September 25, 2013
The Sauce Goddess, Jen Reynolds and I started the day off with a little touristy stuff. Before we left Baton Rouge, we went to the Louisiana State Capitol building as recommended by Dana Romero, our host from the previous 2 days as mentioned in the previous posts. The State Capital building is also the tallest building in the city, and Dana said it would provide a great view of the landscape of the city. Boy was he right. You can see this in the pictures below as well as the Sauce Goddess modeling pic atop the page. It was a blue sky, and it added to the lovely landscape. The building itself had the coolest looking interior with the beautiful wooden pews and exquisite ceilings for the Federal Courtroom, State Senate and the halls in between.
As we were leaving the people working the information booth gave us a heads up to visit the old state capital building not too far off. The old building kept the history of the state from the very beginning of it becoming one. Much like a museum now, it was highlighted throughout with a dedication to Huey Long, their 40th Governor, Senator, and on the year he was assassinated he was running for President. He was a man who stood up for the little people and despised the rich social class that did not share their wealth with those that needed it. He was a polarizing figure because of his stance, and met a lot of resistance from his detractors. It did not matter because he had the people’s support, and that was all he needed to push his change upon the state. From the Huey LongWikipedia page:
Under Long’s leadership, hospitals and educational institutions were expanded, a system of charity hospitals was set up that provided health care for the poor, massive highway construction and free bridges brought an end to rural isolationism, and free textbooks for school children. He remains a controversial figure in Louisiana history, with critics and supporters debating whether he was a dictator, demagogue or populist.
Jen wanted to take the scenic route on the way to New Orleans instead of the usual boring Highway. There were historic plantations on the way, so it gave something to look for. We figure we could find some little nook that served up some boudin that we had longed to try since entering the state. If not boudin, then we might stumble upon something special that looked to good to pass up. Unfortunately we never found anywhere along our travel to New Orleans noteworthy enough to stop. The plantations did nothing to evoke my historian side, and all I was left with was that these lands were keeping the worst of our country’s history alive. Some will say we should not ignore this history and the South’s slavery is part of it. The only use I got out of my visit was to use the bathroom which seemed a true tribute to this history for me.
The Sauce Goddess and I split up as we approached New Orleans to go to our respective hotels, but later met for lunch a couple blocks away. I can’t remember the bistro we ended up at, but it was the bargain of the trip. For $10 we got a chicken fried chicken (instead of steak) with 5 boudin balls in place of the mashed potatoes. It was pretty good eats too. We had agreed to meet with Patter Fam Sauces’ Sam and Joyce Peters for dinner at Drago’s restaurant, known for their charbroiled oysters. The only oysters I have ever had that I enjoyed. Good stuff. Once we ate, we headed over to the French Quarter looking for some music and libations to relax to. When we finally found a place I took out my wallet and I found out to my dismay that my credit card was missing. I figured that it had to be back at Drago’s, and I had to get there before it closed. I got there as the doors were being locked, and lucky for me, they had the card. It would have been tough to get along without it. Phew! Rather than head back to rejoin my compatriots I called it an early night and headed to bed.
Sept 26, 2013
I met with Joyce & Sam Peters at the New Orleans School of Cooking in the French Quarter at 10am. I have made it a tradition, that all my New Orleans visits include class at this cooking school. For $26 we get a 3 course meal which changes daily, plus pralines and drink. It comes with a history lesson as well. The teachers I have had over the years have been spectacular in entertaining their classroom full of mostly tourists, and it is fresh every time I attend. This time we had Harriet Robin, and she was absolutely great and very entertaining. If you go to New Orleans and have the time to give up 2 1/2 hours of your day, this is a must stop. Our recipes were Corn & Crab Bisque, Shrimp Creole and Banana Foster(pictured below).
As soon as the class was over, Sam & Joyce hightailed it out of there to go setup their booth at the Chile Pepper Extravaganza. I had some free time so I just casually made my way over to the convention center, looking at various shops as I made my way over there. The event was 3 days, and I was going to spend quality time at the event, so I was in no rush to get there, but I did want to make sure the Sauce Goddess got herself situated okay because she was alone the first day before her friend arrived. What I did not know about the convention center was just how long it was. I started at the front end and I decided to walk through it until I found where the convention room was. I must have walked at least a 1/2 mile if not more before coming to the very end of the convention center where the show was. This place was huge, and the room itself had a lot of floor space. I walked around and hugged, shook hands and greeted many of the vendors. The Sauce Goddess was as usual envisioning what her booth would look like rather than actually assembling. I helped her with what I could in between her moments of clarity.
I was alerted to the fact that the vendors had a Mardi Gras mask contest on the first day Friday, and I was too asked to get me some mask to wear. Chile Pepper Magazine’s Rick McMillan wanted to bring the spirit of New Orleans to the show, and I thought it was a fun idea. Right next door to the convention center was the Mardi Gras Warehouse, so CaJohn, his krewe, and a few others went in to see if they had any masks to buy. Although they did not have any worth buying, the Mardi Gras floats stored in their warehouse were amazing. I had to take a few pics to share.
Before we went on a real Mardi Gras Mask search in the French Quarter, we headed over to Mulate’s for some authentic Cajun Cooking. The charm of Mulate’s is there Louisiana music and dancing. A band plays the hits and the people, young and old hit the floor. One particular Casanova hit on all the ladies, and it did not let his 80+ age stop him from missing any of the music as he was out on the floor for the entire time we were there. I filmed a little of him if you are so inclined to see his moves CLICK HERE. CaJohn ordered the table a huge Cajun Appetizer platter. It had grilled alligator, fried crawfish & tilapia bites, meat pies, grilled frog legs, fried crawfish tails, calamari, stuffed mushrooms and boudin. We barely made a dent in it. We had to save room for the main dish. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, so I asked to waiter to pick something and surprise me. What I ended up with was the Quartet of Crawfish, which was fried & grilled crawfish tails, crawfish etouffee, and blackened crawfish au gratin. Not the prettiest looking platter of food that I have ever seen, but it had some good stuff on it. I liked the boudin especially. I had a lot of amazing bites in Louisiana, especially in the places that Dana took me too. The blackened crawfish au gratin was either number 1 or 2 for the whole trip. Because I wanted to share what I had with the table and watch how much I was eating at the same time, I gave everyone a forkful of it. Vic Clinco got the blackened alligator as pictured below. When the bill came, CaJohn took care of the whole table. He did this a couple of times I dined with him. It is his good natured acts in this community of ours that makes him so well liked. He cares enough about people to go well above and beyond to make them feel special. I, for one, am deeply honored to be in his circle of friends. John you are a giant amongst men. Thank you.
After we were done at Mulate’s we sauntered off to the French Quarter to a souvenir shop with loads of Mardi Gras masks. Our whole group each came away with something special. I got a chicken looking one that I will share in a pic on Part 7. It seems someone else liked that mask enough to buy it as well, and we took a picture together. When we finished with that, we got to make an after closing stop at the Pepper Palace. Once the workers saw CaJohn was in our party we got to come in and take a look around. He was treated as a celebrity of sorts, so it was cool to see that in action. We were in the store for a about 15 minutes and slowly made our way back to our respective hotels thereafter. Tomorrow was the big 1st of 3 days for the Chile Pepper Extravaganza and everyone wanted to get their rest in while they could.