Andreas Preuss is a Supervising Producer at CNN. He's based in Atlanta, but New Orleans is his happy place.
For the next two weekends, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is ground zero for music lovers, food enthusiasts and anyone who wants to soak up the culture of South Louisiana. There's a lot to offer on all these fronts. For me, as a native New Orleanian, it's the best two weekends on earth.
You really can't go wrong at the Jazz Fest; there are food booths setup in strategic locations around the site at the New Orleans Fairgrounds. Locals know how to navigate the field and for visitors it's a bit of delicious hide and seek.
One of the best ways to meet and eat is by sitting with some fellow festival goers. There are small tables set up around the food booths – and they can quickly become a sort of buffet of what people are eating. You hear a lot of "What's that?" and "Where did you find it?" and the inevitable "Wanna try a bite?" I tend to be nomadic in my Jazz Fest feasting. And just like exploring the city itself, there's a new food adventure around every corner.
The ultimate in food portability
My favorites usually center around the sandwiches - the ever present po-boy. They are portable and can easily be stowed in a bag or pocket. I can grab one between sets, eating and walking, even though some sauces may be trickling down my arm. I have plenty of napkins usually stuffed in my pockets.
A perennial crowd favorite is the Cochon de Lait po-boy. It is indeed a succulent slice of Jazz Fest heaven: slow roasted pork with spicy remoulade sauce and slaw between two crispy slices of French bread. Another big hit is the fried soft-shell crab po-boy. They are so popular, that the vendor hands out tickets to purchase them. It's quite a scene seeing those delicious sandwiches emerge with the fried crab legs sticking out of the bread slices; I usually eat them first.
The longer the line the better the food?
That is indeed a mantra, but it also signifies a herd yen for safer and more popular food items. The fried soft shell crab po-boy booth always has lines as does the crawfish bread vendor. There are actually several booths for Crawfish Monica: a cheesy, creamy pasta dish brimming with crawfish tail meat.
The long lines can be easier to navigate when a big touring act is on stage. Or just put in the time, meet your line neighbor and get their food tips.
Can I get a healthy, low-cal meal out here?
There are options. Vietnamese food fits the bill as does crawfish sushi. There is even a vegetarian muffaletta – the Italian specialty sandwich, piled high with cheeses and olive relish. And even though Jazz Fest or any New Orleans visit is a great excuse to break a diet, there's nothing wrong from taking a break from saucy, spicy, fried or boiled food - for a little bit anyway.
I tend to stay away from soupy dishes, because who really wants to eat gumbo when you are in the blazing sun with no shade? I would never diss the soups, but I have my issues.
Dressing to eat
Wear your best loose fitting clothes and not just to adjust your waistline, but it gets hot, humid and sweaty at the Fairgrounds. The color to avoid is white, and don't debut anything new. If not this will be you: hot sauce splatter on your shirt, roast beef gravy on your pants and drops of boiled crawfish juice on your shoes.
One should never let clothes get in the way of a good meal. Napkins can take care of all those beautiful sauces running down your arms. But do not let preservation of a favorite shirt stop you from the feast.
Have fun, enjoy and get out there. The locals are always quick to guide you to their ultimate meal, but create your own experience and you too will have your own Jazz Fest favorites.
Previously - What to eat, drink, do and avoid in New Orleans
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