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Fully Krewed—The Traditions of Mardi Gras

With the 2017 Mardi Gras season upon us, the new year promises that even more individuals from all corners of the world will flock to New Orleans to witness the massive lineup of parades. However, many may visit for the spectacle of the festival without being entirely aware how Mardi Gras works. If you’re considering visiting New Orleans and aren’t sure what to expect, or are just looking to gain a little insight into what the festival is all about, I’d like to delve into the practical ins and outs of Mardi Gras!

What is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is a celebration with ties to both Christian and Pagan traditions. It is held on Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent, marking a day of excess before giving up unhealthy food and drink. However, the season officially begins on January 6th, with multiple days of parades planned between them and Fat Tuesday.

The festival has certainly escalated since its estimated inception in the days of ancient Rome. Modern New Orleans traditions include the throwing of trinkets to awaiting crowds—a practice so popular that trees on the street are often decorated with beads for months after—to exclusive balls celebrating the city’s young debutantes. Now more of a cultural phenomenon than a religious festival, Mardi Gras remains a large draw for visitors to Louisiana to this day.

The Culture Behind Mardi Gras

The groups of people that set up floats and throw balls are called krewes. Part party planning committee and part community service organization, krewe members pay dues to finance their activities during the festival.

Generally, invitation to the aforementioned balls is based on who you know in the krewes. Though some offer public tickets, don’t count on getting invited to a Mardi Gras ball unless you have connections (or can make friends fast!).

King Cake

A traditional aspect of Mardi Gras is the serving of king cake at various functions. January sixth is also known as “the Feast of the Epiphany” and is also the first time that king cakes are eaten during the festival.

The cake itself resembles a doughnut and is comprised of cinnamon-laced dough topped with icing and colored sugar, traditionally in purple, green, and gold. These three colors traditionally represent justice, faith, and power, respectively.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the cake is the inclusion of a small baby figurine inside, representative of the baby Jesus. Whoever receives the slice of cake with the figurine is treated like royalty for the evening, but is also obligated to purchase the next cake. In other countries, the baby is often replaced by a pea or a bean.

Where to go on Mardi Gras?

In a broader sense, many cities across the world celebrate Mardi Gras, though New Orleans is the most famous for the practice. If you’re looking to get a sense of how the festival is celebrated elsewhere, check out Baton Rouge, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Cologne, Germany.

In New Orleans, the bulk of the celebration is held in the city’s French Quarter, and is renowned for being family-friendly despite the prevalence of alcohol during the festival. Bourbon Street, as the name suggests, is home to the raunchier Mardi Gras crowds; but the rest of the quarter is lined with families looking to take in the spectacle of parades.

What else do I need to know?

Be smart and be safe!

Despite being a tradition dating back centuries, Mardi Gras is fairly loose and not particularly stringent about the behavior of its revelers. That said, expect a lot of costumes from attendants; even if you’re from out of town, consider joining in the festivities by dressing up! There are no particular limits on how to dress, but many of the popular costumes are satirical or humorous. If you happen to be invited to a ball, the requirements are much stricter, requiring gowns and tuxedos for guests.

Mardi Gras isn’t just a celebration; it’s a cultural staple that defines New Orleans as a city and something that everybody should experience.

Jazz Clubs of The Big Easy

New Orleans is a city of rich tradition, of vivacious culture, and of exquisite cuisine. Yet, it is perhaps its fantastic music scene that has contributed the most to its renown as a town of fine culture. Considered to be born in The Big Easy, jazz, in particular, can be heard regularly throughout the thriving metropolis. Since the city’s inception, even going as far back as to the Congo Square, the improvisational music form has been an inherent fixture of The Crescent City’s nearly palpable culture.  The next time you’re strolling through this historic city’s famed streets, pop your head into one of the below beloved establishments. You’re sure to be glad you did.

Preservation Hall

Known specifically for its traditional roots, Preservation Hall has played host to nearly innumerable famous musicians. A legendary venue, the building merely requires one to reserve tickets at least 24 hours in advance for any one of its three engaging nightly events. 45 minutes each and starting at 8, 9, or 10 pm, these shows are an impeccable option for entertainment regardless of age.  In fact, Preservation Hall is an alcohol-free venue, making it the perfect option for families.

Fritzel’s European Jazz Club

Although Fritzel’s is on the rambunctious Bourbon Street, that is no reason the discount the elegant Jazz overtures flowing from its open windows on any given night. Traditional and played for the most part by an in-house band, this club takes care to preserve the quality of music played in addition to continuously cultivating its already prestigious reputation. While the crowd may be slightly boisterous, their voices by no means drown out the wonderful music filling the halls.

Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse

More upscale than aforementioned Fritzel’s, this elegant lounge bar resides in the heart of the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Known for its iconic performer, the famed Grammy recipient Irvin Mayfield, the playhouse has garnered the reputation it has for good reason. Even when Mayfield isn’t there himself to dazzle crowds, other jazz forefathers make regular appearances, ensuring a night spend at the playhouse is never a night wasted.

Truly, New Orleans is home to some of the finest music in the world; and all you need to know is where to look.

How The New Orleans’ Restaurant Scene Is Changing

Just any other city rich with culinary innovation and history, a fair amount of restaurant openings and closings are cyclical occurrences that happen to shape the food scene for the year. With various food establishments entering and leaving the restaurant scene, the way in which different people engage and experience food can often depend on varying factors that may not been so easy to see. Looking back on the year, The New Orleans Advocate explores different factors that have altered the ways restaurants operate from emerging chef training programs, the rise of food trucks and the ever expanding seafood collection available to New Orleans’ locals.


Training chefs to be mentors

The restaurant group Dickie Brennan & Co has changed the structure of its training program by organizing a team of veteran chefs to act as mentors to younger chefs in training. Instead of the veteran chefs taking the lead in the kitchen, this program essentially allows for these established professionals to guide and teach the younger counterparts in order to create an atmosphere of culinary growth and innovation.


A different kind of food court

As traditional food courts in malls gradually take the back seat as social hubs, the food truck community is slowly but surely becoming popular in various cities across the country. For many people, food trucks shape an environment that foster various forms of creativity and innovation that maybe did not exist within the realm of traditional food courts. “The food court” in New Orleans comprises of different food truck vendors in a centralized outdoor space who all offer tasty delicatessens anywhere from local Creole favorites to exotic treats from Central America.


The expansion of seafood

“The bountiful catch” is a phrase coined by Carmo, a small cafe style restaurant in downtown New Orleans that is allowing different chefs from culinary establishments across the country to create recipes using bycatch, or seafood usually thrown back into the ocean by fisherman. By expanding the range of seafood served in local restaurants in New Orleans, it allows for more stability in the market by emphasizing less on certain fishes’ value and therefore possibly preventing a monopoly on a single type of fish. The experimentation with bycatch has the potential of creating new dishes that could add further cultural value to the restaurant scene in New Orleans as a whole. Stay tuned!


10 Classic Dishes From The Heart of New Orleans

10 Classic Dishes From The Heart of New Orleans

Along with the status of being one of the most culturally rich port cities of the U.S., New Orleans still continues to reign supreme as one of the culinary gems of the country. You simply cannot deny the fact that New Orleans’ vibrant history of native, Spanish and French influence has affected the diverse and comforting dishes that comprise some of the port city’s culinary masterpieces. With this in mind, the combination of spice and historical recipes from the Old World highlight the area’s melting pot history which make New Orleans what it is today. See below for just some of the interesting dishes that this city has to offer and read more about them on CN Traveler.


Chargrilled Oysters Acme Oyster House and Drago’s Seafood Restaurant

A special dish to New Orleans, the grill adds a completely different level to oysters that are usually served raw in other parts of the south. The smokiness of the char grill is a subtle undertone in the oyster which is complemented perfectly by the heavenly bread crumb herb mixture.


Po’ Boys at Johnny’s Po’ Boys

Originally provided to unpaid, picketing laborers in the 1920’s, this sandwich with a story is a popular quick lunch pick me up for anyone working in the neighborhood. The fried shrimp Po’Boy is an almost must.


Beignets at Café Du Monde

A french pastry that made its way to the New Orleans port, this light doughnut smothered in powdered sugar could easily make any afternoon on the town even more enjoyable.


Muffuletta at Central Grocery

Another super delicious, hearty sandwich that is packed with italian meats ranging from mortadella to salami with fresh italian bread of course.


Red Beans & Rice at Mother’s Restaurant

Made with pork bones from Sunday night dinner, this dish is no way a leftover meal. Perfect from the first bite and never disappointing, Mother’s makes you believe you’re in the comfort of your living room.


Gumbo at Commander’s Palace Restaurant

The most famous New Orleans dish stewed to perfection with seafood, chicken and cured pork is a fantastic addition to any type of day.


Pralines at Tee-Eva’s Old Fashioned Pies and Pralines

Made with sugar cane and pecans locally grown in the region, this simple cookie is truly one of a kind. Another recipe brought by the French, this dessert allows us to appreciate culinary genius from the Old World.


Blackened Redfish at Jacques-Imos

Even though this dish has a strange and somewhat unappetizing name, this butter dipped spice induced fish with all its crusty goodness will have you coming back for more.


Boudin Ronnie’s Boudin & Cracklin’ House

This Cajun sausage is a staple for any New Orleans local and is a rite of passage for anyone visiting the area. Enough said, just please go have some.


BBQ Shrimp

There is nothing better than shrimp cooked in a spicy butter bath accompanied with some fresh, crusty French bread. Please trust me on this one.
BBQ shrimp

New Orleans Update

The Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market is slated to open at the beginning of April in the Central City neighborhood, and will serve as the home for New Orleans’ Jazz. This venue, which is more than 13,000 square feet, will primarily feature the grammy winner Irvin Mayfield and the, 18-piece ensemble, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. Irvin Mayfield, who plays trumpet and serves as the orchestra’s artistic director, expressed the band’s desire to have a place of their own to perform at. They previously performed regularly at the Contemporary Arts Center. Furthermore, the Jazz Market will also place more than thirty Herman Leonard photos on display. These black-and-white photos will feature New Orleans jazz legends such as Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and Bolden Bar.

The finalists for James Beard Awards, which many consider to be the highest honor a restaurant, bartender, or chef could receive, were announced recently. The city of News Orleans certainly had a strong showing. Just last year, Peche’s Ryan Prewitt and Sue Zamenick of Gautreau’s shared the accolade of the chef’s best south. Prewitt’s Peche won the award for best new restaurant in the nation.

Three local chefs including the chef from La Petite Grocery, Justin Devillier, Alon Shaya from Domenica, and Brennan’s Slade Rushing are all up for the category of Best Chef, South. Arnaud’s French 75 Bar is in the contention for Outstanding Bar Program.

Upperlin’s JoAnn Clevenger was named as a finalist for the category of Outstanding Restaurateur. Restaurant August is a finalist for the Outstanding Service award.  Donald Link who is the chef at Cochon, Herbsaint, and Peche is a finalist for the foundation’s highest honor, Outstanding Chef.

The foundation also named a number of professionals who create content based around food in online, print, and other forms of media. Those honoured include Brett Martin from GQ who authored  “How the Vikings Conquered Dinner,” and Tina Antolini who produced the Podcast, Gravy.