Today, we are very excited to have Mags along for the food ride! In addition to being an awesomely cool artist, she’s also been a DJ (some of you will remember her as djmags), does a myriad of other interesting things and as of late, has taken to Blogging about a bunch of cool things (music and film included — they are specialties, you know) and is currently loving taking care of people’s pets! She is, by far, one of the most genuine people I’ve ever known. Though our acquaintance pre-dates Katrina, it’s only been recently that I’ve been able to learn more from and about her. Each day, the respect grows. Visit her site, buy some stuff, support our locals!
Let me preface this entire post by saying: I am not a food blogger. I am a blogger, yes, but I do not regularly write about food, nor do I self-identify as a “foodie.” I leave that to others whose palates are more discerning than mine, and whose food-related vocabularies are larger than mine. I do love food, however. And I love living in a city like New Orleans where food is such an integral part of life and our culture.
Having said all that, I made plans a few days ago to attend the New Orleans Roadfood Festival for the second year in a row. The festival itself is in its third year, but it was new to me last year and I took it in on a whim but had such a good time I was delighted to see it on the calendar again. I’ve been looking forward to it all week.
Two friends and I went together and came up with a brilliant strategy of taking turns buying items and sharing. None of us ended up spending more than $20 (we weren’t drinking alcohol, so that could definitely drain your wallet faster) and we each got to sample a lot more than if we’d only bought a few things for ourselves.
All of us being Mid-Citizens, we decided to drive halfway down Canal Street and as soon as we saw a streetcar, parked and hopped on to take us down into the French Quarter, avoiding all the usual parking woes of a busy spring weekend downtown. We got off at Royal Street and quickly made our way a few blocks into the Quarter until we spotted the purple Que Crawl food truck of Boucherie, marking the beginning of the six-block line-up of white tents and food trailers that comprise the Roadfood Fest.
The Purple Truck, as it is affectionately known by New Orleans fans, has long been a favorite of mine. So it was only appropriate to start our roadfood journey with some of their amazingly seasoned hand-cut fries. I have no idea what they do to them, but they are the best fries on the planet!
We tore into them so quickly that I completely forgot to take a picture until they were almost gone. Oops!
While we were waiting for the fries, one of my friends noticed the next booth down the line was offering grilled cheese stuffed with boudin sandwiches. She quickly got in the lengthy line, and when our fries were ready, we joined her. By the time we were able to order, we’d finished the fries and were ready for course number two:
The basic white-bread hamburger bun initially threw me off, visually, but as it turned out, it was perfect. Compressed just the right amount by the grilling process, it became the tasty outer casing for the gooey cheese and boudin mixture inside, which was nicely seasoned and not as spicy as I thought it would be. It was delicious. I would gladly eat a whole one of those! (I did not, however, notice what restaurant it came from, unfortunately.)
Course number three was a booth or two down the line, after purchasing some Who Dat Water and sodas: crawfish cakes with creamy crawfish sauce.
Again, I forgot to take the pic before we started eating it – oh well. I think this was one of those dishes that sounded better than it actually was. Not that I didn’t enjoy eating it, but the cakes could have been a little crispier, as one of my friends pointed out, and frankly I could have done without the rice. The sauce was very tasty, though. Once again I did not jot down who made this dish.
Course number four was an extraordinary example of the traditional Natchitoches meat pie, from Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant in where else but Natchitoches, LA.
I should have taken a picture of it after we’d bitten into it so you could see the scrumptious meat filling inside. The deep-fried pie crust was just the right balance of chewy and flaky, and the ground beef inside was so spicy good. We made quick work of it!
I was already starting to feel full by this point, but it did not stop us from pressing on. We still had a few more blocks to go! Next stop: a roasted plantain tamale!
I’m not really a big tamale fan but one of my friends is, so she was very excited. I was pleasantly surprised to find it slightly sweet (it was a roasted plantain tamale, after all), and dipped in tomatillo sauce it was balanced out just right. I was glad I tried it.
We’d reached the end of the six blocks of food and had decided we would check out desserts on the way back… but then, the fried eggplant with Cajun shrimp sauce caught my eye. I deliberated for a while as to whether I really had space for it, and then went for it.
Wow am I glad I did! This ended up being my personal favorite of the day. Gently fried eggplant chunks swimming in the most decadent but not overwhelmingly creamy shrimp sauce – almost like a bisque, really, as one friend pointed out – with a few whole shrimp to top it off. OMG! That I could eat a vat of! (Well, probably not, really – it was insanely rich – but I’d want to!) I wish I would have noticed where this came from so I could track it down again sometime.
I could and probably should have stopped at this point, but was convinced by my friends that we really hadn’t had enough pork yet. And so, we made our way all the way back to the beginning, to the Purple Truck again, and ordered one of their outstanding pulled pork po-boys with purple cabbage slaw.
I have eaten these many times before at various events around town where the Purple Truck has shown up and have never been disappointed. And I was not disappointed today, though I probably only ate a few bites because I was already so stuffed. The pork is so tender and juicy and just melts in your mouth, and the cabbage slaw and BBQ sauce make for a tangy, crunchy topping, all served on a fresh, crisp mini-loaf of French bread. It really is one of the most satisfying pulled pork po-boys in all of New Orleans.
But what about dessert? We’d almost forgotten about it, derailed by all the other yumminess. Luckily, one of my friends was really having a hankering for the strawberry shortcake that was being served by Cafe Reconcile.
It was the perfect ending to our roadfood extravaganza. Not too sweet, not too filling. Fresh strawberries, a tasteful amount of whipped cream and sauce over a moist cake. Excellent!
Though I really desired a snoball from Plum Street or a turtle from Gloucester, Massachusetts’ Turtle Alley, there was simply no more room. And in fact my stomach was starting to hurt! I may have overdone it a tad. But it was totally worth it, and I look forward to next year’s Roadfood Fest already.
(It’s not too late for those who haven’t made it there yet – the Roadfood Fest continues all day Sunday, 11am – 6pm on Royal Street in the French Quarter. Bring a healthy appetite!)