Friday, May 27, 2011

Post CT

First of all, welcome to all my relatives to whom I gave this blog address this week. Hope you enjoy it! Feel free to comment. Also, feel free to check out my other blog, which focuses on beer- Beer Bitch. (It's a little saltier than this blog.)

While we were in Connecticut, I was able to try Five Guys Burgers a couple times-once during our layover in DC and then in Farmington. YUM.

We stayed at the Avon Old Farms Hotel, which has an excellent restaurant. We enjoyed eggs florentine, eggs benedict, huckleberry pancakes, granola, corned beef hash, fresh local apple cider, fresh squeezed OJ, and wonderful coffee for our 3 breakfasts there, and on our last night we checked them out for dinner.

We both started with the early season lobster bisque- mmm, so good. I tried the french style meatballs that I had seen raved about on Chowhound and Yelp- they came with fois gras in the sauce, and they were OK- the texture wasn't my thing, but damn, that foie was good. (I always get sucked in by fois gras.)

Tom had a cheddar/goat cheese and vegetable flatbread, and I had a seared scallop and beef shortrib dish with cauliflower "grits" (which, um... no. Just call it cauliflower) and spinach. Tasty.

For dessert, Tom had the preserved blackberry housemade ice cream and I had the wine and chocolate combo- the chocolate was dark chocolate and the wine was a late harvest zinfandel. Also some berries. The bartender brought me the dessert wine in a large wine glass, which I don't believe was the recommended serving size. Was OK, we had enough so that Tom could pour some over his ice cream. All quite delicious.

It was a nice meal, very low key, great service, and just the right vibe after the long hard day we had.

Flew home yesterday, and grabbed a chick-fil-a sandwich and a cup of Legal Seafood clam chowder (with fresh from the oven rolls) at the Philly airport during our layover.

Have been hanging out in my PJs with the cats all day so far, and am gonna just chill out. Maybe make some mashed potatoes and do some meal planning for the weekend. Yay, home.

Monday, May 23, 2011

back home but missing home

It's funny how immediately I missed New Orleans the moment I stepped off the plane. I can't even articulate it (mostly 'cause I'm exhausted right now.)

It'll be in the 80s and stormy tomorrow, that'll help with homesickness!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

recent eatings

So Sunday we went to Slim Goodie's to send off MVB for the season. Bacon, egg, and cheese burger. (cue Homer Simpson drool)





As this was the third burger in 4 days I had, I thought it was best to maybe ease off with the beef a little bit. So last night we ate vegetarian- a quinoa and black bean salad, and today I went to Hollygrove and picked up a produce box, determined to make a meal plan that will incorporate all the stuff without wasting it like we usually do.

In the box:
pint strawberries
3 peaches
1 head cabbage
1 bunch broccoli
shitake mushrooms
red skinned potatoes
bunch of herbs - parsley, mint, rosemary, sage
pattypan squash
yellow squash
cucumbers
arugula
red beans (in the pod still)
local brown rice

I also bought some okra, 'cause it looked gorgeous and I found a recipe that I could use it for. I cooked it tonight - Curried Chicken with Okra and Potatoes, which was pretty good. I also whipped up some arugula-pecan (with some parsley and lemon basil) pesto for dinner tomorrow night- planning on having that tomorrow with fettuccine and sauteed squash and onion. Thursday, a stirfry with cabbage, broccoli, mushrooms and brown rice. Maybe some tofu.

It's hard to eat healthy without a plan. But it's hard to plan! We'll see how it goes.

Not too exciting, but hopefully relatively tasty and healthy. A break from hedonism can only increase future enjoyment of future hedonistic activities! (hmm, wonder where chicken fried steak tomorrow fits in this temporary health food kick.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Belated Jazz Fest pictures

These appear to all be from Friday, May 6. A wide variety of music, in several (shaded) venues!

Ingrid Lucia (Lagniappe Stage):


Yvette Landry (Lagniappe Stage):


Stanton Moore Trio (Lagniappe Stage):


Leah Chase (Jazz Tent):


Eric Lindell (Blues Tent):


Gospel Tent!



John Boutte singing Mahalia Jackson tribute:


Irma Thomas, Queen of New Orleans Soul, honoring Mahalia Jackson, Queen of New Orleans Gospel:




Bonus weird jockey outside of the WWOZ Hospitality tent:

Friday, May 13, 2011

Recent Notables

Had an impromptu dinner at the bar at Coquette the other night- it was fantastic. I should stop going there for brunch because brunch food/service sullies their reputation (in my eyes at least.) But my dinner was absolutely marvelous. Started with their "Higher Education" cocktail (Plymouth Gin, Cocchi Americano, Branca Menta, lemon, sage) which was tasty and complex, and then had their white asparagus soup with crabmeat, green asparagus, candied orange - so delicate and wonderful to eat. The candied orange brought a delightful citrus-acid-sourness to the soup which cut the richness of the crab and cream in a completely unexpected way. Then I tried their skirt steak, which came served over potato “risotto” with condiments of candied cipollini onions, black trumpet mushrooms, and, like, brisket, or something (something tender and smoked and meat and divine). I drank a glass of Ramon Bilbao Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain '07 with the steak, a nice pairing. Tom and I shared the marcona almond tart with the nutella gelato for dessert. YUM.

Today Tom and I snuck away to August for their prix fixe lunch. I had the beet salad with guanciale, ricotta, aged balsamic, and pecans, followed by the pork medallions (very tender and flavorful) with creole cream cheese dumplings, beurre blanc, and greens, finishing with some crazy chocolate-peanut butter confection served with salted caramel popcorn and popcorn flavored ice cream.




(ate dessert before I remembered to take a picture of it.)

Tom had the carrot soup, the grilled sheepshead fish, and, unfortunately, that weird and offputting ricotta cheese cake that he had the last time we were here- but we didn't recognize it from the description on the menu. Boo! At least he had some of my dessert along with the housemade peanut brittle and chocolate truffle to enjoy.

For our anniversary last week, we were both pretty tired and decided to have a nice quiet dinner at Rue 127. Tom had the mussels and frites again and then the pan seared puppy drum served with Prince Edward Island mussels, frisee, bacon lardons, ruby red grapefruit, poblano peppers, and orange broth. I had the scallop tortellini followed by what I first read as skirt steak, but was actually strip steak, which is not my favorite cut of meat anyway but I ordered it nonetheless. It was a big ass pile of steak, not particularly flavorful, with tendons and fat running all through it, and, bleh. The roasted potatoes and vegetables that accompanied it wasn't anything to write home about either. This actually worked out OK, because I finally had room to try the Chocolate Caramel Tart with vanilla bean gelato that I've been dying to try but am always too full by the time dessert comes around. It was awesome. Also: $5 margaritas, in honor of Cinco de Mayo!

Checked out Cowbell for lunch the other day- was craving a burger. Fun place, good food. My only gripe is that they forgot to serve my starter (clam chowder) until after they brought out my burger. Chowder was good (I miss clam chowder) and the burger was excellent. Since that's their signature item, that's a good thing.





Trying to cook more frequently. Tom made me some of his amazing homemade chicken noodle soup on Sunday. Bought some merguez sausage at the Cochon Butcher and made merguez with collards and couscous, which was damn good. Gonna try to make some Cuban style black beans and rice over the weekend, a Cooks Illustrated recipe I've been wanting to try for a while now.

Did Pizza Delicious last night (mmm, meatball pizza with caramelized onions) and hope to get in to MVB's last service of the season on Sunday- I fear it will be mobbed beyond belief, however.

Good eating, as usual, here in New Orleans. Come get you some!

2nd weekend of Jazz Fest

It was only a week ago, but the memories of Jazz Fest are already fading into a dream like haze- New Orleans has a way of infecting one's memories in this way.

Trying to remember...

The three days between Jazz Fest weekends at work were totally rough. Tom and I did go on a bit of a bender that Tuesday night at the Avenue Pub and then at Parasol's (I curse your smoothness and drinkability, Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey!) which made Wednesday even more rough, but what can you do.

Shook off my hangover in time for Thursday's Jazz Fest session, which was one of my favorite days at at Jazz Fest- I didn't do much of anything, and it was relatively uncrowded and laid back. Enjoyed some quail, pheasant, and andouille gumbo and spread a blanket under the Gentilly Stage tree and lay down and dozed, listening to Eagle & Hawk, New Orleans Bingo! Show, Amanda Shaw & the Cute Guys, and the start of Cyndi Lauper's set. In the shade it was cool, comfortable, breezy, and perfect... drifting in and out of consciousness, listening to music, feeling peaceful and happy...



My wandering was minimal, but the pleasure of the day was quite high. I left a little early to go get Tom at work, as it was our anniversary, and I wanted to spend some of it with him too!

New Orleans Bingo! Show remains one of my favorite bands of the entire festival. I got one of their CDs and have been playing the holy hell out of it in my car over the past week. Got Cyndi's new CD too, "Memphis Blues" which is interesting and a little odd. Her singing voice doesn't quite say "bluesy" to me, but the music is fun, and the musicians backing her up are fantastic.

Friday, I was alone again. Another hot, sunny day- not humid, but the sun was blazing in the sky. I really wanted to try to set up in the Acura area, as there were a bunch of bands there I wanted to see that day, but seriously: I cannot hang in the Acura stage area or any of the other non-shade option stages (Fais Do-Do and Congo Square too). This is kind of a bummer, but honestly, there's so much cool stuff going on, having a limitation was actually kind of good, otherwise I'd be totally overwhelmed with too many choices.

I spent a lot of time trying to stay out of the sun (after I hung out a little bit at Acura watching We Landed On The Moon! - on a separate note, what is up with punctuation in band names nowadays?) and wound up catching back to back sets at my old friend, the Lagniappe Stage. Ingrid Lucia and Yvette Landry. Ingrid Lucia was sort of a Edit Piaf crossed with cabaret crossed with the blues. Interesting. Yvette Landry was simply kick ass. Singer/songwriter, great voice, good tunes.

I stepped out to go to the WWOZ Jazz Tent to see Leah Chase. She was fun- very traditional be-bop jazz vocalist, etc. Very nice and funny lady with a great voice. After a few songs, I got the wanderlust and decided to head back to the Lagniappe Stage to check out the Stanton Moore Trio, which I was intrigued by because it had a couple of dudes from the band Galactic, a local funk/jam band that had played the previous day on the Acura Stage (so I missed them, along with Lucinda Williams.)

I grabbed some of the pork/shrimp Vietnamese summer rolls on my way over along with a beer and WHOA, the Lagniappe Stage area was more packed than I'd ever seen it! I think it was a combination of the popularity of Galactic and people discovering a nice place to cool down out of the sun near some real bathrooms. Grabbed the first seat I could find to eat and drink, and then made my way around the crowd to find a place to be able to sit and enjoy. Which I did. I ended up buying a Galactic CD (which I loooooooove) but I think I would also like to buy some Stanton Moore Trio music as well.

I'd planned to stay in the Lagniappe to listen to the next musician, Alex McMurray, but when I went to the ladies room, the woman in line behind me enthusiastically recommended Eric Lindell in the Blues Tent. Intrigued, I went to check it out. Took a while to find a seat, the place was jam packed! And he'd started early so I missed the first part of his set. But it was good. Did not buy any of his CDs at the time, but that could easily change.

OK, then I had a truly epic decision to make: what show should I close out the day with? Arcade Fire was at Acura, Willie Nelson was at Gentilly, Irma Thomas and John Boutte were doing a Mahalia Jackson tribute in the Gospel Tent, and there was a New Orleans Klezmer show in the Lagniappe! I mean, seriously. Too much good stuff happening simultaneously!

OK, Arcade Fire was out because of its sunny location. I knew Willie'd be packed too, so the opportunity to find shade was limited. I decided to go to the Gospel Tent, because I hadn't been to any show there as of yet, and I knew I wouldn't get Tom in there ever, so this was my chance. Got there early to grab a seat. Listened to John Boutte (who was awesome) and witnessed the entrance of New Orleans' Queen of Soul, Irma Thomas. Stayed for a few songs, then decided that I really really wanted to see Willie Nelson, so I left the Gospel Tent.

Yes, Willie was packed. No, I didn't care. Maneuvered myself so I could see the stage and the video monitor, and listened to him play "City of New Orleans," "On The Road Again," and "You Were Always On My Mind," which is just about my favorite song in the history of EVER, and cried like a baby.

Then I decided to leave on a high note and took off.

Saturday, I had a very tired and grumpy Tom in tow (still awesome fun though.) I promised him that we would just settle down and chill out at Gentilly Stage in an attempt to recreate my idyllic Thursday Jazz Fest experience for him. Well, the fact that is was crowded and hot as hell meant that it wouldn't be an exact duplication. We did find some tree space, but it was space that needed to be adjusted with the movement of the sun, which we were able to accomplish for the most part till the very end of the day.

We'd take turns running out for food and drink. No beer today, but lots of water and lemonade and iced tea. Also sorbetto and mango freezes. And soup, oddly enough (the quail-pheasant-andouille gumbo for Tom and ya-ka-mein for myself) as well as lamb merguez (from Jamila's, which is now on the top of my to-go list) and my VERY LAST CRAWFISH BREAD OF THE SEASON (sob!). Also ran into a Mardi Gras Indian parade! (I cannot help but take pictures, the costumes are amazing and mesmerizing. Amazmerizing.)




Music- super awesome. Shamarr Allen & The Underdawgs, MyNameIsJohnMichael, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, and the Strokes. All very different, all extremely excellent. Yay! Tom got to do some dozing, as I did between sets.



We left on Saturday evening tired, hot, dusty, and sweaty. Also with amazing Jazz Fest memories, even as they fade with each passing day, I will always remember the excitement, the joy, my Thursday solitude, the discovery of crawfish bread, and the many, many wonderful musicians that I heard and saw.

(If you're wondering why I'm wrapping up now, it's because I'd decided not to go to Jazz Fest on Sunday, assuming - correctly - that I would need a day to recover before returning to reality. At least "reality" is still in New Orleans, so it's not as rough as it could easily be.)

Next year, I'm not sure I would get the Brass Pass unless I found someone whose show days were opposite mine and we split it. But never say never!

There are some pictures trapped in my camera, which I will post when they are freed.

Damn, Jazz Fest and New Orleans. Why you so awesome? Until next year...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Jazz Fest first weekend


(me and Tom festing in our Fest Hats)

Well, Jazz Fest is (almost) over. I knew I'd need today to recover (based on my return to work last Monday) so I passed on the Brass Pass to a friend for Sunday's festivities. I am actually experiencing post-Jazz Fest ennui and withdrawal today. Blergh.

Anyway...

Friday was first day of Jazz Fest! I'd been pretty excited about it- I bought a WWOZ Brass Pass which is purchased from WWOZ, the nonprofit local music radio station that sponsors Jazz Fest.

Jazz Fest is a big thing here, for the locals and tourists. When the lineup came out back in January, my Facebook feed exploded with analysis and excitement. It is tough, though, because it's a lot pricier than it used to be and a lot of folks have trouble making the ticket prices.

The city explodes with Jazz Fest festivities. It's not just those days on the Fairgrounds, it's the music at night in the clubs - the artists in town do sets everywhere - and the New Orleans-loving Jezz Fest-going tourists eating, drinking, and clubbing all around town. Locals take time off of work (when possible) and not much gets done until after everyone packs up and leaves.

On Friday, a friend of mine had bought a ticket for the day to see Mumford & Sons. Tom dropped us off at what we soon discovered was the back entrance to the Fairgrounds (Desaix and Trafalgar) and we trudged through to come up at the back of the Acura Stage. Madness! Crowds, dust, food stands, vendors selling beer, Jumpin' Johnny Sandone doing his Cajun music thing up on the Acura stage. I wanted to find the Gentilly stage, because a musician named Mia Borders was going to be playing, so we wandered around, me trying to look at my JazzFest app map on my phone (tough to do in the blazing sun) and figure out where the hell we were.

Finally we found a large map posted and started to get our bearings. We listened to Mia Borders, drank some beer, ate some food (crawfish sack and crawfish beignets), and then set off to find the WWOZ Hospitality Tent, which is for Brass Pass holders (+ 1 guest). We first made our way to the WWOZ Jazz Tent, which is not the same thing- it's a regular music tent for jazz music just past the Gospel and Blues tents. After some aimless wandering (and finding the Abita vendor!) we finally got some help from one of the Information Stands and made our way there.

The Hospitality Tent is a nice little oasis to get away from the crowds and the heat. It has fans, water, iced coffee, and cold delicious fresh fruit. Also, "private" port-o-potties, which are no great shakes, but there's a handwashing apparatus outside of them, which is much better than one's hand washing options outside the regular port-o-potties.

Um, OK- so we wandered around a whole bunch - hung out in the jazz tent for a while and the People's Health Economy tent and the Jazz & Heritage Stage too - just for a few minutes at a time.


Then we wandered back for Mumford & Sons- ooh, Gentilly Stage area got mobbed! (though nothing compared to what the weekends would bring)

I had to bail on Connie and find a place in the shade, and I retreated to the giant ash tree in the Gentilly field. You couldn't see the stage or the video screen, but you could hear everything in the sweet, sweet shade. Even Connie had to come back there after a while dealing with the sun and the heat and the crowds.

Mumford & Sons were great- it was the first time I'd heard them - and then the Avett Brothers came on. We stayed to hear a few songs but then left to beat the rush out. We left the way we came - a long trudge out - and we could hear Robert Plant's set on the Acura Stage as we walked toward the streetcar. I got sunburned a bit on my chest and upper arms, and was exhausted - my first day of Jazz Fest!

Saturday Tom and I strapped both bikes to the car and drove out to where my office is, and biked about 2.5 miles through City Park to the Gentilly Pedestrian Entrance and Bike Parking area.

We went and listened to Shannon McNally and Hot Sauce:


Then we walked around and grabbed some food. Crawfish bread, crawfish sausage poboy, fried crabcake, strawberry lemonade. Tom wanted an Abita so we wandered over that way and looked at the craft vendors. Then investigated the food area there- we had the shrimp and pork Goi Cuon (Spring Roll), and then Crawfish Bisque and Trout Baquet, which were all marvelous. The trout was panfried in butter and then topped with fresh lump crabmeat. You know, a nice light New Orleans snack on a hot summer day.

Then we found the Lagniappe Stage- located in the Grandstand building, it's tented and it's in close proximity to a REAL bathroom! Very exciting. We watched the show - Hurray for the Riffraff - and enjoyed it immensely. I believe we left soon after that...





Sunday we went in a little later because I wanted to stay for the last sets - the Decemberists and Arlo Guthrie. After arriving, we tried to settle in the shade near the Fais Do-Do stage (where the Decemberists would eventually be playing) and listen to the Honey Island Swamp Band. That proved difficult after a while so after we ate up our WWOZ Mango Freezes, we decided to wander a bit. We went to the WWOZ tent, and got some beer and then some iced coffee and peach cobbler, and then went over to our favorite tent, the Lagniappe Stage. We caught the end of the Leroy Thomas and the Zydeco Roadrunners set and then snagged some good seats to listen to Kristen Diable.




Afterward, we went to the Blues tent to catch some Arlo Guthrie (LOVE):


and then over to the Fais Do-Do to catch the Decemberists.

We ended up not staying for the entire set and biked back to the car to try to rest up for returning to work the next day...

And that next day was TOUGH. Everyone came in with Jazz-Fest-itis; runny nose, irritated eyes, sneezing, coughing. No one's mind was on work - no one and nowhere in the city. If I were to do the Brass Pass thing again, I think I would want to take off those 3 days between weekends and just make it an awesome staycation.

Will report on the second weekend of JazzFest soon- Thursday and Friday I was on my own and had a great time, and on Saturday Tom accompanied me.

This is a pretty accurate rendition of what Jazz Fest is like, copied from Ian Hoch's Hit N Run Guide to Jazzfest, presented by nolaDefender.com. It gives you not only an idea about the layout, but what is actually going on there, and the cultural norms for each location. I love this map!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Jazz Festin' BRB

So last weekend and this weekend have been filled with Jazz Fest going. There's a lot to report with the music, the food, the culture, the important place of Jazz Fest in New Orleans tourism and for locals, the biking, the planning, etc., etc.

However, I will not have the time or energy to do so until after Jazz Fest is done.

I present to you in the meantime these food-related pictures from Jazz Fest!

So, they had excellent signage proclaiming their food wares:






And to be honest, I was too busy eating my food to take pictures of it, but I was able to take a picture of this:


Crawfish sack and crawfish beignets!

Other items eaten and drunk: mango ice, strawberry lemonade, crawfish bread, shrimp bread, trout baquet, crawfish bisque, fried crabcake with a smoked tomato and jalepeno tartar sauce, roman candy, rose mint iced tea, fried chicken, jambalaya, quail and pheasant gumbo, strawberry balsamico sorbetto, peach cobbler, iced cafe au lait, beer.

Still on my to-eat list: the lamb merguez, the crawfish strudel, gyro, curry chicken patty, crawfish monica, ya ka mein, frozen cafe au lait, and more that I can't remember. Should have eaten more today but I was too busy dozing under an enormous oak tree listening the the New Orleans Bingo! Show and Amanda Shaw & the Cute Guys.

Oh, just so it doesn't get lost in the Jazz Festing, I did actually have to go to work this week (on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) and rewarded myself for this hardship by going to lunch at Boswell's, the Jamaican place on Tulane Ave. Got the jerk chicken and pork combo plate with mac & cheese and callalloo. Damn, it was good. Also got a pink Ting to wash it down with.




There was also some significant beer drinking at the Avenue Pub on Tuesday night followed by even more significant beer and whiskey drinking at Parasol's, but we also had the chance to try the "new" Parasol's roast beef poboy. It was pretty good, but we were pretty drunk, so we'll have to give that another try.

So, I'll be back after Jazz Fest winds down... stay tuned!