April 2

Seafood Beignets

Today is <strong>Seafood Beignet Day. </strong>A beignet is any fried lump of dough--not just the kind we get with cafe au lait at the Morning Call. The English translation is "fritter." You can make up the dough with seafood and herbs inside, fry it, and serve it with something like an aioli. The best I remember were the bacalaitos that Chef Adolfo Garcia used to make as an appetizer or a tapas at the extinct Rio Mar. I'm no fan of codfish (the main seafood ingredient in these) but the rest of the concoction is too light and delicious to disdain. Similar things can be made with crawfish, crabmeat, shrimp, or any seafood.

Days Until. . .

Easter 3
French Quarter Festival 7
Jazz Festival 23

Annals Of Citrus

Today in 1513, Juan Ponce de Leon landed in Florida. He carried orange and lemon trees with him and planted them, beginning the now-enormous citrus industry in the Sunshine State. From which, in the past few years, we have not received fresh oranges, to our concern and dismay. Florida suffered major freezes and hurricane damage in 2004 and 2005, and again this past winter. It seems that all the orange crop is now going into the frozen concentrate stream. Alas.

Eggs In Politics

The first Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn was to have taken place place today in 1877, but it rained. Games for kids involving Easter eggs had been going on for many years, mostly on the grounds of the Capitol, but problems with crowds moved President Rutherford B. Hayes to organize it better. By 1878, it became an official White House tradition, and hardly a year has been missed since, except during wartime. After the eggs are raced with spoons across the lawn, everyone goes out for eggrolls and egg sushi rolls.

Today's Flavor

Many sources say it's National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day. My late friend Dick Brennan Sr.'s take on the matter says all that needs to be said. "You know why kids like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Because they're good." Today is Seafood Beignet Day. A beignet is any fried lump of dough--not just the kind we get with cafe au lait at the Morning Call. The English translation is "fritter." You can make up the dough with seafood and herbs inside, fry it, and serve it with something like an aioli. The best I remember were the bacalaitos that Chef Adolfo Garcia used to make as an appetizer or a tapas at the extinct Rio Mar. I'm no fan of codfish (the main seafood ingredient in these) but the rest of the concoction is too light and delicious to disdain. Similar things can be made with crawfish, crabmeat, shrimp, or any seafood.

Deft Dining Rule #918:

Never take a bite from a beignet if there's a possibility that one of the people you're with is about to say something funny.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Strawberry Mountain is thirty-four miles southeast of Missoula, Montana, in the John Long Mountains and Lolo National Forest--pure unspoiled wilderness, with only pack trails entering the area, and not many of those. Strawberry Mountain lives up to its name for passers-by on I-90 ten miles north. It rises to 6810 feet, 3000 feet above the Clark Fork Valley where the highway runs. Potato Gulch is on its southeastern quarter. If any of that makes you hungry, it's an eight and a half mile hike from the summit of Strawberry Mountain to Ekstron's Stage Station, a genuine stage stop with the original 1800s buildings. They serve authentic pioneer meals, sez their website.

Edible Dictionary

charlotte russe, n.--A rich French dessert made of lady fingers or sponge cake set into a deep dish, with Bavarian cream filling the center. It's then topped with more lady fingers and served cold. It was created by the famous chef Marie Antoine Careme, who named it in honor of his Russian customer Czar Alexander I. A "charlotte" in general is the same idea, but with infinite variations in the filling. Sometimes it includes fruit purees, and custard or whipped cream between the layers. The word's origin is uncertain, but the Penguin Companion To Food says it came from the Old English word "charlyt," which meant "custard."

Food Through History

Today in 1863, the women of Richmond--then the capital of the Confederacy--rioted because they had no bread, flour, or salt. That lack was due to the starvation strategy of Union forces. They knew that little wheat was farmed in the South, and they burned every cornfield they found. The Yanks also occupied all sources of salt, including the famous mines at Avery Island in Louisiana. The women rampaged through town, breaking into stores and commissaries and taking home loads of food. With his own wife causing havoc, what chance did Johnny Reb have?

Music To Make Wine By

Marvin Gaye, whose version of I Heard It Through The Grapevine was a signature song of the Motown Sound in the 1960s, was born today in 1939.

Music To Bake Cakes By

Eileen Barton had a top hit on this date in 1950 with the song If I Knew You Were Coming I'd've Baked A Cake. If you happen to hear this song coming on the radio (very unlikely), turn if off immediately. It can lodge itself in your consciousness and not leave for days.

Food In Show Biz

Buddy Ebsen was born today in 1908. He was best known for playing Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies, in which there were more than a few hilarious moments when Jed disdained the fine food and wine that came his way for the white lightning and Mammy's cooking. But in real life Ebsen was a gourmet. One of his favorite restaurants was Antoine's in New Orleans. Once he visited the kitchen there, and stopped right in the middle of that expansive space. All the cooks stopped what they were doing when they saw Ebsen's very familiar face face. He looked around for a moment, and said, in his Jed Clampett voice, "Wheee doggies!" (True story.)

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Urban, the bishop of Langres (France) in the Fourth Century. He had a special relationship with the people who grew grapevines for the making of wine (sacramental and otherwise). So he is one of many patron saints of winegrowers, barrelmakers, and alcoholics.

Food Namesakes

Keren Woodward, of the rock group Bananarama, was born today in 1961. . . Charlemagne, King of the Franks and the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, was born today in 742. An incomparable white Burgundy, Corton Charlemagne, is named for him.

Words To Eat By

"What will be the death of me are bouillabaisses, food spiced with pimiento, shellfish, and a load of exquisite rubbish which I eat in disproportionate quantities."--Emile Zola, French writer and gourmet, born today in 1840. "Eggs are very much like small boys. If you overheat them or overbeat them, they will turn on you and no amount of future love will right the wrong."--Irena Chalmers, British cookbook author.

Words To Drink By

"The chief reason for drinking is the desire to behave in a certain way, and to be able to blame it on alcohol."--Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook.