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Bozo’s Seafood Market & Deli in Pascagoula, MS Doesn’t Clown Around

9 Mar

Bozo front

Bozo’s Seafood Market and Deli has been around since 1956 — that’s longer than I have been around. But as my Granny Justice often said, “Old school is GOOD school.”  That is most definitely the case at Bozo’s — they don’t clown here. Every coastal community should have such a go-to seafood dive. Sadly, few compare to the almighty Bozo!

bozo counter

When you’re ready to order, step right up to the little card table near the back of the dining room. A gentleman seated there will take your order and jot it down (along with your first name) on a basic white paper lunch bag. The sack is then flipped back to a red headed woman toiling away in the kitchen. The line to order was pretty short when we arrived mid-afternoon. But we’re told that lines at lunchtime can sometimes stretch all the way back to the front entry. After more than a half century of business, Bozo’s is anything but a secret in these parts.

bozo muff

Okay, folks — now THAT’S a Muffaletta!!!

bozo cracklin

Pork Cracklins are a popular side item at Bozo’s

bozo zapps

Zapp’s Chips are terrific — and Bozo’s has you covered

Bozo OB

bozo zat

bozo shrimp salad

Take a gander at this mouth-watering Shrimp Salad – amazing!

bozo po boy

Eileen and I split a Fried Shrimp Po Boy and, as expected, it was awesome. The shrimp were plump, fresh and right out of the fryer. We ordered ours “fully dressed” and added just a splash of Tabasco before rolling up our sleeves and digging in. This decent sized, overstuffed sandwich was just $6.99. That’s a very fair price when you consider the price of fresh seafood these days. If you’re really hungry, I’d like to suggest the Shrimp Overload — a footlong po-boy stuffed with 1 1/2 pounds of fried shrimp for just $13.99. Now that’s a MEAL! If you’re more of an oyster person, try the Oyster Box with a dozen fried bi-valves, French fries, onion rings, and hush puppies for only $8.99.  

bozo table

This custom table is perfect for shelling shrimp or crawfish

bozo painting

A painting of a local fisherman (above) tells the story at Bozo’s — it’s fresh off the boat here. And it is a working man’s joint. The portions are generous and the prices more than fair. What more could you ask for? Well, besides Bozo’s opening a location in your neighborhood. They really don’t clown around here, but you will leave with a big, messy smile on your face.

Bozo’s Seafood Market & Deli -

2012 Ingalls Avenue, Pascagoula, MS 39567

(228) 762-3322; Mon-Sat 8-8; Sunday 8-6

Chef John Besh Visits Fairhope, Alabama to Promote New Cookbook, “My Family Table”

10 Dec

Chef John Besh has made quite a name for himself here along the Gulf Coast. His culinary empire is based out of New Orleans, yet he is truly all over the globe these days. One day you see him as a judge on Top Chef, the next you might spot him on Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate, then you see him whipping up something tasty on NBC’s Today Show. When not appearing on TV or running his nine (yes, NINE!) acclaimed restaurants, Besh somehow finds time to re-connect with his family and knock out a few cookbooks. They may have successfully cloned this guy — I can’t be sure.  

Besh’s latest cookbook project is a marriage of his love for food and family. It’s titled “My Family Table … A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking.” We can totally relate to this sentiment around our household. Sure, we still love to dine out. But it is increasingly difficult to find a quality meal at a fair price. A meal out for a family of 4 can put a pretty sizeable dent in the old family grocery budget.

This “coffee table” book is well-over 250 pages and features some truly beautiful photography. The publisher (Andrews McMeel) should be quite pleased with the end result. It is a terrific collection of recipes and a fine Christmas gift for that hard-to-buy-for foodie on your shopping list. The book retails for $35.

We recently met Chef Besh and his wife at Page & Palette in our current hometown of Fairhope, AL. He was kind enough to sign our copy, which will surely become a staple in our already massive home collection of Southern-themed cookbooks. Besh, a former US Marine, reveals some of his favorite Louisiana products/ingredients. No secrets here, friends. He loves Steen’s 100% Cane Syrup, but who doesn’t? Some more surprising items found in his home pantry include Virgin Pecan Oil, Hoisin Sauce, Coconut Milk, and Sambal Paste. Yup, his kitchen mastery and tastes certainly extend beyond the bayous of his beloved home state of Louisiana.

The 140 recipes included here, much like Besh himself, bounce all over the map. Risotto, Fruit Crumble,  Couscous, Pork Shoulder, Ratatouille, Coq Au Vin, Corn Pudding, Chili, and Beef Noodle Bowls. Dishes sampled at the book signing were a Cauliflower Mac and Cheese, Jambalaya, and a Seafood Dressing. The Bird’s Nest Potatoes look simple, but delicious. Let’s call the overall theme of this volume Cajun/Asian with the common denominators being big flavor with a little bit of heat. The Creamy Lentil Soup (laced with diced bacon) would surely hit the spot on a cold winter’s day.

There are desserts too. Don’t miss the Lemon-Blackberry Cheesecake. The full page, full color image of this creation will have you drooling, for sure. The Bananas Flambe, an obvious nod to his love of New Orleans, is fueled with dark rum and accented with orange zest, cinnamon, and a sprinkle of fresh ground nutmeg. The execution of this dish is not for amateurs, but it will surely draw oooo’s and ahhhh’s at your next dinner party.

John Besh and his wife Jenifer love Fairhope. They made that clear during our brief but enjoyable chat. We, in turn, appreciate them making time to slow down and enjoy our little piece of heaven. Talk radio host Glenn Beck recently said visiting Fairhope was a little like being on the set of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It is indeed a life full of wonder. And John Besh wants you to make it even more wonderful by focusing on family and hearty home cooked meals. And, as Paul McCartney once sang, “What’s wrong with that?”

www.chefjohnbesh.com

www.andrewsmcmeel.com

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

“Who’s Your Coastal Daddy?”

3 Apr

Big Daddy’s Grill isn’t the type of place you just stumble upon. In fact, you might say that it is out in the boondocks. If you haven’t visited before, you’ll need a map (or some very good directions) to get here. Once you arrive, what you see seems totally out of place. A shady, watery wonderland in the heart of Baldwin County’s wide open, sun-blistered farm country. And a whole bunch of nice folks in a remote location where you’d expect absolutely no one to be hanging out.

Big Daddy’s (named for owner Jason Newsom) has a roadhouse sort of look from the outside. A whole bunch of motorcycles were lined up out front. Lots of cars, SUVs and pickup trucks too. Seems like everyone but me had gotten the memo on this place. How, I ask you, did this happen? I needed to get inside and learn more. Pronto!  

This whimsical, rustic fish sign is seen at the entry to Big Daddy’s.

A cluster of young people dressed in tie-dye Big Daddy’s T-shirts greeted me at the outdoor hostess table. There is some indoor seating, but who would even consider that on such a glorious Spring afternoon? I had just had a pretty vigorous workout at the YMCA and I was ready for a good meal. But first things first. A big old glass of sweet tea.

The view from my wooden picnic table seating was mighty fine indeed. I was partially in the sun, partially in the shade. Small boats and other pleasure crafts were docked at the water’s edge. Jet skis occasionally zipped by. Pontoon boats took their own sweet time. Attractive waterfront homes beckoned on the Fish River’s opposite shoreline. Not a bad place to plant yourself for a while.

I spotted this lush, historic home in Big Daddy’s neighborhood.

Ice cold beer at Big Daddy’s Grill is cheap and plentiful!

The Fried Oyster and Shrimp Po-Boy (above) is done right at Big Daddy’s. Good bread, fresh cut tomatoes and shredded lettuce, a tangy dill pickle slice or two. The shrimp were plump, the oysters large and peppery. Strips of freshly sliced sweet onion added a another dimension of flavor.  I reached for a little salt, some house cocktail sauce, and a bottle of Tabasco sauce. A quick squirt of lemon and I was finally ready to dive in.

I thought outside the box and called for — Sweet Tater Fries!

The sweet potato fries turned out to be a pretty good call. Crunchy and slightly salty on the outside, sweet and moist on the inside. I ate slowly — taking in all of nature’s beauty around me. The folks at the adjacent table ordered up a plate of fried soft shell crabs. These crabs are brought in from Crisfield, Maryland – a place that knows a thing or two about good quality seafood. The diners raved about the dish, so I made a mental note to bring my wife along next time. She hails from the Baltimore area and rarely misses a chance to sink her teeth into crispy fried soft shells.

What a nice surprise Big Daddy’s turned out to be! Didn’t know what to expect when I got in the Jeep this sunny early April afternoon. My expectations took a dip during my longer than anticipated drive into the outer reaches of Alabama’s gigantic Baldwin County. “Does this place even exist?” But then my spirits (and appetite) soared when I first laid eyes on Big Daddy’s oasis of sunshine, seafood and suds.

My server was mega-cheerful and made me feel right like a regular. I actually lost count after the “Hon”ometer hit six or seven. It’s that kind of place. Tasty, filling sandwiches and bountiful fried seafood baskets. Shiny metal buckets holding silverware, napkins and condiments. “Red, yellow and pink wines are available,” so check your big city attitude at the door. Big Daddy’s is not the least expensive place around (po-boy plates run in the $10-$12 range). But you won’t feel cheated at all once you experience their generous portions and the quality of the seafood served. For a unique treat, ask your server for a basket of fried pickles or fried okra.   

So when you’re in need of a little pick me up, don’t forget about Big Daddy’s Grill located somewhere off County Road 32 in a remote corner of Fairhope, Alabama. It’ll fill your belly, warm your soul, and lift your spirits. So c’mon … who’s your Daddy???

Big Daddy’s Grill

16542 Ferry Road
Fairhope, AL 36532-6617
(251) 990-8555

www.bigdaddysgrill.net

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.

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 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

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!

Crawfish Pie & More at Cafe Des Amis in Breaux Bridge, LA

29 Oct

Crawfish Pie – Cafe Des Amis style with accents of Green Onion

Our first real meal during our recent weekend trek thru Cajun Country took place in quaint Breaux Bridge, LA (just off I-10 near Lafayette). The name of the restaurant was Cafe Des Amis. We had visited once before, but they were sadly closed the last time we passed thru town. The Friday lunch business was fairly brisk as we settled in for our mid-day meal. For my main course, I opted for the crawfish pie. How can you not order this when in Cajun Country???

Yet I almost didn’t recognize it when it arrived at our table. The dish was fashioned with two flaky pillows of puff pastry — the bottom one hollowed out a bit to accomodate the buttery crawfish etoufee filling. Not your traditional presentation by any means. It did draw some serious attention, however. Four older gentlemen seated at the adjacent table commented that their meals looked “vanilla” in comparison. The pie was sensational — I would certainly recommend it highly. I guess I just have!

Crab Cakes (fried and grilled) with a Smoked Vidalia Cream Sauce

My lunch had started with a terrific crab appetizer (seen above). The smokey cream sauce and strips of sweet onion made an excellent foil for the crab cake combo (one grilled, one fried). Both cakes were tasty, but I honestly preferred the grilled version. The crab meat to breading ratio was perfectly acceptable and the cakes were nicely seasoned. As for the sauce, it was truly “plate-licking good.”

A look at some of the cool local art on display at Cafe Des Amis

The Gateau de Syrop (Syrup Cake) was the best bite of the day

Our lunch reached its high point with dessert. I normally don’t order dessert in the middle of the day, but we simply couldn’t resist the traditional Gateau de Syrop made with Steen’s 100% Cane Syrup (made in nearby Abbeville, LA). It was a masterpiece of gooey, black goodness … topped with lots of local pecans and equal portions of whipped creme anglaise and vanilla ice cream. My wife and kids gave it a go, but I most admit that I put the biggest dent in this dark beauty.  

I don’t think I can wait for a return visit to Breaux Bridge to try this rich, delicious cake again. So it’s probably a good thing we found the restaurant’s recipe on the web. Here’s the real-deal recipe from Cafe Des Amis … soooo darn good!

GATEAU DE SYROP (SYRUP CAKE) WITH CREME ANGLAISE

This recipe makes about 3 dozen large muffins.

Cut it in half to make a smaller amount. They also freeze beautifully.

Makes 16 slices

2 cups canola or peanut oil

3 ½ cups 100% pure cane syrup (we prefer Steen’s)

2 cups raw sugar

2/3 cup dark molasses

2 cups boiling water

4 teaspoons baking soda

8 eggs

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

4 teaspoons ground cloves

4 teaspoons ground ginger

4 tablespoons vanilla extract

4 cups sifted flour

¾ cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the oil, cane syrup and molasses in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, stir baking soda into boiling water. Add to the oil, syrup and molasses mixture. Add all other remaining ingredients and beat well at medium to high speed with an electric mixer.

Fill large muffin tins, sprayed with nonstick vegetable spray, about three-fourths full. Bake at 350 degrees until they almost set, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped pecans on top and continue baking until the muffins are completely set.

Crème Anglaise

Makes about 2 cups

   1 cup whole milk

   1 cup heavy cream

   5 egg yolks

   ½ cup granulated sugar

   1 tablespoon bourbon

   Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan and bring just a boil.

Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and the sugar in a mixing bowl and beat well until light yellow and slightly thickened. Gradually pour the milk and cream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.

Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and stir over very low heat with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring, without boiling until the sauce coats the back of the spoon. Do not overcook or it will curdle. Stir in the bourbon. Serve warm or chilled.

www.cafedesamis.com

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