NOLA-ing: Your Choice – French Quarter or Strawberry…Or both

Each week we are going to take a look at things to do in New Orleans and, frankly, Southeast Louisiana.  This isn’t a comprehensive list of things to do, Best of New Orleans and other sources, do that better.  We are going to list the things that if time and money were not a factor we would do.

This weekend, like every first full weekend in April is dominated by two of the better festivals in the area.  What is great about the first one, is that it will lead you to explore the French Quarter with its numerous stages spread throughout the Quarter.  The second lets you explore small town Louisiana with some of the best antiquing in the area.

French Quarter Fest – FQF is the largest free music festival in the United States.  It literally takes place all over the quarter.  The music is free, but because you can’t have a festival without food, there is a ton of food vendors as well.  Locals know that Thursday and Friday are your best bets as the crowds really descend on Saturday and Thursday. April 6-9.

Strawberry Festival –  Take I-10 east and then turn north on I-55 and you will find the Strawberry Festival. This festival takes over the town of Ponchatoula and has tons of offerings of signature fruit in all the different ways you can imagine plus some.  It also has plenty of other great food to offer as well. April 7-9.

 

The Nola Nerd Couple Podcast Episode 9: Star Wars, Comic Conventions, Zelda, and Hogs for the Cause

The Nola Nerd Couple is back with another episode covering quite a few topics.  First, we discuss the newest guests added to Celebration, and Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple tells the story of how excited the Mr. was to hear that Sarah Michelle Gellar was going to be there.  We then talk about rebels and how our jobs as teachers really make us like Ezra Bridger, a character that’s hard to like.  We go through the latest guest announcements to Comicpalooza and MegaCon.  Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple gives her first impressions of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  Finally, we didn’t think we would be able to go to our favorite festival in New Orleans, Hogs for the Cause, but with a stroke of luck, we will be able to go with VIP tickets!

Show Notes:

Star Wars Celebration (and our coverage here)

Google search of “Ezra Bridger Annoying”

Comicpalooza (and our coverage here)

MegaCon (and our coverage here)

Hogs for the Cause 

Concert-ing: Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause on March 27, 2015

Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

As Cristina promised in her blog about OUR favorite festival, Hogs for the Cause, I would follow it up with one about Strand of Oaks.

I’m constantly listening to new albums using Spotify.  I scour the sites Any Decent Music and MetaCritic trying to find good new music.  The first few seconds of Strand of Oaks HEAL were enough to make me know that this would be one of my favorite albums of the year.  When Goshen ’97 bursts into life, the music brings you back to that time when you first discovered your favorite band.  It doesn’t hurt that J. Mascis’ guitar shimmers throughout the song and that it’s extremely catchy.

However, Goshen ’97 did not prepare me for how deep the album is.  The album comes off as memoir in song.  Tim Showalter, the driving force behind Strand of Oaks, was processing quite a bit of pain in the writing of this album and using the music and lyrics to exercise the demons.  The record is not depressing, but allows for Tim to help him, um, HEAL.  Considering the year I had last year, the album struck a particular cord with me.

When Hogs for the Cause announced that they booked Strand of Oaks, I was excited to say the least.  When the night came, I actually stressed about my wardrobe.  Not because I’m a snappy dresser, but because it was supposed to be in the high 50s, which after just a week of weather in the 70s equals freezing temperatures for folks from south Louisiana.  I chose my Replacements jacket.  While waiting for the first band, I checked setlist.fm to see what songs to expect. The last song at the last shows proved that I probably wore the right jacket for more than one reason.

Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

Most of the songs came from HEAL.  Goshen ’97 of course rocked which was impressive in that it was only the guitarist’s third day with the band.  The title track actually sounded better and fuller live.  JM, a deeply personal song about his fallen hero, Jason Molina, was soulful and soothing.

Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

At the end of the set, Cristina came up front.  I warned her for the last song, so she could record it. They announced they were going to do a cover, and then they ripped into  The Replacements’ “Alex Chilton.”  Of course, I turned into the kid that Showalter talks about in Goshen ’97.  At one point, he forgot the lyrics but made up for it in enthusiasm.  Coolest part, he pointed to me and my jacket mid song, recognizing me as a fan.

Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

Because they are still an up and coming band, Tim and the drummer actually worked the merchandise booth after the show, allowing us to meet the band.  They both jokingly admitted they knew they had to cover The Replacements when they saw my jacket, even though it made them nervous. Both were so nice and thankful to be playing a festival for such a great cause.

Tim Showalter from Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

Kurt and Tim Showalter from Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

Both told us we needed to check out Hiss Golden Messenger the next day because he was really great.  We had already planned to and so when we took our place for that show, we weren’t surprised to see them rocking out in the crowd just like we were.

Festing: Hogs for the Cause, My Favorite Festival

My absolute favorite New Orleans festival is Hogs for the Cause. Every year at the festival grounds at City Park, Hogs has a food and music festival, raising money to donate to pediatric brain cancer research and care. Teams from all over cook mouth-watering pork dishes, from the traditional ribs, tacos, and sliders, to culinary creations such as a corn dog with pimento filling, pork grits, a pork filled “hupig” pie, bacon sundaes, and pretty much any other thing of which you can think, just add pork. This was our fourth year attending, over the weekend of March 27-28, 2015, and once again, it did not disappoint. Continue reading

Festing: Our Day at the French Quarter Festival

It’s time for farmer tans, racoon eyes, and for the first time for me, a wedding ban tan. In other words, it’s festival season. And French Quarter Festival didn’t disappoint.

Parking was relatively easy and cheap at the self park in the Hilton. Having had administered the ACT that morning, we were famished by the time we got to the festival. The first booth that caught my eye was Crescent Pie and Sausage Co. For eight dollars, I recieved a huge portion of Bad Bart’s Black Jamabalya and large link of hot sausage. My sister opted for some seafood pasta while Cristina went to Boucherie’s booth to order the 12 hour Roast Beef Po-boy and the Krispy Kreme bread pudding. That’s right…Krispy Kreme bread pudding. While they were both delicious, the bread pudding was a tad too sweet. Still a little hungry, we also ordered the beef tenderloin with crazy potatoes and the baked mac and cheese from Crazy Johnnie’s. The beef tenderloin was absolutely delicious, very tender with the perfect mashed potatoes mixed with garlic and herbs. We also tried the chargrilled oysters from Royal House, which were great as well.

Enjoying Kermit Ruffins at French Quarter Festival

Enjoying Kermit Ruffins at French Quarter Festival

Now we were ready for some music. We made our way to the front of the Abita Stage to watch Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers. It was perfect day to listen to music outdoors with the clouds covering the sun about every 15 minutes. Kermit and the band were very tight and put on a great show. The audience was very into it, singing along with popular New Orleans favorites like “Mardi Gras Mambo” and “It’s a Wonderful World.” Kermit is a master at the trumpet and a great crowd-pleaser.

Kermit Ruffins

Kermit Ruffins playing the trumpet at FQF

Mardi Gras Indian

Mardi Gras Indian on stage with Kermit Ruffins at FQF

We then walked around Jackson Square to look at the artwork, noticing some we wouldn’t mind owning. If you ever have a chance to get to Jackson Square on the weekend, you have to check out the local artists. Most of the artwork is exquisite, and we have several pieces hanging up around our home. After, we headed over to the Old Mint to see another band we recently discovered.

We first saw Debauche at the Freret Street Festival. The Russian Mafia Band, their words, play tradional Ukranian folk music. There is a thin line between sadness and joy and their songs often stradle that line. I don’t like to dance, but I couldn’t help it. Neither could Cristina. We had to buy the CD. And listen to it multiple times. Within a single weekend. It’s amazing. Seriously.

Debauche

Debauche, our new favorite band!

After a festival lunch of Rouse’s boiled crawfish with a Plum Street Snowball to wash it down, we took a long slow stroll to Jackson Square doing some window shopping on the way. One of the great things about the the Festival is how you notice little places in the quarter you have never seen before. The area across the street from the French Market on Decatur St. is full of awesome little stores with weird antiques, old New Orleans artifacts, paintings, voodoo mysteries, and all kinds of other stuff. We definitely plan on going back soon to do some proper shopping.

The booths in the Square were super busy but after seeing other people post pictures of it, I had to have a Maple Bacon Long John from Blue Dot Donuts. My doctor would hate it, but damn it was wonderful. I offered Cristina a bite and she insisted on taking two. Cristina’s dad used to work at Carmelo Ristorante when it was in New Orleans, then the one in Slidell. They just opened a new open in Mandeville and she was really anxious to try some of the food; however, by the time we got there, it was late in the day all they had left was pizza. She did see Carmelo working behind there, and I know that was a bittersweet moment for her as she remembered the past and her dad.

Blue Dots Donuts Maple Bacon Long John

Blue Dots Donuts Maple Bacon Long John

Yet, we were still hungry and at this point exhausted. There is one great thing about parking at the Hilton. It gives you an excuse to order a dozen Charbroilled Oysters from Drago’s. They are pretty much the only reason to eat there, but it’s a good one.

Drago's Chargrilled Oysters with Barq's in a bottle

Drago's Chargrilled Oysters with Barq's in a bottle

Oh, and the way home we blared some music from that Russian Mafia Band.

Festing: The Freret Street Festival

Freret St. Festival

Freret St. Festival

I have mixed feelings about Social Media. Sometimes it’s too much information literally and figuratively. Sometimes it’s too much misinformation. But sometimes, the information is just right. And when it leads to you to a great street festival it’s down right perfect.

And April 7 was a perfect day for the Freret Street Festival.

The Fry Bar set the trap for us to attend. When they posted they were going to be at the Festival, I knew were we would be that Saturday.

Considering that this is a street festival, parking was surprisingly easy on Napoleon. Once we got to Freret, we started the walk towards Fry Bar. We were starving and the art booths could wait. Cristina ordered the garlic and feta fries while I went with the garlic and sea salt fries. We both loved the roasted red pepper ketchup that went with them, the perfect dip (though they are so delicious, they don’t necessarily need it!). Now, to understand how great of compliment that is, you must understand that I hate ketchup. Normally, I feel that if you need to put ketchup on something to make it taste better, then it really doesn’t taste good enough to eat. This ketchup and the cinnamon-tinged ketchup at Cowbell are the only two versions of that tomato sauce you will probably ever see on my plate.

Mardi Gras Indian

Mardi Gras Indian

The Crowd at the Freret Street Festival

The Crowd at the Freret Street Festival

Now we needed some protein. Being a sucker for alligator, I got a grilled sausage poboy from one of the booths. Cristina fared better with her choice of a BBQ Roast Beef poboy from Boo Koo BBQ. I was lucky in that she was willing to share. The roast beef, slow cooked and super tender, was covered in one of the best BBQ sauces I’ve ever had. Now that Boo Koo operates out of Finn McCool’s, I foresee us writing more reports of their food in the future. For dessert, Cristina enjoyed a birthday cupcake from Sweet NOLA Cupcakes.

Having fun at the Festival

Having fun at the Festival

The rest of the day we spent looking at the art in the booths. Most of the ones we really liked were a little out of price range. I didn’t run across any of the cutting boards I’ve been looking for. However, Cristina did find one piece of art from Voodoo Skull New Orleans that she felt needed to be in our house.

Yeah You Right!

Yeah You Right!

I couldn’t agree more.

Festing: TribeCon 2011

On the eve of last year’s Voodoo Fest, I attend TribeCon at the festival site.  TribeCon is the official interactive conference of the Voodoo Experience.  If you read the website, it wanted it’s attendees to be “inspired by the creative process of the best people in culinary, music, art and drink and make New Orleans culture your muse.”  Pretty lofty expectations.

TribeCon 2011

TribeCon 2011

They were met. Continue reading