Wednesday, June 2, 2010
1086 Restaurants Open Around Town
Extraordinary Italian Wine Dinner
At A Mano Tonight
An Italian food magazine called Gambero Rosso (red shrimp?) ranks wines in its pages, with the highest accolade being tre biccheri--three glasses. (They use glasses instead of stars.) Wednesday night A Mano is holding a wine dinner in which all the wines served get tre biccheri. Swirl Wine Market--the good wine store off Esplanade Avenue--has brought together these wines. A Mano's chef Joshua Smith assembled a menu to go with them. It's six courses, presented by Antonio Molesini. Antonio is not only an expert on Italian wines, but very entertaining. (He's spoken at a number of our Eat Club dinners.)
The dinner begins at 6:30 p.m..The price is $100, inclusive of tax, tip, and wines. Here's the menu:
With citrus and fennel
Wine: Castello della Sala Cervaro della Sala, Umbria
Cured Duck Breast
with seasonal berry conserve
Wine: Michele Chiarlo La Court Barbera d'Asti
Sformato di Porcini
Savory mushroom mousse/custard
Wine: Castello di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico, Toscano
Fresh Pasta With Lamb Ragu
Wine: Feudo Maccari Saia Nero d'Avola, Sicilia
Red Wine Braised Wild Boar
Antinori Guado al Tasso, Tuscany
Bittersweet Chocolate Budino
With hazelnuts, olive oil, sea salt
Sella & Mosca Villa Marina Cabernet, Sardegna
A Mano. Warehouse District: 870 Tchoupitoulas. 504-208-9280.
Eat Club Tonight At Ristorante Filippo
Chef/owner Philip Gagliano comes from a long line of New Orleans Italian restaurateurs, and he has more style than most. His flavors are big and fresh, familiar without being old hat. He pays enough attention to his customers that he put all my favorite dishes on our menu. I usually try to talk chefs out of doing that (who's to say that my taste is anyone else's?), but in this case I really think these dishes will knock you out.
We rarely have places available at our dinners at this late date, but we have a few for this one. Time to take off from looking at the oil spill and enjoy something more savory.
Aperitivo vino: Korbel Rose Champagne.
Prosciutto and Melon
The classic Italian appetizer.
Wine: Bonterra Chardonnay
Oysters Al Oreganate
Baked-to-sizzling oysters with herbs, garlic, olive oil and romano cheese
Caesar Salad With Caponata
Hearts of romaine tossed with Reggiano Parmigiano cheese, garlic, olive oil and homemade croutons, with classic eggplant antipasto
Wine: Little Black Dress Sauvignon Blanc
Chicken breast rolled with italian bread crumbs, pomodoro tomatoes, prosciutto ham and pine nuts, served with pasta with garlic and olive oil.
Wine: Jekel Pinot Noir
Tira Mi Su
Italian lady fingers doused in espresso coffee and coffee liqueur, layered with mascarpone cheese and whipping cream
Ristorante Filippo. Metairie: 1917 Ridgelake, 504-835-4008. Click here to reserve.
Creator Of Zapp's Potato Chips
Ron Zappe, 67
Ron Zappe died Tuesday, June 1, after a fight with cancer. He was sixty-seven
Zappe (pronounced "zap-ee") had an idea in the 1980s that he was hell-bent on executing. Even though all his friends and every banker and investor he spoke with thought it was a crazy plan.
"Potato chips?" they asked. "What makes you think that you can go up against Frito-Lay and the other big boys? They'll run circles around you in marketing. You'll never get shelf space. A potato chip is a potato chip." Stuff like that.
Of course, Zappe proved right. His small-batch, kettle-fried chips, with their distinctive local names and flavors, were an immediate hit with the hungry public. Why not Cajun Craw-Taters? Why not Tabasco-flavored potato chips? Everybody loved them.
And to make sure, Ron Zappe was always showing up wherever a lot of people might be so they could try his chips. An engaging, generous, and funny guy, he made people smile when they thought of him. When he heard me talking on the radio about going with my son on a Boy Scout campout, he sent a few cases of chips to the school to make it more fun. He was always doing things like that.
Zappe opened his plant in Gramercy, a place where the 1980s oil bust had put a lot of people out of work. Zapp's Potato Chips became an engine of the economy in the area, ultimately employing 200 people.
Meanwhile Zappe's potato chips went beyond Southeast Louisiana. They were essential in any care package of local products sent to people out of town. And then they started showing up in supermarkets far away.
Zapp's Potato Chips will crunch ahead as his legacy. I will miss seeing his burly, smiling face.
Tuesday, May 25. Awfully Glad To Be Unhappy. If I were a tunnel guard or a cement mixer or a bathroom attendant, today would have seemed like an exciting day. But everything's relative, and relative to my normal days this was my idea of an exasperating one. Most of it had to do with yet another unannounced crippling of hundreds of websites--including mine--by Network Solutions. At the radio station, I found that I had to do eighteen live commercials during my three hours. That may not seem like much to complain about. But every commercial I ad lib means one fewer recorded one. Most talk show hosts use commercial breaks to catch their breath and organize their thoughts, a luxury I don't have.
No, not a horrible hardship. But. . . it was the kind of day which, two years ago, would have had me running out of the radio studio at the end of the show for an emergency martini. The thought crossed my mind, but I'm happy to say that I am largely out of the cocktail habit. It started with Katrina, and continued for four years. I now have one or two a week, if that. I don't know how close I got to a drinking problem, and I don't want to know.
I had a couple more commercials to record after the show. By the time I was finished those, it was too late to do anything serious for dinner. I wandered uptown and wound up on Maple Street again, in the dining room of Antonio's. Empty. Antonio said to come in anyway. A few minutes later, a couple of young women entered and brightened the room a bit.
The menu is full of steaks, lamb chops, pork chops, and big seafood dishes that sounded good but were well beyond appreciation by my appetite tonight. I settled on a dinner of a salad and a light pasta dish. The former was extraordinarily good, a collection of greens and vegetables--avocado and artichoke hearts among them--all chopped up into dice. I love salads like this, and this one was everything I hoped for.
Antonio helped me choose between pasta entrees of two different colors, recommending the pasta rusticana, with its richer, creamier sauce. It contained grilled chicken cut into strips, large stems of broccoli, and a lot (maybe a little too much) shredded parmesan, all over penne pasta. Never found anything to make me stop eating this until I hit bottom.
I couldn't quite handle a whole piece of tiramisu, but I got through enough of it to know that it's in the top rank. This had been a very good meal for a light one.
Why Antonio's doesn't attract more business I don't know. There's a chance that it's the building, although there's nothing obviously wrong with it. The dining room is spacious, nicely decorated, and pleasantly lit. It's in a converted house with some steps and a small porch, which may communicate a lack of seriousness in the kitchen--but that is certainly not the case. But it's something, because quite a few good restaurants have failed to make it here. I hope this one does.
Antonio's. Riverbend: 7708 Maple St. 504-218-5457.
Jefferson: 4402 Jefferson Hwy . 504-324-5613 . Map.
Lunch Tuesday-Saturday. Dinner Wednesday-Saturday.
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Jefferson Highway is the longest thoroughfare in East Jefferson Parish, lined with industry, businesses, and neighborhoods (some of then affluent). But it has very few restaurants. In Old Jefferson, the closing of Alonso's left the area without a good neighborhood cafe. Joe Sepie's, despite its minuscule size, is the best of a few who have filled this gap.
WHY IT'S GOOD
For such a tiny place, Joe Sepie's has a menu that covers more ground than do most neighborhood places. The joke in the name (say "Giuseppe") clues us into the Italian aspect of the kitchen. From it comes the standards of pasta and red (or white) sauce. Poor boy sandwiches are a big deal here, too. These achieve distinction by offering new variations on the standard ingredients (the roast beef poor boy, for example, can be had with a special sauce with mushrooms and an almost barbecue-like tang). They fry seafood platters to order and grill burgers of such juiciness that the name "splatburger" is entirely appropriate. They even make their own hot tamales--among the best around.
This little spot, for many years shared with a hardware store, opened in 2004 and quickly created a buzz among people who live and work in the area (notably among the staff at the enormous Ochsner Hospital, a mile away). It had been a poor boy shop called Grand Central Station for a few decades before, so it was easy for the neighbors to define.
The dining area is limited to a handful of tables just in front of the order counter, but with big enough windows to make it comfortable enough.
Greek salad with chicken or shrimp
Fried onion rings
Poor boy sandwiches:
Ultimate roast beef (with mushrooms, cheese, etc.)
Meatball or sausage with red sauce
Fried oyster or shrimp
Splatburgers (very juicy)
Red beans and rice with choice of sausages
Fried seafood platters
Crab cakes with white remoulade
Angel hair pasta with New Orleans sweet red sauce and meatballs or Italian sausage
Fettuccine Alfredo with crawfish, veal, or chicken
Angel hair pasta with meatballs, Italian sausage, breaded veal, or chicken
FOR BEST RESULTS
Show up on the late side of lunch, or for dinner. The Ochsner Hospital crowd loves the place.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
More space is the most obvious need.
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 +2
- Wine and Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color
- Sidewalk tables
- Open all afternoon
- Closes for dinner at 8 p.m.
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations
Ten Best Restaurants For Escargots
Eating snails, after languishing as passe for a decade or two, has become popular again. Here are the best snails in town right now. Although a few innovative versions are on the list, most of them are bubbling (we hope) in garlic butter. There's nothing like garlic butter.
5. Brennan’s. French Quarter: 417 Royal. 504-525-9711. This is the garlic-and-herb butter again, green from the herbs. What makes this striking is that it's the only serving of snails in New Orleans that uses actual snail shells.
6. Keith Young’s Steak House. Madisonville: 165 LA. 21. 985-845-9940. The standard garlic-herb butter, best on the North Shore. It's a light appetizer (if you don't eat too much bread), leaving room for the steak.
7. Pelican Club. French Quarter: 615 Bienville. 504-523-1504. They've always served their snails with a sort of Asian-inspired sauce, although there's no lack of garlic either. They're topped with what the restaurant calls puff pastry "hats." Cute, and good.
10. Ciro’s Cote Sud. Riverbend: 7918 Maple. 504-866-9551. The very French bistro and pizza maker brings the classic bourguignonne version out smelling great, with more than the average amount of butter.
Have I missed a good one? If you know of a great version of snails that belongs on this list, post it on our messageboard. (You'll also find other people's suggestions there.)
Red Bean and Corn Salad
My wife Mary Ann found a recipe for black beans and corn in a great book called "Summertime Treats" by Sara Perry. I fooled around with it a little and came up with this variation. This becomes a fantastic recipe if you ever get your hands on some fresh red beans, which show up in stores now and then.
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Juice of two limes
- 1 large clove garlic, chopped
- 1/4 tsp. cumin
- 1/2 tsp. spicy paprika
- 1/2 tsp. celery seed
- 2 cups dried red beans, or 3 cups fresh
- 2 cups corn (fresh or frozen)
- 1 each red and yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 1 large ripe tomato, finely cubed
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1. If you're using dried beans, sort through them first to remove dirt and bad ones, then rinse. Boil in water only until they're tender, but not even beginning to fall apart. Drain and cool.
2. Make the dressing by whisking all the dressing ingredients together and refrigerating. If you can make it an hour or more ahead of time, the flavors will blend well.
2. Toss all the vegetables except the tomato and the cilantro in a bowl. Pour the dressing over the top, add the tomato and cilantro, and toss again. This gets distinctly better if it sits about a half-hour before serving.