March 17

Corned Beef and CabbageSt. Patrick's. Potato Mound. Corned Beef And Cabbage. Sugar Helper. Gnocchi.

Days Until. . .

French Quarter Festival--Today St. Joseph's Day--2 Easter--29

Top O'The Mornin' To You

St. Patrick's Day brings forth little in the way of Irish food to New Orleans. Restaurants have corned beef and cabbage and perhaps green beer, but that's about the extent of it. Of course, one of the reasons for this is that Irish cuisine is nearly an oxymoron. The main food concern of the Irish seems to have been limited to having enough of it. Only the worldwide interest in dining well has brought advanced cooking to the Emerald Isle. The primary exception to all the above is the Irish House, opened by Dublin native and Chef Matt Murphy not long after Katrina. The menu is a collection of familiar Irish and British food along with no small amount of New Orleans eats. There's music most evenings. Today, St. Patrick's, day, there will be live acts all day and into the evening. Here's their web site. This does not prevent lots of people from celebrating the day. The restaurant that long ago emerged as GHQ for St. Patrick's Day is Parasol's, a long-running poor boy joint and bar on the corner of Second and Constance, well within the Irish Channel. But that party has split in two since last year. The former operators of Parasol's now operate Tracey's, two blocks away. You have a choice: the old guys at the new place, or the new guys at the old place.

Restaurant Anniversaries

As appropriate as anything could be, today is the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of Clancy's. An old neighborhood bar in an increasingly spiffy neighborhood received a light gentrification from the original owners, who were united in being Republicans--rarer then in New Orleans politics than now. The chef was Chris Canan, fresh from a stint at K-Paul's. He and his successors latched onto one of the most pervasive trends ever to sweep through the restaurant scene: the Gourmet Creole Bistro. Clancy's first stroke of originality was its mesquite pit. It was the first non-barbecue restaurant here to smoke food in-house. Ownership over the years devolved upon former waiter and manager Brad Hollingsworth, who still runs the place. His passion for wine brought Clancy's one of the best wine cellars around--certainly for a restaurant of its small size. Since the hurricane, Clancy's has been one of the busiest of the Uptown restaurants. Getting even a spot at the bar to have dinner has become a challenge. The food of Steve Manning is more than a small attraction.

Today's Flavor

It's International Corned Beef And Cabbage Day, of course. Not as emblematic a dish in Ireland as we consider it here in the U.S., every Irish restaurant in and out of Ireland serves it, mainly because American tourists expect to find it. I have a great trick for making corned beef from my friend and fellow barbershop singer Sherwood Platt, who's only half Irish (he's "-ish.") It's simple enough: when you boil the corned beef brisket, add a tablespoon of liquid crab boil to the gallon or two of water. You won't taste the crab boil flavor, but you will taste something good.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Cabbage Creek is a low-lying bayou in northeastern Florida. It runs through wetlands , beginning on the western side of the Marsh Landing Country Club's golf course, then meandering north until it flows into Pablo Creek, which separates Jacksonville from Jacksonville Beach. The nearest restaurant is Jacks or Better, about two miles as the crow flies east of the creek.

Edible Dictionary

A hallmark of the Irish home, soda bread is a quick-rising bread made with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) as the leavening agent. It's something like American buttermilk biscuits, except that no baking powder is used--just soda. Soda bread is also made larger than biscuits. In order to get the greatest release of carbon dioxide (that's what makes the dough rise and become light), soda bread is usually made with buttermilk, whose high lactic acid content reacts with the baking soda. It's traditional for a cross to be cut with a knife on the top of a soda bread roll. This is to allow the bread to heat and then rise more evenly. Of course, it had taken on a religious significance, too.

Food Inventions

On this date in 1806, Norbert Rillieux was born in New Orleans. He was a free man of color who became an accomplished inventor. His most important work from our point of view was a vacuum evaporator that removed the water from sugar cane juice much more efficiently than any previous process. It was patented in 1843, and he made so much money from it that he was able to move to France, to escape the increasing political pressures on black people in New Orleans.

Music To Eat Frim-Fram Sauce By

Nat "King" Cole was born today in 1919. He was my mother's favorite singer, a brilliant jazz pianist, and a sparkling, funny personality. The longer he's been gone, the greater his creative gifts seem. His music still sounds fresh to my ears. By the way, in the song he asks for the frim-fram sauce with the aussen fay, with chafafa on the side. And if he can't get that, just bring him a check for the water.

Food And The Law

Today in 2002, McDonald's settled a lawsuit by various vegetarian organizations and religious groups by paying out $10 million. The beef was that the hamburger chain didn't disclose that its French fries were flavored with beef extracts and fat. We're still mad at them for ceasing their use of fresh-cut potatoes in the 1960s, but lawsuits give us heartburn.

Food And The Environment

On March 17 in 1997, the Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carre Spillway into Lake Pontchartrain. The cost of that is often an upsetting of the natural balances of life in the lake, and so everybody who makes a living from it complains whenever it's opened. It seems to have little permanent effect, however, and some beneficial effects on the flora. Still, the crabbers use it as an excuse to raise prices.

Food Namesakes

1996 Olympic soccer star Mia Hamm was born today in 1972. . . Comedian Phil Baker, the Armour Jester (for his sponsor, the Armour Meat Company), began a new radio show today in 1933 on the Blue Network. . . British Antarctic explorer Lawrence Oates was born today in 1880. He also died today in 1912, when he went out from camp on the freezing continent and never came back. . . Robin Cook, a member of the British cabinet, resigned in protest over his country's military involvement in the Iraq War today in 2003.

Words To Eat By

"Laughter is brightest where food is best."--Irish proverb.

Words To Drink By

"May the enemies of Ireland never eat bread nor drink whisky, but be tormented with itching without benefit of scratching."--Unknown.