Because we all need something to soak up the Festival punch. As Festival International approaches, we've compiled our favorite Festival foods (and events) so you can create your own food line-up that complements your music choices. For a warm-up, make sure to attend the Louisiana Experience Cooking Demonstration on Friday afternoon in the biergarten, where Ruffino's on the River executive chef Peter Sclafani will whip up Louisiana seafood-filled dishes for all to try. The biergarten is also full of brewing events, with local breweries Bayou Teche, NOLA Brewing, Covington Brewhouse and Parish Brewing holding special sessions.
If taking full advantage of Festival, you eat multiple meals downtown for days straight - because we can't all subsist on a liquid diet, though we may try. After a few glasses of Festival punch, the Popeyes Pavillon de Cuisine is the place to go. The obvious choice is Bon Creole Seafood's crawfish and spinach boat - only available at festivals - an enormous boulé bowl brimming with a creamy, crawfish-y concoction. LA Seafood House's chargrilled oysters on the half shell are great for sharing and a deal at $5. At the Fais Do Do stage, find Jolie's Louisiana Bistro for crawfish enchiladas or Freetown Fries with its Mediterranean fry - hummus, olives and feta atop the truck's medium-cut fries. As always, there are Cajun choices abound, so stuff your stomach with the standards, if traveling from out of town.
Luckily, most of the sweet indulgences at Festival are also great for cooling off and wandering around the vendors' tents. Stop by Meltdown at the Popeyes Pavillon de Cuisine for an ice pop in strawberry basil or salted caramel. Shaved ice at the Heritage stage's Snow-T-Go is a great choice for kids, or wander by the TV5 Monde stage for Crepes a la Cart - the classic French choice is available with butter, sugar, nutella and bananas, or opt for the cheese and bacon filling.
If Festival punch isn't up your alley, the biergarten, sponsored by LUS and Jefferson Street Pub, is the place to be. Sip on your favorite draft beers from Abita, Bayou Teche, Covington, NOLA Brewing, Parish Brewing and Tin Roof Brewing all serving at least two of their beer varieties. Drink your dessert in a daiquiri from Fat Tuesday or New Orleans Original Daiquiris. Though it isn't an official Festival vendor, Pamplona is always a great stop for its white or red sangria - or mix the two, if you're in the Festival spirit.