September 26

Pancakes

Days Until. . .

Halloween 35

New Orleans Chef's Hall Of Fame

Today in 1972, Chris Kerageorgiou opened La Provence, a little west of Lacombe, in what had been the dining room of a small defunct motel. He went by the name Chris Kerras back then; he didn't think anybody could handle his real name. He was well-known to New Orleans diners. He had been the maitre d' at the Rib Room at the Royal Orleans, and then at the Royal Sonesta. But Chris wanted to explore his own ideas. He went into the kitchen (he'd done that before, on cruise ships) and put together a menu of familiar New Orleans dishes. But the menu was sprinkled with tastes from his native South of France, as well as a few tastes from his Greek background. Chris sold La Provence in 2007 to John Besh (who cooked at La Provence on his way up), and shortly after passed away. He is a permanent member of the pantheon of most loved New Orleans chefs.

Today's Flavor

It's rumored that today is National Pancake Day. The day on which pancakes are most widely celebrated is Shrove Tuesday. Mardi Gras. We're too busy here in New Orleans with other things that day to do much with pancakes, so we'll take the cue. Pancakes were more popular forty or fifty years ago than they are now. Restaurants specializing in pancakes were a big deal. The Buck Forty-Nine was as much a pancake house as a steak house, and its menu listed dozens of varieties, which they served with a rack of some six flavors of syrup. Rick's on Canal Street and the Tiffin Inn also made sure Orleanians got their share of pancakes. Here and there around America, a widely-imitated franchise called the Original Pancake House keeps the flame alive. Begun in the 1950s, those places take pancakes to the limits, with a number of variations that boggles the mind. [caption id="attachment_38534" align="alignnone" width="480"]Banana-nut pancake at Mattina Bella. Banana-nut pancake at Mattina Bella.[/caption] Now pancakes are hard to find in New Orleans restaurants. They don't like to make them, because they take up a lot of space on the grill. The few restaurants that make pancakes don't do a very good job of it. The Tiffin Inn is still at it. So is the Peppermill, a descendant of the old Buck Forty-Nine. The Abita Cafe turns out flapjacks that are almost impossible to finish because of their size. But not many other purveyors are out there. Making pancakes is so simple that I've never understood why anyone uses a mix for them. The batter is essentially one of everything: one cup of flour, one egg, one cup of milk, one heaping tablespoon of sugar. Flavor it with a little vanilla and cinnamon, and add a bit of butter or oil, and that's about it. (The exact recipe is elsewhere in today's edition.) It's best if the batter sits for a few minutes before you pour the first one onto the griddle.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Roasting Ear Creek is 113 miles north of Little Rock, in the hilly north central Arkansas. The creek cuts a hollow about three hundred feet below the peaks of the tallest mountains in the area, which get up to about 850 feet. The creek rises in the Ozark Mountain National Forest, and travels about forty miles. It's part of the White River watershed, a tributary of the Mississippi River, and therefore a contributor to the New Orleans water supply. Roasting Ear Creek is named for the corn grown in more than a few small fields up in the hills. A historic three-arch bridge crosses the creek on AR 263. (See photo.) It's four miles to Cody's Restaurant, the nearest place to eat to the end of Roasting Corn Creek, in picturesquely-named Fifty-Six, Arkansas.

Edible Dictionary

Valencia orange, n.--The Valencia was developed in California in the suburbs of Los Angeles around Irvine, despite the fact that they were named for the area in Spain from which many orange varieties (but not this one) came. Valencia are in many ways the perfect orange. They really are orange both in the color of their skin and in their juice, which rarely separates after being squeezed. They're the last variety of orange to ripen in the season, and continue being picked through the summer. They account for more than fifty percent of the fresh oranges in the market. Since their original California orchards have been taken over by development, most Valencias are now grown in Florida. Enjoy them this year. A spreading bacterial disease is wiping out the Valencias and other oranges in Florida.

Deft Dining #533

The first pancake in a batch is always the worst one. The second one is the best.

Food In The Wild

Johnny Appleseed (real name, John Chapman) was born today in 1774. He was a real person, who really did plant thousands of apple trees all over the eastern United States. He was romanticized as a delightful eccentric, wearing a pot as a hat, usually going around barefoot. What is not well known is that his apple trees were meant for the making of hard cider. Apples do not grow true from seeds. If you plant the seeds from a single apple, the trees will give you five different kinds of apples, none of which will be like the original apple. All of them probably will be nearly inedible. The only thing they're good for is making an easy alcoholic beverage. I'll bet that changes the image you had of the guy from your children's books.

Food In Science

Today was the birthday, in 1754, of Joseph-Louis Proust, a French chemist. He studied sugars, among other things, and found that most sugars are very similar, no matter what their original source was.

Annals Of Cookbook Writing

Lafcadio Hearn, the author of what is generally considered the first Creole cookbook, La Cuisine Creole, in the 1880s, died today in 1904.

Food In Show Biz

The movie Soul Food premiered today in 1997. Starring Vanessa Williams, it's the story of a mother who maintains a family tradition of Sunday dinner at home, and what happens to the family when it stops. Not good, you can bet on that. That's the downside of our much-increased reliance on restaurants.

Food Namesakes

TV Actor Philip Bosco was born today in 1930. . . Actor Donald Cook hit the big stage today in 1901.

Words To Eat By

"It is contrary to the will of God to eat delicate food hastily."--Chinese proverb.

Words To Drink By

"One sip of this will bathe the drooping spirits in delight, beyond the bliss of dreams."--John Milton.