Published May/Jun 2005

Eat your way through Louisiana, where great cuisine is an integral part of the state’s traditions and culture.
By Deborah Reinhardt
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onna Cloutier sits with guests at a table covered in white linen, china and crystal.

“When we eat in Louisiana, we talk about our next meal,” she says, smiling.

Cloutier, who owns Cloutier Townhouse Bed-and-Breakfast Inn, is a long-time Natchitoches resident and a fine cook. This morning, she’s at the Guy House bed-and-breakfast to tell visitors about Natchitoches’ Creole food specialties. As part of an exquisite brunch, she’s prepared a wonderful Apple Brown Betty.

“We think if you put cream over anything, it’s edible,” she says in response to a compliment for her creation.

Good food is part of daily life in Louisiana, where many of the state’s traditions come from the kitchen. Take our whirlwind tour of Louisiana cuisine.

Fill your senses in Shreveport

Fine Louisiana cuisine is found in places far beyond New Orleans. Far to the north of the Big Easy is Shreveport–a little bit of Vegas along the Red River.

The twin cities of Shreveport and Bossier offer five dockside casinos and thoroughbred horse racing. It’s the most popular gaming destination in the Ar-La-Tex, a 200-mile area that squirts into Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.

While in Shreveport, don’t miss dining at Bella Fresca, 6307 Line Ave. Chef David Bridges artfully blends Southern, Asian and Mediterranean flavors into multi-course meals that are hard to forget. An extensive wine list accompanies the varied menu.

Noshing in Natchitoches

Visitors may not always know how to pronounce Natchitoches (NACK-uh-tush), but they probably remember this historic community on the Cane River from the movie, “Steel Magnolias.” However, a local delicacy helped make Natchitoches famous long before Dolly Parton and Julia Roberts brought notoriety to this charming town.

The Natchitoches meat pie has been popular in this part of Louisiana since the late 1700s. Street vendors originally sold the fried pastries filled with spicy ground pork and other meat.

Visitors can try a sample of this tasty specialty at Lasyone’s Meat Pie Kitchen Restaurant, which is located at 622 Second St. The meat pie breakfast plate includes eggs and potatoes. Add a cup of Nakatosh dark roast coffee with breakfast.

Another great attraction for food fans is the Cane River Green Market. Vendors offer some of the best jams and jellies–including the local mayhaw jelly–at the market, which is open April through November. Another specialty food sold at the market is tamales, handmade by cooks like Eva Ross.

Steeped in history and surrounded by natural beauty, Natchitoches offers an array of shops and eateries along its National Historic Landmark District. Wonderful bed-and-breakfast inns welcome guests.

St. Landry Parish

Dexter Guillory raises crawfish and rice in Eunice. He says his 100-acre farm is small, yet Guillory and his family harvest approximately 75 sacks of crawfish daily, from early December to July.

Crawfish raised on Louisiana farms taste much better than those shipped from Asia. Guillory proves this during a crawfish boil. After a quick lesson on how to get to the sweet meat, guests are soon chowing on crawfish, potatoes and corn boiled with Cajun spices.

Enjoy crawfish dishes at Nick’s on Second, 123 Second St., owned by Guillory and his wife, Sonny. Guests dine on crawfish bisque, crawfish cakes and crawfish etoufée. A new courtyard and dance hall add to the charm of this establishment.

Celeste Gomez, director of the St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission, says food from this area is all about simple ingredients, including celery, onion and green pepper.

After a short visit to St. Landry Parish, one gets the idea that folks live like they cook: keep it simple, know what you like and offer what you have to others.

Live it up in Lafayette

The Cajun culture continues south of St. Landry Parish in Lafayette. Stop at Vermilionville, a Cajun/Creole heritage and folk life park that re-creates the Acadiana area between 1765 and 1890. Music, craft and dancing demonstrations are regular happenings here, but a real treat is the cooking school. This day, chef Patrick Mould from his Louisiana School of Cooking demonstrates the proper way to deep-fry a turkey.

While in Lafayette, have dinner at Charley G’s Seafood Grill, 3809 Ambassador Caffery Parkway. His Louisiana crab cakes are famous. Owner Charles Goodson has been in the restaurant business for 19 years and knows how to treat his guests.

Pull a tap in
St. Tammany Parish

Across the 24-mile Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is a collection of several charming communities and a pace much more relaxed than nearby New Orleans. Some of these communities, like Abita Springs, were popular 19th-century retreats for New Orleanians.

Abita Springs always has been noted for its legendary spring water, but since 1986, it has become well known for the Abita Brewing Company, a terrific microbrewery.

Jim Patton introduced his brews to the North Shore and New Orleans, but now his flavorful beers–including his famous Purple Haze with the hint of fresh raspberries–enjoy wider following. Their product is distributed in 33 states. Stop by the brewpub off Holly Street on Saturday and Sunday for tastings.

Visitors may raise a glass of wine at Pontchartrain Vineyards north of Covington, where owner John Seago’s passion for winemaking is evident. Seago quit his thriving business as an attorney to become a gentleman farmer. Just more than 10 years later, he creates eight vintages annually, and guests can sample all of them in the beautiful tasting room.

“These are Louisiana wines for Louisiana foods,” Seago says. “The great thing about Louisiana’s heritage is our passion for food. Wine is food; it’s not an accoutrement, it’s essential.”

Visitors in the late summer can take part in harvesting the grapes. From May through October, the winery offers Jazz’n the Vines, a popular concert series.

Have dinner and stay overnight at Annadele’s Plantation, 71495 Chestnut St. in Covington. This new, award-winning restaurant, owned by chef Pat Gallagher, showcases the best local ingredients in memorable multi-course meals. Don’t miss the signature soft-shell craft and saffron bisque or the sautéed pompano with lemon butter and crabmeat served with asparagus and eggplant. The flourless Godiva chocolate cake with blackberries was a perfect ending to a perfect meal.

Four guestrooms are available but be prepared to see or hear a surprise guest. Gallagher swears that there are spirits, believed to be former residents, living in the house. It all adds to the wonderful heritage of the place; and Gallagher’s welcoming personality and culinary gifts have made Annadele’s a restaurant to respect and savor.

Take a food tour or sample one of many food festivals throughout Louisiana. Your senses will thank you.

Deborah Reinhardt is managing editor of AAA Southern Traveler magazine.

Below: John Seago quit a thriving business as an attorney to open Pontchartrain Vineyards about a decade ago. Rick Woods, St. Tammany Parish Tourist Commission photo

Before You Go
For more information, contact:

• Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau, 1-800-45-VISIT (458-4748) or visit www.shreveport-bossier.org;

• Natchitoches Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1-800-259-1714 or visit www.natchitoches.net;

• St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission, 1-877-948-8004 or click on www.cajuntravel.com;

• Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission, 1-800-346-1958 or visit www.lafayettetravel.com;

• St. Tammany Parish Tourist Commission, 1-800-634-9443 or visit www.NewOrleansNorthshore.com.

Stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks and TourBook guides. View a list of offices.

Order free information through the Reader Service Card online. Click on Reader Resources.
Tantalizing food festivals are a little lagniappe for Southern foodies. There’s a food fair almost every weekend this spring waiting for you to sink your teeth into. For complete listings, visit www.louisianatravel.com. Here are a few festivals freshly picked for your consideration.

• The big dog of food fests, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, will be April 22–May 1. The list of what you can’t get here is shorter than what’s on the menu. Last year, 20 shrimp dishes, 27 crawfish selections, 40 dessert options, plus po’ boys, muffulettas, and oh yea, plenty to drink. Call (504) 522-4786, or click www.NOJazzFest.com.

• Mayhaw Festival in Marion, May 13 and 14. Call (318) 292-4715.

• Mudbug Madness in Shreveport, Memorial Day weekend (May 26–29), answers the question “How fast can a crawfish crawl to avoid the boiling pot?” The Southeast Tourism Society named it a Top 20 Event this year. (318) 222-7403, or click www.mudbugmadness.com.

• Squire Creek Peach Festival in Ruston, June 23–25. Call 1-800-392-9032, or click www.RustonLincoln.com.

• Smell that smoke at the annual Smoked Meat Festival, June 24 and 25, in Ville Platte. Call (337) 363-6700, or click www.evangelinetourism.com.

• Meatpie Festival in Natchitoches, Sept. 16–18 along Cane River Lake in downtown. Work off calories at the Meat Pie Triathalon on Sept. 19. Call 1-800-264-8991, or click www.meatpiefestival.com.
–Deborah Reinhardt

Shreveport’s Mudbug Madness Festival offers plenty of crawfish. Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau photo

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