The weekend I finished up at Tulane and headed home to Sacramento, I got to go to Jazzfest, NOLA's music festival that heralds the beginning of summer and an end to the (extremely moderated) good behavior that heralds Lenten time in Louisiana. Jazzfest time is a New Orleans holiday on par with Christmas, New Years, and Mardi Gras, the sort of big-time event that everyone begins anticipating with glazed and blissed out expressions long before it rolls around again. Sure, the music is swell and all - featuring a combination of New Orleans local music and big-ass names like Neil Young, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Bon Jovi (um) and much much more. But the primary reason people wax sentimental about Jazzfest is the food: licensed vendors sell all sorts of New Orleans foods to all sorts of people, producing the best damn way to sample the best of Lousiana's cuisine in a small and music-loving environment. Nice work if you can get it.
My dad's flight unfortunately got in late the first day of Jazzfest (boo) so we only got to spend an hour or so mussing about on Friday. Jazzfest is held at the New Orleans fair grounds and race track, and the music stages are spaced out inside the confines of the racing track. There's tons of music going on at all times, and the people watching is equally excellent: you really do get all sorts for Jazzfest. Indeed, Jazzfest is Woodstock for middle aged white people. They dress like it too: you will never see such a profusion of furry white chests and string polka dot bikinis and matching husband-wife ensembles in your life. (One man enjoys wandering about the festival in a tartan skirt above the knee, and most disquietingly, no underpants. A stiff wind kicked up while I was sitting down and enjoying some reggae, and I saw what cannot be unseen. I may require therapy.
But on to happier topics. How was the food? Here are some of the food stalls and vendors - there's a bunch of them, representing essentially every cuisine found in the city.
We tried out these fried chicken wings: pretty tasty. New Orleans has mastered, mastered the art of the fried chicken wing.
We arrived bright and early for our second day of Jazzfest- the party starts at 11 AM. Parking is a horrendous nightmare within a few miles of the fairgrounds, so we took the logical approach and hired a taxi, which dropped us off within spitting distance of the gates. We joined the scrum of people heading to the concert grounds, showed our passes and came on in.
First up: a very interesting gospel show. I rarely view people who have Got the Spirit and this was pretty refreshing - dunno what the white-face mime thing was all about but it was definitely symbolic. And you've got to appreciate the sheer wall-busting power of gospel style voices.
Lunch time came up swiftly enough. There is no lunch time at Jazzfest, of course - Jazzfest is really an excellent excuse for constant grazing. Gastric distress is another Jazzfest tradition.
Tragically, this soft shell crab po-boy wasn't very impressive: the oil had sat too long and the crab ended up rather tough and greasy.
Things looked up big-time with this quail and andouille gumbo. Great dark roux flavor, lots of tasty quail meat, and a sufficient amount of spice - what's not to like?
This lamb tagine with harissa and rice was tasty and meaty - and it's hard not to like anything with harissa on it. Not exactly traditional NOLA fare but still most tasty.
My mom was very happy with these Louisiana style hot tamales. The Tamale Man in my grandfather's native Mendon, LA, is a bit of a family legend. I'd never had them before, but I was very impressed with the flavor: they're smaller and a little more "juicy" then typical tamales, with an addictive spicy sauce and a piquant ground beef filling.
For a recipe for Louisiana style hot tamale recipes, look here: Hot Tamales And check out the annual Zwolle Hot Tamale festival in Louisiana....how deeply interesting.
More Jazzfest stuff next time....