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La Belle Cuisine
as I’ve been telling you for the past ten days, all Heaven broke loose
in New Orleans. It really did. The
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2001.
Lord have mercy, what a blast!
Of course, if you don’t appreciate excellent music (jazz , blues, Zydeco, Latin American, to name but a few varieties), good times,
and great food, this topic probably will not interest
On the other hand, since you have chosen to visit us here at La
Belle Cuisine, I can only assume that the food, at least, will be of
interest to you. Right?
may as well make plans now to attend next year, okay? It will give
you something to look forward to.
And you can always change your
mind, although I simply cannot imagine why
you’d want to...
The Festival runs two consecutive weekends, beginning
with the last
weekend in April. Be sure to make your hotel reservations
early on, and
dinner reservations at one of the city’s myriad of
excellent restaurants for
the evenings you don’t plan to attend
Jazzfest. You won’t be able
out to dinner on those evenings. Trust me.
Jazzfest is open from 11am until 7pm. On the day(s) you plan to attend, it’s probably best not to eat
breakfast. Unless, of course,
you do what we
did. Stop off
at the Morning Call in Metairie (or the Café du Monde in the
Quarter) for café au lait and beignets. I can’t imagine a better way
start the day – any day. Sets
the tone for les bons temps to follow.
Dress comfortably. This
is imperative, unless you want to spend the day
in misery .If
there is such a thing as a Jazzfest “costume” I would have to
say it’s khaki shorts or slacks and a white shirt or some kind, followed
closely by jeans shorts and halter tops.
Saw some really terrific T-shirts,
Like “Good enough is simply not good enough.” I like that guy.
elderly lady in the
WWOZ jazz tent
gets my vote for one of the most outrageous
get-ups of the day: An
electric chartreuse satin-looking skirt,
topped by an equally shocking
fuchsia blouse, sequined, which stated
boldly, “Passages���. Much to my
dismay, I could not manage to get close
enough to her to read the fine
print and get the rest of the message.
Be prepared to see just about
anything (except, of course, suits and ties. Arrgghhh!) All
manner of piercings and tattoos, of course. My gentleman companion
observed that the messages delivered by the tattoos were, in general at
least, not of
a friendly nature. I agreed. And then we spotted someone sporting a musical
staff tattoo. Cool, we agreed. Friendlier. "It probably isn't 'Barbed
Wire,' he quipped, 'but I'll bet it isn't 'Nearer My
God to Thee',
Then there was
the platinum blond guy sporting a purple velvet top hat,
a sequined vest, and
some kind of frou-frou pants. He was passing out
bright yellow stickers. What did they say? Were
they smiley faces?
Would you believe I don’t know?!?!? Never could get close enough to
him to find out. Alas...
Or how about the group of guys proudly displaying their peanut
and feathered straw hats? What
was up with that, anyway?!?!?
brazen, perhaps, but I just had to know...
ma’am," came the reply. "It’s kind of an inside joke.
We’ve been doing
it for years…”
philosophical significance, no symbolism, no tribal rites…?"
no, ma’am, we’re just out to have a good time…”
they did. And so did we. As will you, if you just take it easy,
coolness, and go with the musical and culinary flow.
do wear your most comfortable shoes. This is Very Important.
glad you did. It’s a great idea to take some bottled water along
you unless you are prepared to pay the price. And sun block isn’t
choice, either. Ditto for a hat
of some sort, or perhaps last year’s Jazzfest bandana.
No need to risk getting sunstroke while you’re waiting
for your Crawfish Monica, right? More on this Very Important
Food item later.
something else well worth remembering. This
is not like going to
a concert at the Superdome, where an incredibly large
parking facility is
is like going to a open-air festival where NO parking is
provided. What can I say? Some
folks are apparently perfectly content
to take their chances on finding a
place in some entrepreneur’s yard now
parking lot relatively close to
the Fairgrounds. I am not.
Tried that once
and did not like it. Not at all. (In case you do opt for that, it will run you anywhere from about
$5 to $25, depending on the proximity to the Fest.)
Get this. For $14, you
can park your car in a secure area called Marconi
Meadows in City Park AND
ride to and from the Fairgrounds
on a Jazz
Fest Express shuttle bus.
This is a super deal, y’all. And
you can buy
your shuttle tickets in advance along with your Jazzfest
tickets ($49 a
in advance, or $59 a day when purchased on
Festival days). I’m all
hassle-free experience, so we arrived at Marconi Meadows with
hand. The only way to
here for current info!]
noticed that some folks take a different approach than we did. They lug
lots of stuff with them, like blankets to spread out on
the ground, folding
chairs or those umbrella-type collapsible things. They are on a Mission.
know exactly where they want to stake their claim. No doubt this
is determined by the venue of their Favorite Musical
Paul Simon, for example, who was El Numero Uno Nombre
this year (2001). Last year it was Sting. (Yes, that is correct. Sting.
to mention Ellis Marsalis, Keb Mo’, Ramsey Lewis.
We are talking Big Time here, okay?) So if Paul
Simon is to
perform at 4:40 p.m. on the Acura Stage, and you actually want
Paul Simon up
close and personal, you’ll want to pick your spot
as the Festival opens, relax, enjoy the preceding groups, take
your companions doing food and beverage runs and await the Big
Moment. And we wish you luck with that. Lots...
[2007 offered Harry Connick, Jr., Rod Stewart, Norah Jones, Dr; John,
Bonnie Raitt, John Mayer, Jerry Lee Lewis, Z. Z. Top, Steely Dan,
Irma Thomas, and many, many more... Click
here for current info.]
is not the approach we chose. We
knew for sure that we wanted to
see Ellis Marsalis at 1:10 in the
Jazz Tent, Banu Gibson & New
Orleans Hot Jazz at 3 in the Cox
Communications Economy Hall, Louis’
Home Cookin’: A New Orleans
Tribute to Louis Armstrong
of the best trumpeters you'll ever hear) back in the Jazz
Tent at 4,
with Celia Cruz and the Johnny Pacheco & His Orchestra
5:45 on the Congo Square Stage. (What’s
that? You would
the Dave Matthews Band at 5? Yes,
I hear you. But what about
that you’re in the Jazz Tent at 4, and the Dave Matthews
a HUGE crowd on the Acura Stage??) If you could see
of the Festival, you would understand just how vital logistics
of your excursion.
we were going to be covering a LOT of ground, we knew better
ourselves down with chairs or blankets or any other non-
paraphernalia. My point here,
jazz fans, gourmands, and party
is that it will simplify your total experience
considerably – not
keeping your stress
level in check -
if you know prior to
your arrival at
the Fest where your priorities lie.
between the musical encounters (of the close kind, if you are fortunate),
you will, of course, be contemplating your JazzFestFeast. You must. This
NEW ORLEANS Jazzfest, remember. Food
is NOT an afterthought
or a sideline at this event, y’all. In fact, it is nearly as much a raison d’etre
as the music itself
for this bash. Would that I could tell you about ALL the food.
Alas, time and space do not permit such a grand indulgence. Here’s what we planned to eat (all highly recommended by our
Orleans food guru, Tom
Meat Pies and/or Crawfish Pies (Mrs. Wheat’s)
Pheasant, Quail & Andouille Gumbo from Prejean’s
authentic Cajun country
Crawfish Sack and Crawfish Beignets
BBQ Oyster and/or BBQ Shrimp po’ boy, made by the
Red Fish Grill,
the only Brennan presence at the Festival
White Chocolate Bread Pudding
And in between, of course, several trips to a beverage vendor
dose of Foster’s.
Plus Rosemint Tea and/or Mandarin Orange Tea, the most
at the Festival.
Oh yeah, they have café au lait (hot, iced or frozen) from
Café du Monde,
And Italian Ice Cream and Biscotti from Angelo Brocato’s...
Mercy, mercy, mercy... Somebody SAVE me!
know, I know, I know, we cannot possibly consume that much food
time allotted. But we could try! And even if we could consume
much, we couldn’t
possibly manage to procure that much food
partake of the musical
enchantment on our list. Ostensibly
we went in the first place. Right? Right
what can I say? We didn’t make it through our list. Chances are you
won’t either. Just do the best you can, and enjoy what you DO manage to
your hands on. (Believe me,
that won’t be a problem. The
I mean.) Be
prepared for long lines, and keep on humming, snapping your fingers,
tapping your feet. And
shaking your booty if your feel like it.
You probably will feel like it, because you’ll notice that
else there is a constant, persistent, undeniable
beat. Bass. Boom, badda
boom, badda boom.
Cool. And after all,
you didn’t expect the Fairgrounds
to be empty, did you now? If you play your
cards right, you won’t spill a
bite wending your way back through the
line behind you, looking for a
good place to
most memorable food experiences were the Crawfish Beignet excursion
our quest for Crawfish Monica. We
are lured to Food Area II by a trail
of mixed aromas almost impossible to
describe. Reminiscent of the
of all. Like standing on the beach at Gulf Shores with a faint
spray of salt
water in your face. Or being on a deep-sea fishing boat. The
saltiness is cut
by a hint of sweetness. There is a faint yet pungent
yeast-like scent. It’s
difficult to say whether its origin is bread or
beer. There’s plenty of both.
And the oily odor that comes from hundreds
of fried foods being prepared
all around. And herbs – the ubiquitous thyme
and oregano that are such
an integral part of Creole and Cajun cookery.
Pepper of all kinds, and lots
of garlic. A fiery, piquant feeling permeates the
entire area. They have
definitely kicked it up a notch, jazzed it up most suitably, these masters
of outdoor gastronomy. We know we are not the only ones in line
Beignet stand was not yet jam-packed, as we hit it relatively early in
day. We even found some space
at a nearby “standing table” which
occupied by some very friendly
folk. That made the whole
even better. The
gentleman standing across from me was ravenously
consuming what appeared
to be a French fry po’ boy. I’m
wait a minute, French
fries on a sandwich. Doesn’t make sense,
it? Now that I think of it,
Emeril would not agree... The po’
boy is now
oozing what appears
to be gravy. Hmmmm...My
peaks. But before I have a chance to get
into my Funky Liza Roving
Reporter mode, someone asks,
“Excuse me, sir, but are those French fries
on your sandwich?”
you right, French fries and roast beef gravy, the only way to go.
boy in the woild.” (These, along with fried apple, blueberry
pies are provided by Elizabeth’s restaurant in Bywater.)
leads, of course, to a general round table discussion of
po’ boys in
general, ingredients in particular, whether to eat dressed or undressed
not as in naked, but as in condiments), and other matters of great
Eventually, the gentleman of the French fry po’ boy asks if we
familiar with the origin of the po’ boy. I tell him I
think I am, but
would love to be enlightened nonetheless...
“Well it happened because of the strike…”
“Oh, I thought it was when they were working on the canal…”
“No, it was the bus strike, streetcar strike, back in the 1920s. At
“Not Martin Brothers Grocery?”
“Clarence and Lefty’s. The name
came to be because they
‘Here comes another ‘po boy…’ ”
Just imagine a Hero.
Or a Sub, or Hoagie, or Grinder, with a New Orleans
twist. What makes a po’
boy really special is the bread. It has to be made
with good quality,
fresh French bread. New Orleans French bread. That
means a crunchy crust
with a very light center. Anything else is just a poor
undeserving of the name. In which case, call it anything you
by the way, Mother's
Restaurant, on the corner of Tchoupitoulas
Poydras in downtown New Orleans, has been serving po’ boys since
1930s. To die for, only not as
great as in past decades. The signature
po’ boy at Mother’s is the 'Ferdi Special,' a
combination of excellent baked
ham, roast beef, debris (the roast beef
which falls in into the gravy in the
oven), shredded cabbage and
condiments including Creole mustard.
I digress. Jazzfest food. Just
in case you think these jazz fans are not Serious about their victuals,
consider this. The gentleman who enlightened
us on the history of the po’
boy, who was of slight build, without an ounce
fat on him, turned down
my offer of a Crawfish Beignet. Why?
already had them, thank you very much. He was very quick to
that he had begun his culinary quest with Crawfish Monica (best
on so as to avoid lines 30 folks deep), then proceeded to
devour an order of
beignets. Had a couple of beers to wash them down, and THEN
his favorite po’ boy before he got serious about the music. Nuff said.
About the Crawfish Monica. This delicacy was named after creator
Chef Pierre Hilzim’s wife, Monica, and is prepared by Kajun
who describe it as “a delectable blend of tender crawfish tails in a
cream sauce served over premium quality rotini.” Indeed. Thousands
thousands of servings. Boggles the mind. (Tom Fitzmorris is quick
out to his fans that this has absolutely nothing to do with that
Do I have the
recipe? Surely you jest! But I do just happen to have a
very close approximation,
courtesy of Chuck Taggart:
inspired by the Jazzfest favorite, "Crawfish Monica"®
“Joe Cahn, formerly of the New
Orleans School of Cooking, came up with his
take on this delectable dish
and taught it to his students at the school; I offer
you his version
below. If you can't get the real thing (and you really should sometime, either in person at Jazzfest or through mail-order), this version
worth a try.”
pound crawfish tails, boiled and peeled; OR
1 pound shrimp, peeled; OR
1 pound lump crabmeat; OR
1 pound oysters, drained and quartered.
1 stick of butter (Do not use margarine.)
1 pint of half-and-half
1 good-sized bunch green onions,
chopped (tops, too)
3 - 10 cloves garlic, chopped (to your taste)
Creole seasoning to taste (or 1 - 2 tbsp.)
1 pound cooked fresh pasta
(Dry pasta is all right if fresh is not available.
Rotini is preferred,
but use your favorite shape.)
pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain, then rinse
cool water. Drain again, thoroughly.
the butter in a large pot and sauté onions and garlic for 3 minutes.
the seafood and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the half-and-half, then
several big pinches of Creole seasoning, tasting before the next pinch
you think it's right. If you've boiled your own crawfish, save the
it in as well.
for 5 - 10 minutes over medium heat until the sauce thickens. Add
pasta and toss well. Let it sit for 10 minutes or so over very low heat,
stirring often. Serve immediately, with lots of French bread and a nice
dry white wine.
thanks to Monica Davidson (the namesake of Crawfish Monica®) of
Kettle for her kind permission to use the trademark "Crawfish
in the description of this dish.
and neighbors, mes amis, if this doesn’t whet your appetite for all
things Jazzfest, all things indigenous to Nouvelle Orleans in all her
give up. This is
Funky Liza, signing off for now, and reminding you to
Live with Passion
like you don't need the money.
Love like you've never been hurt.
Dance like nobody's watching.
Sing like nobody's listening.
Live like it's Heaven on Earth.
P.S. Please be
sure to check out
New Orleans JazzFest Food!
seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love,
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
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, The Art of Eating
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