Festival International’s celebration of gastronomy is beginning to rival its rep as a world music fête.
By Emily Henagan

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Photo by Robin May

There are seldom times when snacking on fried boudin balls, sampling melt-in-your-mouth catfish smothered in seafood étouffée, indulging in alligator sauce piquante and chasing it with a chicken schawerma wrap would be considered anything short of gluttonous. However, Festival International de Louisiane is the singular time when it’s not only socially acceptable to partake in meals where a slice of Dean-O’s pizza serves as just your appetizer, but it is also highly regarded as a festival rite of passage.

And I really need that time in my life after vacationing to Miami with one of my best friends who is a New Orleans native. While in Miami, we noticed that there is a striking contrast between people from South Louisiana and those from everywhere else: we venerate people who eat excessive amounts of food while they harshly criticize these people. Therefore, it’s going to be so much more satisfying this year when I scoop up Bon Creole’s spinach and crawfish mélange with pieces from the bread bowl it rests in to glance around the crowd and notice that my Festival compatriots are partaking in eerily similar indulgent food excursions without feeling guilty or ashamed. It is simply unbridled food revelry.

And at this year’s Festival there’s no better time to celebrate, because About.com Readers’ Choice 2012 “Best World Music Festival” is marrying Southern Living’s “Tastiest Town.” But instead of resting on their laurels, Lafayette and Festival are giving festival-goers what they have come to love and expect: food that is distinctly unique, affordable and delicious.

“I enjoy Festival International’s food more than any other festival’s food, because it offers more a variety of foods from different cultures,” says Bunkie native Amelia Riché. “It’s more than just a man selling food out of his truck as an afterthought.”
Riché, along with Shreveport native Casey Yates, are most looking forward to Zeus’ Greek and Lebanese offerings, which can be found at Lus Pavillon de Cuisine tent. “I could eat Zeus every day,” says Yates. “It’s my go-to-food.”

Although Zeus may be Yates’ go-to food, she’s looking forward to savoring chicken on a stick. Kimberly Polk, a New Iberia native, says she opts for the more traditional festival food like the chicken on a stick or a hamburger. She, along with any of you festival food purists, can curb your festival food tooth at the Super Chevy Scéne des Jeunes tent.

If you’re feeling more adventurous like Megan Padgett, a Birmingham, Ala., export who enjoys a wider variety, then the Scéne Popeyes tent is for you. You can stop in and try Masala’s samosas, flaky stuffed pastries accented with herbs and peas, and then walk inches to sample Poupart’s crawfish pistolettes, creamy crawfish concoctions resting in fried bread rolls. “I love that I don’t have to pick one food over the other,” says Padgett. “I can just try it all.”

And trying all the food is just part of what makes Festival’s food du jour unparalleled. It’s also the people you share it with, the refreshing drinks you wash it down with and the music you accompany it with that makes Festival’s food so unforgettable.

“Everything goes well with a cold drink and good music,” says Yates.

To start planning what you wish to complement your cold drink and good music, head to www.festivalinternational.com and click on the “Food and Beverage vendors” tab underneath the “Music, Food, Arts and Craft” header.

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