Getting the flavor of...
Cajun country’s zydeco capital
If gumbo is the taste of southern Louisiana’s melting pot culture, “zydeco is its musical counterpart,” said Chris Wohlwend in The New York Times. The raucous dance music blends African, European, and Caribbean influences into a feel-good stew that can be heard year-round at venues across the region. But there’s no better time to stomp along to some accordion and washboard than April 26–30, when more than 300,000 zydeco lovers trek to Lafayette for the Festival International de Louisiane. Acts from 25 countries play zydeco, rock, and jazz, and festival vendors serve up gumbo, jambalaya, étouffée, beignets, crawfish, and po’ boys. For a more intimate experience, head to Buck & Johnny’s café in the nearby hamlet of Breaux Bridge for the Saturday zydeco breakfast, where revelers knock back Bloody Marys and waltz to live music. Young and old, Cajun and Creole, the colorful crowd is “a microcosm of Louisiana’s culture.”
Tampa’s historic cigar district
“Every minute of every day in Ybor City is a good time for a cigar,” said Jason Wilson in The Washington Post Magazine. In its heyday, this historic Tampa district had more than 150 cigar factories, outproducing even Havana. Today, only one large factory remains, but look through the windows of the chinchales, the small artisanal shops that run up and down Seventh Avenue, and you’ll see Cuban expats hand-rolling cigars. The store owners are as serious about stogies as master sommeliers are about wine, and my head was soon “swimming with new knowledge and terms.” Did I want box-pressed or round cigars, sun- or shade-grown wrappers, a thin or thick ring gauge? Thankfully, the clerk at King Corona Cigar Bar and Café acted as my guide and suggested a “particularly robust, particularly expensive” Nicaraguan Padrón. Sitting at a table outside, I sipped a milky coffee, puffed my peppery tobacco, and savored the strong Florida sunshine.