The Food Almanac: Monday, October 21, 2013

Restaurant Anniversaries
NOLA opened today in 1992. Two years after opening Emeril's–still well before his national fame had heated up–Emeril Lagasse struck up a partnership with Hicham Khodr (the owner now of the Camellia Grill) to open a hip, casual restaurant in the French Quarter. NOLA went long with its food, implementing a host of unique ideas. The most famous at first was its cedar plank fish, in which fillets were roasted on the wood-burning oven on lengths of siding bought from Home Depot. Warm shrimp remoulade on pasta and jambalaya pizza were other NOLA originals. Many of Emeril's best cooks and managers started at NOLA and moved up. It still plays that function today.

Today's Flavor
This is Apple Day in England, and we see no reason why we shouldn't adopt the observance in this country too. Apples are being harvested right now throughout the Northern Hemisphere. And, as always, avidly eaten. Apples originated in Central Asia, in the area where Kazakhstan and China meet. They spread widely, with the tremendous assistance of humans, who had to learn a new skill to take advantage of these highly edible fruits. They found that seeds from an apple would not grow into trees with the same kind of apple. Somewhere along the way, somebody figured out how to graft stems from a tree with good apples onto the roots of a seedling. A major advance, that was. 

Still, some good apples cane from seeds, which is why we have so many different kinds of apples. Even limiting oneself to the varieties in supermarkets, you could eat a different kind of apple every day for a long time without duplicating.

But, with Thanksgiving in the near future, remember this: cut an apple and stuff it into the cavity of the turkey along with the celery, onions, rosemary, and other flavor helpers. The apple flavor is great with poultry.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Apple, Ohio is a crossroads of several gravel paths through a densely wooded, rolling landscape fifty-two miles south of Columbus. There's only one house there, in a large clearing. The nearest restaurant is five miles away in Laurelville: the Old Town Diner.

Edible Dictionary
Northern Spy, n.–A crunchy, tart, mostly-green apple that has been largely replaced in markets by the Granny Smith. Northern Spies taste better, but they're more fragile, both in growing and in supermarket distribution. They are prone to some diseases, and have thin skins that bruise easily. In the apple-growing areas of the Northeast and Midwest, however, they are still often seen in roadside stands. As they ripen, parts of the skin turn a light, rosy red. They make it into a lot of apple products–applesauce, apple butter, and cider notably.

Deft Dining Rule #511
Always order made-in-house apple pie if you see it on a dessert menu. It's become rare.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
I learned this trick directly from Chef Jacques Pepin, in person. To core an apple, insert the paring knife into the stem depression at a forty-five degree angle to the vertical. Then rotate the apple to remove a cone-shaped chunk of the apple. Do the same thing at the bottom. Then cut the apple in half, and perform the same conectomy to the seed cores on each half. The result is an absolutely clean apple in two hemispheres, ready for anything else you plan to do.

Music To Eat Fried Chicken By
This is the birthday of Dizzy Gillespie, one of the great jazz trumpeters of all time, and a man with a unique presentation. The bell of his trumpet was bent up twenty or so degrees. And his cheeks ballooned out distinctively. Wayne Baquet's two Li'l Dizzy's restaurants feature his likeness on their menus. (One of Wayne's nieces or nephews has "L'il Dizzy" as a nickname.)

Tips For Great Servers
Glasses and cups–full or empty–should be held by the bottom half when delivered to the table. Most customers who see your hand anywhere near the rim will immediately register that you were touching the areas where their mouth will be.

Annals Of Processed Food
William A. Mitchell, a food chemist working for General Foods, created some of the most successful products in food marketing history. Tang, for example. A powder that you mixed with water to make a drink that tasted vaguely like orange juice, it actually replaced juice for a lot of people, who considered it (as we say around New Orleans) "modren." Who drinks it now? Mitchell patented Pop Rocks candy in the 1950s, but had to wait until the 1970s to see it explode–literally. Pop Rocks contain bubbles of pressurized carbon dioxide, and they pop when the candy dissolves in your mouth. His next hit was Cool Whip, the non-dairy whipped cream substitute, sold in a plastic bowl with a tight-fitting lid. Many containers of Cool Whip were no doubt bought for the container. I wonder whether Mitchell made anything that was real or tasted good. Well, you can't knock his success–seventy patents. Mitchell was born today in 1911.

Food And Drink Namesakes
British actress Vivian Pickles was born today in 1931. . . Canadian hockey pro Carl Brewer hit the Big Ice today in 1938.

Words To Eat By
"All millionaires love a baked apple."–Ronald Evans, British novelist of the early 1900s.

Words To Drink By
"I heard a sound as of scraping tripe,
And putting apples wondrous ripe,
Into a cider-press's gripe."–Robert Browning.