December 7

Quail Gumbo. Chef Chris. Vincent's. Pearl Harbor. Daube Glace. Cotton Candy. Refrigerator. Louis Prima. Hogshead. Salmagundi.

Days Until. . .

Christmas 18. New Year's Eve: 25. Eat Club Gala @ Brennan's:6.

New Orleans Chefs Hall Of Fame

Chef Chris Kerageorgiou, legendary New Orleans restaurateur and founder of La Provence, was born today in 1927 in Provence. His parents were Greek. Chris began his career cooking on ships (where he met longtime pal Chef Goffredo Fraccaro, of La Riviera). He wound up in New Orleans as the maitre d' of the Esplanade, the high-end restaurant of the Royal Orleans Hotel. Chris opened La Provence, the first really great restaurant on the North Shore, in 1972. In 2006, shortly after selling La Provence to his protege John Besh, Chris died. He was active until just a few weeks before his passing. He was a real original, with a passion for cooking and for life.

Restaurant Anniversaries

Vincent's opened today in 1989. Vincent Catalanotto, a waiter and bartender for years, was managing a little cafe with the unlikely name "The Corsican Brothers." The owners evaporated one day. Vincent, looking around for what to do next, took over the place. "I found out that I could cook as well as all those chefs that'd been screaming at me," he said. The menu was familiar New Orleans Italian food, yet polished in its way. It was a runaway success, so much so that Vincent never had time to do a decent decorating job on the dining room until the hurricane shut him down. His St. Charles Avenue restaurant was the first significant Uptown restaurant to return after the storm. Both places remain very busy at all hours.

Today's Flavors

This is National Cotton Candy Day. Cotton candy is spun sugar. Aside from its popularity at festivals and Mardi Gras parades, spun sugar had a brief vogue during the 1950s in classy restaurants. The Brennans bought one for their restaurant, and kept trying to do something with it before giving it up as an impossible mess.

On a more satisfying note, this is Daube Glace Day. Daube glace starts with slowly-cooked beef that's sliced into near-shreds, then cooked in a mold with gelatin, savory vegetables, herbs and seasonings. It's a familiar part of the most traditional Creole tables around Christmastime, and many old-style butchers and market delis still make it every year. (The most famous version cones from Langenstein's.) You eat it with crackers or French bread as a canape, or as a dip. It tastes much better than it sounds, and is a wonderful partner for cocktails or those mulled wines we make this time of year.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Rutabaga Creek is one of many usually-dry washes that carry rare floods of water across the Kobeh Valley in the center of Nevada. It's desolate country out there. The only major sign of civilization is US 50, which passes about seven miles south of the downstream end of Rutabaga Creek. It's twenty-two miles (most of which will need to be hiked over the flat desert) to Eureka, where a welcome lunch is waiting at La Fiesta restaurant.

Edible Dictionary

zabaglione, [szaba-YO-neh], Italian, n.--Also spelled zabaione; the French spelling is sabayon. A thick custard, somewhere between a sauce and a pudding. It can act as a sauce for a dessert, be the entire dessert itself, or perform any function between the two extremes. Zabalione with a few berries would be the halfway point. Zabaglione can be served classically either warm and chilled. The best versions of the warm kind are made in restaurants at the table. The main difference between zabagione and a standard custard is that no milk or cream are mixed with the egg yolks. Instead, sweet Marsala wine provides the liquid component. (In France, this might be sweet sherry instead.) Most versions of zabaglione are whipped into a very light, fluffy consistency. In

Wife's Birthday

Today is the birthday of Mary Ann Connell Fitzmorris, my brilliant and beautiful wife of nearly twenty-seven years. She hired me for my present radio gig; that's how we got to know one another. She's not much on gourmet food, great wines, or music. But I love her anyway. (She does make the best hash brown potatoes I ever ate.)

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

He who forgets his wife's birthday is surely doomed. On an unrelated note, today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Ambrose of Milan, the "honey-tongued doctor of the Church" in the Fourth Century. He is the patron saint of beekeepers.

Food Inventions

The first refrigerator for home use was patented today in 1926 by the Servel Company. Before it came along, we all used iceboxes. Oddly, it was operated not by electricity but by burning gas. Servel continues to make gas-burning refrigerators and air conditioners. They are unusual in having no moving parts. A very small gas flame powers a gravitational refrigerant coil somehow. They apparently last almost forever, and are popular with people who live or camp far from civilization. (They can run on propane.)

Music To Dine By

Louis Prima was born in New Orleans today in 1910. He became one of the most unusual bandleaders in the Big Band era. His sound was so distinctive that listening to only a second of his vocal performance is enough to identify him. He had a song that sounds like it's about food, although it isn't, really: Closer To The Bone, Sweeter Is The Meat.

Food Namesakes

Vaclav Chalupa, a Czechoslovakian rower, was born today in 1967. We're only one letter away from having a second Taco Bell item among our birthday boys today: Jordi Buritlo, a Spanish tennis star, was born when Vaclav turned five. . . One of American history's many figures named Hamilton Fish was born today in 1888. This one was a Congressman and a leading proponent of isolationism. . . Australia's sixth Prime Minister, Joseph Cook, was born today in 1860.

Words To Eat By

"At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well and talk well but not too wisely."--W. Somerset Maugham.

Words To Drink By

"Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends."--Tom Waits, razor-blade-throated singer and songwriter, born today in 1949.