December 10

Burning Man. Lager. Egg Nog. Nutmeg. Wassail. Bobby Flay. Dottie. The Fat Man.

Days Until. . .

Christmas--15
New Year's Eve--21

Chef d'Oeuvre du Jour

Today is National Lager Day. Lagers are the most popular style of beer in the world. Spell it backwards, and you have "Regal," one of the major New Orleans beer brands until the 1970s. Its brewery was where the Royal Sonesta Hotel is now, in the French Quarter. We seem to be drifting here, as if I'd had too many lagers. A beer that's been "lagered" has been kept in barrels in cold storage for several weeks after it was made. The slow fermentation at these temperatures turns out a beer that's significantly lighter than, say, an ale. While some sources say that Egg Nog Day is December 24, today is more appropriate. Especially this year, with the early and persistent presence of Yule-like cool weather. Egg nog is one of the few seasonal items that hasn't been dragged into the rest of the year. On the other hand, it appears in supermarkets earlier each year. Store-bought egg nog seems to be incapable of going bad, no matter how long it's in your refrigerator. What's in there, anyway? Egg nog originated in England. "Nog" is an Old English word that refers to a strong beer or ale, and the small cup from which it was drunk. Old recipes show egg nog as a mixture of milk and eggs, with that ale added. These days we add quite a bit of sugar and use spirits like brandy, whiskey, or rum if we want it alcoholic. Egg nog is not hard to make at home. My egg nog uses uncooked eggs, but that carries a small health hazard. Cooking changes the flavor but not disastrously. Some half-and-half, sugar, and vanilla complete th recipe. Separate the eggs, cook the yolks with the milk or cream as slowly as you can, and take it up to 160 degrees on a meat thermometer. Then chill it, beat egg whites stiff and stir them in, grate the nutmeg, add the brandy or rum, and. . . Merry Christmas!

Edible Dictionary

Black Forest cake, n.--Probably the most popular dessert in German restaurants the world over, Black Forest cake is made by brushing layers of very light chocolate cake with kirschwasser, the German cherry brandy. The layers are separated by whipped cream studded with black cherries that have been cooked down a little in a sugar syrup. The whole thing is covered with whipped cream, and garnished with wide shavings of dark chocolate. Whole cherries are often used to decorate the top. It's named for the Black Forest in southwest Germany, a long strip of woods between the Alps and the headwaters of the Danube River. It's not certain who invented it, but it was in the early 1900s. A good Black Forest cake is one of the most delicious of all cakes. They key to its goodness is the lightness of the cake itself. Its German name is Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte.

Deft Dining Rule #459

If you go to the trouble of making homemade egg nog, you may as well grate your own nutmeg.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Sweet Potato Island is about in the dead center of Maine, ninety-one miles north of Bangor. This is the hilly, glacier-scraped, lake-riddled, heavily forested part of the state, as much a wilderness as almost any other place in the contiguous forty-eight. The island is in Lower Jo-Mary Lake, and is itself completely covered with trees. You can only get to the lake by a four-wheel-drive track. It's nineteen miles back to the town of Millinocket, where is found the nearest restaurant: the Appalachian Trail Cafe.

Alluring Dinner Dates

DorothyLamour>Actress Dorothy Lamour was born in New Orleans today in 1914. After becoming Miss New Orleans, she went to Hollywood, where she was the eye candy in the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby "Road" movies. She was famous for showing off her figure in sarongs. On top of that, she was an excellent singer and all-around big star. She hosted her own radio variety show for awhile, the Sealtest Variety Theater. Something ought to be named for her. "Lamour" would be a good name for a restaurant.

Celebrity Chefs Today

New York-based restaurateur, chef, and Food Network personality Bobby Flay came out of the oven today in 1964. Especially in his recent role as American Iron Chef, he has become one of the most-watched and most controversial of American chefs. From our perspective, we're miffed that he has come out and said he doesn't like (read: doesn't understand) New Orleans food.

Food Namesakes

Today in 1949, Fats Domino recorded his first big hit, The Fat Man, for Imperial Records. . . The movie Big Fish premiered today in 2003. . .Kofi Anan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, won the Nobel Peace Prize today in 2001. . . Hermes Pan, American choreographer, danced onto the Big Stage today in 1909.

Words To Eat By

"I felt like a wonderful sandwich, a slice of white bread between two slices of ham."--Dorothy Lamour, talking about Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in the movies she made with them. She was born in New Orleans today in 1914. "Fame is a fickle food Upon a shifting plate, Whose table once a Guest, but not The second time, is set. Whose crumbs the crows inspect, And with ironic caw Flap past it to the Farmer's corn; Men eat of it and die."--Emily Dickinson, born today in 1830.

Words To Drink By

"I saw a sign that read 'Drink Canada Dry' and I've just started."--Brendan Behan.