New Orleans is small as major cities go, ranking 51st in terms of population with about 360,000 people. But, it casts a big shadow in the food and music worlds and is one of the country’s most popular travel destinations. Steeped in history with an ethnically diverse population, it is one of the country’s most interesting cities.
The city sits on an 8 mile strip of land between the Mississippi River and Lake Ponchartrain. The infamous French Quarter makes up the heart of the city and the Central Business District and Warehouse District lie just across Canal Street. A short streetcar ride takes you to the beautiful Garden District, home to the magnificent Greek columned mansions.
After the devastating Hurricane Katrina, called “the worst engineering disaster in the world since Chernobyl,” when the Federal levee system failed, the city has rebounded with population increases, its world famous Mardi Gras and has hosted the 2008 NBA All-Star game, the 2008 BCS National Championship Game, the 2010 NCAA Final Four Championship and the 2013 Super Bowl.
Perhaps no other city is “known” for so many different types of food and drink. Cajun and Creole foods both begin with the “holy trinity” of green peppers, onions and celery, but Cajun food originated in the bayou, is more rustic and “down home”. Creole cooking has more French and European influences and is considered more elegant and refined.
Called a submarine or hoagie in other parts of the country, the muffuletta, is a combination of ham, salami, Swiss, provolone and olive spread. A po-boy is served on a French baguette and filled with fried seafood like oysters, shrimp, crawfish or soft shell crab. On the sweeter side, beignets, deep fried dough balls sprinkled with powdered sugar are a breakfast staple and the dessert Bananas Foster was invented here.
The Sazerac, a combination of cognac and bitters, is said to be America’s first cocktail and dates back to pre-Civil War days in the city. The Ramos Gin Fizz combines gin, lemon and lime juice, egg white, sugar, cream, orange flower water and a splash of soda water was also invented in New Orleans.
New Orleans was the birthplace of jazz and today hosts one of the largest jazz festivals in the world each year in late April/early May. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, also known as JazzFest, is a 10 day celebration of music, food and crafts with featuring some of the top musical stars of the day.