Red beans and rice is a dish that likes company. Yeah, we all know its roots as the Monday laundry day dish, but today red beans and rice is also social food.
It's on the stove when people come over and ladled up at parties. Think about how many times someone has offered red beans the first time you walked into their home. It feeds a crowd affordably, soothes the soul like comfort food should and lets you know where you stand: and that’s in New Orleans.
It’s an anytime dish all right, but right now is its time to shine. That’s because the annual celebration and competition called Bean Madness is reaching its peak.
Bean Madness is a tournament-style red beans and rice competition. It spoofs the March Madness basketball hoopla, complete with brackets and evolving storylines of rivalries, bracket busters and Cinderellas.
The contenders are neighborhood joints, upscale restaurants and independent cooks. They’ve been meeting one-on-one at pop-up taste test challenges and at a block party, and now their numbers have whittle down to the four, or, inevitably the Final Fork.
Four will face off at the Crescent City Farmers Market in Bucktown Friday. Losers walk while the two winners will advance to the championship on Monday at the Bywater restaurant Capulet. That’s the same night as the college basketball championship, but hey your team probably lost already anyway. Proceeds go to local community groups.
Who will prevail? Well, it’s up to New Orleans itself to name the champion of this oh-so-New Orleans dish. Bean Madness votes are cast in person by people who actually sample the goods. That’s a refreshing break from the usual online click-for-your-favorite marketing campaigns. It puts the decision on the New Orleans palate.
That’s one reason I like Bean Madness so much, it’s a homegrown celebration of something we all know by heart. That means everyone can have an opinion on it, and that will always stir the pot.
Friday April 5, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Crescent City Farmers Market, Bucktown
325 Metairie-Hammond Hwy.
Monday April 8, 6-9 p.m.
Capulet, 3014 Dauphine St.
Silent auction, live music, and championship match for Bean Madness title