October 13

National Popover Day

Yorkshire Pudding. The Bistro. Molly Pitcher. Edsel. Popover. Indian Pudding. Defatting. Happy Birthday.

Days Until. . .

Halloween 18

Restaurant Milestones

The Bistro at the Maison de Ville opened today in 1986. A minuscule dining room with a microscopic kitchen in a small hotel might not be expected to become a seminal local restaurant, but this one was. The first chef was Susan Spicer. She'd cooked around town for a few years, but she came to prominence at the Bistro. When she left to open Bayona, John Neal took over the Bistro's kitchen. He left after a few years to to open Peristyle. That established the Bistro as a place to enjoy the works of future chef superstars on their way up. Greg Picolo was the longest-serving chef, remaining at the bistro until a problem with the lease shut it down. Patrick Van Hoorebeck ran the dining room and the wine cellar for along time; he was good enough at that to have opened his own wine bar. The Bistro is now extinct. But its influence lives on.

Music To Blow Out Candles By

Today in 1893, a copyright was issued to Mildred and Patty Hill for the melody of the song everybody sings on birthdays. Its real name is Good Morning To All. It remained under copyright protection for many years until it was declared a public-domain work by the courts. Until then, many big restaurant chains have their own songs for birthdays, to avoid royalties when their waiters sing (usually very badly) to their customers.The worst rendering of "Happy Birthday" I have heard consistently is performed at Commander's Palace. The servers botch it up so miserably that I'm convinced they do so intentionally, to keep it from spreading to other tables.

Drinking Through History

Molly Pitcher was born today in 1754, near Trenton, New Jersey. Her real name was Mary Ludwig. Her nickname grew from her job carrying water to the American soldiers fighting in the Revolutionary War. When her husband was wounded, she took over his cannon, and became famous for that deed. What is less known is that she refused to ask the soldiers whether they wanted still bottled water, bottled water with bubbles, or just the tap water.

Food And Cars

Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby starred in a big television special today in 1957, sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. The commercials introduced the Edsel, soon to become the laughingstock of the auto world. Later, it became a classic. Food connection: Richard Collin--the New Orleans Underground Gourmet, the city's first restaurant critic--owned an Edsel in the 1970s.

Today's Flavor

Today is National Popover Day. A popover--not to be confused with a turnover--is a tall, muffin-shaped, nearly-hollow bread made with a very eggy batter. You bake them with butter in the pockets of the popover tin. They are best eaten immediately after emerging from the oven. You will eat a popover quickly. Its marvelous flavor, aroma, texture, and hollow middle grab you. The only restaurant in memory to serve them was during the brief hegemony of Tom Cowman in the kitchen of Lenfant's when the Marcello family ran it, in the 1980s. They brought the popovers to the table when you sat down, and they were irresistible. Today is also National Yorkshire Pudding Day. A variation of the popover recipe, Yorkshire pudding, substitutes rendered fat and drippings from a roast prime rib of beef. For that reason, it's the classic accompaniment with prime rib. However, I don't know anyone in New Orleans that makes it anymore--not even the Rib Room, which used to make them very well.

Edible Dictionary

Indian pudding, n.--A sweet dessert made from cornmeal, molasses, and cinnamon. It begins on top of the stove, then goes into the oven to bake in a baking dish. It comes out like a very wet cornbread. It's much like a spoonbread, but sweeter. The name comes from colonial times, because of the presence of "Indian corn" in its making. It was also known as "hasty pudding." Some versions of Indian pudding contain minced meat and eat fat. There's no universally agreed-upon recipe. except that cornmeal is a sine qua non.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Goose Lake is about as far east as you can go in Iowa, seven miles from the state line at the Mississippi River. It's closer to Chicago (156 miles) than it is to Des Moines (201). It's a fair-sized farming town of 235 people, surrounding by rolling fields of corn and soybeans to the horizon in all directions. The actual lake for which the town is named is a mile west, and is so shallow that it dries up completely in droughts. It's more of a marsh than a lake. But this is what geese love, so it's well-named. O'Brien's Pizza And Millennium Grill is the place to eat, right in the center of town.

Deft Dining Rule #18:

Unless the goodness of the food and service are of secondary concern, never ask a restaurant for a table for more than eight people. Six is even better. If you have a larger number, divided it in to sixes and eights. At larger tables, the people at opposite ends won't be able to talk with one another, anyway.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

After you cook ground beef or sausage to make a stuffing (i.e., for lasagna or stuffed peppers), use the end slice from a loaf of white bread to soak up the excess fat thrown off by the meat. (Do this after removing from the pan.) The dog will love that piece of bread, too.

Food Namesakes

Pro football star Jerry Rice was born today in 1962. . . Pro baseball pitcher Tim Crabtree hit the Big Mound today in 1969. (I wish crabs grew on trees!). . . British actor Wilfred Pickles was born today in 1904. . . British politician Edwina Currie was born today in 1946. She created a stir when she blew the whistle on English egg producers, noting that their eggs sometimes contained salmonella.

Words To Eat By

"In any world menu, Canada must be considered the vichyssoise of nations—it's cold, half-French, and difficult to stir."--J. Stuart Keate, Canadian writer, born today in 1913.

Words To Drink By

"No animal ever invented anything so bad as drunkeness--or so good as drink."--Lord Chesterton.

Food Minutiae

Starbucks spends more on health insurance for its employees than for coffee beans. I find that easy to believe.