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Upscale eats, Downscale Delights and Fest Favourites--looong

TwinklyTerrapin | Apr 29, 200501:28 PM

Heya all,
Just got back from eight days of having an awesome time, and I don’t think I could have lasted much longer--after all the standing, walking, dancing and moshing, I'm a wreck. But a well-fed wreck ;-) This is a big ol' bunch of blah blah blah--if you like, you can just skip to the "Things I learned" at the end...

So the honey and I got to New Orleans on Monday night, and I immediately tried to make reservations at Bayona ("Any chance of getting a reservation for two tonight?" "Sorry, we’re all booked" "How 'bout tomorrow, Wednesday or next Monday" "Aw you're so sweet to think of us, but we're booked solid 'till after Jazz Fest". I must say that's the best blow-off I've ever gotten...) Ah well. All was not lost, though, as someone we met at the Mazant Guest House where we were staying suggested Stella!, which did have a table available. We were having a good snigger about some of the more pretentious aspects ("for this evening's water service, would you care for ice, still, or sparkling?" and the menu descriptions that you had to take a breath half-way through if you were reading it out loud) but we stopped sniggering when the appetizers got there--the three raw oysters topped with three granitas, three caviars and three vodkas was phenomenal. The rest of dinner there was also very good--I had an assorted pork dish (Neiman Ranch pork--I fell for the cult-status pig) that was really excellent. Must have been the happy pig.

Tuesday was a chowhound day of shame for me. We stated at Elizabeth's and had the praline bacon--unreal; so so good--and I had the strawberry stuffed french toast, which was about the size of my head, although much tastier, but I could barely make a dent in it. I felt bad about that. Then we shlepped the Quarter a bit, and I figured that I would try that Ferdi poboy. After finally finding Mothers (one lady in a shop, when we asked for directions, just said 'Oh, you don't want to go there--they're rude. Go to Johnny's Poboys. They have much better food."...but I was on a mission...) Gotta say--those Ferdi things look good on paper, but when you actually taste, not so much...We finished the day at Dick and Jennie's which was great, but again, to my shame, halfway through my catfish, I hit the wall, couldn't finish, and couldn't drag myself out to see the Rebirth Brass Band like we'd planned. I was even more bummed when our cabbie said that his perfect Tuesday evening uptown was going to Jacque-Imo's then seeing the Rebirth. Next time, that's my Tuesday night schedule fer sher...

Wednesday, the manager of the Mazant Guest House where we were staying took a shine to us and took us to Frankie and Johnnies for the crawfish boil--that was incredible, and what a cast of characters at the bar, man. Being Canadian, the idea of actually talking to someone I don't know is a bit disconcerting, but New Orleansians are so charming that it's easy to overcome my frosty inhibitions. I also noticed that one of the top stories on the news was that Whole Foods was moving to Metarie--y'all really do take your food seriously. That evening we saw the Soul Rebels--man, they were just kickin' and their Rebelution album is great, too.

Thursday we had lunch at Fiorella's--fried chicken and fried pickles. I'm glad I tried fried pickles before I died; probably won't have them again, but man that chicken is good! We followed that with dinner at the Joint in Bywater, where unfortunately they were already out of the pulled pork, but the ribs were great. Then we checked out Bacchus down the road--what a sweet little spot. I wish we'd had more time to hang out there, but we were goin' to see Kermit at Vaughn's...

Friday was Jazz Fest! After waiting three loooong years, I finally had the crawfish bread, pheasant gumbo, soft-shell crab poboy, and all my other favourites that I'd been dreaming of since the last time I was there...ah, crawfish bread, I'm missing it again took me awhile to find the seafood cornbread (it's in Food section Two, at the booth with the fried turkey poboy and turkey and cracklins demo, close to the Crawfish Monica) but it was lovely--rich seafood, salty cheese, sweet cornbread; an excellent combination. All in all, I'd say, that the stuffed artichoke wasn't as good as I remember, the Crawfish Monica was more bland than I remember, the jama-jama was a welcome bit of fibre and tasted great, the shrimp macque choux was still awesome, and crawfish bread makes the best breakfast in the world.

Saturday we went to Marisole after the fest and had a really nice fancyish dinner. I wanted to stay up for the 2 am Fishbone show, but my companions were whiney and needed their naps.

Sunday we were rescued from the post-festival taxi line by the lovely manager from the guest house, and she led the parade to the Bywater BBQ, where they were out of Prime Rib, but we had a very nice dinner anyway--pulled pork sandwich, Santa Fe pizza, Italian sandwich, and, well, I stuck to salad that night, but I really enjoyed it--again, some much needed fibre. Then I overrode the whining of my companions and we went to Tipitina's for the Horns and Hatchets show--the Wild Magnolias, Rebirth, and Dirty Dozen. It blew the doors off, and my companions thanked me after for making them go. Added bonus--I got asked for ID at the door. Being 37, that was the highlight of the trip fer me...

Monday, after riding the St. Charles streetcar to the end, we realized that we were pretty close to Jacque Imos's and that, at 4:45, we were early enough to miss the lineups. We headed there for dinner and it was one of the best of the trip. We started with Fried Green Tomatoes, Jambalaya, and, when the honey ask if it would be silly to order another appetizer, the server said "oh, because you want the cheesecake? The cheese cake is the best!" So we went with the Shrimp and Alligator cheesecake and it was one of the most sublime things I've ever put in my mouth--subtle flavours, creamy but not too rich, and totally totally YUM. For mains I had the seafood in a zucchini pirogue, which was excellent ('though the zucchini was oddly bitter), the honey's daughter had the biggest hunks of fried chicken I've ever seen (very good, but not quite as good as Fiorella's) and the homey had fish in Meunier sauce (man, gravel with Meunier sauce would be darn tasty). I can see why Jacque Imo's wouldn't be everyone's style--it's fairly expensive, but they sure aren't into the slow food experience. The servers were whizzing by all evening, grabbing any plate they could clear--I had the last bite of salad half-way to my mouth when the server grabbed the empty plate, crowing "good timing!", and I noticed that as a rule, they brought the bill with the coffee. I guess that's the best way to make sure the hungry people in the front don't have to wait as long, but there was a bit of an air of "are you done yet?" On the up-side the servers were fun and charming, the space was beautifully shabby-funky, and the food was really really good...ohhh, that cheese cake...

Tuesday morning we had to leave, but not before waking up stinking early so we could have one more breakfast at Elisabeth's. This time I shared the stuffed french toast, and I still couldn't finish it. And it still rocked. Then, we gathered our bags, called a cab, made a stop at Central Grocery for a muffaletta for the plane and we headed home...those muffalettas make darn fine plane food, with the added bonus that the smell must be torture for everyone around you.

Here's what I learned on this trip:
* I already knew "Suck head; pinch tail" but I learned "Don't eat the straight ones"...which makes eating crawfish sound even dirtier.
* The Hidden Gem of the Fest is the Ribs booth between the Gospel and the Blues tents. No line ups and great ribs (three for four dollars) on a bit of good coleslaw.
* Don't wait 'till the last hour of the last day at Jazz fest to have the catfish pecan in Meunier sauce--you won't have time to go back for seconds. That catfish is worth selling your mother for.
* Get to the Fest early; if you get there later it really cuts into your eating time.
* Tuesday night go to Jacque Imo's and the Maple Leaf for the Rebirth brass band. But you might as well have a nap and go to dinner later--it's New Orleans; it's not like the show is gonna start on time...

It is good to be home, where there's fibre-aplenty, but wow, New Orleans is such an awsome place...there's nothing like it anywhere.

To all of you going to the Fest this weekend--I’m jealous; have some crawfish bread for me,

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