The Food Almanac: April 12, 2011
Today is National Licorice Day. Most licorice on the candy rack contains no actual licorice. The natural licorice flavor — similar to that of fennel or anise — comes from the root of a European plant. It contains, in addition to the distinctive taste, a compound called glycyrrhizin — the sweetest natural substance on earth. It's being used in a new kind of artificial sweetener that hasn't quite been perfected yet. Licorice is more widely used in drugs and herbal medicine than in cooking. I've only encountered actual licorice root once in a dish: the deconstructed oysters Rockefeller at MiLa.
Today is also Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day. For most people, that's a trigger for childhood memories. For me, it conjures up the lunch counter at Woolworth's on shopping trips with my mother. Those sandwiches were good, but I preferred the version served in the school cafeteria, made by putting a slice of cheese on a hamburger bun and baking it until the cheese stuck the two halves of the bun together.
Once in a great while I make a grilled cheese sandwich at home, when I have some interesting cheese to do it with. Not standard Cheddar, which releases too much grease when melted. Something like Gruyère, or raclette, or Jarlsberg, or Fontina, or even the aggressively aromatic tête de moines, grilled on bread with some texture and nuttiness... yes!
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
Licorice is the liver of candy. And you can quote me on that.
Soda Butte is a landmark along the northeast entrance road to Yellowstone National Park. It's the cone of a dormant geyser and rises to 4,645 feet — about 150 feet above Soda Butte Creek, which flows into Lamar Valley, a very pretty place. Soda Butte is famous among naturalists as a place where packs of wolves (re-introduced in mid-1990s) have taken up residence. It was the first place they've lived in Yellowstone since the rangers wiped out the last wolves in 1926. If you're hungry as a wolf around there, it's a twelve-mile drive to the well-named Range Rider Lodge in Silver Gate.