Food & Music in New Orleans are often intertwined. Being the birth place of jazz music it’s not hard to understand why. Many restaurants and bars have live music. And although some great jazz bands start after 8pm there are many family friendly restaurants where you can feed the fanau day or night while enjoying soothing blues tones or jumping jazz vibes.
Our first day there, we started our expedition on the famous Bourbon St, (named after the French Royal family at the time, not the drink as I had assumed) looking for food. We came across an impressive jazz band playing in the street as well as young tap dancers. Now, although these busking artists perform for free we made sure to leave a tip for those we enjoyed because this was their livelihood.
We found ourselves in Oceana Grill that served alligator chips, crab cakes and etoufee and this intense cocktail that didn’t taste good. Looked impressive though. I tried a creole vegetarian rice and beans dish which was flavoursome with a bite. The Cajun fries were really good. Being on a budget we could only sample a few New Orleans restaurants but we did learn what a lot of the local dishes are. As a vegetarian I didn’t have an appetite for crawfish, gumbo or poboys. But I did indulge in many Beignets!! (Pronounced ben-yay).
The place to grab this delicious dessert is apparently Cafe Du Monde but I find Cafe Beignet’s beignets equally delicious. They had the same freshness, lightness, texture and taste. I did have a local tell me Cafe Du Monde was the only place worth trying these but if you don’t think the queues in the midday heat is your gig then Cafe Beignet on Bourbon St is definitely a great alternative. It’s a family friendly restaurant that plays live jazz music which is the reason we had stopped here one night.
On hubby’s birthday we ventured to where the families went in the evenings to listen to New Orleans music: Frenchman St. We were directed to B.B. King’s Blues Club a family friendly restaurant that plays live jazz, blues, soul and R&B.
On our last night in New Orleans we ate at the Creole House on Canal St. Hubby had the Crawfish Etoufee and loved it. After a satisfying meal we strolled along Canal St and stopped at some tables outside a restaurant where we were able to enjoy an americano while listening to a live saxophonist busking on the footpath. He played a mix of jazz, blues and R&B tunes that seeped into our weary bodies from the long day of sightseeing and invigorated our soul. Our 4yo’s unbridled spirit acted out what most of us wanted to do but didn’t. He moved every part of his body to the rhythm of the music. We could see it as he shook his hands or waved his arms, tapped his feet, swung himself around or shook his body.
There’s debate over where and how Jazz originated. My overly simplified understanding is that it is a mix of Creole and Black American music. Creoles were free highly educated blacks that spoke Spanish or French. They had precision in their use of European instruments particularly their Spanish or French rhythms. The American blacks were poor and ex-slaves. They had rhythm and soul from their blues, gospel or labouring music. During a period of segregation in New Orleans, Creoles were forced out of the French Quarter into the Black American part of town on the west side of Canal St. It was traumatic for everyone involved but it also birthed the mixture of two different music types into Jazz.
Prior to visiting New Orleans I had no knowledge of why this music came into existence but I’d had the pleasure of enjoying a jazz tune when lounging about. Now when I here jazz I associate it with a diverse cultural mix of people that blended to create a whole new type of music.