Thursday, August 4, 2011
1205 Restaurants Open Around Town (click for the whole list)
Tequila Tasting And Dinner Tonight At Broussard's.
This is the tequila season. Something about the classic tequila drinks--the lime, the ice, the touch of sweetness--seems perfect for the weather. A bracing shot of one of the good ones takes the edge off, too. Tonight, Broussard's is celebrating the Mexican national tipple with a tasting of tequila cocktails, a dinner of dishes prepared with tequila, and a tasting of of aged tequilas at the end. There'll also be wines by Sonoma Cutrer to lubricate everything. Here's the menu:
Hand-Passed Yellow Fin Tuna Nachos
Citrus and Herradura Tequila-infused chive creme fraiche, with mango-habanero sauce
Wine: Margarita, Tequila Sunrise and Paloma cocktails on the courtyard
Gulf Shrimp Ceviche
Jumbo Gulf shrimp, marinated in Herradura tequila with charred pineapple,poblano relish and coriander sauce
Heirloom Beet and Creole Tomato Salad
Cabrales blue Cheese, spiced pecans, pickled red onion and an apple-margarita vinaigrette
Caraway-Ancho Rubbed Redfish
Roasted tri-pepper relish, Jazzmen lime rice, grilled asparagus and anejo tequila shallot butter
Tequila Sorbet with Fresh Berries
With aged sipping tequila ont he side
The party begins in Broussard's incomparable courtyard as the sun heads down at 7 p.m., , with a short talk about tequila, how it's made, and what makes the good ones great by Brown Forman brand ambassador Pedro Berrueco The dinner begins at 7:30. The dinner will be accompanied by the music of James Andrews and the Crescent City All Stars. The price is $65, inclusive of tax, tip, and beverages. Reservations are essential.
Broussard's. French Quarter: 819 Conti. 504-581-3866
This daily feature is a free service for restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events. Please send all info to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cafe Giovanni's Coolinary Is Big (Of Course).
Chef Duke Locicero at Cafe Giovanni has kicked off his summer specials. He has a Coolinary dinner of three courses' duration for $35. Its outstanding quality is the number of choices one has in each course. Take a look for yourself:
Soup or Pasta of the Day
Spicy Seafood Caprese
Fried Green Tomatoes Remoulade
Caesar Or Chopped Italian Salad
Shrimp and Duck Decatur
Grilled Louisiana shrimp with marinated Cajun duck breast and spicy tasso mushroom sauce
Blackened Fish of the Day
Shrimp scampi sauce and St. Andre grits
Chicken or Veal Marsala
Sautéed chicken breast or tender veal, sweet marsala wine mushroom sauce, and penne pasta
Tournedos of Beef
Brandy, green peppercorn, and foie gras sauce with garlic mashed potatoes
Traditional Italian meat sauce
Short Ribs Of Beef
Natural au jus and mashed potatoes
White Chocolate Bread Pudding
The opera singers are there Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Their accompanying pianist is there Thursdays playing solo. There's a rule in fine print that says everybody at the table must order the Coolinary menu or nobody can. That doesn't make any sense, so let's pretend we didn't see it. (Like Chef Duke's going to tell someone who wants an osso buco or a fourth course that he can't spend the extra money.)
Cafe Giovanni. French Quarter: 117 Decatur. 504-529-2154
We'll feature a different Coolinary menu in this space every day throughout the event, and keep all of them online here. The Coolinary is orchestrated by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. Most of the dinners run through the month of August, although some restaurants continue the specials into September.
If you have renewed within the past week, please ignore this notice and accept my thanks.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011.
More Pie, More Sausage.
Another visit to the Crescent Pie & Sausage Company. As it was last time I was here, the place wasn't very busy. Maybe they get a later crowd (the place seems targeted at younger diners) or at lunch. The same waitress with the beaming blue eyes took care of my table.
I asked for a beer. I am not much of a beer drinker, but the long lists of craft brews that some restaurants are featuring these days have piqued my interest. This one was Racer 5, an India Pale Ale from the Bear Republic Brewing Company in Healdsburg, California. That's in the center of Sonoma winemaking territory. It was a sharply-flavored, hoppy beer--one of two kinds that I favor. (The other is big, dark, malty beer.)
First course was a duck meat pie. It was one of three savory fried pies available, in the style of the ones they make in Natchitoches. It's odd to me that they don't have the classic spicy meat pie, but apparently they rotate the contents. This was less greasy than a meat pie would be (both a good and a bad thing), and served with onion marmalade, tomato and cucumber slices, and pickled okra.
Next, a plate featuring merguez, the lamb and (sometimes) veal sausage from Northern Africa. This one was much spicier and fattier than any I've had in the past (from four different sources, none of them in the sausage's homeland). It was colored reddish orange by paprika and cayenne. One its own merits, it was enjoyable enough. One had to be careful cutting into the sausage that the excess oil didn't squirt onto one's shirt, as it did mine. (They need steak knives here.) The plate was fleshed out with taro chips (like potato chips, but much less starchy), arugula, and a version of harissa--the Moroccan answer to hot sauce--that had been reduced to the texture of tomato pasta. I managed to allow a blob of that to hit my shirt, too.
Co-chef-proprieter Bart Bell figured out who I was around this time and came over to say hello and put out some news. The other restaurant he and partner Jeff Baron opened before this one--Huevos, a breakfast hangout--will close temporarily, in wait for a new location. "People are always coming in asking to buy the sausages at retail," he told me. "So we thought it would be a good idea to expand that part of the business. We're going to use the Huevos building for that."
Everybody likes their sausages, and the copy line on the menu that says all their sausages are made on the premises. But I am becoming suspicious that this may not always be a good thing. The primary difference I see between restaurant-made sausages and the best of what's available from sausage specialists is that the restaurant sausages are more expensive. The ones I've had here are quite good, but I can't say I've been so blown away by them that my sausage-buying habits will change.
Start with pie, end with pie. Peach pie, dense, heavy, a bit tart, and bigger than I should be eating (so I left a fourth of it behind).
Despite what I said a minute ago about the price of restaurant-made sausages, this place is inexpensive. All this food and beer (too much) was $38. I think a normal person could get out for $25. I also join the people who love this place in saying that it's unique in its menu and style, and a great addition to the dining scene. It's emphatically the kind of place that could not and could not have existed before Katrina.
Crescent Pie & Sausage Company. Mid-City: 4408 Banks St. 504-482-6264.
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.
Exactly as published, save for corrections of misspellings, typos, etc. As we return today, my wife and kids and I are headed out west by car on a long summer trip.
August 3, 1996. Our first stop after we departed the Dallas sprawl was Jacksboro, a small county seat with some striking old stone buildings and a distinctly western look.
In the middle of town is the City Pharmacy, an old-style drugstore that looked and worked like the old Katz and Besthoff. The draw for us was the fountain and grill, where we had an assortment of sandwiches, soft drinks, and ice cream, all proceeding from the classic stainless-steel equipment never seen in New Orleans anymore. The drugstore was swell, too; grocery bags of school supplies, selected according to the criteria of the local schoolmarms, were waiting to be sold on the shelves.
Our destination for the day was Amarillo. For some 150 miles of the hauntingly bleak prairie, billboards touted the uniqueness of the restaurant we'd plan to hit that night: the Big Texan Steak Ranch. This is a large old remnant of the Route 66 highway culture, with a row of cinder block motels made to look like the Main Street of a cowboy town. And a gigantic restaurant.
The signature dish at the Big Texan is the seventy-two ounce steak dinner. According to the billboards, it's free. According to the rules posted inside, there's a catch. You have to eat the whole thing—as well as the shrimp cocktail, salad, bread, potatoes, and dessert—within an hour to get the freebie. Otherwise, you're into them for some forty dollars.
I didn't get that monster. I couldn't get a straight answer as to what cut of meat it was, and the display model looked none too appetizing. We got more manageable steak dinners instead. The best of them were the $5.75 dinners Jude and Mary Leigh got (complete with cowboy hat); the meat was much tenderer and tastier than the $19.95 strip I ordered. Still, the place was fun. There was a good western trio playing from table to table, and a shooting gallery so easy that the kids even hit most of their targets. And, while we were there, somebody beat the house on the big steak. It only happens every five days or so.
August 4, 1996. Amarillo is one of those towns we Orleanians make fun of for its ordinariness. There isn't much to wake you up in its distinction as the windiest city in America, or its world-leading helium production. But there is something there: Palo Duro Canyon, just to the south. It's no Grand Canyon, but it is visually arresting and fun to hike.
After doing a few miles of the canyon, we turned toward Santa Fe, taking a lonely, somewhat rough, but lovely back road from Tucumcari to Las Vegas (which should have "Not Nevada" added to its name). There we made McDonald's stop number two. The place was memorable for being the filthiest Mickey D's we'd ever seen, and for offering a green chili double cheeseburger. In complete contrast to the standard arches blandness, this set your mouth on fire. Pretty good, actually.
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
New Orleans was not much on barbecue when Corky's came to town. So it made a big splash. It has many aspects of a chain restaurant, but the slow-smoked, Memphis-style barbecue is beyond reproach--particularly in the pork department. It would be a decade after Corky's opened before anything as good came to our town.
WHY IT'S GOOD
Corky's delivers the most important quality of good barbecue: smoke. That's what does all the cooking. This is in particular evidence in its specialties, the pulled pork and ribs. The former is in the smoker for hours measured in double digits, and comes out tender and loaded with flavor. The ribs, on the other hand, are even more densely smoked and encrusted with dry rub. The meat does not fall off the bone; you need to go after it. That's the hallmark of great ribs. The brisket is also good, but not as good as the brisket across the street at the Texas Barbecue Company. The sauce is the best bottled sauce I ever tasted, and has a distinct flavor of cinnamon in the background.
Corky's opened in 1992 as the first branch of the original Corky's in Memphis, a serious barbecue town. There, Corky's was so wildly popular that people would wait an hour to eat there. It was that way for a while after it opened in Metairie, but with so much more barbecue on the scene now you can usually get immediate seating. A fire in the spring of 2009 shut it down for awhile, but it came right back as good as ever.
It has the look of a fast-service restaurant, with a decor dominated by icons from the 1950s and music to match. It's self-service for the most part.
ESSENTIAL MENU [»=Recommended]
»BBQ beef brisket
»Pork ribs, wet or dry
»The Killer (ribs plus choice of chicken, pulled pork, beef brisket, turkey, sausage or fried catfish)
»BBQ pulled pork
»BBQ beef brisket
BBQ pork and spaghetti
BBQ beef and spaghetti
»Roasted chicken dinner
Roasted turkey dinner
»BBQ sausage plate
»BBQ shrimp dinner
Stuffed baked potato (with choice of pork, beef, chicken or turkey)
»Red beans and rice with pork, beef or chicken
»Hot tamales with chili and cheese
Fried shrimp dinner
Starters and sides
BBQ salad (with choice of pork, beef, chicken or turkey)
Chicken or shrimp Caesar salad
Southern style salad (with fried chicken chunks)
Sweet potato fries
»Corn on the cob
»Onion ring loaf
Chips and salsa
Chicken tenders appetizer
Chili cheese fries
BBQ pork nachos
Chocolate fudge pie with ice cream
»Pecan pie with ice cream
»Apple cobbler with ice cream
»Bread pudding pie
Root beer float
FOR BEST RESULTS
Stick with the barbecue. The menu is full of miscellaneous items that they don't do very well. (The spaghetti may be the city's worst.) Barbecue is one of the few cooked foods that doesn't suffer from being taken out; that may be better than eating in. The catering menu is excellent and a great value.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Early on, Corky's developed a New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp (not covered with barbecue sauce) that was superb. It's still there, well hidden on the menu. The side dishes are uniformly just okay.
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
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar
- Local Color
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open most holidays
- Open after 10 p.m.
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations
Cool Water Ranch Barbecue Sauce
I started making my own barbecue sauce when I volunteered to run a barbecue both at the festivals at my children's schools. I used two bits of knowledge gleaned from my barbecue-eating activities. The first came from Harold Veazey, the founder of the now-extinct Harold's Texas Barbecue in Metairie. He told me that the secret to his sauce is that he "kills it"--cooks the tomatoes so long that they take on an entirely different, sweet flavor. The second datum was my noticing the taste of cinnamon in the barbecue sauce at Corky's, the best bottled sauce I've found. Neither source would give me a recipe, so I went my own way. This takes a long time, but it's worth it if you make a great deal of it.
It may seem like cheating to add bottled barbecue sauce to the mix. What I'm after there is the stuff in commercial barbecue sauce that keeps it from separating.
This makes a lot of sauce, because I don't like having to make it often. Put it up in canning jars and give it to friends.
- 2 liters Dr Pepper
- 2 medium onions, pureed
- 1 medium head garlic, pureed
- 2 Tbs. grated ginger root
- 2 gallons tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup yellow mustard
- 1/2 bottle Tabasco Caribbean style steak sauce
- 2 Tbs. chili powder
- 2 Tbs. dried basil
- 2 Tbs. marjoram
- 1 Tbs. rubbed sage
- 1 Tbs. allspice
- 1/4 cup cinnamon
- 1/4 cup freshly-ground black pepper
- 1 Tbs. salt
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 6 12-oz. jars molasses
- 1 quart commercial barbecue sauce (I use Hunt's)
1. Pour the Dr Pepper into a large saucepan and reduce it very slowly to about one cup of liquid. Or, if you can get Dr Pepper syrup, get a cup of it.
2. While that's going on, use the biggest stockpot you have to sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger over medium heat for about fifteen minutes, and stirring every minute or two. (The ginger may turn the mixture green. Ignore this.)
3. Add the other ingredients except the vinegar, molasses, and prepared barbecue sauce. Bring to a light simmer, then lower the heat as low as it will go. Simmer, covered, for about eight hours, stirring thoroughly all the way down to the bottom every ten minutes or so to make sure it doesn't burn down there.
4. Add the molasses, vinegar, and prepared sauce and cook another hour or two. Taste the sauce and add more molasses or vinegar to balance it. Add salt and hot sauce to taste.
Pack what you will not use right away into sterilized canning jars, while the sauce is still hot.Makes three gallons of sauce.
August 4, 2011
Chef d'Oeuvre du Jour
#155: Hummus @ Lebanon's Cafe, Riverbend: 1500 S Carrollton Ave. Hummus is a spreadable, dippable puree of chickpeas, sesame seeds, olive oil, lemon, and a few seasonings. It is the universal appetizer and/or side dish in every Lebanese restaurant throughout the world. I have only occasionally encountered a hummus I didn't like. But this one stands out for its texture and its ample use of lemon juice--the ingredient that pulls the slightly bitter flavors of the beans and tahine (sesame seeds ground into a pasta). It's exceptionally good with roasted chunks of lamb leg. This is one of NOMenu's 500 Best Dishes in New Orleans. Collect all 500!
Music To Eat Red Beans And Rice By
It's Louis Armstrong's birthday, in 1901. He claimed to have been born on the Fourth of July, but records say otherwise. After all these years, it's mostly jazz buffs who understand just what a sweeping effect he had on the music of America. And the music of rest of the world, for that matter. You can learn fast enough: listen to the jazz Satchmo made in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, and it all becomes clear. Another way: Terry Teachout's terrific biography, Pops. That was one of his other nicknames. He signed his letters with the ultimate New Orleans valediction: "Red Beans and Ricely Yours."
In honor of Louis Armstrong's birthday, today is Red Beans and Rice Day. It's lucky that we eat lots of red beans in New Orleans. Of all the beans, red beans (also called kidney beans, but by nobody I know) may be the most salubrious. Loaded with soluble fiber, they have the ability to absorb and remove fat from your digestive tract--perhaps even from your blood. We counteract those good effects by cooking beans with ham fat and eating them with sausage. But they're still among the healthiest meals we eat.
Like many New Orleanians, I have a lifelong habit of eating red beans on Mondays. My mother cooked them every week, sure as the sunrise. I don't eat red beans every Monday, but they're always on my mind then. The lore is that it was laundry day, and the homemaker didn't have time to cook anything that required a lot of attention. Red beans simmer for hours. (It has been pointed out that in most homes every day is laundry day, but never mind.) Red beans are also inexpensive enough that the longshoremen in the family could eat enormous servings of them and be both satisfied and well-nourished. Beans and rice together provide a complete protein, and make a fine meatless diet.
The most plausible source of our bean-eating habit is the Caribbean, where the beans of choice were black beans. Those didn't grow around here, but red beans did. (Most of the red beans we eat now grow in New York and Michigan.) A few local farmers do grow red beans, though. If you ever see fresh red beans, try them. They need no soaking, cook quicker, and taste better.
The major culinary issue surrounding red beans is how thick the sauce between them should be. My mother's beans were firm and discrete, in a sauce that would be runny by today's standards. I still prefer them that way. Others like the liquid component to be much thicker. Some have no whole beans at all. Eat 'em your way.
Beantown was originally a small farming town in south central Maryland, eighteen miles north of Washington, DC. It has long since been transformed by the spreading of the nation's capital into an industrial park, just east of Rockville. Just east is the Redgate golf course with rolling hills and woods--very pretty area. There's a restaurant called Tex's Place in the center of what used to be Beanville. Sandwiches, breakfasts, but alas--no beans.
Annals Of Snack Food
Today is also National Chocolate Chip Day. Every day is chocolate chip day in our house. My wife's idea of a proper breakfast is a dish of chocolate chips and a glass of milk. My daughter bakes a big, soft chocolate chip cookie every chance she gets. I note that in recent years dessert chefs have shown too great an interest in chocolate chips, shoving them into all kinds of desserts where they don't belong. Two particularly inappropriate places: bread pudding and cheesecake.
Annals Of Wine Marketing
By tradition, this is the day in 1693 when Dom Perignon, a Benedictine monk, tasted a bottle of Champagne wine that had gone through a second fermentation, thereby giving it bubbles, and said, "Come quick! I am tasting stars!" This is supposed to have been the creation of bubbly Champagne as we know it. The tale seems to be more legend than fact, but it has such a memorable ring to it that the makers of Champagne Dom Perignon do nothing to gainsay it.
Annals Of Popular Cuisine
This day in 1970, Poppin' Fresh--a.k.a. the Pillsbury Doughboy--was registered as a trademark in the U.S. Patent Office. He was created by adman and novelist Robert Ross. Originally, the Doughboy's squeaky voice was performed by deep-voiced radio and cartoon actor Paul Frees. A few years ago, a funny obituary of Poppin' Fresh ran in the Florida Herald, and has been circulated widely on the Web. Here it is. Next time you're with someone eating beignets who gets a little too much powdered sugar around the mouth, ask whether he or she has been making out (or worse) with Poppin' Fresh.
garbanzo, n.--Also known as the chickpea. A round, dense, pale tan bean, grown and eaten since prehistoric times in the Middle East. It remains one of the most common ingredients in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. Ground up, it's the principal ingredient in hummus and falafel. Most garbanzos are sold dried or canned, although there is such a thing as fresh. They grow in pods of two bright green beans, looking like peas. Since they dry quickly, these pods are almost never seen. The hardness of the bean must be addressed in any recipe using them. Even after being soaked or cooked for a long time, they remain very firm. Food processors have made them much more commonly used.
Food And Drink Namesakes
Composer Arthur Butterworth was born today in 1923. . . Poet and multicultural writer Allison Hedge Coke expressed her first though today in 1958.
Words To Eat By
"But since he stood for England
And knew what England means,
Unless you give him bacon
You must not give him beans."--G.K. Chesterton.
Words To Drink By
"brandy, n. A cordial composed of one part thunder-and-lightning, one part remorse, two parts bloody murder, one part death-hell-and-the-grave and four parts clarified Satan.--Ambrose Bierce, in his satirical The Devil's Dictionary.
Single Plantation Cocoa.
We've come to understand the concept of single-vineyard wines. For those, all the grapes come from one small patch of ground. So why not pick out the places with the best cacao trees, separate that batch of chocolate, and sell it as a large multiple of the standard price? Look out! Here it comes! Click here for the article.
Why Young Men Throw Up More Often Than Older Ones.
Sorry about the gross topic, but in the interest of public health and improving the diets of twenty-something males, we must take a look at this case study. Chain restaurants were almost certainly involved. Click here for the cartoon.
Have a lusty New Orleans meal today!