John Besh's Louisiana

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I spend a lot of time outdoors – hunting, fishing, canoeing, water skiing, you name it. But the best thing to do in Louisiana is eat!
By John Besh

Our culture is so very unique in that all of the people that settled here assimilated into one, rich culture, which happens to be one of the most unique and recognizable cultures in the country. From it sprang incredible cuisines and music styles. We are not only the birthplace of jazz but also the birthplace of the only indigenous urban cuisine in the country.  

If I were to recommend what to eat in Louisiana, it would be a very long list. I'll suggest just a few of my favorites. Starting in Cajun Country, I'd have lunch in Breaux Bridge for an authentic Acadian experience in the quintessential Cajun town. For dinner. I must admit I'm a little biased, but Restaurant August, my restaurant in downtown New Orleans, offers the best of contemporary Louisiana fare. But I'd also have to say that Sal and Judy's Restaurant in Lacombe, Louisiana, on the northshore of Lake Pontchartrain, would be one of the most unique restaurant finds anywhere, it combines the best of Louisiana seafood with the Sicilian roots of its owner Sal Impastato.  

Music is just as important to our culture as food, and you can find some of the best of it at Fred's in Mamou, Louisiana. It's a little hole in the wall bar that serves up the best Zydeco in Cajun Country. Speaking of food and music, Louisiana's festivals are a great way to experience the best of both worlds. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is one of my favorites for just this reason – it offers an unbeatable combination of great food and music. Another favorite of mine is the Gueydan Duck Festival, known for duck calling contests, Cajun crafts, boudin, cracklin, Zydeco music and tasso poboys.  

I loved growing up in Louisiana. Some my favorite things to do were having beignets at Café Du Monde in New Orleans, crabbing on Lake Pontchartrain, fishing for croaker in Lake Catherine, squirrel hunting in the Honey Island Swamp, going to Bud's Broiler for a No. 4 with extra sauce, floating down Bayou Paquet on a pirogue fishing for bream, camping and fishing from the beach at Elmer's Island in Grand Isle, visiting the Jungle Gardens of Avery Island, just to name a few.

My boys enjoy doing many of the same things. My point is this is a great place for families to visit. Kids will enjoy doing any of the things I mentioned above, and much, much more, such as Dr. Wagner's Honey Island Swamp Tours, having a picnic and swim at the Peal River, catching a Saints game at the Superdome, visiting Audubon Zoo and the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.

New Orleans has great shopping. My favorite shops are George Bass and Rubensteins, both on the same block of St. Charles Avenue in downtown New Orleans. Magazine Street in uptown New Orleans would be my favorite shopping area. I don't shop in malls. In New Orleans I shop in shops, and we've got some of the most unique boutiques in the country! Road trips are a great way to discover Louisiana on your own.

The drive along the Cajun Coast tells the story of Louisiana quite well, leading you from the Creole Plantations of New Orleans to Houma, across the spillway to Morgan City and on to Franklin, to Jeanerette, and eventually to Abbeville, where one needs a couple dozen oysters and a cold drink before venturing to Gueydan and onto Lake Arthur. If that drive doesn't do it for you then start in Grand Isle and drive north all the way to False River.