June 23

It's National Vichyssoise Day

Breakfast Club. Pill. Vichyssoise. Tortilla Flat. Cabrales Blue Cheese. Spaghetti And The Tramp. Potato Salad Problem. Knife Threat.

Days Until. . .

Fourth Of July -- 11

Food Calendar

Today is National Vichyssoise Day, which always sounds good this time of year. It's a rich soup made with potatoes and leeks with cream and sometimes sour cream. It's most distinctive quality, however, is that it's served cold. Ice cold, in fact. Restaurants used to serve vichyssoise in a round-bottomed bowl resting in a bigger bowl, usually made of silverplate, filled with crushed ice. You almost never see that anymore.The original vichyssoise was neither French nor cold. It was created in the United States less than a hundred years ago by Louis Diat, a famous French chef in New York. He said it was a chilled version of a soup his mother used to make. There is no doubt about its goodness. The unaccustomed idea of a cold soup tricks up some would-be vichyssoise eaters. Although such a thing might seem immensely popular in the summer, cold soups never sell very well. It marks you as a gourmet if you do order it, which is reason enough right there.The potatoes and leeks are completely pureed, and there shouldn't be even little pieces of anything solid, save for snipped chives floating on the surface. My friend and fellow cookbook author Kit Wohl came up with a great variation: sprinkling Roquefort cheese into vichyssoise at the table. It may be the greatest advance in the history of the dish. A few restaurants deviated from the original recipe and came up with other cool soups. Upperline's late, great chef Tom Cowman used to do it with watercress or bell peppers, and those were delicious.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Tortilla Flat is just north of the Superstition Mountains Wilderness, fifty-one miles east of downtown Phoenix. It's a ghost town that has been turned into a tourist attraction. It still contains many buildings with an unmistakable Old West look. It was founded in 1904 as a stop on the Apache Trail. Tortilla Flat is named for a flat-bottomed valley formed by floods on the Tortilla Creek, which cascades out of the mountains to the south. Not enough flat land or water for any significant farming, although some pecan and citrus groves are there. In 1998, Alvin and Pam Ross bought the entire town and built tourist facilities, including a restaurant.

Food On The Air

On this date in 1933, Don McNeill took over as host of a radio show called The Pepper Pot. He renamed it The Breakfast Club. He and the show remained on the air every weekday until 1968. It was a variety show with a band, comedy bits, guests, audience involvement, and the daily "walk around the breakfast table." It began on the NBC Blue network, which split off later to become ABC. It was carried in New Orleans on my old station, 1350 AM. It survived years after all other network radio entertainment shows (except Arthur Godfrey's) were gone.

Edible Dictionary

bourguignonne, [boo-guhn=YONH] French, adj.--In the style of Burgundy, generally. Since so many dishes come from that part of France, this doesn't specifically identify a style of cooking or sauce. However, two dishes with that name are so famous that they come to mind immediately when this word is mentioned. One is boeuf bourguignonne, the French beef stew--which has its own entry elsewhere in the Edible Dictionary. The other is escargots bourguignonne, the most familiar preparation for snails. For it, snails are baked in butter, shallots or garlic, parsley, and sometimes other herbs. A splash of wine or Pernod is sometimes added, too. The sauce is so popular that it's used on other things, notably mussels.

Turning Points In Dining

In 1960 on this date, the Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of Enovid, the first birth control pill. It may seem strange, but the widespread use of The Pill was a tremendous boost for the restaurant business. Within a few years, casual new eateries and drinkeries were opening at a pace never before seen and single people began dating with new urgency.

Eating In Cartoons

The Disney animated feature movie Lady and the Tramp, whose most famous scene depicts the most romantic possible way to eat spaghetti, premiered (in CinemaScope, yet!) on this date in 1955.

Disquieting Moments In Food

Today in 1998, some 4500 Chicago people got sick with an E. coli infection. The main suspect: a bad batch of potato salad. . . Here's other bad news: On this date in 1993, Lorena Bobbitt used a knife from her matched kitchen set to perform what became a famous operation. I don't think it ever came out what brand of knife it was. Would that be a good thing or a bad thing for its maker?

Food Namesakes

Irvin S. Cobb, for whom the Cobb salad was not named, was a writer and humorist in the early 1900s. Born today in 1876, he became a popular after-dinner speaker, and left behind many good quotations. I like this one: "If writers were good businessmen, they'd have too much sense to be writers.". . . Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger was sworn in on this date in 1969. . . Professional golfer Dottie Pepper won the Rochester International Golf Tournament today in 1996. Did she have a brother who was a doctor of some kind?

Words To Eat By

"A bearnaise sauce is simply an egg yolk, a shallot, a little tarragon vinegar, and butter, but it takes years of practice for the result to be perfect."--Fernand Point, one of the classic French chefs in the first half of the 1900s.

Words To Drink By

"The health of the salmon to you: a long life, a full heart and a wet mouth!"--Irish toast.

Cheese Of The Day

Cabrales, (Spanish), n.--Cabrales is a blue cheese made from cow's milk in the mountainous northern reaches of Spain. As this and other Spanish cheeses have become more popular, some makers have been adding both sheep's and goat's milk to the blend, resulting in a tangier cheese. The critical criterion is that all these animals come from the Asturias region. Cabrales available commercially comes in a distinctive green foil wrapper, but the original covering was maple leaves. I had some Cabrales just two days ago, and found it less powerful than Roquefort or Gorgonzola, probably because of lighter veining. But a very fine cheese indeed. Eminently suitable for sprinkling into vichyssoise, or just eating.