This weekend is ALL about the Creole tomatoes. The French Market's 28th Annual Creole Tomato Festival begins June 7th and marks the official opening of the Creole tomato season. For the first time in several years, the fest is holding down the weekend solo, no longer sharing the spotlight with the Cajun-Zydeco Fest and the Louisiana Seafood Fest. The two-day festival runs from 10a.m. – 7p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at the French Market and is free and open to the public.
"The festival began in 1986 to recognize the uniqueness of Louisiana and to honor the kickoff of Creole Tomato season," says Amy Kirk, French Market Director of Marketing. "The Creole Tomato can only grow in the River Parishes; there is simply nothing else like it in the world!"
Two live music stages will feature local music including jazz, R&B, Cajun, and funk. If you're worried about the heat, don't sweat it. Festivalgoers will be treated to misting fans throughout the grounds, and are invited to step into the many retail shops and restaurants for a breath of fresh air-conditioning and some great local fare. The festival offers shoppers another juicy deal: spend $30 in the French Market retail shops and recieve a complimentary bag of fresh Creole tomatoes.
Children's activities are scheduled in Dutch Alley, a free activity area with music, dance lessons, mini golf, facepainting, crafts, and a playground. Family entertainment inside the air-conditioned New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park will include traditional Louisiana tunes by Johnette Downing, ripe jokes by Funny Bones Improv, kid-friendly tomato sing-alongs, a second line to the beat of Dancing Man Darryl Young, and an African drumming workshop.
Most important, of course, is the food. Fifteen booths will entice festivalgoers with a myriad of Creole tomato dishes, from standard fried green tomatoes to lesser-known Creole tomato-and-basil-filled crepes. Local chefs will present cooking demos from 11a.m. to 6p.m. each day at the Farmers Market Stage, featuing the tastiest Creole tomato cooking techniques for the culinarily inclined. Free samples will include delcacies like Creole tomato cupcakes, buttermilk biscuits with Creole tomato jam, and grilled corn maque choux.
There will also be a Creole Tomato Eating Contest, a Best of the Fest food booth contest, a First Bite kickoff and countdown followed by a secondline, and local talent galore.
"The kids area and our tomato eating contest are definitely favorites," says Kirk, "And cooking demos are a cornerstone of the fest."
Can't wait til the weekend? The Summer Harvest Gala and Creole Tomato Festival kickoff party happens Wednesday, June 4th from 6:30 – 10p.m. at the French Market. Festival sponsor Abita will pair their harvest beers with Creole tomato dishes from celebrated local chefs such as La Petite Grocery's Justin Devillier, a 2012-2014 James Beard Award Nominee, and Pêche's Ryan Prewitt, the 2014 James Beard Award Winner. Tickets are $100 per person and include a cocktail reception featuring handcrafted drinks from Cane & Table, a performance from guitar master John Rankin, and a family-style dinner accompanied by the musical stylings of the Creole String Beans. Visit the French Market website for more information and tickets to Wednesday's gala.