New Orleans Jazz Fest Anticipation: Food at the Festival and the Foodie’s Dilemma

The seventh post in a series about the New Orleans Jazz Festival covering food (restaurants and recipes), fun, music and travel tips.

In the run-up to our Jazz Fest trip in early May, we are building anticipation by looking back at past good times in New Orleans and sharing our travel tips.

Today, we discuss a rather serious situation:  The Foodie’s Dilemma.

How to Enjoy Festival Food and Yet Save Room to Experience NOLA’s Restaurants?

The issue at hand is:  the festival food is so wonderful, so food-truck-trashy-tasty good, so “mama’s been making it for years just like this” authentic,  that any self-respecting foodie simply has to eat it.  And yet,  as a proud foodie, you want to save room for the dinners at the myriad of super-fine restaurants New Orleans has to offer, like Bayona, which was profiled in an earlier post.  It’s a difficult thing.  I’ve been to Jazz Fest five times and still don’t have the formula right for solving the Foodies’ Dilemma.  The best advice I have is to do a lot of walking and make room for more!  Since there are nine different food locations all around the festival offering over 250 menu items, you can do a lot of your walking just trying to make up your mind!  The other strategy we deploy is to skip breakfast, make a reservation for an early lunch at a foodie’s choice restaurant, then head out to the festival and start the serious snacking in mid-afternoon.

How to Choose from All the Mouthwatering Goodness?

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Crawfish Monica photo from EatDrinkCulture blog

And that’s the second part of the Foodie’s Dilemma: once you’ve realized you’re just going to be stuffed the whole time, and not really as ashamed about the gluttony as your Mama taught you to be – how do you pick between all of mouth-watering goodness provided by the 70+ vendors?  With the memory-laden lure of your old favorites, how can even a foodie branch out and try something new?  I’ve never had the Crab & Crawfish Stuffed Mushrooms that Prejean’s restaurant brings to Jazz Fest, but how could I pass up the Crawfish Monica or Crawfish Strudel that I always have?  In the crawfish department alone, there were 18 different selections featuring this delicious little crustacean in 2016.  So many options, so little time!  The Foodie’s Dilemma is actually a Foodie’s Delight.

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I snapped this pic while in line for Crawfish Strudel; notice all the hats (read here about the importance of hats)

Festival Food Photos

So today, for your culinary daydreaming pleasure, here’s a look at some of the delectable festival food, just random pics I’ve snapped during a few of our Jazz Fest journeys.  Some of the food was mine; some was in the hands of strangers.  People are always really nice about letting me photograph their food.

People are always nice at Jazz Fest, period.  It’s like a great big family reunion, but, instead of genes and upbringing, the thing you have in common is a love of music and food.

Catfish Almandine, Potato Salad and Creole Stuffed Crab

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Crawfish Strudel

Jazz Fest Food - Crawfish Strudel

Fried Crawfish and Greek Salad with Gyro Sandwich

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Crawfish Bread

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Have these photos piqued your interest?  The resources below include a link to the food section on the Jazz Fest web site.  There’s a lot more there to see and salivate over.

Crawfish Monica Recipe from Emeril’s Test Kitchen

Did you know that the amount of rotini pasta used to make the Crawfish Monica sold at the festival in a single year is 6 tons???  That stuff is hurt-yourself good.  So here’s a Crawfish Monica recipe via GoNOLA, with a video from chef Chris Wilson, the director of culinary operations at Emeril Lagasse’s test kitchen.

Resources

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Emergency Responder for Squash Disaggregation: a Tale of Triumph Over Gourd-Adversity

Emergency Call

I was working on a presentation in my office at 4:45 on a weekday, and I was startled when my arm rang.  (I’m still getting used to my new Apple Watch.)

Rose never calls me during work hours unless it’s a food emergency, so I answered, awkwardly holding my wrist up to my face and hoping no colleagues ventured into my office.  “Hi Rose, what’s up?”

“Kim, I’m wrestling with a spaghetti squash!  How do you get the dang thing open?”

This is serious business.  I forgot that I was talking to my wrist and told her the Spaghetti Squash Disaggregation Truth as I know it. (Rose grants me an elevated foodie status, and I try hard to deserve it.)

Get the biggest, sharpest butcher knife you have and stab it hard straight through the heart, like it’s a mortal enemy, then slice downward.

Rose had already done the stabbing.

“My knife is stuck!”

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“That happens to me, too.  You have two options – get a hammer and use it to tap your knife further into and down the squash beast, or get another knife and go at it from a different part of the squash.”

“Really?  This happens to you, too?  I thought there was some kind of Chef Squash Magic you could tell me about, some kind of kitchen wizardry…”  She tailed off, sounding kind of wistful and disappointed.  I hated to let her down.

“No Rose, really, I’ve been in that same situation, alone in the house, just me and the squash and that helpless feeling when it seems like more than you can handle.  But I was not going to let it win, Rose.  That’s where the ‘thinking it’s the enemy’ part comes in.  GIVE IT ALL YOU’VE GOT!”  (I had forgotten that I was in an office setting and was talking to my wrist loud enough for co-workers to hear me waaaay down the hall – but, as I said, this was serious business and Rose needed my full support.)

We shared a few niceties, I encouraged her once more (“You’ve GOT this!”) and then hung up – or rather, I pushed a little red button on my watch to end the call and went back to my presentation.  I wondered how she’d fare, but knowing Rose, my money was on her.  It takes more than a gourd to defeat a grimly determined woman.

The Rest of the Story:  a Tale of Triumph Over Gourd-Adversity

A few hours later, I was rewarded with the rest of the story, presented on Facebook by a triumphant Rose.

“Sooo….my first sincere attempt at cooking spaghetti squash. Pinterest failed to mention that these squash do not have a soft melon-like consistency….they are hard boulders that taunt you with their inaccessibility. Thank you, (another friend), for your attempt at helping me, but I ended up swallowing my little pride and calling the Oracle, Kim. She suggested the stab and split downward method. After working out my frustrations on unsuspecting produce, the second picture is the final result. It tasted great, and was made more satisfying with the knowledge that I was consuming an earlier arch nemesis (that dang aforementioned boulder squash). I know this is long, and I don’t normally post food, but I’m celebrating a well earned triumph.”

She did it!

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The Wisdom of the Crowd:  A New Technique

Rose’s post generated lots of compliments and comments.  The banter was wonderful.  She added:

“I have to admit, it’s really good. Also, really easy once you break into the agricultural spawn of Satan.”

Said others:

  • “We have it all the time. My chain saw works great for cutting the little Devil.”
  • “This happened to me last week! After getting in a full workout cutting it, I read that you can microwave it for 5 min first to make it easier.”
  • “Poke holes and microwave for 2 minutes! It softens it significantly for you to cut it.”
  • “I see somebody else mentioned it (microwaving)! It really helps. You just can’t touch it for like 20 minutes after LOL!”
  • “I’ve found that hatchets are fun! That is of course if you forgo the above mentioned softening techniques.”

Softening in the microwave?  Great idea!  I had never heard that one and am ready to try it, unless…see Rose’s answer to the suggestion that she try the microwave approach.

“That will depend heavily on how the rest of my day has gone. The technique I employed to get into the squash this time was oddly therapeutic.”

The Recipe

Facebook folks asked for the recipe, which she shared:

Permission to Share

Final note:  I sought permission from Rose the Mighty Squash-Quasher to share this event and the Facebook conversation .

You have the intrepid heart of warrior! Kudos for winning the squash war and bringing the gourd to its culinary knees. The recipe looks super-yum. Can I put this escapade in my blog? Oh please?

She said yes.

Copyright 2017 Glover Gardens Cookbook

Call This Baby (Carrot) Ugly

Epicurious sends a message every day, just for me (and their umpteen zillion other subscribers).  I usually don’t have time to read it right away (or ever, sometimes), but today’s caught my eye.  It listed their top ten stories of 2016, and as a food blogger, I was interested to see what generated the most interest.  They introduced the list:

Cooking made us happier in 2016 (there’s proof!), and so did these stories, which are our ten most loved, clicked-on, and shared stories of the year.

They’re all interesting, and I’ve provided the link to the online version at the end of this post.  But the one that stood out was #6 on the list, “The Case Against Baby Carrots”  by Adina Steinman.

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Here’s the scoop: baby carrots aren’t babies at all!!!  They are full-grown carrots masquerading as cute, younger, fake versions of themselves after some vegetable-style cosmetic surgery.

Sez the story, which is subtitled “Why Baby Carrots are Evil”:

Baby carrots are in fact full-grown carrots, whittled down into earplug-shaped cylinders. They aren’t sweeter, fresher, or younger than the bunches of carrots they’re sold alongside. In fact, they’re often made from older carrots, hence the starchy, not-very-sweet flavor you get from some bags.

It’s an outrage, and as the writer says, these carrots are pure evil.  I will never, ever buy these manually-midgeted carrots again.  I have no idea why I didn’t realize they were a sham, but from today forward, I am committed to peeling the authentic full-grown versions.

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Beautiful, authentic, full-grown and unmodified carrots – the real deal

In honor of the noble, full-sized root vegetable, here is a picture and a recipe that a friend of mine brought to a wine party, made with beautiful heirloom carrots.  They are tossed with sumac and mint, topped with toasted pistachios and served on a bed of marvelous whipped feta.  They were delicious!

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My friend’s heirloom carrots on their bed of feta, topped with pistachio goodness

Here’s how it looks in the magazine where he found the recipe.

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Photo from Shape.com by Sang An

New year’s resolution: no more baby carrots!!!

Links:

 

Copyright 2016, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Found Recipe: A New Holiday Sweet Potato Favorite

We love our holiday food classics here at Glover Gardens, but it is also fun to mix it up a bit.  At Thanksgiving this year, my Aunt-Mom (there’s a story for another time) did just that with these wonderful sweet potato “stacks” she found in Cooking Light.  Yum!  And look how attractive they are.

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These sweet potatoes were just right – not sweet and just the right savory level.  And the serving size is excellent.  Photo by Frank Harvell (AKA my Dad).

My Aunt-Mom says she doesn’t like to cook but is really, really good at finding great new recipes.  This one can be found online at Cooking Light’s site here:  Sweet Potato Stacks with Browned Butter.

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Photo for Cooking Light online by Jennifer Causey

 

Cooking with Friends: A Root Vegetable Christmas Memory

winespectatorratings-mar13-2011Some of the most alluring recipes I’ve come across in my years of cooking have been published in Wine Spectator.  They are always perfectly paired with wine, described delectably and photographed beautifully, and I’ve been known to keep back issues for years, planning to make that picture-perfect meal a reality in my kitchen.  Someday.

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Photo from Wine Spectator online

The December 23, 2002 issue had just such a meal:  A Holiday Menu from Wine Country.  Oh my, it looked good:  White Bean Soup with Fried Sage, Pan-Roasted Duck with Root Vegetable Hash and Sweet Potato Puree…whee!   I held onto that issue of Wine Spectator for a couple of years, revisiting the recipe and ingredients a bit wistfully from time to time while realizing that my everyday life with a small child didn’t really support making this super-sophisticated meal.  But as they say, good things come to those who wait.  I finally broke out that recipe for a very small girls’ night at my house during the holidays a few years later.  It was just two of my closest friends and me, ready to cook, laugh, tell stories and maybe even cry a little (if necessary) in the little kitchen of my 1920s wood-frame cottage.  Two of us were single moms at the time, and the third a “restaurant widow”: her husband was the managing partner at a very popular restaurant, and was never home in the evenings.  All three of us were without children that night, for various reasons.  “Like sailors on leave,” one of them said.

The menu from the magazine, billed as an easy holiday meal to make at home, was provided by the executive chef of Napa Valley’s Auberge du Soleil, Richard Reddington, who was described as wine country’s “hottest young chef”.

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“Richard Reddington today is known as  ‘the most-loved bad boy in Napa Valley’ by the locals who adore him”, says Haute Living magazine.  Reddington owns and runs Redd, a high-end spot and Redd Wood, an Italian-style casual eatery.  They are on my list for the next Napa Valley trip.

The last thing I want to do on a holiday is kill myself in the kitchen,” Reddington says. “I want to be done and I want the kitchen to be clean and I want to sit down with my guests for an hour and drink a glass of sparkling wine.”

Gentle readers, you should know that there are definitely different definitions of “easy”.  Easy, it was not.  Tasty, it was.  Might as well drink that sparkling wine while you’re making the dinner, because it will be a while before you get to the finish line.

In my little kitchen with my two girl-buddies, there was a frenzy of chopping and chatter, and it took us a couple of hours to get the meal made.  We had a marvelous time, uncovering the meaning of life and praising the fiber of root vegetables as we sautéed each of them individually before mixing them (they don’t cook at the same rate and might get mushy if crammed together in a pan). We also praised ourselves for being smart and sophisticated enough to appreciate root vegetables – no bourgeoisie, we!  We exclaimed over the richness of the pureed sweet potatoes as we laid crispy-skinned pan-fried duck on them and began the devouring.

We drank our wine and told our stories with the desperate urgency of moms who only have a night off a couple of times per year – and of course the kids took center stage in all of those stories.

We knew were were the luckiest gals in the world that December evening, with our wine, our stories, and our fiber-laden root vegetables.  I cherish the memories of that night, with that meal, and those ladies.  One of them has left us and is now cooking with the angels, and I imagine her in heaven savoring the super-crispy duck skin with the rich, smooth pureed sweet potato and crunchy, root vegetable hash without worrying about the calories.  If you’re interested, you can read more about her here, but grab a cup of coffee first, ’cause it’s a long one.

Gather some friends and try these recipes one day when you have time.  They won’t be quick and easy, but you won’t be sorry. Here it is again:  A Holiday Menu from Wine Country.

Copyright 2016, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Simple Autumn Side: Baked Acorn Squash

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It’s a beautiful Saturday morning here in Southeast Texas, and we’re headed out to the Farmers’ Market to see what bounty it holds for us.  A recent trek yielded acorn squash, which resulted in a marvelous side dish for roast chicken.

So delicious, even the vegetable-loathing Grill-Meister will eat it!

How’s that for a tag line?  The squash has an almost creamy texture, and the touch of seasoning and brown sugar gives it a lovely fall color. Even vegetable-haters can tolerate it! And in addition to being just plain good, this dish is EASY. Remember that old phrase, “set it and forget it”? Well, even if you don’t, it will make sense to you when you make this acorn squash. It’s a perfect side for roasted meats, and also works well for a luncheon dish alongside a soup, a salad, or a sandwich.  You could pair it with the Lentil Soup for a very filling vegetarian meal, or with a Panini for a quick weeknight family supper.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 1 medium acorn squash
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. light brown sugar
  • Old Bay or your favorite all-purpose seasoning mix (my Zippy Southwest is also very good, if you want a bit of a kick)

Cooking Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.  Cut the squash in half, crosswise. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Slice each side of the squash in half again.
Set squash quarters on prepared sheet, then drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with seasoning and brown sugar.

Bake until squash is easily pierced about 30 minutes. Serve warm, adding salt and pepper if desired.

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The finished product is a hearty side dish

Copyright 2016, Glover Gardens Cookbook.

A Weeknight Dinner Party Lifts My Spirits

My Dad has been in the hospital for the whole month of July.

My Dad is going to get better and get up and walk out of that hospital.

His ordeal began on July1 in the Bahamas with two disastrous days in the hospital there, followed by 2 1/2 weeks in Florida after arriving there via air ambulance (accompanied by my Aunt-Mom). Finally, he is in an ICU here in the Southeast Texas town where we all live.

People have been amazing during this time.  The taxi driver from the Bahamas has called my Aunt-Mom to check on Dad.  Friends she made during the weeks in the waiting room in the Florida ICU are calling and texting her to keep tabs on him.  Dozens and dozens of cards have been sent.  Over 100 people are keeping up with my updates about Dad on Facebook.  Phone calls, texts, private messages and prayers from family and friends bolster his spirits and ours.  We’ve heard from folks from all parts of Dad’s life, from childhood to former colleagues to members of the churches he has attended over the years.  Two of Dad’s retired colleagues from his days with Motorola even left a sign in their yard after the air ambulance brought him back to Texas.  People are wonderful.

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Simple Pleasures are a Blessing

As I visit my Dad in the hospital each day, I realize how much I take the simple things in life for granted.  Being able to walk around outside, look at the sky, take a deep breath of the hot July air, watch a squirrel bury nuts.  Drinking a long, cool glass of water, munching on peanuts.  Washing a fresh tomato and then slicing into it, watching its bright red juices run out onto the cutting board.  Leaning deeply into a hug and squeezing the other person for just a few seconds longer.  Going to a friend’s house for a home-cooked meal.  Dad can’t do any of things right now.  But he will again.  He will.  I know he will.

The Weeknight Dinner Party

Close friends who live near us decided we needed some TLC and asked us over for dinner at their house, on a Wednesday night.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to someone’s house for an actual sit-down dinner, much less on a weeknight!  Parties, yes, lots of them, holiday meals, yes, but a real dinner, just a dinner, with a dessert and everything – it’s been a while.  There’s work, and business travel, and chores and pets and the getting the last kid ready for college…everyone has their version of this too-busy life and entertaining is a luxury not many folks have time for.

When we arrived, the Grill-Meister and I were greeted with extra-long, extra-tight hugs, a glass of wine or champagne, and the merry assertion that the even the dogs had been bathed in preparation for our visit.  (I think it was true, too – those dogs smelled good.  Not at all like my dogs.)  There was a marvelous home-cooking aroma in the air as we entered the kitchen.

We ate family-style in the breakfast nook overlooking the back yard, and the meal was a comfort-food delight: oven-roasted pork tenderloin, potato wedges and Caesar salad, with warm yeast rolls.  So yummy!  And there was a nice California Pinot Noir, too.

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Our hostess downplays her cooking skills and claimed she had never before attempted a pork tenderloin, but I’m not sure I believe her, because it was cooked just right. (It is so easy to overcook a tenderloin.)  Apparently it was a team effort; she said she couldn’t make herself use the meat thermometer, so her hubby stepped in and made sure the pork was removed when got just the right temp reading.  And her potato wedges were also perfectly cooked with just the right amount of seasoning, which turned out to be a secret ingredient.  Ranch dressing mix.  Really.  I found the recipe online and have included it below.

For a couple of hours, the four of us ate and drank and laughed and talked, lingering over our dinner.

We told stories, dreamed big dreams for the future, bragged about our kids (of course!) and talked about my Dad getting better.

The meal ended with a moist and luscious lemon pound cake with a cream cheese frosting that came from a local boutique bakery.  I shouldn’t have eaten it, but I did.  And I’m not sorry.

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It was a wonderful, restorative, satisfying evening.  I’m looking forward to my Dad being able to enjoy a meal like this soon.

Ranch Roasted Potatoes

Click here for a link to the Original Ranch Roasted Potatoes recipe from Hidden Valley.  They were super-good.

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Photo from Hidden Valley recipe site