Friday, April 17, 2009

Epicurean Adventures: French Quarter Fest Passes Over the Quarter Century Hump

Wow, that's a long title!

Anyway, I tend to get really hyped up about festivals and what they mean (i.e. FOODS!), and thought I'd just include my preview on French Quarter Fest that appears in the Jazz Fest I issue of Where Y'at Magazine. Keep your calendars clear this weekend for 18 stages scattered throughout the Quarter and more than enough food to keep you busy from Friday through Sunday. Known as "the world's largest block party," it's only going to get better with age as it enters its next era. Enjoy!

The FQF has plenty to tempt many a New Orleanian to brave the downtown parking and traffic situation, but the food up for grabs is well worth it. Among the tried and trues, we have returning favorites like The Gumbo Shop’s chicken and Andouille gumbo and red beans and rice; grilled chicken livers with sweet hot pepper jelly from The Praline Connection; tasty crabmeat ravioli from Ristorante Carmelo; Ted’s Frostop is bringing Cajun meat or crawfish pies … and that’s just to name a few. Of course, no festival is complete without some hearty sandwiches, and so we have cochon de lait, both hot and alligator sausage, Creole crawfish, fried and barbequed shrimp, beef debris as well as roast beef, and slow-roasted duck po-poys on the list for guest appearances. You can take that to mean Jacques-Imo’s, Alibi, EAT New Orleans, Red Fish Grill, The Original New Orleans Po-Boys, and Love at First Bite are coming to man their spaces.

In addition to these highly anticipated reappearing restaurants, the FQF starts its second set of 25 years with a string of fantastic new vendors as well. For ethnic food, Bravo! Cucina Italiana enters the fray with crawfish ravioli, chicken griglia, and tiramisu; Byblos is presenting chicken kabobs, hummus, and spanakopita; and Vietnamese Saiyen Fresh Express has assorted spring and egg rolls, and lemon chicken and noodles. To cure your itch for regional dishes, Huevos has got Bad Bart’s Black Jambalaya, Creole hot sausage on a stick, and alligator Andouille; there’s stuffed crab, baked macaroni, and crab and shrimp salad from Jack Dempsey’s and pulled pork and smoked beef brisket from their Bywater neighbor The Joint. Henry’s Bakery has stuffed bell peppers, mac and cheese, and king cake; Sammy’s Food Service & Deli bring seafood stuffed jumbo shrimp and Italian sausage and eggplant pasta to the picnic table, and Emeril’s restaurants plan to put out plenty of barbequed ribs. And for dessert, newcomer Gelatto Pazzo Caffe will provide a great non-drinker’s alternative to cooling off.

Standard FQF prices apply, which range from $3 to a rare $9 a selection, but average cost is just $5 an item, allowing you to sample a little something from some of the best restaurants in the city without breaking the bank … although I’m not sure that can be said of your stomach after this amazing festival draws its curtains.

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