Eat to the Beat at the New Orleans Jazz Festival
People who love New Orleans celebrations but have written off Mardi Gras for its raucous crowds often find the city's gentler Jazz & Heritage Festival just the ticket.Skip to next paragraph
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More than 400,000 tourists are descending on the Big Easy for the more subdued but no less spirited event, which begins tomorrow and runs through May 4.
No matter how alluring the sights and sounds, festivalgoers will want to graze on the city's world-famous food. From haute cuisine at Emeril's to down-home fare at Mother's, Cajun cafes in the bayous to temples of Creole in the French Quarter, New Orleans is nirvana for food lovers.
For starters, "Breakfast at Brennan's" can't be beat. In the early 1950s, Owen Edward Brennan started this culinary tradition at his French Quarter restaurant; his three sons, Owen Jr. (Pip), Jimmy, and Ted, who inherited their father's business, have carried out his vision ever since.
If you go, leave your watch (and calorie counter) at home. Fast food Brennan's is not. In keeping with the legacy of leisurely French aristocrats, breakfast is an all-morning affair. The morning meal is served to 1,000 people each day, and even diners with a reservation can expect a wait.
After settling down and tasting Brennan's signature eggs, all distractions are forgotten. We're not talking the standard plate of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. Not even traditional Eggs Benedict, although that's always an option. Poached eggs on artichoke hearts nestled in a bed of creamed spinach, or fried trout, or andouille Cajun sausage and Holland rusks - all topped with hollandaise sauce, are just a few of the imaginative egg dishes served at the salmon-pink mansion on Royal Street.
Brennan's flair for creativity shows up all over its morning menu, which also features such atypical breakfast fare as Oysters Rockefeller, Blackened Redfish, and even New Orleans Turtle Soup, a house specialty.
Bananas Foster (flambed over ice cream) is a famous finish to the breakfast as is Crpes Fitzgerald (crpes filled with cream cheese and sour cream, topped with strawberry sauce).
At the heart of the kitchen is executive chef Michael Roussel, whose many TV credits include appearances on "Good Morning America," "The Today Show," and a recent PBS cooking series.
The youngest of the Brennan sons, Ted, wins the award for understatement with his comment: "One thing about this place, you don't leave here hungry."
That said, resist the temptation to skip meals till the next day. New Orleans isn't often called America's greatest food city for nothing.
Stroll through the French Quarter, and allow for serendipity.
Celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme's K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen is a sure bet for fine Cajun cooking; Emeril Lagasse's trendy Nola's is also memorable; and for more modest-priced fare, try the Gumbo Shop.
Like Brennan's, both Antoine's and Galatoire's on Bourbon Street as well as Commander's Palace in the Garden District are palaces of gastronomy. They are to food what Preservation Hall is to jazz - landmarks inextricably linked to the city's colorful culture.
After grazing in such style, it's tough to go home. But New Orleans shops help ease the transition. Hot sauces like those that spiced up your gumbo can be bought on any corner; the French market sells everything from canned alligator to Cafe du Monde beignet mix; and Aunt Sally's pralines are sure to please your friends back home.
* For information on the Jazz & Heritage Festival, visit the event's online site: www.nojazzfest.com
8 large artichokes
3 cups creamed spinach (see recipe below)
8 poached eggs
2 cups hollandaise sauce (see recipe below, or use a quick blender or food processor version)