August 17

Caramel Custard

Today is <strong>Caramel Custard Day.</strong> Those of us who are aficionados of the Custard Dessert Group know that during the past fifteen years or so creme brulee has pushed caramel custard completely off most menus. That's a long fall for the second most common dessert in New Orleans restaurants after bread pudding. A few restaurants preserve creme caramel or cup custard (two other names for the same thing) from extinction. Fortunately, those are the older places like Galatoire's, whose definitive version is in no danger of ever disappearing.

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 13

Today's Flavor

Today is Caramel Custard Day. Those of us who are aficionados of the Custard Dessert Group know that during the past fifteen years or so creme brulee has pushed caramel custard completely off most menus. That's a long fall for the second most common dessert in New Orleans restaurants after bread pudding. A few restaurants preserve creme caramel or cup custard (two other names for the same thing) from extinction. Fortunately, those are the older places like Galatoire's, whose definitive version is in no danger of ever disappearing. Here are the differences between caramel custard and creme brulee. The former is made with milk, the latter with cream. The added milkfat in the cream prevents creme brulee from setting up; it should flow, even when chilled. Caramel custard, on the other hand, sets up so well that the standard service is to just invert the cup it was baked in and let the evicted custard stand on its own. (With a bit of a sag, of course.) The other difference is that the caramel aspect of custard is done by adding melted, browned sugar to the cup before the custard goes in. A creme brulee is topped with sugar, which is then broiled until it melts and browns. I love them both, but today I will got Mandina's and get caramel custard.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Tea Creek is in central Arkansas, eighty-six miles west of Little Rock. It's part of the upper watershed of the Ouachita River, running about six miles through a steep-walled valley in the Ouachita Mountains. It's dry most of the time--much of its flow is underground-- but when it starts to rain it can fill up quickly. It gets its name from the tea-like color it picks up from fallen leaves. You can get a glass of real tea and a meal to go with it six miles away at the Fishnest Family Restaurant in Glenwood.

Deft Dining Rule #124

If a restaurant has caramel custard instead of creme brulee, and it's well made, the place is more interested in flavor than in style.

Edible Dictionary

ashta, Lebanese, n.--A sweet pastry cream used to top or fill dessert pastries, notably phyllo. Properly, the word refers to the filling itself, but in restaurants it's come to mean the finished pastry. The recipe for ashta is distinctive, using a two-step process that mixes whole milk (or half-and-half) with soaked, crustless white bread, and cornstarch. This is cooked for a while, then beaten until it gets fluffy. A sugar syrup flavored with rosewater is also part of the recipe, spooned over the finished party as well as being incorporated into the cream. It's a great dessert, one that usually wows people tasting it for the first time.

Weather Report

Hurricane Camille--possibly the most intense hurricane ever to enter the United States--made landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast today in 1969. With winds well inside Category Five, Camille destroyed everything in its path, even ripping highways out of the ground in many places. Its winds are believed to have exceeded 200 miles per hour, although nobody's sure, since all the measuring instruments were also destroyed. It did less damage overall than Hurricane Katrina, however, because its wind field was compact compared with the monstrous size of Katrina. By coincidence, the most famous movie with a terrible storm in its plot premiered thirty years to the day before Camille. The tornado in The Wizard of Oz turned Dorothy's world upside down. That no longer seems so far-fetched to us here in New Orleans.

Annals Of Dishwashing

Hazel Bishop, a chemist, invented a lipstick that would remain on the lips far longer than previous formulations. It was advertised as being "kissable," because it wouldn't leave a mark on the kissee's lips or cheek or whatever. Hazel Bishop's name became a major cosmetics brand. A side effect to her invention: no dishwashing machine yet produced can get lipstick off a wine glass.

Locals In The Movies

Actor and latter-day Orleanian Sean Penn was born today in 1960. During the hurricane aftermath, he was involved in a number of rescues of stranded people, who must have thought they were dreaming when Sean Penn showed up to save them.

Food Namesakes

Vince Marrow, a professional arena football player, was born today in 1968. . . Dottie Mochrie Pepper, a professional golfer teed off her life today in 1965.

Words Not To Eat By

"Custard: A detestable substance produced by a malevolent conspiracy of the hen, the cow and the cook."--Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary. I guess he was a chocolate lover.

Words To Eat By

Today is the birthday of Mae West (1892), who was far ahead of her time in her attitudes about just about everything. She uttered quotably on a few matters that concern us here: "I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond." "Too much of a good thing is wonderful." "Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before."