Wednesday, July 20, 2011
1205 Restaurants Open Around Town (click for the whole list)
On Vacation This Week
I am on vacation this week, through July 22. There will be no e-mail issue of the New Orleans Menu on Thursday, July 21. I will, however, add and update some departments on the subscriber home page. Thank you for allowing me a few days off.
Tales Of The Cocktail Mixes It Up.
For the ninth year, Tales of the Cocktail continues its five-day schedule of tastings, dinners, and seminars today (Wednesday, July 19). It has become one of the most interesting eat-and-drink events on the calendar, surprising almost everybody in the most pleasant of ways. What better place for the country's finest cocktail event than New Orleans, where the cocktail was invented in the 1700s?
Last year, Tales of the Cocktail brought 18,750 attendees together, and in the course of all its events went through 207 gallons of bitters, 2800 blackberries, 1305 cucumber slices, 1320 egg whites, 1760 lemon twists, 2902 mint sprigs, 995 orange wheels, and 475 ginger slices. And seas of bourbon, rye, gin, vodka, Scotch, tequila, and every other spirit you can think of.
The first events took place yesterday, as the sixty tasting rooms, opening festivities, and a few seminars open up shop in the Monteleone Hotel, the headquarters for the event. Although online ticketing is over for this year, you can get tickets for most of the dozens of events at the hotel. A full schedule of everything--along with recipes and other interesting stuff--can be downloaded here.
Things really get shaking tonight, as a couple dozen restaurants host Spirited Dinners. These are like wine dinners, but with cocktails instead of wine. At this writing, most of the dinners are sold out, but some good ones remain. (If I were in town, I think I'd go to the one at MiLa.) The country's best-known authorities on mixology will present major expositions of food and cocktails at the Spirited Dinners. The entire list of Spirited Dinner venues can be seen here.
That should keep you busy for the rest of the week if you're looking to celebrate! Congratulations to founder Anne Tuennermann for her stunning success with this world-class event.
This daily feature is a free service for restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events. Please send all info to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Annual Champagne Soiree
A Bubbly Night At Antoine's Next Friday
Antoine's fourth annual Sparkling Soiree returns on Friday, July 29. What a perfect escape from the heat! A wide array of bubbly wine is poured freely from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. You won't need to stay for dinner after this; Chef Mike Regua will send out a generous assortment of appetizers. The price is only $65, inclusive of tax, tip, and more wines than you'll be able to sample. Last year we latched down a couple of Eat Club tables and had a great time.
I am trying to get the list of bubblies, and will post that on the Eat Club page and in the e-mail newsletter as soon as I do.
The evening will take place in the unique Japanese Room, a large private room on the second floor. It has an interesting story. I will tell that, as well as give a tour of the entire restaurant for those who haven't discovered Antoine's.
For reservations, call Wendy at Antoine's at the phone number below.
"My only regret is that I did not drink more Champagne."--The dying words of Lord Maynard Keynes.
Antoine's. French Quarter: 713 St Louis. 504-581-4422
If you have renewed within the past week, please ignore this notice and accept my thanks.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011.
Eat Club At Juniper.
En route to Juniper in Mandeville, a disturbing thought crossed my mind. I couldn't remember seeing any paperwork confirming that an engineer would run the remote broadcast. I called the station's sales manager Pat Galloway, who was also disturbed by this. He was relieved to see that the gig was indeed on the engineering calendar.
Trouble was, it wasn't. Nobody was at the site when I arrived. Somehow, the tech guys had it in their minds that the show was on Lafayette Street, out around back of the station's studios. In fact, the street was Lafitte, across the lake.
So, not for the first time, I did the first hour and a half of the show on my cellphone. I can think of other situations that get me hotter under the collar, but they're all along the lines of having a flat tire in the middle of the Causeway.
Chef Pete Kusiw didn't seem to be upset. He was too busy getting the Eat Club dinner pulled together to talk with me long. And in less than a week the dinner drew over fifty reservations--almost as many people as the restaurant can hold.
The food and wine were good, too, although there were a few dissenters in that opinion. We began with fried green tomatoes topped with smoked gouda cheese and crabmeat. My mild disdain for cheese and seafood in tandem was ameliorated by the smoky touch, which brought it together. The salad was an interesting collection of greens and magentas (radicchio was the latter). Some thought the dressing needed a bit more richness.
The eccentric dish of the evening was the bouillabaisse, which in past dinners here has been my favorite dish at Juniper. Chef Pete downsized it to an appetizer, and to present it interestingly served it inside a variety of scooped-out squashes. The flavor was good, but different enough from the standard that some were mildly put off.
No arguments were heard about the main course, though. Described as a ribeye filet, it sounded like a contradiction in terms. The idea is similar to my idea of the New Orleans cut--a thick sirloin strip cut into two pieces the size of filet mignon. And it works just as well. It came out crustier than a ribeye is usually allowed to get while remaining in the medium-rare category. The two sauces served with it--one a straight-ahead jus, the other a creamy horseradish sauce--completed a very nice course.
For dessert we had an oddly-configured little piece of sweet potato cheesecake, with some berries on the side. Not a biggie, but a reasonable finish.
We had some good wines along the way, of which the most impressive was Durigutti Malbec from Argentina. That was just what was called for with that steak. I was less happy with the the Wrigley Pinot Noir from Oregon, which was forced upon the bouillabaisse, and almost failed to stand up to it. The orange muscat (now there's a grape we don't see often) made the dessert whole with its sweet tones.
Juniper. Mandeville: 301 Lafitte. 985-624-5330.
Again, I have photographs for all these dishes, but they didn't come along with me on my current vacation in Los Angeles. I will add them to the archives of the Dining Diary when I get back this weekend.
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.
CBD: 125 St. Charles Avenue
It's hard to believe that Kolb's is not still around. It commanded a prominent downtown location for almost a century, and was the first name anyone thought of when German food was mentioned. Its premises were so distinctive that no small number of people went there just to be there.
Kolb's was founded just before the turn of the last century by Conrad Kolb. Its home was fine three-story, galleried brick building built in 1846 as the headquarters and townhouse of Daniel Pratt, a manufacturer of cotton gins. The restaurant became so popular that it expanded into the former Louisiana Jockey Club next door, in a similarly venerable brick structure.
No location in New Orleans could have been better for a restaurant in those times. Kolb's was just off Canal Street, the center of all commerce in New Orleans. It was a half-block from the St. Charles Hotel, the leading hostelry in the city at that time. In the early 1900s, the French Quarter was in a state of decay, and even though it held many great restaurants, the main action had moved to the business district, on and just off Canal.
German food was experiencing a wave of popularity. Many Germans lived in and around New Orleans--maps of what are now the River Parishes, upstream of the city, called the area "The German Coast."
And, like all restaurants here, as years went on the menu took on a local flavor, both from the ingredients and the Creole tastes of the patronage.
Kolb's remained busy for most of its history, even surviving the anti-German sentiments that ran through American minds during two World Wars. It could be that people didn't think it was really German, since it had been part of the city for so long, and they knew the owners and staff so well.
Kolb's was certainly not ashamed of its German heritage. The dining rooms were thoroughly Teutonic, with dark wood paneling, an immense collection of beer steins hanging on the wall, and all manner of German insignias except (of course) swastikas.
The most memorable part of the decor was Ludwig and his ceiling fans. The original dining room of Kolb's featured a marvelous leather-belt-driven ceiling fan system, running about a dozen fans. It had come from one of the exhibition halls of the Cotton Centennial Exposition of 1884, held in what is now Audubon Park. Later, a wooden man dressed in German garb was added to it. A name plate called him Ludwig, and he appeared to be hand-cranking the whole array. (It actually was propelled by an electric motor mounted in the floor above.) One of the further curiosities of the ceiling fan system was that one fan turned the opposite direction from all the rest.
When I finally got to Kolb's, in the middle 1970s, it was in decline. Part of this had to do with the revival of the French Quarter and the decline of Canal Street as a shopping district. German food was, by then, very much out of vogue across America, except in cities where that was all they had (Milwaukee, for example). Kolb's was essentially the only German restaurant left.
Worse, the German food was not all that good. Keep a certain menu going long enough, with not enough customers eating it regularly, and the pressure falls too low to keep the bubble inflated.
And, by this time, most people who went to Kolb's ate not the German food, but the Creole cooking. During a couple of years during which my office was two blocks away, I ate there once or twice a month, and remember eating turtle soup, barbecue shrimp, baked oysters with crabmeat and hollandaise, roast chicken and bread pudding.
All of this was actually pretty good. Occasionally, I'd have Vienna schnitzel (as they called wiener schnitzel). Kolb's signature schnitzel (probably the only restaurant here that could be said to have such a thing) was called Kaiser schnitzel; you'd look at it and call it pannee meat with shrimp etouffee on top.
One wonderful oddity passed through Kolb's for a brief time. Chef Warren Leruth had an idea to make a sausage from pickled pork, the classic seasoning meat for red beans. He liked it, but couldn't figure out what to do with it at his restaurant. So he gave the recipe to Bill Martin, who ran the restaurant in the mid-1970s. They served it with red beans, with a side of a runny mustard dipping sauce. It was terrific. Then, one night, I came in for dinner wanting to try it again, and it was gone, never to be seen again.
During all the years I dined at Kolb's, and long before that, a maitre d' named Angelo ran the front door. He knew everyone, and everyone knew him. I remember him as a very old guy who seemed to have a permanent scowl, but old-timers say he was a nice fellow.
The day I went to Kolb's for lunch and saw that Angelo was gone was when I knew the restaurant's days were numbered. With all the offices moving out of the CBD, all the new restaurants in the area, and the continuing suspicion of what had become to most people a very unfamiliar cuisine, Kolb's no longer had a lunch crowd. Dinner business was very slack. New management tried to revive interest with a long list of new schnitzels with interesting sauces. But it was too little, too late.
And the place was run down. Dick Brennan, Sr. told me that his family had investigated the possibility of buying Kolb's, but after looking at what was needed in the renovation, they decided against it.
A few years after Kolb's closed, a group formed to reopen it as a restaurant--but not Kolb's. It was to be the Jockey Club again, they said, and made a big deal about the great location (balconies over St. Charles Avenue, where all the Mardi Gras parades pass!). But nothing came of it.
And the big "KOLB'S" sign still hangs there. Inside, the steins are gone, the fan system is packed away somewhere, and the old restaurant sleeps.
Red Snapper Cal-Italian
This is a fish dish in the style one sees widely in the restaurants of San Francisco and the wine country. The recipe works for firm fillets of snapper, redfish, amberjack, sheepshead, or drum. But it's even better with whole snappers on the small side (such as lane snapper or vermillion snapper).
- 1 1/2 lbs. fillets of snapper or similar fish (or whole fish 1-2 lbs.)
- 1 fresh artichoke, quartered
- 4 cherry tomatoes
- 8 calamata olives, pitted
- 2 oz. fish stock
- 2 Tbs. dry vermouth
- 2 Tbs. virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 1 sprig thyme, leaves only
- 8 fresh basil leaves
- 4 sprigs Italian parsley
- Juice of one lemon
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
1. In an ovenproof skillet, baking dish, or braising pan, place the fish and then surround and top with all other ingredients.
2. Put this into the center of a preheated 425-degree oven and bake for 12-15 minutes for a whole fish, 8-10 minutes for thick fillets, a little less for thinner ones.
3. Check for doneness with a meat thermometer; you want an internal temperature of about 150 degrees.
4. When transferring to warmed plates, do the best you can to keep the filets together; they will be falling apart a bit. Surround the fish with all the vegetables and juices from the pan.Serves four.
July 20, 2011
Days Until. . .
Satchmo Summer Fest 16
Chef d'Oeuvre du Jour
#177: Creme brulee @ Bistro at Maison de Ville, French Quarter: 733 Toulouse. The maitre d' at the Bistro used to explain the restaurant's most popular dessert by saying that it was "the second best creme brulee in New Orleans." This, of course, engendered the question, "Which is number one?" To which he would answer, "Well, we've looked everywhere for years, and we haven't found it yet." The Bistro's creme brulee is all that. The texture is perfect: not quite flowing, but not quite set. Not ice cold, but not room temperature, either. Sweet, but not too. The caramelized sugar crust is just that--not a pane of thin glass. It's a magnificent study in vanilla. This is one of NOMenu's 500 Best Dishes in New Orleans. Collect all 500!
Today is National Creme Brulee Day. Creme brulee is an enriched version of caramel custard, with the caramel transferred from the bottom of the baking dish to the top, in the form of a crust of lightly browned sugar. That's the brulee part; the word means "burned." Sometimes it is. The texture of the crust varies greatly. Some makers have a granular topping; in other places, the sugar melts and then re-solidified with a glassy quality. If you encounter one of those, be careful. A shard of this crust cut the inside of my mouth badly once.
The creme brulee concept goes back to at least the 1600s in France. Originally, a white-hot poker pulled from the fire was used to brulee the top. The custard is made with cream instead of the milk used for caramel custard. That keeps it from setting completely. A well-made creme brulee will flow, if very thickly and slowly. The first New Orleans restaurant to serve creme brulee in modern times was Arnaud's. Now creme brulee has supplanted caramel custard in most of its former range.
This is Moon Day, the day Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon in 1969. A historic event of great importance but few repercussions. What do we do, foodwise? Eat a Moon Pie? The old Charlie's Delicatessen used to make a muffuletta-like sandwich called "The Moon," but Charlie's did not cross over the fold in our history made by Katrina.
Annals Of Oenophilia
Max Zander was born today in 1920. He was the longtime head of Heritage House, New Orleans' biggest wine wholesaler. Decades before fine wine made its way onto the tables of the mainstream local populace, Max was hosting wine classes, wine dinners and tastings, inspiring people to enhance their lives with good wine. He was accessible and likable, never displaying a hint of the snobbery that scares so many people away from wine. He was as quick to recommend affordable wines as the world's best. He knew about it all, and shared his knowledge, sophistication, love of life, and friendship with anyone who wanted it. He passed away in 2009, leaving behind a legacy of wine appreciation matched by nobody else in our city.
Annals Of Cheese
On this date in 1801, a thankful Elisha Brown Jr., a farmer, made a ball of cheese weighing nearly a ton. He delivered it to Thomas Jefferson. The president found it overripe. . . More important to us today is what Jesse Williams did at his farm in Rome, New York on this date in 1851. He created the first American cheese factory. Its cheese was uniform in texture, color, and flavor, very much unlike Elisha Brown's cheeseball, which was made (as most large cheeses were) by pressing many small cheeses together.
Roots Of Our Cuisine
Yugoslavia was born today in 1917. The Pact of Corfu among the Slovenes, Croatians, and Serbs united their countries into one. It didn't work in the long term, and now each of those groups has its own country again. During much of the history of Drago's restaurant, it claimed to serve Yugoslavian food. Now it doesn't, but it does claim Croatian roots.
sarma, Croatian, n.--A cabbage leaf rolled up around a stuffing of chopped meat, seasoned with savory vegetables. Other ingredients--notably rice--contribute to the stuffing. The roll is then baked or steamed, and served hot as an entree. Sarma is a second cousin to dolmas, the stuffed grape leaves found throughout the Balkan countries. In fact, both dishes descended from the cuisine of Turkey, which in the peak of the Ottoman Empire occupied the Balkans. Each country's recipe has unique wrinkles. The version we're most familiar with here in New Orleans is the one made by the many Croatian families in this area. Drago's Restaurant used to make a terrific version stuffed with sauerkraut and pork, with a light red sauce.
Onion Creek is a country crossroads in the high Rocky Mountains, in the northeast corner of Washington state. It's about ten miles from the Canadian border. Onion Creek is also a stream, beginning in a mountain canyon and running north about a dozen miles. Its water winds up in the Columbia River, just to the west. The town is in a mining area, and has enough people to justify a small school. No restaurant, though. That requires a nine-mile drive into Northport, where you find the Mustang Grill.
Paul Cook, the drummer of the Sex Pistols, was born today in 1956. . . .The Champagne Lady, Jo Ann Campbell, who appeared on most of Lawrence Welk's TV shows, was born today in 1938. . . American novelist Thomas Berger opened his first page today in 1924. . . .German actor Kurt Raab sprouted today in 1941. (Raab is another name for the vegetable broccoli di rape.)
Words To Eat By
"Banish the onion from the kitchen and the pleasure flies with it. Its presence lends color and enchantment to the most modest dish; its absence reduces the rarest delicacy to hopeless insipidity, and dinner to despair."--Elizabeth Robbins Pennell, American writer, 1855-1936..
Words To Drink By
"The relationship between a Russian and a bottle of vodka is almost mystical."--Richard Owen, British zoologist, born today in 1804.
Insane Crossover Du Jour: Bacon-Wrapped Matzoh Balls.
Is there no dish that is resistant to the all-conquering, smoked, cured, fried pig belly? Click here for the article.
A Dangerous Subject.
Some subjects are hard to write about without getting too involved with the main character. Writers--especially in the food and drink field--have found their careers ended by this. Click here for the cartoon.
Have a lusty New Orleans meal today!