Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Crawfish Boil 2020: Band Bios

          So the Crawfish Boil is obviously about the crawfish. But it's also about the music. And if you know anything about us, it's that we take our music very seriously. So for this year's Boil we're proud to welcome an old friend, Benny Turner, a returning band, Flow Tribe, and a new band the Dapper Dandies! 


            We're proud to welcome back Benny Turner and the Real Blues with Sam Joyner to the 12th Annual DGA Family and Friends Crawfish Boil.   


Benny in action

Benny Turner is a veteran of the New Orleans, Chicago, and Texas blues scenes. His connections to the history of the blues in America run deep. His brother was legendary blues artist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Freddie King. Born in Gilmer, Texas, Benny and Freddie learned guitar from their mother and uncles. Freddie gravitated towards the guitar and performing while Benny enjoyed music and spending time with the brother he admired. The family moved to Chicago in the early 1950s and as Freddie’s fame and prowess with the guitar grew, his brother soon joined his band as a bass player. By the late 1950s, Benny had toured across the United States with R&B singer Dee Clark at venues like the Apollo Theater in New York City, the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia, the Howard Theater in Washington D.C., and the Regal Theater in Chicago. Benny also enjoyed a stint in the Soul Stirrers, a touring gospel music band, and introduced the bass to gospel music, laying the groundwork for modern gospel music which is heavily reliant on the bass. 

By the late 1960s, Benny returned to Chicago, playing in local bands and recording songs for the Leaner Brothers’ One-Derful and M-Pac! labels. He soon rejoined his brother, Freddie King, on the touring circuit. Alongside his brother, Benny performed with artists like Dionne Warwick, Memphis Slim, BB King, Solomon Burke, Eric Clapton, and Grand Funk Railroad. In December 1976, Freddie King passed away at the age of 42. Having lost his best friend, brother, and band mate all at the same time left Benny unable to perform. After two years away from music, famed Chicago blues artist Mighty Joe Young convinced Benny to join him on stage. Over the next few years, the two men travelled and performed together as Benny rejoined the blues scene.  




By the 1980s, Mighty Joe Young had retired from touring and Benny took another big step: moving to New Orleans and becoming the bass player and band leader for blues singer Marva Wright. Wright, known locally as the “Blues Queen of New Orleans,” toured all over the world and was a staple of the French Quarter music scene. After Wright died, Benny struck out on his own. In 2011, he released, “A Tribute to my Brother Freddie King” a collection of some of his brother’s most famous songs. In 2014, he released “Journey” playing homage to his history with the blues. His latest album, “When She’s Gone” mixes some of Benny’s original songs with old blues classics. He dedicated the album to his mother, Ella, the woman responsible for his and Freddie’s love of music.


            So come see this great blues artist perform at the crawfish boil. In the meantime, go to Benny’s website, read about his life, listen to some of his music, and buy an album or two in support of this legendary blues artist.

Flow Tribe 


            The band formed in 2004 from a group of friends from Brother Martin High School. Penot's back porch served as their primary rehearsal and hangout space. Like most high school musical ventures, the band broke up once all the members went off to college. In 2006, Hurricane Katrina brought all six men back home. They devoted themselves to rebuilding efforts, but also sought to contribute to the city's rebuilding in their own way – through their shared love of music. Early recalled that "We thought about our love of the city's music, the history, the culture. We were just a bunch of 18 and 19-year old kids, rebuilding our parents' houses during the summer... and we knew the only way we could contribute on a bigger level was with music."
            The band soon reformed and hit the road. They played shows for music lovers and displaced Katrina survivors across the South. Their musical style, a blend of different New Orleans musical genres, found a wide audience amongst exiled New Orleanians and people from different parts of the country.


            Since 2006, Flow Tribe have been a fixture in the New Orleans music scene while also touring across the country. They've appeared on The Real World: New Orleans in 2010. They've played at the Voodoo Music Experience, appeared on the main stage at Jazz Fest, and at just about every other major festival in New Orleans. They describe their music as "backbone crackin’ music”—a "gumbo" of funk, rhythm-and-blues, rock, bounce, hip-hop and zydeco. Flow Tribe cite Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima and Kermit Ruffins, R&B and funk classics of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, and hip-hop hits released by Cash Money Records in the 1990s and 2000s, as some of their influences. 
            They've recorded four albums: Pain Killer (2012), At Capacity Live: Live at Tipitina’s (2013), Alligator White (2014), and Boss (2017). If you want more information or examples of the Flow Tribe's music check out their website here. And make sure you come see them at this year's Crawfish boil! 

Dapper Dandies 

            Signed to Total Riot Records, the Dapper Dandies are part of a new generation of musicians bringing back the sounds of traditional New Orleans jazz. One review of their album Between St. Roch & the Channel describes the Dapper Dandies sound as "slow and boozy, yet lighthearted and romantic." The reviewer also writes, "The bass sax by Adrian Seward sounds nearly human; it’s throaty and soulfully wailing its sentiments. Jason Cash’s clarinet has a major place in the opening of “I’ve Found a New Baby” as he plays a winding tune before Aaron Lind on the guitar plays a jaunty backing to Fourmy’s melody. During the bridge, Sean Dawnson’s trumpet growls above everything else. Dawson’s horn has just a bit of a tinny echo throughout the album, which adds a nostalgic layer, as though you heard this on an original record." 
            

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Crawfish Boil 2020: Stuff to Do in New Orleans

        With the 2020 DGA Family and Friends Crawfish Boil coming up in a few short weeks, we thought we'd offer some suggestions for things to do for our out of town guests in New Orleans. 

Frenchman Street/Three Muses: If you want a taste of real New Orleans culture (and to avoid the touristy traps of Bourbon Street) head over to Frenchman Street. Jamie highly recommends going to the Three Muses, a bar/music hall. In the years since Hurricane Katrina, Frenchman Street has become the center of musical culture in the city. Go in to Three Muses, order some food (the food is as good as the music), and listen to some of the best music New Orleans has to offer. Remember to tip the band.  

The Riverwalk 

Aquarium/Riverwalk: Located at the foot of Canal Street, the Aquarium features a 400,000 gallon tank filled with coral reefs, sharks, and other aquatic life that populates the Gulf of Mexico. After touring the exhibits, take a few minutes and watch the sharks and turtles swim by. It’s a cool sight to see and well worth your time. The aquarium also has a stingray touch pool, sea otters, and a replica Amazon rainforest. Additionally you can walk along the Riverwalk to get to the Aquarium and watch the ships sail past the city. 

Jackson Square: If you’re in the French Quarter it’s impossible not to walk around Jackson Square at some point. The square is named for Andrew Jackson, who famously defended New Orleans from the English during the War of 1812 (even though the battle took place in Chalmette and the war had ended two weeks earlier). At almost any time of day, you'll see artists selling their wares and there will be a band or two playing in front of the St. Louis Cathedral. If you want a great view of the river and the Square go across Decatur Street and climb to the stairs to the top of the little platform. It's a great place to snap a picture and enjoy the view.

The World War Two Museum 

World War 2 Museum: During World War II, New Orleans was the home of the construction of the "Higgins Boat" an amphibious landing craft used in the Atlantic and the Pacific. Thanks to the efforts of Stephen Ambrose, the popular historian and University of New Orleans professor, and New Orleans business leaders, the museum, located in the Central Business District, opened in 2000 as a way to celebrate and study American involvement in World War 2. It is a must-visit for anyone interested learning more about this crucial period in American history. Read more about the museum here

Mardi Gras World: Since 1947, the folks at Mardi Gras World have designed and built the oldest and biggest floats for every Mardi Gras season. Each year they build and decorate over 500 of them. The museum offers tours that include a history of Mardi Gras in New Orleans and then take visitors to see the entire construction process. The museum is open year round as Mardi Gras in New Orleans never stops. 

The white alligator 

Audubon Nature Institute: The Audubon Nature Institute includes a variety of museums and facilities including the Aquarium of the Americas (discussed above), as well as Audubon Park and Audubon Zoo. Located uptown--away from the Quarter and other tourist areas, Audubon Park has over 1.8 miles of jogging paths, ancient live oak trees, picnic areas, and playgrounds. The Zoo, located within a section of the park, houses over 2,000 animals including gorillas, oranguatans, and a rare white alligator with blue eyes. 

Cemetery/Swamp Tours: Due to its low elevation, New Orleans cemeteries are unique in that they generally bury their bodies above ground. Inside the famed St. Louis Cemetery you can find the tomb of Marie Laveau, a famed 19th century Voodoo priestess. You can also see the future tomb of actor Nicholas Cage. If cemeteries aren't your thing, then try a swamp tour. A number of different companies offer tours of the famed Louisiana bayous. Riding in a swamp boat or even an airboat. You'll get to see cypress tress covered in Spanish moss, alligators, pelicans, and other wildlife unique to southern Louisiana. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Crawfish Boil 2020: Restaurants

      New Orleans is known for many things: Mardi Gras, voodoo, its rich history, and perhaps most importantly--food. Like any other major city, New Orleans has its share of tourist traps and great restaurants. The recommendations below will steer you towards the the city's rich and diverse culinary landscape. 


Café Du Monde: We’re starting off with the obvious, but sometimes what’s obvious is best. It’s New Orleans, it’s beignets, don’t overthink it. Stroll on down Decatur Street and stop when you see the famous exterior. Go in, order the beignets, and blow powdered sugar on your friends and family. Enjoy a café au laut and watch the world go by. If you walk out of there and you’re not covered in powdered sugar, you’ve done it wrong.

Killer Poboys: Nestled in the back of the Erin Rose Bar is one of the best kept secrets of the New Orleans culinary scene, Killer Poboys. The Poboy is a traditional New Orleans sandwich consisting of some kind of protein, generally roast beef or fried seafood served on New Orleans style French bread (there’s an entire festival devoted to them). Done right, the poboy is a blank canvas for culinary innovation. And Killer Poboys does them right.

One of the many dishes available at Coquette 

Coquette: Located just near the famed Commander's Palace, Coquette is an upscale neighborhood restaurant that exudes the best of New Orleans cuisine--quality local ingredients cooked simply and beautifully. Order off the al a carte menu or just order the tasting menu and put yourself in the capable hands of chefs Michael Stoltzfus and Kristin Essig. 

Peche: New Orleans chef and restaurateur Donald Link has been on a roll these past few years. In 2006, he opened Cochon, an ode to Cajun cooking, located in the Central Business District. In 2013, Link decided to conquer the New Orleans seafood scene with Peche. The James Beard Foundation named Peche the Best New Restaurant in America in 2014. We've eaten there several times and the menu highlights Gulf seafood at its absolute best. 

Rabbit Curry at Bywater American Bistro

Compere Lapin: After participating in Top Chef: New Orleans, St. Lucia native Nina Compton relocated to the Crescent City and opened Compere Lapin (Brother Rabbit) in 2015 in the Warehouse District. The result, which we've reviewed here, was a stunning meal that fused New Orleans with the Caribbean, culminating in a curried goat dish that you'll never forget. 

Bywater American BistroLast year, Compton opened a more casual neighborhood spot in the Bywater. Bywater American Bistro has some truly standout dishes like rabbit curry and smoked ricotta angolotti as well as a strong cocktail menu. Either of one of these restaurants are worth a visit.  

Small plates at Saba 

Saba: First at Shaya and now at Saba, chef Alon Shaya has brought upscale Israeli food to New Orleans. The hummus is delicious, you won't stop eating the pita, the cocktails are well-done, and the lamb kabobs are rich in flavor. Saba is a ways up Magazine Street, but well-worth a visit. 

      Next week we'll be back with some stuff to do when you're in New Orleans. 

      Just a reminder: the 11th Annual DGA Crawfish Boil is March 7, 2020 at Maison Lafitte in Mandeville, Louisiana. We hope to see you there! 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Crawfish Boil 2020: Hotels

          Just a reminder, the crawfish boil is being held at Maison Lafitte in Mandeville, Louisiana on Saturday March 7, 2020. Mandeville is on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. So we'll divide the recommendations depending on if you want to stay near the boil or in New Orleans. For anyone unfamiliar with the Greater New Orleans area, getting across the lake is a breeze thanks to the Causeway that cuts right across the lake.  




          On the South Shore, New Orleans boasts a bevy of great places to stay. We recommend that visitors make their accommodations in the city as much of the trip to Covington is on the Causeway. And if you’re going to stay in New Orleans, you may as well stay in the French Quarter (especially if you’ve never been to New Orleans before). Staying in the Quarter is a unique experience and puts you right into the action. Most of the city's tourist attractions are easily accessible and there’s always something going on nearby.

          If you're looking for an AirBnB, there are plenty available inside and outside the Quarter. Prices will be lower than they would be in the previous weeks because the Boil is coming after Mardi Gras. Prices are generally similar to what you spend  a nice hotel room. 


The interior of the Roosevelt 


          Currently, our favorite hotel in the city is the Roosevelt. It's part of the Hilton-Waldorf Astoria luxury hotel chain and about 10 years ago it underwent a complete renovation that modernized the interior but kept its New Orleans charm. The renovation restored the hotel's iconic Sazerac Bar to its original 1940s decor. The Sazerac excels at cocktails in a historic New Orleans space where Huey "Kingfish" Long used to drink and meet with constituents. If you want a comfortable hotel that also exudes old school New Orleans, the Roosevelt is the place to stay. 

W New Orleans - French Quarter hotel. The hotel is in a quieter part of the Quarter down on Chartres Street, but still only a couple of blocks from Bourbon.

The JW Marriott is on Canal Street, and is very close to the Quarter. Here you can be within easy walking distance of the Quarter without being surrounded by it.

Interior of the Southern Hotel 

          Now, we'll cover some accommodations in the Mandeville/Covington area. Covington has the standard range of visitors' hotels, but we thought it would be better to recommend some places for guests who prefer a quiet location close to the boil. 

          There's also the Southern Hotel in Covington.  It's located in the heart of downtown Covington and houses one of our favorite local restaurants, Ox Lot 9.  The restaurant also has a great bar that makes fantastic cocktails. The rooms are spacious and there's a spa located within the hotel. 

          Covington also has a Courtyard by Marriott and Annadele's B&B. Annadele's is a lovely plantation home near Old Covington. The grounds and rooms are charming and the restaurant is generally pretty good, especially for breakfast.

          We'll be back next week with restaurant recommendations. Because if you're coming to New Orleans, there's no excuse not to eat well. 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Crawfish Boil 2020: Who was Leah Chase?


            Leah Chase, the famed New Orleans chef and restauranteur, is featured prominently on the poster for the DGA Friends and Family Crawfish Boil poster. Chase was a household name in New Orleans for her role as a chef and civil rights pioneer. We thought it might be a good idea to provide a little background on her and her remarkable life.

            Chase passed away on June 1, 2019 at the age of 96.  Born in New Orleans, Chase grew up in Madisonville, Louisiana, the oldest of 11 children. When she was a teenager, Chase moved back to New Orleans to complete high school—since Madisonville did not have a high school for students of color. 

            After graduation, she worked a variety of jobs including for a local bookie and as the manager of two amateur boxers. She also worked as a waitress at the long-defunct Colonial Restaurant in the French Quarter. In 1946, she married Edgar “Dooky” Chase, a local musician whose parents owned a street corner stand in Treme that sold lottery tickets and po’ boys. In the ensuing years, Edgar and Leah began converting the stand into a full-service restaurant. Leah took over the kitchen and combined her experience helping out on her family’s farm growing up and her time spent in the service industry to create a menu deeply rooted in the New Orleans culinary tradition.


            During the Civil Rights era, the restaurant, now named Dooky Chase after her husband, hosted African-American and white leaders. Local civil rights leaders A.P. Tureaud and Dutch Morial often met at Dooky Chase to plan protests. In the upstairs meeting rooms, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Freedom Riders organized the Montgomery Bus boycott based on the work of Baton Rouge activists. All the while, Chase participated in these discussions and served everyone gumbo and fried chicken. The Chases hosted voter registration campaigns, NAACP meetings, and a myriad of other activities. Police and city authorities, meanwhile, refused to interfere with the meetings or close down the restaurant. The restaurant served as a neutral ground for city authorities and activists and shutting it down would only enrage the community further. 

            Over the years, Dooky Chase Restaurant began a local institution in the African-American community of New Orleans. The Chases patronized local artists and musicians, hanging their art in the restaurant and invited them to play. The restaurant also became known for its Holy Thursday tradition. Leah Chase would prepare her famous gumbo z’herbes—a meatless gumbo made from various greens—and fried chicken.  Chase found that food had a remarkable power to bring people together. As she explained, "Food builds big bridges. If you can eat with someone, you can learn from them, and when you learn from someone, you can make big changes. We changed the course of America in this restaurant over bowls of gumbo. We can talk to each other and relate to each other when we eat together."  



            Dooky Chase Restaurant flooded during Hurricane Katrina. Leah Chase, now in her 80s, lived across the street in a FEMA trailer for over a year while she and her family worked to raise money to rebuild the restaurant. After reopening, Chase and her family ran the restaurant under limited hours to prevent Chase from overworking herself. She won about every culinary award imaginable both in New Orleans and across the country. She was the inspiration for the Disney film The Princess and the Frog. Chase famously stopped Barack Obama from trying to add hot sauce to her gumbo. 

            Chase was a New Orleans legend, not only for her food, but for her activism, belief in civil rights, her support of local artists and musicians, and her unwavering belief that food could bridge the differences between people.   

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

DGA Crawfish Boil 2020!

It's that time of year again--time to officially announce the 2020 DGA Family and Friends Crawfish Boil!


In the coming weeks, we'll have hotel and restaurant recommendations, suggestions of how to have a great time in New Orleans (before and after the Crawfish boil obviously), band announcements and bios, and explainers about crawfish and how to eat them. 



See you March 7!  

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

King Cake Season!


Cake to celebrate these guys? Sure, why not? 

King cake season lasts from January 6 until Mardi Gras. Why January 6? January 6 is the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrating the visit of the Three Magi (or Kings) to the infant baby Jesus. The first king cakes appeared in France during the Medieval period as a way to celebrate this important moment in the Christian calendar. They soon became an important feature of Carnival (otherwise known as Mardi Gras). 

When the French came to New Orleans in the early 17th century, they brought their holidays and traditions with them. Explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville landed on the coast about sixty miles south of present day New Orleans on March 2, 1699—the day before Mardi Gras. The holiday and the subsequent French colony stuck. 


The king cake, however, did not take hold until the early 1870s. French immigrants brought their king cake recipes with them and in classic New Orleans fashion, a new tradition merged with the old to create something wonderful. It took until about 1950 for the king cake to become a popular staple of New Orleans cuisine. In the past decade or so, king cakes have really come into their own. Popular interest in all things New Orleans grew after Hurricane Katrina and next day shipping have allowed king cakes to be shipped across the country, spreading their influence and deliciousness.

Is that the baby Jesus there?

Now let’s talk about the cake itself. The King cake began as a circular bread dough topped with sugar with a bean inside. Over the past several hundred years, however, the king cake has evolved into a sweet cake covered with sugar and icing. The dough, previously hollow, is now braided and stuffed with cinnamon, cream cheese, or other fillings.  The colors atop a King cake are the same as the ones of Mardi Gras—purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.  

King cakes also feature a small plastic baby hidden somewhere in or underneath the cake. Tradition holds that the person who finds the baby is responsible for buying the next cake. Some claim that the baby represents the baby Jesus and that McKenzie's Pastry Shoppes, a New Orleans area bakery, were the first to put the baby in the cake. In 1990, McKenzie's owner Donald Entringer Sr. denied that the baby had anything to do with Jesus. He told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “I've heard people say it's supposed to represent the Christ Child, but that's not true. Why we picked this, I don't know. It was cute. It was just a trinket that happened to be a baby.” Whatever the truth may be, watch out for the baby when you bite into your first slice of King cake.



Unsurprisingly here at DGA, everyone has their own king cake preferences. Bill is a big fan of the King cakes from Butter Krisp Diner in Covington. He prefers homemade king cakes and ones filled with strawberry cream cheese. 

Benson has a lasting affection for the king cakes once made by McKenzie’s. Luckily, the Tastee Donut chain in-and-around New Orleans purchased McKenzie’s old recipe and sells them at their stores. McKenzie’s consists of a simple brioche without cinnamon or filling. There’s only colored sugar topping the cake. 


Matt prefers the Mandeville Bake Shop because it's near his house, though the best one he’s ever had came from Randazzo’s. 


Doug’s favorite king cake is whatever one appears at his house.