October 1

It's World Vegetarian Day

Commander's Redux. Disney World. Vegetarian Day. Kale. Cafeteria Music. Cake Out In The Rain.

Days Until. . .

Halloween 30

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Walt Disney World opened near Orlando, Florida today in 1971. Eleven years later, also on this date, Disney's EPCOT Center opened next door. A corporate dream come true, Disney World remakes the world according to its fantasies, and even controls the government of its lands. For the past fifteen years, the theme park and its adjuncts have continually raised the stakes in its restaurants, offering more than a few gourmet outlets. The city of Orlando also has seen a rapid rise in its number of serious restaurants. Emeril has two of them there.

Great Moments In Post-Katrina Era

This is the day in 2006 when Commander's Palace reopened after Katrina--and after many millions of dollars of repairs. In fixing what at first looked like minor damage, the Brennans found other, previously unknown problems that had to be addressed before the 126-year-old restaurant could reopen. Lally Brennan ruefully called it "a Pandora's box."Back open finally, Commander's went beyond getting back into the groove: it cut a brand new one. Chef Tory McPhail remained at the kitchen's helm, most of the staff was back, and the all-girl team of proprietors (Ti Martin, Lally Brennan, Ella Brennan, and Dottie Brennan) continued to run things in person. The reopening launched a new era for Commander's, which is now better than it has been in at least five years.

Food Calendar

As we begin a new month, we note that October is (according to various untraceable sources): Country Ham Month, National Apple Month, National Chili Month (the first week is also National Chili Week), National Cookie Month, National Dessert Month, National Pickled Peppers Month (so pick a peck of 'em), National Pork Month, National Pretzel Month, National Seafood Month, Vegetarian Awareness Month (yeah, yeah, we're aware of them--more in a moment), Sun Dried Tomatoes Month, Cook Book Month (hey! buy mine here), Gourmet Adventures Month, National Spinach Lovers Month, and Hunger Awareness Month. This is also supposed to be No Salt Week--but that is truly impossible to observe.Today is the thirty-second annual World Vegetarian Day, instituted by the North American Vegetarian Society. It's a mellow organization that seems more interested in promoting the joys and healthfulness of vegetarianism than decrying the diets of omnivores. Here's their website. The ranks of vegetarians are growing. I can vouch for that, just based on the number of queries I get from people looking for vegetarian-friendly restaurants. Fortunately for them, the restaurant community has kept up with this demand. Most white-tablecloth restaurants around New Orleans carry vegetarian (and sometimes even vegan) entrees on their menus. Neighborhood cafes have been slower to do so, as have most chains. And that option is expanding.The first strategy for vegetarians who want to eat well in restaurants (in New Orleans, anyway) is to forget about vegetarian restaurants. The best of them have been just okay; most have been dreadful. Instead, go to good restaurants that buy fresh everything and have real chefs in the kitchen. Shop the menu for the ingredients of an appealing dish, and ask the chef to make it. Unless it's something really complicated, he probably will.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Bayleaf, North Carolina is a nearly-rural suburb of Raleigh, about fifteen miles north of the state capitol. It's near the Falls Lake reservoir, and the state park that surrounds it. Houses are well apart in the lightly wooded, hilly area. To the north, Adam Mountain rises about 100 feet above Bayleaf. I like the name of one of the closest restaurants, three miles away: The Art Of Food. But I'm disappointed that there is no Bayleaf Restaurant.

Edible Dictionary

cannoli, Legends abound, but it appears that cannoli were invented some five hundred years ago in western Sicily, probably in Palermo or its vicinity. Cannoli were a treat during the late-winter Carnevale, possibly as a fertility symbol. (The shape, size and color are still the stuff of jokes among Sicilians.) On the other hand, they may have been traditional spring, when the sheep were producing more milk for ricotta then. These days, those of us with a love for Italian dishes eat cannoli year-round. Another liberty we take is in using the plural form all the time. If you have only one, you have a cannolo. And that's probably plenty enough, as anyone who ever ate one cane affirm. The word comes to us from a diminutive form of canna (a cane-like reed, something like a sugar cane in size). The tubular shell shape was formed by rolling the pastry shell into a flat, circular shape, then wrapping it around a sugar cane stalk. Then it's fried or baked crisp. When cool, the shells are filled with a mixture of ricotta cheese, sugar or honey, candied fruits and chocolate chunks. Then the cannolo is dipped into some pistachios and dusted with powdered sugar. It's a calorie bomb, but forget about that when you eat one. But remember if you eat two cannoli.

Deft Dining Rule #781

To help change the world, when a single leaf of raw kale turns up on a plate in a restaurant, ask the server, "What do I do with this?" The answers are always interesting.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

To cook kale, slice out the central rib of the leaves and then cut the leaves into pieces the size of the pad of your thumb. Cook it slowly with chicken stock, olive oil, or butter, garlic or onions, crushed red pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice until it's tender. Then don't tell anybody what it is.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Bavo, the patron saint of Ghent, Belgium. The cathedral named after him there is one of the most impressive in Europe, which is saying something. It's across the street from a restaurant whose name I can't recall, in an ancient city hall, where I went through a large bucket of mussels in wine and cream sauce for less than fifteen dollars. St. Bavo ought to be the patron saint of mussels.

Music To Dine By

Today is the birthday, in 1925, of mellow pianist Roger Williams. His music played for millions of hours on Muzak systems in restaurants over the years (I still hear it quite a bit). I will forever associate it school cafeteria eating. During my years at St. Rita's in Harahan, one of the nuns decided that Williams's music would be nice for the students to listen to instead of talking in the cafeteria. She played the same side of the same Roger Williams album every day. I came to like those songs--a funny thing for a kid of twelve.

Music To Lose A Recipe By

Today is the birthday (1930) of Richard Harris, the Irish actor who, although not really a singer, recorded the hit version of Jimmy Webb's MacArthur Park, one of the strangest songs ever written. Someone left a cake out in the rain.

Food And Drink Namesakes

Today in 1975 Eric Morel, Puerto Rican boxer in the 1996 Olympics, entered the Big Ring. . . Actor George Peppard was born today in 1928. . . Jerry Martini, jazz and pop saxophonist, was born today in 1943. . . Rob Collard, a British racecar driver, crossed the Big Starting Line today in 1968.

Words To Eat By

"I am not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants."--A. Whitney Brown."I did not become a vegetarian for my health, I did it for the health of the chickens."--Isaac Bashevis Singer."I was a vegetarian until I started leaning toward the sunlight."--Rita Rudner."Do vegetarians eat animal crackers?"--Unknown.