Creole Tomato, Cajun Zydeco, & Seafood: the annual Vieux-To-Do links a trio of festivals that allow New Orleanians (and, I suppose, some tourists) to do all of the things that they love in one eight-block radius for a weekend each June– drink Abita, listen to great music, stuff themselves with food (ok, mostly seafood) from amazing restaurants, shop with local artists & crafters, and recognize the local farmers’ markets – specifically for their locally grown creole tomatoes. Restaurants vie for popularity lines at their tents and fest-goers covet seats at cooking demos by local famous chefs. Excuse my Bubba Gump flashback here, but popular dishes include fried green tomatoes, crab-stuffed tomatoes, gazpacho, tomato bisque, tomato crepes, creole tomato jumbalaya, and whatever you could imagine on the seafood spectrum. Of course due to the gulf oil spill, rumors flew that much of the prepared seafood dishes were not local.
Between snarfing down fried green tomatoes and a shrimp ball drenched in crawfish bisque, I was able to catch a few sets by some great musicians.
At the creole tomato festival, I found myself crowded beneath an awning avoiding raindrops for the first few tunes by Freddy Omar, a Honduran-born New Orleanian who leads a latin dance band. Within five minutes, the empty dance-space in front of the stage was full of folks deciding that the band was worth getting wet and dancing for.
Buckwheat Zydeco was next – a Louisiana legend & accordianist, his music is always celebratory. Despite the few raindrops, it was hard to get close to the stage even though we showed up thirty minutes prior to the set. Fold-up chairs were down and territorial – we grabbed a spot on the wrought-iron fence of the old U.S. Mint, where I was able to get a few close-up shots by climbing the fence.
Lastly, our final goal of the day was to grab an order of beignets at café du monde and eat them river-side, but we stumbled upon the Lost Bayou Ramblers (seen below) – and they were incredible! A bit sidetracked, we climbed another wrought-iron fence to get some photos, watched for an hour, then sat at our favorite coffee shop across the street from the stage to listen to the rest of their show.
We never did get beignets or sit by the river. Did I mention the heat index was over 100? It’s summertime in Louisiana, which means you walk outside to warm-up when you get cold from the a/c, and you feel like you’re sitting in a hot sauna breathing in water when you step into the open air. What a great day!
Check out this YouTube video of the Lost Bayou Ramblers below: