the gumbo pages

looka, ('lu-k&) New Orleanian dialect. v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look", in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans; usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.  
2. --n. My weblog, focusing on food and drink, music, New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news, movies, books, sf, media and culture, Macs, politics, humor, reviews, rants, my life, my opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles my fancy.

Please feel free to contribute a link.   If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.

Page last tweaked @ 12:36pm PDT, 5/31/2001

Blame this page on:
Chuck Taggart (who?)

Looka! Archive

April 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001

2000:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

1999:   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

Buy stuff!

You can get Gumbo Pages designs on T-shirts, mugs and mousepads at The Gumbo Pages Swag Shop!

Friends with pages:


Talking furniture:

KCSN (Los Angeles)

WWOZ (New Orleans)
   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
   (science fiction radio)
Radio Free New Orleans
Raidió na Gaeltachta
WXDU (Durham, NC)

Cocktail hour:

The Sazerac Cocktail


Cocktail Time


Bar Asterie

Ardent Spirits

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails

Ingredients & substitutions

Let's eat!

New Orleans Menu Daily


Food Network


The Global Gourmet

The Online Chef

Pasta, Risotto & You

Slow Food Int'l. Movement

Zagat Guide


In vino veritas.

The Oxford Companion to Wine

The Wine Spectator

Wine Today

Now reading:

Radio Free Albemuth, by Philip K. Dick.

The Torturer's Apprentice: Stories, by John Biguenet.

Pot on the Fire: Further Exploits of a Renegade Cook, by John Thorne.

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, by Eric Schlosser.

Listen to music!

Luka Bloom
La Bottine Souriante
Billy Bragg
Cordelia's Dad
Sonny Landreth
Los Lobos
Christy Moore
Anders Osborne
Zachary Richard
Son Volt
Uncle Tupelo

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

San Francisco Celtic Music & Arts Festival

Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV

Long Beach Bayou Festival

Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA


A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans (Joshua Mann Pailet)

Ansel Adams
Jonathan Fish
Greg Guirard
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
Howard Roffman
J. T. Seaton
Jerry Uelsmann
Gareth Watkins
Brett Weston


Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley

by Garry B. Trudeau

by Peter Blegvad

The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

Lookin' at da TV:

"The Sopranos"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"Father Ted"
"Iron Chef"
"The Simpsons"
"Star Trek: Enterprise"
The Food Network

Weblogs I read:

The BradLands
Eat, Link and Be Merry
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
Jonno (if you must know)
Lake Effect
The Leaky Cauldron
Mister Pants
Mr. Barrett
Neil Gaiman's Journal
Q Daily News
Robot Wisdom
Strange Brew
The Tao of Upndown
The Other Side
Web Queeries
Whim and Vinegar
Wild Oats

Matthew's GLB blog portal

<< web loggers >>

Must-reads: (Progressive politics & news)
The Complete Bushisms (Quotationable)
The Deduct Box (Louisiana politics)
The Fray (stories)
Landover Baptist (better Christians than YOU!)
The Onion (news 'n laffs)

The Final Frontier:

ISS Alpha News
NASA Human Spaceflight
Spaceflight Now

Recent Epinions:

1. John O'Groats: Home cooking, better than home

2. Bombay Sapphire: Gin haters, repent!

3. The Cajun Bistro, WeHo: Skip it

4. Absolut Kurant: I'd sooner drink Robitussin

5. Sanamluang: Best Thai food in L.A.

6. Volkswagen New Beetle: Fun fun fun!

What's in Chuq's Visor? (My favorite Palm OS applications)

AvantGo *
Launcher III *
Showtimes *
WineScore *
Zagat Guide *

(* = superfavorite)

Number of votes by which George W. Bush lost the national popular vote on November 7, 2000

Number of votes to which Bush's lead had dwindled in Florida when the hand recount was stopped

(Just what do you think you're doing, Chuck?)

Made with Macintosh

hosted by pair Networks

This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit on a Mac if I'm at home; with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work.

weblog and (almost) daily blather

  "There ought to be limits to freedom."
  -- George W. Bush, May 21, 1999

  Thursday, May 31, 2001
Comatose Mac.   Updates might be a little scarce for a while. My computer at home is kaput, at least for the moment.

Last night, with lots of windows and applications open, I got an error beep and an indication that the Finder had a message for me. I presumed that it was going to tell me (as usual) that I had too many things open, that the Finder was out of memory, and that I needed to either close some applications or restart. But when I flipped to the Finder, before it could tell me anything it froze up. Sigh. I rebooted, got the restart chime, then ... nothing.

No signal to the monitor port, the hard drive didn't spin up, no boot. Nada. Niente. Nicht. Several attempts proved fruitless.

I snagged a Norton Utilities disc from work, and I'll see if I can boot from that. If not ... looks like it's time for a new machine, 'cause I'd bet that means something in the hardware's fried. This was a wheezing old piece of junk anyway -- an abysmally slow Power Computing clone, bottom of the line from a company that no longer even exists, powered by a 200 mHz 603 Power PC chip, predating both the 604 and the G3. If I do get a new one, I'm actually thinking about the spiffy new iBook, plugging in a monitor and keyboard and using that as my main machine.

I only hope I can recover the data on the hard drive (although I don't think it crashed). Wish me luck.

Which "public" is that?   There was an excellent article in last Sunday's Calendar section in the L. A. Times about how the powerhouse noncommercial/public radio stations are starting to look a lot less public and a lot more commercial.

Our beloved KCSN barely gets a mention, although I guess we should be pleased that we were mentioned at all. They were nice enough (and accurate enough) to describe us as having "perhaps the most eclectic mix in the market of music" (there ain't no perhaps about it, baby).

More and more I find most of the other public radio stations in the city to be unpalatable at best, and find myself listening almost exclusively to KCSN and, via computer, to my beloved WWOZ in New Orleans.

Jiang on the Potted Plant: "Confused and unprincipled".   Chinese President Jiang Zemin has come up with a fine-tuned assessment of the Acting President of the United States, apparently summed up in 12 characters:

Logically unsound; confused and unprincipled; unwise to the extreme.

While I'm not a fan of Jiang's policies, I'd say he's a rather astute observer of character.

While we're at it...   Since when does a President have a "summit" with a state governor? A governor who, instead of being summoned to the Oval Office, has the alleged President coming to him?

The current edition of George Skelton's "Capitol Journal" in the L. A. Times is entitled "Bush Blunders Into Equal Footing With Davis":

When the president holds a "summit" with a governor, you can figure one of three things: this president -- politically -- is weak, desperate or inept.

With President Bush, we've just seen indications of all three.

Presidents of the United States simply do not hold summits with governors -- of any state. Presidents hold summits with leaders of equal stature: other heads of state or prime ministers.

A governor is not a head of state.

Sacramento is not a little Washington. It's a big Carson City.

Ronald Reagan never held a summit with Jerry Brown. Bill Clinton barely acknowledged the existence of Pete Wilson.

So why would this Republican president fly across country to elevate a Democratic governor to the exalted level of summitry? Must be that Bush has looked at private polls and seen he is weaker in California than he'd ever imagined possible, even after losing here last November by 12 points.

Indeed, the independent Field Poll recently found that 54% of Californians think Bush has done a "poor" job of trying to improve the state's energy mess.

But the president could have -- should have -- avoided what the news media would characterize as a summit. On the governor's L.A. turf, no less. This was political ineptitude.


Stick to the script, no matter how badly written.   Robert Reich, professor of economic and social policy at Brandeis University and former Secretary of Labor, writes of Dubya and his cronies' determination to stick with the stupid script for their "agenda", no matter how unpopular or manufactured:

The recent Senate inversion will slow [Bush] down, to be sure, but not alter his basic strategy. After all, it worked for the tax cut, attracting 12 defectors among Senate Democrats. So it's likely to work with the other two planks of Bushism--the missile defense shield and the accelerated move toward fossil fuels and nuclear energy with minimum regard for the environment.

All three planks have been sold as rational responses to current or pending crises -- a major economic turndown; an escalating probability of attack from China, North Korea or a "rogue" state; an energy crisis. But each of these so-called crises has been manufactured by the White House.

The economy has slowed, but it's hardly in free-fall... There's no new foreign peril... And apart from California's own zany energy system, the U.S. has no energy crisis other than a long-term need to conserve.

It gets only more bizarre when you realize that Bush's proposed solutions won't even deal with the supposed problems.

Even more puzzling is the fact that the American public hasn't been exactly enamored of any of these three big plans. Until recently, polls showed scant support for a giant tax cut. For years now, "Star Wars" schemes have been greeted with skepticism. Bush's giant back-step on the environment and simultaneous push for coal, oil and nuclear power are profoundly unpopular, especially among all-important independent and suburban swing voters. So if the crises have been manufactured, if the proposed solutions don't even solve them, and if the public is dubious at best, why are these three big plans likely to stay on track?


Quote of the day.   "In case you get all your political news from the Rush Limbaugh show and other right-wing radio, and you hadn't really heard about Jenna Bush's arrest, that's because her incident is very, very different from Al Gore's son getting a speeding ticket or being rumored to have been disciplined for drugs at school, or Chelsea Clinton being (wrongly) rumored to have been seen smoking at a public restaurant.

"Those subjects were worthy of lengthy on-air discussion because they demonstrated the Inherent Hypocrisy and Disregard for The Rule of Law that All Democrats Exhibit. Jenna Bush, on the other hand, falls under the category of Private Family Matters."

-- Richard Connelly, Houston Press, 5/24/01

  Wednesday, May 30, 2001
La-Z-Boy.   No, I didn't by a tacky reclining chair. That's just a description of me, and why I haven't updated since Friday. It was a holiday weekend, and I went on holiday! Nowhere exotic, just Pasadena, Silverlake and the deep behind the Orange Curtain.

Noteworthy was a fabulous meal and gathering of friends on Memorial Day, at the even more fabulous new home of our friends Mary and Steve (Wes, whispering to Chuq: "Psst! We can't afford this!") with its stunning view. Nettie brought a Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Honey-Spiced Pecans, from a recipe by Chef Pat Mould of St. Martinville, Louisiana. Dave brought a side dish he merely called "Potato Thing", which belied its deep yumminess; diced potatoes, lots of cheese, lots of crispy bacon, in a baking dish and into the oven until bubbly and crispy around the edges. I had two helpings.

We were rich in the entrée department as well. Diana brought Crawfish Monica, which she made by winging it entirely. She didn't know that I had the recipe (or at least, a very close version thereof), and gave it a whirl anyway; she'd certainly had it enough times to know what it's supposed to taste like. She did a stupendous job. It tasted just like the famous Jazzfest version, except for being a little lighter on the Creole seasoning.

I had been musing about making something non-Creole, but dug around for a while and found a recipe that looked scrumptious -- Parmesan-Crusted Lemonfish on Crabmeat Maque Choux, with Chive Oil and Summer Truffles, from Chef John Besh of Artesia, a well-loved restaurant on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain. I couldn't find lemonfish locally, so I substituted mahi-mahi -- nice and light and sweet, and it worked really well for the dish. That maque choux recipe was the best I'd ever had (and the guests said so too); the secret was using a cup of crab broth, reducing it by half and mounting the dish with butter before serving. Whoo-boy ... the only disappointment was the summer truffle, though. The Cheese Store in Beverly Hills had summer truffles for a not-too-shocking price, but their perfume was fairly weak and they turned out not to have too much flavor. I'll wait for the winter ones from now on.

For dessert, we had the Battle of the Bread Puddings. Mary made a recipe from the late and venerated Chez Hélène in New Orleans -- Chocolate Brandy Bread Pudding (recipe forthcoming), and Nettie brought a White Chocolate Bread Pudding, based (as most of them are) on the classic Palace Cafe recipe. In an appalling display of decadence, the chocolate-brandy one was also topped with heavy pouring cream. Oh, what the hell, it was a holiday.

  Friday, May 25, 2001
A tipple with the Concierge.'s relatively new feature The Culinary Concierge (penned by longtime New Orleans food writer Gene Bourg) takes a look at classic New Orleans cocktails and their history, starting with the You-Know-What.

Feed me!   The table d'hôte dinner, the degustation, omakase, feed me Seymour! It's one of the finer experiences you'll have at a dinner table, when the chef sends out a number of courses, usually ranging from five to nine, from little appetizers and amuses bouche to salads to meat, fish, cheese, intermezzos and dessert; the courses are tiny, but by the time you're finished, you're full. The price for such a meal tends to be high, especially if you choose to get the specially-paired wines for each course that many restaurants offer, but it's something you should treat yourself to every now and again.

My finest degustation experiences have been at The French Laundry in Yountville, and Emeril's in New Orleans. I've had the degustation twice at Emeril's, in fact; the above writeup is about my first, and unfortunately I can't find my notes about the second. You'd do well to try the tasting menus at Commander's Palace, Café Giovanni, Cuvée, Marisol plus the seafood feast at Drago's, too.

You're a naughty Kaiser! *THWACK!*   Today's salacious news tidbit comes with the revelations of a bundle of letters recently unearthed in an old safe. Turns out that Kaiser Wilhelm II, Germany's last emperor, was being blackmailed by a prostitute with whom he had sadomasochistic sex. And to think, people got all bent out shape by Clinton and his piddly little affair with what's-her-name.

  Thursday, May 24, 2001
Yet more New Orleans local commercials.   The Bonnet Carré Spillway of my memory gushes forth more jingles. Thanks to everyone at A Gallery for Fine Photography on Royal Street for reminding me of some of these!

Universal Furniture featured a character called "The Chairman", who stood in front of a plain, white backdrop ... dressed as a chair. His body was sticking up out of the seat of the chair, and his legs sticking out of the bottom; the chair was sort of wrapped around his waist, with his arms in the perfect position to rest on the armrests. He also wore a body stocking that was an exact match for the hideous paisley fabric that upholstered the chair, which was one that I'd never want to see in my own house.

"Hello, this is the old Chairman for Universal Furniture..."

... and he'd talk about their latest specials in a completely serious, straight-faced manner, without coming close to acknowledging how ridiculous he looked. This was the genius of this commercial.

*   *   *

L.A.S. Enterprises, a local aluminum siding company, featured a commercial with this elderly, rather Sad Sack-looking gentleman, who gazed forlornly at the camera with a facial expression that said, "Pity me." (Perhaps the commercial director had worked with Method actors before.) He may have been what they said he was, but he looked rather like someone who had been pulled right off Skid Row and cleaned up:

"Put this man to work! This man is a skilled siding installer and doesn't work much during winter!"

*   *   *

Local joolery:

"If your ring didn't come in a Pailet and Penedo box ... you probably paid too much for it."

I know there are plenty more I'm just not remembering. I know there were tons of local commericals for McKenzie's Bakeries, but I can't remember any of the copy (no jingle as I recall). A couple of folks at the Gallery were wondering about weird Icee commercials with a jingle, and a Duckworth Tires commerical with a woman in a giant bikini, which aren't ringing any bells at the moment. Keep those cards and letters coming in!

Bon voyage, Voyager.   I did enjoy the final episode. In fact, Wes thought it was even better than "Star Trek: First Contact". I popped over to rec.arts.startrek.current, curious about Trekkie buzz, and after reading many posts there I'm prompted to sing the final verse from the theme song to "Mystery Science Theatre 3000":

If you're wondering how Joel eats and breathes,
And other science facts,
(La la la!)
Just repeat to yourself, "It's just a show;
You really should relax."

HA-ha!   That astute political observer Nelson would have my favorite comment on today's drama in the Senate. The poor bedeviled Republicans lost control of the Senate. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of rotten bastards. Now we need a couple more Democratic Senate appointees to strengthen that majority. (Shouldn't Helms and Thurmond be dropping dead of old age and making their long-awaited trips to the Tenth Circle of Hell soon?)

  Wednesday, May 23, 2001
Endgame.   After seven uneven years, some great episodes and some big stinkers, "Star Trek: Voyager" ends tonight. We get our second finale baby of the week (after Scully's last week), we get Klingons, we get a Borg Queen (Alice Krige!), we see Janeway with gray hair and a different uniform with a different insignia/comm badge, and rumor has it that the question of whether or not the ship makes it back home "won't be what we expect." Intriguing. Don't go to the web site; I'm told that even the two-line plot synopsis gives too much away.

Lemon wedges?!? Oh dear, oh dear.   The New York Times has a mostly excellent article about refreshing summer cocktails, which gets off to an auspicious start but after a few sentences makes my hair stand on end:

It was a mildly warm afternoon, one of the last before we drop off into the three-month inferno. I was sitting at the bar at Pastis, and ordered a Sazerac. The barman muddled wedges of lemon with pink Peychaud bitters and sugar. He scooped ice into the glass; poured over bourbon; shook it so quickly his arm was a blur, shattering the ice into flinty pieces; and strained the drink into a Pernod-stained glass.

It was a great drink, sharp and sweet, with a stiff kick punctuating each sip. But even in the gentle heat of that day, it just wouldn't do. halfway through, I pleaded for a glass of water.

A summer drink should be fleeting, not sustaining. It should slake your palate, cool you off and give you a whiff of alcohol withou knocking you off your feet.

The Sazerac isn't a weak drink, but this overreaction tends to make me believe that the author's constitution is a little weak. And as to the Pastis bartender's technique ... oh dear, oh dear. Where do I begin?

Lemon wedges are never muddled in a Sazerac. This would add an uncharacteristic and inauthentic sourness that is completely wrong for this drink. At the end lemon peel is added, twisting it so that the lemon oil cascades over the surface of the drink. This adds perfume, not sourness. I'm also adamant that rye whiskey be used in this drink, even though such venerable institutions as Commander's Palace are eschewing tradition and switching to Bourbon. Don't get me wrong; I love Bourbon, but it's not the same drink if you substitute it for rye.

If you want to let me be really nitpicky, the glass should be coated with Herbsaint, the locally-made pastis, rather than Pernod. In my opinion it has a superior flavor to Pernod, although Pernod is certainly an acceptable substitute, and I did enjoy the author's turn of phrase when she wrote "Pernod-stained glass".

I did enjoy the article very much, though (thanks, Jonno!). There are some marvelous recipes linked from it -- Blackberry Bay Leaf Champagne Spritzer, Herb Lemonade Spritzer, Junipero Bloody Mary (garnished with pickled asparagus spears), a nonalcoholic "sangría" based on pomegranate juice and lots of spices, and a fabulous-looking Strawberry Mint Julep.

The author ends the article with, "A few months from now, I'll be happy to be back in the grip of a Sazerac." I'm glad. Just be sure to gently advise the bartender to omit the muddling of lemon wedges, use Old Overholt or Wild Turkey Rye if he has it, and add a twist at the end.

By the way, I enjoy Sazeracs all summer. Don't be daunted.

  Tuesday, May 22, 2001
More New Orleans TV commercials.   Da Teemin' Masses write in ...

Ooh la, Leidenheimer's,
That's what I said.
Ohh la, Leidenheimer's,
That's French for bread!

(Thanks to Ray for this one.)

*   *   *

The infamous F & J Furniture commercials from the early '90s:

Woman: "I'm on welfare and Social Security!"

Older white guy with graying temples and horrible suit: "You got da fifty dollahs?"

Woman: "I got da fifty dollahs! I got it! I got it!"

Older white guy with graying temples and horrible suit: "You gotta see da special man."

Older black guy with cigar; sweeps the cigar out of his mouth, saying: "Leddah have it!"

(Thanks to Catherine for this one.)

*   *   *

(drums thumping, and an animated character wearing a very non-Persian-looking fez)

"Get yer Chevrolet from Per-SIA!
Mike Persia Chevrolet!"

(C'mon, I know you all remember the tune to this one ... I still remember some girls in my class in 4th grade singing this one over and over, for some strange reason.)

*   *   *

The pelican puppet advertising Pelican Homestead:

"Ooh, Pelican really does fill the bill!"

*   *   *

I don't think the national commercials for Popeye's featured vocals by Dr. John, but we used to enjoy hearing him sing,

"Love dat chicken from Popeye's,
Ya taste buds will be tantalized!

(My friend Rick used to substitute the last line with "It'll give yo' ass a surprise.")

*   *   *

"Step up to the staaars, at Pontchartrain Beach!"

  Monday, May 21, 2001
$57,366!   WOO-HOOOO! KCSN is thrilled to report our best pledge drive ever! I love each and every one of you who pledged to the station. If you listen to the station and didn't pledge ... well, I love you too, but I'd love you more if you did your part and became a member. We might have done gangbusters (well, for us, at least), but we still need all the help we can get. It's never too late, just pop onto the web site and pledge!

My theory.   I was reading this morning's weblog entry from Jonno, and it made me think of A Theory of mine. No doubt he'd subscribe to this Theory himself if he had grown up in the Crescent City, and I wonder if he has a similar Theory about expatriate New Yorkers.

Oh yeah, the Theory. You're probably wondering what it is. Well, here it is. My Theory, this Theory of mine. What is it that it is? Well, this is what it is, this Theory that I have, that is to say, which is mine, is mine. This is it. AAAAHEM! AHHHHHHHHHHEM! The next thing I'm going to say is my Theory. Ready?

My Theory, by C. Taggart. Brackets, Miss, brackets
The Theory goes as follows and begins now.

All expatriate New Orleanians, when encountering one another outside the Crescent City, will sing either the "Seafood City" song or the "Rosenberg's Furniture" song within five (5) minutes of meeting.

That's a much better Theory than Miss A. Elk's theory, because it happens to be true (well, so was hers, but mine's still a better theory). It's never missed for me.

Okay New Orleanians, both at home and abroad ... how many of these songs and jingles do you remember?

(Seafood City ... very pretty ... Seafood City ... very pretty)

Seafood City is-a very pretty
Down at Broad and St. Bernard;
Stay with Al Scramuzza and you'll never be a looza,
Eighteen twenty-six North Broad...

(spoken by Al) "That's Seafood City, 1826 Nawt' Broad! (Waves with daughters)

"Our place is so clean our men come to work in tuxedas!" (Man in hideous powder blue tuxedo with a ruffly shirt, stirring a huge vat of boiled crawfish with a rake)

*   *   *

(young child singing)

Wosenberrrrrg's, Wosenberg's,
Eighteen twenty-nine ... Tuuu-lane.

*   *   *

"Dixie Buick!"

(singing) Where "X" marks the spot ... on the Weeest Bank!

"And Schwegmann's is still next door!

*   *   *

Look on every corner
And what will you see?
A big purple sign that says
Your friendly K&B!

*   *   *

Jingle jangle jingle,
Here comes Mr. Bingle,
With another message from Kris Kringle...

*   *   *

"... French bread baked by the wonderfully stubborn Reising Family ..."

*   *   *

We're Taaaaaastee Donut nuts!
(We are too!) What kind of nut are youuuuuuuuu?

*   *   *

"I'm wild! I'm wild! I'M WIIIIIIIIIIIIIILD!"

"Wild Bill Watson here, for Bill Watson Ford ..."

*   *   *


"Hi, Crazy George here ..."

*   *   *

"Neighbor ... when's the last tahm yew had a nice, hot, steamin' bowl o' Wolf Brand Chili? Hehehe, well, that's too long!"
(This one was southern regional rather than New Orleans local.)

*   *   *

"It's Anna Mae and Rosemary, an' we love dem samwiches at da Time Savuh, dawlin!"

*   *   *

Not to mention other gems of local television ... Hap Glaudi's "Top o' da news", Jimmy Steele raising the cup, Don Westbrook intoning that "portions of the programming broadcast today have been recorded earlier on TV tape; for the finest in television viewing, always stay tuned to WWL-TV, Channel Four."

I have since revised my theory; the time in which we'll potentially start singing the jingles has been lowered to less than a minute. I met a new girl at work who was from New Orleans, and we were introduced just as we were getting into the elevator on our floor. By the time the elevator reached the lobby level, 45 seconds later, we were both singing "Seafood City", and I did NOT put her up to it.

Got any more New Orleans commercials? Email me and let me know.

The End.   Finally my Jazzfest recap comes to an end, over two weeks later. It's a lot to write about, granted. Thanks for sticking with me.

We had been hoping to get to the Fairgrounds early enough to see all of La Bande Feufollet's set, but only managed to catch their last few songs. They're an extremely talented bunch of young Cajuns, all of whom are under 16, playing traditional music and playing it very well. This is no performing monkey, like that poor little six-year-old with the accordion that gets pushed onto the Maury Povich show, these kids are real musicians; several of them are also in French immersion programs as well, speaking the language with fluency.

Next it was off to Economy Hall to see my old high school classmate and bandmate Tim Laughlin, who's now one of the finest jazz/swing clarinetists in the city. If you like New Orleans traditional jazz and swing, and if you love the sound of the clarinet as I do, then hit his website and check him out. His newest record is called "Straight Ahead" (currently gracing my CD player). On the way to hear Tim we'd stopped at Food Area 1 and got a soft-shell crawfish po-boy, one of my favorite things at the Fest. Entire soft-shell crawfish are battered and fried, lined up on a big po-boy loaf, dressed as usual with the addition of battered and deep-fried jalapeño slices ... mmmmmmmm.

Next up for us was Balfa Toujours, whom I'd been eagerly awaiting seeing all week. Traditional Cajun music doesn't get much better than this, and they were just as great as ever. Dirk Powell still blows me away; after establishing a great reputation at a rather young age for playing Appalachian and traditional American music, he met Christine Balfa, apprenticed himself to her father Dewey, learned Cajun music from a master, then married into the family. To hear him sing, particularly his original compositions, you'd never know he wasn't born and raised in Basile.

Then it was off to the Gospel Tent. Michael and Louise had headed over there a little before us to see a gospel group called The Johnson Extension, which they thought was, ah, a rather unusual name for a bunch of gospel singers. We headed over there after the Balfas were finished, and because the Gospel Tent had been running behind schedule we ended up seeing most of their set. As was the case with so many acts in that venue, they were absolutely fantastic, full of energy and joy and great, great singing.

We went to the Lagniappe Stage to catch a little bit of New Orleans R&B piano legend Eddie Bo, then wandered over to stake out a spot at the Sprint stage to catch one of the traditional Fest-ending bands, The Radiators. Fortunately, even though there were 98,000 people there that day, the final acts were all sufficiently big enough (Rads, The Neville Brothers, The Wild Magnolias, C. J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band, Al Jarreau, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Paky Saavedra's Bandido and the Gospel Soul Children) that the crowd seemed almost evenly spread out among all the acts. We caught the rads for a little under an hour, then walked over to the House of Blues stage to finish the Fest with Big Chief Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias, joined by former Magnolia and current Big Chief of the Golden Eagles, Monk Boudreaux, all in their finest Indian regalia (except Bo, who doesn't seem to don Indian gear at hot outdoor festivals much anymore). Not a bad way to end it all.

We headed back to my mom and dad's house for one final dinner this visit. Mom made her excellent crawfish étouffée and a side dish of spinach and artichoke hearts, plus her Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with Custard Sauce. Then back to Marrero to crash for the last night, thanks to the fabulous hospitality of my sister Marie and housemate Shannon (not to mention Lacey and Lyric, their two pomeranians, Minou the cat and their weird, smelly ferret). Fortunately our flight out the next day was in the afternoon, so we had time for one more great meal -- a Hot Smoked Sausage Po-Boy with Chili Gravy, from Domilise's Restaurant and Bar, uptown. Miss Dot Domilise still makes some of the best po-boys in town, and we were full for the rest of the day.

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig ...

  Saturday, May 19, 2001
God, no.   It's been announced that UPN will debut an American version of "Iron Chef", one of my favorite TV shows, next fall. It'll be filmed at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (ugh), and its host, portraying "The Chairman", will be ... William Shatner.

The horror ... the horror.

Last day of Pledge Drive!   Well, for my program, at least.

KCSN will be continuing to raise money all through Sunday, so you have until then to do your part for public radio (specifically, the best and most musically diverse radio station in the city). However, if you want Yours Truly to gather up some brownie points, call us at (818) 677-5276 between 3:00 and 5:00pm today, and tell 'em you like "Down Home".

Explosive and controversial new psychological study.   It's been in the news, and it's big news. Controversy has been flying over the revelation of a new study that suggests that one can change one's sexual orientation -- with proper motivation, heterosexuals can learn to become gay.

The issue has been hotly debated in the scientific community and among religious groups, some of which contend straights can become homosexual through prayer, counseling and shopping therapy.
What a relief. These poor, "objectively disordered" people finally have some hope. For another perspective, see "God's Judgment on Heterosexuality and the Church's Caring Response", by Rev. Tobias S. Haller, BSG.

Quote of the day.   "The scheduled concert at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts this afternoon has been cancelled. It was to have featured Viola de Gamba and her harpsichord."

-- from the arts calendar of the Boston Post

  Friday, May 18, 2001
St. Louis is all right.   A few days ago I linked to a story about a poll of St. Louis residents that showed what seemed to be a disturbingly high number of icky chain restaurants among their favorites, and wrote a little commentary. Now, I've got a few good friends who are from St. Louis, and I never quite got 'round to forwarding this to them for comment and asking them what was up.

Not surprisingly, one of my friends rose to a gentle but firm defense of his fine hometown, as I certainly would have for New Orleans. Barry points out that the article I read left out some important details, that while 14 categories in the poll singled out icky chain restaurants as tops, there were 86 categories in the poll, and plenty of good local joints were represented. The results were still a little disquieting (Starbucks for "Best Coffee"? IHOP for "Best French Toast"? Pizza Hut for "Best Pizza"? Gimme a feckin' break.), although Barry assured me that the situation wasn't nearly as grim as the article portrayed it. "I agree that giant chains shouldn't have won in ANY of those categories," he said, "and every year I'm annoyed when they do -- but it's not as bad as he made it look." You can read the entire Riverfront Times poll for the complete results.

Speaking of New Orleans, local polls have had a few similarly weird results. Year after year, Popeye's Fried Chicken -- a much-beloved local-chain-gone-national -- kept winning the "Best Red Beans and Rice in Town" poll. I do like Popeye's red beans, they're pretty good for a fast food joint, but best in town? You've gotta be kidding me. Buster Holmes would be spinning in his grave if he heard that. (I eat Popeye's red beans out here in L.A. where I love, but by far the best red beans and rice in the city are over at my house.)

So thanks for letting us know, Barry. If I ever manage to make it to St. Louis one day, we've gotta go looking for great local pizza and French toast (although not necessarily in the same meal).

The Second Annual West Band/West End Epicurean Extravaganza!   Our last truly indulgent food-o-rama (although not the last meal) during the trip home for Jazzfest was what I hope will become an ongoing tradition. Our friends Dean and Becky, fine hosts and cooks and lovers of great food, wine and spirits, last year hosted a magnificent dinner for us and several good friends of ours that everyone who was there will remember for the rest of their lives ... everyone except me, that is.

I got sick that day, and didn't even know it until I sat down at their splendid table and all of a sudden began to feel very ill. It hit me like a ton of bricks, and the first disturbing symptom was what I said as soon as Becky started to serve her first course, Grilled Kebabs of Marinated Filet Mignon, cooked to a perfect medium rare and served with a spicy peanut dipping sauce. She put a beautiful kebab on my plate, and I said, "Uh, do you think you could give me a smaller portion? I'm not sure how much I feel like eating tonight." There was silence at the table; it was one of those old E. F. Hutton commercial moments, where everyone just sat there, agape. Becky later said that she knew right then and there that something was wrong.

I barely picked through the next course, West Bank Bouillabaisse, which departed from the classic French version and had more of an Asian feel to it, with the broth having a hint of coconut milk, and it was just packed with seafood -- shrimp, crawfish, calamari, oysters. It was fantastic, marvelous flavor, but you know how you feel when you're getting sick, when even the smell of great food makes you want to barf? That's how I felt.

I barely touched the salad of Creole Tomatoes with a Balsamic Vinaigrette, and when she brought out the spectacular entrée ... I thought I would just die. She had made something that's the signature dish of Ralph Brennan's Red Fish Grill in the French Quarter, but ... her version was a hundred times better than what they serve in the restaurant. Sweet Potato-Crusted Catfish on Sautéed Spinach with Andouille Cream Sauce Here was a dish that was the centerpiece of what everyone said was "one of the four or five best non-restaurant meals I've ever had in my life", something I would have been thrilled to eat, and I knew that if I had so much as one bite I'd drop dead on the spot. I wouldn't be able to eat, not to mention all the dessert wine, Armagnac and 20-year-old tawny Port that Dean had all ready for after dinner (and which I'd been looking forward to for ages). I couldn't remember the last time I'd felt so bad. I went inside and curled up in a ball on the sofa, and was semi- to unconscious the rest of the evening.

Meanwhile, everyone else ate their mind-bogglingly good meal, occasionally coming inside to check on me and make sure I was still breathing (thanks, y'all). Wes, Gawd bless him ... cleaned his plate. "It was the best catfish dish I'd ever had in my life," he said later on. Michael and Louise, although they loved the dish, found the portion size to be a bit daunting; they later said that they ended up bringing enough of it back home to have another entire meal for the both of them the next day. But Wes cleaned his plate. Michael looked at the clean plate, then looked at his plate, then looked through the glass doors at my near-comatose form on the sofa inside. At this point they didn't think I had had anything serious, just that I had eaten too much on the trip and it had finally caught up with me. "The King is dead," Michael declared. "Long live the King."

I don't even really remember Wes driving me back to my sister's house and putting me to bed. Ugh, what a horrible night, in the middle of such a great night for everyone else.

There was no feckin' way I was going to let this happen again.

I boned up on Vitamin C to help stoke my immune system, I tried not to be too much of a pig all week, and we both took pains to avoid that skanky bar in Pirate's Alley where I just KNOW I was infected with whatever it was that kept me flat on my back with horrible nausea, body aches and 102.5°F fever through the entire second weekend of Jazzfest last year. I was two-thirds of the way through my drink at that sleazehole when I noticed the lipstick prints on the rim of the glass that they hadn't bothered to wash off. Feh.

Fortunately, I felt nice and strong for this year's Epicurean Extravaganza, slightly renamed because it didn't take place at Dean and Becky's house in Gretna, but at Dean's mom and stepdad's boat house in West End Park with a lovely view of Lake Pontchartrain, particularly at sunset. (Yeah ... I could get used to such a view and such a place.)

This year I seemed to get off to a nice strong start, going right for champagne and cheese for some nibblers, right out of the gate (I didn't even get that far last year). As we expected, Becky regaled us with another great meal, which began after we had spent lots of time lounging around, imbibing, nibbling, watching the sunset on the balcony and enjoying one another's company. First course was a lovely soup, which Dean called Cream of Leek and Garlic Soup with the Occasional Oyster. That last bit came about when Dean had wanted to add a bunch of oysters to the soup, which caused Becky to wrinkle her brow -- this was not part of the plan! A compromise was struck, though, and some oysters went in, but not too many, hence "the occasional oyster". It was fine with me, though. The soup was thick and creamy and full of the flavor of leek and garlic, and finding the occasional oyster was an occasionally delightful little boost while enjoying the soup.

Second was one of two dishes that were a nod to the fact that it was Cinco de Mayo that day, so we got a Southwestern-tinged dish of Margarita Shrimp Salad with Sweet Corn and Black Beans, served in big margarita glasses. Bright and tangy with lime juice and marinated in triple sec and tequila, saucy and crunchy and I'll eat shrimp just any ol' way, particularly when it's this good. We were marveling at this, and asked Becky how she came up with it. She was nonchalant; "Oh, I just got it out of this magazine," which turned out to be Cuisine Magazine, which I'd never heard of but to which I'll probably be subscribing soon. Lo and behold, their website even had the Margarita Shrimp Salad recipe online, to boot!

The main course was yet another knockout. We were all figuring that what she made last year would be pretty hard to top, but dang ... we were all pretty blown away by this year's entrée too. Roasted Salmon with a Beurre Blanc of Fresh Herbs (made with herbs from Becky's garden) on a bed of White Bean Purée; Sautéed Spinach with Bacon, and a Red Onion Confit (made with onions taken from Peter's garden). Jeezus Gawd.

I love salmon, and one of the best salmon dishes I'd ever had was at my friend Mary Burgess' house in Sligo, Ireland -- just a salmon steak, broiled with a little butter, salt and pepper and nothing else. It was wonderful. Yet salmon has a strong enough flavor that it doesn't get lost when it's in a complex preparation like the one Becky served that night; it's the flavor anchor is a multi-layered sea of other flavors that went together beautifully. The white bean purée, odd as it may sound, was an absolutely perfect foil for that salmon, moderating its flavor in a very surprising way. Spinach and bacon ... well, get out. That's a longtime favorite combination, and the tangy marinated onion confit went really well with everything, adding a nice accent to the flavor of the beans. Wowzers. I scarfed up as much of this as I could and still save room for dessert (ah, but there's always room for dessert, eh lad?).

Dessert also commemorated the day, and was nice and simple after such a complex main course -- Vanilla Bean Flan with Fresh Louisiana Strawberries. We'd been fortunate to have lots of great Louisiana strawberries on this trip, and these were just as yummy as all the others. A nice, creamy flan couldn't have been outdone as a way to end this fine meal.

I'm really looking forward to seeing my friends back home again, and I'm looking forward to the next Epicurean Extravaganza just as much as any restaurant meal anywhere in the state, if not more. Thanks, Dean and Becky!

  Thursday, May 17, 2001
Elizabeth's.   This completely unpretentious, little hole-in-the-wall local joint has become the pride of the Bywater, my family's old neighborhood in New Orleans. Just a room with a bunch of tables in it, open for breakfast and lunch (and brunch on weekends), doesn't look like much at all. You'd wander in, take one look and say "Ehh."

If you walked out without eating, you'd be making a HUGE mistake.

Elizabeth's slogan is "Real food done real good", which perfectly sums up the simplicity of the place but tends to understate the high quality of the food. Not only is the quality high, but the prices are astonishingly low. Where else in town can you get a big plate of Oysters Meunière for $8?

This is without a doubt one of the best neighborhood joints in town, particularly for breakfast and brunch, which is what we went for on Saturday of the second Jazzfest weekend. There are plenty of tasty items on the regular breakfast and lunch menus, but the brunch menu was the one that I had been looking forward to.

First off, I was delighted to see that Elizabeth's offers Creole Rice Calas on their brunch menu. Calas are a classic Creole breakfast dish that sadly has almost disappeared from menus across town. They're sweet rice fritters, made with cooked white rice and a little dough, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, fried until crispy and dusted with powdered sugar. I love calas -- they are crunchier and thanks to the spices have a perkier flavor than beignets, and a really interesting texture from the rice. In days of old you could buy these on the street in the French Quarter, after being attracted by the cries of the Creole women selling them:  "CA-LAAAAAAAS! CA-LAAAAAAAS, TOUT CHAUD!!"

The other thing I couldn't wait to get was their infamous Praline Bacon, which is really tasty bacon dipped in a sweet praline sauce, fried and sprinkled with chopped pecans. I had first heard about this dish from my old high school friend Mitchell Gaudet, who's a glass artist and partner in the excellent Studio Inferno in the Bywater. He'd told me that when this dish was described to him he was initially appalled, but once he got started he couldn't stop. "Man, it was so good," he said, "and every bite was like a knife being stuck into my chest." Well, I won't comment on the health value (or lack thereof) of praline bacon, but rest assured that it's one of the most outrageously good things you'll ever put into your mouth.

Sweet, sticky, smoky, meaty ... if you're skeptical, just try it. You'll be sold. After Mitchell told me about it, I concocted my own version for a brunch I was cooking for last November. Two of the guests told me that the bacon was "better than sex". Indulge yourself.

Wes chose to go for the excellent brunch menu for his main course, which was described simply enough -- Stuffed French Toast with Cream Cheese and Louisiana Strawberries. He was expecting something like regular French toast that had been slit open and a small amount of cream cheese spread inside before cooking. Nuh uh, bra. In New Orleans we don't just make French Toast, we make Pain Perdu, eggier and more custardy and with the fine local French bread, not sliced sandwich bread. What arrived at the table was not at all what he expected. Four enormous pieces of French bread, sliced on the bias (probably nearly a quarter of an entire loaf) and made into pain perdu, stacked like a cross-hatch and piled up in the center with a huge serving of creamy, pinkish cream cheese that had been flavored with strawberries, then deep red sliced Louisiana strawberries on top. Holy bejeebies.

It was outrageous, fantastic. And again, ridiculously inexpensive, only $8. A truly eye-popping dish, even more so because Wes ... that's "The King is Dead, Long Live the King" Wes ... didn't finish what was on his plate. The boy who never let a plate go back to the kitchen unless it was clean, as if it were a personal insult to the chef, who never finds portion size to be the least bit daunting, for whom fine dining and cleaning his plate is an art form, didn't finish his French toast. This truly tells us how big the portions are there.

Not to be outdone, I suppose, I ordered something that I figured would be big as well; just how big I didn't realize at the time. Opting to go off the daily brunch menu, I went for a regular menu item -- the Loula May Breakfast Po-boy, which struck me as the counterpart of something enjoyed throughout Los Angeles. The breakfast burrito contains eggs, either chorizo or bacon, and any number of other filligns (rice, beans, salsa, guacamole, etc.) wrapped up in a big tortilla. The breakfast po-boy contained eggs, half-scrambled half-fried with lots of cheese, grilled hot smoked sausage, and was dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise and pickles, on standard local po-boy bread (crispy on the outside, light on the inside). My eyes popped out a little when it was put in front of me, because it was about the size of a rolled-up Sunday Times-PIcayune. There must have been almost half a dozen eggs on that sandwich, huge gobs of melted cheese, and an big link of hot smoke that had been split down the middle. Gawd sakes. I wanted to finish this too, but couldn't. Still, it was fantastic.

Michael and Louise both got Will's Smothered Potatoes -- lots of potatoes, smoked sausage, peppers, onions and tomatoes smothered in lots of gravy topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. It looked good, but they said it wasn't quite as successful as our dishes, or as all the dishes they had had there in the past.

Elizabeth's is also well-known for their po-boys (especially the roast beef), hand-cut French fries and another famous brunch dish -- Eggs Elizabeth, another Gargantuan serving of grilled ham, poached eggs and hollandaise served atop two or three huge slices of grilled French bread. Ooh, yeah baby.

Visit them down in the Bywater, right by the levee, on the corner of Chartres and Gallier. It's really good food, done really well (sorry, the English minor in me can't help but futz with their slogan!).

Getting burned.   As wonderful as many aspects of Louisiana culture are, there are other aspects that stink to high heaven. Political corruption and cronyism, for one; attitudes like those of the music club in Basile who wouldn't let Balfa Toujours play there if they let Geno Delafose join them onstage, because he's black. Then there's the plight of the gay kid in a Catholic high school, feeling like he's living in the Middle Ages (or in a cave full of Neanderthals).

Casey Creel, a senior at a Catholic high school somehwere in the state, writes of his daily hassles and infuriations, telling us that "I'm the gay kid whom the Christian Coalition wants your straight kid to be able to harass at school ... the guy that the Christian Coalition, and probably a healthy portion of my classmates, believe would be unfairly protected by a bullying law. I am the guy whom their consciences demand that they belittle and deride."

Quote of the day.   "The idea that Bill Gates has appeared like a knight in shining armour to lead all customers out of a mire of technological chaos neatly ignores the fact that it was he who, by peddling second-rate technology, led them into it in the first place.

-- Douglas Adams, on Windows 95

  Wednesday, May 16, 2001
Café Giovanni.   I had been looking forward to dining here for quite a while, and on Friday of the second Jazzfest weekend, we went.

Chef Duke LoCicero has been winning culinary competitions for ages, and was named as Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation New Orleans Chapter for the year 2000, and I was eager to dig in.

Unfortunately, the restaurant got off to a bad start. The bartender was "out of Pernod", and therefore couldn't make a Sazerac. (Uh, babe ... in New Orleans we use Herbsaint, not Pernod, and nobody should ever be out of it.) No matter, I ordered a Maker's Mark Old Fashioned ... and it came diluted with half water. I sent it back, "no water, please ... just whisky, sugar, bitters and muddled fruit." As you may have gathered from some of my previous writing, I'm very particular about my cocktails.

I'm also a little particular about wait staff when I'm in a top notch restaurant, and our waiter was pretty clueless (he must have been new). Now, I know that everybody's new at some point and everybody needs to get experience; I just wish they'd get their experience when somebody other than me is dining that night.

Another lil' problem I had with the restaurant was a "feature" of the night we chose to dine there. Café Giovanni has opera singing waiters on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, and this particular evening they were joined by a soprano ... no, not Livia or Carmela, but an operatic soprano. We were seated in the front room by the bar, and the singers were in the main dinign room, grazie il Dio. I swear, I thought that soprano was going to shatter my wine glass. I'm sure there are some people who enjoy that sort of thing in a restaurant, but when I have difficulty hearing my friends' attempts to converse, and when I have to lean over and shout to be heard over the opera singers, I can really do without that. I can only imagine how bad it was in the other room.

Fortunately, things started to look up when the food began to arrive. I was trying to take it fairly easy, given the vast quantities of food I'd been eating over the last several days. However, one particular dish on the list of appetizers made my eyes bug out. A foie gras appetizer? For  ten bucks?!? I figured it'd be the size of a postage stamp for that price, but what the hell. (Last time I'd ordered foie gras was at Jean-Louis Palladin's Napa in Las Vegas; it was an enormous portion, but it cost thirty feckin' bucks ... for an appetizer.)

Okay, here's the deal ... Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras (the finest in the country), served with Italian crescenza cheese (a fresh, soft, buttery cow's milk cheese), panettone pain perdu (oh God ... French toast made from panettone, Italian Christmas cake?!?), topped with a Johannisberg Riesling, mango and vanilla bean reduction sauce. As I predicted, it was a pretty tiny portion, but ... sweet Jesus Christ almighty, it was one of the best things I've ever put into my mouth. That combination of flavors was OUTRAGEOUS, and I think it may have been the best foie gras preparation I've ever had in my entire life.

The sous chef came out and asked how we were doing, and I gushed about this dish, although mildly complained that it was so small; "I'd have easily eaten a portion twice this size and paid extra," I said. "Well hey," said the sous chef, "feel free to order two next time!" Uh ... okay.  :-)  In a way, though, I'm glad they keep both the portion and the price small for this incredible dish. Foie gras is very rich and can be very filling (I was nearly done in by the triple foie gras prepartion at Spago Beverly Hills a couple of years ago), and this is a way for someone to taste something wonderful before their meal and still want to eat their meal, not to mention having some money left at the end of the night.

Michael had the Oysters Giovanni, which our friend Dean had recommended as his favorite appetizer there (and it's Chef Duke's signature). Lightly fried Louisiana oysters were served on a painted stained glass of three different sauces. I didn't catch what the sauces were, but Michael said they were all mighty good. Louise had ... um, a salad, I think (I was woozy from my appetizer, and kinda forgot), and Wes showed remarkable restraint and didn't order anything for a starter. He did want a bite of my foie gras; I was nice and gave him one.

I kinda wanted to take it a little easy with my entré too, and decided to go for pasta rather than one of the big dishes. Chef Duke's renowned for his pasta, so that seemed the thing to try starting off. I opted for the Duck and Rabbit Ragout over Pappardelle (woohoo, duck season and wabbit season in the same dish!). The ragout was rich and dark, with a deep flavor and plenty of meat, although sometimes I wondered if the rabbit was getting lost in all the powerful flavors of the duck. Fortunately there were fairly large pieces of rabbit meat, so I was happy. The pappardelle tasted nice and fresh, and the dish was well-seasoned. Wes got Pasta Gambino, which is another of Chef Duke's signature dishes -- penne with sautéed rock shrimp, fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil and sun-dried Tomatoes and herbed peppers in a cheese and cream sauce. He enjoyed it, but said it didn't really seem all that special (he's partial to Irene's, of course, which is a tough act to follow).

I'm blanking on what Michael and Louise got; I'll have to edit this entry later, most likely. Most everybody passed on dessert, but I decided to go for something small (although rich) -- Panna cotta with slivered almonds and vanilla bean. It was actually fairly light, and the almond-vanilla flavor was very nice. 'Twas a perfect way to end the meal.

I enjoyed my meal very much, but Wes said that of all the places in which we'd dined in New Orleans this time, Café Giovanni was his least favorite. He was considering the entire experience, from the bad drinks to the bumbling waiter to the shrill opera singer. I think I had better luck with the dishes I chose, and while I had a problem with the service-oriented things mentioned before, Chef Duke's food is definitely the star here. I would go back again ... but only on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday.

RealPlayer 8 Basic sucks big fuckin' big elephant--   Okay, I guess there's really no need for me to be as obscene as Joe Pesci's character in "Raging Bull" ... at least not in public.

I've begin listening to WWOZ with a vengeance recently, getting up every morning around 7:30 so that I can hear most of the Traditional Jazz programming in the morning, and a bit of the New Orleans Music show before I go to work. WWOZ streams using RealAudio, fixed at a 28.8K streaming speed, and of course I'm stuck using using the bloated RealPlayer software to hear them. The sound quality is still awful (although it'd be better of 'OZ would stream at more broadband-capable speeds), and I've never had so many computer crashes as I've had since I started running that player every day. I can't remember the last time I've seen the Macintosh "bomb" screen, but using RealPlayer I see it almost every day.

It might help if I had a G4; then again, it might not. I learned that RealPlayer is incompatible with WordPerfect, and it crashes if you try to run them together. It slows my entire system down and regularly shuts it down completely, something QuickTime never does when I'm streaming MP3 format.

Let's all start sending WWOZ extra money so that they can upgrade their audio stream, and so that we don't have to use Real's bloated products anymore.

  Tuesday, May 15, 2001
The twenty-fifth hour!   I was appalled after the long-running science fiction related radio program "Mike Hodel's Hour 25" got dumped from KPFK at the same time as the Larmans' "FolkScene", and it was yet another nail in the coffin of my desire ever to support that radio station again. I knew that the Larmans had found other radio homes, care of KPIG and their Net broadcasts, but never followed up on what happened to Hour 25.

Silly me, I should have known. I got an email from Warren James, the host of the show, letting me know what's been going on. Of course, "Hour 25" has a website, and their show has been available exclusively online ever since KPFK stupidly dumped it from local airwaves. Warren says that "'Hour 25' on the 'net is everything that it was before and now it is being heard all over the world. We currently have more listeners on the 'net than we ever had at KPFK."

Wow, wow and wow. I love the net. And of course, you can now listen on demand, whenever you like. I'm gonna get busy catching up on what I've missed, and I'm really looking forward to what's coming up in the next several months, like appearances from Larry Niven, William F. Nolan and Neil Gaiman.

Long live "Hour 25"!

"Broo-SKET-ta", per favore.   I had meant to include this little mini-rant with my review of Irene's Cuisine in New Orleans earlier, but I got distracted and forgot to append it to the end of the review. I'll put it in its proper context in the earlier entry, but I'll also reproduce it here. God forbid anyone should miss a rant.

How about some complimentary bruschetta? It's an Italian dish of hot or warm grilled bread topped with anything you can think of, but traditionally is rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil (at Irene's it was topped with fresh Roma tomato, basil and a little Parmagiano). It's pronounced <broo-SKET-ta>, from the Italian word bruscare,, meaning to roast over open coals. It is not pronounced <brush-SHET-ta>. It drives me bonkers to go into an Italian restaurant and hear the wait staff mispronounce this word using that latter pronunciation. It's wrong. It's just as wrong as mispronouncing "ravioli", "spaghetti", "pizza" or "risotto". Those are all Italian words too, and if we can learn pronounce those properly then we can learn to pronounce "bruschetta". Grazie.

  Monday, May 14, 2001
One down, one to go.   We kicked major butt on "Down Home" during the Spring 2001 KCSN Pledge Drive, raising just shy of $1,000 (which is a pretty hefty amount for us). Thanks a million to everyone who pledged!

It's not over yet, though. You still have your opportunity to support the best and most musically diverse public radio station in Los Angeles (and maybe in your town too, if your public radio scene isn't all that exciting where you happen to live). You can pledge online at our web site, as well as listening ot our live audio stream. If you're a fan of my shift, make sure you mention "Down Home" as your favorite (I get brownie points). Or just tune in next week from 3:00 - 5:00pm California time and call us! (818) 677-KCSN, (818) 677-5276. Show me the money!

American music at its best.   Tim Eriksen, the immensely talented singer and "pan-musicologist" from the group Cordelia's Dad (one of my very favorite bands in the world) has a brand-new (and long-awaited) self-titled solo album out on Appleseed Records, which bandmate Peter Irvine describes as "intensely good".

Some of the songs are new to me, some not; he includes a recording of "A Village Churchyard", which he learned from the singing of Roscoe Holcomb. I heard him sing this in person once, all eight or nine minutes of it, and it made my hair stand on end; I barely took a breath all that time. Tim's an astonishing singer.

I still haven't heard it yet, and I can't wait!

Another of the greatest musical experiences of my life involved Tim and Cordelia's Dad (this one surpassed the R.E.M. one, I think, because I was a part of it). In a case of perfect timing, the band were performing here in L.A. on the same weekend as one of the Los Angeles shape-note singers' semimonthly singing gatherings. I invited them to come and sing, and by Gawd they did. Tim was sitting right next to me in the tenors section, and we sang for nearly three and a half hours, until I was hoarse. It was incredible. We normally knock off at 5pm, but kept going until nearly 6:30 because we were having so much fun and didn't want to stop. (Cath finally asked that we finish up, since she needed to preserve her voice for their gig the next day.)

Sitting next to someone who's probably the greatest American traditional singer and singing with him for hours, then having him tell you that you sound good yourself, is something that tends to stick with you for a good long time.

I got to sing with them again in Albuquerque at Folk Alliance a few years ago, and I will never ever miss an opportunity to do it again.

Oh, no.   The Times-Picayune has reported that Chef Emeril Lagasse will be starring in a sitcom for NBC for next season, in which he plays a chef named Emeril, where he will preside over "a fictional family and production crew" in his restaurant. I swear I'm not making this up.

I have the greatest respect for Emeril as a chef (several of the finest meals of my life were eaten in his restaurant), but man, I hope this sitcom thing tanks quickly. Please, Chef, please ... go back to the kitchen where you belong, where your talents truly lie.

  Saturday, May 12, 2001
So long, and thanks for all the books.   All week, ever since I got back from New Orleans, I've been religiously getting up early to listen to WWOZ so that I can wake up to their traditional jazz show instead of NPR, which had been my habit. I've been loving it. Last night though, I was really tired and just flipped the clock radio on, and this morning woke up to NPR as before.

I've gotta quit doing that. All I ever hear is bad news. This morning it was the news that one of my very favorite writers died suddenly, far too young.

Douglas Adams, author of the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series and much much more, died suddenly yesterday, at age 49.

I'm sad for his family and young daughter, and I'm sad for all the rest of us who will be denied what by all rights should have been another twenty or thirty years of great writing. All I can think to do right now is to recite some Vogon poetry. A fetid little passage...

Oh freddled gruntbuggly, thy micturations are to me
As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid bee.
Groop I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes,
And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles,
Or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon,
See if I don't!
Take that, universe.

Pledge drive!   It's fundraising time at KCSN. It's time for our beloved listeners to kick in a little lucre and help keep our station going for another six months.

We're not these big NPR juggernauts with millions of dollars over on the other sides of town, we're the little guys. We really need your help. Pledge online at our website, or call (818) 677-KCSN, (818) 677-5276, and pledge your support for the best public radio station in Los Angeles (and, according to our 11,000 online listeners, one of the best on the net as well). And if you're feeling particularly generous, pledge between 3:00 and 5:00pm California time, which is my humble little shift, and tell 'em you like it. :-)

  Friday, May 11, 2001
Fair Grounds, 5/3/2001   We took it easy on the first day of the second Jazzfest weekend. We sorta had to; we'd been running ourselves ragged food-wise and still hadn't even stayed out late in any clubs. Plus, I was actually still feeling full from the night before at Irene's (what I call a "food hangover").

Believe it or not ... we only ate once the entire day, saving ourselves for dinner. We had the de rigueur Creole's Stuffed Bread, which we accompanied with a couple of sides from the stand operated by Bennachin's, an African restaurant in town. One of my favorite (not to mention healthiest) dishes at the fest when I want to slow down is jama-jama, or spicy sautéed spinach, liberally doused with an incendiary red hot sauce they kindly provide. Along with that were sweet and delicious fried plantains, and these three dishes washed down with a strawberry lemonade was just what we needed.

We sorta took it easy with the music, too; rushing around from stage to stage wasn't on the agenda today.

Kevin Naquin & the Ossun Playboys @ the Fais-Do-do Stage.
This is a talented young Cajun band led by Naquin on accordion, favoring the fast-paced, bass-driven dance band sound initiated by Wayne Toups and then perfected by Steve Riley. Their guitar is electric rather than acoustic, kicking it up another notch (so to speak), but their repertoire is very much traditional. We only caught a little of their set, but enjoyed what we heard.

Geno Delafose, Christine Balfa & Ann Savoy @ the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage.
This stage was recently renamed for the late beloved long-time local promoter of New Orleans music and culture Allison Miner. This brief description doesn't do justice to the depth and breadth of her contributions to local music and culture as well as to Jazzfest itself, so do yourself a favor and follow the above link.

I've always loved this stage, although it seems I rarely find enough time to visit it amidst all the other performances around the Fair Grounds (Jazzfest is one of those times I wish I could clone myself). We made sure to be there for this one, though -- an interview with the above artists conducted by music writer Michael Tisserand, about the differences and similarities between Cajun and Creole music. Geno, Christine and Ann also performed about four songs (with Ann on fiddle!), and it was a fascinating look into the relationship between the different styles of French music in southwest Louisiana, plus a look at how far it's come, as well as how far it hasn't. Even now, in the 21st Century, a local club in Basile dis-invited Christine's band Balfa Toujours when the band told them they planned on letting their friend Geno, who is black, sit in with them. Sheesh.

Sonny Landreth @ the House of Blues Stage.
Oh man. This was smokin'! Sonny has always been one of my favorites, but he was in rare form today. Blistering guitar, tight band, simply the best Sonny Landreth show I'd ever seen. I wasn't the only one to think so, since they were invited out for two encores, which almost never happens. If you love great slide guitar, Louisiana swamp-rock and blues, you owe it to yourself to get one or all of Sonny's albums. They're all great, so just pick one.

Lil' Band o' Gold, @ the Sprint PCS Stage
We missed the first half of the set, but from what I heard they had been slowing it down a little too much for some. But by the time we got there they were blazing full speed, and this is a joy to behold. This is a Louisiana swamp-pop supergroup, featuring swamp-pop legend Warren Storm, Cajun musician Steve Riley, and Lafayette guitarist CC Adcock, plus a fine horn section and, for this performance, Sonny Landreth sitting in on guitar and Dave Ranson from Sonny's band on bass as well. A great way to end a Jazzfest day.

Brigtsen's.   Another one of my favorite restaurants in the city is located in a converted house in the Riverbend area of Uptown New Orleans (and is the site of my favorite recent picture of myself), the domain of Chef Frank Brigtsen. I always really enjoy dining there, not just for the food but for the cozy, intimate spaces that the room-by-room structure of the place creates. You only have four or so other tables around you, yet you never feel cramped or that other people are intruding on your conversations.

Even though we had a reservation we had to wait about a half-hour or so for our table, as people were lingering at their tables. No worries, though. We were in no hurry, and that gave us a while to enjoy our Sazeracs (which weren't bad at all). Finally we were seated in the front room and got a look at the menu. First big change I noticed is that it's no longer handwritten by Chef Brigtsen! I had always loved that homey little touch, but I figured it must have taken him forever to do that ever day. Now the menu is typeset by computer, and the chef signs it on the bottom as he did before.

The next thing I noticed, which made my eyes bug out, was a fabulous-looking new menu item: Brigtsen's Seafood Platter. This isn't the type of seafood platter you see at most New Orleans fried seafood restaurants, with absolutely obscene amounts of battered and deep-fried seafood piled on on top of a layer of greasy French fries, all atop several slices of toasted and buttered bread which gleefully soaks up the rest of the grease from the seafood. No no, indeed. The waitress explained that they had sometimes offered this as a special during late spring and summer last year, and it proved so popular with the regulars and visiting diners alike that they added it to the menu permanently. More on that later.

First things first, though. Brigtsen's features many scrumptious-looking appetizers, soups and salads, but I had been looking forward to one in particular since the last time I'd dined here two years ago -- Pannéed Tenderloin of Rabbit on an Andouille-Parmesan Grits Cake with Sautéed Spinach and Creole Mustard Sauce. The last few times I'd had this dish the grits cake was made with tasso ham instead of andouille, and I was looking forward to trying this variation. My only disappointment in the dish as delivered was that the rabbit tenderloin was a fair bit smaller than I was used to. The flavor was as great as ever, but I felt myself wanting more. Given the size of my entrée, it was probably just as well that it was so small.

Wes got a soup that was an off-menu special, but it's one that Chef Brigtsen has been offering regularly since he introduced it a couple of years ago -- Backyard Crawfish Boil Soup. This is an absolutely delightful idea, beautifully executed. It's based on a rich crawfish stock, seasoned with the spices used in crawfish boil seasoning (but with a very light hand), plus fresh corn and thin slices of new potatoes and, of course, plenty of plump crawfish tails. The soup is garnished with a whole boiled crawfish. What a hoot ... I love this dish.

The seafood platter arrives. Let's begin at about 11 o'clock on the plate:

Baked Oysters Fortuna - Oysters baked on the half-shell in a shrimp and crabmeat dressing.

Frank's Baked Oyster - with Italian-herbed bread crumbs and Romano cheese.

Gratin of Crawfish Thermidor - Crawfish tails baked in a small ramekin in a rich Thermidor sauce with sherry and cream (and I could swear I tased some brandy in there too). This was superb; I like crawfish better than I like lobster anyway.

Grilled Louisiana Gulf Fish with Fresh Tomato Creole Sauce and Shrimp - the fish of the day was something called "hake", which I'd never had before. It's mild and sweet, and is apparently almost the same species as Pacific whiting. The topping was seasoned like a Shrimp Creole, but with diced fresh tomatoes for a brighter flavor. This was the largest portion on the plate, and was scrumptious (and probably actually even good for me).

Salmon and dill potato salad - A nicely done potato salad, not unlike what my grandma makes, but in this case seasoned with fresh dill and laced with chunks of roasted salmon. I'd never had anything like this before.

Eggplant Caponata - A little vedge-a-tibble on the side to round things out.

I got all of this. For $24. *boggle*

And of course, there's always room for dessert. We again wisely figured that two desserts would be pushing it, so we split one. After making my recommendations (I love Chef Brigtsen's Banana Bread Pudding with Banana Rum Sauce), I asked Wes to pick one. He surprised me by picking the last one I'd expected:  Peanut Butter Mousse with Homemade Chocolate Cookies. (It reminded him of his momma's peanut butter pie.) It arrived as a huge puffy cloud of mousse, sandwiched in between two irregularly-shaped (and looking really homemade) rich chocolate cookies, and while we're at it why don't we just empty the pastry bag and make more splurts of mousse around the plate. Whoo-hoo ... so light yet so filling. It was great, another really fun dish, and we agreed with the waitress that it's "like a little kid's dessert".

Decision time -- should we try to head over to Rock 'n Bowl to see Geno Delafose, or to one of the other club gigs we'd circled, or should we just waddle back home and go to bed (it was well after midnight by this time). Well, we'd just seen Geno that week (twice), we'd seen the Iguanas the month before in Albuquerque, and our full bellies pushed the "go to sleep" button. *zzzzzz*

What the hell is with St. Louis?   In response to my little screed on prepared and pre-packaged food yesterday, a reader named Mike sent in a couple of interesting links. Seems that readers of the St. Louis Riverfront Times were recently polled as to their opinions of what are the best restaurants in the city. The results are, to me, profoundly disturbing.

Almost entirely across the board, the readers of the RFT chose national chain restaurants -- T.G.I. Friday's, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Red Lobster, and the vile Starbucks. Some might think that poor St. Louis is stuck with crappy local food and the people have to take refuge in the chains. This is most definitely not the case, as St. Louis has a plethora of great local restaurants. So what's got the people there so completely brainwashed?

Corporate marketing, of course. We can't blame the people of St. Louis, as if they're the only people suckered in by this kind of thing (although we're using them as an example today); this insidious attitude has invaded our nation from coast-to-coast.

Everywhere you go good regional food (and other mom and pop businesses as well) is being supplanted by the corporate megalith of advertising and overdevelopment, the result being the homogenization of food and what remains of culture nationwide. It even trickles into the bayous and prairies of French Louisiana, where more and more often locals, as Marc Savoy put it, "favor a tasteless American hamburger or hot dog instead of a rich, hot bowl of gumbo."

A visitor who picked up a copy of the RFT could understandably conclude that St. Louisans are a bunch of conservative conformists, content to wrap themselves in a cocoon of the familiar because they're too afraid to try something new. A meal from one of the embarrassingly prosaic chains featured in the RFT poll may not be particularly good, but hey, at least you know what to expect.

Of course, such a thumbnail psychological sketch of the average St. Louisan is not entirely fair. The fast-food mindset and the values it embodies are hardly unique to St. Louis. It's now possible for an American to live his entire life without ever patronizing an independent, owner-operated business.

The RFT polls offer the little guy a chance to get some play and compete with giant corporations that spend millions of dollars on aggressive marketing. No one needs to pick up a copy of the RFT to discover McDonald's. The "My McDonald's" advertising campaign would be laughable if it weren't so insidious. McDonald's stores are not so much restaurants as they are distribution centers for chemically-engineered food products.

It's hard to believe that a company that has served billions of customers and become a global titan through strict enforcement of one-size-fits-all industrial standardization would have the gall to claim to be "My McDonald's," as though it has some sort of personal connection with me.

Equally insulting are Applebee's claim to be my "neighborhood grill and bar" and Panera Bread's insistence that its dozens of St. Louis Bread Co. locations are "neighborhood bakery-cafés."

Do yourself and your community a favor. Stay out of the chains whenever you can. You want coffee? Find a local coffeehouse. Dine at independently-owned and -operated restaurants, where the dishes are prepared fresh to order from fresh, local ingredients, not from huge corporate food processing factories where everything is processed and frozen and delivered to the franchise to be delivered to the public.

As I advised a couple of months ago, if you're travelling by car, spend an extra few minutes to find a local restaurant instead of the chains that are clustered around freeway exits. It only took us two minutes to find Mi Sarita in Kingman, Arizona, and it was so good we went back on the return leg of the trip.

Weird search term of the day:   "homosexual laser pointer" landed someone on the October '99 issue of Looka! the other day.

Once again, I'm at a loss to figure out what this person's looking for. Does he want a laser pointer that, like a Ouija board pointer made of coherent light, will point out the Fabulous People in a crowd? Does he want one that shoots a beam that's pink or lavender instead of red or green? Does he think his own laser pointer might be a little bit ... well, you know, like that? (I have a laser pointer. It's never once hit on me, but for that matter I can't tell if it's a girl or a boy. It is kinda phallically-shaped, though...)

Weird email of the day:   From the "Why Me?" Department:

Date: Thu, 10 May 2001 21:36:54 EDT
Subject: Question

How much is 107 cubic inches?
Sam H.

I'm glad you asked me that, Sam. You came to the right guy. I give really good prices on cubic measurements. My rock-bottom sale price for one cubic inch is only $0.27 (based on a linear measurement of $0.03/inch, cubed), so 107 of those puppies will only set you back $28.89. There's no sales tax if you're outside California, and my shipping and handling rates are reasonable.

Send all your weights and measurements questions right here, folks.

  Thursday, May 10, 2001
Irene's Cuisine.   Wes and I are evangelists for Irene. We preach the gospel of Irene. All praise to Irene!

In case you don't know, Irene's Cuisine is a superb Italian-Creole restaurant on the corner of Chartres and St. Philip in the French Quarter, and is one of the best restaurants in the city. No reservations -- you wait in line to get in, and it's the best line-wait in town (I'd even say that I'd wait in this line before I'd wait in the line at the venerable Galatoire's (they put ice in their Sazeracs anyway, ick)). This was our only repeat restaurant visit from last year's trip, and was the one Wes insisted on ("We are going back to Irene's, right?" Oh, yeah you rite.)

We almost didn't make it. We had been visiting our good friends Michael and Louise in the Quarter, had a mighty good beer, fiddled around for too long, and then all of a sudden had to haul ass back to the parking lot to get back to the West Band and pick up my sister Melissa, who was joining us for dinner (she understandably didn't want to park and walk alone in the Quarter at night to meet us). We flew to Marrero, scooped her up, flew back across the bridge to the same parking lot and hauled ass to the restaurant, arriving out of breath at 10:20pm, a whopping ten minutes before they closed the doors. Hardly even exciting.

We still had to wait about a half-hour for a table, so we relaxed in their waiting area, sipped some of the consistenly best Sazeracs in town and nibbled on their outstanding (and complimentary) bruschetta* before being seated. I had had my heart set on the mind-bogglingly good Duck St. Philip, which is roasted crispy over sautéed fresh spinach, with French mustard and herbs, a drizzle of raspberry vinaigrette, garnished with grapes and served with Louisiana wild rice. I had been preparing myself for the magnificence of this dish for entire trip. So, of course, the waiter informed me that they were out of the duck.


I maintained my composure (more or less) but was unable to conceal my disappointment. I forged ahead and ordered an appetizer and then asked the waiter that if he were suffering from my particular dilemma, which other dish would be his next-favorite (preferably a fowl dish). He made his recommendations and I downed the rest of my Sazerac.

The appetizers arrived. Wes and Melissa got the soup, which was as I recall a shrimp and potato bisque. My appetizer was without a doubt one of the best dishes I've had in recent memory, one of the best appetizers in the city and one to rival the fantastic rabbit appetizer at Brigtsen's. It was simply called Panéd Oysters and Grilled Shrimp, a name which belied the complexity and flavors of the dish. From four to eight o'clock on my plate there were three ENORMOUS oysters, breaded with herbed and seasoned bread crumbs and pan-fried, along with two huge grilled shrimp, sitting in a pool of the most delicate beurre blanc I had ever tasted. Above that, from about ten to two o'clock, was a huge salad of fresh, perfect baby spinach leaves, tossed with an intensely flavored raspberry vinaigrette in which I could taste hints of ginger and quite a few other layers of flavor (the waiter said it was based on the same vinaigrette used in the duck dish), then topped with a sprinkle of chopped pecans. To the right at three there were slices of tart Granny Smith apple, and to the left at nine there were several seedless red grapes that had been sprinkled with coarse sugar.

This was magnificent. The oysters were perfect, fried just long enough to get a crispy crust while the insides were still soft and buttery, almost as if they were right out of the half-shell. The vinaigrette from the spinach had trickled down and swirled in with the beurre blanc, creating yet another level of flavor for dipping the shrimp. The apples were just the right counterpart for these flavors, the tartness balancing beautifully with the raspberry vinegar of the dressing, and the grapes and very interesting tiny little crunch of the sugar crystals added a sweetness to mingle in with all that. I'm still dizzy from this dish.

The big problem was that by the time I had finished the appetizer, I was already getting sorta satisfied, and when the waiter delivered my Gargantuan entrée I didn't know what I'd do. Pollo rosmarino, which was five pieces of chicken that had been marinated, cooked halfway, marinated again and then cooked to completion, in a large pool of olive oil-based sauce with tons of fresh rosemary and at least 18 whole cloves of roasted garlic. As if this wasn't enough, it came with a huge side of fettuccine with a tangy fresh tomato sauce and fresh-grated Parmagiano Reggiano. It was one of the most incredible chicken dishes I'd ever had, and I don't usually get chicken in high-end restaurants (do yourself a favor and order the chicken sometimes, particularly when they recommend it).

I finished almost exactly half of it before I hit the brick wall. Oh well, Tom Fitzmorris recommends that if you want to lose weight while eating in restaurants, you should only eat half anyway (although I don't think I'm gonna lose any weight from this trip). I brought the leftovers home to my sister Marie.

Despite our stuffed state, we simply couldn't leave this place without at least a taste of dessert. We wisely decided to split one three ways, and something light at that. Louisiana strawberry sorbet, topped with fresh Louisiana strawberries (which are, of course, the best on the planet). By sheer coincidence, there were three scoops and three spoons, and it was just right.

We didn't run back to the car this time. We waddled.

* -- Can I just rant for a minute about this word? It's an Italian dish of hot or warm grilled bread topped with anything you can think of, but traditionally is rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil. It's pronounced <broo-SKET-ta>, from the Italian word bruscare, meaning to roast over open coals. It is not pronounced <brush-SHET-ta>. It drives me bonkers to go into an Italian restaurant and hear the wait staff mispronounce this word using that latter pronunciation. It's wrong. It's just as wrong as mispronouncing "ravioli", "spaghetti", "pizza" or "risotto". Those are all Italian words too, and if we can learn pronounce those properly then we can learn to pronounce "bruschetta". Thank you.

Prepackaged swill.   Apparently the prepackaged food industry is reaching new lows in trying to satisfy people for whom "not even Minute Rice is quick enough". Pre-cooked, pre-browned, pre-everything "insta-meals", no refrigeration needed, pop it right into your microwave, and "get 'em out of the restaurants and into your grocery stores!"

Each and every one of the products listed in the article looks absolutely vile, not to mention being loaded with sodium and saturated fat. I think I'd be suicidal if I had to live off this kind of crap.

Not fast food. Slow Food. You don't have time to prepare simple dishes from fresh ingredients? Make time. If you don't have time to spend 20-30 minutes preparing a fresh, healthy meal (and that's all it takes, y'all) then you need to re-examine your life.

Not beef tallow, but an incredible simulation.   Back in January, I linked to an article from the Atlantic Monthly that was excerpted from Eric Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation that talked about why McDonald's French fries taste so good. They'd stopped frying them in beef tallow over 10 years ago, and had been frying them in canola oil ever since. How then did they manage to get them to taste like they'd been fried in beef tallow? The answer -- "Natural flavoring", meaning a chemical compound that tastes like beef fat, and can be detected in miniscule amounts of only a few parts per trillion. For hardcore vegans and non-beef eaters who like McDonald's fries, this isn't a good thing ... this "natural" flavoring is initially derived from animal sources.

Turns out that an Indian-born Hindu lawyer who doesn't eat beef for religious reasons has filed a multi-million dollar suit against McDonald's for "secretly lacing the fries with beef fat". Actually, this is not the case -- there's no actual beef fat in the fries, but there is animal-derived product from the beef flavoring, which McDonald's calls "miniscule".

The guy has a point. "Miniscule" don't cut it, particularly if you're avoiding meat and meat products religious, health or any reason. McDonald's have a point too; they counter that they have never stated or claimed that their fries are vegetarian and offer ingredient information to anyone who asks. That said, the ingredient listing "natural flavoring" doesn't disclose that said flavoring may derive from animal sources.

As much as I have to admit that I like McDonald's fries, I'm going to be very curious to see how this all comes out, and I'm hoping this case at least helps make people more aware of this shady "flavoring" industry that puts additives we know nothing about into our food. On the other hand, Jason says that if this suit raises the prices of the fries by so much as one cent (or presumably changes the flavor), he'll "personally seek him out and punish him in the manner he so desperately deserves." Don't hurt him too badly, Jason. Hey, how 'bout I come over and make you some homemade fries from scratch that you might even like better!

  Wednesday, May 9, 2001
Don't worry about Boozoo.   Reese Fuller of has written a tribute to Boozoo Chavis on their site; it includes information on visitation and funeral arrangements, and an area where you can post your thoughts and condolences.

Paul Scott, a zydeco promoter in Opelousas, Louisiana, remembers Boozoo thusly:

[He was] man who liked good times and if you gave him his props, he'd just make the crowd bump. I've seen him before at 1 in the morning and he didn't want to get off the stage. He'd come to the gig dressed neat and ready to play. He would get onto the stage, he looked to his left, he looked to his right, then he would put that head down and he was going to town. He was a freaking ball of dynamite. He was five feet of lightning. He was an original. He was a character. There's never going to be another like him. But we know he enjoyed himself and that's that.
Take off ya drawers, throw 'em in the corner, dance all night. And don't forget, you're gonna look like a monkey when you get old.

Gens de couleur libres.   A wonderful and much-needed new website has joined us:, about Les Gens Libres de Couleur ("Free People of Color"), the black Creoles that formed the backbone of New Orleans society in the 19th Century as well as much of its heart and soul (whether the white Europeans wanted to admit it or not).

Last Tuesday: Estorge House, Pig Stand, Chez Savoy.   We weren't sure how we were going to make it through this day.

Our plans were to hook up with our friend Nancy and her Festival Tours gang, and then our friends Mary and Steve invited us to join them for breakfast once again at the fabulous B&B where they were staying, The Estorge House, in Opelousas about 20 minutes from where we were staying in Eunice. I had been hoping we could do this again, as we'd still been talking about the breakfast that Estorge House co-owner Sherl Picchioni had made for us last year.

We were not disappointed. In fact, I think it was even better -- Fresh fruit salad, Crabmeat and spinach quiche, Home-fried potatoes, fresh-baked biscuits with Steen's Louisiana cane syrup, strong coffee and chicory with real cream.

Oh my.

We stuffed ourselves like pigs. Well, very polite, refined pigs with impeccable table manners, but squealing oinkers nonetheless. In the setting of the back room of that beautiful antebellum home, looking out on the expansive grounds, relaxing over a great breakfast ... well y'all, it don't get too much betta den dat. Unfortunately we missed seeing Judith Estorge, the other owner and innkeeper, but we reveled in Sherl's enveloping hospitality. We'll be back.

The big problem with this was ... we still wanted to eat at The Pig Stand in Ville Platte for lunch that day. And lunch was less than three house. And we were so stuffed we could barely inhale.

Screw it. Off to Ville Platte we went.

We first stopped at the legendary Floyd's Record Shop, owned by Cajun and swamp-pop music impresario Floyd Soileau, who's been both making and selling records for more years than I'm sure he even cares to count. Floyd was on the premises that day to greet everyone, store manager Mona Ortego baked up a batch of her famous Sad Cake (recipe forthcoming), and live music was provided by Zydeco Joe Mouton, who was doing an in-store performance. My eyes bugged out when I saw the back wall, where they were having a blowout sale on 45rpm singles from Floyd's various labels -- Swallow, Jin, Maison de Soul, et al. Three for a dollar. *boggle* I walked out of there with an armload.

Next we walked down the block to the Pig Stand, which is probably the most authentic Cajun restaurant you'll ever find. There's no blackened anything, nothing fancy, nothing packed with a pound of hot pepper. It's just great food, real food, food that Cajuns eat. We had heard that the folks at the Pig Stand had done a special that day -- their fantastic Roast Duck, with crackly crispy skin, tender rich meat, thick duck gravy and stuffing. With this you get rice dressing (kinda like boudin with no sausage casing), pork 'n beans and potato salad ... all for five bucks. *boggle*boggle* Wes had I had decided that we'd go for it anyway and the heck with how full we are. Even if we split the dish and had five bites each and threw the rest away, it'd still easily be worth the $2.50 we'd each spend.

Problem was ... I had farted around digging through the singles for so long that they had run out of the duck. Oh well, we really didn't need all that food anyway. We split a roast pork sandwich instead, on a long French roll, with a side of deep-fried pickles (Wes was happy that he had finally gotten some). What better place to get roast pork than at a place called The Pig Stand? It was tender and juicy and perfectly seasoned ... mmmmmm, cochon! We still didn't finish.

After lunch we headed back to Eunice, and made a visit to Marc Savoy's music store, the Savoy Music Center, on Highway 190 a few miles east of town. While there we met an older gentleman by the name of Rodney Fontenot, a fiddle player from Chataignier.

Rodney picked up the fiddle at age 10 (back in 1924) and had the good fortune to be living across the road from Dennis McGee, perhaps the greatest Cajun fiddler ever. Dennis knew tunes that have been lost from Cajun music, from the days before the accordion arrived on the scene. Rodney had given up music in 1936, worked in a variety of careers as a coffee salesman, service station owner, owner of Eunice's first taxi service, real estate and training race horses. Sixty years later, Mr. Fontenot took up his fiddle again, and plays Cajun music as it was, including tunes over 100 years old.

There's an album out too, called (oddly enough) "Cajun Fiddle the Way It Was, with Tina Pilione on second fiddle. If you have any interest in truly old-time Cajun music, call the Savoy Music Center at (337) 457-9563. Tell 'em I sent you.

We sat back and listened to Marc explain the history of the accordion in Cajun music and how he and Tina make their "Acadian" brand Cajun accordions (best in the business), and we listened to Marc, Ann, Tina and Raymond play for a while. Right around this time, about 400 pounds of crawfish were about to end their lives in our bellies.

While Nancy and her crowd headed out to the crawfish pond to help bring in the rest of our dinner, Mary, Steve, Wes, our friend Diana and I decided to set out on our own. A local gentleman named Aubrey, who was a friend of Mary and Steve's as well as the Savoys, had passed away last year, and Mary wanted to pay her respects and bring him some flowers. He's buried in a tiny cemetery out on the prairie, near the back end of the Savoys' expansive property outside Eunice. She had gotten the directions, so on the way to the Savoys for the crawfish boil we took a tiny road off the secondary road and proceeded in a cloud of dust from the gravel road.

As we reached the first 90° turn, we passed a small isolated house on the right side of the road. In front of the house there were two beautiful white dogs who barked a greeting; one of them then got up and started running alongside the cars. Before long, she took the lead ... and led us right to the entrance to the cemetery. It was as if she was saying, "Hey y'all! You going to the cemetery? Follow me!"

The graveyard was tiny, and beautiful. The Savoys' family going back several generations were there, and we went to visit some of the other graves while Mary gave Aubrey his flowers and fussed at him for dying before we were ready to have him go. With White Dog hanging out with us, we saw old headstones in French, others too weathered to even read, and our hearts sank when reading the headstones of the Young family, who over a hundred years ago had lost four children within the space of ten years.

When we were finished, we got back in the cars, and White Dog again joyfully led us out, yelping all the while. Just as I predicted, as soon as we got back to her house she stopped in the front yard and sat, watching us send up clouds of dust as we receded down the tiny back road toward the highway.

We arrived back at the Savoys' a little bit before Nancy's bus got there, cracked a couple of beers, and began to relax. We chatted with some of the local folks who were there helping out, and to my extreme pleasure chatted with D. L. Menard, who was in attendance that day. D. L., if you don't know already, is the great Cajun singer, songwriter and guitarist, a living legend, and who some call "The Cajun Hank Williams". He's the nicest guy in the world, and as he very sadly lost his wife a few weeks ago, were were really glad to see him out and about.

The Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band (Mark, his wife Ann and Michael Doucet dit BeauSoleil) set up and played in the backyard, accompanied at various times by Tina Pilione and D. L., while we ate crawfish along with spicy boiled corn and potatoes, plus Todd Ortego's monumentally good barbecued chicken while slathering extra Jack Miller's Barbecue Sauce on white bread, which is so good it's almost like dessert ... until we were full.

At one point the skies opened and it began to pour down rain -- lots of folks ran to the barn to keep dry. Wes and I, Mary and Steve, our friend Sarah Savoy and her boyfriend plus a few others stood there in the rain, getting soaked and not missing a beat while peeling and eating. Screw the rain, there were crawfish to eat.

Eventually even the diehards gave up and sought refuge in the barn, and by that time everyone had moved the ice chests full of hundreds of pounds of hot, spicy crawfish in there as well. The musicians set up again (joined later by the Savoys' son Joel, a fine fiddle player), we all ate, the dancers danced ... it was rather cozy, with all the guests packed into the barn.

Y'know ... it doesn't get much better than this either.

If you'd like to join us one year in Acadiana during Jazzfest midweek, visit zydeco musician Geno Delafose's ranch for a barbecue and zydeco jam session, visit the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center (part of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in Eunice), visit Marc's music store and learn about accordions, go crawfishing, and enjoy what's possibly the best crawfish boil on the planet ... visit Festival Tours' web site, then give Nancy a call or drop her an email.

  Tuesday, May 8, 2001
Home again, home again, jiggity-jig.   We had a blast, I'm exhausted, I didn't particularly want to go to work today, my pants are a little tight. Yet another fun and successful trip home.

It's hard to pick out highlights, as there were so many. Every meal was top-notch, and although once again we pooped out every night and went to bed at 12:30-1:00am instead of heading to clubs to hear music, we had a great time. And to cap it all off, we finally got together with Jonno and Richard while there, basked in their fabulosity and quaffed some good (and not-so-good) drinks.

Just about every day at the Fest was perfect, weather-wise as well as food- and music-wise. Even though attendance records were supposedly broken on the second Sunday, it wasn't all that evident. Most of the extra Teeming Masses who swell the Jazzfest ranks and break attendance records tend to be the crowds that flock to the enormo-stage sponsored by that car company to see people like Dave Matthews, Widespread Panic and Sting (and I avoid those like the veritable plague). Me, I'd rather be at the Lagniappe Stage seeing Henry Butler or Eddie Bo.

It's time for a little moderation now. I'm thinking of an Odwalla juice and protein thing for lunch today. Sigh.

Liuzza's.   Since the pace at which I drive myself when home for the Fest doesn't really allow much time for weblogging, I've got lots of catching up to do. Let's start with a week ago Saturday.

As soon as the Fest was over, Wes and I zoomed out to Mid-City for a long-awaited meal at what I think is one of the two best neighborhood restaurants in the city -- Liuzza's, a superb little Creole-Italian place on Bienville and Telemachus. We got there early enough such that we got our table almost as soon as our giant fishbowl-sized schooners of Abita Amber arrived. The hostess sat us down and handed us menus, then went off to seat somebody else. Not one minute later she came back, reached down and closed Wes' menu and said, "Oh baaybee ... the #1 special. Definitely. The #2 is great too, but oh, the #1..." Well. I guess she told us. My rule of thumb is to generally do what you're told in circumstances like this, and Wes did as he was told.

First though, there were appetizers. We were torn between the legendary battered and deep-fried dill pickles (which I had been talking up to Wes since last year) or their equally legendary loaf of onion rings. We wisely figured that ordering both would be a bit too much, so we ended up agreeing on the onion rings. They were crisp and sweet and the serving was HUGE. They're just about the best onion rings anywhere.

Soups. There were two daily soup specials. We got 'em both. I got the Oysters Rockefeller Bisque, a soup version of the classic dish created at Antoine's over 100 years ago. It was puréed, with no whole oysters but great oyster flavor, and chopped bits of fresh spinach throughout. Creamy and layered with flavor. A superb dish. Wes got the Corn and Crawfish Chowder, which was chunkier, with crunchy fresh corn and tender Louisiana crawfish tails, also in a cream base and a little spicier than the oyster soup. Also superb.

Then, the #1 Special arrived ... Seafood Lasagna, consisting of shrimp, crabmeat and crawfish tails layered between lasagna noodles with fresh spinach, three cheeses and an Italian white sauce. Madonn'. Rich, rich, rich. Monstrously filling. Absolutely delicious. She was right. Remember to always do what you're told by the hostess at Liuzza's.

I got the Galboroni Pasta, an old favorite of mine. At first glance it looks like spaghetti and red gravy; however, Liuzza's is old-school Italian-American, and cooks their red gravy for hours. It achieved a depth, complexity and richness of flavor that a quick-cooked marinara sauce just doesn't get. Mixed with the delicious red gravy were strips of pepperoni, and the dish is finished with three huge stuffed artichoke hearts. The hearts are stuffed with the same stuffing used for their full-sized stuffed artichokes -- Italian bread crumbs, tons of extra-virgin olive oil, Romano cheese and a distinct hint of anchovy. Those stuffed artichoke hearts take this dish from the level of merely an excellent spaghetti and red gravy and elevate it to A Great Dish. Get this at Liuzza's if you like pasta.

To top it all off, after all this food ... as we were walking to the car, Wes said, with a touch of disappointment in his voice, "I still never got to try those fried pickles." D'oh!

Uglesich's.   During Jazzfest is perhaps the worst possible time to go to Uglesich's. Unfortunately, I tend to come home during Jazzfest and don't have time to go there during Christmas (which is also busier than usual). Consequently, we waited in line for one hour and ten minutes just to get up to the counter and order. Fortunately, though, it was worth the wait.

The thing to do at Uglesich's is to get a bunch of appetizers (at least 1.5 per person) and split them all. We got the fried oyster salad with blue cheese vinaigrette, grilled shrimp with marinated red onions served on slices of pan-fried French bread, and artichoke bottoms stuffed with crabmeat. I was disappointed that they were out of the Firecracker Shrimp, which is six huge shrimp in a spicy barbecue and horseradish cream sauce. Well, I guess we had enough.

My entrée was Angry Shrimp, which was grilled shrimp in olive oil that's laced with spicy Chinese chili-garlic paste with red, yellow and green bell peppers served over rice. Very good, and one that Anthony Uglesich usually recommends. Wes got Voodoo Shrimp, which was a spicier, Asian-influenced dish with soy sauce, chili paste and lots of ginger and garlic, served over fettuccine. Wow. I wish I had gotten this one, as much as I enjoyed my Angry Shrimp.

Including wait time, we spent two hours and forty-five minutes at Uglesich's for lunch on Monday of last week. Time well spent, if you ask me.

  Monday, May 7, 2001
Nuh uh.   "Ain't no diff'rent den any udda day..."

  Sunday, May 6, 2001  ::  Jazzfest, Day 10
A very, very bad week for Creole and Cajun music.   I'm sorry to have lots of very bad news to report.

Wilson "Boozoo" Chavis, the last of the old-time zydeco greats, passed away yesterday morning. Boozoo's last performace was last Saturday at the Austin Swamp Romp, and he suffered a heart attack followed by a stroke in his hotel room that night. He was 70 years old. His son Poncho took over for him on accordion this weekend at the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival after Ms. Leona, Boozoo's wife of 50 years, said he wouldn't have wanted the band to miss a gig. The Magic Sounds will also be playing tonight at Mid-City Lanes Rock 'n Bowl.

The great Creole accordionist Danny Poullard died on Friday, April 27 of a massive heart attack. He had been living in Northern California for many years, and for 20 years had been playing in the California Cajun Orchestra. Records had just released a new CD of traditional music on which Danny was featured, entitled "Poullard, Poullard and Garnier".

Also, legendary Creole fiddler Joseph "Bébé" Carrière of Lawtell, Louisiana passed away on April 22 at the age of 92. His wonderful, very old-time traditional Creole fiddling was the link between the old music of the black Creoles and the more modern zydeco sound of bands like the Lawtell Playboys, who were influenced by his playing. He is survived by his wife, 7 of his 9 children, 33 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren and 1 great-great-grandchild.

I had the privilege of meeting all these musicians at various times over the years. Boozoo and his son Charles performed live on my radio program during Boozoo's very first trip to Los Angeles in 1991 (they were great). I was the only attendee of an accordion workshop Danny Poullard taught at a Cajun music festival in Oakland, California several years ago, and I got a nearly two-hour private lesson. My favorite story among these three, though, was the time I met Bébé Carrière.

My friend Matt and I were visiting Marc Savoy's music store several years ago, and while we were there an elderly Creole gentleman came into the store carrying a fiddle case. Tina Pilione, who works with Marc, greeted him with a cheery "Hello, Mr. Carrière!", and I realized that it was Bébé. He had brought his fiddle in for repairs, and after Tina took it into the back room he started chatting with Matt and me. "Where y'all from?" he asked. I replied that I was from New Orleans, and his eyes grew wide. "New Orleans?!" he said with some incredulity, and continued, "Mais, I wouldn't live in New Orleans even if I had pleeeeeenty money!" He then let out a delighted cackle that made all the fiddle strings in the room sing with him.

Next Saturday I'll play "Les Blues à Bébé", and "Dog Hill", and a track from Danny's new album, and I'll miss all three of them very much.

Swingin' Tim.   This morning's Times-Picayune profiles my old high school classmate/bandmate Tim Laughlin, a very fine swing/jazz clarinetist. Tim describes his latest album, "Straight Ahead", a collection of originals and standards, as "straight-ahead swing at its very best." I have no doubt it is, and I'll be pickin' it up today.

Da last day.   I hate it when big music festivals (and great vacations) end, but we'll make this day count.

What we'll likely be seeing at da Fair Grounds today:

La Bande Feufollet (a group of obscenely talented young kids playing traditional Cajun music), Tommy Malone (formerly of the subdudes), Placide Adams and the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Allen Toussaint, Balfa Toujours, Fats Domino, the legendary (and absolutely bonkers) Ernie K-Doe with his Blue-Eyed Soul Review, Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers, Earl King and the Butanes, John Mooney and Bluesiana, The Radiators, The Neville Brothers, C. J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

  Saturday, May 5, 2001  ::  Jazzfest, Day 9
Takin' a day off.   Years ago I quit going to Jazzfest on the second Saturday. Sure, I miss a few great acts, but the second Saturday is always the most horrendously crowded day of all 7 Fest days, and the one that breaks attendance records every year. I frankly don't care to fight through huge crowds, wait a half-hour to get anything to eat and even longer to go to the bathroom.

I'm still way behind on writing about the various restaurants we've been to (Palace Café and Café Giovanni yesterday), and I guess I've officially given up until I get back. Oh well.

Today we'll have a nice brunch at Elizabeth's down in the old neighborhood of Bywater, spend some time antiquing along Magazine Street, and tonight a long-anticipated dinner at the home of our friends Becky and Dean. The spread they put on last year (with Becky in the kitchen and Dean doling out the wines, Armagnacs and 20-year-old tawny port) was mind-boggling. Unfortunately, at the beginning of that dinner I started feeling very ill, ended up curling up into a ball on their sofa while everybody ate, was driven back to my sister's by Wes since I was in a semiconscious daze, and spent the next two days in bed with a high fever, missing the last two days of the Fest. This shall not happen again.

  Friday, May 4, 2001  ::  Jazzfest, Day 8
Another relaxing day in town.   Still no time to do a decent update, ugh. Someone needs to invent a way for me to call in and dictate weblog entries on the fly.

Lunch at the Palace Café on Canal, dinner at Café Giovanni in the Quarter (best Italian in town, some say, but it'd have to be damned good to be better than Irene's). We'll wander around some more galleries and antique shops (which can be dangerous; if we had had about $4500 the other day we'd have spent it in just two galleries).

Everything you always wanted to know about fish heads.   OffBeat magazine, among many hours' worth of reading this month in their always-great Jazzfest issue, features a profile and history of New Orleans' beloved band The Radiators, in an extended version that's longer than what's in the print version. If you don't know about them, see what's been keeping us dancing since 1978.

Fess time.   And while you're at it, read Jeff Hannusch's profile of the "Bach of rock", the great New Orleans piano professor Henry Roeland Byrd, better known as Professor Longhair, who Hannusch unfortunately describes as "the second most popular Northshore-born performer (Britney Spears being the first) in modern history."

  Thursday, May 3, 2001  ::  Jazzfest, Day 7
Eek ... saturation point.   I've reached it. Food hangover. The point where I really have no desire to eat anything just now, or for the foreseeable future (well, at least until dinner). I'm days behind in writing my food porn, and we're off to Brigtsen's for dindins tonight. Not to worry, I'll keep good notes.

Today at the Fair Grounds.   Thursday's usually a pretty good day to go to Jazzfest. It's generally considered to be a locals' day, since most of the tourists who only come in for the second weekend are only just getting in today, and the tourists who only come in for the first weekend are already gone. Today's the day you see lots of school kids on field trips to the Fest, too (but did my stinking elementary school ever do this? No!).

The menu looks tasty today:

Plenty of great Cajun and zydeco today, with T-Mamou, Kevin Naquin & the Ossun Playboys, the Filé Cajun Band, Charivari, The Magnolia Sisters and Geno Delafose and French Rockin' Boogie. The great Sonny Landreth is performing, as are the swamp-pop supergroup Lil' Band o' Gold. One of my old faves since high school, lovely soulful Leigh "Lil' Queenie" Harris,. I'm interested in a traditional jazz band from the Czech Republic called J. J. Jazzmen, as well as Clive Wilson's Satchmo Serenade, with special guest Butch Thompson. I will be copiously avoiding the so-called Acura stage at the end of the Fair Grounds when Widespread Panic finish up the day (but at least the crowd won't be as bad as the Phish crowd, who came to Jazzfest just to see them, then stayed in town, mostly in the Quarter, and panhandled for eight months).

  Wednesday, May 2, 2001  ::  Jazzfest, Day 6
*zzzzz*   The breakfast, lunch and crawfish boil were fabulous beyond words. I must write about them later, as it's very late and I need to go to bed. G'night.

  Tuesday, May 1, 2001  ::  Jazzfest, Day 5
Will we have enough room?   Okay, so ... the plan is to go have breakfast with Steve and Mary at the Estorge House Bed and Breakfast in Opelousas, where the fabulous Judith and Sherl pamper you to death, and serve magnificent breakfasts.

Then we're supposed to head to The Pig Stand in Ville Platte for lunch, which is a place where, as one review put it, "old Cajun men dressed in belted jumpsuits tell you half-English, half-French jokes while you eat your pork ribs and turtle sauce piquant." The food is great, incredibly cheap and comes in HUGE quantities. Last year when we went to the Pig Stand even Wes was nearly done in -- when he ordered what was going to be his Gargantuan portion of smothered sausage, and saw the side dishes of potato salad, corn, baked beans and rice dressing (like boudin outside the casing), he asked which one he got and the lady said, "Honey, you get all of 'em!" Holy bejeebies. I barely finished half of what they served me, and I was hungry!

Then tonight we're going to go over to the Savoys, listen to Cajun music, drink beer and eat nothing but crawfish until we're full. Bliss.

  Monday, April 30, 2001  ::  Jazzfest, Day 4
Time to relax a bit.   Sleep late, have a nice, leisurely day in the city, head ot Uglesich's for lunch, and tonight we'll drive to Eunice for the barbecue at Geno Delafose's place. I have no doubt that DJ and grillmeister extraordinaire Todd Ortego will be there handling the barbecueing of the pigs and chickens (and he makes the best barbecued chicken I have ever had in my entire life), which makes me happy. The inevitable jam sessions ain't gonna hurt, either.

We stayed out too late last night, so no time for a big update this morning, sorry. Time's a-wastin'!

  Sunday, April 29, 2001  ::  Jazzfest, Day 3
Today's Jazzfest highlights.   In my humble opinion, at least. Print out da schedule for today and make ya own mind up, but here's what I'll most likely be seeing:

The Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, John Boutté, Bob French & the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band, Miss Irma Thomas, Dr. John, Snooks Eaglin, Wendell Brunious, Henry Butler, The Iguanas, Marcia Ball, ReBirth Brass Band, the Armstrong Alumni All-Stars, and maybe the last five or ten minutes of Van Morrison.

Yesterday's recap.   Pretty darn good first day of fest. The only bad thing was that they had completely sold out of the posters on the first day, with nothing left but the frightfully expensive signed ones. I think it's ridiculous that they sell so many online that there are none left for 6/7 of the people who come to the fest, so I think they need to seriously curtail those online sales (probably all going to people who didn't even go, or to people who want to gouge prices on eBay).

Food recap:

Creole's Stuffed Bread. Natch.

Strawberry lemonade. My favorite thing to drink at the fest after good ol' unsweetened Luzianne iced tea.

Alligator sausage po-boy with Creole gravy. Another old favorite; plump alligator-pork sausage and a very spicy red gravy (but not too spicy).

Mango freeze. Perfect in the blazing sun, and another good way to support WWOZ-FM with your proceeds.

Smoked boudin and fried boudin balls. I'd never had smoked boudin before, and the flavor was terrific. Boudin balls is an old favorite, just boudin out of the casing, rolled into balls, breaded and fried. I placed my order at the tent, and the guy yelled back, "SMOKED, WITH BALLS!"

I had had a couple of out-of-town girls stop me a few years ago and ask me "what's boo-dinn balls?" I gently corrected their pronunciation, showed them mine, and said that they were "the breaded and deep-fried testicles of the wild freshwater boudin." Their eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. I said, "Just kidding!" and told them what they really were, but I think they were still put off.

Fried blueberry pie from Elizabeth's in Bywater. I still owe my friend Louise one of these, from when she kindly offered me a bite of one last year, and I instinctively took what my sisters call "a Chuck bite", meaning that I removed one quarter of the pie in a single chomp. Louise was ... not pleased.

Music recap (we did a fair amount of stage-hopping):

SUROÎT, an interesting but strange French-Canadian band that was a cross between Québecois trad music, Celtic music and rock, with touches of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Ashley MacIsaac. They were joined by Cajun trad/bluegrass fiddler Hadley J. Castille, but we left before Hadley started playing much.

DON VAPPIE AND THE CREOLE JAZZ SERENADERS -- Don's one of my favorite jazz musicians, even reaching back to when lots of traditional jazz was sung in Creole French. He regaled us with originals, King Oliver tunes from the '20s, and a virtuoso banjo piece by a '20s banjoist and composer named Henry Reaser. Wonderful stuff.

LITTLE JIMMY SCOTT -- At age 75, he's still going strong, and still has one of the most beautiful voices in jazz. The WWOZ Jazz tent was packed, which I was glad to see.

FREDY OMAR con su BANDA -- The popular New Orleans-based pan-Latin bandleader pleased a huge crowd at the Fais-Do-Do Stage, doing music from all over Central and South America. He's got a second album due next week, too.

THE WALLFLOWERS -- We succumbed, and sent to see them. It felt like the whole 79,000 population of the fest yesterday were there, although it was probably more like 20-30,000. They were pretty good, and were enjoying the whole fest experience (and we were enjoying Jakob, too). We left early so that we could get to Liuzza's for dinner. I'll write that up later, 'cause we gotta get to the Fairgrounds.

  Saturday, April 28, 2001  ::  Jazzfest, Day 2
I hate Dallas-Forth Worth airport.   And I hate American Airlines, too. Our trip was nothing short of miserable, due to that horrid airport and the customer-unfriendly overbooking policies of that lying hound of an airline (with a slogan of "Oneworld - doing it all for you", or some such crap). I'll go into detail later, but all I've got to say is that I hope Dante has reserved a special oven in the tenth circle of Hell for 1) the designer of DFW airport, 2) the inventor of the hub system, and 3) the greedy pigs responsible for overbooking flights, so that they can all roast in it for eternity.

Today's Jazzfest highlights.   Finally, we hit the Fair Grounds today. The first thing I want is a Creole's Stuffed Bread. Then music.

I probably won't have time to write long commentaries, so I'm just gonnna print out da schedule, stick it in my pocket, and go see:

Suroit of Canada with Hadley Castille, Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, Little Jimmy Scott and the Jazz Expressions, Super Rail Band of Mali, Papa Don Vappie and the Creole Jazz Serenaders, One-A-Chord at da Gospel Tent, da funky Meters, Fredy Omar con su Banda, the Nicholas Payton Louis Armstrong Centennial Celebration, and then we might make a lil' concession to my strong lack of desire to see mainstream rock acts, and finish the day by seeing The Wallflowers (Jakob Dylan, woof!)

Dinner at Peristyle last night.   Oh. My.

One of the first things we noticed when entering Peristyle was a relic of their past -- the cracked, shattered and scorched main door glass that was salvaged from the devastating fire that closed them down for months. I'll try to avoid the inevitable phoenix comparisons, but rise they have, and better than ever.

We started (natch) with a Sazerac, and got right down to business with our dinner:


(Chuck) Crispy Sweetbreads, wrapped with Prosciutto di Parma and drizzled with a port wine syrup, served over toasted Yukon Gold potatoes and port-braised shallots.

What a flavor. This was a first for me, and the flavor of the prosciutto was perfect with the deep, rich veal sweetbreads. They had been sautéed until crispy outside, then wrapped in the prosciutto and baked just long enough to bring out a little more flavor from the ham, but not too long. The sweetness of the shallots balanced the richness perfectly.

(Wes) Louisiana Oysters au Gratin, in a rich Pernod velouté sauce with wilted spinach and applewood-smoked bacon, topped with herbed bread crumbs and baked untl golden.

Another masterpiece. The erstas were like butter, melting in your mouth, and the Pernod flavor was a brilliant but subtle accent to the velouté. We shared these two dishes, and it would have been tempting to order two each, so we could both have a full serving.


We both got the soup special -- Roasted tomato soup with crawfish tails, garnished with a big dollop of pesto, extra virgin olive oil and pickled garlic. The soup alone was delicious, but that little accent in the middle, swirled around with every bite, made it perfect. What a beautiful marriage of the flavors of the Mediterranean and Louisiana.


(Chuck) Armagnac-Glazed Pork -- a boneless pork tenderloin grilled to medium and served with an Armagnac-prune reduction sauce, with baked goat cheese polenta and a relish of brandy-braised shallots, roasted red peppers and grilled apples.

Just bonkers. Every flavor complemented the other beautifully, with the heady sauce, the rich polenta, the sweet shallots and perfectly tender pork with a touch of crispiness around the edges. I wanted to get up and shout.

To drink I chose a 1998 Gewürtztraminer "Reserve" from Pierre Sparr. Crisp apple and pear flavors predominated, with a light finish and just enough sweetness to balance the big sauce. Lovely, lovely wine.

(Wes) Lemon-Fennel Tuna -- grilled fennel-marinated tuna steak atop a crispy potato cake, with wilted spinach, pickled fennel relish and a preserved lemon-chive fumet.

The flavor of this was so bright it was almost jarring in comparison to the dense flavors of the pork. I love fennel (and so does Wes), and he was really overjoyed with this dish (the waitress said it was her favorite sauce on the menu). Anne Kearney does wonders with preserved lemons, and works the flavors into several of her dishes.


(Wes) Gâteau Basque -- tonight's special, a sweet brioche-like cake filled with pastry cream and served in an anise-vanilla mousseline sauce, topped with whipped cream. The flavors were grand, but this would have put me under tonight. It wasn't what you'd call light, but was very delicious.

(Chuck) Milk Chocolate Gelato, swirled with tart cherries and brandy caramel, served with homemade cookies (chocolate chip, shortbread and lemon-anise). This was intensely chocolatey but not too rich or heavy (like gelato should be), and just what I needed to finish this meal.

The capper was a wonderful Hungarian dessert wine, a 1993 Royal Tokaji Aszu "Red Label", 5 puttonyos. Very heady and intense honey-apple flavor, with a crisp apple finish. Beautiful color as well, the color of amber and wildflower honey. Boy, do I love Tokaji wine. I wish I had had more of it when I was in Hungary.

We had contemplated going to the Funky Butt to see the Wild Magnolias, but we were pretty exhausted after the hellish day of travel. Off to bed, and tomorrow we'll report in on the fest and its food.

Sazerac No. 1   We've decided to continue with the Sazerac tasting project from last year, having as many as we can in New Orleans to see who makes the best in town.

The one at Peristyle was quite tasty, and big, at least a 4-ounce drink. It had slightly less of a whiskey bits (lots of shaking/stirring), wasn't as sweet as we're used to (perhaps the same amount of sugar in a larger drink), and had a dash or two less Peychaud's bitters. The notes of anise from the Herbsaint came through very clearly, and we think they may even have shaken it with the rye. Still, it was good, and its size made up for any attributes that might've been different from what we're used to. "Full of rye-ey and anise-y goodness," says Wes.

  Friday, April 27, 2001  ::  Jazzfest, Day 1
"It's Jazzfest time in New Orleans...   Come on down, lemme hear ya scream!" Whooooooooo! Sing it, Dave Bartholomew.

Friday, first day of the 2001 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and man is it gonna be good to be home.

I probably won't have time to do this for ever day's entry (in fact, I think I'll be lucky if I have time to do any more than the most cursory updates while I'm away; most of that will have to wait until I get back), but here are my picks for today's musical highlights at the Fair Grounds, all of which Wes and I will miss 'cause we don't even get into town until about 5:30pm (argh!), are as follows:

Richard Thompson - Sprint PCS Stage, 1:20 - 2:10
I saw Richard in a solo acoustic performance at the Troub a month or so ago, and he was amazing. Doubtless this will be the same. Don't miss him.

Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen - Economy Hall, 1:30 - 2:25
The first conflict of the day (at least for me, if I were gonna be there). Tuba Fats, the funkiest tuba in the world. Maybe you can split the slot between Richard and Fats.

Charmaine Neville, with Amasa Miller and Reggie Houston - Sprint PCS Stage, 2:35 - 3:35
One of the best and and most fun and entertaining acts in town, Charmaine and the boys pop over to the Fest from their usual digs at Snug Harbor for what'll promise to be a blast of a show. She's a terrific, sassy singer (and those Neville genes of hers, courtesy of papa Charles, don't hurt either), with one of the best bands in town. See her if you haven't already, and even if you have.

BeauSoleil, with special guests Richard Thompson, Sonny Landreth and Cindy Cashdollar - Sprint PCS Stage, 4:05 - 5:25
For my money, this will be the show for Friday, and perhaps for the entire Fest. The mind boggles. This amazing Cajun band with two of my most revered guitar gods sitting in ... whew. Whatever you do, don't miss this.

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown - Sprint PCS Stage, 5:55 - 6:55
Hell, you could spend the entire day at the Sprint stage, really. Gatemouth's mix of blues, folk, and even touches of bluegrass and country have always been a favorite of mine (and I love it when he brings out his fiddle).

The final performance of the day'll be a tough call, 'cause playing at the same time as Gatemouth at the House of Blues stage is Anders Osborne, the boy from Sweden that you'd almost never know wasn't from the Crescent City. Also at the same time, in the Economy Hall jazz tent, is the great Dr. Michael White and his tribute band, "The Armstrong Hot Five and Hot Seven", featuring special guest trumpeter Nicholas Payton. (There'll be lots of tributes to Pops this year, as it's the 100th anniversary of his birth.) Also also on the so-called Acura Stage is the pastor of the First Gospel Tabernacle Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee ... the one ... the only ... Reverend Al Green! Tough, tough call, and fairly typical of the hair-tearing decisions one must make at Jazzfest. Me, I'd recommend catching a half-hour of each of 'em.

Pick up the current issue of the free local alternative weekly Gambit, which always has really good Jazzfest picks and ratings of the acts. And, as always, don't forget The Gospel Tent, which is always good.

"We gonna jump ... and shout ... let the good times roll, that's what it's all about..."

Lookin' forward to dinner!   Tonight we'll saying hi to Nancy and her gang at Napoleon House, then heading over to Peristyle for a late dinner.

Chef Kearney was reaching her peak of acclaim when a devastating kitchen fire gutted the restaurant. She's recently reopened, after a floor to ceiling redo, to packed houses and notices that say things like "one of the best restaurants in the city, if not the best". I haven't eaten there since 1997, and I'm really looking forward to this. Not a bad way to start a visit home, dinnerwise.

Yes, we must know.   And very soon after we get into town, we're very much looking forward to a visit with Jonno and Richard, and knocking back a Sazerac or three.

April Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

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