Photo: Erika Goldring/Getty Images
1. Enjoy Krewe du Kanaval
Women in colorful skirts twirl to the cracking of maracas. Men in skeletal face paint beat boula drums. And for two days in February, Congo Square in New Orleans transforms into Port-au-Prince, in a festival called the Krewe du Kanaval.
Régine Chassagne (pictured below) and Win Butler—husband-and-wife members of the Grammy-winning rock band Arcade Fire—partnered with Preservation Hall creative director Ben Jaffe to launch the celebration of Haitian culture in 2018. This year, it falls on Valentine’s weekend (February 14–15) and features a ticketed Friday night ball, headlined, of course, by Arcade Fire. “There’s a Haitian-African spirit of love named Erzulie, who we hope to celebrate rightly during the weekend,” says Chassagne, whose parents emigrated from Haiti in the 1960s, eventually settling in Montreal. “The lineup is going to be fireworks.”
2. Eat at Rendez-Vous Créole
Opened on the West Bank last year, this restaurant serves simmered conch, braised goat, and gratiné (baked macaroni). Or stop at Fritai, a St. Roch Market stall where chef Charly Pierre swaps out bread for two crispy green plantains to make sandwiches filled with roast pork, avocado spread, pickled veggie relish, and mango sauce. “Fritai is a term we use for quick street bites,” Pierre says. “It means fried and fast—and very traditionally Haitian.”
3. Drink clairin
This Haitian rum only just became available in America in 2018. The Carrollton Cajun restaurant DTB mixes the Saint Benevolence brand with Amontillado sherry, mole bitters, and chile de árbol syrup for its Fais-Do-Do cocktail, while the French Quarter’s Cane & Table offers tastings of and makes daiquiris with the Spirit of Haiti label. “Clairin is one of the most interesting spirits available,” says Cane & Table partner Kirk Estopinal. “It’s funky and earthy, with an intensity of flavor and a rustic production.”
4. Check out "Lavi Dous"
Translated to “Sweet Life” in Haitian Creole, this collection of 30 paintings and sculptures that showcase the beauty of the country are on display at the Myrtle Banks Building in Central City. “Haitians brought us shotgun houses, our Second Line parades, and much of our food culture,” says Nic Brierre Aziz, a Haitian American who is a community engagement curator for the New Orleans Museum of Art and whose grandfather started the “Lavi Dous” collection. “When you wonder why New Orleans is so magical, it’s because the Haitians brought this colorful culture with them.”