What a day to live in New Orleans. Sunday was the 6th annual Oak Street Po-Boy Festival. About 50,000 people pack into a few blocks lined with po-boy vendors and try as many different po-boys as they can, washing it down with plenty of Abita Beer. I’m not really into sandwiches and yet I really look forward to this fest every year. Like the Got Gumbo? event at the Royal Sonesta, over 30 vendors bring at least one po-boy offering so the level of creativity can be outstanding and you never know what flavor combinations you might find. As intriguing as the Crescent Pie and Sausage “Bellezaire the Cajun” Smoked and grilled Cajun sausage with collard greens and mustard creme sauce ($7) sounded, we started the day in search of last year‘s wonderful Parkway Bakery and Tavern Thanksgiving Po-Boy. It had been the perfect brunch po-boy.
We passed Los Poboycitos on the main stage (now pushed to the end of a side street) then stumbled onto the newly opened Breads on Oak . The Roasted Eggplant Walnut-Pesto Po-Boy, a vegan offering ($6), looked very tempting but my craving for something like a breakfast settled me on the Seafood Au Gratin Croissant Po-Boy (by Crepe Nanou and Breads on Oak). At $9, it was one of the festival’s pricier menu items but it was so tasty and the bread was outstanding.
We were playing beat-the-clock with the Saints game starting so we tried to get a lay of the land and avoided some of the longer lines for more popular items. Lots of people eat in line or eat while walking so we all kept their eyes out for what looked good. Across a parking lot, I spotted a sign reading, Crab Boil Potato Chips ($2). I walked over to see the freshly fried chips and spotted Bayona’s Susan Spicer, one of my favorite chefs and the inspiration for Kim Dickens‘ “Janette” on HBO’s Treme. We bought the chips and a Pastrami Po-Boy with Gruyere and pickled slaw ($9 large, $5 small) from Susan Spicer’s Mondo New Orleans. Probably the best po-boy of the day.
On our way down the street, we spotted “the woman in the window” again. Maybe it’s her red and aqua house or her shock of black hair or maybe just that you know she’ll be there, but something about her leaning on her elbows watching the world go by transports you to a village in Italy. This year, I screwed up the courage to interrupt the illusion and waved at her. She smiled and waved back. Now, I may have a new tradition.
Next up to try was the Vincent’s Italian Cuisine Godfather PoBoy ($7) with Meatballs, Italian Sausage and Brisket topped with fresh basil, mozzarella cheese and red sauce. We also got the Corn and Crab Bisque in a toasted bread bowl ($5). Definitely one of my favorite treats of the day. Then we sampled the classic Pascal’s Manale BBQ Shrimp Po-Boy ($7).
The biggest surprise of the day was definitely the d’Juice Green Juice with cucumber, kale, spinach, celery, ginger, green apple and lemon ($5) – a totally tangy treat that was actually good for us. The cart was called The Green Machine, “a prototype of a solar, wind and pedal powered mobile juice cart.” The sign said, “And it’s coming to your neighborhood soon.” I stand warned and ready.
Squeal Bar-B-Q and a few other places were set up to play the Saints game on TV, even pulling screens out onto lawns, but we were lucky enough to have friends in nearby places, so we headed back to the house. Then we spotted the elusive Thanksgiving po-boy. It wasn’t from Parkway and suffered a bit in translation but I finally got The “Pilgrim” with turkey, stuffing, cranberry and gravy ($4).
Though there were a few street musicians, plenty of D.J.’s and the Bone Tone Brass Band wandered the crowd, there wasn’t nearly as much music in years past. With only one main stage featuring 4 acts and another stage dedicated mostly to young people and music education, there weren’t nearly as many must-see shows. That may have been for the best though, because I hated having to miss The Stooges Brass Band for the Saints game. I only got to see them for half a song during halftime. We grabbed a White Chocolate Bread Pudding ($4) from Michael Joyner Catering and I was sorry we didn’t have room to try the savory Crabmeat and Camembert Cheesecake ($6). The halftime desert also included a Praline ($1) and Icy Decadent Hot Chocolate with whipped cream ($5) from Blue Frog Chocolates. The cherry on top was the Saints winning. Who Dat!
Every year, I mean to try the Fried Maine Lobster Po-boy from GW Fins and every year I say, “next year.” There are several booths that always have a long line, but the line for the lobster po-boy is always at least a block long. Except during a Saints game. When we came back from getting desserts, we were met with the coveted sandwich. Truth? It was damn good. Next year, I’m hoping that Palate New Orleans returns with their Chicken and Waffle Boy ($7); sweet potato waffles, fried chicken and maple syrup slaw and maybe I’ll commit to their line.
The evening ended with the next installment of HBO’s Treme. The situation for David Morse‘s “Terry Colson” (my character’s ex-husband) is getting harder to watch as J.D. Evermore‘s “Detective Silby” and the gang turn on him. The good news is that over time, many of the cases of police misconduct portrayed in the show and others like them have gone to trial. Police officers have been brought to justice and the department has been overhauled.
You never know who you’re going to spot on Treme as the show seems to have hired half the citizens of the city by now. This week’s surprise was 610 Stomper Chris Herrington as a bartender. I’d recognize that mustache anywhere.
Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse in the Royal Sonesta is one of the very few places on Bourbon Street where you can find the musicians locals go to hear (though, usually on Frenchman Street or at a festival). Irvin played himself, the Cultural Ambassador of the City of New Orleans and State of Louisiana since 2003 and Grammy and Billboard Award-winning Jazz trumpeter. When my friends Danica and Kevin visited, we sent them to Irvin’s to see Shamarr Allen and they had an amazing time.
Phyllis Montana LeBlanc‘s “Desiree” and Candy Buckley as the real-life Squandered Heritage blogger Karen Gadbois have teamed up to take on NOAA and any other comers looking to tear down the amazing historic homes of New Orleans. With these 2 formidable women on the case, the days of destroying people’s homes without their knowledge or permission are certainly numbered.
Steve Zahn‘s “Davis” had no luck putting together his Katrina opera but, like many things on this show, the future holds a happy ending. In real life, the opera has nothing to do with Davis Rogan, the character on which “Davis” is based, but it did get made. Based on the book by Dan Baum spanning Hurricanes Betsy to Katrina, the soundtrack was produced first. Nine Lives, a 2-CD set, contains music from Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint, Harry Shearer, Bryan Batt, Shamarr Allen, Treme‘s Wendell Pierce and Clark Peters and more than 100 others. In January of this year, Nine Lives made its stage debut at the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music. Perhaps Broadway may still call to bring the show to the masses.
101 year old Lionel Ferbos played himself, the oldest jazz musician in NOLA. He still plays a weekly gig at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe. I’d never heard of him and I love the show for introducing me to even more of our city’s greatest treasure – its people. On the show he says, “There’s something to be said for doing one thing right.” But in real life, he’s also a master metal worker whose work has been featured at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
I’ve been blown away by Khandi Alexander‘s work since I first saw her play a super-sexy groupie-with-a-plan in CB4. In Treme, we’ve been treated to a kaleidoscope of her emotional repertoire from smart, sassy and seductive to victimized, heartbroken and frightened. In the last 5 minutes of this episode alone, we watched her suffer the loss of everything she’d built, her sense of purpose and the last vestiges of her feelings of safety. Then we followed her to visit Clark Peters‘ Big Chief “Albert Lambreaux” as he receives his chemo. All the fear and fury I expected was gone as she went even deeper to be there with someone else who understands loss. As an actor, I envy Khandi Alexander the opportunity to play such a richly textured character for so long. As an admirer, I feel like I’m watching “Jazz acting” played by a virtuoso.