Bashful Gets a Taste of Gumbo and Brass Bands

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It’s been a while since I’ve given you an update on Bashful’s New Orleans adventures. Every time I turn around, that little fella is hopping into my human mommy’s purse and they’re headed out the door. I finally got those two to sit down long enough to tell me where they’ve been and to share a few photos. Wow. They’ve been busy. A couple of weekends ago, Bashful joined both of my humans at Armstrong Park for the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival–New Orleans’ Premier Brass Band Showcase, which is presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation. In New Orleans, we love a festival. There’s at least one every month–sometimes one each weekend of the month–and they usually revolve around tasty food and great music.

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This festival features gumbo of every sort you can imagine: creole gumbo, seafood gumbo, chicken and sausage gumbo, even vegan gumbo and smoked tofu and Portobello mushroom gumbo. (Just for the record, Mommy doesn’t recommend those last two.) Bashful had quite an appetite that day, so he also tasted some red beans and rice served with fried chicken and corn bread. (Mommy had a little bite of the fried chicken. She said it was one of the best things she’s ever eaten. She’s still talking about it.) Naturally, Bashful chose to chase down his festival food with a couple of local Abita Brewing Company Amber beers.

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With his taste buds satisfied (for the moment), it was time for Bashful to enjoy some brass band music. Brass bands are a new Orleans tradition. Rebirth Brass Band, Hot 8 Brass Band, and the Original Pinettes Brass Band, an all-female group, are some of the more well-known groups. Bashful settled in and listened to a few songs by the Panorama Jazz Band. It was my humans’ first time to see them perform, and they had every bit as much fun as Bashful.

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Having spent the afternoon enjoying two of New Orleans’ greatest offerings–gumbo and brass bands–Bashful had one more stop to make before leaving the festival. He headed straight over to visit Miss Linda, the Ya-Ka-Mein Lady. If you don’t live in New Orleans, you probably haven’t heard of ya-ka-mein. Here’s how Miss Linda’s website describes this local delicacy:

Ya-Ka-Mein is one of New Orleans’ well-best-kept secrets. It is a soup. They call it Old Sober. Ms. Linda is world famous as the guardian of the secret juice recipe in her Ya-Ka-Mein. Taught how to make the broth by her mother Shirley Green, Ms. Linda keeps the tradition by lacing the broth with the perfect mixes of spices–not quite Asian, not quite Southern–adding noodles, green onions, a hard-boiled egg and hot sauce. It’s a sure-fire remedy for a New Orleans’ size headache, which is why it’s known as “Old Sober.”

If Bashful keeps drinking that Abita Amber beer, he just might need another helping of Miss Linda’s famous ya-ka-mein.

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The Rites of Spring in South Louisiana

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It is officially spring and I have welcomed the season in true South Louisiana style. Last weekend I enjoyed my first Abita Strawberry Harvest lager and my first boiled crawfish of the year. Yum!

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The Abita Brewing Company was founded in 1986 and it’s located about an hour from where I live. They make a lot of different “brews” (I guess that’s beer talk for “kinds of beer”), but my personal favorite is the Strawberry Harvest. It’s only available for a limited time because it’s made with real Louisiana strawberry juice, which is added after the filtration process. The best strawberries you’ll ever eat are grown right in the area of Louisiana where Abita beer is brewed. How serendipitous! (Now, I feel obligated to offer this little point of truth: I am not a big fan of strawberries–unless, of course, they are in beer. I am really more of a banana and apple girl; but, my humans tell me that Louisiana strawberries are really, really good, so I guess we’ll just all have to trust them on that.)

 The nice people at Abita describe their Strawberry Harvest as

a crisp lager with a sweet strawberry flavor, aroma and haze. It is wonderful with desserts or lighter fare such as salads and pastas. Fresh cheeses such as Burrata, chèvre, Crescenza, mozzarella or Teleme pair well with Strawberry Harvest.

Sounds pretty fancy for a beer, huh? So even I know better than to drink it with crawfish. No . . . I save the Abita Strawberry Harvest for after a hard day of spring gardening with my human mommy. It’s just the right refreshing treat to enjoy as you relax at the end of a hard day of weeding, pruning, planting, mulching, or whatever else she does while I sit loyally by her side and watch. All I know is that as soon as the gardening tools are put away, the Abita Strawberry Harvest comes out and I get a little taste. Just one of the beautiful things about spring in South Louisiana.

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Which brings me to my next beautiful thing about spring in South Louisiana: boiled crawfish. Much like the Abita Strawberry Harvest beer, crawfish are only available for a limited time, so humans in South Louisiana eat them every chance they get. Now, I know what some of you are thinking: gross . . . mudbugs . . . crayfish . . . gross. But, really, until you’ve had crawfish boiled spicy in South Louisiana with corn and new potatoes–and, of course, ice-cold beer–you have not lived. There are a few things that humans must keep in mind when eating crawfish:

  • Do not wear your best clothes. Crawfish guts will somehow manage to get on your clothes and, no matter what detergent you use, crawfish guts do not wash out easily.
  • No matter how many paper towels you have on hand, you will need more. This is not a neat treat to eat.
  • Above all, if you are eating crawfish at home, it is vitally important to plan your consumption for a day that is as close to your trash collection day as possible. There are few things that stink as much as crawfish shells and stuff that have sat too long in a trash can. I am a dog, and even I am repulsed by that smell.

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So, even though for many of you spring my seem like a distant dream with all of the crazy non-spring-like weather, and for others who live below the equator you still have your winter to endure before spring appears, I wish you a beautiful and tasty spring from South Louisiana. Bon appetite, and let the “springtimes” roll!