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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

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.

***Pass this note along to your friends and LIKE us on FACEBOOK.

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!

UGA Press publishes “The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook”

5 Oct

The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook

Edited by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge
Foreword by Alton Brown

“Local recipes from the worldly South”

“Each page herein delivers a strong sense of community; the contributions are from real people with real names; the collection is democratic, but with nary a sign of culinary chaos; and the food is just plain good. And here’s the best part, as far as I’m concerned: Regardless of whether it looks back into the past or ahead into the future, this book looks ever Southward.”
—Alton Brown, from the foreword

Everybody has one in their collection. You know—one of those old, spiral- or plastic-tooth-bound cookbooks sold to support a high school marching band, a church, or the local chapter of the Junior League. These recipe collections reflect, with unimpeachable authenticity, the dishes that define communities: chicken and dumplings, macaroni and cheese, chess pie. When the Southern Foodways Alliance began curating a cookbook, it was to these spiral-bound, sauce-splattered pages that they turned for their model.

Including more than 170 tested recipes, this cookbook is a true reflection of southern foodways and the people, regardless of residence or birthplace, who claim this food as their own. Traditional and adapted, fancy and unapologetically plain, these recipes are powerful expressions of collective identity. There is something from—and something for—everyone. The recipes and the stories that accompany them came from academics, writers, catfish farmers, ham curers, attorneys, toqued chefs, and people who just like to cook—spiritual Southerners of myriad ethnicities, origins, and culinary skill levels.

Edited by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge, written, collaboratively, by Sheri Castle, Timothy C. Davis, April McGreger, Angie Mosier, and Fred Sauceman, the book is divided into chapters that represent the region’s iconic foods: Gravy, Garden Goods, Roots, Greens, Rice, Grist, Yardbird, Pig, The Hook, The Hunt, Put Up, and Cane. Therein you’ll find recipes for pimento cheese, country ham with redeye gravy, tomato pie, oyster stew, gumbo z’herbes, and apple stack cake. You’ll learn traditional ways of preserving green beans, and you’ll come to love refried black-eyed peas.

Are you hungry yet? Place your order now!

http://www.amazon.com/Southern-Foodways-Alliance-Community-Cookbook/dp/0820332755

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