November 11

Brennan Patriarch. 11:11, 11/11. Nectar Soda. Malt. Vacherin. Jonathan Winters. Indian Summer.

Days Until. . .

Thanksgiving: 13. Christmas: 44. New Year's Eve: 51.

Restaurateur Hall Of Fame

On this date in 1955, Owen E. Brennan died of a massive heart attack following a gourmet society dinner at Antoine's. He was only 45 at the time. Owen founded the Brennan restaurant business, and was the father of the three brothers who operated Brennan's on Royal Street from 1973. This was tragic for reasons beyond the obvious. Brennan's was about to move to its present location, an event that transformed the restaurant. Owen E. Brennan never saw the new restaurant he built. I would love to have met him; he was one of the great visionaries in the restaurant business. And he is reputed to have been the best of hosts. I wonder what he'd think about the current edition of Brennan's under the management of his nephew Ralph Brennan. My guess is that he'd be very impressed.


This is Veterans Day. It grew from Armistice Day, which commemorated the end of World War I. The exact moment is famous: the armistice was signed at 11:11 a.m. on 11/11, in 1918. . . Same day, same year, it was Independence Day in Poland, which got its identity back for the first time in two centuries at the end of World War I. Why do we have no Polish food in New Orleans to speak of?

Today's Flavor

Elsewhere around the country it is Sundae Day. Ice cream with sauces, fruit, and whipped cream poured over it got that name because it was created on a Sunday for service on that day of the week. Here in New Orleans, it's Nectar Soda Day. Nectar is a uniquely New Orleans flavor. It's a combination of almond and vanilla flavors, always artificially colored pink. It was created at the soda fountains of the old Katz and Besthoff drugstores. They later passed along the formula to the I.L. Lyons Company, which made it for a very long time. Originally, the pink color was cochineal, made from an aphid-like insect that sucked cactus plants in Mexico. Later, the cochineal was replaced by an artificial color. (Many foods and drugs colored bright pink for no apparent reason originally used the cochineal dye, too.) Nectar sodas come two ways: with or without ice cream. The basic version is nectar syrup, milk, and soda water, the latter shot into the mixing cup from a soda jet that mixed the ingredients and made the soda foam up. Although some retro new places like the Creole Creamery make it, it's hard to find a nectar soda made that way now. But is danger of extinction. The lady who owned the New Orleans Nectar Soda Company--and who claimed that she had the original formula, from I.L. Ly0ns--passed away not long ago. Nectar remains one of the most popular flavors in sno-ball stands all around New Orleans.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Yamhill is the name both of a county and a town in it, in west central Oregon. The town is thirty-five miles southwest of Portland, on the western edge of the Willamette Valley. They may grow yams in that fertile, temperate valley, but much better known to those who share a love for the pleasures of the table are the wines that come from there. Pinot Noir from the area is particularly celebrated. Yamhill Family Vineyards makes good examples of this. Quite a few cafes are in Yamhill; I like the sound of the Trask Mountain Outpost.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

The judicious and subtle use of food coloring in savory cooking is not as bad an idea as it has come to be viewed. The most useful color of all is green. Guacamole. Oysters Rockefeller. Green Goddess salad dressing. Just a drop.

Edible Dictionary

cock-a-leekie soup, n.--One of the most popular soups in Scotland, cock-a-leekie is self-descriptive: it's made with a rooster and leeks. Or would be, if the cook raised chickens and had spare roosters. It's more likely to be made with a hen or just standard dark-meat chicken. The soup is often thickened with barley or oatmeal. This still leaves it a more or less conventional chicken soup. It becomes distinctly Scottish when primes are added, either as a garnish or stirred into the broth. That's the original recipe, one not much followed anymore.

Deft Dining Rule #202:

The additive used to turn a shake into a malt works better if it's in liquid form, and the best soda fountains know this. Ask for an extra squirt.

People We'd Like To Dine With

This is the birthday of the brilliant ad-lib comedian and actor Jonathan Winters, born today in 1925. He played a wide range of wacky characters, and was a very funny guest on talk shows. Winters was once in a movie with a food name: The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. He looked as if he enjoyed eating. He passed away in 2013.

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, a converted Roman soldier who lived in the fourth century. He is, among many other things, the patron saint of both alcoholics and winemakers. He's also the patron of geese and people who raise them, which would give him a connection with foie gras.

Weather Guess

The Old Farmer's Almanac maintains that today, St. Martin's Day, is the beginning of Indian summer, the brief resumption of warm days after a spate of cold. But they're in New England, and we're here, and it seems to me that if we have Indian summer at all, it's in those days in the middle of December when it goes up into the eighties for no apparent reason.

Food Namesakes

Andy Partridge, an English pop-rock musician, was born today in 1953. . . The great Chicago blues singer LaVern Baker was born today in 1928. . Perry Bass, whose family makes the shoes of the same name, was born in 1914 on this date. . . In 1899 Pie Traynor, a Baseball Hall of Fame third baseman and Pirates hero, was born today. . . Another historic baseball player, Rabbit Maranville, stepped up to The Big Plate today in 1891. He was an infielder, named for his speed on the bases. . . Today in 1493 was the first stanza in the life of Italian poet Bernardo Tasso. . . David L. Cook, Christian country singer and comedian, made his first funny sound today in 1968.

Words To Eat By

"That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted."--Lou Costello, the funny half of Abbott and Costello. He is supposed to have said these words right before he died.

Words To Drink By

"The biggest danger for a politician is to shake hands with a man who is physically stronger, has been drinking and is voting for the other guy."--William Proxmire, long-time U.S. Senator, born today in 1915.