Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Crawfish Boil 2017: New Orleans Steamcog Orchestra!

We’ve already covered the biographies of Benny Turner and the Mighty Pelicans, but now we’re proud to announce the third band to play at the crawfish boil, the New Orleans Steamcog Orchestra!

            The New Orleans Steamcog Orchestra plays Dixieland and Ragtime music. They feature male and female singers and trumpets, trombones, clarinets, xylophone, upright bass, piano, and banjo. They even have a mechanical drum machine. They dress in turn of the 20th century costumes and each member of the band has a turn of the century personality to match.

Prof. Milo R. Pinkerton--Millionaire, philanthropist and inventor, Prof. Pinkerton commands audiences of every size with his fabulous Gigaphone, an invention that enables him to project his voice to the largest of halls, and COGSworthy, the fantastic clockwork drummer.
Formelda Hyde-Pinkerton--Granddaughter and protege of Prof. Pinkerton, Formelda wields her amazing voice like a surgical instrument. Not a woman to be trifled with, she leaves in her wake a smoldering trail of zombies, lawsuits, human organs, and satisfied audiences.
Mahmoud Muhammad Akbar--From the stews of Egypt comes this expert of the Glockenspiel. They say his eyes posess strange powers...
Professor Kikker von Froggsworthy--A professor of unknown credentials, this Dutch trombone impersario isn't afraid to let off steam once in a while.
Labonzo Dogmann--A former sheep-herder, this strange Bohemian individual is blessed with a seemingly endless supply of string material for his upright bass.

Meet COGSworthy, the mechanical drum machine. 

Impersario Konstantin--This Russian master of the ivories journeyed to America to learn the secrets of Ragtime.
Sgt. Shellshock--The enforcer in Pinkerton's retinue, this army veteran brings to bear force of arms AND banjo strings.
Patrick O'Doyle--This Irish coal miner stowed away on a steamboat down the Ohio and Mississippi from Pennsylvania to escape the mines and seek adventure... and he found it in the New Orleans Steamcog Orchestra!

Percival Archibald Quatermain--Our youngest member, brings exceptional lockpicking and clarinet abilities to the table.

'Cogsworthy'--Though not actually a person, this Clockwork Robotic Automated Percussionator keeps the beat going more reliably than any human trap-kit player!

            In 2015, the Steamcog orchestra released their first album Victory Through Steam. Enjoy a video of their music below. And we’re thrilled to add the New Orleans Steamcog Orchestra to the Crawfish Boil lineup.    

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Crawfish Boil 2017: What are crawfish?

        The DGA Friends and Family Crawfish Boil is about many things. It's about bringing friends and family together. It's about listening to some awesome local music. And it's also about eating crawfish. But just what are crawfish and why do they taste so good? Let's take a look at the history of these delicious crustaceans and how they've become a culinary staple of south Louisiana.  

          Crawfish season runs from late February through early June. Crawfish live in the wetlands that surround the Mississippi River and its estuaries. In the centuries before European settlement in Louisiana, the crustaceans thrived in the creeks, lakes, and bayous of south Louisiana. Local native Americans collected crawfish by the bushel by baiting wooden reeds with venison and dipping them into the water. The crawfish would latch onto the meat and dangle off the reeds, providing locals with their dinner. When the Acadians arrived in Louisiana in the 1750s, they quickly learned the value and deliciousness of this local delicacy. These French settlers, who had been expelled from Canada by the English during the Seven Years War, began incorporating crawfish into the cuisine. Over the ensuing decades, crawfish became a staple of Cajun cuisine. The Cajuns even created their own legends about the origin of crawfish, demonstrating just how important they had become in Cajun culture. According to the legend, after the explosion of the Cajuns from Canada, local lobsters followed the Acadians from the ice cold waters of the Atlantic to the Mississippi basin. When the lobsters entered the warm waters of the gulf, they shrank to their present size. 

Watch out... it'll get you. 

          The commercial sale of crawfish began only in the late 1800s with the first recorded harvest in 1880. The crawfish, raised in the Atchafalaya Basin, resulted in a  harvest of 23,400 pounds, worth about $2,140 (about $51,000 in today’s money). In 1908, the U.S. Census Bureau recorded that Louisiana produced about 88,000 pounds of crawfish per year, worth about $3,600 (about $93,000 today). The Great Depression of the 1930s drove the price of crawfish down to as low as 4 cents per pound. Technological advancements, including trucking, railroads, and refrigeration, fueled the movement of live crawfish from the rural bayou to urban centers like Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The introduction of traps and nets allowed for the collection of greater numbers of crawfish. In the 1930s, Louisiana began to cultivate the production of crawfish on farms. Rice had long been a staple of bayou farmers. In order to gain more income, rice farmers began re-flooding their fields in order to produce harvests of crawfish in the winter and early spring. This practice soon spread across Louisiana wherever low-lying ponds and marshland could be found.

There are entire memes devoted to crawfish. 

          The process of farming stabilized crawfish production. Before farming, the harvest in any given year depended on the water levels in the Atchafalaya Basin. Thus the market fluctuated wildly from year to year. Now with consistent water levels, farmers could control the size of the harvest and stabilize their incomes. By the mid-1960s, over 10,000 acres of crawfish farms had spread across Louisiana. In the decades since, crawfish farms have increased by a factor of twelve to approximately 120,000 acres. Louisiana accounts for 85%-95% of total U.S. crawfish production. In 1960, the community of Breaux Bridge was named the crawfish capitol of the world and every year since has held yearly crawfish festival.  This growth in production caused Louisiana restaurants to begin featuring crawfish on their menus. Long a staple of Cajun cuisine, crawfish étouffée became a restaurant staple. With its increasing visibility as a product unique to south Louisiana, crawfish boils became a way to celebrate the culinary traditions that make Louisiana unique. Today, the crawfish industry accounts for seven thousand jobs and 300 million dollars in revenue for the state. 

The end result. 

The process for cooking crawfish has stayed the same over the years (and this may attest to the longevity of crawfish consumption); get a pot of water boiling (seasoned with salt and spices), add the live crawfish, let cook for several minutes. Then eat the crawfish on newspaper covered tables until you can’t eat them anymore. It’s a tradition that we look forward to upholding on March 11.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Crawfish Boil 2017: NOLA Eats

New Orleans is known for many things: Mardi Gras, voodoo, its rich history, and perhaps most importantly--its food. So if you're coming to New Orleans for the crawfish boil and you're looking for places to eat in the city, have no worries. We've collected a list of restaurants that show off the culinary legacy of the Crescent City. 

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.

Green Goddess: If you want eclectic modern New Orleans cuisine go no farther than the Green Goddess. Make sure you keep your eye out, it’s tucked away in a narrow alley just off of Bienville Street. The unassuming exterior masks the culinary creativity within. The menu changes with the seasons and takes a global approach, fusing Louisiana classics with ideas from around the world. Benson and his wife Liz swear by the food and the cocktails (especially the cheese plate).

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.

Antonie's: Named by historian Paul Freedman as one of the "Ten Restaurants that Changed America", Antoine's has been a French Quarter institution since 1840. This famous restaurant was the birthplace of classic American dishes like Oysters Rockefeller (which is still on the menu today). Much like the city it has come to epitomize, Antoine's has had its ups and downs. It's been a financial success, received critical acclaim, and served as the culinary center of the city. It has also suffered through financial woes, been damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and struggled to make itself attractive to the tourist industry. In the last few years, however, Antoine's has had something of a rebirth under the leadership of fifth-generation owner Rick Blount. If you want to taste authentic Creole cuisine and experience a piece of New Orleans history, eat at Antoine's. 

Déjà Vu Bar and Grill: Open 24/7/364, Déjà Vu is the place to go if you’ve been out all night drinking and need some good, filling food. They serve breakfast all day including southern staples like biscuits and gravy. Their menu includes burgers, seafood, and a host of Louisiana classics. Benson also vouches for their beer selection.

Inside Peche 

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. 

La Divina Gelateria: And we’d be remiss if we didn’t recommend at least one dessert place. La Divina makes all of their gelato in house and from scratch. The owners, Katrina and Carmelo Turillo lived in Florence and loved taking late night walks and getting gelato. So they decided to study how to make gelato and brought it over to Louisiana. They opened in February 2007 after being delayed several years by Hurricane Katrina. The shop has four locations, including one in the French Quarter. So if you’re talking a late night walk, stop in for some of the best gelato outside of Italy.

Just a reminder: the 10th Annual DGA Crawfish Boil is March 11, 2017 at Maison Lafitte in Mandeville, Louisiana. We hope to see you there! 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Crawfish Boil 2017 Bio: The Mighty Pelicans

            For the 2017 DGA Family and Friends Crawfish Boil, we’re proud to welcome back The Mighty Pelicans from Austin, Texas as one the bands to play this year. The Mighty Pelicans played the DGA crawfish boil last year and we liked them so much that we just had to invite them back again.

The Mighty Pelicans at the DGA Crawfish Boil 2016

            The four members of The Mighty Pelicans have deep roots in Louisiana. Kerry “Kingfish” Blackmon (drums and vocals) and Chuck Doyle, Louisiana natives, first met in college in the 1970s at LSU. In the 1980s, after both men moved to Austin, Texas, they began playing together in various blues, R&B, and zydeco bands. Together  with Kerry’s son, Michael "Mudbug" Blackmon and guitarist Johnny Blue, they formed The Mighty Pelicans. While all of the men originally played in a variety of bands, including a zydeco band, in 2011 they committed themselves to The Mighty Pelicans and have been playing in the Austin area ever since.     


Participants at last year’s boil took part in a second line, with the music provided by The Mighty Pelicans, in honor of Mary’s mother Shirley Kneale, who had recently passed away. In lieu of flowers or charitable donations to her honor her memory, Mary asked the band to play “The Second Line Song.” The tradition in New Orleans is that whenever a band plays “The Second Line Song” the audience forms a second line. Just what is a second line? It’s a New Orleans style of dance in which participants follow behind a band walking, spinning, or dancing around. The tradition most likely originated from the musical traditions of West African slaves brought to Louisiana. Over time, these traditions merged with the marching band traditions of white Americans, creating something uniquely New Orleans. Now second lines are a common part of most parades in New Orleans and are neighborhood events with participants singing, dancing, and interacting with members of their communities. They are a time to celebrate and be with loved ones, friends, and neighbors.

Second lining at the Crawfish Boil 

            As shown by their performance of "The Second Line Song," The Mighty Pelicans draw from the sounds of New Orleans, but include blues, R&B, cajun, and zydeco influences as well. They call it "New Orleans Swamp Rock." Whatever you want to call their music, we're thrilled to have The Mighty Pelicans back to the DGA Crawfish Boil for a second straight year.