December 12

National Hot Cocoa Day

Old Blue Eyes. Hanger. Katzenjammers. Hot Cocoa. Ambrosia. Soubise. Mexican Patroness.

Days Until

Christmas 14.New Year's Eve: 21.

Today's Flavor

Today is National Hot Cocoa Day. I never was much on cocoa--cafe au lait fills the same need in my beverage selections. But my wife loves the stuff, and on cold days she makes a very rich version of it that reminds her of the cocoa they make at the El Tovar Hotel in the Grand Canyon, where she used to work. She said that many of the staff put on a lot of weight every winter just from drinking that cocoa.My favorite use of powdered cocoa is to dust desserts, notably chocolate truffles and tiramisu. If you place a doily on top of the item to be cocoa-dusted, you can get interesting patterns.Another source says that today is National Ambrosia Day. "Food of the gods" is what that word literally means. So why should a concoction of coconut and orange sections get such a name?

Gourmet Gazetteer

Hanger, Texas is seventy-seven miles north of Dallas, not far from the Oklahoma state line at the Red River. This is cattle country, the ground rolling and the open fields dotted with trees. Hanger steaks are, indeed, grown in this area. But Hanger itself is just a place name now, having long since ceased to exist as a town. The nearest place to get any kind of steak is the interestingly-named restaurant Area 51, seven miles east at the Grayson County Airport.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron of Mexico and the entire New World, especially the Spanish-speaking part of it. There is hardly a family-owned Mexican restaurant that doesn't have a reproduction of her famous image somewhere.

Edible Dictionary

soubise, [soo-BEESS], (French), adj.An onion-flavored sauce from classic French cookery, named for the gourmet Charles de Rohan, the Prince of Soubise in France in the 1700s. It has become uncommon. The last time I saw a soubise sauce, it was served with a poached egg dish at brunch at Commander's Palace. It's made by cooking sliced onions slowly in butter for just under an hour, adding bechamel, straining the mixture, then enriching it with heavy cream. It could be ripe for a revival with the likes of panneed veal, or perhaps with a fish. Or maybe it will just become extinct.

Music To Dine In Italian Restaurants By

Today is the birthday of Frank Sinatra, in 1915. Certainly no vocalist is more played in restaurants, or anywhere else. Indeed, I'm listening to his classic A Jolly Christmas album as I write this. "May you live long," he used to say, "and may the last voice you hear be mine." Even though he died in 1998, his voice is still the last one a lot of people hear. If I could have two selfish wishes, the first would be to be sixteen again, and the second would be to be Frank Sinatra.**

Deft Dining Rule #872:

A restaurant that plays a great deal of Frank Sinatra on its sound system will have many regular customers.

Food In The Funnies

The Katzenjammer Kids, the oldest comic strip still running, made its first appearance today in 1897. One of the running jokes in the German-flavored strip was the efforts of Fritz and Hans (the Kids) to steal Mama's pies from the windowsill. Mama always seems to be baking pies, and Der Kaptain always seems to be thinking about eating.

Food Namesakes

Nilda Pinto, a writer from Curacao, was born today in 1918. . . Artist Edvard Munch, whose famous painting was "The Scream," probably came out screaming today in 1863. . . Philip Drinker, who invented the iron lung, took his first sip today in 1894. . . Jim Bunn, Congressman from Oregon, was bunn today in 1956.

Words To Eat By

"Animal crackers, and cocoa to drinkThat is the finest of suppers, I thinkWhen I'm grown up and can have what I please,I think I shall always insist upon these."--Christopher Morley.

Words To Drink By

"Alcohol may be man's worst enemy, but the Bible says love your enemy."--Frank Sinatra, born today in 1915.