The Food Almanac: Friday, October 25, 2013

Our Brilliant Local Chefs
Today is the birthday (but he wouldn't tell me which year!) of Greg Sonnier, who opened Gabrielle in 1992 with his wife and pastry chef Mary Sonnier. Greg worked at K-Paul's alongside Frank Brigtsen, and when Frank opened his own place Greg went with him. After a few years there, he went out on his own in a minimal restaurant space on Esplanade Avenue. Despite the surroundings, the food was always spectacular and very Creole. The Sonniers later opened a second restaurant called Gamay, in a French Quarter space that has never succeeded for anyone else. It didn't for them either, and after a couple of years they sold it. The storm brought Gabrielle to an end, first from damage to the original building, then from a political problem with The Uptowner, a reception hall the Sonniers bought on Henry Clay at Laurel. They still own the place, and do occasional events there. Greg was for a short time the chef of the Windsor Court Grill Room, but the management at the time wasn't behind him and he soon left. Love to have them back in action.

Annals Of Breakfast Cereal
C.W. Post was born today in 1854. He was inspired to invent Grape Nuts cereal by a stay in the sanatorium of Dr. John Kellogg. Kellogg and his brother Will were vegetarians and early proponents of processed cereal, and Post got that religion himself. Around Grape Nuts he built the Post Cereal Company, which became (and still is) Kellogg's strongest competitor. Post's other interesting creation was Postum, a roasted grain beverage that was supposed to be better for you than coffee. Problem: it tasted nothing like coffee, and not very good. Post was quite a businessman; his company evolved into General Foods Corporation.

Today's Flavor
Today is National Pumpkin Day, the day on which the most pumpkins are sold nationwide, for obvious reasons. The pumpkins that we carve into jack 'o lanterns are no great waste of food. Most of the pumpkin we eat is made from an entirely different kind of pumpkin. Jack 'o lantern pumpkins are certainly edible, but should be approached with the same methods you'd use for a squash (which it is). I like pureeing the meat and stuffing it with herbs into ravioli, and serving it with a cream sauce. Or making a gratin-style side dish.

Gourmet Gazetteer
The Pomme de Terre River is in the middle western part of Minnesota. It flows into the Minnesota River, a tributary of the Mississippi, at a point 152 miles due west of Minneapolis. Its name (French for "potato") was given by early French explorers who saw the Sioux Indians digging up potato-like turnips for food in the area. The nearest place to find some potatoes and other food to eat is Appleton, four miles away from the Pomme de Terre's delta. There we find Peg's Place and the Shooter's Bar and Grill.

Annals Of Fishing
Today in 1979, the largest bluefin tuna ever caught came out of the water in Nova Scotia, weighing about 1500 pounds. Bluefins are among the fastest swimmers in the sea. They are also among the most expensive and desirable fish in sushi bars. The meat is distinctly different from the more common yellowfin ("ahi") tuna. Bluefin tunas are so big that sometimes slices of sashimi from it have no flake structure at all, just a very fine meaty texture. It's a delicious eat. They're caught all over the place, including in the Gulf. I expect that they will become endangered in the not-too-distant future.

Deft Dining Rule #200
If you need predictability from a restaurant, find one where the chef has been there a long time. If you want novelty, find one with a history of hiring young chefs who stay a year or two and then open their own places. You can't have both.

Edible Dictionary
Jerusalem artichoke, n.–Neither from Jerusalem nor a member of the artichoke family, this is the edible, tuberous roots of a variety of sunflower. Hence it's other name, sunchoke. It does taste somewhat like an artichoke, particularly the artichoke bottom, whose texture it also resembles. The "Jerusalem" part of the name seems to come from the Italian name for sunflowers,girasole. The vegetable is native to North America, and spread to Europe in the 1600s. It was popular for awhile, but its natural sweetness caused it to be treated more or less the way we eat sweet potatoes. The sweetness comes from a natural sugar which, like many plant sugars, is indigestible and ferments. Eating a large portion of Jerusalem artichokes can create gas pains. However, a little bit of it is harmless. We mostly find it boiled a little bit and used as part of a salad or vegetable side dish.

Food Namesakes
John P. Roux, former South African cabinet member, was born today in 1942. . . Olympic diver Cinnamon Woods was born today in 1971. . . Russian architect Konstantin Thon was born today in 1794. ("Thon" is French for "tuna".). . . Former Alabama governor Albert P. Brewer was born today in 1928.

Words To Eat By
"My favorite word is 'pumpkin.' You can't take it seriously. But you can't ignore it, either. It takes ahold of your head and that's it. You are a pumpkin. Or you are not. I am."–Harrison Salisbury, New York Times journalist.

"What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye? What calls back the past like the rich pumpkin pie?" –John Greenleaf Whittier.

Words To Drink By
"A sweetheart is a bottle of wine, a wife is a wine bottle."–Charles Baudelaire.