We have been to Jazz Fest several times in the past, but when we realized the Festival was celebrating their 50th Anniversary, we knew we had to go once more. Initially, it was announced that the Rolling Stones would open the second weekend, and them, along with Pitbull (my husband’s favorite) on the second weekend schedule cinched the deal. We were able to score two Big Chief Passes right when they were released. This VIP ticket comes at an inflated price, but also includes dedicated entrances, lounges, covered viewing areas, and private bathrooms. This was the first time we have availed ourselves of the VIP ticket, and would definitely do so again.
As it turns out, the Stones ended up cancelling their show due to a health issue, but it turned out to be a fabulous time nonetheless.
We had booked our flights the day we bought the tickets, which was lucky as the flight was completely sold out, and filled with Jazz Fest attendees.
Delta is our domestic go-to carrier, and they do a lot of things well, but their food service always leaves a lot to be desired.
Thankfully, lack of food would NOT be an issue in New Orleans. When we arrived, we searched out the inconvenient ride share pick up point and waited with many other confused folks for our Lyft.
Once our driver arrived (and she seemed a bit confused as well to be honest), we headed straight for our Hotel, The Nopsi. Located in the Central Business District, the Nopsi is the renovated former headquarters of the New Orleans Public Service Inc. We usually stay at the Windsor Court, but it was sold out, so our Travel Agent recommended the Nopsi. There is a Ritz in town as well that we have also stayed at, but I don’t love the location. The good news is that there is a Four Seasons under construction down by the RIverfront, but it doesn’t appear that it will completed any time soon.
As we pulled up to the Nopsi we were greeted by an enthusiastic bellman. The gentleman at the front desk was also welcoming. The Lobby was very large, and a bit institutional.
We were booked through Virtuoso, so our stay included a $100 voucher for food and drink as well as free breakfasts. An upgrade would have been available if the hotel hadn’t been fully booked. We headed up to our room to quickly change and head out to the Fairgrounds.
There was definitely something about the muted color scheme that cast a bit of a depressing air.
The room was fine, clean, yet uninspired.
The decor didn’t knock our socks off.
The bath was also pretty bare bones- with a shower stall, but no bathtub.
Thankfully, we didn’t anticipate spending too much time in the room. We did a quick change and walked two blocks to the VIP bus stop for Jazzfest which was located at the Intercontinental.
There are dedicated buses, and a special VIP entrance for the special ticket holders. Additionally, there is an air-conditioned lounge for people with the Big Chief passes, complete with a bar and free chair massages!
Our very first stop when we arrived was the Gospel Tent. The energy in the Gospel tent is always electric and joyous. You can’t help but be happy in there.
Soon after, we realized we needed to get our hands on two of our favorite Festival foods- the Soft Shell Crab Po Boy
and some delectable Crawfish Bread.
Crawfish Bread isn’t readily available anywhere else in NO aside from at Jazzfest. It is cheesy and doughy and filled with Crawfish. Both dishes are best smothered in Crystal Hot Sauce.
There are different venues spread throughout the Fairgrounds, and although we had just arrived, the day was coming to a close. Usually the best acts come at the end of the day (the Festival ends at 7 pm), so we hustled over to the Acura Stage to catch Tom Jones.
There was a huge turn out for him. This photo was taken from the viewing stand reserved for the Big Chief ticket holders. There is also a VIP ticket called the Grand Marshall that allows you to be right at the stage, but this ticket has no seating or dedicated covered areas. If we had wanted to go down into the crowds we could have, but frankly, thats not my thing.
Tom Jones was awesome, and at almost 80, his voice was incredibly strong. We were lucky our flight was on time, and that we were able to catch some music on our first day.
We headed back to the Hotel to shower and change for dinner. Before heading out we took a peek at the Nopsi roof top bar Above the Grid – which is quite lovely, and a destination for those looking for a good time whether staying at the hotel or not.
For our initial dinner we decided to go old school and head to Clancy’s in the Audobon neighborhood.
Our reservation was at 9, but the restaurant still had people streaming in. Unfortunately, when I made the reservation I didn’t specify we wanted the main dining room….
so we were ushered past the bar
and upstairs to a sad, secluded, Siberia. I don’t think I am alone in being completely aggravated when this happens. No amount of cajoling (or bribing) could get us seated downstairs. They were full. Well- now you know- if you are going to Clancy’s (and the food was quite tasty), be sure to specify the main dining room.
The menu is an assortment of New Orleans classics.
We started with Deviled Eggs topped with Remoulade Sauce,
followed by a special salad with hearts of palm, walnuts and blue cheese.
Next up was Turtle Soup drizzled with Sherry.
Fried Soft Shell covered with crawfish tails
and Crawfish Etouffée.
For dessert we shared the homemade Peppermint Ice Cream with warm Fudge Sauce.
This looks quite unappealing, but trust me- it was tasty! The service was very professional, and helpful. This unfortunately did not make up for the fact that we were seated upstairs. We walked away full, and happy, but not blown away. There is a very friendly Security Guard outside the restaurant though, who was an upbeat note to the evening.
We returned to the hotel at about 11:30, and was disappointed by another of my major Pet Peeves- no turn down!
Not to be a primadonna, but if a “Luxury” Hotel touts their Turndown Service, they should actually follow through.
Friday morning we woke up early and walked over to Willa Jean which has been recommended by so many sources (and whose pastry chef just won the James beard award) that we knew we couldn’t miss it.
We didn’t realize you could make reservations, but luckily two seats at the bar had just freed up, so we were in business.
The restaurant is light and bright and filled with good energy.
There is an opportunity for take out as well, but we chose to dine in.
We waited until our places were cleared before we nabbed these seats.
Our view. I loved the light fixtures that looked like big whisks.
The menu was short but tempting.
We began with a homemade strawberry pop-tart. Its clear to see why Chef Kelly Fields won the JB award.
The Cappuccino was the perfect complement.
I went the healthy route with this gorgeous and yummy grain bowl,
while my husband was a bit more indulgent with the BBQ Shrimp Toast- complete with Burrata. Not a drop remained. It was a winner.
Willa Jean was terrific! I would definitely put it on your list. Since the Festival didn’t start until 11, we walked around the Quarter a bit, watching the workers prepare for another busy day.
We caught a bus at around 11, and made our way back to the Fairgrounds. First stop was the Big Chief Lounge to pick up some water and some Zapp’s!
Again, we made our way to the Gospel Tent and were treated to an unbelievable performance by Jermaine Hawkins and the Harvey Spirituals. These guys were great!
The rest of the day was spent bouncing around the venues for incredible music, stopping to rehydrate with sweet tea,
and fuel up with boiled Crawfish.
The closing act of the day for us was Gladys Knight (no Pips).
It was nice to get to see her perform, but she fell a bit flat.
Dinner was planned on Friday night at La Petite Grocery in the Garden District. We had had lunch there last year, and absolutely loved it, so we were anxious to return. Unfortunately, it did not live up to our recollection. The restaurant was very crowded, but the waitstaff was friendly and helpful. Because we went for lunch last time, we didn’t anticipate how dark the restaurant would be for dinner. Not atmospheric and romantic, just plain dark. This would have been ok had the food blown us away, but it was disappointing.
Just a warning the lighting in the restaurant did not help in making the food look appetizing either- but I will provide pix nonetheless. We began with their famous Crab Beignets…eh.
And then moved on to a salad on the specials list. It had fennel, and crawfish, and cheese, and a buttermilk dressing. It tasted about as good as it looked.
My husband had a burger- fries were flaccid.
as well as a side of soggy Brussel Sprouts.
I had Shrimp Grits which actually looked appealing and were quite good.
I tried the Rice Pudding for dessert,
which was also eh.
I think you get the gist, we won’t be returning (or recommending) La Petite Grocery again. There is way too much other fabulous food in New Orleans to try.
I am going to save our last full day for another post- as it was packed with lots more fabulous fun and flavors.