Food and booze happy New Orleans certainly has its share of dine and drink-oriented events, and to some degree, many of these events blur together (i.e. the place with the wine and the faces of the people in suits and dresses, the plates of, um…something and the music by the people with the instruments). Maybe I just have a poor memory. However, for me, Boudin, Bourbon & Beer, year after year, remains one of New Orleans most memorable events.
The food is thoughtfully conceptualized, the drinks are concerned with local specialties — Abita and bourbon-based cocktails, the entertainment always draws upon NOLA’s musical heritage — Zydeco, funk.
Year after year, I attempt to eat each of the 40 or so bites at BB&B. And each year, I knock out a mere 20 or so. This year I adjusted my strategy: wore something elastic; ate a small early lunch; tackled with food stations with a partner — each of us consuming no more than two bites of each offering; avoided booze that might jeopardize precious belly real estate until after the tasting; traveled through the stations in a linear order. But mass tastings aren’t that easy. Elastic has a definite stretch capacity. The stomach says “give me something green.” The bartender hands you a beer. Your tasting companion taps out before bite 20. This sausage looks like that sausage and you can’t remember where you left off on the tasting line.
Similar to attempting to eat several dozen bites, photographing the said bites also has its kinks: pork grease on the camera lens, an elbow bump, pork grease on the camera lens, an awkward hand in the background, pork grease on the camera lens, and did I mention pork grease on the camera lens.
I fared better in my own personal boudin olympics this year. But I didn’t eat everything, nor did I reasonably photograph every bite (there’s a nice, blurry pork grease series I plan on forwarding to my dog, however).
Retrospectively, I’m not so sure the “eat-it-all” approach is the best. The eat-it-all me is frantic, a little crazy and generally unpleasant. Apparently people don’t want to be friends with the person aggressively chomping on their Trident-sponsored makeshift palate cleanser, wildly weaving through crowds, stuffing one plate of boudin in their mouth while holding another plate up to the light to get a good photo. Who knew?
Aside from the overwhelmingly positive response I received from people I pushed out of the way to get another bite of meat, I think calculated restraint may be the approach to take for this event (and, in general, most event involving numerous food stations). Don’t get me wrong — there is something to be said for culinary variety — but there’s also something to be said for enjoying the totality of a plate you like. We don’t show up to restaurants, frantically order 20 plates, ingest them even faster, and then disappear into the night even faster, right?
At every open food-orientened event I’ve attended, there are always certain stations that catch my eye more than others, certain plates that satisfy, intrigue my taste buds more than others. I spend the following day perseverating on these images and tastes. I don’t spend my time thinking about stations 3, 28, 47, which somehow I missed. I think about the extra bite of boudin hash with smoked hollandaise and pork and crawfish sweet tamale that I wish I’d dedicated more time and stomach to.
That said, every Boudin, Bourbon & Beer food item that I ate and photographed that wasn’t soiled by pork grease or an enthusiastic elbow of someone follows.