Summer Fun Along the Louisiana Culinary Trails
While the summer sun is high, carve out a little time to enjoy the best of Louisiana’s homegrown vegetables, cool desserts, fresh fish, and more.
Make these summer traditions your own:
Visit the farmers market. The slow food, buy local movement that is all the rage across the country is nothing new to us. We’ve long known that the best-tasting fruits and veggies come from Louisiana farms and farmers. If you haven’t been to a farmers’ market yet this year, there’s still time - many, like the Opelousas Farmers Market on the Prairie Home Cooking trail, are open year-around. Plus, you’ll find homegrown goodies at roadside stands, like the ones lining both sides of Bayou Lafourche along our Bayou Bounty Trail.
Enjoy a progressive dinner. Let’s be honest: Sometimes it’s just too hot to be in the kitchen. Instead, invite a few friends for an evening out...with a twist. Plan a progressive dinner for the group, with drinks and appetizers at one spot, entrées and sides at another, and dessert at yet another. In Natchitoches on the Red River Riches Trail, local resident Iris Harper loves suggesting a progressive dinner to visitors. “There are nine locally owned restaurants within a three- to four-block area in the historic district,” she says. In Natchitoches, why not start with appetizers at The Landing Restaurant and Bar, where Harper recommends the blackened alligator appetizer.
Fish for your supper. There’s a reason we’re known as a Sportman’s Paradise! Redfish, catfish, bluegill, bass, and more—we’ve got all kinds of fish and a wealth of fishing spots. Catch your limit then cook it up yourself. You can’t beat the fresh taste and the pride in serving your catch at the table. If you’re in the northern part of the state, cast in Toledo Bend in Sabine Parish or hook up with Homer Humphreys, a professional fisherman and guide who sure knows his way around Lake Bistineau and the Red River. In South Louisiana, catch redfish on the Seafood Sensation trail in Lake Charles or set sail in the Gulf—which is open for recreational fishing.
Here’s a cooking tip from Jean Lafitte fishing guide Theophile Bourgeois: When you’re grilling redfish, leave the scales on one side of a boneless filet. Rub the meat with Worcestershire sauce and Italian dressing. Add seasonings, including Louisiana Fish Fry Cajun seasoning, and throw the filet on the grill for about 15 minutes, scale side down. When the meat cracks, squirt with a bit of margarine and let it melt over the fish.
Cool off with an icebox pie. Ice cream may be summer’s star dessert, but don’t overlook the icebox pie—one sweet way to cool off on a hot day. You’ll find the refreshing treats on menus across the state. In New Orleans, Clancy’s serves up a lemon icebox pie that is among pastry chef and author David Guas’ favorite desserts (he mentions it in his book DamGoodSweet, where he includes his own recipe). In Lecompte—the Pie Capitol of Louisiana— Lea’s Lunchroom is the place to go for coconut, lemon, chocolate, banana, and more. In Shreveport, locals head to Strawn’s for a yummy whipped-cream-topped slice of strawberry, chocolate, or coconut. Creola Café, in Grand Coteau, serves up a chocolaty, creamy Yum Yum pie, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t suggest ordering their signature Creola Italian cream cake. This chilled dessert is made with light-as-air cake, filled with mascarpone (Italian cream cheese), dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate.