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The ABCs of Festival Season in Louisiana

French Quarter Festival

French Quarter Festival Sign

It’s festival season in Louisiana! For those unfamiliar with what exactly this means, it means it’s time to indulge in good food, listen to amazing music, hang out with great friends and just celebrate Louisiana life. Although we generally do this all year long. In fact, festivals go on in every month down here.

To put you in the festival spirit, I’m sharing my Louisiana festival knowledge (and I’ve learned a lot from researching this post) — from Abita to Zydeco.

Abita — One of the best beers to come from Louisiana. It’s no surprise it’s readily available at most of the festivals in the state. More importantly, festival season coincides with Abita Strawberry Harvest season — a beer brewed with local strawberries.

Bands — From local musicians to international acts, bands from all over come to play the festivals of Louisiana.

Crawfish — It’s no secret we love us some crawfish in Louisiana. The food reflects that. From crawfish pie to crawfish bread to just plain boiled crawfish, you can’t go to a festival without ordering something crawfish-related. And in case you’re wonder, there’s a whole festival dedicated to mudbugs called the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival.

Crawfish Gumbo

Crawfish is always popular in Louisiana.
Photo by Jon Sullivan

Daiquiris — Festival fun aside, it gets hot. And there’s no better way to cool off than with a frozen daiquiri. Bonus points if it’s made using real fruit.

Etouffee — A delicious Louisiana dish made with seafood or chicken, rice and a spicy gravy. A cousin to jambalaya. You’ll probably find both at any festival you attend.

Flags — Some festivals are so packed you have to make your own meeting point. That’s when a flag comes in handy. Just set up your chairs, attach your flags and tell your friends to gather under your flag. The more unique it is, the easier you are to find.

Gueydan — Every year in August, the folks of Gueydan hold their annual Duck Festival.

Hot Sauce — You’ll find it at every festival food vendor. Whether it’s Tabasco, Crystal, Louisiana or another brand, don’t forget to add it to your food. And yes, there is a Cajun Hot Sauce Festival.

Steamboat Natchez

Cruise around the Mississippi River aboard the Steamboat Natchez during French Quarter Festival or JazzFest.

International — Louisiana festivals aren’t just for locals, they attract visitors from around the globe. Lafayette even hosts a Festival International de Louisiane.

JazzFest — The biggest and probably most well-known festival in Louisiana. For two weekends each year, the New Orleans Fairgrounds are transformed into a humongous festival with a variety of musicians, tons of food vendors and lots of arts and crafts. JazzFest regularly attracts hundreds of thousands of people.

Kids — All the Louisiana festivals are fun for the whole family.

Lecompte — Known for the Lecompte Pie Festival, this town’s festival has my favorite festival slogan: “A slice of Louisiana is waiting for you.”

Money — Get out your wallet. Festivals are fun, but they aren’t all that cheap. Especially when you want to try a lot of dishes and have a few drinks. Most are free for admission, but if not, that will set you back as well.

Natchitoches — Home of the Natchitoches Christmas Festival. Lots of lights and holiday cheer at this festival. If it looks/sounds familiar, you may recognize it from the movie Steel Magnolias.

Oysters — Another of Louisiana’s treasured foods. Shuck ’em and enjoy them on the halfshell or find them cooked into a gumbo.

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake with fresh Louisiana strawberries at the Pontchatoula Strawberry Festival.

Pontchatoula — Home of the best strawberries on Earth so it makes since that Pontchatoula is host to the Pontchatoula Strawberry Festival. You’ll find strawberry drinks and desserts galore at this one.

The Queens — A festival isn’t complete without a beauty queen to reign over it. This is the South after all.

Rayne — Home of my favorite festival theme: the Rayne Frog Festival. When you’re at a festival about frogs, how can you not have a good time?

Shrimp — Seafood is king in Louisiana and shrimp are at the top of the seafood list at most festivals. There’s even a Shrimp and Petroleum Festival in Morgan City.

Tevas — These ugly-ass sandals are all over the place at most festivals. If you have a pair, my apologies, but they just aren’t flattering — on anyone.

Umbrella — Sure, you may need it in case it rains, but what you really need it for is to generate shade of some sort.

Variety — You’ll find this in every aspect of a festival. The music, the food, the people, the theme, the rides. Most festivals have a little something for everyone.

Watermelon — Is there a better summer fruit? No wonder the town of Farmerville holds the Watermelon Festival every year.

Xylograph — X is always a hard one, but a xylograph is a wood carving. You’ll find them at most arts and crafts areas of festivals. Take home one with your name on it…literally.

Yambilee — Sweet potatoes are also abundant in Louisiana and Yambilee in Opelousas showcases the bright orange tubules.

Zydeco — The famous Cajun music is guaranteed to be playing at a stage near you when you attend a Louisiana festival.

Do yourself a favor and visit Louisiana and one of these fine festivals. I promise you’ll have a great time.

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Posted by on April 16, 2012 in Livin'

 

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Review: Superior Seafood

Oysters Superior

Oysters Superior

Superior Seafood is the latest venture from the group behind Superior Grill. Maybe I’m alone in my thinking, but when I think of Superior, I think of drinks. Specifically, drinks that get you shit faced. The food is always an afterthought. Am I right?

That said, the menu at Superior Seafood is a beast. Fresh catch specials, sandwiches, hot apps, cold apps, soups, salads, steaks, it seems to never end. With a menu of this size, it would take months to sample everything so I’m sticking to what I’ve had.

By far, my favorite thing I’ve had is the frozen pomegranate mojito. The team behind the famous margaritas may have one upped themselves with this new frozen concoction. To make things better, the mojitos (pomegranate and plain) are 2 for 1 during the happy hour (4-6 p.m.). Getting wasted on a budget — always a plus.

Marinated Crab Claws

Marinated Crab Claws

Drinks aside, the best food item I’ve had is the Marinated Crab Claws. The claws are served cold in a marinade that has a subtle kick — I’m pretty sure it’s horseradish. Whatever it is, it works. I might have to stop in for these regularly.

Next, I moved on to the Oysters Superior platter, a sampling of Chargrilled Oysters, Oysters Bienville (shrimp stuffing with bacon and cheese) and Oysters Rockefeller (spinach and Herbsaint). All three of the oyster variation were very good, but just short of excellent. I didn’t get enough of the oyster taste I was expecting.

I did get the oyster taste I was hoping for with the raw oysters. Superior Seafood sources them locally so you know they’re worth shucking and slurping.

Tuna Tartar

Tuna Tartar

The Tuna Tartar was decent, but I’ve definitely had better. The toast overwhelms the subtlety of the tuna, but the wasabi and avocado due add to the tuna itself. I would highly recommend ignoring the toast that accompanies the rest of the dish.

A dish that fell completely flat for me was the Shrimp and Grits. I will commend Superior Seafood for using milk or cream as the grits based versus water (lots of restaurants make that amateur mistake). I can also forgive the fact that one of my shrimp wasn’t fully shelled (it happens). What I can’t forgive is serving peeled shrimp that haven’t been deveined.

To me, that’s a little lazy and would have helped the dish out some. The tasso cream sauce accompanying the Shrimp and Grits was also very watery, almost soupy, and just didn’t add anything.

All things considered, I’m sure I’ll be back for dinner, but I’m not in a rush. I would rush back for happy hour to drink and nibble on some of the apps. Either way, Superior Seafood is a welcome addition to St. Charles and Napoleon for a spot that had been empty since Katrina.

Superior Seafood is located at 4338 St. Charles Ave. and is open daily at 11 a.m.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2012 in Eatin'

 

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Review: Neptune Oyster (Boston)

Neptune Oyster Bar

Neptune Oyster Bar

First things first, being a Louisiana native, I’ve always considered myself a Gulf Coast oyster purist. For years, I was convinced they were the best on the planet. Sadly, while I love the Gulf Coast, Neptune Oyster in Boston has reversed my stance on where to get the best oysters.

Located in Boston’s North End, Neptune Oyster looks unassuming from the outside. When you get inside it’s full of hustle and bustle in a very confined space, but as fresh as this seafood is, the location could be a back alley and it wouldn’t matter.

After reviewing the oyster and seafood offerings from the raw bar, I decided to get a mix of oysters from all over the country. Oyster #1 was a Wellfleet oyster from Wellfeet, Mass. Described as medium, very high salt and with a sweet butter finish, it’s sounded like a good bet. And it was. I could taste all the elements in the description. Before I continue as I should definitely point out that the descriptions Neptune Oyster provides are very accurate. So trust what’s on the order sheet.

Oysters at Neptune Oyster

Half Dozen Oyster Variety

Oyster #2 was a Katama Bay oyster from Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. My reason for ordering it was because of the description as having a “buttered popcorn finish.” Once again, spot on. This oyster had a very buttery taste that I really enjoyed.

Oyster #3 was a Glidden Point oyster from Darmariscotta, Maine. Listed as having a citrus finish, this was probably my least favorite of the half dozen. It had the lowest flavor profile of all the oysters I tried so I don’t have much to say about it.

I also don’t have much to say about Oyster #4 (a Peacock Cove oyster from Cumberland, N.B.). I was barely able to pick up on the “hints of champagne” listed in the description. Maybe I need some actual champagne as an accompaniment instead of my Samuel Adams Octoberfest beer.

Oyster #5 was by far my favorite — a Kumamoto oyster from Willapa Bay, Wash. The description suggested “hints of honeydew melon.” Sounds insane, right? It was insanely accurate. I definitely picked up on the honeydew melon flavor.

Oyster #6 was my second favorite — a Kusshi oyster from Deep Bay, B.C. Listed as having a “cucumber finish,” this oyster also lived up to its description. I can’t tell you how pleasantly surprised I was that the descriptions matched the oysters’ flavors.

Lobster Roll at Neptune Oyster

Lobster Roll at Neptune Oyster

For my main course, I had a cold lobster roll (Neptune Oyster also has a hot version using clarified butter instead of mayo). I couldn’t leave Boston without having at least one lobster roll, and I’m glad I ordered one here. The roll was buttery and grilled to perfection while the lobster itself was plump, fresh and rich. When combined with the light mayo and the roll, it was bliss. The fries were also very good. Probably the best I had during my trip so don’t over look those. Add some Tabasco to your ketchup and you’ve got a great meal.

I’m a little disappointed I discovered Neptune Oyster so late into my trip, but at least I found it. It’s one of the premier oyster bars in Boston and probably one of the best on the East Coast period. It will definitely be a stop I make next time I return to Boston. Neptune Oyster had the best and freshest seafood I had during my stay.

Neptune Oyster, located in Boston’s North End at 63 Salem Street, opens daily at 11:30 a.m.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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