I adore many things about New Orleans, but the combination of music, food and culture at the Jazz and Heritage Festival is irresistible. This year, between Kermit Ruffins’ upbeat trad jazz set and rowdy Rebirth Brass Band, I took a stroll down the long lane of food stalls painted like old-town storefronts. There are several such streets of food to explore. I sampled as much as possible, including Duck Po’Boy and Miss Linda Green’s famous Ya Ka Mein.
Alligator Pie is a new favorite. The flakey, homemade crust puts all other fried pies to shame. Gator meat as fresh and tender as any Texas brisket, and the sauce—let’s just say this sauce has teeth. The sign should read “Alligator Pie: it bites you back!”
The sauce wrapped around my fresh gulf Shrimp and Grits was creamy, almost like étouffeé, but with a little red Louisiana heat. I scooped it up while waiting for the Comanche Hunters Mardi Gras Indians–a heart-stopping performance of costume, dance, voice and percussion like nothing else in the world. I tried Crawfish Monica: fusilli pasta with a light cream sauce, laced with garlic and paprika, with big chunks of ‘mudbugs’ in every bite.
And there are still dozens of things I didn’t get to try: Crawfish Sausage Po’Boy, Crabmeat Stuffed Shrimp, Oyster Pattie, Mango Freeze, Crawfish Sack. Crawfish Sack? What is that? Sounds like a reason to go back to New Orleans as soon as possible.
I had to trade my son three shrimp from my po’boy to get a taste of his Crawfish Beignet. Worth it! Crunchy fritter on the outside gave way to light-as-air breading on the inside, with shreds of crawfish and spices throughout, topped with a thread of remoulade sauce from a gallon pump bottle.
Only in New Orleans!