Friday, 17 January 2014

Cajun Food Tour - Lafayette, Louisiana

One of the main reasons that first got my interest in Lafayette was the Cajun Food Tours.  Receiving rave reviews and a little over a year old the company was founded by Marie Duote-Comaux, who was a history teacher and a lover of Cajun food.  The passion for Cajun food oozes out of her, along with her vibrancy and bounce and passion for her business. 

Lynda and I were both excited that we were able to join her for a Tuesday tour.  the vans are super comfortable and arranged so everyone faces in towards each other, promoting an atmosphere for all passengers to chatter and get to know each other.  There is a fridge for cold drinks (and any fresh produce purchased throughout the tour).  The cute curtains with food prints and Tabasco chilli lights strong up around the window add a homely/party touch.  I love it!

Your Food Truck Express awaits
There are 8 of us today on the tour today.  After all pick ups are made (pick ups can be arranged around town) we promptly head to our first stop.

Poupart Bakery

Cakes and pastries
Famous for their King Cakes.  What is a king cake?  Traditionally served during the Carnival (Mardi Gras) season in the South (at parties and gatherings).  It is a fresh brioche dough baked into a ring and filled with cream cheese, fruits, nuts or a combination (similar to a cinnamon roll).  The icing is then covered in purple, green and gold coloured sugar.  A plastic baby is hidden inside the cake (this represents baby Jesus).    Certain obligations are connected to getting the baby.  One you are King and secondly, you are to host the next party/gathering.  (I like this concept)

King cake - and hiding inside is the baby
Guess who found the baby?  Lynda was chuffed that she got the baby and gets to host the next party!

Guess who found the baby?

The bakery also sells fresh bread and cakes, along with daily lunch specials and local sauces,  jellies and jams.  I just so happened to purchase some green jalapeno jelly while I was here.
Next stop on the agenda is Blue Dog Cafe - this restaurant displays local artist, George Rodrigue's famous Blue Dog paintings along with some incredibly good food.
Our sample was an ample bowl of corn and crab bisque, which has Louisiana crabmeat, corn and a hint of spiciness.  It's creamy and will admit won the third spot for the 'I need a moment to myself' moments.  I can see why this is one of their best sellers.
A few of us decided to indulge in a local beverage too. Abita Purple Haze - which is a crisp American wheat beer finished off with a raspberry puree.   
Abita Purple Haze
Over at Johnson's Bouccaniere the smell of smoky meat entices us around the back to find the smokers. I'm in meat heaven baby! Southern style, smoked BBQ's are becoming very popular in Australia and I'm keen to get my fill and find out more about this cooking technique.

 Get ya boudin in ya today
I'm floored by the size of these smokers. If only I had a backyard to have a smoker - I'd be set!

Sausages smoking away, these will be ready in a about 12 hours.

sausages smoking in the massive smokers

 This room is filled with trolleys holding smoked meats ready to be prepared for sale. This is tasso ham. Made from shoulder butt, it's cured for a few hours, rubbed with spicy seasoning, smoked and then hot smoked until cooked.

tasso ham

Recently smoked pork brisket cooling before being pulled.

Pork brisket
The store is a typical country store...I like the display cases and the little touches that have built up over the years.

And then we are offered these little bites to sample. My mouth is watering. The Begnaud Special, which is slow-smoked brisket sandwich with smoked garlic pork sausage topped with our homemade BBQ sauce.

Begnaud Special is awesome

The bun is soft and the brisket is tender and stringy and smokey, the BBQ sauce adds tang but its the smoked garlic pork sausage that takes this to another level. Fourth 'I need a moment to myself' moments. (told you there were a few in Lafayette).

Yes I was snapped enjoying the moment.
caught stuffing my face

We also picked up some Zapp's Voodoo and Spicy Cajun Crawtators to snack on later (maybe not today after all this food, but 'later')

Zapp's Voodoo - seriously evil
 Onto Earls Cajun Market for one of my favourite things in all the world - cracklins'.  Seriously, I could live on these alone.  This would be my choice for my last supper.  Along with the cracklin's we also tried some boiled boudin.  The trick is to suck it out of the casing just how the locals do it.  Tasty and flavourful, I still prefer mine fried (or grilled).  As for the cracklins' - just the right amount of fat layering between the crispy, crackly skin and a little bit of meaty chewiness too.  These two options were spicy and non-spicy.  Leaning towards the spicy (and I think Lynda bought a jar of the seasoning to take home).
We got some time to wander through the market and check out their produce.  I am in love with the local grocery stores and markets (and given my own time I would have spent hours in here looking at everything).  I just love discovering so many local products.  Here is a freezer full of chickens (butterflied) with various different stuffings (or dressings as they are known in these parts).
Crawfish and tasso, pork with cornbread, rice dressing, broccoli and cheese, shrimp and eggplant (it was endless)  and then I was in awe of the aisle dedicated to hot sauce and every variant known to mankind.
what's your poison?
and I spied the Steen's syrup
sticky sauce in a can

Our last 'savoury' stop also included Birthday Cake.  Bon Temps Grill - (and yes I immediately start thinking of True Blood).  Bon Temps Grill describes its cuisine as swamp edge, whatever that really is it's fabulous, this is a great little spot for dinner and drinks (or lunch and drinks).
I indulge in a Blue Heaven Martini - Three Olives Cake Vodka, Malibu, Frangelico, Blue Curacao with pineapple and orange juice.  This is Birthday Cake in a fancy glass!  Very strong and should come with a red flag warning, it goes down well (and I'm a bit giddy).
But it's these babies that have everybody intrigued and kept guessing as to what it was.  Frogs legs? Duck legs? Turkey Wings?  No they are alligator legs!
Twice cooked gator legs smothered in sweet and spicy Thai sauce, with fresh jicama slaw and a mango sauce.  These are usually served on the Swamp Legs platter which also comes with duck drumettes.  We are all surprised by the size of them.  Alligators aren't very tall are they?
Those little things are gator legs?
These are sticky and sweet, with a hint of heat.  They are a little meaty which tears off the bones easily.  The mango sauce pairs well with it.  I finally can add gator meat to my list of eaten foods.

Our final stop 1895 Cajun Cuisine & Pub where we sample the white chocolate bread pudding with rum sauce (bread pudding with praline or rum sauce is famous in the South).  As a rare sweet eater, this surprised me with yet another 'I need a moment to myself' moments.  Really, I was floored on how wonderfully gooey sweet this was and I could have eaten another portion of it.

White chocolate bread pudding that had me gasping with pleasure

This food tour is $49 and includes everything you will need.  Depending on whether you do a morning or afternoon tour and on what days, the stops and samplings change and Marie mixes them up.  She has plenty of return customers (and many locals do this tour too).  This is the best food tour that I have ever done in all my travels (and there has been many).  Not only is the tour based around food, but Marie is full of history and local culture, showing you the sights, telling you stories and jokes (and we even got to meet her daughter (who was frantically flagging us down as we drove past her in town)).

Thanks Cajun Food Tours for a fewinsightful hours into your food scene and what Lafayette has to offer.  I know I'll be back one day (and I'll be a repeat customer too!).

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