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Restaurants & Bars 6

Report from Glutton, er JazzFest 1st weekend (looooong...what a surprise)

Tha Groovin' Gourmet | Apr 30, 200503:10 PM

My oh my...every New Orleans trip has been great, but this one will stand out as a stellar one.

What GORGEOUS weather! First weekend of JazzFest was faboo in all
respects. Musical highlights included Don Grusin's The Hang, The Original Meters Reunion (git fonky, baby!) and Brian Wilson.

Our favorite food items at the Fest, starting with the medal round:

Cochon De Lait Po Boy - OH MY GAWD! The hands down winner
best offering, and the large for $5 was a good value too. I'm salivating
as I recall the melt-in-your-mouth-into-a-bloom-of-smoke meat juxtaposed with the creamy slaw, held together on damned fine bread. Maybe a bigger swoon factor than a Ferdie?

Crawfish Sacks - Crawfish, crawfish everywhere, but this was my fave. I liked that you could hold it upside down by the crispy, drawn-up part and eat it with one hand while holding a cold beer with the other...gotta get one of those neck-strap cozy things for next time. We didn't have the Crawfish Monica, which I'm guessing must be good given there's a whole booth just for the dish. But every time I was in the vicinity the thought of pasta didn't sit quite right. This trip has put crawfish in a whole new light for me...when properly prepared they are every bit as succulent the best lobster I can remember.

White Chocolate Bread Pudding - servings were not as generous as the regular style, but this was far superior in taste. A great way to start each day accompanied by an iced cafe au lait.

Honorable mention goes to the Pecan Catfish w/ Meuniere...I loved it, wifey has a hangup with nuts and fish.

Others that I specifically recall include the Crawfish Sausage Po Boy, Soft Shell Crab Po Boy (seriously doctored with butter, lemon juice, hot sauce and tartar at the fabulous fixins bar), Crawfish Beignets, and the Crab Cakes with Smoked Tomato Jalapeño Tartar. Lost track of all the food we went through, but I have the ATM receipts to remind me that we ate a lot.

Here's a roundup of the rest of our gastronomic adventures:

Wednesday dinner - Drago's, first stop after getting out of the airport. We started off the gluttonous proceedings with 2 dozen charbroiled oysters. Unbelievably good as always...still the best hot oyster dish in the known universe.

I had a bowl of oyster spinach soup (superb as usual) and the missus had the Spinach salad with fried oysters on it...excellent, especially the feta herb vinaigrette. They've undergone a considerable remodeling, including moving and expanding the charcoal grills. Much more efficient layout, and an upgraded atmosphere. One of our favorite places, and now there's even more to like.

Thursday (early) lunch - Uglesich's. As much as we enjoyed JazzFest, the primary purpose of the trip was to get in our last Uglefixes. Comments covering our 4 visits coming in a separate post.

Thursday dinner - Brigtsen's, quite possibly the finest meal we've enjoyed there yet, and man is that saying alot. We started with our usual Shrimp Remoulade whilst perusing the menu. As always it got the juices flowing with Frank's very tart sauce version. The chilled shrimp were perfect as usual, with the Guac, Deviled Eggs and scattering of Corn Relish making for broad swatch of textures. Even my wife admits that Frank's deviled eggs are better than hers.

We went on to split the Des Allemands catfish appy, perfectly fried and complemented by that lovely Sauce Picante. The addition of the toothsome black bean salsa makes for a most effective foil to the fish's creamier texture.

In an impressive show of restraint, the missus had the Sweetbread appy as her main course while I went with a truly outstanding rendition of Brigtsen's signature seafood platter. The sweetbreads were right up there with our fave version (Rosemary's in Las Vegas), these served with mashed potatoes, shiitakes, and a lemon caper sauce. A masterful blending of flavors and textures.

As for the seafood platter...absolutely awesome incarnation...each bite had me mmmmmming, sometimes shaking my head at the wonderfulness of it all. The fish was perfectly grilled drum, served with an extraordinary crawfish pesto sauce. A couple of baked oysters (one Le Ruth, the other I don't remember the name) were exceptional as well. Almost as good as the drum were the ramekin of Crawfish Dante Street (done with bacon, garlic and diced new potatoes) and the sizable broiled sea scallop stuffed with asparagus flan. Awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome and awesome!

Service was, as usual, every bit as good as the food. Always warm, never the end of the evening every member of the staff had done something to make sure we were well taken care of.

Friday lunch - Uggie's, despite Uptown Kevin's admonitions about eating anything before going to the fairgrounds. Worked out great (smallest order of our 4 visits), and it was no problem walking it off so we could start our attack upon the JazzFest booths.

Friday dinner - yes, we ate even after JazzFest. This night would be the Harvey branch of Semolina. We were staying in the West Bank thanks to a great room rate ($71 at the VERY nice Holiday Inn Express), and definitely did not want to drive back into town after driving from the fairgrounds (found a household that was doing parking for $10 only a few blocks from the entrance, so we drove every day).

Did a Crawfish Bread (not bad) and I had a Corn Crawfish Bisque that was very yummy. Wifey had the Cajun Pad Thai that was quite good...proper noodles, with tofu, andouille and crawfish, along with bean sprouts, carrot shreds, chopped green onion and a peanut sauce. Shakers of sweet and hot sauces on the side made for a nice complement. I wouldn't go out of my way to eat at a Semolina, but it was more than fine in a pinch.

Saturday dinner - was supposed to be a 2nd visit to Brigtsen's (would I finally order the Beef Tournedos?), but given the driving thing, we opted to stay in town after Fest. Where to go when you're way casually dressed and grubby from traipsing around the racetrack all day? Joey-K's of course, our favorite neighborhood hang. Had their excellent as always Corn Crab Soup, and a yummy softshell crab plate. The lovely Denise went with one of her usuals, a Caesar with fried oysters, done up right as always. Can't remember those frosty goblets of Abita Amber ever tasting better after a day getting blasted by music and sun.

Sunday dinner - faced with a narrower set of intown choices, and seeing that everyone seems to be pretty casual this time of year, we thought we'd head for Cobalt after Fest. Bad choice...definitely off the list. Needing to soothe the assault on my tummy, I ordered a club soda with lime, and was pleased to see a cocktail that included ginger beer and crystallized ginger, so I ordered one of those. Alas, they had run out of some ingredients leading into a menu change, so that was 86'd.

We looked over the menu and were very disappointed. The new chef (whomever it is) has replaced all the signature dishes (from Brack whatshisname) with a list of uncompelling middle-of-the-road New American stuff. No BBQ Lamb Jammed Green Chile Mac And Cheese? We are so out of there! A few blocks' walk and we hit Mother's just ahead of a mad rush that had the line out the door. We split a Ferdie, (without the homemade pepper sauce unfortunately), and a Red Beans And Rice with a side of andouille. And Bloody's of course. We know that many of you hate Mother's and we do not care.

Monday lunch - Uggie's, with a dear friend who had never been. Seeing him giggle after his first bite of Shrimp And Grits was almost worth buying his meal. Yea, verily, I have been there!

Monday dinner - La Petite Grocery. By now we were winging it...had seen the room and the menu while bopping along Magazine the night before, and we stuck our head in to get a reservation. The room does not live up to its window appeal...a bit stark (more art on the walls would help), a bit cold (some sort of tunes at a decent volume would be nice). Service was enigmatic. Our main waiter failed to mention the special foie gras appy that wifey would have pounced on, perhaps ordering two. She went with the roast chicken breast with chicken confit for her entree. When another server asked about our dinner, Denise commented that the breast was pretty dry. The server's response? "oh's always dry". Whattheheckiepoo is with that? If it's always bad what is it doing on the menu?

To LPG's credit, my food was marvelous. The special soup was a light oyster cream with fennel and crispy pancetta. Excellent. My entree was a total winner too...a beautiful braised lamb shank with perfect garlic parsley noodles and a roasted red onion...toted the leftovers home and thoroughly enjoyed them on Wednesday. Dessert was also rockin...warm chocolate tart with sun dried cherries and roasted hazelnuts.

Even though the price was very reasonable (about a bill and half), we would not return. The service was just too weird and the food doesn't quite reach the upper echelon of N'awlins fare.

Tuesday lunch - Uggie's. I was jazzed to be first in line for our fourth and last visit. Anthony patted my hand and thanked me when he gave me my change. Made my day.

Check back for a detailed Uggie's wrap-up. I gotta get back to work so I can start stashing cash for next year's Fest trip.

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