The Food Almanac Tuesday: September 27, 2011


In The Food Almanac, Tom Fitzmorris of the online newsletter, The New Orleans Menu, notes food facts and sayings.

Food Calendar
This is Corned Beef Hash Day. That's made by cooking chopped corned beef, potatoes, onions, and a few other ingredients in butter until you have a tight, minced stew. It's most often found in restaurants as a component of a fancy poached egg dish at breakfast. It's not often good in such places. Many make the dish with canned hash. Always ask first before ordering corned beef hash, which can be delicious if made fresh. Few restaurants have it anymore, and the dish may be moving into culinary extinction.

Today is also supposed to be National Chocolate Milk Day. I used to drink chocolate milk exclusively when I was kid. The habit lingers on in one circumstance only: when I make myself a bowl of hot grits with eggs and applesauce. There's nothing like a glass of cold chocolate milk to cool one's throat after swallowing some of that tasty lava.

Annals of Cognac
Louis XIII, who ascended to the throne of France at age 9 and took power at 17, was born today in 1601. He is best known today as the namesake of Remy Martin's Cognac Louis XIII, the most expensive widely-available brandy. It's contained in a belle époque-style Baccarat crystal bottle. The bottle sells for between $1,200 and $1,400 at retail, and for well more than $100 a shot in restaurants and bars. (This is why you should never say the words, "Bring me the best cognac in the house!") Louis XIII Cognac is made with a large component of 100-year-old cognac, although laws about such things disallow the naming of a specific vintage.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Distillery Branch is a two-mile-long, often dry stream that flows into the Tickfaw River in southeast Louisiana. It's nine miles northwest of Amite, the oyster-packing capital of Louisiana (even though it's nowhere near the oyster beds). No oysters in the Tickfaw or its tributaries, that's for sure. We can only guess how it got its name — but the guess is probably correct. The best place to eat around the Branch is back in Amite at Butler's Grill and Tavern.

Paying for It
Today in 1995, the newly redesigned $100 bill was rolled out. The picture of Benjamin Franklin was much enlarged, and off-center. It was the first bill to be redesigned, to make it harder to counterfeit. Not to spend, though. Not only can you easily find a drink for $100 (see above), but there may be 30 restaurants around town where you can run up a dinner check that high per person, without even ordering expensive wine.

Dining at Sea
The Queen Elizabeth was launched today in 1938. It was the biggest passenger ship in the world at the time. That also made it, in all likelihood, the world's largest restaurant. When large cruise ships are in port anywhere, they are the biggest restaurants in that place, serving as many as 3,500 people at one time. In the 1960s the QE2 took its place in the Cunard fleet, not retiring until 2007.

Annals of Beer
Today was the birthday, in 1722, of Samuel Adams, Revolutionary War hero, statesman, and beer brewer. He was the namesake of a beer created in 1870s. It faded away. The modern Samuel Adams beer was born in 1984.

Edible Dictionary
corned beef, n. — Cured beef, usually brisket, cured with a mixture of peppers, herbs, and other seasonings. The curing not only alters and adds to the flavor of the meat, but also tenderizes it. The name refers to the resemblance the seasonings have in size and shape to grains of wheat (called "corns" in Great Britain.) Although it's not necessary to achieve the distinctive flavor, nitrates are usually used in the cure, which produces the orange-red color associated with corned beef. Corned beef made without those additives is brown.

Food Namesakes
Meat Loaf (real name Marvin Lee Aday) was born today in 1947 . . . Greg Ham, a member of the rock group Men At Work, was born today in 1953 . . . Olive Tell, an actress from the silent movie era, was seen for the first time today in 1894 . . . British playwright Gordon Honeycombe emerged from the hive today in 1936.

Words to Eat By
"If I hear you've gone to Dinty Moore's for that nasty corned beef and cabbage, Jiggs, I'll brain you!" — Maggie, Jiggs' belligerent wife in the ancient Art Deco comic strip "Bringing Up Father," by George McManus.

Words to Drink By
"Beer is the Danish national drink, and the Danish national weakness is another beer." — Clementine Paddleford, American writer, born today in 1900.

Check out other Food Almanac columns by Tom Fitzmorris.

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