Hogs For The Cause 2018.

Escargots Bourguignonne This is the classic snail appetizer with garlic butter. There are more adventuresome sauces out there, and some of them are really delicious, but nothing beats having the snails sizzling in this fragrant butter, except perhaps having a loaf of hot French bread to dip into the sauce. During my broadcast from Gallier Hall every Mardi Gras, Archbishop Amann visits with us for a few minutes. I always ask about the rules for Lenten eating, especially as it regards unusual foodstuffs as alligator, turtles soup, and snails. The…

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March 26 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Spinach Day. Spinach was first grown in what is now Iran about 1500 years ago. It spread to all parts of the world, almost immediately replacing other green leaves wherever it went. ¶ Spinach is among the most healthful and delicious of all those we eat. It’s rare among them in that it’s eaten raw as often as cooked. Its flavor is distinctive but not strong. The younger the spinach, the more tender the leaves and better the flavor. ¶ And then there’s the Popeye connection. From it we learn that eating spinach turns funny-looking pipsqueaks into powerful heroes. That’s because of its reputed but overstated iron content. ¶ Popeye continues to inspire the eating of spinach, enough so that today in 1937, farmers in Crystal City, Texas–the spinach-growing capital of America–put a statue of Popeye in its town square. Read entire article.

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March 20 In Eating
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March 20 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It’s Ravioli Day. A raviolo (singular–but who ever eats just one?) is made by inserting dollops of some flavorful stuffing between two sheets of pasta, pressing the sheets together until they adhere, and then cooking them. ¶ They come in all sizes and are made with all stuffings. The truth about ravioli was revealed to me when I was a child: the kind you don’t want are beef ravioli, which are almost inevitably nasty.¶ The standard ravioli these days are stuffed with cheese, usually a mixture of ricotta and Parmigiano. Spinach and mushrooms are other common stuffings, usually with a bit of cheese added to the mix. Some clever chefs, in their efforts to deconstruct food, have taken to casting cooked pasta sheets randomly in a bowl with the stuffing ingredients interspersed but not sealed. ¶ The first time I saw this I thought it was amusing, but it’s been done too many times now. Besides, that assembly has another name: lasagna. Read entire article.

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March 19 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is the feast day of St. Joseph, carpenter, father of a very distinguished Son, namesake of my own father (no insinuation there), and patron saint of Sicily. It’s that last connection that explains all the celebration of the day in New Orleans. ¶ Because St. Joseph’s Day always falls in Lent, the food connected with the day is meatless. The famous dishes on this day include cardoons (the stems of an artichoke relative), pasta milanese con sardi (see below), fennel salad, eggplant caponata, fava beans, and a wide range of cookies, flavored with anise, sesame seeds, and almonds. Some only appear that this time of year. ¶ St. Joseph’s altars are found in both homes and businesses, and are almost universal in Italian restaurants. Many of the altars are listed in the newspaper today. Stop by, have a few cookies, pick up a lucky fava bean, say a prayer to St. Joseph, and feel moved by yet another essential New Orleans cultural undercurrent. Read entire article.

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The NOMenu Food Almanac

March 11, 2017 Days Until. . . St. Patrick’s Day–March 17 St. Joseph’s Day–19 Easter–April 1 Restaurant Anniversaries The Palace Cafe opened today in 1991. Envisioned as a more casual version of Commander’s Palace, it was at first managed by cousins Ti Martin, Dickie Brennan, Lauren Brennan, and Brad Bridgman. When the Commander’s Brennans split up their properties, the Palace Cafe went to Dick Brennan’s side of the family. The place opened with an emphasis on seafood and rotisserie dishes, but over the years the restaurant evolved into a jack…

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Recipe (Fish On The Half Shell) & Food Almanac For Today

Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Briquette. I continue to take Mary Ann’s advice seriously. She thinks I don’t dine out in as many different restaurants as I can, with the emphasis on new eateries. I admit to going to too many, too-familiar Metairie restaurants. Not because I want to go to those places, but because they’re on my way home, and much easier to approach than, say, the Magazine Street restaurant corridor. Tonight’s exploration takes me by foot to Briquette, a restaurant on the corner of Girod and South Peters. Owner…

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March 8 In Eating
March

March 8 In Eating

It is National French Onion Soup Day. Let’s make some before the cool weather ends completely. The story behind the dark, slightly sweet, aromatic onion soup, served in a crock with a cap of cheese on a floating crouton, was that it was first served in Les Halles, the gigantic marketplace that once was in the center of Paris. Like all such markets, it opened very early in the morning, and it could be cold. One of the vendors began cooking an onion soup covered with enough cheese to keep the soup from cooling quickly. The cheese would re-seal itself after every incursion of the spoon. (So it’s wrong to eat the cheese first, at least if you want to be entirely traditional.) Although French onion soup lends itself to cold weather eating, it’s pretty good all the time. I make a version that involves using six different onions and six different chili peppers (small ones). Read More. . .

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March 7 In Eating

In 1876 on this date Alexander Graham Bell was granted the patent for the telephone, thereby allowing us to call restaurants to reserve tables. What did people do to get a spot in the dining room before the phone was in widespread use? Perhaps reservations were not needed, or the reservation concept was not in existence. Read More. . .

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March 1 In Eating.
March

March 1 In Eating.

March 1, 2017 Days Until. . . St. Patrick’s Day–March 17 St. Joseph’s Day–19 Easter–April 1 Today’s Flavor This is national Tex-Mex Cooking Day. Today in 1845, President John Tyler annexed Texas to the United States. With the permission of the Texans, of course. A Texas cuisine was already in place. It could even be said that Tex-Mex food was already born. It has grown ever since, with the influence of Germans, Czechs, Africans, and a constant flow of people from Central America. It’s still not enough to keep the…

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March 30 In Eating 4216
March

March 30 In Eating 4216

AlmanacSquare This is Frog Legs Day. Most people turn up their noses at the idea of eating frog legs, but if they had ever tried them (and they probably haven’t), they would wonder what the problem was. Frog legs have a texture similar to but lighter than chicken. There is no flavor affinity at all, no matter what you’ve heard. Nor do they taste like fish. The only meat that reminds me of frog legs is alligator. ¶ Bullfrogs–whose legs can be larger than chicken wings–are the most common along the Gulf Coast. More prized are the legs of smaller frogs from a genus known descriptively enough as “edible frogs.” They’re usually sold by the pair, and include the small foot. ¶ Frog legs are mild enough in flavor that they’re usually served with a light butter sauce, often with a touch of garlic and herbs. Read entire article.

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March 28 In Eating
March

March 28 In Eating

Restaurant Anniversaries: La Petite Grocery, an excellent restaurant on Magazine Street a block from Napoleon Avenue, opened today in 2004. In a way, it was a spinoff of Peristyle, where Anton and Diane Schulte worked before opening the Grocery with partner and gourmet caterer Joel Dondis. When they left to open Bistro Daisy, Justin Devillier took over as chef. He has since bought the restaurant. Read More. . .

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March 27 In Eating
March

March 27 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It is National Paella Day in America. Paella is catching on. While we have always been able to find a restaurant around New Orleans that serves paella, until very recently we never needed more than the fingers of one hand to count them. ¶ Nor were the ones we found especially good–again, until recent years, with the broadening of all ethnic dining in New Orleans. Always, any chef that made this most famous of Spanish rice dishes could be counted on to be very proud of it. Enough so that paella is usually the most expensive item on menus that offer it. ¶ Paella comes in many forms, with a long list of possible ingredients. But it simmers down to this: rice, olive oil, and stock (usually chicken) are cooked in a big pan with poultry, sausages, or seafood, plus peas, beans, and savory vegetables. It’s flavored with saffron if it’s a good version. In the cheaper editions, annatto gives the color of saffron, but not the unmistakable flavor and aroma. Read More. . .

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March 23 In Eating
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March 23 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is Melba Toast Day. That may seem like a strange thing to celebrate here in New Orleans, but we really ought to, because this has long been the World Capital of melba toast, because of the presence here of the Turnbull Baking Company. For decades it made almost all the Melba toast for almost every big-name brand. It shut down for a time in 1910, causing a countrywide shortage of melba toast. It came back but didn’t last. ¶ Melba toast, as well as the dessert peach Melba, is named after Dame Nellie Melba, the superstar opera singer of the late 1800s and early 1900s. She ate dried, thin toast whenever she was “ill” (read: needed to take a few pounds off her Rubensesque body). She supposedly revealed the secret of making the toast on this day in 1901. Read entire article.

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March 17 In Eating
March

March 17 In Eating

AlmanacSquare 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. This does not prevent lots of people from celebrating the day. More to come. . .

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March 13 In Eating
March

March 13 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Squab Day. Of all the birds we commonly eat in this part of the world, squab is the most delectable. A squab is a baby pigeon. It’s a farm-raised bird, so you need not be concerned that it came from underneath a bridge. ¶ It hasn’t flown yet, but it was about to undertake that exercise when it was harvested. A prime squab is bigger than an adult pigeon, because its parents feed it constantly, and it does very little other than eat. It gets fat, and that’s why it tastes so good. ¶ The meat of squab is red, and when cooked medium-rare (the perfect temperature) it can fool the eater into thinking he’s eating some kind of light beef or veal. The birds are bigger than quails but smaller than Cornish hens, with a higher percentage of breast meat than in most others. Read entire article.

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March 10 In Eating
March

March 10 In Eating

AlmanacSquare In New Orleans it’s Creole Cream Cheese Day. It’s a distinctly local product, enjoyed for over a hundred years before suddenly brought to the brink of extinction in the 1980s. The Baby Boom generation never picked up the habit from their parents, and suddenly the last commercial dairy making Creole cream cheese gave it up. It made a comeback in recent times when the Boomers felt nostalgia for the idea, if not the reality. Enough small dairies began making Creole cream cheese that it’s now easily available again. Read entire article.~~~
AlmanacSquare In New Orleans it’s Creole Cream Cheese Day. It’s a distinctly local product, enjoyed for over a hundred years before suddenly brought to the brink of extinction in the 1980s. The Baby Boom generation never picked up the habit from their parents, and suddenly the last commercial dairy making Creole cream cheese gave it up. It made a comeback in recent times when the Boomers felt nostalgia for the idea, if not the reality. Enough small dairies began making Creole cream cheese that it’s now easily available again. Read entire article.

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March 3 In Eating
March

March 3 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It is National Deli Meats Day. Cured, smoked, and sliced deli meats range from the irresistible goodness of dry-cured hams, pastrami, salami, and deli-style roast beef to such unspeakable atrocities as luncheon meat and standard bologna. The gamut of goodness among hams alone goes from silky and mellow (prosciutto) to disgusting (ham roll). But things are looking up. Supermarket delis are adopting higher standards than. . . Read entire article.

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March 31 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is Oranges and Lemons Day. I’ve already had three big Louisiana navel oranges this morning for their matchless juice. Citrus fruits offer much more than just a drink. Lemon juice is one of the most useful ingredients in the kitchen. Not only does it have a marvelous fresh flavor, but its high acidity–it’s one of the most acidic foods we eat–performs all sorts of magic in sauces, as meat marinades, and in keeping things fresh. Orange juice is less versatile, but much underrated as an ingredient. I’m always trying to include it in baking (as in our orange cheesecake) and in saucemaking (orange hollandaise). Orange zest and skin adds the unique flavor of orange oil. Although we had three good months of them this year, the season for Louisiana navel oranges is about over the for year. However, we hear that you can go down to Plaquemines Parish groves and ask if you can pick the remaining fruit on the trees. They will be like no other oranges you ever ate, but too delicate to market. They are the best oranges in the world. Read More. . .

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March 29 In Eating
March

March 29 In Eating

March 29, 2017 Days Until. . . French Quarter Festival–7 Easter —11 Jazz Festival–30 Today’s Flavor This is Wild Rice Week. Wild rice is indeed wild, but it’s not really rice. Although it is now being cultivated, the plant is exactly as the Native Americans found it for centuries in the bogs in Minnesota. The long distance of its relation to true rice is obvious when you eat it. It has a nutty flavor more like that of oats or barley than rice. But, really, it has a taste all…

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March 22 In Eating
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March 22 In Eating

March 22, 2017 Days Until. . . French Quarter Festival–14 Easter — 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…

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March 21 In Eating
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March 21 In Eating

March 21, 2017 Delectible Upcoming Events Easter–April 1 French Quarter Festival–April 12-15 Jazz Festival–April 27-May 6 Days Of Infamy Today was Good Friday in 1788, and a very bad day for New Orleans. The worst fire in the city’s history burned 856 of approximately 1100 buildings in the French Quarter, including the original Cabildo. Among the few survivors were the Ursulines Convent, a government customs house (not the one on Canal Street now), and the two hospitals. In the aftermath, the city had a tremendous loss of population as many…

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March 18 In Eating

AlmanacSquare National Tomato Sauce Day. Tomato sauces are so numerous and distinctive that long books of recipes could be compiled for them. The tomato flavors are always front and center, yet most ingredients added to the sauce emerge to be tasted, as well. This gives rise to a wonderfully broad range of sauces. ¶ The Italian tomato sauce variations alone could keep us here all day. There’s marinara, cacciatore, ragu, fra diavolo, amatriciana, arrabbiata, and sugo, to name only a few. Sometimes the variations are as slight as those that distinguish one pasta shape from another, giving rise to millions of dishes.
Read entire article.

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March 16 In Eating
March

March 16 In Eating

AlmanacSquare National Artichoke Hearts Day. Artichoke hearts are the innermost leaves of small, undeveloped artichokes. They’re different from artichoke bottoms, the starchy, dish-shaped parts underneath the leaves. The overwhelming majority of artichoke hearts found in restaurants come from cans or jars. Even Warren Leruth, who invented oyster-artichoke soup, used canned artichoke hearts. Which, frankly, are not all that bad a product, if not as good as fresh. California grows virtually all artichokes consumed in this country. Here’s the web site of the California Artichoke Advisory Board. (What kind of advice does an artichoke need, really?) Read entire article.

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March 15 In Eating
March

March 15 In Eating

March 15, 2017 Days Until. . . St. Patrick’s Day–3 St. Joseph’s Day–5 Easter–41 Food Calendar Today is Pear Belle Helene Day. This is a rarely-seen dessert these days, once considered a classic. The fact that it’s out of style makes it no less good. It’s prepared by poaching pears in citrus juices and vanilla, then serving them with ice cream and chocolate sauce. Here’s a very good recipe for it in which everything, including the ice cream, is made from scratch. Gourmet Gazetteer Lima is a community of 160…

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March 14 in Eating
March

March 14 in Eating

Muriel’s opened today in 2001. At first, it was the newest location of a too-hip, mostly West-Coast chain started by a dot-com zillionaire. But in the aftermath September 11 that year, all the Muriel’s locations closed, except for the one here. That restaurant proved resistant to fallout–not only from 9/11, but Katrina. It continues to thrive. The setting is unique: diagonally across from Jackson Square, in a building whose first use was as a pasta factory. (It had been the Chart House most recently.)
Read on. . .

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March 5 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Fish Mousse Day. While this may not immediately ring a bell with you, or seem a bit too rarefied, I will attempt to persuade you that a) making a fish mousse is easy and b) it’s as delicious as it is impressive. You make fish mousse by poaching fish (or shellfish–it also works with shrimp, crawfish, lobster, and other seafoods), then pureeing it in the food processor with some of the stock you poached it in. You blend this into beaten egg whites, and then fold in some whipped cream. (Some recipes call for gelatin; throw those out.) After it’s refrigerated, the mousse tightens up, and can be served as an appetizer. Or you can layer it between or atop a fish fillet and bake it. Or–well, there are a lot of uses. We’re not far away from Passover, when a variant of fish mousse–gefilte fish–will be served in almost every Jewish home. But that’s really a different taste. Read entire article.

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March 2 In Eating.
March

March 2 In Eating.

March 2, 2017 Days Until. . . St. Patrick’s Day–March 17 St. Joseph’s Day–19 Easter–April 1 Food On The Road Today in 1925, the national highway numbering system came into being. Three major US routes–11, 61, and 90–originate in or pass through New Orleans. US 90 is the most delicious of the old US routes, beginning in Jacksonville, running along the Gulf Coast to New Orleans, past Mosca’s, along several bayous through the heart of Cajun country, then to the Tex-Mex capitals of Houston and San Antonio, touching Mexico in…

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March 25 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Either yesterday, today, or tomorrow can be considered the anniversary of Emeril’s. I was there today in 1990, the second evening of pre-opening dinners. The restaurant opened to the public March 26. Things went wrong, as they always do in new restaurants. But Emeril’s former employer–Ella Brennan of Commander’s Palace–told him, “Change nothing.” He didn’t, and the place took off. It’s hard to believe now, but that was not a foregone conclusion at the time. Emeril had not even begun to achieve the stardom he now enjoys outside New Orleans. It wasn’t quite just another new restaurant. Read entire article.

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March 24 In Eating
March

March 24 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It’s Stuffed Crab Day. And the dish needs to be remembered. Once ubiquitous on menus all along the Gulf Coast and upthe Atlantic, stuffed crabs have been shoved aside by its upscale cousin, the Baltimore-style crab cake. ¶ Crab cakes give stuffed crabs an image problem. It is the nature of a stuffed crab to contain other ingredients than crabmeat. And the crabmeat is usually claw meat, at that. ¶ From a flavor perspective, however, a well-made stuffed crab (also known as a deviled crab) easily rivals a crab cake. The best versions have a good crab flavors that comes not only from the crabmeat but also the crab stock the bread component is wet down with. Green onions, bell pepper, fresh parsley, cayenne, and even a little bacon add further interest to a good stuffed crab. Read entire article.

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March 12 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Muffuletta Day. The muffuletta has an obvious Italian ancestry, but it was created in New Orleans, from which it has spread to some other parts of the country in recent years. A well-made muffuletta is one of the world’s best sandwiches, and a perfect lunch for a meeting that needs its brains cleared. Although it’s obviously Italian, you won’t find muffulettas in Italy. The word is a rarely-used Sicilian dialect word for a big, round, thick loaf bread. Read entire article.

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March 11 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It is White Chocolate Bread Pudding Day, in honor of the Palace Cafe, which invented the dessert. The speed with which it spread to other restaurants was testimony to its appeal and goodness. There must be a hundred restaurants serving it now. What’s strange is that most of the restaurants offering it, while having a version nowhere near as good as the original, claim it as their own idea. I think that if a restaurant is going to copy another restaurant’s dish, the menu ought to give credit to the inventor. Read entire article.

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March 9 In Eating
March

March 9 In Eating

AlmanacSquare This is National Crabmeat Day. It’s still pretty early in the year for the best crabmeat. However, adding crabmeat to dishes has become such a part of the current New Orleans cuisine that the seasons are hardly recognized anymore. The season for fresh, non-pasteurized, Louisiana crabmeat is the warm months, particularly in the midsummer. What’s used this time of year is likely to be frozen, pasteurized, canned, or from overseas. (Or combinations of the above.) You would be astonished by the number of major restaurant charging major prices that use something other than fresh, unpasteurized crabmeat. The major source of crabmeat in our part of the world (and all the way up the Atlantic coast, too) is the blue crab, callinectes sapidus. It’s packed in four major forms: claw, white, lump, and jumbo lump. The latter is the muscle that moves the large claws from inside the body. White and lump come from other parts of the body. The claw meat is least expensive, but actually has the most pronounced flavor. Only its dark color keeps the price down. Strange, isn’t it? Read entire article.

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March 6 In Eating
March

March 6 In Eating

AlmanacSquare This is National Frozen Food Day. That’s because on this day in 1930, the first frozen foods were put on sale in food stores. It bore the brand of the man credited with inventing the modern method of freezing food: Clarence Birdseye, whose work created the entire frozen-food industry. I’d say we paid a price in flavor there, but freezing did bring the price of food down while vastly improving the availability of certain edibles that would have been available only in season previously, or not at all. But you’ll never eat frozen food at Brigtsen’s, nor should any restaurant with pretensions to serving the best use freezers except for the likes of ice cream. Read entire article.

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March 4 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Chef Gerard Maras was born today in 1952. Maras was the opening chef and tastemaker of Ralph’s on the Park and the now-gone Table One. But he first came to our attention as chef at Mr. B’s during its greatest years in the 1980s. Their matchless barbecue shrimp recipe is his. He’s not currently cheffing, exactly; and his wife run a farm raising gourmet vegetables and herbs near Franklinton. Maras was one of the first local chefs to encourage local growers to raise better produce, and we have him to thank for the improvements in that market. He occasionally teaches cooking classes at the New Orleans Cooking Experience. Read entire article.

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March 2 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It is National Banana Cream Pie Day. The most famous local banana cream pie is served at Emeril’s. As a good banana cream pie should be, it is almost criminally rich. Each pie contains about a quart of whipping cream. The recipe appears in Emeril’s first cookbook, and has a problem: for lots of people, it doesn’t ever set. But that’s baking for you. More to come. . .

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