Absinthe Tasting. Choirs. Fourteen Days. Snow? Shepherd's Pie. Lamb. Irish Stew. Savory Creek. American Cheese. Bread.
Drinking And Eating Around New Orleans Today
New Orleans is the logical place for the Absinthe Museum of America. Because of our French roots, we drank that anise-flavored liqueur more than in any other place in America until absinthe was made illegal a hundred years ago. Now it's allowed again, and new brands of absinthe are emerging one after another. You can sample the stuff in free tastings at the Museum in a series from 4:30 to 8:30, today and next Friday. The Absinthe Museum is at 823 Royal Street.
And if you've enjoyed any of those school choir performance I've told you about, you have your choice of three today right before lunch. The Belle Chasse Primary School sings today before lunch in the Rib Room at the Royal Orleans Hotel, Royal at St. Louis. William Hart Elementary and St. Mary Magdalen school choruses will be at the Hotel Inter-Continental, where you can lunch afterwards in the Veranda.
Fourteen Days Till Christmas.
Twenty days till New Year's Eve. Buy fruitcakes today. The elves should be leaving little presents like satsumas in children's stockings, along with a clever note, every morning now. (Unless the kids have been bad.) Make restaurant reservations now. A list of restaurants open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, plus all the Reveillon menus, and our favorite Christmas recipes, are all on our Christmas Page.
Motivations To Cook At Home
This is the anniversary of The Great New Orleans Snow of 2008. With the one we had a week ago, that makes two years in a row. Somebody's got to put those rocks back on the moon, to quote Dick Brennan.
Dining In The House Of Windsor
Today in 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne so he could marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. He was so much in love that she meant more to him than being a king. He did not descend into poverty, but still. . . it brings to mind thoughts of what it must be like to be a king, even one with mostly ceremonial powers as the monarch of England has. One thing is certain: the expression "eat like a king" is no myth. Even if a serious king had no budget for fine dining, he would still eat as well as he wanted to. What restaurant would present a check to a king? Or fail to show him the utmost hospitality? That insignia you see on a lot of luxurious products, "By Appointment To The King" clearly carries a lot of promotional value.
People with elevated places in society are commensurately well treated. A physician friend says he finds it ironic, with his substantial success, that he should constantly receive free dinners, bottles of wine, trips, and other offers. He gets them from companies wooing his attention, and from patients and friends of patients. The higher up one goes, the easier it is to go even higher, and to enjoy life even more. That thought has never failed to get me going in the morning.
It's Shepherd's Pie Day. A casserole with layers of ground beef, mashed potatoes, and cheese, it has roots in Greece and the Balkans. There, dishes like moussaka show family connections. In Britain, where the dish is most popular, it's called cottage pie. There, it's often made with lamb or mutton (as you would imagine it would be, given the name). In America shepherd's pie is best known as a dish in the regular rotation in the school cafeteria. Some love it, some hate it. I was in the first category, and have managed to infect the rest of my finicky family with this taste. We start with a layer of corn or squash or something else crunchy on the bottom, then the ground beef (cooked with onions and celery), then mashed potatoes, then a crust of Cheddar cheese. We make it when we have too much ground beef or mashed potatoes in the house. My recipe is in the archives. Click here for shepherd's pie.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
Dishes baked in layers
Draw many naysayers
But aroma persuades 'em
And savor parades 'em.
Annals Of Cheese
James Lewis Kraft was born today in 1874. He founded the Kraft Cheese Company, which renamed itself Kraft Foods in the 1940s. His flagship product was an inexpensive processed cheese with a long shelf life. He named it "American cheese." At first, the public rejected it, but after Kraft sold six million pounds of the stuff to the Army, a taste for it grew. The Depression increased its popularity even more, because of its low price and nutritional value. And it remains everywhere.
Music To Make Sandwiches By
David Gates, the lead singer of a soft-rock 1970s band called Bread, came out of the oven today in 1940.
Out list is dominated by music people today. Tony Basil hit Number One on the pop charts with her song Mickey. . . On this day in 1946, the Kay Kyser Orchestra had a top hit with Ole Buttermilk Sky, sung by Mike Douglas, who'd be a talk show host later. . . The creamy-throated vocalist Sam Cooke was shot to death today in 1965. . . Apple, the Beatles' recording company, signed its first outside act today in 1967. The group was called Grapefruit. . . Sir David Brewster, the inventor of the kaleidoscope, was born in Scotland today in 1791. . . Justin Currie, a singer and songwriter from Scotland, was born today in 1964.
Words To Eat By
"Many are the ways and many the recipes for dressing hares; but this is the best of all, to place before a hungry set of guests a slice of roasted meat fresh from the spit, hot, seasoned only with plain, simple salt. . . All other ways are quite superfluous, such as when cooks pour a lot of sticky, clammy sauce upon it."--Archestratus, ancient Greek writer on food and drink.
Words To Drink By
"I hate things that are diluted—I mean, you don't mix Jack Daniel's with Coke. That's a sin!"--Nikki Sixx, bass player for Motley Crue, born today in 1958.
New Owners (First And Second) Are Outside Family
Galatoire's Is Sold--Twice
The story of the sale of Galatoire's--which broke on my radio show Tuesday afternoon--became more surprising on Wednesday. The man who bought a majority interest in the place Tuesday turned around and sold most of his share again to local businessman and New Orleans mayoral candidate John Georges.
Part One: After months of legal maneuvering on the part of two factions of the big Galatoire family, the majority ownership of their iconic restaurant was bought by Todd Trosclair. That marks the first time someone outside the Galatoire family controlled the property. Their Wednesday morning press release said:
Galatoire family members Leon Galatoire, Michele Galatoire, Duane Galatoire Attaway, Ashley Attaway and Craighten Attaway have partnered with local businessman Todd Trosclair, to purchase Galatoire’s Restaurant in New Orleans and Galatoire’s Bistro in Baton Rouge. The acquisition was completed on Dec. 8, 2009.
“This is good news for our family, our company and our patrons,” said Duane Galatoire Attaway. “With this acquisition, we enter a new era that ensures the many Galatoire’s traditions started over 100 years ago by Jean Galatoire will continue through my generation and my children’s, Ashley and Craighten, the fifth generation of Galatoires.”
“My sister, Michele, and I are very excited about this announcement,” said Leon Galatoire. “This is truly a milestone in the history of our restaurant, and we welcome Todd into our family.”
Galatoire family member David Gooch will remain part of the restaurant’s management team. Melvin Rodrigue, chief operating officer of Galatoire’s Restaurant and Galatoire’s Bistro, and Executive Chef Brian Landry will continue to oversee the daily management of both Galatoire’s locations. No staff or menu changes are planned at either restaurant.
“We want our patrons to know they will continue to experience Galatoire’s as they always have,” Trosclair said. “Our focus on tradition and quality of food and service will remain, preserving the Galatoire’s that has been revered for nearly 105 years.”
The release doesn't go into the competition between two sides of the family to buy the restaurant. The negotiations were complicated by the fact that one faction of the family--led by Leon Galatoire--had the right of first refusal if any sale of the restaurant were made. But the original offer to buy was made by David Gooch and Melvin Rodrigue. So began a complicated round of legal moves.
Now we learn that John Georges bought most of Trosclair's chunk. Neither name is part of the Galatoire family, although they are partnered with the five Galatoires mentioned in the press release. They will retain minority ownership. It appears that David Gooch--a fourth-generation Galatoire family member, he has been active in the restaurant for decades--no longer owns a piece of the business, even though he will continue on in his present role. Very byzantine.
"No staff or menu changes are planned at either restaurant." We'll see. New owners always say stuff like that.
Friday, December 4. A Romantic Lunch At Keith Young's. Oysters Bienville? Mary Ann is planning to leave tomorrow for Los Angeles to spend some time with Jude. She and I share an unease about traveling, although it shows itself in different ways. She becomes uncharacteristically helpless when she's about the depart on a trip--particularly one on an airplane, and particularly one in which she's not sure her host really wants her there. While Jude is too good to his mother to ever say so, he has a full schedule of activities this weekend that aren't exactly the kind on which you'd bring your mother along. Dates, for example.
Mary Ann's reaction to this indecision is to become affectionate. Even she sees the irony in this. What makes her more loving is leaving town without me. But I'll take all the affection I can get.
Specifically, she wanted to have a heart-to-heart lunch at Keith Young's Steakhouse. That's a favorite for both of us, and with Christmas in the air, it seemed even more inviting. Even though we had to wait a few minutes for a table.
In that interim Keith Young drifted by. I asked him whether he had anything new and great for us to try. He gave me a look that implied that he was a bit too busy for creating on the fly. In fact, he already had such a thing on his mind. Before the rest of our order came a half-dozen baked oysters on the half-shell. The waiter couldn't identify them other than that they were new to him. They tasted like oysters Bienville to me. Very good oysters Bienville, at that. The more I ate of them, the better I liked--make that loved--them. Even Mary Ann, whose interest in dishes like this is tepid at best, ate one to humor me. The thought it was so delicious that she needed another.
The entrees were a steak salad for her and a pork tenderloin for me. The salad was topped with what looked like about eight ounces of grilled filet mignon--hard to believe, given the $12 price. The pork was a similarly good buy--$11. It was fanned out across the plate with a Creole brown sauce over it, a levee of mashed sweet potatoes, and green beans. Just right for the weather, tender and good.
Keith came out of the kitchen when things slowed down. "What did you think of those oysters?" he asked. I told them they were as good as any I've ever had, and better than most. In fact, I couldn't think of any way in which they could be improved. "Well, guess where I got the recipe? Your cookbook! I fooled around with it a little, but that's it!"
I thought they seemed familiar. How flattering is that? No wonder
I liked them!
Keith was less happy about what would happen that night. "We had over seventy reservations cancel for tonight, because they hear we're going to have snow, and nobody wants to be out on the roads!" he said. "If it snows, it won't be until late tonight. But what can you do about that?"
On the way home, Mary Ann was vexed by this new problem. Would she be flying out tomorrow in snow? The prospect was daunting. So she snuggled up a little closer.
Keith Young’s Steak House. Madisonville: 165 LA. 21 985-845-9940. Steak.
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
If the Peppermill stopped serving breakfast, a lot of people wouldn't know what to do with themselves in the morning. It has become the best and most popular place in Metairie for that meal, very plain to very fancy. The lunch and dinner menus are a blend of Creole standards with New Orleans Italian dishes, many of which are now served only here.
WHY IT'S GOOD
The breakfast menu is so comprehensive and well-executed that it's no mystery why the morning meal is so popular. They make elaborate poached egg dishes with seafood and hollandaise as well as they make pancakes and sausage. The rest of the day, the food is served at neighborhood-restaurant prices, but with ingredients of good quality and recipes which, although old hat in many cases, are good old hat.
The Peppermill began in the 1970s as a fern restaurant, a feminine spinoff of the old Buck Forty-Nine Steak House. Josie Riccobono was its tastemaker. She died right after the hurricane, but her grandchildren have moved into place and have lately modernized much of the menu.
The lush, ornate look of the early days gave way to a cleaner, more modern new environment after Katrina, which required a major renovation of the whole restaurant. The two rooms offer many private corners; many of the regulars have favorite tables.
Fried eggplant sticks.
Angel hair Angelique (crabmeat, tomato cream sauce).
Oysters Riccobono (baked with mushrooms, bread crumbs and garlic).
Shrimp and avocado salad.
Stuffed crab (photo above).
Trout meuniere or amandine.
Veal Josephine (with crabmeat and bearnaise).
Charbroiled veal liver and onions.
Red beans and rice (Monday lunch special).
FOR BEST RESULTS
The sheet of daily specials includes much of the best food. They're unusually good with veal here.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
They Peppermill is famous for its crawfish bisque, but it's just average. The lighting is a big harsh, especially in the rear dining room.
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 +1
- Consistency +2
- Service +1
- Value +2
- Attitude +2
- Wine and Bar -1
- Hipness -2
- Local Color
- Good for business meetings
- Medium private room
- Early-evening specials
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch
- Open all afternoon
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations honored promptly
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
The new generation of the Riccobono family is doing some nice new things at the Peppemill, modernizing without destroying the restaurant's menu and style. A couple of weeks ago I built a dinner entirely from dishes they've done for decades. In a way, they were the same. In another way, they'd been buffed up to keep up with current standards. I see a lot of that going on there, and a few new dishes, too.
I depart every meal at the Peppermill lately with the feeling that it's on the verge of breaking out and getting as hot as it was in it early years, when you couldn get into the place. But it remains under-appreciated, and for a ridiculous reason: because some people find the presence of older diners offensive. It's as intolerant as racism would be. How does the age of the other diners affect the food and service? They don't, is the answer.
This review was updated with new information on 12/8/2009.
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.
430 Dauphine. 504-525-4455.
CER NYE NYD
Four Courses $52
Oysters and Italian Sausage Gratin
Truffled Scrambled Eggs
In brioche with crispy sweetbreads
* * * * * * * * * *
Apple, Endive, Hazelnut Salad
With Comté cheese
* * * * * * * * * *
With satsuma brown butter and smothered greens
Turkey and Foie Gras Roulade
* * * * * * * * * *
Baba au Rhum
Oyster Rockefeller Flan
Every food writer of my generation has a Julia Child story. Mine involves this dish, the creation of Chef André Poirot at Begue's at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in the 1980s. He cooked it for a small dinner attended by Julia Child and a few others. I sat across the table from her. When she sampled this appetizer, she called it, in her distinctive voice, "Divine! Very creative!" (We were not to hear any more such praise during the remainder of that meal.) A nonsweet custard holds together the traditional ingredients for oysters Rockefeller.
- 1 lb. fresh spinach, well washed, stems removed
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 2 doz. oysters, drained (reserve oyster water)
- 5 eggs
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 oz. Pernod
- Pinch nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- Pinch white pepper
- 3 oz. white wine
- 1 oz. chopped shallots
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 oz. melted butter
- 4 oz. melted butter
- Juice of one whole lemon, strained
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Wash the spinach and put the dripping wet leaves into a saucepan over low heat. Cover and let it cook until the leaves are limp. Remove the spinach leaves and stretch them out, trying not to tear them.
2. In a skillet, bring the white wine to a boil and poach the oysters in it for about two minutes. Drain and chop coarsely.
3. Lightly butter the insides of six six-ounce soufflé cups or ramekins. Drape the spinach leaves over the rims of the cups, so that they're half in and half out of the cups. Divide the chopped oysters among all the cups.
4. Mix the eggs, cream, Pernod, oyster water, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a bowl. Whisk until blended. Pour over the oysters in the cups. Fold spinach leaves over the tops of the cups.
5. Place the dishes in a pan of warm water. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes.
6. While the flans are baking, make the sauce. Heat the wine to a boil and in it cook the shallots until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add heavy cream and reduce until thickened to sauce consistency. Whisk in butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Strain the sauce and keep warm.
7. Allow the soufflé dishes to cool for a few minutes after baking, then unmold onto serving plates. Spoon sauce over flans and serve.
Missing something from the old format? I've moved a few departments to the column at left. Click below to go to them.