The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest is one weekend down, and one strong weekend to come. I made it a mission to enjoy not only some food favorites that were greatly missed these past two missing years, but some new food finds.

The classics

Crawfish bread from Panorama Foods out of Marksville delivered once again this year. You know it’s good when you run into musicians catching a quick bite of said bread before a set.

You can never go wrong with a bowlful of the dreamy Crawfish Monica from Big River Foods. I just can’t quit you, Monica. It’s just so, so good.

 The legendary “trio” (Crawfish Sack, Oyster Pattie and Crawfish Beignets) from Patton’s Caterers out of Slidell is simply a plate full of delicious dreams and memories.

The fried pork chop sandwich from the Ya Ka Mein Queen herself, Ms. Linda, is a study of elegance and simplicity. Get a couple to go before you head out for a late-night treat.

New favorites

The crawfish strudel from Caluda’s Cottage Catering in River Ridge proved to be the sleeper hit I’ve been waiting for. Delicious and bursting with flavor in a little flaky pouch, this is a new go-to for me. The corn & shrimp bisque from Lafayette’s Prejean Restaurant also got five gold stars and two spoons up from friends and family alike.

After making the rounds of the artists booths, a quick stop by Ba Mien Vietnamese Cuisine’s set-up delivered a refreshing tofu spring roll (shrimp and pork are also available) and was the best post-lunch, pre-main event snack – and it’s portable.

Finally, I ended the day with a little paper basket of deliciousness – fry bread, presented by members of the United Houma Nation in the Native American Village. A sweet ending to a sweet day of festing.

Wish list for next weekend

Still to come on my menu: the iconic WWOZ Mango Freeze, the fresh Gulf fish taco and black-eyed pea fritters from Carmo, the spicy grilled tofu from Gambian Foods and a handmade ice cream sandwich from Francofonte on Wheels.

What’s missing form my list?  Let me know your favorites that I may be missing!

A New Vue

If you are looking for fun activities for locals and visitors alike between fest weekends, the new Vue Orleans multi-media, interactive experience at 2 Canal Street in the former World Trade Center (now Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans) building.

As soon as you enter, you’re greeted with colorful exhibits detailing the history, music, food, costuming, culture and more that make New Orleans the vibrant destination and home for so many. As you make your way through, elevators zip you to up to the top, with one of the most unique elevator experiences I’ve ever had.

From the top floor and observation deck, there are more informative and fun experiences, from piloting the river to an exploration of Civil Rights. But the cherry on top is, of course, the amazing 360 views of New Orleans, from the curves of the Mississippi River across to the lake and beyond (on a clear day). It’s a truly stunning view, and one that can’t be found anywhere else.

Art Smart

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art was recently highlighted with a write up in the New York Times, showcasing the museum’s unique collection of diverse southern artists. If you have yet to stop by, or if it’s been a while, it’s a great way to cool off with out-of-town visitors while soaking in some of the area’s finest works of art. Current exhibits include a series of portraits from painter Beauford Delaney, video and 2-D displays from New Orleans artist Dave Greber, a study in recycling and many more thought-provoking pieces from the permanent collection. Admission is free to residents of Louisiana (with current i.d.) on Thursdays, as well, courtesy of the Helis Foundation.

Give NOLA Day

Give NOLA Day from the Greater New Orleans Foundation is Tuesday, May 3, giving local causes a one-stop spot to raise maximum funds for their efforts. More than 900 non-profit organizations participate, so there’s probably some familiar names on the list looking for donations on the bid day. From area schools and education efforts to community and bigger-name foundations, there’s a cause that will speak to most everyone. Minimum donations start at $10, so that almost anyone can become a philanthropist in your own hometown.