Monday, April 16, 2012
1276 Restaurants Open Around Town (click for the whole list)
The Best Chefs Of Louisiana Feed You Tonight.
The chef's association is bigger and much more active than we restaurant patrons know. A chapter of the American Culinary Federation, the ACFNO last year threw a big party in conjunction with the ACF's annual convention here. It was such a big hit that it's back for a second year. Which means, of course, that it's now a permanent tradition.
The party is tonight. If what everyone told me last year is true again this year (and there's no reason to think it won't be), this would be well worth your Monday evening. What you have here is some fifty chefs trying to outdo one another. How could that be bad? One way, actually: I am the master of ceremonies.
The name of the event is grandiose: The Best Chefs of Louisiana. Indeed, the chefs will honor a number of their own for this year's honors. Most of the past winners will be there, too. You will recognize most of them without a program.
The $75 ticket works out to $2.14 per chef. And you get the big band and beverages for free! All the money goes to an assortment of foundations that the chefs are constantly helping with their time and food.
The party starts at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Tuesday, April 16) and goes until 10 p.m. Dress is casual. It's at Generations Hall, on S. Diamond right off S. Peters. For tickets, go here.
The Best Chefs Of Louisiana. Warehouse District: 310 Andrew Higgins Dr..
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Friday, April 13, 2012.
Talking Food With Dentists. Tony Mandina's.
I read somewhere that every year has at least one Friday the Thirteenth, and that no year has more than three. "That's interesting, Tom," the late UNO drama professor Jim Ragland said when, in 1971, I imparted an equally jejune fact. "But not very," he added quickly.
Last year, I agreed to speak to a group of dentists at their annual meeting. But when I broke my ankle I had to cancel. (They replaced me with a sports writer--just like on the radio.) I guess I didn't make them too mad, because they invited me again this year. This time I made it to the Convention Center, where we were served a salad covered with strips of cheese (how did this practice get started? it's not good) followed by two pork chop cooked until all the juice was gone. Who is handling the food in the Morial Convention Center these days?
The dentists were all about my age, which made the selection of anecdotes easier. I started with my standard three tales of soup du jour. Got the usual laugh. Nobody there had heard them before, although I've told them at every speaking engagement for thirty-five years. These guys appreciated my memories of broadcasting from the Maison Blanche Building, the original home of my radio station when it was WSMB. Our studios shared the roof with a fantastic collection of outmoded dentist's equipment. At one time, the Maison Blanche Building had more dentists than any other place in America, one of the dentists told me. I can believe it.
Mary Ann called in mid-show to say that she was amenable to the idea of joining me for dinner. When I called her back at the end, though, she'd changed her mind. I don't blame her. She would have to cross the lake just for that. I don't think I'm worth it.
I reverted to my original plan: Tony Mandina's, a restaurant on the West Bank that I haven't sampled in at least twenty years. No connection with Mandina's on Canal Street, nor the same style of cooking. It's thoroughly Italian, six meals a week: lunch Tuesday through Friday, dinner Friday and Saturday.
I can't think of a restaurant with a stronger contrast between its environs and its dining room. The neighborhood is a bit worn, with an old barbershop, a seafood retailer, and the gigantic pole for a towering billboard immediately adjacent to the restaurant. The street grid is at an odd angle to West Bank Expressway, which tells us that it was laid out in the early 1950s or before. The houses nearby are very modest. Were it not for a sign visible from the elevated expressway, the restaurant would be very hard to find for the first-timer.
Or for a guy who hadn't been in twenty years. When I finally homed in on the place, a man told me where to park (almost any place I wanted, it seemed), then opened the front door. Inside, the place was handsome, well-furnished, and cool. A pianist tickled the ivories in the dining room. A large group was having dinner in a private room.
I almost went back outside to see where exactly the atmosphere warp was. Tony Mandina's looks good enough to be in an upscale hotel downtown.
The menu showed no surprises. But my appetite was tuned for the standard New Orleans-Sicilian-Italian repertoire. And here it was: pasta with red sauces, white sauces, or olive oil sauces, accompanied by veal and chicken scaloppine (most of it panneed) or seafood. And stuff like lasagna. The braciolone was tempting. So was the hamburger steak, but only because the menu claimed it was the best in town, and only for a future visit.
I started with a martini and a stack of fried eggplant sticks. A little on the bitter side, those, but the greaseless crispness and the sweet marinara sauce on the side kept it enjoyable. The order is easily enough for a table of four. Then artichoke soup, which tasted better than it looked. And it didn't look bad (the cream component had broken, strictly a visual issue).
I couldn't make up my mind about the entree, even after consulting with the young woman serving my table. Then I asked her about chicken Lindsey Grace. "That's really good," she said, "it's named for me." Well, then--sold! "Oh, don't order it just because of that!" she said. Whatever the motivation, this was very nice, with panneed chicken over angel hair Alfredo pasta.
Excellent bread pudding for dessert. I was well-served all night, and the pianist (feller name of Barry Bouvier plays here every weekend) rendered my kind of music, without taking a break. I was going to ask him if I could sing a song with him, but I'll wait till next time, when I will ask for a table closer to the piano.
Tony Mandina's. Gretna: 1915 Pratt. 504-362-2010.
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 Eat Club Does The French Quarter Wine Festival
Wednesday, April 18, 2012, 6:30 p.m.
Maison Dupuy Hotel, 1001 Toulouse. Free valet parking.
$100 per person, plus tax and tip
The annual Eat Club participation in the two-month French Quarter Wine Festival has finally arrived. Like the other dinners in the series, the food of Chef Michael Farrell is partnered with not only the wines of an interesting vineyard, but also by its principal and winemaker.
Among the pioneers of Pinot Noir winemaking in Oregon, Elk Cove has grown first-class wines since 1977. Adam Godlee Campbell, winemaker and owner, is making a return appearance in New Orleans to show off his "pinot trilogy": noir, gris and blanc. The dinner will be replete with interesting library bottles, including three single-vineyard Pinot Noirs. The main course will be accompanied by a real rarity: a nine-liter bottle of Pinot Noir from Elk Cove's Roosevelt Vineyard. That's the equivalent of a full case of wine in a single bottle. (I wonder who will get the empty. It won't be thrown away, that's for sure.)
Although this is an Eat Club event, the hotel is taking the reservations, along with payment in advance. Click on the link below to reserve.
BONUS FROM TOM. Each couple who attends will get a complimentary signed copy of my history of the New Orleans restaurant scene, Hungry Town. (Singles can get the book, which sells for $25, for $5. Extra copies can also be had for that price.)
An Evening In Campania With Chef Andrea And His Own Wines
Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 6:30 p.m.
Metairie: 3100 19th St, at Ridgelake
$75, inclusive of tax, tip, and wines
Click here for menu or to reserve.
And here it is! Be among the first to try Andrea's own wines as the Eat Club feasts on a collection of some of the restaurant's best dishes. In addition to the good eating and drinking, we'll have live music. Come early for butler-passed appetizers and the first wine.
Dozen Best "Delis"
This list must be taken with a big flake of kosher salt. New Orleans is not and never has been a kosher-style deli town. Only the first five on this list really qualify--and purists would question even some of those. Many sandwich shops that call themselves delis get no closer to the New York deli style than a ham and cheese poor boy gets to lox on a bagel. My criterion for inclusion here is whether one can get something like a corned beef on rye. (That's one of the few downsides of having the overwhelming local cuisine that we enjoy.) I also include one non-deli place because a) I needed another one to make a dozen and 2) it's from the Northeast.
1. Stein's Deli. Uptown: 2207 Magazine . 504-527-0771. The unique combination of Jewish and Italian meats, and cheeses too--so it's not strictly kosher. It is, however, strictly delicious. No other deli offers and much variety or goodness.
2. Martin Wine Cellar Deli. Metairie: 714 Elmeer. 504-896-7350. It started as a stand-up sandwich operation at the Uptown location. Over the years the kitchen has become much more ambitious, cooking as much and as well as a gourmet bistro. But it still has the classic deli sandwiches, made with top-quality meats, breads, and cheeses.
3. Kosher Cajun Deli. Metairie: 3519 Severn. 504-888-2010. It really is kosher, even though it's hardly Cajun. Joel Brown is the city's prime marketer of kosher meats, and his entire menu is well made.
4. Gott Gourmet Cafe. Uptown: 3100 Magazine. 504-373-6579 . The sandwich list here is the most eclectic around, calling to mind not only New York but Chicago. All the ingredients are first-class, and the generosity of the sandwiches makes them splittable.
5. Between the Bread. CBD: 625 St Charles Ave . 504-324-5304 . A well-hidden but very good maker of sandwiches outside the orbit of poor boys and hamburgers, in an Americanized deli style. Very good meats and breads.
6. Welty's Deli. CBD: 336 Camp. 504-592-0223. Welty's theme seems to be as little like New Orleans as possible. But there's a market for that downtown, and they serve it well with generous sandwiches and salads.
7. Cafe Nino. Riverbend: 1519 S Carrollton Ave. 504-865-9200. This is really an Italian and pizza specialist, but it makes the list by dint of the only really good Philly cheese steak sandwich in town.
8. Empire State Delicatessen. CBD: 701 Poydras (One Shell Square). 504-412-8326. A New York-style deli in One Shell Square. Not brilliant, but if you have the urge downtown it will satisfy.
9. Camellia Grill. Riverbend: 626 S Carrollton Ave. 504-309-2679 . The famous Uptown vendor of hamburgers and omelettes has always had a deli aspect to its sandwiches. They're oversized and well-made. I wish they'd revive the old "Pink Perfection" sandwich, made with beef tongue.
10. Fat Hen Grocery. Uptown: 7457 St Charles Ave. 504-266-2921. The sandwich department here leans in a deli direction, notably for its Reuben, made with corned beef cured on the premises.
11. American Sector. Warehouse District: 945 Magazine St. 504-528-1940. This is a 1040s-style restaurant in the World War II Museum. It has a full menu, but among its sandwiches and open-face platters are some deli classics like beef tongue, corned beef, and the like.
12. Cafe Maspero. French Quarter: 601 Decatur. 504-523-6250. A stretch, I'll grant that. But the pastrami and corned beef here have always been good, even though they're served on French buns.
Leruth's Green Goddess Dressing
Warren Leruth was regarded by gourmets as probably the greatest chef to work in New Orleans in the last half of the 1900s. Before and after he ran his magnificent restaurant in Gretna, he was a consultant to many food companies, and developed countless recipes for commercial products. One of those was the Green Goddess dressing for Seven Seas. Here's the version of that he made in his restaurant.
- 5 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
- 3 green onions, tender green parts only
- 2 large cloves garlic chopped
- 2 anchovies
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 1 cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
- 1 cup sour cream
1. Put the parsley, green onions, garlic, anchovies, salt and pepper into a food processor and chop into a puree, stopping to scrape down the side of the processor bowl and top. Add two tablespoons of water and process until the mixture is nearly smooth.
2. Scrape the puree into a non-metallic bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Blend with a whisk until uniform in texture. Whisk in a little bit of water if needed to bring the sauce to a very thick but pourable texture. Refrigerate.Makes two cups.
April 16, 2012
Days Until. . .
Jazz Festival 11
Mother's Day 27
Chef D'Oeuvre Du Jour
#380: Tagliatelle alla Romagnola @ Ristorante da Piero, Kenner: 401 Williams Blvd. 504-469-8585. The style of the food at Piero Cenni's underpatronized restaurant in Old Town Kenner is that of the Romagna region, centered of Bologna. There they loves their meats, and everything from the base of a dish to the sauce is highly savory. This is one of several examples of that in the pasta department. The wide fettuccine comes out with a hearty red sauce with cooked-down prosciutto and peas. It's best as an appetizer, but it could be doubled into a full dinner. This is one of NOMenu's 500 Best Dishes in New Orleans. Collect all 500!
Today in 2007, Mr. B's Bistro opened for the first time since the hurricane. It was the last major restaurant to reopen, among those we knew were coming back. The damage was freakishly severe, the result of waterfalls cascading from the parking garage above. Managing partner Cindy Brennan kept most of her staff together through the twenty-month closing, and chef Michelle McRaney and many of the old waiters were there to pick up where they left off. By a wonderful coincidence, Mr. B's brought the number of open restaurants in New Orleans to 809--exactly the number that were open the day before Hurricane Katrina.
Local Food Legends
Ruth Fertel died today in 2002. The world's most successful female restaurateur, she bought the old Chris Steak House on Broad Street in New Orleans with almost all the money she had in 1965. She turned it into the leading chain of premium steakhouses, with over a hundred locations around the globe. Ruth's Chris, as she renamed it, is among the top steakhouses in all of its cities. Although the quality of the beef and the sizzling butter are hallmarks, those were already in place when Ruth came in. She brought to the steakhouse a customer-is-right attitude among all the staff. If you're willing to pay Ruth's top-dollar prices, you could have anything you wanted within reason, without question.
Deft Dining Rule #378 (Ruth's Law):
If you are spending more than fifty dollars in a restaurant, you have the right to remain at the table as long as you please.
Today is National Eggs Benedict Day. Eggs Benedict are the best known of the catalog of fancy poached-eggs-with-sauce dishes popular at upscale breakfast places and brunch restaurants. Many stories exist as to who invented it, or who it was named for. All the recipes are about the same, however. Poached eggs rest on Canadian bacon or ham, which in turn are atop English muffins or a Holland rusks. (The latter is a styrofoam-like bread that's resistant to the water that comes off the eggs.) The whole thing is covered with hollandaise and, if you're in a really classy place, some slivers of truffle. We've always thought that the eggs-on-eggs aspect of the dish (hollandaise is mostly eggs and butter) is peculiar, but we can't gainsay the goodness of a well-made plate of eggs Benedict. Main problem: not all cooks know how to poach eggs. The yolks should stand up like spheres, not flattened, and be completely covered with very thick hollandaise. And the ham or Canadian bacon should be grilled.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
When you want a light supper, nothing's as good as a well-made egg dish with a great sauce and something like crabmeat, smoked salmon, or prosciutto
Pittsburgh style, n, adj.--Usually applied to thick steaks, this is a method of cooking that sears the exterior to just this side of charred, while keeping the interior rare and juicy. It's also called "Indian style" and "black and blue." Among many steak connoisseurs, this is considered the ne plus ultra of steak cookery. It is not the easiest thing to achieve. A very hot broiler or grill is required. The steak must also be on the thick side. It doesn't work particularly well with bone-in steaks, since the bones cause the meat to pull away from the heat, particularly if a flat grill or skillet is used to cook it. It is, however, worth the extra effort.
Hambone is in northeast California, thirty-four miles from the summit of Mount Shasta, which at 14,179 feet dominates Hambone's western horizon. Hambone Butte, for which the junction is named, is only at 4731 feet. There's are no structures at Hambone, which was originally named for a place on a now-abandoned railroad. However, there are human activities in the area. Christmas trees are grown around there. But to find a ham or anything else to eat, it's a twenty-four mile drive to McCloud, where you can dine as you move through the scenery on the Shasta Sunset Dinner Train. It uses cars that once ran on the Illinois Central's trains from Chicago to New Orleans in the early 1900s.
Music To Dine By
Composer Henry Mancini was born today in 1924. He specialized in big, lush, romantic arrangements and powerful movie music. Among his many musical works with tenuous food connections are The Days Of Wine And Roses and the score for Breakfast At Tiffany's. His first big hit, Mr. Lucky, was the theme music for my radio show for a number of years.
Food And Medicine
Today in 2004, a large study of men with gout (it's almost exclusively a male ailment) revealed that drinking alcoholic beverages contributes to the formation of uric crystals in the joints. That gives rise to the sharp pain. It seems that the drink that causes the most problems is beer. Wine is the least offensive. It has long been known that men with gout tend to read publications like this one, because they eat and drink well. They also seem to be more active sexually. (I'm not making that up.)
St. Drogo (Dreux in French) was a hermit who lived in Belgium in the Twelfth Century. He is the patron saint of coffeehouse owners.
Wine On Television
Today in 1956, the famous winemaking episode of I Love Lucy first aired. In it, Lucille Ball gets into a vat of grapes and starts stomping them. By the end of the scene, she's in a fight with the other grape-crushing women, and all of them wind up wrestling in the grapes (Red grapes, of course.) Hilarious to this day.
Bill Spooner, guitarist with the rock band The Tubes, was born today in 1949. . . Hockey star Gary Galley hit the Ice Of Life today in 1963. . . Pro golfer Trey Maples was born today in 1971--in a food-named place, yet: Wheat Ridge, Colorado. By the way, have you tried Wheat Ridges with a good garlic-and-sardine dip?. . . British actor Nick Berry walked onto The Big Stage today in 1963. . . Pro tennis player Dennis Pate hit the baseline today in 1962. Wait--he doesn't pronounce it with an accent on the "e"? Never mind. . . Joan Bakewell, a television host and journalist in Great Britain, was born today in 1933. . . Another British author with bread in his moniker, Mark Baker, had his personal Page One today in 1985. . . German poet Sarah Kirsch had her first stanza today in 1935. (Kirsch is a German cherry brandy.)
Words To Eat By
"He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it hath already committed breakfast with it in his heart."--C.S. Lewis.
Words To Drink By
"I never drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast."--W.C. Fields.
An Authentic Submarine Sandwich.
Sounds like too much gravy to me. Click here for the cartoon.
Have a lusty New Orleans meal today!