Monday, August 8, 2011
1205 Restaurants Open Around Town (click for the whole list)
Coolinary Lunch And Dinner, La Cote Brasserie.
Chef Chuck Subra steps up to the Coolinary plate and smacks out both a lunch (two courses, $17!) and dinner (three courses, $34). Both of these are available every day, although no lunch on Sunday. (That's because they run an excellent brunch every week at that time). The lunch menu changes daily. Here's the dinner offering:
Duck and Andouille Gumbo
Chef's Granny's recipe
Half charbroiled and half Bienville
Tabasco and Steen's cane syrup, roasted mirliton shrimp ragout
Gulf seafood stew, saffron, rouille, croutons
New Orleans Bread Pudding
Cajun trifle, house made pound cake, fruit compote
That bouillabaisse is the best dish in the restaurant, and the best version of thatMarseilles classic in New Orleans.
Good a deal as this is, you get free valet parking in the hotel garage, right at the front door. Good-looking, spacious restaurant, with some nice early-evening cocktail and wine specials.
La Cote Brasserie. Warehouse District: 700 Tchoupitoulas. 504-613-2350
This daily feature is a free service for restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events. Please send all info to email@example.com.
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.
Saturday, July 30, 2011.
Breakfast. No New Belt. One Size Smaller. Assunta's.
A continuous squeaking under the hood of my PT Cruiser makes me think I need a new serpentine belt. The guys at Superior Tire in Covington, who take care of most of my mechanical problems, said they couldn't do it today. But that put Mary Ann and me in the neighborhood of Mattina Bella for breakfast. And it is Saturday morning, after all. Omelette with Swiss cheese, tomatoes, and green onions, with Susan Spicer's multi-grain toast on the side. Very satisfying.
I have no radio show today, so Mary Leigh and I went out to do some shopping. I was motivated by a clothing crisis. What with all the traveling lately, I have allowed my dirty duds to pile up without taking them to the cleaners. I thought I had clean clothes waiting for me there, but I didn't. I'm down to my last shirt and pants.
At the store, Mary Leigh advised me on what to try. She found a shirt in an alarming shade of purple that I wound up buying. She had already turned up some equally bright shirts, but didn't understand that a guy who has been wearing a 17 1/2 collar for a long time can't just go down to a 16. At least not if he wears ties.
She and MA are concerned that the weight I've lost makes my clothes look baggy. I've always preferred a loose look. And fat guys do not look good in form-fitting clothes.
But even at nineteen a woman cannot be told that her instincts are wrong. ML produced a pair of slacks she liked. They were two inches smaller around the waist than I have worn in fifteen years. "I won't be able to get into these," I said.
"Just try it," she said. I needed something for tonight. I tried on the pants. They fit! Comfortably! I am a forty again! It started me thinking that it might be possible to get down to the thirty-six I was in college.
I would not take a step in that direction tonight. As we went through all the dinner possibilities, Mary Ann suggested Assunta's. I haven't been there in a long time. The main reason is that the menu hasn't changed much over the years. Assunta retired some years ago, but her daughter Ann bought the restaurant and keeps it going much the same as it always was.
Which is as a trattoria serving the kind of Italian food liked by the locals. Although a few items on the menu have an old-country quality (Assunta is an Italian native), most of the menu is very familiar.
I started with what proved to be the best dish of the night. Black mussels, steamed, with a sauce of butter, herbs, garlic, and too much salt (I think it might have been reduced too much). Mary Leigh, who wouldn't consider eating a mussel, picked up on the substance of the sauce. "Is that anything like the sauce on grilled oysters?" she wanted to know. I said it was pretty close. She attacked it with a loaf of bread, and won the battle.
The girls split a combination appetizer consisting of three fried things: eggplant, artichoke hearts, and croquettes. The latter are balls of mashed potatoes with salami and cheese in the centers, with a bread crumb coating. It's a lot like aracini, but with potatoes instead of rice.
The girls were wild about the red sauce that came with this. It so excited Mary Ann that she asked for lasagna with extra sauce. Mary Leigh had meat-stuffed pasta shells, also with a levee-break flood of marinara. The portions were for field hands, more than twice as much as my delicate flowers could allow themselves without deeply disturbing their consciences.
For me, panneed veal. It came out sauceless, with fettuccine Alfredo on the side. I will say that they did this better than most places do these days. Restaurants seem to have forgotten how to pannee veal. They either cut it too thick, fail to pound it out, slice with the grain, or grossly overcook the veal. Assunta's only guilt was in the latter category. It should have exited the pan thirty seconds sooner. I fixed the problem by using MA's excess sauce as a dip, which added just the right moistness.
Dessert. I was intrigued by the spumone pie. Yes, it looked like spumone. In flavor, it was too rococo for me. Very sweet. The Marys found a chocolate pie that sounded suitably over the top, and got it. Again, very rich, very sweet. But that's an Italian thing.
The place was busier than I remember. Indeed, we had to wait for a table for a few minutes in the bar. It looks like the back of an altar, and indeed when it first opened that's what it was. I wonder where that altar is now.
The best thing about this dinner is that now we have one more fully-acceptable restaurant to visit on the North Shore. We have been running low lately.
Assunta's. Slidell: 2631 Covington Hwy (US 190). 985-649-9768.
August 7, 1996. We set out for Carlsbad Caverns early. Before descending, we had the traditional western "wagon wheel breakfast"—pancakes and sausage patties—in the little cafe at park headquarters. The waitress told us that attendance at the park had been only half of what it was the previous year, and nobody knew why.
We took the elevators down the 750 feet to the Big Room, thinking that the little legs of Jude and Mary Leigh wouldn't be able to handle the descent from the natural entrance. In fact, Jude was so turned on by the cave (an undeniable mind-bender) that, after taking the hour-and-a-half walk through the Big Room, he wanted to do it again. After that time, he was game for a third pass. Mary Ann suggested that instead we should take a look at the natural entrance. By the time you're close enough to the hole to see anything, however, you've descended quite a bit. So, rather than climb back out, we just continued all the way down—about a mile-and-a-half—to the Big Room again. It still wasn't enough to quench Jude's appetite, and he spent the rest of the day trying to extract promises of a soon return.
We departed to the south through one of the loneliest, most desolate, and (to my eyes) most hauntingly beautiful parts of West Texas. The kids snoozed most of the way, but awakened—hungry—as we approached the first town in over a hundred miles. Van Horn is an oasis for cars: a few motels, gas stations, the western terminus of US Highway 90, and not much else. We drifted down the old main street without much hope of finding a kid-friendly restaurant. Then Jude exclaimed, "Praise the Lord, a McDonald's!" And there we ate.
We now entered the Big Bend country, which I find so fascinating that I named my publishing company after it. We drove through an ancient plain flanked by high mountains, passing long Southern Pacific freight trains running alongside the road, flashing through ghost towns. But there was something new: the near-desert area had been planted with a large plantation of pecan trees.
Our stopping point was Marathon, Texas, a town of 500 people, noted only as the place you turn off the main highway to head down to Big Bend National Park and its canyons. Here, inexplicably, some hoteliers took over an old cowboy hotel and are in the process of turning it into a minor resort. The Gage Hotel is full of antique rooms full of real cowboy paraphernalia and handmade, rough furniture. Most of the rooms require a walk down the hall for bathroom needs. Since my last visit here a decade ago, a cluster of stucco cabanas has been added, each decorated with the same cowboy stuff but with modern conveniences. (And higher prices: about $100 a night instead of $65 in the old hotel.)
Even more unexpected is the goodness of the Gage's restaurant. For dinner, we had a platter of cabrito (baby goat) fajitas with an assortment of interesting vegetables. For an appetizer, there's the Texas toothpicks—fried slices of onions and jalapeno peppers with two salsas, served in quantity enough for a table of four. The rest of the menu was similarly original and Southwestern.
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.
August 8, 2011
Days Until. . .
Coolinary ends 25
Chef d'Oeuvre du Jour
#443: Torroncino @ Angelo Brocato, Mid-City: 214 N Carrollton Ave. Torroncino is an ice cream flavor native to Sicily. It is still found there, as well as in the century-old Brocato's. The family came from Sicily, as so do the flavors and recipes they still use. This one is utterly unique: a vanilla ice cream made slightly gritty with ground almonds and a little cinnamon. It's good by itself and outstanding with peaches or nectarines. A number of Italian restaurants around town buy it from Brocato's and serve it--Vincent's, Impastato's, and Bosco's, to name three. This is one of NOMenu's 500 Best Dishes in New Orleans. Collect all 500!
Remember those purple-printed mimeograph copies that schools used in the 1950s and 1960s? When the teacher passed out freshly-printed mimeograph copies of a test, some kids sniffed the strangely appealing (to them) odor and rolled their eyes back. The mimeograph process was patented on this date in 1876, by none other than Thomas Edison.
Methods Of Payment
On this day in 1786, Congress officially named the dollar as the United States currency and the decimal system of splitting it up. As late as the 1940s, a dollar could buy you a complete plate dinner in almost any restaurant in New Orleans. I don't know when the last dinner for a dollar became extinct, but quite a few such opportunities persisted into the mid-1970s: red beans and sausage at Buster Holmes, dinner specials at the Camellia Grill, and lunch platters at Mother's were among them.
Annals Of Food Storage
The first refrigerator for home use was patented today in 1899. The inventor was A.T. Marshall of Brockton, Massachusetts. It would not be until after World War I that the device became common in American homes, but it changed the way we buy food, and therefore the way we eat.
Previously, anything perishable had to be bought the day you wanted to cook it, making daily shopping a necessity. That habit that lived on long after refrigerators became commonplace. When I was a kid in the 1950s, almost every neighborhood in New Orleans had at least a small grocery store within walking distance to serve that need. Within a decade, that business was nearly dead, replaced by stores designed to provide you with a week's worth of meat, dairy products, or anything else. It was more convenient, but we paid a price in certain areas. Eggs, meats, and seafood in the home would, on average, never be as fresh again.
Ice Cream Island, Delaware is in Silver Lake, right in the middle of the city of Milford, which itself is in the center of the state. The lake backs up behind a dam on the Mispillon River. Ice Cream Island is named for its shape when seen from the shore. It's a small upcropping of tree-topped land, without any apparent structures. The nearest places to eat are the Grand Buffet and the West Side Restaurant, both in a large shopping mall a half-mile away.
St. Louis concrete, n.--A milkshake made with frozen custard and a minimum of milk. It's mixed thoroughly to become so thick that if you turn the container upside down, the milkshake will stay put. It needs to be eaten with a spoon rather than a straw. Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis is the place most famous for it.
Don Cook, who wrote a number of books on American history, was born today in 1920. . . Veronese actor and lyric tenor Nino Martini was born today in 1905. He once did two concerts a week on CBS Radio. . . Carl Switzer, who played the character Alfalfa in the Our Gang movies, was born today in 1927. . . Astros infielder Mike Lamb took his first swing today in 1975.
Words To Eat By
"The first zucchini I ever saw I killed it with a hoe."--John Gould, Maine writer.
Words To Drink By
All animals are strictly dry;
They sinless live and swiftly die,
While sinful, gleeful, rum-soaked men
Survive for three score years and ten.
And some of us--a mighty few--
Stay pickled 'till we're ninety-two.
--A toast given by Harlan F. Stone,twelfth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Budweiser To Roll Out New Beers Disguised As Craft Brew.
Now that we're all drinking beers we never heard of a couple of years ago, Bud's Belgian umbrella company wants to cash in on the trend. Anybody can make an individualistic beer, right? Click here for the article.
The One-In-A-Quadrillion Popcorn Incident.
Theoretically, it could happen. Are you wearing proper eye protection? Click here for the cartoon.
Have a lusty New Orleans meal today!