Ninth Day Of Christmas. We have nine ladies dancing. They must be from Uptown. It's time someone told them the New Year's Eve party's over. Or that they're three days early for the official first Mardi Gras ball. From other versions of the song, we: Drove down Delery in the Lower Ninth Ward (Bennie Grunch), got a pair of teakwood shower clogs (Allan Sherman), a guardian angel for the Christmas tree (Andy Williams), and nine cups of rice (our own version; this will make more sense tomorrow).
Over a decade ago today, John Besh bought La Provence from its founder, Chef Chris Kerageorgiou. He said that he'd leave things the same for awhile, and during the summer perform a renovation. But that plan was short-circuited when Chris passed away. He was quite sick, but it was still a surprise. We like thinking that Chris was so pleased that his baby was in the hands of his protegé (Besh had worked at La Provence in his early career) that he was at peace. Besh did the renovation in the spring and opened again with a new chef, a new menu, a new bar (La Provence never had one, really) and a new waitstaff--save for "Just Joyce," who continued writing poems and acting as mother hen. After a few stuttering months, he brought in the now sadly deceased Rene Bajeux as a partner. In 2020, it has turned over again, from the last owner,(so two past the Besh acquisition.) I expect this new La Provence to become one of the most interesting restaurants and small hotels in the entire area, under the ownership of Cayman Sinclair.
Food Through History
One of the many people who claimed to have invented what he called oleomargarine got a patent for it today in 1871. He was Henry Bradley of Binghampton, New York, following on the heels of Hippolyte Mege-Mouries, the French inventor who made the first margarine a couple of years earlier. . . Another invention that had more than one father was the drinking straw. Marvin Stone patented his today in 1871. It was made of spiraling, wax-saturated paper. Anyone remember paper straws? We're getting reacquainted with them. The shift from paper to plastic occurred in 1966. At least, that was the year we made the change in the straws we used for Icees at the Time Saver. And it is now hard to find plastic straws in restaurants, and usually by request only. Everything old is new again.
Food On The Air
Today is the birthday of Betty Furness, an okay actress in the 1940s and 1950s. During her performance in a live television drama, she was asked to read the commercial for Westinghouse appliances. The company liked her so much that she became their spokesperson. For years, she demonstrated to all the young American women who were building households at that time everything they needed for their kitchens. Her famous catchphrase was, "You can be sure if it's Westinghouse."
Ticker Tape Of Taste
Combination pho soup at Kim Anh in Harahan, 88. . . Veggie spring roll, same place, 87. . . Moussaka at Mr. Gyros last summer, 85. . . Same thing on a cold day like this one, 91, up 6. . . Success of Sugar Bowl in filling restaurants 98. . . Beignets at Cafe du Monde in French Market 77, down 12. All ratings are on a scale of 100. 100=best, 50=average, 0=worst.
vacherin, n., French.--The word has two meanings, for a cheese and a dessert. The cheese is probably the older. Vacherin cheese is made from cow's milk (hence the name, vache meaning cow), and visually resembles a Brie. It's a round disk about a foot in diameter and an inch and a half or so thick. It has a washed rind that blooms with mold, and a soft interior when ripe. It's made around the French-Swiss border, with examples from both countries. An oddity about vacherin is that it's traditionally packaged in a spruce-bark box, in which it can be warmed. That wood gives the cheese a slightly resinous aroma and flavor. The vacherin dessert seems to be an imitation of the cheese. It's a sandwich or hard-baked meringue with either creme chantilly or ice cream in the center, and sometimes fruit. It's the sort of thing we used to see in classic French restaurants with good pastry chefs.
Alluring Dinner Dates
This is the birthday, in 1897, of Marion Davies, an actress and dancer who dated her way to the top. She was the girlfriend of William Randolph Hearst, who made sure all his newspapers ran glowing reviews of her movies. The whole affair is a big part of the movie Citizen Kane. She must have been quite a lady.
We see that today is National Chocolate-Covered Cherry Day. I thought those things were the last word in candy luxury when I was a kid. I never questioned that until a girlfriend pointed out something I knew but ignored: they're sweet enough to cause near-pain in the eating. And if the chocolate shell cracked, the runny insides would flow out into a sticky mess, and let the cherry dry out. My mother, who recognized nothing as too sweet, loved and expected boxes of chocolate-covered cherries for birthdays, Mother's Day, etc.
Cherry, Illinois is a small farm town (population about 500) whose thirty or so perfectly square blocks are surrounded by cornfields as far as the eye can see. It's about midway across the state west of Chicago, about a hundred miles away. A coal mine nearby had a fire in 1909 that killed 259 miners. Raising corn sounds like a better idea.
The first issue of this publication appeared today in 1977. The New Orleans Menu started as a four-page biweekly newsletter of my restaurant reviews. The New Orleans Menu did pretty well, and over the years expanded into a 40-page monthly magazine, then into a quarterly 100-page book. The evolution into this daily internet newsletter occurred in 1997. Now it has more subscribers than ever in its history, many of whom have been on the rolls the entire thirty-one years. Thank you!
American Sculptor Larkin Goldsmith Mead was born today in 1835. He was also an illustrator for Harper's Magazine. . . Jaak-Nikolaas Lemmens, a composer and organist who lived in Brussels, Belgium, was born today in 1823. . . Apple Computer Company was incorporated today in 1977. . . William Tucker, who is believed to have been the first African-American (his parents were from Africa, but he was born in the British colonies that became the United States), was born today in 1624. ("Tucker" is Australian slang for food.) . . .The final Peanuts comic strip appeared today in 2000, when Charles M. Schulz, its creator, retired.
Words To Eat By
"This special feeling towards fruit, its glory and abundance, is I would say universal... We respond to strawberry fields or cherry orchards with a delight that a cabbage patch or even an elegant vegetable garden cannot provoke."--Jane Grigson, British cookbook author. "Women who buy perfume and flowers for themselves because their men won't do it are called 'self basting.'"--
Adair Lara, American writer.