Cajun food derives its popularity from unique southern regional flavor and the full bellies of foodies. But, after a visit to Lake Charles, Louisiana, I discovered that the appeal of southern cooking has more to do with the experience of eating than it does taste buds.
I knew from the first “welcome y’all” greeting by Colten Miller of the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau, that I was in for some serious southern hospitality –which of course, includes some serious southern food.
With the help of a few Tums tablets and a soft, comfortable bed at L’Auberge Casino Resort, I set out to experience Louisiana Lagniappe (lawn-yop), a local term meaning a little something extra or an unexpected pleasure. For 24 hours, I literally ate my way through Lake Charles experiencing everything from the finest Kobe beef and high-end imported wine to local boudain and cracklins made from generations-old recipes along the Boudain Trail.
What I discovered beyond the rich and delicious food in Lake Charles was the way people interacted while eating it: a nibble of seared steak turned into conversations about food from home; food discussions segued into life discussions about family, and by the end of the meal, there were sports debates and travel stories being shared across the table. Suddenly, simply eating food became an event for bonding and making new friends. It was cool to witness this happening over the course of a dinner.
With every one of my 10,000 taste buds activated, here’s a snapshot (because I simply cannot remember it all) of 24 hours of delicious, finger lickin’ southern goodness that unites strangers by the end of a meal. If you’re salivating by the time you finish reading everything I ate, you might just have to check out Lake Charles for yourself….but definitely go hungry!
7:00 p.m. – Day 1
Ember Grille & Wine Bar – high-end steakhouse within L’Auberge
- Salad trio including wedge salad and Caesar salad (two of my favorites!)
- Appetizers: Ahi tuna tartare, seared Foie Gras & toast, crab cake, BBQ pecan-bacon wrapped shrimp*, lamb lollichops with Tzatziki dipping sauce, Osso Bucco & Black Truffle ravioli
- The main courses: seared scallops, 40 oz. “Tomahawk” steak* and Kobe filet* (selling for $30/oz.)
- Truffled mac n’ cheese*
- Desserts: creme brule, chocolate gelato, something else fabulous but too much in a food coma to remember
*my very very favorite picks
8:00 a.m. – Day 2
- Ham & cheese croissant and chocolate truffle coffee
9:00 a.m. – Famous Foods – Family-ownered and one of 27 stops on the Boudain Trail serving up thousands of pounds of meat a year.
- original recipe Boudain, cracklins and biscuits with cane syrup
10:00 a.m. – Crave Gourmet Baskets and Gifts (337-421-0040) – more than 45 specialty olive oils and balsamic vinegar on tap. Customers can mix and match to create specialty gourmet combinations.
- Tasted many combinations that can be used on salads, cooking main dishes and even drizzled on fruit and dessert. My favorite picks are the chocolate balsamic and blood orange balsamic.
11:00 a.m. – The Louisiana Market (337-656-2908) – specialty gift market selling locally made gifts.
- Tasted locally roasted coffee and purchased large kits to make authentic Louisiana Gumbo
12:00 p.m. – Seafood Palace – one of the greatest local stops for seafood and great Cajun fare.
- Louisiana blue crab
- Fried ocra
- Alligator bites
- Crab pistolettes
- Side salad (only because I felt obligated)
1:00 p.m. – Mardi Gras museum – to celebrate a huge part of this city’s culture, the Mardi Gras museum in the Central School provides a snapshot of the history surrunding Mardi Gras celebrations in Lake Charles.
- Decorate and partake in delicious King Cake. I did not find the baby for good luck for the year, but boy was the cake yummy!
3:00 p.m. – Louisiana Spirits Distillery – Producers of Bayou Rum that uses 100% natural unrefined Louisiana cane sugar and molasses. It is also the largest private label rum in the U.S.
- Satsuma Rum – citrus flavor
- Silver Rum
- Spiced Rum
What!? A girl needs something to wash down all this food — 80 proof rum ought to do it!
6:00 p.m. – La Truffe Savage – A fine dining experience offering food and wine pairings for refined taste buds.
- Double duck Consomme en Croute paired with Krupp Brothers “The Doctor,” Napa 2011
- Baked Wild Gulf Red Snapper with saffron risotto paired with Krupp Brothers Chardonnay, Napa 2010
- Prime Beef Wellington paired with Krupp Brothers Black Bart Syrah, Stagecoach Vineyard, Napa 2009
- Field Greens and Maytag Blue Cheese with Roasted Tomato paired with Krupp Brothers Veraison Red, Napa 2008
- Gelato Ciacollatto / Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte / White Chocolate Mousse paired with Krupp Brothers Veraison, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stagecoach Vineyard, Napa 2008
This was an indulgent 24 hours in Lake Charles trying new food and making new friends. If you love trying food and looking for a little Lagniappe (a little something extra) on your next adventure- I say hit Lake Charles, Louisiana. It doesn’t disappoint!