May 16

National Coquille St. Jacques Day

Days Until. . .

New Orleans Wine And Food Experience 10/strong> Greek Festival 10

Today's Flavor

It is National Coquilles St. Jacques Day. It is named for St. James the Greater, one of the twelve Apostles and a fisherman. He's associated with scallops for some reason, and often depicted holding a scallop shell. Throughout Europe, scallops are named for James. So coquille St. Jacques are scallops, served in a thick cream sauce with leeks and fish stock. It once was a very popular dish in fancy, faux-French restaurants around the country, but we all got sick of the pasty sauces with the processed little scallops (Summing those were actually scallops.) I think the dish is due for a revival, but using dry-pack sea scallops, and mushrooms with a more pronounced flavor. A little Cognac, too. Click here for my recipe:

Gourmet Gazetteer

Bar Harbor, population 4912, is a port on the central coast of Maine, forty-seven miles southeast of Bangor. It became an incorporated town in 1796, when it was a fishing port. That activity still goes on, but pleasure yachting, charter fishing boats, and even cruise ships give the place a tourist economy. It's a beautiful place in summer, with rocky islands rising from the ocean. The local pronunciation of the town's name is "bah HAH-bah." Say it that way when you show up for lunch at the Carmen Verandah, right in the middle of the town. Have a mahtini at the bah.

Annals Of Meat

Today is the birthday, in 1832, of Charles Philip Armour, the founder of the meat packing company that bears his name. His breakthrough was using refrigeration and canning to keep meat fresh long enough that it could be sold in a widespread distribution system.

Wine And The Law

Today in 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a state cannot prohibit the shipment of wine directly to a consumer from out of state, if the state allows wine shipments from within its borders. Louisiana was one of the states in which it was difficult to order wines by mail or on the Web; that has eased a good deal. The wholesalers and retailers are still fighting it, though. Personally, I think it's better to buy wines in a store, because they'll probably be cheaper than they are online, and you have the advantage of being able to talk to someone not connected to the winery. On the other hand, the great thing about mail-ordered wines is being able to get wines not distributed locally.

The Royal Menu

Today in 1770, the future French King Louis XVI married Marie Antoinette. She was fourteen; he was an older man of fifteen. Their time was the last gasp of the excesses of the ancien regime, and ended with the guillotine in the French Revolution. After that, the unemployed chefs of the aristocracy started opening restaurants in hotels, and the restaurant business began. But let's think some more about two people in their mid-teens being married.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Today in 1965, Spaghetti-O's were introduced to a waiting world. Canned pasta already in sauce. How hard is it to boil pasta? To make a fresh tomato sauce, even with canned tomatoes? For goodness sake, is it really too much to open a jar of one of the many more-than-decent bottled pasta sauces out there? (Locally, we like Sal & Judy's) It's hard to imagine that anyone eats canned pasta except at the extremes of survival. We think we'd dig for edible roots first.

Edible Dictionary

elderberry, n.--Elderberries look like very small plums, about a half-inch in diameter. They ripen in shades of red ranging from maroon to almost black. They're more commonly grown on purpose in Europe than in the United States, but the many varieties of elderberries do grow in this country. The grow on small trees that can get up to fifty feet tall. The fruits can be made into jellies, preserves, syrups and sauces. The profile of the fruit has grown in recent year, with the popularity of an elderflower liqueur called St-Germain. It's popular among mixologists at the moment.

Deft Dining Rule #525

Ordering the following dishes marks you as not being seriously interested in Chinese food: chop suey, egg foo yung, fried rice, egg drop soup, and chow mein. Unless the restaurant is making some sort of ironic statement with those dishes, in which case at least one of them must be ordered.

Deft Dining Rule #526

Ordering lo mein in a Chinese restaurant is like ordering spaghetti and meatballs in an Italian restaurant, and bound by the same considerations.

Twice As Much For A Nickel

The five-cent coin that became known as the nickel was introduced today in 1866. It replaced the silver half-dime, which was irritatingly tiny. It's hard to imagine, but many people still alive (I am one of them) can remember a time when a nickel would actually buy the parts of a hamburger lunch. Those little square hamburgers made by a number of superannuated chains started out as a nickel, and I remember the Krystal selling them for that for a week in 1966. (They were regularly ten cents then.) An order of fries and a soft drink were each a nickel, too. If I ever become too wealthy for my wife and kids to spend it all, I will open a hamburger stand with nickel hamburgers. Everything else would be expensive, especially the T-shirts and caps.

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Honorius of Amiens, France, who lived in the seventh century. He is one of the many patron saints of bakers and patissiers. Always depicted in full bishop's attire, he is shown carrying a paddle with bread on it.

Food Namesakes

Darrel Sweet, the drummer for the 1970s rock group Nazareth, got the Big Beat today in 1947. . . Fox News reporterTucker Carlson went live today in 1969 ("tucker" is Australian slang for food).

Words To Eat By

"Good manners is the noise you don't make when you're eating soup."--Bennett Cerf.

Words To Drink By

"A man who doesn't drink is not, in my opinion, fully a man."--Anton Chekhov.