By Mary Leigh Fitzmorris
It’s been three days since this year’s Boudin Bourbon and Beer event, and I’m still waddling around like a boudin-stuffed piglet.
The event featured masses of New Orleans and Gulf Coast chefs offering their most creative interpretations of boudin, an ingredient itself so divine it could scarcely be improved upon. Put that in Champions Square, flood the place with bourbon and beer, and you’re going to have a good time.
While I consider food grazing events to be one of life’s greatest joys, I had never made a point to make it to this one. I was blissfully unaware of how poor my decision had been when I casually accepted an invitation to this year’s extravaganza. As a newbie I foolishly didn’t vet my menu options, and worse, I had lunch earlier in the day (rookie mistake). Still, I bundled up and was ready to roll at 6:01PM.
A roasted pig greeted us at the entrance of the first tent, and we wet our palettes with a little cochon de lait and pickled veggies as we strategized. While the crowds were actually quite manageable, a sweeping glance around the first tent showed that a single human stomach wasn’t cut out for this and restraint would indeed be required. Restraint is not a big part of my personality profile.
Still optimistic, I beelined to Leighann Smith’s Boudin Stuffed Eggrolls (Piece of Meat Butcher). I confess I have actually eaten these before at the restaurant, but they’re just so delectable and let’s not forget my aforementioned lack of restraint. Good thing too, because I noticed her table was right next to Adam Biderman’s (Company Burger) Brisket Boudin Slider!
And this, my friends, is where it all rocketed downhill.
I had a slider in one hand and an eggroll in the other, so how was I supposed to grab Jimmy Bannos’ (Heaven on Seven) Beef and Pork Boudin Ball with Parmesan Grits?? I double-stacked my paper boats of boudin and decided it would be best to survey the bounty before continuing to grab food like a recently thawed caveman.
There was no respite to be found at the Co-Chair Tent, which featured the works of this evening’s celebrity chefs. Aaron Sanchez’ (Johnny Sanchez) offered an overly generous chunk of Boudin Burrito which stood to be one of the evening’s overall favorites, closely rivaled by the neighboring Fried Boudin Tamale with Jalapeno Ranch from Link Restaurant Group’s Stephen Stryjewski.
I pressed on to Tent #3 and was met by another roasted pig, this one stuffed with boudin by those masterminds at Central City BBQ. It was a serve yourself pig, as all pigs should be. This tent also housed a few non-pork themed dishes (quelle horreur!) like the Salmon Belly Yakitori with Kimchi Slaw by GW Fins’ Michael Nelson, along with Willie Mae’s Scotch House doing their fried chicken thing. I sadly missed the Chicken Sausage Biryani by Saffron NOLA, but I sampled a nice Boudin Corncake with Spicy Bacon Jam by Cochon Cannery that took my food level straight up to my eyeballs.
I passed through the South Walton Tent on my way up to the dessert area and got my surprisingly free hands on my favorite plain ‘ol boudin of the night from Stinky’s Fish Camp. It was served over Shrimp & Mirliton Stuffing and had the word “Smoked” in the title, so naturally, it’s allure doubled.
Desserts were served at the foot of the Dome and were surprisingly lacking in number. Perhaps this was by design for the good of the people. I passed on Brennan’s pretty Banana Bourbon Bacon Moonpies as I deem only one of those B’s to be worth consuming and instead landed near Jacques Torres’ Chocolate and Passion Fruit Mousse Bourbon Shots. These were divine, and handed out by Jacques himself, who proved to be as lovely as his chocolate chip cookies.
After four of those delectable little mousse cups-yes that’s right I said four-the only thing left to do was stand in line in the frigid wind for a snowball no one could possibly want at this time. Ashley Hansen of Hansen’s Sno-Bliz was there serving a selection of her artisan snowballs. I chose the Satsuma and Coconut Milk flavor, which I think was the best decision I’ve made all year. Ashley, put this on the menu post-haste and everyone, go and get one.
After the crowds subsided a bit, I made one last pass through to take some better photos. About half the vendors had run out of food, but Commander’s Palace still had a few Cochon de Lait Tostadas left, which I had somehow missed earlier. If I had been able to move efficiently at this point I’d have been kicking myself. I persevered, and ended the evening on a high note as this ended up being my favorite overall item.
I left wondering where this had been my whole life, and when I might ever be hungry again.