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Jazz in the Quarter
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Food, New Orleans Style
"New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal
forms of sin."
Mark Twain, 1884
don’t like food, music, people (lots!) and letting the good times roll,
don’t bother attending the
French Quarter Festival in New Orleans. Really. It
won’t be your thing. As a
matter of fact, perhaps you shouldn’t even waste
your valuable time
reading this. Unless, of
course, you’re curious. In
Funky Liza, here, your roving NOLA reporter, aka Zydeco Queen,
fill you in…
you even aware of the annual French Quarter Festival in New Orleans?
No? I hadn’t
actually given it much thought myself until recently. It’s been
for quite a while, although it is not nearly as well known as the much
larger New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival – more commonly known as
It is my
understanding (although I’ve not yet researched it thoroughly) that the
Jazzfest grew out of the French Quarter Festival. And that the French Quarter Festival began back in the early 50s
– or perhaps even the late 40s – as a neighborhood celebration called
“Spring Fiesta.” This information is more than hearsay. It is more along the lines of family verbal history. You’ll
correct me if
case, the 2001 French Quarter Festival took place April 19 - 22. It
sounded intriguing to me, inveterate music- and food-lover
that I am. For
unclear to me, I had made no definite plans to attend until
Saturday. I think it
was the food that did it!
top-favorite jazz station in the whole darned Universe, was
the French Quarter Festival, and began promoting it
quite heavily as the weekend approached. One might expect
WWOZ, the New
Orleans Jazz and
Heritage station, 90.7 on your FM dial, to be active in
such endeavors, simply
as a public service,
no? Call it what you will, they certainly served me well.
They began plugging the FOOD at the Festival. And we ain't talkin' about a
brat and a beer here. This is New Orleans!
The gourmet/gourmand Mecca.
Lord have mercy! The media hype
was about the “World’s Largest Jazz
Brunch”. They kid us not. “Jazz Brunch” is definitely a buzz phrase for me.
I perked right up. Please allow me to give you an
idea whereof I
½ Toulouse - The Restaurant
BBQ Baby Shrimp Over Rice $4
Andouille & Artichoke Pasta $4
Barbeque Shrimp PoBoy $4
Cajun Chicken Tenders $4
Blackened Catfish Sandwich $4
Seafood Pasta Begue's $4
Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce $2
Cous Cous with Lamb & Veggies $4
Cous Cous with Chicken & Veggies $4
Vegetarian Cous Cous $4
Le Moyne's Landing
Oyster & Artichoke Florentine $4
Cajun Chicken & Tasso Over Rice $4
Alligator Sauce Piquante $4
Seafood Quesadillas $4
Mike Anderson's Seafood
Crawfish Etouffee $4
Pat O'Brien's Bar
Bloody Mary $3
Red Beans & Rice $3.50
Cajun Sausage Jambalaya $3.50
Alligator on a Stick $3.50
Italian Sausage & Peppers Sandwich $4
Crabmeat Ravioli Aurora $4
Shrimp Scampi Pasta $4
Rock N Sake'
Yaki Tori $4.00
Ted's Frostop/Mrs. Wheat's Pies
Cajun Meat Pies $3/2 for $5.50
Crawfish Pies $3/2 for $5.50
Crawfish w/Lobster Sauce $4
Crawfish Fried Rice $4
Vegetable Spring Rolls $3
Shrimp & Crabmeat Stuffed Mirliton w/Creole Sauce $4
Brisket of Beef w/Horseradish Sauce $4
WOLDENBERG RIVERFRONT PARK
Crawfish Etouffee $4
Chicken Andouille Jambalaya $4
White Beans & Shrimp $4
Crawfish Remoulade $4
Shrimp over Pasta $4
Egg Rolls $4
Daiquiri Delight Shop
Cajun Storm Daiquiri $4.50/$5.50
Strawberry Daiquiri $4.50/$5.50
Crab Cakes w/Remoulade $4
Crawfish Cakes w/Remoulade $4
Shrimp Stuffed Dumplings $4
Chicken Andouille Gumbo $4
Red Beans & Rice w/Sausage $4
Spinach & Artichoke Dip $4
Mardi Gras Club
Crawfish JuJu $4
White Chocolate Bread Pudding $4
Jamaican Jerk Chicken w/Peas & Rice $4
Jalapeno Macaroni & Cheese $3
Key Lime Pie $2.50
Alligator Egg Roll $4
Shrimp Fried Rice $4
Crawfish Lo Mein $4
Grilled Chicken Livers w/Sweet Hot Pepper Sauce $4
Mustard Greens & Rice $4
Combo Meal (with Livers or Wings) $5
Cheesecake with Praline Sauce $2.50
Hand Grenade $5
Tropical Itch $5
Happy Gator $5
more. Really there is. But you get the idea. Eclectic.
As eclectic as New Orleans itself.
Not to mention that this selection represents some of the area’s
best food. Okay, okay,
we’re not talking
Commander’s Palace, or
to stay in reality here. This
is an open air festival, okay. And
my point is that there is a WHOLE lot more to tempt you than the
and fries. Or
more I considered the whole situation, the more clearly I realized that I
actually OWE it to you, dear readers and fellow foodies, to inform you as
worthiness of the “World’s Largest Jazz Brunch”, as well as
that of the French
Quarter Festival in general.
Here’s the scoop…..
decided to take the scenic route. This means taking the Carrollton exit
I-10 and driving through the Garden District. This would not surprise anyone
who knows me. At all. Driving down
Carrollton, which in my book is second
to driving down St. Charles
Avenue itself, I realized that I really needed
a cup of
coffee and an
opportunity to do some logistical planning. The Camellia
mind right away. One of my favorite hangouts. Small, though, and
always overcrowded. Then I recalled that I’d been meaning to stop and check
place with a deck out front. Nick’s
on Carrollton it’s called. Today’s
Whoops. Not an available table in sight, inside or out.
Disappointing, of course,
but not a big deal. I would simply get
coffee to go and do my planning further
down the road.
Then, as fate would have it, a table for two (one) opened up.
Cool. Don’t you just
I order. “A Bloody Mary, if
you please, and Grillades and
“Sorry. We’ve run out.”
“We’re out. We don’t have any left…”
“Wow. Amazing.” I look at my watch. 11:20. Quelle dommage, I’m thinking.
“So, do you still have
“Grits? Oh, sure! Would you like the Garlic Cheese
Now we’re talking my language. “But of course. Thank you. And a side of
Wonder how early you have to be there to get Grillades?
watching. One of my favorite
activities. Yours, too,
perhaps. Seems to
universal appeal. Who goes to
Nick’s anyway? Everybody. I like that. A
cross-section. An eclectic group, as befits this most
cosmopolitan city. I LOVE
that! Old, young, black, white, gay, straight,
families, students, the obviously
affluent, as well as the apparently
indigent. No suits, though. This is, after all,
busboy. Young, gorgeous, if you like the type. He’s going for the George
Michael stubble look. Wearing a Hyde Park Corner t-shirt and a red baseball
cap that says “Cats”. And jeans, of course. What I like about him is that he
speaks to everyone. Everyone. And
that he does a fine job. He takes his job
as a busboy seriously. I admire him.
the way, should you ever find yourself frequenting Nick’s on Carrollton
for breakfast or brunch, don’t have the biscuits. The folks at the next
ordering breakfast. The waitress asked whether they preferred
with their meal.
are the biscuits?”
“Shame on y’all!” came the amazed response. “I’ll have toast.”
feel free to try the Garlic Cheese Grits, however. Yummy. It really irks me
when someone takes the trouble to include the word garlic in a recipe title
the flavor of garlic is buried somewhere inaccessible. Why bother, I wonder?
case here. These Garlic Cheese Grits are worthy of their name.
this is supposed to be my get-organized-for-the-French-Quarter-Festival
time. What is going on this afternoon in the not-to-be-missed category? I
out my notebook and consult my printout:
– Mambomania, Royal Street, Whitney Bank Stage. Cool!
I am a mambo
aficionado. Gotta hurry!
– “An Afternoon of Cabaret”, Royal Street, Where Y’at Magazine
Stage. Lots of good stuff. Worth checking out…
– The Bucktown Allstars, Woldenberg Riverfront Park, Miller
- Charmaine Neville, Southern Comfort Stage in Jackson Square.
Ohmigod! A definite must-see. Charmaine is a showman extraordinaire.
– Lillian Boutté, Woldenberg Riverfront Park, Miller Lite Stage.
Have mercy! Hadn’t
planned to stay that long. And it would require the long
trek from Jackson
Square back to the Park, but hey. This
lady is fantastic.
She does THE best version of “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” you’ll
hope to hear.
Very important. I’ve decided to do the wise thing and take advantage of
the shuttle. You can’t park in the French Quarter anyway, unless you are
with extraordinary parking karma. Like my older son, Keegan.
He did not inherit
this blessing from me. You might as well resign
yourself to parking in a lot, which
is going to run you $10-12, if you stay
any length of time at all. Trouble is, when something extra is going on in
the Quarter, the lots will be full. Early. Trust me.
Yes, there are
HUGE parking lots adjacent to Jax Brewery and all along the Riverfront. But
they will be full…
shuttle it is. Municipal Auditorium Parking Lot on Basin Street. “Security
provided,” they advertise. Then you take a shuttle bus along Toulouse
to either Bourbon or Chartres, or continue to Decatur, close to the Woldenberg Riverfront Park. Which,
by the way, is where the World’s Largest Jazz Brunch
is taking place.
Which is why I’m writing about this in the first place, right?
so here I am. In the French
Quarter. New Orleans, land of
dreamy dreams. The city that care [almost] forgot. City of my heart. My cup
runneth over. Yes, I
am very much looking forward to checking out the food,
to hearing Mambomania,
some authentic Dixieland, some funky jazz. All of
that. But how can I pass up this
golden opportunity to start my excursion
with café au lait and beignets at Café du
Monde, the original French
Market coffee stand? I cannot. It’s just that simple.
been indulging my senses in this café since I was four years old, and I
the chance. It is part of the heart and
soul of New Orleans! That’s
there is to it.
Original Cafe du Monde Coffee Stand was established in 1862 in the
Orleans French Market. The Cafe is open 24 hours a day, seven days
It closes only on Christmas Day and on the day an occasional
too close to New Orleans.”
Ya just gotta love it.
the studios of Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta.]
[Note: The Cafe du Monde was closed recently for an astounding six weeks due
to hurricanes Katrina and Rita! We are pleased to report that the cafe
on Wednesday, October 19, 2005, an event important enough to be
NPRs "All Things Considered". Thank God
WWNO is able to broadcast via
little voice is saying, “Yeah, right. You’re going to stroll right up
and get a
table, huh?” Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Did I get a
Not right away, but soon enough. It was well worth it. Café au lait
(dark-roasted coffee and chicory mixed half-and-half
with hot milk) and beignets
covered with powdered sugar. The one and only Café du Monde.
Heaven on earth…
now it gets serious. To the park. To the World’s Largest Jazz Brunch. The
most difficult part of this, of course, is getting TO the food. Wall to wall people.
of them hungry and thirsty. One
thing about it, though. New Orleans crowds
cool. No pushing, no shoving,
no drop-dead looks. This is a happy-go-lucky,
carefree, fun-loving bunch.
to begin? Too many choices. So much food, so little time.
me to encapsulate several hours of
wandering through the Festival into a few
recommendations for you, listed in
random order. They are based on both my
personal experience and the comments
– both solicited and voluntary – of the
Festival public at large. And
some very friendly policemen:
& Artichoke Pasta
Seafood Pasta Begue's
Oyster & Artichoke Florentine, Crawfish Etouffée
(Mike Anderson’s, Barreca’s)
Cajun Meat Pies
Crab Cakes or Crawfish Cakes w/Remoulade,
Shrimp Stuffed Dumplings - Dakota
(NOTE: Located on the North Shore, in Covington, LA,
Dakota is one of the New Orleans area's top restaurants.)
White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Chicken Andouille Gumbo, Red
Beans & Rice w/Sausage,
Spinach & Artichoke Dip – The Gumbo
Shrimp & Crabmeat Stuffed Mirliton w/Creole Sauce,
Brisket of Beef
w/Horseradish Sauce from Tujaque’s
Crawfish w/Lobster Sauce, Crawfish Fried Rice,
Vegetable Spring Rolls from
are you in the mood? For New Orleans food? Indulge!
(Brennan's & Commander's Palace)
Cheesecakes with Crawfish Sauce
Crawfish Beignets with Spicy Tartar Sauce
Louisiana Crab Cakes
Crawfish (or Shrimp) and Sausage Jambalaya
Brennan's Bananas Foster
Emeril's Chocolate Bread
Orleans Chocolate Layer Cake
And you did notice, did you not, that in addition to soft drinks,
bottled water and
beer, you’ll be given ample opportunities to toss down a
“daiquiri” or two. I say
"daiquiri" because in New Orleans the definition of daiquiri is an
beverage served frozen. Period. Daiquiri bars are everywhere,
thing from Strawberry Daiquiris to Long Island Tea to Brain
Busters (with 151
proof Bacardi) to Hand Grenades. If
not a "daiquiri", then perhaps a Hurricane
Like the ole guy wearing the “designated drinker” t-shirt…
Lagniappe. A little something
extra, pleasant surprise. The
Cajun Queen’s whistle
is announcing her imminent departure to one and all.
During the Festival, 1-hour steamboat rides were being offered for the
paltry sum of $5. Less than one
Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane. Think
about it. The line was long. No
wonder. This is the
mighty Mississippi, y’all, in all her mystery and
majesty, right here at our elbow.
The river of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. The
river of infamous gamblers and
painted ladies of renown. I LOVE this city!
can’t call this a wrap without letting you know about Charmaine Neville.
Somehow or other I wound up way down in front, like
was breathtakingly marvelous. These
are consummate musicians. These
are artists who are so damned good, so authentic, that the nearness of them
brings tears to my eyes. Charmaine herself is one of those rare birds, a
charismatic Performer with no holds barred. Electrifying. And what a varied
just as well with “Am I Blue?” (one of my all-time favorites, which she
just happened to be singing as I strolled up) as she does with “Barbecue
“The Right Key but the Wrong Keyhole”. Her performance this
remain with me for a very long time indeed.
spent some much-needed down time after the last concert just sitting on a
park bench behind Jackson Square, close to St. Louis Cathedral. Relaxing, enjoying, being. And digesting. Not just the food, but the entire
experience. My roots are
in this most seductive of cities. I’m not sure why. I was not born here,
have not spent the majority of my life here, sad to say. A past life, perhaps? Who knows? I do know that among my most
emotionally painful experiences are those bouts of homesickness for New
Orleans that used to strike me down like lightning when I least expected it.
New Orleans is an evocative city, rich in both history and legend. It is
lush, sensuous, lavish, sumptuous. It is both elegant and bawdy, holy
pagan, sacred and profane. Like life. I love it profusely and it loves me
back. What more could a gal ask?
seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love,
are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of
the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am
really writing about
love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love
of it and the hunger for it…
and then the warmth and richness and fine
reality of hunger satisfied… and it
is all one."
Fisher, from The Art of Eating
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