From fried chicken to beignets, gumbo and po-boys, New Orleans has festivals dedicated to so many indigenous dishes it can be hard to keep track. The Delta-style tamale gets its own party with the launch of the New Orleans Tamale Festival at Poor Boys Bar (1328 St. Bernard Ave.) Jan. 6.
Longtime downtown tamale- hawker Holly Hawthorne, also known as Holly Tamale, and Angela Harbold of Medina's Good Tamales are organizing the event. They envision the inaugural festival as a small, neighborhood-friendly party.
Hawthorne has been slinging her family's generations-old tamale recipe from her bike since 2007. She grew up in Alexandria and learned the Zwolle tamale style.
"I thought, it's really great that New Orleans has this great history of Delta-style tamales, but we didn't have a festival that (celebrated) it," Hawthorne says. "This year, we decided to do it small, see what happens and maybe expand next year."
Hawthorne says she has received interest from restaurants wanting to particpate in the event, but this year's fete is capped at six vendors, including Holly Tamale, Medina's Good Tamales and Mamita's Hot Tamales. There also will be smaller, lesser-known street tamale vendors — an effort, Hawthorne says, to "(keep) with the nature of how tamales have been made and sold in New Orleans for the past 100 or more years,"
Hawthorne will serve red chili pork tamales and a vegan black bean and corn version. There also will be chicken tamales, cheese tamales and a tamale filled with chocolate and strawberries.
The event runs from noon to 6:30 p.m. at the St. Bernard Avenue bar, which has indoor and outdoor space, so children and families can attend. Included in the festivities are a tamale-eating contest, the crowning of a New Orleans Tamale Queen and King and live music from Margie Perez, The Iguanas and Dat Band. Admission is free.