|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
|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 Shreveporta 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 jelliesincluding the local mayhaw jellyat 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.
|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 22May 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 2629), 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 2325. 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. 1618 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.
Shreveport’s Mudbug Madness Festival offers plenty of crawfish. Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau photo
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