Tag Archives: Louisiana

Louis Armstrong: Red Beans and Rice-ly yours

NOLAFlagWe are going to New Orleans at the end of this week, one of our favorite food destinations! To prep for our journey we’ve been doing a lot of of research into what food we want to eat, and what music we want to hear (answer: EVERYTHING). Appropriately, we unearthed a food story at the junction of food and music that involves one of New Orleans’ favorite sons, Louis Armstrong. It turns out that along with being the lauded musicians that he was, Louis Armstrong was a major foodie. In fact, he often signed his letters, “Red Beans and Rice-ly yours,” after his favorite dish. In 1971, Louis Armstrong gave one of his final performances, which was then released as an album, also called Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours  with a booklet of his favorite recipes. The rare album has been recently reissued with recipes intact: red beans and rice and all.

RedBeansandRicelyRed beans and rice have long been an iconic part of New Orleans cuisine, and every cook makes them a different way, though ham hocks and the holy trinity of onion, celery and bell peppers are the traditional flavorings. NPR details Armstrong’s international food adventures, including finding the only Chinese restaurant in Nairobi, and also provides and transcribes his original, personal recipe for red beans and rice, which you can see below. It turns out the Armstrong isn’t the only one musician who loved Red Beans and Rice, other New Orleans musicians and residents have adopted the dish as their favorite meal to share for yearsRedBeansandRice.jpg

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Cajun Cuisine at The Cabin Restaurant

The Cabin
5405 Louisiana 44
Burnside, LA

We spent our last day in Baton Rouge visiting Houmas House, a plantation about an hour outside the city, and naturally, we had some food plans to go along with our outing. When we put out an open call for restaurant recommendations near Baton Rouge and one of our readers, Justin Newhart, suggested we try the The Cabin, a spot for Cajun food not too far from Houmas House. Like many of the places we visited on our trip, The Cabin seemed to pop out of nowhere, and true to its name, was indeed a cabin. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a giant log alligator sculpture out front – welcome to Louisiana! 

The Cabin Restaurant

It is worth noting the restaurant’s architecture, which was definitely eclectic and impressive. From the road, the restaurant itself doesn’t seem very big, however, once you are inside, the space is expansive, and contains many connected buildings. There is even an impressive open-beamed high ceiling, as you can see below. Out back there is a courtyard and a complex of other small, restored buildings including slave cabins, a general store and a schoolhouse, many of which were relocated from nearby towns. Far from being a replica of old Southern buildings, The Cabin is the real deal. 

The Cabin Restaurant

We arrived at about noon Sunday, and the Cabin was doing a pretty brisk brunch business. The menu at the Cabin is large and decidedly Cajun, and especially featured seafood. There are many preparations of shrimp, crawfish and catfish, and you can even get a Po’Boy. For the indecisive, there are also a number of samplers such as the “Cabin Seafood platter” ($28.95) which comes with catfish, shrimp, oysters, crab fingers, stuffed crab, crawfish tails, crawfish Étouffée, and a cup of gumbo. L ordered the Crawfish Étouffée ($14.95) with a side of red beans and rice while M and his father went with the Cabin Special ($10.95) which included a cup of chicken and andouille sausage gumbo, jambalaya, and black-eyed peas. We got a plate of cornbread while we were waiting, which was a great match for our sweet tea in mason jars, our go-to drink order in the South.

Crawfish Etouffee and fixins at The Cabin Restaurant

Crawfish Etouffee and fixins at The Cabin Restaurant

The portions were gigantic (as you can see above), and everything was hearty and delicious. We probably could have brought some of our food home, but sadly we were off to a catch a flight home right after. The biggest hit of the day was our dessert: the buttermilk pie, which was superlative ($3.50 a slice). You can even buy the pie recipe for a dollar upon checkout. We probably should have bought the recipe, but I think we’d rather come back someday for a return trip!

The famous Buttermilk Pie

The famous Buttermilk Pie

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Crawfish festival in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

When we were in Louisiana in the fall, crawfish (aka crayfish, crawdad or mudbug) season was well over. However, if you have the good fortune to be in Cajun country in Spring, crawfish are everywhere. The epicenter for crawfish culture and consumption is the town of Breaux Bridge, “Crawfish Capital of the World,” which is just over the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge (a pretty gigantic bridge) from Baton Rouge. The names of the some of the restaurant in town seem to bear out that distinction: Crawfish Town USA, Crazy Bout Crawfish, etc. The annual Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge occurs in May and includes nearly every crawfish-related event you could dream of. The New Yorker has an interesting old piece about a trip to Breaux Bridge for the Festival. Hopefully we’ll be able to visit Cajun country in Spring one year to get our fill of super-fresh crawfish.

Breaux Bridge

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Roberto’s River Road Restaurant, a hidden gem

Roberto’s River Road Restaurant
1985 Louisiana 75
Sunshine, LA

Usually when someone says that a restaurant is in the middle of nowhere, it is usually hyperbole. However, if they are not exaggerating, this is the restaurant they mean. If you are driving to Roberto’s at night, it seems like you are driving into the darkness for just a mile too far, and when you are about to give up because you are truly in the middle of nowhere, Roberto’s seems to pop up just over the horizon. From the outside, Roberto’s looks like little more than a small white shack, but the inside is cozy, comfortable and a lot bigger than it looks. R4 is one of M’s dad’s favorite haunts in the vicinity of Baton Rouge, so we were very excited to try it.

Roberto's River Road Restaurant

Closing time at Roberto’s River Road Restaurant

We arrived at about 8:30, to a nearly full house, though we managed to snag one of the last tables. Roberto’s menu focuses on upscale casual Cajun food, especially seafood. The dish that came most highly recommended to us was River Road Shrimp (available as either an appetizer or an entree over pasta), which consisted of shrimp in a bell pepper and spicy brandy butter sauce, so we knew we had to try it. There were also several dishes that featured crawfish: our favorite Cajun staple, Etouffe; a crawfish and Portobella mushroom pasta; and the quizzically named Catfish Dot – a grilled catfish filet topped with herbed crawfish (this was the option we went for). Fish of the Day in Papillote also came highly recommended – the catch of the day wrapped in parchment paper and baked with lemon and herbs.

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We started out with a cup of chicken and sausage gumbo (there is also seafood gumbo) – which was delicious  – extremely rich and flavorful. The seafood dishes were similarly tasty, and surprisingly light. For once we did not feel guilty about indulging in Cajun flavors (though of course there are fried options, too). For dessert we tried a special: cookies and cream bread pudding, which was excellent, but definitely did not need the extra sweetness of the marshmallow sauce. We managed to stick around until closing time, though the restaurant was still buzzing from a squad car full of Baton Rouge’s finest and a crowd that came in on an LSU stretch limo. Roberto’s may be off the beaten path, but it is definitely worth a little drive.

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Tsunami: Sushi with a view in Baton Rouge

Tsunami
100 Lafayette Street
Baton Rouge, LA

JapanIf you’re looking for scenery with your sushi, Tsunami definitely impresses. Located on top of the Shaw Center for the Arts, Tsunami is an upscale sushi restaurant with a bar and a terrace with a panoramic view of Baton Rouge and the Mississippi river. We had a very pleasant dinner at Tsunami with M’s dad and his friend Chuck, who are both experts on Baton Rouge restaurants and nightlife. M’s Dad knew we are always looking for good local restaurants, so he wisely picked Tsunami as an upscale option.

Tsunami

Tsunami’s  dining room and view

Though there are Japanese entrees available including Japanese dishes like Tonkatsu ($15) and Chicken Teriyaki ($16), Tsunami’s focus is sushi. Tsunami serves a variety of innovative rolls, with a few Cajun touches sprinkled in, which we appreciated! For example, check out the Ragin’ Cajun Roll ($8) – only in Louisiana! – with panko fried alligator and avocado. We also ordered the Jazz Roll ($10), which includes snow crab, asparagus, boiled shrimp in a soy paper; and the 412 Roll ($16), with cream cheese, asparagus, tuna, avocado and crunchy shrimp topped with tuna and avocado. There are also Nigiri (for $5 to 8 each) which would appeal more to the sushi purist with varieties like Yellowtail, Tuna and Salmon Roe.

Tsunami Sushi

Tsunami Sushi

While we were waiting for the sushi to arrive we snapped some pictures of the river and the town, and on a more temperate night, it certainly would have been a great place to eat (it was 95 degrees when we dined!). Our sushi arrived, and we were immediately impressed by the presentation (and a little by the prodigious portion size as well). We also ordered a special roll with tempura shrimp that was particularly tasty though the portion was gigantic. The fish was very fresh, and we appreciated the special Cajun touches that you could not get at a sushi restaurant “up north.” To finish off our meal we enjoyed chocolate cake, elegantly served with ice cream and Pocky Sticks in a bento box. Though we enjoyed the food, the view was the true superstar. Tsunami is a perfect place for a date night (we witnessed a few) or for a group of friends. It was a wonderful suggestion!

View of Baton Rouge from Tsunami

View of Baton Rouge from Tsunami terrace

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Cajun Street Food in Baton Rouge: Boudin

The pronunciation of some words is enough to separate locals from tourists, and connoisseurs from newbies. One of those such words is “Boudin.” Boudin, a rice-stuffed pork sausage from Louisiana, is pronounced “boo-dan” not “boo-deen,” as one might expect. Boudin is found all over Cajun country (you can even take “Boudin Trail” tour), and is descended from sausages found in French Acadian cuisine. Boudin is available in any good Louisiana Cajun restaurant or grocery store, but we think we have found our favorite way to enjoy Boudin – as a late-night Po’Boy topped with pulled pork.

Southern Dawgz Stand -ready for night owls

Southern Dawgz Stand -ready for night owls

We found this particular incarnation of Boudin sold in a stand called Southern Dawgz on the corner of Florida and 3rd in downtown Baton Rouge. The truck is there most Thursday-Saturday nights (until 2 AM!), and there is a small selection of items, though most everyone is there for the Boudin. You can get a basic Boudin dog, or a “Bleu” topped with blue cheese or a “Heart Attack” topped with bacon. The cookmaster of this particular Boudin stand is Jerry, who is actually from Southern Ohio, and sous chef is from Indiana. Boudin is often sold in fried “Boudin Balls” much like meatballs, but at Southern Dawgz you get them in a form similar to brats. We ordered a smoked Boudin Po’Boy, which was great. The filling was perfectly seasoned, and the Boudin link had a charred snap. However, Jerry upped the ante by suggesting we try the stand’s “Red Dawg,” a Boudin dog topped with pulled pork and a tomato-based BBQ sauce. The pulled pork was a great addition, and contributed even more to the ultimate late night pig out!

Southern Dawg

Southern Dawg photo by digbatonrouge.com

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The Best Po’Boy in New Orleans: Parkway Bakery and Tavern

Parkway Bakery and Tavern
538 Hagan Ave.
New Orleans, LA

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It’s been nearly two years since we first became obsessed with New Orleans’ quintessential local sandwich, the Po’Boy. Though we had heard of them before coming to Louisiana, and they are available at a few Southern spots in Chicago, our first real experience with Po’Boys in NOLA was in November 2011 at the Oak Street Po’Boy festival. That day we tried a bunch of different sandwiches, but our Po’Boy from Parkway Bakery and Tavern was among our favorite samples. We think of the festival as a pretty formative experience, and we even had a paper Parkway Bakery hat we kept as a souvenir. Though we won’t make it back to the Fest again this year, we were lucky enough to spend a day in New Orleans on our Louisiana tour, and made it a priority to seek out Parkway’s on-site offerings, widely claimed to be the best and city, produced in a restaurant and which claims to be the place where the Po’Boy sandwich originated

A Po’Boy sandwich (short for Poor Boy) consists of a particular type of French roll, with a crusty exterior and soft interior, filled (traditionally) with fried fish or seafood (we are partial to fried shrimp) and “dressed” with mayo, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles. As we learned at the Po’Boy fest, the term really encompasses a wide range of sandwiches, and the filling could truly be anything you have a taste for. Parkway in Mid City, is (thankfully) far off the tourist track, though it is certainly a popular place with locals from all walks of life. When you walk into Parkway Tavern you are first greeted by an unassuming bar and a handful of tall table. However, you can either order at the bar or at the walk-up counter and then wait for a place at a communal table either indoors or outdoors.

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Parkway has a pretty extensive menu of Po’Boys, including fried shrimp, fried oyster, fried catfish, fried sweet potato (for the vegetarians among us), BBQ beef, and many more. There are non-Po’Boy options available, but we question both the sanity and taste level of those who order them. Wanting to be traditionalists on this day, we opted for the classic fried shrimp Po’Boy while M’s dad went eclectic and got a “Surf ‘N Turf,” a combo of shrimp and roast beef, considered a Parkway specialty and client favorite. We placed our order and the counter and waited patiently for our name to be called. A few minutes (which seemed like an eternity) later we were delivered our picture-perfect Po’Boys – see proof below.

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The Parkway Po’Boy is truly a thing of beauty. The key to a good Po’Boy is the combination of ingredients on the crusty bread, and at Parkway, everything seemed to work in perfect harmony. The chefs care as well: even given the very high output, this was our first experience with the men behind the counter carefully double-checking our order to make sure they got everything right. And did they: the shrimp we freshly fried (turnover would seem to guarantee that), the portion was more than generous, and the toppings balanced the sandwich perfectly. We all opted for the “regular” size Po’Boys, which was more than enough: though it may be possible for a single person to finish a “large,” we wouldn’t recommend it. If you are extra-hungry there are Zapp’s potato chips and a few desserts, too. If we lived in New Orleans we know this would be one of our favorite spots. Though we always have more places to try, we can’t help but agree with the locals: The Best Po’Boys in NOLA in an unpretentious, local spot for a great price. We’ll have to make the pilgrimage every year.

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Our Louisiana Adventure

The area around Lafitte, LA (seen by airboat

The area around Lafitte, LA (seen by airboat)

Last weekend we had the good fortune to visit M’s dad in Louisiana – where we had a fun time exploring Baton Rouge, Cajun Country, and even spending a day in New Orleans. We had a lot of fun seeing the sights and eating as much as we could, from every type of cuisine available (including some tasty grub at an extravagant LSU tailgate). In the next few weeks we’ll be talking about some of the places we were fortunate enough to visit, thanks to recommendations from friends, family and even ETW readers. In the mean time, here are the stops we made on our food journey:

  • Southern Dawgz, Baton Rouge
  • Chelsea’s, Baton Rouge
  • Tsunami, Baton Rouge
  • Parkway Bakery and Tavern, New Orleans
  • Cafe du Monde, New Orleans
  • Roberto’s River Road Resataurant, Sunshine, LA
  • The Cabin, Burnside, LA

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Southern Comfort in Baton Rouge

Greetings from Baton Rouge

We’re on the road again, it’s time for our first trip since Brazil. And this time it’s someplace completely different: Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We’re catching an LSU game and we plan to take in all of the Creole and Cajun food we can find in that short time. We’d love to hear your recommendations. Any favorite spots?

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Beignets and Chicory Coffee at Cafe du Monde

Cafe du Monde
800 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA

There are some places that are tourist draws for a reason – and still manage to turn out good food even with the constant onslaught of crowds. Cafe du Monde is one of those places. Since 1862, Cafe du Monde has been turning out world-famous beignets with cups of trademark chicory coffee. You can wither choose to sit in the historic open-air tent or take your coffee and beignets to go. Either way, expect a line, even though CdM is open 24h!

A beignet is really nothing more than a fried piece of dough, doused with a heaping helping of powdered sugar; however, like the descriptions of many of our favorite baked goods, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Chicory coffee, again deceptively simple, is basically a strong coffee blend mixed with chicory root. It is a pretty divisive topic – people either love it or don’t get its appeal, I think I am a fan so far (though M doesn’t drink coffee so his verdict is still out).

We arrived at Cafe du Monde on a pleasant fall day, and decided to enjoy our treats in nearby Jackson Park – so we headed straight for the takeout line. The line went pretty rapidly (an order or two of beignets seemed to pretty much be the standard order) and the cashier was hyper-efficient (as the cashiers at this type of high-volume operation tend to be). Within a minute or two we were out – a small pack of three beignets and a cup of chicory coffee in our possession. The beignets especially were amazing, totally fresh and way more delicious than they needed to be. Moreover – we were covered in clouds of powdered sugar for the next few hours. The pigeons of Jackson Park enjoyed the powdered sugar even more than we did, however. We’d love to try to make beignets someday, but I think we’d prefer a return trip to New Orleans.

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