Wednesday, August 10, 2011
1205 Restaurants Open Around Town (click for the whole list)
Emeril's Adds Speed To Coolness.
Why would anyone want to have a half-hour lunch at Emeril's? Mystery to me, but that's what the superstar chef's flagship restaurant seems to think we 're after. Three courses in thirty minutes.
The good news is that they don't throw you out after a half-hour. That's just for those in a time crunch. Leisurely citizens of cuisine like me and you will go for this menu's price ($19.50 for three courses) and contents (below).
Soup of the day
House Made Gumbo
Smoked Exotic Mushrooms
Fresh angel hair pasta and house made tasso cream sauce
Arugula, Endive and Radicchio
Walnut vinaigrette with Maytag blue cheese and candied walnuts
Chopped Romaine Salad
Teardrop tomatoes, pancetta, preserved lemon “caesar“ dressing and boquerones
Duck Mushroom Toast
Goat cheese, caramelized fennel salad and cranberry coulis
Carolina rice grits, covey rise tomatoes and scallion
House Made Porchetta Sandwich
On ciabatta with bread and butter pickles and pommery mustard
Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée
With seasonal cookie
Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
Today’s Housemade Sorbet
If you must do the half-hour thing, know that the clock starts when you place your order. And that you're working too hard. The rest of us can taker it easy.
Emeril's. Warehouse District: 800 Tchoupitoulas. 504-528-9393
La Bayou, Coolinarily Speaking.
La Bayou is across the street from Galatoire's, in the space that once was Toney's Spaghetti House. It's now part of a chain of unambiguously touristy restaurants. That said, I must note that most of the group's restaurants are well above average for such places. The fact that they're even serving a Coolinary special menu says that. This four-course menu is $30:
Andouille and Shrimp Cheesecake
Savory cheesecake topped with a Creole tomato sauce
Grilled Hanger Steak
Eight-ounce hanger steak served with rice pilaf and finished with chimichurri sauce
Strawberry Cream Cheese Crepes
Fresh crepes filled with strawberry cream cheese and topped with a light strawberry coulis
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.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011.
Mary Ann took a friend of ours to lunch. I thought I'd join them. I raced through my morning workpile and left late enough that they would have drinks and an appetizer before I got there. But that gave enough time for a funny accident to take place. Our friend is having back problems, and a pain medicine he's taking for it is one of those things with which you never drink an alcoholic beverage.
When I got there, he was finishing an old fashioned. He was at least one drink behind everyone else in this restaurant. He seemed a little out of it. Then a lot out of it. It was clear to me that he needed to lie down somewhere. I walked him to the hotel across the street, checked him in, made him drink a glass of water, and helped him into bed. Then I called his brother and asked whether I should call an ambulance. He told me about the medication, and that he didn't think there was danger. I checked back in the hotel room a couple of times. The third time, our friend had checked out of the hotel and was all right.
All I could think of throughout all this was that he was having the same experience I did on Lundi Gras. I too had been doing something I'd done before with no ill effects. I too had just passed a birthday with a zero in it. Those zeros seem to transform the effects of everything we do. I came out of it with a broken leg. I'm glad he's all right.
All this so disrupted the lunch that I don't even want to say where it was. When I got back, Mary Ann had eaten one of my soft-shell crabs and was talking to some visitors from Oregon. They warmed up my other crab, I ate it, and was off to the radio station.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011.
Dinner At Upperline. New Chef Is Leaving.
One of the first callers on today's radio show asked whether the Upperline is doing its annual Garlic Festival menu this summer. JoAnn Clevenger, the owner, sent me her summer menu, but it had nothing about garlic on it. "It's on!" she said when I called to check. "The twenty-third year. Three courses, $34." She went on to tell me that her streak of having chefs stay for a long time (in twenty-eight years, she had only four) was ending. Anthony Spizale joined the Upperline a few months ago after a long stint at the Royal Orleans Hotel. But he will be leaving shortly for a new restaurant going up somewhere in town. He would not say where.
JoAnn, however, was all too glad to run through the details of the garlic menu with me. It sounded good enough that I asked her to save me a table for dinner. I'd call my little sister Lynn to see if she wanted to join me. My little sister happened to be listening and called to r.s.v.p. I have tried to invite people to dine with me that way, but it never worked before.
She had a late client, but that gave me time to shoot the breeze with JoAnn and Anthony. And with the waiter, who advised that the great dish on the garlic menu was absolutely the bronzed black drum with garlic and herb meuniere.
A cocktail was all but dancing on the table in front of me, asking to be ordered. Not after what I saw yesterday, I wouldn't. Glass of--no, make that a bottle of Chablis. My little sister drinks more wine than Mary Ann does (which is saying nothing).
A pleasant dinner, as it always is with Lynn. I knew JoAnn would be charmed by one of Lynn's hobbies: she sings alto in the Shades of Praise, a multi-racial gospel group. Lynn had a couple of pieces of advice on how to make my life better. Women always do, don't they?
We started by splitting an order of sliced tomatoes and pesto atop a little salad on grilled rustic bread with aioli. Very good. Then the spectacular gazpacho with guacamole and toasted garlic, a standard on the garlic menu for years--and well it should be. I had the veal sweetbreads with brown butter--right up the middle with that French bistro classic.
Lynn grabbed the bronzed drum. I asked the waiter about the grillades and grits. He shook his head. "Not one of our better items," he said. I have not often found an upside to ignoring advice like this. That left--among the dishes I haven't had lately--the filet mignon with garlic demi-glace. It was a small one--just right, really--and very good. I asked the waiter why he seemed to be lukewarm about the idea. "You can get a filet anywhere," he said. Of course, he's right.
"But I already showed my adventuresome nature with the sweetbreads!" I said. He shrugged his shoulders. I think the Upperline has the closest approximation of French bistro service and attitude of any restaurant in town.
Before I left, I once again begged JoAnn to write her autobiography. It would be a great read, so many fascinating things has she done in her life. She's one of those people who make this city distinctive.
Upperline. Uptown: 1413 Upperline. 504-891-9822.
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.
Alonso & Son
Old Jefferson: 587 Central Avenue
The New Orleans neighborhood restaurant and bar as we came to know it began appearing in substantial numbers in the 1920s, when the population started moving into the parts of the city we know now as "the wet zone."
They reached their peak in the 1950s, when almost every modern neighborhood in New Orleans was in place. Particularly in the older sections, a combination "bar & rest.") appeared every few blocks in any direction, all over town.
Then began a downturn, as fast food restaurants began took over the job of providing quick, inexpensive lunches and dinners. By the 1980s, when neighborhood cafes were becoming rare, and only the best of them survived.
Alonso's was one of those. It was a classic of the genre: a small, stark building well off the arteries. Central Avenue was the old main route for getting from Jefferson Highway to Airline Highway. After the much wider Clearview Parkway opened all the way from the lake to the Huey P. Long Bridge, traffic on Central Avenue fell to very little. The presence of four trunk-line railroad grade crossings in less than a mile of Central was also discouraging.
None of that mattered. Alonso's had a well-established reputation for terrific seafood, poor boys, and platters (what we used to call "short orders") even before it moved to Central Avenue. Its original location was a few blocks away on Jefferson Highway. It was there for a quarter-century before Hurricane Betsy blew it down in 1965.
Al Alonso opened his new location quickly. It was even better than the old shack on the highway. My memories of this are particularly acute, because I was a teenager living two blocks away. I worked at the Time Saver store on Central at Jefferson, and we were constantly going over to Alonso's for roast beef poor boys or fried oyster loaves.
If we could leave the store for lunch, we'd walk the long block to Alonso's for red beans and rice, seafood gumbo, a bowl of chili (Alonso's was one of the last restaurants around town to offer chili, and it was pretty good), daily plate specials, and seafood platters.
The latter were the best. Alonso's fried everything to order, and it came out crisp and too hot to eat immediately. I remember thinking, years after I'd left the neighborhood, that Alonso's was a candidate for Best Fried Seafood In Town. They really were that good.
They also had excellent boiled seafood all the time. In the 1980s, it was almost unthinkable that any seafood joint would not have boiled crabs, shrimp, and crawfish; nowadays, boiled seafood is a rarity in restaurants. (Reason: people eating boiled seafood make a mess and occupy the table for a long time.)
The only problem with Alonso's in its heyday was that it was always full. Like most neighborhood restaurants of that era, a disproportionate amount of space was given over to the bar, which was fully stocked and well decorated with signs that would probably pull a pretty penny on eBay these days. (Some were made of iridescent butterfly wings.) The waitresses were always running around shouting, and the kitchen was always running behind--mainly because they really did cook everything to order. That was the standard in those days.
Al Alonso chose, for some reason, not to let the restaurant pass to the next generation. He sold it in the late 1990s to some regular customers who had a business up Central Avenue. But it was more work than they realized, and the tide and traffic had turned against restaurants like this. Alonso's closed for good in 2003. The premises have been at least four other eateries since then.
Lamb Noisettes with Garlic and Mint
My three favorite flavor notes for lamb chops are black pepper, mint, and garlic. This simple recipe starts with making your own lamb stock, which takes awhile but requires little attention. It all comes together in an elegant dish.
- 8 double-cut lamb chops
- 1/2 small onion, cut into chunks
- 1 rib celery, cut into chunks
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp. dried)
- 1 tsp. marjoram
- 1 tsp. peppercorns
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh mint
- 1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Trim the bones from the lamb chops. Trim any excess fat off the bones, but don't remove any lean or cartilage. Put the bones with the onion, celery, rosemary, marjoram, and peppercorns into a medium saucepan. Cover everything with water and bring to a bare boil. Hold that for one hour. Strain the stock, rinse the saucepan, and reduce the stock to about 1/2 cup.
2. Sprinkle the lamb noisettes generously with salt and freshly-ground black pepper. In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat with 2 Tbs. of olive oil, sear the chops for about two minutes on each side. Transfer the chops to a pan with a rack, and put them into the 325 degree oven. for about four minutes, until a meat thermometer reads 140 degrees (for a rosy medium).
3. While that's in the oven, add the remaining olive oil to the skillet. Add the garlic and cook until it begins to brown slightly. Add the balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil.
4. Add the lamb stock and return to a boil. Dissolve the cornstarch into a teaspoon of water and add it to the sauce. Reduce until the sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon. Remove the garlic cloves.
5. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add the mint and parsley. Spoon the sauce over two lamb noisettes per person.Serves four.
August 10, 2011
Days Until. . .
Coolinary ends 23
Chef d'Oeuvre du Jour
#193: Bananas Foster bread pudding @ Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse, French Quarter: 716 Iberville. I don't remember who first noticed the now-obvious affinity between New Orleans bread pudding and Bananas Foster. It suddenly appeared on many menus about fifteen years ago. Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse was one of the earlier vendors, which makes sense. Bananas Foster was created at Brennan's on Royal Street long before the family split, and all the Brennan restaurants have long served it. It's a great taste, but a warning is needed: get a cup of coffee, too. It's pretty sweet, in a good way. This is one of NOMenu's 500 Best Dishes in New Orleans. Collect all 500!
It's National Banana Split Day. A banana split is delicious, because of the underrated affinity bananas and ice cream have for one another. (Cf. bananas Foster.) But how can anyone eat an entire banana split? I get full and queasy just thinking about it, but I'm not sixteen anymore. Today is also National S'Mores Day. S'Mores, created by the Girl Scouts, consist of graham crackers, Hershey bars, and marshmallows made into a sandwich and heated to near melting over a campfire. They are as irresistible as their name implies.
Banana Lake is a long (about quarter mile), narrow (you can throw a rock across it) body of water in northwestern Montana. It's just west of the Flathead Indian Reservation. The mountains surrounding the valley where Banana Lake collects its scant water are crisscrossed with ski runs. It's high, wide, big-sky country. The nearest restaurant is The High Plains Cafe in Plains, four miles west.
date, n.--Dates may be the original low-hanging fruit. They have been cultivated in the Middle East and across Northern Africa since prehistoric times. Everything about them suggests that they were created specifically to be consumed by humans. They're sweet, delicious, filling, and full of nutrients. They can easily be dried for long storage. Dates grow on palms that originated somewhere around Mesopotamia. There are male and female palms; the males don't make dates. (What else is new?) They have big but easy-to-remove seeds. Huge date plantations exist in arid areas around the world. They're great for making cookies, cakes, and sweet relishes. They also turn up in savory dishes. We don't use them as much as maybe we should, but at one time they were picked up in Indio, California by the Sunset Limited train to New Orleans, and sold in the French Market in large numbers.
This is the birthday, in 1814, of Henri Nestle, the founder of the chocolate company that bears his name. A great deal of his success came from his breakthrough in making milk chocolate, which is credited with making chocolate candy possible. His business began with nut oils, bottled water, and lemonade. He invented infant formulas, which until that time were unheard of. He saw it as a way for undernourished children with distressed (or absent) mothers to stay healthy. Nestle is now one of the biggest producers in the world of all kinds of food.
Food In Show Biz
Jimmy Dean was born today in 1928. The sausage line he started spun him off but kept his name a few years ago, saying that they wanted a different spokesman. Hunh? He should have started Seth Ward Sausages then. That's his real name. . . Clara Peller, the old lady in the commercials for Wendy's that made "Where's the beef?" a national catchphrase, was born today in 1917. . . The movie American Pie 2 came out today in 2001. No more pie in it than in American Pie 1.
Deft Dining Rule #511
Tarte Tatin, regardless of which master French baker makes it, is not as good as a well-made American apple pie.
Annals Of Cola
Today in 1985, the original formula of Coca-Cola returned to the market as Coke Classic after being replaced briefly and to much public derision by New Coke. However, New Coke has conquered the rest of the world. It's only in America and Canada that Coke Classic is the standard.
It is the feast day of St. Lawrence, who managed the Church's meager funds when it was still being persecuted by Rome. He is the patron saint of brewers, cooks, confectioners, and restaurateurs.
William Henry Fry was born today in 1815. He was a composer who has been called the father of American opera. His most famous work was Leonora. . . Actor Noah Beery, who was on The Rockford Files among other things, was born today in 1913. . . Pepsi Nunes, who writes about environmental issues and history, was born today in 1952. . . Leonard Lickorish, an authority on the business of tourism, was born today in 1921. . . Jay Cooke, a financier who raised a great deal of the money needed for the Union to prosecute the Civil War, was born today in 1821.
Words To Eat By
"Never work before breakfast; if you have to work before breakfast, eat your breakfast first."--Josh Billings, American humorist of the late 1800s.
Words To Drink By
"potable, n.--Suitable for drinking. Water is said to be potable; indeed, some declare it our natural beverage, although even they find it palatable only when suffering from the recurrent disorder known as thirst, for which it is a medicine. Upon nothing has so great and diligent ingenuity been brought to bear in all ages and in all countries, except the most uncivilized, as upon the invention of substitutes for water. To hold that this general aversion to that liquid has no basis in the preservative instinct of the race is to be unscientific--and without science we are as the snakes and toads."--Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary.
Restaurant Health Violations To Be Posted Online.
You probably know that restaurants are inspected for their food safety and cleanliness on a regular basis by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. That agency has announced it will post the results of its inspections on line. Good thing for most restaurant; bad thing for a few. Great thing for diners. Click here for the article.
I've Been Asking This Question Myself.
Especially when the maker of the sandwich is a chef who ought to be in the kitchen of his four-star restaurant instead of his new hoagie stand. Click here for the cartoon.
Have a lusty New Orleans meal today!