August 7

Garlic Bread

It is <strong>National Garlic Bread Day. </strong>Garlic bread is a cheap thrill, and I almost feel ashamed of myself for liking as much as I do. There's nothing to it: you chop or puree garlic, mix it with butter, add some kind of herbs (maybe), spread it on French bread, and pop it into the oven until it browns. Not much to that, no. But try to stop eating it after it emerges, hot and fragrant, from the oven. Garlic bread is traditionally associated with Italian restaurants. It's an Americanized version of bruschetta, made by topping rounds of bread with olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and tomatoes. A well-made bruschetta is as much better than standard garlic bread than pizza is better than cheese toast. Lately, quite a few restaurants have begun offering a bruschetta of this or that, often because it's easier to charge for bruschetta than for garlic bread.

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 25 Three-course dinners $39 (or less). All the menus can be found here.

Annals Of Entrances

The revolving door was patented today by one Theophilus Van Kannel in 1888. Relatively few restaurants in New Orleans have revolving doors. There's Mr. B's, Copeland's, three of the four Dickie Brennan's restaurants, and that's about it. Revolving doors keep cold blasts from blowing into a warmed space. Many restaurants here--especially those with only one set of doors--would do well to install them. But winter is so short that, by the time the proprietors have decided to go ahead and address the problem, it's warm again--and then the project goes on hold for another year.

Annals Of Fast Food

I would not have guessed that the world's largest Burger King restaurant is in Budapest, Hungary. But there it was, opened on this date in 1991.

Today's Flavor

It is National Garlic Bread Day. Garlic bread is a cheap thrill, and I almost feel ashamed of myself for liking as much as I do. There's nothing to it: you chop or puree garlic, mix it with butter, add some kind of herbs (maybe), spread it on French bread, and pop it into the oven until it browns. Not much to that, no. But try to stop eating it after it emerges, hot and fragrant, from the oven. Garlic bread is traditionally associated with Italian restaurants. It's an Americanized version of bruschetta, made by topping rounds of bread with olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and tomatoes. A well-made bruschetta is as much better than standard garlic bread than pizza is better than cheese toast. Lately, quite a few restaurants have begun offering a bruschetta of this or that, often because it's easier to charge for bruschetta than for garlic bread. But back to the latter. The best versions in town become so by adding other ingredients to the garlic and butter. My favorite version is the one at Brennan's, whose topping is essentially the same bourguignonne butter they serve with snails, plus a good bit of Parmesan cheese and Creole seasoning. The famous garlic bread at Commander's Palace gets its distinction from the addition of dill to the mix. They also really load on the butter--a bit too much of it, I'd say. All sorts of other herbs can be used to make garlic bread different, perhaps even better. Oddly enough, almost anything seems to work, except very dry, bitter herbs like rosemary.

People We'd Like To Dine With

Two funny radio greats have birthdays today. The first is Stan Freberg, born today in 1926. His innovative commercials compete with his comedy records and his legendary radio show as his signal achievement in the medium. The second is Garrison Keillor, who created and still hosts A Prairie Home Companion. That brilliant show is a revival of radio variety programs common in the 1940s (he owes a special debt to Arthur Godfrey), but with an entirely contemporary sound. He also voices a daily mini-show called the Writer's Almanac.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Kidney Creek runs through the Ottawa National Forest on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, about twenty miles from the Wisconsin state line. The creek is ensconced in marshes for all of its three miles, and drains into Perch Lake, one of many glacier-formed lakes in that part of the world. The fishing is excellent all around there. They don't call it Perch Lake for nothing. If your luck is bad, it's a ten mile ride north to Bill's Grill in Sidnaw.

Edible Dictionary

gumbo, n.--A thick, chunky soup most identified with the cooking of Southeast Louisiana. The word is used to define at least three broad ranges of dishes: seafood gumbo, chicken gumbo, and gumbo z'herbes. Gumbo has such a long history and has been made by people of so many different backgrounds that it only one statement can be made about it with certainty: that no two gumbos are alike. Even calling it a soup puts one on thin ice, because many gumbos are much more like stews than soups. While this openness to interpretation may seem to allow virtually any ingredient, in fact the components and final flavor profile must fall within certain limits. Yet nobody can define what those are, and no ingredient is absolutely essential for an authentic gumbo. It may be that the only way one can learn what makes a real gumbo is to live in Louisiana for an extended time and eat many gumbos. The word most likely is from a Central African word for okra, a major component of many--but not all--gumbos.

Deft Dining Rule #771

If you eat more than four slices of garlic bread, you won't have room for your entree. If you can eat more than eight, you will.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

When spreading the garlic butter on a loaf of bread, use what seems like the right amount of the mixture. Then add the same amount on top of it, and it will come out perfect.

Food Namesakes

Australian Olympic (1996) soccer star Kevin Muscat was born today in 1973. (Muscat is a grape variety that makes many great sweet wines, notably Muscat Beaumes de Venice from the Rhone Valley.). . .Legal scholar and author Charles E. Rice was born today in 1931. . . Cricket pro Dominic Cork was born today in 1971.

Words To Eat By

"Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn."--Garrison Keillor, born today in 1942.

"Age is something that doesn't matter, unless you are a cheese."--Billie Burke, American actress, the Good Witch of the North in The Wizard Of Oz, born today in 1884.

Words To Drink By

"Youth is intoxication without wine."--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. And the appeal of feeling young again fills many glasses.