Apr 28, 2011
People love jazz fest for a variety of reasons. Some people love the big national acts, some love the local musicians, but others are in it just for the food. What makes jazz fest food so special? It might be the setting, but everything you could want is at the fest. Crawfish, gumbo, jambalaya, poboys, boudin…the list of local and regional specialties goes on and on. Some festival foods are only available at jazz fest, which make them all that much more special. If you’ve never been to jazz fest, here are a few suggestions.
For me, it wouldn’t be jazz fest without crawfish bread (Food Area 1) and Crawfish Monica (Food Area 2). For the uninitiated, crawfish bread is bread baked with a cheesy crawfish filling. I have had impostors but there is nothing like the version at jazz fest. Crawfish Monica is spiral pasta with crawfish in a rich, cream sauce- a star of the fest for nearly twenty years. Crawfish Monica is extremely popular; Kajun Kettle built an empire on this dish. Another beloved item is the cochon de lait poboy from Love At First Bite. I have many friends that head for this item first.
Do you like to sample several things at once? Combo plates are the way to go. One of my favorites is the spinach artichoke casserole, seafood au gratin, and sweet potato pone, available in Food Area 1. The spinach artichoke casserole is one of my favorite items at the festival- so delicious, I’m not sure this counts as a vegetable. The sweet potato pone is a moist sweet potato cake. I usually bring a Ziploc bag and take at least one of these home. Another great combo plate is the crawfish sack, oyster patties, and crawfish beignets, also in Food Area 1. The crawfish sack is more like a pastry “purse,” filled with crawfish in a tasty sauce. The crawfish beignets are yummy fried goodness, topped with a remoulade sauce.
Are you a vegetarian? There are more options than ever before. Try some of the ethnic offerings from Mona’s, Ninja, Jamila’s, Gambian Foods or Bennachin. In addition to the previously mentioned spinach artichoke casserole, you can find fried green tomatoes, fried eggplant in marinara sauce, stuffed artichokes, vegetarian red beans & rice, and vegetarian yak a mein, all in in Food Area 1. In Food Area 2, vegetarians will enjoy falafel, hummus or tabouli with pita, seaweed salad, and crowder peas & okra. There are also many vegetarian items in the nearby Congo Square area, such as grilled veggie pitas, couscous with yogurt sauce, jama-jama (sautéed spinach), and fried plantains.
Looking for something lighter? When I’ve had my fill of heavy New Orleans food, I go for the spinach salad with fried oysters, available in Food Area 1, or the spring rolls in the Heritage Square Food Area.
In the mood for something sweet? Jazz fest has something to tempt all tastes- there is a seemingly endless array of choices. In Food Area 1, you’ll find lemon pound cake and blackberry cobbler. Food Area 2 offers strawberry shortcake, key lime pie, white chocolate bread pudding, and treats from Angelo Brocato’s. If you’re in Congo Square, look for sweet potato pies and apple turnovers; Heritage Square has ice cream sandwiches from La Divina (new this year). Also, available throughout the grounds are mango freeze, snoballs, a variety of pies, pralines, and more!
Jazz fest offers the greatest variety of local delicacies, all in one place. There is something for everyone, and all of it is good. Happy eating! Enjoy the fest!