Tuesday, April 17, 2012
1276 Restaurants Open Around Town (click for the whole list)
New Orleans Expatriate
Winemaker Does Dinner At MiLa
Remember Peter Spann? He was active in the restaurant and wine business in 1980s New Orleans, after a gig waiting tables here turned him on to wine. (If my memory serves me, he was one of the partners in Parker's, the restaurant in Canal Place where Morton's is now.) I haven't so much as thought of Peter--an engaging, knowledgeable guy--in many years. He comes to town this Thursday for a winemaker dinner at MiLa. He grows wines in Sonoma County, right up against the Mayacamas Mountains. We will have five of his wines, paired with six courses of the five-star food of Chefs Allison and Slade Rushing at MiLa. This strikes me as a superb dinner, and even if the $75 price is plus tax and tip, it's a good price. I'm going to try to shake loose to show up for at least the second half of this.
Chilled Blue Point Oysters
Green apple and horseradish gelee
Wine: Spann Vineyards Betty's Backacher Bottle Blond Blend 2010
Housemade Garganelli Pasta
Ryals goat cheese cream and spring peas
Wine: Spann Vineyards Chardonnay-Viognier 2009
Shiitake Mushroom Risotto
Foie gras emulsion
Wine: Spann Vineyards Merlot 2006
Wild Striped Bass
Turnips and carrots, red wine bacon jus
Wine: Spann Vineyards Mo Zin Blend 2008
Roasted Beef Tenderloin
Truffled twice baked potato, port glazed shallots
Wine: Spann Vineyards Mayacamas Range Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
New Orleans Coffee Pot du Creme
Brandied cream, gingersnap cookie
The dinner is this Thursday, April 19 at 7 p.m. Reservations are necessary at the number below.
MiLa. CBD: 817 Common. 504-412-2580
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Saturday, April 14, 2012.
French Quarter Festival.
Back in 1994, I inherited an annual remote broadcast on WWL from the French Quarter Festival. Chef Buster Ambrosia had hosted it for many years. Even after the station spun off his Sunday cooking program (I don't know why; everybody loved Buster), they kept this remote, even expanding it as more days were added to the event.
I say all this to give this observation extra force: it's hard to imagine the French Quarter Festival getting any bigger. It's hard to move around in Jackson Square, from which we broadcast. But the much greater availability of music and food at nearby Woldenberg Park, along the riverfront, is drawing crowds only be surpassed the Mardi Gras throngs on Bourbon street.
When Mary Ann and I left at four (we had been there since about eleven-thirty), it took twenty-five minutes to move the six blocks from St. Peter Street to Canal. I wanted to check in on some of the food booths in Woldenberg, but couldn't get close to them.
The quality of the food continues to improve. The best dish I had was the crawfish and shrimp voodoo pasta from Maximo's--but that could be because it was the first thing I tried. Tommy Wong from Trey Yuen was there with a new dish (vegetarian lo mein) in addition to the ones Trey Yuen has served since the first FQF in 1984 (crawfish in lobster sauce, egg rolls, and crawfish and shrimp fried rice). Sonny Vaucresson visited with his matchless chaurice (Creole hot sausage).
Of the new items this year, the one that grabbed me most was from a doughnut shop. Blue Dot used its long-john doughnut as the bread for a sandwich of pulled pork and cole slaw, both with an Asian tinge. This was magnificent, and even better if you left the doughnut alone.
K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen--here for the first time--created a long line for its Butterbeans That Make You Crazy (with its side order of spicy poultry and pork). A roast beef poor boy made with prime rib from Dickie Brennan's Steak House, and a barbecue shrimp poor boy from the Bourbon House. Baked Alaska from Antoine's, which shuttled the dessert from the restaurant, two blocks away. Muriel's great crawfish and goat cheese crepes.
We were invited to a barn dance on the North Shore tonight. Mary Ann wanted to go, but she was too tired from all the walking to square dance. I know how she feels. Yesterday I had a sixteen-block round-trip walk to speak to the dentists, and today it was twenty blocks from the parking garage to Jackson Square and back. I am very pleased that even this gave me no ankle aches at all.
Sunday, April 15, 2012.
Shuck 'n' Jive Expands.
I update the NOMenu.com list of all respectable, open restaurants every week. Once a year, I go through it carefully, checking all the listings to make sure they're open, and scouring all the directories I can find for open restaurants I don't know about. This is a project that takes weeks. I spent far too much time with it today, although that resulted in a net increase of nine restaurants on the list.
Mary Ann's first book, The Suzie Homemaker Chronicles, will roll off the press tomorrow. The printer--which acts more like a publisher than other printers I've used over the years--is taking orders for immediate shipment. Mary Ann's sister Colleen bought the first one. My current involvement with the project is getting MA's blog started. I nailed down the web address, but MA insists that Jude take over from there. I wonder how many books I need to publish (I've done sixteen) and web pages I need to build (around 4,800 so far) before my wife considers me competent.
Or, this could be a hard-wired, genetic survival mechanism. Men tend to disappear before women are entirely through with them. (Reading this a second time, I'm struck by how many levels this is true.) Women need to feel (and be) capable of handling life without male assistance. That's also a basic tenet of feminism. Ironically, at the rational level, I support feminist values, and Mary Ann rejects them.
Late lunch at Shuck-N-Jive, the excellent new seafood house in Mandeville. We learned that they're about to add a seafood market onto the restaurant, with not only the usual crustaceans but also fresh fish. I hope it does well. Fish retailers are the big missing piece of the New Orleans area food marketplace.
We started with three medium-size but very fat crabs. There was so much fat in these that our fingers felts as if they were covered with Crisco. We agreed that the amount of work expended in picking crabs is not equaled by the calories from eating them. If you eat nothing but crabs, you will lose weight. Nice way to reduce.
Now a half-dozen oysters of monstrous size. Not especially salty, due to the tropical downpours of recent weeks, but certainly good enough. I followed that with a fried oyster poor boy, with the same corpulent oysters. I've been thinking lately that an oyster loaf would be better with smaller oysters. I will ask for those next time and see whether that's true.
Mary Ann's entree was a single soft-shell crab, instead of the two that the restaurant would ordinarily serve. Nice, with spicy boiled red potatoes on the side. These guys are good.
Shuck-N-Jive. Mandeville: 643 Lotus Dr. 985-626-1534.
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.
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
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.
Cocktails With Tom
Mozzarella en Carozza
Wine: Andrea's Falanghina
With jumbo shrimp and zucchini
Wine: Andrea's Greco Di Tufo
Tomatoes and fresh mozzarella with arugula
Fresh Flounder Bellavista
Stuffed with fresh spinach, salmon mousse, lemon sauce
Filet Mignon Pizzaiola
Fresh tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, fresh oregano
Wine: Andrea's Capri Red Wine
Torta Di Mandole Caprese
Flourless almond-chocolate torte topped with homemade vanilla ice cream
Wine: Lacryma Christi Mastroberardino
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
The slice of Metairie just south of the I-10 between Causeway Boulevard and Clearview is a self-contained community. If you don't live or work very nearby, you're unlikely to know about the dozen or so restaurants there. Some of them are worth seeking out, and this is one of them. Spitale's is a first-class poor boy shop, cooking everything from scratch with credible recipes and serving it generously.
WHY IT'S GOOD
The sandwich menu is dizzyingly comprehensive, and has quite a few originals. Many Italian-style poor boys (sausage, meatballs, chicken parmesan, etc.) are available, as are their companion pasta dishes. There's a New Orleans version of a Philly cheese steak. The "dirty turkey" poor boy (with grilled onions and roast beef gravy) shows more creativity than goodness. Daily specials appear on the expected days.
Charles and Gerald Spitale opened this place in 1983, when office buildings were going up in the neighborhood and the West Napoleon Canal--then without an adjacent roadway--kept the clientele captive enough for a restaurant to be viable. A big part of their business is making trays of sandwiches and the like for the offices nearby. No small number of Rummel Raiders from the nearby high school sneak over for some variety in their cafeteria diets.
The building is a warehouse, shared with far more industrial business. The dining room is utilitarian and a bit worn. You order and pick up at the counter, like you do at Mother's. The low level of service is balanced by the prices. Even the largest poor boys stay under ten dollars, as do most of the platters.
ESSENTIAL DISHES [»=Recommended]
Poor boy sandwiches
»Roast beef (hot or cold)
Veal or chicken or eggplant parmesan
Barbecue beef or pulled pork
Ham (cold or grilled)
Turkey, and turkey club
Fried shrimp, oysters, or catfish
»Red beans and rice (Mon)
»Baked chicken with macaroni and cheese (Wed)
»Meatballs, Italian sausage, veal or chicken parmesan with spaghetti
Hamburger steak and mashed potatoes
Fried or grilled chicken breast with mashed potatoes
Grilled tuna salad
Grilled chicken caesar
FOR BEST RESULTS
The roast beef poor boy, while more than decent, may be the least of their poor boys. Italy really rules here.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Toasted French bread would make the sandwiches better.
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 +2
- Service -1
- Value +2
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar
- Hipness -1
- Local Color -1
- Good for business meetings
- Open Monday lunch
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations
This dish, a refugee from the now-gone Masson's, is an incredibly simple one to prepare, but it heightens the flavor of the shrimp wonderfully. Save this one for when you can find extra- pretty shrimp in the market. The quantities of onions and bell peppers are just as a guide; you should adjust them to your taste. An interesting and colorful variation is to use red, green, and yellow bell peppers instead of all green. The dish is the creation and namesake of Masson's long-time chef Robert Finley.
- 24 medium shrimp, peeled
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1 medium white onion, sliced julienne
- 1 ripe tomato, cut into eighths, seeds and peel removed
- 1 Tbs. chopped garlic
- 1 medium bell pepper, sliced julienne
- 1 tsp. green peppercorns
- Salt to taste
- Dash of Tabasco
- 1 1/2 cups cooked rice or pasta
1. Saute shrimp in the butter until they turn pink. Remove shrimp from pan and set aside.
2. In the same butter, saute the vegetables until they just begin to soften.
3. Add green peppercorns, salt, and Tabasco to taste.
4. Return shrimp to pan; toss lightly with vegetables. Serve pan contents, including butter, over cooked rice or pasta.Serves four.
April 17, 2012
Days Until. . .
Jazz Festival 10
Mother's Day 26
Chef D'Oeuvre Du Jour
#458: Lasagna @ Gio's Villa Vancheri, Mandeville: 2890 E Causeway Approach. 985-624-2597. Lasagna is something you have to be in the mood for. And very hungry. Attached to the concept of layered pasta , cheese, meat (maybe) and red sauce is the corollary that it must be served in a portion so big that only a laborer or a twenty-year-old man can finish it. Even if you can't eat that much, you feel cheated if the lasagna is smaller than brick. That brings a degree of grossness to the dish, and most makers don't get past it. Chef Giovanni Vancheri manages to keep it elegant without mini-sizing the slab. Just the right texture, right amount and variety of cheese, right amount of meat, great sauce, a little crusty on top. This is one of NOMenu's 500 Best Dishes in New Orleans. Collect all 500!
On this day in 1810, one Lewis M. Norton in Goshen, Connecticut, patented a form for cheese that created what became known as the "pineapple cheese." It was shaped like a pineapple, but didn't taste like one. Lewis and his cousin Alexander Norton went on to become what were the first manufacturers and marketers of cheese in America, buying milk from farmers all around the area.
Probably because of Norton's invention, today is said to be Cheese Ball Day. Cheese balls turn up frequently at gatherings in people's homes, usually brought by a well-meaning friend. We'd say I don't know who actually likes cheese balls, but in fact, we do. Philadelphia cream cheese, cheddar, herbs, garlic, nuts on the outside. . . we don't get it, but this close relative loves to make them and people do eat them. But has anyone ever really had a hunger that could only be satisfied by sticking a blunt knife into a cheese ball and spreading it across a cracker?
Much more interesting are spheres made of more delicious things. So we're thankful to celebrate Crawfish Boulette Day, which arrives a little ahead of Crawfish Bisque Day (April 22). Crawfish bisque is traditionally served with stuffed crawfish heads, but both the stuffing (while making) and the unstuffing (while eating) of the heads are messy and inconvenient. On the other hand, you can put all the same ingredients into a crawfish boulette, add it at the table, and have something much better. These also make great appetizers served with hollandaise, remoulade, or tartar sauce. Go to my recipe for crawfish boulettes.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
If you must have crawfish heads for you to accept my crawfish bisque as authentic, then you go in there and stuff the %#!@& things. I've got better things to do.
[One of which is, apparently, having another drink.--Editor.]
Deft Dining Rule #294
If a food has a shell that must be removed before it can be eaten, it had better be really delicious.
queso fresco, [KAY-soe FRESS-koe], Spanish, n.--"Fresh cheese" is the translation, and that tells the story. Most of it involves Mexican cooking, at least in this hemisphere. It's the very white cheese you see shredded atop a wide assortment of Mexican dishes. Made with cow's milk cheese, queso fresco (also called queso blanco--"white cheese") is about as simple as a cheese can be. Separate the curds from the whey, drain and press the curds, add a little salt, and that's about it. There is no aging (it's fresh, you see). Good queso fresco has a pleasant tang, reminiscent of that of feta cheese. That's caused by the use of vinegar to clabber the milk. In heavily Hispanic areas, there's a long-running controversy as to whether queso fresco should be made--in defiance of health codes--with unpasteurized milk. It's supposed to taste better that way.
Crawfish Creek winds through the beautiful wooded hills in the northeast corner of Alabama, growing larger as it flows north into Georgia, in the same valley that the I-59 follows on its way from Birmingham to Chattanooga. The most appealing restaurants are the Depot Diner and Lazy Bones BBQ, both in the rustic little town of Rising Fawn, GA.
Avid Eaters In The Movies
Arthur Lake, the guy who played Dagwood in the Blondie movies and TV show, was born today in 1905. He portrayed Dagwood as a complete nincompoop, and was very funny. As in the comic strip, Lake's Dagwood was always completely distracted from whatever he was doing by the appearance of food.
Actor Sean Bean was born on this day in 1959. He was in the Lord of the Rings series, among others. . . Victoria "Posh Spice" Addams, singer in the Spice Girls, was born today in 1974. . . Daffy Duck first appeared in Porky's Duck Hunt, a cartoon that came out on this date in 1937. . . Nancy Hogshead, who was an Olympic swimmer in 1984, then became a model, was born today in 1962. . . Hamilton Fish, one of many American politicians to bear that name, was born in 1849 on this date.
Words To Eat By
"A poet's hope: to be, like some valley cheese, local, but prized elsewhere."--W.H. Auden.
This May Not Be A Joke.
All of these ingredients have been used, and not sparingly. Click here for the cartoon.
Have a lusty New Orleans meal today!