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A Backup Muffaletta Plan in New Orleans’ French Quarter

15 Nov

In the past, I had always headed straight for Central Grocery when I was craving a muffaletta in New Orleans. Their overstuffed sandwich is mighty, meaty, and legendary. Frank’s Restaurant is located just a couple doors down — in the shadows of the old French Market and Cafe Du Monde. Central Grocery, our old standby, happened to be closed the day we stopped by. Bummer! Undeterred, we plowed ahead towards Frank’s place. I had seen them recently on a Food Network feature, so I knew the muffaletta would get the job done — and it did.  

A rainy morning had given way to a muggy afternoon in The Big Easy.

A close-up look at Frank’s Muffaletta (above) – it’s a thing of beauty that feeds a family of 4 or two hungry adults  for about $12. My son Travis (a true gourmet at the ripe old age of 14) commented that Frank’s meat/bread ratio was slightly bread heavy compared to Central Grocery. You know something? He was right on the money.  However, Frank’s makes a pretty darn good Italian sandwich and I was just happy to get my fix of deli meats, crusty bread and pickled olive salad that late Sunday afternoon.

The hometown Saints were on the tube above the bar and things were not exactly going well. The manager bellowed “Your Daddy’s Saints are back, y’all” as the Super Bowl champs went down in flames to the lowly Cleveland Browns. The full house of diners at Frank’s seemed distraught, yet how upset could I get with a belly full of muffaletta?

We even picked up a large (32 oz.) jar of Frank’s olive spread to take home with us. Our waitress gestured towards a small dining table near the door as we made our exit. I discretely glanced over and spotted none other than Joseph Gannoscoli, who played Vito Spatofore in the HBO series, “The Soprano’s.” Pretty cool, huh? 

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Thrown Olives & High Gravity Beer

17 Jun

Thrown olives are stuffed olives which are dropped into a jar by a machine as they are packed, rather than being carefully placed by hand. While this distinction might seem petty, some people are willing to pay more for placed olives, olives which are carefully oriented in the jar so that their stuffing faces out, creating a more even, attractive look in the jar. Ultimately there is no difference in flavor between the two, although placed olives tend to be more expensive because of the manual labor involved.

Generally, the term “thrown olives” is only used in reference to stuffed olives, because most consumers don’t care which direction unstuffed olives are facing. Many Mediterranean nations have a long tradition of stuffed olive production; olives can be stuffed with things like nuts, pimentos, anchovies, onions, and other pickled fruits or vegetables. These olives can be used in cocktails, on salads, and in ornamental olive plates, and they are quite popular in some regions.

When stuffed olives are made, they are pitted and the stuffing is inserted into the hole left behind after the removal of the pit. This is typically accomplished by machine in modern olive processing facilities, although a few communities continue to produce hand-stuffed olives for commercial sale. Then the olives are packed in brine, salt, or oil for curing. After the olives are cured, they can be packaged for sale. Typically stuffed olives are packed in cans or jars which are tightly sealed to prevent the intrusion of unwanted bacteria.

Obviously, the contents of a can of olive are not visible until the can is opened, and therefore the placement of the olives is not very important. However, olives in a jar are visible, and some people use olive jars decoratively, or they at least like their olives to look attractive until the jar is opened. This is why some producers distinguish between placed and thrown olives, offering placed olives for a slightly higher price. Since the stuffing is usually tightly inserted into the olives, you don’t need to worry about thrown olives losing their filling as a result of being haphazardly tossed in, although there might be slightly fewer olives per jar when a human doesn’t physically pack them as neatly and tightly as possible.

Once a jar or can of olives has been opened, the olives will need to be refrigerated. Canned olives should be transferred to another container as acids can sometimes eat at the can, potentially causing it to fail or contaminate the food. Olives in a jar can be stored in the jar until they have been consumed. Whether thrown or placed, the arrangement of the olives will generally become random once the jar has been opened and handled. Most markets carry jars of olives; the next time you’re in the store, you can check for thrown olives in the olive section.

Anheuser-Busch’s High Gravity Lager is branded as “Hurricane”

High gravity beer refers to specialty craft beers with an increased specific gravity. A beer with an original gravity 1.070 is generally considered to be high. High alcohol content is not the intended consequence of high gravity beer, however, the concentration of sugar and flavor-enhancing ingredients at the beginning of the brewing process results in a brew with a higher percentage of alcohol compared to other beers.

High gravity beers are traditional in Europe, but only a small percentage of microbreweries in the United States produce them. They are more expensive than mass-produced beer. They are also more flavorful, intended to be sipped and savored, and are often paired with foods.