It’s … it’s … an ice cream po-boy?

When it comes to ice cream sandwiches, nothing is finer (in this Bay Area girl’s most humble opinion) than an It’s It. These rather notorious cookie and ice cream sandwiches have been around since 1928 and, regrettably, I tend to judge all other similar confections by their standard.

Now admittedly, It’s-It has gone somewhat downhill since I was a kid. The ice cream isn’t as creamy and the cookies seemed to have shrunk, but I will never forget being a sweaty, hungry 10 year-old girl who was treated to pizza and It’s-Its after a continuous stream of disappointing soft ball games. (*Our coach was flaky and cut out on the team right before our big game, taking all of the candy money we earned with her, but that’s another story). Smooth, dense chocolate ice cream sandwiched by two, chewy oatmeal cookies and dipped in dark chocolate … I can almost taste it.

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PoBoy Festival: Breaking the curse

Something, or someone, doesn’t want me to go to the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival. It seems that over the past several years, fate has conspired to make me miss one of the most popular festivals of the year and it’s literally, right around the corner. Severe illness, atrocious hangovers, unexpected family get-togethers, heinous women’s issues and an overwhelming distaste for being packed in, teeth-by-jowl, like Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras Day, have come in between me and several hours of pure po-boy bliss. Not this year, I say (perhaps with too much confidence). This year, I have a plan.

After perusing the offerings at this year’s fest, I have devised a strategy that will allow me to hit the highlights within a short period of time and make it back to my apartment to share my spoils with John who (surprise, surprise) has caught the flu. Now keep in mind, I love all of the vendors and music that will be rockin’ Oak Street this year, but in the interest of sanity, I’ve had to keep the list short, avoiding experiences I could have any other day of the year. Additionally, I need to get back home to tend to John, after all, he would do it for me.
The Po-Boy Plan:
  • I figure I can start out closer to River Road and work my way back up. If I leave my house at 9:30 AM, I can easily make it to #31 on the map, Bratz Y’all, which is just a block short of Cowbell. Why am I trekking such lengths? Well, among their many offerings, Bratz Y’all is kicking down “The NOLA Schnitzel Po-Boy with breaded and fried pork loin topped with a crawfish remoulade slaw. Any more questions?
  • From there, I can make my way up and over to the corner of Leonidas and Plum Street at #26 for a Mexican Cheesesteak Po-Boy from VFW- NOLA Veterans of Foreign Wars. I don’t know about you, but slow-braised beef and poblanos smothered in chihuahua cheese sauce sounds like a killer second course.
  • I’ll just keep heading up Plum Street after VFW and make the block, coming around to Mahony’s Po-Boy Shop vending at #19 on Joliet and Oak. Here, I’m either going to have to choose or simply buy both the Abita-Braised Short-Rib Po Boy with garlic mayo and fried onion rings; and the Grilled Shrimp & Avocado Po-Boy with a green-onion vinaigrette.
  • By this time, I’ll only have to trudge through the rapidly-growing crowds a few steps to reach #16, where Wayfare is kicking down, among other items, some Boudin Meat Pies. As you know, I’ve already tried their meat pies before and the crust is to-die-for delicious. I’m curious to taste one loaded with pork shoulder, liver, local long-grain rice and Creole honey mustard.
  • Finally, I simply can’t resist pushing my way through almost three blocks of insanity to reach #4 and what I think just might be the “pièce de résistance” this fest. One of the bend’s best, Boucherie is offering a Corned Pork Belly Reuben Po-Boy with sesame sauerkraut, duck liver mousse and roasted red pepper dressing. Knowing me, I’ll likely order some cracklins too. 
  • PBFPPS (Po-Boy Fest Plan Post Script) – IF I am not tearing my hair out and the crowds are lenient, I wouldn’t mind heading back to #9 on the corner of Dante for a “Black & Gold” – Nutella & Banana Crepe – from Crepes a la Cart.    
Stuffed and loaded with spares for John, I’ll likely find the quickest route back to Zimpel and head home. Will I make it this year? We shall certainly see … that is, if I don’t catch John’s flu.

Review: The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook

Before I moved to New Orleans, I had never even heard of a po’ boy. There were sandwiches, hoagies, subs, clubs and heroes…but no po’ boy. My first po’ boy was devoured at a restaurant on Bourbon Street whose name I unfortunately cannot recall. It was my first day in New Orleans and we had been strolling around the French Quarter for a while when we passed an open restaurant on Bourbon and the heady aroma of fried seafood made us realize how hungry we were.

I don’t remember what anyone else ordered, but I got a 12 inch Fried Oyster Po’ Boy fully dressed and a huge plate of French fries. I devoured almost all of it before I couldn’t breathe anymore and went back to our hotel room to change for the night, but I passed out from a severe case of “food coma” because I had never eaten so much fried food in my entire life. For those of you who have never enjoyed the plethora of fried pleasures that can be had in our town, believe me when I tell you to take it slow your first time out. Not even a bucket of fried chicken from KFC will prepare you for the hurt you can experience from a ton of fried oysters on French bread with mayo…not that I’m complaining. I’ve had many a po’ boy since.

Anyhow, all that reminiscing brings me to Todd Micheal St. Pierre’s latest, The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook: Mouthwatering Sandwich Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans. This cookbook is filled with a multitude of po’ boy recipes, along with gorgeous photos, colorful artwork by local painter Dianne Parks, and of course, Todd’s well-written stories and poems. I adore the creative chapter titles like “International Affairs,” “The Unusual Boys” and “Boy Oh Boy: If It Swims, Cook It!”. Even the fun names for individual po’ boys are a hoot like “The Gert Town” which is a pork tenderloin po’ boy with Remoulade sauce and “The Who Dat” (Geaux Saints!) which has New Orleans-style BBQ Shrimp. My favorite part, though, was that Todd starts the whole book off with the key ingredient of any po’ boy worth its salt, a recipe for “Baby, I Knead You! Homemade Po’ Boy Bread.”

Considering I am a food writer, I’ve eaten a majority of the po’ boys featured in this book, from “The Kenner,” a ham and Swiss to “The Snug Harbor” with fried green tomatoes and shrimp remoulade. But there were a few I’d never seen before that set my mouth to watering as I read on. For example, I’d love to sink my teeth into “The Pacific Northwest” with baked salmon and wasabi mayo or “The French Canadian,” a poutine po’ boy with French fries and cheese curds.

I think The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook is easily the sexiest, most visually stunning of all Todd Micheal St. Pierre’s cookbooks. But, there was just one thing about it that didn’t make sense to me. For people who don’t live in the Greater New Orleans Area, this cookbook is a valuable jewel, one that can transport you to my beloved city with some fresh, juicy shrimp and a ton of butter. But me? I am lucky enough to live here in this wonderfully unique town and if I want a po’ boy, I can walk around the corner and get one anytime I want. Sorry Todd! You know I love ya, but you also know anyone who lives in this town is already spoiled rotten when it comes to po’ boy access.

Speaking of around the corner, this Sunday, November 24th, Oak Street will be hosting its annual Po-Boy Festival where restaurants all over the city will offer some of the most unique, tongue-tingling, stomach-satisfying po’ boys ever and I couldn’t be more excited. Plus, Todd Micheal St. Pierre will be signing copies of The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook from 2-3pm in front of Blue Cypress Books at the fest! See ya there!

Roast beef heaven at Mahoney’s Po-Boy Shop

If you’ve never had a good roast beef po-boy, you’ll never understand the tactile delight of rich, brown gravy covering your mouth and sliding slowly down your hands every time you take a bite of this uniquely New Orleans sandwich. Roast beef po-boys would always be my “go-to” choice for lunch as soon as I discovered them and I’d often risk staining good work outfits to have one. Yesterday, I figured too much time had passed since my last bounty of beefy goodness, so John, Anne and I headed over to Mahoney’s Po-Boy Shop for my 86th cheat. I am down 81 pounds.

Located on Magazine Street a little more than a block away from Louisiana Avenue, Mahoney’s is yet another of those cute “house-turned-restaurants” that are scattered all over the city. We arrived at around 2 PM in order to avoid the lunch rush and were lucky enough to get a parking spot right in front. We walked in, placed our order and walked back out to snake a table on the wide porch outside. Though the girl at the counter told us we’d be waiting 30 minutes for our food to come up, the time seemed to pass rather quickly as we lounged in the shade watching the traffic roll by on Magazine Street.

Our sides came out first — a large order of super-thin onion rings and and “Dirty Fries” with gravy and melted cheddar cheese. Now, I’ve always thought I was in the thick-cut onion ring camp, but when I tasted these beauties and felt them practically melt in my mouth…let’s just say I’m a changed woman. The Dirty Fries were fantastic and the rich, red wine gravy made me anxious for my main dish, my raison d’etre, the Certified Angus “Pot Roast” Beef po-boy.

I had actually tortured myself earlier in the day when I watched the video online of Chef Ben Wicks creating his version of this local favorite and it had me salivating on my keyboard. When my 12 inch po-boy arrived, I realized my eyes were far larger than what my stomach could accommodate, but I had no problem devouring at least half of that roast beef beauty. The juicy, beefy goodness was slathered on Leidenheimer French bread and dressed with plenty of mayo, lettuce, pickles and tomatoes and wrapped up into a huge sheet of white butcher paper. Though the flavor was different from others I’ve tried around town due to the addition of red wine, it was still fantastic and it’s competing for “best in show” when it comes to my all-time favorite.

John’s sandwich was just as amazing, though extremely pricey at $21.95. Dubbed “the Peacemaker,” John’s po-boy was a 12-inch wonder of large, fried oysters, bacon and cheddar cheese on the same delicious French bread as mine. Though our sandwiches and side fed us for two meals yesterday, I still can’t avoid smacking my forehead in disbelief at paying over $50 plus tip for a couple of po-boys, two drinks and a side.

Anne bravely (in my opinion) ordered the Fried Chicken Liver & Creole Slaw po-boy and wisely chose to get a 6-inch. I’m not a huge fan of liver, but I found her sandwich quite tasty even though I’d probably never order that myself.

Finally, you know I had to have dessert, so I chose the Sweet Potato Crunch Pie thinking I’d have it all to myself since neither Anne nor John like sweet potatoes. Wrong! They brought the pie out with three spoons and before I could say “marshmallow,” it was demolished. The sweet potatoes were surprisingly bright in flavor and color, and I adored the brown sugar, pecan crumble on top. I also liked the addition of the charred marshmallows, that is when I could get one…Anne slyly stole all but what fell onto the tabletop.

To all the po-boys I’ve loved before…

Seeing as the Po-Boy Preservation Festival is almost upon us, I thought now would be a good time to remember all of the po-boys I’ve enjoyed since beginning my weekly cheats. Below I have prepared a sort of “photo-journey” capturing the po-boys from my past.

By the way, you will definitely see me at the festival Sunday, November 14th on Oak Street, one of the coolest festivals in my ‘hood!

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This first picture from July 20, 2009 is of an Ultimate Roast Beef Po-Boy from Joe Sepies on Jefferson Highway.

This was obviously before I acquired my bad-ass camera, but know that this is one of my absolute favorites.  If you have not enjoyed one of these babies yet, you are severely missing out.

This next bastion of deliciousness is a foot long Oyster Po-Boy with Havarti Cheese and Bacon from Ye Olde College Inn on Carrollton Avenue. I wrote this review in October of last year.

I believe it took me two days to finish this excellent sandwich…talk about an extended cheat.

Although this next one was awfully expensive, it was nonetheless delicious! Sink your teeth into this Fried Shrimp Po-Boy from The Famous Gumbo Pot.

Obviously, I had my awesome camera by this point.

Among the many fine dishes we had at Boucherie, I will never forget this mouth-watering 12-Hour Roast Beef Po-Boy dressed with Horseradish cream and pickled red onions.

Gosh, this picture still makes me drool.

Here’s a shot of the two tasty po-boys John and I enjoyed from Frankie & Johnny’s…let ’em have it!

Fried shrimp and catfish side by side…oh what a wonderful sight!

Last, but most certainly not least, is this fabulous, 11 inch Fried Catfish Po-Boy (for only $8!) at Hobnobber Cafe.

By no means are these all of the po-boys I’ve ever enjoyed, but they certainly are some of the best! I can’t wait to try out some more at the festival next weekend…hope to see you there!