Thursday, April 23, 2009

Trip Report: French Quarter Fest '09

Editor's Note - Both Rene and I were out of town last weekend and thus had to miss out on all of the fun. But because she had volunteered at FQF all weekend, The Folk Singer offered to give us a full report on her experience. Below is her guest review. We thank her for picking up our slack. WARNING - This post is very looooooooong. Our guest bloggers sometimes get overexcited when making their debut.


My friend Tay and I had the pleasure of volunteering* at French Quarter Fest this past weekend, selling booze. It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it. Since neither of the BlackenedOut guys made it to the Fest, we decided to hijack the blog and tell you about what we ate.

On Saturday, we were assigned to the Abita Beer booth at the Old U.S. Mint. Live zydeco music and beer, what more do you need in life? We showed up an hour before our shift and picked up our food tickets. The volunteer coordinator was eating some SERIOUS spring rolls, which immediately grabbed our attention because we all know it's tough to find stellar Vietnamese “east" of Gretna. But we both knew there was a lot of beer drinking in our future, so we decided to start off with something a little more substantial.

Enter The Joint. After hearing Peter talk about the Joint so much, I have been dying to try it out, but haven’t made it over to the Bywater just yet. Thank God for festival food. I decided on the pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw...and proceeded to smother it with The Joint’s slightly spicy red BBQ sauce. Perfection. The coleslaw provided a crisp and refreshing crunch to the sandwich, but the size left me wishing The Joint had offered up its mac & cheese or potato salad too.

Tay decided on the Roast Beef Debris po-boy from EAT. This was a winner in our book, not only because the beef was both incredibly flavorful and perfectly cooked to a tender texture, but also because the French bread added the perfect amount of crunchy exterior and soft interior to soak up the beef juices.

We then realized that we had arrived at French Quarter Fest just in time to catch Acme's Oyster-Eating Contest before our shift started (pictures and video of the contest coming soon). Some of the world's most accomplished oyster-eaters came from far and wide to see who could devour the most gelatinous raw oysters in 8 minutes. Nothing like some good ole beef and pork sandwiches to complement this seafood spectacle. While watching one woman putting a dozen oysters in her mouth at a time before swallowing and another man actually sweating and gagging his way through 15 dozen mollusks in the warm Louisiana sun might not SEEM appetizing, you should know-the beef debris po-boy would not be denied. With creole mustard and horseradish mayonnaise as the condiments of choice, Tay finished the soft French bread and juicy beef debris in an impressive time herself. And did we mention the HORSERADISH MAYO?? It doesn’t get much better than that.

After serving (and drinking) ice cold delicious Abita for about 4 hours, we decided we might be hungry again and those spring rolls were still on our minds, so we checked out Amy's Vietnamese Cafe. The plan was to order two crawfish eggrolls and two spring rolls to split between us, but the crawfish eggrolls were long gone. Not being known for our ability to exercise moderation, we quickly recovered by ordering 4 spring rolls instead. They did not disappoint. The plump and delicious spring rolls were double the size of some of the "recession spring rolls" we've eaten lately and the fact that Amy and her crew were able to pump out spring rolls all day at an outdoor festival was downright impressive.

Standing in (the very very very long) line gave customers the opportunity to watch Amy and friends dip each piece of rice paper into a bowl of water, fill it with pork, shrimp, cabbage, vermicelli and fresh herbs. No premade rolls here and the line was certainly worth the wait. The warm peanut sauce was ladled into a cup and added to the plate as a finishing touch. And a damn good one at that, this was FRESH peanut sauce. It was served warm- not because they were working outdoors in Louisiana in April, but because the peanut sauce was being made fresh on site. You could eat this stuff straight up with a spoon. And of course, in honor of Peter, a glob of sriracha.

A quick conversation with the cashier (Amy’s son) revealed that Amy’s Vietnamese Café is not actually a café at all. Apparently Amy sets up in the French Market on the weekends, and doesn't actually have a restaurant. Which means, next time we are in the Quarter, we will be checking out Amy's Vietnamese “Café” - I still can't stop thinking about how good the crawfish eggrolls looked.


Sunday we were assigned to the wine/frozen Southern Comfort booth at Woldenberg Park. While we would love to entertain you with stories on the differences between festival beer drinkers and festival liquor drinkers, that is a topic for an entirely separate post. On our way to check in, we passed the Gelato Pazzo booth (which we all know is my new favorite) and decided Tay needed to be introduced to a little cup of heaven. One chocolate and one strawberry later (which were devoured too quickly for us to get a picture), we were probably the happiest volunteers at the Fest.

Once we arrived at the booth, we realized we didn't have to venture far...or even use our free food test out some delicious food. Frank's Restaurant was set up in the booth connected to ours and the minute we saw chocolate covered cannolis, we knew we were right where we needed to be. Luckily, the people from Frank's love Southern Comfort, and we were able to make some trades throughout the day.

Muffulettas (again, we ate the actual muffuletta too fast to get a picture, but the stacked up bread made for an interesting subject and you can see a few muffulettas in the background)...

... and cannoli covered in chocolate and oozing with deliciously creamy ricotta/chocolate chip filling. Taylor has already declared cannolis will be served at her next birthday. And you’re all invited.

We didn’t get a chance to check out their meatball subs because we were completely stuffed, but trust us when we say those things looked and smelled AMAZING. Next time you are in the Quarter and looking for a (very filling) snack, we highly recommend that you check Frank’s out. And tell them the SoCo girls from French Quarter Fest sent you….maybe they will give us free cannolis for life or something.

Last but not least, the gastronomic highlight of the day came when Frank's made a trade with Flour Power. Strawberry Creole Cream Cheese Cake. Imagine angel food cake, layered with creole cream cheesecake, more angel food cake, fresh halved strawberries, topped off with a thin layer of frosting. The level of sweetness was just enough to pique your interest, but never cloying and the sweet fruit really hit the spot. If Tay is getting her dream cannoli birthday cake, mine would be made of this stuff.

All in all, the weekend was a complete success. From now on, volunteering at festivals will be the way we go. Because there are few things we'd rather do on the weekends than drink great beer, eat great food, meet great people and help bring the city of New Orleans back.
*A well-deserved plug for the FQF Volunteering Crew. Volunteering might have been the best idea we've ever had--free food, free Abita, free t-shirts and free conversations with wildly entertaining with people who come to New Orleans from all over the country for FQF.


BlackenedOut said...

"While we would love to entertain you with stories on the differences between festival beer drinkers and festival liquor drinkers, that is a topic for an entirely separate post."

Slow down there, rookie.

Great post and thanks for picking up the slack.


tigeratlaw said...

That cannoli picture makes me sad for not making it down to the Mint...not that I would have had any room left to try it, but still...

Anonymous said...

Great guest post! Please become a regular!!!

Anonymous said...

This is the best column Peter and Rene never wrote.

The Folk Singer said...

I'm a big fan of Anonymous and Anonymous.

Rene said...

Well Anon is known for his quotes the world around.

Allen N. said...

Hey Blackened Out!

This is actually Amy's son (Allen) and yes, I was the cashier on Saturday with my Jazz Fest shirt etc. Mum and Co. want to say thanks for talking about us and we're really ecstatic that y'all enjoyed the spring rolls! See you at the next festival I suppose!

-Allen N.

Eating The Road said...

I had an amazing meal at The Joint: