November 7

Bearnaise

Days Until. . .

Thanksgiving: 18. Christmas: 48. New Year's Eve: 55.

Today's Flavors

It's National Bittersweet Chocolate With Almonds Day. My wife is tuned into that big-time; that might be her favorite kind of chocolate. It's also International Bearnaise Day. A strong case can be made that bearnaise is the world's most delicious sauce. Maybe that's because it's the first serious French sauce many of us encounter. If bearnaise shows up at the table, you'll consume every bit of it. Bearnaise is a child of the mother sauce hollandaise, a rich emulsion of egg yolks and butter with a little lemon juice or vinegar. It becomes bearnaise when the aromatic herbs tarragon, chervil, and chives--usually simmered in a little wine or tarragon vinegar if dried herbs are used--are stirred in. What emerges is a magnificent mingling of richness, thickness, aroma, and mellow herbaceousness. Restaurants serve either a lot of bearnaise or none at all. It's not a sauce that can be made in quantity and then refrigerated for later use. It has to be kept just warm and frequently stirred, or else it falls apart. The best bearnaise is made immediately before it's served, and that's tricky enough that most restaurants avoid the commitment. The best place to look for bearnaise is a restaurant that specializes in steaks and lamb chops. While bearnaise goes well with many dishes (I actually think the ultimate partner for it is roast chicken), red-meat roasts really lend themselves to it. French or French-inspired restaurants also usually make it well, strictly as a point of honor.

Food Advertising

Today in 1965, Poppin' Fresh, the Pillsbury Doughboy, was born. He is still alive, despite the obituary that you've seen a few hundred times on the internet. (If you haven't, here it is.) I once heard someone at the Cafe du Monde in New Orleans remark that his dining partner--who'd just taken a bite from a well-powdered-sugared beignet--looked as if she'd just had a heavy necking session with the Doughboy. Woo-hoo!

Food Through History

Christopher Columbus returned to Spain today in 1504 after his fourth and last voyage to America. He still believed he'd encountered some unknown strand of Asia. That was wrong, but he was right about many other things--among them the potential of chocolate. He brought cocoa beans with him, along with the instructions for turning them into a drink--which is what chocolate exclusively was for a long time after its European introduction. It was a big hit among the wealthy, and the Era Of Chocolate began.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Cabbage Creek is in the northern part of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. The peninsula looks like a mitten, and Cabbage Creek is about where the fingernail of the index finger would be. It's about twenty miles as the crow flies from Lake Huron. The creek flows from wooded, 900-foot hills into a marshy area adjoining Hubbard Lake. All of this terrain was shaped by glaciers tens of thousands of years ago. Although this is mostly wilderness, you're only five miles from the nearest restaurant: Olivia's Bearclaw Grille, in Barton City.

Edible Dictionary

ratatouille, [rah-tah-TOO-ee], French, n.--The classic vegetable stew of Provence in southwestern France, made with zucchini, squash, tomatoes, onions, eggplant, peppers, garlic, and an assortment of savory herbs. It's cooked in olive oil in a skillet until the vegetables are soft but not disintegrating, and served as a side dish. Ratatouille became popular in this country in the late 1970s and early 1980s, to such an extent that it even appeared in national chain restaurant. It went out of vogue for twenty years, then revived by the popularity of the movie Ratatouille. In one of the greatest animated food scenes in cinematic history, the haughty restaurant critic Anton Ego takes one taste of the ratatouille prepared by Remy, the rat-chef, and is transported back to his childhood.

Deft Dining Rule #111

No food exists that is not at least pretty good when panneed.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

The trick to keeping the crust on pannee meats is to pound the meat thin, dust it lightly with flour, pass it through an egg wash, and then dredge it in the bread crumbs. If the meat can sit in the refrigerator a little while before being fried, so much the better.

Booze In Broadcasting

Today in 1996, the American liquor industry decided to give its blessing to broadcast advertising of its products. Spirits had never been promoted that way; now, ten years later, ads for whiskey, vodka, gin, rum and the rest of it are still rare. Wine advertising on radio and television has become common, however.

Music In Restaurants

Al Hirt was born today in 1922. The bearded trumpet virtuoso began his career as on the old Dawnbusters show on WWL radio, then started performing and recording solo. He sold millions of record albums over the years, and his club on the corner of Bourbon and and St. Louis was one of the classiest places on the strip. Jumbo (as he was called by other musicians) was famous for doing extraordinarily long sets--over an hour and a half at times. He once had a restaurant in the French Market, a steak house along the lines of Ruth's Chris, around back of where the Morning Call used to be and the Gazebo is now.

Food Namesakes

"The Ultimate Disaster Movie" (but not for the reason you're thinking) was the subtitle of Bean, released on this date in 1997. Brit humor. . . Joe Cobb was born today in 1916. He was in the Our Gang movies as Joe. . . Billy Graham, America's most famous preacher, was born today in 1918. . . Jean Shrimpton, the sophisticated, beautiful British model who was Mick Jagger's girlfriend in the 1960s, was born today in 1942.

Words To Eat By

"Bearnaise sauce is simply an egg yolk, a shallot, a little tarragon vinegar, and butter, but it takes years of practice for the result to be perfect."--Fernand Point, influential French chef of the first half of the 1900s.

Words To Lose Your Lunch By

"It's all right, the white wine came up with the fish."--Herman J. Mankiewicz, Hollywood movie producer, born today in 1897. He said this after getting sick at a banquet.