Restaurants are getting back to normal, festivals are returning, and so are the smaller food events that normally pepper the New Orleans calendar. Here’s a look at a few of note coming up:
A Juneteenth feast on the farm
Collaboration has been a key part of Serigne Mbaye’s journey in New Orleans. Now, this rising star chef has assembled a crew of collaborators for a celebration of Juneteenth that doubles as a road trip and an exploration of African American culinary roots.
Called Afro Freedom / Afro Feast, it will take place on a farm in Petal, Mississippi, near Hattiesburg, with a communal meal centered around outdoor open-fire cooking.
“I want to practice how our ancestors used to eat when they celebrated Juneteenth, to demonstrate those techniques,” said Mbaye. “It wasn’t a style, it was a means of survival, and this is an homage to our ancestors, the ones who started those fires.”
Juneteenth, marking the day on June 19, 1865, when formerly enslaved people got word of their emancipation, inspired Mbaye to hold a series of dinners last year. One of the guests was Ben Burkett, a leader in the Black farming community. When he invited Mbaye to do an event on his farm in Petal, the wheels were in motion for this year’s edition.
Mbaye is best known for Dakar NOLA, the pop-up and communal dinner series blending Senegalese and Creole cuisine. He also cooks at the Uptown restaurant Mosquito Supper Club. He’s one of six finalists for this year’s James Beard award for Emerging Chef, a national honor.
For Afro Freedom / Afro Feast, he’ll be joined by chefs Charly Pierre, of the Haitian restaurant Fritai; Martha Wiggins, of Cafe Reconcile; Indigo Martin, of Indigo Soul Cuisine; and baker Sim J Harris, of House of Brown Sugar.
The menu will be based on each chef’s interpretation of important heritage foods, including barbecue, smothered beans and greens, and jollof rice, a West African dish akin to jambalaya, and red velvet cake.
Cocktails will be fielded by Turning Tables, the New Orleans-based nonprofit working to increase equity for people of color in the bar and spirits business. Expect red-hued drinks, following one of many Juneteenth traditions.
The event on June 19 begins with a cocktail hour at 3 p.m., and there’s a bus provided for those who need transportation for the two-hour drive, departing from Congo Square.
Tickets are $150. Proceeds benefit the Indian Springs Farmers Association, a cooperative for Black farmers in Mississippi. Get tickets via exploretock.com.
A Caribbean crawfish boil
New Orleans is seeing more buttery, Vietnamese-style crawfish, and even the further fusion twist with Filipino-inspired crawfish from Southern’s Food Truck. Next up, you can get a taste of a Caribbean crawfish boil, thanks to a pair of local chefs and a community group working to foster change and inclusion in the hospitality field.
The April 24 boil is dubbed Cray, and it goes down April 24, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., outside the Hotel Peter and Paul, 2317 Burgundy St., adjacent to the Elysian Bar restaurant. It’s a benefit for the nonprofit Made in New Orleans Foundation, which address racial equity in the hospitality sector.
Chef Lisa Nelson, of the Caribbean restaurant Queen Trini Lisa, and chef Joshua Blue, a MiNO alum, will put their spin on the crawfish. Expect some tropical ingredients in the boil (like pineapple and mango) and different Caribbean-style sauces for the finished crawfish.
There’s also beer from Faubourg Brewery, spiked sno-balls and popsicles from MiNO alum Barbara Rodriguez. Sunpie and the Louisiana Sunspots will perform.
Tickets are $75 via eventbrite.com (search under “cray”).
Pizza & Pies in the garden
Paradigm Gardens, 1131 S. Rampart St., holds down one particular verdant corner of Central City that can feel like an oasis and an in-city field trip all in one.
The garden setting also doubles as an outdoor venue, and over the years it has evolved a series of periodic events. One of the most popular is called Pizza & Pies, which gathers different restaurants to cook in the garden’s outdoor, wood-fired kitchen.
It returns April 27, with Ancora Pizzeria, Windowsill Pies, Turkey & The Wolf, Fritai, Vals and the Indian pop-up Lufu. There’s beer from Miel Brewing, cocktails from Roulaison Rum and a DJ for tunes. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. and tickets, all inclusive, are $75. Get them via paradigmgardensnola.com.