Last weekend was the 2018 French Market Creole Tomato Festival, and what a weekend it was!
The annual two-day festival is held on the second weekend of June in the French Quarter, honoring Louisiana’s farmers and their produce as well as the ways their efforts make our cuisine so rich with Creole tomatoes. There’s always plenty of food and drink at the festival, especially in the Bloody Mary Market, and it’s not a Louisiana festival without a little live music.
But what exactly is a Creole tomato? The answer is actually fairly simple.
Creole tomatoes are tomatoes grown in south Louisiana’s alluvial soil. These tomatoes stay on the vine a little longer to capture that fresh, sweet flavor we know and love. They are called “Creole tomatoes” by farmers to distinguish their tomatoes from those delivered from outside of south Louisiana. So, in short, they aren’t a particular cultivar, but they are every bit worth celebrating.
For several years, we have had the opportunity to host the Louisiana Cookin’ Culinary Stage. There, we hold Creole Tomato Eating Contests and Tomato Talks.
Additionally, we invite some of our chef friends to our Culinary Stage to showcase their talent through cooking demonstrations and share secrets to preparing delicious recipes that feature Creole tomatoes as the star ingredient.
This year, Chris McMillian of Revel Café & Bar was kind enough to join us on the Louisiana Cookin’ Culinary Stage two days in a row, teaching the audience his methods for four different cocktails: Michelada, Caprese Cocktail, Bloody Bull, and a classic Bloody Mary.
On Saturday, we were joined by chefs Tommy DiGiovanni of Arnaud’s and Justin Ferguson of BRQ. Tommy prepared a Creole tomato and summer corn salsa served over Gulf Coast boiled shrimp, while Justin seared Gulf tuna with Creole smoked tomato butter sauce, wild mushrooms, Creole tomato concasse, and house-made tasso.
On Sunday, Chef Nathan Richard of Cavan came by to prepare a Creole Tomato Pie with a buttery cracker crust. Later on, Chef Ron Iafrate of Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop shared some tips and tricks on extracting more flavor from Creole tomatoes in salsa and a Creole tomato salad.
The Best of the Fest Award winners are also announced at our stage. This year, the Best Bloody Mary was Stingray’s Grill and Bar’s Crabby Mary, a Bloody Mary topped with a fried soft-shell crab and hush puppies. And the award for Tastiest Dish went to George’s Produce for The Pontchartrain: sliced Creole tomato with lump crab meat dressed in rémoulade.
If you missed out on the fun this year, don’t worry. Just make plans to join us next year as we celebrate a culinary highlight of Louisiana summers at the French Market Creole Tomato Festival.