The Food Almanac: Thursday, November 21, 2013

Restaurant Birthdays
Today is the anniversary of the opening of Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse, born today in 1998. But you could say that it was conceived in the early 1970s, when Dick and Ella Brennan had the idea to open a chain of high-end steakhouses around the country. They even had a name for it: The Inner Circle. The concept was much like what Ruth's Chris, Smith and Wollensky, and Morton's later became. If they'd gone ahead with it, it would have been the first of its kind. 

Unfortunately, the Inner Circle was the proximate cause of the still-unhealed breach in the Brennan family. In that, the three brothers who own Brennan's on Royal Street went their own way, while their aunts and uncles moved to Commander's Palace and the other Brennan properties of the time. The Inner Circle was iced–withoput the income from Brennan's, it was impossible at the time. But when Dick Brennan's branch of the family went its own way in 1996 (in a friendly split), it revived the steakhouse idea. The steakhouse became an instant hit on Iberville Street. It is unique in having the only main dining room in New Orleans belows treet level. Which, unfortunately, caused a disastrous flood in the weather unpleasantness of 2005. But it reopened the following May, and went right back to its pre-storm success.

Among the several private dining rooms at Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse, one of them is named the Inner Circle Room–a hint at the restaurant's origins.

Today's Flavor
Today has been declared by persons unknown to be National Gingerbread Day. Gingerbread? I think that should wait until after Thanksgiving, don't you? Then we could start building houses out of it. Anything to provide shelter for our displaced citizens. . . Another bunch of Web sites say it's National Stuffing Day. I say we should make it National Unstuffing Day, because the kinds of stuffings we make this time of year are better left unstuffed. At least if a turkey is involved.

Edible Dictionary
pope's (or parson's or bishop's) nose, n.–Also known as the bishop's hat, particularly in mostly-Catholic communities. This is the appendage of meat at the rear end of a turkey or chicken that holds the tail feathers. It is indeed shaped like a nose or a a bishop's hat. It's even more prominent in ducks and geese, although those don't taste as good. In a turkey or chicken, the muscles involved don't do much work, and so are tenderer. In every family, there's someone who particularly likes this piece. He or she rarely has much competition for it, because of it's well-known position in the rear of the bird. But there's nothing wrong with it, and combined with a knot of fatty meat right in front of it, it is one of a poultry delicacy.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Ham Lake, Minnesota 55304 is twenty-four miles north of Minneapolis, and is an exurb of that city. It's named for an actual lake, whose shape is like that of an actual ham. (Many of Minnesota's famously numerous lakes are named for food because of their shapes.) The place to eat in Ham Lake is the Red Ox Cafe.

Annals Of Lavish Travel
Samuel Cunard, the founder of the shipping line that bears his name, was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia today in 1787. That's also where the Cunard Lines began. Cunard became–and still is–the most hallowed name in shipboard passenger travel. The Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2, and Queen Victoria still do all the things that transatlantic ships did in the golden age, and then some. Particularly if you're traveling in the upper classes, you dine and travel very well. All three Cunard ships still make an annual voyage around the world.

Food In Surgery
The surgeon William Beaumont was born today in 1785. He added tremendously to our understanding of digestion by studying a patient afflicted with a permanent opening into his stomach from a gunshot wound. Beaumont looked in, sampled gastric fluids, and. . .well, I've heard enough, haven't you?

Music That Makes You Hungry
It's Dr. John's birthday–1940. He's Mack Rebennack, formerly known as the Night Tripper. How would you describe his music? To New Orleans people, its sounds very local. Everyone else must be somewhat puzzled by it, but he's had enough hits and made enough well-attended appearances to point to a widespread appreciation. Just hearing Dr. John makes me hungry for red beans and rice. (I'm not kidding.)

Food Namesakes
The soft-rock group Bread hit #2 on the pop charts today with the sappy song Baby I'm-A Want You. . . Josiah Bartlett, a physician who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, was born today in 1729. The pears are not named for him. . . Nor were lemons named for basketball coach Abe Lemons, who was born today in 1922.

Words To Eat By 
"Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity."–François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire (usually known only by his last name), French writer, born today in 1694.

Words To Drink By
"A good writer is not, per se, a good book critic. No more so than a good drunk is automatically a good bartender."–Jim Bishop, American newspaper columnist, born today in 1907.