Monthly Archives: April 2008

JazzFest, New Orleans – day 3 – end of 1st week-end

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At around 2:30pm, nobody would have thought JazzFest would continue for the last day of the first week-end. It was not just raining. It was pouring. And yet, one hour later, things were back to normal, except there was mud everywhere! Well, the kids loved it. And the adults didn’t really mind. Actually, one would say it made this last day a very special one.

It all started at 2:30pm. While I was eating another box of boiled crawfish (I couldn’t resist!), it suddenly started to hale. In less than 2 minutes, my box of crawfish was full of water. Note here that the hale didn’t stop me from eating!

Once I was done with the crawfish, we decided to go to the oyster bar, which is inside the grandstand (very practical under bad weather conditions!). We wouldn’t let bad weather spoil our day, and we then decided to get lot of oysters hoping the rain would stop.

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It almost worked! 45 minutes later, we were walking, under light rain this time, to the Jazz tent, which we left very quickly to go for more food as the weather got better. This time, I had a soft shell crawfish po-boy. And that was a clear winner. A guy in front of me bought 4 of them, and told me this was the best dish of the festival. I had to say, I agree with me.

My friend Francisco had some Pork cracklings (pork skinned deep fried). Actually let me rephrase. He had many of them! He liked them so much that he went back twice. They were really good, even though I’m always scared to break a teeth while eating them.

And so the first week-end of JazzFest ended. On a high note and some drop of rains. We’re now about to leave New Orleans, but we have a few hours before our plane takes off. Just enough time to go to a nice restaurant for our last lunch here of the year! Of course, I’ll be blogging about it…

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Note to the readers of this blog:
1/ Don’t forget to follow me on twitter (link in the right column)
2/ I’ve posted some JazzFest pictures on my Flickr account (will integrate later with this blog)

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JazzFest 2008, day 2 – lots of rain!

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Huge dark clouds had decided to stop over New Orleans for day 2 of JazzFest 2008. So what? Do you really think it would stop us from enjoying JazzFest?

I have to say, the experience was different, but in many ways, quite something to remember all our life. Being outside, listening to some heritage band giving it all for the few crazy folks ready to ignore the weather, was a unique moment in my existence.

The turning point was when we managed to buy ponchos. At this very moment, we knew we’ll be able to make it till the end of the day. Well, that belief went back and forth, as the wind and the rain started to pick up so much that everyone was wondering if the tents would even resist. But overall, the spirit was good throughout the day.

The rain had decided to play a big role yesterday. And it did. After a few hours, they had to stop the pumps because the levels of water around the race track were above security levels. As a result, the track itself became totally flooded in many areas. At best, you would just have water till the top of your shoes!

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So yeah it was fun. But this also means we had less food than expected. It’s harder to eat outside under very high winds and heavy rain. At least, less enjoyable. That being said, I still managed to go back to my Gumbo and give it a last try. Well, still the same. Not as good as it should be (and has been). My friend Joe had a taste and agree it was more like a soup than a Gumbo. That was a disappointment.

Other than that, the culinary highlight of the day was the Cochon de Lait Po-boy. The Cochon de lait is a young pig that has only be fed with its mother’s milk (it’s usually killed after a few weeks). That was something very special, especially with this very vinegary mustard that contrasts perfectly with the thickness of the pig meat.

Today we’re going back. They’ve forecasted more rain! Fun huh?

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FoodFest, day 1

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The minute we put a foot on the race track that hosts JazzFest, we knew it would be a good day! And it fulfilled all its promises.

As every year, my first dish was the Gumbo (Quail, Pheasant and Andouille). I don’t know if I raised the expectations too high for that dish, but I wasn’t that impressed this time. It may just have been that my cup didn’t have enough meat, so I will try it again today to confirm. Stay tuned on that one.

My friend Joe has a tradition. His first dish is always the Fried Soft-Shell Crab Po-boy. This year, I decided to join him (that was after the Gumbo!) and was not disappointed at all! This was delicious! Very meaty, and tasty which is not common for fried food. You can judge yourself just by looking at the picture!

Quickly after that, we made our way to the grandstand, where you can find the oyster bar. That place is quite interesting: it’s the same guys shucking, sweating (a lot!), and giving you those huge oysters. Oysters here are very different from the ones I’m used to. Much more milky, less salty. It makes them perfect for baking or frying, but not necessarily really nice as such. The secret is to make a very hot sauce, with horseradish, tabasco, and tomatoes. Then, they just become truly perfect! I still prefer my traditional fines de claire from Bretagne, but those oysters are such an experience in New Orleans.

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A couple of hours later, I was hungry again! It was time for crawfish! I’m sure you’ve all read my angry post at Whole Foods about their crab. Well, those guys at JazzFest know how to boil shellfish. It was cooked perfectly, peppery and salty and obviously, the crawfish themselves were meaty and fresh. That combination was the best dish of the day.

I will try many more dishes today, but I really want to give another chance to the Gumbo. I don’t know what went wrong, but that was not as good as it should have been. The rest was delicious!

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JazzFest, New Orleans – finally!

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It’s been a year since the last JazzFest in New Orleans. Or, in other words, since my last Gumbo. To be exact, it’s not just a Gumbo. It’s a Pheasant, Quail and Andouille Gumbo. I know there are many vegetarians reading this blog, but for those of you who like fine and delicate meat, this dish is perfect. It will also be my first dish of the day. The first one of a very, very long list.

I was reading through the program today, and it’s just phenomenal. Here it is for you:

Crawfish Bread, Shrimp Bread,
Sausage & Jalapeño Bread

Cajun Jambalaya, Fried Chicken

Fresh Squeezed Lemonade, *Fruit Salad;

Hot Sausage Po-Boy, Crawfish Sausage Po-Boy;

Pecan Catfish Meunière, Seafood Mirliton Casserole,
Fried Crab Cake w/ Smoked Tomato & Jalapeño Tartar

Alligator Pie, Crabmeat Stuffed Shrimp, *Fried Green Tomatoes;

Muffuletta, *Vegetarian Muffuletta,
Roast Beef Po-Boy, Turkey Giardiniera Po-Boy

Crawfish Etouffée, Boiled Crawfish,
Crawfish Stuffed Puff, Cajun Crawfish Rice

BBQ Chicken, BBQ Chicken Sandwich,
*Corn on the Cob, Iced Tea, Lemon Pound Cake

*Spinach Artichoke Casserole,
Seafood Au Gratin, Sweet Potato Pone;

Cajun Duck Po-Boy,
Fried Seafood Boat, *Spicy Potatoes

Red Beans & Rice w/ Sausage,
*Vegetarian Red Beans & Rice, Blackberry Cobbler

Crabmeat Po-Boy, Creole Stuffed Crab,
Catfish Almondine, *Potato Salad

Boudin, Boudin Balls,
Crawfish Remoulade, Creole Hot Tamales

Cochon de Lait Po-Boy,
Fried Eggplant w/ Crawfish Sauce,
*Fried Eggplant w/ Marinara Sauce

Soft-Shell Crawfish Po-Boy, Fried Gator Po-Boy,
Guil’s Gator w/ Fried Jalapeños & Onions

Crawfish Sack, Oyster Patties, Crawfish Beignets

Fried Shrimp Po-Boy, Fried Oyster Po-Boy,
Fried Oyster Spinach Salad,
Panéed Chicken Po-Boy, *Stuffed Artichoke

Mango Freeze

Fried Pork Chops, Smothered Cabbage,
*Iron Skillet Cornbread, Fried Pork Chop Sandwich

Ya Ka Mein,*Vegetarian Ya Ka Mein,
Banana Bread Pudding

Rosemint Iced Tea, Mandarin Orange Iced Tea, Regular Iced Tea

Rosemint Iced Tea, Mandarin Orange Iced Tea, Regular Iced Tea;

Café Au Lait (Hot, Iced, Frozen)

Fried Soft-Shell Crab Po-Boy, Fried Catfish Filet Po-Boy;

Spicy Natchitoches Meat Pie, Crawfish Pie,
*Broccoli & Cheese Pie

Pheasant, Quail & Andouille Gumbo,
Crab & Crawfish Stuffed Mushrooms, Crawfish Enchilada

Strawberry Shortcake, Key Lime Tart;

Gyro Sandwich, *Falafel Sandwich,
*Humus w/ Pita, *Tabouli w/ Pita, *Greek Garden Salad

Spicy Crawfish Sushi Roll, Snow Crab Sushi Roll,
*Vegetable Sushi Roll, Swamp Roll, *Seaweed Salad

Tagine of Lamb (Lamb Stew w/ Basmati Rice),
Merguez (Grilled Lamb Sausage),
Crawfish, Spinach & Zucchini Bisque,
*Tunisian Salad

Cuban Sandwich

Louisiana Strawberry Ice, Lemon Ice,
Spumoni, Biscotti (Assorted Italian Cookies)

Grilled Chicken Livers w/ Pepper Jelly,
*Crowder Peas & Okra, *Collard Greens,
Smothered Chicken Drumettes

Jambalaya

Oyster Rockefeller Bisque,
Cajun Chicken & Tasso w/ Creole Rice

Crawfish Strudel, White Chocolate Bread Pudding

Cracklins, Fried Sweet Potato Chips

Shrimp Taco, Chicken Taco, Shrimp Flauta

Creole’s Stuffed Bread; Sausage, Pepperoni & Mozzarella Stuffed Bread

Crawfish Monica ®

Sno-Balls, Sugar-Free Sno-Balls

Jamaican Chicken, Caribbean Fish,
Curry Chicken Pattie, *Steamed Vegetables

Dibbi (Grilled Steak on Pita), *Grilled Veggie Pita,
*Couscous w/ Yogurt Sauce

*Jama-Jama (Sautéed Spinach), *Fried Plaintains,
Poulet Fricassee (Chicken on a Stick)

Pies: Pecan, Sweet Potato; Banana Nut Bread

Strawberry Lemonade, *Caribbean Fruit Salad

Rosemint Iced Tea, Mandarin Orange Iced Tea, Regular Iced Tea

Beignets, Café Au Lait (Hot, Iced, Frozen),
Milk, Chocolate Milk

Crawfish Bisque, Creole Filé Gumbo,
Trout Baquet

Creole Cream Cheese Cake with Strawberries,
Red Velvet Cake, Pecan Cake;
Pies: Lemon Meringue, Coconut, Sweet Potato

BBQ Pork Ribs, BBQ Turkey Wings,
Meaty White Beans, *Cole Slaw, Peach Cobbler

Sno-Balls, Sugar Free Sno-Balls, Popcorn

Pies: Apple, Cherry, Coconut, Pecan, Sweet Potato

Coconut Macaroon, Chocolate Éclair,
Cream Puffs, Brownie w/ Pecans

Belgian Waffle Cone,
Hand-Scooped Ice Cream w/ Sundae Fixin’s, Dove Bars

Pralines: Pecan, Coconut, Chocolate or Rum Flavor,
Praline Pecan Cookies, Sweet Potato Cookies, Praline Shoe Soles, Pecan Crunch

Roman Chewing Candy

Sno-Balls, Sugar-Free Sno-Balls

Fresh Roasted Jumbo Peanuts, Glazed Pecans;

Mango Freeze

Pralines: Pecan, Coconut, Chocolate or Rum Flavor,
Praline Pecan Cookies, Sweet Potato Cookies,
Praline Shoe Soles, Pecan Crunch

Strawberry Smoothie, Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Shrimp Macque Choux, Shrimp & Sausage Macque Choux,
Fry Bread, Indian Tacos
Oysters on the Half Shell, Shrimp Cocktail
Lemonade, *Fruit Salad

Creole’s Stuffed Bread, Sausage,
Pepperoni & Mozzarella Stuffed Bread,
PB&J Sandwich, Crispy Rice Treats

Fresh Roasted Peanuts, Glazed Pecans, Popcorn

Macaroni & Cheese, Huckabuck Frozen Cups

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JazzFest – New Orleans 2008, D-Day – 1

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I’m in New Orleans, for my yearly trip to JazzFest. I just landed a few hours ago, and already you can feel the excitement in the city. The plane was crowded of crazy people on their way to have a great time. Clapping at landing, singing etc… Very nice atmosphere!

If JazzFest is mainly about music, it’s actually also about food and good company. As such, I’ve decided to blog about it. I’m only here for the first week-end, so it won’t be a full coverage of what’s going on, but just a summary of my culinary experience in New Orleans.

In case you don’t know, all the restaurants serving food at the festival itself have been selected by a jury picking the best. They’re selected for a specific dish. For ex, Gumbo, Boiled Crawfish etc… It’s a truly amazing experience, and I will try to share it with you.

In the meantime, as we need to get warmed up, we had our usual stop at our favorite daiquiris place. See the picture attached. Nothing better than a house special (mix of Crawgator, 190 octane, and Jungle juice) to get the day going!

Looking forward to tomorrow – I will post all details!

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Krups BeerTender B95

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Today was my name day (not Krups day! alex day!). It’s not a big deal over here, but in Greece, it’s as important as your birthday. In other words, you get presents!

My wife, who, unlike me, never forgets my name day or birthday, made me one of the best presents I ever had. You can tell she knows her audience! She bought a BeerTender! If you don’t know what a BeerTender is, it’s very simple: it’s a draft beer in your kitchen!

With the BeerTender came a full Keg of Heineken (which is not the only beer they support btw!). Imagine! I think I probably looked like a 5 years old getting his first bicycle!.

Obviously we had to try it. Actually more her than me to be honest. Nevertheless, it’s just so awesome. The funny part is that we don’t have a kitchen since we’re remodeling it. But who cares about a kitchen when you can have draft beer in your living room!

I vote yes for a BeerTender in every kitchen!

[update]: after a few weeks of usage, it works really well. It is very practical, doesn’t make any noise, and the information displayed on the monitor accurate and needed. A good buy!

[update2]: considering the number of people coming directly to this page, here’s a link to the Amazon store in case you want to buy one. Note that I make no money from this transaction. This is purely for the benefit of those who may have the great idea to buy one!

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Toraya, Sushi, San Francisco

On Saturday, we went to Toraya, on Fillmore Street, a great sushi place. I won’t do the usual “best sushi in San Francisco” comment, but that place was actually really good.

I’ve actually been there several times in the last 4 months. I’ve always find it very decent, but was never impressed, as I’ve been at Ozumo on the Embarcadero or Sushi Ran in Saulito.

Since we don’t have a kitchen anymore, we get to eat out a lot. Which is good and bad. It increases the budget of the kitchen that’s being built, and get you to find cool places.

Once again, we were out, and my expectations were not that high entering Toraya. The place was packed, but we still managed to get to sit at the bar (that’s definitely a plus of this place: there is always a table for you, it’s so huge!). Since we were in lack of inspiration, we just asked the Chef to bring whatever he wanted to us.

Well, boys and girls, that was a feast! And what a feast! It was like a complete rediscovery of this place. First, the chef rocks. He’s really nice, funny, polite… and he knows how to make good sushi! Second, the food was awesome. Salmon, scallops, snapper, tuna, crazy rolls etc… We tried many different sushis, all of them so good.

Of course, the warm sake helped for the digestion… Hey! Sushi without sake is not sushi anymore! After we paid the bill (which was still decent based on the amount of food we had), they offered us a dessert sake.

So, yeah, I’ll go back. My expectations are much higher now!

Vivande, San Francisco

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In the Fillmore neighborhood, everyone is talking about SPQR, the new Italian restaurant opened by the owners of A16. In San Francisco, A16 is a very trendy place, and it didn’t take long for SPQR to become as famous (another one of those Michael Bauer overrated review) . I have to say, they have an amazing wine list, but the food is far from being exceptional. Don’t get me wrong. It’s good. But not worth the wait you may have to endure if you really want to eat there.

A few feet away, is another Italian restaurant, called Vivande (it’s on Fillmore, when you walk towards pacific heights). Much less trendy in San Francisco, but for me, the food is as good. The wine list is much less comprehensive than SPQR, but I’m sure the people going there are not picking SPQR for the wine!

I told all my twitter followers (you can find my details on the right of this page) that I was going to write about pasta. Actually, I may disappoint you, because I didn’t have pasta. So I won’t talk about it. I got tuna. It was on the specials list. And it looked really good. The good thing with tuna in a restaurant, is that you know straight away if it’s cooked well or not. Seared on the outside, raw in the inside. I went to Suppa (still in San Francisco) on 4th (between Branna and Bryant) and the tuna was cooked all the way through! Hard solid. That was bad.

Well, my tuna at Vivande was perfectly done. With fennel seeds, haricots verts, some lemon and a nice fried risotto, it was just simple and delicious. That’s the kind of food I like. Nothing fancy, crazy, just good ingredients, some lemon and it’s pure pleasure.

Again, I wouldn’t say that was one of the best meal in my life, but it was good. Refreshing. There aren’t actually that many places serving that type of food anymore.

I would absolutely recommend Vivande if you want a quick dinner, in a nice atmosphere, with fresh and simple food. And of course, if you like Italian cuisine!

Some links:
Vivande
Vivande’s chef’s blog

[update] Even though I had a good experience there (actually two good ones), Claire seemed to have had a terrible diner. Worth noting as either she got very unlucky or I got very lucky. In any case, this should be taken into account when picking the place…

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Gary at SixApart

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I already wrote about Gary V and how much his passion for “real & good” is changing the way people (especially in the US) are approaching wine.

Yesterday evening, Gary paid us a visit at SixApart. Of course, wine was involved. A lot of wine actually! But mainly, it was all about listening to Gary explaining to us why good will always win vs evil.

We had a huge crowd of folks who came to our offices, from SixApart, and also from other companies. For more than 2 hours, everybody was so focused and captivated by the energy of our guest. It was quite incredible.

Gary touched a whole variety of topics, from how global warming is affecting the wine world, to why building a personal brand is key in today’s business world. All this, by staying true to one of his main value: being real. That’s why so many people love him.

Thanks Gary for a fabulous talk!

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Hell’s kitchen

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Season 4 of Hell’s kitchen has started. I enjoyed the previous seasons a lot, and I am always looking forward to hear some screaming from Gordon Ramsay.

Obviously, the show is based on the rudeness of the famous chef. “You f… donkey!”, “You useless pig”, “Get the f… outta here!”. All this poetry is always said with tons of confidence, high volume, and a look that kind of show that the guy is not joking.

Personally, I love it. Not that I’m a big fan of bullying, but because some of those candidates are so useless and arrogant, that they deserve a little kick in the butt. I mean, for those who are watching the show, what do you think of the 4 stars general? The guy is such an arrogant jerk that he should just get kicked out.

I was reading recently a book from a guy who had served in a French restaurant 20-30 years ago. That was the time of the old guard of French chefs: Bocuse, Blanc and consorts. He was explaining how all of them were bullying their sous chefs and other folks in the kitchen. It was no fun times, but it was the cost of perfection. Or at least their idea of it.

Times have changed. And today, this would probably be perceived poorly. I was actually witnessing a kitchen functioning at SPQR in San Francisco, and it was so quiet, smooth, polite, precise, that I was surprised. I actually thought of Ramsay and had a laugh. So of course SPQR is no 3 michelin stars restaurant, but still, I was very impressed. The kitchen at French Laundry were not very noisy either…

I actually have a hard time to believe Ramsay’s behavior in his shows (because those are shows after all!) could be reasonably imported into most restaurants. It definitely was in the past, but find it hard to believe that it would be the case today. He’d get sued in a minute.

Talking about that, I’m pretty certain that all candidates of Hell’s kitchen sign a contract before hand to guarantee they are not going to sue him and accept to be victim of his bullying. Ramsay can then let it go, and come up with quotes such as “she has a good attention to details, unfortunately, for her make up and not her cooking!”…

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