WITH WINTER COLD season coming on, I wish I could solve the orange juice mystery, but the truth is elusive.
I've gotten two complaints about the "freshly squeezed" orange juice at the American City Diner, but I can't seem to unravel the problem.
The first was from a fellow reporter, who had complained directly to the restaurant and was told that on that particular day the orange juice was not freshly squeezed. The charge was removed from her bill.
Then another complaint came to me, and this diner claimed she was told by the waitress that the juice was watered down.
"No. Never!" said manager Vivian Pappas adamantly when I called her. No water is ever added, she reiterated, and the orange juice is always fresh. "We squeeze it here every day. It's all we have and all we've ever had."
Pappas explained that after it is squeezed, the juice is put in a dispenser and that the quality varies. "Certain times of the year your oranges aren't the greatest."
But is it fresh and unadulterated? Immediately after I talked to Pappas, I called two of American City Diner's suppliers. According to their receipts, the restaurant had used at least 850 oranges that one week. So at least I can report that the week's juice started out fresh.
AND IN FURTHER search for every nuance of the truth, I must report that Mel Krupin smokes only unlit cigars.
I had mentioned in this column an advertisement that showed Krupin holding his infamous cigar over a platter of pastries. Krupin wrote me to clarify, "I haven't lit up in over five years! As the Surgeon General's Warning states: 'Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and may complicate pregnancy.' "
AT MADEO THIS season, look for new wave fruitcake. Chef Jamie Stachowski has been glazing and preserving whole fruits all year as they ripened: oranges, lemons, limes, clementines, apricots, peaches, figs, cherries, raspberries, huckleberries. He uses the laborious European method, which he learned from pastry chef Richard Chirol when both of them worked at Jean-Louis.
Once the whole glazed fruits were ready, he drained them and let them dry on racks, then combined them -- still whole -- in fruitcakes with various macerated nuts: pine nuts with Sambuca, coffee-candied walnuts, hazelnuts. He added some bitter chocolate, and baked two-foot-long fruitcakes for 12 hours each, the first ones in wine crates. Afterwards they were soaked with various liqueurs, and now they are being shaved into very thin cross-sections and served with white chocolate cognac sauce in the restaurant, for as long as the supply lasts.
"It's a shame to call them fruitcake," says Stachowski. "That underestimates them."
Nonetheless, look for the "homemade fruitcake with glazed fresh fruit and white chocolate sauce" on the menu, and expect to pay $4.95 a slice.
Phyllis C. Richman's restaurant reviews appear Sundays in The Washington Post Magazine.