Tuesday, October 6, 2009
1033 Restaurants Open Around Town
Eating Around New Orleans Today
I got this news from an advertisement on our site, but I think it bears mentioning here. Keith Young's Steakhouse in Madisonville has installed a mid-week special dinner for two--with wine!--for a mere $70. It begins with an appetizer platter to split: shrimp remoulade, crab cakes, and stuffed mushrooms. Next, a house salad. Entree choices are grilled mahi-mahi with a seafood cream sauce, or a petite filet mignon. (Over there,that's not so petite; the word distinguishes it from the tall, 14-ounce cylinder that is the standard.) Each person gets a glass of either the red or white selection of the day. It finishes up with bread pudding and whisky sauce. This deal runs Tuesday through Thursday nights, from now until November 20.
Keith Young's Steak House. Madisonville: 165 LA. 21 985-845-9940.
Lounges Through History
Today in 1889, the original Parisian song-and-dance bar opened. At Moulin Rouge ("red windmill"--the building really was one) one could not only have a glass of wine or an absinthe, but also see a live show. It spawned an entirely new genre of hangout in Paris. Its fame continues not only because it's still in business, but because of the many posters advertising its shows that have been reproduced over the years. The most famous were drawn by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, a seminal figure in Art Nouveau graphic design. There's hardly a French bistro anywhere that doesn't have a Toulouse-Lautrec poster for the Moulin Rouge somewhere on its walls.
Today is National Seafood Chowder Day. In the Northeast, this means clam chowder, so widely available in restaurants that, with a New England sound, it's known as "cuppachowdah." Here in New Orleans, we don't have good clams (despite the millions of them in Lake Pontchartrain). So when we make chowder, it's usually with leftover fish and shrimp and crabmeat. I like it and think it's an underutilized idea, because it's a good dish and entirely different from gumbo, bouillabaisse, and our other seafood soups.
A chowder contains, in addition to seafood, three essential ingredients: potatoes, bacon (or something like bacon--pork cracklings, for example), and fish stock (or something like fish stock). I make mine with oyster water, which I beg from my friends in the oyster business. The rest is easy. See the recipe in today's newsletter.
While we were on our recent New England cruise, we ate chowder at almost every meal. It's traditional up there to make the stuff very thick. One cookbook says it should be almost as thick as mashed potatoes. I don't go along with that. Nor do I like the very mild seasoning you find in New England chowder--but that's a New Orleans palate talking.
Annals Of Food Marketing
Cream of Wheat was introduced today in 1893. It was a desperate effort to save a near-bankrupt flour mill in Grand Forks, North Dakota, during the financial panic of that year. Thomas Amidon, the head miller, used the "middlings"--the prime part of wheat grains, also called farina--to make a hot cereal that could be packaged dry and sold in stores. The owners of the mill sent a sample of it to their broker in New York. The broker famously responded, "Never mind shipping us any more of your flour, but send a car of your 'Cream of Wheat'." The original logo with its cartoonish black cook was used because the printer of the label found it in a pile of old plates in his plant. Cream of Wheat is a bigger deal elsewhere than in New Orleans, where we're more likely to fill that space on the menu with grits.
Music To Eat Crawfish Pie By
Today in 1952, Hank Williams had the top country hit with Jambalaya, which forever united that dish with crawfish pie and filé gumbo. Not a bad combination, really, and one found on more than a few Cajun menus.
Actress Anna Quayle hit the Big Stage today in 1936. . . Singer and songwriter Matthew Sweet was born today in 1964. . . Mets pitcher David Cone struck out nineteen batters today in 1991, tying the National League record. . . Olympic marksman Lloyd Spooner was born today in 1884. . . Long-time South Dakota Congressman E.Y. Berry was born today in 1902. . . New Hampshire Congressman Perkins Bass, whose son Charles also held that post, was born today in 1912. . . Movie and television actor Jerome Cowan was a big hit with his mom today in 1897. ("Cowan " is a French-Cajun word for an alligator snapping turtle, the kind used to make soup.)
Words To Eat By
"Clam chowder is one of those subjects, like politics or religion, that can never be discussed lightly. Bring it up even incidentally, and all the innumerable factions of the clam bake regions raise their heads and begin to yammer."--Louis P. De Gouy, French chef and cookbook author of the early 1900s.
He Cooked The Best French Food Here For 35 Years
Gerard Crozier Laid To Rest Today
Gerard Crozier, who can credibly be called the best French restaurateur in the history of New Orleans, died suddenly Wednesday night at his post-Katrina home in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The e-mails began arriving in mid-morning Thursday from a wide range of courses. But the most telling was this, from his wife and collaborator Eveline:
I can't sleep so I am on my computer. Gerard just died tonight. I came home at 8:30 from work and he was in bed with the TV on. I thought he had fallen asleep watching TV. When I tried to wake him up to tuck him in, I realized he was dead. He was just going to be 64 in November. Say a prayer for him.
I first met Chef Gerard in 1976. I was rolling around New Orleans East looking for a place to have dinner. (This was at a time when that part of town had many restaurants.) I noticed a sign on the marquee of a new but modest strip mall on Lake Forest Boulevard. "Crozier's Restaurant Francais," it said. I chuckled, turned around, and went inside, thinking, this should be pretty funny.
I started with escargots. Perfect. Then the house salad of romaine with a classic French vinaigrette--although I didn't know just how ideally realized it was, because nobody in New Orleans served a classic French vinaigrette. Then tournedos Gerard: a pair of small filets, each topped with a slice of pate de foie gras, surrounded by a cream sauce with shrimp. I had never had anything like it in my life. Spectacular. On the side was a little plate of braised celery, as a hot vegetable. How could celery be made to taste this good? Dessert was caramel custard, a personal favorite: I could not imagine it being any better.
Neither Gerard nor Eveline knew who I was. (I had been writing restaurant reviews for only four years at the time, and was still very anonymous.) But years later, after I'd forgotten, they could tell me where I sat and what I ate. It was the second day they were open, and I was one of their first customers.
When I wrote my review of the place a few months and several more meals later, I gave Crozier's a 10 rating--one of only four in the city at the time. I kept it at the top for the entire twenty-six year history of the restaurant. The consistency implied by that was one of the restaurant's great strengths. Even as they moved, first to another New Orleans East location, then to Metairie, the food remained uncompromisingly flawless.
Truth be told, Gerard accomplished that by cooking straight out of the Escoffier canon of traditional French haute cuisine, and not varying his menu much over the years. But that is no easily-acquired skill, and he had achieved total, unconscious competence in it. It looked simpler than it was. He picked up the moves by going though the traditional apprenticeships in great kitchens from the time he was a teenager. He had the good luck to grow up in a culinary capital, even by French standards: Lyon.
He is one of the very few chefs working in New Orleans who managed to avoid being influenced by local cooking styles. Crozier's was not a Creole-French restaurant. It was a French French restaurant. And unlike the French restaurants of those times, his was a bistro--the first, really, we ever had. Crozier's blazed the trail for La Crepe Nanou, Cafe Degas, the Flaming Torch, and all the others in that vein.
Gerard came to town for a job at the Royal Sonesta Hotel. He was the chef de cuisine when Willy Coln was the executive chef there, and he was largely responsible for the excellent food at the old Begue's in those years. But this was before anyone cared who the chefs in restaurants were, and nobody knew him.
That made it tough for the Croziers when, in 1976, they went hunting for financing for their restaurant. They were rejected again and again. Later, when his restaurant was very successful, Gerard got even by posting the rejection letters sent to him by the Whitney and other local banks in his men's room.
The word got out to the gourmets about this marvelous little place in New Orleans East. In 1976, the restaurant scene Uptown was nothing like it is now, and diners were used to traveling a few miles for a good dinner. It wasn't long before a reservation was needed for Crozier's--well in advance for weekends.
The Croziers moved to Metairie when New Orleans East began declining, and they had a long, successful run there. They sold the restaurant and retired in 1999. But running (both he and Eveline did a lot of that, as was clear from their ironically wiry physiques) apparently wasn't enough for them, and they opened another restaurant in the summer of 2001. Chateaubriand capitalized on a specialty of the old restaurant: whenever they ran the double filet asa special, they sold a great deal of it. So Chateaubriand was billed as a French steakhouse, with first-class beef and classic French sauces. The rest of the menu was good, too, and included more offbeat cooking than we'd ever seen at Crozier's. I still remember an insanely delicious plate of tripe with pork belly once.
Chateaubriand had almost nothing but bad luck. First came 9/11, a few weeks after the place opened. When that had blown over, the city began installing the tracks for the new streetcar line to City Park. This made Chateaubriand accessible only with too much thinking for most people, and they stayed away. When that was finished, a mad-cow outbreak in Canada nearly doubled the price of beef. That was just moderating when Katrina put four feet of water into the restaurant. The Croziers threw in the towel, moved to Knoxville (where they had a vacation home), and never worked in the restaurant business again.
I always harbored the idea--strengthened by the number of people who call and write me wondering what happened to the Croziers--that they would come back and open a new French bistro. That is now something that will never happen.
Services: There will be a visitation Tuesday, October 6, at St. Pius X Church in Lake Vista, 6666 Spanish Fort Blvd. (
Sunday, September 27. Pot Stickers And Orange Flavor Chicken. Today was dominated by the home dinner for the four of us that Mary Ann decreed must happen. She also stipulated the menu, as she always does, even when I am cooking. We will make Chinese pot stickers and orange chicken. Orange chicken? That's something I know how to cook, but I haven't made it since before our marriage. As far as I know, nobody but me in our family has ever ordered this dish in a restaurant. So, why orange chicken? I never found out. When I was finished cooking it, the girls told me they didn't want to so much as try it.
The logic of the pot stickers is easier. That's a dish Jude was nuts about when he was about seven or so, and still likes. At Trey Yuen, it took$27 to satisfy Jude's pot sticker hunger: three orders at nine dollars each. I suggested one day that we try making our own. They came out so good that we've made them many times since. But they're a lot of work, and it helps to have all four of us working on the project. Mary Leigh cuts the wrappers into circles (for some reason, we can never find the round gyoza wrappers when we need them) and stuffs them. Mary Ann--who makes misshapen dumplings by putting too much stuffing inside (a metaphor for her approach to life) makes the dipping sauce. Jude, of course, performs the essential task of playing the piano.
My job is to make the stuffing with spicy Italian sausage (not very Chinese, but it comes out great), spinach, green onion, water chestnuts, and a little eggs. I also steam the dumplings, then fry them in a hot, lightly-oiled pan. It keeps me jumping, and while I'm not jumping, I'm crossing my fingers that the other three Fitzmorrises don't eat them all before I can get my share.
Back to the orange beef. Unlike most food writers and chefs on television, I admit and display my mistakes and failures as well as my successes. I should have at least looked at the recipe I wrote twenty-something years ago. I would have remembered to burn the orange peel a little first, and not to chop it into the little pieces I did here. Because of that, the sauce had a bitter orange-oil flavor not balanced by the sugar I also forgot to add. Nor did I add the crushed red pepper that this traditionally hot Hunan dish is supposed to have. It was edible, but not exciting or right. I was ashamed of myself, but we had a lot of fun together in the kitchen.
We ate around two in the afternoon. Then Jude grabbed his bag and Mary Ann took him to the airport. He has not said much about the movie work he's missing, but he is clearly eager to get back to it.
I feel bereft, with Ben Bragg dead and Jude gone. I've known for years that our happy Scouting days are over. But confirmations of that end keep coming, as if we needed to be reminded.
Monday, September 28. Mary Leigh's Baby Penne. I have not trod my trail through the woods for a month. The rain has made a few spots impassable except for someone wearing shrimp boots. The marsh effect has only set in occasionally since I built the trail, the summer before Katrina. I got lucky then. I somehow kept most of the trail on high ground. All I did was follow natural breaks in the scrub and trees. One of those, however, proved to be a drainage for a large section of the woods, like a very shallow ditch. When it rains like it has in the past couple of weeks, those five or six rods (when's the last time you heard that measurement? A rod is five and a half yards) become splashy. It hasn't rained in a weke, but it's still muddy.
Mary Ann called right before the radio show to get me ready for her dinner idea, in case I had been thinking of our customary red beans and wedge salad at the Acme. "Mary Leigh says she wants to make her tomato sauce and have pasta," she said. Fine with me. They brought home a loaf of surprisingly good focaccia from Winn-Dixie, and with it Mary Leigh made bruschetta with little tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and fresh basil picked from a very sad plant outside our kitchen door. (We don't do well with basil, because it needs to be watered--something we're not good at.) I ate a big bowl of the miniature farfalle (bowtie noodles) with Mary Leigh's from-scratch tomato sauce, which is just my style.
WHY IT'S ESSENTIAL
Doson's is a Vietnamese and Chinese restaurant in the middle of the blossoming restaurant row on Carrollton near Canal. Eight casual, inexpensive cafes in a wide range of cuisines make that two-block radius one of the most deliciously attractive in town. The clientele is young and hip to Vietnamese food, and keeps it busy.
WHY IT'S GOOD
Doson's style of cooking Vietnamese food is a bit different from what you may be used to. There's a clear Chinese element, even to classic Viet dishes like bun noodles with grilled meat. It's juicier here. The range of the menu is wide, and everything is served in the typical mammoth portions. The menu says, "Special request on dishes, condiments, or recipes instructed by our guests are delightfully welcome."
Doson's began as the interestingly named "Chinese's Chinese Restaurant" on Oak Street. After a few years, it changed its name and its menu to include at least as much Vietnamese food as Chinese. The restaurant made a counterintuitive move after the storm. It left its original, unflooded location on for a building half as big that took between four and five feet of long-standing flood water.
It's a long, narrow room with tables starting inches inside the front door. The decor is spare and the lighting low.
Vietnamese spring roll.
Triple delight soup.
Pho with beef or chicken.
Bun (cool noodles) with grilled pork or grilled chicken.
Chicken with pan fried noodles.
Vietnamese chicken and vegetables with hot garlic sauce.
Steamed or fried whole fish.
Steamed whole or half duck.
Black pepper shrimp.
FOR BEST RESULTS
If you're a regular at some other Vietnamese place, be prepared that Doson's food is quite different from what you're used to.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The air conditioning in summer is freezing.
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
- Value +1
- Wine and Bar
- Local Color
- Sidewalk tables
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open most holidays
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Easy, nearby parking
Ten Best Restaurants For Vegetarians
Most good restaurants can address the needs of vegetarians. If the kitchen buys fresh produce, knows how to cook, and is free to invent new dishes on the fly (or cook what their customers dream up), then it can address the vegetarian's needs.
The following restaurants have a particularly good track record of serving first-class vegetarian dishes, either on the menu or off. Don't be afraid to ask any of these to make a specific vegetarian dish. The ranking is according to the interest level of the vegetarian dishes, not the menu as a whole.
1. Bayona. French Quarter: 430 Dauphine. 504-525-4455. Susan Spicer has long maintained a vegetarian dish or two on her standing menu, and buys fine raw materials to work with.
2. Andrea's. Metairie: 3100 19th Street. 504-834-8583. The best vegetarian dish here is an assortment of antipasto, most of which is made with fresh vegetables. But with the pasta and risotto possibilities, and a wide variety of fresh produce to work with, you may create. In fact, Chef Andrea Apuzzo encourages this.
3. Nirvana. Uptown: 4308 Magazine. 504-894-9797. The Indian cuisines are largely vegetarian to begin with, and this place takes full advantage of that with about a third of the menu consisting of vegetarian options.
4. Thai Thai. Covington: 1536 US 190. 985-809-8905. Thai restaurants are strong on fresh vegetables to begin with, and make everything to order with a choice of meats. It's no problem for them to cook almost anything on their menu with no meat at all, with no loss of flavor.
5. Trey Yuen. Mandeville: 600 Causeway Blvd.. 985-626-4476. Most Chinese restaurants create dozens of vegetarian dishes, but Trey Yuen is better at that than most. A particularly good example is the moo-shu vegetables, dominated by exotic mushrooms.
6. Emeril’s. Warehouse District: 800 Tchoupitoulas. 504-528-9393. No vegetarian dishes on the menu, but they always have a vegetarian special. Emeril's kitchen has always been driven by an aggressive fresh-food-buying effort, so there's plenty back there to work with.
7. Cafe Giovanni. French Quarter: 117 Decatur. 504-529-2154. Here's another spectacular, mostly-vegetable antipasto assortment (you can ask to have the seafood and meat selections left out). And a wide-ranging pasta department, with interesting mushrooms always on hand.
8. Muriel's. French Quarter: 801 Chartres. 504-568-1885. The menu includes not only a vegetarian dish, but another one that's fully vegan. This shows friendliness to vegetarianism, a good sign.
9. Lebanon’s Cafe. Riverbend: 1500 S. Carrollton Ave.. 504-862-6200. Lebanon's menu is riddled with vegetarian dishes, plus meaty dishes that can be made vegetarian. They do this without a second thought.
10. Byblos. Old Metairie: 1501 Metairie Rd.. 504-834-9773. ||Uptown: 3218 Magazine. 504-894-1233. Lebanese restaurants are good bets for vegetarian dining. Byblos uses better ingredients than most Middle Eastern places. Its lentil soup, falafel, salads, and spinach pie are a good start, and there's plenty more where that came from.
Creole-Italian Pot Stickers
Good pot stickers are very good indeed. They're Chinese ravioli, balls of meat with seasonings and vegetables wrapped in a noodle disk. First you steam them (after which they're already pretty good) and then you fry them in a hot pan with a little oil. They're easy to make, if time-consuming; we usually sit around the kitchen counter as a family and make several dozen of them at a time.
Once they're wrapped, you can freeze them to steam and fry later. We give our pot stickers a local wrinkle by using spicy Italian sausage in place of the usual ground pork. Just be sure the sausage is on the lean side.
- 1 lb. spicy Italian sausage or ground pork
- 3 green onions, sliced fine
- 1 small can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
- 2 Tbs. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. Asian fish sauce
- 2 Tbs. rice wine or dry white wine
- 1 cup fresh spinach, washed, cooked, and chopped coarsely
- 1 Tbs. cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbs. water.
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 package of circular won-ton or gyoza wrappers (about 40)
- Vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 Tbs. Chinese red pepper oil
- 2 Tbs. Chinese red pepper oil
- 2 Tbs. rice wine vinegar
- 2 large cloves garlic, very finely chopped
- 1 green onion, finely chopped
1. In a skillet, combine all the ingredients up to and including the wine. Sauté over medium heat, breaking the pork sausage up as it cooks to prevent clumping. Cook until all the pink has gone. Pour off any excess fat
2. In turn, stir in the spinach, then the cornstarch-water mixture, then (slowly, while stirring) about two-thirds of the beaten egg. Remove the pan from the heat, scoop the mixture into a bowl and set aside.
3. Separate a few gyoza wrappers (this is tricky: be sure they're only one layer thick) and place on a cutting board. With a brush, apply a semicircle of beaten egg along the top margin of each wrapper. Spoon a scant teaspoon of the pork mixture in the center, then carefully fold the wrappers over and press the edges together. Seal the edges as completely as possible without breaking the wrappers. Place the finished dumplings on a platter, and cover them with a damp cloth to prevent their drying out while you assemble the rest of the dumplings.
4. You can boil the dumplings in about an inch of simmering water, but steaming over a simmering pot works better. In either case, cook only until the noodles become translucent. At that point, the dumplings are completely ready to be eaten, but you can add further excitement with the pot-sticking trick.
5. Heat a tablespoon and a half of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Space out as many dumplings as the pan will hold and cook until they're crispy brown on one side (this is when they stick to the pot). Turn them to crisp the other side, then remove and keep warm. Add a little more oil between each batch, and continue cooking until all are done.
6. Mix the ingredients for the sauce. Stir well before each serving (because the pepper oil will float to the top). Each person should spoon his or her sauce over the dumplings.
Makes forty dumplings.
Missing something from the old format? I've moved a few departments to the column at left. Click below to go to them.