Is there a Jazzfest “Season?”

On my bike the other morning I noticed a house with a Jazzfast flag flying. Behind Rouses, a Miller Lite truck proclaimed itself “The Official Drink of Jazzfest.” (Granted, that sign could’ve been on the truck all year) With Carnival Season parading off into storage units does that mean we’re in Jazzfest season? And is there such a thing? Carnival Season involves costumes, king cakes, parties and parades. In the months leading up to Jazzfest are there related celebrations? (I should note that some years Mardi Gras Day is later in the calendar, so the time between Mardi Gras and Jazzfest is truncated.)

The Seasons of New Orleans
I’ve written about how I miss the changing weather of D.C. Growing up, I found the eternal spring-summer cycle in my hometown of Miami dulling. However, New Orleans makes a slightly more differentiated spring-summer cycle by creating seasons of its own, marked by festivals and extended holiday celebrations. My blog-post hypothesis is that these festivals and celebrations create a rhythm to the year and mark time in a way that the city’s slightly colder winter and brutal summers do not.

Fall through start of Winter: Football and Christmas
September in New Orleans reminds me of living in a college town in that the whole city is galvanized by a sporting event. People here are nuts about LSU and the SEC. As a Gator I am always ruffled by LSU-ness of the celebration around here, but am grateful to be around a community that enjoys college football (and the SEC!). It’s a welcome reprise from living in D.C., which is more of a pro-sports town.

I’ve written about the Saints excitement many, many, many, many, many, many times. But this year marked the first time I watched a LOT of the NFL. It feels like you have to here, or you’re left out of cultural conversation and references. I used to only spend Saturdays at the bar to catch my college team. Now it’s all bar, all weekend… and I guess that’s New Orleans in a microcosm.

New Orleans also does a great job creating a festive Christmas atmosphere. The French Quarter Festival and The New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation organize Christmas New Orleans Style, an annual citywide celebration of New Orleans holiday activities. The festival started 27 years ago, as way to attract visitors to the city at a time when tourism traditionally dips. Throughout the month there are events around the city that remind you of the season. And even though we have had a mild winter, walking through the French Quarter in December felt like Christmas.

Carnival Season

March is marked by St. Patrick’s Day, April by the French Quarter Festival and then Jazzfest in April/May. That’s more than enough, but I point you back to my hypothesis: Is there something that unites the season?

Now that I’ve nearly lived here a year, I recognize summer as the city’s downtime. The summer, like the spring,  is punctuated by festivals and regular events, some of which I’ve blogged about here: 610 Stompers, Satchmo Fest and White Linen Night, but there doesn’t seem to be one element that captures the city’s excitement.

Update: Seasonal Beers 3/1/12
Upon relaying this post’s topic to my boyfriend, he reminded me of seasonal beers. We are lucky to have a number of great local breweries, including LA 31, Covington Brewhouse, Tin Roof and Lazy Magnolia. However, Abita is the line I’m really familiar with, and the release of their seasonal brews always mark the season for me.

January-March: Mardi Gras Bock
Spring: Strawberry Harvest
March-May: Red Ale
May-September: Wheat
Summer: Satsuma Harvest Wit
Fall: Pecan Harvest
September-November: Fall Fest
November-December: Christmas Ale

When my boyfriend and I moved into our Uptown sublet in June, our summer landlord was kind enough to leave us some Strawberry ale in the fridge. When we moved out we bought a pack of Satsuma ale for her– a remnant of the New Orleans summer she had missed.

NOLA Brewery also releases seasonal beer, but I’m not as certain about the seasons they’re out because they’re a relatively new brewery. As far as I can tell:

Fall: Smoky Mary
Winter: Irish Channel Stout
January-March: Flambeau Red Ale (for Mardi Gras)
Spring: Hurricane Saison


Follow Up Files: Sucre Gets Saints Cupcakes Right

A few weeks ago I wrote about unappetizing Saints-themed cupcakes I’d seen around the city. Just yesterday I was chatting with a friend who administers social media strategy for Sucre (the tasty sweets boutique–did you guys know they have a location by the Lakeside Mall?) and when I mentioned the post I did about Saints cupcakes, she whipped out her phone and showed me this picture.

Holy cow, Y-U-M. Not only do they look beautiful, but just looking at them makes my stomach growl. White icing with gold sprinkles, plus a chocolate fleur de lis? Sucre, you nailed it.

Runner Up
In the original cupcakes post I referenced a friend who suggested that bakeries use white frosting with the colored sprinkles of the team. On my recent road trip I stopped at Publix in Atlanta and found these cookies.

These are obviously Gator cookies, given that they are blue and orange and I was in Atlanta. There were red and black Georgia cookies, but I did not take a picture because I considered those unappetizing.

So, (as we already know about this fine grocery store chain) Publix gets it done too.

The Sweets of Saints Season that are Kind of Gross

Today is the official start of the Saints regular season. As I’ve written before, New Orleanians are very into their Saints. This expression of love comes in many forms. Bumper stickers, tshirts, songs… and cupcakes? I never thought I’d be turned off by a baked good, but there’s something about black and gold that does not translate to vanilla frosting. At two different grocery stores I’ve photographed Saints cupcakes, but I bet there are more around the city! The “black” icing  makes the cupcakes look dusty, and the “gold” looks more like old milk. A friend suggested that New Orleans grocery stores use vanilla frosting with black and gold sprinkles for a more appetizing treat.

Cupcakes at Rouses

Cupcakes at Robert

Black and Gold to the Superbowl. Black and Gold to the grocery store? No.

Saints are in the Air

As I walked in the CBD with my boyfriend and his visiting family, we all felt some vibrancy in the streets. “It’s Friday,” one of us realized. Between me and my unemployed boyfriend, his retired father and mother on summer break from teaching, it took us a moment to realize it was Friday. Ah, yes,I thought.”The joy that comes with the end of a long work week.”

But that wasn’t all there was. There’s was a little something extra in that joy. A little lagniappe, if you will. The Saints. In a just a few minutes, the Saints take the field at the Superdome for the first game of the preseason.

It’s not unusual to see Saints gear around here, but this was the most excitement I’ve ever seen for a preseason game. Up and down the streets of the Warehouse District and inside the exhibitions at the World War II Museum, we all spotted black and gold. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool college football fan, so I can definitely appreciate the electricity that comes with the first week of football season… but I’ve never felt such enthusiasm for a preseason game. Maybe there were so many people out because the  Superdome is located in the middle of the city and I was downtown. Or maybe because people are relieved the NFL lock out didn’t hold. But it’s probably just because New Orleanians want a glimpse of their beloved team.

In Miami or DC, I would’ve given this game a miss. But right now I’m going to change into my “Who Dat” shirt and follow the devotees to the bar. Just for a glimpse, anyway.