November 8

Bourbon's Birthday. Whiskey Bend. Sour Mash. Cappuccino. Cattle Patrons. Blend, Not Bland. Truffles.

Days Until. . .

Thanksgiving: 17. Christmas: 47. New Year's Eve: 54.

Annals Of Spirits

Today in 1789 is supposed to be the day that a Baptist minister named Elijah Craig distilled the first whiskey made from corn mash. This was in Bourbon County, Kentucky. Craig was quite a businessman. It is not known, really, what year he started his distillery, let alone the day, but this date is traditional as the birthday of Bourbon. There's an expensive, eighteen-year-old, single-barrel Bourbon named for him that's pretty good.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Wellington, population 8700, is in south central Kansas, thirty-five miles south of Wichita. It's named for the same Duke of Wellington as the famous dish pastry-wrapped beef tenderloin. It has been the county seat since its founding in 1872. It's a center for cattle and wheat shipping, both of which have also gone on since the town's earliest days. The best restaurant in town is--what else?--Wellington's Beef House.

Edible Dictionary

Gibson cocktail, n.--It is unanimously agreed what makes a Gibson: it's a gin martini with a pickled pearl onion instead of an olive. That's the only difference. But the stories about how it came to be are so numerous that I think it's safe to say that nobody knows for sure. They involve lots of different guys name Gibson, who wanted the onion in there for a wide variety of reasons. If you ask a San Franciscan, he'll say it was created there. New York-based writers say it came from there. Speaking for New Orleans, I would like to say that the Gibson was absolutely not created in the French Quarter. However, here's an idea: let's pickle pieces of bell pepper and celery, line themup with the onion on the toothpick, and call the drink The Holy Trinity.

Today's Flavor

This is National Cappuccino Day. The combination of espresso coffee with foamed milk is often had after dinner, which is the wrong time. It's really a morning beverage, with the milk and all. It also works--if your system can stand the caffeine--as a late-night drink, in sort of the way we drink cafe au lait here in New Orleans.

Most cappuccino is made with far too much foamed milk. It should form a layer, not a pile, as it does in the contemporary American coffeehouses. Here's my test for telling when the froth on a cappuccino is just right. Sprinkle two packets of sugar over a circular area an inch in diameter. It will sit there for awhile, then slowly start sinking, while at the same time moving toward the center. The sugar ultimately falls through a small hole, rather suddenly. If the sugar just sits there interminably, the froth is too thick. If the granules fall right through, the froth is too thin. The name "cappuccino" is a reference to the Capuchin monks, whose hooded habits were the same color as that of a well-made cappuccino. However, an alternative explanation is that "cappuccino" means "out of order" in Italian. (The early machines often were.) But that's just a joke.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

Just as is true with wine, a coffee blended from several kinds of beans will always have more interesting flavors than all one kind.

The Saints

This is the feast day of the Four Crowned Martyrs: Castorus, Claudius, Nicostratus, and Simpronian. They were stone carvers, but they're also patron saints of cattle for some reason.

Food Namesakes

Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on this date in 1977. He was openly gay, which was a big deal back then. . . Today in 1990, Darryl Strawberry signed a five-year contract with the Dodgers. . . Alan Berger of the rock group Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, was born today in 1949. . . Frank Gouldsmith Speck was born today in 1881. He was an anthropologist who specialized in Eastern Native Americans. (Speck is smoked prosciutto.)

Words To Eat By

"The truffle is not a positive aphrodisiac, but it can upon occasion make women tenderer and men more apt to love."--Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, French culinary author and chef.

Words To Drink By

"A drink is shorter than a tale."--Unknown.