Chefs Digging In to Gulf Seafood

The thought of 200 million gallons of oil spewing into the gulf is enough to give anyone pause when it comes to eating the living things in that sea. But restaurateurs are optimistic about the safety of the fish in the gulf.

Rum Punch, Straight Up

Several years ago, when Quentin Tarantino made Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch into a film called Jackie Brown, it captured almost none of the book’s genius. Leonard’s work is deceptively multilayered, full of mood and pitch-perfect rhythm and action that seems entirely unforced. Most important, there’s never been an Elmore Leonard novel that contains a single thing it shouldn’t.

Food: Pigs Go Upscale

In his new Pig: King of The Southern Table, James Villas writes that he has “yet to meet a fellow Southerner who didn’t love, respect, and, indeed, understand pig like no other Americans.” The book’s exhaustive collection of recipes from across the region proves Villas’s case—and reminds me that not only do we utilize pretty much every pig part, but we save the leftovers to embellish almost everything else.

The Return of Legal Absinthe

For the past three years it has been legal, once again, to sell absinthe in America. So far I have seen no noteworthy spike in violent crime, creativity, or especially wanton debauchery, all of which were purported results of regular absinthe drinking in its heyday, starting in the 1860s. On Bourbon Street in New Orleans, where absinthe consumption rivaled that of France, an early-20th-century visitor reported seeing the bodies of absinthe-crazed young men rolling off the tin roofs near the Old Absinthe House. In France an absinthe drinker named Jean Lanfray killed his entire family, a highly publicized incident known as the "absinthe murders" and said to have been the chief reason France banned the spirit in 1915, three years after the Americans did.As it happened, Lanfray was also a wine-swilling drunk, and the ban can be more accurately attributed to pressure from vintners concerned about the effect of absinthe's burgeoning popularity on their business (36 million liters of the...

The $50 a Week Gourmet

Just after new year's, I was having a festive drink with my friends Rod and Joyce when the talk turned—as the talk so often does these days—to budgets. I mentioned that I had never in my life made one until now, a fact that has driven my father, who considers me the soul of extravagance, crazy for at least 30 years, and might also have contributed, now that I think of it, to the current less-than-lavish state of my pocketbook. Anyway, as part of my new, more prudent approach to things, I thought it might be interesting to see if my husband and I could dine—pretty well—on $50 worth of groceries per week. If I were the irritating Julie Powell, I might blog about it; instead, I made a bet.Rod wagered it would be impossible—for me—and we agreed that whoever lost would buy a fittingly extravagant dinner. What Rod didn't know is that I've long lived like an accidental survivalist. All I needed to win was to shop my own pantry.The good news about being formerly extravagant is that you have...

Peppermint Everything--Yuck!

I have a friend whose most vivid Christmas memory centers on a bowl of peppermint ice cream. It was nothing fancy—unlike say, the white-chocolate-and-peppermint-bark version Häagen-Dazs brings out this time of year. Just the plain old Kroger grocery-store brand, the stuff available only during the holidays and billed rather grandly as a "limited edition." Clearly, his may not have been the happiest of childhoods (into his adolescence, the bowl was accompanied by a shot of Wild Turkey poured by his grandfather), but I get it. It's all about the anticipation and the symbolism. When the ice cream hits the dairy case, good times are ahead; when it departs, they're over. "Peppermint and the holidays is this almost sacred combo," says Joel Dondis, owner of Sucré, a sweets emporium in New Orleans that sells peppermint drinking chocolate and marshmallows, candy-cane macaroons, and peppermint white-chocolate truffles. "Every year we sell out."Dairies across the country (Dreyer's/Edy's,...

The Short Life of Summer Produce

A few weeks ago, I was leaving my parents' house in Mississippi when I saw my normally fairly composed mother in the rearview mirror, running down the driveway wild-eyed, carrying an armload of corn. "Wait, wait, you have to take these. Please take them with you, please."Now, I am crazy about corn, but during my four-day visit I had already consumed corn pudding, succotash (twice: once with corn and tomatoes and okra, and again with corn and baby limas), corn "fried" in bacon grease in an iron skillet, and, of course, corn on the cob (boiled and grilled, but also zapped in its husks in a microwave for a minute or so, a procedure that not only instantly steams the corn but makes it easier to remove the silks).Still, the second refrigerator reserved for farm-stand binges and the generosity of our neighbors remained full of the stuff. I let her throw the ears in the back seat and when I got home five hours later I went to work immediately, scraping the kernels off the cob and sautéeing...

Julia Reed on Summer Cocktails

The summers of my youth were spent largely at the house of our neighbors, who had six children (including three good-looking, much older and very funny boys) and a playroom with a pool table, card table, stereo and ancient refrigerator. Depending on the summer, I was invariably in love with one of the brothers or their friends, and it was in their company that I picked up the skills that have contributed to my good health and happiness ever since: how to kiss, play poker, hold my beer—and hum along to pretty much every song on a nonstop vinyl soundtrack that included, but was not limited to, the Allman Brothers, the Rolling Stones and the Sir Douglas Quintet.The most memorable summer was marked by the introduction of the Yucca Flats—not the nuke site, but a passion-inducing concoction mixed in metal trash cans with floating handfuls of squeezed citrus, and I've always wondered what else, exactly, was in there.The good (and scary) thing about the Internet is that you can locate not...

Eggs Aren't Just for Breakfast Anymore

When I was in my early 20s, my good buddy McGee generously moved to a penthouse apartment in Paris for three years. On the first of my (numerous) visits, we went out for "French" pizza, and when it arrived, I was a tad unnerved to find that it was crowned with a fried egg. Now, the two of us had eaten plenty of eggs together—but we usually did so at, say, 3 in the morning, at the Waffle House, and I was unaccustomed to seeing them on a plate with anything other than bacon and toast.All that changed in France, where eggs are lavished on everything. With the addition of a fried egg and a bit of béchamel, a croque monsieur becomes a croque madame. Eggs top steaks, float in soups and nestle in frisée salads tossed with lardons. They come poached with red wine or bone-marrow sauces. They appear as omelets with fines herbes or ratatouille.Twenty-five years later, Americans are finally catching on to the fact that eggs are not just for breakfast. The egg-and-frisée craze was the first to...