Jazzfest First weekend report, pt1
Thanks everyone for the tips regarding my first lunch with 7 people on Friday afternoon. We ended up at Johnny's (trying to keep it quick and casual) and it was pretty good (great fried shrimp and catfish, very good gumbo--sadly stale bread in a few sandwiches). I'd like to share a few of my other experiences from the weekend (and maybe later from the following week).
Friday, April 29th:
Dinner at Cochon: A real crowd pleaser. I've had (and heard of) service issues at Cochon before, but I think they were doing a pretty good job, especially considering how packed it was given the festival. We were a convivial (not to say drunk) group and our requests to have things repeated, delays in making choices, and demands that we be photographed were all handled with good natured aplomb. The oyster roast was devoured--other favourites I thought were crab stuffed artichokes (like artichoke dip made by the devil), the gumbo with devilled egg (the best gumbo I ate all trip---head-spinning seafood flavour), and the crawfish pie (which featured a very flavourful stew in a tasty fried pie crust). The lima beans--also--a surprisingly potent contender...cooked no doubt with a little of the titular cochon. Desserts were kinda weak--as they have been imo on my two previous visits--the moonshine was not.
Saturday April 30th: Festival food:
I thought the Patton's catering stuff was weak--not too much flavour, sauces seemed industrial, but nonetheless pleasant and pretty to look at.
The real hit of the day turned out to be just a box of boiled crawfish, because I'd never eaten them like that before. Locals were happy to instruct us in the art of twisting, sucking, pulling and tearing apart.
White chocolate bread pudding was great.
Cochon de lait only seemed pretty good (is moist smoky pork with creamy slaw ever bad? Why wasn't I more impressed? Maybe disappointed in the bun it was served on---just imagine it on fresh Leidenheimer!)
The hen, quail and andouilled gumbo from Prejean's was good--the meats being of extreme succulence.
My brother got some plaintains from Bennachin and was not disappointed.
Saturday Dinner: Iris
--after several drinks at the Chartroom, which I would recommend as an FQ bar if you like bars and don't have an aversion to classic rock and dark--but friendly--places.
--Iris has a terrific bar staff, if you like mixology-heavy cocktails. This was a fun thing to do with a group, even as we waited around the bar for a table.
--Iris is beautiful--and the servers were great.
--the food is pretty good, and can probably be great (would probably be great in another city?) I had a lovely piece of hake, and some slightly overcooked sweatbreads (didn't taste around other people's plates too much). This meal was more about having a party in a beautiful room, where our needs were kindly anticipated (if not subtly directed) then it was about paying attention to the fairly subtle dishes.
--dessert was the high point, and I'm ashamed to admit that by that point I was having too much fun to remember what it was (though partial responsibility for that should go to the soul/r 'n b dance party we stumbled upon at Saturn bar afterwards).
--oysters were the low point, they just didn't taste super fresh.
Sunday: I ate some sort of breakfast.
Sunday Dinner: Galatoires.
Seven of us show up at just after four thirty. We are quickly seated, and introduced to Chris (three visits, three waiters is my record so far). The table is arranged with my father at the head, but my father hasn't been here before, and I know that without intervention we may get menus, order, have appetizers and mains and dessert and leave wondering what all the fuss is about. I have to take things into my own hands (megalomaniacally? YES!) to make sure that menus are refused. That orders are not placed all at once. That whims are followed. That long periods of drinking between courses are strictly enforced. And, of course, that Chris' advice is solicited as frequently as possible--if just to hear the amount and quality of advice that a Galatoire's server can dispense. We do a round of pommes souffle and eggplant, then a few fried soft-shells for the table (they are smaller than I have had on previous visits which scares me, but they still wow most of the assembled crowd), then a couple goutes--with oysters rockafeller which I love, but which disappoint my father who is used to the cheesier preparation more commonly found in the north. Then we ask Chris to select a couple meats and a fish for the table to share. We get filet mignon bordelaise with mushrooms, fried chicken, and a pompano topped with crab yvonne. I don't know if I'd order steak again...but if I was in the mood it was good enough that it might be worth a try, just to taste the various sauces they make. For dessert we had a cup custard, a pecan thing (which was good but not very galatoires--it was a recent addition to replace the now defunct pecan pie), and a fantastic banana bread pudding---and cafe brulot with a not unamusing pyrotechnic show. 4 hours plus, and every second was so much fun. Of course you can get food made with more finesse--though I doubt anyone is doing THIS food with more finesse--but you can't have more fun than Galatoires. Thanks to everyone on this board for putting me in the right mind-set to enjoy my third visit to this venerable institution even more than my previous ones.
I actually did another 4 days of serious eating (Emerils, Cochon Butcher, Brigtsen's, A surprisingly decent meal at Mother's, a surprisingly much improved 3rd visit to Coop's, delicious tapas at Mimi's, drinks at Cure, another day at the festival, a fantastic burger at the FQ Camellia, the bizarre scene and inoffensive edibles of the clover grill at 3am) and will report on it if I feel inclined and have the time. I still feel like there is a lot to eat in New Orleans and look forward to more gumbo filled weeks in years to come.
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Loved your reviews as I'm a believer in a good evening out in a restaurant goes beyond the food and can be had with even middling food. Of course it's mo bettah if the food is also great.
Thanks for the report -- would love to hear the latter half of your report, as I'll be there in two weeks and am planning on heading to a few of those places. Great stuff!
Glad to see that you are in the Galatoire "spirit" I must ask, though, what you meant when you referred to the Oysters Rock up north as "cheesier?" Do you mean that in the sense of "cheap"or literally as in "cheese?" I've had lousy Rock outside New Orleans but it is usually just a version of creamed spinach or the like...never seen anyone try to dump cheese in it. Oysters Bienville? Sure....
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Good question, Hazelhurst. Although the wikipedia article about them does not mention it, a quick google search seems to reveal to me that many variants (bastardizations?) of oysters rockefeller are topped with mornay sauce (which would contain some gruyere, wouldn't it?). What my father was expecting was what you will see in many of the pictures if you type "oysters rockefeller" into a google image search--which is a white sauce that has been under the broiler and has burnt on top the way the cheese on a pizza does. He also was probably expecting bacon---which seems to be a component of them up here, too. Now, I should mention the most important thing of all: We are from Toronto, so the name (and recipe) had traveled a long distance before they formed the oysters rock of my dad's youth. Given that I have never seen, nor heard mention of Oysters Bienville on a Canadian menu, I might be tempted to theorize that as recipes for New Orleans style baked oysters moved north, there was some mixing and matching and conflating resulting in a "rockefeller" that had borrowed from other recipes---but that's pure speculation.
How very odd...I've seem fake Rockefeller with spinach, of course, and I;ve seen even that covered with breadcrumbs but never cheese or a mornay. Bienville often has bacon, and it alwasy should have shrimp, and then cheese etc. Sounds as though your theory holds water, though. Someone who;d never been to New Orleans may have just invented something based on, say, Clams Casino or some such. It might be akin to 19th Century Russia wherein "Sauce Provencal" was, in fact, mayonnaise (see salat Olivie).
Years ago on Lexington Ave in Manhattantthere was a place called (I think) La Louisiane. It featured "Red Beans 'n Rice" which the menu described as "a typical, zesty, Southwest Louisiana Peasant Dish" as though it came from Lake Charles, or perhaps Chloe. It was something like $16.95 in 1981, $20.95 with sausage. Never even wanted to try it, even as a anthropological inquiry.