May 18

Stromboli. If You Wanna Be Happy. Cheese Souffle. Squid Island. Bonne Femme. Papal Dining. Joe Beer.

Today is National Cheese Soufflé Day. Cheese soufflés are not all that hard to cook, but they do require a certain amount of thought. The first issue is the cheese. You don't want anything that will throw off a lot of fat--cheddar, for example, isn't a good choice. ¶ Tangy cheeses--like those made with goat's or sheep's milk--make the soufflee more interesting. The assembly and baking require closer attention than most dishes. Although you can get away without either, a water bath and straight-sided soufflee dishes make the baking more foolproof. ¶ That instruction you hear about never opening the oven during the process is solid. All of what I just described makes it hard for a restaurant to offer hot soufflees--unless it has a chef who does little else.

Days Until. . .

Phase 2 Begins 13Greek Festival 10

Food Calendar 

Today is National Cheese Soufflee Day. Cheese soufflees are not all that hard to cook, but they do require a certain amount of thought. The first issue is the cheese. You don't want anything that will throw off a lot of fat--cheddar, for example, isn't a good choice. Tangy cheeses--like those made with goat's or sheep's milk--make the soufflé more interesting. The assembly and baking require closer attention than most dishes. Although you can get away without either, a water bath and straight-sided soufflé dishes make the baking more foolproof. That instruction you hear about never opening the oven during the process is solid. All of what I just described makes it hard for a restaurant to offer hot soufflés--unless it has a chef who does little else. The heyday of cheese soufflés in New Orleans was in the late 1970s. That's when Louis XVI opened for lunch, under Chef Daniel Bonnot. Among the specialties were soufflees not only of cheese but oysters Rockefeller (yum!) and smoked salmon. The line cook was Susan Spicer, who'd just begun her career as a chef, in her early twenties.

Deft Dining Rule #100:

A restaurant that routinely serves well-made hot soufflés gets an extra star just for that.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

The best way to keep a high-rising soufflé from falling over in the oven (or when you take it out) is to make a collar of parchment paper around the top of the dish, holding it tight with masking tape.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Squid Island is just outside Acadia National Park, just off the central coast of Maine, forty-three miles southeast of Bangor. It's about big enough for about three bowling alleys, laid end to end; it's only about fifteen feet wide. The scenery is stunning, with mountains rising from the surrounding, bigger islands. This is lobster habitat, so it's a no-brainer when looking for a restaurant to find Abel's Lobster Pound, seven miles away in Mount Desert.

Edible Dictionary

bonne femme, French, adj.--The words literally mean good woman, with the connotation that this good woman is running a household and kitchen. It connotes, however, a woman of sparse resources, who must get the most out of all her food. When applied to food, it usually means a dish cooked simply in the oven with a lot of garnish. Creole cooking includes a number of bonne femme dishes, all of them so old that they show up only in traditional restaurants. The most famous of bonne femme dish is made with a roasted chicken, potatoes, onions, butter, and quite a bit of garlic. In New Orleans, Tujague's and Antoine's both have it, although the recipes differ. Antoine's also has oysters bonne femme, a totally different dish, with a buttery sauce topped with bread crumbs. It differs so much from place to place that the eater is well advised to ask for a detailed explanation of it.

The Saints 

Today in 1920, Karol Jozef Wojtyla--Pope John Paul II--was born in Wadowice, Poland. On his one visit to New Orleans, he dined at Antoine's. (I know there's much more to be said about him, but we have a narrow outlook here.). . . Today is the feast day of St. Theodatus, a patron saint of hoteliers and innkeepers.

Food And Volcanoes 

Today in 1980 Mount St. Helens exploded with the force of five hundred Hiroshima bombs, removing most of its altitude. I don't think a dish has been named for that volcano, but the names of at least two others have wound up on edibles. Both are Italian, which figures: lot of famous volcanoes there. A stromboli is a pizza turnover with a hole punched in the top to let the steam out. It's supposed to recall the island volcano Stromboli north of Sicily, which smokes most of the time. Chicken Vesuvio is less obvious a connection, although when served right that collection of chicken sausage, and potatoes is as hot as lava.

Music To Marry A Cook By 

On this date in 1963, Jimmy Soul hit the top of the charts with a song that gave this advice:If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life,Never make a pretty woman your wife.So from my personal point of view,Get an ugly girl to marry you.At the end of the song is this exchange:"Hey, man, I saw your wife the other day. And she's uuugg-leeee!""Yeah, she's ugly, but she sure can cook!"So which would you prefer? A good-looking wife (or husband)? Or one who sure can cook?

Food Namesakes 

Movie actor Yun Fat Chow was born today in Hong Kong in 1955. . . Joseph Beer, who was such a virtuoso on the clarinet that composers wrote pieces especially for him to play, was born today in 1744 in (appropriately) Bavaria. . . On a related note, Rufus Porter, former Saints linebacker, was born today in 1965. . . The Strawberries (Darryl and Lisa) filed for divorce today in 1989. . . This is a reach, but the scientist who theorized the existence of the ionosphere was born today--London, 1850. He sounds like a dedicated eater: Oliver Heaviside. . . Comedian Dane Cook was born today in 1972. . . Jean-Louis Roux, Canadian actor, playwright, and politician, stepped onto the Big Stage today in 1923.

Words To Eat By 

"Soufflé is more important than you think. If men ate soufflé before meetings, life could be much different."--Jacques Baeyens, French consul general in New York in the 1950s.

Words To Drink By

"It is most absurdly said in popular language of any man, that he is disguised in liquor. On the contrary, most men are disguised by sobriety."--Thomas de Quincy, British writer of the mid-1800s.