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Gulf Coast Foodways Organziation is Officially Unveiled

24 Mar

 

Gulf Coast Foodways is a new community of foodies on a mission to preserve and promote the rich culinary culture along the US Gulf Coast through education, events, documentaries, seminars and more. Gulf Coast Foodways will be a member driven organization and we’re currently looking for charter members and sponsors.

How exactly are we going to do all of this, you ask?  Through the development of thematic maps and tours, we can drive food tourism to our region. Through video documentation, we can capture and show off the unique culinary culture of our coast.  Cookbooks and published compilations of local food writings and treasured family recipes will draw attention to the traditional foodways of our area. 

We plan to hold periodic meetings for members to make connections and network. These events will include guest speakers on local topics and you can always count on a good meal or two along the way. Our annual symposium weekend is now in the initial planning stage.  Hotel and restaurant industry members will always benefit from the trails, meetings, and symposiums.

We’d like for you to play a key role in the creation of this tasty “gumbo.” 

 Your annual membership or sponsorship will:

 *Help finance research projects

*Promote food-related businesses along the Gulf Coast

*Document local traditions & businesses preserving them

*Promote and grow food tourism along the Gulf Coast

*Underwrite any necessary administrative costs

 In return, your benefits will include:

 *Bi-annual e-newsletter

*Profile feature on the Gulf Coast Foodways blog: www.gulfcoastfoodways.wordpress.com 

*10% off all Gulf Coast Foodways event registration

*Priority registration for events

*Discounts at participating restaurants/shops

 We urge you to join this worthy cause today.

Contact Eileen or Gary Saunders at gulfcoastfoodways@yahoo.com.

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Chicago Finally Returns the Favor to Mississippi

9 Dec

A mass migration from Mississippi once brought the Blues to Chicago. All these years later, the Windy City has at last repaid the Magnolia State by giving them Lil’ Italy. Lil’ Italy, serving authentic Chicago Italian food, is located just off I-10 in Ocean Springs, MS. My good friend Lloyd Hebert lives nearby and has been raving about the place for several months now.

It was a cold, blustery Chicago-style day along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Lil’ Italy does not offer any kind of inside, temperature controlled seating. But Lloyd and I have both spent a good bit of time in Illinois and we were not to be denied this day.

The traditional Chicago Italian Beef sandwich is obviously the star of the show at Lil’ Italy. The warm, slightly spicy sliced beef was a perfect foil for the winter chill. The hot green peppers also added a fiery kick in the pants. The accompanying fries weren’t bad — but the beef was without question the first order of business.   

Chicago-style Hot Dog (above) — fully dressed with neon green relish. It’s a unique flavor combo of wiener, chopped onion, mustard, sliced tomato, dill pickle slices and, of course, the poppy seed bun. It’s probably a good thing we weren’t being drug tested on this day. Cholesterol too, right?

“Gyro Gyro Gyro!” They make a good one at Lil’ Italy. Tony, the friendly owner, brought one out for us to try — on the house. What a guy! It was very tasty. The meat was fresh and appropriately seasoned. The yogurt-based sauce just right.

www.lilitaly.netDrop by and tell Tony that DixieDining sent you!

Lloyd also took time to run me over to another of his favorite haunts. Burger Burger may be redundant, but this place is legendary in these parts. The historic joint changed it’s location about a decade back, yet it still retains the ambiance and warmth you woud expect.

The entry at Burger Burger has an old school, neighborhood tavern feel.

I still had enough room in my belly for a nice slice of Apple-Raisin pie. Lloyd had some dessert too. A burger was out of the question after our all-out assault at Lil’ Italy. My pie was an excellent choice. It was served warm and I didn’t even have to ask. Gotta love that. The crust was flaky and the pie’s interior was an ideal blend of chunky apples and fat, juicy raisins. It tasted of home and the holidays.

The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi is a hot new tourist draw. We took a break from all the eating and spent an hour or so checking out the museum’s latest exhibits. George Ohr was widely known as “The Mad Potter of Biloxi” and his works receive due reverance here.

This image of George Ohr (above) is almost as iconic as his pottery works.

The museum was featuring a colorful collection of Warhol lithographs. Subjects included the likes of Geronimo, Howdy Doody, Mick Jagger and John Wayne. How’s that for a foursome? Lloyd tells me the new museum — a very costly project — has drawn a great deal of criticism from many locals. Especially in light of the recent economic woes driven by Katrina and the BP oil mess.

Talk about someone having a big head!

The steps that lead to — nowhere. Well, it’s fun to look at! Lloyd snapped this image of me as we climbed this eye-catching stairwell. We anticipated it leading to another art exhibit, but it just led us to an small, open-air terrace and an elevator to take us back down to earth. Strange, yes, but the terrace does offer some sweeping views of the Gulf of Mexico.

This out building on the museum grounds was decidedly less contemporary.

Admission is $10 for adults. Discounts are offered for seniors, vets and children.

www.georgeohr.org

Divine Bakery Treats in the Heart of Cajun Country

17 Nov

Keller’s Bakery is a morning “must-do” in downtown Lafayette, LA.

Even the paper bags are old school at Keller’s Bakery.

Keller’s shows their support for the UL-L Ragin’ Cajuns football team.

These unique Walnut Macaroons immediately caught my eye. Deee-lish!

Nothing like a nutty macaroon and a cup o’ cafe chaud!

LeJeune’s Bakery (circa 1884) is a landmark in Jeanerette.

LeJeune supplies much of the bread for the surrounding community.

The Jeanerette locals like to meet and eat at The Yellow Bowl.

Bread pudding is a popular treat at eateries throughout the region.  

Told ya they were a historic landmark!

The most exquisite pastries were found at Lafayette’s Poupart’s Bakery.

http://www.poupartsbakery.com/

The Bon Creole Lunch Counter on the outskirts of New Iberia, Louisiana

17 Nov

Yeah, I know, it doesn’t look like much from the outside.

The good news and the bad news.

Enough Po-Boy choices to make your head spin like Linda Blair.

My shrimp po-boy was fully loaded with crispy fried cocktail shrimp.

It was real good — but could have been even better with grown up shrimp.

The Original Don’s Seafood & Steakhouse in Downtown Lafayette, LA

17 Nov

Don’s Seafood is a longtime fixture on the Lafayette dining scene.

You gotta love the vintage neon, right?

The Italian salad dressing at Don’s was not your typical Wishbone variety.

The gator bites were fried up to crispy, crunchy perfection. Chomp! 

My son Austin ordered the fried catfish bites. I couldn’t resist either!

Don’s famous crawfish bisque was chock full of briny surprises.

Sweet tater fries are always welcome — these especially so.

www.donsdowntown.com

Touring Steamy New Iberia, Louisiana

17 Nov

Shadows on the Teche is a major tourist draw in downtown New Iberia.

Oaks dripping with Spanish moss only add to the mansion’s mystique.

www.shadowsontheteche.org

I am a total sucker for old movie houses like “The Evangeline.”

Novelist James Lee Burke is a breakfast regular at this great little joint.

www.fivelilcajuns.com

A Backup Muffaletta Plan in New Orleans’ French Quarter

15 Nov

In the past, I had always headed straight for Central Grocery when I was craving a muffaletta in New Orleans. Their overstuffed sandwich is mighty, meaty, and legendary. Frank’s Restaurant is located just a couple doors down — in the shadows of the old French Market and Cafe Du Monde. Central Grocery, our old standby, happened to be closed the day we stopped by. Bummer! Undeterred, we plowed ahead towards Frank’s place. I had seen them recently on a Food Network feature, so I knew the muffaletta would get the job done — and it did.  

A rainy morning had given way to a muggy afternoon in The Big Easy.

A close-up look at Frank’s Muffaletta (above) – it’s a thing of beauty that feeds a family of 4 or two hungry adults  for about $12. My son Travis (a true gourmet at the ripe old age of 14) commented that Frank’s meat/bread ratio was slightly bread heavy compared to Central Grocery. You know something? He was right on the money.  However, Frank’s makes a pretty darn good Italian sandwich and I was just happy to get my fix of deli meats, crusty bread and pickled olive salad that late Sunday afternoon.

The hometown Saints were on the tube above the bar and things were not exactly going well. The manager bellowed “Your Daddy’s Saints are back, y’all” as the Super Bowl champs went down in flames to the lowly Cleveland Browns. The full house of diners at Frank’s seemed distraught, yet how upset could I get with a belly full of muffaletta?

We even picked up a large (32 oz.) jar of Frank’s olive spread to take home with us. Our waitress gestured towards a small dining table near the door as we made our exit. I discretely glanced over and spotted none other than Joseph Gannoscoli, who played Vito Spatofore in the HBO series, “The Soprano’s.” Pretty cool, huh? 

Touring the Tabasco Hot Sauce Factory and Scenic Avery Island, Louisiana

15 Nov

Entry to the world famous Tabasco Plant on sleepy Avery Island, Louisiana.

Some of the stunning scenery we enjoyed on our recent visit to Avery Island.

The brick facade of the Tabasco plant — looks a bit like a military stockade.

We toured on a Saturday afternoon, so the bottling plant was not in operation.

Eileen and the boys enjoying the tour & learning more about Scoville Units.

The company store truly does offer all things Tabasco — bring lots of $$$!

These former oak bourbon barrels are used to age the spicy red pepper mash.

Interesting choice of bait, huh?

You can even try Tabasco ice cream — sweet & smooth with a fiery finish!

Avery Island is home to a massive salt dome — first discovered back in 1862.

www.tabasco.com

Another interesting tour nearby is the Konriko Rice Mill …

The Koriko (Conrad Rice Company) mill is technically in New Iberia, LA.

Konriko’s rice (stored in the above silo) has a fresh, nutty taste.

These rustic sacks of Konriko pecan rice make for great take-home gifts.

www.konriko.com

Louisiana’s Sugar Cane Country

15 Nov

 Louisiana is home to Cajuns, Gators, Saints and … SUGAR CANE!!!

Fields of sugar cane are a frequent sight in these parts.

A sugar cane processing plant we happened upon near Jeanerette, LA.

Spent sugar cane stalks are seen spilling out just to the right of the red truck.

Truck beds loaded with spent cane stalks preparing to head out.

Steen’s makes perhaps the best — and best known —100% LA Cane Syrup.

Steen’s bottling plant in Abbeville is a surprisingly small operation.

This is where all the magic happens – Steen’s is simply the best!

www.steensyrup.com

Abbeville is also famous for oysters – Dupuy’s is a pretty popular spot.

Our favorite Abbeville bivalve slurping spot is Black’s Oyster Bar.

Fresh Topless Salty Oysters – need I say more???

Sampling Some of the Best Boudin in Louisiana’s Cajun Country

31 Oct

The first place I hit on this most recent trip was Don’s Specialty Meats in Scott, LA (on I-10 just west of Lafayette). This is not to be confused with the more well-known regional chain of Don’s Seafood restaurants. Don’s boudin (a traditional Acadian rice/meat stuffed sausage) is very highly rated by folks in the know (like The Boudin Link – www.boudinlink.com). We found it tasty — and quite spicy — but certainly not the best of the lot. The flaw we found with this particular link was the presence of rather large chunks of fat and gristle. We may have just gotten a bad batch, but it did negatively impact our first impression. Don’t worry, Don. We are willing to give you another shot sometime down the road. Take an online visit if you’d like at www.donsspecialtymeats.com.

Boudin is best when it’s served steaming hot out of the crock pot

Get your hog lard by the gallon for just $4.99 at Don’s!

Johnson’s Boucaniere in Lafayette provided us with perhaps the best taste of boudin on our recent visit. It was lean with just the right amount of spice. A little less fiery than Don’s, Johnson’s boudin recipe was perfected in nearby Eunice, LA at the now-departed Johnson’s Grocery. The legendary Eunice location closed after decades of service to the Cajun community. We’re just thankful that family members decided to continue on with the tradition in Lafayette. It apparently happened when Lori Wall’s (the daughter of the grocery’s owners) couldn’t find any decent Cajun meat products once the original Eunice store shut its doors for good.  Lori was recently quoted as saying, “When I make sausage at the house, my Dad’s there every time.”  www.johnsonsboucaniere.com

Mello Joy is a popular local brand of java served at Johnson’s

Lori Walls weighs our steaming hot link of boudin at Johnson’s

Lori’s husband Greg shows off the smokers out back at Johnson’s

“Home of Deboned Chickens” and amazing beef jerky & meat pies!

Hebert’s Specialty Meats in little Maurice, LA appears to be a larger, more diverse meat shop. They are said to do a solid mail order business and have locations as far flung as Houston, TX. Deboned Chickens are their specialty, but don’t let that fool you. Their housemade boudin is mellow and first rate — lacking in mouth-scorching spice yet packing plenty of savory flavor. Even better is their homemade beef jerky (coated with a somewhat magical dusting of sugar/spice). We also found Hebert’s Louisiana Meat Pies to be the best we’ve sampled this side of Natchitoches. Order up a few today at www.hebertsmeats.com.

Richard’s (pronounced “Reee-shards”) in mighty Abbeville, LA

We traveled on to Abbeville — primarily to visit the Stein’s Cane Syrup facility. Richard’s Seafood Patio is a popular gathering spot for locals here. It was too early on a Saturday morning for the patio to be open, so we settled for another taste of boudin at Richard’s Meat Market. The stop proved to be a worthwhile venture, although I wished that we could stick around longer for a dozen oysters at Black’s or Dupuy’s Oyster Bars. This town sure knows how to eat! I can’t give you a dining review of either oyster house, although I will add that Black’s appeared to be the cleaner and more appealing of the two options.

This trip yielded so many memorable culinary experiences. More than can be documented in just a single blog or two. Stay tuned for much more — coming to a computer near you over the next few days. Patience, my friends!