A carnivore’s guide to Jazz Fest

LET’S MEAT UP

Advocate photo by Scott Gold --   Alligator Pie from  Cajun Nights Catering
Advocate photo by Scott Gold -- Alligator Pie from Cajun Nights Catering

For me, a shameless carnivore of the highest order, meat is always my first thought when I hit the food areas at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival with a hungry belly and a wallet full of cash. And since you, like me, might not be able to indulge in every single meaty delight at the Fest in a day (unless you happen to be “Man vs. Food” star Adam Richman), here’s a list of some of my favorites, new and old, to help guide your way as you navigate the myriad offerings at the Fair Grounds.

Cochon de lait po-boy
Love at First Bite ($8)

This is where it always begins for me, the sine qua non of Jazz Fest meat love. In recent years, Love at First Bite has absolutely perfected the joys of a roasted suckling pig sandwich. The meat is fork-tender, juicy and smoky, and the undercurrent of tangy horseradish in the slaw is an ideal pairing for the pork. Add a couple of dollops of hot sauce, and you’re in hog heaven, for sure.

Fried Cracklins

Fatty’s Cracklins ($5)

No one, I mean no one, does cracklins like the Cajuns. Based out of St. Francisville, Fatty’s Cracklins are the Platonic ideal of what fried pork skins should be: crunchy, salty, and with a deep richness of pork fat that melts in your mouth and makes you feel instantly as though you could die happy (just don’t tell your cardiologist).

Alligator Pie

Cajun Nights Catering ($6)

Why just have meat when you can have meat encased in pastry dough?

While the offerings for savory pies at Jazz Fest give you a few options (I’ve always loved the spicy Natchitoches meat pies from Mrs. Wheat’s Foods), this year the alligator pie won the day for me and shouldn’t be missed. The ground, seasoned alligator meat packs a powerfully savory punch, and makes an excellent snack between shows ... or other food booths.

BBQ Turkey Wing

Down Home Creole Cookin’ ($8)

This is a dish that, year after year, I feel goes sadly overlooked by many Jazz Fest foodies, who perhaps tend to shy away from traditional barbecue in favor of more Cajun or Creole-minded offerings. That would be a mistake. The enormous wing, expertly slow-cooked to fall-off-the-bone tenderness and coated in savory BBQ sauce, is two handfuls of Flintstone-sized joy. And don’t neglect the meaty white beans that accompany it, one of my favorite sides at the Fest.

Crawfish Sausage Po-boy

Vaucresson Sausage Co. ($7)

Whether it’s served on a stick or on a roll, as it is at Jazz Fest, crawfish sausage is one of those wonderfully unique Louisiana food items that you simply don’t find elsewhere. I like to top my link with Creole mustard, and eschew the bread in order to preserve valuable stomach real estate.

With sausage this good — porky, with a great “snap” and that undeniable flavor of boiled mudbugs — who really needs bread?

Pheasant, Quail and Andouille Gumbo

Prejean’s Restaurant ($6)

This is one of those single-swing home runs of a dish that no self-respecting carnivore at Jazz Fest should miss. Not one, not two, but three different animals, smoky and savory, coalesce in Prejean’s signature dark roux gumbo into a bowl of sublimely rich perfection.

It is my favorite gumbo in the world, and it should be yours, too.