March 15

Caesar Salad

Days Until. . .

St. Patrick's Day--Today St. Joseph's Day--2 Easter--29

Food Calendar

Today is Pear Belle Helene Day. This is a rarely-seen dessert these days, once considered a classic. The fact that it's out of style makes it no less good. It's prepared by poaching pears in citrus juices and vanilla, then serving them with ice cream and chocolate sauce. Here's a very good recipe for it in which everything, including the ice cream, is made from scratch.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Lima is a community of 160 people in west central Illinois. It is the second most western town in the state, after its bigger neighbor Quincy, fifteen miles south. The Mississippi River is six miles west. Growing corn is the big activity. Somebody must grow lima beans, too, right? Lima was hit by an enormous multi-vortex tornado wedge on May 10, 2003, destroying a number of houses. But not the nearest restaurant, the Hoop and Wink, six miles south in Ursa.

Salads Through History

It is the Ides of March, a bad day for Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.E. Let's have a Caesar salad in his remembrance today, even though the Caesar salad is only indirectly named for him. Its direct namesake is Cesar Cardini, the Italian-Mexican chef who invented it in Acapulco.

Restaurant Namesakes

Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States and the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, was born on this date in 1767. His statue stands in the most prominent place in our city, in a square named for him. So was Jackson Avenue, Jax Beer, and the Andrew Jackson Restaurant. It was a grand dining venue in the 1960s and 1970s in the 200 block of Royal Street. The restaurant's menu was largely created by Chef Warren Leruth on a consulting basis with the owners. It was a good but rarely brilliant restaurant, serving gilded versions traditional local dishes. It's strange that no popular dishes are named for Old Hickory. Galatoire's used to have a great potato and ham soup called Jackson soup, but they don't serve it much anymore. There's a Jackson salad at Brennan's, but that's named for former radio personality and entertainment writer Jill Jackson.

Music To Eat By

Red beans and ricely yours, Louis Armstrong was honored on a postage stamp released on this day in 1995. . . Another trumpeter, Harry James, was born today in 1916. He gave Frank Sinatra his first major gig, which Sinatra always said was the big break of his career. Harry James was the granduncle of Clark Marter, the Gourmet Truck Driver, a regular caller to my radio show.

Restaurant History

In 1965, the first T.G.I.Friday's opened in New York City. This is more significant than it may seem. The restaurant was the first singles pick-up bar, and according to founder Alan Stillman, its popularity largely owed to the recent introduction of The Pill. Stillman sold it and moved on to a little project called Smith and Wollensky. The modern T.G.I.Friday's is not much like the original. The New Orleans-area locations closed a bit before Katrina, but they are coming back, in the former Chevy's locations. That's a step sideways if ever I saw one.

Deft Dining Rule #163:

A person who will have a drink with you but will not stay with you for dinner will not be someone you'll like cooking with.

Eating Around America

Maine became a state today in 1820. It's one of the most productive places in the country for seafood, with several famous specialties. Most famous of them, of course, is Maine lobster--of the homardus genus, with the oversize claws, without questions the best in the world. (Although Canada actually outproduces Maine by quite a bit.) If you ever find yourself in Maine, go to a little town on the coast and eat as many lobsters as you can. They are distinctly better than their kind that travel to New Orleans first before being cooked. Also good in Maine are mussels and sea scallops. Indeed, most of the ones we eat here come from there. Then there is the. . .

Edible Dictionary

Veronique, French, adj.--A dish whose sauce or garnish includes grapes. The grapes are usually green and cut in halves. The sauce is usually come variation on hollandaise, which is glazed under the broiler after covering the main item. Which is fish more often than not, but can be other lighter proteins. The fish is usually poached. It's a dish considered the province of fancy restaurants, but is really simple. It is also subtly flavored, with little in the way of pepper.

Food Namesakes

Astronaut Alan Bean was born today in 1931. . . William Lamb, Prime Minister of England in the 1830s, was born today in 1779.

Food In Science

Today is the birthday (1858) of Liberty Hyde Bailey, who is credited with creating the science of horticulture. He wrote encyclopedias on the varieties of edible plants, and coined the word "cultivar" as a way of distinguishing a cultivated strain of a plant from its wild form.

Words To Eat By

"Statistics show that of those who contract the habit of eating, very few survive."--Wallace Irwin, American writer, born today in 1875.

Words To Drink By

"I've rarely met a cocktail I didn't like."--Tim Barrett, educator, born today in 1953.