Thursday, April 19, 2012
1276 Restaurants Open Around Town (click for the whole list)
Earth Day Organic Dinner At Brigtsen's, Friday.
Earth Day is this Sunday. Across the country major chefs are pulling together to stage special Earth Dinners created from locally farmed, organic foodstuffs. Here in New Orleans, Frank Brigtsen is on the lead float of that parade, with his four-course Earth Dinner going off tomorrow night (Friday, April 20).
With the help of numerous local food suppliers (Nick Usner of Grow.Farm, Capt. Lance Nacio of Ana Marie Seafood, Pontchartrain Blue Crab, Jo LaRocca of Covey Rise Farm, Jack & Jake’s, Sue & Michael Chosa of Azul Dulce Farm, and Mauthe’s Dairy), Frank will present this organic menu:
Honey Island Swamp Crawfish Bisque
Organic Baby Lettuces
Chioggia and Cylindra beets, spiced pecans, beefsteak cherry tomatoes, micro radish sprouts, feta vinaigrette
Seafood and eggplant stuffed Covey Rise baby squash
Pontchartrain blue crabmeat thermidor
Ana Marie softshell shrimp, tomato horseradish sauce
Organic savoy cabbage, jalapeno shrimp cole slaw
Blueberry Compote with Creole Cream Cheese
Ponchatoula strawberries, almond crisp
The price is $65 (non-inclusive). Part of that amount will go to the Chef's Collaborative, which is organizing dinners like this in over 100 restaurants around the country. Reservations are essential, as they always are at Brigtsen's.
Brigtsen's. Riverbend: 723 Dante. 504-861-7610
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012.
Brennans Enter Pizza Fray. Ruth's Chris Metairie Is 40. Café B.
Mary Ann's list of guests for today's round table show included a mystery guest. She refused to divulge who it was, but said I'd be thrilled. It proved to be someone I mildly and unintentionally insulted last night at the Best Chefs of Louisiana blowout: Ti Martin, daughter of Ella Brennan, co-owners with her cousin Lally Brennan of Commander's Palace. Ti asked me not to review the slight, but I will say it involved a handsome article of attire she wore to the event.
Ti brought Lu Brow, her cocktail chef from Café Adelaide (which the Brennan cousins also own). Lu made a few cocktails for all assembled in the studio, beginning with Tequila Mockingbird--one of many Café Adelaide originals, and one of the most popular drinks over there. Very refreshing, a little sweet, and aromatic with a slab of lemon peel.
Ti's unexpected appearance dovetailed with the scheduled visit of Darryl Reginelli, owner of the small chain of local pizzerias bearing his name. The two of them had breaking news: they have formed a partnership to expand the Reginelli's chain significantly. They just opened the first iteration of this new partnership in Baton Rouge. They're now looking to open shops in Texas, where Ti's brother Alex (he owns Brennan's in Houston) will also be involved.
Well, the trend continues, doesn't it? Operators of the great fine-dining restaurants continue moving downscale. Not just to the bistro level, as they've done for decades now, but all the way down to least-common-denominator eateries. Pizza. Hamburgers. Hot dogs. Meanwhile, the chains that began by serving burgers keep moving upscale. I find this incomprehensible, but it seems to be working for both the entrepreneurs and the customers.
I had not seen Darryl Reginelli for many years. Early in the history of the Eat Club, we held a dinner at the bistro he operated then on Magazine Street. He closed it down after a couple of years, but soon afterwards came back with his pizza concept on the corner of Magazine and State. (It's still there, but he says he has taken over the former WOW across the street and will be moving there shortly.) The place was enough of a hit that Reginelli's Pizzerias have increased in population around town to nine. That growth will accelerate, now that he has the Brennan's in his corner.
I would not be entitled to call myself a journalist if I had not challenged Darryl's claim of superb quality for his pizza. His ingredients and practices are above average as pizza joints go. But they bake the pies in conveyor-belt ovens, which is sub-optimal. He admitted that he likes what places like Domenica do with their wood-fired stone pizza ovens from Naples. But he says the mainstream customer likes pizza his way.
Maybe so. Mary Leigh, for example, loves Reginelli's. However, the mass-market pizza-eaters are rapidly becoming hip. I predicted that at some point in the not-too-distant future Reginelli's would move to big stone-floor ovens, or slip behind the curve. Darryl just nodded. I think he knows this is true.
Another surprise guest showed up. Ella Brennan--Ti's mother, and a restaurateur of such renown that she doesn't receive awards anymore, she has awards named for her--was on the phone. She likes the Reginelli's idea, she said. She also said she likes my work. Coming from her, that's the ultimate accolade.
Also in the room was Scott Thompson, the beverage manager of Ruth's Chris in Metairie. In the 100-plus-restaurant chain, it's known as "Store #002." (#001 was the Katrina-killed restaurant on Broad Street.) The Metairie Ruth's Chris is now the world's oldest. It opened in April 1972. To celebrate the fortieth anniversary, they will have a special dinner this Sunday night of a classic Ruth's Chris menu, accompanied by 1972 vintage Robert Mondavi Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Locating that must not have been easy.
Talk of the Metairie Ruth's Chris fired off a few calls from listeners who remember what was in that building before Ruth took over. It was the Forest Steak House, a well-known and much-liked restaurant that started on Rampart Street in the 1950s. It moved to Metairie, then to two succeeding places on the North Shore--first to the now-empty building in Covington where Gallagher's used to be, then to the present location of Shuck-N-Jive. Maybe I should have included the Forest Steak House in the Lost Restaurants book, so many people remember it.
I asked Mary Ann this morning whether she were up to having dinner on the South Shore. She said no, until I mentioned that Café B was the venue I had in mind. Then she changed her mind.
We first went to Café B last August--much too soon for me, but I go where the Marys want to go. We all agreed that it wasn't ready for review. Now things are running much more smoothly. The dining room is being managed by Steve Jeansonne, whose wife Nancy used to produce my radio show twenty years ago. Ordinarily, I would put this forward as further proof that there are only 500 people living in New Orleans, but I was involved in this backstory. Steve was looking for a career change into the restaurant business, and asked my advice. I told him to just go straight to the top and interview with the Brennans. He got the job, and in short order he was a manager at Ralph Brennan's Red Fish Grill. He strikes me as the perfect guy for Café B, with a low-key personality to match that restaurant's style and customers.
We began with an order of crawfish beignets. These were the best I've ever had of that uncommon but not unknown dish. They were uniquely light in weight and texture, and came with a zippy dipping sauce. Five to an order; I ate three.
Then grilled salmon for Mary Ann. I don't know if she orders this because she likes it or for its health benefits. As long as she's happy. For me, a roasted half chicken, mostly boneless, with a dish of macaroni with three cheeses. The current fad for mac 'n' cheese has not touched me, but this dishful came with the chicken. I knew MA would like it. Like it? "This may be the best macaroni and cheese I've ever had!" she said. Good! I can come back here with Mary Leigh--also a mac 'n' cheese freak--then write a full review.
With dinner, I availed myself of a Tuesday special at Café B. They pour generous samples of the night's featured wines--free! After tasting, I had a glass of the Merlot, playing the game as they hoped I would.
A bruleed-top bread pudding baked in a cast-iron ramekin for dessert was excellent both in flavor and presentation.
It had rained like hell early in the day. When we left Café B, it had become cold and windy. At least compared with the high eighties we've had lately. I had to turn on the heater in the car.
"We've got to put those rocks back on the moon."--Dick Brennan, Sr.
Café B. Old Metairie: 2700 Metairie Road. 504-934-4700.
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 Mandorle Caprese
Flourless almond-chocolate torte topped with homemade vanilla ice cream
Wine: Lacryma Christi Mastroberardino
Metairie: 3547 18th. 504-888-0654. Map.
Lunch MO TU TH FR SA SU
Dinner MO TU TH FR SA SU
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
New Orleans seems able to support only one high-profile Korean restaurant at a time. First came Genghis Khan. Gimchi came and went in a year (2009). Meanwhile Korea House--an unassuming, little-known cafe in Fat City--has served spectacular and ethnically true versions of this exciting cuisine.
WHY IT'S GOOD
If you're not familiar with Korean cooking, think of the big bowls of brothy soups in Vietnamese places, the high pepper levels in Thai cafes, Chinese fried rice, and grilled, marinated meats like Japanese teriyaki. It has all those qualities, but a flavor all its own, easy to love. The family that runs Korea House will steer you toward the most interesting dishes. High on that list is a unique dish called bibimbab, the Korean fried rice, made at the table in a searing hot stone bowl with eggs, vegetables, beef, chicken, or whatever. The same idea is accomplished with noodles, or without. The soups--particularly the seafood version--are the equal of the best pho you ever ate. It will require more than one trip to dig all this. Even though entree prices are just a shade over $10, you won't have room for anything else except the pepper-hot pickled vegetables called kimchee.
The restaurant opened in the late 1980s, and has never made much noise about itself. Since it was right in the middle of flashy Fat City, around the corner from Drago's, a lot of people wondered whether it was actually open. For a short time, the place claimed to serve sushi, but I never saw it there, and lately a sign there says "No sushi."
A continuous renovation makes the dining room look nicer every time I go, although it's still simple and clean in its lines. It is certainly much nicer inside than the exterior would have you imagine.
ESSENTIAL DISHES [»=Recommended]
»Mandoo (boiled or fried dumplings).
Hae mul pa jun (stir-fried seafood, a Korean crabcake, sort of).
Bok kum with squid or octopus (pan-fried and spicy).
»Bibimbob with seafood or beef (best of all with raw beef).
Man doo kuk (dumplings and rice cake soup).
»Tang soup (spicy, made with a wide choice of ingredients).
»Jam boong bob (seafood and vegetable soup).
»Jun gol (gigantic hot pots for several people, made with some very exotic meats).
Jam bong (seafood and vegetable soup).
»Steamed or fried whole fish.
»Bul go gi (marinated meats--many choices--grilled at the table).
»Kimchee (complimentary side dish).
FOR BEST RESULTS
Although the Korean national dish is the charcoal-grilled beef called bulgogi, make sure the soups, bibimbab, and dumplings are on the table before ordering that.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Some work on the exterior and a little effort to get the word out would put more customers in the place, which would make the first-timers feel 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
- Consistency +2
- Service +1
- Value +3
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
The more ethnic of the two local Korean restaurants here, this small, plain place serves up big bowls of steaming, whole-meal soups, platters of grilled meats, and various other creations in seafood, poultry, and meat. All of this is accompanied by many small dishes of pickled vegetables, sauces of various degrees of hotness (some are as hot as anything you could possibly eat), and other unexpected delights. The best meals you will eat here are the soups, which are much more substantial than those you're familiar with and make for more than ample meals. There’s a list of Chinese dishes, but if you order that stuff you’re missing the point.
I'm not sure who did it first, but the combination of Louisiana crabmeat lumps with fettuccine and an Alfredo-style sauce is inspired and irresistible. This one takes it another step further, with a soft-shell crab (or even better, a buster crab) on top. It makes a good appetizer or entree. By the way, the thinner the fettuccine, the better this dish is.
- 2 Tbs. butter
- 1/3 cup chopped onions
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 2/3 cup shredded Romano cheese
- 1 lb. white crabmeat
- 1 lb. (precooked weight) fettuccine, cooked al dente
- 6 small soft shell crabs, cleaned
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. white pepper
- Vegetable oil for frying
1. Melt butter in skillet and sauté onions for one minute, then add garlic and sauté until fragrant.
2. Add cream, salt, and cayenne. Allow to reduce for one to two minutes, then stir in the Romano cheese until it disappears into the cream. Add the crabmeat and cook for another minute, agitating the pan to mix the ingredients. Remove from heat.
3. Add cooked, drained fettuccine and toss with sauce. Divide among six plates and top with a fried soft shell crab (instructions below).
4. To fry the crabs, rinse and dry them very well with paper towels. Heat about an inch of vegetable oil in a deep skillet or saucepan to 375 degrees. Season flour with salt and pepper, and dredge crabs through to coat. Drop crabs in oil two at a time and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and keep warm until serving.Serves six.
April 19, 2012
Days Until. . .
Jazz Festival 8
Mother's Day 24
Chef D'Oeuvre Du Jour
#275: Porterhouse Steak For Two, Three Or Four @ Crescent City Steak House, Mid-City: 1001 N Broad. 504-821-3271. The porterhouse is the steak for people who really love steak. The presence of the bones, exterior rind, and interior fat all make for a better flavor. Here at the Crescent City--the only steakhouse in town that dry-ages most of its steaks--the added flavor from the aging conspires to create a steak that actually has too much flavor for the less enthusiastic carnivore. The steak comes pre-cut from the kitchen, but sizzling in butter all the way. That last touch was pioneered by the Crescent City when it opened in 1934. It's not as glitzy as the top-end steakhouses, but it's about a third less expensive, too. This is one of NOMenu's 500 Best Dishes in New Orleans. Collect all 500!
Eating Around The World
Today in 1770, British Captain James Cook sighted Australia for the first time. Outback notwithstanding, the influence of Australia on our eating habits is slight. The most popular Australian food in this country is the lamb from down under, found in many restaurants and supermarkets. We also get a lot of cold-water Australian lobster tails. (You never see more than the tail because there isn't much of a head.) These are not bad, but too expensive. Also common are green-lipped mussels, larger than the black mussels from Canada and not nearly as good. Worst Australian eating passion: Vegemite. On the other hand, Australian wines are very good, with the best of them rivaling the best of any other place.
It's National Garlic Day. A long book could be written about garlic, and probably has been. We all know garlic and its many marvelous uses, so I will limit myself to a few facts about garlic that I think are not well enough recognized:
1. The more you cook garlic, the less sharp and assertive its taste. This can be used to whatever advantage you want to take from it.
2. If you need garlic puree, you can make it by chopping it first, sprinkling it with salt, and squashing it with the side of your knife blade while chopping it some more. Or you can chop it in a food processor, add the salt, chop some more, than add a little water at a time while processing until you have the texture you want.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
To get the scent of garlic off your fingers after you chop it, scrub an aluminum skillet with a scouring pad until all the black stuff is gone.
Deft Dining Rule #386:
Garlic mashed potatoes are not as good as not-so-garlic mashed potatoes.
Picnic is a rural crossroads in south central Kentucky. It's 119 miles south of Louisville in a hilly, wooded area. Picnic is right on Independence Ridge, where the trees opens up to the sky. The nearest town big enough to support a restaurant is Columbia, five miles north. There you find the Route 61 Diner ready to serve breakfast or a sandwich.
digestif, [dee-zhes-TEEF], French, n.--A high-alcohol beverage served at the end of a meal, allegedly to help digestion. Whatever such effect you may feel is caused more by the anesthetic quality of the alcohol than to any actual assistance to your stomach. Digestifs are most often served in snifters or shot glasses, depending on the flavors involved. Brandies like Cognac or Calvados, or aged spirits like single-malt Scotch or small-batch bourbons are as much about aroma as flavor. Hence the snifter. On the other hand, the likes of grappa, anise-flavored liqueurs or fruit brandies are more often taken down the hatch from the smaller glasses. The increased enforcement of drunk-driving laws and the simpler meals being served even in the top restaurants have dampened the sales digestif tremendously in the past two decades.
Drinking On Television
Today is the birthday, in 1920, of Frank Fontaine. He played Crazy Guggenheim, a cross-eyed, boozy goofball, in the Joe The Bartender skits on the Jackie Gleason Show in the 1960s. At the end of every sketch, Fontane would change character completely and sing a standard in a deep baritone.
Annals Of Beer
On this day in 1995, the Supreme Court, in one of its less important rulings, allowed the alcoholic content of beer to be shown on labels. For some reason, that had been prohibited from the end of Prohibition till then.
What a great name for a chef! Michel Roux, the proprietor of three-star Michelin restaurant Waterside Inn on the Thames just outside London, was born today in 1941. . . Rocky Horror Picture Show star Tim Curry showed his lips for the first time in 1946. . . Novelist Richard Hughes was born on this date in 1900. His play Danger is credited with being the first drama ever written for radio. His unrelated namesake, Chef Richard Hughes, runs one of the best restaurants in New Orleans, the Pelican Club. . . Courtland Mead, child actor in television and film, was born today in 1987. . . American legal analyst and writer Stanley Fish was born today in 1938. . . Amanda Sage, an American artist living in Vienna, made her first statement today in 1978. . . British soccer start Steve Cook kicked off his life today in 1991.
Words To Eat By
Garlic has inspired more writers to become quotable than almost any other single ingredient. Here are a few good quotations on the subject:
"A little garlic, judiciously used, won't seriously affect your social life and will tone up more dull dishes than any commodity discovered to date."--Alexander Wright.
"A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat."--New York wisdom.
"Garlick maketh a man wynke, drynke, and stynke." --Thomas Nash.
"I have read in one of the Marseille newspapers that if certain people find aioli indigestible, it is simply because too little garlic has been included in its confection, a minimum of four cloves per person being necessary."--Richard Olney.
"No cook who has attained mastery over her craft ever apologizes for the presence of garlic in her productions."--Ruth Gottfried.
Words To Drink By
"Us Virginia girls, we have fire and ice in our blood. We can ride horses, be a debutante, throw left hooks, and drink with the boys, all the while making sweet tea, darlin'."--Ashley Judd, born today in 1968.
Asking Too Much?
Every variation you make from what's on the menu adds a little bit of stress to the diner-waiter relationship. There is a breaking point. Click here for the cartoon.
Have a lusty New Orleans meal today!