This Search took me, and my husband Matt, to the crazy city of New Orleans for one wild and totally indulgent weekend. From the moment we arrived, all we did was eat, drink and listen to amazing music. There was no time for rest, no time for sleep. The number of calories we consumed is almost impossible to comprehend. We lived very large while we were in New Orleans. And it was worth every last bite.
This was no ordinary weekend. This was the weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, one of the greatest music festivals in the world. For 2 weekends, hundreds of bands gather to play at the 12 stages set up at the Fair Grounds racetrack. For $45 ($60 at the door) you buy 8 hours of non stop, unbelievable music. You wander around, drifting from stage to stage, seeing one incredible performance after another. But it's not only the music that makes Jazz Fest such an amazing experience. It's the food.
They take the food VERY seriously at Jazz Fest. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is almost as much a food festival as it is a music festival. You're not going to find any mediocre chicken fingers and soggy fries here. This is super high quality, home made, local New Orleans food. There is an astonishing variety of delicious things to eat. Everything we tried, and we tried almost everything, was sophisticated, deeply flavored, creative and pretty mind-blowing. It was a truly magnificent and unforgettable culinary experience.
One of the stars of the Jazz Fest food scene is crawfish. Local Lousiana crawfish is sweet and tender, more akin to the holy langoustine than shrimp, both in texture and flavor (You may have read about my langoustine obsession in my posts on Barcelona and Corsica). The crawfish here are like shellfish-candy and we could not get enough of them. Luckily, more than half of the food offerings at Jazz Fest involve these delicate little crustaceans.
If you find yourself at Jazz Fest, here is a list of what we tried. I know this may seem like a gluttonous food rampage. Obviously we went a little overboard. But we were so overwhelmed by the deliciousness of it all, we could not restrain ourselves. Trust me. Try as much as you can. It's ALL good.
2 Day Jazz Fest Menu/What we managed to eat in 10 hours:
Crawfish Beignets: Fried croquettes filled with tender crawfish and mashed potatoes
Crawfish "Sack": Pastry purse with creamy pot pie-esque crawfish filling
Cochon De Lait: Pork Po-Boy with succulent, smoky thick strips of barbecued pulled pork and crunchy slaw
Beignets: Sweet pockets of fried dough doused in confectioners sugar
Fried Soft Shell Crab Po Boy: One whole, heavily seasoned deep fried soft shell crab with thick tartar sauce and tangy pickles on a chewy fresh roll.
Quail, Pheasant and Andouille Gumbo: A wonderfully gelatinous, meaty broth filled with hunks of tender pheasant and quail, seasoned rice and thick coins of porky andouille sausage.
Crawfish Monica: This is a dish unique to Jazz Fest. Fusilli pasta in a thick, creamy, boozy alfredo-like sauce, studded with tender sweet nuggets of crawfish.
Crawfish Etouffee: Spicy, thick tomato based broth, almost a bisque, exploding with Cajun flavors, loaded with crawfish and seasoned rice
Fried Chicken: You can get 2 pieces of dark meat, 2 pieces of white meat or a combo platter with jambalaya on the side. Perfectly fried and crispy exterior with moist and flavorful meat. Doused with local hot sauce, this is as good as fried chicken gets.
Crawfish Bread: This was basically a crawfish calzone. Thick and chewy dough, charred in all the right places, and filled with gooey cheese and chunks of the ever present, always delicious crawfish.
Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya: Braised chicken, hearty slices of andouille sausage and seasoned rice, suspended in a thick, stew-y, spicy broth. Hearty comfort food at its finest.
Homemade Ice Cream Sandwich: Homemade Louisiana gelato sandwiched between two soft chocolate cookies. Tasted like summer camp.
As you can see, there is some seriously delicious eating to be done in New Orleans at Jazz Fest. But our feasting did not stop at the festival. Soon to come: 3 amazing meals In the city of New Orleans.