December 13

Beef Stew. Burgoo. Mandina's. Alice's Restaurant. Cold Wave. Chuckville. Clip-On Tie. Santa Lucia.

Days Until. . .

Christmas 14. New Year's Eve: 21. Eat Club Gala @ Brennan's: Tonight! We still have a few seats for the biggest Eat Club dinner of the year.

Edible Dictionary

brunoise, [bruh-NWAHS], French, n.--Savory vegetables, usually used for flavoring sauces or as a garlic, chopped into the tiniest dice possible by hand. Brunoise vegetables are considered better than vegetables chopped in, say, a food processor. The most uniform the dice, the better--particularly in the looks department. Brunoise is a great example of a word which once was used almost exclusively by professional cooks, but is now often mentioned in dish descriptions on restaurant menus. Chefs use to keep such things to themselves, since few diners knew or cared what difference chopping vegetables into small uniform dice made. Now chefs want to tell us everything they do, the more to impress us with their hard work.

Today's Flavor

It's National Beef Stew Day, and the weather will be perfect for it. It will be chilly for the next few days, and we'll need something to warm us up and stick to our ribs. The unique New Orleans twist on beef stew is that it's served over rice. Why not? Wherever there's gravy, there ought to be rice. Beef stew is a close relative to the French dish beef bourguignonne. Other than the inclusion of wine in the recipe, the principal difference between beef stew and beef bourguignonne is about five dollars per serving.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Cubes of good beefsteak
Lightly dusted with flour
Sear 'em, and then take
Red wine with some power
Pour into that hot pan
Whisk, then add onion,
Herbs like marjoram
Stock if you have one
Simmer while you cut
Potatoes and carrots
Turnips, green beans, but
Though it may sound nuts
Boil those separately
Add when beef's juicy
You've now delicately
Made something stewsy!

Gourmet Gazetteer

Sausage Mountain is eighty-one miles north of Sacramento, California. It's a 924-foot butte that really does look like a sausage from the eastern side, on the in on the western slopes of the Sierras. It overlooks the rich vegetable-growing farmlands of the Central Valley to the west. On the east is Oroville Lake, a reservoirs formed from the Feather River. North Is Paradise--literally. In that town, seven miles as the crow flies from the peak of Sausage Mountain, you can have lunch (with chorizo, let's hope?) at Casa de Paradiso Mexican Restaurant.

Music To Eat Turkey By

On this date in 1969, Arlo Guthrie released his most famous album, Alice's Restaurant. The entire LP is taken up with his relating the story of "a Thanksgiving dinner that can't be beat" in Alice's place, and what happened afterwards. Very funny, and an iconic recording of the early 1970s.

Annals Of Weather

Today in 1962, a deep cold wave swept over the South. Temperatures in New Orleans were in the low teens. In Florida, almost the entire citrus crop was lost, and many trees died. The shortage of Florida oranges that followed has been repeated a few times since then. Most recent was the complete disappearance of Florida oranges from New Orleans area groceries . That went on from 2005 until about four years ago, when a few have begun to return.

Annals Of Dressing For Dinner

The clip-on tie was introduced on this date in 1928. Imagine: a time when wearing a tie was so important that even if you couldn't figure out how to tie one, there existed a way for you to sport one anyway. I remember having a few of these when I was a kid, but by the time I was fourteen I wouldn't have been caught dead with a clip-on. Every man should know how to tie both a four-in-hand tie and a bowtie.

Deft Dining Rule #180:

Men who wear beautiful ties in restaurants register unconsciously in the minds of servers as generous tippers, and so get significantly better food and service. (Read the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell for more on this effect.)

The Saints

Today is St. Lucy's Day, celebrated widely in Europe, especially in Scandinavia and Italy. The eldest daughter in the family wears a crown of holly and burning candles (this is really something to see), and serves a breakfast of hot sweet rolls flavored with saffron and cardamom. Nothing like that around here, of course, although you do hear the opera singers at Cafe Giovanni singing "Santa Lucia." St. Lucy is the patron saint of writers, so I ask her intercession.

Annals Of Viticulture

Pierre-Marie-Alexis Millardet was born today in 1838. He created the world's first successful fungicide, which protected from mold and mildew. His first patients: grapevines for wine production. He later attacked another scourge of the vineyard, the phylloxera root louse, which threatened to destroy the vineyards of Europe (and almost all the rest of the world). Without his discoveries, the wine world would be very different now.

Food Namesakes

Russell Porter, an early Alaska explorer, was born today in 1871. . . In 1974 on this date, Jim "Catfish" Hunter was able to break away from Charles Finley's baseball A's and become a free agent, the first time a player had such control of his destiny.

Words To Eat By

"I would like to find a stew that will give me heartburn immediately, instead of at three o'clock in the morning."--John Barrymore.

Words To Drink By

Seamen three! what men be ye?
Gotham's three Wise Men we be.
Whither in your bowl so free?
To rake the moon from out the sea.
The bowl goes trim. The moon doth shine,
And our ballast is old wine.
--Thomas Love Peacock, British writer in the 1800s.