“I drove to Belle Chasse three times for those tomatoes.”

Susan Spicer was sourcing from local farmers when many of today’s chefs were still on a diet of malto meal and mother’s milk, so when we began our ramble through the 2014 Creole Tomato Festival we knew that if we were going to eat the finest fruit of the party it would come from Chef Spicer’s booth. And we were right.

Would that the other chefs took their work as seriously.

Food Drunk NOLA should be up on charges for the atrocity of a dish that they had the balls to serve at one of New Orleans premiere food parties. The menu description was so flowery and ornate that you would have to have your head examined if you dared not order.

Then the food came.

What was promised as “Fire roasted corn and poblano salad, charred Creole tomato, monster gulf shrimp and Old New Orleans Rum Crema” had devolved into a plate of mushy, processed, flavor-less canned corn, a few tidbits of Poblano chile and NO tomato whatsoever.

A lengthy stay at Angola would be appropriate for the “chef” who shipped that mess out of the kitchen.

Cafeteria food at the Creole Tomato Festival.

More successful was Creoles And Crevettes from A Bite Outside catering company. We vectored in on this booth immediately as the smells pouring off their ad hoc plancha were most intoxicating. A paper boat sagged under the weight of sweet, 50 count shrimp drenched in a piquant cream sauce with slices of good tomato. Slices of grilled French bread anchored the dish.

Chef Ryan Hughes of Purloo drew our attention next with his Creole Tomato Stuffed With Louisiana Shrimp Salad. A massive hunk of tomato provided the base for a scoop of shrimp salad given extra snap with a heavy dose of cayenne chile. The runoff sauce was drunk straight out of the paper boat, the tomato was properly seasoned, and now we know why Hughes’ Autumn restaurant opening is the most anticipated of 2014.

Back to Chef Spicer: A model of restraint, her Cha Ca La Vong promised Fried Fish w/Tomato Cucumber Salad. That is all. The reality of the dish however proved that the good cook is still at the top of the New Orleans food scene. How much time has Spicer spent in Hanoi? We have no idea but we suspect there must be a few latent Vietnamese genes in the chef’s DNA as this dish was a firestorm of precise flavors.

What kind of warden would Susan Spicer make. She’s probably far too busy to head up to Angola to ride herd on the crew at the Food Drunk truck as they begin a lengthy prison sentence. Maybe their chef could stage at one of her restaurants? At any rate, a culinary remediation is in order for what that concern was passing off as “food” at the 2014 Creole Tomato Festival.

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