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New Orleans Oyster Festival 2011

From New Oyster Festival 2011

I meet many wonderful people through this blog, most of which I never get to meet in person. I met Seth McMillan, this way and later through Facebook, so when I knew I was coming down to New Orleans for a visit I sent him a message saying we should try to get together, he suggested we go check out the Second Annual New Orleans Oyster Festival that was happening on the same dates of my trip, great call!

We met up at about 8:30 a.m. on the Sunday morning, both a little rough around the edges from the night before. I followed Seth’s lead by grabbing a Gatorade from the Walgreens across from Jax Brewery where the festival was being held. Another great call…electrolytes. I like this guy already!

Seth is a Sous Chef at Bourbon House Seafood Restaurant and an all around great guy. He does the seafood ordering for the restaurant, so he shared a lot of interesting information about ordering Seafood in New Orleans, and about all of the vendors and purveyors that he deals with in the day to day. We shared restaurant stories, talked food and eventually ended up at the Bourbon House bar for eye openers until the festival opened up (by the way, the frozen Bourbon Milk Punch at Bourbon House is a hell of a way to start the morning, loved it!)

After some good conversation at the bar with the bartender, who colorfully relayed a story of his early morning run in with a very hungover guest of the hotel, which had my sides splitting, we headed over to the festival with a nice lady that was at the bar when we arrived, who needed someone to walk over with. After making sure the bartender got our descriptions she said:

“I should be crazy walking away with two strange guys in the city, but at least there are like a million people around!”

To which I jokingly replied:

“That’s what alleys are for.”

But alas, we arrived safe and sound after a few hundred abduction jokes and said goodbye to the nice lady whose husband was working at the festival. We then did a flyby of all of the tents to see what they were offering.

From July 21, 2011

Here is a listing of the restaurants that were there and what they were serving.

After the flyby we stopped at the Drago’s tent. It was a windy day, with a little bit of welcomed rain that kept the temperature, still hot, but almost livable. The wind carried huge gusts of aroma from Drago’s famous Charbroiled Oysters deep into the Quarter. Later in the day we were on Chartres and were caught in a smell storm of charcoal, oysters and cheese sauce flare up, that made my mouth water. Here are some of the grill men working the Oysters.

From July 23, 2011

Drago’s Restaurant owner Tommy Cvitanovich was on hand and let me get a few pictures of Drago’s Char-Broiling Fire Engine, complete with flat screen TV’s, tappers of Abita Amber, and a Jagermeister dispenser.

From July 21, 2011

Tommy dispensing the Jager!

From July 21, 2011

Drago’s Char-Broiled Oysters are in my humble opinion, one of the best damned ways to eat a Louisiana Oyster! I even created my own recipe to try to duplicate them at home. In fact, I proudly announce that my photo from the same shoot from that post is being used on the cover of The Louisiana Seafood Bible: Oysters!

From Louisiana Seafood Bible – Oysters

Here is the recipe:

Drago’s Style Char-Broiled Oysters Recipe

From November 21, 2011

Here is the real deal from the festival!

From July 21, 2011

After visiting the Drago’s tent we decided it was time for an ice cold Abita Amber:

From July 21, 2011

While hanging around the beer tent Seth ran into, and introduced me to Sal Sunseri of P&J Oyster Company, which is absolutely legendary in New Orleans, and unfortunately, is still reeling from the effects of the BP Oil spill damage to the Louisiana Oyster beds. In fact, the Oyster Festival was started last year to educate the country about the benefits and importance of the Louisiana Gulf Oyster, as well as to showcase the restaurants and the dishes that they create from them. P&J also has a wonderful cookbook:

The P&J Oyster Cookbook

Sal Sunseri and Seth McMillan:

From July 21, 2011

While hanging near the Abita Beer tent we stopped and checked out James Andrews Band, I absolutely love this photo that I caught of the incredible trumpeter James Andrews at work!

From July 21, 2011

I also have to say, as incredible of a food experience that I always have in New Orleans, I also always have an equally incredible music experience! Hopping clubs on Frenchman Street at all hours, the Monday night Super Jam at Maison! Street Musicians galore! Rebirth Brass Band at Maple Leaf Bar on Tuesdays. More on the music in a later post, on to more food!

Fried Oyster Po Boy with Smoked Tomato Relish from John Besh’s restaurant Luke:

From July 21, 2011


These are Oysters from the largest Oyster Contest, they are easily bigger than my opened hand.

From July 21, 2011

Oyster Rockefeller Bouhe from Royal House, Seth said that this was his “guilty pleasure” of the day!

From July 21, 2011

The last stop was Bourbon House‘s tent, because Seth works there I got a behind the scenes view of the cooks making what was one of my favorite things to eat at the festival, Barbecue Shrimp, for the Barbecue Shrimp Po Boy. The second photo being one of my favorites from my whole trip! I love food photography, maybe because it’s hard to go wrong! If the food looks appetizing it is an amazing photo opp!

From July 21, 2011
From July 21, 2011

The finished product Barbecue Shrimp Po Boy from Bourbon House!

From July 21, 2011

The other offering from Bourbon House, Seth’s choice, and a good choice, Mcilhenny Oysters! He gave me a sample of an Oyster before he dug in, absolutely delicious, perfectly fried and the sauce was a perfect compliment! This is also one of my favorite pics from my visit!

From July 21, 2011

These festivals are such an incredible way for visitors and locals alike to sample the wares of a lot of different great restaurants in one spot, not to mention listen to some great live music!

After we were done with the Festival, Seth and I continued to hang out and decided to jump in my rental car and go find an awesome restaurant to check out, the city was our Oyster, pun intended, but as we found out, Sunday afternoon is no time to dine in New Orleans.

Boucherie…closed, Dante’s…closed, this little place right there I heard about has great…DAMN…closed! Look at this a Tapas bar off of St. Charles, the door’s open! Finally! Let’s go check it out! How ya doin?

“Good, but we don’t open until 5 o’clock. Sorry.”

DAMN IT!!!! Ahh, excuse me…Do you have a bathroom? Great, thanks.

The afternoon was a relentless barrage of closed signs and shuttered doors, we had nothing to do but laugh by the end of it. It was either laugh or cry.

We ended up at the mostly unlikely place for two educated diners to be eating in New Orleans. Jackson Square??? How the hell did we end up back here? Next stop:


Be sure and check out my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes which provides links to all of the recipes featured at Nola Cuisine!

Abita Brewing Company Tour

From Abita Brewery – Abita Springs, Louisiana

After my first stop at Middendorf’s Seafood Restaurant, and a brief stop in Pontchatoula, I jumped back into my car and made my way east, above the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain to Abita Springs, LA to visit and hopefully take the Abita Brewery tour.

Abita Brewing Company Tasting Room & Tour
166 Barbee Rd.
Abita Springs, LA

The Abita Brewing Company Visitor’s center was opened in 2008, the old brewery now houses the Abita Brew Pub. They even have their own cookbook called Abita Beer: Cooking Louisiana True

Upon arriving at the brewery I quickly pulled into a parking spot, and hustled up to the front of the visitor’s center:

View Larger Map

From Abita Brewery – Abita Springs, Louisiana

I bellied up to the end of a group which was just entering and noticed that everyone was wearing wrist bands, so I stepped back and approached the guy at the door clutching a $20 bill in my hand.

“How much is the tour?” I asked.

“$20 bucks” he replied “You’ve got just enough!” then put his hand out. As I reached to hand him my dough he broke out into a wild cackle that would have made a Hyena blush, then slapped me on the back. Crack!

“This is free man!! You’re just in time! Here’s a wristband and a cup, have a good time!” Another friendly slap on the back and off I went, entering the Abita Brewery visitors center tasting room which wins the 2011 NOLA CUISINE award for Best Place to get Drunk for Free! Not a really a real award, mind you, but if I had one, Abita would win it, hands down!

By the way, don’t be a stooge like me and go here alone, I could only sample as I had to drive into New Orleans. Best to find some other stooge to drive you so that you can truly partake in this excellent, rare, FREE beer drinking opportunity!

Also, please forgive me for the less than crisp photography on this post, but please note: All photos were taken while holding an ice cold cup of Abita beer…I know my priorities. :)

The visitors center is wonderfully decorated with art work on the walls representing many of your favorite or soon to be favorite Abita beers, Purple Haze:

From Abita Brewery – Abita Springs, Louisiana

My old standby Abita Amber:

From Abita Brewery – Abita Springs, Louisiana

One of my new favorites Jockamo IPA:

From Abita Brewery – Abita Springs, Louisiana

Now, I’m not going to lie, the artwork wasn’t the first thing that I noticed upon entering the tasting room, it was the line of fellow guests lining up behind the Mahogany bar to fill up their cups from one of 15 tappers of different Abita Beers. As much as they wanted, as many different kinds as they would like to try…all for free. In essence, a beer drinker’s bliss.

From Abita Brewery – Abita Springs, Louisiana
From Abita Brewery – Abita Springs, Louisiana

The atmosphere is ultra relaxed, everyone just hanging out meeting some new people, drinking some great beer, playing a game of ring toss:

From Abita Brewery – Abita Springs, Louisiana

After about 15-20 minutes of hanging out sampling the wares, the tour begins with a video. The crowd mostly ignores the video, then the tappers are cut off to focus attention onto the tour into the brewery which is about 10 minutes long.

From Abita Brewery – Abita Springs, Louisiana

It is quite loud in the cellar, and folks tended to keep talking while our tour guide was talking, which made it very hard to hear. Understandable I guess, free beer tends to make people chatter. I only caught snippets of the dialogue as I was standing in the back, fortunately for those of us that were interested, the information is available online here.

Here are some pics from inside the Cellar:

From Abita Brewery – Abita Springs, Louisiana
From Abita Brewery – Abita Springs, Louisiana

Booties must be worn if wearing open toed shoes:

From Abita Brewery – Abita Springs, Louisiana

After the tour, the group returned to the tasting room for you guessed it, more free beer. More hanging out, relaxing, enjoying.

From Abita Brewery – Abita Springs, Louisiana
From Abita Brewery – Abita Springs, Louisiana
From Abita Brewery – Abita Springs, Louisiana

My visit finished early as I had to drive, and was looking forward to a long afternoon, and even longer evening in New Orleans. I jumped in my rental and made my way for the Ponchartrain causeway, which is 23.83 miles directly across Lake Pontchartrain into New Orleans!

Next up Radosta’s for an excellent cup of Gumbo and a Roast Beef Po Boy.

Be sure and check out my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes which provides links to all of the recipes featured on Nola Cuisine!

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