Thursday, May 10, 2012

Jazz Fest Food: Freezes, Gelatos, Sorbets

Dessert was a great counterbalance to all the spicy food we ate in the Big Easy. Also, because most of it was cold and refreshing, we didn't feel bad indulging early in the day. And indulge we did! The one thing everyone kept coming back to was the mango freeze. A perfect scoop of creamy mango that tasted 100% like fresh ripe mango and nothing at all like ice. Super refreshing in the hot sun. Our last day at the festival, we lingered when everyone else headed out to savor their final mango freezes of the weekend.

The Louisiana Strawberry Ice was one of my personal favorites. It was a little heftier than the smooth mango, but packed the same fruit-powered punch without any iciness. So fruity and strong I swear it quenched my thirst.

The cannoli from the same Angelo Brocato's was maybe the best I've ever had. I like the frozen, ice creamy interior better than the typical room temp custard. Plus, it was spumoni flavored!

The gelatos we sampled were all rich, creamy and amazing. The standout was the affogato with chocolate azteca gelato. I'm used to affogatos with a single shot of espresso; this came with a heavy latte pour over spicy chocolate. It reminded me of the Mayan chocolate from Brooklyn Label. As my sister would say, "That's a pretty nice treat you have for yourself there, girlfren."

The white chocolate bread pudding was fantastic, if not a little overly sweet for me. The texture was absolutely perfect though. Enough to convince any bread pudding non-believer.

There were only a few desserts that didn't make the cut. The strawberries in the strawberry shortcake were fresh and firm, not soggy, but the "cake" was just a hardened piece of what... a shortbread cookie? Also, they had a bunch of these sitting out ready to go, which would be fine if 1) there was actually a line of people waiting and 2) they added the whipped cream at the last minute. I got food poisoning from whipped cream at a fair 8 years ago and it is not something you easily forget. So I ate around it.

Then the Sno cones. I remember them as being pretty special as a 7-year-old. Pictured is the King Cake flavor, which looks purple for some reason. It ended up being more of an enigma than anything else. "It looks like grape, but tastes like... ?" Someone finally nailed it down as an icy vanilla Coke.

Next year I have to remember to try the Roman chewing candy, cream puffs, pralines and the old fashioned hand made ice cream sandwiches. Ah, sweet regret!

Mango Freeze
WWOZ Community Radio

New Orleans, LA

Louisiana Strawberry Ice, Cannoli
Angelo Brocato’s Ice Cream & Confectionery Co

New Orleans, LA

Locally Made Artisan Gelato and Sorbetto
La Divina Gelateria

New Orleans, LA

White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Coffee Cottage

River Ridge, LA

Strawberry Shortcake
Cecelia Husing

New Orleans, LA

AJ’s Sno-Balls

Metairie, LA 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Jazz Fest Food: Deep Fried in the South

Besides the crawfish, there were all sorts of great cajun foods -- most of them fried. Not all of them were hits, though.

Starting with the most impressive. The pheasant, quail and andouille gumbo was hot, rich and spicy, with crazy tender pieces of meat in a rich, fatty broth. It was a sacrifice to eat it in the hot sun, but we got this at least twice.

Then the cochon de lait po boy: slow roasted suckling pig. Tender and smoky. Scarfed down way too quick. We also tried the duck po boy, which wasn't as good, but still fairly awesome.

We might have skipped the crab cakes if our cab driver on the first day didn't swoon so hard over them. Fresh and meaty, with a smoked tomato and jalapeno tartar.

So ends the Jazzfest must-haves. The Cuban sandwich was really good, even though I'm not a huge fan of them. For some reason the line for this was consistently longer than everything else.

Cajun chicken and tasso over creole rice. Tasso, it turns out, is a kind of spicy creole pork. I only had a bite of this, but it was pretty good.

A little out of place but seriously delicious nonetheless: the curry chicken pattie:

In that same vein: grilled steak pita. This is what you wish steak, peppers and onions always tasted like together.

The spinach artichoke casserole was strange to eat straight up, without chips to dip in it. 

So we got our own. Sweet potato chips with powdered sugar. 

The crab stuffed mushrooms weren't as memorable. Neither was the cous cous with yogurt sauce, which was really more like yogurt soup with cous cous. Sweetened with a few dried fruits. The taste was there, the idea was there, the refreshing aspect was there... it was just a little off target.


Finally, the boudin balls. I enjoyed the dirty pork rice at Stanley, but it wasn't as great here. The meat inside was strange tasting.

I'll be back for more reviews of the true Jazzfest refreshments: drinks and desserts.

Pheasant, Quail & Andouille Gumbo, Crab & Crawfish Stuffed Mushrooms
Prejean's Restaurant

Lafayette, LA

Cochon de Lait Po-Boy
Love at First Bite

New Orleans, LA

Fried Crab Cake w/ Smoked Tomato & Jalapeño Tartar
C.P.G. Catering

Mandeville, LA

Cuban Sandwich
Canseco’s Markets

New Orleans, LA

Cajun Chicken & Tasso w/ Creole Rice
Food for Thought

New Orleans, LA

Curry Chicken Pattie
Palmer's Jamaican Cuisine

New Orleans, LA

Dibbi (Grilled Steak on Pita), Couscous w/ Yogurt Sauce
Gambian Foods

New Orleans, LA

Spinach Artichoke Casserole
Ten Talents Catering

Covington, LA

Fried Sweet Potato Chips
Fatty’s Cracklins

St. Francisville, LA

Boudin Balls
Papa Ninety Catering

Belle Chasse, LA

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Jazz Fest Food: The Crawfish

A few friends and I spent a long weekend in New Orleans for Jazz Fest. We saw some amazing shows -- Al Green, Cee Lo, Tom Petty, the Beach Boys, Bon Iver, Trombone Shorty, Bruce Springstein, Steel Pulse, Ellis Marsalis, Feist, Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, Iron & Wine and lots of other great acts. We had some amazing refreshments to power us through the hot, sunny days; lots of spicy cajun food with strawberry drinks and desserts to cool us off. I kind of wish I was there for weekend 2, but I really am not sure my stomach could handle it. Check out the full food list here.

First, the crawfish! The best crawfish dish by far was the Monica. Creamy, cheesy pasta with lots of little crawfish tails, but so much more than the sum of its parts. Easily the best crawfish snack of the festival.

The crawfish beignets are a close second. Unlike the kind we had at Brenda's in San Francisco, where the crawfish was at the center of the dough, these crawfish were blended into the dough for a smooth, creamy, decidedly un-beignetlike snack.

The cheesy crawfish bread was fantastic in terms of doughy, cheesy textures, but might have been lacking a bit in terms of flavor. I think it just got overpowered by other spicy cajun foods. Still, it was one of my favorites.

The spinach and zuccini bisque with crawfish isn't much to look at, but it was a crazy satisfying breakfast on our last day at the festival. This was about when I started craving veggies alongside my crawfish.

Then for lunch, the strudel. Flaky pastry with a creamy mess of crawfish deliciousness inside.

For our epic picnic during Al Green's show on Sunday we were ready to take the plunge: the crawfish boil. The little guys soaked in a spicy cajun bath and came out succulent and juicy. They were really messy, but it was worth it.

Crawfish Monica
Kajun Kettle Foods, Inc.
New Orleans, LA

Crawfish Beignets 
Patton's Caterers
Chalmette, LA

Crawfish Bread 
Panaroma Foods
Marksville, LA

Crawfish Bisque
Baquet’s Li’l Dizzy’s Café
New Orleans, LA

Crawfish Strudel 
Coffee Cottage
River Ridge, LA

Boiled Crawfish
 Smitty's Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar
Kenner, LA