Nola……

It’s has been a while since my last blog / competition. It’s probably a good thing for me to give some time to digest all that occurred in New Orleans for the acme oyster contest. It saw many a major league eaters’ hammskied on Bourbon Street and talking to Miss America contestants while wearing the oyster belt. I was pleased to be anxiety free, without a million unanswered questions and mental desperation for this trip to nola.

This trip started after a full 12.5 hr shift on Thursday and a not so smart decision to stay up in assurance my 6 am call in to the steve dahl show would not be compromised by a faulty cell phone alarm or sounds of nature alarm clock.( I am on his show every friday at 6am 104.3) After calling in I decided to stay awake and head right to the airport for my 10 am flight. I slept on the plane and arrived groggy but craving some Cajun delicacies. I met my parents for poboys at the mothers for a deep fried oyster poboy and ferdi sandwich. I was later notified of its tourist trap status but must point out that they make a mean sandwich. But not as mean as the pepper steak they serve in Joliet. After that a quick trip to acme in the French quarter where a few dozen oysters were consumed in preparation. These would be the only oysters I ate in training for this competition. And what a mistake that was, more to follow later. I like the taste of oysters but the texture has me on the skids. I had to force them down. My roommate phoning in to the Eric and Kathy show (in Chicago) as me would describe them as like eating a salty whoopee cushion. I would quote Steve Dahl and describe them closer to lung oysters. The flavor of a fresh oyster cannot be matched; I just wish it wasn’t like god was spitting a hocker into your mouth.

Later in the evening would see my parents, the herbivore, nasty Nate, Kevin Ross, and myself attending a dinner at the famed commanders palace. A lot of effort and anxiety was put into wearing the correct clothing, ie no gym shoes, shorts, jeans, and collared shirt required. I could not help the feeling that my dress resembled that of a banquet waiter. Upon arrival I spotted a group of chaces/yuppies rocking the substitute teacher/ saved by the bell jean, sport jacket combo. I don’t think anyone should exude as much confidence as these tool boxes did when sporting an outfit that is a jean jacket away from a Canadian tuxedo.

Imagine a restaurant filled with uptight tight wads with escorts and sugar mommas wanting to be seen. My first impression was that it was a stuffy and an ahole haven. It led to a bad taste in my mouth just peering into the first floor dining room waiting for our table. This would all change when we were seated and I read the menu( for probably the 5th time, I checked it several times before the trip as my earnest and excitement grew, I do have an au unhealthy obsession with food after all). I knew going into this meal that I would be eating like it was my last meal before my head was put on the chopping block of early France. That seems to be my main problem and reason I don’t eat out very often. There are too many good choices when it comes to dining that I would prefer to sample anything off the menu that appeals to me because I don’t like repeating visits. I have my favorites that I return to but the majority of the time it’s like I just got out of a gypsy concentration camp and plan on eating to the point of rupture. This would be no different. My plan was to get the

Soups 1-1-1
A demi serving of three soups: Gumbo, Turtle and Soup du Jour

The gumbo showed real promise; it had all the richness from a roux cooked tediously long and slow to bring out the true and deep roasted flour taste. With the freshest seafood thrown in for good measure, it was likely the best Cajun staple the has every crossed my palate.

Tasso Shrimp Henican
Quickly seared and coated with Crystal hot sauce beurre blanc ~ served with five pepper jelly and pickled okra

This dish was something else. The sauce was a broken mess of overwhelming flavor, exactly the rustic appeal I enjoy most in cooking. When simplicity is taken to this level of greatness and execution there is nothing better. The simplest things are always the best assuming they are done right, this was perfectly balanced, being a sweet, sour, and salty rich sauce that coated the taste buds perfectly and created a singing harmony on the tongue.

The cheese plate

Strawberry shortcake

They kept it simple but made it a delicious thing to eat. It was light and airy with a bite from the almond biscuit.

Crispy Soft Shell Crab
Jumbo lump Louisiana blue crab, house made andouille, tiny tomatoes, pinched herbs, artisan grits, and smoked chili ravigote w/ liquefied basil

This dish has been in my dreams, wet and dry. The soft shell crab is perfection on its own when floured and pan fried creating its own juice from all innards. If for some reason you wanted to take that subtle flavor and put it on crack you would have this dish. It was excellently prepared with the andouille crust adding tons of flavors yet not overpowering the crab. The tomatoes and herbs were a nice salad that added a temperature contrast to the steaming hot crab.

Table side bananas foster

Bread Pudding Soufflé
“The Queen of Creole Desserts”

It straddled the line of light and airy but was heavy with the richness of the flavor. It was the most unique take on bread pudding I’ve ever had.

We packed it in and spent the night on Bourbon Street taking in the sights and getting in around 3 am.

Competition day marked beautiful weather as we headed to the French quarter fest. I agreed to be in a shucking contest pre eating to see if I had what it takes against the big boys. I knew going in that I’d be getting my ass beat but it was fun to see how stellar their shucking skills were. I was extremely exited to be apart of the shucking contest because it’s an element of competition I’ve never been a part of. Truthfully I had more fun shucking than I did eating them. I find that getting into the rhythm was just as hard in shucking as it is with eating. My excitement couldn’t be curbed as my hands shook while trying to pry open the bivalves. I’ve opened a few dozen oysters before but was no match for the true pros. My oysters came out like they had been chopped up Benny Hanna style and were put back into the shells. They would only suffice in providing nourishment to livestock or to be used in a soup or stew for Cajun inmates. When time was called I had 4 of my 2 dozen left and a gaping cut on my left thumb from an oyster shell. Thankfully the clean up crew did not dispose of my oysters directly in front of me. Seeing them take one look at my blood and shell littered pile of oestras led me to think that they could only mouth to themselves that this white boy doesn’t know how to shuck worth a damn and is not worth an oyster knife.

The competition began after I was bandaged up, if anyone asked I would just tell them I cut my finger fixing my el camino. I can only imagine cutting your finger is about as uncool and amateur as it gets in oyster shucking. I went in thinking that eating the record plus a few dozen would be no problem. That couldn’t of been farther from the truth. Normally when you get into the zone it can seem like everything is a blur and you’re able to tune everything out. For this contest the texture bothered me the entire length of the contest. Blame it on being a city boy from up in Chicago, I do wish I wasn’t such a baby and could consume them like the Cajuns do and not make that bitter beer or shot of bad tequila face after eating them. The mad Greek got out to a fast start and I spent the first half of the contest trying to get my bearings and catch him. My plan going in was to eat 3 at a time as I saw Sonya do when she demolished 46 doz in 10. That turned out to be too much and I switched to only 1. I finally settled on 2 at a time and found it as the best choice. Upon settling down I managed to eat at the speed I was hoping for, but it was too late. For a stretch of 10 dozen or so I was eating them 6-8 seconds per dozen. There was no zone to be heard of for me in this competition, everything seemed to move in slow motion and I was conscious of every second on the clock. This weakened state was put to the test when peering over at gravy brown; he appeared to have dunked his hand into a bucket of clam chowder. I realized that he had just had a reversal, our eyes met and for a second I assumed he was trying to make me puke a la stand by me.

The only rules set in stone for all competitions state that going in with too much confidence will lead to disappointment and getting your ass beat. Maybe I went in with too much confidence that I could beat sonya’s record although impossible since they shortened the contest from 10 to 8 minutes. I had not practiced and that came back to bite me in the ass. Had she been there I don’t think I would have won. Something was off and in disconnect between my brain and body. I was hoping to at least break 40 but getting off to a terrible start is impossible to overcome. I tip my hat to Sonya in that effort 2 years ago, I can’t imagine how she did it that long ago. I also must tip my hat to the rest of the field. Juliet continues to surprise with her capacity and skill. The mad Greek seems to have something to prove and he has the speed to match, he’s my pick for eater to watch in 08. Don’t count out nasty Nate as well, I expect big numbers from both of them this year.

After the contest and drinking a gallon of water to offset the salty properties of the oyster we were ready to tackle anything the big easy could throw our way. We spent several hours at a local hangout drinking beer, bloody marys, and these frozen coffee/ soft serve drinks. These frozen coffees w/ booze were the highlight of the day. Upon leaving I made sure to have one for each had to drink on the street. The day saw us making stops in coyote ugly among other places. They had one hell of a spread of spicy crawfish that would be boiled and tossed on a table for patrons to enjoy. This boil also included potatoes, corn, and garlic. It was seasoned in Cajun strength so it was over the top and too spicy for me. We then proceeded to wander bourbon aimlessly and had a few hurricanes and hand grenades. When the oysters settled we took a group field trip to a restaurant that had been recommended to me. Myself, the Greek, Nate, Gravy took a 30 minute cab ride to find out that it was a phantom address and were parked in the front of suburban house. The ride back was the most embarrassing 30 minutes of my life. But we found a Cajun pizza place that served up gumbo, jambalaya, and other Cajun specialties on pizza. There was nothing better to soak up and offset all the booze and oysters.

The rest of the trip is kind of a blur; I can tell you that we took turns wearing the oyster belt on bourbon. I can also tell you that at one point a trip to krystal burgers did occur. I enjoy putting others on the spot, like telling girls that a friend or relative would really like to share a dance with them. The best part is watching as they get dragged to the dance floor all red faced. But the best I’ve ever witnessed this was executed by el toro. The krystals was packed w/ 50-75 people in line and he decides to put me on the spot. At the top of his lungs he yells, hey everybody, we got the number 2 ranked comp. eater in the world he ate 94 krystals in 8 min. He continued but I don’t recall the lines. Upon the first mention of my stats I took the oyster belt off, put my head down, and pretended I didn’t know him. I don’t know if that could ever be matched. Those cheese sliders and mini chili dogs never tasted so good.

That is about all for this trip. Should anyone feel bored they can check out Joey Chestnuts and my blog on yardbarker.com/users/pbandjc. They are a blog site that hosts numerous pro athletes. It’s a pleasure to be blogging on their site. I will blog here with some crossover in material. All eating material will be put up on that site while the drunken mayhem and dumbass things I do after the eating will continue to be written about on top of the eating stuff here.

Ciao

Eat up and eat well.
Deep Dish

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