Food & Wine – Quick Bites #4

January 26, 2010

On to the bayou…. As we leave Japan, we cross an ocean, or two, and maybe a gulf or three and come to the Crescent City – New Orleans, U.S.A.. Last year New Orleans was a large, featured area, and I was glad to see that a booth with the fine foods of Louisiana was still here this year.

Part of the New Orleans area in 2008. That's my size of hot sauce!

The menu was similar to last year: Crawfish Etouffee (listed in the Festival Guide as “Spicy Cajun Crawfish and Vegetable Stew”), Chicken and Andouille Gumbo (2008 was a Seafood Gumbo), and Praline Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel Sauce. Adult beverages were two types of Abita Beer (Amber and Purple Haze) and (new this year) a Sazerac cocktail.

Crawfish Etouffee and an Abita

Overall, both of the savory items were good – compared to the choices last year, they were a bit less spicy – maybe this was intentional, as I was pleasantly surprised at how flavorfully hot they were last year… Yes they did have hot sauce to spice things up (packets, not the cute tiny bottle of Tabasco like last year), but sometimes if you add a lot of hot sauce, the dish start just tasting like hot sauce, so… I’d still say both dishes were good, but could have been a bit better…

Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

Now, the bread pudding… ahhhh… the bread pudding… bourbon sauce… as I’ve said before, I’m not a big dessert guy, and also I’m not fond of “nuts in things” (it’s a texture issue, okay maybe I’m weird… well yes, we know I’m weird, let’s move on…) – but this was one of the best things at the festival…
The recipe is in the festival cookbook – we’ll cook this one together soon…

Praline Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel Sauce

And yes, I did try the Sazerac cocktail (you’d be disappointed if I didn’t, now wouldn’t you?) – strong, essentially all booze, this could kick your you-know-what – if they had served a reasonable size glass…

Sazerac Cocktail - yes that's a full serving...

All in all, I liked New Orleans, even though I think they could “kick it up a notch” (oh wait, his restaurant is at that other park… sorry…) – you listening Chef Dahlmann???

A couple of odd things about my visits to New Orleans – on the first weekend (and I do always cut them a bit of slack the first couple of days, as this whole enterprise has to be a logistic nightmare…) I was at the booth and they had no spoons… both savory items were meant to be eaten with spoons, and they had no spoons… did I mention they had no spoons? Once at least they also had no hot sauce…
And on the subject of hot sauce… not that there is anything wrong with packets of Texas Pete… but… New Orleans… Louisiana… the home of Tabasco, and “Louisiana” Brand hot sauce, and who knows how many others… couldn’t we gat a freaking Louisiana hot sauce to serve in New Orleans???

Next around the way is the Hops and Barley stand in the good old USA…

"Do you serve beer here?"

Here we find a big selection of Samuel Adams beers (the Octoberfest and Festival Beers stood out…) and a couple of Northeastern specialties: Boston-style Crab Cake with Cabbage Slaw (isn’t “Cabbage Slaw” a bit redundant? Yes, you can make slaw out of other things, but…) and Remoulade, as well as the most expensive food item at the festival this year, the $7.25 New England Lobster Roll.

Unless you just don’t like beer, you’ll find something in the beer selection to fit your tastes…

The Crab Cake was actually pretty darn good – and they could have easily screwed this one up with tons of breading, etc… but they did a nice job with it. Not the greatest crab cake I’ve ever had, but certainly far from the worst…

Boston-style Crab Cake with Cabbage Slaw

Now, the Lobster Roll… this is not a food I’ve had a lot of experience with – the only other one I’ve ever had was at McDonalds. Yes, you read that right, McDonalds… and I only ordered it just because if you see lobster on a McDonalds menu you just have to order it (even if just to say you did), right???

Lobster Roll (with a quarter for size reference...)

Anyway, as I understand it, a traditional Lobster Roll is a lobster salad served on a buttered and toasted hot dog bun – and that is exactly what we had here (even though it wasn’t exactly quite a full-sized bun…). The salad was very fresh-tasting, and there was one big honking piece of tender claw meat in it (don’t know if there is one big piece in each serving, or if I just got lucky…). Was it good? Yes, it was. Was it worth $7.25? Well… when we started this tour I said I wasn’t going to talk a lot about the relative “value” of the items, as that’s not really what I think the Food & Wine Festival is about… but I guess with this one you have to bring it up… yes, lobster is a very expensive ingredient, and probably takes a good bit of labor as well to extract the meat and there was a reasonable amount of the meat in the salad… but would I order it again? Probably not, and not because it wasn’t good, but because of the price… now I don’t know what a “real” Lobster Roll goes for out in the Real World (and if someone out there does, please post a comment!), and it may not really be overly expensive, but for the size/price (and you can see that for yourself in the picture), I’d pass next time… but if this same item shows up again next year, we’ll know that at least enough people must have forked out for it the past few years to warrant keeping it around…

Next we head to Europe for some hearty fare from Vienna, Austria.

Dumpling was the word of the day here, as both savory items included them.

First up is a Goulash – Paprika Beef Stew with Bacon Dumplings… Bacon Dumplings… need I say more? Also a creamy Mushroom Soup with Dumplings… both were warm and hearty, and would have been perfect for a cooler night (which were few & far between this year…).

Paprika Beef Stew with Bacon Dumplings

Dessert was a nice Sacher Torte – a chocolate-flavored cake with a layer of apricot and a chocolate glaze… nice.

Sacher Torte

All in all a very solid menu…

Next around the way is Italy… but we’ll leave that stop, and the one truly bad item of the festival, until next time…

6 Responses to “Food & Wine – Quick Bites #4”

  1. sambycat Says:

    excellent hidden mickey there, rocket boy


  2. fishyrocketboy Says:

    Not like it was an accident… 😉


  3. sambycat Says:

    but you had our “specially enhanced” hidden mickeys disqualified at the kim possible meet!! BASTARD!


  4. fishyrocketboy Says:

    No, no… not me my dear… we had our own “enhanced” Mickeys we tried to pass off as well…


  5. Sarah Says:

    Hi there! I wanted to give you some info on lobster roll pricing. I first had it at the festival in 2007 ($6.75) and was a bit disappointed. I lived in Maine for 10 years, and know a good lobster roll when I see one. True lobster rolls don’t have fillers like diced onions and peppers – just mayonnaise, lobster (and don’t skimp on that claw meat!), and maybe a squirt of lemon juice, if you’re so inclined. Some places put a lettuce leaf on there, and I can do without. Typically the roll should be a soft, split-top (New England Style) hot dog bun, buttered and grilled on the outside, leaving the center soft; a firmer bread takes away from the delicate nature of the lobster.

    Up in Bar Harbor, you can get a roll with fries and slaw for around $15, and that’s a tourist area. I’m sure lobster pounds along the side of the road offer them cheaper. And yes, there are McDonalds up north that do in fact sell them. They price them at around $8 (though I can’t say I’ve ever dared to venture and try one of theirs – you sir, are much braver than I!). There’s a place near Lake Eola here in Orlando, Cityfish, that has a lobster roll the closest to Maine I’ve had. I haven’t been there since last spring, and I think the price for the platter was around $22. Steep, yes, but you definitely get more than buying 3 of those rolls at F&W! Plus their beer is less expensive 🙂

    Anyhoo, new to your site and am really enjoying it. Keep up the good work!


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