Friday, April 29, 2011
1178 Restaurants Open Around Town (click for the whole list)
The Fest Begins Today!
Jazz Festival Food Guide
The first of two weekends for The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival begins today. It has be called the world's greatest music festival, and whether you agree with that or not it must be pretty high up the list, what with Bon Jovi, Jimmy Buffett, Sonny Rollins, Kid Rock, John Mellencamp, Robert Plant, and Willie Nelson among the performers.
Inveterate JazzFest-goers (I've missed only about five since 1970) know that it's as much a food event as one for music. Most of the food has a distinctive Creole and Cajun stamp, including some dishes little seen at other times of year. I've gone through all the Jazz Festival food vendors, and give my opinions on what will be the best food here. .
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011.
The British Invasion. Day Fifty.
The Marys are gaga about the wedding of Prince William and Kate. Every time I pass the television, they're watching the seemingly continuous coverage of it. There must be survival value for the species in the mystique that a grand marriage holds for women.
The royal wedding gave Mary Ann an idea for a radio show. All six guests today were either true Brits or closely connected to something English. It was a great idea. The show was a party from the moment it went on the air.
That was largely due to Frankie Sobol. She's the ex-wife of ex-restaurateur Joe Sobol. When they were still together, in the mid-1990s, they operated a restaurant called Frankie's Café. It was originally where One is now on Hampson Street, then moved to Bucktown, in the former Chateau Phylmar. It was rolling right along with Joe's unique food for a few years, until the building was bought out from under them and torn down.
We got to know Frankie from the days when she did the commercials for the restaurant once or twice a week. Everybody loved her British accent and sense of humor. She got today's radio show off to a good start when, responding to a goofy question of mine, she called me "you daft bugger." This is exactly the sort of thing I hope happens on these round table shows, but it rarely does until late in the last hour. Frankie's conversation remained delightfully piquant--bloody this, bloody that--for the whole three hours. She sells produce in Baton Rouge now, but we'll have to get her on more often.
Also in light spirits was Shane Gorringe, the owner of Zoe's pastry shop on the North Shore. He's very British, too, and had more stories to tell than even he thought he did. The wedding cake he made to serve for 1300 people brought an interesting question from someone in the room. (I don't know who, because I was home and they were in the studio.) "Have you ever made a cake from which someone jumped out?" The someone, we all imagined, would be a nearly-naked young woman. Shane said that he did indeed make such a cake once, but that he wasn't around to see who popped out or why.
Feast is a new restaurant in the Warehouse District, a spinoff of another in the Montrose section of Houston. Its English chef-owners James and Meagan Silk wanted to dispel the notion that their restaurant was all about serving variety meats (a.k.a. organs, or the awful British term "offal").
"That's what everybody writes about us," Meagan said, "but really we have lots of very normal food!" James said that after six months the place hasn't caught on yet, but at least the conventioneers who walk by always look at the menu with amusement.
I was surprised at this. When the word got out about a year ago that Feast would open here, the buzz on the web was enormous. Since they opened six months ago, I've hardly heard a word about it. Is this what it's coming to? It was bad enough that people only got excited by newly-opened restaurants, and drifted away after the novelty was passed. Are the butterflies of restaurant gossip now already jaded on opening day?
Anyway, the Silks had much to say about English food like cock-a-leekie (a regular menu item), bubble and squeak (which made Frankie squeal with delight) and shepherd's pie, authentically made with lamb. Feast was on my list of restaurants to try soon when I hurt myself, and now I'm overdue.
Jane and Tim Lantrip doesn't sound British to me, but they're close enough. They own the English Tea Room in Covington. An authentic London taxicab, a Union Jack, and a red English phone booth stand in front. ("Does it smell like pee?" Frankie asked about the phone booth, getting another boffo laugh. It was the way she said it.)
I've been to the Tea Room a few times, but clearly not enough. I didn't know they were serving a serious breakfast--including an egg casserole with cheese, mushrooms, and a few other things. Sounds great! We'll have to go there this weekend.
Or maybe not. "We're having a big festival for the wedding," Jane said. "We're going to show the video over and over, and have some specials." Of course they will. And my wife and daughter will be there.
Jane had a lot to say about tea. Her selection of teas--both brewed for consumption on the premises and packaged to take home--is practically innumerable. She could (and did) go on at great length about all the flavors that could be had from tea, even suggesting that we cook with it. Not a bad idea, come to think of it.
These round table shows keep getting better. This one was certainly the most fun yet. I can't wait to get back into the studio so I can relate as more than just a voice.
Today makes fifty days since I broke my ankle. Those who said I would go crazy being confined at home almost entirely for that length of time have been proven wrong. My salvation has been the thing that has always got me through trouble: I just dig down deeper into my work.
English Tea Room. Covington: 734 E Rutland. 985-898-3988.
Feast New Orleans. Warehouse District: 200 Julia. 504-304-6318.
Zoë's Bakery. Covington: 118 West 32nd Ave. 985-892-5570.
It has been over three years since a day was missed in the Dining Diary. To browse through all of the entries since 2008, go here.
The more familiar form of Cajun boudin is sold in gas stations and grocery stores throughout Southeast Louisiana. It's spicy and has a distinctive flavor that it gets from an essential ingredient: pork liver.
This is not a hard recipe to make--if you have the equipment and ingredients. But not many people do. Sausage casing is not easy to come by, unless you want a mile of it. You might be able to get a small quantity from a supermarket that makes its own sausages. Then there's the pork liver, which is a special-order item in most markets. You need a meat grinder, although a food processor will do a passable job. Finally, if you want to stuff the sausage in the casings, you need the gizmo for doing that.
My contribution to this traditional recipe is that a concentrated stock made from chicken leg quarters makes the rice part of the filling taste especially good. The chicken itself should be part of the recipe, although pork is the main meat component. Use short-grain rice, which has the slightly sticky texture you need.
- 3 or 4 yards of medium sausage casing
- 4 chicken leg quarters
- 1 small pork shoulder (Boston butt)
- 1 large onion, cut into eighths
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 ribs celery, cut up
- Stems from 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 tsp. thyme
- 1/2 tsp. marjoram
- 1 tsp. black peppercorns
- Liver preparation:
- 4 slices bacon
- 1 lb. pork liver
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 bell pepper, coarsely chopped
- 1 stick celery, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 Tbs. cayenne
- 1 1/2 Tbs. salt
- 3 cups uncooked short-grain rice (not par-boiled or converted)
1. Unroll the sausage casings and soak them in cold water for an hour or so. Pull them open and run water through the casing for a few seconds. Keep moist.
2. Combine all the stock ingredients with enough water to cover in a stockpot or kettle. (At least a gallon of water.) Bring to a light boil and cook uncovered for two hours. Skim the fat and scum off the surface as it cooks.
3. Slice the pork liver about a half-inch thick. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Remove the bacon and eat it. Add the pork liver and all the other liver preparation ingredients to the drippings and sauté over medium heat until the liver is tender. Remove about a half-cup of the stock from the stockpot and add to the liver pan. Bring to a simmer and cook another ten minutes. Remove from the heat and cool, then refrigerate.
4. After the stock has cooked for two hours, remove the meat from the stockpot and set aside. Strain the stock and discard all the vegetables. Return the stock to a light boil and reduce to two quarts.
5. Reserve two of the chicken leg quarters for another purpose. Skin the other two and dice the meat off the bones. Also dice the pork shoulder, cutting across the grain of the meat. Refrigerate all this when finished.
6. When the stock is reduced, pour five cups into a saucepan and add the rice to that saucepan. (Remove the rest of the stock from the heat.) Lower the heat to a simmer for 25 minutes, until the rice is very tender and borderline gummy. Fluff and set aside.
7. If you have a meat grinder, fit it with the coarse blade or quarter-inch die. Combine the diced chicken, pork, and liver. Run that through the grinder once. If you don't have a grinder, a food processor also works, but stop short of mincing the ingredients.
8. Combine the ground meat mixture with the rice, chopped parsley, green onions, and the black pepper. Add 1 to 2 cups of the stock, a little at a time, and mix to distribute all the ingredients evenly. You have enough stock when you can easily make a ball of the ingredients without its sticking to your fingers. Add more cayenne and salt to taste.
9. At this point, you can either stuff the boudin into the casings, or you can make boudin balls without casings. Either way, microwave to quite warm before serving.Makes about twenty-four four-inch links
April 29, 2011
Days Until. . .
Mother's Day 9
New Orleans Wine And Food Experience 27
Chef D'Oeuvre Du Jour
#27: Shrimp And Grits @ Atchafalaya, Uptown: 901 Louisiana Ave. Shrimp and grits (that's the name of the dish, not two separate things) came out of the Carolinas, but when the dish arrived here it immediately achieved heights never before seen in the Low Country. Most of the distinction came through the sauce, which in New Orleans had a way of moving in the direction of barbecue shrimp. better yet, many restaurants have become accustomed to using firmer, tastier stone-ground grits for all grits dishes. The pinnacle achieved by all this climbing is Atchafalaya's rendering of the shrimp and grits, the best in town. It's as good as an appetizer as it is an entree. This is one of NOMenu's 500 Best Dishes in New Orleans. Collect all 500!
Annals Of Presidential Eating
On this date in 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt visited New Orleans for the dedication of Roosevelt Mall in City Park, a project of Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration. Lots of great Art Deco bridges, statues, and markers remain from that. Then they went to lunch at Antoine's, and New Orleans mayor Robert Maestri asked a question that became immortal: "How do ya like dem ersters, Mr. President?"
Today is National Shrimp Scampi Day. Although that dish is a fixture of Italian menus, its name is a contradiction. Like "beef lamb." Shrimp and scampi are two different animals. A scampo (singular) is a largish (about five inches) crustacean with a hard shell, living in the Adriatic Sea. Along the Italian coastline scampi are caught and cooked in olive oil, herbs, wine, and lemon juice. True scampi don't live here in this country. The closest substitute is langoustine. But big Gulf of Mexico shrimp work just fine. So, shrimp scampi. It works as either an appetizer or as an entree.
Shrimp Lake is one of many lakes just over the Wyoming border in Montana, just northeast of Yellowstone National Park. It's up on the snowmelt-fed mountains at the 9700-foot level. Which is not the sort of place you'd go looking for shrimp. However, some species of tiny shrimp have the ability to go into such deep and long hibernation that they can actually dry out completely, but come back to life when conditions are right. It can only be reached by driving some sixteen miles up a four-wheel-drive track, then hiking a few more miles up a pack trail. Don't forget the remoulade sauce! After the adventure, you can have dinner and a good night's rest at the Grizzly Pad Grill and Cabins, on US 212 in the half-well-named Cooke City.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
If the shells stick to the meat when you cook shrimp, you're cooking them too long. The right moment to stop cooking shrimp is the first time you wonder whether they're done.
Deft Dining Rule #614:
Shrimp always taste better if cooked with the shells and heads still in place.
frutti di mare, Italian, n., pl.--Literally, "fruit of the sea." This is a term used on Italian menus to describe a wide range of dishes in which an assortment of seafood is a major ingredient. The seafood is usually in pieces about the size of the tip of your little finger. It can be almost anything: fish, mussels, clams, crab, shrimp, squid, scampi, lobster. Most of it is too small to be used in any other way, although there's nothing else wrong with it. Frutti di mare can be applied to the names of soups, antipasti, salads, pasta dishes, risottos--almost anything.
Music To Dine By
This is the birthday of jazz master Duke Ellington, born today in 1899. Take The A Train. . . Mood Indigo. . . a thousand more works of genius, still played now mostly in avant-garde venues.
Chili Davis, playing for the Kansas City Royals, became the seventy-fifth baseball player to hit three hundred home runs. What kind of person tracks this kind of data? . . . French military leader and statesman Georges Boulanger was born today in 1837. (Boulanger is "baker" in French.). . . Film director John Waters called for action today in 1946. . . Captain James Cook, a frequent visitor to this department, made his first landfall on Australia today in 1770.
Words To Eat By
"Life is like eating artichokes. You have got to go through so much to get so little."--Thomas Aloysius Dorgan, American cartoonist, born today in 1877.
Words To Drink By
"There is no such thing as 'fun for the whole family.'"--Jerry Seinfeld, born today in 1954.
Highly Miscellaneous But Interesting Facts.
Here is a 25-slide show giving statistics on the way people eat in restaurants these days. Vanilla bean is the fastest-growing dessert flavor, for example--and they give you the next nine, too. Ciabatta hamburger buns showed a 1300 percent increase last year. Sandwiches are 18.8 percent of entree orders in restaurants. Not much reading, lots of graphics. Click here for the article.
When You're On A Diet, Everything Reminds You Of Food.
So embrace that feeling. And read the second panel out loud. This is only marginally funny, but I can't resist cartoons drawn in an Art Deco style from the 1940s. Click here for the cartoon.
Have a lusty New Orleans meal today!