The Food Almanac: Friday, May 31, 2013

Staff Writer
The Food Almanac
Achim Schleuning

Restaurant Anniversaries 
Today in 1956, Brennan's moved to its present Royal Street location, after ten years at the corner of Bourbon and Bienville. The landlord there wanted a piece of the thriving business, and Owen Brennan rejected the offer. The new place was an historic building: it was the former home of chess grandmaster Paul Morphy. With its large patio, it had been used as a restaurant for quite a few years, but without success. Owen's friends tried to talk him out of moving there. But move they did, with the help of customers. They met for drinks at the old place, then carried furniture over to Royal Street in a parade led by a marching jazz band. The new restaurant was even more successful than the old. It's hard to imagine Brennan's anywhere else but there, now.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Coconut Bayou is more of a bay than a bayou, and a somewhat artificial one at that. It's across Roberts Bay from Sarasota, Florida, and extends about a quarter mile across a peninsula, forming an excellent harbor that's home to many boats, their docks, and the owners of substantial homes. There's also a South Coconut Bayou here, wrapping around a wild, uninhabited island. The fishing is terrific around here. If the catch is scanty, use the boat to cross Big Sarasota Pass to Lido Key, where is the Sea Grapes Restaurant, a short quarter mile from Coconut Bayou.

Edible Dictionary
piña colada, [peen-yah coe-LAH-dah], Spanish, n., adj.--A rum cocktail made with a blend of pineapple juice and coconut cream, and garnished with fresh pineapple and a cherry. Its invention is well documented: it was created by bartender Ramon Marrero at the Beachcomber Bar in San Juan in 1954. That's also the year when canned coconut milk (and coconut cream, a richer form of the same thing) came into existence. The Polynesian theme restaurants like Trader Vic's, Don the Beachcomber, and (here in New Orleans) the Bali Ha'i were at their peak at the time, and the new drink spread everywhere--helped by the fact that the pineapple-coconut flavor combination is irresistibly delicious. Since then, "pina colada" has become a flavor unto itself, found in everything from cupcakes to sno-balls to candy. The name means "strained pineapple."

Annals Of Wild Game 
On this date in 1929, the first reindeer born in the United States descended to the ground in Massachusetts. I ate reindeer once--in a teepee in a snow-covered vastness a bit north of the Arctic Circle in Finland. It was cooked by a Lappi, who made sandwiches out of the meat on bread that looked like a flat bagel. It was pretty good. Tasted a lot like caribou.

Annals Of Chocolate 
Today in 1057, Lady Godiva took the horseback ride that made her famous. As the tale goes, she did so to pay off a challenge with her husband. Lord Leofric. He said he'd lower taxes if she'd ride in her birthday suit in the middle of Coventry town. Some husband. I wonder why she was chosen as the name for Godiva Chocolates. . . Despite the name on the famous American chocolate sampler, Walt Whitman--who was born today in 1819--had no connection with chocolates.

Deft Dining Rule #178: 
When choosing a dessert or candy for a lady, the highest percentage comes from chocolate.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez: 
The best way to melt one-ounce chocolate squares in the microwave is to leave them in the wrappers, and let them get zapped for thirty seconds at a time until they're soft. The wrappers will hold them intact even after they're melted.

Great Moments In Processed Food 
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg patented flaked cereal today in 1884. His aim was to expand the vegetarian diet he fed his patients. Cereal doesn't command much respect from gourmets, but it has its place. Despite the reputation cereal has as junk, it's a harmless appetite-killer that really helps if you're trying to lose weight.

Annals Of Food Writing
Christopher Kimball founded Cook's Magazine today in 1980. It was very different in style and tone from previous food publications, and caught a lot of attention while never quite becoming successful. It was bought by a larger publisher, and in 1989 was folded into Gourmet and disappeared. In 1993, Kimball tried the idea (and the title) again, but with new twists: no advertising, and no articles not directly related to cooking. No travel or lifestyle articles, no restaurant reviews. That made for smaller magazines and a much smaller circulation than is typical for a national food magazine. But Cook's unique, intensive style gathered an enthusiastic readership. These days, it seems that Cook's Illustrated publishes cookbooks more often than it does magazines; the magazine itself comes out only every two months. I've subscribed since day one.

Food Inventions
Today in 1892, Lea and Perrins registered its trademark for Worcestershire sauce. John Lea and William Perrins were druggists who concocted the first version of that essential elixir. It was created at the behest of a British colonial officer after a tour of duty in India. He asked Lea and Perrins to make something like the fish sauces he'd enjoyed in Southeast Asia.

Food Namesakes
Sir Francis Bacon spent the night imprisoned in the Tower of London this day in 1621. . . Today in 1961, the seminal rock 'n' roller Chuck Berry opened an amusement park outside St. Louis. It was called Berryland. . . Actress Barbara Pepper was born in 1912 today. She was in Green Acres, among other productions.

Words To Eat By 
"Condensed milk is wonderful. I don't see how they can get a cow to sit down on those little cans."--Fred Allen, one of the great comedians in the golden age of radio, born today in 1894. Here are two more of his food lines:

"Three million frog's legs are served in Paris--daily. Nobody knows what became of the rest of the frogs."

"California is a great place to live, if you're an orange."

What Is a Piña Colada?

Words To Drink By
Serenely full, the epicure would say,
Fate cannot harm me, I have dined today."--Unknown.