2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival

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Foodbme
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2012/04/04 00:02:58 (permalink)

2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival

I'm surprised we haven't seen any reports from the NOLA Gala.
Maybe Jean Lafitte and his Brother, Pierre, kidnapped them and are holding them for ransom!
Like some Bread Pudding from Mothers & a Po Boy from Casamento's!
post edited by Foodbme - 2012/04/04 00:53:58
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    Ralph Melton
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/05 22:16:05 (permalink)
    I've been intending to write reports, but I keep being distracted by work. Soon, I hope.
    #2
    Foodbme
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/05 22:19:30 (permalink)
    Ralph Melton
    I've been intending to write reports, but I keep being distracted by work. Soon, I hope.

    THANX Ralph.
    I was beginning to think that no one showed up.
    Usually, there are a lot of posts immediately after a get together like that.
    #3
    mhill95
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/05 22:27:11 (permalink)
    It is really strange that not a word has been posted.
    ??
    mike
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    MikeS.
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/06 02:57:08 (permalink)
    I spent most of my time with Ralph and his lovely wife, so I'm waiting for him to post up his report. Plus they took all the pictures.
    #5
    Foodbme
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/14 03:49:11 (permalink)
    This is the most unusual waiting period for reports to start that I remember. Maybe no one had a good time???
    It's like everyone is waiting for someone else to start posting?
    #6
    Ralph Melton
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/15 22:09:12 (permalink)
    Third time's the charm: unlike the previous two years, we managed to arrive in New Orleans on the day we'd planned to arrive. But the trip was unpleasant enough that we wondered if we'd made the right choice.

    We were offered the chance to get bumped, but we declined, because we have had trouble using airline travel vouchers in the past and we wanted to get to New Orleans on time for once.

    The flight to Chicago was unremarkable. We tried to get dinner at Frontera Tortas. Unfortunately, I overestimated how long we had before we boarded our next flight, and we had to carry our food onto the plane. We did not enjoy the tortas at all, and we found the tortilla chips much too salty - but that may have been affected by the fact that we were eating the tortas after they'd been cooling for forty minutes, in the dreadful ambience of a cramped plane seat where the person in front of me had leaned back so far that I could have used his hair as a napkin. However, the agua frescas that we had before boarding were wonderful; Lori had the mango lime flavor, and I had the cactus pear. Mine was really quite tart, which I really enjoy.


    The flight from Chicago to New Orleans was very bumpy and turbulent because of thunderstorms passing through Louisiana. I'm not normally prone to airsickness, but I was feeling quite uncomfortable.

    The woman at the car rental agency made me feel that we had plunged deeply into Southern hospitality; her familiarities went from "honey" up to "sweetheart". She offered us a complimentary upgrade to a minivan. I considered the challenges of driving through the narrow streets of the French Quarter and declined the offer—which threw her off track. Finally comprehension dawned: "you're offering me a minivan because you have no mid-sized cars in stock." Once I understood that, I accepted the minivan cheerfully.

    We found the bed and breakfast without difficulty, and I managed to parallel park the minivan, even though I had not routinely driven a car that large in a decade. The proprietor had stayed up late for us.
       
    #7
    Ralph Melton
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/15 22:10:00 (permalink)
    We were very late to leave on Thursday morning. We woke up late, because we'd both been sleep-deprived in the days before our trip. (Our room did a fabulous job of keeping out the light; we discovered later that the curtains were lined with aluminum foil.) And when we woke, rain was pelting down, and the clatter of the rain made it seem extra cozy inside. So we didn't leave for Camellia Grill until very late in the morning.

     

    I have racked my brain trying to remember why I asked the waiter about the muffuletta on the menu. I had mostly resolved to have the red beans and rice, which I'd found delightful before. And I wouldn't have called myself a muffuletta fan; I had had the muffuletta at Central Grocery (where the muffuletta originated) in 2011, and I considered it good but not great. But some faint memory of Chris Ayers saying that he had heard someone speaking well of Camellia Grill's muffuletta triggered a stray neuron, and I asked the waiter about it. And he said that it was a great muffuletta, and then I felt awkward about the thought of choosing something else after such a glowing recommendation. So I ordered the muffuletta—and I'm very glad that I did.

    Though the Central Grocery's muffuletta was just a good sandwich, the Camellia Grill's muffuletta was one of the greatest sandwiches I've ever had. There were differences from the original muffuletta; this used corned beef instead of the Italian meats, and used a bread that's not the traditional Sicilian muffuletta bread. The most significant difference, though: this was served hot. This did make it a sprawling, messy sandwich that had to be cantilevered with a fork to bring it to mouth, but the taste was sublime. The grilling made all the flavors blossom, especially the garlicky olive salad, so that the effect was like a brass band playing in my mouth. My mouth is watering now just at the memory.


    The waiter said that the city's best muffuletta is found at Nor-Joe Imports. I did not get a chance to test this claim.

    Lori ordered the pancakes, because she's found them perfect on three previous visits. Unfortunately, this visit's pancakes were only very good. 


    On this visit, the Camellia Grill had a whole lot of banter and sass flying back and forth among the staff, which was really fun to listen to while we ate.

    One last picture of note: this iconic camellia is made from a few of the hundreds of Post-It notes that were posted on the walls imploring them to return after Hurricane Katrina.
       
    #8
    Ralph Melton
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/15 22:18:34 (permalink)
    Foodbme

    This is the most unusual waiting period for reports to start that I remember. Maybe no one had a good time???
    It's like everyone is waiting for someone else to start posting?

     
    I don't think there were many active forum participants there this year. Bruce Bilmes usually posts his reports in the Roadfood digest, not in the forums; I didn't see anyone else whose trip reports I'm familiar with. So you may be stuck waiting for me.
    And I've been stuck in a rut in which I intend to steal some time at work to write trip reports and end up working at work instead. It's inconvenient, but not the sort of thing I feel I can really complain about.
    #9
    Stephen Rushmore Jr.
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/15 23:05:32 (permalink)
    Nice write-up Ralph.  I am going to see if the Camellia Grill will serve that muffuletta next year.
    #10
    buffetbuster
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/16 08:03:32 (permalink)
    Ralph-
    That is one great looking muffuletta! 
    #11
    Tony Bad
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/16 10:14:40 (permalink)
    Great report Ralph! That sandwich looks great, but it seems it has strayed so far from the traditional that it isn't really fair to call it a muffuletta any more. 
    #12
    Michael Hoffman
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/16 10:39:58 (permalink)
    Terrific report. And Ralph, I wish you hadn't posted that shot of the muffaletta.
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    ChiTownDiner
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/16 14:27:43 (permalink)
    Ralph - if the bread and meat are different...is it still a muffaletta?
    #14
    Ralph Melton
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/16 16:34:06 (permalink)
    Thanks, guys. I do feel that that muffuletta picture turned out very well.
     
    I don't have a strong prescriptive stance about whether this sandwich is or is not a real muffuletta. (As opposed to, say, barbecue, where I have very strong opinions, but I keep quiet because I suspect my opinions are wrong.) It's obviously reasonable for me to call it a muffuletta because that's what it's called on the menu. But I have a very strong literalist streak, and so I also feel a certain doubt about a muffuletta that's not on muffuletta bread. 
     
    But I have had a total of three sandwiches that were called muffulettas, and only one of those three was on muffuletta bread. So I suspect the defining characteristic of the muffuletta sandwich is not the bread but the olive salad.
    #15
    Foodbme
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/16 18:14:24 (permalink)
    Muffuletta is actually the name of the round Sicilian Sesame Bread used to make the sandwich.
    Marie Lupo Tusa, daughter of Central Grocery's founder, traced the origin of the sandwich:
    "One of the most interesting aspects of my father's grocery is his unique creation, the muffuletta sandwich. The muffuletta was created in the early 1900s when the Farmers' Market was in the same area as the grocery. Most of the farmers who sold their produce there were Sicilian. Every day they used to come of my father's grocery for lunch. They would order some salami, some ham, a piece of cheese, a little olive salad, and either long braided Italian bread or round muffuletta bread. In typical Sicilian fashion they ate everything separately. The farmers used to sit on crates or barrels and try to eat while precariously balancing their small trays covered with food on their knees. My father suggested that it would be easier for the farmers if he cut the bread and put everything on it like a sandwich; even if it was not typical Sicilian fashion. He experimented and found that the thicker, braided Italian bread was too hard to bite but the softer round muffuletta was ideal for his sandwich. In very little time, the farmers came to merely ask for a "muffuletta" for their lunch."
    It's generally recognized that in order for it to be called a true Muffuletta Sandwich it must  contain the round Sicilian Sesame Bread and the Olive Salad. Other ingredients optional.
    W
    post edited by Foodbme - 2012/04/16 18:17:24
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    Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/16 18:34:27 (permalink)
    If I was presented with two sandwiches, both called muffulettas -- one with olive salad but on a baguette-style roll, and the other on the correct bread but without olive salad -- I'd tend to feel the olive salad trumps the bread. But I'd also feel something was missing in both instances. Each additional change moves it further from what I'd recognize as a muffuletta -- corned beef, heating it -- and the result might be good, but it might not scratch my muffuletta itch.
    #17
    Tony Bad
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/16 22:51:43 (permalink)
    Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle
     but it might not scratch my muffuletta itch. 

     
    Muffuletta itch? You may want to see a doctor about that.
     
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    #18
    Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/16 22:59:40 (permalink)
    Lamisil should take care of it.
    #19
    ChiTownDiner
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/17 07:32:50 (permalink)
    If yoiu scratch my...I'll scratch yours!
    #20
    Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/17 11:36:04 (permalink)
    That proposal sounds like harassment to me.
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    Ralph Melton
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/18 23:00:30 (permalink)

    We had gotten a rental car for this year's trip, and we wanted to get value out of it. So we were focused on doing our touristing outside the French Quarter as much as possible. And the rain had stopped while we were in the Camellia Grill. So we went off to a plantation tour, and without much basis for choice beyond a few brochures, we went to Oak Alley Plantation.

     

    Oak Alley is named for the two long rows of three-hundred-year-old live oaks stretching from the river past the house. They predate the house by over a hundred years, but there is no record of the person who planted them besides the oaks. It makes me wonder, really—planting them would be no little project, so I would assume that the man who planted them intended to make a home and a livelihood there. What happened such that there's no record of him even in an old deed book?




    We started with a forgettable lunch at the restaurant on the grounds. Gumbo for me, roast beef po'boy for Lori.
     

    I've had trouble finding what to say about the mansion, so I've turned to Lori. She writes:
    The mansion was the opposite of our lunch -- memorably beautiful! The tour was honestly fairly standard, and our guide was competent but uninspiring. However, the views of the "Oak Alley" from the veranda were stunning. The interior of the mansion was pretty, much of the furniture is period but not original to the house. I think the beautiful grounds with their stunning live oak trees are the reason why it has played host to several movie crews over the years. Most notably to me, it was Louis' mansion in "Interview with the Vampire." For me, it was easy to imagine a belle on the veranda anxiously awaiting her swain galloping down the avenue of live oaks on horseback.


    This contraption was operated by a slave standing in a corner to shoo away flies. One was very aware of the differences in class and the fact that the whole plantation lifestyle was built on the back of slave labor. (Including some very skilled slaves—they said that the cook had been trained in France. I'm curious about how that worked.)


    Another view of the oaks from the veranda. Swain on horseback not included.


    At the end of the tour, we bought a mint julep from the organization for the volunteers at the plantation. It was very different from our previous mint julep experience with the mint juleps benefitting the Tennessee Williams Festival. (I would not have characterized myself as the type of person who has opinions between charity mint juleps, but apparently I am.) The Tennessee Williams Festival mint julep tasted primarily of strong bourbon, softened only slightly by mint and sugar. This julep was extremely smooth, so smooth that it was easy to overlook how potent it was. Sipping this made it very easy to imagine genteel Southern belles languidly fanning themselves on the veranda as bluecoats overran their plantation.


    As we were leaving, we stopped to ask one of the groundskeepers what he was doing. (Answer: he was pumping out one of the lawns for a craft festival that weekend.) This turned into a surprisingly fascinating conversation. He told us about the cycle of flowers on the site, and he told us that he was rebuilding the slave quarters for the plantation—by hand. He had already put two hundred hours of work into the slave quarters, and they currently had only a chimney and the beginnings of the floor.


    #22
    MikeS.
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/04/20 04:40:45 (permalink)
    Ralph, really great so far! And you haven't even gotten to the point where you pick me up :) I did say Thank You didn't I? If not, THANKS  to both you and the lovely Lori.
     
    P.S. I'm lovin my iPad.
    #23
    Ralph Melton
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/05/06 21:59:53 (permalink)

    We returned from the plantation and made phone contact with Mike. We had been planning to go to Commander's Palace, and he was game for that, even though he hadn't brought a jacket. But when we met him at Commander's Palace, he said that they were promising a long delay for a table. That tipped the balance for us, and we suggested Bozo's instead. The host at Bozo's also claimed a wait of over an hour, but when we glanced at the empty tables, he made it clear that he was joking.


    Mike ordered the raw oysters eagerly, and offered to share them with us. Lori is firmly anti-oyster, but I gave them a try. I haven't had raw oysters often (I think this was my fourth time), and I certainly couldn't call myself an oyster enthusiast, but these were really tasty, with a big slurp able flavor. I would gladly eat these again, and since Mike shared very generously, I ate several from the platters he ordered.



    I saw crawfish on the specials board. I've only tried crawfish at the 2010 Roadfood festival, and I was not a big fan then. But the price was only five or six bucks, and I figured that would be a small enough portion that I could share that with Mike and Lori as a modest appetizer. I was wrong. I was served a whole mess o' crawfish. But wow, they were tasty; they converted me to loving catfish.


    Lori frowns upon both crawfish and seafood, so wasn't attracted by either of our appetizers. So we ordered another appetizer, the Mediterranean stuffed artichoke. This was a mega-stuffed artichoke, crammed full of bread, feta cheese, and olives.


    Mike ordered a bowl of gumbo. In all our time with him in New Orleans, I don't think I ever saw him pass up a gumbo opportunity.



    I would have expected that we would have ordered something, but I have nothing recorded in my notes or photos. I suspect that we were sufficiently full from our appetizers that entrees were superfluous. We did get a cup of the shrimp stew, after a conversation with the waitress in which we failed to understand her attempts to explain the difference between the shrimp stew and the gumbo. My belief is that the shrimp stew includes shrimp and the trinity and is served over rice, but differs from a gumbo in that it does not include roux or filé powder. But that's just a guess; to the waitress, the distinction was too obvious to be explained.

    We did order dessert, because the specials board mentioned a caribbean meringue. This was claimed not to be a pie by the waitress, but it looked like a meringue pie to us—but not a particularly tasty one, unfortunately. The filling was a custard filling with flavors of cherry and pineapple. Apparently I don't have a picture.

    Despite the imperfect communication with the waitress, we liked her a lot; she was funny and talkative, and we had a good time talking with her.


    #24
    Ralph Melton
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/05/09 22:32:29 (permalink)

    We made one final stop after Bozo's, to Creole Creamery. We had first encountered it last year on Chris and Amy's recommendation, and we were glad to be able to pass on this bit of Roadfood knowledge to Mike.


    We made a discovery this year: the sampler dish. I recommend it as a great way to try a bunch of flavors.

    My dish: Doberge cake (so-so), bananas foster (delicious), buttermilk drop (which really tasted exactly like a donut hole), and lemon icebox pie (oddly non-creamy for ice cream)


    We didn't take good notes on Lori's dish, but the two ends are both "Chocwork Orange", and the one in the lower right is lavender honey.



    Mike chose a waffle cone, but I don't know the flavor.



    #25
    Ralph Melton
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/05/13 23:59:30 (permalink)

    Friday morning, we sampled the waffle at the B&B, because Lori had read a recommendation praising the waffle. That was an error; the waffle was completely ordinary, and New Orleans has many excellent breakfast possibilities. (Apparently it is prohibited by local law for a B&B in New Orleans to serve a full breakfast, to preserve opportunities for the restaurants.)

    But this did provide a natural opportunity to get a tour or the B&B, and that was well worth it, because I think the B&B comes as close as we've experienced to providing lodging with a Roadfood spirit. What I look for in Roadfood is good food with a distinctive local character, and Annabelle's House thoroughly provided both of those.

    The equivalent of good food for a hotel is comfortable quarters and good service. Our room was very nice, with antique furniture and a beautiful silk ceiling, but the service was really outstanding in ways that really matter to us. Two strong examples: 
    • When we were leaving on Thursday, rain was pouring down, and the proprietor loaned us an umbrella. 
    • When Lori needed Diet Coke to sate her caffeine addiction, the B&B provided it to us for free, and even said that we could keep the plastic Mardi Gras cup it was served in. This probably cost them less than a dollar, and it's quite likely that they made up for it with the room rate—but it felt very special to us because we are so used to feeling nickel and dimed at every turn in a hotel.

    The other side of Roadfood-ness is distinctive character, and Annabelle's House had that in spades. It was built as a mansion in the 1800s, and Cary the manager regaled us with stories about the original owners (all four of the family's daughters went to college, which was very unusual for women at that time), the process by which the mansion was moved from St. Charles Street to its current location, and the current owners. According to Cary, he current owners separated soon after their marriage, but they are so rich and their finances are so entangled together that they will never get divorced. But they're both rich, and they're both fond of collecting things. 

    This cabinet holds his collection of Napoleonic-era porcelain. This room also holds urns that contain her mother's ashes and the ashes of two of her dogs.


    They are both very active with Carnival in New Orleans, with different krewes. The husband is in Krewe of Hermes, but the wife is a member of Krewe of Muses. We were fascinated by the collection of framed Carnival ball invitations and other regalia.




    I believe the collection of trophies was his:


    The wife had had a hobby of collecting porcelain dogs and a hobby of collecting shaving brushes. But then she combined the two. So the cabinet in the entry hallway contains a large collection of shaving brushes with porcelain handles depicting dogs. Cary said that some of the individual pieces in the collection were worth tens of thousands of dollars.

    One last photo to support my claim of distinctive local character: Cary is in Krewe of Barkus (a krewe for dog owners), and he greeted us on Sunday morning in his Carnival costume:


    And with all this charm, the prices were lower than any prices we could find in the French Quarter. We would definitely return to Annabelle's House any time that we wanted to be in New Orleans with a car.


    #26
    Foodbme
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/05/14 01:02:55 (permalink)
    All in All, New Orleans belongs in another place in another time. The uniqueness of the city is unparalleled. What a fantastic house! Surprised it didn't have a "Haunted" story to go with it!
    #27
    Ralph Melton
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    Re:2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2012/05/14 12:38:25 (permalink)
    I think that it did have some ghost stories, but nothing so dramatic that I remembered any details.
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