Food Fest (a.k.a. New Orleans Jazz Fest 2012)

Official 2012 Jazz Fest poster, featuring Trombone Shorty

I’ve been out of touch for a while! About a week and a half ago I flew down to NOLA with three of my girlfriends to go to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.  I think I’m now fully recovered. The numbers are in and roughly 450,000 of us melted under the Louisiana heat and gorged on Crawfish Monica and cochon de lait.  But we were not rookies – this was our second consecutive year at the Fest. Last year, we had no idea what stage was what, which bathrooms were the cleanest and had the quickest lines and which food stands to hit (um, all of them?). This time, we were practically pros.

Big Sam of Big Sam’s Funky Nation playing the trombone at the Conga Stage, May 5, 2012

We missed the big acts of the first weekend – Tom Petty, the Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen (!!). But, we were able to see most of the big concerts of the second weekend, including Florence + the Machine, Eagles, Foo Fighters and Bonnie Raitt, to name a few.  With 7 stages and 5 tents, it can be overwhelming since there are so many great acts that overlap with other performances. This year, I learned that it’s better to hang out towards the back of the Acura stage instead of staking out a spot closer to the stage. The acoustics are better in the back and it’s easier to make a getaway if you want to catch the second half of another performance at one of the other stages.

Some people just go to the Fest to see the big musical acts, but there are plenty of great performances going on in the tents. For example, if you were staking out a spot for the Foo Fighters concert on Sunday afternoon, you’d have missed the seniors be-bop-a-lulling away in the Peoples Health Economy Hall Tent.

Jazz Fest should really be called “Food Fest” though with some music sprinkled in. The food stands are the real stars. As I overheard someone say, it’s gourmet food served on paper plates. Prepare to wear loose-fitting clothing – you’ll want to eat everything! If you’re afraid of trying the boiled crawfish because you don’t know how to eat them, no worries. Trust me, a helpful stranger will show you how. Everyone is so happy and helpful at the Festival. It takes me about a day to shake off my Northeastern aloofness but before I know it, I’m chatting up with strangers on where to find whatever it is they are eating.

Here are some of my highlights from the trip:

The Crafts

  1.  Detail of a beaded hummingbird for a future Mardi Gras Indian costume
  2. Mardi Gras Indian costume
  3. Potter at the wheel by the craft tents
  4. He’s in the spirit!

The Music

  1. Glen Hansard (from the movie, Once) performing on-stage with his guitar.
  2. Cast of Treme at a signing. From left: Steve Zahn, Phyllis Montana LeBlanc and Lucia Micarelli.
  3. Bonnie Raitt performing with Preservation Hall Jazz Band on the Gentilly Stage.
  4. Closeup of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band drum.

The Food

  1. Crawfish beignets with tartar sauce
  2. Key Lime pie
  3. Hawaiian shirt beer cozy…we were getting a little goofy then!
  4. Fried soft shell crab po boy

Food Around the French Quarter

Besides within the festival, we had great food around the French Quarter and the Warehouse District.

  1. Fresh homemade biscuits (and Bloody Mary) at Café Fleur de Lis on Chartres St.
  2. Cochon’s sign outside the restaurant
  3. Oyster and bacon sandwich at Cochon
  4. Braised pork cheeks with poached egg
  5. Hummingbird cake at Borgne
  6. Borgne dessert menu

Needless to say, I’m stuffed…and already planning the trip for next year!

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