September 28

Shawarma

Days Until. . .

Halloween 33

Chef d'Oeuvre du Jour

#111: Chicken Clemenceau @ Galatoire's, French Quarter: 209 Bourbon. People of my generation (Baby Boom) have watched chucken Clemenceau go from an ubiquitous French-Creole classic--served in most white-tablecloth restaurants with local menus--to nearly extinct. Aside from appearances as a special here and there, it is kept alive in only one restaurant: Galatoire's. Fortunately, that restaurant is so strong that chicken Clemenceau is in no danger of extinction. It seems very old-fashioned: a half of a broiled chicken, covered with a sort of hash made of peas, mushrooms, potatoes, butter, and a good deal of garlic. Good, though, especially in cold weather, when its filling and home-style qualities makes it comforting. This is one of NOMenu's 500 Best Dishes in New Orleans. Collect all 500!

Local Restaurant Disasters

Today in 1998, Hurricane Georges made landfall in Louisiana near the mouth of the Mississippi River, with winds of about 110 miles per hour. It seemed headed toward New Orleans, but veered east enough that not much of the city was badly damaged. But one part of it was. The storm tide pushed so much water into Lake Pontchartrain that when the winds turned from the north, they did tremendous damage to the restaurants built on stilts over the lake water at West End Park. Bruning's was particularly hard-hit. A battle with the insurance company dragged on until Katrina, which wiped out the unrepaired shell of the 146-year-old restaurant, leaving hardly a trace.

Namesakes Of Great New Orleans Dishes

Georges Clemenceau, the much-admired premier of France during World War I, was born today in 1841. His name is best known in New Orleans for its attachment to a chicken dish in the old-line restaurants here. The definitive version of chicken Clemenceau is at Galatoire's: broiled chicken with mushrooms, peas, onions, garlic, and butter.

Today's Flavor

It's International Shawarma Day. Shawarma is probably the most common entree on Lebanese menus. When made classically, it resembles gyros, using the same vertical rotisserie. But the substance is different. The beef, lamb, or chicken is first roasted to about medium after being marinated, then sliced thickly. The slices are piled atop the rotating skewer, where their edges get crusty. The chef slices down this stack of slices, and what you get are thin slices of meat with a crusty edge on one side. Delicious.

My favorite version of shawarma at the moment is the chicken shawarma at the Byblos Market on Veterans Highway. Not only is the meat tender and flavorful (with, of course, that nice little browned edge), but the almost fluffy garlic sauce that comes with it is the perfect accompaniment. It seems like a lighter meal than it actually is, once you get through the hummus and the salad. It makes a great quick lunch or dinner.

Edible Dictionary

lardo, Italian, n.--Solid fat, uninterrupted by lean streaks, taken from the rear ends of pigs and then cured much the same way as any other Italian salume. That means that its brined and seasoned with salt and vinegar. It's sliced exactly as prosciutto or salami would be, and eaten as is, or on crusty slices of bread. It's a product of Tuscany, particularly a mall stone-quarry town called Colonnata. It differs from other salumi in that people who like lardo are bonkers about the stuff. It becomes an obsession. If the subject comes up, it will take fifteen minutes to review all the ways in which the stuff is incredibly delicious. It is indeed pretty good. And both expensive and hard to find in this country.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Skillet Branch cuts a severe but short (two miles) valley as it tumbles water some 150 feet down and into Slate Creek. It's in central Kentucky, forty-nine miles east of Lexington. It's surrounded by farms in all directions. Slate Creek is a good place for smallmouth bass fishing, in case you're hungry. If not a fisherman, you'll find eats two miles west at Erma's in Owingsville.

Deft Dining Rule #134

The best food in a mall food court is served by the ethnic places.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of Wenceslaus, the Duke of Bohemia, who we usually only hear about at Christmas. He's the patron saint of brewers, and of the Czech Republic (which brews a lot of good beer).

Restaurants And Crime

Today in 1975, the Spaghetti House Siege began in a restaurant in Knightsbridge, London. It started as an armed robbery, but when the plans went the robbers took the staff hostage and held them for six days. Of course, this became a few books and a movie.

Food Namesakes

American playwright Elmer Rice was born today in 1892. . . Speaking of plays, a failure entitled Noel Coward's Sweet Potato premiered on Broadway today in 1968. . . the Jimmie Rodgers song Honeycomb hit Number One today in 1957. . . Japanese tennis star Kimiko Date marked his first day today in 1970. . . Canadian golfer Kevin Baker teed off his life today in 1966. . . New Zealand rock musician Alannah Currie howled her first note today in 1957. . . And sporting a rare double food name is Ginger Fish, the drummer for the band Marilyn Manson. He was born Kenneth Wilson in 1966.

Words To Eat By

"It is odd how all men develop the notion, as they grow older, that their mothers were wonderful cooks. I have yet to meet a man who will admit that his mother was a kitchen assassin and nearly poisoned him."--Robertson Davies, Canadian author and playwright.

Words To Drink By

"God, to relieve his dryness, created the vine and revealed to him the art of making le vin. By the aid of this liquid he unveiled more and more truth."--Benjamin Franklin.