Louisiana Seafood Festival has one rule: make it local and make it delicious

Vendors taking part in this weekend’s Louisiana Seafood Festival have to follow one golden rule: any seafood in the dishes served from their booths around the City Park Festival Grounds must be Gulf seafood exclusively.

For local chefs, however, that hardly constitutes a limitation, as the variety of dishes on tap for the festival attest.

For instance, there will be shrimp and alligator cheesecake coated in a Creole tomato sauce from Jacques-Imo’s Cafe; redfish beignets, covered with powdered sugar and a Tabasco syrup glaze from Royal House Oyster Bar; and fried catfish with fries, served with a Cajun dipping sauce, from LaDelyo’s Creole Catering.

“It’s all about giving everybody a taste of Louisiana,” said Tony Abadie, chairman of the festival and vice president of the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, which hosts it.

Seafood is a prized component of Louisiana cuisine, and one that makes some other parts of the country a little jealous. Here at home, it deserves a special celebration, and that’s what the Louisiana Seafood Festival is all about.

As before, the festival will bring an impressively diverse haul of seafood dishes from local restaurants and caterers, a shaded beer garden and celebrity cooking demonstrations. And it benefits the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, a nonprofit that supports local hospitality industry employees and other local causes.

The big change this year is a new date, with the three-day event taking place over Labor Day weekend for the first time. Abadie said the holiday “presents the path of least resistance,” because it doesn’t conflict with a Saints game.

“It’s hard to do any event when you’re going up against the Saints,” he said.

The feté features more than 20 food vendors, serving festival fare and favorites taken straight from restaurant menus. The first edition of the seafood festival consisted of restaurateurs from the board of LHF, but it has blossomed and broadened since then.

Tommy Cvitanovich, of Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, is a member and founder of the foundation, and one who’s been involved with the festival since its beginning.

His kitchen crew will serve their famous oysters, grilled on the half shell, seasoned with a garlic butter sauce and dusted with Parmesan and Romano. He plans to sell more than 50,000 charbroiled oysters during the festival.

“We’ve learned to do what you do best, and do it right,” he said.

While some vendors, like Drago’s, will only sell the most in-demand items, others will experiment with several dishes.

Seither’s Seafood, for example, will offer its popular kung fu tuna. This Asian-inspired creation is prepared with seared yellow fin tuna resting on a cucumber salad, topped with spicy mayo, eel sauce, Sriracha, and crispy noodles.

And the restaurant is bringing an equally offbeat dessert: ice cream nachos.

The dulcet concoction begins with flour tortillas that are fried, sprinkled with powdered sugar and sliced into triangles. A dollop of soft serve ice cream tops the “nachos,” along with a slathering of salted caramel, chocolate syrup and chopped pecans.

“I’m the type of guy that’s always doing new things,” said proprietor Jason Seither. He also plans to host a Louisiana shrimp boil near his booth.

Seither looks forward to trying dishes from around the festival and taking in the live music, which includes performances from Marc Broussard, John Boutte and others. But he’s especially eager to see his friends in the restaurant business, like chef Duke LoCicero, from Café Giovanni, and Woody Ruiz, of Woody’s Fish Tacos.

“It’s not a competition between the chefs,” said Seither. “It’s just all of us out there having a good time and cooking Louisiana seafood.”

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