While dining on some delicious baked oysters at Danton’s Gulf Coast Seafood Kitchen the other day, I began to think about why some classic dishes are found on a lot of restaurant menus. And some aren’t.
Like oysters Rockefeller, the rich dish created in 1899 and named for the rich man. It has survived on plenty of local menus from Danton’s to Brennan’s but there are other dishes I crave that aren’t so easy to find here. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a Houston restaurant that served old-fashioned dishes, with classic cocktails and played Sinatra tunes?
Oh wait, we had that but it didn’t last. I miss chef Michael Dei Maggi’s Rockwood Room with its oysters Rockefeller and lobster thermidor baked in the shells. Man, I haven’t had that in ages although I believe it’s still on the menu at Oceanaire Seafood Room and Rainbow Lodge.
OK, so how about more restaurants host a Throwback Thursday with classics from the past as specials?
Wasn’t it once a law that every one had to own at least one fondue pot?
Here’s a sample menu: Let’s start with a perfect, cold Manhattan and how about some housemade chips and real French onion dip made from scratch. Yes, French onion dip was once made with sauteed onions and not from a dry soup packet and tub of sour cream. If you grew up eating it from a store bought jar, and liked it, you would love eating it properly prepared.
And more deviled eggs, please. I know there are some good ones out there, like the ones at The Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen spiced with pili pili sauce (hot peppers, garlic and a touch of lemon juice). But I wish more chefs would produce this old-time classic in a gourmet (and spicy) version.
More Lost Foods
And why not have some fondue? I know we’ve got The Melting Pot, but why can’t other restaurants have an occasional sweet or savory fondue dish? I really think they should. Wasn’t it once a law that every one had to own at least one fondue pot? It’s fun to cook your own meats with those little skewers and dip them in delicious sauces. And the chocolate and cheese fondues go without saying. It’s just fun food.
And chicken à la King, there’s a blast from the past that was also made from scratch from the 1900s and on. Until Americans started making it from a can and pouring it over white bread. Please, someone bring this back as real food.
One dish that does turn up, too often for me, on all kinds of menus around town is gourmet mac and cheese. Please, please stop it.
Another dish I sometimes miss is the chopped steak topped with chile con queso that La Fonda in San Antonio used to serve. Why can’t I find that in Houston?
One dish that does turn up, too often for me, on all kinds of menus around town is gourmet mac and cheese.
Please, please stop it. Can’t someone make a gourmet tuna casserole and put it on the menu? I grew up eating this dish made with canned tuna and canned mushroom soup, but there must be a way of doing it from scratch that would elevate this childhood classic into something restaurant worthy.
I actually experimented with this at home once with mixed results. Cooked the mushrooms, grated the cheese, used fresh English peas (What do they call these in England? Just peas?) and then cooked fresh tuna steak. Not so good. I think you need to use canned tuna in oil to get the right flavor.
But I’m not a professional chef so maybe someone out there can do better. If so, put it on the menu and I bet it will be a big hit.