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New Orleans Musician John Batiste Teaches Stephen Colbert How to Hang – Watch

When New Orleans musician John Batiste was asked by Stephen Colbert to be his bandleader for his new show on CBS he had only one request: He had to visit him in New Orleans. He wanted Colbert to really get that unique New Orleans vibe.

New Orleans Musician John Batiste Teaches Stephen Colbert How to Hang – Watch

stephen colbert john batiste in new orleans

Do these guys know how to hang or what? Stephen Colbert and his bandleader John Batiste on Frenchman Street in New Orleans

Batiste meets Colbert in a bar where he shows him some fine intricacies of New Orleans rhythm. Then they are out on Frenchman street soaking up the vibe and just hanging out. Notice the white suit, a very southern thing and an appropriate outfit for New Orleans.

The musician meets up with his “drummer”, which is really some bearded street guy in a pink dress with a tambourine, and they do a little jam, with Batiste on his mouth piano.

He shows Colbert how to successfully “hang” on Frenchman Street. He explains “hanging” as being out there on the street with style and purpose. He also explains to him some obscure New Orleans slang like “bleaching” that I’ve never heard before watching this video.

It’s cool that this young guy, this New Orleans musician John Batiste has got such a plum gig on The Late Show. Congrats to him!


Posted in New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Life, New Orleans Music, New Orleans Videos.

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11 Things About New Orleans Mardi Gras You Probably Have No Clue About

New Orleans Mardi Gras, we like to say, is a party the city likes to give for itself where everyone in the world is invited. The news media loves to play up the rowdiness and the seeming chaos that occurs on Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras weekend and Fat Tuesday. But this is only one street in the French Quarter where mostly tourists gather to participate in what they think is the real Mardi Gras. It hardly reflects what is happening in the rest of the city during carnival.

11 Things About New Orleans Mardi Gras You Probably Have No Clue About

One of the many amazing costumes that you can see Mardi Gras day in New Orleans.

One of the many amazing costumes that you can see Mardi Gras day.

So here is short list of things most people have no clue about when it come to New Orleans Mardi Gras:

1. It has its origins in Roman times and is actually originally a pagan celebration

2. The Catlick Choich tried to wipe it out since it was really a pretty heathen holiday. But when it realized it could not be squelched it just adopted it and put it right before Ash Wednesday, actually creating Ash Wednesday to be the day after Mardi Gras.

3. The original reason people masked during carnival way back in ancient times was to conceal their identity so they could engage in all kinds of debauched activity for that one day.

4. New Orleans was founded on Mardi Gras day, and that piece of land (not present day New Orleans) is still known as Mardi Gras Point. The French brought the celebration with them to the new world.

5. Other U.S. cities have tried to have their own Mardi Gras but it has always ended in chaos and riots because these people only see the surface celebrations of New Orleans, the parades, the masking, the drinking without understanding the unique religious, societal and historical underpinnings of the holiday.

6. Mardi Gras and carnival can only occur in Catholic countries and cities. Without the idea of the coming season of Lent and sacrifice, fasting and prayer the holiday otherwise has no meaning. Which is why when other city’s have tried to duplicate the trappings of the holiday it always devolves into chaos. These people do not understand its essence and thus fail, and fail miserably.

7. At various times during Carnival in New Orleans there can be a million people out on the streets for the parades. There are no riots and never have there been riots or anything close to it. Everyone pretty much behaves themselves and are only out there looking to have a good time with friends and family.

The New Orleans police department is world-renowned for crowd control. But it is more than just the police that keeps it under control, it’s the attitude of the people of New Orleans, that this is a party we are throwing for ourselves, and letting things get out of hand is not tolerated, and is not even anybody’s idea of having fun. We just want to watch a parade, catch beads, eat, drink, be with friends and family and have a good time.

8. New Orleans Mardi Gras and carnival is for people of all ages, and is not just a debauched holiday with people getting drunk and naughty and crazy. Yes, you can find some of that in the Quarter but away from there you will see families with little kids in tow, sitting on top of ladders made especially for parade viewing and catching beads. You’ll see little old ladies with their hands out for a throw from a float.

You’ll see nuns and priests among the crowds as well having a good time too, sometimes you’ll see them with a beer in hand shouting “hey hey hey” waiting for the guy on the float to throw them something. And I’ve been the Quarter on Mardi Gras day and seen little kids down there too with their parents in cute family costumes.

9. On Mardi Gras day you’ll see some of the most amazing, creative costumes that you’ll see anywhere in the world. You’ll find these especially in the Quarter, but I’ve seen many unique, funny creative costumes uptown on St. Charles Avenue. But the Quarter definitely has the lion’s share of them.

rex and comus new orleans madrdi

The customary meeting of the courts of Rex and Comus Mardi Gras evening.

10. 12th Night is the beginning of the carnival season in New Orleans and from then on to Mardi Gras day there are krewes giving very formal beautiful invitation-only balls with a king and queen and debutants being presented.

Almost every parading organization has such a ball with the king, usually anonymous to the ball goers, the queen, usually a debutant who has been honored with being queen for that year, wearing a beautiful gown especially designed for her.

These exclusive balls has its own customs and traditions. But not every krewe has a parade. So there are tons more of these krewes who give balls then those who parade.

Usually the krewes are made up of men, but there are a few female krewes, a few black krewes and even some gay krewes with their own formal celebrations. Some of these krewes have been in existence for over 150 years.

Beautiful artwork representing a Comus parade during New Orleans Mardi Gras

Beautiful artwork representing a Comus parade.

11. The oldest organization that has paraded continuously up to the present day is Rex, which rolls in the morning on Mardi Gras day. It was founded in 1872. The very oldest organization is Comus founded in 1856 and for 100 years was the Mardi Gras night parade. It stopped rolling in the 1991.

So do you see why you can’t just decide your city’s gonna have Mardi Gras one year. NOLA’s grew out organically and the New Orleans Mardi Gras we now celebrate came from over hundreds of combined years of celebrating and deep lasting traditions. And to be honest this list only scratches the surface of our unique New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration.

Posted in New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Festivals, New Orleans History, New Orleans Life.

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A New Orleans Mardi Gras Ball: How To Be Queen

What does it take to be queen of a New Orleans Mardi Gras ball? My grand-niece Gigi Bienvenu showed us all as the queen of the 2016 Acheans ball, one or the many such private affairs the folks of New Orleans have during the carnival season.

Your humble correspondent attended as an invited member of the committee dressed in the costume de rigeur – in other words “tails” you know like they wear in Downton Abbey – with other family members, to watch as Gigi reigned over the proceedings next to her king.

How To Be Queen of a New Orleans Mardi Gras Ball

Gigi Bienvenu queen of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Ball Acheans

Gigi Bienvenu queen of the 2016 Mardi Gras Ball Acheans. Photo Daniel Erath The New Orleans Advocate

As is the custom with a New Orleans Mardi Gras ball, the name and identity of the king is not revealed. He wears a beard and blonde wig underneath his crown which makes all kings of Mardi Gras balls look almost exactly the same. Only members of the organization (“krewe” in NOLA lexicon) and the queen know his identity.

new orleans mardi gras ball the acheans 2016 carol bienvenu

Carol Bienvenu, the mother of Gigi Bienvenu flanked by Lauren Fitzpatrick and Lydia Scanlon. Photo Daniel Erath The New Orleans Advocate

Nell Nolan of The New Orleans Advocate explains this year’s theme:

For the Achaeans, Athena was summoned to guard Odysseus home to Ithaca and a reunion with spouse Penelope, whom he had not seen for years, and who was beseiged by suitors. As the program stated, “Retrieve his wife, his home, and his friends” after his long odyssey.

With such a spirit of return and welcome, it was most fitting that her majesty would be surnamed Bienvenu. Reigning as the queen was Miss Genevieve Marie Bienvenu, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Albert Bienvenu IV. 

Her majesty Gigi related shortly before appearing in her majestic glory in the Sheraton’s Grand Ballroom that she was “excited about the whole experience” of being queen. She learned about her honor in April of 2015, when her parents took her to Antoine’s Restaurant for dinner. On the baked Alaska dessert was inscribed in icing “Queen of Achaeans.”

gigi bienvenu queen acheans new orleans mardi gras ball 2016

Gigi Bienvenu strolls through the pre-ball throng gracing her subjects with her beautiful presence. (Taken with my little old-fashioned flip phone.)

Vera Wang protege Suzanne St. Paul created Gigi’s bead-embellished silk satin gown with Rows of Swarovski crystals.  The organization’s traditional ermine-trimmed mantle and Medici collar as well as the glittering crown and scepter were her queenly accessories.

Before the ball there was a pre-party affair at her parents’ home where the maids of honor and the queen were toasted with champagne and the proper edicts were announced regarding the evening.

Afterwards at around 10:30 PM the queen’s supper was held in the hotel’s Armstrong Ballroom where the fantastic cover band Liquid Blue from San Diego entertained on into the night not letting up once during their spectacular 3 hour “reign” over the late-night proceedings. You name it they played it, all styles with equal ability and gusto.

Gigi said at the end of it all, “I had an experience of a lifetime — a truly magical evening.”

So how does one be queen of a New Orleans Mardi Gras ball? With grace, generosity, beauty and elegance. Gigi showed us all how to do it.

Posted in New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Festivals, New Orleans History, New Orleans Life.

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How We Spent Christmas and New Year’s in New Orleans 2015

I was so busy the last couple weeks of December what with Christmas, New Year’s and all that I have not taken the time to do a post here in this here blog. We had a lotta parties here. A part of me kinda felt exhausted what with all we had to do, and another part was exhilarated at being so busy and putting into action all my organizational skills. Yeah, I’m kinda nerdy that way.

How We Spent Christmas and New Year’s in New Orleans 2015

My mom who is now 102 surrounded by family.

My mom, who is now 102, surrounded by family, unimpressed by the silly faces.

We had a Christmas Eve party like we do every year, and this year I made turtle soup. And wow was it good, lemme tell ya, if I do say so myself. I just followed a recipe I got out of the Joe Simmer Creole cookbook. Actually, that recipe is a ‘mock’ turtle soup which means “dere ain’t no toitle meat in it, dawlin.”

When I’ve made it before I use half real turtle meat and half ground beef. But heck the turtle meat this year was really expensive, I mean like we’re talking about like 17 dollahs a pound. What? And then you had to buy it in 5 pounds lots. So I opted for a pound of alligator meat.

I mean, the Southern Yacht Club makes their turtle soup with alligator meat so I thought I would too. I figured that it would give the soup that swampy flavor that turtle meat does. So I used three pounds of ground beef and one of the alligator which I ground up in a Cuisinart before putting it in the pot. Anyway, the soup was a hit.

Then for Christmas we did our dinner here at the house which we have not done in ages. We usually go to my brother’s and his wife’s house but my mom who is 102 wanted to stay at home. So we just added another table to our dining table we sat 15 people for Christmas afternoon dinner, a fairly manageable amount.

We had filet. I made Bernaise sauce with those instant Knorr packets. It was good, although it had hydrogenated oil in it, but what the hell, it was Christmas and once a year ain’t gonna hoit, babe.

Then a few days later my nephew and his wife and brilliant, cute, sweet, dawlin’ young’uns came to stay through New Year’s. On New Year’s day we had corn beef brisket, black-eyed peas (the best I ever made), and cabbage, you know, to insure a filthy-rich, abundant and prosperous 2016. So I ate a lot of it. Yum.

And around mid-afternoon I left them with all the dishes and high-tailed it out to Manresa House of Retreats, an hour upriver from New Orleans in Convent (yes, that’s actually the name of the town), and did my yearly silent retreat with the Jesuits. After all the activity of the holidays it was a great place to unwind and reflect, and heck just to sit and do nothing. And this year I got to sit at a dining table with two local celebrities. So perhaps that portends that my fortunes are looking good for this year!


Posted in New Orleans Food, New Orleans Life.

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Thanksgiving, the Wisdom of Skimpy Appetizers, and How to Make Turkey Bone Gumbo

At Thanksgiving we always we have so much turkey and side dishes left over that it’s a struggle to figure out what to do with them when the day is over.

It’s not that our guests didn’t eat the turkey, they did and a lot of it, but you know there is so much else to eat what with the mirliton casserole, the sweet potato pone, spinach casserole, corn bread dressing, cranberry sauce, and the rolls and the gravy and all of that. Really the turkey seems to take a back seat to what is on most folks’ plate.

Thanksgiving, the Wisdom of Skimpy Appetizers, and How to Make Turkey Bone Gumbo

turkey bone gumbo

Adding root beer to your turkey gravy is what makes this turkey bone gumbo a real winner.

But this year we did something a little different. We did not serve as many appetizers. Usually I would make chicken liver pate and we’d have smoked salmon and crackers and cheese.

People would hover over the coffee table in the living room scarfing it done, especially the kids who loved to plant themselves in front of the salmon and act like they hadn’t eaten in two days. So by the time the Thanksgiving meal was served almost everyone was already too full to enjoy what some people had slaved over to make. And there’d be a lot of leftovers.

So this year I decided to try something different: skimpy appetizers. No salmon, no pate. In cahoots with my niece whose job it was to do the appetizers this year, we came up with a raw veggie platter and a little cheese. Oh, and some olives. She did some research on the Internet and discovered that if you serve olives, because they are salty, people won’t eat as much.

Well, it worked and in spades. When we called everyone to the table I saw something I’d never seen before, people standing up with their plates moving around the table, reaching over each other piling their plates high with food. It was chaos.

I stood there mouth open, appalled. Usually people sit down and we just pass the dishes around very calmly. But not this time. I guess folks were so hungry that they just couldn’t wait for standing on ceremony. Then it struck me as really funny and a big smile spread across myself and I chuckled to myself. I love this, this is great! Needless to say, we didn’t have a lot of leftovers.

So what was left of the turkey I made Turkey Bone Gumbo, a recipe that I found in a local New Orleans magazine. And of course I modified it to fit my own tastes and circumstances. I rarely follow a recipe to the letter. So here it is, I’ll share it with you.

Turkey Bone Gumbo

1/2 cup flower
1/2 cup olive oil, bacon fat, turkey fat (I prefer to use bacon fat)
2 large onions diced
4 stalks celery
2 bell peppers
1 whole apple (with seeds and inner flakes remove) sliced thinly
8 garlic cloves minced (add more if you want, I do)
2 Andouille sausages sliced into 1/4 inch rounds (this is optional)
2 cups Thanksgiving gravy with the veggies in it (the gravy I made this with had Abita root beer that I basted the turkey – if you don’t have this then just add about 1/2 cup of root beer, I’m estimating here. You don’t want it to taste like root beer, you just want the deep smoky flavor it emparts)
5 cups chicken broth (preferably a natural kind with no chemicals)
4 cups water
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme or teaspoon of dried thyme
2 cloves or 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 tablespoon lemon rind
4 cups leftover turkey meat, shredded
1 turkey carcass
1 bunch parsley, chopped

Many of our creole/cajun recipes start with “first you make a roux.” I don’t do this. I use powdered roux I get at the store which is just toasted flower with a bit of seasoning. If you don’t have this in your area just preheat your oven to about 400, toss a cup of flower onto a baking sheet, spread it evenly around and let it toast to a nice brown color. It doesn’t need to be too dark, and don’t burn it!

Making a roux the traditional way is just too time consuming and if you are not careful and inexperienced it can easily burn. I find that using this toasted flower gives you the same flavor and I cannot tell the difference between this “instant roux” and the old-fashioned kind.

So what I do is to put the oil in a skillet (I use cast iron almost exclusively in my kitchen) and sauté the veggies in it save the garlic which I add at the very end of the sautéing process. When the veggies are all nice and soft I add the roux flour and stir it up to make sure it’s spread all over the veggies, then I add the garlic and let it cook a bit. Really for just about a minute or so.

You can also do all this inside the pot that you are going to make the gumbo in as well instead of in a skillet.

Add the sausage if you are going to use it and stir it up a bit to let that brown as well. Put all this in your cooking pot. Add the stock and water, the turkey meat and the carcass. When it starts to simmer add the bay leaves, the cloves and thyme. Also add the apple and the root beer and the lemon rind.

Let it all simmer, uncovered for a couple hours.

When it’s ready take some tongs and a fork and pick over the carcass making sure you get all the meat off. And as much as possible remove all the bones.

Taste it and make sure it’s seasoned right with salt and pepper. Then stir in the parsley.

When you are ready to serve it set the table with gumbo file and hot sauce and ladle it over a dollop of turkey dressing.

My Brother’s Gumbo

The next night after I had made this gumbo my brother and his wife came over with duck (that he’d shot) and sausage gumbo he had gotten up a 6:00 in the morning to start making. It was one of the best gumbos I had ever eaten. The roux was very dark and the whole thing was incredibly flavorful. He told me that he had added an entire apple and squeezed an orange into it.

So the next day I reheated my turkey bone gumbo and put a sliced-up apple into it peel and all and let it simmer for a while for the apple to incorporate. I didn’t put any orange juice into it, I was afraid to. But let me tell you just the addition of that apple made my gumbo even better. Wow!

So give it a try. It might be worth cooking another turkey, albeit a small one, if you are out of leftovers and didn’t baste yours with root beer, just to make this gumbo.

Posted in New Orleans Food, New Orleans Life, New Orleans Recipes.

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