Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New Orleans to Go Bayou Extravaganza!

I’ve made no secret of my appreciation for the food served up by the New Orleans to Go food truck folks, LaToya and Randy Foster. I’m a fan of their continually changing menu (more opportunities to try new dishes!), and they never fail to put a smile on my face.

A couple of weeks ago I tried their Buffalo Chicken BLT Po-Boy for the first time.

Anything LaToya fries – shrimp, catfish, oysters, or this time, chicken – is fried to perfection, and well worth the short wait while she cooks to order. You can also count on a heaping plate of food. My bulging Buffalo Chicken Po-Boy came with sides of red beans and rice and a kicky Cajun potato salad that I want more of - now!

I loved the crisp chicken mingled with sassy buffalo ranch, tomato, and lettuce. But a little somethin’ somethin’ seemed to be missing. When I got home from work that night, I found a message from LaToya: “Eggplant I forgot your bacon!” Yep, I’d been anticipating some bacon on that Buffalo Chicken BLT. Not finding it, I thought perhaps I’d misunderstood and that the “B” was for the Buffalo chicken. Instead of feeling short-changed, when I read her message, I laughed out loud.

I’d gotten wind that lobster, corn, shrimp, and grits might be in the offing the following day, so I headed back to 5th and Vine that Friday. Sure enough, grits were on the menu and I didn’t hesitate to order them. LaToya’s husband Randy told me it was “lagniappe day” – true in more ways than one. When I got back to my desk and opened my lunch, what had beem added to my fabulous grits? Bacon! Another touch that had me grinning.

The New Orleans to Go folks had a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Springdale before they closed it last March, opting to shift gears and go the food truck route when Cincinnati passed legislation allowing food trucks at selected downtown locations. This spring LaToya and Randy started talking about doing an all-you-can-eat crawfish boil – an open-to-the-public get-together with new and old customers and friends, and I kept my ear to the ground as the details settled out. New Orleans to Go - aka A Streetcart Named Desire's -  First Annual Bayou Extravaganza was last Friday night, at the clubhouse in the Hebron, KY subdivision where they live.

At $25.00 per person prepaid ($35.00 if you walked in that night without a reservation or ticket), it was a whopping amount of food and a whole lotta fun. I invited my New Orleans-lovin’ friends Trish and Amy from Lima to join me, along with our friend Becky from Bethel, and we had a mighty Zydeco good time.

In fact, the food and frivolity were so good I forgot to pull out my camera when the first plates came out: Wings - with Buffalo, Cajun, barbeque, or Voodoo sauce. The Voodoo wings were hot off New Orleans to Go's truck parked outside the clubhouse when we sat down at our table, so I happily dove into them, with no thought of photo-clicking in my head.

Next up were huge plates of etoufee over dirty rice flanked by fried shrimp and fried catfish - the catfish especially garnered raves from my friends, and proved that my recommendation was well worth their travels. Again, we devoured the food before us, sans camera, although here's a close-up of that marvelous etoufee.

The event was BYOB, but Randy offered his hard lemonade to the adults (virgin lemonade for the kids in the crowd, who were having their own rambunctious time) in these swell souvenir cups. Whatever was in them, this drink was a hit with me and all my gal pals. Randy says he used to make Hurricane Katrinas at the restaurant, and what I wouldn't give to taste one of them.

Finally, it was time for the main event: 100 pounds of crawfish for the room (one of my friends counted about 35 people), served with potatoes and Toya's Cajun corn.

It took us silly Northern girls a while to work on our pinch and suck technique with the crawfish (pinch the tails, suck the heads). We were so full by that point in the meal that we managed to finish only one plate each, plus one for the table, much to LaToya's chagrin ("This is a crawfish boil - you're supposed to eat until you puke," she admonished us).

Somewhere in the midst of the festivities and feeding frenzy, I wisely turned my camera over to my friend Trish. We shall not speak of the demise of her own camera, but I know from spending a week with her in Colorado that she is a fierce photographer.

Sadly (and bad on me), the batteries in my camera were running low once I passed off my camera to Trisha, but she did manage to snap this pic of the pile of crawfish shells wracked up by the "Seventh Ward Posse" when Toya looked at our paltry accumulation of crawfish shells on the newspaper-covered table, pointed to the table next to us, and said, "Now that's how it's done." This photo doesn't begin to do justice to the pile of crawdad shells amassed by those folks.They were serious! And not letting any meat going to waste :)

Of course, this wasn't just an evening of food. It was a par-tay! Lots of great New Orleans music playing all evening long. Beads were bestowed. Handkerchiefs were distributed. Once the cooking portion of her evening was over, LaToya and friends led a Second Line Dance  (more photos on my eggy fb page).

A dance called the Zydeco bounce was also involved.

It was a great night. Thanks to Amy, Trisha, and Becky for joining me, and to LaToya and Randy for hosting. My girls and and I are holding our souvenir cups close and looking forward to New Orleans to Go's Second Annual Bayou Extravaganza for another great rendezvous.

To cap it off, as we waited for our cab, LaToya sent us home with the best party favors ever - etoufee with more Cajun corn, one of our favorite dishes of the night! I don't know where she got that corn this time of year, but it tasted like summer - and New Orleans :)