That was a day most of us who live in New Orleans will never forget. Hurricane Katrina blew in, and made landfall at Buras, Louisiana. The levees broke and 80 percent of the city was under water.
August 29, 2017.
Hurricane Harvey, now Tropical Storm Harvey, finally makes a turn away from Houston, where most of the city was flooded. Harvey sat over the gulf and refueled, headed northeast and then northwest. Towards us.
So far, in New Orleans, we’ve had 5.85 inches of rainfall. Our diminished pumping capacity is not really keeping up. Streets are flooding. All schools are closed. Many government offices are closed. Our smart phones have been going off all morning with flood advisories.
I know. 5.85 inches of rain is nowhere near Houston’s 40 to 60 inches of rainfall. But, our ground is already saturated. Our pumping capacity is down…
If you follow this blog, you’ve seen the first part of this post, when it was shared on May 14. The second part is now revealed, a few weeks later than promised. (It’s been a busy spring here at Glover Gardens.)
I saw this picture a few nights ago on a friend’s Instagram account, and then dreamed about it. In my dream, I wrote various very simple haiku to accompany the photo. It is so lovely, and almost begs its viewer to create a story around the female figure walking away from the camera.
What do you think when you look at the photo?
Perhaps she is simply on a stroll, daydreaming.
she strolls peacefully
framed by the oak canopy
dreaming her future
Or is she walking away from something?
she slowly left her old life
never looking back
Maybe she is walking toward something, or someone.
joyful beats her heart
this journey just beginning
there will be no end
What do you think? I will reveal the real story and the location in a day or two. (Update: of course, now we know that my “day or two” was actually three weeks…did I say it has been a little busy around here?)
I think she’s had it! She is walking away to live the life and be the person she once was, before she got sucked into her horrible present life of hell.
(I’m pretty sure the second one was irony.)
The real story is … none of the above. The photo was snapped during a mother-daughter outing as part of our recent visit to New Orleans (the figure in the photo is the mom). A group of us from Southeast Texas met in the Crescent City last month to soak up the culture and music of Jazz Fest, and two of our crowd peeled off to visit Oak Alley Plantation one day. My friend and her grownup daughter had a lovely time touring the property, and this photo captured under the 300-year old alley of oaks was simply serendipity. When I asked for permission to use the picture along with the haiku musings it inspired, I also wanted to know how it came about; the daughter (a lovely woman in her early 20s who is also my friend) said:
I made her walk in front of me so I could snap a pic… perhaps it’s half posed / half natural. I think the dress she was wearing happened to catch the breeze just right, making it perfectly airy!
So here’s one more haiku, to close out this train of thought.
The eighth 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. And also cooking some of our favorite Louisiana recipes at home to get in the right mood – yum! Last night, it was Paul Prudhomme’s blackened fish. Actually, his recipe was for blackened redfish, but we use tilapia instead.
I usually tinker with recipes to make them my own, which you will know if you’ve ever taken a gander at my About page. But some recipes cannot be perfected, because they are already there. Chef Paul’s blackened fish is one of those. His blackened redfish was so popular in the 80’s that some called it the dish of the decade. In a retrospective about Chef Paul, the New Orleans Times-Picayune says it almost wiped out Gulf Coast redfish population.
I can understand why! We’ve created magic with the Chef Paul blackened fish recipe twice now, and it is downright spectacular. Moist on the inside, crusty and just-right spicy on the inside…heavenly.
The recipe in the cookbook has a marvelous spice mix that is juuuust right. Beware: there’s a recipe online on the official Paul Prudhomme web site, but it is different than the cookbook version and uses a pre-made commercial spice mix from the Chef Paul brand. Don’t use that one – use the one from the cookbook. I wouldn’t normally publish the recipe from the cookbook because it is copyright protected, but the New Orleans Times-Picayune published it in their online article in NOLA.com, so I’ve included it below. My advice: do not stray from these instructions. The result is a perfectly cooked blackened fish that is fine enough to serve to Sunday company.
From The Times-Picayune, April 5, 1984
“Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen” includes this note: Redfish and pompano are ideal for this method of cooking. If tilefish is used, you may have to split the fillets in half horizontally to have the proper thickness. If you can’t get any of these fish, salmon steaks or red snapper fillets can be substituted. In any case, the fillets or steaks must not be more than 3/4 inch thick.
Makes 6 servings
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted in a skillet
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
2-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground red pepper (preferably cayenne)
3/4 teaspoon white pepper
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
6 (8- to 10-ounce) fish fillets, preferably redfish, pompano or tilefish, cut about 1/2 inch thick (note: at Glover Gardens, we use tilapia)
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over very high heat until it is beyond the smoking stage and you see white ash in the skillet bottom (the skillet cannot be too hot for this dish), at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour 2 tablespoons melted butter in each of 6 small ramekins; set aside and keep warm. Reserve* the remaining butter in its skillet. Heat the serving plates in a 250-degree oven.
Thoroughly combine seasoning mix ingredients in a small bowL Dip each fillet in the reserved melted butter so that both sides are well coated; then sprinkle seasoning mix
generously and evenly on both sides of the fillets, patting it in by hand. Place fish in the hot skillet and pour 1 teaspoon melted butter on top of each fillet (be careful, as the butter may flame up).
Cook, uncovered, over the same high heat until the underside looks charred, about 2 minutes (the time will vary according to the fillet’s thickness and the heat of the skillet). Turn the fish over and again pour 1 teaspoon butter on top. Cook until fish is done, about 2 minutes more. Repeat with remaining fillets. Serve each fillet while piping hot.
To serve, place one fillet and a ramekin of butter on each heated serving plate.
I don’t know if we’ll have time to get to K-Paul’s while we’re in New Orleans for the Jazz Fest (in less than 2 weeks!!!!), but with this recipe, we can have a little bit of Chef Paul’s kitchen magic right here at home.
One last tip: if you have any blackened fish left, it is marvelous the next day in a fish taco. Just add a bit of pico de gallo or slaw and serve it up on a corn or flour tortilla.
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?
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.
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
Fried Crawfish and Greek Salad with Gyro Sandwich
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.
Food list on the official New Orleans Jazz Fest site
The sixth 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 I will wax poetic about the frozen Bourbon Milk Punch from Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House. Because I must.
It Started with a Travel Tip
The Grill-Meister has a friend who travels extensively for work and also for pleasure, and he has a talent for sniffing out excellence in every locale. When he gives you a travel tip, you pay attention. That’s how we first learned of the frozen Bourbon Milk Punch: “If you’re going to New Orleans, you have to try the Bourbon Milk Punch – it’s an adult milkshake.” He was right. If you’re of age and inclined to imbibe, this creamy, dreamy, thick elixir should be on your bucket list.
A Break from the Hullaballoo
Bourbon House is situated on the bottom floor of the Astor Crowne Plaza New Orleans Hotel, and the Bourbon Milk Punch is served in the hotel lobby as well as the restaurant. The restaurant has terrific seafood and is always crowded, so if you’re just in the mood for a naughty little frozen drink, just pop into the lobby bar. It’s quiet and offers a nice little break from the hullaballoo.
The Grill-Meister sent a photo back to our travel guru friend
These boozy, grown-up milkshakes can accompany an afternoon snack
The “Secret” is the Gelato
If you get chatty with the bartender and ask for the recipe, you’ll get a coy, “well, it’s a secret, but I’ll tell you if you promise not to share it; it’s the house-made vanilla gelato that makes it so creamy”. Imagine my surprise when I found that information online, right there on the Bourbon House web site – see below.
The Replay List
I’ve just realized that if you’ve already done something – like going to the New Orleans Jazz Fest and experiencing the rest of the unique and wonderful city – then you’ve crossed it off the bucket list of things you must do in life. So there needs to be another list for those things you simply must do again; I’m going to call it the replay list. The Jazz Fest is on our replay list and will probably get replayed again and again, like that favorite song back in sixth grade. The frozen Bourbon Milk Punch is on there, too, but one per trip is enough.
The fifth 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. So many of you have had your own wonderful experiences in New Orleans, so I’ve asked for guest bloggers and content on the Glover Gardens Cookbook Facebook page (and – it’s not too late for you to contribute).
This plea reaped a reward for me, a NOLA-experienced friend who provided worthy content in the form of pictures and home truths. Therefore, this post is a serious discussion about The Importance of Hats at JazzFest. According to my friend Nancy:
The importance of hats at Jazzfest cannot be emphasized enough! Then, of course, one finds much whimsy, and with luck, a lovely friend.
Nancy also emphasized the importance and versatility of bandanas as a Jazz Fest accessory:
I highly recommend including bandanas! I have about 7 that I bought for a dollar each at Walmart. Very good for covering burnable décolletage or back of the neck. Easy travel gear! So many colors!
Seriously, it can be very, very hot in New Orleans in early May, and the sun is as strong as their chicory-laden coffee and those marvelous drinks they call Hurricanes. A hat and bandana are required for a successful Jazz Fest outing.
And finally, just for fun (because the New Orleans Jazz Fest and hats inspire this sort of thing):
“Take off your hat,” the King said to the Hatter.
“It isn’t mine,” said the Hatter.
“Stolen!” the King exclaimed, turning to the jury, who instantly made a memorandum of the fact.
“I keep them to sell,” the Hatter added as an explanation; “I’ve none of my own. I’m a hatter.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
The fourth 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. So many wonderful experiences! Magical and memorable performances by musicians: famous, less famous and not-famous-but-fabulous. Festival food so good that it inspires poetry. World-class restaurants run by award-winning chefs that serve dishes so beautiful and tasty you think you might be dreaming (like Dorothy in the Emerald City). I can’t wait to get back!
On the topic of great restaurant meals, I’d like to start this post with a confession: I have a “food crush” on New Orleans chef Susan Spicer.
Spicer’s career journey is the one I would have chosen if I’d known earlier I’d be in love with food all my life, and if I had more talent, and if I was from New Orleans, and if I wasn’t truly in love with my own career in knowledge management…well, you get the idea. Who is Susan Spicer, you ask? Said Chris Waddington of the New Orleans Times-Picayune in a 2015 profile:
Susan Spicer’s Bayona qualifies as a New Orleans culinary landmark. That happens when a restaurant lasts 25 years in the same French Quarter location, when the chef piles up critical kudos, launches new talents, expands on local traditions and pens a well-regarded cookbook.
He’s right, and then some! She has a James Beard award! She has been a guest actor on the HBO Show Treme, and is the basis for one of the characters! I first learned of Spicer’s restaurant, Bayona, while scanning travel guide books during the one-hour flight from the Bayou City (Houston) to the Crescent City. (This was before TripAdvisor was a thing.) My friend Nancy and I were on a girls’ trek to Jazz Fest, our first time to make this particular trip together. We dog-eared restaurants that piqued our interest and vowed to hit as many as we could in our 3 big days in the Big Easy. Bayona was high on the list – it “had me” at Cream of Garlic soup (see recipe at the end of this post). The Frommer’s review included this single-word sentence (about lamb topped with goat cheese): “Heaven.”
Bayona was beyond perfection when we visited for lunch. Nestled in a 200-year old Creole cottage in the French Quarter, it is a quiet retreat from the throbbing pulse of New Orleans. Seated on the patio amidst huge tropical plants protected by surrounding 18th-century brick walls, you are aware from the first moment that you are in for something special.
Wine glasses are crystal, as it should be
Just as lovely in my amateur photos
And then, there’s the food. I could try to describe it, but…words fail me. Truly. The dish below was so good that I had it again the next year when the Grill-Meister and I made the Jazz Fest trek, our first time in the Crescent City together.
When I dragged the (very willing) Grill-Meister to Bayona in 2012, we asked about Susan Spicer’s cookbook, Crescent City Cooking. They sell copies at the restaurant. I made my “food crush” confession to our (excellent) waiter and we enthusiastically told him to add a cookbook to our bill. A few minutes later, out came Susan with the cookbook! She was incredibly gracious and autographed my copy. The cookbook is wonderful, and my food-love and admiration for her continues.
Like the rest of New Orleans, Bayona doesn’t take itself too seriously (except for the food). The staff is warm, welcoming, fun, and perhaps a bit quirky. The interior decor is bright and colorful.
After Nancy and I did the first recon, and then went back the next year, the Grill-Meister was my Bayona date. He had the Cream of Garlic Soup during his first Bayona experience. Oh. My. Gosh! The recipe was published on the internet, so I have repeated it here, courtesy of the Times-Picayune:
Makes 8 servings
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups peeled and sliced onions
2 cups peeled but not chopped garlic cloves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
7 cups chicken stock
1 bouquet garni (parsley stems, thyme sprigs and bay leaf)
3 cups stale bread, torn into 1⁄2-inch pieces
1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
Salt and pepper
Heat the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until they turn a deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Add the thyme, 6 cups of the chicken stock, and the bouquet garni and bring to a boil. Stir in the bread cubes and let simmer for 10 minutes, until the bread is soft. Remove the soup from the heat and cool for 10 minutes.