The Food Almanac: Wednesday, February 27, 2013

It's National Chocolate Soufflee Day!
Chocolate Souffle
Wikimedia Commons/ AVi

Chocolate Souffle


Legendary Local Chefs 
Buster Holmes, whose restaurant on the corner of Burgundy and Orleans was the apotheosis of the New Orleans soul food kitchen, died on this date in 1994.

Dining Across America
After a hundred seven years serving German food and beer to Chicagoans in the Loop, the venerable Berghoff restaurant closed today in 2006. This was tantamount to Galatoire's or Antoine's closing here. People at first speculated that the management just wanted to create a groundswell of interest in a reopening, and that they'd oblige, but at prices much higher than the Berghoff's legendary lowball menu numbers. What happened was that a much smaller cafe was opened in part of the gigantic building, with the rest now used for private events and catering. But it doesn't seem like the Berghoff to me, a restaurant that was the essence of Chicago.

Rarely-Eaten Animals
This is the day in 1979 when Mr. Ed, the talking horse (not Ed McIntyre, who owns Mr. Ed's restaurant in Bucktown), went to that great pasture in the sky. Horsemeat, while commonly eaten in parts of Europe, has never been so much as tried here. At least not in a restaurant. We eat everything else; why not? I'd sample it if it came my way.

Good Wine And Fast Cars
Mario Andretti, the famous former racecar driver, was born on this date in 1940. He owns awinery in Napa now; here's its website.

Edible Dictionary
lotus, n.--The lotus plant is remarkable in that the whole thing floats in water, thanks to its oversized rhyzome (false roots), which have airtight channels that buoy up the plant. These can be sliced across (displaying the channels as holes) and used in cooking. They're quite crisp even after being marinated or cooked, and they give the Chinese dishes in which they are most often found not only an interesting flavor but a bit of crunch. The fruit of the plant is a nut that resembles a shelled peanut. That's edible, too, and used to make flour used to thicken cooked dishes. It's less common in that role in this country. Because lotus roots have a spicy quality, they're often used to make a sweet confection. We're seeing much greater use of lotus root in cooking lately, and not always in Asian restaurants. They are very cool-looking, so chefs like them.

Today's Flavor
It is National Chocolate Soufflee Day, sez a few dozen web sites. Chocolate soufflees can be made hot or cold, but the really exciting ones are the former. Since serving hot soufflees involves having a special oven and a special cook to make them, few restaurants offer them. Only Morton's Steak House and the Windsor Court Grill Room have them regularly in New Orleans.

Our own calendar tells us that it's Italian Beef Daube Day. That's a thorough a blend of Creole and Italian cooking as you're likely to find. Daube is a French method of cooking beef (usually tough cuts) that renders it tender to the point that it almost falls apart. In New Orleans Italian cooking, the beef is sliced after being pot-roasted, and then simmered some more in a Sicilian-style tomato ragu. All that's served with spaghetti. It was once widely served around New Orleans, but has become a rarity in restaurants. In homes, it's mostly the older generations that still cook it. I like it because it gives a use for eye of round, a beautiful-looking cut of beef that needs all the tenderizing it can get.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Lotus, Louisiana is a small community in the Kisatchie National Forest, about a mile east of the Kisatchie Bayou. It's twenty-nine miles south of Natchitoches, the oldest city in Louisiana. The vicinity of Lotus is hilly country by Louisiana standards, and mostly covered with woods. It's sparsely settled. The nearest restaurant worth talking about is Cafe St. Denis, aseventeen miles away in Natchitoches.

Vitamin Corner
It's the birth date on 1901 of Linus Pauling, twice a Nobel Prize winner, but better known for his championing of Vitamin C. Pauling believed that colds and perhaps even cancer could be prevented by large doses of Vitamin C. His theory has been proven wrong in scientific testing. However, I choose to believe it anyway, and pop Vitamin C regularly if I feel a cold coming on.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
If you feel a cold coming on, eat a whole bunch of parsley. It's loaded with Vitamin C, but in case that doesn't work, at least your sneezes will smell sweet.

Food Namesakes
Film actor Stanley Baker was born today in 1927. . . College football coach Hayden Fry kicked off his life today in 1927. . . New Jersey Congressman Richard Roe was sworn in to the world today in 1924. . . Physicist Steven Chu was born today in 1948. His most famous work involved trapping moving atoms with lasers, which he called "optical molasses."

Words To Eat By
"Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good."--Alice May Brock, owner of the Alice's Restaurant of the Arlo Guthrie song. She was born today in 1941.

"A man should not so much respect what he eats, as with whom he eats."--Michel de Montaigne, French writer, born today in 1553.

Words To Drink By
"This bottle's the sun of our table,
His beams are rosy wine;
We planets that are not able
Without his help to shine."--Richard Brinsley Sheridan