Thanksgiving Thursday, Nov.28
Christmas: Wednesday 12-25-2019
New Year's Eve: Tuesday 12-31-2019
Historic Culinary Days
The most interesting and best news from the restaurant beat in the past several years has been the revival of Brennan's on Royal Street. For those of us who thrive on first-class dining, it was a dramatic dream come true. The descendants of Owen Brennan lost control of the original Brennan's, which then went bankrupt. Then Ralph Brennan (Owen's nephew) and a well-moneyed partner took over the building and the business. They spent well over $20 million restoring both, and reopened with a legitimate claim to have reunited the Brennan family and what Brennan's customers considered "the real Brennan's."
For those who just tuned in to the fifty-year-old saga, what we have here is the return of a family-owned restaurant which, to a great extent, created the grand New Orleans restaurant as we now know it. At the same time, it brought back from a long-running torpor the uniquely pleasant restaurant that was Brennan's in its heyday, one that set the standards now widely copied at every level: food, service and environment. This is especially welcome in the pink-walled restaurant in the center of the French Quarter, the one that turned breakfast into a major celebration every day.
Special Food Days.
Various sources claim that this is National Deep Fried Clams Day. Which is almost reason enough to stay home. We don't like clams much in New Orleans, even though they grow by the millions in Lake Pontchartrain. Nobody seems to have eaten them much, other than some Native Americans a long time ago. Maybe they were onto something.
Another source says it's National Vinegar Day. That has more possibilities. Vinegar is essential for salad dressings and such, but it's always in the back of my mind of sauces. Next time you make up a recipe that calls for lemon juice, and the lemon flavor is less essential than the acidity, try using vinegar instead. (A good-quality wine vinegar, I'd better say.) I've taken to adding it to hollandaise sauce, and like the result.
The source of the word "vinegar" is interesting. It comes from the two French words, vin aigre, which means "sour wine," with a secondary, idiomatic meaning "sick wine." In all my years of wine tasting, I've never encountered a bottle of wine that had gone to vinegar. However, I once had a little wooden barrel that was charged with "mother," the enzyme that converts wine to vinegar. You'd pour leftover wine into it, and within just a day or two it would have turned it all to an excellent vinegar. I'd occasionally open the little spout and let a few drops run into a spoon, then let friends take a sniff of it. They always said the same thing: "That made my mouth water!"
Rice is in Prince Edward County in Central Virginia, fifty-eight miles east of Richmond. It's an old farming center whose identity was obscured by the building of the four-lane King Edward Highway through the fields. It gets a flag on the Civil War map: the Battle of Rice's Station took place there on April 6, 1865, as Union and Confederate forces fought for the railroad station on what is now a mainline on the Norfolk Southern Railway. The Rebs fell back to Farmville, and you should too if you want something to eat. The Big Dog Restaurant seems to be the big dog there.
rouille,[roo-YEE], French, n.--A room-temperature sauce best known for seasoning and thickening bouillabaisse. It's the stuff spread on the crouton floating atop of the broth. Sometimes it's served on the side. Classically, rouille was made with bread crumbs, olive oil, hot peppers, and garlic. In recent times it has evolved into a variation on aioli, a flavored mayonnaise. The bread crumbs have departed in favor of lemon juice, saffron, and red pepper flakes. The word means "rust," for its original color and texture. It's now more a dark orange and smooth.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
When you boil eggs, use standard balsamic vinegar in the boiling water. It will turn the shells a little brown, telling you at a glance which ones in the refrigerator have been boiled.
Deft Dining Rule #892:
If you're offered a balsamic vinaigrette in a restaurant, ask which balsamic vinegar they use. If you don't get an answer, they didn't really make it themselves, and it probably isn't made with real balsamic.
The Broadway musical Top Banana, with unmemorable music by the great Johnny Mercer and starring Phil Silvers, opened on Broadway today in 1951. . . Ruud Cabbage, a star soccer player for the Dutch FC Twente team, was born today in 1966. . . Grantland Rice, one of the most famous sportswriters in history, was born today in 1880. . . Nobel Peace Prize winner Philip Noel-Baker was born today in 1886. . . Pro baseball outfielder Coco Crisp stepped up to the Big Plate today in 1979.
Annals Of Fine Writing
George Safford Parker was born today in 1863. He didn't invent the fountain pen, but he refined it so much that he could be said to have created the first modern version of it. Parker is still one of the leading names in the pen industry. I have been writing with Parker fountain pens since 1964. The one I use now for almost all my handwriting is a much-renovated Parker 75 I bought in 1974. If you have an autographed copy of any of my books, it was signed with that good old pen.
Words To Eat By
"Serve the dinner backward, do anything but for goodness sake, do something weird." Elsa Maxwell, American writer, who died today in 1963.
Words To Drink By
"In most households a cup of coffee is considered the one thing needful at the breakfast hour. But how often this exhilarating beverage, that ‘comforteth the brain and heateth and helpeth digestion’ is made muddy and ill-flavoured! You may roast the berries to the queen's taste, and grind them fresh every morning, and yet, if the golden liquid be not prepared in the most immaculate of coffee-pots, with each return of morning, a new disappointment awaits you."--Janet McKenzie Hill, cookbook author in the late 1800s and early 1900s, collaborator with Fannie Farmer