Monday, November 10, 2014

A Day in Acadiana

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
 
- Thru the Heart of Cajun Country

I finally made it to one of my most coveted food regions last month. One of my best friends is getting married and his bachelor party was in New Orleans. While most people were flying in Friday afternoon, myself and another friend flew in Thursday. Upon landing I picked up a rental car and drove myself around to lots of food stops while waiting for him to get in later that evening. We'd spend Thursday night eating and drinking in Nola before sleeping off a few hours until around 7a Friday morning when we awoke for a daytrip to Cajun Country.

Attack of the Giant Crawfish!

The ride to Lafayette from New Orleans is two hours, although it took longer on the way back in with lots of rush hour traffic near the bridge over the Mississippi in Baton Rouge. This gave us a good four hours to eat. That said I feel like I barely scratched the surface as I only made it to maybe a third of the spots I had listed. Though you know you were doing damage when Chase bank calls wondering if your card has been stolen due to the fact it was being used continuously at many food stops in different towns. I feel like this is one of the must eat regions of food travel. The south is loaded with traditions in the kitchen and lots of culture outside of it, one of the richest trails resides right here. Crawfish season was not in swing so instead I focused in on boudin.

Fresh Seafood available for sale everywhere

"What is boudin? Great question! Boudin (Pronounced Boo-Dan) is one of most unique, tasty and distinctly uncorrupted regional specialties in America. Basically, boudin is a combination of cooked rice, pork, liver, onions, green peppers, and seasonings. The mixture is pulverized (to some degree) in a meat grinder before being stuffed into a sausage casing. It is then steamed--or otherwise heated--for on-the-spot snacking. Ahh, but these are truly just the basics. Folks around here are passionate about their boudin, and each recipe is a variation on the foundational ingredients. The devotion to boudin results in innumerable other uses, recipe tweaks, or preparations for the meat and rice mixture. Boudin Balls, Smoked Boudin, or Seafood are just a few of the variations you’re likely to find." - From the Cajun Boudin Trail Website. Away we go.
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Poche's Meat Market

Breaux Bridge, LA

One of the most well known stops in the area, this place has been featured in everything from roadfood to Saveur. They've been serving up authentic Cajun cuisine and meats since 1962.

"Everything on the hog is good. From the rooter to the tooter."

Tons to choose from...

The Cafeteria in back

Breaux Bridge is considered the crawfish capitol of the world, thus they eat it all year long. When it's not in-season the main form of consuming it is in etouffee and other stews. This would be one of the specials on the cafeteria board on my visit thus I knew what I was getting. First off though was the crawfish boudin which I thought was just ok. I'm not a big fan of seafood sausage. The etouffee did nothing short of amaze, had I not stopped in at the next place it would of been the best I ever had. Loaded with real Louisiana crawfish and served with both a crawfish dressing and also traditional rice dressing on the side, I wish this was available regularly to me. Nothing like it in Chicago.

Crawfish Etouffee
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Glenda's Creole Kitchen

Breaux Bridge, LA

Next stop is a short two minute ride from the last stop. I've wanted to visit Glenda's Creole Kitchen since I first read up on it over at Roadfood. So it's been on my to get-too list for some time.

an ode to the local legend

Glenda's serves good old fashioned home cooked meals that will bring you back to another time, before Zatarain's instant jambalaya came to town. Every dish is cooked using only the best local ingredients. Nothing frozen here folks. In fact when we first got there around opening time they hadn't unlocked the door and we almost missed them, luckily the lady peeling fresh potatoes for tomorrow came running out and yelled us down that they were open. Lucky me because this might of been my favorite meal from the five days I was down in Louisiana. First up was the fresh made tea. I'm not a big sweet drinker, rarely drink pop and prefer my tea unsweetened. However I felt it was my civic duty to order a homemade peach tea and damn me if it wasn't the most refreshing drink I could of asked for on a 90 degree day where the temperature was still climbing.

Fresh Made Teas

As for the food, this was a tough call. Just like at Poche's they had a "stew" this one made with pork that looked like it had all sorts of flavors packed into it, it was calling my name but I quickly pointed out to myself that we weren't far from the Gulf and this isn't always the case. We did a combo plate of their crawfish etouffee and the crab stew. Man oh man, I would walk 100 miles thru the impending polar vortex for this...in my underwear nonetheless. Their etouffee was much darker than Poche's and because of this it had some insane depth as far as flavor. Plump crawfish tales with some potent sauce made from seafood broth which was also noticed in the crab stew. I live in one of the great eating cities in all of the world yet I'm envious of the folks that get to stop into here and order some home cooked Creole food via the drive thru as if it's just another lunch. Great place.

Crawfish Etouffee + Shrimp and Crab Stew
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Charlie-T's Specialty Meats

 Breaux Bridge, LA

We drove past this place twice as it sits in an old rundown pink building that looks as though it may be vacant. By the time we were paying up, a lunch rush of about 20 blue collar workers came in for some food. Much like Chicagoan's with beefs and hot dogs, each local from around this way has a different place they say makes the best boudin. All I did was list each and everyone of them and then narrow them down based on location, allowing me to get to as many as I can. Another plus is the fact you can buy as many links as want. As seen in the pic up above many of these spots sell the boudin ready to eat from rice cookers where it sits in warm water until ordered. Charlie-T's makes it's traditional recipe as well as a chicken based one.

Pork and Chicken Boudin

The first time I ever tried boudin I didn't know you were supposed to take it out of the casing. It was also some mail ordered stuff that was previously frozen leading me to believe it was like eating a Chicago pizza from the freezer. So I was excited to both try the real stuff and eat it the proper way while doing so. You squeeze the mixture out and can eat it as is or throw it on some crackers or a sandwich as you'll soon see. Upon my first bite of Charlie's boudin I knew I was eating the real thing and I knew I loved it. Spicier than the rest this was a fine example. I didn't care for the chicken one as much, like most other chicken sausages I've tried it was a tad too dry for my liking.

Chicken Boudin
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Johnson's Boucaniere

Lafayette, LA

There's lots of food stops to choose from in the Cajun Capitol so I had some tough choices to make. My plan was to hit as many stops as possible and in doing so going to the quick counter service establishments that many locals frequent for lunch. This was obviously one as there was a nice ongoing crowd coming in one by one. The family behind the counter seemed to know most of them and with it had a hankering that I wasn't from around there, ok maybe the fact I was taking pictures is what gave it away. I told them our deal and they were ecstatic to have us.

Menu on the Wall

Many of the recipes here have been used since the early 1900's. They became a local legend starting in 1937 when they were using these recipes at the world-famous Johnson's Grocery located in Eunice, Louisiana. It's there that many say was one of the first spots in the country to sell boudin. Obviously this was in-store but one of the newer food crazes in the area was too. Grilled cheese spread with boudin is popping up at lots of spots and Johnson's was said to have one of the best. It seemed like every other order had a Parrain sandwich included and once I tried mine I understood why. The melted cheese mashed up with their legendary boudin in between a smashed/toasted bun was all that and then some.

Parrain Sandwich (Boudin Grilled Cheese w/ a side of BBQ sauce)

The boudin was also a big winner. I thought it was the best of the bunch we tried. The casing had that snap that you could hear upon breaking. Inside was the original blend of pork/rice/liver that was served in Eunice way back when. I noticed extra bits of green onion which I'll always welcome and tasted them mixed in. Mardi Gras in my mouth.

My favorite boudin of the day, loaded with green onion
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Billy's Boudin & Cracklins

Scott, LA

Next town up! That would be Scott, Louisiana aka the "Boudin Capitol of the World" as there's a handful of longstanding shops in this town of 8,000 which hosts their annual Boudin Festival each April. I'd read up on Billy's which one article mentioned as a relatively newcomer to the boudin game. They could of fooled me as the wait was a good 20 people deep. Truth be told, stopping here cost me a couple other stops as we waited a good thirty minutes for the food, but how could I not? None of the other places had a line like this.

Waiting in line

Happily for me it lived up to the hype. This is your spot for some amazing Cajun snacks starting with both the namesake boudin and cracklins. Aside from their original recipe they also offer a smoked boudin which was mesmerizing in it's own rights. I enjoyed both immensely but it's the other snack from here I'll remember most.

Regular (L) and Smoked (R) Boudin

You'll see boudin balls sold at most every stop in town, they're made by molding some boudin into a ball and breading it before a trip to the deep fryer. Don't eat any of them without trying Billy's recipe first. Once you have one of his you wont want to waste the calories on any other. Here they're about double in size than the other spots thus double in price. They come with a surprise treat inside. Melted pepperjack cheese takes these to the podium. Also insanely good for a quick bite were their personal crawfish pies, another common Acadian snack. The cracklins? As good as they get. Made fresh throughout the day these were still warm when I first tried them so instead of tasting like a crunchy snack ala pork rinds out of the bag, these were more like something found on the snack section of a trendy cocktail spot, both crispy and juicy. Mouthwatering.

Crawfish Pie and Pepperjack Stuffed Boudin Ball

Image Image
The insides

CRACKlins
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Don's Specialty Meats

Scott, LA

Don's is the big boy in town. They sit in a large lot and from what I read there's always cars parked there as traffic inside is non-stop. They double as a full scale butcher and have local spices and seasonings and some other stuff like hunting gear for you to shop for while you grab some boudin and cracklins. We all need a local butcher like this.

a peak inside

Separate Counter for the signature items

My friend thought the boudin from here was the best of the trip and truth be told I loved them all so I was happy to eat this throughout the rest of the weekend as he bought a bunch for the fridge at the bachelor pad. It was greasy in a good way, moist and filled with lots of pork and some green onion to give it a nice color. Rice was separated and plump, nothing mushy about it. I was also told they make a mean Cajun meat pie and agreed with the recommendation. Pretty much the opposite of a pasty as the filling was aggressively seasoned.

Cajun Meat Pie

Don's Homemade Boudin

Excellent Batch
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The Best Stop

Scott, LA

Many of the locally owned supermarkets around town also make and sell their own boudin for customers to snack on. One of the more established stops is known as the Best Stop. They've been at it since 1986 when they first opened in the building pictured up above. Now they have a place next door that's sells all sorts of wonderful Cajun meat treats, I think their tasso might be the best of the three I brought home. The boudin balls were ok, they all were after Billy's, but the boudin was a real pleaser. You can check out this interview with Southern Foodways for more on them.

Boudin and Boudin Balls

14 Time Acadiana Times Readers Choice Winner
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Hebert's Deli

Breaux Bridge, LA

Last stop before heading back to Nola was this place which I spied from the gas station. I had them on my list as they were said to make a really nice boudin, this was true, also talked about was an old Cajun favorite of BBQ tasso with mayo on white bread. I stepped inside and had a chat with the friendly lady behind the counter as she made my sandwich. In doing so I found myself wishing I had more time and getting excited for the day I get a chance to return. I got to alot of spots on my list considering I was only there for four hours, but for every place I made it into there were at least two I didn't get to try. Not to mention all the spots I saw when driving by. See you again soon.

Tasso BBQ Sandwich
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Poche's Market
3015 Main Hwy
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
(337) 332-2108

Glenda's Creole Kitchen
3232 Louisiana 31
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
(337) 332-0294

Charlie-T's Specialty Meats
530 Berard St
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
(337) 332-2426

Johnson's Boucaniere
1111 St John St
Lafayette, LA 70501
(337) 269-8878

Billy's Boudin & Cracklins
523 Apollo Rd
Scott, LA 70583
(337) 232-1114

Don's Specialty Meats
730 I 10 S Frontage Rd
Scott, LA 70583
(337) 234-2585

The Best Stop
615 Louisiana 93
Scott, LA 70583
(337) 233-5805

Hebert's Deli
1101 Grand Pointe Ave
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
(337) 332-6000

3 comments:

Package said...

These places look great!

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