November 15

Cafe Giovanni. Zeke's. Clean Out Your Reefer. Clear Cubes. Freezer Burn. Mantovani. On Olives.

Days Until. . .

Thanksgiving: 10. Christmas: 41. New Year's Eve: 48.

New Orleans Restaurant Anniversaries

Cafe Giovanni opened today in 1991. Chef Duke Locicero partnered with John Santopadre in a new kind of Italian trattoria, in a block of Decatur Street that was in the throes of a renaissance. Formerly lined with seedy bars (many of them with Greek names), the first block of Canal Street was being converted into condos and cafes, a process that continues. Chef Duke is a New Orleans native who was encouraged by legendary restaurateur Joe Marcello to go to culinary school and get into the biz. Duke wound up in Houston, where he cheffed a place called The Brownstone to good reviews. He returned to New Orleans to open Café Giovanni, and ultimately bought the restaurant in 2004. Among its many signatures is a group of opera-quality singers who perform many nights a week. The food is lusty, original, and as New Orleans in its flavors as it is Italian. On this date in 2001, Zeke Unangst opened a seafood restaurant, Zeke's, on Metairie Road. Zeke had been running the dining room at his brother's place, the now-gone West End Cafe. Zeke and his restaurant were riding high until Hurricane Katrina. Then a freak succession of infections that started while he was evacuated took his life two months after the storm. He was just in his forties. His restaurant re-opened briefly after the storm, but then closed and reopened a couple times more under new names. It is now Porter & Luke's.

Today's Flavor

Who will bite for the notion that today we should celebrate National Raisin Bran Day? I like raisin bran, but it deserves a day of celebration about as much as Phillips-head screws do.

It is also said to be National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. That makes good sense, because it's a week and a half until Thanksgiving, and you need room in your refrigerator for the defrosting turkey. And space for all the semi-prepared dishes before the dinner, and leftovers after. What do you need that slice of pizza from three weeks ago for, anyway? And that empty plastic container--what's it doing in the refrigerator? The same thing as that empty carton of cream, is what. Clean out your refrigerator!

Gourmet Gazetteer

The Rhubarb Patch is a clearing the middle of an extensive forest in south central Oregon. It's ninety-one miles north of Klamath Falls, on the east side of the Cascade Range, at 5100 feet altitude. The water table is high enough that some permanent wetlands appear along stream in the vicinity, and this is what The Rhubarb Patch is. It's a bumpy fourteen-mile four-wheel-drive track to the nearest highway--US 97, where you'll find a lonely Subway as the only restaurant for many miles.

Annals Of Fast Food

The first location of Wendy's opened today in Columbus, Ohio. The year was 1969, and the manager was Wendy's father, Dave Thomas. Wendy's pioneered the drive-through window and a much more expensive hamburger. From a taste perspective, any advantage it has is minuscule. Their claim to serve hamburgers hot off the grill is made possible by cooking the burgers at such a low temperature that they get a terrible texture. You may eat all of mine. After a long slump, Wendy's was bought by the same outfit that runs Hardee's and Arby's.

Edible Dictionary

shallot, n.--The true shallot is the gray shallot (really more in the direction of purple in its skin color), grown widely in France and increasingly in this country. It is an onion, but a very small one, with cloves somewhat like those of garlic in the center. The heads of shallots are also about the size of a small head of garlic, although the resemblance ends there. Shallots have a milder and sweeter taste than a standard onion, as well as a unique flavor that gives dishes cooked with them a distinction. They are much more expensive than either onions or garlic. Shallots are native to the Middle East and the Caucasus region.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

There's nothing that makes a drink look more appealing than clear ice cubes, but your icemaker probably makes them cloudy. Next time you invite people over for cocktails, boil some water in a very clean pot, let it cool, and freeze it in an ice tray. Voila! Clear cubes.

Music To Dine Formally (Formerly) By

Annunzio Mantovani was born today in 1905. Recording under his last name alone, Mantovani became the king of instrumental background music in the late 1950s into the 1970s. It became known as "elevator music," but it was very widely played by Muzak in restaurants, office lobbies, and shopping malls. The sound was dominated by large string sections, sounding almost classical but playing familiar songs. Radio stations playing the likes of Mantovani's music were very popular for over a decade, going out of style in the 1970s. The advent of satellite radio brought the Mantovani style back in style. At least a little.

Food Namesakes

Felix Frankfurter, U.S. Supreme Court Justice from 1939 till 1962, was born on this date in 1882 (in Vienna, Austria). . . Another national political figure, Senator Howard Baker, was born today in 1925. . . And another baker, Sara Josephine Baker, a physician who greatly improved health care for babies and children in New York, was a baby herself today in 1873. . . William Fries, who recorded the CB radio trucker song Convoy under the name C.W. McCall, was born today in 1928. . . Clyde McPhatter was born today in 1938. He's the falsetto voice on the Drifters' version of White Christmas.

Words To Eat By

"My son would walk to the refrigerator-freezer and fling both doors open and stand there until the hairs in his nose iced up. After surveying $200 worth of food in varying shapes and forms, he would declare loudly, 'There's nothing to eat!'"--Erma Bombeck.

Words To Drink By

"A taste older than meat, older than wine. A taste as old as cold water."--Lawrence Durrell, referring to olives.