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is an act of integrity, and faith."


Festival Food
The New Orleans French Quarter Festival



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Betsy Brown - The French Quarter
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 French Quarter Courtyard, New Orleans, Louisiana
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 St. Louis Cathedral in French Quarter at Jackson Square, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA St. Louis Cathedral
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 Jazz in the Quarter
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Festival Food, New Orleans Style

"New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin."
~ Mark Twain, 1884

 If you don’t like food, music, people (lots!) and letting the good times roll, then
don’t bother attending the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans. Really. It
just 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 which case
Funky Liza, here, your roving NOLA reporter, aka Zydeco Queen, will gladly
fill you in…

 Were 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
around 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
the Jazzfest.

 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
I’m wrong.

 In any 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
reasons still unclear to me, I had made no definite plans to attend until
Saturday. I think it was the food that did it!

My top-favorite jazz station in the whole darned Universe, was “involved”
with 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 speak:


827 ½ Toulouse - The Restaurant
BBQ Baby Shrimp Over Rice $4
Andouille & Artichoke Pasta $4

The Alibi
Barbeque Shrimp PoBoy $4
Cajun Chicken Tenders $4

The Alpine
Blackened Catfish Sandwich $4

Seafood Pasta Begue's $4
Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce $2

 Jamila's Café
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
Jambalaya $4

Pat O'Brien's Bar
Hurricane $6
Bloody Mary $3
Screwdriver $3

Polynesian Joe's
Red Beans & Rice $3.50
Cajun Sausage Jambalaya $3.50
Alligator on a Stick $3.50

Ristorante Carmelo
Italian Sausage & Peppers Sandwich $4
Crabmeat Ravioli Aurora $4
Shrimp Scampi Pasta $4

Rock N Sake'
Yaki Tori $4.00
Gyoza $4.00
Edaname $4.00

Ted's Frostop/Mrs. Wheat's Pies
Cajun Meat Pies $3/2 for $5.50
Crawfish Pies $3/2 for $5.50

Trey Yuen
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


Crawfish Etouffee $4
Chicken Andouille Jambalaya $4
White Beans & Shrimp $4
Crawfish Remoulade $4

China Blossom
Shrimp over Pasta $4
Egg Rolls $4
Combo $5.50

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

Gumbo Shop
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

Margaritaville Café
Jamaican Jerk Chicken w/Peas & Rice $4
Jalapeno Macaroni & Cheese $3
Key Lime Pie $2.50

Pink Lotus
Alligator Egg Roll $4
Shrimp Fried Rice $4
Crawfish Lo Mein $4

Praline Connection
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
Pralines $1

Tropical Isle
Hand Grenade $5
Tropical Itch $5
Happy Gator $5

 There’s 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 Emeril’s or
Bayona. We need 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 ubiquitous
cheeseburger and fries. Or chicken sandwich.

 The 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 to the
worthiness of the “World’s Largest Jazz Brunch”, as well as that of the French
Quarter Festival in general.  Here’s the scoop…..

 I decided to take the scenic route. This means taking the Carrollton exit off of
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
only 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
Grill came to 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
out a little place with a deck out front. Nick’s on Carrollton it’s called. Today’s
the day!

 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 love serendipity?

 So I order. “A Bloody Mary, if you please, and Grillades and Grits.”
“Sorry. We’ve run out.”
“Excuse me?”
“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?”
“Grits? Oh, sure! Would you like the Garlic Cheese Grits?”
Now we’re talking my language. “But of course. Thank you. And a side of
bacon, please.”
Wonder how early you have to be there to get Grillades?

People watching. One of my favorite activities. Yours, too, perhaps.  Seems to
have 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,
Sunday morning.

 Cool 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.

 By 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 table were
ordering breakfast. The waitress asked whether they preferred biscuits or
toast with their meal.

“How are the biscuits?”
“Shame on y’all!” came the amazed response. “I’ll have toast.”

Do 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 and
the flavor of garlic is buried somewhere inaccessible. Why bother, I wonder?
Not the case here. These Garlic Cheese Grits are worthy of their name.

 So, 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 drag
out my notebook and consult my printout:

12:15-1:30 – Mambomania, Royal Street, Whitney Bank Stage. Cool!
I am a mambo aficionado. Gotta hurry!

12:00-4:45 – “An Afternoon of Cabaret”, Royal Street, Where Y’at Magazine
Stage. Lots of good stuff. Worth checking out…

2:00-3:15 – The Bucktown Allstars, Woldenberg Riverfront Park, Miller
Lite Stage.  Why not?

3:00–4:45 - Charmaine Neville, Southern Comfort Stage in Jackson Square.  Ohmigod! A definite must-see. Charmaine is a showman extraordinaire.

5:00-6:15 – 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.
Love her! She does THE best version of “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” you’ll
ever hope to hear.

Logistics. 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 blessed
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…

So, shuttle it is. Municipal Auditorium Parking Lot on Basin Street. “Security provided,” they advertise. Then you take a shuttle bus along Toulouse Street
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?

Okay, 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
, the original French Market coffee stand? I cannot. It’s just that simple.
I’ve been indulging my senses in this café since I was four years old, and I never
pass up the chance. It is part of the heart and soul of New Orleans! That’s all
there is to it.

The Original Cafe du Monde Coffee Stand was established in 1862 in the
New Orleans French Market. The Cafe is open 24 hours a day, seven days
a week. It closes only on Christmas Day and on the day an occasional
Hurricane passes too close to New Orleans.”

Ya just gotta love it.
[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 reopened
on Wednesday, October 19, 2005, an event important enough to be reported on
NPRs "All Things Considered". Thank God WWNO is able to broadcast via
satellite from
the studios of Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta.]

The 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 table? Certainly!
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 lavishly
covered with powdered sugar. The one and only Café du Monde.
Heaven on earth…

Okay, 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.
All of them hungry and thirsty. One thing about it, though. New Orleans crowds
are cool. No pushing, no shoving, no drop-dead looks. This is a happy-go-lucky,
carefree, fun-loving bunch.

Where to begin? Too many choices. So much food, so little time. Please allow
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:

Andouille & Artichoke Pasta
Seafood Pasta Begue's
Oyster & Artichoke Florentine, Crawfish Etouffée
(Mike Anderson’s, Barreca’s)
Cajun Meat Pies
Crawfish 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 Shop
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 Trey Yuen

So, are you in the mood?  For New Orleans food?  Indulge!

Chicken Pontalba (Brennan's & Commander's Palace)
Crabmeat Cheesecakes with Crawfish Sauce
Crawfish Beignets with Spicy Tartar Sauce
Louisiana Crab Cakes

Emeril's Crawfish (or Shrimp) and Sausage Jambalaya
Galatoire's Stuffed Eggplant
Eggs Sardou
French Quarter Muffuletta
Brennan's Bananas Foster
Emeril's Chocolate Bread Pudding
New 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 alcoholic
beverage served frozen. Period. Daiquiri bars are everywhere, offering every-
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
or three.  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!

 Just can’t call this a wrap without letting you know about Charmaine Neville.  Somehow or other I wound up way down in front, like leaning-on-the-stage-down-front. It 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  repertoire. She
does 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 Bess” or
“The Right Key but the Wrong Keyhole”. Her performance this afternoon will
remain with me for a very long time indeed. Indelible.

 I 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
here in this most seductive of cities. I’m not sure why. I was not born here, and I
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
and pagan, sacred and profane. Like life. I love it profusely and it loves me back. What more could a gal ask?
~ Michele

"It 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 one without
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."

 - M.F.K. Fisher, from The Art of Eating



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