New Orleans Roadfood Festival rolls in March 24-25

That New Orleans is a food town is no secret. What I just discovered, however, is that it’s host to a food festival spawned by one of my favorite pastimes ever: road food (and no, I’m not referring to this kind). Way back in the day, when I was a wee college student, I discovered the late, great Gourmet magazine, and became obsessed with “Roadfood,” a column (now a website) written by the road-trippin’, big-eatin’ couple Jane and Michael Stern.

In every issue, the Sterns would choose a micro-region of the U.S. and a local specialty on which to focus their column. Each month, I read about chicken and dumplings in Indiana, pasties from Montana, green chile from El Rito, New Mexico, or barbecue from Owensboro, Kentucky. Then I’d wipe the drool off of the pages and stash each article away in a manila folder to be saved for future road trips, both real and imagined.

Apparently, nearly half a decade ago, while I was lost in some “best roadside diner biscuit” reverie, the Sterns helped create the New Orleans Roadfood Festival. The 4th annual food fiesta will be held March 24-25 in the city’s historic French Market. It will provide a showcase for over 30 restaurants across the country, which will serve the dishes that made them famous. Attendees will be able to street-feast upon Texas and Memphis barbecue, Tucson’s best tamales, custard from upstate New York, Cajun and Creole delicacies from across Louisiana, and many other regional culinary specialties. There will also be cooking demos, live music, a beignet-eating contest for the N.O. Fire Department, and a kickoff party featuring the Sterns, local chefs, and noted cookbook author Lynne Rossetto Kasper.

And get this: admission to the festival is free. You’ll still have to pay for those good eats, but a portion of the proceeds will benefit Cafe Reconcile, a non-profit restaurant that uses innovative strategies to provide life skills and job training to youth from at-risk communities in area. Just in case you need a guilt-free reason to indulge. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

[Photo credit: Flickr user Adam Melancon]

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard a St. Louie Treat

From the moment I exited my flight into the city I was caught off guard by the blistering afternoon heat. That’s how I knew that ole’ Mid-West heat wave they were talking about in the news was no joke, but I wasn’t expecting it to be nearly this bad. I wanted ice cream. When I met my family down at baggage claim I immediately made my desire for a cool delicious sugary snack known and like a robot programmed to say one line and one line only I spurted it out once more. “I want ice cream.”

My father, who’d be anticipating my trip long ago, had a better idea. Ted Drewes, a well-known St. Louis frozen custard joint serving up the yummies since lord knows when, but this special treat didn’t come until a few days later. Talk about built up excitement! I don’t know how I waited or even survived. My pops figured a mini-concrete frozen custard would be the perfect accompaniment to a family portrait shoot, so once we made through the grueling staged poses we took off and headed towards the custard.

If you’ll excuse me for a moment I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you what the custard was like. You can call me a duff when I say this, but it was guuuud! I mean it wasn’t just good – it was guuuud! Man, I hadn’t had a brain freeze like the one I encountered gobbling down the fine frozen fare in ages.

Anytime I step off a hot plane in St. Louis, I’ll be beyond happy to head to Ted Drewes. Even if it’s two days after the fact.

Ted Drewes is located at 6726 Chippewa, St, Louis, MO 63109.