November 1

Vinegar. All Saints. Brennan's. Fried Clams. Vinegar Hill. Balsamic. Fountain Pen.

Days Until

24. 31. 38.

The SaintsHistoric Restaurant Openings

It's All Saints Day, a big holiday in New Orleans. At one time in the not-so-distant past it was even a day off for city workers. The tradition is to visit the graves of all your relatives on All Saints Day, after weeding them and adding fresh flowers the day before. Some of my earliest recollections of dining out are associated with All Saints Day. My family rode out on the Canal Cemeteries streetcar to dress up the tomb of my maternal grandmother. After my mother and her sisters did that (it never was the brothers), we had lunch at Lenfant's. We seldom dined in restaurants, so those visits stand out in my memory. I remember being thrilled by Lenfant's. My mother, on the other hand, complained about the prices and the sub-optimal cooking. She was such a terrific cook that she was a hard target indeed for anyone else's food.

Historic Restaurant Openings

Brennan's opened the bar in its new location on Royal Street today in 1955. It would be a few more months before full food service began. Meanwhile, diners wanting eggs Hussarde and steak Stanley were still getting those Brennan's classics at the corner of Bourbon and Bienville, the restaurant's original location.

Today's Flavors

Various sources claim that this is National Deep Fried Clams Day. Which is almost reason enough to stay home. We don't like clams much in New Orleans, even though they grow by the millions in Lake Pontchartrain. Nobody seems to have eaten them much, ever.

Another source says it's National Vinegar Day. That has more possibilities. Vinegar is essential for salad dressings and such, but it's always in the back of my mind of sauces. Next time you make up a recipe that calls for lemon juice, and the lemon flavor is less essential than the acidity, try using vinegar instead. (A good-quality wine vinegar, I'd better say.) I've taken to adding it to hollandaise sauce, and like the result.

The source of the word "vinegar" is interesting. It comes from the two French words, vin aigre, which means "sour wine," with a secondary, idiomatic meaning "sick wine." In all my years of wine tasting, I've never encountered a bottle of wine that had gone to vinegar. However, I once had a little wooden barrel that was charged with "mother," the enzyme that converts wine to vinegar. You'd pour leftover wine into it, and within just a day or two it would have turned it all to an excellent vinegar. I'd occasionally open the little spout and let a few drops run into a spoon, then let friends take a sniff if it. They always said the same thing: "That made my mouth water!"

Gourmet Gazetteer

Bread Loaf, Vermont is roughly in the center of the state, forty-six miles south of Burlington. It's in the middle of the beautiful Green Mountains, and is named for the 3835-foot Bread Loaf Mountain. The nearby Bread Loaf Inn is the site of an annual writier's conference organized by poet Robert Frost. Restaurants (mostly chains) are in the nearby college town of Middlebury. We pick Rosie's Restaurant as the best bet, eight miles from Bread Loaf.

Edible Dictionary

rissole, rissole [ree-SOLE], n.--A ball of meat, poultry, fish, or even vegetables, held together with something like egg or bechamel, covered with a crust of pastry or breadcrumbs, then fried. The word has become rather generic, and around New Orleans it's not much used, there being other words ("croquette" or just "ball" among them) to describe this sort of thing. Small crabcakes, meat pies, boudin balls, and the like could be considered rissoles. The only reason I bring it up is that I've seen it on local menus twice in the last month or so. Didn't want a chef to fool you.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

When you boil eggs, use standard balsamic vinegar in the boiling water. It will turn the shells a little brown, telling you at a glance which ones in t he refrigerator have been boiled.

Deft Dining Rule #892:

If you're offered a balsamic vinaigrette in a restaurant, ask which balsamic vinegar they use. If you don't get an answer, they didn't really make it themselves, and it probably isn't made with real balsamic.

Food Namesakes

The Broadway musical Top Banana, with unmemorable music by the great Johnny Mercer and starring Phil Silvers, opened on Broadway today in 1951. . . Ruud Cabbage, a star soccer player for the Dutch FC Twente team, was born today in 1966. . . Grantland Rice, one of the most famous sportswriters in history, was born today in 1880. . . Nobel Peace Prize winner Philip Noel-Baker was born today in 1886. . . Pro baseball outfielder Coco Crisp stepped up to the Big Plate today in 1979.

Annals Of Fine Writing

George Safford Parker was born today in 1863. He didn't invent the fountain pen, but he refined it so much that he could be said to have created the first modern version of it. Parker is still one of the leading names in the pen industry. I have been writing with Parker fountain pens since 1964. The one I use now for almost all my handwriting is a much-renovated Parker 75 I bought in 1974. If you have an autographed copy of any of my books, it was signed with that good old pen.

Words To Eat By

"Serve the dinner backward, do anything but for goodness sake, do something weird."--Elsa Maxwell, American writer, who died today in 1963.

Words To Drink By

"In most households a cup of coffee is considered the one thing needful at the breakfast hour. But how often this exhilarating beverage, that ‘comforteth the brain and heateth and helpeth digestion’ is made muddy and ill-flavoured! You may roast the berries to the queen's taste, and grind them fresh every morning, and yet, if the golden liquid be not prepared in the most immaculate of coffee-pots, with each return of morning, a new disappointment awaits you."--Janet McKenzie Hill, cookbook author in the late 1800s and early 1900s, collaborator with Fannie Farmer.