SummerDiningSpecials

Audubon Park Is A Lovely Coolinary Venue.

The Audubon Clubhouse, with its big live oak trees punctuating expanses of sea-like green lawns, is a lovely setting for a restaurant or a reception hall. I have been there for the latter enough times to know that they can cook better than you might expect from a kitchen attached to a golf course.

The Clubhouse’s Coolinary menu is also a pleasant surprise. Most of these summer menus sell for $39 for three courses. Here, the price is a mere $25. This becomes especially appealing when you note that a strip sirloin steak–my favorite cut of beef, and the most expensive–is one of your two choices for the entree. Here’s all the rest of that menu. It’s available at dinner every day except Saturday.

Summer Salad
Summer squash ribbons, herb compressed tomato
~or~

Gazpacho Du Jour
Chef’s seasonal selection
~or~

Summer Salad
Summer squash ribbons, herb compressed tomato
~or~

Boudin Balls
Crispy, house-made boudin, pepper jack cheese, smoked tomato aioli
~~~~~

Strip Steak
Strip loin of beef, goat cheese and thyme grits, brandy roasted mushrooms, sauce Creole
~or~

Local Fresh Fish
Citrus and chili crusted fish, lima bean puree, pearl cous cous salad, chili oil, citrus beurre blanc
~~~~~

Cast Iron Bread Pudding
New Orleans style bread pudding, pecan crumble, honey-bourbon ice cream

Audubon Clubhouse

Uptown: 6500 Magazine. 504-212-5282.: 6500 Magazine St. 504-212-5282.

NOMenu invites restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events to tell us, so we might add the news to this free department. Send to news@nomenu.com.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, August 24, 2016
The Return Of The Caribbean Room And Kin.

Mary Ann flew back home today after a week with Mary Leigh in Washington, DC. She brings back some interesting news along with orders from the top that I must not discuss it here.

MA and I hatch dinner plans that run awry. She and many of my listeners and readers are interested in N7. It’s a French bistro in the Bywater neighborhood (and what new restaurant has not opened there?). N7 is its whole name, taken from a road sign in France. The place made news lately by being named one of the best new restaurants in America by one of the national food magazines.

It’s MA’s idea that we should try it. I arrive first, after driving around the block defined by St. Claude Avenue and Montegut Street. Nothing looks like a restaurant here, but on the second pass I see a sign on a wooden fence. It says that N7 is on vacation this week. So much for this idea.

MA’s next suggestion is the Caribbean Room at the newly-reopened Pontchartrain Hotel on St. Charles Avenue. To avoid the bombed-out condition of Rampart Street and most other thoroughfares between N7 and The C-Room, I drive up North Claiborne and pick up the I-10, which will loop around and get me to St. Charles Avenue.

I have in mind a a visual I have not thought about in awhile. The ramp from the neutral ground of North Claiborne to West I-10 gives the finest possible view of the New Orleans skyline. When it opens up just above St. Bernard Avenue, the ramp looks across the French Quarter and the Treme neighborhood. Behind them are the skyscrapers that begin at Iberville Street and slope downward to the general vicinity of Lee Circle. With the Quarter’s low rooftops in the foreground to the tall wall of office buildings in the CBD, you see everything. It’s worth going out of your way.

When MA offers the Caribbean Room as our dinner place, the first thing that comes to my mind is that restaurant has a dress code. Jackets required for men. It’s the first new dress code around town in decades. And wouldn’t you know it: today is one of the very rare days when I am not wearing a jacket. I trigger into no-jacket mode when the temperature goes above 95. MA, who much prefers casual places, is here with a presentable dress today. I am wearing a tie, however. And the Caribbean Room has a rack of jackets for men. Even had my size.

This practice was common when many restaurants required jackets. The last time I suffered the embarrassment was April 1973, when the Figaro newspaper celebrated its first anniversary with breakfast at Brennan’s. I had just come in after delivering the papers to their coin boxes around town all night long. (That was my first job at Figaro. My last one was as editor-in-chief.) I wore a dress shirt and a tie. I didn’t think I’d need a jacket for breakfast. But this was the old Brennan’s, before the family split, and things were much more formal. I had to wear one of the hideous green jackets with a big letter B on the lapel that Brennan’s kept for use by the underdressed.

The Caribbean Room is now in normal operation, after a few days of soft openings. The waiter told me that they had fifty people on the book for tonight. We were seated in the small, square room that was the C-Room’s original premises. When it became one of the city’s most in-demand restaurants, it expanded into a much more spacious room with a fountain and high ceilings. Maybe people with borrowed jackets are not allowed in that much handsomer room.

We are not derided in any way by the dining room staff, although they took their time getting around to us to outline the menu. (This is what happens in new restaurants, so I write it off.) The menu is a triptych, showing the C-Room’s famous dishes on the side panels. Very convenient: I just swept my hand across one of these panels, and soon we were eating crabmeat Remick, baked oysters, agnolotti pasta with goat cheese, seafood gumbo, and shrimp Saki. All of this was good, if not a lot like what I remember from the old days.

Entrees both involved red snapper. Mine was made with a sauce of sweet corn. Hers has a somewhat spicy sauce. Both kept the excellent fish in tightest focus, as it should have been.

MA is not usually a dessert eater, but she was intrigued by the mile-high pie, the signature dessert of the C-Room for as long as anyone can remember. Chocolate, vanilla, and peppermint ice cream are the layers, with meringue on top and the Pontchartrain’s fudge sauce over all. I say that this is neither as high nor as wide as it used to be. But we didn’t need any more of it. Nobody should attempt to finish this.

We are visited by Chef Chris Lusk, who came to the Pontchartrain after a few years at Restaurant R’Evolution and at Café Adelaide. I think I see the hand of John Besh–whose management project this is–in the menus. But regardless of the background, having this restaurant back again is cause for celebration. And that is to say nothing yet about the Bayou Bar, the Silver Whistle (that’s the breakfast and lunch dining room at the corner), and Hot Tin, the brilliant idea to have a bar on the fourteenth-floor rooftop.

It crosses my mind that this is the place where Mary Ann and I had our first date–although she didn’t consider it a date at the time.

I can’t wait to doff the loaner jacket.

Caribbean Room. Garden District: 2031 St. Charles Ave. 504-323-1500.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Stuffed Flounder with Eggplant

Most stuffed fish are filled with the standard crabmeat-and-bread stuffing. This one is something else. The stuffing is so light as to be cloudlike, and when roasted in the oven takes on a thin, delectable crust. The eggplant takes on a part-time gig with the Creole trinity of vegetable.

StuffedFlounder

  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into half-inch dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped coarsely
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 onions, chopped
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup shrimp stock
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 leaves fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 lb. white crabmeat
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 cups milk, heated
  • 4 flounder (or trout or snapper) fillets, about 8 oz. each
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Bread crumbs

1. Sprinkle the eggplant with a lot of salt and allow to drain inside a colander in the sink for fifteen minutes. Rinse the salt off and drain.

2. Combine the eggplant, red bell pepper, celery, wine, stock, thyme, basil, and oregano in a skillet. Cook over medium high heat until the vegetables begin to soften, then remove from the heat. Add the crabmeat and mix lightly.

3. In a separate saucepan, heat the butter with the flour and stir to make a light roux. Add the hot milk and whisk to make a fluffy béchamel sauce.

4. Fold the eggplant-and-crabmeat mixture into the béchamel. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Cut a wide slit in the top of the fish fillets and top them with the stuffing. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and bread crumbs lightly over the top. Place the fillets in a pan, douse with a little white wine, and bake in the 400-degree oven for 8-10 minutes.

Serves four.

500BestSquareOysters Rockefeller @ Antoine’s

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This is Antoine’s most famous dish, which makes it one of the most revered and enjoyable creations in the entire New Orleans restaurant repertoire. It was created in the 1890s by Antoine Alciatore’s son Jules. It spread to French-inspired restaurants all over the world, and is still found in hundreds of restaurants. Almost every traditional New Orleans eatery serves oysters Rockefeller.

Antoine's three baked oyster dishes. From the top left: Rockefeller, Thermidor, and Bienville.

Antoine’s three baked oyster dishes. From the top left: Rockefeller, Thermidor, and Bienville.

The original recipe is made with a sauce made by finely chopping fennel, parsley, celery, and green onions. These are cooked down then mixed with a light roux, bread crumbs, and few other ingredients. There is no spinach in Antoine’s version, although most restaurants replace all the other greens with that one. The sauce is quite thick, and baked on top of an oyster on its shell. At Antoine’s they’re a little variable, but most of the time they have that beguiling mixture of herbal flavors with distinctive white pepper note. You get six to the order, which might fill you up more than you expected from an appetizer. The dish is named for John D. Rockefeller for its richness and green color, suggestive of money.

Antoine’s. French Quarter: 713 St Louis. 504-581-4422.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare August 26, 2016

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 5

Today’s Flavor

Today is Stuffed Flounder Day, celebrating the signature dish of the West End seafood restaurant community. The hurricane laid a quietus on West End. No signs remain that restaurants were ever there–let alone a dozen of them in one block. Almost all of them featured a whole flounder, cut with a half-dozen or so slits across its upward side, and fried or broiled. You could get it stuffed with crabmeat dressing if you liked. If you were lucky, you got what the fishermen referred to as a “doormat”–a really big one, so called for the flounder’s habit of lying on its side on the shallow bottom of the lake or Gulf.

FlounderThe West End-style flounder was already in decline before the storm. The population of the fish was diminished, forcing the closing of commercial flounder fishing now and then. Bruning’s–the most famous and oldest of the West End restaurants–continued to make whole stuffed flounder its house specialty until all parts of it were blown away by Katrina. It has not reopened, and its future looks uncertain.

Whole flounders are still served here and there. Fury’s in Metairie–operated by old West End hand John Fury–has it whenever the fish can be obtained fresh. Middendorf’s on the west side of the lake and Vera’s in Slidell also have flounder most of the time. I have heard reports that Brisbi’s and the Blue Crab–new restaurants on Lakeshore Drive–are also running the traditional West End flounder.

We eat it for its deliciousness, but flounder also has the distinction of being the fish lowest in fat of commonly-eaten fish. The full moon in August (last week) is known around New Orleans as the Flounder Moon for this beautiful, round, silvery, delectable denizen of Gulf waters.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Flounder2Turbotville is in the northeast quadrant of Pennsylvania, a 159-mile drive over the Appalachians from Philadelphia. It’s considered a borough, and is surrounded by Lewis Township. Population is around 700 people. It was incorporated in 1859. It’s named for a hero of several wars, Colonel Turbutt Francis. The name was later changed to Turbot Township, then Turbortville. A turbot is a flatfish much admired in Europe for its edibility. It’s related to our flounder, but that fact has no connection with Turbotville. The place to eat is R&R’s Tin Cup, which probably doesn’t have turbot on its menu.

Food On The Air

Today is the birthday, in 1873, of Lee DeForest, one of the inventors of the electron tube. That was the critical component in making radio sets that you could listen to without headphones. I wonder if he would have bothered had he known it would make “The Food Show With Tom Fitzmorris” possible

Turning Points In Eating Habits

This is the birthday of Christopher Columbus, in 1451. Whatever else can be said about him, his voyages and their aftermath changed eating habits worldwide–and rather quickly, at that. Starting with his first transatlantic crossing, he brought to Europe New World food that had never been seen there before. Imagine the cuisines of the world without tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and chocolate. More about Columbus on the anniversary of his landing in the Americas.

Edible Dictionary

Lemon sole, n.–A popular fish off the North Atlantic coasts, lemon sole is a flatfish, lying on on side at the bottom of the water with both its eyes looking up, waiting for prey. It is known almost as much for its misleading name as it is for the deliciousness of its fine-textured, white flesh. It is not really a sole, and the word “lemon” is not backed up but any aspect of its looks or its flavor. The name seems to have come from mixups in the French language in describing the rough surface of the fish’s skin, or perhaps the silty ocean bottom where it lives. If you like flounder or Dover sole, you’ll like lemon sole.

Deft Dining Rule #126

Almost all fish taste better with the skin on and the bones in.

Food Namesakes

Frank Bacon began a Broadway run of over a thousand performances of a play called Lightnin’ on this day in 1918. . . Peter Appleyard is a jazz vibraphonist, born today in England in 1928. He played most of his career in Canada.

Words To Eat By

“Shellfish are the prime cause of the decline of morals and the adaptation of an extravagant lifestyle. Indeed of the whole realm of Nature the sea is in many ways the most harmful to the stomach, with its great variety of dishes and tasty fish.”– Pliny the Elder, ancient Roman writer.

At last! The decadence of New Orleans is explained!

Words To Drink By

“Ah, the rapturous, wild, and ineffable pleasure of drinking at someone else’s expense!”–Henry Sambrook Leigh, British writer of the 1800s.

FoodFunniesSquare

I Have This Model Toaster, And. . .

. . .it does the same thing with my toast. But, I have to run it through a second time to get really toasty. I’m having fun watching it shoot a slice into the air, and having it fall into the next slot over.

Click here for the cartoon.

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SummerDiningSpecials

Coolinary Freedom @ Bayona

Susan Spicer’s flagship restaurant in the French Quarter is a perennial participanty inthe Coolinary program of special attractively-priced dinners through the summer. And I like the way its presented. For $39, you get the soup of the day or the house salad–a typical choice during the Coolinary season (which ends in early-to-mid September).

But the entree availabilities are even easier to grok: you choose anything from the main course. That makes it one of the two or three best selection in the whole summertime program. And then, you get a choice of desserts.

It all boils down to a delicious dinner, one you’ll remember as much for its value and for its goodness.

Bayona

French Quarter: 430 Dauphine. 504-525-4455. www.bayona.com.

NOMenu invites restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events to tell us, so we might add the news to this free department. Send to news@nomenu.com.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Sunday, August 21, 2016.
Hymns With The Methodists.

A difficulty in organizing a chorus is finding a place big enough to have all the singers in one room. We have been lucky in having the First Methodist Church in Covington as our home. It’s a big space with good acoustics and a nice piano. The church has a new minister, and the leaders of our assembly of singers offered to perform some of the hymns in our repertoire to show our appreciation.

The church’s members reciprocate by putting out a spread of food for us in its adjacent great room. Mary Ann would have loved it. Lots of macaroni and cheese, dirty rice, beans, and a bunch of small desserts.

I am a cradle Catholic, but I have never hesitated to visit other churches when invited. The Methodist service is new to me. I add my respects to a list that includes full services in Southern Baptist, Lutheran, Greek Orthodox, and Unitarian churches. And, in their own special categories, a number of African-American Christian churches (mostly for the purpose of hearing their music) and a Reform Jewish temple. I have sung in most of these. So it was a busy day today even before noon.

I wrote tomorrow’s–as I did last Sunday–so that tomorrow I can spend some time trying to make my new wireless phone useful. Main problem: I have no wireless signal at the Cool Water Ranch.

I succeed in taking a forty-five minute walk. Then it starts raining. So much for cutting grass. When will this depressing weather end?

I have a routine supper at the Acme Oyster House. Fried oyster poor boy in combination with a cup of chicken-andouille gumbo and a side salad. A scoop of ice cream for dessert. Everything is as it should be. We have eleven days before the official beginning of the raw oyster season.

Monday, August 22, 2016.
The Best-Tasting Red Beans Often Look Worst.

I pay my fifth or sixth visit to the offices of MetroPCS, the service provider for my new wireless phone. I have not been able to use the phone even to confirm that I have the number, because I have zero signal coming in at home. I am ready to throw in the towel. But the two very helpful staffers at the shop tell me something I hadn’t considered. “The Baton Rouge telephone network was hit really hard by the floods,” they tell me. “Even emergency service has suffered, and so have some of the towers on this side of the flooding.”

I feel like a cold-blooded jerk. Here I am with my petty complaint, while people are homeless, hungry, incommunicado, and worse. Their big disaster hit at exactly the same time my minor inconvenience did.

Nevertheless, the Metro tech fellow shows me how to get my phone on the grid without my having to suck up needed resources. And how to answer a phone call or send a text message–both of which eluded me.

Red beans at Buster's Place.

Red beans at Buster’s Place.

I run a few errands I missed over the weekend, then I have lunch at Buster’s in Covington. It’s my second time recently, I am pleased to report that the place has become reliably good. The red beans and hot sausage are delicious, but they show a common characteristic with much Creole and Cajun cooking: it doesn’t look very appetizing. The red beans and rice are high on fluids. Almost a soup. But they taste great. When I reach that point, I am happy.

Buster’s Place. Covington: 519 E Boston. 985-809-3880.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Cajun Pot Au Feu

Chef Gunter Preuss was for almost thirty years the owner and chef of Broussard’s. There he created this version of the famous French soup-stew with a local flavor. This dish is similar to bouillabaisse, but without the saffron and with more pepper and other Louisiana ingredients. This is a great dish to make if you ever find yourself with a surplus of whole fish from a fishing trip (or from the generosity of the friend who is a good angler).

Cajun Pot Au Feu.

  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, well washed and chopped coarsely
  • 6 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 3 fresh, ripe, peeled, seeded tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 3 quarts chicken stock
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lb. fish fillets (redfish, trout, sheepshead, drum, etc.)
  • 2 dozen oysters
  • 1 lb. lump crabmeat
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. In a large saucepan, heat the butter until it bubbles. Saute the carrots, onions, leeks and celery in the butter until they turn limp.

2. Stir in the tomato paste, then pour in the brandy. Carefully flame the brandy and allow the flame to extinguish itself.

3. Pour in the white wine and bring it to a boil. Reduce by about one-fourth, then add the tomatoes and garlic. Return to a boil, cook for about a minute more, and add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, heat the 3 Tbs. butter in a skillet and, in turn, saute the shrimp, fish, and oysters. The shrimp should turn pink, the fish should turn opaque, and the edges of the oysters should curl. Take care not to overcook anything.

5. Add the shrimp, fish, oysters, crabmeat, and parsley to the soup and bring to a boil. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce. This dish can be served as is, with rice, or with pasta. The consistency should be like that of gumbo.

Serves six to eight.

500BestSquareRoasted Chicken Breast @ La Petite Grocery

DishStars-4
The French side of this Uptown bistro’s soul demands that there is always a good roasted chicken dish on the menu. The one on the current card is a breast sent out with a confit of soft wild mushrooms, with a pistou that surrounds most of the chicken’s surface. Fingerling potatoes and the currently ubiquitous green beans finishes the plate. Is this really $29? Yes, and we arrived at that price mark sooner than I thought, too. It its defense, the chicken holds up its end in the flavor department.

La Petite Grocery. Uptown: 4238 Magazine. 504-891-3377.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare August 24, 2016

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 7

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

PotatoChipsChef George Crum invented potato chips today in 1853. He worked in a resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. The chips were meant as an insult to a customer who complained that Crum’s fried potatoes were too thick. The chef sliced them paper-thin, fried them, and sent them out. The customer loved them, and so did the chef. And they took off in popularity from there. Few restaurants serve freshly-fried potato chips locally; more ought to.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Curdsville is a farming town of 200 people in northern Kentucky, thirty-eight miles southeast of Evansville, Indiana. It’s where Panther Creek meets the Green River, a tributary of the Ohio River and therefore a contributor to the New Orleans water supply. With a name like Curdsville, one would expect cheese to be made in the area, but the only cheese we could find is on the cheeseburgers at Hayden’s Drive-Inn, two miles out of town. For bean curd, it’s a ten-mile drive to the Hong King in Owensville.

Deft Dining Rule #125

A fish and chips vendor without malt vinegar is like an oyster bar without Tabasco, an Italian restaurant without Parmigiana cheese, or a sushi bar without wasabi.

Today’s Flavor

It is National Gyros Day–but only in the United States. Gyros, pronounced any way you like but most commonly “ghee-rho,” is a staple of American Greek restaurants. It may have been invented in this country, although that’s not certain. It is uncommon in Greece, except where American tourists congregate. No classical Greek dish is like it, although Lebanese shawarma is similar. It’s certainly not old; no mention of it has been found earlier than the 1970s.

Gyros on pira pread.

Gyros is a processed blend of finely-chopped lamb and sometimes beef with seasonings, pressed into a tapering cylinder which is then mounted on a vertical rotisserie. Assuming the stuff is sold at a reasonable pace, the outside of this cylinder gets a little crust from the flame it passes on every rotation. The chef slices it off from top to bottom.

Gyros is serves as either a platter or a sandwich. In either case, it’s accompanied by pita bread, tzatziki sauce (a white sauce of yogurt, cucumber, and dill) lettuce, and tomatoes. If it’s a sandwich, sometimes it’s stuffed into the pocket of the pita, and sometimes the pita is wrapped around it like a taco shell. Despite its processed, fast-food aspect, gyros is pretty good. It’s certainly a great change of pace from the hamburger, which it resembles in enough ways to become popular.

Edible Dictionary

puttanesca, Italian, adj.Literally, “in the style of the prostitute.” A dish cooked alla puttanesca is strongly flavored with salty, briny ingredients, notably olives, capers, anchovies, tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and garlic. This concoction is usually applied to pasta, but in the current American vogue a slab of spicy, grilled tuna is frequently present. The whole idea is a borderline gross, offensive joke, about which the less you think, the better. But Italians know what’s being referred to here, and are chuckling as they order and eat the dish avidly. As who wouldn’t? It’s delicious.

Disastrous Interruptions Of Dinner

Mount Vesuvius’s most famous eruption–the one that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum–occurred on this date in 79 AD. From the excavations in the lava we’ve been able to learn much about the lifestyles of the Romans at that especially rich time in their history. What a strange coincidence that the earthquake that hit Italy overnight last night (2016) should have occurred on this date.

Annals Of Breakfast

Today in 1869, Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York patented a waffle iron. Although waffles existed for hundreds of years, and Thomas Jefferson brought a patterned waffle iron back from the Netherlands (where they have long been popular), Swarthout’s breakthrough was in creating the grid pattern we now identify with waffles. In those days before electricity, the iron was heated over an open fire or in an oven.

Movie Restaurants

Alice’s Restaurant, a movie about the place where “you can get anything you want, excepting Alice,” premiered today in 1969. It grew out of a long, folky, humorous song performed by the movie’s star, Arlo Guthrie. The recording was better than the movie, a prime piece of pop culture of the late 1960s.

Looking Up

Today in 2006, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of its status as a full-fledged planet. Back in the days when New Orleans had five-digit phone numbers, we dialed PLUTO to get the correct time. Before you got it, you’d hear an ad for Coca-Cola. Example: “Take five! Coke brings you back alive! Four thirty-one p.m.” To this day, whenever I think of Pluto I think of an ice-cold six-ounce bottle of Coke. What a great ad buy that was! And how antique such a service seems to be now.

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Bartholemew, one of the Apostles. He is much revered in Italy, and in Florence he is the patron saint of cheesemakers and salt merchants.

Food Namesakes

Baseball outfielder Tim Salmon was born today in 1968. . . British comedian Stephen Fry was born today in 1957. . . John Cipollina, guitarist with Quicksilver Messenger Service, a major band in the Summer of Love in San Francisco, was born today in 1943. . . Max Beerbohm, a British artist of caricatures, was born today in 1872. . . . Kenny Baker, who played R2D2 in the Star Wars movies, hit the Big Stage today in 1934.

Words To Eat By

“Lyon is full of temperamental gourmets, eternally engaged in a never-ending search for that imaginary, perfect, unknown little back-street bistro, where one can dine in the style of Louis XIV for the price of a pack of peanuts.”–Roy Andries de Groot, American food writer.

Substitute “New Orleans” for “Lyon” and “joint” for “bistro,” and the sentence remains true.

Words To Drink By

“A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring;
Their shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Alexander Pope.

FoodFunniesSquare

Soup In The Microwave Oven.

Easy cooking, easier clean-up–if you do it right away.

Click here for the cartoon.

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A Sweet Little Dinner For $25.

SummerDiningSpecials
Sucre started out as a first-class maker of cakes, cookies, macaroons,. pastries, and the like. My wife says it reminds her of Hollywood somehow. In recent times the Sucre guys rolled out a savory menu in its French Qyaurer location. It’s light, a little exotic, and a pleasure to have with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.

For the Coolinary, Salon has a three-course dinner for a surprising $25. Add ten dollars, and the meal grows two glasses of wine–and it’s still below the standard Coolinary dinner price. At lunchtime, a $15 entree and dessert scheme rolls for $15. The only drawback: Salon is open only Thursdays through Sundays.

Market Salad
Local greens, walnut granola, champagne vinaigrette, broken bread
~or~

Baked French Onion Soup
~~~~~

Duck
Pomegranate, caramel, watercress, soft egg
~or~

Lasagna
Wild mushrooms, kale, mascarpone veloute
~~~~~

Affogato
Bread pudding, gelato, espresso, streusel
~or~

Pretzel Donuts & Coffee
Vanilla pastry cream, Vietnamese coffee pot de crème
~~~~~

Salon By Sucre

French Quarter: 622 Conti St. 504-267-7098.

NOMenu invites restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events to tell us, so we might add the news to this free department. Send to news@nomenu.com.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, August 19, 2016.
In And Out.

Mary Ann arrived home at around four in the morning from Los Angeles, after extending her visit with Jude and family. She will be leaving for Washington, D.C. early tomorrow morning. I would comment about the lonely state this creates at the Cool Water Ranch.

It doesn’t help that the heavy, intermittent rains will not let up, nor that reports coming in from Baton Rouge and environs get worse and worse. It’s possible that the long, gentle system that put two feet of rain on the ground will leave as many as 100,000 temporarily homeless.

The restaurants have been quick to step into that breach. Today a dozen or so messages from restaurants arrived in my box, telling of special menus whose profits will got to help relieve the flooded people around Red Stick. There will be many more of these over the weekend.

I didn’t really need to cross the lake today, but I thought it would help in some way. The rain kept coming on both sides of the lake, ignoring my pathetic responses to it.

Dinner At Ristorante Filippo in Metairie. The place was underpopulated and Phil Gagliano is not there. There seemed to be something wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I start with the Italian-style baked oysters areganata, which were as good as always. The chicken spiedini are not available, but there’s nothing unusual about that. Someday, I want to know why the best dish in the house should be so hard to get.

It’s a teeming rain when I leave. I go through three storms between here and the Cool Water Ranch. I try to call MA, but my new cellphone will not fire up. One reason, I know, is that the wireless signal at the ranch is at almost zero. I will have to ask about this. I’ve had the unit for five days, and I have yet to execute an outgoing or incoming phone call.

Ristorante Filippo. Metairie: 1917 Ridgelake. 504-835-4008.
Saturday, August 20, 2016.
All-Day Singing Camp. Dinner With The Expansionists. And Morris Bart.

The Northlake Performing Arts Society begins its new season with an all-day retreat. Nearly the entire membership is there, learning skills like breath control and how to mark sheet music to get the most out of it. The seminars are at Southeastern University in Hammond. Whenever I go that way, I usually take US 190 rather than the I-12. It’s a two-lane with a 55 mph speed limit, but it’s shorter and not as intense as the Interstate.

About halfway there, I have some remorse about this routing. For the next ten or so miles, both shoulders of the highway are piled with about six feet of construction debris, ruined furniture and kitchen appliances. Most of the piles were tended by people with trailers attached to their trucks. And most of those were unloading and making the piles grow. Shades of Katrina! I had no idea that the flooding had come this far. I became concerned about the nails that surely have been sprinkled on the roadway through this gauntlet of former building equipment. I would not head home that way.

The music camp goes on for six hours, after which everybody except our director Alissa Rowe was tuckered out. (Alissa is among the most energetic people I know.)

I refreshed myself for a couple of hours back at the ranch, then struck out for downtown New Orleans and Tommy’s Cuisine. After dinner with Tommy Andrade and Marv Ammari night before last, they invited me to return tonight for another dinner, this one with the three other Ammari brothers and their wives. One of the ladies is celebrating her birthday. Seated next to me are attorney Morris Bart and his wife. I don’t run into him often, which I guess is a good thing, given what he does for a living. However, I did get to know him pretty well when I cheffed a dinner at his home for the winners in a charity auction some years age.

If the twelve-top table in Tommy’s Carnival Room hosted any business discussion tonight, it didn’t last long. Bart did tell me that business is good, if constantly challenging. He says this in a way that makes it clear that he enjoys the challenge.

The evening is very entertaining, with lots of jokes and anecdotes. The food was good, too. Everybody ordered from the menu tonight, instead of the fixed menu we had Thursday. Lots of good-looking seafood went around the table. I ordered the grilled pompano. For once, the fish that came out was clearly the good kind of pompano. Enormous, for one thing, big enough for two large fillets to be cut from it. When that course was served, I saw that at least half the orders were for that pompano. I’m always uncomfortable when I lead the ordering at a restaurant table. Too much risk that it might not be as good as advertised, and getting the blame.

The wines selected by Tommy were as good as expected, but the theme was different from the dinner two nights ago. In that dinner, we drank nothing but name wines. Tonight, all the bottles were new labels to me. I think I liked these better than those.

The dinner broke up after Bart described his exercise and diet regimes, the ones that keep him in obviously good condition. It made me tired just to think about it.

And then most of the attendees at this enjoyable repast decamped for the Bombay Club–another Creole Cuisine restaurant owned by the Ammaris. I took a powder. I would love to have gone to the Bombay Club, about which I am hearing good reports lately. But it had been a long day for me, what with all that singing. And tomorrow, I have another singing gig at ten in the morning.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Cold-Smoked Pompano Or Amberjack

All the fish in the jack family (the most familiar around here are pompano and amberjack) have a higher-than-average oil content, and so are perfect for smoking. This will work for either fish, as well as for salmon, mackerel, or tuna. The fish picks up a terrific smoke flavor throughout, without getting a barbecued taste.

My technique is instructed by Chef Roland Huet, the original chef at Christian’s, who developed this for that restaurant’s great smoked salmon. The idea for smoking pompano comes from Arnaud’s, where the dish is especially welcome in the hot months. It’s served cold.

Arnauds-ColdSmokedPompano

  • 3 large pompano or 2 small (two-pound) amberjacks
  • 1 lb. salt
  • 1/2 lb. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

1. Fillet and skin the fish. If using amberjack, remove the big blood line that runs through the center.

2. Dissolve the other ingredients in a gallon of cold water. Marinate the fish in the brine for twelve hours, refrigerated

3. Using a fruit wood (cherry, apple, or grapevine), cold-smoke the fish at 75-90 degrees for two hours.

4. Slice the fish at a very narrow bias into slices as thick as a coin. Serve dressed with extra-virgin olive oil, dill, and cracked black peppercorns

Serves twelve appetizers.

500BestSquareFried Onion Rings @ Charlie’s Steak House

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The fried onion rings found in restaurants are of two kinds. You have the very thick ones, made with only the biggest, most perfect layers of the onion. Nothing from near the poles or the interior of the onion. They’re carefully coated with a batter and sometimes a complex herb and spice mix, and fried even more carefully.

CharliesSteak-OnionRings-2-Fried onion rings made that way are good. But not as good as the very thin rings you find at Charlie’s Steak House. There they use the whole onion, with the lightest of coatings. They come by the tall pile–enough that one person will not likely be able to consume an entire order. Yet, the most interesting characteristic of Charlie’s onion rings is their lightness, allowing one to consume more of them than one would have thought. Another striking truth: they are and always have been the city’s best.

Charlie’s Steak House. Uptown: 4510 Dryades. 504-895-9705.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare August 23, 2016

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 8

Today’s Flavor

SpongeCakeThis is National Sponge Cake Day. Not to be confused with angel food cake, sponge cake is another word for genoise, a light cake made with eggs beaten with sugar, after which the flour and other ingredients are added. In other words, a typical fine cake.

More interesting is another observance on this date: Gravy Day. Gravy. Not sauce. But what, after all, is the difference?

The Penguin Companion to Food says, “Gravy in the British Isles and areas culturally influenced by them is. . . well, gravy, a term fully comprehensible to those who use it, but something of a mystery in the rest of the world.” The French (and restaurateurs who are trying to avoid the common sound of “gravy”) have a word for it: “jus.”

GravyBoatGravy begins with the juices and browned bits that come from cooking meat. That’s thinned or deglazed with stock or water, in the pan where the meat was cooked. Then it’s thickened up again (maybe) with a little flour or roux. A good gravy will be a little dirty with flecks of meat.

The most celebrated gravy in New Orleans is the one that wets down a roast beef poor boy. But there are as many more as there are meats to throw it off and take it on. Chicken gravy. Turkey gravy. Ham gravy, and its Southern variation, red-eye gravy. (Made in the pan where you just grilled the ham steak by adding a bit of coffee to it. Yuck.)

Confusing everything is the localism “red gravy,” for Italian-style tomato sauce. It is not unique to New Orleans, but if you use the expression, you’re thought of as local.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Walnut, Iowa, population 800, is a quaint farming town town in southwest Iowa, about two-thirds of the way between Des Moines and Omaha. Founded in 1871 with the arrival of the Rock Island Railroad, it was named for a large walnut tree on Walnut Creek. It grew to become the center of commerce for the vast dairy and cornfields in the area. After a bad fire in the 1890s, the entire town was rebuilt in brick. Those antique buildings dominate Walnut’s downtown today, and lend a distinct charm that attracts 80,000 visitors a year. A lot of them have lunch or dinner at Sandy’s Food and Spirits, right in the middle of town.

Edible Dictionary

birch beer, n.–A variation on root beer, created in the 1880s as a competitor to the new and highly successful Hires Root Beer. It genuinely does use birch bark and sap as one of its flavoring ingredients, along with herbs and vanilla. It has a lighter flavor and color than root beer. Some varieties of birch beer are very pale or even colorless. It’s more popular in the Northeast and into Canada, but birch beer was common in New Orleans in the 1950s through the 1980s because it was the primary fizzy beverage sold by Royal Castle, a chain of hamburger restaurants. Royal Castle is still in existence in its hometown of Miami.

Eating Around The World

MexicoMap-FlagToday in 1821, Spain signed a treaty allowing its former colony Mexico to become an independent nation. It was triggered by political instability in Spain, which was occupied by Napoleon at the time. Mexico–heir to one of the world’s richest and most distinctive culinary traditions–was as different from Spain as the United States is different from Great Britain. Mexican food and culture expands in the U.S. every day. That’s also true in New Orleans since the hurricane, although I don’t think we’ve seen anything spectacular yet from the influx.

Annals Of Eating Like A King

Today is the birthday, in 1754, of King Louis XVI, the last king of France before the Revolution. He and his wife Marie Antoinette were guillotined, but while his reign lasted he and Marie had it pretty good. The old Louis XVI French Restaurant–originally in the Marie Antoinette Hotel–attempted to duplicate that dining grandeur in the 1970s. Under Chefs Daniel Bonot and Claude Aubert, it succeeded. The restaurant is still in existence, but only for breakfast and private events.

Annals Of Amphibians

The Goliath frog –the largest frog ever caught, weighing seven and a half pounds–was found today in 1960 in Guinea. It was the size of two chickens. One frog fed a family of eight. But it was very tough. The sauce was the inevitable garlic and herb butter.

Drinking On Stage

A play called Ten Nights In A Barroom premiered in New York City on this date in 1858. It was about to play in New Orleans, until the local producers learned that it was a cautionary tale about the evils of drinking, and canceled it for fear nobody would understand the point they were trying to make.

Food In War

On this date in 1944, the Allied forces liberated Marseilles in France, releasing bouillabaisse from the Axis stranglehold.

Overeating In The Comics

Today in 1919, the comic strip Gasoline Alley premiered. It is still being published, although not in New Orleans. (You can read it on line here.) Originally, it depicted a bunch of guys standing around talking about their automobiles, which were still a new thing back then. Then one of them–Walt Wallet–adopted a baby left on his doorstep. From that moment, all the characters aged in real time–a new idea in the comics. Walt is still alive in the strip, and is now about 120 years old. He has always been an overweight chowhound. The baby, Skeezix, is now in his nineties. Walt’s other son Corky owns a diner.

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Rose of Lima. She is the patron saint of vanity, which ought to make her the patron saint of restaurant critics. (And television chefs, too.)

Food Namesakes

Johnny Romano, the all-star catcher for the White Sox in the 1950s and 1960s, was born today in 1934. . . James Roe, a professional football player, took the Big Snap today in 1973. . . Robert Mulligan, a movie director, said “Action!” today in 1925. . . Basketball pro Kobe Bryant was born today in 1978.

Words To Eat By

“It may not be possible to get rare roast beef, but if you’re willing to settle for well done, ask them to hold the sweetened library paste that passes for gravy.”–Marian Burros, New York Times food writer.

Words To Drink By

“I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.”–Erma Bombeck.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Secret Language Of The Restaurant Kitchen.

Not everyone speaks it fluently.

Click here for the cartoon.

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SummerDiningSpecials

I keep forgetting the Irish House and its delightful chef Matt Murphy. He is the answer to a number of seemingly unanswerable desires. Someone called me on the air not long ago, in search of shepherd’s pie. There it is! Also available ate fish and chips, and other eats from the British Isles. That said, it must be noted that Matt has a wide range in his cooking. And although he is as Irish as they come (a Dublin native), he can and does do it all.

Let’s look at how is ameliorating the heat for his customers. The price for the three courses below) is $39. At lunchtime, there’s a $15 two-courser that starts with the soup of the day and ends with Dubliner grilled cheese, a sandwich of sourdough with fresh preserves, nuts, berries and housemade cornichons (little pickles). The smiles you get from Matt are lagniappe.

The Irish House, St. Charles @ Melpomene.

The Irish House, St. Charles @ Melpomene.

Beets Carpaccio
Baby arugula, toasted pecans, crumbled chevre and white balsamic vinaigrette

Paneed Chicken
With Creole polenta and curried coconut Florentine

Meyer Lemon Berry Semifreddo

Irish House

Garden District & Environs: 1432 St Charles Ave. 504-595-6755. www.theirishhouseneworleans.com.

NOMenu invites restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events to tell us, so we might add the news to this free department. Send to news@nomenu.com.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Thursday, August 18, 2016.

Until a few days ago, Tommy Andrade was the extraordinarily adept owner of two restaurants at the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Julia. He told me last week that he has often heard offers to buy the restaurants, but that his response always put an immediate stop to the proposals.

“I had a card in my wallet with the price I would want for the restaurant on it,” he said. “But when I showed it to the Ammari brothers, they said that they were ready to make the deal.”

Indeed they were. Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts, the Ammaris’ very active collection of New Orleans restaurants, gave Tommy everything he wanted. Included among his terms was that he continue to manage Tommy’s and Tomas Bistro, and the several private rooms attached to each of them. He also wanted to keep his staff together. The Ammaris went for that, indeed welcoming Tommy’s continued involvement. They also want him to be part of the management team for Creole Cuisine as a whole.

Finally, Tommy wanted to continue with his unique promotional program, which comes down to his inviting influential friends to Tommy’s and Tomas Bistro for dinner now and then, to keep the word of mouth going. He added that this would probably include some serious wines. Okay, said the Ammaris.

Such an intimate gathering went on tonight. Tommy’s p.r. lady invited me to come in for dinner and to have the whole story of the merger laid out. This proved to be more intimate than I expected. It was just Tommy, Marviani Ammari and me, sitting at the small table in the corner of the dining room, at the end of the bar.

Lobster with gnocchi and a marvelous cream sauce tinged with tomato.

Lobster with gnocchi and a marvelous cream sauce tinged with tomato.

On the table was a bottle of Krug non-vintage Champagne. The big, toasty flavors we expect from that deluxe bubbly were present fully. Then came a lobster and gnocchi appetizer with a light sauce of cream and tomatoes. It’s good with the Chassagne Montrachet, but even better with the Champagne. (On the other hand, the gnocchi were too firm and chewy. But that’s true of nine out of ten samples of the potato-pasta nubbins.)

I wonder how many bottles of expensive Champagne Tommy has opened in his career. I got to know him in the 1970s, when he was the manager of the Sazerac Restaurant in the Fairmont days. From the way he was dressed to his tableside service, Tommy’s Sazerac exceeded the grandeur of every other restaurant in that era of New Orleans dining.

We talk about those days a little. And then we return to reality. We all know what a struggle it would be to bring fine dining back to a restaurant marketplace in which almost everybody dresses down, even for expensive dinners like this one would prove to be. Marv certainly knows this. When Creole Cuisine bought Broussard’s a few years ago, it was with the expectation that it would be the grand restaurant it has been for most of its history. Broussard’s certainly has the environment, location, and kitchen for that. Everything but enough customers looking for a dress-up evening.

On the other hand, Tommy’s and Tomas Bistro both have the wherewithal to do the French-Creole gourmet thing with success. Tommy has seen to that since he opened the place thirteen years ago.

Crabmeat and avocado salad.

Crabmeat and avocado salad.

Our next course is a pile of jumbo lump crabmeat and avocados. Both items are at their peaks right now, which will give us an excuse to have some more crabmeat shortly.

And here it is now! That's red snapper underneath.

And here it is now! That’s red snapper underneath.

The dinner next brings forth a beautiful red snapper in a hot lemon butter with the requisite crabmeat. The Chassagne enters its ideal milieu with this partner.

Marv began to tell of his family’s history, which dates back in New Orleans to the early half of the last century. The Ammaris are Greek Catholics with family connections in Jordan. This is, I knew, an ethnicity with a long presence in New Orleans, particularly when the Lebanese locals are included. I didn’t ask him to bring all that up, but I’m glad he did. I have been asked more than a few times about the origins of Creole Cuisine, which has opened or taken over more than a few restaurants of note in the past decade. Here’s a partial list:

Broussard’s
The Bombay Club
Kingfish
Royal House (a very good oyster bar and seafood café across the street from Antoine’s)
Both restaurants named Maspero’s, two blocks from one another in the French Quarter
Boulevard, which recently took over the former Houston’s in Metairie.

And, now, Tommy’s Cuisine and Tomas Bistro. That comes close to the number of restaurants operated by the Brennans or by John Besh. The group clearly is no slowing its growth.

Three domestic lamb chops with a magnificent demi and a tinge of blue cheese.

Three domestic lamb chops with a magnificent demi and a tinge of blue cheese.

The great dish of the night is a trio of Colorado lamb chops, served with an invisible sauce that very clearly has a touch of blue cheese in it somewhere. Just from that description, I’d wrinkle my nose the way I see you doing it now. But this proves to be a spectacular flavor combination.

And to make sure that’s nailed down with the right wine, Tommy opens a bottle of 2009 Tignanello, the spectacular super-Tuscan wine with the richness and complexity of a major red but the food loving nature of a Chianti. When I open the one bottle of Tignanello I have in my wine closet, I will have lamb chops with it.

To finish off the wine, Tommy sends for a cheese plate. The dinner ends later than I had scheduled. I walk the two blocks to the garage where I left it before crossing the street to do the radio show. I have no worries about legging three blocks on Tchoupitoulas Street after eleven. But Tchoup in that stretch is so thick with funseekers that I don’t give danger a second thought.

That fact could be one of the reasons that Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts has pounded a stake into the ground in this promising neighborhood. It looks like a good investment to me. But what do I know?

FleurDeLis-4-SmallTommy’s Cuisine. Warehouse District: 746 Tchoupitoulas. 504-581-1103.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Trout LaFreniere

Speckled trout is the preferred fish in white-tablecloth restaurants in New Orleans, but the supply for restaurants has been much limited by law in recent years. There is no shortage for recreational fishermen, however. If you can’t find trout, this will also work well with striped bass, flounder, sheepshead, black drum or redfish. The original version of this dish was created by the late Nick Mosca, formerly chef of Elmwood Plantation and La Louisiane. It is deceptively simple to prepare; it looks and tastes like a much more complicated dish.

A light version of trout La Freniere.

A light version of trout La Freniere.

  • 4 6-to-8-oz. fillets of speckled trout
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs. smallest possible capers
  • 1 1/2 cups seasoned Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 cup lump crabmeat
  • 1 cup peeled medium shrimp
  • 1/2 cup white wine

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Place the trout fillet in a buttered skillet with an ovenproof handle or on a metal baking pan, and spoon a tablespoon of lemon juice on top of it. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and capers, then about half of the bread crumbs.

2. Distribute the crab lumps and shrimp uniformly over the bread crumb layer, and pour the white wine gently over it. Top with the remainder of the bread crumbs, and put the trout in the hot oven for 15 minutes. Check it after 10 minutes to make sure fish is not overcooking. No matter how many times you’ve read that the fish should flake easily, that is the mark of overcooked fish.

Serves four.

500BestSquareChicken Andouille Gumbo With Boudin @ Apolline

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Chicken gumbo with a dark roux, andouille sausage, and a flavorful chicken stock is one of the best dishes in the New Orleans cookbook. Fortunately, many restaurants acquit themselves well in its preparation. A few versions have a unique touch, and this is one of them. Instead of being served over rice directly, this gumbo has the insides of a link of boudin put down at the bottom of the plate, with the gumbo poured over it. That’s such a brilliant idea that it’s a wonder nobody ever did it before. I predict we will see some copycats soon.

Dining room at Apolline.

Dining room at Apolline.

Apolline. Uptown: 4729 Magazine St. 504-894-8881.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare August 22, 2016

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 9

Annals Of Food Under Pressure

PressrueCookerToday is the birthday in 1647 of French-born inventor Denis Papin. He invented the pressure cooker. He noted that water boils at a higher temperature when under pressure, thereby cooking food faster. But he missed on the big chance. He saw that the lid of a pressure cooker had tremendous force pushing it up (in fact, he created a pressure valve to keep the thing from blowing up), and figured that this could be made into some kind of engine. But he didn’t quite finish that invention, leaving it to James Watt.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

The importance of spumone in New Orleans was demonstrated when Angelo Brocato’s–New Orleans premier maker of Italian ice cream for over 100 years–reopened in 2006. Its antique ice cream parlor on North Carrollton Avenue was welcomed back to action by a genuine festival.

SpumoneIt’s National Spumone Day. Spumone is a Sicilian-style layered ice cream. The way Brocato’s makes it, the layers are pistachio, torroncino (vanilla with ground almonds and cinnamon), a bright yellow, lightly lemony flavor that has an Italian name I can’t remember, and strawberry. It’s sold in wedges, six of which make a half-gallon of ice cream. It’s the best-selling flavor at Brocato’s, with good reason. The mix of flavors is delightful, all of them rich and light at the same time. It’s great to have it back again at Brocato’s, as well as in stores and restaurants.

Oddly, when we were in Sicily in the summer of 2006, we saw no spumone in any of the many gelaterias we raided. Maybe you have to find an old stand out of the tourist areas.

Annals Of The High Life

Martini&ShakerToday is the birthday in 1893 of Dorothy Parker, one of the great writers on the party scene in New York in the 1920s through the 1950s. She wrote mostly for The New Yorker, and was a prominent member of the Round Table of authors at the Algonquin Hotel. She was most famous for her humorous, light verses, along the lines of this famous one: “Men seldom make passes/At girls who wear glasses.” She was the first to observe that “Eternity is two people and a ham.” And she wrote the definitive poem about martinis, a subject she knew much about:

I love a good martini
One, or two at the most
After three I’m under the table
After four I’m under the host.

Annals Of Eating Healthy

The inventor of granola was born today in 1867. Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner postulated what dietary experts are telling us now: that we should eat less meat and refined carbohydrates, we should eat more vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains. He created a mix he called muesli, of oats, nuts, and dried fruit. This evolved into granola in this country. I don’t know whether to thank him or curse him.

Music To Drink Cheap Wine By

Today in 1970, Eric Burdon and War’s record Spill The Wine peaked on the pop charts at Number Three. Spill the wine. . . dig that girl. That’s almost the entire lyric of the song. Eric performed a classic New Orleans song, House of the Rising Sun, with his group of the time, The Animals.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Spuds is a rural crossroads in northeast Florida, sixteen miles southwest of St. Augustine. It began as a station on the Florida East Coast Railroad, now abandoned here. Spud’s is in farming country, but despite the name of the place sugar cane is the main crop in the area, not potatoes. Just west is a large marsh off the wide St. John’s River; fish can be caught in the tributary called Deep Creek. Spuds is just off a main four-lane highway; drive south on it three miles to the town of Hastings, and you’ll be able to eat at the Hastings Cafe there.

Edible Dictionary

cevapcici, [cheh-VOP-chi-chi], Croatian, n., pl., dim.–A small sausage-shaped roll of chopped meat, usually beef but sometimes including lamb. They’re grilled, sometimes on a skewer, and almost always served with raw onion rings. One of the most popular treats at parties held by the many Croatian families in Southeast Louisiana, cevapcici are surprisingly more delicious than their plain appearance suggests. You can’t stop eating them. The word is the diminutive plural of cevap, which evolved from the Turkish work kebap (kebab). Modern Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and the other Slavic states in the Balkans were under the control of the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years until a century ago, and picked up many elements of its cuisine.

Deft Dining Rule #470:

If a pizzeria doesn’t offer calzones, there’s a strong likelihood that the place is using pre-made, partly-baked dough for its pizza crusts. Which puts it in the lower end of the quality scale.

Food Namesakes

Captain James Cook claimed Australia for Great Britain on this date in 1770. His ships were the first European ones to land there with empire in mind. . . The last of some eleven million VW Rabbits was completed on this date in 1984. The design is still around, but they call it the Golf now, which has always been its name in Europe. . . Basketball pro Michael Curry was born today in 1968, and by strange coincidence Denise Curry, also a basketball player who won gold in the 1984 Olympics, was born on this date in 1959. . . The soft-rock group Bread hit Number One with Make It With You on this date in 1970. . . On a more classical note Candido Lima, a pioneer in creating serious music with computers, was born in Portugal today in 1939. . . Peppermint Patty, a flirtatious tomboy who called Charlie Brown “Chuck,” appeared for the first time today in 1966 in the comic strip Peanuts.

Words To Eat Spumone By

“Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.”–Jim Fiebig, relationship author.

“I doubt whether the world holds for anyone a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice cream.”–Heywood Broun, American writer of the mid-1900s.

Words To Drink By

“When your companions get drunk and fight, take up your hat and wish them good night.”–Unknown.

FoodFunniesSquare

It’s All In The Aroma.

And That’s Why Goods-Smelling Food Is Impossible To Resist.

Click here for the cartoon.

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SummerDiningSpecials

Arnaud’s Does The Coolinary.

In addition to the Coolinary Menu, Arnaud’s has had quite a few special events through the summer, from a couple of wine dinners to a potato spectacular still to come. The Coolinary menu itself offers three choices in each of three courses. The sleeper in this one will be the vichyssoise, to which we are only rarely treated in cooler months. Tip: ask for a little blue cheese salad dressing and stir it into the vichyssoise.

The price for the whole dinner is $39. For an additional $16, they’ll bring you two glasses of wine to complement the food. The grandeur of Arnaud’s dining rooms adds further pleasure.

ArnaudDR

Seafood Boudin Cake
Jalapeño Béarnaise, roasted shallots and tomato confit
~or~

Salad of Haricots Verts
Prosciutto, walnuts and white wine gastrique
~or~

Vichyssoisse
Chilled potato soup
~~~~~

Black Drumfish
Grilled “on the half shell” with roasted eggplant
~or~

Pan-Seared Veal Scalloppine
Sautéed mushrooms, artichokes and caper butter-
~~~~~

Apple Crostata
House-made cinnamon ice cream
~or~

Chocolate Paté
Shortbread cookies

Arnaud’s

French Quarter: 813 Bienville. 504-523-5433. www.arnauds.com.

NOMenu invites restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events to tell us, so we might add the news to this free department. Send to news@nomenu.com.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Monday, August 15, 2016.
Where Is My Phone?

To make a long story lengthy, about a week ago my cellphone number disappeared from the universe and my smart phone went dumb. Since then, I spent many, many hours getting advice from both the service providers, sometimes in a conference call. One or another says that it’s simple to fix. . .until they actually try to turn the trick. This shuts even the highest supervisors down. For some reason, this has really gotten under my skin.

I decide to put an end to the problem by physically marching into the offices of the companies involved. One was very accommodating, but could not figure out what to do next. The other, much larger company said that I was wasting their time, that this was a simple matter. But when they tried, they hit the wall yet again.

They told me to have a police report issued, then to call the legal department of their phone company. At the last of three police headquarters I visited, I was laughed out, told that this is a phone company glitch, that there is no criminal aspect. I had to agree with them, but this was the only open route I had.

I should have listened to something Mary Ann told me a few days ago, when she was involved in her own dilemma. “What I have in my hands is a crisis,” she said.”Your phone isn’t a crisis. It’s an irritant.”

At noon, I threw in the towel. The nicer phone company made me an offer for a new line, and said that I should just forget about my old number and tell everybody it’s changed. I don’t get all that many phone calls anyway, except from Mary Ann. (Who can always find me, unless she really, really needs me.) I took the offer. My blood pressure went down forty points.

The spicy, fake-crabmeat-free Porter Roll at Tchoupstix.

The spicy, fake-crabmeat-free Porter Roll at Tchoupstix.

I calm down further with a lunch of a big sushi roll and a cup of consomme and noodles at Tchoupstix. The roll has slices of jalapeno inside. It’s the spiciest sushi I think I’ve ever sampled.

The rest of the day goes down pleasantly normally. The radio show is slow. A lot of people are tuned in to the reports on the astonishing flood surrounding Baton Rouge. The I-10 is impassable from Lafayette into Texas. Tens of thousands of homes have been inundated. Sounds familiar.

Then it’s singing time with the Northlake Performing Arts Society. I am very happy to discover that among the songs we’re rehearsing for our October concert is “Ghost Riders In The Sky.” The theme of the concert is Country and Western. My input is that actual Western music–cowboy songs like those sung by the Sons of The Pioneers, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry–should be part of the program. “Ghost Riders” certainly fits. But then our conductor tells me that she loves my submission of “Tumbling Tumbleweeds”–one of my favorite songs. She said I should go ahead with forming a trio or quartet. She even has a lady who has volunteered to be part of it. Now I have to decide whether to sing my part in the voice of Bob Nolan. He wrote “Tumbleweeds” and another famous cowboy song “Cool Water.” Yes, the Cool Water Ranch is named for that song.

The day ends happily after all.

Tchoupstix. Covington: 69305 LA Hwy 21. 985-892-0852.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016.
Eat Club’s Pre-Cruise Dinner.

A month from now, fifty-one people will join me for a ten-day cruise from New York City to Boston, New England, the Maritime Provinces of Canada, and finally Quebec City. I find this a very enjoyable, relaxing, and usually beautiful itinerary. The main draw, of course, is the autumn foliage. Somewhere along our path, the colors should be riotous. We may also encounter cold weather, which will perform a time-out-of-place effect for us Orleanians, who won’t feel cold for another four months.

Before the cruise, we have a dinner at which all the passengers can meet and make friends, and where questions can be answered. These dinners are often as much fun as parts of the cruise itself.

This one takes place at Andrea’s. It’s a tradition for something irritating and goofy to go wrong during this dinner (but not because of anything Andrea does or doesn’t do). Once, I had the wrong day for the event in my invitations. Another time, many more people than I was expecting showed up, and I had to do my presentation three times in different rooms. Stuff like that.

Today, the Causeway shut down because a a powerful storm at midlake. I saw this as I approached the North Shore terminus at around one p.m. I waited for a long while, trying to figure out how to make a phone call with my new phone, in case I would be made late for the show. I never did get it working, so I went back home and did the show from there. When it ended at six, I had to haul body and soul across the now-reopened bridge to make it on time for the Eat Club affair. Fortunately, our travel agent Debbie Hilbert–a math teacher who can talk interminably when she needs to–kept the program going until I pulled up.

We started with vitello tonnato, an interesting warm-cold appetizer in which medallions of roasted veal are topped with a tuna mayonnaise. This is not something Andrea’s does well. The sauce is too salty and too strong, wiping out the flavors of the veal.

Pasta Carbonara.

Pasta Carbonara.

But Chef Andrea made good for that with penne pasta Carbonara, with its creamy sauce and bacon-like guanciale–cured hog jowls. Everybody loved this, and having it as the second course is very Italian.

We have three entrees to choose from, all of them house specialties. One is a chicken version of veal saltimbocca, one of the best classic Italian entrees in America. A duck confit with a Barolo-based red sauce received a lot of applause from those who ordered it. But the best entree is a nice speckled trout with basilico sauce and crabmeat. Given the quality of the fish Andrea routinely brings in, this couldn’t help but be excellent.

Interesting dessert: zuppa inglese with zabaglione and berries. A number of people wanted to know what zabaglione is. I used to say that it’s the same thing as sabayon–a thick custard sauce. But nobody serves sabayon much anymore. Fortunately, one taste does the trick for most inquisitive minds.

I am very pleased that almost everyone going on the cruise is with us tonight. One group of six people from Ocean Springs is here, to my pleasant surprise. They have been on many of our past cruises, and are always in the spirit of friendship.

No pun intended.

Friendship. Get it?

Andrea’s. Metairie: 3100 19th St.

504-834-8583.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Rack of Lamb Lollipops

Although American lamb is meatier and better, the very inexpensive racks of baby lamb from New Zealand are hard to resist at the low prices they often go on sale for. You could serve each person a whole baby lamb rack for the price of a steak. The chops, once you cut them up, make one or two big, delicious bites each. It’s perfectly proper to eat them with your fingers that way, and even the kids will be charmed by that. Lamb has a much more agreeable flavor than it had in the bad old days, so if it’s been awhile, try it!

LambLollipops

  • 4 baby lamb racks
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 Tbs. Creole mustard
  • 2 tsp. Tabasco garlic marinade
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice, strained

Preheat oven and broiling rack to 425 degrees, and position an oven shelf about in the center of the oven. Turn on the convection feature if you have it.

1. This first step may not be necessary, because most lamb racks are already trimmed and “frenched.” Frenching a lamb rack means cutting most of the fat and meat away between the bones. Not only does this make it look nicer, but it keeps that part from burning. If the racks haven’t been frenched, lay them bone side down and, starting about a half-inch above the lean with a sharp knife, carefully cut along one bone and then the opposite one. Repeat until finished. If there is excess fat along the top of the bones, cut this off too–but leave a thin layer of fat to enrich the flavors.

2. In a wide bowl large enough to fit a whole lamb rack, combine the honey, Creole mustard, Tabasco garlic marinade, and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Dip the racks in this mixture, and cover the meatiest part of the racks with it. Cover the racks but leave at room temperature for about an hour to marinate.

3. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the racks and place them bone side down on the slotted broiling pan. Put them into the oven and roast until a meat thermometer reads about 130 degrees (for medium rare)–about 20 minutes. Do not turn. Remove the lamb and let it rest for about five minutes.

4. Serve the lamb racks as they are, or slice them into chops and fan them out on the plate. Ultimate side dish: mushroom risotto.

Serves four to eight.

500BestSquareTuna Stack @ Zea

DishStars-4
Some of the best dishes at Zea are seasonal items–an unusual state of affairs for a chain restaurant. The star of the summer menu for the past few years is this dish, made with cubes of fresh raw tuna, slices of avocado, mango, sesame seeds and wasabi aioli. All this is layered into a metal ring. After the rings is removed, it’s a modest tower with colorful layers and even more edifying flavors. The house’s spicy chili sauce is squirted here and there. It comes with a few triangles of pita bread. It’s so good you want another, but move on to the entree: this is so intense in its flavors that it might overload your senses. The avocados alone are so rich as to expand all the other flavors. Not only that, but the tuna stack is so popular that it’s on the menu all the time now.

Zea-TunaStack

Zea. Harahan: 1655 Hickory Ave. 504-738-0799.

||Kenner: 1325 West Esplanade Ave. 504-468-7733. ||Metairie: 4450 Veterans Blvd (Clearview Mall). 504-780-9090. ||Covington: 110 Lake Dr. 985-327-0520. ||Harvey: 1121 Manhattan Blvd. 504-361-8293. ||Slidell: 173 Northshore Blvd. 985-273-0500.This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare August 18, 2016

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 16

Today’s Flavor

Today is IceCreamPieNational Ice Cream Pie Day. The ice cream pie was most celebrated locally at the Pontchartrain Hotel, whose Caribbean Room restaurant served a classic version. Mile-High Ice Cream Pie, as they called it, had layers of vanilla, chocolate, and peppermint, topped with a thick layer of meringue, then a flow of warm chocolate sauce. When I was in my early twenties I ate a whole piece once. The waiter registered astonishment and said, “It’s the policy of the house that when you finish a mile-high pie, you can have another slice free!”

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Birthday dinners with chills and flames
Call forth cheap thrills and easy games.
Ice cream mounds are simple to make
Open freezer, whipped cream shake,
Light the candles, sing the ditty.
Nothing to it! The smiles are pretty.

Annals Of Seafood

SoftShellShrimpThis is the day on which, according to local lore, the soft-shell shrimp appear in the nets of the shrimp fishermen. We know soft-shell crabs well enough, and soft-shell crawfish appear now and then. But soft-shell shrimp are almost unheard of. The probable reason: fishermen save them for themselves. Who could blame them? Although even regular shrimp shells are moderately edible (I pull the heads and legs off, but eat the rest shell and all), you can completely devour these. All you need to do is cut off the eye stalks and the beak-like rostrum and, with care, the rest is edible. Soft-shell shrimp are particularly appealing as barbecue shrimp. I have no leads for suppliers, but keep your eyes open for them.

Gourmet Gazetteer

The neighborhood of Mandarin is on the eastern banks of the St. John’s River in northeastern Florida. It once was an incorporated town, but is now part of Jacksonville, just north. Mandarin is an architecturally rich area, with numerous historic buildings and parks. It dates back to the early years of the 1800s. Its name–for the mandarin oranges that grew around there in more profusion than they do now–was given to it by one of its earliest residents. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote about it in admiring tones, and lived there after the Civil War. Lots of restaurants are just east of Mandarin. The Lunch Table Cafe sounds good.

Edible Dictionary

puttanesca, Italian, adj.Literally, “in the style of the prostitute.” A dish cooked alla puttanesca is strongly flavored with salty, briny ingredients, notably olives, capers, anchovies, tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and garlic. This concoction is usually applied to pasta, but in the current American vogue a slab of spicy, grilled tuna is frequently present. The whole idea is a borderline gross, offensive joke, about which the less you think, the better. But Italians know what’s being referred to here, and are chuckling as they order and eat the dish avidly. As who wouldn’t? It’s delicious.

Restaurant Namesakes

Genghis Khan died today in 1224, after conquering more land than any single person in history. A long-running restaurant bearing his name, owned by violinist Henry Lee, operated for twenty-five years on Tulane Avenue. It moved downtown, but didn’t last ling there. Owner Henry Lee is now in Houston, although he comes back to New Orleans a lot to give concerts. He has no plans at the moments to reopen Genghis Khan.

Food Namesakes

The Spitfire Grill won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival today in 1996. . . Dan Quayle was nominated as George Bush I’s running mate, right here in New Orleans, on this date in 1988. . . Comic actress Elayne Boosler was born today in 1952. . . In the Athens Olympics in 2004, Paul Hamm won the men’s gymnastics all-around gold medal by the closest margin in history. . . Former basketball pro Fat Lever had the Big Tipoff today in 1960.

Words To Eat By

“Health food may be good for the conscience but Oreos taste a hell of a lot better.”–Robert Redford, born today in 1937.

Words To Drink By

“Drink today, and drown all sorrow;
You shall perhaps not do it tomorrow;
Best, while you have it, use your breath;
There is no drinking after death.”–Ben Jonson.

FoodFunniesSquare

What They Say About Cooking Being Magical Must Be True!

It turns out you don’t have to go to the farm for ingredients after all!

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquareSaturday, August 13, 2016.
All Alone, Fat Spooning And Thai Chilling.

It rains ferociously overnight, and water is lapping over the road to the Cool Water Ranch. But that is as high as it will get. The serious rain is now west of us, which takes a load off my mind. And I could use some relief. My wireless phone number has been hijacked, which completes the collection of phone lines that have gone sour in the past month. This problem is so bizarre that nobody from AT&T or anywhere else seems to be able to help me get a working phone again. As of this writing (Wednesday in the future of today’s Diary date), I still have no working cellphone.

After running my errands, I stop in for a late breakfast at the Fat Spoon in Covington. This is a very well-run café in the former Frostop, with a big menu and dining room personnel who are almost too friendly and eager to please. I have a simple platter of soft-scrambled eggs, bacon, grits, and a waffle made with both sweet potatoes and pecans. This is such a natural combination that it must have been invented before, but I don’t remember ever having seen something like this.

The rain continues off and on throughout the afternoon. I have a one-hour radio show to put on the air at two o’clock. Then it’s back to a very quiet house, interrupted only by the scrabbling feet of the dogs, who have nails so long that they have a hard time getting traction on the wood floor. More rain comes, but the water level outside seems to be ebbing. And now I’m hearing reports that major highways around Baton Rouge are being blocked by flooding measurable in feet.

Red curry at Thai Chili.

To dinner at the Thai Chili. I get red curry, two-stars hot. I have found that Thai Chili underestimates the pepper heat of its stir-fries. Two stars here is any other local Thai restaurant’s three stars. Once I did order three stars, and almost began to see stars. But I’d prefer that to underseasoning.

Thai Chili. Covington: 1102 N US 190. 985-809-0180.
Sunday, August 14, 2016.
Crepes Appear Unexpectedly.

If I had any doubts about the choir in which I sing every Sunday, they were dispelled today. I went down to communion prematurely, and heard the rest of the choir sing the second hymn. We have no working microphones up there today, so I was hearing them with no amplification. They sounded terrific. Most of them are in their teens; the rest of the singers are their parents and grandparents. I’ve sung in choirs since fourth grade, and I don’t remember any other of their age being that good.

It’s still raining a lot, but not as badly as yesterday. The Baton Rouge area is getting slammed. The number of people who have been rescued from their flooded homes is over a thousand. This will go down as the year it rained.

Breakfast at the Abita Roasters in Covington. I get the last table available. By the time I leave, some twenty people are waiting to be seated. It’s less than a year this restaurant has been there. Like its predecessors, it got off to a slow start, but even though it’s well hidden on back streets, the goodness of its food and the titanic portions they serve have grabbed a serious clientele.

The Abita Sunriser breakfast. You attempt to eat all of this.

A typically enormous breakfast at Abita Roaster.

There’s a new menu since the last time I was here, a few weeks ago. A section of crepes shows up among the omelets and waffles. The variety I choose is the crepes monsieur. That’s a take on the famous French ham-and-cheese fried sandwich. But the texture of the crepe part is thick and puffy, like that of an omelette. Not even close to the classic French savory crepe. I think they ought either to change the name or develop a new recipe for the thin pancakes.

Yesterday I took a four-lap walk around the ranch. Today I get three laps done when it starts raining, suddenly, soakingly, and amidst thunder and lightning. The sun was shining when I started. I should have checked in with the dog Susie, who knows when bad weather is near sooner than I do.

For those following Susie’s story, the completely broken shoulder bone, affected by bone cancer, seems not to exist anymore. She’s getting around with about ninety percent mobility. Runs and jumps. The miracle continues!

I work through the evening to finish tomorrow’s newsletter, so I can spend tomorrow morning trying to get my phone back from the beyond. I take a break for supper at Zea. We haven’t been there in awhile, and I have a hankering for their Sunday evening tomato basil soup. For the third time in the last few months, they have run out of the soup by early evening. I almost get up and leave, but I have no better place to go.

I get the heretofore great crab cakes. They have changed the recipe to include two thick slices of fried green tomato. I have never understood the appeal of that item. I take a big bite of the tomato to open my mind, but that’s all I want to eat of it. The crab cakes are also changed by an etouffee sauce. What happened to those great little crab cakes with the spicy, Southwestern-style flavor?

The waiter, who knows my typical order, was apologetic before I had a chance to start ordering. How did he remember that I would get the tomato-basil soup? Why, it’s what great waiters do.

DiningDiarySquareSaturday, August 13, 2016.
All Alone, Fat Spooning And Thai Chilling.

It rains ferociously overnight, and water is lapping over the road to the Cool Water Ranch. But that is as high as it will get. The serious rain is now west of us, which takes a load off my mind. And I could use some relief. My wireless phone number has been hijacked, which completes the collection of phone lines that have gone sour in the past month. This problem is so bizarre that nobody from AT&T or anywhere else seems to be able to help me get a working phone again. As of this writing (Wednesday in the future of today’s Diary date), I still have no working cellphone.

After running my errands, I stop in for a late breakfast at the Fat Spoon in Covington. This is a very well-run café in the former Frostop, with a big menu and dining room personnel who are almost too friendly and eager to please. I have a simple platter of soft-scrambled eggs, bacon, grits, and a waffle made with both sweet potatoes and pecans. This is such a natural combination that it must have been invented before, but I don’t remember ever having seen something like this.

The rain continues off and on throughout the afternoon. I have a one-hour radio show to put on the air at two o’clock. Then it’s back to a very quiet house, interrupted only by the scrabbling feet of the dogs, who have nails so long that they have a hard time getting traction on the wood floor. More rain comes, but the water level outside seems to be ebbing. And now I’m hearing reports that major highways around Baton Rouge are being blocked by flooding measurable in feet.

Red curry at Thai Chili.

To dinner at the Thai Chili. I get red curry, two-stars hot. I have found that Thai Chili underestimates the pepper heat of its stir-fries. Two stars here is any other local Thai restaurant’s three stars. Once I did order three stars, and almost began to see stars. But I’d prefer that to underseasoning.

Thai Chili. Covington: 1102 N US 190. 985-809-0180.
Sunday, August 14, 2016.
Crepes Appear Unexpectedly.

If I had any doubts about the choir in which I sing every Sunday, they were dispelled today. I went down to communion prematurely, and heard the rest of the choir sing the second hymn. We have no working microphones up there today, so I was hearing them with no amplification. They sounded terrific. Most of them are in their teens; the rest of the singers are their parents and grandparents. I’ve sung in choirs since fourth grade, and I don’t remember any other of their age being that good.

It’s still raining a lot, but not as badly as yesterday. The Baton Rouge area is getting slammed. The number of people who have been rescued from their flooded homes is over a thousand. This will go down as the year it rained.

Breakfast at the Abita Roasters in Covington. I get the last table available. By the time I leave, some twenty people are waiting to be seated. It’s less than a year this restaurant has been there. Like its predecessors, it got off to a slow start, but even though it’s well hidden on back streets, the goodness of its food and the titanic portions they serve have grabbed a serious clientele.

The Abita Sunriser breakfast. You attempt to eat all of this.

A typically enormous breakfast at Abita Roaster.

There’s a new menu since the last time I was here, a few weeks ago. A section of crepes shows up among the omelets and waffles. The variety I choose is the crepes monsieur. That’s a take on the famous French ham-and-cheese fried sandwich. But the texture of the crepe part is thick and puffy, like that of an omelette. Not even close to the classic French savory crepe. I think they ought either to change the name or develop a new recipe for the thin pancakes.

Yesterday I took a four-lap walk around the ranch. Today I get three laps done when it starts raining, suddenly, soakingly, and amidst thunder and lightning. The sun was shining when I started. I should have checked in with the dog Susie, who knows when bad weather is near sooner than I do.

For those following Susie’s story, the completely broken shoulder bone, affected by bone cancer, seems not to exist anymore. She’s getting around with about ninety percent mobility. Runs and jumps. The miracle continues!

I work through the evening to finish tomorrow’s newsletter, so I can spend tomorrow morning trying to get my phone back from the beyond. I take a break for supper at Zea. We haven’t been there in awhile, and I have a hankering for their Sunday evening tomato basil soup. For the third time in the last few months, they have run out of the soup by early evening. I almost get up and leave, but I have no better place to go.

I get the heretofore great crab cakes. They have changed the recipe to include two thick slices of fried green tomato. I have never understood the appeal of that item. I take a big bite of the tomato to open my mind, but that’s all I want to eat of it. The crab cakes are also changed by an etouffee sauce. What happened to those great little crab cakes with the spicy, Southwestern-style flavor?

The waiter, who knows my typical order, was apologetic before I had a chance to start ordering. How did he remember that I would get the tomato-basil soup? Why, it’s what great waiters do.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Chicken With Chanterelle Mushrooms And Penne Pasta

My wife came back from a trip to Los Angeles (where our son and grandson live) with a bagful of groceries. Browsing around a farmer’s market, she saw what looked to her like really good mushrooms. Chanterelles. She thought I could make something with them, but not exactly what. A chance to improvise! I knew that this would require using only what was already around the house. Except for the chicken, which I sneaked out to buy.

This contains a lot of butter, but you could cut back the quantity or substitute olive oil if you like. If you can’t get chanterelles (and they’re not exactly everywhere all the time), use whatever interesting mushrooms you can buy fresh.

Chicken with mushrooms and pasta

  • 8 chicken “tenders” or 3 large chicken breasts, each cut into three pieces
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. salt-free Creole seasoning
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 1/4 tsp. dried sage
  • 6 oz. chanterelle mushrooms (or other interesting wild mushrooms), sliced
  • 1/2 lb. cooked penne pasta
  • 1/4 cup water from the pasta pot

1. inside a food storage bag, pound out the chicken tenders or pieces to about double their original size. Cut the pounded pieces into smaller pieces about two inches square. Blend the flour, Creole, seasoning, and salt, and dust the chicken pieces lightly.

2. Heat 2 Tbs. of butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it bubbles. Brown the chicken in the butter for about a minute per side. Remove the chicken and keep warm in a 175-degree oven.

3. Add the white wine, lemon juice, Worcestershire, tarragon and sage to the pan. Whisk to dissolve the crusty bits that have stuck to the pan and the remaining butter. Bring to a boil and reduce by about a third.

4. Add the chanterelles and cook until tender. Remove the skillet from the heat and whisk in the remaining butter until the sauce is creamy-looking. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as needed.

5. Return the chicken to the pan and heat through, until the sauce soaks into the chicken a bit. Add the pasta to the pan and toss to coat. If there’s not quite enough sauce, stir in some water from the pasta pot. Serve in pre-warmed soup plates.

Serves four.

500BestSquareGianduja Budino @ Domenica

DishStars_3
Domenica does three things extraordinarily well: pizza, house-cured salumi, and desserts. The latter are not merely good, they’re original and memorable, too. This one is a pudding–almost a mousse, in its intensity–of chocolate and hazelnuts. Those two ingredients go so well together it’s no wonder Europeans are always using the idea. What finishes this off nicely are the chocolate-coated hazelnuts. It’s especially fine with an espresso.

Domenica-GiandujaPudding

Domenica. CBD: 123 Baronne (Roosevelt Hotel). 504-648-6020.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare August 17, 2016

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 13

Today’s Flavor

Today is Caramel Custard Day. Those of us who are aficionados of the Custard Dessert Group know that during the past fifteen years or so creme brulee has pushed caramel custard completely off most menus. That’s a long fall for the second most common dessert in New Orleans restaurants after bread pudding. A few restaurants preserve creme caramel or cup custard (two other names for the same thing) from extinction. Fortunately, those are the older places like Galatoire’s, whose definitive version is in no danger of ever disappearing.

Here are the differences between caramel custard and creme brulee. The former is made with milk, the latter with cream. The added milkfat in the cream prevents creme brulee from setting up; it should flow, even when chilled. Caramel custard, on the other hand, sets up so well that the standard service is to just invert the cup it was baked in and let the evicted custard stand on its own. (With a bit of a sag, of course.) The other difference is that the caramel aspect of custard is done by adding melted, browned sugar to the cup before the custard goes in. A creme brulee is topped with sugar, which is then broiled until it melts and browns. I love them both, but today I will got Mandina’s and get caramel custard.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Tea Creek is in central Arkansas, eighty-six miles west of Little Rock. It’s part of the upper watershed of the Ouachita River, running about six miles through a steep-walled valley in the Ouachita Mountains. It’s dry most of the time–much of its flow is underground– but when it starts to rain it can fill up quickly. It gets its name from the tea-like color it picks up from fallen leaves. You can get a glass of real tea and a meal to go with it six miles away at the Fishnest Family Restaurant in Glenwood.

Deft Dining Rule #124

If a restaurant has caramel custard instead of creme brulee, and it’s well made, the place is more interested in flavor than in style.

Edible Dictionary

ashta, Lebanese, n.–A sweet pastry cream used to top or fill dessert pastries, notably phyllo. Properly, the word refers to the filling itself, but in restaurants it’s come to mean the finished pastry. The recipe for ashta is distinctive, using a two-step process that mixes whole milk (or half-and-half) with soaked, crustless white bread, and cornstarch. This is cooked for a while, then beaten until it gets fluffy. A sugar syrup flavored with rosewater is also part of the recipe, spooned over the finished party as well as being incorporated into the cream. It’s a great dessert, one that usually wows people tasting it for the first time.

Weather Report

Hurricane Camille–possibly the most intense hurricane ever to enter the United States–made landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast today in 1969. With winds well inside Category Five, Camille destroyed everything in its path, even ripping highways out of the ground in many places. Its winds are believed to have exceeded 200 miles per hour, although nobody’s sure, since all the measuring instruments were also destroyed. It did less damage overall than Hurricane Katrina, however, because its wind field was compact compared with the monstrous size of Katrina.

By coincidence, the most famous movie with a terrible storm in its plot premiered thirty years to the day before Camille. The tornado in The Wizard of Oz turned Dorothy’s world upside down. That no longer seems so far-fetched to us here in New Orleans.

Annals Of Dishwashing

Hazel Bishop, a chemist, invented a lipstick that would remain on the lips far longer than previous formulations. It was advertised as being “kissable,” because it wouldn’t leave a mark on the kissee’s lips or cheek or whatever. Hazel Bishop’s name became a major cosmetics brand. A side effect to her invention: no dishwashing machine yet produced can get lipstick off a wine glass.

Locals In The Movies

Actor and latter-day Orleanian Sean Penn was born today in 1960. During the hurricane aftermath, he was involved in a number of rescues of stranded people, who must have thought they were dreaming when Sean Penn showed up to save them.

Food Namesakes

Vince Marrow, a professional arena football player, was born today in 1968. . . Dottie Mochrie Pepper, a professional golfer teed off her life today in 1965.

Words Not To Eat By

“Custard: A detestable substance produced by a malevolent conspiracy of the hen, the cow and the cook.”–Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary.

I guess he was a chocolate lover.

Words To Eat By

Today is the birthday of Mae West (1892), who was far ahead of her time in her attitudes about just about everything. She uttered quotably on a few matters that concern us here:

“I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond.”

“Too much of a good thing is wonderful.”

“Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.”

FoodFunniesSquare

What Life Is All About, Version 53-053-85-3.

It’s about breakfast, for starters (no pun intended, wink-wink.)

Click here for the cartoon.

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SummerDIningSpecials

It’s summertime at Dick &Jennie’s, which we used to celebrate because summer was the only time when you wouldn’t have to wait for a table. Now that they take reservations, life is a lot easier.

They also have made their summer menu more eater-friendly. The full menu shows about ten dishes marked with asterisks. All of these may be paired with other lucky recipients of the asterisk to create a summer menu with a lot of range. Here are the members of the Order of The Asterisk:

Corn-Fried Oysters
House remoulade, southern coleslaw
~or~

Cristiano’s Original Chargrilled Oysters
~or~

Louisiana Blue Crab Bruschetta
Red bell, shallots, celery, fried capers,Greek yogurt, creole mustard.
~or~

Mussels a la NOLA BBQ
PEI mussels, Abita amber, rosemary, garlic butter, hot sauce, Worcestershire

~or~

Risotto Balls
Gulf shrimp, house smoked tasso, parmesan risotto, panko crust, house-made pepper jelly
~~~~~

Summer Squash Pomodoro
Zucchini spaghetti, yellow squash, patty pan squash, tomato, portobello, capers, vidalia onions, garlic, artichoke hearts, basil, parmesan

~or~

Black Drum
Bronzed gulf fish, crawfish risotto, shaved asparagus

~or~

Bouillabaisse
Crab, shrimp, gulf fish, mussels, tomatoes, steamed rice, saffron-fennel broth
~or~

Niman Ranch Braised Pork Cheeks
Sautéed southern greens, sweet potato salad, rosemary biscuit, white bbq

The price for these summer sessions on Tchoupitoulas Street is $35 for the two-course repast, which also includes your choice of a blueberry panna cotta for dessert or a glass of wine.

Dick & Jenny’s

Uptown: 4501 Tchoupitoulas. 504-894-9880. www.dickandjennys.com.

NOMenu invites restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events to tell us, so we might add the news to this free department. Send to news@nomenu.com.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, August 12, 2016.
Baco Bar, Ever More Confusing.

Mary Ann is packing for another trip to Los Angeles, she to get a respite of peace and quiet. She will bask in the aura of our eight-month-old grandson, Jackson, the happiest little boy any of us have ever seen. Not only that, but Jackson’s parents Jude and Suzanne have actually managed to equal Mary Ann’s standards for parental responsibility. (She can get away with this because she herself was the ultimate in mothers.) No wonder she likes to hang out with the Los Angeles branch of our family.

Dining room at Baco Bar

Dining room at Baco Bar

She and I have a farewell-for-now lunch at Baco Bar, in the big new shopping area of Covington off I-12. She liked Baco Bar at first, but with each new visit–today’s is number four for me, and over six for her) our thoughts converge on this thought: what kind of restaurant is this, anyway? We find Chinese, island, Mexican, and Japanese influences, but when everything converges into a meal, we find little for our appetites to grab hold.

Baco Bar's fries.

Baco Bar’s fries.

My lunch, for example, is a pair of those puffy white Chinese steam buns, with some herbs and cabbage inside and a couple of finger-size bits of fried catfish. I don’t like those buns–they have no detectable flavor, and the dryness of their texture takes over you mouth in what I find an unpleasant way. MA, who disagrees with me about nearly everything, feels the same. And it totals out to, “What exactly are we supposed to get out of this?”

I get a side dish of Mexican street-style corn. I’d had this before and liked it both times, even though the portion is so large (to make up for the catfish?) that I can finish only half of it. That may be partly due to our having an order of fries earlier. Meanwhile, MA has sone grilled shrimp that she sends back to be cooked a bit more. (Not an uncommon thing for her.)

Bacobar-Parfait

I finish off with a dessert about which the waiter is almost too enthusiastic. It’s parfait with a sort of chicory-coffee panna cotta, and some whipped cream and a little cocoa and (I think) cinnamon across the top. It is very rich and very sweet.

When our analysis of the purpose of this menu peters out, the rain that greeted us when we arrived increases. We didn’t know it at the time, but this was the slow-moving, waterlogged system that would bring disastrous flooding from the Tangipahoa River through Baton Rouge and beyond tothe west.

Fortunately for MA, this doesn’t affect her afternoon flight out. I watch the progress of this system on radar. It gives me something else to be anxious about. The radar makes the storm look like a hurricane. It has circular motion, an identifiable eye, and less power on the east side than on the west side–all hallmarks of a hurricane depicted by radar. The only difference is that there is almost no wind at all. But thank God for that.

I can’t work up the enthusiasm to go out to dinner. So I have another bowl of Lazone’s turtle soup.

Baco Bar.. Covington: 70437 LA21. 985-893-2450.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Veal Saltimbocca

Saltimbocca–a contraction of “salta in bocca”–is as delightful name as I’ve ever heard given a dish. It translates literally as “jump in your mouth”–a reference to how good it’s supposed to be. This is a simple veal dish, a classic of Italian cooking. You can knock people out with it, and spend less than fifteen minutes cooking it. Wait until you can find some fresh sage leaves, though. That shouldn’t be too hard, markets being what they are these days. Using dry Marsala wine (Florio is the big name in that) to make the sauce brings in some of the flavor of veal Marsala. But you can also use dry white or a light red wine. The most important datum in this recipe is that the veal must be sliced and pounded very, very thin.

  • 8 large, thin scallops of white veal, about 2 oz. each, pounded
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • White pepper
  • 8 thin slices of prosciutto (domestic is okay, Italian is better)
  • 8 large leaves of fresh sage, washed
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala (or white or light red wine)
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. butter

1. After pounding out the veal, dust (don’t dredge) with pinches of flour and season with salt and pepper. Place a slice of prosciutto along one side of each of the veal slices, and top with a sage leaf. Fold the veal over to cover the prosciutto and sage (not necessarily completely) and pound along the edge to seal. (You can use a toothpick to hold this pocket together if necessary.)

2. Heat the olive oil until it shimmers and is fragrant in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the veal about 20 seconds on each side and remove, doing four at a time.

3. Add the Marsala to the pan and bring to a boil, while dissolving off the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the liquid to about one-half the original amount, then remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the butter in small pieces to give a creamy look to the sauce. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

4. Return the veal to the pan just long enough to coat with the sauce, and serve immediately. This is great with a bitter green vegetable (broccoli di rape, or just plain broccoli) or wild rice.

Serves four.

500BestSquareFried Chicken @ Sal and Judy’s

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The great New Orleans-Italian restaurant in Lacombe may seem an unlikely entrant on a list of the best fried chicken in town, but there it is. It’s a half-chicken cut up into the traditional four pieces, fried to order to a crisp, greaseless darker-than-golden brown. It’s seasoned exactly the way thinking about it would conjure up, and just plain good. They even have fresh-cut fries to go with it. Although this is perceived as an upscale restaurant, the price of the chicken is like what you’d expect to pay in a neighborhood joint. All you have to do is get into the place. Reservations are essential.

Sal and Judy’s. Lacombe: 27491 Highway 190. 985-882-9443.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare August 16, 2016

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 14

Today’s Flavor

BratwurstNational Bratwurst Day today. We don’t do brats much around New Orleans, although the coarser, more authentic kind is becoming popular due to the homogenized buying practices of national chain grocery stores. What they call a brat in Chicago and Milwaukee looks like a fat albino hot dog. Like many favorites from other places, that’s never caught on here, although some restaurants have tried.

Edible Dictionary

knockwurst, German, n.–It’s not too much of an oversimplification to call a knockwurst a short, fat hot dog. It’s made with very finely chopped pork or veal or both, flavored with garlic, stuffed into a thin casing, and smoked. Because the only people who buy knockwurst are serious about their sausages, it tends to be of better quality than a typical frankfurter. The name is actually knackwurst, a reference in German to the way its skin cracks when is sizzles over an open fire. Again, a lot like a hot dog does. A 1970s sandwich shop near Jesuit High School (called Dagwood’s until the owners of the comic strip told them to change the name) had a great hot knockwurst poor boy with sauerkraut and provolone cheese. They called it the Elmer special.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Pheasant Hill is in the northeast corner of Oklahoma, seventy-two miles northeast of Tulsa. It rises 840 feet above sea level, about 150 feet above the bed of Big Cabin Creek, which runs along its western flank. Two cemeteries are on the broad top of Pheasant Hill. This is an oil drilling area, with numerous wells nearby. It’s unlikely that you’ll dine of pheasant nearby (unless you shoot and cook it yourself). But a hunger can be sated five miles south the Pheasant Hill at the Hornets Corner Diner in Vinita.

The Beginnings Of A Great Cocktail

ColumbusToday in 1498, on his third voyage, Christopher Columbus landed on the beach of the island of Margarita, off the coast of what is now Venezuela. He was met on the beach by Jimmy Buffett, who, in 1948. . .oh, wait. I transposed two numbers and now. . . well, never mind.

However, it’s also National Rum Day. Until the storm, New Orleans had the only rum distillery in the United States, making N.O. Rum. Logically enough, this is also Baba au Rhum Day. Rum baba–a cake soaked with rum mixed with syrup–was once a popular dessert in New Orleans restaurants. The old Chris Steak House made an especially good one. But I don’t think any restaurant serves it anymore.

The Gourmet Of The Opera

OperaMaleGioacchino Rossini was one of the great composers of opera, a dedicated gourmet, and the man for whom the foie-gras-topped dish filet de boeuf Rossini is named. He didn’t just like it: he created it. Today in 1846, he got married. He never composed another opera. “Why do you waste all that time writing all that stuff for big women to howl?” his wife probably told him.

Annals Of Oyster-Eating

Grand Central Station began construction in New York City today in 1904. It’s the last of the Apple’s great train stations, and also the home of the fabulous old Oyster Bar and Restaurant (that’s it’s official name). In a unique space with its arching tile ceilings, they serve not only great oysters from all over the world, but a lengthy list of daily fish specials. The oyster bar was a New York creation that we adopted, as much as we think of the institution as our own.

Wine Pioneers

CoonskinHatToday is the birthday of Fess Parker, who was a hero to many guys my age who were little boys in the 1950s, when he played Davy Crockett. After his acting career ended, he did well in many other ventures, including the excellent winery that bears his name in Southern California. The label features a small coonskin cap in gold. It was one of the biggest thrills of my radio career to have him as a guest on my show about ten years ago. I was sorry to hear that he passed away early this year at 86. He’ll always be the king of the wild frontier to me.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Roch, a well-known name in New Orleans food history. The St. Roch Market, on the street with the same name at the corner of St. Claude, was one of the last neighborhood public markets. Like all the rest was made obsolete by the advent of supermarkets. In recent decades, it was the home of a seafood restaurant, which later opened branches in New Orleans East and Covington. Roch (pronounced “rock”) was a French nobleman, alleged to have been born with a birthmark in the shape of a cross. He lived in the 1300s, when plague was running rampant. He caught it himself, and while waiting to die in the woods outside Montpelier, he was kept alive by a dog who brought him food every day. He is much revered in Italy, where he’s called St. Rocco.

Food Names

Singer Eydie Gorme was born today in 1932. . . Bill Spooner, who was a member of the rock group The Tubes, was born today in 1949. . . Ebenezer Sage, a Congressman from New York in the early 1800s, was born today in 1765.

Words To Drink By

“Let us candidly admit that there are shameful blemishes on the American past, of which the worst by far is rum. Nevertheless, we have improved man’s lot and enriched his civilization with rye, bourbon and the Martini cocktail. In all history has any other nation done so much?”–Bernard De Voto, American novelist.

“Beer is not a good cocktail party drink, especially in a home where you don’t know where the bathroom is.”– Billy Carter.

Words To Eat By

“If the material world is merely illusion, an honest guru should be as content with Budweiser and bratwurst as with raw carrot juice, tofu and seaweed slime.”–Edward Abbey.

FoodFunniesSquare

An Unexplored Pairing.

Which wines go best with mystery books? With romantic novels? Or self-help tomes?

Click here for the cartoon.

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SummerDiningSpecials

Coolinary @ Rue 127: Three Courses, $39.

The pleasant, intimate coolness of Rue 127 gets another facet of appeal this summer with a special menu. Three courses, consisting of an appetizer, an entree, and either a dessert or a glass of wine, some to your table for $39. It’s also special in that the dishes involved are mostly new ones. And here they are:

Green Gumbo
~or~

Arugula Salad
With balsamic vinaigrette, goat cheese, puffed quinoa and fresh berries
~or~

Meat Pie Dumpling
Hot mustard , house pickled salad

In the kitchen at Rue 127.

In the kitchen at Rue 127.

Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin
Spätzle, caramelized onion soubise
~or~

Pan Seared Quail
Sofrito, purple sticky rice
~or~

Banana Leaf Wrapped Gulf Fish
Mofongo, and raw vegetable salad

Dessert
Cheese, Honey, Crackers.. .Sorbet of the Day. . .
Dessert of the Day

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Tuesday, August 9, 2016.
MeMe’s Goes To The Pelican Club.

Mary Ann and I have become friends with Rae-Ann and Chuck Williams, the people who own MeMe’s in Chalmette. We keep running into them in other restaurants. That may not seem strange, but two ongoing conditions make it unusual. First, most restaurant owners dine in restaurants only rarely. Second, two of these meetings have been at Tony Angello’s, a restaurant I hit once every five years or so. (It doesn’t change much.)

On those occasions, we talked about the restaurant scene, and vowed that we would get together to try some of each other’s favorites.

Tuna poke, kicking off the Coolinary menu at the Pelican Club.

Tuna poke, kicking off the Coolinary menu at the Pelican Club.

So here we are at the Pelican Club, which as usual is offering the best summer menu in town. It starts early in the season and stays late, and has more variety than any other Coolinary menu. We begin with a passed-around amuse bouche of tuna poké–chopped fresh, raw tuna, mixed with avocado, mango, citrus, and spices. Very tasty.(Well, I thought so. No other takers on raw fish at this table.)

Pappardelle pasta with oyster mushrooms.

Pappardelle pasta with oyster mushrooms.

The ordered appetizers are appealing, too. Grilled oysters keep Mary Ann’s streak of eating them at every meal out. I don’t remember who had the pappardelli pasta with oyster mushrooms, kale and cream, but it looked good. So did the wedge salad. The appetizers are almost enough to fill us right there.

PelicanClub-WholeFlounder3

But we have entrees, too. The whole fried flounder was inevitable and a great a feast for Re-Ann. Mary Ann faces a panneed slab of slab of drumfish with enormous U-10 shrimp.

Duck three ways.

Duck three ways.

Chuck has the duck three ways, a special this night. It looks terrific and is so appealing that it gets scarfed down in a trice. And for me five thick slabs of nearly-rare tuna, accompanied by scallops with chimichurri sauce.

Tuna and scallops.

Tuna and scallops.

All of this is the kind of food I associate with the Pelican Club, but almost all of it is something new to the restaurant. (Except that flounder, which is getting to be Chef Richard’s Hughes’s signature dish.) And it’s an almost crazy value at $39 for the full dinner.

That could have been finished with a dessert, but I was the only taker: key lime pie made with Meyer lemons.

The wine picked for us by our server (who may be the sommelier; if she’s not, she ought to be) is a very dense Malbec. Bit in the fruit department, easy on the bitter ends of the tannins that come from such a dark wine. We all love it.

The Williamses have a refreshing and realistic idea about their establishment. The fully understand that their brilliant chef Lincoln Owens is what makes the place what it is.

FleurDeLis-4-Small
Pelican Club. French Quarter: 615 Bienville. 504-523-1504.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016.
Turtle Soup Overload.

Lazone Randolph–longtime chef at Brennan’s on Royal Street, and the chef-elect of Ted Brennan’s Decatur Restaurant when it opens in the fall–sent a gallon of turtle soup to me. He said he would when I saw him at Ted Brennan’s Irish wake over the weekend. It isn’t my idea, but I like it. From the sample at the wake, I learned that it’s still the best turtle soup recipe in town.

I rushed right home with the cold container and ate a big bowl of the stuff. No sherry or hot sauce needed. This is the historic Brennan’s turtle soup recipe, all right. I separated the bounty into four food-storage bags and froze them so I can have it for awhile. This is the only serious eating I do all day, and it serves me well.

Thursday, August 11, 2016.
Keith Young’s Steakhouse, But No Steak.

If you survey Keith Young’s lunch menu, you won’t guess that it’s a steak specialist. You’d learn that truth, though, just by seeing the number of steaks that still come out to the dining room table.

But I didn’t fall for one of the excellent slabs o’ beef Keith routinely serves. It’s mostly seafood at lunch, and he does that just as well. Mary Ann continues her fried-oyster jag, with a half-dozen of those. Then she succumbs to another passion of hers: a cheeseburger. Keith grills a very mean burger, thick as your hand, loaded with cheese, and still too hot not to be careful about biting in.

The waiter pushes the fine soft-shell crabs, the crab cakes, and the shrimp on me. For some reason I am not all that hungry, and I make most of the meal out of a Caesar salad.

Actually, I know the reason, but I can’t report it here. A family crisis killed my appetite for today. Not the first time this happened to me. The 9/11 disaster was another–but Katrina, strangely, wasn’t. The broken ankle that made it impossible for me to walk for three months also made me turn away from my food desires. That event, in fact, is what probably contributed more to the sixty-plus weight loss I’ve had in the past two years than anything else I’m doing.

For readers who really stay on top of my family’s life: today’s issue is not the end of the world, and so peculiar that you’d never guess it. Maybe I’ll tell you in ten years or so. Sorry. I’ll be back tomorrow, but diminished a bit.

Keith Young’s Steak House. Madisonville: 165 LA 21. 985-845-9940.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Pasta Jambalaya

This dish was invented at Mr. B’s, and it’s a wonder nobody thought of it before. It replaces the rice in a good sausage-and-chicken jambalaya with pasta. This version was created by the Taste Buds–the three chefs who own Zea–for their first big restaurant concept, Semolina. (Only one Semolina survives, , in the Clearview Mall.) The Buds added two interesting wrinkles: Creole sauce and smoked gouda cheese. The latter touch gives the smoky flavor we all want in a jambalaya.

  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 lb. andouille, sliced thinly
  • 8 oz. chicken breast meat, bone and skin removed, cut into medium chunks
  • 2 Tbs. tasso, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, cut into strips
  • 1 small bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 4 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 cups Creole sauce (see recipe below)
  • 2 lbs. orecchiete, shell, or spiral pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded provolone cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded smoked gouda
  • 2 green onions, tender green parts only, thinly sliced

1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet. Sear the chicken, andouille, and tasso in corn oil until the chicken is nearly cooked. Drain excess fat.

2. Add onion, bell pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic, and butter. Continue cooking until the the garlic is fragrant. Add Creole sauce and bring to a boil. Stir well to incorporate butter into the sauce.

3. Put the pasta into a large bowl and pour the sauce over it. Toss the pasta with the sauce to incorporate. Divide the pasta jambalaya on six plates. Top with the cheeses. Garnish with sliced green onions.

Serves six.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Semolina’s Creole Sauce

This is a pretty good version of Creole sauce, made to complement Semolina’s excellent pasta jambalaya, one of the most popular dishes on their menu.

  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1 Tbs. parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp. garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. basil
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup whole canned tomatoes with juice, diced
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1 cup stock (shrimp or chicken)
  • 1/2 tsp. Crystal hot sauce

1. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, parsley, garlic, basil, cayenne pepper, white pepper, black pepper, salt, bay leaves, sugar and green onions. Cook until the bell pepper turns bright green and the onions begin to become transparent.

2. Stir in tomatoes, tomato puree, stock, and hot sauce. Bring to a boil, then cook at a simmer about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Makes about two cups.

500BestSquareRoasted Polenta Pie @ Midway Pizza

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Pizza is the mainstay at Midway. It’s a thicker-than-average pie, but that aspect is balanced off by the right amounts of all the other ingredients. While heading in the direction of a Chicago-style pizza, it stops short of that. I mean that as a compliment. Meanwhile, they also make a pie out of polenta–the Italian answer to grits, with a different flavor. The porridge-like, thick stuff goes into a pizza pan, where it’s topped with cheese, bacon, green onions, and a few other things. It is much better than it sounds, or even seems possible.

MidwayPizza-PolentaPie-

Midway Pizza. Uptown: 4725 Freret St. 504-322-2815.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare August 15, 2016

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 15

Annals Of Cooking School

Today in 1912 was is the birthday of Julia Child. Even after her death in 2004, she remains the all-time greatest television chef, as well as one of the most honored and accomplished authors of cookbooks. I have dinner with her once, at the extinct French Quarter restaurant Begue’s. I was surprised by how down-to-earth and unpretentious she was, and also that her unique voice and bearing were not just television affectations but entirely real. That night, she liked the oyster Rockefeller flan.

CookingSchoolB&W

My favorite aspect of Julia’s shows were that if she made a mistake or something didn’t come out quite right, she’d admit it. You never see that on television now, even though we all know from eating in restaurants that all chefs make mistakes.

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day.
A good lemon meringue pie is wonderful, especially if you take that old recipe from your grandmother and cut the amount of sugar by at least a third (in both the lemon custard and meringue parts). We seem to have had a taste for much sweeter desserts forty or fifty years ago than we do now. Making a lighter pie crust is a worthy goal, too. Take liberties. I once had a pie that was creme brulee on the bottom and lemon meringue on the top. Fabulous.

LemonMeringuePie

Throw a meringue pie (leave out the lemon) one at someone you love someday soon. It’s great fun. On his birthday in 1981, the publisher of the newspaper where my restaurant review column has appeared for thirty years received a meringue pie in the face from my hand. He’s gone, but I’m still there. So just go ahead and do it. Note: a pie can only be thrown at a man. Most women fail to grasp the humor.

Essential Ingredients

Speaking of pie crusts: Crisco was released today in 1911 by Procter and Gamble, the soap people. (Soap and fat are largely the same product.) The advance that made Crisco popular was that it was pre-creamed and shelf-stable. That accomplishment was achieved through hydrogenation. In more recent times, it’s been found that hydrogenated fats–especially those with high trans-fatty acids–are rather bad for you to eat. So Crisco developed a new formula involving zero trans-fats. I like the stuff, and find it a good, clean product that’s hard to replace in certain baked goods, notably biscuits and pie dough. Although the trans-fat issue did move me to start using butter instead in many recipes. Isn’t that a turnabout! One of the reasons Crisco was created was to replace animal fats.

Edible Dictionary

beef daube, daube [DOBE], n.–Beef cooked slowly in its own juices and other liquids, including seasoning liquids like wine, Worcestershire, or vinegar, plus savory vegetables. After it’s tender, the beef is sliced or shredded. In classic French cookery (which the word first appeared, in the 1700s), daube was cooked in the oven in a terrine or a baking dish, until the liquids had mostly evaporated. Then it was sliced and eaten as it was. It could also be blended with seasoned gelatin, and served cold. The latter survives in New Orleans as daube glace, a popular appetizer in the Christmas season. It’s sort of a beef version of hogshead cheese, and eaten in much the same way. As is true of many French dishes, it’s made with much more pepper here. Another version of daube is made by slicing the beef and simmering it in an Italian red sauce, then serving it with spaghetti. Although it’s still made in many homes, it’s become a rarity on menus.

Annals Of Drinking

Elvin Jellinek was born today in 1890. He was the first scientist to study intensively the causes and effects of alcoholism. He suggested that the condition be treated as a disease, not as a sin. In his day, alcoholics were thought of as merely weak-willed people, an approach that did little to address or correct the problem.

Citrus At War

The Satsuma War began today in 1863, between British would-be colonizers and the Japanese. Satsuma is a province of Japan. It’s where the original satsuma fruit was grown, the ancestors of all those trees in Plaquemines Parish that will give us their succulent orbs in a month or so.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Cucumber Lake is in the Hiawatha National Forest on the sparsely-populated Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It’s ten miles from the northern shore of Lake Michigan. It’s also just sixty miles from Fish Creek. Banana Lake gets its name from its shape. (So do the nearby Cranberry Lake and Square Lake.) It’s only about 200 feet wide, but a half-mile wide. It’s a good place for fishing muskies and trout, even in winter, when it freezes over. If you don’t hit anything and get hungry, drive your four-wheeler eight miles up the dirt Banana Lake Road to the much larger Indian Lake’s shore, for a scenic lunch at the Big Spring Inn.

Annals Of Military Cuisine

NapoleonInColorNapoleon Bonaparte was born today in 1769, on the island of Corsica. He left his mark on world history in such a pervasive way that he even crops up repeatedly in discussions of our own local special food interest. The Napoleon pastry, the Napoleon House, chicken Marengo, and Pascal’s Manale (on Napoleon Avenue) come to mind immediately, and it wouldn’t be hard to think of many more. In recent years, chefs have taken to calling any layered dish a Napoleon of this or that. Napoleon was a gourmet, and a personal chef was essential to him even in the field of battle.

The Saints

IgnatiusB&WThis is the day, in 1534, when St. Ignatius Loyola organized the Jesuits. I wouldn’t be who I am without their influence. Whatever else can be said about the Jesuits, I’ve always noticed that when you are in their company, you eat well. (Anyone who’s been to Manresa Retreat House on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge can vouch for that.)

Food And Drink Namesakes

Bert Berry, a pro football player, was born today in 1975. . . Elias M. Fries, a Swiss botanist whose specialty was mushrooms, was born today in 1794. . . Congresswoman Maxine Waters was elected to life today in 1938.

Words To Eat French Food By

“The French complain of everything, and always.”–Napoleon Bonaparte, born today in 1769.

“Life itself is the proper binge.”–Julia Child, born today in 1912.

Words To Drink By

“Drinking is the soldier’s pleasure.”–John Dryden.

FoodFunniesSquare

Be Wary Of Restaurants Named For Somebody’s Mother.

Mothers have more on their minds than how delicious the food they cook will be.

Click here for the cartoon.

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SummerDiningSpecials

Garlic Festival Returns To Upperline. Three Courses $35.

The Upperline is back for the twenty-ninth year with its Summer Garlic Festival. It’s long since that went beyond popular to become legendary. Not only do many locals visit the restaurant multiple times to dig the garlic, but people from out of town come in with that menu specifically in mind. The price is $35 for three courses, and the food is delicious. It begins with a whole head of roasted garlic, soft enough to spread on bread. The Garlic Festival menu is available every night, along with the regular menu, Wednesdays through Sundays, through September 11.

Here’s the menu:

Whole Head Of Roasted Garlic
~~~~~

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho
Crab guacamole & garlic chips
~or~

Spicy Shrimp
Jalapeno cornbread & aioli
~or~

Heirloom Tomato And Sweet Onion Salad
Basil pesto
~~~~~

Eggplant & Creole Squash Shrimp Boats
A la Muddy Waters
~or~

Slow Roasted Duckling Quarter
Garlic Port Sauce
~~~~~

Bread Pudding
Toffee sauce
~or~

Vanilla Ice Cream
Honey-poached garlic
~or~

Brandy Alexander on the Rocks

Upperline

Uptown: 1413 Upperline. 504-891-9822. www.upperline.com.

NOMenu invites restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events to tell us, so we might add the news to this free department. Send to news@nomenu.com.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Sunday, August 7, 2016.
The Comfort Of Routines.

The Marys laugh at my many perennial habits. The slice of toast in the morning. My long list of utterly trivial anniversaries that I celebrate anyway. Red beans on Monday. The trip to the grocery store every Saturday. In my defense I say that by having all these matters plugged into a routine, they all get done. Could it be that women are just more spontaneous than men are? If so, why don’t we each play to our strengths? Why do I think I will get a rational answer to these questions?

But there is one routine I don’t really like. MA and I inevitably reach the point in the day when we are too hungry to ignore the pangs. At that point, one is apt to make this meal from the most convenient possible restaurants or leftovers at home. This is why we wind up too often at the Acme, Zea, Chimes, New Orleans Food & Spirits, or–as in today–La Carreta. Both of us know that we really should go to restaurants where I’ve not dined in awhile, but we never seem to agree as to specifically where.

So here we are at the La Carreta on Causeway Boulevard in Covington. This is not entirely useless, because I recite a live radio commercial for the place every day, and the menu is too big for me to be familiar with everything on it.

We come to an early conclusion, and not for the first time. These are the best chips-and-salsa around. The chips are very thin, and the salsa cool, fresh, peppery and zingy with lime juice. I think I could come here and fill up on these things entirely.

Chicken a la Diabla, from the Monterrey menu @ La Carreta.

Chicken a la Diabla, from the Monterrey menu @ La Carreta.

But I don’t. Instead, I find something on the “Monterrey” section of the card. These are complete dinners whose main items involve better than average ingredients. The beef is Certified Angus, a hallmark of above-averageness. But the best items on the Monterrey are the shrimp or chicken a la diablo. The protein involved is grilled, and surrounding it is a pile of rice with scatterings of small pineapple chunks, and a variety of peppers and vegetables. Two sauces–one the queso dip from the appetizer section, and the other a very peppery chilpotle sauce. I think this is a very good plate, leagues ahead of the combo platters in most Tex-Mex places. Not nearly as heavy and pasty.

It’s a good late-afternoon supper, one that will stave off hunger for the remainder of the day. My thoughts turn again to mowing the lawn. A race is on between the temperature and the rain. I’m waiting for the former to come down so I won’t get a heatstroke. But if I wait too long, the rain will shut me down halfway. A half-mowed lawn looks some kind of stupid.

I get lucky. I manage to cut the main lawns in their entirety. I rest awhile, then go back out to see how my new string trimmer works. Very well, is the verdict, as I cut a good-sized patch that I can’t get at with a lawnmower, let alone my tractor.

Well, I guess that was a pretty good day.

Monday, August 8, 2016.
Culinary Mimicking. Return To Vocalizing.

It’s Monday, and I am hankering for red beans and rice. This week MA and I go to New Orleans Food and Spirits, once again sticking to our routine because we can’t seem to work up the creativity to go somewhere else. Mary Ann is satisfied with a big salad and a pile of fried oysters. She herself doesn’t understand where this sudden hunger for oysters is coming from, but she gets them almost every time we go out.

She will reject this theory, but: I think that she is unconsciously imitating me. I eat oysters every chance I get and always have. It’s my favorite food. I also see her making the same hand motions and vocal inflections I use when I’m talking. On the other hand, I am sure that I’ve picked up some mannerisms of hers. I guess if a person can look like his dog, two long-married people can be forgiven their adoption of each other’s qualities. And the things that drive one another crazy, too.

Back to doing the Monday show from home. It’s my hommage to Johnny Carson, who turned the Tonight Show over to guest hosts for most of his thirty years on the air. And I have a good reason, too. Monday night is chorus rehearsal night. The Northlake Performing Arts Society, in which I am unobtrusive second tenor, gathers for the first time in our 2016-17 season. We will begin with a country-and-western theme. Not only is the selection of tunes better than I expected, but there is a clear invitation for singers to group into trios or quartets to perform the likes of “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.” I have put this idea forward, and got two other guys interested. One more and some rehearsals, and there we’ll be, in the spotlights.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Grillades and Grits “Lafitte’s Landing”

This is my adaptation of the style of grillades and grits–the greatest of all Creole brunch dishes–that Chef John Folse used to serve at his great restaurant Lafitte’s Landing in Donaldsonville. My favorite cut of veal for this is thin-cut veal T-bone, with the bone in so the sauce picks up a lot of flavor.

  • 4 thin-cut veal T-bone steaks
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt-free Creole seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbs. butter
  • 1/4 cup tawny port or dry sherry
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cups crushed canned tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups light veal stock (optional)
  • 8 black olives, pitted and halved
  • 1 Tbs. capers, well drained
  • 1/4. tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 3/4 cup grits
  • 1 Tbs. butter

1. Season the veal with the Creole seasoning and salt.

2. Heat 2 Tbs. butter in a large skillet until it bubbles, then sear the veal over medium-high heat until browned. Remove and reserve.

3. Deglaze the pan with the tawny port and bring to a boil while scraping the bottom of the pan to dissolve the brown bits stuck there. Reduce the wine to almost no liquid at all.

3. Add the remaining butter and the flour. Make a medium-dark roux, stirring constantly to keep it from burning. When the roux is the right color, lower the heat and quickly add the onions, garlic, bell pepper, and celery. Cook until the onions turn translucent.

4. Stir in thyme and crushed tomatoes. Bring that to a boil, then add the veal and veal stock (or 1 1/2 cups water, if not using stock). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the olives, capers, salt and pepper. Cover the pan, and simmer until sauce has thickened to one-half original volume. Try to stretch this process out to at least two hours.

5. Cook grits according to package directions, adding butter when grits are near desired thickness (which should not be so thick that they will not flow off a spoon).

6. Check seasoning of the grillades sauce. Slice the veal grillades into strips or squares, removing the bones and fat. Serve grillades and lots of sauce with the grits or on the side.

Serves four.

500BestSquareBye-Bye Katrina Roll @ Sushi Brothers

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This is one of a number of sushi rolls created by the city’s Japanese restaurants in the months after the hurricane. Rolls making fun of FEMA, the levees, and the like were on every sushi bar’s list. This one was (and still is) better than most. The core is barbecued eel, shrimp, avocado, and tobiko caviar. Then there’s the rice, and around that is snow crab and eel sauce. It’s all held together with rice paper. Sells for $12, and is rather filling. It always comes to my mind when the weather reports make heavy use of the word “severe.”

Sushi Brothers. Lee Circle Area: 1612 St Charles Ave. 504-581-4449.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare August 12, 2016

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 20 Three-course dinners $39 (or less). All the menus can be found here.

Today’s Flavor

ChineseDumplingsThis is International Asian Dumplings Day. Dumplings–stuffed pasta, more or less–are found in almost every kind of Asian restaurant. It all started in China, but it’s found now from Burma to Sakhalin. Dumplings can be made in many shapes and sizes, with many kinds of stuffings. The most typical is a light pasta skin wrapping a mixture of meat, vegetables, and herbs. Steaming is by far the most popular method of cooking. Some–notably “pot stickers”–are cooked a second time in a hot wok.

The vast range of Asian dumplings is most striking in dim sum restaurants. Japanese shu-mai and gyoza and the Korean mandu are identical to Chinese dumplings. The mark of quality in all these is lightness. A dumpling with a thick, glutinous skin is a poor dumpling. Deep fried dumplings are the mark of a restaurant looking to streamline its operations, not make the best.

Edible Dictionary

ChocolateCakeRichganache, n.–A rich chocolate filling or frosting, used between and over the layers of cakes when a major chocolate statement is being made. Ganache is made with chocolate and whipping cream. The former is chopped into small pieces, and the latter is warmed and whipped with the chocolate chunks until well blended. Depending on the amount of cream, used, ganache can range from thick and intense–almost like a fudge–to fluffy and mellow. Either way, the flavor is much more explosively chocolatey than chocolate alone. Ganache is also used to make chocolate truffles.

Deft Dining Rule #191

When you can pick up a freshly-cooked pot sticker with chopsticks, dip it in the sauce, and transfer it to your mouth without its splatting pack to the table, you can claim a blue belt in chopsticks usage skills.

Gourmet Gazetteer

The Peapod Rocks are three of islands in Puget Sound, the many islands off the northwest coast of Washington State. The North Peapod is thirty-two miles northeast of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, the closest major town. The Rocks are not always above the surface of the water; tides can submerge them. This makes them popular with scuba divers. Whales swim by. Salmon run through here. If that makes you hungry, you might boat the five miles over to the Quilted Pig Restaurant in Eastsound.

Eating Across America

ChicagoSkylineChicago was founded today in 1833. Originally the point from which boats on Lake Michigan would portage to the streams leading to the Mississippi River, the site’s advantages as a transportation hub soon became evident. When the railroads boomed, so did Chicago. The rails made it the center of many industries, not the least of which was the shipping of meat, beef in particular. Chicago has been a great steak town since the arrival of the first cattle cars. It’s a terrific place to eat anything else these days–probably the most underrated (except by Chicagoans) eating cities in the country. The restaurant scene is not uniformly fine–it’s dominated by chains, including many local ones. But the best of Chicago rivals the best anywhere else.

Eating Around The World

This is the Glorious Twelfth in Yorkshire, England, marking the beginning of the grouse and ptarmigan hunting season. I wonder how many of those birds are still around in England, after being shot at for as long as they have been. In this country, the only way you’d ever eat such a thing (there is an American grouse, living in the northern woods) is to shoot it yourself. Fortunately, laws prevent any kind of sale of wild birds, so they won’t become darlings of expensive kitchens.

Gourmets Through History

Diamond Jim Brady was born today in 1856. He started small and ended up big–in every sense of the word. He made a fortune selling railroad supplies, and used it both in philanthropy and very high living. His appetite knew few bounds, and his dinners in New York City were legendary for their grandeur and size. He got his nickname from the million dollars’ worth of diamonds he collected over the years. We had our own Diamond Jim in New Orleans–Jim Moran, who was the owner of La Louisiane in the 1940s. But that was a different guy.

Music To Eat Kobe Beef By

Kyu Sakamoto died in a plane crash today in 1985. He was a popular singer in Japan for many years. He had the distinction of recording the only Japanese-language song ever to make it to Number One on the American pop charts. It was named Sukiyaki for the American audience, after the Japanese beef dish–which had nothing to do with the song’s real lyrics.

Food Namesakes

Cliff Fish, of the 1970s rock band Paper Lace, was born today in 1948.

Words To Eat By

“Hell is an idea first born on an undigested apple dumpling.”–Herman Melville.

Words To Drink By

“Drunkenness is temporary suicide.”–Bertrand Russell, a very bizarre thinker, in The Conquest of Happiness.
Who would want to conquer happiness? On behalf of what?

FoodFunniesSquare

Why So Many Photographs Are Taken In Supermarkets.

But never of the food. Also, you always know how to pose.

Click here for the cartoon.

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Note: Yesterday the NOMenu.com website battled to be published because of some sort of glitch in the system. (For those who worry as much as I do, please know that it wasn’t caused by a virus or anything else subversive.) Only the lower half of Wednesday’s edition was readable online. Since that lopped off the Dining Diary, I am running yesterday’s Diary entries again. Thanks for your patience.–Tastefully yours, Tom Fitzmorris.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, August 5, 2016.
I Keep Going Back To Bozo’s.

The second crew of AT&T tech experts comes to the Cool Water Ranch and find that the reason one of my phone lines is out is that it is connected inproperly in a pedestal about half a mile up the street. The man says that this wire, which also brings in the internet and television, was goobered up by the man who was here three days ago to start the internet up again. If a third man were to show up with the news that the second tech undid the work of the first, and therefore nothing works, I would not be surprised. But I get lucky and today’s wiring pro gets everything working fine. I can now work at home again.

Which I haven’t done in over a week. That’s okay. I think I should commune once in awhile in the hallways of the radio station with my fellow broadcasters, and pretend that what I do is real work.

Seafood martini @ Mr. Ed's Oyster Bar &Fish House

Seafood martini @ Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish House

MA is not available, and I have no strong desire to go any place in particular for dinner, except that I’m always thinking of seafood on Fridays. And the original location of Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar and Fish House is not only right on my way home, but it also cooks some of my favorite dishes. They have a half-dozen or more interesting takes on oysters, for example. And that always has appeal for me.

Oysters Amandine

Oysters Amandine

As has been noted here more than a few times, Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar is is the successor to Bozo’s, the much-loved old seafood joint that dated back to the 1920s until its longtime owner Chris Vodonovich retired a few years ago. (He has since passed away.) During the passing of the torch, Mr. Ed McIntyre gathered all of Chris’s many recipes, and guaranteed that they would live on. Indeed, at first that was a matter of concern to the Bozo’s regulars. Would Chris show Mr. Ed how to make his chicken-andouille gumbo? Would the barbecue shrimp remain as it was? And how about the bread pudding? Can’t change any of those dishes. And there are many more where those came from.
It’s been a few years since Mr. Ed moved into Bozo’s. For awhile, the gumbo and bread pudding and all the rest of the relics did indeed remain unchanged.

The new bread pudding.

The new bread pudding.

But today I had the gumbo, and the bread pudding–along with oysters amandine, an entirely new dish. I was paying keen attention when I took my first slurp of gumbo. It was good. Better, even, than the old one. Smokier. Denser roux. The bread pudding has come very far from Chris’s home-style, simple pudding. It is now not only more interesting in its flavors, but it looks much better, like what you’d find in a big-time gourmet restaurant. The old recipe was just plopped on the plate with a spoon.

So what happened to the urgency felt by the regular customers when they insisted on keeping everything as it was? I asked the waitress about this. She didn’t know what I was talking about, even.

So there it is, a cold fact. When changes occur in familiar flavors, there may be disquiet from the old customers. But they always get used to the new ways–if they result in a better dish. Which they usually do. (Unless it’s a chain restaurant, in which changes in a dish almost always take goodness downhill.)

Chris was a very good friend of mine, and his restaurant was always a stellar example of consistency. But I don’t think he’d object to the deep changes Mr. Ed made in his establishment. Or that Mr. Ed spread the concept to three more locations. He did it honestly, by keeping things moving.

Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish House. Metairie: 3117 21st St. 504-833-6310.
Saturday, August 6, 2016.
A Sudden Invitation.

The day began pleasantly enough as MA and I had brunch at Mattina Bella. We eat the usual things, although this is the first time in awhile that I’ve had the blue crab benedict–poached eggs, hollandaise, and nice crabmeat lumps cooked with some mushrooms. This is a dish I sort of invented there, although the main ingredients were already assembled to make an omelette.

MA and I discuss the family crisis, and we end right where we started. Politics came up, which is never a good thing. We head off on our separate errands.

Later, at home, the burn in the air dissuades me from cutting grass. I do, however, buy a string trimmer, something I’ve needed for a long time. It’s an electric unit, but with power three times as great as the little old trimmer I had, to little effect for years.

Then I get to work on my website duties, still catching up with hundreds of emails. In that queue I find an invitation sent at a quarter to last midnight. It is from Bonnie Warren, who did p.r. work for the old Brennan’s. These will be an Irish wake for Ted Brennan, who died a few days ago. Just Ted’s closest friends and family are invited. But Ted’s wife Ellen read my tribute to Ted in the newsletter, and added me to the list.

It was fifteen minutes until the party began on the other side of the lake. MA and I mobilize as fast as we can. She questions the bright green blazer I wore, until I tell her what an Irish wake is about. It’s for laughing, drinking, and celebrating a life. Not mourning.

Chef Lazone Randolph, formerly of Brennan's, soon to be at Ted Brennan's Decatur Restaurant.

Chef Lazone Randolph, formerly of Brennan’s, soon to be at Ted Brennan’s Decatur Restaurant.

We arrive in the shank of the get-together. We are not surprised to see that Ted had a lot of friends. I talk at length with Ellen and son Teddy. Teddy and his dad were working on opening a new restaurant in the French Quarter this fall, featuring the dishes of the old Brennan’s. Also here is the longtime Brennan’s chef Lazone Randolph, who will be the man in the kitchen in the new place. Lazone has made a batch of turtle soup in the old style, which I always regarded as the best in New Orleans.

Everybody seems to like my green blazer. I try to get some Irish songs going, but nobody wants to join in.

500BestSquareItalian Sausage @ Mosca’s

DishStars_3
Johnny Mosca left us a few years ago, but his legacy remains. He held steadfastly to his family’s way of cooking its unique Italian eats, including its homemade Italian sausage. It’s perfectly spicy, meaty, fatty, and anise-tinged, and after being grilled a marvelous accompaniment for spaghetti bordelaise. I have always suspected that there’s a little of that sausage in the Italian oysters there. Problem: most of the time, it’s not available. But I always ask, and am ecstatic when I score the stuff.

Chicken grandee, sitting in for Italian sausage, which weren' available this evening.

Chicken grandee, sitting in for Italian sausage, which weren’ available this evening.

Mosca’s. Westwego: 4137 US 90. 504-436-9942.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Pat Gallagher’s Smothered Quail

I’m not nuts about quail. As cute as the little birds are, I find their flavor not sufficiently interesting to justify the amount of work involved in eating them. So it’s saying something when I tell you that I would never turn away from any quail dish prepared by Pat Gallagher. Gallagher has operated a number of restaurants over the years on the North Shore. (The current one is Gallagher’s Grill.) Quail was always a great specialty. None were pretentious dishes. Just fresh, prepared simply and very, very well. Now that quail are relatively easy to buy fresh, consider trying this one night.

Lamb and Quail at Gallagher's.

Lamb and Quail at Gallagher’s.

  • 8 quails, partially deboned and split
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 8 large mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 oz. brandy
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Season the quail front and back with salt and pepper or Creole seasoning.

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and bring it to bubbling. Sauté the quails for about two minutes.

3. Add the onions, garlic, and mushrooms, and cook until the onions are clear. Carefully pour on the brandy and touch a flame to it. (Skip the flaming if you have even a shred of doubt about safety.)

4. When the flames die out, add the stock, thyme and red wine and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat for seven to ten minutes, until the quail are tender.

5. Serve two quail per person with plenty of the sauce and dirty rice. (Or not-so-dirty rice, for that matter.)

Serves four.

Serves four.

AlmanacSquare August 11, 2016

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 20 Three-course dinners $39 (or less). All the menus can be found here.

Today’s Flavor

GreenOnionsToday is National Green Onions Day. Green onions are miraculous, especially when used as a last touch to a dish that needs a certain something. They don’t work universally (nothing does), but I find myself sprinkling green onions almost as often as salt and pepper when I’m finishing a savory dish.

Green onions are nothing more than the first shoots of regular onions. They have a good taste, but not especially a strong one. Certainly not as assertive as mature yellow onions or garlic. In their raw or near-raw state, they have a pleasing sharpness accented with a peppery quality. Their magic lies as much in their fresh crunch as their flavor. They enliven the food they garnish without really altering its flavor.

Crispness and vivid fresh flavor is what you want from green onions. The smaller the stalks, the better the taste. The flavor and texture of green onions change from top to bottom. The top parts are tough; be ruthless about disposing of them. By contrast, as you approach the white end, the flavor sharpens dramatically.

Green onions were once commonly called “shallots” around New Orleans, but that’s dying out as we use more real shallots in our cooking. “Scallions” is another, more accurate word for them.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Chili is a small farm town in north central Indiana, in the center of corn country. It’s sixty-five miles west-southwest of Fort Wayne, home of the annual Chilifest in October. Chili is where Washonis and Flower Creeks flow into the Eel River, which marks a spot where the Wisconsin Glacier once stopped and melted. The Eel is a tributary of the Wabash River, whose waters make it all the way to New Orleans. Chili’s good people mostly cook and eat at home, but if you must go to a restaurant from there it’s only four miles west to Denver, and the Denver Hotspot Restaurant.

Edible Dictionary

antipasto, n.–The word means “before the meal” in Italian. Generally, it denotes appetizers, the equivalent of tapas in Spain and hors d’ouvres in France. The words has come to mean a specific range of dishes, most of which are served at room temperature, and many of which are marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and herbs. In Italian restaurants in Italy, they’re traditionally presented on a big table as you enter. (Unfortunately, we see that only rarely in this country.)

A majority of antipasti involve cooked and marinated vegetables, beginning with olives and running through carrots, endives, escarole, eggplant, cauliflower, and more. Cooked, marinated seafood, particularly squid, are also common. Cured and smoked meats and cheeses complete the most generous antipasto arrays. The only problem with good antipasto is that it’s very easy to fill up on it.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

Green onions should never be put through a food processor if you’re using them as garnish; you must slice them, as thinly as you can, using a very sharp knife or kitchen shears, immediately before adding them.

Restaurants In The Comics

Today in 1953, in Walt Kelly’s brilliant satirical comic strip Pogo, Pogo (a possum) pushed a flatboat through the swamp with his friend Albert (an alligator). The boat had different name each time it showed up. New Orleanians perked up when they saw this one: “The S.S. Owen Brennan.” Owen Brennan was the founder of the Brennan restaurant business–the brother of Ella, Dick, John. Adelaide, and Dottie Brennan. Walt Kelly was one of Owen’s thousands of friends. Kelly has another New Orleans connection: he drew Jayson, the Jesuit Blue Jay. Kelly’s artwork is still emblazoned on nearly everything at Jesuit High School.

Food Coincidences Through History

Robert the Bruce, heroic king of Scotland from 1306 to 1329, was born today in 1274. A different Robert Bruce, the grandson of Willie Maylie (who owned the restaurant of the same name) was the only executive chef in the history of the now-gone New Orleans location of Smith and Wollensky. Which was where Maylie’s used to be. And so. . . well, see if you can think of something. I’ve lost track of Robert Bruce lately.

Food Inventions

Today in 1742, Benjamin Franklin introduced what became known as the Franklin stove. It wasn’t really a stove, but a fireplace. It used fuel more efficiently and radiated more heat into the room. His original had smoke problems, but they were resolved by other inventors. The Franklin stove was in wide use by the turn of the century. Franklin intentionally did not patent the invention, wanting it to go immediately into the public domain. When’s the last time you heard any inventor do that?

Food In Politics

Today in 1995, President Bill Clinton ordered full diplomatic relations to resume between the United States and Vietnam, thereby opening the way for bubble tea to be introduced to American eaters.

Annals Of Food Research

This is the birthday, in 1858, of Christiaan Eijkman, who discovered that a lack of vitamins in your food can make you sick. Specifically, he found that people who ate a diet mostly of polished white rice got a weakening disease called beriberi. It could be prevented by eating brown rice. Or taking Vitamin B.

Food Namesakes

Jim Kale, the bass guitarist with the rock group Guess Who?, was born today in 1943. . . Speaking of leafy, thick greens, Catherine Collard, a classical pianist, was born today in 1947. . . David Rice Atchison, who organized the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, was born today in 1807. He was a U.S. Senator, and president pro tempore of the Senate. He was officially President of the United States for one day, when Zachary Taylor, not wanting to be inaugurated on a Sunday, caused a vacancy in the chief executive’s office. . . Richard Mead, a famous London doctor of his day, was born in 1673 today. . . Pro hockey player Floyd Curry hit the Big Ice today in 1925.

Words To Eat By

“Banish the onion from the kitchen and the pleasure flies with it. Its presence lends color and enchantment to the most modest dish; its absence reduces the rarest delicacy to hopeless insipidity, and dinner to despair.”–Elizabeth Robbins Pennell, author of A Guide For The Greedy in the early 1900s.

Words To Drink By

Words To Drink By
“A small amount of wine, such as three or four cups, is of benefit for the preservation of the health of human beings and an excellent remedy for most illnesses.”–Maimonides, Talmudic scholar of the 1100s.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Next Downward Step As Dress Codes Continue To Disappear.

Made even more likely by ads for underware in fashion magazines.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Superlative Eat Club Dinner @ Trenasse.

The Eat Club has dinner at Trenasse, the two years new restaurant in the Hotel Inter-Continental. I wish every Eat Club event went off as well as this one did. We were slightly overbooked, but the restaurant jumped into action and made up an extra table for us tout de suite. They were on top of everything else all night long.

The people who filled all these forty-three seats were an unusually light-hearted bunch. The first-timers were a majority, something that almost never happens. (The breakdown for a typical Eat Club dinner is equal thirds of novices, occasional diners, and frequent attendees.) This made it a good party all night.

But the food stood out, according to everyone I spoke to. There was a story behind ou menu. The owners of Trenasse, asked by the hotel’s developer to show its stuff in a big dinner, passed the test with such flying colors that they brought the same menu back especially for us.

We began with a grilled oyster with its cheesy, smoky sauce. Then a trio of soups: fowl gumbo, crabmeat bisque, and an artichoke soup. All three were excellent, especially if the eater saved the very spicy gumbo until last.

Now a tidbit that seemed trivial: a miniature puck of potatoes au gratin, topped with a creamy sauce with crabmeat. How the chef managed to elevate to the lofty extent that he did I don’t know, but almost everybody remarks how remarkable the thing is. The dish has a track record: at the Wine and Food Experience this year, the dish won Best Of Show. For once, an award proves its veracity in reality.

The entree is surf and turf, a phrase that usually indicates a restaurant without ideas. Not here, though. A nice fillet of redfish with a powerful medium-brown meuniere sauce is on my left, and beef short ribs–first smoked and then braised–are on the right. I am no fan of short ribs, but this is astonishingly fine. Mary Ann, a short-rib admirer, is thoroughly pleased.

The dessert is a nice, soft landing, a clafoutis of local berries with vanilla mint ice cream (!).

The wines make no huge statements, but the idea of serving a Trimbach Reserve Pinot Gris with the amazing potato dish is inspired. On the other hand, I’m still trying to figure out why the Clendenon Pinot Noir was served cold.

The dinner even ended on time. And before it started, I interviewed the owners and the chef and found them full of stories. But I expected that, since Trenasse is a descendent ofn a Florida Gulf Coast restaurant called “Stinky’s Fish House.” In digging into that, I discovered an odd fact. One of the owners worked in the kitchen of Commander’s Palace during the Jamie Shannon days. He said that everybody in the kitchen back then referred to each other as “Stink.” As in, “Hey Stink! Got that veal chop mid well?” “In my hand, Stink!” I guess it’s better than some of the languages I’ve heard in restaurant kitchens.

Trenasse. CBD: 444 St Charles Ave. 504-680-7000.
Thursday, August 4, 2016.
Into The American Sector.

With the addition of the four food-and-beverage outlets at the newly-reopened Pontchartrain Hotel, John Besh is clearly in the restaurant management business. That’s a very different thing from being the chef of a restaurant, requiring different skills. But John has those skills. Perhaps even more important, he has a staff of restaurant-management professionals who execute the day-to-day at a very high level.

When the number of restaurants in a management group gets large enough, it’s typical that some units (“restaurants,” to translate from the industry jargon) stop being a good fit with the others. That appears to be the reason why John and company stopped running the American Sector, the restaurant in the World War II Museum. A couple of years ago, the Sector was taken over by Centerplate, a management company that handles such projects here and there around the country. Locally, this includes the food services in the Convention Center and the Superdome.

For some reason, I’ve been asked about the American Sector more than a few times lately. That makes sense: the WWII Museum is such a spectacular draw for New Orleans visitors and the millions of people interested in history. And the idea of having a restaurant with food, music, and graphics from the 1940’s makes perfect sense.

If only they did it in even a little above average way.

The first time I went to the American Sector recently was the day after the Fourth of July. It was closed. The second time was today. It was open, but sparsely populated for dinner. A women’s club that has some connection with WWII history was in a semi-private room having dinner.

AmericanSector-TruffledFries

The menu does indeed have a number of dishes that were much more popular in the 1940s than now. Meat loaf, to name one. But ordering a war-era dinner that’s both true to the tastes of the past and good is not, let’s say, easily done.

Fried oysters and pork belly, with a levee of microgreens.

Fried oysters and pork belly, with a levee of microgreens.

But we try. We begin with a big bowl of fresh-cut fries, squirted here and there with aioli and flavored (faintly) of truffles. The server said it was a tall order, but we finish it off handily. Then a sort of deconstructed fried oyster sandwich, with no bread (MA’s spec). The oysters come with cubes of pork belly and tomato jam. Interesting flavor, big, crisp oysters. But this is no 1945 dish. More like 2012. Not a huge failing, since the eating was agreeable. But still. . .

Garlic chicken with orzo.

Garlic chicken with orzo.

My main dish is also very much a latter-day recipe. It’s described as garlic chicken with orzo. What comes out is a bowl of rich, thick pasta nodules (orzo is pasta in the shape and size of rice grains). The chicken is in small cubes, totally overwhelmed by the pasta and its creamy sauce. It’s not bad, but so rich that I could only get through about half.

MA has a second entree, but only after she ascertains that the salmon involved is wild-caught from Atlantic waters. (Most of her food has to pass tests like this lately.) It’s big, and she doesn’t finish that, either. I put a modest dent in it. Again, pretty good, but about as much along 1940s tastes as rap music is like Big Band. (Salmon in New Orleans was, until around 1978, almost always canned product, which this clearly was not.)

Salmon with Brussels sprouts (in the skillet).

Salmon with Brussels sprouts (in the skillet).

We have more fun watching the silent movies of classic World War II moments. Lots of Bob Hope and his nemesis Jerry Collona. (I think comedians ought to have their own nemeses these days.) And female singers we couldn’t identify. MA remarks that women back then had much bigger thighs than now.

I leave with the same thought I came in with. If I were visiting New Orleans I would certainly spend a long time in rhe WWII Museum. But I’d have lunch or dinner elsewhere. Many, many great places to eat in that neighborhood.

American Sector. Warehouse District & Center City: 945 Magazine St. 504-528-1940.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Mexican Creme Brulee

Creme brulee appeared in New Orleans in the early 1980s (Arnaud’s served the first one), and over the years it supplanted the once-universal caramel custard. It’s now on almost every non-Asian menu. The difference between creme brulee and caramel custard is that the former is made with cream and has the sugar crusted on top; the latter is made with milk and has sugar caramelized into a syrup at the bottom of the baking cup.

Creme brulee must be baked very carefully and slowly, or it will not reach its proper perfect semi-flowing state. You can’t do it in standard custard cups; much better are shallow (an inch or so deep) glass or ceramic ramekins or au gratin dishes. They also have to be straight-sided, so there’s no thin rim of custard to burn when you blast the sugar topping.

It is also essential to insulate the bottoms of the dishes from the pan they’re sitting on. Those air-insulated baking pans work well. If you don’t have one, you can get the same effect by setting the baking dishes into a pan with about an inch deep of warm water.)

To give the creme brulee a Mexican flavor, use Mexican vanilla–the kind sold in quart-size bottles in every Mexican kitchen or gift shop . My own preference is for Ronald Reginald’s Melipone vanilla, made here in New Orleans and created by the late, great Chef Warren LeRuth. The aroma of Melipone (named for the bee that fertilizes the vanilla orchids) is almost alluring enough to use as a perfume.

CremeBrulee

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 quart whipping cream
  • 9 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbs. top-class, powerful vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

1. The first step is not essential, but does give an extra measure of elegance. Spread the brown sugar out, breaking all the lumps, on a big plate. Put it into the microwave oven for 10 minutes at 10 percent power, then let it cool for 30 minutes. This will remove the excess moisture from the brown sugar and keep it from turning to syrup when you blast it later.

2. Combine 1/4 cup of cream and the egg yolks in a metal bowl, and whisk to blend well. Stir in the sugar until nearly dissolved.

3. Put the rest of the cream into a small saucepan and heat it over medium heat until wisps of steam start appearing. (Don’t boil even a little.)

4. Add the vanilla to the warm cream. Stir, then pour the warm cream slowly into the metal bowl while whisking.

5. Strain the custard through a fine sieve into a large measuring cup. Pour the custard into the baking dishes.

6. Pour hot water into the pan until it’s halfway up the sides of the baking dishes. Put the pan into the preheated 325-degree oven and bake for 30 minutes. Depending on what dishes you’re using, it may take as long as another 15 minutes. The custard should be set but not solid.

8. Remove the dishes from the pan and set out to cool for a half hour, then refrigerate for at least three hours, or as long as a day.

9. When ready to serve, preheat the broiler. (Or the broil feature of your toaster oven, which works better for this than you might imagine.) Sprinkle enough brown sugar on top of each custard to completely cover, and run them under the broiler for about 30 seconds–until the sugar melts. You might want to turn the dishes so that this happens uniformly.

Serves eight.

500BestSquareBananas Foster Poor Boy @ Ye Olde College Inn

DishStars-4
If you soak a piece of stale French bread in the kind of liquid custard you’d use to make lost bread or bread pudding, you can bake it and find that it still looks like a piece of French bread. The amazing thing is that it now tastes like bread pudding. Mark Quitney–former chef of the Marriott Hotel on Canal Street–came up with this idea first, using bananas Foster as the custard component. But not long afterward, the College Inn put forth its version in the Po-Boy Festival and won second place. The College In still has that unique, optical illusion version on its menu. It’s the best dessert in the house, and one of the most original desserts I’ve ever enjoyed.

CollegeInn-BreadPuddingPoBoy-

Ye Olde College Inn. Uptown 4: Riverbend, Carrollton & Broadmoor: 3016 S Carrollton Ave. 504-866-3683.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare August 9, 2016

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 22 Three-course dinners $39 (or less). All the menus can be found here.

Annals Of Fishing

FishingOn this date in 1593, Isaak Walton was born in England. He was to write a book that not only set down everything one could know about fishing at that time, but set the standard for books that studied any particular field. It was called The Compleat Angler. Its antique spelling lives on as a common affectation. The book was more about catching fish for food than for sport, although fun was part of it too.

Annals Of Smoking

Cigar-BrandyToday in 1902, King Edward VII was crowned as the monarch of England, succeeding Queen Victoria, his mother. His first official act when he appeared before Parliament was to rescind an edict of the late Queen with this line: “Gentlemen, you may smoke.” He smoked a dozen cigars a day, plus a pack of cigarettes. That’s why a popular line of inexpensive cigars was named for him.

Food Calendar

This is National Rice Pudding Day. Rice pudding is one of those dishes that’s much loved but rarely eaten. It’s brought up on the radio show six or seven times a year always with an undertone of longing for some wonderful memory of the past. It even has a cherished old French name: riz au lait. I have a recipe for it in today’s newsletter. (It’s also in my cookbook, if you have it.)

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

To really love rice pudding, you must be over seventy.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Mushroom Farms, Pennsylvania is thirty-one miles east of Scranton, in the Pocono Mountains. They really do grow and package mushrooms in the area, which is wooded and hilly enough that many wild mushrooms probably grow, too. Maybe some of them turn up on the pizzas you can order for dinner at Napoli Pizza, a half-mile away.

Cookbooks Through History

CookbookLadyThis is the birth date, in 1762, of Mary Randolph. She married into one of the most prominent families of Virginia and lived a life of privilege, until her husband fell into disfavor with Thomas Jefferson and lost his job. Their fortunes declined. Mary Randolph opened a boarding house, where her skills at running a large manor made it a success. She wrote a cookbook called The Virginia Housewife, . It is considered the first major work on the subject of Southern cookery. Written for women with genteel lifestyles, it was carefully assembled, and included exact measurements of ingredients–a rare quality in recipes of the time.

Edible Dictionary

Szechuan pepper, n.–The husks of the fruits of Zanthoxylum piperitum and related plants, all native to central China. When used in combination with other hot peppers (usually red chilies), Szechuan peppers create the distinctive hot flavors and sensations found in the dishes from the Szechuan region. The peppers are unusual in that the husks, not the seed inside, are used in cooking. It doesn’t have much of a flavor, per se; it works on nerve endings to make them more receptive to other flavor sensations. True Szechuan peppers are not often found in American Chinese restaurants, which usually get by with only the red chili peppers.

Annals Of Public Buildings

The Superdome’s first public event–a loss for the Saints against the Houston Oilers in a pre-season game–took place today in 1975. Best food: the SuperDog, created by the now-gone local King Cotton meat-packing company. The dog was indeed bigger than normal, and better, too, with an interesting spice and garlic component. . . Today in 1173, construction began on the Campanile in Pisa, Italy. Better known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, its image is seen somewhere in three out of four American Italian restaurants. I wonder how many pizzerias with the name “Tower Of Pizza” there are around the world. We have one here, of course.

Food Namesakes

Claude I. Bakewell, former U.S. Congressman from Missouri, was born in St. Louis today in 1912. . . Baseball pro Mike Lamb was born today in 1975.

Words To Eat By

“Blessed be he that invented pudding, for it is a manna that hits the palates of all sorts of people; a manna better than that of the wilderness, because the people are never weary of it.”–Francois Maximilien Mission, French writer.

Words To Drink By

“Drinking is a way of ending the day.”–Ernest Hemingway.

FoodFunniesSquare

Why Baseball Isn’t As Popular In Italy As It Is In The U.S.

It all has to do with how the balls are made. Which is something your Sicilian grandmother can tell you all about.

Click here for the cartoon.

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UnderTheTableSquareThere’s a tragic aspect to the end of every life. One hopes that the brighter qualities so outshine the darkness the the person’s life is celebrated gladly. Ted Brennan, who died on Wednesday, August 3, 2016 at the age of sixty-eight, had that balancing act pretty well accomplished.

Ted and his two brothers owned Brennan’s on Royal Street, one of the most successful, original, and loved establishments in the world history of the restaurant business. But three years before his passing he had to watch his restaurant pulled out from under him. It was a professional and personal disaster, one from which there didn’t seem to be any escape.

But Brennan’s was so much a part of Ted’s life that, even as his health gave out (Parkinson’s), he had plans in the works to open a new French Quarter restaurant with his son Teddy. It was such a reach that, frankly, I never thought I would see Ted Brennan’s On Decatur actually open. It hasn’t, yet, but all the pieces seem to be coming together for a fall opening. The plan includes Chef Lazone Randolph, the brilliant man who orchestrated the kitchen at Brennan’s for decades. I am ready to be very pleasantly surprised.

Ted was in his twenties, the youngest of Owen Brennan’s boys, when the three of them took full control of Brennan’s from their aunts and uncles in 1973. With their mother they already owned the place, having inherited it after father Owen died young in 1955. It was Owen and his siblings that had built Brennan’s into the fantastically popular and profitable restaurant it had become. (These aunts and uncles moved to Commander’s Palace, where they had to start all over again, and did–brilliantly.)

By 1973, Ted and his two brothers were already heavily involved in Brennan’s operation, and they were ready to run the establishment their way, without having to check in with Aunts Ella and Adelaide or Uncles Dick and John in every decision. The two sides of the family would never reconcile their differences.

The dining room that Ted Brennan oversaw.

The dining room that Ted Brennan oversaw.

That was okay with Ted, Pip and Jimmy. Pip eased into the nuts and bolts of general management. Jimmy became the man with the key to the wine cellar, which would become one of the best in America. Ted, with his good looks and sense of humor and hospitality, became the man standing at the entrance, making sure the VIPs and regulars were well cared for. I heard it said more than a few times that Ted most resembled his father Owen, who was one of the most convivial and best-liked hosts in New Orleans. Indeed, in almost all my meals and interviews at Brennan’s, Ted was the man I spoke with. Only once did I have dinner with the three of them at one table.

Two anecdotes about Ted and his personality: He showed up for a radio visit with me one afternoon. He walked into the studio with his finger on his lips. He pulled his hand away and shook it negatively. He pointed to his throat, then shrugged his shoulders. “What’s up?” I asked, puzzled. He grabbed a piece of paper and wrote on it, “I can’t talk. Laryngitis!” He can’t talk in an interview on the radio? Then he started laughing at me for falling for that.

Second anecdote: I was having dinner at Brennan’s one night, enjoying a half-dozen oysters casino. The dish is almost too simple: oysters baked on the shells with cocktail sauce and a slice of crisp bacon. Ted came up behind me and said, “Just like a stupid Irishman!” he said. “Eating oysters with hot ketchup and bacon. Hah!”

I looked up. “So why do you have it on your menu if it’s so awful?”

“Oh, no,” he said. “I like them too!” He didn’t have to tell me that he also was strongly Irish.

During their heyday from 1973 until just into the 2000s, the Brennan brothers had a simple business model. They knew it was a gold-laying goose, and they took very good care of that bird. They rarely made major changes in the menu. They were very generous with their friends and regulars. One staffer was responsible for contacting any friend of the Brennans who was having a birthday, and inviting the celebrant in for dinner.

For about ten years in the 1990s, they sent me a can of beluga caviar for Christmas every year. It would be clearly unethical for me to accept such a gift, but they wouldn’t take it when I tried to give it back. This led to my beginning a charitable dinner I would chef on Twelfth Night every year. The first of the ten courses was always beluga caviar atop savory waffles, courtesy of Brennan’s.

When we began the Eat Club dinner series in the 1990s, our first Christmas Eat Club dinner was at Brennan’s. To say that the wines and food they served us were far more valuable than what the Eat Clubbers had to pay is a gross understatement.

And then, in 2011, I was told that Brennan’s couldn’t do the Eat Club Reveillon dinner that year. Same thing next year, and forever after that. I would not have guessed that this was because Brennan’s was having financial problems. But that was the deal, all right.

And then Jimmy Brennan died. This clicked in one of several unusual agreements among the brothers as to what would happen if one of them died, retired, or otherwise left the scene. I have heard a few versions of how this worked, but most of them say that ownership in Brennan’s could not devolve to anyone other than one of the three brothers. The next development: Ted and Pip were taking legal action against one other. And then, they were all cast out, as new owners of Brennan’s cleared the deck, paying by far the highest price in the history of the New Orleans restaurant business.

And Ted was on the street. But he swore that he’d be back, with Teddy and Lazone, to re-establish his idea of what Brennan’s is supposed to me.

It gives me a sour feeling to review those desperate days for the Brennan brothers. Only Pip Brennan remains of the trio. Pip’s sons are in the restaurant business, but not here in town. I dearly hope that Teddy gets his father’s restaurant open this fall. I would give me something to smile about when I think of what happened to my friend Ted Brennan. Quel dommage!

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Monday, August 1, 2016.
All Day In The Big, Hot, Wet City.

Another month goes by with the same options: it’s either blistering hot outside, or a thunderstorm is dumping torrents of rain and disturbing the dogs with its thunderclaps. I drive through a bit of the latter as I head over to the radio station very early. I still have no internet at home, and my subscribers are all over me with emails asking whether I am still alive. (I’m not kidding.)

Trying to build out a website on a computer different from the one I usually use has all kinds of problems. No matter how hard I try, I always forget to bring four or five critical files. That blows half the morning, but I do get an imperfect NOMenu Daily out by showtime.

I also have a little time for lunch, a meal I almost never eat on the South Shore. I check a few shops in the immediate vicinity of the station (which is across the street from Mother’s), and wind up at Commerce, on the corner of Camp and Gravier. I have been eating poor boy sandwiches here almost as long as the place has been in business, since 1965. In the late 1960s and again in the mid-1970s, I worked in offices less than a block away, so I know where Commerce is coming from. My feeling about it is that it’s a somewhat updated version of Mother’s, and not nearly as busy. The clientele is about the same: people who work in the big buildings that haven’t yet been turned into hotels. And, come to think of it, a few hotel guests, too.

The only major change is a new sign out front–very slick, compared with the old one which, if I remember right, touted Royal Crown Cola.

Otherwise, the tile-floored room is split between a bar and a cafeteria line, with tables filling the open space along the windows. The lady on the other side of the steam table is a classic New Orleans cook. “What you gonna have, Baby?” she says to me. “We got nice red beans, and gumbo. And roast beef and ham and salads.”

She swishes her spoon across the pan of red beans. They look good. “You want smoke sausage or hot sausage, Baby?” Hot sausage, please. It looks like the kind of chaurice that Vaucresson makes. I get a lettuce and tomato salad, and a couple of pieces of buttered French bread.

Red beans and chaurice at The Commerce, Camp and Gravier.

Red beans and chaurice at The Commerce, Camp and Gravier.

The beans and the sausage are as good as they look. I surprise myself by eating all of both. A flavor in the sausage stays with me for days.

Seems like the place has a lot of regulars. Glad to see the old joint still keeping the faith.

I go back to to the station with time for a twenty-minute nap, right there on the floor of my private office. If anyone asks me why I’m in there with the lights off and the doors locked, I tell them it’s my meditation routine before the show every day. Everyone accepts this.

Commerce Restaurant. CBD: 300 Camp. 504- 561-9239.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Pecan Pralines

The trend toward making pralines in flavors like chocolate and pina-colada is interesting, but my favorite flavor of pralines is praline-flavored. When pecans are falling from the trees, it’s fun to make a million of them and keep them for the holiday season.

You will be melting sugar here. If that stuff splatters on your skin, it will burn all the way to the bone (or seem to). It is essential to use a candy thermometer to make pralines, because it’s critically important that the temperature of the mixture reach 238 degrees–and not go much beyond that mark. Also, although you will probably use a cookie sheet to cool the pralines, the best thing of all is a marble slab.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. vanilla (my favorite: Ronald Reginald’s Melipone vanilla, available from the Sno-Wizard outfit.)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cup pecan pieces, to taste

1. Combine everything except the vanilla and pecans in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon as you cook, being very careful not to splash. Scrape down the sides of the pan any sugar granules that may get up there.

2. When the mixture turns translucent, add the pecans and the vanilla. Continue to cook and stir. The mixture will begin to brown slowly. The whole trick to making good pralines–and it is tricky–is to get them off the heat at the right point. The reading you should see on the candy thermometer should be the “soft ball” temperature, about 238 degrees. It will take about 15 to 20 minutes.

3. With a large spoon, drop some of the praline mixture onto a cookie sheet, parchment paper, or a marble slab, making discs about two inches across. Allow to cool. Remove with a very thin spatula and wrap tightly.

Makes 16-20 pralines

500BestSquarePecan Pralines @ Rib Room

Pralines per se are best made by praline shops like Aunt Sally’s and Laura’s. But quite a few restaurants make them for one reason or another. A table near the maitre d’s stand at the Rib Room always has a plate of pecan pralines, to which you may help yourself. Free! The plate of pralines depletes rapidly on Fridays at lunch, a big day for the Rib Room and its regular customers, going back decades.

Rib Room. French Quarter: 621 St Louis St. 504-529-7045.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare August 5, 2016

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest Begins Today

Coolinary Summer Specials End 26 Three-course dinners $39 (or less). All the menus can be found here.

Food Calendar

Today allegedly is National Mustard Day. I’m all for mustard. I don’t think we use it nearly enough. Here in New Orleans, we’re lucky enough to have a home-grown, unique variety of mustard that gives many of our dishes a distinctive flavor. One of the most ubiquitous sauces in Creole cookery–remoulade, in all its different colors and recipes–includes a good bit of Creole mustard.

Mustard-HotDog

Mustard is made from the seeds of a member of the cabbage family native to Europe. The seeds contain oil, so when they’re crushed they become a paste. When water is added, a sulfuric compound in the seeds reacts to give the sharply flavored mustard bite. It fades away unless something acidic (vinegar, usually) is added.

Mustard has been used to flavor food in Europe since ancient times. Mustard seeds come in many colors, but yellow is not one of them. The yellow color in prepared mustards and Colman’s dried mustard powder comes from the addition of turmeric. The plant that grows mustard seeds is also eaten as greens. But that’s another flavor, another matter, for another day.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Mustard, Pennsylvania is a small exurban development of houses in the wooded hills twenty-one miles southeast of Pittsburgh, not far from the YoughioghenyRiver. The nearest place to look for a hot dog to put the mustard on a potential hot dog is the Eagle’s Landing restaurant, two and a half miles away.

Edible Dictionary

mostarda, n.–As the Italian name suggests, this thick sauce contains mustard–but not enough of it to make mustard the dominant flavor. The most important part of the many kinds of mostarda is fruit, sugar, and herbs, and pepper. Its most celebrated use is as a garnish for the Northern Italian dish bollito misto, the Italian answer to the New England boiled beef. The New Orleans equivalent of mostarda is that mixture of horseradish and ketchup that old-time restaurants serve with boiled brisket (like Tujague’s and the Bon Ton make.

Deft Dining Rule #261

If the mustard a restaurant brings to the table is coarse-ground brown stuff in a little dish (as opposed to yellow stuff in a plastic squeeze bottle), you’re in the right place to eat sausage.

World Food Records

On this date in 1990, a one-hundred-layer cake was baked and assembled. It measured 1214 inches high. It was the showpiece at the Shiawassee County Fair in Corunna, Michigan. They must have a lot of time on their hands around there. A rumor that the purchase of all the candles needed to top it caused the price of birthday candles to spiral uncontrollably has not been confirmed. Near as I can tell, this still holds the record for the world’s highest cake.

Eating Around The World

BurkinaFasoFlagThis is Independence Day in Burkina Faso, a former French colony previously called Upper Volta. It’s a landlocked nation just south of the Sahara desert. The French influence on the food there is evident, but for the most part the diet of the average Burkinabe is grain-based: rice, wheat, and millet. They eat gumbo, their version being a stew made from okra. An unusual staple food is néré seeds, eaten at most meals, usually fermented and rolled into dark-brown, nutty-tasting balls.

Food Namesakes

Theodore Sturgeon, the author of a number of science fiction books, died on this date in 1985. . . The rural philosopher and poet Wendell Berry was born today in 1935. He writes about how wonderful it is to live in the country, a sentiment with which I concur.

Words To Eat By

“You are what you eat, and who wants to be a lettuce?”–Peter Burns, British musician and cut-up, born today in 1959. He was talking about vegetarians.

“Mustard’s no good without roast beef.”–Chico Marx.

Words To Drink By

“The chief reason for drinking is the desire to behave in a certain way, and to be able to blame it on alcohol.”– Mignon McLaughlin, American writer.

FoodFunniesSquare

Existential Zip Diner

You must know the essence of nothingness. Or something like that.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare

Friday, July 29, 2016.
The Real World Is Surreal.

It rained a lot in the week I was gone (could it possibly have been only seven days)? I find that one of my telephone lines–the one that carries my radio show to the studio downtown, allowing me to perform the radio show from home–is kaput. And my broadband internet connection is down. This is a real crisis, and it comes when I’m still calming down from the rigors of the 2000 miles I just traveled. It’s that pesky real world here to mess with me.

Mary Ann will host the show today, thank God. (My original schedule had me coming back home over the weekend.) I spend most of the day editing the trip Diary, then getting into a big assignment I have for Rouse’s Supermarket. I am never at a loss for jobs to do.

When MA makes it back to town, we attempt to get a table for dinner at Pat Gallagher’s 527 (or is it 649? or 937? I hate numbers as restaurant names). No room there, nor at the original Gallagher’s in Covington, nor at Keith Young’s Steak House. (We both have a yen for a steak.)

Our next try is at Dakota, which indeed does have a place for us. Dakota never seems to be as busy as it ought to be. Not when we go there, anyway.

Mussels at Dakota. They were too small.

Mussels at Dakota. They were too small.

Dakota's terrific grilled oysters.

Dakota’s terrific grilled oysters.

Mary Ann has been moaning about the slow progress of her diet program, to which she gives much attention. I am pleased to stick with her needs when we dine together, and that’s what we did tonight. We begin with an order of mussels for me and a half-dozen grilled oysters for her. Then we get a complimentary demi-tasse of excellent gazpacho, good enough that I almost ask for a full cup of the stuff.

Foie gras with eggplant at Dakota.

Foie gras with eggplant at Dakota.

Dakota always has a foie gras item among its specials, and the duck liver it buys for the purpose is excellent. I don’t often order it, but it sounded so good today that I couldn’t held myself back. A sliver of fried eggplant provided the harmony, with a little brown butter in there too.

Grilled salmon, a major specialty.

Grilled salmon, a major specialty.

The two of us show admirable restraint in getting only one real entree and splitting it. Half the fillet of salmon–simple and beautiful–is just the right amount. And it’s so, so good for you.

An overkill of dessert brings us back from the dieting frame of mind.

An overkill of dessert brings us back from the dieting frame of mind.

I’d better watch it, left this journal becomes a boring anlysis of dietetics rather than the pleasure-seeking nature that has pervaded The New Orleans Menu since its inception. The only aspect of dining with a grin on my face is the frequent appearance in the dieting world of lissome, beautiful young women. But that course is long off my menu.

FleurDeLis-4-Small

Dakota. Covington: 629 N US 190. 985-892-3712.

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Eggplant Pontchartrain

Ever since Tujague’s started serving more than one choice of entree with its classic old Creole table d’hote lunches and dinners, they’ve had to create a few new ones. This is my minor reworking of an eggplant dish of theirs, topped with an herbal seafood sauce over fried eggplant. In crawfish season, you can substitute crawfish tails for the crabmeat and shrimp. Don’t put the crawfish tails in until step 8.

Eggplant Pontchartrain.

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • Salt
  • All-purpose flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbs. milk
  • Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 tsp. chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 12 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. chopped pimiento
  • 1 tsp. chopped parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 large mushrooms, sliced
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Pinch dried thyme
  • 2 Tbs. dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup claw crabmeat

1. Slice the eggplant into rounds ½ inch thick. Coat them liberally with salt and arrange them around the inside of a colander. Fit a bowl snugly inside the colander and put about five pounds of something in the top bowl. Place this unit in the sink. After 30 minutes, remove the eggplant and wash all the salt off. This will remove the bitterness from the eggplant.

2. Slice the eggplant into rounds a half-inch thick. Dust the eggplant with flour.

3. Separate the egg and combine the yolk and milk in a broad bowl.

4. Pass the eggplant rounds through the egg-and-milk wash. Shake off the excess, then coat the eggplant with the seasoned bread crumbs.

5. Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the eggplant until golden brown on both sides. Remove and drain.

6. Heat the butter in a second skillet, and over medium heat saute the onions and garlic until transparent. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink.

7. Add the bell pepper, green onions, pimiento, parsley, bay leaf, mushrooms, cayenne, and thyme. Saute until tender.

8. Add the wine, salt and pepper, and crabmeat. Stir the sauce gently and spoon over hot fried eggplant rounds.

Serves four to six.

500BestSquareTuscany Asparagus @ Cafe Giovanni

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This is a misnamed dish, much more like something you’d eat here in New Orleans (or maybe even Chalmette) than in Florence. That said, we can’t deny that it’s delicious. Big asparagus have been poached in advance, then wrapped with prosciutto and mozzarella, then panneed. It’s a great warm contrast to Chef Duke’s superb antipasto, and about three time more enjoyable than it sounds.

Tuscany asparagus is buried in this generous pile of antipasto.

Tuscany asparagus is buried in this generous pile of antipasto.

Cafe Giovanni. French Quarter: 117 Decatur. 504-529-2154.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare August 3, 2015

Days Until. . .

Satchmo Summer Fest
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Coolinary Summer Specials End27

Food Calendar

It’s National Watermelon Day. The National Watermelon Promotion Board seems to know nothing about this. However, they do have a wealth of information and recipes here.

WatermelonMy old traffic reporter Don Wilbanks once gave me some slices of golden watermelon, which I’d never tasted. The color of a cantaloupe, it’s not as sweet as red watermelon, but good. Watermelon is my daughter’s favorite flavor of hard candy. However, watermelon has only occasionally showed up in gourmet settings. I suppose this is because the fruit conjures up images of sitting outside in the grass and eating huge hunks of it, not caring how messy you get in the process. You can’t eat just a little bit of watermelon.

As much as we consider watermelon a major local eating presence, it’s not from around here. The vine originated in Africa, almost certainly in the Nile Valley. It spread all over the world from there. The Chinese have been growing and eating it for at least a millennium. One last fact about this refreshing fruit: the rind is as nutritious as the sweet flesh in the center.

Gourmet Gazetteer

The small rural crossroads called Oats is seventy miles northeast of Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. Oats is on Boggy Gully, a half-mile downstream from a dam that forms Harold’s Millpond. The sluggish, swampy waterway leads through others like it to the Pee Dee River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The town name is also spelled Oates, in honor of Bill Oates, who bought land here in 1824 and began a plantation. By the 1880s, the town had grown large enough to have a school. About 150 people live there now, and farming is still dominant. That’s not enough to support a cafe in the town, but you can eat at Mr. B’s (no connection with the one on New Orleans), two miles away in Hartsville.

Edible Dictionary

vinaigrette, n.–A sauce or dressing served at room temperature, usually over salads and cool, crisp vegetables. It’s an emulsion of oil in vinegar and water, often with other flavoring elements added. Mustard is almost universal in vinaigrettes. Herbs, onions, garlic, and ground pepper are common. Cheeses find their ways into some vinaigrettes. Other sources of variety come from the kind of vinegar used, with balsamic vinegar currently enjoying a vinaigrette vogue. A fading usage of the word refers to a cold dish–fish, poultry, meat, or vegetables–marinated in a vinaigrette or other tart, light sauce.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

You can tell whether a melon was picked at the right ripeness by fingering the spot where the stem was. If it’s jagged, it was picked before it should have been, and will never get really ripe.

Annals Of Elegant Dining

Martha Stewart was born today in 1941. A great deal of her advice involves creative ways to serve food and lots of recipes, although whenever I read such articles in her magazine I get the idea that everything is conceived more for effect on the brain and eye than on the palate. Still, her ideas have certainly changed the way food is served in American households with ambitions to elegance.

Annals Of Bad Food

This is the day in 1975 when the Superdome was dedicated. It has since been part of many unforgettable moments in New Orleans history. But nobody in the Superdome’s management ever seems to say, “Why don’t we offer something really good to eat in here?” I once heard one of the former operators of the Dome’s food services claim that for Saints games, they have to start frying the chicken fingers at the midnight before. Boy, I’ll bet those are good.

Some good food infiltrates anyway, as during the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience’s Grand Tastings in May. Maybe it will inspire something permanent. Like, how hard could it be to find a vendor who will serve a great poor boy? Or great pizza? Or a great hot dog? If Zephyr Stadium can do it, why not the Dome?

Restaurant-Enhancing Inventions

ElevatorElisha Graves Otis, who invented an automatic braking system that made elevators safe and therefore useful, was born today in 1811. Unlike in other places, Otis’s invention had little effect on the New Orleans dining scene, which continues to find people reluctant to dine anywhere but on the ground floor.

Long Reaches For Almanac Entries

Today is the birthday, in 1801, of Sir Joseph Paxton, the English landscape designer and architect who created the Crystal Palace in the London Exhibition in 1851. He announced once that he’d like to build a community on the American prairie. The citizens of Prairie City, Illinois thought that if they renamed their town Paxton, the architect would build his town there. So they did. But he never set foot in the place. I did, however–twice. On a trip to Chicago in 1972, we stopped for a terrific catfish dinner there in a 1940s-style downtown diner called Carman’s Arcade Cafe. I returned in the mid-1980s and found Carman’s was still there, but the catfish wasn’t as memorable. And now you have too much information.

Music To Eat Rice-A-Roni By

Today is the birthday, in 1926, of Tony Bennett. Only Frank Sinatra is heard more often in Italian restaurants. Sinatra himself said the he thought Tony Bennett was the best interpreter of the American popular song. Although he’s recorded better songs, his most famous hit–I Left My Heart In San Francisco–sends a chill of longing to be in that city there down my spine. I think I’ll listen to it now.

Food Namesakes

Hamilton Fish, Secretary of State in the Grant administration, was born on this date in 1808. Did he come from Roe? No, but . . Reginald Heber Roe, early proponent of education and tennis in Australia, served himself up today in 1850. . . Boxer and martial arts fighter Eric “Butterbean” Esch started putting on weight today in 1966. He weighs almost 400 pounds.

Words To Eat By

“Some people kiss as if they were eating watermelon.”–Saadat Hasan Manto, Pakistani writer of short stories.

“If I can’t have too many truffles I’ll do without.”–Colette, French writer on living well. She died today in 1954.

Words To Drink By

“To Gasteria, the tenth muse, who presides over the enjoyments of taste.”–A toast by Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a French chef and cooking authority of the 1800s.

FoodFunniesSquare

More Existential Wonder About Cooking.

Really, when you look at any mission you have set for yourself, it comes down to just another job.

Click here for the cartoon.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016.
Introduction To Maribo, A New Trattoria.

I work from home while the Marys and The Boy spend the day polishing the many fine points of ML’s wedding. The four of us get together for dinner at Maribo, a new Italian restaurant in Covington. The owners, who I don’t recall encountering in a past restaurant, took over the handsome but star-crossed restaurant property on Lee Lane a few months ago and opened only a few weeks later. Six or so restaurants have tried and failed to kep the place open–most recently the third iteration of the Boule steak house. The longest-running restaurant here was Calypso, a Caribbean-style restaurant that wasn’t very good.

Maribo will have an easier time of it. It’s already busy, having opened less than a month ago. The Marys are impressed. MA says that Maribo reminds her of Bottega Louie, a Los Angeles Italian restaurant she’s wild about. Everybody else seems favorably disposed to Maribo, whose dining room has been nearly full every time MA has taken a look.

The menu is not in the Sicilian-Creole style that dominates the North Shore Italian dining scene. It reminds us of the food we ate on our trips to Italy–particularly in Rome. The mostly-young clientele doesn’t need that reference, despite (or because of) it wide differences with DiChristina’s, Impastato’s, or Nuvolari’s.

Ravioli at Maribo.

Ravioli at Maribo.

We order dinner in a helter-skelter way, getting mostly appetizers and salads. This begins with a kind of fondue, with pesto-like herbs stirred into molten cheese, there top be scraped up with crusts of the excellent and very Italian bread. I have what I think is the best dish at our table: two ravioli, each filled with mushrooms and surrounded by more mushrooms, shreds of cheese, and a meaty-tasting sauce. The flavors are fine, but the ravioli pasta itself is too heavy in texture. This sort of small failing turns up throughout the menu, which is predictable in a just-opened place. Bet it’s better in about three months.

Meatball.

Meatball.

I’m the only one who has dessert. It’s a tiramisu variation served in a glass. There a pudding-like quality to it that I find agreeable.

The only serious complaint I have at this stage is that the sound in the dining room is overwhelming. One of the co-owners brings this up almost immediately after he comes to our table, and promises that they’re already looking into some remediation of the racket.

Thursday, July 21, 2016.
Getting Ready To Get Ready.

I head into town to take care of a few commercials that will run while I’m out of town. Mary Ann is getting Mary Leigh and Dave onto an airplane back to Washington, D.C. This is the last time we will see those two until their wedding.

MA and I convene at Andrea’s for dinner after I get off the air. Chef Andrea agrees to host a dinner on August 16 for the Eat Clubbers who will be joining me on the New England and Canada cruise in about two months. We always have such a dinner beforehand so everyone can meet one another, ask questions, and generally gravitate into a group. A running joke at the ends of our cruises is that the one about how the pre-cruise dinner was better than anything we have in the shank of the trip.

That detail taken care of, I am officially on vacation. We head for home, where I finally get around to packing my bags. Mary Ann is very eager to get started with her hegemony over the Food Show for six days starting tomorrow.

Friday, July 22, 2016.
The Last Long Drive By Automobile.

The Dining Diary entries from my trip to Charleston, SC are all collected in one article here on the NOMenu site: Click For Charleston diary.

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Chocolate Chili Sauce

I know it seems unlikely, but think about it: one of the greatest sauces in Mexican cooking is mole poblano, which is based on chocolate. That’s a very complicated sauce to make. This is much easier, and while I’m not going to claim that it’s as wonderful as a hand-made, authentic mole, it’s pretty good. I use it as a very thick sauce with meats (it’s especially good with chicken and pork). It’s also good as a dip with tortilla chips.

  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely-chopped fresh Anaheim or jalapeno (or both) peppers, all seeds and membranes removed
  • 3/4 lb. ground beef round
  • 1 cup cooked but firm red beans
  • 1 28-oz. can tomato puree
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 3 Tbs. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. Tabasco red pepper sauce
  • 2 Tbs. Tabasco green pepper sauce
  • 1/2 cup beef stock

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the onion, garlic and chili peppers, and saute until the onions brown around the edges.

2. Add the ground beef and 1/4 cup water. Cook the beef, stirring to keep it from clumping up, until it’s completely browned.

3. Add the beans and the tomato puree and raise the heat a little. Cook everything until the tomato puree browns.

4. Lower the heat to medium low, and add all the other ingredients. Bring it to a boil, and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the sauce thickens enough to pick up with a fork.

Makes about three cups.

500BestSquareTruffled Parmigiano Toast With Wild Mushrooms @ Lilette

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Reading this appetizer’s entry on the menu makes it sound like an advanced amuse-bouche. The flavors are so intriguing and big that it conceivably could be the most memorable single dish you’ll eat at Lilette. Which is saying something. The mushrooms and cheese have that overripe quality that in certain circumstances (well-aged beef is another example) becomes alluring in almost a sexual way. The white truffle oil adds to this effect. It won’t put much of a dent in your appetite. But isn’t that what an appetizer is for?

Lilette. Uptown: 3637 Magazine. 504-895-1636.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare August 2, 2015

Days Until. . .

White Linen Night 5

Chefs In War And Peace

Today in 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, resulting in the first Gulf War. One of the soldiers who served in that war, as a Marine sergeant, was one of our most celebrated chefs: John Besh.

Today’s Flavor

It is National Ice Cream Sandwich Day. My first recollection of ice cream sandwiches is from age eight, when our home in Kenner was served daily by a Red Wing ice cream man who drove his truck right in front of our house. He had two kinds of ice cream sandwiches. One was the oblong kind we see commonly now. The other was square, and at first glance appeared smaller. It was thicker, though, and I soon figured out that it was the better of the two. It was an early episode in discriminating taste.

I keep thinking that some dessert chef should create an ice cream poor boy. Dig it: an elongated profiterole, with layers of different flavors, including chocolate (representing the roast beef), strawberry (tomatoes), and pistachio (lettuce and pickles). Whipped cream for the mayonnaise. Nobody’s done it yet–perhaps with good reason.

Annals Of Bon Vivants

Today in 1674 Philippe II, the Duke of Orleans, was born. New Orleans is named for him, because he was running France at the time of the founding of our city. St. Philip Street is named for his patron, although the duke was no saint. He took over as regent of France until Louis XV–who was only five when Louis XIV died–reached maturity. Philippe was a bit of an oddball, alternately brilliant and nutty, forceful and weak. He had a strong liking for the grand style of living Louis XIV epitomized. He was suspected of being homosexual (although he was married and had eight children). The French name for our city, Nouvelle Orleans, is in the feminine form; that’s alleged to be a joke about Philippe’s flamboyance. Phillipe II’s eight years in power were among the most corrupt in French history, which is saying something. Whether that set a standard for his namesake city is something to be considered over glasses of absinthe.

The Saints

Today in 1967, the New Orleans Saints played their first game against the Rams in Anaheim. It was a pre-season loss for the Saints, 16-7. The stadium food began its long downward descent the same day.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Filetown, Pennsylvania is at the third vertex of an equilateral triangle, about eighty miles on a side, with New York and Philadelphia at the other vertices. Although they pronounce it “file town,” looking at the name brings to mind not only tenderloin steak, but also the sassafras powder we put in gumbo. Despite its proximity to such dense urban areas, Filetown is surrounded by large, open farm fields. A dozen or so houses–some rather grand–are on large lots at the intersection of two local roads. The most appealing nearby restaurant is Hartman’s Two Family Restaurant, about a mile and a half away.

Penny Party

Today in 1909, the first Lincoln pennies were minted. They were the first U.S. coins to bear the likeness of a real person. In 1909, you could buy many things for a penny. Those days ended sometime in the 1970s. Penny gum machines persisted at least that long. The last one I knew about was at the bus shelter on Carrollton at Claiborne, which dispensed two peppermint Chiclets wrapped in cellophane for a single copper. In the store where I worked as a teenager, a penny would buy Mary Janes, Five-Somes (five chocolate-covered malted milk balls in a cellophane sleeve), or a box of wooden matches for a penny until about 1969. Now pennies are strictly for getting payments exactly right. A lot of cashiers now don’t bother, and just round up your change.

Annals Of Canning

Today in 1904, Michael Owen was granted a patent for a glass-shaping machine. That invention gave rise to the widespread use of glass jars for food storage and marketing.

Edible Dictionary

hollandaise, n.–One of the French “mother” sauces from which many other sauces are built, hollandaise stands on its own as well. It’s a thick, pale-yellow emulsion of beaten eggs and butter, flavored with lemon juice or vinegar and a pinch of cayenne. The modern form of hollandaise seems only to have come together in the mid-1800s–recent by French standards. It got its name from its use in dishes that were characterized as Dutch. Hollandaise is the bicycle of sauces: tricky to master, but once you get the technique you never forget. Classically, the eggs are beaten with the lemon juice in a bowl over gentle heat, which cooks them very lightly and causes them to thicken. Whole butter–softened but not melted–is whisked into the eggs, about two-thirds of a stick to an egg yolk. Hollandaise is used on many dishes, most famously poached eggs. That’s odd, really: it amounts to eggs on eggs. It may reach its peak of usefulness as a sauce for poached fish.

Food Namesakes

Kevin Bacon was married today to Kyra Sedgwick, in 1992. . . Dutch superstar chef Herman Von Ham passed away today in 2012. His specialty was asparagus dishes, of which he created dozens.

Words To Eat By

“Watermelon—it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”–Enrico Caruso, famed operatic tenor, who died today in 1921.

“We have never been a melting pot. The fact is we are more like a tossed salad. We are green, some of us are oily and there’s a little vinegar injected when you get up to Ottawa.”–Arnold Edinborough, Canadian writer, speaking about Canada. He was born on this date in 1922.

Words To Drink By

“If four or five guys tell you that you’re drunk, even though you know you haven’t had a thing to drink, the least you can do is to lie down a little while.”–Joseph Schenck, early American film producer.

FoodFunniesSquare

Why Large Groups Cost More Per Person.

Another misunderstanding, depending on which side of the table you’re on.

Click here for the cartoon.