Tag: Cajun cuisine

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

Magnificent oak trees. Melancholic cypresses dressed in Spanish moss. Alligators peeking out from swampy waters. Magnificent, decaying plantations. Quaint accents. Humidity. Iced tea.

Those are just some of the images that dotted my brain about the South, a region of America I only know from books and movies – and culinary adventures. I’d never specially wanted to go to the South, with the exception of New Orleans and Savannah, which were inscribed on my imaginary bucket list decades ago, and left to grow cobwebs there.

Now, when I think about our so-very-brief trip to Louisiana, I actually thirst for more. Sights. Experiences. I want to drink a sweet lemonade (I don’t like iced tea) while sitting on a rocking chair, on the front porch of some achingly quaint Southern home, in a close-to-scorching summer. I want to succumb to the romance of all those books and movies brought together. I just want to go back to those swamps.

This trip to Louisiana came out of nowhere. Well, it came out of the Eclipse and our friends Eddie and Arthur, who suddenly reached out to Mike a few weeks before the sun was scheduled to be covered by the moon for all of four minutes and asked us to join them in watching the spectacle. Mike wanted to go. He had wanted to go for years. I had looked at the hotel prices a year before and written it off. Witnessing a total eclipse is a one-in-a-lifetime experience – we’d had ours a few years before in Oregon (sitting on the rocks in a quiet stream, commuting with nature, perfection). I didn’t need another one. But Mike insisted. We could stay with Eddie and Arthur in Dallas. He’d go by himself if I refused.

Air tickets to Dallas – and any surrounding airports – were ridiculously expensive. Surge pricing. What you’d expect. I’m cheap. Thrifty. I’d seen an eclipse. He insisted. So I looked further in the map, looking for airports where we could drive for a reasonable amount. New Orleans popped out. An eight hour drive from Dallas, but New Orleans was in my bucket list. From that perspective, it’d be shooting two birds with one stone. And Mike was insisting.

So we went. We spent two glorious days in New Orleans, another driving to Texas, a day and a play in Dallas, another seeing the eclipse, and then got a glimpse of a portion of Southern Louisiana. It felt like enough, even if now I want more.

The trip, of course, was a culinary experience. I already wrote about our culinary adventures in New Orleans. There isn’t much to tell about the Texas part of our trip – I wrote about a chicken restaurant, Eddie and Arthur took us to, but I was too busy enjoying seeing our old friends to take enough mental notes of our other meals there. What’s left is the rest of the food we enjoyed (or not) in Louisiana. Here it is:

Louisiana Eats: Restaurant 1868!

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

If you had asked me before we went to Louisiana where the Tabasco sauce company was located, I might have made a couple of wild guesses but never, in a million years, would I have guessed in a beautiful “island” in southern Louisiana. Not that I ever paid much attention to Tabasco sauce myself, not being a fan of spicy food.

Still, I’d read that 1868! was actually a pretty good Cajun food restaurant, so after touring the amazingly beautiful Avery island, seeing nesting egrets by the hundreds, and even trying some Tabasco flavored ice cream at the gift shop, we headed to 1868! for some lunch.

The restaurant’s menu is very seafood heavy and reflects the Cajun and Creole influences of the area. There are also a couple of specialties of the day. You order and pay at the counter and then find a table. The room is pretty informal, but I liked the old fashioned look with wooden tables and chairs. It’s quite popular with visitors, as the food is solid and not overly expensive for being a tourist attraction.

I had the fish po’boy ($17), which was a breaded fish filet with lettuce on a bun. The fish was really good, it was lightly breaded and nicely spiced. Alas, I didn’t see the point of eating this as a sandwich, so I mostly just ate the fish. It was large enough that the bun or even the accompanied fries weren’t needed.

Mike had me order for him while he went to park or something, and I decided on one of the specials of the day which was crawfish etouffee topped with friend crawfish. Mike liked the fried crawfish, but once again he was disappointed on the rice-heavy etouffee. He really much preferred it at Prejean’s, where the etouffee was served with the rice on the side. Still, he enjoyed it well enough.

For dessert I had an unremarkable bread pudding ($6.25).

In all, 1868! is a convenient restaurant to stop at if you’re visiting Avery island around lunch time, though I wouldn’t make a special trip to eat there.

Avery Island, LA
M-Su: 10:30 AM-2:30 PM

Louisiana Eats: Bon Temps Grill

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

If only the food could have matched the service at this Lafayette restaurant.

Lafayette is supposed to be the capital of Cajun country, and yet there are surprisingly few Cajun restaurants in town. Bon Temps Grill is one of them. It offers a menu of sandwiches, pastas, seafood and grilled meats at relatively moderate prices.

The restaurant is pretty casual, and has a homey atmosphere. It’s clearly patronized by regulars. They have live music at some times. Service was great, our waiter went over the dishes and was very attentive.

I wanted an entree that wasn’t steak or seafood, so I went with the Paneed Chicken Meuniere ($18). It came with servings of mashed sweet potatoes and mashed hot red potatoes. The breaded chicken was fine, the breading could have used some spicing of its own, though I understand not doing so when it’s served with a sauce. However, the sauce was a disappointment. A Meuniere sauce is basically made with brown butter, lemon and parsley, though it can be modified with other ingredients. Here it felt like the butter had burnt too much and they had added too much lemon juice to compensate. Though, of course, it may have been other ingredients which made it both a tad bitter and way too acidic. It had whatever the opposite of an umami flavor is. The sides were as good as mashed sweet potatoes could be, though I should say I have been drifting away from linking potatoes in all of their manifestations.

Mike had the Crawfish Etouffee Pot Pie ($20) at my suggestion, and it was a mistake. Mike usually loves pot pie, and he absolutely adored the crawfish etouffee that he’d had at Prejean’s the day before, but the one here came mixed with rice. That meant that there was more rice than etouffee, and that the rice absorbed most of what might have been a delicious etouffee, so that what was left didn’t have enough flavor. It also meant that there was no sauce to soak the pastry in. I still love the idea of a crawfish etouffee pot pie, and I might make my own version (albeit with shrimp, as we don’t get crawfish in California) when I go back to cooking.

For dessert, I wanted to get the Banana Fosters Bread Pudding ($9) to go – as I was too full to eat dessert right then – but they were out of it. Instead, the waiter brought me a Creme Brulee Cheesecake ($9) to take home with me, and did not charge me. That was very nice of him, but the cheesecake ended up being a disappointment. It basically tasted of “fridge”. Oh well.

I don’t know that I’d go back to Bon Temps Grill if I returned to Lafayette. Given how much we liked Prejeans, I’d probably head there instead.

Bon Temps Grill
1211 W. Pinhook Rd.
Lafayette, LA
(337) 706-8850
Monday-Friday: 11am-10pm
Saturday-Sunday: 10:30am-10pm

Louisiana Eats: Olde Tyme Grocery

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

Are these really the best po’boys in Lafayette?

Olde Tyme Grocery was said to have the best po’boy sandwiches in Lafayette, so we headed there for lunch after a morning of exploring the city. Despite its name, Olde Tyme Grocery is actually a sandwich shop with a small grocery area – mostly consisting of drinks and snacks – in it. They have a good variety of po’boys available, which you can get by the half or full.

You make your selection and order at the counter, and you can see the sandwich makers doing their magic behind.

There are several areas to sit, both indoor and outdoors. The area around the garden was quainter, but in full sun, so we sat in this covered patio area. The place is quite informal, as you’d expect for a sandwich joint, and it was a pleasant place to have lunch that April week day.

I ordered a full size meatball po’boy ($12) and I enjoyed it very much. The meatballs were very tasty, had a good proportion of meat to breading and a soft consistency. The sandwich wasn’t overwhelmed by sauce. Half a sandwich was enough for lunch, but our hotel had a fridge and microwave, so I took the other half home for later. All in all, I was very happy with my lunch.

Eating the sandwich was a little bit hard when served, as the heat from the meatballs made the bread pretty soggy and soft, but it actually did better when reheated, as the bread had hardened and I only heated the meatballs until they were warm and not hot.

Mike had half a shrimp po’boy ($9.25) and he was very disappointed. Indeed, this was the first disappointing meal he had in our trip. He thought the shrimp had too much breading, and the breading itself lacked flavor. I don’t think he even finished it.

In all, if we were back in town we might return, but just avoid the breaded seafood sandwiches.

Olde Tyme Grocery
218 West Saint Mary Boulevard
Lafayette, LA
Monday-Friday 8am-10pm
Saturday 9am-7pm

Louisiana Eats: Maison Mouton Bed & Breakfast

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

Amazing breakfast at this lovely Lafayette B&B

I didn’t take any photos of breakfast at the Maison Mouton Bed & Breakfast. We stayed there two nights, and thus had two breakfasts, but I didn’t think I’d write about them as such. But hey, why not? I’m writing about almost everything else we ate while in Louisiana.

Maison Mouton is a former plantation house that was remodeled some years ago and turned into a B&B. Slowly, they’ve been remodeling the rooms in other buildings in the property, and they are now in the process of buying adjacent homes and turning them into rooms as well. It’s a very nice property, with some incredibly old and beautiful live oak trees – they also had a water oak tree, but it fell down during a storm while we were there. Our room was beautiful and very comfortable.

Breakfast is served family style on one or two long tables inside the main house – depending on how many guests they have that day -, promptly at 8:30 AM every day. A housekeeper brings you orange juice (bottled) and coffee or tea. Their coffee was actually quite good. This part of Louisiana attracts lots of French tourists, and half of our table was French speaking both mornings we were there.

The table is beautifully set, with flesh flowers, crystal glasses, and nice plates. Our first morning, we were lucky to get Pain Perdu (lost bread), a bread pudding/French toast hybrid, which consists of a home made biscuit, dunk into a sweetened egg-milk-cream mixture and then baked. I can’t tell you how absolutely delicious it is, how silky the consistency was and just how tasty it is. Chef Kimball, the cook, has a video showing how he makes it. I forget what else there was on the plate, I’m sure eggs and some meat, whatever it was, it was clearly overshadowed by the pain perdu.

The second day we had Eggs Mouton, which consisted of potatoes topped with fried eggs and a shrimp sauce. They were served with a biscuit on the side. I’m not an egg eater, but Mike was quite happy with the eggs – his and mine – and loved the shrimp sauce. I loved the biscuits (yes, I took his). It was delicious, and it made me want biscuits. Unfortunately, I don’t want to make biscuits, which means I’ll stay deprived.

I have to give it to Maison Mouton, both the stay and the food were just amazing.

Maison Mouton Bed & Breakfast
338 North Sterling Road
Lafayette, LA

Louisiana Eats: Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

Natchitoches’ version of empanadas could use a better shell

Natchitoches (pronounced “Knock-a-dish”) is famous for two things: its myriad of B&B’s and its meat pies. These oversized empanadas were likely introduced by the Spaniards and were cooked in family kitchens exclusively until 1967 when James Lasyone, a former butcher, opened Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant and slowly gained regional fame. Today, many restaurants in Natchitoches and southern Louisiana serve Natchitoches meat pies, and there is an annual festival celebrating them. Though we weren’t hungry after breakfast, we had to stop by Lasyone’s on our way out of Natchitoches to give them a try.

As mentioned, Natchitoches meat pies are just oversized empanadas – perhaps 50% larger than Argentine ones -, fried on peanut oil, rather than baked. I usually prefer fried empanadas, though I bake them at home to avoid deep frying. Lasyone’s offers only two kinds of empanadas: a meat pie made with 4 parts beef to 1 part pork and a crawfish one.

We liked both. The meat pie ($7) had a very flavorful, tasty filling. The meat had the texture of knife chopped beef rather than ground, and it didn’t have noticeable chunks of fat. Mike particularly liked the crawfish pie ($9), which he found rich and flavorful.

The shell, however, while somewhat flaky, was not chewy enough. It lacked he flexibility of a good fried empanada dough. Though obviously, as an Argentine, I’m really nitpicking here. The point is that both were very good empanadas.

I felt, however, that they were too expensive for what they were. I’m glad we tried them, but I wouldn’t rush to get them again at those prices.

Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant also serves a full menu of Southern breakfast and lunch dishes. Service was fine, though the waitress expressed surprise we were only ordering the meat pies. You order at the table and pay on your way out. The restaurant is very casual, very much like what you’d expect of a little, no-frills breakfast place anywhere in the country.

Lasyone's Meat Pie Restaurant
622 Second St.
Natchitoches, LA
(318) 352.3353
M - W: 7am-2pm
Th - Sa: 7am-3pm

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