Thursday, May 3, 2007: A Return to the Scene of the Crime (and Other Dumb Ideas)

We grabbed our morning Hoes at Club Decatur before walking to Fiorella’s for lunch. Normally, I wouldn’t return to the scene of the crime where I got food poisoning, but I was in a forgiving mood. Either that, or I was very stupid.

Now permanently frightened of poultry, I ordered the Cajun Burger, which could be undercooked yet still safe. It was okay with that tasty Cajun sauce slathered on top. I also ordered the gumbo, which the waitress was proud to have made herself. I didn’t have the heart to tell her to ease up on the salt next time. Their stereo played an odd mix of 1980s tunes, and I thought that it would have been perfect had they had a dish called “Bangles and Chicken.”

After lunch, I walked to Frenchmen Street to buy some Pralines at The Praline Connection. There were rumors of some sort of festival taking place on Frenchmen, but it was dead. (I think it was a one-day affair that ended on Wednesday.) Willie Tee was supposed to be playing in Lafayette Square with Stanton Moore, Robert Walter, Robert Mercurio, Wil Bernard, so I had to haul ass cross-town. As I frantically raced up Royal Street, I thought, “Isn’t it nice to have a relaxing day in the French Quarter?”

Opener Charmaine Neville was on stage and Willie Tee would not be on for a while, making it impossible to both catch his act and get ready for dinner. Shaking my fist at this cruel world, I grabbed a drink and retired to get ready for Cochon.

(Editor’s Note: Sadly, Willie Tee would pass away on 9/11/07, and I missed my chance to see him live in concert.)

There’s a good chance that any restaurant whose name translates to the word “Pig” will get a hearty endorsement from me. Cochon certainly lived up to its wonderfully swineful name.

A quick run-down of what was ingested:

– a couple of Mint Juleps (I would have preferred Woodford but Makers Mark would do.)

– Boudin Balls – Mike had eaten these before, so we followed his advice and enjoyed these fried things that tasted great with Creole mustard

– Ribs -They were very peppery but well balanced by tart watermelon pickle.

– Andouille sausage and sweet potato w/ black-eyed pea vinaigrette – A real smoky combo paired well with tart vinegar

– Crawfish Bisque – It was good but not the best. It could have more rich.

– Louisiana Cochon – The only thing better than pork is succulent pork, so moist, good texture with cracklins and turnips.

– Bitter Greens with Pork Chunks – vegetables always taste better with pork chunks

– Eggplant and Shrimp Casserole thing that tasted like a tamale

– Cucumber and Squash Salad with Goat Cheese – a refreshing and perfect pairing

– Cochon Mississippi Mud Pie – featuring a wall of caramel, it was the best dessert I’ve had in Nola

We left Cochon for the Cricket Club, whose edifice was once a restaurant on the Eiffel Tower. Apparently, the architect’s calculations were slightly off, so for safety’s sake, they removed the entire restaurant from the tower and shipped it to New Orleans. It’s a gorgeous steel structure with a long ramp leading to the entrance. It was very nice inside, and the spring-loaded dance floor was great. Unfortunately, the cavernous sound completely sucked.

Groovesect, whom we had been somewhat impressed with at the porch set last Sunday, were on for the first set. They weren’t bad, but the sparse crowd wasn’t exactly into it. They brought Fred Wesley out, and the quality started to ramp up significantly. Everything was really smoking by the time they got into a killer “Pass the Peas.” It had a nice little jam, and then Bill Summers played a cool little mellow solo. Then Fred Wesley announced that they would be back in a bit for a second set.

What?

They finally started to gain some momentum, Fred and Bill had barely been onstage, and now we were suddenly suffering from coitus interruptus. Not cool. Not cool at all.

Set Two started nicely before completely fizzling out. It featured one of the most lifeless “Cissy Struts” ever with the drummer skipping the essential Zigaboo two-note hit on the high hat. Bill Summers never came back, which made his 15 minutes on stage a bold theft of a paycheck. Honestly, the best part of this set was a crazy dude in the audience who sat cross-legged and banged shit on the floor.

We bolted before the ending to grab a cab to The Maple Leaf, where we caught the last 45 minutes of George Porter, Johnny Vidacovich, Marco Benevento, and Skerik. Sadly, this was the only time I caught Johnny during Jazz Fest, and he wasn’t as wild as he normally is.

There was a lengthy changeover before the James Brown Birthday Tribute began, and I killed time by befriending Sam and Brian, whom I would later learn live a few blocks away from where I work. The set of music was certainly danceable, but it was nothing special. Tony Hall did a decent job, but it was clear he was no James Brown.

It had poured rain during the show, but it was only lightly spitting at setbreak. Since I was tired and somewhat unimpressed by the band, I opted to try to take advantage of the relative clearing and attempted to grab a cab. Many others had the same idea, and there were no cabs in sight, as the cab companies weren’t answering their phone at 3:30 AM. I tried the old New York trick of walking further down the block than anyone else in hopes I could grab the cab first. When I got all the way down the block, I realized that this was one of my least intelligent ideas. Although the Garden District is certainly a very nice neighborhood, this particular area was sparsely populated, and noting the recent crimewave, it dawned on me that no one would hear me scream as I would be disemboweled by a random thug’s rusty meat hook.

As I walked back to civilization, the cab sped past me and picked up a pack of assclowns who wanted to piss away their morning at Igor’s. There were plenty more who wanted to do the same thing, and I now knew that a solo passenger would have little shot at getting a cab to the French Quarter.

Just then, when hope was bleak, Saint Samuel Wilcher appeared with keys in hand and offered a ride. Thank God for Sammy. If not for him, I would have probably been stuck outside the Maple Leaf for hours.

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