I’ve been in New Orleans for almost 48 hours now and found a bit of time for this quick update. Overall, the city is a lively place with an almost palpable atmosphere I would describe as that warm fuzzy feeling you’re having a good time surrounded by people who know how to enjoy life. Maybe this is what people mean when they talk about Southern hospitality. People here are friendly and never seem to be in a rush (except maybe the tourists).
For some background information, the reason I’m in New Orleans is to attend the 14th Annual Community Food Security Conference. I’m helping to represent the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council in leading a workshop on Monday afternoon on “Engaging Youth Within the Food Policy Framework.” While much of the time so far has been taken up with the conference, I did have some time to explore the town after I got in Friday night and a bit on Saturday afternoon.
For the most part, food, beverage, and jazz have been the dominating themes of the past little while. In fact, as I’m writing this, there is a marching band walking down Canal St (one of the main streets in New Orleans).
In regards to food, Southern food is full of rich, fried, morsels of tasty goodness. Some of the interesting things I’ve had while here is blackened alligator, gumbo, red beans and rice, crab cakes, Rockefeller oysters, cochon au lait , and biegnets. Things I have yet to try are jambalaya, crawfish, crabs and po boy sandwiches. Yes, eating and food is a passion of mine and I’m glad my metabolism still allows me to enjoy all of this without too many ill effects. Pictures, descriptions, and tasting notes coming soon. Food here seems to be more expensive than other cities (ex. a street dog cost around $5 or $6 from the French Quarter).
In regards to drinking, Friday night was by far one of the wildest nights I’ve had in a while. We started off with a local beer Abita www.abita.com. I tried one of their “harvest” beers, a Sasuma Belgium Wit, which features local Louisiana ingredients. It was surprisingly tasty. An interesting side note is that it appears to be the case that open beverages are allowed and openly consumed while wandering the streets.
One of the more interesting things we tried to liven things up was a local cocktail named “The Hand Grenade”. It comes in a special plastic cup that the Lonely Planet describes as “a mix of melon liquer, grain alcohol, rum, vodka, and God knows what else. Suffice to say, two or more will destroy you”. It was a seriously strong drink. A few other things I want to try are the chicory coffee from Cafe du Mond, and some more local beers.
For jazz, I’d had the most excellent fortune of being in the right place at the right time (though that never is too hard for a city known for its live music culture). On Saturday, I followed my nose to Lafayette Square where a Blues fest was rocking away. Two stages were set up, and locals and tourists came prepared with their lawn chairs for an afternoon of blues music. Another very cool venue I stumbled onto was at the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park. Free concerts happen on a regular basis, and I was lucky enough to catch the last one of the day and also the last one playing while I’m here in New Orleans and was treated to a concert by a brass jazz band. The musicians alternated between singing and playing their instruments and it was a great break from the extensive walking tour I took around the city that afternoon.
That’s about it for now. Pictures, better descriptions, and notes on the conference coming soon! Stay tuned.