Tuesday, January 5, 2010
The Eleventh Day Of Christmas.
Read Our Twelve Days Of Christmas, New Orleans Eating Style.
1068 Restaurants Open Around Town
Hot Korean Soup! The End Of Egg Nog. Whopper Home. Carver. Peanut, AR. Kung-Pao Chicken. Reddi-Wip. Whipped Cream. Heartbreak Hotel. Consuming Better.
Eating Around New Orleans Today
This kind of cold weather begs for a big bowl of soup. Lots of New Orleanians are thinking about pho, the Vietnamese beef broth and noodle soup, served in washtub-sized bowls. But here's something that's just as comforting and (to my palate) more interesting. Korea House--our one and only Korean restaurant at the moment--has a seafood soup that comes in its own enormous bowl, filled with a wide assortment of various fish and shellfish, and a good bit of spice besides. It's incredibly good. They also do a version of this with meat-filled dumplings. Very inexpensive, on top of all that warmth. The Korea House is just around the corner from Drago's, and has been consistently good for twenty years. Korea House. Metairie: 3547 18th 504-888-0654.
Eleventh Day of Christmas
Eleven pipers will be piping. Some old lady is trying to cross Veterans Highway with eleven Schwegmann bags, sez Benny Grunch. Allan Sherman got an automatic vegetable slicer that works when you see it on television but not when you get it home. Andy Williams's friends brought gifts for one and all. And in my own attempt at this song, I'll barbecue for you eleven jumbo shrimp. Tomorrow is Twelfth Night, the end of the Christmas season, and the beginning of the Carnival season.
Annals Of Popular Cuisine
The trademark "Home of the Whopper" was issued to Burger King on this date in 1965. That very year, Burger King became the first restaurant I ever dined in on my own, with my own money. It was the one on Airline Highway near Turnbull, the first location of the franchise in New Orleans. I had a Whopper, fries, and a Coke. I got there on my bicycle after a ride of about three miles. I was fourteen.
Annals Of Food Research
Nobody (including him) knew what day he was born, so we note that this is the day in 1943 when George Washington Carver died. The son of a slave, Carver made revolutionary discoveries in agriculture, most of them motivated by a desire to help poor farmers in the South. He is best known for turning peanuts into a major cash crop. He also encouraged the wider consumption of sweet potatoes, even coming up with a way to make bread from them. He was considered so brilliant that Henry Ford, among others, wanted to hire him. But he stayed at Tuskegee Institute and dedicated his life to helping the lot of poor farmers.
Today is the birthday, in 1914, of Aaron Lapin, the inventor of whipped cream in an aerosol can. He called it "Reddi-Wip," and it really was (and still is) whipped cream, not plastic stuck together with vegetable gum the commonly comes from a can. Reddi-Wip was made with light cream, although they have a fattier and creamier version.
Because of the above, today is National Whipped Cream Day. As long as it's real whipped cream, we love it. It's easy enough to make, even by hand. You may use either regular or heavy whipping cream. Gadgets have even been developed to use light cream, half-and-half, or even skim milk to make whipped "cream," but you'd be better off using less of the real thing instead of more of that less satisfying stuff. fortunate that this observance should be today, because we are now well into the Louisiana strawberry season. We bought some real beauties from a roadside stand yesterday, and my daughter has already eaten three pints of them. Sweet and wonderful, with or without whipped cream.
Music To Get Room Service By
On this date in 1956, Elvis Presley recorded his first and best song for RCA. Heartbreak Hotel had a unique sound that haunts me to this day. A stanza about how bad the room service meals in the hotel was, unfortunately, left out.
Annals Of Food Writing
Today is the birthday, as far as we know, of the word hamburger. It first appeared in the expression "hamburger steak" on this day in 1889, in the Union-Bulletin newspaper in Walla Walla, Washington. It was in an ad for a restaurant. The name derived from a common dish cooked by German immigrants: the Hamburg steak, made of ground beef.
Restaurants And The Economy
The Consumer Age in America was born on this date in 1914, when Henry Ford announced a new plan for the employees of the Ford Motor Company. He reduced the work week to five days of eight hours a day, with no reduction in pay. He also set the minimum wage at five dollars a day. "We believe in making 20,000 men prosperous and contented rather than follow the plan of making a few slave drivers in our establishment multi-millionaires," Ford said. He was widely criticized in business management circles for this decision, but what came of it transformed the country. Ford employees, with more money and time on their hands, started spending it on leisure pursuits. One of the first things they did was buy cars; Ford got an immediate and gratifying return on its investment. Now the American economy is largely fired by consumer spending, as a result of the trend Ford set in motion. We certainly wouldn't have our enormous restaurant industry were it not for the prosperity of the average American.
Tracy Ham, a Canadian professional football quarterback, passed into life today in 1964. . . Michael DeWine, a Congressman from Ohio, was born today in 1947. . . And the aforementioned Reddi-Wip inventor Aaron Lapin was born today in 1914. "Lapin" is the French word for rabbit.
Words To Eat By
"When I was young, I said to God, 'God, tell me the mystery of the universe.' But God answered, 'that knowledge is for me alone.' So I said, 'God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.' Then God said, 'Well, George, that's more nearly your size.'"--George Washington Carver.
"Nothing important has ever come out of San Francisco, Rice-a-Roni aside."--Comedian and writer Michael O'Donoghue, born today in 1950.
Friday, December 25. Christmas began slowly and quietly at the Cool Water Ranch. Jude made some noise yesterday about going to nine o'clock Mass, but neither he nor Mary Leigh were awake until about nine-thirty. They had little reason to be. Jude's gift haul consisted of assorted men's produits de toilette. Mary Leigh received an assortment of fingernail polishes and such. Mary Ann doesn't like getting presents, and didn't get any.
The lion's share of the packages under the tree were for me. That is a first in my entire life. The most interesting item was a Flip video camera, which Jude feels I need to shoot videos for the website. Interesting gizmo! Surprisingly good pictures! Just what I need: another medium in which to be creative. Well, this is the matter of my college degree, after all. The rest of my packages held a half-dozen ties, chosen by the Marys to suit what they feel should be my taste. They were surprisingly like the ones they bought me last year. But I am one of the few fellows I know who actually likes getting ties as gifts.
We went to Mass in the gym at Our Lady of the Lake in Mandeville. Why they still have it there, I have no idea. The main church is not in use at that time--although, ten years ago, three Masses in various buildings ran concurrently at ten-thirty on Christmas. But so many people now go to the two Christmas Eve services that the crowds on Christmas itself are, if anything, smaller than on a regular Sunday. I never liked going to Mass in a gym. The music never sounds right.
In past years, we headed directly from the church across the lake for the big family dinner at Sylvia and Lloyd's house in Kenner. But last year Lloyd was very ill, and that gathering was canceled. He passed away this year, and Sylvia is still not up to the big deal. Last year and this year, we're cooking our own Christmas dinner. A few others joined us last year, but everyone had other plans this time. It would be just the four of us.
That was just fine with Mary Ann. She planned a lavish menu, and informed me of it this way: "So, what do you want to cook for Christmas dinner? How about that filet, with mashed potatoes, spinach, and cauliflower?" Nothing left for me but to nod and get to work.
The centerpiece of the dinner is a Christmas tradition that just landed on us one year and keeps coming back. A friend sends us a peppered, smoked beef tenderloin from a steakhouse outside of Abilene, Texas every year. The instructions say to slice and serve it as is, cold. I'm sure it's good that way. But because it's very rare, it also works to cook it by our house method: seared in butter on top of the stove, then finished in the oven. While stage two is going on, I deglaze the searing pan with some Kentucky Bourbon (did I mention anywhere that I'm now officially a Kentucky Colonel?) and build a sauce with green peppercorns, mushrooms, cream, and a few herbs. It was, if I say so myself, magnificent.
The cauliflower I had to work with was from the most beautiful head of that vegetable I've ever seen. Mary Ann bought it a week ago, when she and Mary Leigh were in Plaquemines Parish to pick oranges for the Second Harvesters Food Bank. I used only about half of the head for the gratin. I wasn't sure whether the kids would go for it. I mixed the florets into a bechamel made with an unidentifiable white cheese I found in the refrigerator. And I sprinkled the top with a mixture of two parts bread crumbs and one part grated Grana Padano cheese. The kids did eat it.
This feast was grand enough to deserve a serious wine: Chateau Troplong-Mondot 1981, a St. Emilion of which I bought a case in my free-spending single years. I think this was my last bottle. The label was silverfish-eaten in a lacy pattern. The glue used in Bordeaux at that time was full of starch and much liked by insects, who would chew through the paper (I guess that was the fiber part of their meal) to get to the glue. The wine surprised me with its freshness. It had a robe of brown and a fine old Bordeaux bouquet, but the body of the wine was holding up beautifully. Given that my storage conditions are just okay, that says something about the excellence of this mostly-Merlot wine.
It's a good thing it was sunny outside, or we would have eaten by the light of the Christmas tree only. Enough of this darkness! My Christmas gift to the family will be a new chandelier over the dining room table, and it will happen this weekend. Our present chandelier looks cool, but hasn't worked for several years. The things we put up with that should be intolerable!
Last night, the kids made some Christmas cookies, from scratch. As usual, Mary Leigh's were like something you'd buy at a fancy bakeshop. Jude's were more along ht elines of personal expression. For example, he made a cookie whose design was the white-and-blue logo of his BMW.
After dinner, we crossed the lake for Sylvia's supper party. It was nice: just about everybody who attended her Christmas dinners was there, snacking away on spaghetti and meatballs and a bunch of desserts. Milestone of the year: Christina and Katie Connell, Mary Ann's nieces, moved their dance academy's performance of The Nutcracker this year to a big hall at Loyola University. That is a long way from the little performances they used to hold on the North Shore. And a light-year from the day when both then-little girls stood in our wedding. Now they're stunningly lovely young women with a good business. Christina is such an accomplished choreographer that she was invited to join a company in New York some years ago. Good for them!
When we left the party, Mary Ann made a suggestion that we head over to City Park to look at the lights. The kids responded to this with such strident whines--that she gave up the idea immediately. They have their own lives now, and only a limited tolerance from plans from outside their own heads.
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Cuban friends all say the same thing about Liborio: it's good, but not as good as the Cuban food their grandmothers make. To those of us without that resource, Liborio is pretty good. It cooks all the Cuban specialties, along with a scattering of Mexican food and straightforward grilled items, for those hesitant about trying an unfamiliar cuisine.
WHY IT'S GOOD
Liborio is frequented mainly by people who work in the CBD and who have a taste for Mexican food (hence the tacos). The Cuban steak is the best I've had. Roast pork and congri, ropa vieja, and the other Cuban specialties are as good as they are filling--usually. (There's a little consistency problem.) At lunch, the various Cuban sandwiches (like a poor boy, with a different array of ingredients, and press-toasted bread) are wonderful.
Liborio opened in the French Quarter in 1969, and although it's moved a couple of times and had ownership changes, it has been in continuous operation. Yet, except for people who work in that part of the CBD or Cubans, it's not well known. Every time I eat there I wonder why that is--other than, perhaps, the long-running curse on any kind of restaurant attempting to serve dinner downtown.
A long room with an attractive tiled floor and draped ceiling. Despite those modern touches, it feels in some ways like a venerable New Orleans restaurant. The building predates the Civil War.
Cuban tamale (big, with pork).
Empanadas (fried pies) with beef, chicken, or shrimp.
Grilled tuna or salmon.
Shrimp with pasta.
Ropa vieja (shredded beef brisket stew with rice).
Cuban roast pork (with yuca, garlic sauce, and black beans).
Liborio steak (flank, with a tomato sauce).
Cuban steak (wide and thin, with garlic, onions, and lime).
Rack of lamb.
Arroz con pollo (rice with chicken).
Cuban fried chicken.
Cuban sandwich (ham, roast pork, cheese).
Cuban steak sandwich.
Tres leches cake.
Guava with ice cream.
FOR BEST RESULTS
The specials are the best bets. They include a good soup (particularly the black bean, and lentil soup's delicious, too) and two or three entrees.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Liborio has always had a consistency problem, mostly involving the occasional dish which tastes as if it were the last one from a batch made yesterday.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency -1
- Value +2
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar
- Local Color +1
- Open Monday lunch
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
Breakfast For Dinner
One of our regular posters brought this offbeat but delightful way to remake supper once in awhile:
Have you ever just felt like having a hearty breakfast for dinner? That's exactly what we had tonight. I made hash browns and my wife cooked the pine tree sausages (I call them pine trees because in some breakfst sausages there is an odd flavor--I think it's rosemary--that gives it a piney taste. It sounds crazy but, someone even called Tom's radio show about two weeks ago with the same comment.) Then we cooked our eggs the way we wanted them. I had mine over easy and toasted 7 grain bread. Sometimes you just have to have a good breakfast for dinner. Now, I hope I don't wake up tomorrow morning wanting a cheeseburger.
If this is something you've tried, or of you have some ideas about it, check in on the messageboard and share. Quite a few people already have.
Feelings' Peanut Butter Pie
I never liked peanut butter pie until I had this one. It is a trendsetter: more than a few restaurants and bakeries around town make a fluffy peanut butter pie like this now, and some of them even give Feelings credit for it. If you visit the fine cafe on Franklin at Chartres in the Bywater section, you might also try their French silk (chocolate mousse) pie, or the hybrid of that and this peanut butter number.
- 3 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 8 oz. cream cheese
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1/2 can condensed milk
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1/2 pint whipping cream, whipped (the restaurant actually uses 10 oz. of Cool Whip instead)
- Shaved chocolate
1. Make the crust by combining the vanilla wafer crumbs and the butter in a food processor. Press it into the sides and bottom of a nine-inch pie pan.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the first four ingredients until well blended. The texture should be like a thick batter.
3. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the whipped cream carefully. It's not necessary to get all the streaks out; it's better to stop short of complete blending than to lose the air incorporated in the whipped cream.
4. Using the rubber spatula again, load the filling into the pie shell. Top with the peanuts and shaved chocolate. Refrigerate.
Makes one pie.
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