March 22

Coq au Vin.

Days Until. . .

French Quarter Festival--14 Easter --<18> Jazz Festival--37

Today's Flavor

It is Coq au Vin Day. A "coq" is, strictly speaking, a castrated rooster. He gets big and fat and too tough to broil or fry, so you cook him for a long time with white wine, onions, and chunks of pork belly or bacon. It's a French country classic, one which has seen a revival with the increase in the number of French bistros in America. It would be more common still had it not been so common--in the pejorative sense--in the 1950s and 1960s. Back then, every restaurant serving chicken in a reddish-brown sauce called it coq au vin, no matter how far their recipe was from the real thing. When too many people had one too many mediocre coqs au vin, the dish went out of vogue and all but disappeared.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Oysterville, Oregon is on the south bank of the Yaquina River, about six miles upstream from the Pacific Ocean. Tides push enough salt water up the river that oysters do grow around there. A pair of piers into the lake-like river allow good fishing. If you want to eat something other than raw oysters or the fish you catch, Fishtails Cafe in Newport, three and a half miles away, can serve you.

Edible Dictionary

tikka, Indian, n.--An Indian word for a dish cooked and served on a skewer. It's very similar to a kebab, except that the chunks of meat (chicken, most commonly, but cheese or vegetables are also jabbed onto the stick) tend to be smaller than they are in Middle Eastern cookery, from which the concept probably came. (Or perhaps vice-versa--it's not really known). Tikkas are usually roasted in tandoors in Indian restaurants that have those hot clay ovens. Tikkas are incredibly popular in England, where they sell as well as any other street food.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

If you're making a chicken dish with a lot of sauce, or a chicken soup, you get much better flavor from a hen or a rooster than from a fryer. A better price, too.

Annals Of Water

This is World Water Day, declared by the United Nations in 1993. Here in New Orleans we have a little too much fresh water, what with the Mississippi River. But many parts of the world aren't as lucky. It's a virtual certainty this our resources will someday be tapped for those drier areas. Meanwhile, the challenge of getting clean water to people in the poorest parts of the world is on the verge of becoming a reality, as some astonishing breakthroughs in water purification technology continue to be developed. All that's needed now, really, is money.

Further Adventures In Water

Today in 1733, Joseph Priestly invented carbonated water. The first thought that comes to mind is: imagine if the guy had a patent on that, such that he collected a royalty off every Coca-Cola, gin and tonic, or nectar soda ever sold! Make Google look like chump change. Anyway, we're indebted to Dr. Priestly not just for that, but for oxygen, which he also discovered. And the rubber eraser. Smart guy.

Deft Dining Rule #231:

To check the mental acuity of a server or bartender, order a San Pellegrino and water and time how long it takes him to say, "a what?"

Food In Show Biz

Chico Marx (the one with the pointy hat) was born today in 1887. He was in Duck Soup , Animal Crackers, and all the other Marx Brothers' movies. I think his character was supposed to be Italian. . . Glen Campbell was born today in 1936. His first hit, Gentle On My Mind, had this memorable food line: "I dip my cup of soup back from a gurglin', cracklin' cauldron in some train yard." . . . Today in 1975, the song Lady Marmalade was Number One on the pop charts. It was about a lusty Creole down here in my neighborhood.

Annals Of Alcohol

Today in 1933, while waiting for the full repeal of Prohibition, President Franklin Roosevelt signed a declaration allowing beer and wine up to 3.2 percent alcohol to be sold. That's not much, but it was something, and it whetted the appetite for something stronger.

Food And Drink Namesakes

Patrick Olive, who played the drums in the band Hot Chocolate, was unstuffed today in 1947. . . Sean Berry, infielder for the Astros, came to life today in 1966. . . NFL linebacker Joey Porter came out of the huddle today in 1977.

Words To Eat By

"It is the sauce that distinguishes a good chef. The saucier is a soloist in the orchestra of a great kitchen."--Fernand Point, famous French chef and writer in the first half of the 1900s.

Words To Drink By

"It gives men courage and ambition and the nerve for anything. It has the color of gold, is clear as a glass and shines after dark as if the sunshine were still in it."--O. Henry, speaking of bourbon whiskey.