In town for my 20th straight Jazzfest, and all I can say is, this town never gets old.
After landing at MSY, and seeing new and improved food offerings, I met a friend in Mid City at Toups Meatery for lunch. The place has a strong neighborhood type vibe. We started with the Veal Meatballs that had some type of tomato sauce. Decent start, but nothing earth shattering.
The Fried Chicken sandwich was outstanding. Topped with Brie, grilled Cabbage and a tasty sauce. Confit Chicken Thighs seved with White Beans and Greens was pure Southern comfort food. I'm not usually a dessert person, but I had to try the Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter and Bacon Doberge Cake. If this sounds like too much going on, it wasn't. The flavors all worked together, and in this age of over use of bacon, the pork belly was quite subtle.
After checking into my hotel, I walked to Cochon Butcher to grab a couple of treats for my friend who wasn't landing til midnight. The Pastrami and The Gambino were promptly made and packaged up to go.
After some pool time at the hotel, I headed to Luke to meet a large group of friends. Now I have eaten here often, at all times of day. However I had never done Happy Hour. Here is the Deal: Fifty cent oysters and 1/2 off cocktails. WOW, are the oysters fat and tasty this year, especially this late in the season. This has got to be the best bargain in town!!
After a late night of revelry and music, my roommate was nice enough to share the goodies from The Butcher. Both were outstanding, and I was shocked I preferred the Gambino, as great versions of this sandwich are abundant in my hometown of Chicago.
For me, First Friday of Jazzfest is always the best. The crowds are thin, the excitement in the air is palpable, and the food lines are short. Here is the List:
Soft Shell Crab Po-Bo: A longtime favorite.
Cracklins: Delicious & fun to share.
Grilled Chicken Livers with Pepper Jelly served with Crowder Peas & rice: A recent arrival to JF, and a great addition. The rich liver balances perfectly with the peas & rice.
Crawfish Pie: Pretty good, but I like the Meat Pie better.
Dinner at R'EVOLUTION
Like all of you, I have read and heard so much about this place, that I felt like I had already been here. Yet I was still excited to go. Here we go:
What more can I add about Death By Gumbo? A roasted quail stuffed with Andouille, oysters, and rice, with a dark Gumbo poured over at tableside. As good as advertised.
Venison Carpaccio was dusted with Espresso grounds, with shaved dark chocolate. This all worked really well together.
We ordered the Fazzolleti with crawfish as an app. for the table, and then all fought over it. Paper thin pasta ribbons, with crawfish, corn, fried sage in a heavenly cream sauce. This was when extra bread service was requested for some serious sopping. Unfortunately it took 10 minutes and another request to receive the bread.
The Heirloom Beet salad was terrific. A mix of different beets, most I had never had. A tasty and light palate cleanser before the mains arrived.
The "Bird in the Cage" won best presentation for the trip. It is chicken done coq au vin style served in bowl with black truffles. On top of the bowl is a thin, see-thru lattice work of a delicate cracker. Unfortunately parts of the chicken were dry, otherwise delicious.
An order of Sea Scallops was devoured to much acclaim, before I got a taste.
The star of the night was the Paneed Veal Chop. Pounded to about an inch in thickness, and covering the plate, with the bone still in. Breaded and cooked perfectly, served with a light gravy, this is like southern schnitzel.
Sides of Brussell Sprouts & Gruyere Potatoes au Gratin were decent.
It is strawberry season in LA, and the desserts focused on it. We had a sample of ice creams and a special. The house made ice creams were great, with the Strawberry and the Peanut Butter taking the cake. The special was a custard tart topped with strawberries, meringue tubes, aged balsamic. Sublime.
Overall, I think this is a 5 star restaurant for the food, with 4 star service. If one is going to charge 5 star prices, the service must match. Would I go back? Of course! I will probably wait a year, hoping they work out the service.
After a late night/morning of music, we decided to skip the Fest and relax by the pool. Once our heads had cleared and our stomachs awoke, a decision was made to drive into the bayou for lunch. Now a trip to Middendorf's is something that had been on my list for many moons. However I rarely have a car in NO. Not this time, my roomie had wheels and was raring to go. The drive was scenic and took 40 minutes. Middendorf's has been around for 75 years and the specialty is Cafish. Paper thin sliced and deep fried Catfish to be specific.
We started with the fried seafood platter and a 3 pound crawfish boil.
The Catfish blew away it's reputation, and the rest of the items on the platter, fried oysters, fried shrimp, and fried stuffed crab, should be considered best in show. Even the hush puppies were top notch.
The crawfish were fresh and tasty, they had the perfect amount of spice in the boil. The marinated crab fingers were beefy, yet light at the same time.
The BBQ Oysters with Red BBQ sauce: We weren't really sure what to expect with these. It didn't matter, any expectations would be blown. These were CharGrilled oysters with a real light BBQ sauce, with heavy vinegar tones. The oysters were plump to begin with, then bulging after their time in the roaster. The explosion of the oyster released the brine of the ocean, with the sauce working perfectly. This was the meal of the trip, and the oysters were the prize winner!
After another late evening of music, I got to the Fairgrounds in the late afternoon. Upside was the rain had stopped. Here is Sundays list:
Spinach Salad with Fried Oysters:
A few plump fried oysters served over baby spinach, some red onions, with a light cream dressing. This is an amazing dish, and one I always get after a few days in NO, as I had not had many greens in the last few days. I feel much better after eating this salad.
Crawfish Struedal: Crawfish & pepper jack cheese baked in a phyllo dough pastry? What more to say.
Trout Baquet: I was determined to try something I had never had at the Fest before. This was killer. Pan fried trout with a lemon butter sauce, topped with crabmeat. Mmmmmm.
Fried Chicken: The fight over the best fried chicken is everlasting IMO. I think the Fairgrounds is pretty good. I always get one thigh,' put lots of hot sauce on, and grab an Iced Tea. Perfection!!
One side note: I have not had the Strawberry Lemonade in many years, as I thought the quality went down. I noticed a new Strawberry lemonade stand by the Gentilly Stage this year, I thought they might be a different vendor, so I gave it a try. Horrible, way too sweet. I gave it away after one sip, and felt kind of guilty doing that.
It was truly a fabulous trip this year. As always the food, music, and most of all the people make NO the place I always want to be.
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