Table Auction. Chef Chris. Vincent's. Pearl Harbor. Eighteen Days. Daube Glace. Cotton Candy. Refrigerator. Louis Prima.
Eating Around New Orleans Today
Lunch on the Friday before Christmas at Galatoire's is so popular that would-be diners used to hire people to stand in line for them for a couple of days. A few years ago, the restaurant eliminated that shabby-looking phenomenon and replaced it with an auction of the tables at the first lunch seating. The money it took in from the auction went to a local charity. This year's auction takes place tonight, beginning with a cocktail party at five-thirty, and bidding beginning an hour later. Only 150 people are allowed to attend, and it may be sold out--but maybe not. If you'd like to attend, call Christi Gaudet at 525-2021. The beneficiary of the auction is close to my heart: the historic St. Augustine Church in Treme. I and all my siblings were baptized there, and my parents were married there.
Galatoire’s. French Quarter: 209 Bourbon 504-525-2021. Classic Creole.
The All-Time Greats Of New Orleans Cookery
Today was the birthday, in 1927, of Chef Chris Kerageorgiou, legendary New Orleans restaurateur and founder of La Provence. Born in Provence of Greek parents, Chris began his career cooking on ships (where he met his long-time pal Chef Goffredo Fraccaro, of La Riviera). He wound up in New Orleans as the maitre d' of the Esplanade, the high-end restaurant of the Royal Orleans Hotel. Chris left in 1972 to open La Provence, the first really great restaurant on the North Shore. In 2006, shortly after selling La Provence to his protege John Besh, Chris died at eighty. He remained active until just a few weeks before his passing. He was a real original, with a passion for cooking and for life.
Vincent's opened today in 1989. Vincent Catalanotto, a waiter and bartender for years, was managing a little cafe with the unlikely name "The Corsican Brothers." The owners evaporated one day. Vincent, looking around for what to do next, took over the place. "I found out that I could cook as well as all those chefs that'd been screaming at me," he said. The menu was familiar New Orleans Italian food, yet polished in its way. It was a runaway success, so much so that Vincent never had time to do a decent decorating job on the dining room until the hurricane shut him down. His St. Charles Avenue restaurant was the first significant Uptown restaurant to return after the storm. Both places remain very busy at all hours.
Today is the birthday of Mary Ann Connell Fitzmorris, my brilliant and beautiful wife of nearly twenty-one years. She hired me for my present radio gig; that's how we got to know one another. She's not much on gourmet food, great wines, or music. But I love her anyway. (She does make the best hash brown potatoes I ever ate.)
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez: He who forgets his wife's birthday is doomed.
On an unrelated note, today is the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. 1941.
Eighteen Days Until Christmas
A list of all restaurants open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, updated just about daily, is here. . . .It's twenty-four days till New Year's Eve, the busiest restaurant night of the year. Everybody's open; make reservations now.
Somebody out there decided on his own that today is National Cotton Candy Day. We all know that there is no day for cotton candy. However, in the 1950s, spun sugar had a brief vogue in classy restaurants. The Brennans bought one for their restaurant, and kept trying to do something with it before giving it up as an impossible mess.
It's also Daube Glace Day. Daube glace (see above for the definition of what that is) starts with slowly-cooked beef that's sliced into near-shreds, then cooked in a mold with gelatin, savory vegetables, herbs and seasonings. It's a familiar part of the most traditional Creole tables around Christmastime, and many old-style butchers and market delis still make it every year. (The most famous version cones from Langenstein's.) You eat it with crackers or French bread as a canape, or as a dip. It tastes much better than it sounds, and is a wonderful partner for cocktails or those mulled wines we make this time of year.
Today is the feast day of St. Ambrose of Milan, the "honey-tongued doctor of the Church" in the Fourth Century. He is the patron saint of beekeepers.
The first refrigerator for home use was patented today in 1926 by the Servel Company. Before it came along, we all used iceboxes. Oddly, it was operated not by electricity but by burning gas. Servel continues to make gas-burning refrigerators and air conditioners. They are unusual in having no moving parts. A very small gas flame powers a gravitational refrigerant coil somehow. They apparently last almost forever, and are popular with people who live or camp far from civilization. (They can run on propane.)
Music To Dine By
Louis Prima was born in New Orleans today in 1911. He was among the most unusual bandleaders in the Big Band era, with a sound so distinctive that only a second of his vocal performance is enough to identify him. He had a song that sounds like it's about food, although it isn't, really: Closer To The Bone, Sweeter Is The Meat.
Vaclav Chalupa, a Czechoslovakian rower, was born today in 1967. We're only one letter away from having a second Taco Bell item among our birthday boys today: Jordi Buritlo, a Spanish tennis star, was born when Vaclav turned five. . . One of American history's many figures named Hamilton Fish was born today in 1888. This one was a Congressman and a leading proponent of isolationism. . . Australia's sixth Prime Minister, Joseph Cook, was born today in 1860.
Words To Eat By
"At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well and talk well but not too wisely."--W. Somerset Maugham.
Words To Drink By
"Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends."--Tom Waits, razor-blade-throated singer and songwriter, born today in 1949.
Sunday, November 29. Pulling The Reveillon Together. Two Filets At Zea. It's a big job, pulling together the information about Christmas dining my readers expect of me. Finishing that took all day, much of it devoted to assembling the catalog of Reveillon dinners that begin on Tuesday. And compiling lists of restaurants open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Those are two days I strongly recommend against for dining in restaurants, but as happened to Thanksgiving during the last twenty years, the pickings have begun improving greatly.
My readers love this kind of information, but it's the easiest work I do. No real writing involved. I compare it with the fact that a large McDonald's does more business in a month than Commander's Palace does. Mary Ann likes quoting a line from who knows where: "Sell to the masses, eat the with classes. Sell to the classes, eat with the masses." That's probably true, and it drives me nuts.
In a break from all that typing, I went outside and put the Christmas tree in its stand. I approach this job with fear in my heart. My mother was a holy terror when she watched the men in the house attempt it, while she supervised. It was never quite straight to her eyes. Each time we made a new adjustment--even though we got a little closer each time--my mother's disdain grew. Finally she threw up her hands and decided to be angry about our incompetence throughout the entire Christmas season. My father, who did not handle stress well, was very happy to turn this task over to me when I reached puberty. My mother was no less patient with me than with him.
Perfect perpendicularity has never been an issue with Mary Ann, for which I am thankful. I'm also glad I live in a time when Christmas trees are less crooked than they used to be, and when the stands are both sturdier and more forgiving. Still, I remember the old days and my mother's ghost watching over me.
I put the stand on the deck, picked up the tree, and dropped it in. After tightening the four screws, I stood up to see what needed to be adjusted. I walked around and around, but from no angle did the tree appear to be leaning. I called the Marys to take a look. "Looks okay to me," Mary Ann said, and went right back inside. Oh, how I love her for that! It must have been the prayers I said in St. Joseph's house at Manresa, with my poor father in mind. (His name was Joseph, too.)
We decided a couple of months ago to cook and eat Sunday dinner at home from now on. But for some reason Mary Leigh was completely occupied with some project, and wanted to break neither to eat dinner nor to decorate the Christmas tree. Mary Ann said we'd cooked quite enough this week for Thanksgiving, and that she'd be open to dinner at Zea.
There was one more item on Zea's fall menu I haven't tried, and my appetite was primed for it. It's a pair of tournedos atop some grilled onions and mushrooms, topped with a melting ball of Bourbon butter. I prefer tournedos to filets mignon, because their small size forces them to be cut thickly. A thick steak cooks better than a thin steak. Sides of Zea's excellent roasted potato wedges and pretty good red beans (the beans are good, the rice never is; I wonder why). Mary Ann ate a salad.
Our discussion centered on whether I would be going with her and Mary Leigh to California after Christmas. I told her I will not. I am completely out of radio vacation days--which is saying something, because I've been with the station for over twenty years and get four weeks. I'd do it anyway, if I could be assured that I could broadcast from out there. But when we visited Jude there in June, on five consecutive days I was unable to get a decent connection, and had to do the show on the phone. And so the geographical difference in our ideas of the future looms again.
Monday, November 30. Shepherd's Pie. I've had shepherd's pie on my mind since Thanksgiving. We cooked such an excess of food that there were leftover mashed potatoes. Those are so good that no matter how much of them we made in the past, they went quickly. Mashed potatoes that have been chilled and saved no longer work as mashed potatoes, but you build a casserole from them.
The Marys went to the store while I was on the air and returned with the requisite ground round. Everything else was already in hand. Mary Ann grilled a large surplus of squash and zucchini. That makes a wonderful bottom layer for shepherd's pie, giving both an interesting texture and flavor. I think we had something like six pounds of Cheddar cheese in the refrigerator.
I sauteed some onions and herbs in olive oil, broke the ground beef into the pan, and added enough water to keep it from clumping up. Chinese five-spice powder crossed my mind, and I tapped a few sprinkles of that over the beef. Smelled good. Cooked the beef until it was done, and spread it between a thin layer of mashed potatoes at the bottom and a thicker one above it. Into the oven for forty-five minutes, and out just in time for the Marys to tell me, "You know, we're not really hungry now." Well, I ate a big cube of it. Their loss. I don't think I've ever made this better. That five-spice powder is the ticket.
Neighborhood Cafe. Sandwiches. Hamburgers.
Mandeville: 813 Florida. 985-626-9989 .
Lunch Monday-Saturday. Dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
AE DS MC V
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
The Triple Nickel's greatest usefulness is that it's the closest real restaurant to Pelican Park, where most North Shore youth athletic teams play their games. After the game, the kids and the coaches are hungry for the likes of burgers, sandwiches, fried seafood, and salads. Which is what they have here, along with some daily specials.
WHY IT'S GOOD
The portions are large and the seafood is fried to order. The hamburgers are served in many variations. Although there's nothing wrong with any of the food here, none of it stands out, either. If your quest is for the best seafood or hamburger in Mandeville, this might not be it.
It opened in 2003 with a hamburger that cost $5.55, hence the name. (It's now about $7.) The original owner of the place now runs the Rusty Pelican in Mandeville.
It's a utilitarian space in a strip mall, with paraphernalia from local sports teams dominating the decor.
Fried shrimp or catfish basket (appetizer).
Blackened chicken sandwich.
Fried chicken breast with wing sauce.
Fried seafood sandwiches.
FOR BEST RESULTS
The seafood is the best specialty. The ham and turkey sandwiches are to be avoided.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
They fry everything a little too hard here. The French fries are forgettable.
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
- Open Monday lunch
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
Every day, a new suggestion on where to celebrate whatever it is you're celebrating, right up to the end of the year. A collection of all these menus can be found here. Our snowflake ratings are for the holiday menu only, with three flakes being the top rating.
5 Fifty 5
555 Canal. 504-581-1000.
CER CD NYE NYD
Reveillon Dinner: Six Courses, $45
Char-Broiled Local Oysters
And Creole fried green tomatoes with Louisiana goat cheese
* * * * * * * * * *
Butternut Squash Bisque
* * * * * * * * * *
Speckled Trout Pan-Seared, Arugula and Mache
* * * * * * * * * *
Field Greens with Brandy Braised Apples
Andouille Sausage Cracklins and Brown Butter Vinaigrette
* * * * * * * * * *
Lamb Chop with Truffle Potatoes
Wood Grilled Asparagus and Béarnaise
* * * * * * * * * *
Hazelnut And Chocolate Terrine
With Eggnog Sabayon and Spiced Port Wine Sauce
Which Wine Would You Like
Santa To Bring You?
This question came to mind when I thought about how wonderful it would be to enjoy once again the experience of drinking 1970 Chateau Latour. A friend gave me that as a wedding present; I consumed it about six years ago, and it had the entire complement of flavors and aromas one expects from a great Bordeaux in a great year.
That wine would have to have been stored better than was possible in post-storm New Orleans, and I don't believe in wishing for low-likelihood things. (Like having dinner with Diana Krall.) But there are other good wines out there. I'm now thinking about 2002 La Tache. Yeah. Santa, get me that.
Now let's all entertain one another with wishes of equal fabulosity (in every sense of the word).
There are twenty-four days till Christmas. Santa? Was I nice enough this year?
Check out answers to this question from our other tasteful readers, and add your own on our
The beef answer to hogshead cheese (sort of), daube glace is a cold dish associated with the holiday season. It's also one of those dishes that everybody talks about as being wonderful, but relatively few people eat. The explanation is that this is a lot of work to prepare. Indeed, I personally think you're better off buying it already made from Langenstein's or the like.
I failed to take that advice a couple of years ago and tried making my own. I researched the recipe in a bunch of local cookbooks, most of which had more or less the same ancient recipe from century-old Picayune Creole Cook Book. That source differed from the others in using pig's feet to get the gelatin required to create the glace effect. That's what brought oxtails to mind. When you make a stock with oxtails and soup bones, they give an amazing amount of gelatin. The shreds of beef that come from it are very nice, too. So I thought I'd use that as the only meat in the mix. This recipe takes two days to prepare, but most of the time it doesn't need much direct attention.
- 6 lbs. oxtails
- 2 Tbs. oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 1 Tbs. mixed peppercorns (or black)
- 4 cloves, crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 1/2 tsp. marjoram
- 3 medium carrots, finely diced
- 1 large rutabagas, finely diced
- 8 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 very ripe (reddish) green bell peppers, chopped
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 1 tsp. dill
- 1 cup red wine
- 1/4 cup chili sauce
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 bunch chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne
- 3 Tbs. salt
- 1 Tbs. black pepper
- 1/2 cup tawny port (or ruby port that's been sitting around open)
- 3 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
- 2 Tbs. Tabasco Caribbean-style steak sauce, or Pickapeppa
1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy kettle or Dutch oven. Sear the oxtails in batches on all sides until they're lightly browned. Remove the oxtails as you finish browning them.
2. Return the oxtails to the pot and add all the ingredients in the first part of the list above, up to the marjoram. Add enough water to barely cover everything. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for three to four hours, uncovered.
3. Remove the oxtails to a bowl. Strain the stock into another bowl and discard all the vegetables. Pull all the lean beef off the oxtails and set aside. Add all the juices that come out as you do this to the stock. Discard the bones and fat. Slice or shreds any big chunks the beef into pieces no bigger than about an inch long. Cover the beef and refrigerate.
4. Cover the bowl of stock and refrigerate four hours or overnight. The fat will rise to the surface and form a solid cap. Remove this and discard. The stock will have set into a jelly, from all the natural gelatin in the bones.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
5. Bring to a boil one cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrots, rutabagas, and lemon slice. Cook until the vegetables just begin to turn soft. Remove the lemon, and strain out the water. Leave the vegetables in the saucepan, and add the garlic, onions, celery, bell pepper, thyme, and dill. Add the wine, vinegar, and chili sauce. Bring to a boil for a minute.
6. Add the stock and the beef to the pot and stir until the mixture is well blended. Cover the pot and put it in a preheated 350-degree oven for three hours. Remove and cool.
7. Skim any fat from the pot and discard. Add the parsley, port, and steak sauce. Dissolve the gelatin in a cup of water and stir in thoroughly.
8. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to your taste. (This should be on the spicy side.) Pour the mixture into rectangular glass baking dishes (or terrine molds or whatever strikes your fancy). Refrigerate overnight (at least).
9. Before unmolding, scrape off any fat that may have risen to the surface. To remove the daube glace from the pan, run a knife all the way around the sides, and set the baking dish in a bigger pan of hot water for a minute. You can slice the daube glace before serving, or serve as is with a wide-bladed knife for guests to use to serve themselves. Serve with crackers or toasted French bread.
Serves a party of about 20, or appetizers for about 12.
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