Calico & the Off-Brand Band are some new cats on the scene. Rookies? Sure. Folky? Yes. Quaint and adorable like little puppies in a sleeping bag? Check. Their debut CD, Pictures, is packed with sparsely arranged and understated earnest folk-type tunes peppered with tasteful doses of piano, harmonica, fiddle and acoustic guitars. Good stuff that was produced by Jason Valdetero and Brian Marshall of Jivin’ Sister Fanny and Strawboss fame. The album plays like Celtic, country, barn-dancing music for conscientious twee types and woodsy pine dwellers, which is a good thing. If that sounds like something you can dig, go to Barnes & Noble’s music section and buy a copy of Pictures. — Dege Legg


In the mid to late 1960s, civil rights and Vietnam were front and center for many in New Orleans, but for historic preservationists the Mississippi river front was at the center as federal, state and local planners finalized details on an elevated Interstate 10 expressway cutting along the side of the entire French Quarter at the river’s edge. Can you imagine that? The Expressway Battle, as it came to be known, pitted the Crescent City’s money and political interests in favor of the project against some of its oldest, most influential families. Even the archbishop, horrified at the thought of an elevated freeway spewing exhaust onto St. Louis Cathedral, entered the fray. The French Quarter won — at the expense of the century-old live oaks lining Claiborne Avenue. The Expressway Battle is just one shade in the changing complexion of the French Quarter, detailed in Scott S. Ellis’ Madame Vieux Carré: The French Quarter in the Twentieth Century (University Press of Mississippi), an engrossing chronology of the events and people that shaped — and failed to shape — the most enduring image of New Orleans. Madame Vieux Carré retails for $28 and is available at all major book sellers. — Walter Pierce


If south Louisiana thinks it owns the franchise on the poboy, it better get ready to defend the title. Banh Mi, a traditional sandwich from Vietnam, is as much at home in the Louisiana swampland as it is in the rice paddies of southeast Asia. That’s because of Louisiana’s and Vietnam’s mutual French heritage. We are both colonies of France and hence her cooking — in this case the common denominator is French bread, which defines a poboy, no matter what shows up between the crusts. At the Driftwood Diner, alongside the catfish and shrimp poboys, is a gem of a sandwich unlike anything on menus in town. Owner Dao Bui stacks bright pink marinated sliced pork, Vietnamese ham, pickled dikon radish and carrots, fresh spears of cucumber, bright sprigs of cilantro, and another glory of French sauce making, mayonnaise. The crusty loaf is hot, and the sandwich is bursting with flavor. It will set you back exactly $4, for a fiver you can add in a fountain drink. Makes the drive, out past the Mall of Acadiana, worth it. Call the Driftwood, 981-4544, for more info. — Mary Tutwiler

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