May 29

National Coq Au Vin Day

Coq Au Vin. Rooster Rock. Membrillo. Saint Of Stewardesses. Constantinople.

Days Until. . .

Father's Day--22

Today's Flavor

It is National Coq au Vin Day. A coq is a rooster with a lot of experience. Its toughness makes for a very flavorful sauce after it's been cooked for a long time. First it's browned in bacon or pork fat then braised with wine. The sauce is made from the reduced, defatted braising liquid, with chunks of pork belly and pearl onions. These days, you rarely see a rooster being used for this purpose; the dish is usually made with a hen, or just a regular frying chicken. Coq au vin is a delicious dish, but one that was so badly rendered back in the days where all food in restaurants was a little bit French that a lot of people learned to avoid it. These days, if you find coq au vin anywhere in New Orleans, it's likely to be very good. The late Chef Gerard Crozier set the standard at his bistros in New Orleans East and Metairie.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Rooster Rock, Oregon is twenty-four miles east of downtown Portland, hard on the southern banks of the Columbia River, which forms a rocky gorge through the mountains. The rock is so well known that a state park was set aside around it. The rock spire's distinctive shape was noted by Lewis and Clark, as well as by the Native Americans. Its resemblance to something familiar and unmistakable gives it its name in all languages. "Rooster Rock" is a sanitized version; if you think of a synonym for rooster, you have it. And then you'll register no surprise that a nude beach is nearby. Maybe this isn't so delicious after all. Let's get to a restaurant. The nearest one is the Springtime Tavern, four miles west on the Columbia River Road.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

There is a direct relationship among the age of a chicken, and the length of time it must be cooked, and the flavor in the resulting dish. As one increases, so do the others.

Edible Dictionary

membrillo, [mehm-BREE-yo], Spanish, n.--A paste made from quinces, a pear-like fruit that has been cultivated for millennia. The texture of membrillo is about halfway between that of thick jam and candied fruits, and just a little sticky. Its most common use is as a contrasting flavor in a plate of cheeses, particularly in Spain.

Deft Dining Rule #104

Because it's conceived as inexpensive and unglamorous, chicken gets a disproportionate amount of attention from creative chefs, and is quite often one of the best dishes on the menu.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Bona of Pisa. She is the patron saint of airline stewardesses. (Pope John XXIII made that designation, before stewardesses became attendants.) I wonder if a prayer to her would include a plea that the supplicant might never have to eat airline food?

A New Cuisine Is Born

Today in 1453 was one of the great turning points in history. Constantinople, the last vestige of the Roman Empire, fell to the Ottoman Turks after a two-day siege that proved the superiority of cannons to even the best-walled cities. The event is often noted as the end of the Middle Ages. I like to think of it as the birthday of Middle Eastern cuisine, which is almost entirely Turkish in origin. The Turks co-opted the grandeur of Constantinople, and before long a court cuisine emerged that influenced the food of their entire empire, from Northern Africa to the Middle East to Persia to Greece. You see that influence even now.

Worst Flavor Of 2004

Today in 2004, a recall of almonds began in California because of worries about salmonella contamination. Paramount Farms there recalled thirteen million pounds of the raw nuts. It was something new: nobody had ever heard of salmonella in almonds before. Since most almonds sold in the U.S. are pasteurized, the problem didn't remove all almonds from the stream. What would we have done for trout amandine? First the trout go, then the almonds too?

Food And The Environment

Today in 2001, the US National Marine Fisheries Service declared the white abalone on the California coast an endangered species. Am I the only one for whom the appeal of abalone is totally lost? It's expensive, and eating it is like chewing on a piece of rubber, but not as tasty.

Food Namesakes

Movie actor Helmut Berger was born today in 1944. . . Melanie Janine Brown, known as Scary Spice--one of the Spice Girls pop singing group--was born today in 1975. . . Brown Sugar, one of the Rolling Stones' biggest hits, made it to Number One today in 1971.

Words To Eat By

"Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese."--G. K. Chesterton, British writer born today in 1874."Give us this day our daily taste. Restore to us soups that spoons will not sink in and sauces which are never the same twice. Raise up among us stews with more gravy than we have bread to blot it with. . . Give us pasta with a hundred fillings."--Robert Farrar Capon, American author and Episcopal priest.