Wednesday, October 7, 2009
1033 Restaurants Open Around Town
Eating Around New Orleans Today
A couple of years ago, Horst and Karen Pfeifer thought they'd take advantage of their German heritage (Horst was born in Germany) and that of their restaurant (Middendorf's) and run a few Oktoberfest specials. But Middendorf's is known for catfish and oysters, not rouladen and sauerkraut, and they were uncertain whether anyone would bother with the German dishes. It proved to be a runaway success. They would have done it again last year had the restaurant not been struggling to recover from the Hurricane Gustav flood. But now the old restaurant--both buildings--are back in operation, and here comes the German food. It's a short menu of specials on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The dishes change every week through the month of October. I haven't been, but everybody who reports back to me says it's delightful.
Middendorf's. Manchac: Exit 15 off I-55, Manchac 985-386-6666.
This is National Bacon Day. Good bacon is so intensely delicious that the temptation is string to overeat it. Fry up a whole pound of it and leave it on the kitchen counter, and it's gone within minutes. Breakfast buffets are popular mainly because they offer unlimited bacon.
Bacon comes from the belly and sides of a pig. On pigs, as on our own bodies, fat is concentrated in those areas. The fatty pork belly is first cured in a combination of sugar, salt, and pickling spices--usually by injecting a brine solution. Then it's smoked.
At several points in the curing process, decisions about quality are made. Bacon can be dry-cured, like prosciutto, or injected with salt brine. It can be cured with honey or molasses instead of cane sugar. The smoke can come from a real smokehouse with fruit or nut woods. That's what makes some bacons better (and more expensive) than others.
About three-fourths of all the bacon eaten in America is eaten at breakfast. That's a habit we picked up from the Brits. Bacon is a British invention, consumed even more avidly there than here. Almost nowhere else is bacon such a breakfast staple.
To accommodate our urge to overeat bacon, restaurants overserve it. Almost any dish sells better and at a higher price if bacon is included. This is why atrocities like the bacon cheeseburger--which ruins bacon, cheese, and ground beef simultaneously--has become so universal. The same mechanism works in the gourmet segment. Every time you see bacon wrapped around a scallop, note how the bacon alone it piqued your interest. Even though it's a better dish without the bacon.
Inexpensive, commercial bacon has improved in flavor in recent years. Many of them have an almost perfect balance of sweet, salt and smoke. It's often accomplished entirely by injecting brine, which makes the bacon shrink enormously when it's cooked. The best bacon doesn't shrink much.
Physiology Of Eating
Rudolf Leuckart, a German zoologist, was born today in 1822. He undertook the study of worms, particularly very small parasitic worms that can causes diseases. He figured out why eating undercooked pork can cause a problem: it admits the parasitic trichina worm into the body. He also did a lot of work on liver flukes, tapeworms, and other disgusting invaders. We don't have to worry about them much now as a result of Leuckart's research.
Annals Of Chain Restaurants
PepsiCo, the maker of the perennial second-place cola, ceased to be the world's largest operator of restaurants today in 1997. It spun off its restaurant unit--which included Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell--into a new company now misnamed Yum! Brands.
This is the feast day of St. Bacchus, a former high military officer in the Roman army. When he converted to Christianity, he soon became a martyr. He was beaten to death in 303. A saint named for the Roman god of wine, he has a church named for him in Rome.
Music To Eat Turtle Soup By
Today in 1962, the Four Seasons' song Sherry made it to the top of the pop music charts. It became the group's most distinctive record, with the falsetto lead vocals of Frankie Valli and good harmonies by the other three singers. Sherry, baby.
Food And Drink Namesakes
Actor Dylan Baker, who was in two Spider-Man movies, came out of the oven today in 1959. . . Pakistani cricket professional Salman Butt (almost a rare double food name) stepped up to the Big Wicket today in 1984. . . Tang Wei, an actress in China, auditioned for life today in 1979. She passed.
Words To Eat By
“A couple of flitches of bacon are worth fifty thousand Methodist sermons and religious tracts. They are great softeners of temper and promoters of domestic harmony.”--William Cobbett, nineteenth-century British political writer.
Tuesday, September 29. Last Chance To Meet The Teacher. Camellia Grill. Every fall since Jude began school in 1994, Mary Ann and I have shown up for Parents Night at the current schools, to meet our kids' new teachers. From kindergarten through high school, it's been a changeless routine. We move from classroom to classroom with the other parents and sit in little desks (for the first few years, anyway). The teacher tells us what the program will be and answers questions. Then a bell rings and we move to the next classroom.
Tonight, we went through this ritual for the last time. Mary Leigh is a senior, and there's no such event in college. Late because of the radio show, I made it in time for the last three classes. First the art room--site of Mary Leigh's favorite part of the day. Then we wandered (there's no other word for it) over to Physics. The teacher takes a sort of Mr. Wizard approach, it seems. His classroom had enough ongoing experiments to look like a museum. The final class was in the history department, but its official title is Comparative Government. That sounds like a college course--and indeed, as an advanced placement class, Mary Leigh gets college credit for it. The teacher came across like a university instructor, too. She said there would be a lot of emphasis on research papers, the kind one does in college.
"It's been worth every penny," Mary Ann said to me on our way out. That is a fact. McGehee is the only school Mary Leigh ever really liked, and she has done very well--especially considering that she came to McGehee just two years ago, in mid-semester. The school, with the help of the expansion of the mind that happens at her age, has made her blossom wonderfully.
The Marys were ready for supper when it all ended. I suggested the Camellia Grill, knowing Mary Leigh would go for that. I haven't been there since shortly after Hicham Khodr bought the place a couple of years ago. I expected a line, but the shorter time spent eating there than in the other places we considered would allow the girls could get home at a reasonable hour.
In fact, it was a slow night. Lots of open stools, and one of the two grills was shut down. I grabbed one of the four best seats in the house (the ones at the inside corners, which give you three times more space than any other in the place) and asked if Harry could wait on me. That always gets a funny look from the waiter, who doesn't know whether to chuckle along with me or somberly break the news that Harry--the most famous waiter in the history of the New Orleans restaurant business--died a couple of years ago. I relieve the stress by reporting that I attended the funeral.
Mary Leigh had a cheeseburger, of course. She is my hamburger consultant. Her assessment: the burgers here very much fulfill the promise of their fame. I sampled the other house entree specialty: an omelette. Although I ate the first omelette of my life here (so it should have become an ideal), I have always found the Camellia Grill's famously fluffed-up omelettes and scorched.
The variety I ordered was a new one. The Manhattan contains corned beef, onions, potatoes, and cheese. It took forever to come out, but when it did, I was very pleased. It was still scorched, but not badly. Still dry, but with so many ingredients that wasn't a problem, either. In fact, it may have been the best omelette I ever had at the Camellia Grill.
The drinks were two flavors of freezes (chocolate for MA, orange for me). Those were right were I left them. I drank a lot of these things back in late 1960s, then forgot about them. I don't think I've tried one in at least twenty years. They still can deliver a sno-ball headache.
The place was almost empty when we left at about nine-thirty. Where were all the Tulane and Loyola kids?
Camellia Grill. Riverbend: 626 S. Carrollton Ave. 504-309-2679. Sandwiches. Breakfast.
Wednesday, September 30. Young's Steak House. The radio station owed one to Young's Steak House in Slidell. Five months ago, we were to have a remote broadcast there. But a missed connection between the sales and engineering departments had me standing in the parking lot with no way to get on the air. I ran home (thirty miles away) to do the show from there, then back to the restaurant. The At Club dinner was still on, with about forty people. It was a fine evening, with a few surprises.
But the restaurant pays for the remote broadcast, not the dinner. We fulfilled our debt with the live show tonight. And, as long as we were there, we did another Eat Club dinner. It began with an open bar for cocktails--something we almost never have at our dinners, although one of the local spirits distributors might make that more common. Then a low point: turtle soup. I think they ought to rework that thin recipe, although I give them credit for using actual turtle meat in it. A standard salad came before the real action commenced.
That was a fat, spatchcocked, Cajun-seasoned, grilled quail, served with a pile of andouille-studded jambalaya on the side. Is it my imagination, or are all the quails I've eaten lately bigger than they were five years ago? Juicy and good, anyway.
Next came a modest slab of grilled tuna with a buttery sauce riddled with crabmeat. Feelings were mixed about this--some thought the flavor of the tuna was too strong, but I think that came from the sauce, and in any case was right up my alley.
Then steaks. Not miniatures, but the full portion. There seemed to be more ribeyes around the rooms than filets. I had the only sirloin strip; I asked; they gave without hesitation. When it arrived, I was sitting at a table of six others, all first-timers at our dinners. But they are regulars at Young's, and they spotted my deviation from the set menu right away. They gave me the usual flack for getting the restaurant critic's portion. I say that I am treated with no more deference than a good regular customer gets. Mary Ann says this is poppycock, but she has never been a good regular customer anywhere.
We finished up with white chocolate bread pudding--a small serving, thank goodness--and a Moscato from St. Supery. That's a highly visitable winery in Napa, where the house chef was (and may still be) Sunny Cristodoro, native of Kenner.
Young’s. Slidell: 850 Robert Blvd. 985-643-9331. Steak and Chops.
Bucktown: 210 Hammond Hwy. 504-828-2220. Seafood.
Harvey: 2330 Lapalco Blvd. 504-362-0800. Seafood.
Covington: 208 Lee Lane. 985-875-0432.
Lunch Monday-Friday. Dinner Monday-Saturday.
AE DC DS MC V
WHY IT'S ESSENTIAL
The generic name disguises the fact this is is primarily a seafood restaurant, with the traditional overloaded platters of fried oysters, shrimp, catfish, soft-shell crabs, and stuffed crabs. One of the three locations (it's a local chain) is in Bucktown, where the demand for seafood is high. Also here: one of the best rabbit dishes in the city, a special on Thursdays that always sells out.
WHY IT'S GOOD
The corny menu makes one suspicious of the intent of the kitchen, but it's a false alarm. They really know how to cook here. They follow the two most important rules of frying seafood: using fresh product and doing it all to order. The grilled and stuffed fish is also good. Some of the specialties are overwhelming with thick, blanketing sauces, but even those are edible. Good daily specials.
The restaurant is the successor to a little neighborhood place in Houma. The Bergeron family, which has enough members to run three restaurants, opened its first New Orleans Food and Spirits on the West Bank in the early 1990s. Practically since the first day it's been a packed house. The Bucktown location came next, occupying the building where R&O used to be. The Covington restaurant is the former Mescaleros.
The Harvey restaurant is a pleasant but busy dining room in a suburban style. The Bucktown location of this three-unit seafood specialist is a big, somewhat crowded room whose windows gaze onto the levee. The lake is on the other side of that for postprandial walks. The Covington place is a long building that extended from the Lee Lane shopping district and out into the bed of the Bogue Falaya River. It has a small outdoor deck, too.
Shrimp remoulade salad.
Crawfish and corn soup.
Blackened chicken with pasta.
Daily specials, especially. . .
Stewed rabbit special, Thursdays.
FOR BEST RESULTS
To get the stewed rabbit, show up early for lunch on Thursday. They always run out.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The coatings on the seafood taste and look exactly the same, giving a lack of contrast to the platter. Except for the soup, there's nothing with crawfish that I've liked.
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 +1
- Service +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar -1
- Hipness -1
- Local Color +1
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- 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.
Hot Bacon Shrimp
Near as I can tell, this dish infiltrated New Orleans from the West Coast, and caught on in a wide variety of restaurants. Its goodness owes much to the quality of the shrimp we have in New Orleans, but it's a great party dish: big shrimp butterflied and stuffed with a mixture of mozzarella cheese and jalapeno chips, wrapped in bacon, and broiled till the bacon is crispy. Make a million of these: once people start eating them, they won't be able to stop.
- 24 large (16-21 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 8 oz. mozzarella cheese
- 2 chopped jalapeno peppers
- 12 slices bacon, cooked until browned but not crisp
1. Wash the shrimp and pat them dry. Butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tail section intact.
2. Cut the cheese into pieces a little smaller than the shrimp. Cut each piece of bacon in half.
3. Fill the center of each shrimp with about 1/4 tsp. chopped jalapeno. Place a piece of cheese in the center. Wrap each shrimp with a piece of bacon, and secure with a toothpick.
4. Place the shrimp on a baking pan or pizza pan and broil until they turn pink. Turn the shrimp and return to the broiler until the cheese begins to melt. Serve immediately.
Missing something from the old format? I've moved a few departments to the column at left. Click below to go to them.