1068 Restaurants Open Around Town
Israeli Wine. Molasses Outbreak. Lazy Susan. Digestion. Curry, PA. Fenugreek. Spice Grinding. Skyless Super Bowl. A Lot Of Soup.
Eating Around New Orleans This Weekend
The New Orleans Israeli Wine Festival begins this Sunday as soon as the playoff is over, at 3:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center on St. Charles Avenue at Jefferson Avenue. Israeli wine? Of course. If you've read the Bible you know that wine has been made in that land since ancient times. Many wineries thrive there now. The entire tasting is of kosher wines--first-class juice made from classic wine grapes, not to be confused with Manischewitz. While the tasting goes on, three celebrity chefs from Israel will perform cooking demos and food samplings. The tickets range widely in price; all the information and reservations are
Today (Friday) at noon, the ribbon will be cut opening M Bistro, the new restaurant concept in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The chef is Matt Murphy, the guy whose life was saved from a horrible malady a year ago by a benefit organized by fellow chefs. The restaurant goes into full swing right after--but my advice to give it a few months remains.
Today in 1919, an enormous tank of molasses broke open and flooded downtown Boston with over two million gallons of the sticky stuff. It proved that molasses in January is not all that slow. It moved at over thirty miles per hour, and before it stopped it had destroyed several homes and other buildings. Twenty-one people drowned in the molasses. People would not make gingerbread or pancakes for years afterward, I'll bet.
Today in 1889 Daniel Johnson patented a revolving table for dining rooms on ships. People sitting at such a table could turn it to have the food they were interested in come to them, rather than requiring a waiter do it. This concept can be seen in action in a number of restaurants in Mississippi, notably the Dinner Bell in McComb.
The Physiology Of Taste
William Prout was born today in 1785. His work focused on the chemistry of food and the digestive system. He discovered that the stomach does its work with hydrochloric acid. He was also the man who noted that most foods can be classified as either carbohydrates, proteins, or fats. He'd be proud of those nutritional labels on food packages--the ones we're beginning to consider more important than matters like taste and whether we really need to eat that stuff in the first place.
It's National Curry Day. In America, curry is one of the most misunderstood of food concepts. A curry does not necessarily (and probably doesn't) have the flavor of curry powder, with its powerful flavors of cumin and turmeric. The word "curry" originated in the Tamil language, as the name for a dish cooked with a spiced sauce. That admits of an enormous variety of dishes, with such a wide spread of flavors that the word "curry" becomes as generic as "stew" or "soup." A good Indian restaurant will have dozens of dishes that they'd call curries, each with its own distinctive ingredients and flavor.
Certain ingredients do turn up in many curries. But the actual spice blend for each curry dish is unique. Some of the most common components are coriander, cardamom, black pepper, cumin, turmeric, mustard, cinnamon, and fenugreek. Cayenne and other red peppers are now also common curry ingredients. Finally, there's curry leaf, a member of the same family of trees that includes the citrus fruits. All of these are roasted and ground to the same consistency so they blend well.
Curries are found in many Asian cuisines. Thai curries have their own wide variety of tastes, none of which have much in common with Indian curries. The curries you find in Chinese restaurants have another range of distinctive differences. There are even American curries. These, interestingly, are the ones most likely to use curry powder.
Those who love curry know that it's habit-forming. This is not merely because we like the flavor. There's scientific evidence that the spices in curry are literally addictive. It's a very benign addiction, however. The spices in curry all seem to be good for you. They certainly taste good.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez: The best tool for grinding spices is a coffee mill. But buy a separate one from the one you use to grind coffee beans. The flavor of cardamom and peppercorns will not ruin each other, but neither of them is acceptable in coffee.
Annals Of Popular Cuisine
Today in 1990, Campbell's produced the twenty billionth can of tomato soup, its original product. Canned tomato soup is more useful as an additive than on its own. For example, when added to beef broth along with crushed canned tomatoes, it makes a better soup than just the whole tomatoes alone.
Eating Across America
Today in 1777, Vermont declared its independence not only from its British colonizers, but also from New York, which had controlled it under the name of New Connecticut. Vermont's most famous food product is its maple syrup, but its major specialty is dairy products, notably Vermont Cheddar cheese.
Captain Beefheart (real name: Don Glen Vliet), one of the farthest-out of the far-out rock and blues musicians of the late 1960s and 1970s, was born today in 1941. . . Early baseball pro Grover Lowdermilk stepped onto the Big Diamond today in 1885.
Words To Eat By
"Playwrights are like men who have been dining for a month in an Indian restaurant. After eating curry night after night, they deny the existence of asparagus."--Peter Ustinov.
Thursday, January 7. The Cold Comes. Biagio's. I broadcast from home today, in an attempt to bulldog the Marys into having dinner with me at Biagio's. That's a newish Italian trattoria where we had a pretty fair meal a few weeks ago. One good enough to be worth a full review after one or two more samplings.
Mary Leigh refused to leave the comfort of her snug nest on the sofa, where she was watching videos and doing homework. Can't blame her. The cold is unavoidable tonight, and it's windy, too. And the restaurant is in a strip mall, where a single set of doors is all that stands between the chill and the warmth. When someone opens the door, the blast enters too. The hostess at first seated us at a table next to the big strip-mall windows, where the cold came cascading down. We moved to a corner far away. Not a problem: the place was nearly empty.
As we did last time, we ordered a pizza at the outset, so it would reach the table by the time we were ready to order the rest of the meal. Mary Ann was thinking mushrooms and Italian sausage; so it was. As we observed last time, the six-inch measurement the menu uses is that of the radius, not the diameter. That's pizza enough for two people. It disappeared quickly. The kitchen has pizza down pat.
Mary Ann ate much more heartily than I've seen her do in some time, what with her flushing diet and all. She had a brick of lasagna--a small brick. In fact, she ate all of it, which should not be possible for restaurant lasagna, regardless of how hungry you are. I didn't even get a bite if it.
But I was busy with chicken marsala with pasta bordelaise. This was also a more modest portion than standard, but like MA I was happy for it. There is no question that restaurants--especially those of the Italian persuasion--serve too much food. This was just right.
I skipped dessert and we headed back home so I could tighten our home's defenses against tonight's assault of arctic air. I hear it will drop well into the teens tonight.
Biagio's Pizzeria. Mandeville: 318 Dalwill Dr. 985-674-3009. Pizza. Pasta. Italian.
Friday, January 8. Sweet But Cold Seventeen. Impastato's. We awoke to a temperature reading of nineteen, but no problems. The cat Twinnery was waiting for us at the door. He went outside late last night. I waited for him to return to the inner warmth, but he never did. He seemed no worse for his eight hours in the frigidity. (Although he did tell me all about it before starting in on the matter of breakfast.) Cats are like women. A fellow may think he knows what's best for them, but he must go along with whatever they want to do.
Mary Leigh's top agenda item was tonight's Sweet Sixteen Party, hosted by her school. Like the one she attended last year when she actually was sixteen, it took place at Generations Hall in the Warehouse District. She went despite her advanced age because seniors have the right to do that. She also wore her most attractive dress. It was not what you would call cold-weather wear. Having to deal with the cold adjusted her attitude downward, and she didn't like the looks of the invited male contingent, either. After an hour she left, early enough that she joined us for the last part of dinner. She said she's never been colder in her life.
Mary Ann and I were dining at Impastato's, where the dining rooms under the faux stained-glass ceilings were full and warm. Something happened there that I've never before seen. Mary Ann insisted that all she wanted to eat was the redfish with crabmeat. No appetizer, no pasta, no salad. Joe never lets me get away with that. But I guess he knows that you have to go along with whatever women want to do. I assumed that I would get the full monte, so I ordered a martini (mmm), the Italian baked oysters (yum), the pasta combination (yum, yum), and the pork speidini. The latter was on fire with flavor and tenderness tonight. It's slices of pork wrapped around a stuffing of prosciutto, garlic, herbs, and bread crumbs. They skewer three of these and bake them in the oven. Yum times seven. Made me eat too much food.
I skipped dessert, though.
Impastato's. Metairie: 3400 16th Street 504-455-1545. Italian.
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
In a time when French bistros have become rife in the New Orleans restaurant list, Chateau du Lac is one of the few that actually has a French chef-owner cooking classical French dishes. Much of its menu--particularly the specials--consists of dishes not often seen hereabouts. Chef Jacques Seleun hails from Brittany, and he shows that provenance in his cooking.
WHY IT'S GOOD
The chef innovates but stays mostly with traditional French themes, straight out of the classical canon. There is a reason that this style of cooking became famous: it's really good. Jacques buys excellent ingredients and serves them generously. The sauces in particular reach deep into the French repertoire and are intensely good.
Owner-chef Jacques Seleun and his wife Paige opened the original Chateau du Lac in a small storefront in Kenner in 2005--right before Katrina. They returned there soon after the storm, but in 2007 they moved to the much more amenable present location in Old Metairie. There the Seleuns took over the space formerly the home of Chez Daniel--a restaurant much like this one.
The old restaurant in an older strip mall has been renovated nicely, but remains informal and rustic. The first room includes a large bar and an open kitchen, as well as a row of tables. To the left is a bigger dining room, with large windows opening onto Metairie Road.
The specials are essential to the offerings here.
Escargots any style.
Mussels with white wine and saffron.
Crabmeat gratin with spinach.
Soup du jour.
Petite marmite with seafood (a soup).
Endive salad with raisins and Gorgonzola cheese.
Grilled fish specials.
Salmon steak with mint butter.
Dry-aged sirloin strip with frites.
Filet mignon bearnaise.
Rack of lamb.
Magret de canard (breast of a duck fattened for foie gras, with peppercorn sauce).
Fresh-cut fries as a side to everything.
Floating island (not always available).
FOR BEST RESULTS
Be sure to reserve if going on a weekend. Scale back your order from what you'd usually get in a French place; the portions are unusually large. Know the specials before you even think of ordering from the regular card.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
From opening day till this one, the seafood dishes here have always been of much less interest than the rest of the menu.
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
- Service +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine and Bar +1
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +2
- Good for business meetings
- Medium private room
- Unusually large servings
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted
Or Waitress, Or Server, Or Whatever
Who's The Best Waiter In New Orleans?
I posed this qurestion on the Talk Food With Tom messageboard a couple of days ago, and quite a few people have responded:
Who is the best server in a New Orleans area restaurant? We're talking about currently active waiters, waitresses, or servers. No maitres d'hotel or busboys.
Feel free to name as many as you like. Then, after awhile, we'll do something else with this information.
I'll begin with my waiter at Galatoire's, Imre Szalai.
We'd like to read your thoughts. Post them on the messageboard.
Green Thai Curry With Shrimp
Thai food has long been a favorite of mine. In recent years we've been treated not only to some terrific new Thai restaurants, but also to new Thai dishes in non-Thai restaurants. One of the most distinctively good dishes in Thai places is green curry, the spiciest of their curries. This one is made with eggplant and shrimp; it can also be made with chicken. It's fiery with pepper, mellow with coconut milk. Some of the ingredients are a little hard to find; you might have to go to an Oriental grocery. But the technique is the same as is used in Chinese cooking, with rapid cooking in a wok.
- 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
- 6 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/2 cup cubed eggplant
- 1/2 cup bell pepper, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup sliced bamboo shoots
- 1 tsp. Thai green curry paste (now easily available in supermarkets)
- 2 tsp. nam pla (fish sauce; also known as nuoc mam)
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1/4 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
1. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok until almost smoking. Add the shrimp, eggplant, bell pepper, and bamboo shoots and stir-fry until the shrimp are pink--about 15-20 seconds.
2. With a slotted spoon, remove all the ingredients and keep warm. Pour off the oil but don't wipe the pan. Add all the other ingredients and bring to a boil. Allow to reduce to half its original volume, or until sauce has a pleasing thickness.
3. Return the shrimp, etc. to the wok and toss with the sauce until combined. Serve immediately.