June 2011: New Orleans, LA

I’m an assistant.  And although I’m ashamed of my title, my job is pretty awesome with some not-so-assistant-tasks.  For example, I get to travel for work, occasionally.  In 2009: San Francisco for a 2-day symposium.  In 2010: SF again, but added New Jersey to my agenda for a 3 day R&D seminar.  This year, I attended the SF symposium again and was extremely happy to hear that I would be attending the biggest food industry expo in the US (Institute of Food Technologists) for the first time as an industry representative.  So I spent the last few days living it up at the Expo in The Big Easy, New Orleans, LA.

Saturday, June 11th, 2011, I woke at 4am and drove to the airport.  Flew from Sac to Denver, had a 3 hour layover to discover that our Denver to New Orleans flight crew didn’t show up.  Finally when they arrived, we get on the plane and hit the runway – only to be held up by a thunderstorm crossing the airfield.  Eventually we took a different runway and arrived in New Orleans almost 2 hours late.  Went to a business dinner at Pascal’s Manale by about 8pm.  I ordered a mixed green salad and the famous Original Pascal’s Barbecue Shrimp ($22).  Unbeknownst to me, the wait staff dress you with a bib prior to serving your food.  Embarrassing, but at least another sales manager ordered the same thing – and I could follow suit as she removed the heads and shells by hand, which I had never seen or done before.  The meal was delicious and I finished with a chocolate mousse.

The next morning I woke early to make it to the convention center for an early morning seminar.  When checking into my class, I actually ran into an old coworker, Sam, from my college job at the WSU Creamery.  It was great to catch up, and interestingly she works in food product development in the seafood industry.  We grabbed some croissant breakfast sandwiches after our class at M’s Coffee & Cafe then headed back to the convention center to attend more classes.  We agreed to meet up later to attend some events together.  After another class, I met with a current coworker, Jenny, to get lunch at Mulate’s, a Cajun restaurant.  I ordered the seafood gumbo & house salad ($13.99), which was decent.  Jenny got a fried shrimp po-boy ($14.99).

After some more afternoon classes, I headed to Gordon Biersch Brewery & Restaurant for a New Professionals mixer.  I chatted with some other food industry newbies and it got me interested in getting more involved with the group.  Both Jenny and Sam mingled here too.  Next Sam and I hit the Washington State University alumni reception and talked to some professors – not many alumni in our age group attended this event.  With no free meals at these events, Sam suggested Jenny and I follow her to a seafood/aquatics event she wanted to attend.  We finally found free food at Muriel’s, a hip restaurant in Jackson Square, where her aquatics event took place.  After eating dinner and chatting for a while, Sam decided she needed to do some mingling with the people in the seafood industry.  Jenny and I walked a little ways down the street to get the legendary Cafe du Monde beignets: fried doughnuts with a ton of powdered sugar on top (about $2.50 for an order of 3).  Also ordered a delicious cafe au lait, frozen.

The three of us spent the rest of the night walking down Bourbon Street and looking in all the closed antique shop windows.  Monday morning, I attended more classes and when lunch time rolled around, I was happy to hear that Jenny wanted to go to Drago’s for some oysters.  We quickly walked through the River Walk shopping mall and immediately ordered a dozen of their famous charbroiled oysters ($17.45).  They were too good for words.  We followed up with the small Crabmeat Mediterranean Salad ($7.45), which was the perfect amount of food for lunch.

Afterwards, I attended more afternoon classes with a little bit of walking the floor of the gigantic Food Expo.  For the evening, I had been invited by a supplier to an event on the Creole Queen, a giant paddlewheeler cruise ship on the Mississippi River.  I dragged Jenny along with me.  Dinner was buffet style: salad, pasta, potatoes, roast turkey, prime rib, gumbo and bread pudding.  It was so hot and humid outside that we barely stepped out of the cabin of the boat – only for the last 20 minutes or so of the ride.

Tuesday I spent walking the floor of the Expo.  I ate various samples all day long.  Picked up a pulled pork, alligator and turtle sandwich at one of the booths – but it just tasted like pork.  I was able to chat it up with many of my contacts and suppliers, as well as look at competitor’s products and learn about the new ingredient trends.  After the show was over, Jenny and I walked around French Quarter, through Jackson Square and back up to the Warehouse District by about 8pm to meet with another coworker for a reservation at Emeril’s Restaurant.  The three of us had the house chardonnay, and started with Emeril’s Salad ($9).  I ordered the Andouille Crusted Drum Fish with grilled vegetables, shoestring potatoes, glazed pecans and creole meuniere sauce ($29).  I ate every bite.

We finished with dessert: Emeril’s Banana Cream Pie, Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, and Warm Sticky Toffee Pecan Pudding Cake.

Wednesday morning, bright and early at 5:30am, we taxied off to the airport.  I flew New Orleans to Houston to Sacramento and finally arrived back home around 1:00pm.  My time in The Crescent City felt so short and I wasn’t able to do everything I wanted to do – but I have great memories and am looking forward to the next big conference in New Orleans.




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