Diary. Sunday, April 22, 2018. Here’s Zea’s weekly routine. Sundays at Zea means the restaurant’s excellent (for a chain) specials, dishes that have been lauded for me many times over the years. Too often, really, but that’s restates how good are these seasonal specials over the years.
The first of these started out as a Lenten special. But it’s no more common during that time of the year than it is right now. Asian oysters, it’s called. Seems simple enough: fried oysters with an unusually coarse coating. They come out all in a row, with a sauce that’s at the same time sweet, spicy, sharp as Creole mustard, and a touch of garlic. It has absolutely no connection with the other great new oyster dish of these times, Drago’s famous grilled oysters. The presentation is attractive, with the eight-to-ten oysters lines up in a long, narrow plate. Nothing about this dish is lacking–except perhaps for the the house policy of not serving it after summertime begins.
The other Sunday special is one of the most common soups du jour in American cuisine: tomato-basil soup. Some restaurants call it a bisque, but you can treat that as a warning. When cream takes over the flavor of this refreshing soup, the whole point of it is lost, if you ask me. That’s almost what happens here, but the soup survives.
Zea. Covington: 110 Lake Dr. 985-327-0520.
Monday, April 23, 2018. More Fish, More Beans, any location of the three. It’s another routine for me today, but I am extravagantly preoccupied with several problematic events. Mary Ann says I should, for once keep the details to today’s problem to myself.
But that surely can’t affect my lunch–a plate of red beans and rice at the highest levels of goodness and traditionalism. This came from New Orleans Food & Spirits in Covington (which also operates in Bucktown and Harvey). Several very agreeable qualities in NOFS draws me in for the beans, reminiscent of my youth. The usual big pile, just solid enough on the beans, is capped off but fried catfish.
Do any readers remember my projection that one of the best offbeat combinations would be fish and beans, together. Which fish? Whatever you’ve got cooked. Which beans? Again, it doesn’t matter. The combination of seafood and firm legumes is perennial forever and ever, amen.
New Orleans Food & Spirits. West End & Bucktown: 210 Hammond Hwy. 504-828-2220.
Also known as a “Dutch baby,” this kind of pancake is baked, not griddled. It uses a batter that’s quite eggy and much like a popover batter. The texture is different, too. In the oven, it will climb up the sides of the pan and form a sort of bowl shape. The classic way to eat a German pancake is to sprinkle powdered sugar and squeeze fresh lemon juice over it. Then you tear off pieces and eat it with your fingers. It’s not the pancake you grew up with, but it is very good and even elegant.
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup milk
- 3/4 cup self-rising flour
- 1 1/2 Tbs. sugar
- 2 Tbs. butter
- Powdered sugar
- Lemon wedges
Preheat oven and seasoned black iron skillet (about 10-inch size) to 450 degrees.
1. The recipe works better if you get the eggs and the milk up to cool room temperature first. Whisk the eggs and the milk in a microwave-proof bowl and microwave on 50 percent power for one minute.
2. Blend in the flour and sugar and whisk until all the lumps are gone. (Note: this is different from the way you make regular pancake batter.)
3. Remove the preheated skillet from the oven (use a potholder, of course) and swirl the butter around in it to coat not only the bottom but the sides.
4. Add all the batter and put the skillet back into the oven. Bake at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. The batter will move up the edges of the pan and then brown lightly.
Serve with sprinkled powdered sugar and lemon juice, and slice or tear into bite-size pieces.
Serves two to four.
Eat Club Dinner @ Vyoon’s
April 30, 2017
Days Until. . .
Jazz Festival–May 4-6
Mother’s Day–May 13
Roots Of Creole Cuisine
Today in 1812, the Territory of Orleans was admitted to the United States as the State of Louisiana–the eighteenth state. This is also the day, in 1803, when Thomas Jefferson signed the Louisiana Purchase, making it officially part of the United States. Our state is named for King Louis XIV of France–the Sun King. Even by royal standards, he lived in high style. His taste for great food and wine encouraged the development of French cuisine. Which New Orleans inherited as part of the empire.
Music To Eat Red Beans By
Today is the birthday (1925) of Johnny Horton, who recorded the hit song The Battle of New Orleans in the 1950s. It was one of many songs that requires the tourist pronunciation of our city’s name:
Well they took a little bacon and they took a little beans,
And they fought the bloody British in the town of New Orleans.
Today is allegedly National Raisin Day. Raisins are ultra-ripe red grapes. They remain on the vine until wrinkled and intensely sweet. The same effect comes from picking the grapes and letting them ripen in open baskets. Raisins are very good for you, but not everybody likes them. In every pan of bread pudding–in which raisins are a common ingredient–I put all the raisins on one side, leaving the other raisin-free.
The strangest use of raisins I ever heard of was a game played in England a century ago. You put raisins in a bowl of brandy and ignite them in a darkened room. The game was to reach into the flames and pluck out raisins, then eat them. They’d still be on fire, but as soon as you closed your mouth the flames would be extinguished. We do not recommend this game.
I also note that today ends National Soy Foods Month. Darn! We forgot to do anything about that!
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
If wine is better with age, and a raisin is a grape with age, why do grapes taste better than raisins? And would you get the aged-wine taste if you made wine with raisins? Many questions to be answered here.
Like another, larger town of the same name in Tuolumne County, California, this little Strawberry is in the High Sierra in east central part of the state. It’s fifteen miles southwest of Lake Tahoe on the Nevada state line, in El Dorado Country.Both the US highway that runs through Strawberry and the population of the town are 50. It’s in one of the snowiest places in America, in a deep valley cut through the mountains by the American River. Strawberry Creek flows into the American across from the town. A steep cliff called Lover’s Leap is in the campground nearby. Beautiful scenery in the summer. All the nearby restaurants are in South Lake Tahoe. The Get Away Cafe sounds good.
Dinner In The Diner
Casey Jones ran off the rails in the great train accident that immortalized him in song. It happened near Vaughn, Mississippi, some fifty miles north of Jackson. The City of New Orleans used to cross the very spot where the Cannonball Express met its demise, but it is now routed to the west. All the chicken gumbo in the dining car drained into a ditch, but they never talk about that. Hmph.
Music To Eat On The Road By (Again!)
This is the birthday (in 1933) of Texas country music icon Willie Nelson, as fine a writer as he is a performer. (He is playing at this year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which began yesterday.) Among his many gifts to the word is his annual Farm Aid concert, helping the beleaguered American family farmer. He doesn’t look to me like he eats enough, though.
Annals Of Popular Cuisine
On this date in 1904, 101 years after the Louisiana Purchase was signed (see above), President Theodore Roosevelt officially opened the Louisiana Purchase World Exposition in St. Louis. The hot dog, the hamburger, and the ice cream cone are all reputed to have been invented there. If they were not, they certainly became popular as a result of the Fair. Dr Pepper, little known before the Fair, was a big hit after.
carambola, n.–A tropical fruit with both citrus and mango-like flavors, refreshing and just tart enough. The most noticeable quality of the carambola, however, is its shape. Longer than it is wide, it has five pronounced ridges running from stem to tip. When cut across, the slices look like five-pointed stars. Hence the nickname “starfruit.” It’s entirely edible, including the skin. The best carambolas are yellow shading into green, with light browning along the ridges. They’re originally from the Southeast Asian islands, but they’re now grown anywhere the humidity is high and no freezing takes place. They contain the same compound that causes problems for some people when they eat grapefruit, but are otherwise healthful. They look great on a plate.
Food On The Air
Today in 1945, Arthur Godfrey began a daily radio show on CBS Radio. He didn’t end it until this same date in 1972, when his show was the last remnant of old-time network radio. It was a variety show with live music, interviews , and joking around by Godfrey. Perhaps the most influential program in broadcasting history, its format is still in use by most television talk shows. Godfrey did all the commercials himself, ad-lib. His most loyal sponsor was Lipton Tea.
Deft Dining Rule #616:
A Chinese restaurant that doesn’t brew its tea to individual table order with loose tea leaves is Americanizing most of its menu, too.
Annals Of Ethnic Dining
Today in 1975, the last American helicopter pulled away from the American Embassy in Saigon, as South Vietnam surrendered to North Vietnam, and the Vietnam War ended in embarrassment. An upshot of the pullout was that many Vietnamese people relocated to the United States, many of them here in New Orleans, where they have done themselves proud. Most of our Vietnamese restaurants are at least indirectly descended from that exodus of Vietnamese people here.
Now here’s a strange coincidence. Folk singer Richard Farina was born today in 1956. His wife Mimi Farina was also born on this date, in 1945. (She was Joan Baez’s sister.) And Johnny Farina–who was no relation at all to any of the above–was also born today, in 1941. Johnny was half of the early rock duo Santo and Johnny, famous for their instrumental hit Sleepwalk. (Farina is a word referring to all kinds of flour.)
Words To Eat By
“A raisin is just a worried grape.”–Fred Allen, radio comedian of the 1930s and 1940s.
Words To Drink By
“A hardened and shameless tea-drinker. . . has for twenty years diluted his meals with only the infusion of this fascinating plant; whose kettle has scarcely time to cool; who with tea amuses the evening, with tea solaces the midnight, and with tea welcomes the morning.”–Samuel Johnson.
Italian Westerns Return.
And with that matchless Angelo Brocato gelato throughout, we know that this will be a fine piece of cinematique.
Click here for the cartoon.