Tag Archives: Leidenheimer Bakery

Leesburg, Virginia’s Cajun Experience a Very Positive One

1 Nov

I just spent a weekend in Northern Virginia and DC. Celebrated my Dad’s 84th birthday and my Granny Justice’s 100th birthday. I also found time to seek out some good eats. Perhaps the best bite of the trip came to me courtesy of The Cajun Experience — A Taste of South Louisiana. They are located in the heart of historic downtown Leesburg, Virginia.

Leesburg is a quaint little town. Well, not that little anymore. Loudoun County is booming and is now one of the wealthiest and fastest growing areas in the country. But it still has tons of charm. Leesburg is the hub of this scenic part of the Old Dominion. It boasts many fine restaurants — some quite elegant. Yet it’s not exactly a place where you would expect to find authentic Cajun cuisine. Peanut soup, yes. Virginia wine, yes. But boudin? And andouille? Really???

One look at the menu and my expectations were immediately elevated. They use Leidenheimer bread??? Wow, these folks are taking this authenticity thing pretty seriously! They offer a great selection of PoBoys too. I quickly zeroed in on the Hot Pot Roast variety. My brother Bill opted for the Fried Shrimp PoBoy. Neither one of us would regret our choices.  

Beer was the first order of business. It was a weekday, sure. And it was lunchtime. But it was also Friday. Cause enough for us to crack open a couple of cold ones. Louisiana brew is offered and we were accepting. Bill had the Abita Fall Fest. I called for a Jockamo IPA. I sucked mine right out of the chilled bottle. Bill, going for a slightly more sophisticated look,  asked for a glass and was pleasantly surprised when he was presented with a frosty cold mug — straight out of the nearby upright freezer.

The Hot Pot Roast PoBoy arrived hot — and tasted hot. Spicy hot as well as temperature hot. It came with a nice portion of crispy housemade potato chips. The bread was really great, the sauce (sort of a kicked up remoulade) creamy, and the pot roast lean and tender. No chunks of fat, no gristle. Really good. I mean really, really good.

Just take a gander at this sammich. How can you not love this???

Chopped jalapenos, huh? That explains my PoBoy’s spicy punch.

Dessert came in the form of freshly fried beignets showered with lots of powdered sugar. We couldn’t resist pairing the piping hot beignets with a steaming cup of chicory coffee. The beignets are made with the same mix used at New Orleans’ famed Cafe Du Monde. We learned this without asking. A delivery was made while we were dining. They were mighty fine (hard to screw up hot fried dough and powdered sugar). Crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. The coffee was the real deal too. Our younger brother Mark checked in by phone during our lunch and was more than a bit disappointed to learn what he was missing.

This Cajun Experience is an authentic one. I have eaten a lot of Cajun food in my time and this doesn’t take a back seat to many of them. That is particularly impressive given the distance between Leesburg & the murky Bayous of South Louisiana. So do march on in when you can … and let the good times roll.  

THE CAJUN EXPERIENCE – 14 Loudoun Street Southeast, Leesburg, VA

(703) 777-6580; www.cajunexperience.biz

Sunday 12-9 pm; Monday – Friday 11 am – 9 pm

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Stanley & Drago’s – New School New Orleans

22 Aug

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Our SFA friend Sara Roahen tipped us to a French Quarter eatery dubbed “Stanley.” Stanley as in Stanley Kowalski, the Marlon Brando character in the Southern fried cinematic classic, “A Streetcar Named Desire.” We were determined to dine outside our comfort zone of regular Big Easy favorites.

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The gumbo at Stanley was very dark and rich. So dark, in fact, that I almost thought (following the first spoonful) that the roux had been burned. I am happy to report that this was not the case at all. Further tasting resulted in an amazingly complex flavor profile. It was truly excellent, but I really love all things rich, mysterious and spicy. Others may be a little undecided about the almost coffee-like overtone and a pretty potent kick of cayenne.  

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The decor was totally New Orleans. Classy yet quite comfortable.

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The Eggs Stanley was a nice mid-day dish. Canadian bacon over toasted English muffins, topped with perfectly poached eggs, a light (not too thick) Hollandaise sauce, and four large fried oysters.  This tasty mix of flavors and textures had me shouting … “STELLA!!!”  www.stanleyrestaurant.com

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Drago’s is located in the waterfront Hilton hotel, yet it is in no way your typical hotel restaurant. Although I am not sure about the rest of the menu, I can tell you that the chargrilled oysters are nothing short of perfection on the half shell.

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The local oysters are opened and laid directly on the grill. This process delivers a deliciously smoky hint to each briny bi-valve. The oysters are topped with lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, butter, and Lord knows what else. Simply fabulous — one of the best bites of the entire weekend trip.  

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 The accompanying hunk of French bread was superb as well.

I just couldn’t resist asking where it was made.  

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 My answer was on the large brown bags stored at the end of the bar.

Leidenheimer Bakery does make an incredible bread – great for dipping!

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The four of us gouged at and slurped down these babies like it was our last meal on the planet. Sparks flew from the greyish shells, buttery goodness dripped down our chins, an occasional piece of shell was swallowed in the process.

Shear happiness on a plate — get here as soon as you can & tell a friend.

www.dragosrestaurant.com

Po-Boys & Muffulettas – A Brief History

7 Aug

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In preparation for our New Orleans dining adventure, I was doing a little research on some of the city’s culinary traditions. I found these interesting tidbits on the web site for the world famous Leidenheimer Bakery, makes of the finest breads for po-boys and muffulettas.

During the early years of the 20th century, two brothers, Benny and Clovis Martin, migrated to New Orleans from rural Raceland, Louisiana. When the Martins first reached the city, they found employment as streetcar conductors. Later, they opened a sandwich shop near the French Market and made a culinary discovery: if they concocted sandwiches out of the traditional loaf of French bread, with its tapered ends, the resulting sandwiches would vary in size. The solution was relatively simple: the modern, more or less symmetrical po-boy loaf, which could be cut into equal size sandwiches.

As for the name, during the late 1920’s, the New Orleans streetcar conductors went on strike. The Martins vowed to feed their striking brethren for free. When one of the strikers entered their shop, the call went out: “Here comes anther po-boy!”

The ingredients that go on a po-boy are virtually limitless, depending on one’s imagination: hot roast beef with gravy, ham and cheese (known in New Orleans as a “combination”), fried seafood (oysters, shrimp, softshell crabs, catfish), hot sausage, meatballs–even French fries. When the New Orleans po-boy is “dressed,” the reference has nothing to do with fashion: “dressed” in New Orleans nomenclature means that lettuce, tomatoes, and mayonnaise are added. Po-boys are the great equalizers of New Orleans culture, consumed by workingmen, bankers, doctors, lawyers, musicians, Mardi Gras Indian chiefs, and Carnival Kings. What the finest po-boys have in common is bread baked by Leidenheimer, “Good to the last Crumb” since 1896.

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The muffuletta is an Italian-style sandwich invented by Salvatore Lupo in 1906 at Central Grocery in New Orleans’ French Quarter. The origins of the name are vague. Some sources say that it was named after one of Lupo’s best customers: others believe that the name refers to the distinctive round sesame seed-coated bread. What’s unanimous is that the muffuletta is one of the tastiest of all New Orleans culinary creations.

The traditional New Orleans muffuletta is stuffed with ham, salami, various cheeses and marinated olive salad. Muffuletta variations include seafood, turkey, and even a vegetarian version, with grilled eggplant substituted for the meat. The key ingredient is the bread, which has to remain crusty despite the onslaught of melted cheese and olive oil. For this reason, master muffuletta makers demand bread baked by Leidenheimer. www.leidenheimer.com