Pensacola, Florida
Friday December 19th 2014

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That Fish Cray

By Ashley Hardaway

In China, they’re lightly floured before being deep-fried and served with beer. In Russia, they’re soaked in milk and then boiled in broth that’s been flavored with dill and onions. In France, they’re used as a garnish.

Here, we make them into pies, put them on our po-boys, fry them, boil them, make bisque with them, and use them as an excuse to throw a big party. Yes, it’s safe to say no other place on earth is as obsessed with the crawfish as the South.

In case that brief glimpse of the crawfish’s gastronomic oeuvre was not enough to sell you on the point, consider this: Over 16,000 pounds of crawfish will be brought in for the Fiesta of Five Flags 28th Annual Crawfish Festival – that stuff cray.

Crawfish Festival

“We’re all about the food, entertainment and atmosphere at this year’s Crawfish Festival,” explained Whitney Fike, Event Coordinator for Fiesta of Five Flags. And this year guests can look forward to digging into jambalaya, etouffee, boudin, crawfish pie and red beans and rice in covered seating as they experience the best Cajun, zydeco, southern rock and swamp-pop the area has to offer throughout this three-day event. After all, what’s a Cajun celebration without a little Fais do-do.

Among the festival’s headliners are the Honey Island Swamp Band who formed their group in San Francisco is 2005 after Hurricane Katrina forced them to flee New Orleans. While waiting to return home, the acquaintances decided to start playing gigs together. They have since produced two award-winning albums and received all sorts of acclaim and accolades for their unique sound. Also performing will be Wayne Toups who plays a creation he refers to as “Zydecajun,” and Dwayne Dopsie, who blends blues and Cajun music to form a distinctive sound that could only be found in bayou country. Wes Bayliss & Ricochet Creek and Adam Holt will also be entertaining at this year’s festival.

Past festival goers know not to leave the kids at home – after all, there’s plenty for them to do, and it’s never too early to indoctrinate them into the church of Cajun Cuisine. This year’s weekend is packed with activities for the little ones. The Children’s Area features face painting, arts & crafts, and the ever-popular NASCRAW crawfish race.

While everyone’s favorites remain, Fiesta of Five Flags has made some changes to this year’s plans that locals are sure to appreciate. If you work downtown, make your lunch plans at the festival on May 5, as you can get in free before 3pm. All your Cajun favorites will be available to-go – just make sure you bring enough to share back to the office. Active military members will also receive free admission all day Friday with military ID.

If you overindulged during lunch on Friday, and then do it again that night – no judgment – then join the masses on Saturday, May 5 to run off all your indiscretions at the 38th Annual Fiesta 5k and 10k Run/Walk. Starting at 7:30am, the 10k will begin at Pensacola State College, while the 5k will start from Scott Street and 12th Avenue in East Hill. Both races end at Seville Square – and conveniently near the food.

An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people will enjoy the festival over the three-day weekend that attracts visitors and tourists to Pensacola from throughout the region. It’s events like this that Fiesta supports as a way of “promoting Pensacola through events that celebrate our rich culture and historical ties.” And if there is anything Pensacola does right, it’s festivals that are built around food.

PENSACOLA CRAWFISH FESTIVAL
WHEN: Friday, May 4 – Sunday, May 6.
WHERE: Bartram Park, 211 W. Main St.
COST: Free 12p.m. to 3p.m. on Friday; $5 per day; $10 weekend pass; Free for active duty military (with ID) on Friday; Free for children 12 and under
DETAILS: fiestaoffiveflags.org/pensacola-crawfish-festival

Entertainment Schedule
Friday, May 4
3 to 5:30 p.m.
Practical Factors
6 to 8 p.m.
Wes Loper
8:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Dwayne Dopsie

Saturday, May 5
10 to 12 p.m.
Season Ammons
12:15 to 2 p.m.
Wes Bayliss and Ricochet Creek
2:15 to 4:15 p.m.
Bayou Boys
4:30 to 6:15 p.m.
Adam Holt
6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Hadley Castille and the Sharecroppers Band
9 to 10:30 p.m.
Honey Island Swamp Band

Sunday, May 6
11 to 12:15 p.m.
Ryan Balthrop and Brooks Hubbert
12:30 to 2 p.m.
Hadley Castille and the Sharecroppers Band
3 to 5 p.m.
Wayne Toups

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If the Crawfish festival has come and gone and you still can’t get enough, then head to the following places to get your fix:

The Break
65 Via De Luna Drive, Pensacola Beach
932-0864
Stop by on Sunday to enjoy $10 flats of Crawfish.

Bamboo Willies
400 Quietwater Beach Road, Pensacola Beach
916-9888
bamboowillies.com
Head here on Sundays when they do their traditional crawfish boils with corn and potatoes and take the heat off with a Fat Tuesday frozen daiquiri. Just don’t have too much fun, or you might find yourself asking, “Since when did New Orleans get a beach?”

Cub’s Crawfish
11125 Lillian Hwy
456-7551
Authentic Cajun cuisine (red beans and rice, jambalaya, po-boys) and one of the best places to get crawfish when they’re in season.

Cajun Specialty Meats
600 East Heinberg St.
469-9400
cajunspecialtymeats.com
Cajun Specialty Meats has crawfish anyway you want it: crawfish pies, crawfish stuffed baked potatoes, crawfish etouffee, and crawfish and corn soup to-go. Or dine-in to get one of their Crawfish Po-Boys (sautéed or fried) along with a cup of their seafood gumbo.

Louisiana Crawfish and Seafood, Inc.
937 Creighton Road
478-1333
Pensacolacrawfish.com
Hailing from Louisiana, their crawfish can be purchased boiled and seasoned by the pound, or live by the sack.

Joe Patti’s
524 S. B St.
432-3315
joepattis.com
Get them live by the 30-40 pound sack or cooked and seasoned in store.
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Crawfish Boil Recipe:

Basics:
To do a Crawfish Boil right it’s recommended you do it outside and on top of a propane gas burner. You will also need a big stockpot (think 80 quarts). It’s times like these having a Chef as a friend, or a neighbor that’s obsessed with frying turkeys at thanksgiving, comes in handy.

Before you get started, make sure to soak the live crawfish in fresh water for about 10 minutes to purge them of all their mud.

Ingredients:
1 30 pound sack of live crawfish
1 12 ounce bottle of hot sauce
1 26 ounce box of table salt
3 ounces shrimp and crab boil concentrate
10 new potatoes, cut in half
8 ears of corn, cut in half
4 pounds of Andouille sausage, cut into manageable size
4 small onions, cut in half

Clean your crawfish (if you bought unpurged, most are) by soaking them in plenty of fresh water for ten minutes.
Fill your stockpot halfway up with water and bring to a boil on your burner. Then add hot sauce, salt and shrimp & crab boil concentrate.
Add potatoes, onions, corn and sausage and cook for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, cover picnic area with newspaper and get some trashcan liners in cardboard boxes to make for easy disposal of crawfish shells.
Take out corn, sausage and potatoes (if done) and add half the batch of crawfish to the pot. After it comes back to a boil, wait five minutes, then cut off heat, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.
Skim crawfish and fixins’ out of the pot. Serve on the picnic table. Do not dump out water. Bring water back up to boil and repeat step five with the second batch of crawfish.