The Food Almanac: Friday, May 17, 2013

It's National Chocolate Fondue Day
Wikimedia Commons/ Fastily

Food Calendar
Today is National Chocolate Fondue Day. Chocolate fondue is the traditional final course of a fondue dinner, served after you've been through the bread dipped in melted cheese and the meats passed through hot oil or hot broth. It is clearly the favorite kind of fondue, involving cubes of pound cake and various fresh fruits, dunked in the molten chocolate long enough to coat it. You eat it still warm from the pot, and the end of long fondue forks. The chocolate is usually combined with cream or evaporated milk (otherwise it might seize up) and some flavored liqueurs or even coffee. Fondue has never been common in New Orleans, because it's the sort of eating that is best done when it's cold outside. Which it is only about three months a year, if that.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
You can melt chocolate in a double boiler or in a microwave oven, but no matter how you do it don't wander far. Taking your eyes off melting chocolate is like punching a button in an elevator with your eyes closed, and you don't even get to meet new people.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine 
On this date in 1989, retired Rolling Stone guitarist Bill Wyman opened an American-style restaurant in London called Sticky Fingers. Its menu reads like a cross between those of Houston's and Outback. Itswebsite features an almanac of its own. For example, we learn that on this date in 1968, Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull moved into 48 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London. However, the site does not report that on this day in 1975, Mick punched a restaurant's window in, and had to be taken to the hospital for twenty stitches. Wyman's place has no connection with an American chain of barbecue places with the same name.

World Food Records 
On this day in 1985, Les Anderson caught a ninety-four pound, four-ounce chinook salmon in Alaska--a record. He used rod and reel, yet. I wonder what such a thing would taste like, or whether you'd even try to eat it.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Tequila Cove, Nevada is on the western shore of Lake Mojave, a backed-up stretch of the Colorado River, about four miles across at its widest, within the Lake Mead Recreational Area. It's in the mountainous desert in southern tip of Nevada, a wedge between California and Arizona. Which explains the name of the nearest restaurant: the Cal-Nev-Ari Restaurant, in the town of the same name, seventeen miles away from the cove. Where you could probably catch enough trout for dinner if you were of a mind to and had a boat (which you probably would if you were here in the first place).

Food And The Arts 
Sandro Botticelli, who painted the iconic "Birth of Venus," was born today in 1444. His masterpiece is known to foodies as "Venus on the Half Shell."

Annals Of Food Research 
Elvin Charles Stakman, a plant pathologist, spent his life combatting world hunger by researching and fighting diseases in food plants, notably wheat, corn and other cereals. His passion for his work was fueled as much by concern for the poor (especially in Mexico) as by scientific imperatives. He was born today in 1885.

Edible Dictionary
tequila, [teh-KEE-lah], Spanish. --n.A high-alcohol spirit made from the sap of the desert plants in the agave family. The best tequilas are made entirely from the blue agave, whose base after the spiny, thick, succulent leaves are cut away looks like a pineapple. Although a great range of flavors are ascribed to tequila, the differences are much less noticeable than, say, the various forms of whiskey. The main quality criteria beyond the use of blue agave have to do with how the resulting spirit is aged, and how long. This has given rise to tremendous popularity, and some very lofty prices for the best-regarded tequilas. Whole books have been written on the subject. Tequila and margaritas--the cocktail most often made from it--dominate the bars of Mexican restaurants everywhere.

The Saints 
This is the feast day of St. Pascal Baylon, a lay Franciscan brother who lived in sixteenth-century Spain. He worked as a cook, and is one of many patron saints of cooks.

Food Namesakes 
Sir Nicholas Hickman Ponsonby Bacon, 14th Premier Baronet (an hereditary knighthood in England) was born today in 1953. . . The famous racehorse Seabiscuit died today in 1947, at fourteen. . . Sugar Ray Leonard, the boxer, was born today in 1956.

Words To Eat By
"It is part of the novelist's convention not to mention soup and salmon and ducklings, as if soup and salmon and ducklings were of no importance."--Virginia Woolf.

Related Stories
4 New Tequilas Are Cause for CelebrationA Beginner's Guide to Tequila

Words To Drink By
"Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer."--Arnold Schwarzenegger.