September 21

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Days Until. . .

Summer ends 2

Chef d'Oeuvre du Jour

Three-Way Enchiladas @ Pepe's Mexican Restaurant, Lacombe: 27718 Main. 985-882-2251 . Mexican combo platters are usually a mess, designed to appeal to those who believe that a plate with five items is better than a dish with three or two, by definition. However, I couldn't resist this: three enchiladas, each one stuffed with different fillings (chicken, beef, and cheese) and each topped with a different sauce (queso, tomato, and chipotle). The three had enough in common that the mingling at the borders resulted in good flavor--sort of like the Mexico-US border itself. Cute little place in a funny corner of downtown Lacombe. This is one of NOMenu's 500 Best Dishes in New Orleans Restaurants. The entire list is here

Today's Flavor

This is National Spinach And Artichoke Dip Day. We will live to see that stuff pumped through pipelines around the country, with terminals in every chain restaurant and supermarket deli. The popularity of "spindip" (the chain restaurants' name for it) is only slightly explained by its appeal to the palate. A more powerful engine is that it's inexpensive to make, and restaurants earn a stunning markup on each order. The presence of spinach dip on a restaurant's menu speaks of a dearth of imagination in the kitchen--unless it's also the kind of place where you'd conceivably eat a hamburger.

All that said, it must be admitted that a good version of spindip makes for tasty party food. Perfect for, say, watching a football game on television. The challenge in making it is to prevent the glop effect from taking over. I like it best when the leaves of spinach still are firm enough that you can feel them in your mouth while eating. It's also easy to make spindip too rich. The cheese aspect particularly should be kept under control. I have the recipe we use here at the Cool Water Ranch later in this newsletter.

Deft Dining Rule #507

Ordering spinach dip lets the waiter know you're an inexperienced diner and possibly an unskilled tipper. If you must have it, get the youngest person in the party to order it.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Kraut Run is a five-mile-long creek that runs into the Dardenne Creek, but not before being dammed to create a reservoir. All this is in the August A. Busch Conservation Area, a recreation area with good boating and fishing possibilities. If no crappie are caught, you are a mile away from the Bristol Seafood Grill in nearby O'Fallon. For more possibilities, drive Thirty-six miles east to St. Louis.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

If you have the time, it's worthwhile to soak artichokes for an hour or two in a mixture of a quarter-cup of lemon juice and one quart of cold water.Do this after you've rinsed them but before cooking. It makes the leaves tenderer and helps the flavor.

Edible Dictionary

choucroute, [show-KROOT], Alsatian French, n.--Shredded, cured cabbage cooked with Alsatian white wine (usually Riesling), juniper berries, peppercorns, onions, and bay leaves, with a certain amount of duck or goose fat. It is nearly identical to German sauerkraut, with good reason: Alsace, while very French now, has for long periods in its history been part of Germany. If there is a difference between choucroute and sauerkraut, it's that the former tends to be softer and less acidic, but there's probably as much difference between two choucroutes made by different French cooks than between choucroute and sauerkraut in general. The dish's more celebrated role is in the dish chougroute garni, made with sausages, smoked pork, ham, goose or duck.

Food In Show Biz

Chuck Jones was one of the guys who directed Bugs Bunny, the Road Runner, and other Warner Brothers cartoons. He was born today in 1912. He must have been quite a gourmet, because I've seen his drawings of Bugs on napkins in quite a few restaurants. There's a good one on the stairs at Arnaud's, for example.

Comic actor Bill Murray was born today in 1950. Murray performed an unforgettable food bit in the movie What About Bob?, in which he plays a nutcase who stalks his psychiatrist. The psychiatrist gives him a snack, and Murray goes into what could only be called a foodgasm.

Food In Literature

Today in 1937, J.R.R. Tolkien published The Hobbit. Hobbits were a race of small beings separate from but somehow related to humans. They lived quiet lives of peaceful indulgence. They ate six meals a day and enjoyed them enough that they could be called gourmets.

Food Namesakes

All of the birthdays today involve members of Congress for some reason. New Jersey Congressman Bob Franks was born today in 1951. . . Theron M. Rice, a Congressman from Missouri, was born today in 1829. . . Clarence C. Dill, a Senator from Washington, was born today in 1884. He put forth the Radio Act, the first regulation of commercial broadcasting, a desperately needed law in the 1920s.

Words To Eat By

"I'm a nut, but not just a nut."--Bill Murray, born today in 1950.

Words To Drink By

"Wine is the most healthful and the most hygienic of beverages."--Louis Pasteur.