The farmer went to the merchant, says: “I want meat an’ meal,” Lordie mama! The merchant screamed: “Lord no, the bo weevil’s in your field.” —Sam Butler, “Devil And My Brown Blues,” 1926
Thursday, April 27th
New Orleans Day 1
Another early start to drop off the rental car …. Touch wood no issues, great job Bernie, he is well relieved to be done with driving. Time for coffee…… This is Rob’s town, he has appointed himself captain, which makes it all the more interesting when he starts us off completely n the wrong direction on Canal St in pouring rain!!!! This is the third strike, Rob.
A long time later, Crescent Counter serves up a good coffee – I have a macchiato and a cortado to be on the safe side, pastries look good too.
There is a decision to book Dooky Chase for lunch. A good choice too, good enough for Obama, good enough for us. At the bar, it’s a rum cocktail for the boys, tasty and dangerous. A variety of meals centred on fried chicken and Cajun seafood, all excellent. Yes please, another one of those rum cocktails. Bernie pushes through for the Praline Pudding, Rob the Peach Cobbler. Rob, getting friendly with the staff again!
Leah Chase, known as the Queen of Creole cooking, established this place and worked here well into old age, still greeting guests and helping out as was her way. She passed in 2019 at age 96. Her spirit lives on, from the greeting on entry to the dining room to the friendliness of the staff, this feels like a warm place.
Friday, April 28th
New Orleans Day 2
Well, it’s day one of Jazz Fest, lining up with the punters for the mass crush to get in …… we have WWOZ Brass Passes, it gets us a little leeway. WWOZ is the local radio station…..” the guardians of the groove”, if you’re a music fan, you can pick it up on the internet – they broadcast live from the festival. The Brass Pass allows us entry to a hospitality tent with as much fresh fruit as you can eat and as much iced coffee as you can drink. It also has seating where you can take a well-earned rest, misting fans to cool you down and clean portaloos…… do not underestimate this last point, as the day wears on, the public punters loo’s have large queues and are just a tad ‘festival’ in cleanliness.
It’s taken 1 and ¾ hours to get home, but what the heck, bands play in’ in the streets, the punters in good spirits and it’s not raining! We are hungry and thankfully we are just a stone’s throw from Freret St., bars and food stops a plenty. We walk straight to the nearest burger place and order takeout….Company Burger, it is good!
Saturday, April 29th
New Orleans Day 3
What a great day at Jazz Fest today, I managed to get to all types of music …… before the rains came. It poured for several hours, I had a good seat in the Jazz tent and stayed put. Later it calmed enough to shift to the BluesTent ……some gospel blues and the believers were up on their feet … a bit full on for my liking. Still ‘ Kingfish’ is everything you want from a blues guitar gun …. But even at 24, health concerns may impact his career and life expectancy.
Pizza tonight on Freret, after a speedy transit home via Uber, thanks to last night’s Uber driver advice on a good pick-up point. Freret is an urban, trendy spot – good pizza’s on offer at Midway, Bernie orders for us and the starving millions of New Orleans and seems mighty impressed with his chalice of porter.
Sunday, April 30th
New Orleans Day 4
A big day at Jazz Fest, everybody buggered ……we finish off last night’s pizza, with some accompanying beers and some of Rob’s guacamole dip … it has a kick! It’s going to be wine and cheese to finish the night – well that was the plan before we all skulk off to bed.
Remember this guy with the hat ….. he has his own wine label!
Monday, May 1st
New Orleans Day 5
Thank God it’s the first of 3 lay days …… we need a break. A first-up coffee at Rook, but the apprentice is on and the supervision lacking, unsatisfactory. After a bit of shopping and pow-wow and we try Mojo Coffee and it delivers. A lot of youngin’s just hang in’ with their computers – not a good business model.
Straight off to Dat Dog for lunch…… full of promise but underwhelming.
An outing to catch up with Skye, Wendy’s niece, and her crew, also travelling the Americana. We meet at Bacchanal – a trendy wine dive in the Bywater. Their group is well entrenched on the Rose, but we try the Chenin blend from South Africa and a much better White Grenache from Espania. Pat, Wendy’s New Orleans friend, is chauffeuring us and we opt for a speakeasy bar for dinner, at Buffa’s. A local young jazz foursome, with Mum doing a wind-up song and a funky duo see us get some local vibe. The dinner is another bratwurst, this one betterer.
Tuesday, May 2nd
New Orleans Day 6
Lay day number 2; Rob & Wendy are touristing with Pat to Avery Island, the home of Tabasco. Been & I opt for a quiet day – a walk along the Mississippi waterfront, a little music at the Music Factory record store, and a great coffee and cake at Envie.
Lunch will be at Clesi, a southern seafood restaurant on recommendation from a local barista. Well, perhaps it won’t! Whilst we arrive on time for the booking, we are ushered to an outside table next to a noisy boiler fan ……and left waiting for service. We check inside and there are other tables, but everyone is eating crawfish. ……. I check with the staff to find their listed menu is only available on weekends and that is available is ….. yes you guessed it crawfish. Bernie is less than impressed with the prospect of a lot of work for little return. Bernie knows the area from his 2018 visit with Al and we are soon diverting to the Blue Oak BBQ …… apparently one of the reasons why Al would return here. In fairness, it’s a casual but solid option, the brisket and beans are great ….. Bernie’s bbq Brussels is good but repeat. Now it’s off to Chickie Wah Wahs for Johnny Sansone, John Fohl, and Anders Osbourne.
Wednesday, May 3rd
New Orleans Day 7
Our last lay day, a coffee and relaxation, then head in for a little browse at the music factory and a casual lunch at Envie. We return to the Music Factory for the John Lisi and Delta Funk gig ….. they are all in spacesuits and either John has aged and weathered or has a hairstyle to match the way-out costume – probably both are true.
Time to get to our cooking class whilst Rob and Wendy prepare for a fancy dinner with their daughter and niece and their entourage.
The cooking class is at Casa Pelican with chef Karen, a Canadian chef, classically trained and developed an interest in Cajun and Creole cooking. The interest turned to fascination and technical training with renowned experts. There are another 4 people on the course, a couple from the UK and a young couple from Perth, of all places. The preamble is all about the history of Louisiana food – the Cajun, coming from the Arcadians, immigrants from Canada having to make huge adjustments coming from a shot to a cold climate. These were poor people that would pretty much eat whatever they could get their hands on …… animal or vegetable, still try today if you get yourself into real Cajun backwaters. On the other hand, the Creoles were Louisiana’s free people of colour – these people needed to underscore their importance in society and in a way show off their wealth and good fortune. Their take on food is literally more French-based, rich, creamy, and making a statement. So you mustn’t confuse the two, they are completely different foods.
We do all the preparation and the cooking, this is truly hands-on, in pairs making the roux and gumbo, the jambalaya, the roux, and shrimp etouffee – we all muck in for the dessert, bread pudding.
Karen is precise, a stickler for patience, and slowly adds spices to make sure the flavours are rich and full. She understands the physics of food, how molecules of moisture need to be expelled, and how the molecules of the vegetables will and need to interact to quiet down the cooking processor to bind the other ingredients. We really needed to videotape her knowledgeable input.
Her insurance agent has paved the way for wine to flow once the knives are no longer needed, we prep, The it’s into the Italian Grigio or American Merlot. As the food we cook will have big and bold flavours, the wine has to blend in and not compete.
Thursday, May 4th
New Orleans Day 7
Back to Jazz Fest today, a relatively good lineup finishing with Santana. We are also booked into Tipitina’s to see the North Mississippi Allstars tonight. In between we just plan to shower, have a beer, and some bikkies and cheese. There is one surprise though, we brought back some of the leftovers from cooking class last night. I think the team was quite impressed!
Friday, May 5th
New Orleans Day 8
Back to the future ….. after another long, humid day, it’s straight back to Midway Pizza on Freret for a couple of pitchers of porter, spicy wings, pigs in blankets, and pizza. Our favourite waitress is on – she is delightful and plays the game with our banter. We have a glass of aged Pinot when we get home – had worse, had better, but at the A$45 price point expect more, the colour is on the turn…
Saturday, May 6th
New Orleans Day 9
Thunder and rain delay the start but do not dampen the spirits. We get out as soon as the grounds are cleared for opening ….. of course, the place has turned to mud. Being a race course ….. the mud is a little pongy. Having said that, the Blues, Jazz, and Gospel Tents are in full swing ….. I do Jazz today.
Bernie is a bit rough in the throat but still in, Wendy is a bit sore in the leg after a new tattoo. Wendy taps out and has a lay day with her friend Pat. The upside is that they have put together some great salads and bought in fried chicken from Pat’s favourite place for an easy tea at home…… and it’s good. We wash it down with some Oregon Pinot Gris that’s quite passable.
Sunday, May 7th
New Orleans Day 10
Last day of the marathon, the rain departs and the humidity sets in ….. 95% today. Our Uber man points out that all these cars parked on the median strip, are highly illegal, however, they are part of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club They are untouchable by the law. They have their own little Jazz Fest shopping centre of food, drinks, and merch all setup.
Still, it’s festival time for the locals and in the surrounding streets, from impromptu ‘bars’set up in homes, to the lemonade kids, to the THC (cannabis active ingredient) selzers, to the street bands and the $2 pee offer – cause you never know when you’ll get the next opportunity. The police are there for traffic control only, there is no attempt to shut down any of these illegal activities – perhaps it’s a bond they have with the locale, allowing them to ‘ make hay whilst the sun shines’.
The fairgrounds are quite muddy and much less pleasant for the punters who set up their chairs at one stage for the entire day. The constant smell of cooked shrimp abounds regardless, the food queues are still long as the whole festival is cashless.
It’s still a busy day to get around the acts but nothing prepares you for the closing act ….. it’s a crush whichever act you wish to see – I’m up for Herbie Hancock and I just manage to get standing room in the Jazz Tent – it is unpleasant, the crowd edgy and just a hint of frustration from the ushers trying to keep emergency exit aisles clear ….. enough agro to attract more burly security.
The hoards are on the move, it’s done for 2023. We have prearranged to get back to the Blue Oak BBQ. We snag a table and have a quick beer before joining the food queue, it’s long and out the door, we wait patiently for 30+ minutes to order but have a nice chat with a couple from California.
We attack ‘ death by meat’ again but can see we are meat weary. It’s a “Last Hurrah” feast.
The large plate of BBQ is what Cara ordered for the four of us!
Monday, May 8th
New Orleans Day 11
A lay day, although my comrades all head into town to meet up for brunch with one of Rob’s local contacts. I take the opportunity to relax at home, away from the heat and the smoke. The amount of people who smoke ciggies and cigars is staggering, making for constant passive smoking in outdoor areas.
It’s a good day to rest up, a sore throat and some heat rash can do with a break. Surprise, surprise it will be leftovers again for dinner – brisket, fried chicken, pizza, cheeses, dips. After a day, The Pinot Noir is shot, In fact on the second tasting it may have been corked.
Tuesday, May 9th
New Orleans Day 12
The last free day has come around, time to ride the St Charles line Trolley Car through the garden district to admire the grander homes of this area, it’s a very leafy and well-to-do area, lined by magnificent old oak trees. It is a great way to ride out the rainstorms that have come through.
We are heading toward the Cabildo Museum near Jackson Square when some very loud and near thunder sounds a warning, we seek refuge as this storm is close and do not want to be out with lightning around. Whilst the café Pontalba is a bit touristy, it has a table for 2, so it will have to do. Bernie is with the Gumbo and Caesar, I the Crab Cakes. Bernie describes it as hot & salty, mine is oily. Still, it is a respite from the storm ……. We get pretty direct warning messages on our phones. We use a lot of mints to strip the taste of lunch from our palates.
Bernie and Hoff are scardy cats!
As a finish point for the trip, Bernie and I select a more serious wine bar, Pluck, just a hop and a step out of the CBD. We try a Chardonnay and a Verdicciho, the former good and the latter interesting. We decide on a red and give the Somm a brief and price range ……. It is difficult as the range is Grenache to Pinot Noir. We try a couple by the glass, a Grenache and a Beaujolais and still can’t decide. The staff confer and brings a Cab Franc with punch and a higher altitude Italian Nebbiolo – a Nebb is decided and we thoroughly enjoy the wine over charcuterie. It is a fitting bookend of the trip.
Wednesday, May 10th
New Orleans Day 13
All aboard we are going home today ……. We will lose a day and get home Friday. But no wait, there’s more. …. We are having a farewell lunch with Pat – Wendy’s friend. She has been a very busy person with shunting us around town, she also picked up our bags from the Airbnb as she and her husband, Bob, will ferry us to the airport. We are heading to Algiers, on the West Bank, to a place called ‘Da Wabbit’. I’m ordering the meatloaf, peas and mash as a means to end on a high, it is pretty good. Pat drives us to Charlie’s garage, it was his house, where on the first night in New Orleans, we had the crawfish boil. Somehow, unsurprisingly, Ronny, the guy who did the boil was also there and others – including Crazy Cliff….. it seems that the boys meet for lunch each day.
Then off to the airport, Bon Voyage to New Orleans, “The Big Easy”.
Bernie decides to eat healthy on the last day with a salad!
One thought on “The Last Hurrah – Hoff’s Food Blog”
What a great read! I enjoyed reading about your culinary adventures in New Orleans, especially your cooking class at Casa Pelican. Do you have any recipes to share from the class?