December 15

National Cupcake Day

Cupcakes. Lobster Bay. Spelt. King. Beast. Bees On The Road. Eiffel Tower. Ice Cream Cone. Fats.

Days Until. . .

Christmas 10.New Year's Eve: 17.

Today's Flavor

Stop everything, it's National Cupcake Day. They're too cute for my taste, unless my daughter bakes them, in which case, they're wonderful and delicious. Proving that food vogues can involved the most insignificant things, there's a national rage around the country right now for cafes and bakeries specializing in cupcakes. At least five major cookbooks have emerged on the subject in the last few years. One wonderful thing about a cupcake: just thinking about one warms the heart. But this too will pass.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Lobster Bay is on the west coast of Santa Catalina Island, a rocky, mountainous piece of real estate about twenty miles off the beaches of Los Angeles. The bay is a scuba-diving paradise. Among the abundant sea life you'd see swimming among the coral will be California spiny lobsters. These have no large claws, but are otherwise excellent eating. They're typically seven to ten inches long, but can grow much larger. All the restaurants are in the town of Avalon, about ten miles from Lobster Bay. Sounds like the Lobster Trap is the place to lunch.

Edible Dictionary

spelt, n.--One of the most primitive forms of wheat, spelt has been cultivated by humans for at least six millennia. It is probably not wild, but its wild roots are not far behind it. It is thought by some plant biologists to have descended from emmer, which is one step from a truly wild wheat ancestor. Spelt has continued to grow throughout Europe, although it has not been harvested on a large scale for a long time. However, the health food crowd has taken a liking to spelt's high nutritional value, and it's beginning to get popular. All the uses to which wheat can be put can also come from spelt. The flour has a pleasant nutty taste. Shouldn't be long before some chef tries to make a big deal about it.

Deft Dining Rule #73:

In a restaurant with a well-trained service staff, it will be almost impossible to empty a glass of any beverage, water to wine. The servers will refill it before you get to the bottom of it.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

If you need to measure honey or molasses or some other thick liquid, measure the oil you'll need first. (If there is no oil, pour some into the cup or spoon and pour it back out.) The thick syrupy liquid will not stick to the spoon or the cup.

Food Through History

The first reigning king ever to visit the United States did so today in 1874. King Kalakaua of the Sandwich Islands--soon to be renamed the Hawaiian Islands--was the guest of President Ulysses S. Grant.. . . On this day in 1862, lavish parties were held throughout New Orleans saluting the departure of Major General Benjamin F. "Beast" Butler. He was in charge of the occupying Union forces here after the city surrendered early in the war. His policies made him the most despised man in the history of our city until FEMA's Michael Brown came along. Butler's demeanor was marked by a particular disrespect for the ladies of New Orleans.

Food On The Road

Today in 2004, about twelve million bees were killed as they were hosed off I-15 near Las Vegas. A truck carrying them in almost 500 colonies crashed into a wall and spilled the bees--in rush hour, yet. The bees were on their way to pollinate the almond crop in California. What a tragic loss of honey!

Restaurant Namesakes

Gustave Eiffel was born today in 1832. He designed and built one of the world's most famous structures. The tower named for him in Paris is an immediately recognizable icon for all things French. Its image appears on thousands of French menus worldwide. From the beginning, The Eiffel Tower had a restaurant about a quarter of the way up. In the late 1970s it was discovered to be too heavy for the structure, and dismantled. The pieces wound up in New Orleans. Chef Daniel Bonnot and partner John Onorio, who'd worked together at Louis XVI, reassembled what was left of the old restaurant (much of the wood had rotted). It opened in 1985 as Restaurant de la Tour d'Eiffel on St. Charles Avenue at Josephine, to a great deal of acclaim. But it only lasted a few years. The building has seen many food operations since. It's currently called Eiffel Society.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Today is as good a day as any to call the birthday of the ice cream cone. A patent for a mold used to form and bake the edible containers was issued today in 1903 to Italo Marchiony, an Italian immigrant who sold ice cream from a pushcart on Wall Street. He served the ice cream in folded waffles that he baked himself. It was so distinctive an idea that he soon had a fleet of carts. He took the idea to the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. From there, the ice cream cone took over the world.

Food Namesakes

Fats Waller, one of the seminal figures of early jazz, with a singing voice as distinctive as his piano style, died today in 1943 of pneumonia. He was only 39. Oh yes he did that man done died. (Waller always ended his songs with a rambling line like that.). . . Mike Cherry, a quarterback for the Giants, was born today in 1973. . . The classical composer August Freyer came to earth today in 1803. . . The USS Swordfish became the first US submarine to sink a Japanese ship in World War II, today in 1941--just over a week after Pearl Harbor. After the war, it was blackened.

Words To Eat By

"By and byGod caught his eye."--Epitaph for a waiter, by American writer David McCord, born today in 1897.

Words To Drink By

"One never knows, does one?"--Fats Waller.