The Food Almanac: Monday, January 27, 2014

Tom Fitzmorris publishes the New Orleans Menu

Today's Flavor
It is National Chocolate Cake Day. It's no longer enough to make just chocolate cake anymore. It must be Chocolate Suicide cake. Or Death by Chocolate cake. Chocolate Devastation Cake is at Arnaud's. Chocolate Suicide Cake, Brennan's. I'm relieved that no Chocolate Genocide Cake has been put on any menu. Then there's Better Than Sex chocolate cake, a Bing search for which brought up three and a half million leads. Are there that many people who hold chocolate cake in greater regard than a roll in the hay?

Isn't it enough for chocolate cake to just be good? It seems essential now that it give one a headache to be taken seriously. Although it will not do that to serious lovers of chocolate. My wife and daughter, for example, recognize no limit to the richness of a chocolate cake.

Chocolate cake's makeover came in the 1990s, with the advent of the flourless chocolate cake. All of a sudden, every restaurant with a pastry chef was serving the new, shallow, intense dessert. Waiters spoke of it with a pride previously reserved only for one's newborn child. They made it seem like a magic trick. Not that magical. It's basically a chocolate mousse stiffened with an unusually large amount of eggs, then baked in a water bath so slowly that the egg foam dries out and hardens.

When pastry chefs began moving back toward more normal chocolate cakes with flour, they were much moister and riche than they had been, with layers of ganache or solid chocolate and molten centers. The latest wrinkle is to make them as cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes on this day rule the dessert world. What a world!

Gourmet Gazetteer
Candy Town, Ohio is a campsite in the woods about sixty-two miles southeast of Columbus, off US 33. Nothing appears on the aerial shot but a small loop on a road leading to an old dump. Somehow, this all adds up to a place where lovers could find some privacy, but I'm only guessing. Perhaps before you head to Candy Town, you might have a nice dinner at the Rhapsody Restaurant, a mile away in Nelsonville.

Edible Dictionary
chocolate molten cake, lava cake, n.–A flourless chocolate cake, made with two variations. First, the egg yolks in the batter are beaten to a very light, foamy texture. Second, the cake is underbaked, such that the center doesn't set. When the eater cuts into the cake with his (or, more probably, her) fork, the warm, unset interior flows out, like lava. (Hence the alternate name). This dessert burst on the scene in the late 1980s, and soon it was on every upscale menu in the country. As usual, there immediately emerged a controversy as to who invented it, but the chef whose name is most often mentioned in association with chocolate molten cake is the vaunted Jean-Georges Vongerichten. As always happens, as the idea spread to more restaurants, the fine points were often lost. How far did it spread? By 1998, it was on the menu aboard Amtrak trains. (That one was pretty good, actually.)

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
When you melt chocolate in the microwave oven, the chocolate can hold its shape even after it's melted. To avoid burning it, stir it with a dinner knife every thirty seconds or so during the melting.

Music To Eat A Midnight Snack By
Skitch Henderson was born today in 1918. He's best known as the bandleader on the Tonight Show during the early years of the Johnny Carson era. When the show moved from New York to Burbank, Henderson stayed and went on to many other projects, of which the last major one was the New York Pops Orchestra. He and his wife wrote two delightful cookbooks based on the goings on at The Silo, a farm and cooking school they ran in New England. One of them had a Christmas theme, and I pull it out every year to get me into the spirit. Skitch died in 2005 at 87.

Music To Dine Expensively By
Speaking of musicians: today is also the birthday (1756) of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. How many restaurants have played how many thousands of hours of his works as background music?

Sounds Like Food, But Isn't 
The Diet of Worms began today in 1521. It's not what you think. Look it up. Clue: Martin Luther was there.

Inventions For Finer Dining
On this date in 1880, Thomas Edison received a patent on the incandescent light bulb. Think about this: Antoine's, Tujague's, Bruning's and many other restaurants were open before the light bulb existed. Try to imagine what that was like. If you can't, go upstairs at Muriel's, where they still illuminate some rooms by candles alone.

Food Namesakes
Pro football kicker Matt Stover was born today in 1968. . . Union Brigadier General Samuel Allen Rice was born, 1828. . . Bobby "Blue" Bland, a Memphis blues singer who played around New Orleans a lot, was born today in 1930.

Words To Eat By 
"Research tells us fourteen out of any ten individuals likes chocolate."–Sandra Boynton, greeting card writer and artist.

Words To Drink By
"Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts."–Proverbs 31:6