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John Folse Makes Superb Gumbo & More

6 Jan

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Every December, Chef John Folse of Gonzales, LA sends us an amazing assortment of soups, gumbos, and etoufees. This holiday season was no different and we were quite blessed for that.

This December we received some traditional Chicken and Sausage Gumbo and some incredible Crawfish Etoufee. Both dishes were perfectly seasoned and well received by our guests over the holiday season. Even the folks who were not well versed on Bayou cuisine could enjoy and appreciate the true knack John Folse has in the kitchen.

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John Folse’s food empire also includes the Bittersweet Plantation Dairy

We are honored that John is a DixieDining.com sponsor and wish him the very best of luck in the New Year. Read more about John’s unique philosophy below and order up some of his products for your next dinner party or neighborhood “fais do-do” (throwdown).   

THE FOLSE PHILOSOPHY

I was born on Cabanocey Plantation in St. James Parish, Louisiana. Although I didn’t know it at the time, just to be born there made a person part of history. I was by no means part of a great plantation family like the Romans, Cantrelles, Bringiers or Kenners. Quite the contrary, I came at a time when men were land poor. The plantations were gifts from our grandfathers and fathers before, handed down from one generation to another. In many cases, a French Creole or Antebellum mansion was considered an albatross for the family who inherited it. We certainly did not consider it part of a great legacy. My great grandfather, Victorin Zeringue, purchased Cabanocey in the early 1900s. With over 750 acres, he and his wife, Evelie Robert, thought they were destined for greatness. If anything, they were great landowners. They made a good living, and in those days that was a triumph.

Victorin and Evelie went on to have many children, one of them my grandfather, Albert. Albert married Regina Waguespack, and together they produced six more heirs to Cabanocey. One of them, my mother, Therese, married Royley Folse and eight more heirs were born. My mother, father and ancestors before were all good cooks. How could they not be, having been reared in the heart of Cajun country. This area of the United States somehow produces good cooks. There is the Gulf of Mexico with its abundance of salt water seafoods, an array of fresh-water lakes and rivers and of course, the lush, green and tropical swampland. Each of these contributes equally to the bounty that is Cajun and Creole cuisine.

As a Cajun first and a chef second, it’s important to remember that culture is the cuisine of a people. Often, young culinarians search for a base of good cooking while failing to simply look at their own culture and environment. I have come to realize that no cuisine can develop or expand where there isn’t a strong foundation of regional culture and ingredients. We are fortunate, here in Bayou Country, to have the very best gift that God has given anyone in ingredients destined for the pot. My philosophy on cooking is just as simple. Choose first the heritage of your people. Herein lies the spice and flavor of your very palate. Choose secondly the ingredients of your area. Herein lies the uniqueness of your creations.

Lastly, practice simplicity. There is an old jazz saying here in Louisiana, “mo is betta!” In the world of cooking, this is the greatest fallacy. “Simplicity is betta.” The simple flavors are the ones we long for day in and day out. Like all great artists, chefs must create a style that is recognizable. In order to stand out, you should stay true to your roots, stay true to your region and stay true to your heart and soul. But most of all remember simplicity! In the words of Edith Stern, builder of Longue Vue Gardens Plantation in New Orleans, when asked what would be served to a great statesman coming to visit her home, she replied, “The more important the guest, the simpler and more regional the dish.”

Learn more about Folse and his products at www.jfolse.com. I am truly amazed by John’s verve & versatility — the guy is into everything and his energy is obviously boundless. His reach extends to TV, Radio, a highly rated bed & breakfast, a fine dining restaurant, a smokehouse … must I continue??? Let’s just say that John Folse is a modern day Bayou renaissance man. Long may he rule as the “Gumbo King of Louisiana.”

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New Waterfront Dining Spot in Osprey

6 Jan

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This joint recently opened in nearby Osprey, Florida.

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It’s right on the bayfront — great views!

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The setting for outdoor dining is beachy & comfortable

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Menu changes daily with fish specials, wine offerings, etc.

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Sitting on the dock of the bay — almost!

Can’t wait to give ’em a try. We have heard good things.

“The Dirty Dozen” to Buy Organic

6 Jan

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Not all of us can afford to go 100% organic. The solution? Focus on just those foods that come with the heaviest burden of pesticides, chemicals, additives and hormones. Whenever possible, deploy your organic spending power to buy organic versions of the following foods (in no particular order). Can’t find organic versions of these foods? In some cases, we’ve listed safer alternatives that contain similar valuable vitamins and minerals.

1. Meat. Contrary to a widely reported “fact,” meat typically contains less pesticide residue than plant-based foods, according to Debra Edwards, the director of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs.

That said, raising animals with conventional modern methods often means using hormones to speed up growth, antibiotics to resist disease and pesticides to grow the grain fed to the animals. As the EPA puts it in an Ag 101 feature, “Antibiotics, pesticides, and hormones are organic compounds which are used in animal feeding operations and may pose risks if they enter the environment.”

Consumers looking to avoid meats raised with these substances can seek out certified organic meat. To meet USDA standards, this meat can come only from animals fed organic feed and given no hormones or antibiotics.

Publications as varied as the Wall Street Journal, in its 2007 When Buying Organic Makes Sense and When It Doesn’t, and Consumers Union, in its 2006 Tips on Buying Organics Without Breaking the Bank, recommend seeking out organic meats when possible.

2. Milk. Pesticides and other man-made chemicals have been found in human breast milk, so it should come as no surprise that they have been found in dairy products. While any residues detected have been rare, and of low concentration, milk is of special concern because it is a staple of children’s diets.

Organic dairies cannot feed their cows with grains grown with pesticides, nor can they use antibiotics or growth hormones like rGBH or rbST.

3. Coffee. Many of the beans you buy are grown in countries that don’t regulate use of chemicals and pesticides. Look for the Fair Trade Certified Organic label on the coffee package or can; it will give you some assurance that chemicals and pesticides were not used on the plants. It will also mean that fair prices were paid for the end product in support of the farm and that farm workers are treated fairly.

4. Peaches. Multiple pesticides are regularly applied to these delicately skinned fruits in conventional orchards. Can’t find organic? Safe alternatives: watermelon, tangerines, oranges and grapefruit.

5. Apples. Scrubbing and peeling doesn’t eliminate chemical residue completely so it’s best to buy organic when it comes to apples. Peeling a fruit or vegetable also strips away many of their beneficial nutrients. Can’t find organic? Safe alternatives: watermelon, bananas and tangerines.

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6. Sweet bell peppers. Peppers have thin skins that don’t offer much of a barrier to pesticides. They’re often heavily sprayed and victim to pesticides commonly used to keep them insect-free. Can’t find organic? Safe alternatives: green peas, broccoli and cabbage.

7. Celery. Celery has no protective skin, which makes it almost impossible to wash off the chemicals that are used on conventional crops. Can’t find organic? Safe alternatives: broccoli, radishes and onions.

8. Strawberries. If you buy strawberries out of season, they’re most likely imported from countries that use less-stringent regulations for pesticide use. Can’t find organic? Safe alternatives: blueberries, kiwi and pineapples.

9. Lettuces. Leafy greens are frequently contaminated with what are considered the most potent pesticides used on food. Can’t find organic? Safe alternatives: cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

10. Grapes. Imported grapes run a much greater risk of contamination than those grown domestically. Vineyards can be sprayed with different pesticides during different growth periods of the grape, and no amount of washing or peeling will eliminate contamination because of the grape’s thin skin. Can’t find organic? Safe alternatives: blueberries, kiwi and raspberries.

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11. Potatoes. America’s popular spud ranks high for pesticide residue. It also gets the double whammy of fungicides added to the soil for growing. Can’t find organic? Safe alternatives: eggplant, cabbage and earthy mushrooms.

12. Tomatoes. A tomato’s easily punctured skin is no match for chemicals that will eventually permeate it. Can’t find organic? Safe alternatives: green peas, broccoli and asparagus.

If the cost of buying all organics isn’t within your budget, fear not. Check out The Daily Green’s top ten list of fruit and vegetables you don’t need to buy organic, with tips for buying and how to clean, store and use them in delicious recipes.