January 30 In Eating
January

January 30 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Croissant Day. Good croissants are difficult to make at home and just as hard to find in stores. Both of the little bakeries where I was getting excellent ones have perished. The exterior of a great croissant has a crust that flakes off in big curved pieces, covering a yeasty, buttery, tenderly fibrous interior. The ultimate croissant is just a little warm from having come out of the oven a half-hour ago. Plain croissants are by far the most popular. Croissants filled with almonds and almond paste or chocolate also sell well. Some are baked with ham and cheese inside, or have sandwiches made with them. None of these strike me as improvements–although the almond version come close. Lore surrounding the invention of the croissant. . . There’s more. . .

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January 24 In Eating

January 24, 2017 Days Until. . . Mardi Gras–20 Valentine’s Day–21 Music To Eat Creole Gumbo By This is the. . . wait. This doesn’t seem possible. The seventy-seventh third birthday of Aaron Neville? He doesn’t look as if he were born in 1941 it. Certainly doesn’t sound like it. One of the great singers to ever emerge from New Orleans, he has an instantly recognizable voice, one with such a high register that it seems unlikely coming from a burly guy like him. Music To Drink Cheap Bubbly Wine…

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January 23 In Eating
January

January 23 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Confit Of Duck Day. A confit of duck is made by cooking duck pieces–most commonly leg quarters–in the fat rendered from the duck skin. Originally, this was a way of preserving duck meat. After it was cooked, it remained in a jar with the fat, and could hold up that way for months, without refrigeration. When it was time to eat it, the duck was broiled or baked, and the fat that saturates it makes it crisp on the outside, in sort of the same way bacon becomes when cooked in its own fat. Meanwhile, the inside of the duck leg becomes extraordinarily tender inside, and almost melts in the mouth. There’s more. . .

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January 19 In Eating
* NOMenu.com

January 19 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Popcorn Day. The Popcorn Board has abunch of popcorn recipes on its site, along with history and FAQ’s about the stuff. We can’t live without popcorn. It’s essential for the movies, of course. But it’s also helpful when you’re trying to lose weight. The Boy Scouts sell great microwave popcorn every year. Popcorn was the first food tested in a microwave oven. Popcorn is omnipresent. Read entire article.

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January 18 In Eating
January

January 18 In Eating

AlmanacSquare On this date in 1778, Captain James Cook “discovered” what he called the Sandwich Islands, in honor of the Earl of Sandwich. These were the Hawaiian Islands, previously unknown to Europeans but home to a numerous seafaring people. Meanwhile, the Earl of Sandwich–who is said to have created the assembly of bread and meat that bears his name–kept on eating them while continuing his workaholic ways at his desk. Read entire article.

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January 15 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It’s National Curry Day. In America, curry is one of the most misunderstood of food concepts. A curry does not necessarily (and probably doesn’t) have the flavor of curry powder, with its powerful flavors of cumin and turmeric. The word “curry” originated in the Tamil language, as the name for a dish cooked with a spiced sauce. That admits of an enormous variety of dishes, with such a wide spread of flavors that the word “curry” becomes as generic as “stew” or “soup.” A good Indian restaurant will have dozens of dishes that they’d call curries, each with its own distinctive ingredients and flavor. Read entire article.

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January 11 In Eating
January

January 11 In Eating

AlmanacSquare On this date in 1803, James Monroe and Robert R. Livingston boarded a ship bound for France, where they hoped to buy the Isle of Orleans. That’s the land bordered by the Mississippi River, Bayou Manchac, Amite River, Pass Manchac, Lake Maurepas, Lake Pontchartrain, and the Gulf of Mexico. They hit the jackpot. Napoleon told them he’d like to sell all of Louisiana, from Canada on down, for the United States.

I wonder what New Orleans would be like now if the Louisiana Purchase had not happened. My favorite scenario is that Louisiana would have become an independent nation, with New Orleans as its capital. Its territory would include the main stream of North American commerce, the breadbasket Midwest, and many other riches. There would have been no Civil War, allowing the culture and economy of New Orleans to blossom instead of being stamped out by Reconstruction. We’d have our French, Spanish, and African heritage and food, but with money and power. Imagine! Read entire article.

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January 9 In Eating
January

January 9 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Connecticut, The Nutmeg State, became United State Number Five today in 1788. The nickname commemorates a fraud. Nutmeg, a tropical spice, cannot be grown there. But it was expensive enough that some early Yankee con men carved nuggets of what looked like nutmeg from wood and sold it as such to anyone they could fool. In honor of the statehood of Connecticut, this is National Nutmeg Day. Nutmegs are the fruits of a small tree native to the East Indies. It’s really two spices in one: the nutmeg itself, which looks like a pecan but smaller, and mace, which is a lacy covering around the nutmeg. Both are used in recipes. There’s more. . .

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January 8 In Eating
January

January 8 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Vol-Au-Vent Day. Or, to translate into Creole, Pattie Shell Day. Made in sizes from that of a thimble to that of a coffee mug, vol-au-vents are made of two layers of puff pastry cut into circles. The top layer has a hole cut in the center. When stacked and then baked, they become cups to contain concoctions that typically run to the rich and saucy. The name translates “fly on the wind,” which suggests the ideal lightness of these puff pastry cups.

In New Orleans, vol-au-vents are most often made into a dish called oyster patties–little vol-au-vents filled with oysters in thick sauce, baked a little more to make them crusty. Nine out of ten of these are terrible, usually because the the sauce is too thick. In the hands of a skillful chef, however, vol-au-vents can be fantastic. The best I ever had was a sweetbreads and mushroom dish made by Chef Denis Rety at the short-lived but brilliant Le Chateau in Gretna. The vol-au-vent was about five inches across and three inches deep, and was delicious enough to compete with the goodness of the creamy sauce and rich sweetbreads. You’d never know it was a close cousin to the gross little oyster patties forced upon you at wedding receptions. Read entire article.

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January 5 In Eating
January

January 5 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Eleven pipers will be piping. Some old lady is trying to cross Veterans Highway with eleven Schwegmann bags. Allan Sherman got an automatic vegetable slicer that works when you see it on television but not when you get it home. Andy Williams’s friend brought gifts for one and all. And in my own attempt at this song, I’ll barbecue for you eleven jumbo shrimp. Tomorrow is Twelfth Night, the end of the Christmas season, and the beginning of the Carnival season. Read entire article.

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January 4 In Eating
January

January 4 In Eating

AlmanacSquare This is National Spaghetti Day. As much as I love pasta, whenever I encounter spaghetti in the strictest sense of the word, I’m glad that we don’t eat it often. The thinner string pastas–spaghettini, vermicelli, angel hair–have taken over. Thicker spaghetti doesn’t roll up onto a fork, or hold as much sauce. This is because, ounce for ounce, the thinner the pasta, the more surface area it has. Read entire article.

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January 2 In Eating
January

January 2 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Wensleydale, n., adj.–A cow’s-milk cheese made in Yorkshire in England. It’s one of the most popular cheeses in that country, but not often seen here. The more traditional form of Wensleydale is a veined blue cheese, richer, smoother, and far less tangy than Stilton, another famous British blue cheese. But white Wensleydale has become more common in recent times, perhaps because of the influence of Cheddar on the market. It’s crumbly, broken into chunks rather than sliced.

There’s more. . .

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December 29 In Eating
December

December 29 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Antoine’s reopened for the first time following Hurricane Katrina on this date in 2005. It was the second (after Arnaud’s) of the old-line, grand Creole restaurants to do so, and was a pleasant surprise. So much damage was done to the restaurant’s original building that it almost fell. On this day in 2005, I was walking back to my car after lunch at the Court of Two Sisters and saw the passageway to Antoine’s kitchen open, and saw some cooks standing around. I walked in and met familiar staff. They said it would be opening night, and that two hundred people were already booked. I asked if they could take four more. My family and I were there that night. Things weren’t perfect, but it was an evening I’ll never forget. Read entire article.

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December 27 In Dining
December

December 27 In Dining

December 27, 2017 The Second Day Of Christmas From someone who regards you well, here come two turtledoves, Tujague’s recipe (for the crawfish they caught in Arabi), two candy canes, green polka-dot pajamas, or (in our own version of the song) two eggs Sardou. It is also five days until New Year’s Eve. Which isn’t much time to get a dinner reservation if you’re going out. But plenty of time to procure a bottle of Champagne-style sparkling wine. Today’s recommendation: Gruet, made in New Mexico, of all places. But quite…

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December 26 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today, various people gave their various loves a partridge in a pear tree, a song for the Christmas tree, a Japanese transistor radio, and a crawfish they caught in Arabi. I woke up this morning thinking about this song (which has till January 6 to run, even if you’re quite done with it already), and how I would write the words from the perspective of a New Orleans cook and eater. The results are below.

On the first day of Christmas I’d like to cook for you:
A filé duck-andouille gumbo.
There’s more. . .

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December 22 In Eating
December

December 22 In Eating

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AlmanacSquare Today is National Big Tip Day. That is not just fanciful, but a tradition for a century or more. I’ve practiced it had for a long time. Certain waiters who take special care of me all year long get an extraordinarily large tip from me at this season. In terms of what it returns in pleasure, it’s the best money I spend all year in restaurants. Read entire article.

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December 19 In Eating
December

December 19 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Hard Candy Day. This is the time of year when my Aunt Una and millions of people like her set out bowls of candies in red and greens in celebration of the season. I liked the ones that had the preserves-like goo inside. Striped red or green peppermints–the kind many restaurants put out near the exit–also qualify as hard candies. How many may one have? They don’t cost much, but if everyone too a handful the bowl would have to be emptied several times a night. There’s more. . .

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December 18 In Eating
December

December 18 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is Sweet Potato Day. Sweet potatoes are essential to the holiday table, but we never get tired of eating them down here in Louisiana. Not only do they taste good with Creole and Cajun food, but they’re a major local crop. Louisiana sweet potatoes are the standard of the business, like Vermont maple syrup, Idaho potatoes, and California artichokes.

Sweet potatoes are the roots of a vine related to the morning glory. They have thin, reddish brown skins and the soft, orange insides, with a substantial sweetness. All varieties of sweet potatoes are New World vegetables, and have been cultivated in the Americas for as long as five thousand years. Columbus ate them on his first voyage. They’re widely but inaccurately called yams. The true yam is an unrelated, larger, harder, starchier African root, popular in the Caribbean. But even in Africa the sweet potato is replacing the true yam, simply because it tastes better.

Most sweet potatoes are harvested in mid-summer to early fall. This has no effect on their goodness or availability, because they can be stored for months. (Indeed, storage seems to help the flavor.) Sweet potatoes are good both in savory dishes (baked, mashed, or fried) or desserts. The line is frequently crossed; most mashed sweet potatoes are made too sweet, with extra sugar and molasses and the like. On the other hand, you can add more spices–cinnamon, nutmeg, even a little cardamom.

My time favorite use of sweet potatoes is something I grew up with. When my mother made chicken gumbo, she also baked sweet potatoes, and we ate the two together. Dig out a half-spoon of sweet potato, then dunk the spoon right into the gumbo.

Sweet potatoes have become much more common in restaurants, largely because they can be substituted for white potatoes by people on low-carb diets. Give me the spicy, soft ones with the butter and cinnamon. Preferably in the company of a slow-roasted duck. Read entire article.

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December 15 In Eating
December

December 15 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Stop everything, it’s National Cupcake Day. Proving that food vogues can involved the most insignificant things, there’s a national rage around the country right now for cafes and bakeries specializing in cupcakes. At least five major cookbooks have emerged on the subject in the last few years. One wonderful thing about a cupcake: just thinking about one warms the heart. But this too will pass. Read entire article.

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December 14 In Eating
December

December 14 In Eating

~~~
AlmanacSquare Today is National Bouillabaisse Day. Bouillabaisse is one of many fish stews found all along the European coast of the Mediterranean. It’s easy to develop a powerful taste for bouillabaisse, because it has a powerful taste. We can’t make it exactly the way they do in Marseilles, the French town famous for bouillabaisse. We don’t have those borderline poisonous trash fish that they use. (Rascasse is the most famous of these; I’ve seen and tasted it, and it has no intrinsic appeal.) But we come pretty close. It’s a great wintertime dish. Read entire articl

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December 12 In Eating
December

December 12 In Eating

AlmanacSquareToday is National Hot Cocoa Day. I never was much on cocoa–cafe au lait fills the same need in my beverage selections. But my wife loves the stuff, and on cold days she makes a very rich version of it that reminds her of the cocoa they make at the El Tovar Hotel in the Grand Canyon, where she used to work. She said that many of the staff put on a lot of weight every winter just from drinking that cocoa. There’s more. . .

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December 8 In Eating
December

December 8 In Eating

~~~
AlmanacSquare It’s National Brownie Day. I can’t figure out why so few people make brownies from scratch. It’s flour, sugar, cocoa, eggs, and milk. How complex is that? What do we need a mix for? Also, when you order a brownie in a first-class restaurant, doesn’t it seem a bit out of place to you? Regardless of the excellence of the brownie or the quality of the ice cream? Read entire article.

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December 7 In Eating
December

December 7 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Chef Chris Kerageorgiou, legendary New Orleans restaurateur and founder of La Provence, was born today in 1927 in Provence. His parents were Greek. Chris began his career cooking on ships (where he met longtime pal Chef Goffredo Fraccaro, of La Riviera). He wound up in New Orleans as the maitre d’ of the Esplanade, the high-end restaurant of the Royal Orleans Hotel. Chris opened La Provence, the first really great restaurant on the North Shore, in 1972. In 2006, shortly after selling La Provence to his protege John Besh, Chris died. He was active until just a few weeks before his passing. He was a real original, with a passion for cooking and for life.
Read entire article.

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December 6 In Eating
December

December 6 In Eating

December 6, 2017 Days Until. . . Christmas 19. New Year’s Eve: 26. The Saints

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November 27 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Ella Brennan, arguably the most respected figure in the New Orleans restaurant business, was born today in 1925. Although she is officially retired, she remains active in the operation of Commander’s Palace, whose revival in the 1970s she spearheaded. That was her second restaurant career; the first one was in the original Brennan’s, founded by her older brother Owen. She began there when she was barely in her twenties. She soon came to be in the front lines of the restaurant’s management, and after Owen died in 1955, she rose to first among equals in her family in running the place.

Ella and her brothers and sisters were forced out of Brennan’s in 1973. Owen’s wife and sons owned a majority interest, and their ideas had diverged from Ella’s. She started all over again at Commander’s Palace, which she and her siblings had bought some years earlier but not emphasized. They turned the place into the most influential restaurant in New Orleans, and one of the most important in America. Hiring chefs like Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse, Ella and he brothers and sisters redefined haute Creole cuisine. Ella’s daughter Ti Martin and niece Lally Brennan run the daily operations, but Ella still lives next door, always watching. Read entire article.

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November 17 In Eating
November

November 17 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Nicolas Appert, French cook and inventor of the modern process of canning food, was born today in 1749. He was inspired in his effort by Napoleon, who offered a large reward for anyone who could develop a method of preserving food for his armies. It took Appert fourteen years to work it out. It amounted to heating the food in nearly full container and then, while it was still hot, capping it with an airtight seal. He used glass jars with wax for the seals. Read entire article.

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November 14 In Eating
November

November 14 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Guacamole Day. The word translates from the language of the aboriginal Mexicans as “avocado sauce.” They were eating it and avocados–a pure American food–long before the arrival of the Spanish. Although guacamole carries with it a sort of secret-recipe cachet, in fact it’s easy to make. The key is There’s more. . .

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November 13 in Eating
* Red Bean Edition

November 13 in Eating

AlmanacSquare The wiener was invented today in Vienna (called Wien by its citizens, who call themselves Wieners). The inventor was Johann George Lehner, who today in 1806 began selling what he called wienerwurst. That means “Vienna sausage.” This must be an example of divergent evolution, since a hot dog has little in common with those awful little sausages we, for some reason, stock up on when hurricanes head our way. In any case, the wiener was just another sausage in a land of sausages until it was popularized by the World’s Fair in St. Louis of 1904. Now it’s the hot dog. There’s more. . .

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November 10 In Eating
November

November 10 In Eating

AlmanacSquare This is National Satsuma Day. Those juicy citrus fruits from Louisiana are at the peak of their season right now. Satsumas come originally from the old Satsuma Province, on the island of Kyushu in Japan. The tree that grows them appears to have been a mutation of a kind of orange tree. In Japan, they’re called “mikans.” They came to this country in 1878, and are better known as mandarins (another reference to the Far Eastern origin, although that’s a Chinese word) or tangerines. Read entire article.

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November 8 In Eating
November

November 8 In Eating

November 8, 2016 Days Until. . . Thanksgiving: 17. Christmas: 47. New Year’s Eve: 54. Annals Of Spirits Today in 1789 is supposed to be the day that a Baptist minister named Elijah Craig distilled the first whiskey made from corn mash. This was in Bourbon County, Kentucky. Craig was quite a businessman. It is not known, really, what year he started his distillery, let alone the day, but this date is traditional as the birthday of Bourbon. There’s an expensive, eighteen-year-old, single-barrel Bourbon named for him that’s pretty good….

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November 6 In Eating
November

November 6 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is Pan-American Nacho Day. Nachos were created by Ignatio Anaya, whose nickname was Nacho. (Say “Ignatio” and you’ll see why.) In his restaurant in the bordertown of Piedras Negras, Mexico, he created a dish he named for himself: Especiales de Nacho. It was fried tortilla chips topped with melted cheese and jalapenos. It became a hit, and mutated into chips covered with all kinds of stuff from the Mexican steam tables. Read entire article.

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November 7 in Eating
November

November 7 in Eating

November 7, 2017 Days Until. . . Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 16 Christmas: 42 New Year’s Eve: 49. Today’s Flavors It’s National Bittersweet Chocolate With Almonds Day. My wife is tuned into that big-time; that might be her favorite kind of chocolate. It’s also International Bearnaise Day. A strong case can be made that bearnaise is the world’s most delicious sauce. Maybe that’s because it’s the first serious French sauce many of us encounter. If bearnaise shows up at the table, you’ll consume every bit of it. Bearnaise is a child…

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November 3 In Eating
November

November 3 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today in 1762, Spain acquired Louisiana from France. The Spanish had a long enough run to leave behind a distinct stamp on New Orleans culture. The architecture of the French Quarter, is really more Spanish than French. The Cabildo was a Spanish institution. Bayona, Susan Spicer’s restaurant, is named for the Spanish name for Dauphine Street. Spanish cooking influenced Creole food, making it quite a bit different from French food, even though the French names survived. Jambalaya, for example, is a form of paella. Read entire article.

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November 2 In Eating
November

November 2 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is Deviled Eggs Day. Deviled eggs used to be common as an appetizer around New Orleans. The most famous place for them was Maylie’s, which served them with remoulade sauce. It sounds strange, but it’s actually very good. Arnaud’s revived the idea a few years ago and had them on their lunch menu as “The Count’s Eggs.” No lunch there at the moment, though. So if we’re going to eat deviled eggs remoulade, we have to make them ourselves. Read entire article.

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November 1 In Eating
November

November 1 In Eating

November 1, 2017 Days Until Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 23 The Saints It’s All Saints Day, a big holiday in New Orleans. At one time in the not-so-distant past it was even a day off for city workers. The tradition is to visit the graves of all your relatives on All Saints Day, after weeding them and adding fresh flowers the day before. Some of my earliest recollections of dining out are associated with All Saints Day. My family rode out on the Canal Cemeteries streetcar to dress up the tomb…

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