June 18

It's National Cherry Tart Day

Picnic. Cherry Tart. Boardwalk. Camembert. Cherry Creek. Gravlax. Broccoli.

Days Until. . .

Fourth of July -- 16

Food Calendar

Today is alleged by many Web sites to be National Cherry Tart Day. More interesting is its designation as International Picnic Day. The food at picnics has changed a lot since we were kids. It was just hot dogs and hamburgers then--if you were lucky. If you were unlucky, it was potato salad, cold fried chicken, and bologna sandwiches. Now food magazines tell us to pack a fantastic gourmet feast, including wines, into a picnic basket. It's not really hard; the trick is to go cold with everything (it's usually warm outside when you picnic, anyway). Or to bring along one of those Cajun kettles for boiling crawfish, or something else. (Even that seems a lot of work for the laziness that a picnic connotes.)The best picnic I ever attended was set for 1500 people at the Napa Wine Auction in the early 1990s. The food was prepared by the excellent Tra Vigne--all cold Italian fare. on the lawn of the magnificent Meadowood resort. With, you may well imagine, incredibly wines. What an evening that was!

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Picnics are magic. They make cold fried chicken taste good.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Cherry Creek is a town of 1200 people in the western extreme of New York State. It's a dozen miles from the shore of Lake Erie, and fifty-one miles south of Buffalo. A stream called Cherry Creek flows north of the town, and both it and the town got the name from an abundance of cherry trees in the area. The first settlers in 1815 saw those, and formed the town in 1829. It's mostly flat, perfect for small farms. But a steep 1922-foot mountain rises just north of town. The best place to eat in Cherry Creek is the Trillum Lodge, right in the middle of town.

Edible Dictionary

gravlax, Swedish, n.--Fresh raw salmon, cured for several days with salt, pepper, sugar, dill, and sometimes aquavit. It looks like and is served in much the same appetizer presentations as smoked salmon, but the flavor is very different. Gravlax has a distinctive, translucent appearance. The garnishes include capers, lemon, parsley, herbed sour cream, and thin slices of toast. It's most often served cold, as finger food. It's also called gravad lax, which means "fish in the grave." This is a reference to the oldest way in which the dish was made, when it really was buried in a hole in the ground to ferment a bit. The current method is a great improvement.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Today in 1898 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the Boardwalk opened. This is the Boardwalk of Monopoly fame, also known as the Steel Pier. It replaced an earlier Boardwalk opened in 1870. The Steel Pier is nine miles long, and offered no end to the assortment of food, drinks, music, sideshows, and hawkers selling all sorts of things. It's where Ed McMahon got his start. Imagine nine miles of Bourbon Street, and you have an idea. Speaking of that, have you noticed a new style of barker on Bourbon Street? Used to be that enterprise was the preserve of croak-voiced, thin guys trying to get you inside a strip show. Now every restaurant and bar has its people--often young women--walking around with signs telling how you can get this beer or that pizza. My wife and daughter hate even crossing Bourbon Street, and ask me whether this is what I love about New Orleans. I answer, quoting Louis Armstrong: "If you have to ask, you're never gonna know."

Food Namesakes

It's the birthday, in 1960, of Barbara Broccoli, daughter of Albert Broccoli, producer of the James Bond movies. She took over the job when her dad died. . . Speaking of Bond, the stunt coordinator on License To Kill, Barry Champagne, was born today in 1952--in Louisiana. . . Early film actress Blanche Sweet, who was well named, made The Big Debut today in 1896. . . Today in 1914 Oscar Egg, who made many records in the early years of bicycle racing, set one of those--44 kilometers in an hour. . . Mateus Galiano da Costa, a professional soccer player from Angola (the country, not the prison), kicked off his life today in 1984. He mostly goes by his first name only. Mateus is also the name of a Portuguese blush wine in a flagon, very popular in the 1970s. It would make a good picnic wine.

Words To Eat By

"The man who has nothing to boast of but his illustrious ancestry, is like the potato—the best part under ground."--Sir Thomas Overbury, born today in 1581.

Words To Drink By

"Let's drink the liquid of amber so bright; Let's drink the liquid with foam snowy white; Let's drink the liquid that brings all good cheer; Oh, where is the drink like old-fashioned beer?"--Unknown, 1800s.

Cheese Of The Day

Camembert, (French), n.--A soft-ripened cheese with a snow-like, soft rind and a thickly flowing, pale yellow interior. Camembert ripens and its flavors get stronger--up to a point. Then a bitter taste and ammonia take over. Camembert is made with cow's milk, and usually has under fifty percent fat content--less than that of the similar Brie. It is often said that Camembert is preferred by Frenchmen, and Brie is the choice of Americans. Such statements are as common as they are hard to prove. Like most French cheeses, Camembert comes with a legend: that it was created during the French Revolution by one Marie Harel in the town of Camembert, in Normandy, and that it was given its name by Napoleon himself. But there are records of this cheese--perhaps a blue cheese at the time--in the mid-1600s. Camembert is sold in small wheels, and is made is such quantities commercially that it's very easy to find. It's best eaten at cool room temperatures. It's a good cheese to take on a picnic.

Deft Dining Rule #109

Deft Dining Rule #109: It's acceptable to cut the rind off Brie or Camembert cheese before you eat it, but only dilettantes do so.