has become popular all over the country now, You see "Cajun
this," "Cajun that" and even "Cajun peanuts" at roadside stands
all over Florida and Georgia but the best place to find
authentic Cajun food still is in the heart of Cajun county.
visited Lake Charles, Houma
and the Cajun Coast with Travel Media Showcase and found my own
culinary treasures there.
We started off our Cajun
dining at the opening night reception for us journalists by the
Lake Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau held at The Brick
House. They are a catering company that did themselves proud
with local favorites. A sampling of our menu consisted of
Petite Crawfish Pies, Chicken
and Sausage Gumbo with Rice, Creole Corn Maque Chaux, Cracklins,
Smoked Sausage Bites and of course, Boudin Links and Boudin
|Gumbeaux Gator greets us at the
WWe had a few celebrities like Gumbeaux
Gator, some Contraband Days Buccaneers, a few Mardi Gras
Revelers and Louisiana's Lt.
Governor Jay Dardenne. Gumbeaux Garor just pranced around and
waved to greet us, Those Buccaneers
and Mardi Gras Revelers helps us "pass a good time" but Lt.
Governor Dardenne stole the show. He proved to be no slouch on
the dance floor and held his own with all of us journalists that
got on the floor with him. When Lil' Wayne and
Same Ole Two Step began fiddling out some Zydeco
music, that dance floor
was a really fun place. There is a slight difference between
Zydeco and Cajun bands. You'll hear accordions, fiddles and
occasionally steel guitars in Cajun groups, in Zydeco bands
there'll be accordions and rubboards instead.
The following night, the CVB did it all over again and stuffed
us with Cajun food at the Lake Charles Civic Center. They had a
real Fais Do Do with Chris
Miller & Bayou Roots. Man, those guys can do a mean version of
"Don't Mess With My Toot Toot." We stuffed ourselves once again
with some of the best seafood you ever tasted including
boiled crabs, jambalaya, shrimp and so much more.
|Chris Miller & Bayou Roots/td>
Along with the strong seafood bias in
Cajun food, you will see a lot of smoked meats. Both relate to
the face that Cajun food was a food of the poorer people of
Louisiana. Seafood is plentiful and easily caught here. Smoking
was one of the earliest way of preserving food before
refrigeration. It has become a staple in this area.
"We smoke anything that doesn't smoke
us. Pork chops, deer, beef and pork sausage, turkey wings,
rabbit, chicken and even boudin," says Dwight Billedeaux, owner
of Billedeaux's Cajun Kitchen located at 2633 Fruge St., in Lake
Megan Hartman, senior marketing manager
for Lake Charles/SWLA Convention & Visitors Bureau, told me this
regarding food in Louisiana's Outback, "In Calcasieu
Parish—known as the focal point of Louisiana's Outback—eating is
serious business, but visitors will find that fun and enjoyment
is stirred into the process. Beginning in January and February
with Mardi Gras and ending in December with Christmas festivals,
an endless buffet of Cajun and Creole dishes are prepared."
Here is a list of Lake Charles and
Calcasieu Parish food related festivals:
January: Martin Luther King Festival in Lake Charles includes
February: Mardi Gras in all cities and include food
Iowa Rabbit Festival, Iowa.
Westlake Family Food and Fun Festival, Westlake.
Contraband Days Pirate Festival with eating competitions and
cook-offs, Lake Charles; Starks Mayhaw Festival, Starks.
Juneteenth Festival, Lake Charles, barbecue cook-off.
Cajun French Music and Food Festival, Lake Charles.
October: Calcasieu-Cameron Fair, Sulphur.
December: Southwest Louisiana Christmas Lighting Festival.
HHere are a couple of "real" Cajun
restaurants you may want to visit.
|Shrimp Arcadiana at Cafe Bayou
After the showcase ended we headed off
on our post tour of Houma and the Cajun Coast. We started out in
St. Mary Parish and had our first sampling of Cajun food for
lunch at Cafe Bayou in
Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel. I had the Shrimp Arcadiana, a
delicious concoction of six huge shrimp baked in a crabmeat
dressing and topped with mozzarella cheese. It came with fries
and native style corn.
Other Cajun offerings on the menu were The Cochon, a
pulled pork sandwich topped with homemade boudin, Catfish, Fried
Shrimp or Shrimp Etouffee.
While not your typical Cajun restaurant,
Cafe Bayou offers great Cajun choices as well burgers, steaks
and other choices in an
upscale setting. (For more about Cafe Bayou
aand the casino owned by the Chitimacha. click here)
Boudreau and Thibodeau's
and Thibodaux's stuffed 'gator
As soon as you step through the door of
Boudreau and Thibodaux's, you know you are in Cajun Country. An
large alligator perched on the front counter is one clue. The
food smell is another. It just grabs you and screams "Ya gonna
love everyting coming outta dis kitchen, you!"
Their menu reads like the bible of Cajun
Crawfish Etouffee. Shrimp Creole. Alligator Half n' Half,
Crawfish Half n' Half and that is just a start. They have a very
large menu. You'll get anything from burgers to po' boys here.
There is even a " Pick Y'Own Platter" where you "choose any two:
grilled or fried jumbo shrimp, fried popcorn shrimp, grilled or
fried catfish, fried crawfish tails, fried crab fingers, or
fried oysters served wit' two side items"
and dessert at Boudreau and Thibodeau's|
and Debra Blanchard opened Boudreau and Thibodeau's in
Houma in 1998. They strive to use local products especially
fresh seafood and offer a fun dining spot. The decor includes
hundreds of Boudreau and Thibodaux jokes on the walls and under
glass at the tables. The restaurant captures the light hearted
fun spirit of Cajun culture's two best-known pranksters.
Just in case you never heard a Boudreau
and Thibodeau joke, here's a sample:
Boudreau and Thibodeau were walking through the woods the other
day, when a flying saucer landed near them. A door opened, and
two little green aliens climbed down out of the spacecraft.
Thibodeau asks Boudreau, "Mais, look at dat. What you tink dat
is ?" Boudreau, aiming his shotgun at the little space critters,
tells him, "Thibodeau, I don't know, but you hurry back to de
camp, and start making a roux and put on a pot of rice !
BBy the way, the 'gator by the front door
is stuffed just as you'll feel when you leave this fun dining
Etouffee at Bayou Delight/span>
Boudreau and Thibodaux's is hard to beat
when it comes to Cajun food but if you want to take the Cajun
culture thing a little farther and get in some toe-tapping,
two-stepping Cajun music, Bayou Delight is the place to go. The
menu is filled with great Cajun dishes too and on Friday and
Saturday. There is music and dancing. Three different musicians
take turns providing the music. You and the rest of the dinner
guests provide the dancing. The place fills up with regulars who
can really show off on that dance floor. One older couple
we met the night we visited was so much fun to watch. She was
very Cajun looking with dark hair and brown eyes
aand a short well-rounded body. He was a tall Texan all
dressed in black. They were both in their eighties but when they
glided around that dance floor you would have sworn they were
two teenagers out for a night of fun. They were sitting at the
next table and we complemented them on their dancing skill. They
told us "We come every Friday night."
By the time they left we were all BBF (best friends forever) and
they came around our table and gave each of us a hug.. Cajuns
know how to make everyone feel welcome in their town. Making everyone welcome
was just what Lonnie Crochet and wife's cousin, Doris Marie
Abramson, had in mind 33 yrs ago when Bayou Delight first opened
as a fast food restaurant.
|Larry White plays as dances
swing around Bayou Delight's dance floor
Times were tight then with the oil bust
but when they added a back dock and Alligator Annie Miller, who
was famous for her swamp tours, began starting the tours from
Bayou Delight's dock things began looking up and they began
expanded the restaurant. Today they can seat about 100. Annie
passed away and her son now runs the tours as "Alligator Annie
(For more about swamp tours, click here)
A lot of recipes are Lonnie's mom and
dad's or hand downs from Marie's family. One of their specials
is Alligator Sauce
Picuante. I wanted to try that one
but they were sold out
so I had Crawfish Etouffee instead and loved it.
When asked how they managed to keep in
business with no formal culinary or business background, Lonnie
stated, "Everything I know was taught to me by my mom and dad
and just by figuring it out for myself based on the things I
learned growing up. We have a lot of great cooks in our family,
so Marie and I just put our heads together and we make it work.
We use a lot of her recipes and I do most of the cooking and
contribute any way I can. But we both have the same vision."
Their vision works. They have a loyal
local following, lots of tourist busses and even overseas
visitors. If you plan on visiting on Friday, better have a
reservation. Larry White, who was playing some terrific Cajun
specials like Jolie Blanc
and of course My Toot
Toot the night we visited, describes
Bayou Delight as "Houma's best known little secret."
When visiting any of these restaurants
you will enjoy authentic Cajun food. To again quote Justin
Wilson, "I I GA-RON-TEE"
For more info: