, using just his first name.

Food Namesakes

Movie producer Jeff Apple fell from the tree today in 1954. . . Mike Butcher, a pitcher for the California Angels in the 1990s, took The Big Mound in 1965. . . Another baseball pro, Ken Berry, hit The Big Basepath in 1941. . . Ollie Le Roux, who plays rugby professionally in South Africa, kicked off today in 1973.

Words To Eat By

"The term 'jumbo shrimp' has always amazed me. What is a jumbo shrimp? I mean, it's like Military Intelligence. The words don't go together."--George Carlin.

Words To Drink By

"I drink only to make my friends seem interesting."--Don Marquis.