Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Oak Street Po-Boy Festival

New Orleans, Louisiana
November 20th 2011

This was my first time attending the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival and I sure as hell wasn't disappointed. The only thing I was sad about was the lack of cash I brought and the lack of room in my stomach to consume more food. This year there were 40 stops that you could come across!

The "poor boy" sandwich originated in Louisiana when the Martin brothers opened their coffee stand and restaurant in the French Market in 1922. When the streetcar motormen and conductors went on strike, they were there to feed them all. The sandwich eventually took on more exotic foods like shrimp, oyster, and soft-shell crabs, thus giving us the po-boys that we all love to consume today.

The Po-Boy Festival was voted in 2010 by Gambit as the best food festival there is in the city of New Orleans. If you aren't familiar with the Gambit newspaper, you could say they have as much pull as the Zagat Survey when it comes to New Orleans reviews. Now with that said, let me show you what I came across with a group of my friends.

First, I immediately noticed my favorite sushi restaurant, Ninja, had a stand of their own. They also provided a seating area, which was a major plus. They broke out their soft-shell crab po-boy and it was amazing. The dollop of sauce you see on top of it is the sauce that comes on the side of their soft shell crab rolls which is also... equally amazing. If you're ever uptown New Orleans and need really good sushi, it doesn't get any better than this place, for sure.

Next was the fried lobster po-boy, best in fest for 2010, by GW Fins. The line was literally a block and a half long. Was it worth the wait? I'd say so. This thing was delicious. I've only had lobster the traditional boiled way, and to be honest, I'm not that huge of a fan of lobster. But, the saying that is "everything tastes better when it's fried" made this true. They dowsed it in some special sauce of theirs that made it all the better. A deserving champion indeed.

Now, I did no research before attending the festival so I had no idea what was in store. I saw the name Emeril on the list of participants and KNEW I had to make it to their tent. Emeril's Delmonico brought a confit pork cheek with a tangy slaw po-boy. I didn't have to wait in line that was a couple blocks long to try one, but I did have to walk the entire length of Oak Street to get it. It was certainly worth the trek over there. Confit is a particular way to prepare food that the French are really good at. What you do is preserve it in spices, salt is the most common, then cook the meat in its own rendered fat. Don't be afraid to eat meat around the animal's head! Some of the best parts are there.

Aww, look at my friend Katie. Cute yes, but quite alarming with her RIDICULOUS infatuation with pickles. No, it's not just a mountain of sliced dill flavored goodness she's holding, there's actually a pull pork po-boy with a red slaw underneath there from Boucherie. Sadly to say, this was probably my least favorite of everything I tried. Pulled pork is very common to find in the south and I've had better. I have yet to go to their restaurant on Jeanette Street, but I'm certain they will not disappoint. Only good words seem to come out of that place.

A boucherie is a gathering where a hog/pig is butchered and ALL of it is used to create multiple dishes. If you've seen the episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations in New Orleans (the most recent one), you'll completely get the idea. WATCH IT.

Now comes the most interesting pairing I tried at the festival. Blue Dot Donuts brought two items, first was the Thai pork dough-boy then a vanilla ice cream-filled bananas foster donut. It left me with only five words...
All Things That Are Good.

No, the donuts weren't the sugary glazed mistakes you get from Krispy Kreme. They were basically just used as buns for their amazing inventions. I'd say that the Thai pork was my favorite out of everything I had. Their slaw was a great pairing with it as well. I'm actually quite happy that they decided not to glaze their donuts for the bananas foster, it would have probably been way overkill with sweetness. A+ to them.

Well, that was it really. I tried a couple of other ones but didn't get pictures of them. Jacques-Imo's had a roasted duck po-boy that was amazing and I don't have the slightest clue as to why a crepe stand was there but It was also pretty good.

*Note* to everyone who plans on attending this year. Bring a lot of cash, a lot of friends and some comfortable shoes. I promise you that you'll be walking up and down Oak Street wondering what to nibble on next and regretting that you hadn't tried something else... Or maybe you're a crazy dancing person and gets caught up in the mood.
You can generally find $1.00 waters from vendors on the side of the road so that's not a problem. Friends are definitely needed because it's a place to taste and not to just stuff your face at one stop. Remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint. Try as many things as you can! I'll definitely be back this year and hope to see everyone there.

Ninja - 8433 Oak Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
Jacques-Imo's - 8324 Oak Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
Blue Dot Donuts - 4301 Canal Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 
GW Fins - 808 Bienville Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
Emeril's Delmonico - 800 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
Boucherie - 8115 Jeanette Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

<-- Flow Tribe (really fun band)

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