15 Courses at the Racecourse
Dining at Jazz Fest is an all-day meal
The yellow flags depicting the dancing folks in bell bottoms are waving all over town (my porch included) and that means it’s Jazz Fest season! The music will be stellar, but the food is what many look forward to most.
Each year, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival brings thousands of visitors to town, not to mention the thousands of locals who take off of work to attend. Being out at the festival all day takes a certain amount of endurance and planning. Trying to keep to a rigid schedule of performances is crazy, but crafting a menu of all you want to eat that day is a smart move.
The entire day is a continuum. As such, treat your dining experience as one long meal. If you share the dishes with others, you can eat a great variety without the gluttony. Here are my recommendations for the 15 Jazz Fest foods that can’t be missed.
Today your mission is food, not setting up camp at the Acura Stage. Take your obligatory picture under the welcome arch, then hang a left for the daiquiri stand. All great meals start with a cocktail and this should be your only one of the day. The rest of the day should alternate water, beer, rosemint iced tea, beer, water, beer, etc. Know your limits and do not underestimate the power of the sun out there.
- Crawfish Bread – Panorama Foods (Food Area I)
With that cool daiquiri in one hand and hot crawfish bread in the other, you know it’s going to be a good day. Alternating bites of the hot sandwich with the frozen daiquiri is especially fun.
- Ya Ka Mein – Ms. Linda’s Catering (Food Area I)
Ms. Linda is internationally known for her interpretation of a salty noodle soup known for its curative powers. No cold or hangover can stand up to the likes of her ya ka mein. You have to try it, and you have to try the best.
- Boudin Balls – Papa Ninety Catering (Food Area I)
Just do it.
- Pheasant, Quail and Andouille Gumbo – Prejean’s Restaurant (Food Area II)
The roux is dark and the combination of meats isn’t on every menu in town. If you only eat one gumbo at the fest, make it this one.
- Seaweed and Cucumber Salad – Ajun Cajun (Food Area II)
At some point you will need to eat something refreshing to cleanse your palate. This salad has saved me on many a hot day.
- Crawfish Monica – Big River Foods (Food Area II)
The famous pasta named for a great lady. The creamy pasta isn’t overbearing and the crawfish tails make a toothsome bite. Each year I think I’ll skip the calories, but Monica keeps calling me back for more.
- Curry Chicken Pattie – Palmer’s Jamaican Cuisine (Congo Square)
This is what a Hot Pocket wishes it could be. The seasoning is perfection and in meat pie tradition, it’s easy to eat while you are dancing.
- Bacon Pecan Square – Marie’s Sugar Dumplings (Congo Square)
Reread the name. That’s all you need to know.
- Meaty White Beans – Down Home Creole Cookin’ (Heritage Square)
The red beans are famous in southern Louisiana, but their cousin, white beans, deserve a lot more attention. Creamy and savory, these beans are special.
- Lump Crab Stuffed Beignets – Loretta’s Authentic Pralines (on the inner loop close to Kids Tent)
These are a new addition to Jazz Fest and I’ve had the pleasure of trying them in Ms. Loretta’s café. They are life-changing. Buy a praline too and save it to eat in your pajamas before bed.
- Creamy Shrimp Macque Choux – United Houma Nation (Louisiana Folklife Village)
Louisiana foodways owe a lot to the Houma and Native Americans. This corn-based dish is similar to a succotash but without the beans. A dash of Crystal hot sauce makes it sing.
- Huckabuck Frozen Cups – Ms. Linda’s Catering (Kids Food)
People rave about the Mango Freeze, but if I have to choose one frozen dessert at the fest, I choose huckabuck cups. A throwback to when ladies would freeze Kool-Aid in Dixie cups and sell them to the neighborhood kids from their doorsteps, these traditional summer treats are humble and tasty.
- Ropa Vieja, Frijoles Negros and Tostones – Congreso Cubano (Cultural Exchange Pavilion)
This year Jazz Fest is featuring music and food from Cuba. I can’t speak to this exact offering, but I know I’ll be trying it because Cuban food is delicious. The braised steak, black beans and fried green plantains are a classic combination and should represent our nearby island neighbor well.
Bon appetit and buen provecho!