Dining Outside the Fest
The merits of stuffing yourself at Jazz Fest are obvious (peruse the Count Basin™ section of this newspaper for intermittent accounts of festival food discoveries), but it's when you're entertaining out-of-town guests that hazardous, bring-on-the-sweatpants overeating becomes inevitable. What else are you going to between the festival and the night shows? Rest? Please. Following are three Jazz Fest-era restaurant reports, the gathering of which resulted in considerable -- but not regrettable -- physical discomfort for this correspondent.
When freshly made spaghetti noodles dry on coat hangers dangling amongst the copper pots in Herbsaint's (701 St. Charles Ave., 524-4114) kitchen, you'd be a fool to order anything else. Cooked al dente, Herbsaint's pasta exhibited a sort of playful resiliency throughout and a flavor as full and alive as its yolk-tinted color. The spaghetti's preparation at lunchtime involved excessive pancetta and cream, but also a terrific egg that had been lightly poached, battered in fine breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Other highlights: a spinach salad including deviled eggs with chopped shrimp in the deviling, and coconut cream pie, its filling a cloud of white.
Elizabeth's (601 Gallier St., 944-9272) Chef-owner Heidi Trull is passionate about her meat, a fact she proved at least threefold during her Jazz Fest-only dinners. She knocked my party silly with a ribeye steak smoked overnight and re-heated to medium-rare; a smoked double-cut pork chop served with greens and sweet potato casserole crusted in candied pecans; and pot roast-tender slices of lamb sirloin blanketed in garlic sauce. The cedar plank-roasted salmon was strongly fish-flavored and mushy, but who orders fish at Elizabeth's, anyway? Mark your calendar now for next year. Of note: Elizabeth's now has a liquor license and a limited wine and beer selection.
Zeke's (1517 Metairie Road, Metairie, 832-1133), a neighborhood-style joint in an Old Metairie shopping center, has maintained a strong kitchen and a steady following. Charbroiled oysters rocked the house when I reviewed it two years ago, and they still do. Shell-on, New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp (an appetizer special) came soaking in a red peppery, flame-orange broth flavored with lemon rind. Red beans were so well-seasoned and meaty on their own that I didn't touch the accompanying hot sausage patty. Zeke's is an especially pleasant option during the festival season, when visiting merrymakers overrun the well-known neighborhood restaurants in Orleans Parish.