Thursday, January 31, 2013

Round ’em up, dish it out

    Food in Lafayette is world famous, which is why we were chosen as Best Food Town in 2011 by Rand McNally and Southern Living readers voted us “Tastiest Town in the South” in 2012.
Freetown Fries
    In addition to our award-winning restaurants is a new gourmet truck movement, a trend that’s been enormously popular with Lafayette’s fun-loving and festival-going populace. It began about two years ago and has been charging ahead by leaps and bounds, offering everything from chicken and waffles and boudin-enhanced dishes to gourmet hot dogs and French fries. Most trucks have Facebook pages and announce where they’ll be on a daily basis or, in the case of inclement weather, where they won’t be. Fans can also follow their movement on Twitter.
    A few places in town have become gathering spots as well. One is the parking lot on Johnston Street by the intersection of Arnould/Roselawn where several gourmet trucks have been gathering. During special events such as Mardi Gras and festivals, visitors will find gourmet trucks parked along the parade route and festival grounds.
    For a visit to all or most of the gourmet trucks in one place, E’s Kitchen in Parc Lafayette hosts a gourmet truck “Round Up” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the first Saturday of every month. This Saturday at lunchtime (Feb. 2), E’s Kitchen will host the Gourmet Truck Round Up with participating trucks Viva La Waffle, Freetown Fries, Lil Chubs Grill, Kona-Ice of Acadiana, A Change of Heart, Munchies Lunchbox Express, Pelon’s Mexican Hot Dogs, LA stEAT, Acadiana Grilled Cheese Co. and Manhattan Food Co. Visiting from out of town for this event are Three Bones Catering and Beignet Roule. In addition, the Sour Sedans will perform.
    Most of the gourmet trucks in Lafayette also offer catering for special events.

Friday, January 25, 2013

King Cakes vital — and diverse — part of Mardi Gras fun

   The season of Carnival begins on Jan. 6, known as the Epiphany or Twelfth Night, the day the Christ Child was visited by the three kings. And with this date comes an old Louisiana tradition — enjoying King Cakes!
    The creation of “King Cakes” began in 12th century France when a cake was baked on the eve of Jan. 6 with a small token hidden inside. Whoever got the token in his or her slice became the royalty of the night.
Keller's traditional king cake
    The king cake tradition made its way to Louisiana, but like all good things we tend to keep it going as long as we can. Cakes are enjoyed on Jan. 6, usually with a small baby inside, and whoever gets the token must buy the next cake and so on it goes. We enjoy our King Cakes, decorated in the Carnival colors of purple, green and gold, until Ash Wednesday, the day following Mardi Gras.
Meche's King Cake
    Louisiana king cakes come plain (with decoration on top), filled with wonderful things like cream cheese, fruit preserves and pecan praline or are created in unique and wonderful ways. Meche’s Donuts of Acadiana, for instance, rolls out its dough the traditional way, then deep fries the oval ring before adding frosting. Little Big Cup coffeeshop in Arnaudville offers mini king cakes, more of a small bite of Carnival heaven. Poupart’s French bakery in Lafayette serves up a more traditional French-style king cake, in addition to the Louisiana variety. Sophi P. Cakes offers the tradition cupcake style. And so it goes.
Little Big Cup Mini King Cakes
    In addition to the famous king cake, there are interesting takes on the tradition within our culinary scene. For instance, Freetown Fries gourmet food truck of Lafayette, which serves up different and delicious entrees with home fries, offers a King Cake Fry consisting of sweet potato fries topped with a cream cheese glaze in Carnival colors. Café Vermilionville is offering Carnival cocktails and appetizers for the festive season, including King Cake martinis made up of champagne, spiced rum, amaretto, fresh squeezed orange, Amaretto icing and cream.
Freetown Fries King Cake Fry
    Ask anyone in town what their favorite king cake proprietor is and you’ll get a dozen answers. Visitors will generally find king cakes in mini marts, grocery stores and coffee shops as well as bakeries. Here are a few to sample (and by all means not a complete list!):
    Gambino’s Bakery, 3802 Johnston, (337) 406-9066,
    Great Harvest Bread Co., 854A Kaliste Saloom Road, (337) 236-8966,
    Keller’s Bakery, 1012 Jefferson St., (337) 235-1568,
    Little Big Cup, 149 Fuselier Road, Arnaudville, (337) 754-7147
    Meche’s Donut King, 402 Guilbeau Road, (337) 981-4918, and other locations
    Poupart’s, 1902 W. Pinhook Road, (337) 232-7921,
    Sophi P. Cakes, 3209 Johnston St., (337) 456-5582,
    What’s your favorite king cake? Please visit our Facebook page and let us know. Feel free to post photos as well!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mardi Gras goes to the dogs!

    We have so much fun in South Louisiana every winter during Carnival, it seems wrong to limit it to just humans.
    That’s why in addition to the many Lafayette krewes hosting Carnival balls and parades during the Carnival season, concluding on the big day of Mardi Gras (Feb. 12 this year), we have special events for our four-legged residents.
    The Krewe des Chiens — in French that means Krewe for Dogs — hosts an annual dog parade through the downtown Lafayette streets. This year’s theme for the Saturday, Feb. 2, Krewe des Chiens Parade is “Paw-rates of the Atchafalaya” and the pirate-costumed canines will parade through downtown beginning at 2 p.m.
    Like all Lafayette Carnival parades, the event is free, open to the public and perfectly suitable for families.
    And if you want to join in the parade, membership is open to all breeds, sizes and origins of dogs for $25 in advance, $35 on parade day. Visit the Krewe des Chiens Web site for details. Parade watchers are encouraged to bring dogs and dress them up as well.
    The Krewe des Chien’s mission to assist area shelters and animal aid organizations in the Acadiana area. The group has distributed nearly $20,000 to 10 Acadiana organizations!
    For a neighborhood experience, the Second Annual Pawdi Gras on the Pond dog parade and costume contest will be held in the Sugar Mill Pond subdivision of Youngsville from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 3. This year’s theme is “Laissez Les Bon Chiens Rouler!” with awards given for King and Queen, most creative, best pet/owner look alike, best theme and other categories. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Carnival Fun in Cajun/Creole Country

    And you thought the holidays were over? In Lafayette and surrounding areas, the fun keeps on going.
    Jan. 6 begins the Carnival season in Cajun and Creole Country, the 12th Night of Christmas, or Epiphany, when the Three Wise Men brought gifts to the baby Jesus. The season of Carnival continues until Mardi Gras, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which this year is Feb. 12.
    In a sense, it’s a religious holiday, created in Europe and continued in Catholic South Louisiana.
    “The Catholic Church licensed Carnival, which means ‘farewell to flesh,’ as a period of feasting before the fasting of Lent,” writes Arthur Hardy in his annual “Mardi Gras Guide.” “The Church also established the set date for the start of the Carnival season — Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany — and the fluctuating date of Mardi Gras.”
    We celebrate the Epiphany by enjoying King Cakes with tiny babies inside — the person who gets the baby in their piece must host the next king cake and so it goes until Mardi Gras day! Carnival organizations called krewes host balls during the Carnival season with royalty and revelry, then parade through the streets throwing beads and trinkets. There’s even a krewe for canines, the Krewe des Chiens Parade for Dogs!
    Unique to Cajun and Creole Country is the ancient Carnival tradition of courirs, where costumed men and women on horseback travel the countryside to beg residents for ingredients to a gumbo, usually with a musical band and onlookers following behind. This tradition dates back to medieval France, including the costumes that mimic the educated and those in power. Once the courir arrives in town, a communal gumbo is cooked and enjoyed and usually there is lots of great music and dancing.
    Carnival and Mardi Gras in Lafayette is more appropriate for families, a safer and more relaxed version of the revelry found in New Orleans. Lafayette also offers Le Festival de Mardi Gras à Lafayette with rides and live music that occurs Feb. 8-12 at Cajun Field. Parking for RVs is available here as well and the parades roll right through the festival!
    For a complete schedule of activities, parade route map and answers to every question you might have about Carnival and Mardi Gras in Cajun and Creole Country, visit