January 27

National Chocolate Cake Day

Chocolate Cake. Fruitland. Bulbs. Worms. King Cake. Skitch. Mozart.

Days Until. . .

Mardi Gras--32Valentine's Day--19

Today's Flavor

It is National Chocolate Cake Day. It's no longer enough to make just chocolate cake anymore. It must be Chocolate Suicide cake. Or Death by Chocolate cake. Chocolate Devastation Cake is at Arnaud's. Chocolate Suicide Cake, Brennan's. I'm relieved that no Chocolate Genocide Cake has been put on any menu. Then there's Better Than Sex chocolate cake, a Bing search for which brought up three and a half million leads. Are there that many people who hold chocolate cake in greater regard than a roll in the hay?Isn't it enough for chocolate cake to just be good? It seems essential now that it give one a headache to be taken seriously. Although it will not do that to serious lovers of chocolate. My wife and daughter, for example, recognize no limit to the richness of a chocolate cake.Chocolate cake's makeover came in the 1990s, with the advent of the flourless chocolate cake. All of a sudden, every restaurant with a pastry chef was serving the new, shallow, intense dessert. Waiters spoke of it with a pride previously reserved only for one's newborn child. They made it seem like a magic trick. When pastry chefs began moving back toward more normal chocolate cakes with flour, they were much moister and riche than they had been, with layers of ganache or solid chocolate and molten centers. The latest wrinkle is to make them as cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes on this day rule the dessert world. What a world!

Gourmet Gazetteer

Fruitland is a town of seven hundred people in east central Iowa, thirty-seven miles west of the Quad Cities. It's bounded by the Mississippi River on the east and US 61 on the west. Both of those connect Fruitland directly with New Orleans. The town is on a sort of island, with a former route of the Mississippi wrapping around the west side. Fruitland's post office and city hall were destroyed by a tornado in 2007. The place to eat is Good Earth, a mile from the center of town.

Edible Dictionary

king cake, n.--(For those who don't live here in New Orleans, or in France.) The New Orleans-style king cake is a ring of sweet yeast dough--often made in the style of brioche--decorated with coarse granulated sugar colored purple, green, and gold. (Those are the colors of Mardi Gras.) Sometimes the dough is braided, with cinnamon between the layers. The cake is frequently topped with white icing, and some versions are filled with fruit or custards. An essential ingredient is a small plastic baby. The person who gets the slice with the baby inside is required by tradition to give the next king cake party. King cake is traditionally served on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the visit of the three Magi kings to the newborn Jesus. However, king cake has become such an icon of New Orleans eating that king cakes are baked and consumed long before King Day and every day through Mardi Gras. Thousands of them are baked and shipped throughout the year to people elsewhere who want a piece of New Orleans culture, but don't know the exact tradition. One thing to watch out for: a lot of bakers are turning out king cakes with very dense textures, adding to the dryness aspect that has become common in recent years.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

When you melt chocolate in the microwave oven, the chocolate can hold its shape even after it's melted. To avoid burning it, stir it with a dinner knife every thirty seconds or so during the melting.

Music To Eat A Midnight Snack By

Skitch Henderson was born today in 1918. He's best known as the bandleader on the Tonight Show during the early years of the Johnny Carson era. When the show moved from New York to Burbank, Henderson stayed and went on to many other projects, of which the last major one was the New York Pops Orchestra. He and his wife wrote two delightful cookbooks based on the goings on at The Silo, a farm and cooking school they ran in New England. One of them had a Christmas theme, and I pull it out every year to get me into the spirit. Skitch died in 2005 at 87.

Music To Dine Expensively By

Speaking of musicians: today is also the birthday (1756) of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. How many restaurants have played how many thousands of hours of his works as background music?

Sounds Like Food, But Isn't

The Diet of Worms began today in 1521. It's not what you think. Look it up. Clue: Martin Luther was there.

Inventions For Finer Dining

On this date in 1880, Thomas Edison received a patent on the incandescent light bulb. Think about this: Antoine's, Tujague's, Bruning's and many other restaurants were open before the light bulb existed. Try to imagine what that was like. If you can't, go upstairs at Muriel's, where they still illuminate some rooms by candles alone.

Food Namesakes

Pro football kicker Matt Stover was born today in 1968. . . Union Brigadier General Samuel Allen Rice was born, 1828. . . Bobby "Blue" Bland, a Memphis blues singer who played around New Orleans a lot, was born today in 1930.

Words To Eat By

"Research tells us fourteen out of any ten individuals likes chocolate."--Sandra Boynton, greeting card writer and artist.

Words To Drink By

"Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts."--Proverbs 31:6