The Food Almanac: Wednesday, May 1, 2013
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It's May Day, which has various meanings around the world. In Europe, it's the equivalent of Labor Day here. In most places, it's a celebration of springtime. You might be able to argue around New Orleans that it's actually summer. Or that this is the peak of the crawfish season.
May is alleged to be all of the following: National Asparagus Month, National Barbecue Month, National Egg Month, National Hamburger Month, National Salad Month, National Salsa Month, and National Strawberry Month. And some silly ones: National Chocolate Custard Month and National Gazpacho Aficionado Month. The first week of May is supposed to be National Raisin Week.
Let's go back to National Asparagus Month. This is the time of year when the best asparagus--the big ones that sprout from the "crown" that good asparagus plants (bushes, really)--come up and into the markets. The thin ones are a secondary growth and don't have as interesting a flavor.
We have two favorite ways of eating asparagus. The first is to steam them and serve them with an extra-thick hollandaise with more lemon than usual. The second is to poach them a little, then arrange them parallel on a baking pan. You sprinkle them first with olive oil, then grated Grana Padano cheese. Run them under the broiler just till the cheese melts, take them out, let the cheese cool a minute, then serve them.
Shifting gears entirely, there's the problem with. well, you know. Asparagus has a very good effect on your body's plumbing. But the same substance that does that shows itself to the olfactory sense--but not everybody's. What amazes me is how soon after eating how few (one is enough) this effect manifests itself.
Food On The Rails
Amtrak was born today in 1971. The federally-subsidized National Railroad Passenger Corporation took over the operation of almost all long-distance passenger trains across America that day. The first thing it did was permanently cancel about half of them. Passenger rail was a very sick service, squeezed by improved highways and better automobiles in the short-distance market and the much faster airlines for longer trips. Amtrak coordinated what was left into a national system, pulling together the best equipment from the participating railroads. Most of what it saved is still operating, with a new generation of rolling stock.
Amtrak's dining cars are the oldest equipment in its fleet. Many of the diners running east of the Mississippi date back to the 1950s. In the early days, Amtrak's diners operated much as diners had for decades, with small kitchens performing actual cooking of substantial menus, served by waiters who at least attempted to follow the Pullman rulebook.
All of that was diluted as years went on. Many of the kitchens were replaced by banks of freezers and microwave ovens. China, glassware, and silverware went away in favor of plastic everything. Occasionally. Amtrak has spates of upgrading its diners, with better serviceware, regional menus, and more real cooking. But inevitable budgetary problems usually made those improvements temporary. We ride the train often enough to report that the food is edible and occasionally very good in the dining cars, but nothing to write home about. Although you certainly have the time to do so if you're on a train.
Deft Dining Rule #701
If you will be having more than two meals in the dining car of a train, give the waiter an extra-large tip at the first repast, to assure your getting a good table for the remainder of the trip.
Deft Dining Rule #702
When on a long-distance train, find out whether it will be passing through any long stretches where alcoholic drink sales are prohibited. (For example, the entire state of Georgia on Sunday.) Stock up before you get to those places.
Crawfish Valley is in the Appalachian Mountains in the narrow westernmost part of Virginia. Bear Creek cuts a modest gorge with Walker Mountain on the north and Brushy Mountain on the south. Both rise about 250 feet above the valley. Brushy Mountain's summits are Big and Little Turkey Knob. A rough route called Strawberry Road runs through Crawfish Valley. (They like to give food names to places in this part of the country.) You might catch a fish in the creek, but if that doesn't work out the town of Wytheville, eleven miles away, offers Robby's Diner and Big Mike's Restaurant.
Food In The Sky
The first meals cooked in an airplane for service to passengers were concocted today in 1927 aboard a flight from London to Paris. The airline was Imperial Airways, a predecessor of British Airways. The food was neither fish nor fowl, it was rumored.
Annals Of Fishing
Today in 2005, what is believed to be the biggest freshwater fish ever caught was taken in the Mekong River by some Thai fishermen. It was a catfish, and weighed 646 pounds. Nine feet long. You've got to see the photo of this thing, in an MSNBC story here.
Dutch chocolate, n.--A method of mellowing the natural acidity of cocoa powder by treating it with alkali. That makes it mellower in flavor. It also gives it a lighter color and lets it dissolve into other ingredients more easily. As you might guess, all this made chocolate more appealing to most eaters, especially in candy or ice cream. In recent years "dutched" chocolate has decreased in popularity among gourmets and pastry chefs, for a number of reasons. It doesn't rise as well in cakes, and the flavonoids (which have been claimed to have good effects on health) are also lowered a bit. It's called "Dutch" because it and many other processes that made chocolate easier to work with were developed by the van Houten family in the early 1800s.
Music To Drink Cocktails By
The Kingston Trio got together on this date in 1957. Scotch and soda, mud in your eye. Dry martini, jigger of gin. oh what a spell you've got me in. Oh, my. Now we'll be thinking of that song all day.
Annals Of Popular Cuisine
Cheerios were introduced today in 1941. General Mills originally called them Cheerioats, which tells what they're made of. They taste pretty good as highly-processed cereals go. Today in 2001, a lawsuit on behalf of Hindus was filed against McDonald's for the chain's failure to state that its French fries contained beef flavoring. But really, what could you expect from such a place?
Buffalo Bill Cody put in his first Wild West show in this date in 1883. . Peaches and Herb--a rare double food name!--hit Number Two on the pop charts withReunited today in 1979. . Mr. Potato Head was born today in 1952. In its original version, you used an actual potato as the head. The toy is all plastic now. We have another double food name:Frank W. Fries, which sounds like an order in a drive-through fast-food place. He was a Congressman from Illinois, and born today in 1893.
Words To Eat By
"In the nineteenth century, it was traditional to serve three courses of asparagus--thought to be a powerful aphrodisiac--to a French groom on the night before the wedding. The modern French gentleman has discarded the noble asparagus for the more romantic passion prompter--Champagne."--Food author Sharon Tyler Herbst.
Words To Drink By
"Drinking will make a man quaff,
Quaffing will make a man sing,
Singing will make a man laugh,
And laughing long life doth bring,
Says old Simon the King."--Simon Wadloe, tavern-keeper at the "Devil," London, seventeenth century.
Walnut Wednesdays, food trucks return to Perk Plaza in downtown Cleveland May 1: Restaurant Row
James Wills, often called "Cleveland's own Shaq," slings ribs for B&M Bar-B-Que during last summer's Walnut Wednesdays al fresco feasting frenzy on Walnut Avenue and East 12th Street in downtown Cleveland. The midweek meals resume May 1.
Ready for some more partying downtown? Starting Wednesday, May 1, a dozen food trucks will once again convene at Perk Plaza at Chester Commons on Walnut Avenue and East 12th Street in Cleveland for the popular "Walnut Wednesdays," through Wednesday, Sept. 25.
Lunch from the trucks will be available from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with live music provided by 87.7 FM Cleveland's Sound. The event is sponsored by Downtown Cleveland Alliance, an organization of businesses dedicated to improving the core city's landscape and business-residential environment.
"Walnut Wednesday, which has grown increasingly popular over the years, has helped reintroduce downtown workers and residents to the NineTwelve District," said Joe Marinucci, president and CEO of DCA in a media release. The NineTwelve District refers to the business area encompassing several city blocks east of Public Square.
Meanwhile, Pop-Up Parties at Perk Plaza will return on Thursday, May 16. Organized as monthly after-work get-togethers, these kick-off-the-weekend events include drinks from Great Lakes Brewing Company and live bands. They'll run through August.
You Don&rsquot Have To Wait For The Big Barbecue Weekend
There Are Celebrations Every Day Of The Month!
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- and National Herb Week are the first week of the month. is the second week of the month**. is the third week. is the third Friday. and American Craft Beer Week are held the fourth week. Day is the fourth Thursday.
- National Barbecue Day is on Memorial Day Monday.
- May 1: International Sauvignon Blanc Day
- May 1: National Chocolate Parfait Day
- May 2: National Truffles Day ‡ ‡ †
- May 2: World Tuna Day
- May 3: National Chocolate Custard Day
- May 3: National Raspberry Tart Day
- May 4: National Homebrew Day
- May 4: National Orange Juice Day
- May 4: National Candied Orange Peel Day
- May 5: Cinco de Mayo
- May 5: National Hoagie Day*
- May 6: National Beverage Day
- May 6: National Crêpes Suzette Day
- May 6: International No Diet Day
- May 7: National Roast Leg of Lamb Day
- May 8: National Coconut Cream Pie Day
- May 8: National Empanada Day
- May 8: Have A Coke Day
- May 9: National Butterscotch Brownie Day†
- May 9: National Moscato Day
- May 10: National Liver & Onions Day
- May 10: National Shrimp Day
- May 11: National Eat What You Want Day
- May 12: National Nutty Fudge
- May 13 National Apple Pie Day
- May 13: National Fruit Cocktail
- May 13: National Hummus Day
- May 13: World Cocktail Day
- May 14: National Buttermilk
- May 15: National Chocolate Chip
Day ††† †
- May 15: World Whiskey Day ****
- May 16: National Coquilles Saint
- May 16: National Mimosa Day
- May 17: National Cherry Cobbler
May 10 is National Shrimp Day. We served these tasty crustaceans with LuLu&rsquos Saffron Aioli. Photo by Ryan Pike.
- May 17: National Walnut Day
- May 18: National Cheese Soufflé Day
- May 19: National Devil&rsquos Food Cake Day
- May 19: World Baking Day
- May 20: National Quiche Lorraine Day
- May 20: National Pick Strawberries Day
- May 21: National Strawberries and Cream Day
- May 22: National Vanilla Pudding Day
- May 22: World Paloma Day
- May 23: National Taffy Day
- May 24: National Escargot Day
- May 25: National Brown-Bag-It Day
- May 25: National Wine Day
- May 26: National Blueberry Cheesecake Day
- May 26: National Cherry Dessert
- May 27: National Grape Popsicle
- May 28: National Brisket Day
- May 28: National Hamburger Day**
- May 29: National Coq Au Vin Day‡
- May 30: National Mint Julep Day
- May 31: National Macaroon Day
* May 5th is National Hoagie Day. November 4th is National Submarine Sandwich Day. And someone decided that we needed a National Eat A Hoagie Day on September 14th and Submarine-Hoagie-Grinder Day on October 9th.
†There’s National Blondie Day on January 22nd. Blondie is another name for Butterscotch Blondie. Here’s the scoop.
‡Some sources list March 22 as National Coq Au Vin Day. It may be a locally declared holiday rather than national. We&rsquove double-listed it in March.
**May is National Hamburger Month. The second week in May is National Hamburger Week. May 28th is National Hamburger Day.
‡ ‡ There are two types of truffles. The original is the highly expensive fungus related to the mushroom. Chocolate truffles are named after them.
***This holiday celebrates the artisan cheeses made by American cheesemakers, not the processed product called American cheese. It was formerly held in October, but was changed to align with the arrival of spring cheeses.
**** International Whiskey Day is March 27th.
†††World Tuna Day was established to promote more sustainable fishing practices.
††† † National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day is August 4th.
Continue To The June Food Holidays
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Governor Cuomo Announces State Will End Food and Beverage Service Curfew
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the 12 a.m. food and beverage service curfew will be lifted for outdoor dining areas beginning May 17 and for indoor dining areas beginning May 31.
Governor Cuomo also announced that the 1 a.m. curfew for catered events where attendees have provided proof of vaccination status or a recent negative COVID-19 test result will be lifted beginning May 17, with the curfew for all catered events set to be lifted May 31.
Additionally, the Governor announced that catered events can resume at residences beginning May 3 above the State's residential gathering limit of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, as long as the events are staffed by a professional, licensed caterer, permitted by the respective locality or municipality, and strictly adhere to health and safety guidance, including social and event gathering limits, masks, and social distancing. Also on May 3, the guidance for dancing among attendees at catered events will be aligned with neighboring states, replacing fixed dance zones for each table with social distancing and masks.
Finally, the Governor announced that starting May 3, seating at bars will be allowed in New York City, consistent with the food services guidance that is in effect statewide.
"We know the COVID positivity rate is a function of our behavior, and over the last year New Yorkers have remained disciplined and continued with the practices we know work to stop the spread of the virus," Governor Cuomo said. "Everything we've been doing is working - all the arrows are pointing in the right direction and now we're able to increase economic activity even more. Lifting these restrictions for restaurants, bars and catering companies will allow these businesses that have been devastated by the pandemic to begin to recover as we return to a new normal in a post-pandemic world. To be clear: we will only be able to maintain this progress if everyone gets the COVID vaccine. It is the weapon that will will the war and we need everyone to take it, otherwise we risk going backward."
This announcement on food and beverage service and catered events builds on the Governor's recent measures to further re-open the economy amid a steady decline in New York's COVID-19 positivity and hospitalization rates. On April 26, Governor Cuomo announced that spectator capacity at large-scale outdoor event venues, including professional and collegiate sports and live performing arts and entertainment, will increase from 20 to 33 percent beginning May 19. This increase will coincide with the previously announced increase in large-scale indoor event venue capacity. Social distancing, masks, health screenings and all other State health and safety protocols remain in effect.
The Governor also announced that capacities would be increased throughout several industries that have proven to safely reopen in accordance with the State's COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, starting May 15: