December 9

National Pastry Day

The Brigtsens. Brandy Station. Birdseye. Shoe Soles. Danish Blue. Mulled Wine. Christmas Tipping. Barbecue Strut.

Days Until

Christmas 17.New Year's Eve: 24.Eat Club Gala @ Brennan's: 5.

Celebrity Chefs Today

Frank and Marna Brigtsen, who are married to each other, were both born today in 1954. Same day! Talk about fate! Their delicious Creole bistro, Brigtsen's, is an essential fixture in the dining scene for two decades and more. Frank and Marna met while both were working at K-Paul's in the early 1980s. Frank cooked at Commander's Palace during the years when Chef Paul Prudhomme was in charge of the kitchen there. When Paul opened K-Paul's, Frank went along. They opened Brigtsen's a few years later in an old cottage in the Riverbend. They bring to it the essential standards of using fresh, local ingredients cooked to order, with a style of service that feels like dining in a friend's home.

Annals Of Frozen Food

Today is the birthday, in 1886, of Clarence Birdseye. He was in Labrador trading furs when he noticed that the people there preserved fresh meat and fish by leaving it out in the extreme cold. He worked out a method of freezing food quickly, and then marketed the first frozen food. His company evolved into General Foods. The essence of his discovery was that the faster food could be frozen, the less damage was done to it by the smaller ice crystals that formed. (The opposite is true of thawing, which should happen slowly.)

Today's Flavor

Today is, according to unattributed internet rumor and nothing else, National Pastry Day. Boy, that's generic. Let's refine this a little. I'll say today is National Palmier Day. Palmiers are known around New Orleans as "shoe soles," because of their resemblance to a very large such thing. They're simple enough: sugar-glazed puff pastry, made traditionally with five "fingers" (hence the name). The more common variety has only two lobes. The way palmiers are made is by folding the sweetened dough over itself three or four times, then once more to form the lobes. The dough is then sliced at a ninety-degree angle to the folds, separated, and baked. Here's a good recipe for palmiers from Pastry Chef Central, complete with photos that illustrate the technique well.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Brandy Station, Virginia is about 65 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. It really is a railroad station for the adjacent rural, hilly area called just plain Brandy. The railroad is the Norfolk Southern, and a passenger train--The Crescent--passes the station (but doesn't stop) every day. You can catch it a few miles up the track in Culpeper, from which point it will take you all the way to New Orleans. The nearest restaurant other than fast-food places is the Farmer's Wife, five miles down the line in Culpeper.

Edible Dictionary

Danish blue cheese, n.--Also known as Danablu, this is a cow's milk cheese made in Denmark. It was created about a hundred years ago to take advantage of the burgeoning popularity of other blue cheeses, particularly Roquefort. It's inoculated with the penicillium mold that creates the blue veins and distinctive flavor. But it isn't aged as long as the big names in blue cheese. That makes it less assertive in flavor and aroma and less expensive. For both those reasons, Danish blue is one of the most widely-used blue cheeses in the production of blue cheese salad dressing. It's a good blue cheese to serve in a cheese tray of some of the eaters are new to such powerful cheeses. So is Saga, another blue cheese from Denmark, made in the soft-ripening style of Brie but with veins of blue-green mold.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

This is the season for mulled wine. Just add sugar and spices to warmed wine until it tastes good. It should be prepared in a very clean stainless pan over a heat too low to cause more than wisps of steam. The less time it's in the pan, the better, since the alcohol will evaporate away if it cooks too long.

Deft Dining Rule #16:

If there is a restaurant where you get special consideration from the maitre d', a special waiter, or a bartender, think of the most generous annual tip you'd like to give. Double it, and present it the next time you're in there between now and Christmas.

Music To Eat Ribs By

Struttin' With Some Barbecue, one of the big hits by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five in the early years of Satchmo's career, was recorded today in 1927. A follow-up song told how hard it is to eat saucy barbecue while strutting, or playing a trumpet, or almost anything else.

Food Namesakes

Astronaut and Army Major Nancy Currie lifted off from her mother today in 1958. . . The Dutch singer George Baker let out his first notes today in 1944. . . Tennis professional Mardy Fish was caught today in 1981.

Words To Eat By

Anything that's white is sweet
Anything that's brown is meat
Anything that's grey don't eat.
--Hermione Gingold, British actress, born today in 1897. She was referring to airline food.

Words To Drink By

"By making this wine known to the public, I have rendered my country as great a service as if I had enabled it to pay back the national debt."--Thomas Jefferson.