February 23 In Eating
February

February 23 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today in 2007, a group of New Zealand fishermen landed the largest colossal squid ever caught. It was just under forty feet long, and weighed almost a thousand pounds. These fantastic creatures have been known for a long time, but almost never encountered live. They can fight a sperm whale to the finish, the winner not a foregone conclusion. Not enough breading and oil could be found to fry this calamari, so it was grilled and served with aioli instead. Read entire article.

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February 21 In Eating
February

February 21 In Eating

Deft Dining Rule #249 

Ask which is the worst table in the restaurant, and you’ll never be brought to that table.

Edible Dictionary 

aloo gobi, Indian, n.–Potatoes and cauliflower make up the bulk of this popular Indian dish, usually served as a vegetarian entree. It’s cooked on top of the stove with high heat, giving a roasted quality. The flavor profile is made further complex with a generous supply of Indian spices (ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cumin and chile peppers, among other things). The finished dish packs quite a flavor punch, and is difficult to stop eating. The idea has lately become a favorite of chefs whose cooking knows no national boundaries.

Today’s Flavor

The Web buzz is that today is National Sticky Bun Day. I haven’t yet mentioned that February is National Potato Month. And today is National Hash Brown Potatoes Day.

Hash browns are a fuzzy concept. In shape they run the gamut from large diced potatoes to finely shredded. They’re usually cooked in a hot grill or skillet, but the other ingredients combined with it ranges from nothing at all to cheese, onions, bacon, ham, and whatever else the cook at the greasy spoon has handy. Everybody has a different preference.

Mine is for the way my wife Mary Ann makes them, which takes advantage of her penchant for burning things. She pre-bakes potatoes a little less than you would for eating. Then she melts some butter in a hot skillet and shreds the potatoes right into the skillet, scattering some chopped green onions as she goes. Then she walks away until she smells something burning, turns the potatoes over, and lets them go a little longer. This technique is terrible for most cooking, but happens to be perfect for hash browns, and the result is irresistible.

Read More. . .

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February 13 In Eating
February

February 13 In Eating

AlmanacSquare The buzz on the Web is that today is National Tortellini Day. Tortellini come from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. They’re small ravioli–little pillows of pasta usually rolled up around the stuffing instead lying flat. The filling is most often cheese, but spinach, tomatoes, basil, mushrooms, or other fillings–more often vegetable than meat–can be enclosed in tortellini. A slightly large variation is called tortelloni, which no doubt has its own special day. There’s more. . .

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February 8 In Eating
February

February 8 In Eating

February 8, 2017 Days Until. . . Mardi Gras–5 Valentine’s Day–6 The Chemistry Of Food Today is the birthday of Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleyev, who created the periodic table of elements, seen in every chemistry classroom. I’ve often thought that a periodic table of food would make in interesting kitchen poster. Let’s see. . . Water would be Element 1. Chicken Stock is Element 3, Veal Stock Element 11, Beef Stock Element 19. Salt would be Element 17. Sauvignon Blanc is Element 2, Chardonnay is Element 10, Pinot Noir Element 18….

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February 7 in Eating

February 7, 2017 Days Until. . . Mardi Gras–6 Valentine’s Day–7 Food Names In The Movies The man with what may be the greatest food name of all time, Buster Crabbe, was born today in 1908. He came to prominence first as a swimmer in the 1928 and 1932 Olympics. His good looks got the attention of Hollywood, and his acting career began. He made over 75 movies, usually cast as a powerful hero: Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers were among his best-remembered recurring roles. Whether Buster Crabbe ever…

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February 6 In Eating
February

February 6 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today in 1935, the board game Monopoly was sold for the first time. Now you can find custom versions of the game for many cities and special interests. But I don’t think I’ve seen one with restaurants as the theme. Let’s see. . . in New Orleans, the inexpensive properties just past GO would be Domilese’s and Dong Phuong. Around the first turn you’d have the opportunity to buy Mandina’s and Liuzza’s. Just past Free Parking you’d have Mr. B’s and Clancy’s and Brigtsen’s. The green properties would be Galatoire’s, Arnaud’s, and Antoine’s. But which would be the ones where Boardwalk and Park Place? August? Commander’s Palace? Square Root? There’s more. . .

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February 2 In Eating
* Red Bean Edition

February 2 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Al Copeland, the creator of Popeyes Fried Chicken and the Copeland’s restaurants, was born today in 1944. Without having graduated from high school, he worked in his brother’s doughnut stand until he went out on his own in 1972 with the first Popeyes stand, in Arabi. It looked more or less the way Popeyes did for decades after. He had many other things right from the beginning, most notably the red-pepper-based seasoning that made Popeyes distinctive. Popeyes was a tremendous success, and Copeland used that success to get into many other activities–some successful. some disastrous. He opened the first Copeland’s in 1985, which was so good and so far ahead of its time that it established Copeland’s reputation as having had a golden palate. Ironically, he died from a rare cancer of the salivary glands in 2008. A fascinating man. Read entire article.

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February 1 In Eating
* Red Bean Edition

February 1 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Don’t be frightened by this, but it’s Rutabaga Day. Rutabagas are among the most misunderstood and underrated vegetables in this country. It’s a cross between the turnip and a variety of wild cabbage. It has been raised for food since at least the 1600s. It’s always been popular in Scandinavia. For that reason, the name for the vegetable in Great Britain is “swede.” I encountered that word on a trip to England a couple of years ago, when I bought a Cornish pasty stuffed with swede/rutabagas.

Full article>/h6>

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February 16 In Eating
February

February 16 In Eating

February 26 Days Until. . . Mardi Gras–1 St. Patrick’s Day–March 17 St. Joseph’s Day–19 Easter–34 Today’s Flavor Today is allegedly National Pistachio Day. The best use of pistachios in New Orleans is the dipping of the ends of cannoli in them at Angelo Brocato’s. Which, like most makers of ice cream, makes bright green pistachio flavor. (It’s the green part of spumone, too.) That flavor is so delicious that I wonder why it’s not more often used. As in pistachio sno-balls. Pistachio bread pudding. (I think I’ll try that…

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February 26 In Eating
February

February 26 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is allegedly National Pistachio Day. The best use of pistachios in New Orleans is the dipping of the ends of cannoli in them at Angelo Brocato’s. Which, like most makers of ice cream, makes bright green pistachio flavor. (It’s the green part of spumone, too.) That flavor is so delicious that I wonder why it’s not more often used. As in pistachio sno-balls. Pistachio bread pudding. (I think I’ll try that myself.) Or in savory dishes. Indeed, I couldn’t think of a non-sweet use of pistachios, other than eating them right out of the shells. (Remember when there used to be gum machines filled with red-shelled pistachios? I can’t remember the last time I did, but it has to be twenty years.) Read entire article.

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February 24 In Eating
February

February 24 In Eating

New Orleans Tastemakers

Tennessee Williams died today in 1983. We all know his contributions to American theatre, but he was also a devotee of New Orleans restaurants. His favorite hangouts in his last days were Marti’s (where Peristyle is now) and Galatoire’s. The Tennessee Williams Festival–which always has a significant food and drink aspect–is about a month from now.

Deft Dining Rule #160:

If the shells on small shrimp are soft, just pull off the heads and eat them without peeling. You’ll eat more shrimp that way.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

You’re better off if you never make shrimp dip, shrimp pate, shrimp molds, or shrimp mousse.

Food Calendar

This is National Tortilla Chip Day. Tortilla chips are a big issue around my house. We all like guacamole and salsa here, and we have those recipes down. However, we still have a great controversy as to which chips are the best. We seem to have settled on thin, white tortilla chips. Yet to be resolved is the matter of shape: triangular versus round. We also find that some brands are so bland that we’re tempted to just throw them away. On the other side of the spectrum, flavored tortilla chips give the same effect you get from flavoring coffee. The current favorite among the commercial chips is Santitas, a relatively new product from Frito-Lay, which created the whole category with Fritos in the 1950s. (They were so novel then that people were raving about them all over the country.) What is certain is that we eat a great many tortilla chips, and I’m glad they took the trans-fats out of them.

Read More. . .

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February 22 In Eating
February

February 22 In Eating

February 22, 2017 Days Until. . . Today Is February 22, 2018 St. Patrick’s Day–March 17 St. Joseph’s Day–March 19 Easter–April 1 (!) Today’s Flavor This is National Margarita Day. The essential ingredients are tequila, lime juice, a splash of triple-sec, Cointreau, or some other orange-flavored liqueur, and ice. The rim of the glass is coated with salt, but Lu Brow at the Swizzle Stick Lounge came up with an improvement: only dip half the rim of the glass in the salt. That way you can take it or leave…

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February 20 In Eating
February

February 20 In Eating

AlmanacSquare A toothpick manufacturing machine was invented on this day in 1872, by two guys, J.P. Cooley and Silas Noble. One of them did the round toothpicks and the other flat. The best toothpicks are made of alder wood. Ask the next very expensive restaurant you dine in whether they have alder toothpicks. Then tell them that they should. Let’s see how long this takes to make it into the national food magazines. Most of the toothpicks made in America, by the way, are made in Maine. Read entire article.

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February 17 In Eating
February

February 17 In Eating

~~~
AlmanacSquare It’s Mardi Gras, a day with several eating traditions. The first is eating and drinking whatever you want. Meat and alcohol are both proscripted for the Lenten season that begins tomorrow. So we overindulge today. Read entire article.

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February 15 In Eating
February

February 15 In Eating

February 15, 2017 Days Until. . . Mardi Gras–13 Annals Of Funny Weather New Orleans got nine inches of snow on this date in 1895. It caused all the sno-ball stands to close early. Philosophy Of Taste Today is the birthday, in 1851, of philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. One of his quotations rings true to me: “We think in generalities, but we live in detail.” This is why most restaurateurs don’t understand their customers, and vice-versa. Restaurateurs deal in generalities–getting the big job done for the greatest number of people….

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February 10 In Eating
February

February 10 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Alton Jay Rubin– better known as Rockin’ Dopsie, one of the fathers of Cajun zydeco music–was born today in 1932. Food connection: “zydeco” is a corruption of the first two words of the French verse “les haricots sont pas sal├ęs” (“the beans aren’t salty”). The line appears in some of the earliest songs in the zydeco style. He passed away in 1993, but his band, led by his son (who also calls himself Rockin’ Dopsie) is still performing actively. There’s more. . .

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February 29 In Dining

February 29, 2016 Days Until. . . St. Patrick’s Day 17 St. Joseph’s Day 19 Easter 27 Observances Today is Leap Day, the day that comes around once every four years (usually). Julius Caesar came up with the idea in 45 BC, when he reworked the Roman calendar and made February 28 (most years) or today this the last day of the year. Certainly the most peculiar day of the year, it has a good deal of lore connected with it. The best-known is that, in the English-speaking world, a…

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February 25 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Enrico Caruso was born today in 1873. just in time to become one of the first stars of recorded music. In Italian restaurants across America, dishes are named after the famous operatic tenor, but they differ from place to place. No one classic dish bears his name. Caruso was such a hearty eater that there really ought to be such a dish. Searches through cookbooks turn up a wide range of namesake Caruso dishes with sauces including everything from cream to prosciutto to spinach. More to come. . .

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February 18 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It’s Stuffed Flounder Day. The typical flounder stuffing is crabmeat and other seafood, plus bread crumbs and herbs. Stuffed flounder was once a mainstay in New Orleans casual seafood restaurants, especially those at West End Park. The most famous was the house specialty of Bruning’s, where they used flounders so large that the fishermen referred to them as “doormats.” The idea of stuffed fish sounds appealing. It conjures up the image of Read entire article.

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February 12 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It is International Lentil Soup Day. Lentils are an ancient part of the human diet, having been cultivated since prehistoric times in the Middle East. They have two things going for them: they’re highly nutritious, and they taste great. Lentils are legumes, more closely related to chickpeas and green peas than to red beans, limas, or other New World beans. They come in many colors, from green to red to brown; the latter are most common in our part of the world. There’s more. . .

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February 11 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is Jambalaya Day. Jambalaya is a dish in need of greater attention from the more ambitious chefs in New Orleans restaurants. Although most people in our part of the world agree that jambalaya is one of the most distinctive and delicious dishes in the local cuisine, not many restaurants serve it and not enough people cook it at home. The dish needs the kind of reassessment that repopularized chicken gumbo in the late 1970s.
There’s more. . .

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February 9 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Lox and Bagel Day, says the web rumor. The combination of silky smoked salmon with cream cheese on a well-made bagel is easy to get hooked on. It’s a filling repast. I can no longer eat even a whole bagel for breakfast and then have lunch–let alone one with salmon and cream cheese. But that doesn’t make it less of a pleasure. “Lox” comes from the old German word for salmon. Similar words are found in all other Northern European languages. Strictly speaking, lox is not smoked but cured salmon. That’s certainly true of “belly lox.” However, that has given way in delis to Nova lox, for Nova Scotia, which once dominated the smoked salmon supply in Northeast America. Nova lox usually is less salty than belly lox, from being cured a shorter time in a milder brine solution. There’s more. . .

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February 5 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today in 1883, the second transcontinental railroad in America was completed, creating a continuous line from New Orleans to San Francisco. The Southern Pacific’s Sunset Route is the southernmost of the transcons, and the one that crosses the least mountainous terrain. The last rail was spiked down (with a silver spike) just west of the Pecos River near Langtry, Texas. The new line helped move California produce to the rest of America. Millions of bottles of wine traveled the Sunset Route. You can still ride the whole thing on its namesake train, the Sunset Limited, the oldest passenger train name in America. Some of my most memorable train rides have been on that train. I remember in particular an unexpectedly superb prime rib in its dining car in the summer of 1978, somewhere in Arizona. Read entire article.

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February 4 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is Stuffed Mushroom Day. The impulse to stuff a mushroom is strong. You pull the stem out and it leaves a gaping pocket begging to be filled. The range of stuffings is matched by the variability of the results. The best stuffed mushrooms are fantastically tasty tidbits. The worst are murky, soggy blobs in which it’s hard to tell where the mushroom ends and the stuffing begins.

Begin with fresh, firm, mushrooms. Expensive exotic mushrooms should be left to make their own statements. Shiitakes or portobellos are fine, but the basic white mushroom may be the best of all. Buy them a size bigger than you think you need.

For the stuffing, crabmeat, small shrimp, or oysters; a little bacon; bread crumbs; garlic or green onions, and seasonings. The stuffing should be moist but not wet. After stuffing, the mushrooms should go under a hot broiler until toasty, but not so long that the mushrooms start flattening out. The final touch is a small amount of something rich. Melted cheese or hollandaise is the ultimate.

Certain foods are the perfect size for a mushroom cavity. Snails, for example. Crawfish. Big lumps of crabmeat. Whatever you do, be prepared to stuff, bake and sauce your mushrooms immediately before you serve them. Hot mushrooms filled with warm stuffing turn to glop quickly. Read entire article.

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February 3 In Eating
February

February 3 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It is supposed to be National Carrot Cake Day. Carrot cakes get a lot of attention because we all know carrots are good for us. That gives us permission to eat twice as much of the cakes, despite the sweet, rich icing. You can feel the good things and the bad things fight it out inside, to paraphrase Mark Twain. The most impressive carrot cake in New Orleans was at Smith and Wollensky, where one slice could feed a family of four until they left town after the hurricane. There’s more. . .

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February 27 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It’s Italian Beef Daube Day. That’s a thorough a blend of Creole and Italian cooking as you’re likely to find. Daube is a French method of cooking beef (usually tough cuts) that renders it tender to the point that it almost falls apart. In New Orleans Italian cooking, the beef is sliced after being pot-roasted, and then simmered some more in a Sicilian-style tomato ragu. All that’s served with spaghetti. It was once widely served around New Orleans, but has become a rarity in restaurants. In homes, it’s mostly the older generations that still cook it. I like it because it gives a use for eye of round, a beautiful-looking cut of beef that needs all the tenderizing it can get. Read entire article.

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February 19 In Eating

AlmanacSquare The Cod War broke out today in 1976 between Iceland and Great Britain. No shooting took place, but the two countries were at each other’s diplomatic throats over right to the dwindling populations of the fish. Who cares about cod? Nobody whose food choices are made according to taste, of course. But the economic importance of codfish was so great that a whole book has been written about it. A good one, too, by Mark Kurlansky. It’s called Cod. It explains why you can’t find codfish to make codfish cakes anymore: the cod are gone. Read entire article.

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February 28 In Eating
February

February 28 In Eating

Today is National Strawberry Day, although the strawberry industry doesn’t seem to know about it. Strawberries worth celebrating. Here in Louisiana (where the strawberry is the official state fruit), the strawberry season is in high gear, after beginning well before Christmas last year. (They seem to appear a little earlier each year.) That schedule owes to our southerly latitude. Strawberry harvests will radiate north over a great deal of the rest of the country for months.

Strawberries are unusual in that Read More. . .

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Diary 2/23/14: Ordinary Day.

It rained buckets in the past two days, and it will rain bathtubs tomorrow. (When you keep a daily journal and fall a few days behind, you can see the future from within the diary’s time.) But today it didn’t rain at all, allowing me to take my would-be daily amble around the Cool Water Ranch. When I find myself with free time–surely, it will happen someday–I will build three small footbridges crossing spots on my route that become flooded in weather like this. Mary Ann has decided that since…

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February 14 In Eating
February

February 14 In Eating

February 14, 2017 Days Until. . . Mardi Gras–14 Be My Valentine Although this is St. Valentine’s Day, today has been noted as special for centuries before its namesake saint lived. February 14 was a Roman pagan holiday honoring Juno. The next day, young men and women would hook up for the duration of the festival of Lupercalia. Many pairings continued beyond that, and so the love lore attached to the date. The historic St. Valentine was a rebellious third-century Roman priest. Emperor Claudius II had banned marriages because he…

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February 7 In Eating
February

February 7 In Eating

February 7, 2017 Days Until. . . Mardi Gras–20 Valentine’s Day–7 Food Names In The Movies The man with what may be the greatest food name of all time, Buster Crabbe, was born today in 1908. He came to prominence first as a swimmer in the 1928 and 1932 Olympics. His good looks got the attention of Hollywood, and his acting career began. He made over 75 movies, usually cast as a powerful hero: Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers were among his best-remembered recurring roles. Whether Buster Crabbe ever…

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