[Belated food post. Currently in Austin pigging out on breakfast tacos and free chips and salsa.]
My take on Jazz Fest has always been simple, and I'm sure Alton Brown would agree.
I'm just here for the food.
For a lot of the performing acts, the Fest is actually about the worst possible venue for seeing them. It's too hot, it's too crowded, you're too far from the stage. I generally take the philosophy that I'm there to eat, and so getting food and then finding a comfortable place to eat it within range of music I like is my typical strategy. Granted, I'm not always attending the fest with somebody who agrees with me, so I don't always get to do it this way, but I try.
It's been fifteen years since my last jazz fest, and a lot has changed. I have wider tastes in food now. I'm allergic to shrimp now. I don't drink any more. And I live here again so I'm not as desperate to get my fill of the staple dishes like I was when I had to do the Fest as an ex-pat tourist.
Ms. H told me the other day: "preeze remember that some of your food stories are vicarious ones for me. so choose carefully preeze." So, what I chose:
Fried Fish Ferdinand: My first choice on the first day was a total bust. Shrimp in the sauce. So I could only smell it. Fried fish topped with a secret sauce with shrimp and (I think) crawfish. Does anybody have a recipe for the sauce? It looks vaguely meuniere-like....maybe butter, heavy cream, creole mustard, possibly Worcesterestersestersestershire?
Cuban sandwich: Right next to the Ferdinand booth, and I was desperately hungry, and I'd had really good Cuban sandwiches before, so I grabbed one. A minimal amount of ham and cheese pressed in bread. This was the worst thing I've ever eaten at the Fest. The only time I've ever chosen something truly bad. The bread was stale, the sandwich was dry and inedible, no mustard or pickles or anything. I threw it out. The T-P later listed this in their top 10 of the fest, so maybe I got a bad one.
Crawfish monica: Fusilli pasta and crawfish tails in a spectacular cream sauce. I ate three of 'em.
Pheasant, quail and andouille gumbo from Prejean's: This was always my favorite food at ACL, probably the only thing there that approximated the goodness of Jazz Fest food. A very tasty multi-critter dark Cajun-style gumbo.
Oysters rockefeller bisque: What you'd expect, oysters rockefeller in soup form. Was just OK. Once you've eaten the two or three oysters in your cup, you're basically left with spinach soup, which lacks any of the buttery breadcrumby goodness of the original dish.
Natchitoches meat pie: Basically a pot pie filled with garlicky oniony ground beef and pork. Veddy tasty.
Crawfish pie: A crawfish version of the Natchitoches meat pie. Was good, but I prefer the round open-faced kind like you get at Tee Eva's. Although finger food is always preferable to fork food when dining al festivo.
Crawfish bread: Different from the previous crawfish pie, this is a flaky pastry stuffed with crawfish in a cheesy sauce. It's damn good. I ate three.
Boiled crawfish: I have to have crawfish at least once every jazz fest. Usually I like to buy several pounds, a couple beers, and go sit on the ground in Congo Square. The crawfish at the fest are always tasty, but this year they were kind of small.
All that, plus a chocolate Dove bar, a snoball, two n/a beers, and lots and lots of water.