One year at Jazz Fest I tried a little experiment. What would happen if I combined different dishes, or even different parts of dishes, from various food vendors for new creations?

In practice, this started with me adding cracklin’ to anything that would hold still long enough to take it. 

It evolved from there with boudin balls, various sauces and even a trip to a drink stand for a champagne and mango freeze combo.

To be clear, these dishes are perfectly good as originally served. But a defining aspect of Jazz Fest is the way people make the event their own, bringing their own style and rituals to the experience. That's the spirit guiding these food frolics.

Not everything worked. For instance, stuffed shrimp packed into the roast beef po-boy was one unfortunate flop, a Frankenstein of a sandwich just too unwieldy to eat without a bib. 

But the experiment turned up a few dishes that I would recommend any day. These were the best results:


Advocate staff photos by Ian McNulty - For a DIY Jazz Fest food hit, start with cracklin', get a cochon de lait po-boy and combine.

Cochon de cracklin' po-boy: The cracklin’ comes from Fatty’s over at Food Area II; the cochon de lait p-boy is from Love at First Bite at Food Area I (just look for the longest line). Together, the cracklin’ adds an intense, audible crunch to the creamy crunch of the po-boy’s slaw, and brings a dense meaty savor to the tender strands of cochon de lait. Caveat: it is very heavy. Split this hybrid sandwich with a friend or be prepared for a nap.


A soft shell crab po-boy at Jazz Fest gets dressed up with some crabstick and cucumber salad for a do-it-yourself combo.

The Asian Cajun soft shell crab po-boy: This sandwich combines two unlikely running partners at the Fair Grounds for their own little jam session -- a traditional soft shell crab po-boy and a crabstick and cucumber salad. It's like a soft shell crab po-boy after a trip through a sushi bar.

Galley Seafood serves up the soft shell crabs every year. A few booths down in Food Area II, Ajun Cajun serves a crabstick salad. Stuff some crabstick alongside the real crab in the po-boy and it’s like a cool, creamy-tasting slaw with a mild marine flavor. The salad’s marinated, thin-sliced cucumber and green onions add cool crunch and variation, along with the tiny pop of tobiko, the familiar fish roe.

Spicy sambal sauce offered among the Ajun Cajun stand’s self-serve condiments is the crucial finale, bringing garlicky, chile-fired heat. The result is highly flavorful, with different tastes and textures in each bite.

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Advocate staff photo by Ian McNulty - To jazz up a grilled cheese sandwich, add a boudin ball and press together. It makes an offbeat, DIY snack at Jazz Fest.

Boudin grilled cheese: Get an order of boudin balls at Food Area I from Papa Ninety. These are spicy and moist and well seasoned under crunchy outer shells. Enjoy one as is. Then walk over to the Kids Area, where Joyce’s Lemonade stand serves a good old-fashioned grilled cheese sandwich. Peel back the white bread, mash a boudin ball down into the gooey yellow American cheese, press it back together. Now dig in to an Acadiana-Americana original.

DIY Delicious: For a different take on Jazz Fest food, make your own mash-ups with cracklin’, boudin, champagne and more _lowres

Advocate staff photo by Ian McNulty -- Pouring sparkling wine over mango freeze creates a cool treat with a kick at Jazz Fest.

Keeping cool with a kick: A big, tropical-yellow scoop of mango freeze is one of the classic tastes of Jazz Fest, and it can be a true boost on a sweltering day at the Fair Grounds.

It even has two booths, one in Food Area I and over by the Louisiana Folklife Village. Can it be a coincidence that both are located near stands for sparkling wine?

This stuff is sold by the can. Pour it slowly over the mango freeze, but not all at once (it will overflow). Make a bubbly moat around the scoop and start mashing it up a bit. Slurp it off your spoon, adding wine as you make room. Pretty soon you have a mango freeze mimosa to keep you cool with a kick.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.