Eating my way around Southwest and Southeast Louisiana was about much more than I thought it would be. Sure, I had plenty of traditional foods in the Cajun food center of the state, but I also experienced new and innovative bites that were completely unexpected. Working with the Louisiana Tourism Promotion Association and Louisiana’s Culinary Trails program, I sampled some of the best foods that Lake Charles, Lafayette and Baton Rouge has to offer, but of everything I had the great opportunity to sink my teeth into, these six bites were my favorite food moments traveling around these beautiful areas of Louisiana.
If you’ve never enjoyed these meaty treats, then you don’t know what you’re missing. Visiting the small B&O Kitchen and Grocery in Sulphur, Louisiana – just outside of Lake Charles – I was there to try their famous boudin, but I quickly learned that not only are their cracklins just as well known, they taste just as great. So what are they? Cracklins are pretty simple really, pork fat with skin that’s fried to within an inch of its life and then salted. Sold by the bag, these treats are delicious and as I discovered, somewhat addictive.
Restaurant Calla dinner
Chef David Sorrells has an impressive culinary resume, but his new restaurant in Lake Charles surely must be his most noteworthy achievement. Bringing relatable, comfortable fine dining to an area not used to it, he’s broken through and won acclaim and popularity through his unique twist on small plates, using local ingredients and flavor combinations to create a special form of Louisiana tapas. Sweet potato chips, veal sweetbread nuggets, bone marrow, South Texas antelope and one of the best charcuterie boards I’ve ever enjoyed all came together to create a perfect evening of laughter, good food and a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Restaurant Calla features smart food prepared expertly, but without pretentiousness, instead the menu and staff are inviting and welcoming, just what any great restaurant should be about.
Perfect glazed donut
I’ve never met anyone who knows as much about donuts as the owners of the small but locally cherished bakery, Delicious Donuts in Lake Charles. It was a Saturday morning when I squeezed through the door, the small shop doing a fierce business on one of its most popular days of the week. Immediately I could see why. The sugary smells of freshly made donuts filled the air and in the display cases were any number of donuts ranging from basic glazed to more festive versions. I have eaten a lot of donuts in my life, but after taking my first bite into the glazed donut at Delicious Donuts I knew it was something special. A proper yeast donut should have a light ring around the middle and melt in your mouth almost immediately. Spending years baking and studying donuts around the country, the owners here have done something I thought impossible – they have created the perfect donut. It was all I could do to keep myself from eating the entire batch and that one bite was so good, I honestly can’t stop thinking about it.
Sweet Baby Breesus
Lafayette is known as one of America’s top foodie small towns, and a big reason for that praise is thanks to Chef Justin Girouard and his downtown restaurant The French Press. Beard nominee Girouard has created menus that are fun and flavorful blends of Cajun and American cuisine. What people travel far and wide for though is The French Press breakfast, or brunch depending on how late you want to sleep in. The menu is clever and I found myself wishing I could order multiple dishes – almost everything sounded amazing. One bite more than anything though has stayed with me even weeks later – the Sweet Baby Breesus. A nod to the state’s football star, the Sweet Baby Breesus is made using three buttermilk biscuit sliders with bacon, fried boudin balls and Steen’s cane syrup. When served with cheddar grits, not only is it delicious, but it’s a great rendition of local ingredients and traditional tastes, just in a different way.
Without a doubt, Tiger Deaux-nuts is the most innovative bakery in Baton Rouge, creating delicious flavor combinations like bacon-maple, apple pie and even vanilla jalapeño. Under the direction of owner Jeff Herman, the donut shop is the best in town, with every donut delicately topped individually instead of en masse with a thick glaze. While I certainly enjoyed the many donuts at this remarkable bakery, it was their breakfast sandwich that ultimately won over my taste buds. Herman developed his Boudin Egg and Cheese Sandwich over the course of many variations, experimenting until he hit on the perfect recipe. It starts with his own homemade boudin, which is grilled on the flattop along with non-glazed donut bread. He them fries up some eggs, leaving the yolks runny, adds some cheese and a little bit of maple glaze for sweetness and the result is one of the most unique breakfast sandwiches you’ll ever try.
Since I have a fierce sweet tooth, a stop at yet another bakery in Baton Rouge was inevitable, but Cupcake Allie isn’t your average cupcake shop. Shop owner Allison Offner Bookman is a designer by trade, which is probably why her cupcakes are amongst the most visually stunning I’ve ever seen – something I noticed right away in her bright and colorful shop. She calls herself an experimenter, always tinkering with new recipes and taking on culinary challenges that result in savory as well as sweet flavor combinations. One of her most popular cupcakes though was also mine, the Pecan Pie Cupcake. Taking a bite it didn’t have the consistency of a normal cupcake; instead it truly was like trying a piece of great pecan pie. Gooey, sweet and incredibly memorable, this is yet another morsel that has me considering traveling down to Baton Rouge more often to eat if for no other reason.