April 24 In Eating
April

April 24 In Eating

AlmanacSquare This is National Prosciutto Day. Prosciutto is dry-cured ham. Dry-curing takes much longer, and creates a much more intense flavor, than the brine curing more commonly applied to hams. To make prosciutto, salt is applied to the outside of skinned pig legs, usually with the bones still inside, and hung up to dry for as much as a year. ¶ In the old days, that was done outdoors. Now prosciutto makers have big warehouses whose walls allow free movement of air from outside through the hanging hams. The word derives from a Latin word that means “all dried out,” which it is after all that time. ¶ The best prosciutto comes from Parma and San Daniele in Italy, but much prosciutto is made in this country. Its flavor is very intense; it should be sliced as thin as possible, and used sparingly. ¶ Classic uses of prosciutto include wrapping melon slices with it, stuffing it into veal and poultry concoctions, and standing alone as antipasto. Read entire article.

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April 23 In Eating

AlmanacSquare This is National Picnic Week. It’s a wonderful day for a picnic in South Louisiana, the only place in the world where a picnic might well include boiled crawfish. Perhaps even boiled there in the park, now that everybody seems to have one of those gas-fired rigs. The word “picnic” comes from the French expression “pique nique,” which roughly translates as “picking at little things.” That’s what you do, of course. The funny thing about picnics is that you wind up eating more than you would at a formal dinner, especially if ribs or burgers are in the offing. That potato salad will come and get you, too.
Read entire article. National Picnic Week. It’s a wonderful day for a picnic in South Louisiana, the only place in the world where a picnic might well include boiled crawfish. Perhaps even boiled there in the park, now that everybody seems to have one of those gas-fired rigs. The word “picnic” comes from the French expression “pique nique,” which roughly translates as “picking at little things.” That’s what you do, of course. The funny thing about picnics is that you wind up eating more than you would at a formal dinner, especially if ribs or burgers are in the offing. That potato salad will come and get you, too. Read More. . .

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April 12 In Eating.
April

April 12 In Eating.

April 12, 2017 Days Until. . . French Quarter Festival–April 12-15 Jazz Festival–April 27-May 6> Today’s Flavor Today is National Licorice Day. Most licorice on the candy rack contains no actual licorice. The natural licorice flavor–similar to those of fennel or anise–comes from the root of a European plant. It contains, in addition to the distinctive taste, a compound called glycyrrhizin–the sweetest natural substance on earth. It’s being used in a new kind of artificial sweetener that hasn’t quite been perfected yet. Licorice is more widely used in drugs and…

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Diary 4/6/2018-Train To Meridian.

Friday, April 6, 2018. A Mini-Vacation. A few weeks ago I mentioned to Mary Ann that I needed a short vacation. She became an advocate for that idea, while not including herself in the break. Instead, her idea was for me to be a sort of demi-traveler whose itinerary would appeal to almost nobody but me. The route we came up with was about 200 miles each way, from New Orleans Union Station to Meridian, Mississippi. In Meridian, I would meet up with our daughter and have lunch. Then she…

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April 10 In Eating
April

April 10 In Eating

AlmanacSquare National Soft-Shell Crab Day. Soft-shell crabs are just beginning to appear right now. The early part of the season is best, with the biggest specimens we may see all year. Soft-shell crabs are almost absurdly delectable. Every creature that eats crabs relishes these. It’s a wonder any crabs make it past that vulnerable stage. Soft-shell crabs are blue crabs that have just molted their too-small shells. Almost all the ones that come our way are farm-raised. (The wild ones hide very effectively, and finding one is dumb luck.) Soft-shell crab producers can tell when a crab is about to molt. Read entire article.

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April 27 In Eating
April

April 27 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Prime Rib Day. Prime rib is, speaking strictly, the three rearmost ribs from the primal rib roast. However, most restaurants and butchers consider all seven ribs in the standard rib roast as being prime rib. The ones in the back have a bigger “eye” in the center and smaller islands of lean around the perimeter of fat. It’s the same cut used for ribeye steaks, but before the bone is removed. More to come. . .

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April 25 In Eating.
April

April 25 In Eating.

Felix Klein, the inventor of the Klein bottle, was born today in 1849. A Klein bottle has no inside or outside; the two merge into one continuous side. Problem: it requires four dimensions. If you find yourself drinking from a Klein bottle, you’ve had too much. (Or, really, nothing: a Klein bottle has no volume.) Read More. . .

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April 21 In Eating
April

April 21 In Eating

AlmanacSquare This is the anniversary of the founding of Rome in 753 BC. Its glories are so great that one is easily distracted from eating there, despite the presence of many restaurants serving the first great European cuisine.

It’s also National Romano Cheese Day. Romano cheese is a long-aged, hard grating cheese made from sheep’s milk–hence its tangy flavor. The best Romano cheese is Pecorino Romano, the exclusive appellation of a consortium of makers in a wide area in Italy (not just around Rome). Romano cheese has a long history, extending all the way back to the ancient Roman Empires. Although Parmigiana cheese has a more vaunted reputation in this country, there’s nothing like Romano–especially in the making of lasagna.

Today is also Chocolate-Covered Cashew Truffle Day. That must have been started by someone who makes such a thing. Read entire article.

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April 19 In Eating
April

April 19 In Eating

April 19, 2017 Days Until. . . Jazz Festival–10 Mother’s Day–25 Eating Around The World Today in 1770, British Captain James Cook sighted Australia for the first time. Outback notwithstanding, the influence of Australia on our eating habits is slight. The most popular Australian food in this country is the lamb from down under, found in many restaurants and supermarkets. We also get a lot of cold-water Australian lobster tails. (You never see more than the tail because there isn’t much of a head.) These are not bad, but too…

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April 18 In Eating
April

April 18 In Eating

Admiral Farragut’s Union fleet crossed the bar at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Within a few days, New Orleans was under Union control,and would remain so. It was very early in the Civil War. While not a proud moment in the city’s history, it did eliminate the possibility of a destructive battle there. Read More. . .

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April 17 In Eating
April

April 17 In Eating

AlmanacSquare phosphates, n., pl.–Bubbly drinks made with phosphoric acid, once widely used in soda fountains to add sharpness to the flavor of sodas. They were particularly popular in fruit-flavored drinks, such as cherry, orange, and lemon. Even before the soda fountain disappeared from the scene, phosphates went out of style. Some health authorities say that it causes problems in absorbing calcium in the body. Citric acid had largely replaced phosphates in bottled soft drinks, although they’re still used by some bottlers. Read entire article.

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April 13 In Eating
April

April 13 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Baron Philippe de Rothschild was born today in 1902. At age 20, he took over management of Chateau Mouton, which his great-grandfather bought in 1853. For the next two decades, he was single-minded in the pursuit of first-growth status for Mouton, which had been a second growth in the great Bordeaux classification of 1855. His motto: “Premier ne puis, second ne daigne. Mouton suis.” (First I am denied, second I disdain. I am just Mouton.) Read entire article.

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April 11 In Eating
April

April 11 In Eating

On this date ninety years apart, two events shaped the cuisine and culture of Southeast Louisiana. In 1803, during negotiations to sell New Orleans to the United States, France’s Foreign Minister Charles Talleyrand offered to throw in the entire Louisiana territory for a couple million dollars more. It took Robert Livingston by surprise, but he and Thomas Jefferson felt they couldn’t turn the offer down. Ninety years before, in 1713, the Peace of Utrecht was signed. What are now the Maritime Provinces of Canada were ceded by France to England. The territory included the French colony of Acadiana, in the present Nova Scotia. French settlers were told to pledge allegiance to the English crown. Many who refused were deported, and wound up in the bayou country southwest of New Orleans. Living in isolation there for two centuries, they developed the Cajun culture and cuisine. Read More. . .

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April 6 In Eating
April

April 6 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It is Citywide Calas Day here in New Orleans. Calas are Creole rice cakes, rolled into a ball with cinnamon and sugar and fried. A century ago, calas were widely sold from street corner carts. For years, the only restaurant that serves calas is the Coffee Pot on St. Peter Street; they still do, as a breakfast item. In 2008, the Calas Bistro in Kenner tried to revive and expand the scope of the dish. It didn’t work out. Thank goodness for the Coffee Pot! Read entire article.

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April 5 In Eating
April

April 5 In Eating

April 5, 2017 Days Until. . . French Quarter Festival–1 Easter —11 Jazz Festival–23 Legends Of New Orleans Dining In 1910 on this date, one of the most important New Orleans restaurateurs of all time was born. Thirty-six years later, Owen Edward Brennan founded Brennan’s. He was later joined in the business by his siblings Adelaide, John, Ella, Dick, and Dottie, and then by his sons Pip, Ted, and Jimmy Brennan. What came out of that combination was a style of grand dining that dominated the high end of the…

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April 29 In Eating

AlmanacSquare On this date in 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt visited New Orleans for the dedication of Roosevelt Mall in City Park, a project of Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. Lots of great Art Deco bridges, statues, and markers remain from that. Then they went to lunch at Antoine’s, and New Orleans mayor Robert Maestri asked a question that became immortal: “How do ya like dem ersters, Mr. President?” Read entire article.

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April 28 In Eating

AlmanacSquare The celebration of the best part of crawfish season here in Louisiana continues. Today is Crawfish Pie Day. Crawfish pie became famous outside the precincts where it’s most enjoyed through the agency of Hank Williams’s hit song Jambalaya. That song created a three-way combo that Cajun restaurants offer to this day: jambalaya, crawfish pie, and filé gumbo. ¶ Crawfish pie starts with the same ensemble of ingredients you’d use to make crawfish etouffee, but with no tomato and less liquid. It’s also enriched with a little cream and thickened with a touch of egg. Although the classic crawfish pie is made in a standard (but small) pie shell, my preference is to make it as a turnover, baked or fried. Read entire article.

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April 26 In Dining
April

April 26 In Dining

April 26, 2017 Upcoming Deliciousness Jazz Festival–April 27-May 6 Mother’s Day–May 13 Food Calendar This is National Pretzel Day. Most of us first encounter pretzels in their small, hard form, the kind you get in a bag for a crunchy, salty snack. When I was a kid, the most common pretzels were sticks, sold in small rectangular boxes for a nickel. Now the traditional pretzel shape, which was supposed to represent a boy’s arms when at prayer (the story has it that the original pretzels were the reward for learning…

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April 22 In Eating

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AlmanacSquare Today is Crawfish Bisque Day. In the opinion of many, no crawfish dish is better. It’s substantial enough that it can be served as an entree, although in restaurants it’s more often served by the cup as a preliminary course. ¶ The classic Cajun style veers far from the standard definition of bisque in French cooking. Instead of being thickened with cream or pureed rice, it’s made with a dark roux, pulverized crawfish tail meat, and crawfish stock. It’s thick, spicy, and aromatic. ¶ Stuffed crawfish heads are considered by many eaters as sine qua non. (We stick by our dictum that stuffing and unstuffing the heads is a pointless waste of time, and recommend using crawfish boulettes, made with the same stuffing, instead.) Read entire article.

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April 20 In Eating
April

April 20 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today in 1862, Louis Pasteur proved the effectiveness of the process that bears his name. In glass jars, he sealed several liquids notable for their ability to turn truly foul. He then heated them to a high temperature, but below the boiling point, and held them for over a month. The liquids were as nasty as when they went in, but no more so. No fermentation or decomposition occurred. The first major use of pasteurization involved beer. Next was milk. Pasteur’s method doesn’t stop deterioration entirely, but slows it so much that these products, and many more to come, had what came much later to be known as a longer shelf life. Read entire article.

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April 14 In Eating
April

April 14 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Hush Puppy Day. Hush puppies are an important part of a well-balanced mess of fried catfish. We see them on other fried seafood platters, too. ¶ Most of the time the role of hush puppies is strictly as cheap filler, and that’s probably how they came to be in the first place. ¶ The story (no idea whether it’s true) is that the cook carrying food from the kitchen across the courtyard to the dining room of the main house had to do so with dogs running underfoot. To quiet them, she made some of the coating for the fish or chicken into a ball, fried it up, and threw it to the dogs. Who, of course, went after it. ¶ Hush puppies can be raised to a higher level. By incorporating onions, bell peppers, parsley, and perhaps some fresh corn and a little jalapeno, one comes out with a hush puppy that is stands alone. ¶ The best hush puppies I ever ate were and are at Cuevas Fish House, an all-you-can-eat fried whole catfish place near Picayune Mississippi. Read entire article.

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April 8 In Eating.

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AlmanacSquare Today in 1879 was the first day milk was sold in bottles. Echo Farms Dairy of New York was the marketer. Before then, you bought milk by the pail if you didn’t have your own cows to milk. Bottled milk was the rule until about 1960, when a shift from home deliveries to supermarkets made the cardboard carton popular. Now, the bottle–made of plastic–is taking over again. When we started school in 1956, they served us milk in little bottles with a thick cardboard stopper. When you pulled open its tab, a hole was revealed for inserting your straw. Read entire article.

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April 7 In Eating
April

April 7 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It’s National Coffee Cake Day. I once overheard someone in a bakery say that he didn’t like coffee cake because he didn’t like the taste of coffee. Of course, there’s no coffee in coffee cake–unless you spill your mug into it. The basic coffee cake is a sweet, crumbly, thick cake of flour, eggs, sugar, and butter, topped with a streusel of sugar, nuts, and cinnamon. It’s often baked in a tube pan, leaving a hole in the center. Coffee cakes often include other ingredients; apples and blueberries are common. They’re best eaten right after they finish cooling. With a cup of coffee, naturally. I have a recipe for a basic coffee cake here. Read entire article.

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April 4 In Eating
April

April 4 In Eating

Roots Of Creole Cooking. Today in 1812, the Territory of Orleans was admitted to the Union and became the State of Louisiana. Happy birthday to us! Two years later on this date (or perhaps two days from now–the exact date is unclear), the event that gave the Napoleon House its name occurred. Napoleon Bonaparte abdicated as emperor of France, and was exiled to the island of Elba. Nicholas Girod, former mayor of New Orleans, offered Napoleon an apartment in his building the corner of St. Louis and Chartres. The apartment is now used for private parties by the Napoleon House, one of the city’s most famous watering holes. Read More. . .

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April 1 In Eating

AlmanacSquare This is Sourdough Bread Day. Sourdough is to San Francisco what New Orleans-style French bread is to our town. It’s served everywhere a local flavor is desired. It’s an interesting product. The making of sourdough begins with a mixture of flour and water set out in the open to capture free-floating yeasts from the air. (San Francisco is supposed to have the best airborne yeast in the world, but that has never been proven.) Read entire article.

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April 30 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is allegedly National Raisin Day. Raisins are ultra-ripe red grapes. They remain on the vine until wrinkled and intensely sweet. The same effect comes from picking the grapes and letting them ripen in open baskets. Raisins are very good for you, but not everybody likes them. In every pan of bread pudding–in which raisins are a common ingredient–I put all the raisins on one side, leaving the other raisin-free. ¶ The strangest use of raisins I ever heard of was a game played in England a century ago. You put raisins in a bowl of brandy and ignite them in a darkened room. The game was to reach into the flames and pluck out raisins, then eat them. They’d still be on fire, but as soon as you closed your mouth the flames would be extinguished. We do not recommend this game. ¶ I also note that today ends National Soy Foods Month. Darn! We forgot to do anything about that! Read entire article.

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April 16 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Eggs Benedict Day. Eggs Benedict are the best known of the catalog of fancy poached-eggs-with-sauce dishes popular at upscale breakfast places and brunch restaurants. Many stories exist as to who invented it, or who it was named for. All the recipes are about the same, however. Poached eggs rest on Canadian bacon or ham, which in turn are atop English muffins or a Holland rusks. (The latter is a styrofoam-like bread that’s resistant to the water that comes off the eggs.) The whole thing is covered with hollandaise and, if you’re in a really classy place, some slivers of truffle. We’ve always thought that the eggs-on-eggs aspect of the dish (hollandaise is mostly eggs and butter) is peculiar, but we can’t gainsay the goodness of a well-made plate of eggs Benedict. Main problem: not all cooks know how to poach eggs. The yolks should stand up like spheres, not flattened, and be completely covered with very thick hollandaise. And the ham or Canadian bacon should be grilled. Read entire article.

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April 15 In Eating

AlmanacSquare This is Pommes de Terre Soufflees Day. Soufflee potatoes were said to have been invented by accident in the 1840s by a chef named Collinet. He was in service to Louis-Philippe, the last king of France. ¶ The king was to travel on the first train from Paris to St. Germain-en-Laye, where Collinet would serve lunch prepared for him. When the train was seen approaching the station, the chef began frying potatoes–the king’s favorite treat. ¶ But the train arrived without the king onboard. Louis-Philippe got cold feet about this new conveyance, and decided to follow the train on his horse-drawn coach. The train surprised everyone with its speed, and the king arrived quite a bit later. Collinet had no more potatoes to fry. All he could do was heat the oil again, and drop the original batch of potatoes back in to crisp them up. He was taken aback when they puffed up like balloons. ¶ Collinet had an apprentice by the name of Antoine Alciatore, who would later wind up in New Orleans. He founded the restaurant that bears his name, and to this day it’s the most famous place to have soufflee potatoes. Read entire article.

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April 3 In Eating
* Red Bean Edition

April 3 In Eating

AlmanacSquare This is National Chocolate Mousse Day. It’s getting so that a good chocolate mousse is hard to find in restaurants. Its vogue seems to have passed, as has that of its insipid cousin, white chocolate mousse, which enjoyed a tremendous popularity in the 1980s. Chocolate mousse is not really hard to make; you just need to be careful making it. (I have a very good recipe here. ) The best restaurants for chocolate mousse these days are the Rib Room, Andrea’s, and Antoine’s. There’s a fantastic chocolate mousse cake at Nuvolari’s. Read entire article.

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April 2 In Eating

AlmanacSquare 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. Read entire article.

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April 9 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It’s National Oyster Soup Day. Enough people have called and written me lately about that dish that it seems perfect timing. Oysters are still meaty enough that they don’t shrivel in the broth. ¶ The classic oyster soup is made by straining and reducing as much oyster liquor as you can get your hands on, adding a bit of butter, salt, thyme, and green onions, and slipping the oysters into the simmering liquid a few minutes before serving. ¶ They’re perfect when they seem to inflate and get curly edges. ¶ Another good approach is to make a medium-dark roux and using that instead of the milk, to make a sort of oyster gumbo. Some chefs make a terrific oyster soup by stirring some of the sauce you’d use on oysters Rockefeller into the broth. It’s all good. Read entire article.

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