Monday, May 25, 2009

LSU crawfish boil

We had a great time at the annual San Diego LSU Alumni Association crawfish boil yesterday.

The weather was perfect - as usual. The crawfish were better (and bigger) than last year. And the group included a nice mix of old and new faces.If you've never done this event with me, you really should consider it next year. Let me know if you want to be on my crawfish email list.Some of the guys from Lafayette who trucked in the 15,000 pounds of live mudbugs and cooked them onsite. I took this pic with my iPhone panorama app (Pano). It's a combination of three different photos stitched together. Can you find the mistake in the shot?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Santa Rosa Plateau

Tim and I joined the San Diego Trail Tramps on Sunday for a 7-mile loop hike at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, an area in southern Riverside County featuring wide grassy meadows and hills, clumps of old oak trees and vernal pools.

Most of the pics in this post were taken by my friend Stephan. You can pick out my photos because they were taken with my iPhone using a new landscaping app called Pano.
The Nature Conservancy owns the reserve, which is located a few miles outside Temecula ("A" on the map).

The plateau is the remnant of a lava flow that flooded a valley 8 million years ago. Over time, the surrounding hills wore away, leaving the harder basalt rock standing 2,000 feet above the surrounding landscape.
We stopped for lunch outside an old adobe house that was built in the mid-1800s, making it the oldest structure in Riverside County. Click on any pic for a larger view.Me taking a group pic in front of the house.This is one of the larger vernal pools that fill with rain water in the winter but quickly dry out in the spring.The pools provide a rich habitat for a variety of aquatic animals, including fairy shrimp that go into hibernation during dry periods.
A 360-degree of the vernal pool taken with Pano from the circular boardwalk.The reserve offers a rare glimpse of what much of SoCal's inland area looked like 100 years ago before subdivisions, freeways and Walmarts.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gator by the Bay

I went to San Diego's version of Jazz Fest last weekend with Tim and Penni. Gator by the Bay happens this time each year in a waterfront downtown park. The two-day event features several SoCal zydeco and Cajun bands, Louisiana food, plenty of beer and over-priced Mardi Gras beads.
This was my first time at the festival, and the crowd was much larger than I had anticipated - maybe as many as 5,000 people on Saturday.

Unfortunately, the food wasn't that great. The best dishes were fried alligator on a stick and fried seafood poboys that we bought from a booth run by a woman who grew up in Vacherie
, La. - home to Oak Alley Plantation.
The main music tent.

As we passed one of the smaller stages, we heard a local Cajun band being introduced, and one of the members - the triangle player - was a native of my home town in Southwest Louisiana. I even recognized his last name (Raspberry), but when I talked to him I found out that he had moved with his family to San Diego when he was about three-years-old.
Later, we headed to the top of a high-rise hotel to watch some of the Red Bull world championship air race happening over the bay.
We couldn't see much of the competition, but we had a great view of the Padres' stadium and the bridge to Coronado.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Jazz Fest

I headed to New Orleans last weekend with Tim for the final days of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. We stayed Uptown with my friends Pedro and Tommy. Here we are in front of the Gentily Stage on Saturday afternoon.
Sugarland delivered a great set as the closeout band on the Acura stage Friday. Tim and I were able to squeeze our way right up to the front lines. The only downer was the drunk Yat standing next to me who kept pushing me and knocking into me during the show.
Some Mardi Gras Indians in elaborately beaded costumes joined Sugerland for one of the group's closing numbers.
My favorite performance was by Cowboy Mouth, a New Orleans rock band, whose drummer and lead singer, Fred LeBlanc, is famous for his high-caffeinated performances. They did a few numbers from their new album, Fearless, along with some great post-Katrina tunes like "The Avenue" and classics like "Jenny Says."
We caught the end of a set by Doreen (center) and her jazz combo. I've know Doreen since the early 90s when I would listen to her and the group play every Saturday morning on Royal Street in the French Quarter. It was great to see her on stage at Jazz Fest. She plays that clarinet like no one else.

Of course, Jazz Fest is about food as much as it's about music. And we did our best to gobble down everything possible. I started here with one of my favorites, a duck poboy.

We also ate jambalaya, soft-shell crab poboys, crawfish bread, sweet potato chips and a few other things that I can't remember now.

We washed everything down with rose mint iced tea.

This was our final meal of the Fest, a puff pastry topped with oysters, some crawfish beignets smothered with horseradish sauce and a crawfish pouch sitting in étouffée.
After it was all over, we headed to a house six blocks away for a huge crawfish boil (500 pounds of the critters) where Tim tasted his first boiled mudbugs. The crawfish were the best I've ever had.

The cook, a guy from Lake Charles who now lives in Las Vegas, used a couple of special techniques. First, he purged the crawfish for 24 hours in fresh water rather than doing the traditional quick purge in salt water. Then, after the crawfish were cooked, he let them soak for a few minutes in butter seasoned with tons of garlic and a Cajun spice mix.

We kept telling Tim that the rest his crawfish-eating experiences probably never will match this one.