New Orleans Jazz Fest Anticipation: Watching Susan Spicer Make a Fried Oyster Salad

February 14, 2020

New Orleans Jazz Fest Anticipation: Watching Susan Spicer Make a Fried Oyster Salad


We’re very excited to have the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on our travel calendars again this year. The festival runs from April 23 to May 3, and we’re planning to go for both weekends. Woohoo!!! There is so much do, see, hear and absorb…it just keeps getting better. It’s not just the festival that draws us, though – it’s the city, its culture and its people. Our anticipation starts early every year and ramps up bigtime as we move into spring. That’s why it rates a series here in the Glover Gardens blog.

The first post this year is a quick one to share something we discovered in 2019 – the food demos. We’ve never visited that area at the festival before because, well, I’m a pretty good cook, and recipes from the Gulf Coast region are some of my specialties. I didn’t feel a need to go see how someone else makes gumbo, for instance, because I’ve done plenty of research and perfected mine in the 40 years since I learned how to make it as a kid. But – last year, Susan Spicer of Bayona was one of the guest chefs, and there was no way I was going to miss the chance to see her, whatever she was cooking. It could’ve been a peanut butter sandwich, and I’d still have been on the front row. I have a food crush on Susan Spicer – I shared that with you back in 2017 (see the post below), and it’s truer than ever.

Speaking of Susan Spicer and PB&J, she makes one at Bayona! Actually, it’s cashew butter and pepper jelly with ~ drum roll, please! ~ smoked duck. Not surprisingly, it was a winner in Restaurant Hospitality’s Ten Best Sandwiches of 2015. Oh my gosh, I don’t know how I’ve missed this the half-dozen times I’ve been to Bayona. Shame on me! Check it out:

Photo from Restaurant Hospitality’s article

The writeup from Restaurant Hospitality gushed:

We’re not even sure how Freer and Spicer could get to the point where they thought of pairing peanut butter and duck together, but damn if it doesn’t work. What takes the sandwich to another level entirely is the use of pepper jelly and marinated red onion. It’s a flavor bomb that is salty, creamy, spicy and sweet. Genius.

Restaurant Hospitality’s Review of Bayona’s Smoked Duck PB&J did everyone a favor and published the recipe in 2015: click here. I’ve also realized that it’s in the cookbook, Crescent City Cooking. I have this cookbook, a signed copy! So this super-sophisticated PB&J is going on the to-do list: to eat when we’re in NOLA for the Jazz Fest (if it’s on the menu, which changes daily), and to make sometime at home, when I can convince the Grill-Meister to smoke some duck for me. 😋

My signed copy of Crescent City Cooking; I just couldn’t resist using the photo with Godfrey meowing (perhaps he’s saying “take me to Bayona!”)

You’ve picked up by now that I really like Susan Spicer’s cooking, and she’s also very nice. She’s a restaurant legend in New Orleans and beyond – check out the 2017 post above for more.

So – back to the food demonstration. We got ourselves to the Food Heritage Stage, which is in the air-conditioned Grandstand, about a half hour early. I kept an eye on the folks in the front row who were watching the earlier demo, and had my carcass in the seat within 3 seconds after they got up. I didn’t knock down any toddlers to do it, but I’m glad there weren’t any, so I didn’t have to make that decision.

Once I secured the seat, I left the Grill-Meister and took advantage of the indoor restroom. That may sound like TMI, but folks, you need to know that the place for air-conditioned indoor restrooms at Jazz Fest, complete with all the supplies you can possibly imagine (bandaids, sunscreen, hair clips, etc.), are in the Grandstand. Make a note of that for when you get on down to The Big Easy for Jazz Fest.

On the way back, I ran into Chef Susan! She was very nice, just like the first time I met her when she signed my cookbook at Bayona. She laughed when I reminded about my food crush, and let me snap a quick pic.

Rosedale is another restaurant owned by Susan, and we have to go there, too!

The dish being demonstrated was a very simple fried oyster salad. We learned a bit about oysters and how to keep it simple as the oil was heating up. I’ve never seen a food demo like this before, and didn’t realize there would be a mirror above the cooking area. What a great idea! I know I sound a little like “country mouse gone to town,” as my Dad used to say, but hey, if you haven’t seen it, you haven’t seen it.

Susan’s stepson (or bonus son, as we say at Glover Gardens) was with her, and joined her to help fry up the rest of the oysters for the 100 folks in the audience. I think he works at the Rosedale restaurant. They had a great camaraderie and seemed to really like each other. I like that. I feel the same way about my bonus son, AKA The Good Eater here in the blog.

We got to taste the dish! But I only got one picture of the finished product, the photo-worthy one rather than the one served to the audience in the styrofoam bowls. I was so enamored of the process and Chef Susan, that I didn’t think to take any more photos, and also, my hands were full! Eating in your lap on a folding chair requires all of your faculties.

The pretty plated version

Styrofoam bowl or not, that fried oyster salad was The BOMB. Crispy, light, deeply flavorful and fresh-tasting (because of the lightly-dressed salad), the dish was a real winner.

So – we’re going to Jazz Fest again this year, and now I’m appreciative of the food demos. The schedule isn’t posted yet, but I keep checking, almost daily, to see if Chef Susan will be back. I hope so!!! Maybe she’ll do the Smoked Duck PB&J!!!

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