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In New Orleans, 6 Days of Non-Competitive Eating

Top, from left: fried chicken from Willie Mae's Scotch House, a twist on eggs Benedict from Stanley, pork rillette sandwich from Cochon Butcher, roast beef po boy from Parkway Bakery. Bottom, from left: biscuits at the Soniat House, beignets from the Festivals Acadiens in Lafayette, fried chicken from Dooky Chase and a Champs Elysees cocktail from Arnaud's French 75 Bar. (Joe Yonan)

Steve Hendricks' fun piece yesterday on champion competitive eater Juliet Lee made me feel just a tiny bit better about my own recent run of gluttony: six days in New Orleans. Food lovers who are acquainted with NOLA, and all of you should be, can probably identify. I was there for the conference of the Association of Food Journalists, which meant that I was surrounded by kindred spirits -- the kinds of people who don't think just about their next meal, but instead about the next several.

Eating wasn’t the only thing we did, although it sure felt like it at times. We also listened to panels on Creole cooking, the role of restaurants in the recovery from Hurricane Katrina, and blogging, Tweeting and Facebooking. We went on a field trip to sugar-cane country, and we sat through an awards dinner. (The Post took home a first-place award for a special food project for the Global Food Crisis series, a package to which Jane Black contributed. The Post also won second-place awards for restaurant criticism by Tom Sietsema; food coverage overall for the section edited by yours truly and Bonnie Benwick; and feature writing for the profile of Patrick O’Connell written by Jane.)

When it came to the eating, believe it or not, we conference-goers didn't have enough time to try everything we wanted at a normal three-meals-a-day pace, so we had to ramp it up. Herewith, my attempt to account for everything I tasted, sipped, chewed and swallowed in the Big Easy and an overnight trip to Lafayette. If no quantity is listed, that’s because I was eating only parts of dishes shared by several diners, among them Michael Bauer and Amanda Gold of the San Francisco Chronicle; Bill Addison of Atlanta magazine; Brett Anderson of the Times-Picayune; and Besha Rodell of Creative Loafing. I went to Dooky Chase, Willie Mae's Scotch House, Domenica, August, Stella, Stanley, Huevos, dba, Arnaud's French 75 Bar, Parkway Bakery, Luke, Cochon Butcher, Sazerac Bar, Cure, Croissant d'Or and more.

I have no doubt that I’m missing plenty in this list (and certainly am not accurately describing the entire contents of each dish or drink), but without notes on everything this is the best I can do:

6 cafes au lait
2 lattes
8 regular cups of coffee (some with chicory)
5 beignets
1 twist on eggs Benedict, with fried oysters
4 biscuits (2 with homemade strawberry preserves, all with butter)
5 pieces of fried chicken (1 1/2 breasts, 2 wings, 1/2 thigh)
1 shot of Buffalo Trace bourbon
1 shot of Cat Daddy moonshine
6 glasses of sweet tea
5 fried frog legs
2 calas (rice fritters)
1 Sazerac cocktail
1 Champs Elysees cocktail
1 Brown Bunny cocktail
1 Inverted Perfect cocktail
1 French 75 cocktail
1 Corpse Reviver cocktail
1 Bloody Mary cocktail
1 margarita
2 orders boudin
1 cup of chicken and sausage gumbo
1 cup of shrimp and okra gumbo
1 bowl of crawfish bisque (with stuffed crawfish heads)
1 side dish of stewed okra
1 order of spicy fried catfish smothered in etoufee
1 bread stick
1 bowl of gazpacho with crab
1 bowl of risotto with melted Brie and mushrooms
Alaskan raw oyster with ginger granita
Eel tempura with watermelon kimchi
4 warm buttered dinner rolls
Duck with a berry barbecue sauce
Roast beef, fried shrimp, fried oyster and hot Italian sausage po boys
Eggs Benedict, with soft-shell crab
Huevos con tamales
Huevos rancheros
Pork tongue tacos
Marinated crab claws
Duck pastrami sliders
Pimiento cheese sliders
Pork rillettes sandwich
Pork belly sandwich with cucumber and mint
Salami, soppresatta and coppa sandwich
Grilled triple-crème and dark chocolate sandwich
Pizza margherita
Stracci with oxtail ragu and fried chicken livers
Braised veal
Chocolate budino with candied hazelnuts
Foie gras BLT
Spicy Asian chili prawns
Tomato “composition”
Too much wine to count

It was all this, and more, that prompted two reactions when I got home. First, for my return to home cooking after a week-long absence (an absence that makes me cranky, I must admit), I defrosted and heated up some homemade black beans and had them with simply steamed red potatoes and salsa, along with a mixed green salad topped with a parsley-garlic-tofu dressing. Meat-free. Almost fat-free. Definitely breading-free.

Second, I set aside a mailing from Second Harvest Food Bank of New Orleans and Acadiana, an anti-hunger organization I’ve given money to before. I realize that my patronage of New Orleans restaurants helped the economic development of the city as it continues to recover from Hurricane Katrina four years later. But the mailing from Second Harvest, especially coming on the heels of the Post's win for the Global Food Crisis series, was a particularly timely reminder that so many people are not as fortunate as I and my AFJ binge-buddies are and can’t afford to feed themselves at home. Let alone go out to restaurants, and never mind stuff themselves silly at them.

It put things in a little better perspective, that’s for sure, and made those beans and potatoes taste all the more filling.

-- Joe Yonan

By Joe Yonan  |  October 14, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
 | Tags: Joe Yonan, New Orleans  
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