Monday, May 5, 2008

Jazz Fest Food: The Myth

I would rather never go fishing. And when I wore a skinnier man's clothes, I did not really enjoy ham. Strange yes; but give me a second to prove a point. When fishing, a ham sandwich tastes absolutely amazing. In reality all food tastes better in the outdoors.

You would send food you get at Jazz Fest back to the kitchen in a heartbeat if you got it in a restaurant. Yet, with the sun on your back and a parade of Indians passing by, it tastes like the best food in the world. Enough so that the symbiotic relationship between food and music keep raising the bar for each other. Come for the music, come back for the food. Love the food and discover a new band. Let me be real clear here: I love Jazz Fest, I have no complaints about it. But the food is not that good.

Now coupled with the atmosphere, the joie de vivre, the sounds, the smells, the outdoors, the thankfulness for another Jazz Fest, it works. And thank God for that.

The best thing I had, and we ate a lot, the Poulet Fricasse wowed us with simplicity. Grilled chicken on a wooden skewer; juicy, flavorful, and on a stick. The cochon de lait poboy varied from overly dressed to dry; but all in all that sandwich kicks some serious pork butt. The dibbi (grilled steak pita) had a killer mayo-hot sauce and was just what I needed. Crawfish Monica; good little dish there, but come on its cream, butter, green onions and pasta. Not rocket science there.

The crawfish beignets Lady had she described as "grease, that's is all I taste." Certain items like oyster patties and fried eggplant receive no help from being consumed in the heat. The mango freeze blew me over in the sheer refusal of it to taste like anything.

Ever notice that the "Authentic Louisiana and New Orleans Food" served at Jazz Fest usually only shows up at Jazz Fest? What restaurants serve a Cochon De Lait Po-Boy? A Crawfish Sack? When was the last time you saw Jambalaya on a menu? And why do restauranteurs not put those items on their menus?

I completely understand that the food will not meet expectations one would have if eating at a restaurant. Volume catering and cooking will never match individualized attention to each plate (same reason wedding food falls flat without fail). However, the restaurant space in the fairgrounds should allow a different restaurant(s) each day to come and offer an abbreviated menu. This would allow people to get out of the sun or rain, sit down, enjoy a meal, and then go on their merry way. The food would more accurately, and more deliciously, represent true Louisiana and New Orleans cuisine and you could still have all the food vendors outside.

With all that said, this last weekend at Jazz Fest again reaffirmed a lot of New Orleanians belief that this city matters and they made the right choice to come home to momma. With the sun on my back, a beer that slowly creeped towards lukewarm, Poulet Fricasse, and the last notes of Rebirth, everything I tasted, smelled, saw, heard, and touched during Jazz Fest I was thankful for and convinced was world-class.

Who knows? I love ham now and I would still rather fish than go shopping.

1 comment:

Richard and Danielle said...

I crave Palmer's Caribbean fish, vegetables and rice all year long. They serve a similar dish with chicken at Soulfest at the zoo.