The Food Almanac: Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Staff Writer
It's National Speckled Trout Day!
Wikimedia Commons/ Benreis

Notable New Orleans Restaurateurs
Patrick von Hoorebeck was born today in Brussels, Belgium in the 1950s. (He won't give me the exact year.) Good timing: as Captain of the Krewe of Cork, he gets to celebrate every year when his parade of wine buffs rolls down Royal Street during the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience's Royal Street Stroll tomorrow night. Patrick came to prominence locally as the dining room and wine manager of the Bistro at the Maison de Ville. When that restaurant ran into trouble after the hurricane, Patrick began making the rounds, working at the Rib Room and Restaurant August, among other tony places. He now operates his own wine bar, Bar Vin, in the former lounge of Louis XVI.

Today's Flavor
It is National Speckled Trout Day. Speckled trout--whose official name is the spotted sea trout--is not a trout at all, but a weakfish, a member of the same general family as redfish and drum. Of this there is no doubt: it's the standard fish of New Orleans white-tablecloth restaurants.

Or used to be. That status is much diminished since the advent of laws that limit the commercial catch of trout to such a small number (less than one percent of the total catch by recreational fishermen) that the fish is now highly seasonal (October through spring), and it's hard to get even in season. The recreational lobby is once again trying to get speckled trout named a sport fish, which would remove it from restaurants and markets completely.

There are good ways to prepare trout, and less good ways. The standard method, at trout specialists like Galatoire's and Arnaud's, is to deep-fry it. Or, if you're being elegant, to pan-saute it--a variation on frying, really. Trout also comes out nice when baked, particularly underneath a modest topping. These run the gamut from seafood and bread crumbs to shredded potatoes to toasted almonds or pecans. Although sometimes trout is grilled, I think it's not as good as other fish for that purpose. Its flaky structure seems to fall apart on the grill.

Some of the best versions of trout meuniere and amandine are at Galatoire's, Arnaud's, Fury's, Mandina's, and the Bourbon House. It really is a great fish, with a nice texture with big flakes and a mellow nutty quality that lends itself to the buttery sauces we like to gild it with.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Trout, Kentucky is a rural crossroads fifty-one miles upstream of Louisville on the Ohio River. It's in a mixed farming and woodlands area, with rich alluvial soil for growing a variety of crops, left behind by a former course of the river. You can catch trout in the streams of Kentucky--freshwater trout, more closely related to salmon than the speckled trout we have in Louisiana. Such a stream runs through Trout on its way to the Ohio, which means that its water ultimately winds up in New Orleans. If you have no luck catching anything there, Our House--the nearest restaurant--is five miles north on SR 625.

Deft Dining Rule #598
The most frequent misrepresentation in New Orleans restaurants is that the fish used to make the trout amandine is actually speckled trout.

Restaurant Anniversaries 
Palm in New York City opened today in 1926. It set out as an Italian restaurant called Parma, owned by Pio Bozzi and John Ganzi. But the person taking the application for the license misheard the name, and Palm (without "the") it became. Palm quickly evolved into what it is now, a major player in the New York steakhouse community. It sprouted a second location across Second Avenue after a few years, and in recent decades has become a national chain. The original, which still has an extensive Italian menu, is one of the best steakhouses of our experience, although it seems to us that the chaining of the thing has lessened it somewhat. Sounds familiar.

Edible Dictionary 
rainbow trout, n.--A freshwater fish native to streams both in North America (mostly west of the Continental Divide) and Russia. Some populations spend time in the Pacific Ocea, but others remain in the rivers where they were born. It is an excellent fish for eating, and is farmed widely/ They can grow to be as much as three feet long, but a two-footer would be considered a a big one. The ones that wind up on the table are typically about a foot long or less. Rainbow trout are so called for the iridescent colors of their scales. It's both a true trout (as opposed to Gulf of Mexico speckled trout) and a member of the salmon family. It's the same species as the steelhead or the salmon trout. Its fresh is a medium tan color and very firm. Great for grilling or broiling.

Annals Of Culinary Education 
Today in 1946, the Culinary Institute of America--this country's best-known training school for chefs--was founded as the New Haven Restaurant Institute. It moved to Hyde Park in 1970, where it still is. A second major campus is at Greystone in Napa Valley. Thousands of graduates of the CIA work in restaurants across America, and have given new cachet to the occupation of chef.

Music To Eat Red Beans By
Today in 1961, New Orleans R&B legend-to-be Ernie K-Doe saw his most famous song at the top of the pop charts. Mother In Law was his only really big record, but he played music around town for the rest of his life, always putting out a distinctly New Orleans sound.

Annals Of Cold Drinks
Today in 1807, in Philadelphia, one Townsend Speakman (what a great name! reversible, too!) mixed fruit juices with carbonated water in his drugstore and created what may have been the first soda pop.

Annals Of Unusual Ingredients
Rattlesnake meat in a can went on the market for this first time today in 1931. Floridian George End was the entrepreneur. I don't have to tell you that it wasn't a runaway success. I've eaten rattlesnake meat a few times, and the only reason I remember it was because of it unusual identity. It didn't taste like much. Not as much like chicken as like some very heavy fish, but without the fish flavor. I keep thinking that rattlesnake cakes (like crab cakes) would be the way to go with the stuff.

Food Namesakes
Ed Fry, long-time soap opera actor, was born today in 1959. . . Former U.S. Congressman from LouisianaRichard Baker was born today in 1948. . . Classical pianist John Browning was born today in 1933. . . Harvey Milk, San Francisco politician and gay rights activist, was born today in 1930. . . And we have two Australian food names today: Actor Gary Sweet (1957) and football player Steven Baker (1980).

Words To Eat By
"My fare is really sumptuous this evening; buffalo's humps, tongues and marrowbones, fine trout, parched meal, pepper and salt, and a good appetite; the last is not considered the least of the luxuries."--From the journals ofMeriwether Lewis, Thursday, June 13, 1805.

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Words To Drink By
One sip of this
Will bathe the drooping spirits in delight,
Beyond the bliss of dreams.

--John Milton, Comus.