Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival

Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
2010/04/04 11:04:57
I'd been planning to do one massive post about our New Orleans trip, because I'm frustrated at my habit of only posting about the first few days of my trips.

But I started worrying about the risk of losing data, and I decided that multiple posts would be easier to read. So, multiple posts.

Our trip to New Orleans began inauspiciously. Lori was to pick me up at the office on the way to the airport. But I was in a meeting and I had left my phone in my office, so I missed her calling for me for almost an hour. Fortunately, this did not give us any trouble with getting onto our flight. We even had time for dinner at TGI Friday's in the airport.

Storms around Dallas/Fort Worth complicated our lives more, though: we landed 45 minutes late, and then we discovered that the connecting flight to New Orleans had been canceled. We considered taking a flight to Gulfport and renting a car from there, but we decided that we were too tired to do so. So we booked tickets for the noon flight the next day and accepted the coupon for a distress rate at a nearby motel with a shuttle. (There were hassles there--the first hotel the airline representative offered us turned out not to be running their shuttle any more that night.) The Studio 6 hotel room was decorated in garish orange, all of my clothes and toiletries were still in our checked luggage (which was still bound for New Orleans), and we both had trouble sleeping in the bed.
But there was a silver lining: DFW is the most airport for us to be laid over like this, because my parents live near Dallas. We called them up and arranged to eat breakfast with them Thursday morning. We were prioritizing convenience over cuisine, though, so we went to a Denny's. Fortunately, we dined better for the rest of the trip.

March 25

The flight to New Orleans was uneventful, including the trip to the Hotel Monteleone.

Our first impression: the French Quarter looks like my stereotype of New Orleans. This is not something to be taken for granted--most cities don't look like their sterotypes, but just look like other cities. But the French Quarter has had a lot of care taken to maintain its appearance.

~/ Mother's /~

After depositing our bags in our room, we went to Mother's for lunch. I had the Ferdi Special, because it had been recommended by multiple people, and the black ham biscuit. Lori had the 2/3 size Ferdi special. Really, with the other things we got, the 2/3 size Ferdi special would have been enough for me--perhaps even enough for both of us.
I was not wowed by the Ferdi special; it didn't really seem to have a lot of flavor. The black ham biscuit, though, was excellent, with a big pile of sweet flavorful ham sandwiched between the biscuit halves.

The Ferdi Special: 

The black ham biscuit:

For dessert, then, we had bread pudding. This was the best of the multiple bread puddings we had on the trip. It had fruit cocktail (or an equivalent combination of fruits) in the batter that added a nice medley of flavors.

The service made it clear that we were in the South. Being addressed as "hon" or "dear" is not unheard of in Pittsburgh, but "sweet pea" went beyond what one might expect in Pittsburgh.

~/ Ghost Tour /~

We learned from a brochure that the ghost tour we were interested in had a 6pm run as well as an 8pm tour. This was good news; the 6pm tour suited our other plans much better. So we went off to that. The tour was pretty good, but Midian the tour guide really played up the grotesque aspects of his stories in a way that the ghost tours we've taken in San Francisco and Pittsburgh did not. And the Wikipedia article on Delphine LaLaurie casts doubts on the authenticity of his horror stories there.

~/ Galatoire's /~

After the tour concluded, we walked down Bourbon Street to Galatoire's for an upscale dining experience. (I had brought a sport coat so that we had the option to go to jacket-required places like this, and it would have been a shame to waste it.)

For our appetizer, we shared crabmeat maison. This was similar to a seafood salad with crabmeat, mayonnaise, celery, and so forth--but it was splendid and delectable beyond all my previous experience of such things.

I had the sauteed flounder with crabmeat Yvonne. The crabmeat Yvonne was a combination of crabmeat, mushrooms, and brown butter. To properly describe the experience of this dish, I have to digress for a bit: I am usually not good at subtleties. I like bold flavors in my food, because I tend not to pick up on delicate flavors. I prefer pop music with a strong simple beat to intricate classical or jazz pieces. I get bored by ballet, because I don't grasp the nuances of what's going on.
So with that context established, I can say that my dinner was a wonderful dance of delicate flavors--and it made all its subtleties easy for me to grasp. So not only was it superb, but it was superb in a way that I am not normally able to appreciate. It was like a splendid ballet that magically made all its subtle details apparent to me.

For a side dish, I had the Brabant potatoes, which turned out to be diced, cubed, fried, and seasoned--so basically home fries. They were very good home fries, but I felt that I had made a wrong choice, because they did not complement the delicate entree very well.

Lori had the crabmeat Sardou: artichoke bottoms topped with crabmeat, creamed spinach, and hollandaise sauce. This was also excellent, but I didn't get enough bites to be able to describe this well.

For her side dish, she selected souffleed potatoes. We expected these to be some sort of light, fluffy potatoes, but we were wrong. Instead, they were hollow fried potato shells. In SAT analogy form: souffleed potatoes are to potato slices as sopaipillas are to tortillas. They were accompanied by béarnaise sauce. They weren't a perfect match for her crabmeat Sardou, but they were so unusual that I was glad to have them.

For dessert, we had banana bread pudding with caramel sauce. This was quite good, but I think I preferred Mother's.

~/ Preservation Hall /~

I listen to jazz a lot, so I considered it essential to listen to live jazz on a trip to New Orleans. And I wanted to listen to old New Orleans-style jazz, because I like it and it's apt to New Orleans. So we went to Preservation Hall.

The Preservation Hall band wasn't playing, but a band called New Birth Brass Band was playing, with a classic New Orleans style. We had a good time listening. The playlist:
What a Wonderful World
Down in New Orleans
You Are My Sunshine
Hoping You'll Come Back to Me
Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?
Let the Good Times Roll

Preservation Hall is really a pretty small space; the playing space wasn't that much larger than our living room.

post edited by Stephen Rushmore Jr. - 2010/04/04 11:19:22
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/04 12:04:23
That is some great looking food Ralph! Thanks for sharing!
mr chips
Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/04 19:27:00
Enjoyed reading your first draft. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to more.
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/04 20:22:39
Really good start to your trip report. I really liked your description of the meal at Galatoire's. I kind of fall into that category where I don't pick up on things that others normally do. But there are times when the meal is prepared so well that everything on the plate works together to make it an unexpected delight. I envy your experience of that dinner.

Kind of glad you mentioned Preservation Hall. I'm a big fan of the band from the seventies and eighties when the Humphreys were in the mix and still listen to the cds pretty frequently. It was kind of surprising to hear how small the place was, especially the size of the living room sized playing space. 

Looking forward to more. 
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/04 23:50:11
Ralph, I really, really like your descriptions of the food, etc.  I'm definitely getting the souffleed potatoes next time and appreciated your analogy!  Keep it coming...  Chris
Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/05 10:23:59
That looks like an absolutely perfect evening--I'm gonna be in NO in October so needless to say I'm going to be watching these for tips. 

If you rent the DVDs of 'The French Chef'--I think the potato episode is on the first season/first disc--there's an episode that's just pommes frites, some other kinds of potatoes, and souffleed.  Apparently there's a whole technique to getting the puff.  They look gorgeous.
Tony Bad
Fire Safety Admin
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/05 10:47:53
I had a lot of fun meeting and spending time with Ralph and Lori. I was also witness to what the woman selling the small sandwiches during the festival said was Ralph "losing his muffuletta virginity"...

Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/05 14:51:38
For true NO jazz, let me reccommend Fritzel's on Bourbon (700 or 800 block, I believe) A real experience!
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/05 16:16:30
Ralph Melton, Thank for taking the time to post.  Brings back good memories.....make me hungry too
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/06 14:08:23
March 26

~/ Brennan's /~ 

Our original plan for Friday had been to breakfast at the Camellia Grill, which we had read good things about.
However, our plans to attend the New Orleans School of Cooking on Thursday had been thwarted by the flight cancellation, so we had rescheduled that to Friday. By the time we got out of the hotel, I didn't feel that we had time to make it to Camellia Grill and back.

Weep not for us, however: since the Camellia Grill was not an option for us, we went to Brennan's instead and had an extraordinary breakfast.

I had a few second thoughts because Brennan's isn't exactly Roadfood--but Brennan's is certainly one of the classic restaurants of New Orleans, and originator of many recipes that have been adopted elsewhere (such as Bananas Foster), so it does have a cultural heritage behind it.

Breakfast at Brennan's is quite an affair. Brennan's turns out to be a restaurant that expects you'll want to begin breakfast with a cocktail and enjoy wine with your breakfast (we did not). We both looked at the menu and wanted something that was a reasonably complete breakfast, but in the lower echelons of price--and this turned out to be the three-course prix fixe breakfast.

For the appetizer, we both chose the Southern baked apple with double cream. This was baked almost-tender, to the point that it could be carved with a spoon, and generously topped with sugar, cinnamon, and cream. This could have been a delicious breakfast all by itself.

Lori had the eggs Benedict for her entree. They were excellent. They used rusks of bread as the base instead of English muffins, and this plus the tender Canadian bacon made it much easier to get a bite with every layer of the eggs at once. It also came with an excellent side: a broiled tomato with cheese, also tender enough not to require a knife.

My entree was the eggs Hussarde, which were much like eggs Benedict with the addition of a Marchand de Vin sauce (made with beef broth, mushrooms, ham, and other things). Lori's eggs Benedict were excellent, but these were much much better, simply out of this world.

For dessert, we zoomed in on the desserts marked "Brennan's Creation". Both of these ended up being flambeed: I got the bananas Foster, and Lori got the crepes Fitzgerald. Both of these were flambeed at the table, and both were wonderful.

I should also mention the service. The waiter, Ray, gave us really excellent service and was extremely friendly. Particular moments of great service: he knew how to tell us the exact time to take pictures of the desserts bursting into flame, and he gave us Brennan's recipes for the two desserts. And when I encountered him on the street the next day, he recognized me and we spent several minutes chatting about the festival. 

~/ New Orleans School of Cooking /~

After that, we strolled over to the New Orleans School of Cooking. We had an enjoyable lecture and cooking demonstration from Ann, a grandmotherly woman who had been a former elementary teacher and tour guide. We definitely noticed that she had a generous hand with the cream.

The class came with enough samples of everything to remove any need for another lunch. The menu:
Shrimp and artichoke soup--light and tasty
Crawfish étouffée--too spicy for Lori, but I liked it. We had a mishap: when she was portioning out the étouffée, she forgot about our table. When I pointed this out, she was chagrined and made us a special batch.
Bread pudding--tasty, but probably the third best we had.
Pralines--the class taught me that Louisiana pralines are traditionally the crumbly and brittle type, instead of the chewy caramel pralines I prefer. But now I know!
Abita beer and root beer--Abita is a local brewery. The beer was pretty good, but not exceptional. The root beer, on the other hand, was quite nice indeed--I wish I could get that easily in Pittsburgh.

~/ French Market, Cafe du Monde /~

After finishing our meal and shopping for culinary souvenirs in their gift shop, we strolled over to the French Market.

On the way, we saw a silver example of New Orleans' "living statue" style of busker. I've seen this style in Vancouver in 1998, but not elsewhere that I've traveled.
This particular statue wasn't completely stationary: he also did contact juggling.

We spent a while shopping in and near the French Market, but didn't manage to cover the whole flea market before it was time to head back to Cafe du Monde for beignets.
I'm glad to have gone to Cafe du Monde, but I wasn't enraptured by the place. The beignets were good as a sturdier donut. But the drifts of powdered sugar got Into the air and dusted every surface, and that made the place feel messy and grungy to me.

We took a mule-drawn carriage back to the hotel. This was all for Lori's sake, but that is okay, because she did enjoy it. We changed clothes and strolled over to the opening night party.

~/ Opening Night Party /~

We arrived at the party fifteen minutes early to meet the food-creators, but the party was already well underway.

Michael Stern noticed us and suggested we visit the Brick Pit BBQ first, because they were having trouble keeping the meat warm. We are too wise to pass up such a suggestion. The Brick Pit pork (smoked for thirty hours, the owner said) was really splendid. The smokiness wasn't intense, but it had a long lingering flavor that took several seconds to fully express itself through the tender meat.

Next to the Brick Pit BBQ, there was a batch of pork cracklins from T-Boy's Slaughterhouse. (I infer that T-Boy couldn't make it in person.) Most of what I tasted in these was the salty, peppery seasoning; if you had told me that these were chicken-fried steak nuggets, I would not have known otherwise. (Chicken-fried steak nuggets sounds like a great candidate for state fair food.)

I was concerned about maintaining my appetite, because we were going to another dinner after the party as part of the Friends of Roadfood experience. And I knew that Roadfood vendors have a tendency to be generous with portions. So I asked Bud Royer of Royer's Round Top Cafe for the smallest piece of pecan pie he was willing to serve me. He did indeed give me a small piece of pecan pie--but then he put a slice of buttermilk pie next to it, and smothered both slices with ice cream. (It was fine pie, and I didn't regret trying both varieties. I didn't manage to try more varieties, though.)

A similar thing happened with the crawfish boil provided by Rouse's, a local grocery chain. I asked for a token amount of crawfish, since I knew I'd be eating crawfish the next evening. This was my token amount:

Next to the crawfish boil was a boat of raw oysters. (Provided by Creole Cuisine, I think--I didn't write down the name.) This didn't really make an oyster fan out of me. I would have liked to have sampled a bunch of different condiments with them to see how I most like oysters, but stomach space was at too much of a premium to sample dishes more than a few times.

Creole Delicacies was providing fresh-made pralines. Mmm. Pralines are even better when still warm.

Cincinnati-style chili from Camp Washington Chili Parlor came unescorted by any Cincinnati staff. I found it only so-so; I expect it wasn't at it's best served lukewarm on a warm night.

K-Joe's provided bananas Foster bread pudding. Those who are keeping count will note that this was the fourth bread pudding I had sampled in two days. This also suffered from the setting of the party, I think; I don't remember it having the richness of my favorite bread pudding.

Next to the bread pudding was a cake that was impressively decorated to look like a crawfish boil. The natural question this raises for me is "what should a crawfish boil cake taste like?" Unfortunately, I don't remember the taste well--basically, it tasted like cake. The color of the cake interior was a light purple, for all the clue that provides.

The party also gave us the pleasure of watching Anthony and Gail Uglesich receive the Blue Plate Award. Anthony Uglesich was clearly extremely moved by the honor, and that made me appreciate the honor much more.

~/ Patois /~

After the party, we rode with Stephen Rushmore to Patois, a nice restaurant in the Garden District. Unfortunately for my goals, this was a bit crammed and noisy; we were seated at two tables, so I missed all chance to chat with the Uglesiches, and even at our table, it was hard to hear conversations well.

The menu was very nice and everything was prepared very well, but I didn't feel the sense of "only in New Orleans" that I got at most of the other eateries we visited.

I am not a habitual cocktail drinker, but I wasn't driving and their cocktail list looked interesting, so I ordered a "fleur de lis". (Menu description: "blood orange, vodka, limoncello, St. Germain and lemon juice. Served up and topped with champagne".) This was one of the best cocktails I have ever had. The flavor was bright, full, and lively; it clearly belonged to the large family of sweet drinks, but it didn't have any of the cloyingness of sweet drinks like orange juice.
And it was an amazingly beautiful drink. The blood orange juice cohered to itself in the glass like a crimson coral, and this effect lasted until the last sip.
My photo doesn't do it justice in the slightest.

Lori had the Almond Crusted Redfish, which she judged excellent (high praise from her, because she is normally a fish frowner). I had the gulf shrimp and house made fettucine with sweet onions, baby collard greens, local blackeye peas, and chilies. I found the fettucine marvelously tender, but the blackeye peas were hard and unpleasant, and I noticed no distinctions of the shrimp.
Fire Safety Admin
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/06 21:04:34
This trip may have gotten off to an inauspicious start, but the two of you sure are making up for it.  I am really enjoying this, although it is difficult to read about all the food and fun I missed.  Can't wait to see the rest!
Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/06 21:45:58
Ralph, I do not know whether they carry the root beer but I think you can get Abita beer at Whole Foods in other parts of the Southeast so you might want to at least check at your local store.  Everything is dazzling!
mr chips
Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/06 23:26:48
Whoa! Excellent photos. Crawfish cake? I'm so sorry i missed this.
Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/07 01:41:20
This is making me crazy!
That photo of Preservation Hall looks like it should be in a history museum
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/08 23:10:38
This thread got mentioned in the Roadfood newsletter, so I'm trying hard to finish promptly.

March 27:

[font="verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: small; line-height: normal; "]~/ Camellia Grill /~

Lori had been much taken by the description of the Camellia Grill, and still wanted to go. But we woke later than we'd planned on Saturday morning, so we weren't sure we could go to the Camellia Grill and be back in time for the World's Longest Oyster Po-boy. After a bit of dithering, we decided that the Camellia Grill held more attraction for Lori than the oyster po-boy, so we went out to the Camellia Grill at the risk of missing the po-boy.

One New Orleans touch on the street car ride: we saw several trees bedecked with Mardi Gras beads.

The Camellia Grill is an unusual architectural combination: inside, it's pure diner, but outside, it has stately columns:


Lori is a pancake aficionado, so there was little doubt that she would order the pancakes. She declared these pancakes to be among the best pancakes she had ever tasted, and I see no reason to disagree; these were light, fluffy, buttery and opulent, made more buttery and opulent by pitchers of melted butter at each seat.

I ordered the small gumbo to conserve appetite--I'm sure that anyone who can spot a running joke can see where this is going:

The gumbo was rich and hearty, with nuggets of gentle andouille heat.

For dessert, we had the grilled pecan pie. This Camellia Grill specialty is one of those excellent recipes born out of necessity; the pecan pie is grilled because the Camellia Grill has no microwave or oven, so the only way to heat the pie up is the grill. (I suppose this is not completely true, but the grill is probably a better way to heat the pie than the gumbo pot.) The results are very nice; the pie had a crust on all sides like the top of a normal pie, and it carried tastes of the rich buttery flavors from the grill.

~/ Festival /~

At last, we made it back to Royal Street for the Roadfood Festival. Our plan was cautious: first we would walk down and see all the vendors, then come back and eat what was most delectable. I knew that we wouldn't stick to this plan, but I had hopes that aspiring to this plan would help us avoid becoming gorged a bit longer.

We passed by the Que Crawl Truck according to plan, but then Turtle Alley sucked us in for an extended stop. We loved chatting with Hallie Baker of Turtle Alley, because she was so enthusiastic and friendly. We also loved her chocolates. Lori was first delighted by the lavender caramel lollipop. We got turtles for later, but only a fraction survived long enough to fly back with us. I particularly enjoyed the dried cherry and apricot turtles, but all the turtles were excellent. The nuts in the turtles were conspicuously nice--with each turtle I ate, I found myself noticing the rich roasted flavor of the nuts. (Others praised the chocolate and caramel lollipop flavored with cayenne, but she was sold out by the time I went to try.)

We hadn't managed to connect with any Roadfooders through forum plans, but by chance leslielaws and I recognized each other as Roadfooders and introduced ourselves. Leslie and her friends (whose names I forget, unfortunately) agreed to a proposition I made: to let us sample more things, we should band together to sample things together.

The five of us sampled the crawfish pie from Lasyone's. This was very tasty and savory, one of the items I would have liked to eat more of.

Next on the block was Antoine's Annex, serving the Oysters Foch po-boy. I learned that "Foch" is pronounced "foesh". This was not so good, unfortunately. I didn't taste the oysters strongly, but the sauce was like a greasy gravy.

Ms. Linda's Catering served ya-ka-mein, which I had never heard of before this festival. This was a Chinese-American dish with soft noodles, beef, and hard-boiled eggs in a spicy beef broth. It was very tasty, and I would seek it out again.

Plum Street Sno-balls
Lori homed in on the tent for Plum Street Sno-balls, because she had been very attracted to the recommendation from Roadfood poster X1. She ordered a nectar sno-ball with condensed milk, which was a lovely cool treat for the warm spring day.

While she did that, I stood in the line for Louie Mueller's Barbecue. it was a long line, but there was a silver lining: the line was downwind of the smoker, so we got to bask in the scent of smoke as we waited. I ordered both brisket and a German hot sausage. The sausage was excellent, but a little too spicy for my taste, but the brisket was simply divine, rich and smoky and tender and juicy.
I apologize for a photo of half-eaten barbecue, but it would take a stronger man than me to refrain from eating long enough to take a picture.

Leslie's cohort drifted apart from us about this time, and we joined up with Tony Badalamenti, Bruce Bilmes, Sue Boyle, Pete Bilmes, Amy Ayers, and Chris Briesch near the end of the line of vendors. (Those keeping track will note that we ate at five different vendors in the course of our "survey the vendors, but don't eat" initial pass. This is about the level of restraint that I expected us to muster.)

The last vendor in line was a pleasant surprise: Rouse's was serving mini-muffulettas that weren't mentioned on the flyer listing the foods to be had on the festival. I had wanted to try a muffuletta in New Orleans, but the muffuletta made by Central Grocery is a sandwich approximately the size of a hubcap, and we didn't have room in our dining schedule for such a large sandwich. The mini-muffuletta may not have been the authentic Central Grocery experience (I heard some comments about the bread not having the perfect texture) but it fit our plans much better. 
The young woman hawking the muffulettas was very enthusiastic in her presentation. When she discovered that we were muffaletta "virgins", she eagerly instructed us In the proper method of muffuletta-eating: first press down on the sandwich so that the oils from the olive salad get forced into the bread, then savor the sandwich. I enjoyed the muffuletta, and I know that Lori ate more than one.

Tony Bad shared his crawfish enchiladas with cumin mornay sauce from Blue Dog Cafe, which were tasty, but were overshadowed by the many other delicacies to be had.

But when I declared an intention to get some of their crab and corn bisque, one of the Roadfooders said that I should say that Pete had said to add a scoop of grits. With this shibboleth, I obtained a cup of silky bisque with robust coarse grits in excellent combination.

At least one of the Roadfooders (Bruce, I think) had spoken in glowing terms of the seafood chowder from Maine Diner. I wasn't wowed by the cup that I got, though; most of what I tasted was the hearty base, instead of a great variety of seafood. But it's very possible that I didn't know what to seek in the flavor.

The shrimp Uggie from Uglesich's was lost on me as well; I tasted only shrimp and butter.

As we walked back to the hotel to freshen up before the crawfish boil, Lori stopped at Cafe Reconcile for strawberry shortcake. I found it good, but not outstanding.

I was ready for the crawfish boil before Lori was, and went back on my own to get one more thing. I got the shrimp and ham stuffed bell pepper with corn maque choux from Deli at the Cellars. This was fantastic, one of my favorite foods at the festival. The filling of the stuffed pepper had a warm rich glow and a texture as soft as refried beans, and the buttery tender maque choux provided a lovely counterbalance. (We noted that with the cheese on top, this dish is less kosher than a bacon cheeseburger.)

I should also mention the entertainers among the food booths, because they definitely contributed to the festival atmosphere. 
I remember a very good magician, who did tricks I couldn't unriddle at all; a couple of good bands (though we paid more attention on Sunday); and a few living statues. The living statues included a woman behind a picture frame, a man in Uncle Sam garb who held very dynamic poses for impressively long periods, and this man in a Mardi Gras Indian costume:

~/ Crawfish Boil /~

We boarded the bus for the crawfish boil at the Sheraton. As we waited for the bus to leave, we noticed young women in large Southern-belle dresses entering the hotel. I assume that these were debutantes gathered for a ball, but for all I actually know, they could have been intrepid hula-hoop smugglers.

Crawfish boil: crawfish, jambalaya, Cochon au lait pork
The first thing we were offered at the crawfish boil was a drink called "swamp water", with vodka, orange juice, and something green and unidentified. It tasted like a screwdriver.
"swamp water": 

The pig was roasting on a spit:

Is this a running joke I see before me? I asked for a few crawfish:

I got much better at crawfish extraction, but I was trying hard to conserve my appetite, and I didn't feel I could eat them all. I considered returning the unshelled crawfish to the serving boat from which they came--after all, they were still in the original packaging. My concern for possible hygiene issues outweighed my guilt about wasting food, though, so I did not.

There was also jambalaya, and though I had meant to pay attention to it as possibly the only jambalaya I would eat on the trip, I have no memory of it at all.

The folks carving up the roasted pig were clearly very practiced at their task, but I didn't manage to get any decent photos. This is a photo of the meat on my plate. I think the meat itself was mild, but the seasoning was very strong, with lots of salt and cayenne.

I also neglected to take photos of the Q&A with Jane and Michael Stern, but that was very interesting to me. Unfortunately, I don't think it is interesting to everyone--I guess some folks were just coming to the party for the food and beer.

The entertainment also included a zydeco band that was a lot of fun. They also had extra instruments, which added to the fun. I have some blurry photos of me playing the washboard, but I think we'd all prefer this shot of the cutest washboard player around:

Last year's crawfish boil had several alligators, I hear, but this one had only one that I knew of:

One last photo of the day, of a sign we noticed in the French Quarter after the crawfish boil. I am not sure what the sign maker meant by it, but it is definitely a Roadfood sign:

post edited by Ralph Melton - 2010/04/09 17:43:03
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/08 23:14:57
[font="verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: small; line-height: normal; "]A couple more photos from Preservation Hall for Leadbelly and EliseT


post edited by Ralph Melton - 2010/04/08 23:18:32
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/08 23:23:26
mr chips: another picture of the crawfish cake, once sliced. It was odd to look at once it was sliced; the unsliced half still looked very much like a pot full of crawfish.

Double Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/09 00:21:53
The best cake I have ever seen.....
Stephen Rushmore Jr.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/09 04:18:17
Great post Ralph!  You candidly captured the entire experience.
Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/09 08:44:38
This has been a great report to read.  It brought back many memories of New Orleans for me.
Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/09 13:15:12
Awesome post all around Ralph!  Great description and pix!
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/09 18:13:32
[font="verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: small; line-height: normal; "]I'm entering the home stretch of this report now.

Lori got up early to attend Mass at St. Louis Cathedral; I took a long walk around the French Quarter to work up an appetite. Neither my notes nor my memory have any record of eating breakfast, but apparently we did not succumb to starvation.

We stopped to look in a beautiful store called Maskarade, whose proprietor encouraged us to take pictures:

We made it to the Festival just as the beignets-eating contest was about to start. The police department had apparently forfeited the contest, with the excuse that they were to appear on the Biggest Loser. So the match was firemen versus firemen. Our cheering for a trio of firemen we had never met and whose names we had not learned was not enough to shift the tide of victory in their favor.
I sampled one of the competition-certified beignets after the contest. It was sturdier than the Cafe Du Monde beignets, but still nice.

Royers' Round Top Cafe served us buttermilk delight pie, dense with chocolate chips and other goodies:

K-joe's served me red beans and rice, another of the short list of New Orleans foods I really wanted to try on this trip. Again I digress with a story: I first came to know and like red beans and rice as they were served by the food service in college, and though I liked them, I didn't assume they were authentic. I had since tried red beans and rice in a few Pittsburgh restaurants and self-cooked from a few recipes, and had found most of those results lighter and blander than what I'd enjoyed in college. So I feared that this might be a dish that I preferred in inauthentic form, and wanted to try an authentic preparation to know for sure.
These red beans and rice were sublime. The beans were not quite falling apart, with just about the firmness of a good kiss. The flavors were rich, broad, deep, and slow, like the Mississippi River or like Louie Armstrong singing "St. James Infirmary". I yearn to make red beans and rice like this myself.

We replenished our supply of turtles at Turtle Alley, because our take-home supply had gotten depleted during the night. This day, we got photos:

Hallie and Lori:

The Que Crawl Truck was selling a pulled pork po-boy with purple cabbage slaw and french fries. I heard the guys in the truck talking about the french fries, so I wanted to try them, but I didn't want to eat a lot of french fries with limited stomach capacity. So after ordering my po-boy, I asked, "Could I get just fifty cents worth of french fries? I just want to sample a few, not a whole order." The guy grinned and said "we'll take care of you." This joke has been running too many times for us to be surprised: he didn't charge me anything, but added a big handful of fries to the plate. The po-boy was very nice, with spicy barbecue playing against cool slaw; the fries were not much different from other seasoned fries I've had, and I would have been satisfied with just a few.
Que crawl: pulled pork po-boy with purple cabbage slaw

The Que Crawl Truck:

I got the roast beef po-boy from Cafe Reconcile, and this was excellent, with strong beef flavors and lovely debris. Of the two po-boys with debris I had on this trip, I enjoyed this one much more than the Ferdi Special from Mother's.

Uglesich's was serving a new recipe, Shrimp Gail. This was more flavorful than the Shrimp Uggie (with horseradish, I heard), and accompanied with some great peppery sauteed potatoes. I felt this was much tastier than the Shrimp Uggie.

I got chargrilled oysters from Royal House. I enjoyed these quite a lot, but I didn't actually taste the oysters much; I suspect that with that much butter, cheese, and garlic, I might enjoy the shells just as much.

More brisket from Louie Mueller's. Please imagine me saying "check out the smoke ring on that brisket" in the tones other men might use to recommend the features of attractive women. Hubba hubba.

Michael Stern escorted us down the line, introducing us to the various vendors. Louie Mueller's opened up the smoker to show us the briskets smoking:

We stopped several times on Saturday and Sunday to watch and listen one jazz band in the festival. Not only did they have several players, they also had a pair of dancers who tap-danced and danced together. We enjoyed their performances enough to buy a CD.

We then had to leave for home.

Foods we never got to sample from the festival:
Hot sausage po-boy from Vaucresson Sausage
Gumbo from Prejean's
Alligator burger
Fried Catfish
Crawfish cakes (like crab cakes, not like the crawfish boil cake from the party) from Royal Oyster House
Grilled Chicken and Sauce Piquante over Roasted Corn Grits from Blue Dog Cafe
Hot Pops from Turtle Alley

My favorites of the foods we tried at the festival:
brisket from Louie Mueller's Barbecue
shrimp and ham stuffed bell pepper with corn maque choux from Deli at the Cellars
red beans and rice from K-Joe's

Runner-ups from the festival that could easily be the best I ate in a normal week:
turtles from Turtle Alley
crawfish pie from Lasyone's
roast beef po-boy from Cafe Reconcile
shrimp Gail from Uglesich's
chargrilled oysters from Royal House
pulled pork po-boy from Que Crawl Truck
pie from Royer's Round Top Cafe

Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/09 19:39:02
Just a great trip report, and it looked like a great time. In fact I've decided to go to next years festival.

 And thanks for the couple of extra photos from Preservation Hall. I know you said earlier in the report how small the place was but in the first extra photo you can see the walls better and I'm actually shocked at how tiny the place is. 
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/09 20:37:12
I too was surprised by how small Preservation Hall was. 
I'm not good at judging distances and sizes, but my guess is that the performance space in Preservation Hall is about 25' by 30'. It would be larger than most living rooms, but not that much larger--it's probably the size of a fast-food restaurant.
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/09 21:07:53
Your post is excellent, and really captured the glorious food and the fun-filled spirit of the whole weekend!  I feel like I was there all over again just looking at your pictures and reading your comments.  Bravo!
Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/09 21:34:35
Hubba hubba!
Junior Burger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/10 00:31:49
Ralph Melton

The beans were not quite falling apart, with just about the firmness of a good kiss. 

That is the best description I've ever read. 
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/10 07:08:33
A really excellent read, with great photos - I really felt like I was there, except I'm still hungry . Thanks for sharing the adventure with those of us that couldn't make the trip, I really enjoyed it!
mr chips
Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/10 10:20:09
Your posts and report made me feel as if I were there. Great report, Ralph.
Buffalo Tarheel
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/10 18:32:37
Like all the others who have read this post, I too enjoyed reading about the great food and good times you all had in New Orleans.  It's almost as good as being there except that I am not in NOLA and didn't have any of the food.  OK, maybe it's not as good as being there, but it does give us an incentive to make the trip to New Orleans some day.  Thanks for posting this report!
Fire Safety Admin
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/11 20:28:39
Great job Ralph on this report!  I especially enjoy your descriptions of the food.
post edited by buffetbuster - 2010/04/11 20:31:14
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/17 09:05:15
I found the name of the band with the dancers: Smoking Time Jazz Club. Their myspace page is http://www.myspace.com/smokingtimejazzclub
Junior Burger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/17 09:45:52
Great detective work, Ralph!
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/17 10:36:50
"Detective work", in this case, meant another search through the luggage and finally finding the CD we bought from them. It wasn't Sherlock Holmes-level deduction.
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/29 16:08:32
Ralph, what a wonderful trip report! Thanks for putting so much time into it!
Takes me right down memory Lane...
That and watching Treme on Sunday nites LOL.
How I wish I could have gone this year....
Oh well, such is college tuition and orthodontia....
some day it will be all about me
Thanks for the wonderful armchair travel.
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/30 00:13:06
Reading this trip report was like reading a good book, you don't want to stop! Those were some of the most beautiful food descriptions I've ever seen.
Excellant job!
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/04/30 11:24:44
Thank you all so much for your kind words.
Junior Burger
Re:Ralph goes to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2010/05/04 14:55:38

As a native New Orleanian who was also at the festival, I have to say that you did a superb job of capturing the "flavor" of the city.  Unfortunately, Mother's is riding on its long reputation, so I'm glad you got at least one dish there that you liked.  And if/when you return to the Crescent City, be sure to try the bread pudding at the Bon Ton on Magazine; it's unquestionably the world's best.  And next time you're at Galatoire's try the Godchaux Salad in place of the crabmeat maison.  Another superb preparation.