New Orleans Feature


Quintessential New Orleans


The city of New Orleans has long been a cultural melting pot, and that goes for her cooking pots as well. There's a stunning variety of homegrown cuisines and styles here—everything from traditional Creole to fresh-caught seafood, from slow-cooked soul food to upscale urban fusions, from gorgeous French-style five-course meals to corner-store po'boys. For the upscale connoisseurs, this is a city where chefs come to make a name for themselves. Internationally recognized stars like John Besh, Paul Prudhomme, and Emeril Lagasse are joined by inventive culinary masterminds such as Susan Spicer (Bayona), Donald Link (Herbsaint), and Scott Boswell (Stella!). This is also a place that puts a high premium on simple pleasures, and it's the unsung cooks and chefs of the corner shops, pubs, late-night grills, and even taco stands that deliver some of the best eats.


New Orleans is home to several of the world's oldest and most popular cocktails, dating back to the turn of the 19th century, so it's no surprise that an old guard of traditional New Orleans bartenders has kept the sacred flame alight, honing their skills on homegrown classics like the Sazerac, the Ramos gin fizz, and the ever-popular Hurricane. A new generation of innovative mixologists is, however, combining their prowess with some of the most venerable cocktail traditions and settings, bringing new recipes, fresh ingredients, hand-squeezed juices, and homemade syrups, mixers, and reductions. Hot spots like Cure, Bar Tonique, and Twelve Mile Limit lead the cocktail renaissance. The popular Tales of the Cocktail festival in July celebrates all things shaken and stirred.


Music is so organic to New Orleans that it's almost like humidity—hanging in the air, drifting down the street, working its way in between the clapboards on the sides of houses and clubs. When you follow those strains a little more closely, you'll realize that every style of music, every band, and every musician has a unique energy that pours into the city, from the stride piano blues of Jon Cleary to the high-energy brass jams of the world-renowned Rebirth Brass Band. Old-school kings of rhythm and blues like Walter Wolfman Washington or Little Freddie King still keep people half their age (and less) dancing into the wee hours of the night. Meanwhile, the young hipsters of the New Orleans Cottonmouth Kings play swing jazz standards that are old enough to be their grandparents' age (and then some).


To many people a festival is an event that arrives once a year, spans a few days, and then fades to nice memories. In New Orleans, however, the term "festival" has transcended any single event and has become a lifestyle, a state of mind, and possibly even an obsession. Regardless of the time of year you might be visiting, there's likely something happening—from the large-scale, musical mega-events like Jazz Fest (where jazz is only the beginning of the offerings), Essence Fest (hip-hop and R&B), and the Voodoo Experience (rock and electronic) to the funky neighborhood celebrations like the Bayou Boogaloo or Festivus. Legendary figures like Louis Armstrong and Tennessee Williams have events thrown in their honor. So pack your sunscreen and a hat, slip on some dancing shoes, and get ready to plunge into the festival state of mind.

Updated: 2014-09-15

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