December 1

Reveillon Begins. Dr Pepper. Fruitcake And Egg Nog. Veal Liver And Onions. Liver Cheese. Nero Wolfe. Hydroponics.

Days Until

Christmas--24
New Year's--31
Make those reservations now!

Chef d'Oeuvre du Jour

#296: Charcuterie @ Delmonico, Lee Circle Area: 1300 St Charles Ave. The past few years has brought a small but still impressive burgeoning of interest in charcuterie on the part of local chefs. Lots of them are making their own pates, sausages, and cured meats, whether they can make better than what's commercially available out there or not. Delmonico was one of the leaders in this trend, and from the beginning they've put out as fine a collection of house-made charcuterie as anyone. It's a great way to begin a dinner. Cross your fingers for beef daube glace during the holidays. This is one of NOMenu's 500 Best Dishes in New Orleans. Collect all 500!

Food Through History

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis ended today in 1904. It's the event that made hits of the hot dog, the hamburger, and the ice cream cone. The latter was actually invented at the Fair, when ice cream was served in a folded waffle by an ice cream man who ran out of dishes. It was also the time and place when Dr Pepper became a national hit. Speaking of. . .

Annals Of Soft Drinks

Coincidentally, this is Dr Pepper's birthday. The oldest fizzy soft drink in America--even older than Coca-Cola--was sold for the first time on this date in 1885 in Morrison's Old Country Store in Waco, Texas. There never was prune juice in it, despite rumors to the contrary. My first memory of Dr Pepper was a big sign painted on the side of a building at the corner of N. Galvez and (I think) Dumaine, depicting a cartoon St. Bernard dog, smiling and giving Dr Pepper's slogan of the time: "Frosty, man, frosty." Still playing in my mind is the Dr Pepper jingle from a few years later, to the tune of "Glowworm": Good times begin with Dr Pepper
Distinctively different, Dr Pepper
Not a cola or a root beer
But an exciting taste that you'll cheer
Relax, refresh, the flavor's fine
It's Dr Pepper time!
That time, of course, is either 10 a.m., 2 p.m., or 4 p.m. I drank it even more often than that in my teens and twenties, but have since shifted to other beverages.

Today's Flavors

We begin National Fruitcake Month and National Egg Nog Month today. Today, however, is Veal Liver And Onions Day. It had to come sooner or later. I recall a cartoon that showed a group of terror-stricken kids running down a street. Behind them was a gaily-decorated truck playing a tune. On its side was painted the words, "The Good Old Liver And Onions Man." Those who despise liver probably picked up their dislike when they were forced to eat it as kids. Many parents of my generation felt that liver was something that one must eat to be healthy. In fact, this is true only for those suffering from pernicious anemia. And even for them other remedies now exist. For that matter, liver is high in fat and cholesterol, and the healthy approach to it would be to east it only occasionally. Now, the only reason to eat liver is because you like it. Those of us who do are enough of a minority that a few restaurants make liver a specialty. Around New Orleans those include Clancy's, Pascal's Manale, the Flaming Torch, Fury's (where it's the Tuesday special) and the Upperline (served occasionally, a l'orange). Since only connoisseurs eat it, the liver you find in restaurants is almost always good quality veal liver. Veal liver has no hard little bumps in it, and a more delicate flavor. It's easily cooked: dust it with seasoned flour, heat a little oil in a skillet, and brown it over high heat on both sides. The classic bacon-and-onion garnish is also easy: fry the bacon, pour off excess fat, then cook chopped or sliced onions in the bacon fat until it browns and becomes sweet. A dash of sherry or port over the onions, a minute more in the pan, and it's ready to make the liver fabulous.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Pepper Hill only gets up to thirty-one feet above sea level, on Ladies Island, in the southernmost corner of South Carolina. The town (a neighborhood, really) of the same name is in a resort area (Hilton Head Island is just a few miles south), and most of the development is along the lines of summer homes. It's very much the Low Country, both in style and geography. The restaurants are on the mainland in Beaufort, where we find the Up Town Grill, Shoofly Kitchen, and Bricks on Beaufort.

Edible Dictionary

foie gras, [fwah GRAH], French, n.--Literally, “fat liver.” The liver is usually that of a duck in this country, although goose liver is preferred in France. In either case, the bird has been overfed in the last weeks of its life, which makes its liver grow very fat. This transforms its flavor. Foie gras goes back a long time; the Romans knew of it and loved it. French foie gras has long been made into pate and sold in this country in tinned form (not bad, at least the best-quality versions). The unprocessed liver itself, however, is what is usually referred to when you see foie gras on a menu. It's typically sliced into pieces weighing about a half-ounce, then seared in its own fat. Sometimes there's a sauce (it tends to be on the sweet side), but foie gras done that way is already uniquely delicious.

Deft Dining Rule #493:

A restaurant that serves liver irregularly is more likely to make it well than one that runs it as a special on the same day every week, or every day.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Veal liver is perfect when sliced about a quarter-inch thick, and showing a thin line of pink in the center.

Gourmets On Radio

Rex Stout, who created the detective Nero Wolfe, was born today in 1886. Nero Wolfe was a fantastically fat and phlegmatic man who liked to eat and drink too much. Despite that, he brilliantly unraveled the mysteries in the novels Stout wrote about him. Wolfe's assistant Archie did all the legwork.

Food Inventions

Hydroponics--the technique of growing plants in nutrient-stoked water instead of soil--was patented today in 1936. That system involved the use of gravel to hold the plants in place. We eat quite a bit of hydroponically-grown food. Certain kinds of lettuce in particular are grown that way. Lately, we've even seen heads of lettuce with the roots still attached and hanging in a hydroponic solution right there on the produce rack.

Food Namesakes

Actor Treat Williams was born today in 1951. . . 1940s All-Star baseball player Cookie Lavagetto joined the world today in 1911. . . Creamy-voiced singer Sam Cooke debuted on the Ed Sullivan Show on this day in 1957.

Words To Eat By

"I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead. Not sick, not wounded. Dead."--Woody Allen, born today in 1935.

Words To Drink By

"Be temperate in wine, in eating, girls and sloth; Or the Gout will seize you and plague you both."--Benjamin Franklin.