Monday, March 26, 2012
1254 Restaurants Open Around Town (click for the whole list)
Taste Of The Town This
Friday, Lafreniere Park
A month after Mardi Gras, New Orleans is back to celebrating, with more festivals than at any other time of year. This past weekend, I was aware of six of them, all of which drew crowds in four figures. They only get better every weekend.
This Friday is the best grazing event of the year. The Taste of the Town at Lafreniere Park can make good that claim, because it's put on by the restaurant industry itself, on behalf of some of its pet charities (most of them educational).
No other event has such a distinguished list of restaurant participants. The 35 on the list have a cumulative 125 NOMenu rating stars. In addition to the restaurants, quite a few caterers, bakeries, suppliers, supermarket delis, schools, and other food operations will be there. Here's the list:
|Acme Oyster House
Court of Two Sisters
Deanie's Seafood Restaurant
Hilton New Orleans Riverside
Mr. B's Bistro
Ruth's Chris Steak House
The English Tea Room
The Original Pierre Maspero
Saucy's BBQ Grill
Serranos Salsa Company
Vincent's Italian Cuisine
The best part may be that few restaurants run out of food. Drago's in particular sends up a plume of smoke as it grills unlimited numbers of oysters. Your appetite will give out before the chefs do. Ditto for the beverages from the several bars, pouring cocktails and wines.
All of this takes place on the pleasant island in Lafreniere Park. It's full of people, but not so crowded that you have to wait in long lines (except, perhaps, for Drago's oysters). Live music plays all night long. Even the bathrooms are clean and classy.
Here's the list of participating restaurants so far. (There will probably be more.) Tickets are $90, and can be had at the Taste of the Town website. They also sell tickets at Drago's. If the weather isn't good (it looks okay now), the date will be changed. (No more parking garage festivals.)
Taste of the Town 2012.
Metairie: Lafreniere Park. Map.
This daily feature is a free service for restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events. Please send all info to email@example.com.
Our annual survey of seafood in Southeast Louisiana this year counts down the 33 best seafood species enjoyed in our restaurants, seafood markets, and homes. For the full survey so far, click here. Or use the links at the bottom to move up and down the list.
#10: HalibutThe best dish I ate during a cruise in Alaska was a surprise special. The ship's captain went fishing one day and pulled up a 200-pound halibut. He sent it to the galley, where the chef made it a verbal dinner special. It was magnificent: a thick block of white, flaky goodness, moist and vivid,, in a sauce with a little cream, peas, and red pepper.
A halibut is a gigantic flounder. It can outsize the boat from which it was caught. (If you don't believe that, look at the halibut hanging on the wall in the Anchorage Airport.) Like flounders, halibuts lie on the bottom of the sea, waiting for a good-looking fish to swim within dinner distance. It's highly thought of in the northern Pacific coast, where it's in the company of salmon as the great gourmet fish of the region. It's also caught in the north Atlantic.
In New Orleans restaurants, halibut usually runs as a special. If you ever encounter it, first make sure that it's fresh. Frozen halibut is a factory fish and is both tough and tasteless. The fresh fish is wonderful, with a very mild flavor so good that even those who prefer stronger-tasting fish look forward to eating it. The most likely restaurant for trying halibut is Gautreau's, where Chef Sue Zemanick loves it and tries to get keep it on the menu most of the time.
If you ever wind up with some halibut in your kitchen, the way to prepare it is to either bake or broil it. It's best cooked to the point where it's still very moist inside. It is a fine fish for sauces, especially those with cream and some assertive ingredients like saffron, green peppercorns, or fennel.
Friday, March 23, 2012.
Ella Brennan once told me that now and then she needed a "robe day." That's when you don't get dressed or leave the house, just stay in your robe, drink coffee, and catch up on all the jobs, mail, and phone calls that you know need attention, but that don't cry out for it as loudly as the items on your daily routine. "The best part of robe day is that it gives you time to think," Ella says. It clearly works. Ella is probably the most accomplished restaurateur in the annals of the business in New Orleans.
I don't own a robe, but in my style of home attire (oxford shirt, chinos, shoes and socks--but no tie) I took a robe day today. It's not as great a contrast as it was for Ella, but it worked. I left the house only for a couple of walks with the dog and the cat. Lunch was a bowl of Brennan's turtle soup, now running low. Radio show from my desk. Dinner: a slice of the pizza we took home from Carmelo two weeks ago. The other fourteen hours: hardly worth telling, but a lot of items got checked off my long and growing list.
Saturday, March 24, 2012.
Audubon Golf Club.
Mary Ann's two out-of-town sisters flew in from opposite coasts yesterday. They converged upon the home of her other sister. There they had a sleepover, recalling the years when three of them shared a bedroom.
That left me home alone for a couple of nights in a very quiet house. Old habits are good for filling gaps like that. So, off to breakfast at the Marriott Courtyard Café in Covington. I all but stopped going there because of their policy of not serving bacon on weekends. They have come to their senses. However, I was already reconciled to an unstripped breakfast, and asked Chef Gloria to make one of her nice, fluffy, moist omelettes with ham and cheese. They use deli-sliced ham for that instead of diced ham--a great idea, giving much better flavor.
Radio show from noon to three, with much to discuss. The weather was almost perfect for five food festivals going on around town this weekend. I say "almost," because while the sun was shining and the temperatures were cool, the tremendous rain of the past three days (we had seven inches at the Cool Water Ranch) left the City Park Disk Golf Club (an upscale Frisbee field) wet and muddy. That mucked up the Hogs For The Cause a little, but didn't depress the crowds. That's according to Mary Ann, who cannot resist the call of pork cooked on an outdoor pit. Sixty-something teams of cooks competed in the event. Some were pros, some amateurs--but there's not much skill difference between the two, so passionate are these people. The top prize went to Company Burger, one of the hot new places on Freret Street.
Mary Ann came home at the end of the show. Shortly afterward, she learned that the wedding we are to attend tonight begins not at seven, but six. "But I have to dye my hair and make a dress and. . . !!!" I chuckled and tuned out, knowing that there was absolutely nothing useful I could say or do.
Bob and Rebecca are both attorneys, both celebrating nuptials for the first time, relatively late in life. Judging by the glow they gave off when we ran into them in restaurants, fate seemed to have been saving them for one another. Bob is our family lawyer. Two of Mary Ann's sisters worked in his office for many years. Bob's brother Sid is also a friend, met when his son Remy and Jude were in the same circle of schools, sports, and other stuff. (More proof that only five hundred people actually live in New Orleans.)
The reception was at the Audubon Club House. Renovated into a combination restaurant and catering hall, it's a beautiful venue for this sort of party. That was particularly true after dark, when the surrounding golf links were in darkness. That gave the illusion of being far out in the country, not the center of Uptown New Orleans.
The food was even good. After sampling salads, pates, pastas, and an Asian stir-fry, I fell into the thrall of oysters Rockefeller and Bienville, served hot on the shells and constantly being replenished. I made a meal of about a dozen of those. Not a classic recipe for either, but certainly delicious.
The band was highly listenable, too--six musicians playing and singing standards from some five decades. The father of the bride got into the act, playing trumpet and clarinet a couple of times while the cakes were being cut.
Audubon Club House. Uptown: 6500 Magazine. 504-212-5280.
It's over three years since a day was missed in the Dining Diary. To browse through all of the entries since 2008, go here.
The Spring Eat Club Dinner
At One Of Our Favorites
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Metairie: 3400 16th St, behind the Morning Call
$75, inclusive of tax, tip, and wines
Impastato's is an especially good place for a first-time Eat Club evening--especially if you invite a couple of your friends. We have more than the usual number of four-top tables available than we do at most of our dinners. Call some people you haven't dined with in awhile and hang with us. Also, if you have young adults in your life, this is a terrific place for them to learn the ins and outs of first-class dining. The menu is very accessible. Even my Marys love it, and they are hard to please.
Unlike most of our dinners, Impastato's prefers to offer a range of choices in the appetizer and main courses. Wines will be paired with all courses. Roy Picou will be vocalizing in the bar; I will join him after the dinner to drive out the remaining customers with my tribute to Frank Sinatra.
New Orleans Food & Spirits
Covington: 208 Lee Lane. 985-875-0432. Map.
Harvey: 2330 Lapalco Blvd, 504-362-0800. Map.
Bucktown: 210 Hammond Hwy, 504-828-2220. Map.
Lunch MO TU WE TH FR SA
Dinner MO TU WE TH FR SA
AE DC DS MC V
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
The generic name disguises the fact this is is primarily a seafood restaurant, with the traditional overloaded platters of fried oysters, shrimp, catfish, and soft-shell crabs. It also has aspects of a neighborhood cafe, with poor boys, beans, gumbo, and specials.
WHY IT'S GOOD
The corny menu language makes one suspicious, but that's a false alarm. They really know how to cook here. They follow the two most important rules of frying seafood: using fresh product and doing it all to order. The grilled and stuffed fish is also good. Some of the specialties are overwhelming with thick, blanketing sauces, but even those are edible. Great daily specials, with the Thursday rabbit with white beans being one of the best dishes of its kind anywhere.
The restaurant is the successor to a little neighborhood place in Houma. The Bergeron family, which has enough members to run three restaurants, opened its first New Orleans Food and Spirits on the West Bank in the early 1990s. Practically since the first day it's been a packed house. The Bucktown location came next, occupying the building where R&O used to be.
The Harvey restaurant is a pleasant but busy dining room in a suburban style. The Bucktown location of this three-unit seafood specialist is a big, somewhat crowded room whose windows gaze onto the levee. The lake is on the other side of that for postprandial walks. The Covington restaurant is the most scenic, suspended as it is above the Bogue Falaya River.
ESSENTIAL DISHES [»=Recommended]
Grilled chicken salad
Fried chicken club salad
»Shrimp salad (remoulade, fried, or grilled)
Caesar salad (with shrimp, chicken, tuna, or fried oysters)
»Grilled or blackened tuna
Grilled catfish (stuffed or not)
Hickory smoked chicken breast
»Two pork chops, grilled or Hawaiian
»Fried shrimp, catfish, shrimp, or combination platter
»Redfish Pontchartrain (grilled, cream sauce with shrimp pasta)
Bon Temps chicken (blackened, shrimp cream sauce)
Catfish Looziane (fried, Creole crawfish stew)
Blackened shrimp, catfish or chicken, angel hair pasta with garlic butter
»Crabmeat-stuffed eggplant, shrimp cream sauce)
»Fried shrimp, oyster, or catfish poor boy
Grilled chicken sandwich
»Red beans and rice, pork chop (MO)
Shrimp stew, fried shrimp (TU)
»Panneed chicken, pasta with red sauce (WE)
»»White beans with stewed rabbit, pork chop, or catfish (TH)
Fried eggplant with shrimp cream sauce (FR)
FOR BEST RESULTS
To get the stewed rabbit, show up early for lunch on Thursday. They always run out.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The coatings on the seafood taste and look exactly the same, giving a lack of contrast to the platter. Except for the soup, there's nothing with crawfish that I've liked.
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
- Consistency +1
- Service +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar -1
- Hipness -1
- Local Color +1
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Good view
- Small private room
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations
This is an idea inspired by Gautreau's Sue Zemanick, but different enough from her great works with halibut that she avoids all blame. The detonator is a crusty topping with horseradish and garlic held in a matrix of bread crumbs. While the fish roasts, the thick crust get toasty brown.
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1 cups bread crumbs
- 2 Tbs. fresh horseradish, finely grated
- 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped or even pureed
- 10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
- 1 Tbs. Creole seasoning
- 4 thick halibut fillets, cut across, about 8-10 oz. each
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
1. Melt the butter and blend it with the other crust ingredients until it almost but not quite sticks together. Divide this into four portions, and cover the top of each grouper fillet with a layer of the crust.
2. Place the encrusted fish fillets in a large skillet or baking pan, lightly oiled with olive oil. Sprinkle lemon juice over all. Bake the fish in a preheated 400- degree oven for 10-12 minutes. (To test the fish for doneness, push a kitchen fork into the center of the biggest fillet. Hold it there for five seconds, then pull it out. Touch the tines of the fork carefully to your lips. If it feels even warm, the fish is done.)Serves four.
March 26, 2012
Days Until. . .
Taste Of The Town 4
French Quarter Festival 18
Jazz Festival 32
Chef d'Oeuvre du Jour
#170: Moo-Shu Vegetables @ Trey Yuen, Mandeville: 600 Causeway Blvd. Moo-shu pork is a famous Mandarin dish whose fanciness and unique style of serving are at least matched by its deliciousness. Pork, eggs flowers, matchsticks of various savory vegetables, and exotic mushrooms all come together in a thick sauce. You spoon all that into a "pancake" (it's more like a thin flour tortilla), roll it up, and eat with your fingers. It's sort of a Chinese burrito. It's so well-liked that lots of customers asked to have the same dish with chicken or beef. It was inevitable that someone would want moo-shu with just vegetables. When that happened, the Wong brothers just whipped it up and sent it out. It may be the best moo-shu of them all, the meat's absence made up for with more vegetables and more mushrooms, in several varieties. This is one of NOMenu's 500 Best Dishes in New Orleans. Collect all 500!
Today is National Spinach Day. Spinach was first grown in what is now Iran about 1500 years ago. It spread to all parts of the world, almost immediately replacing other green leaves wherever it went. Spinach is among the most healthful and delicious of all those we eat. It's rare among them in that it's eaten raw as often as cooked. Its flavor is distinctive but not strong. The younger the spinach, the more tender the leaves and better the flavor.
And then there's the Popeye connection. From it we learn that eating spinach turns funny-looking pipsqueaks into powerful heroes. That's because of its reputed but overstated iron content. Popeye continues to inspire the eating of spinach, enough so that today in 1937, farmers in Crystal City, Texas--the spinach-growing capital of America--put a statue of Popeye in its town square.
An astonishing thing happens when you cook spinach. Few foods shrink as much when you cook it. You can put a whole bag of fresh spinach on top of a pizza, for example, and it will bake down to a thin green layer. The best way to cook spinach is in a pot over a medium heat, with only the water that clings to the leaves after you wash it. And wash it you must, because few vegetables carry more dirt than fresh spinach, although a lot of that has been solved by pre-washed, bagged spinach.
Chefs love spinach and have created many dishes with it. The most famous New Orleans spinach dish is oysters Rockefeller, even though the original version at Antoine's doesn't contain any spinach. It's also a major part of eggs Sardou. Spinach comes in many international dishes--Greek spanakopita, Indian saagwala, Italian and French florentine dishes, and omelettes, pastries, sauces. Why? Because when spinach is in a dish, it becomes more popular than it would be without it.
eggs Sardou, n.--Poached eggs served atop artichoke bottoms filled with creamed spinach, with hollandaise over the top. This is one of the most popular of fancy egg dishes, found on almost every brunch menu in New Orleans and many breakfast menus, as well. Eggs Sardou was originally created at Antoine's in the late 1800s, when Antoine Alciatore himself was still alive. He named it for the French playwright Victorien Sardou. Antoine's original version didn't include the creamed spinach, but did have some anchovies. Brennan's, which made the dish famous, added the spinach. Eggs Sardou has spread widely throughout American restaurants specializing in brunch.
Deft Dining Rule #434:
Before you order a dish that has spinach mentioned in its menu description, ask these two questions. Will the spinach be visible and tastable? If so, would you order this if the spinach weren't there?
Annals Of Food Writing
The first American restaurant critic, Duncan Hines, was born today in 1880, in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He was a salesman who traveled by automobile throughout the country in the 1920s through the 1940s. He compiled a list of the restaurants and inns that he found to serve reliably good food. He passed it around to friends, and it created such a sensation that he published it as a book called Adventures In Good Eating in 1935. His name became synonymous with excellence. Restaurants put signs in their windows saying "Recommended By Duncan Hines" (sometimes when Hines had done no such thing). His name had such a ring of good taste that a very successful line of cake mixes is named for him, even though few remember the man anymore.;
The funniest reference to Duncan Hines I ever saw was in the window of a flophouse on Camp and Julia Streets in 1978, when that was the center of the wino district. A hand-written sign said: "Recommended By Drunken Hines."
Famous Local Diners
Today is the birthday of Tennessee Williams, in 1914. He gave the world a view of New Orleans life in A Streetcar Named Desire, and was one of the most successful American playwrights in the twentieth century. Williams spent a lot of his time living in the French Quarter, as was a regular customer in numerous restaurants and bars there, most notably Galatoire's and the extinct Marti's. Not by coincidence, the Tennessee Williams Festival revisits his legacy this time every year.
Food In Traffic
Today in 1965, truck driver Eugene Sesky was pulling a load of bananas to an A&P in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He lost control on Moosic Street, known for its steepness and danger in icy weather. The truck wound up doing almost ninety miles per hour before it flipped, killing the driver and injuring fifteen people. Singer Harry Chapin immortalized the moment with a song, Thirty Thousand Pounds Of Bananas.
It figures that with all the lakes in Minnesota there would be one shaped like a banana, and that it would be called Banana Lake. It's in the northwest corner of the state, on the White Earth Indian Reservation, 230 miles northwest of Minneapolis. Banana Lake is about half a mile long and a quarter of a mile part in the center of the banana. It is adjacent to Cucumber Lake, and a quarter-mile north of Lemon Lake, each of which is named for its shape, too. The flat land around it is drained by the well-named Wild Rice River. This is, in fact, where wild rice has been collected by the Native Americans of the area for centuries. The entire area is intensively cultivated for that and other grains. The nearest restaurant also has an appropriate name: Whispering Winds, fourteen miles north of Banana Lake in Mahnomen.
Count Benjamin Thompson Rumford was born on this date in 1753. He was born in the British American colonies, but he was on the British side through the Revolution, and moved to England. His greatest breakthrough was in noting that heat is the motion of atomic particles, not a substance in its own right. In the process of his experiments, he invented many utensils for the kitchen: the double boiler, the drip coffeepot, and a stove.
David Cook--who recorded under the name David Essex--got a gold record today in 1974 for his song Rock On. . . . Jan Berry, of the surfing-music duo Jan and Dean, died today in 2004, after being paralyzed for almost forty years as a result of a car accident. . . Elaine Chao, the United States Secretary of Labor during both terms of George W. Bush, was born in Taiwan today in 1953.
Words To Eat By
"More people will die from hit-or-miss eating than from hit-and-run driving."--Duncan Hines, born today in 1880. He also said:;
“If the soup had been as warm as the wine; if the wine had been as old as the turkey; and if the turkey had had a breast like the maid, it would have been a swell dinner.”;
"I would think nothing of tipping over a table with a whole long spread on it just because there was turkey roll on the table and I had explicitly said, 'No turkey roll!'"--Steven Tyler, lead singer in rock group Aerosmith, born today in 1948.
Drawbacks Of Frozen Food #7-36754-03
The hardness issue involves so many problems that it offsets the apparent convenience. Click here for the cartoon.
Have a lusty New Orleans meal today!