Thursday, April 24, 2014

Adapted from Austin Price's April 2014 THRIVE Magazine article
Luna Bar & Grill's Omelet Mamou by Michelle Higginbotham
When the English writer Guy Berringer coined the term “brunch” in 1895 and proposed that England make it a staple of their weekends, his reasons were as social as they were gustatory. In fact, he wasn’t particularly interested in what kinds of meals might make up a brunch, suggesting only that the cook provide “everything good, plenty of it, (and) a variety of selection.” His concern was more with the human element, how it should be “sociable and inciting…” so that it would in turn “put you in a good temper… with yourself and your fellow people,” confident that if it was doing its job right a healthy, post-church brunch would “sweep away the worries and the cobwebs of the week.” Maybe that’s why he chose the word “brunch” to represent this proposed meal. Sure, it’s linguistically appropriate, but it’s always a fun word, the kind you might expect children in the back of a car ride to come up with just to keep themselves amused, a word light and inviting and playful, just as a good “brunch” should be.

                It’s nice to see, then, that his proposal didn’t go ignored. Flash forward  to the present and you’ll see that Sunday brunch isn’t simply acceptable or even merely liked: people love their brunches. From New Orleans, where Sunday mornings find roughly half of the city’s population sitting on street corners just waiting to get inside for a nip to New York, which boasts many of the most avant-garde cooks in the brunch business (where else can you pick up a dish that couples oysters-on-the-half-shell, scrambled eggs and steel-cut oatmeal?), everyone can find a perfect excuse to stay in a little later Sunday mornings and delay their breakfast just a little. Whether you’re hung over and looking to recover with heartier fare or part of a church group that’s eager to continue socializing well beyond the service, there’s no reason to skip out on the many brunch options available in your own backyard. Lake Charles may not rival New Orleans, New York or Seattle for diverse morning fair, but it’s not without its attractions. Just consider the following:


- Luna Bar & Grill (11 AM – 2 PM)
"I love sitting on the patio to watch the jazz band. You must try the Eggs Calcasieu, which are topped with boudin and Hollandaise sauce over French bread. I substitute the fried oysters for shrimp." Megan Monsour Hartman
Luna Bar & Grill's Eggs Calcasieu by Michelle Higginbotham

- Pujo Street Café (10 AM – 2 PM)
"I like getting to Pujo Street Cafe early around 10:15 a.m. to start my lazy Sunday with the fried chicken and waffles!  I mean, how can you get any better than a fried chicken breast, topped with bacon, and sandwiched between waffles?" Chris Berryhill
Pujo Street Cafe's Chicken & Waffles

"Pujo Street Cafe's brunch is actually reasonably priced and the mimosas and bellinis are BOGO." Leigh Ward

- Le Beaucoup Buffet at L'Auberge Casino Resort (11 AM – 3 PM)

- KD’s Diner (all day)

- Le Peep Café (all day)

- Pitt Grill  (all day; Eggs Benedict breakfast meal served exclusively on Saturdays and Sundays)

- IHOP (all day)

- Waffle House (all day)

- Le Café at L'Auberge Casino Resort (all day)

- O'Charley's (10 AM - 3 PM)
"O'Charley's serves a brunch menu as well as their regular menu. I take my four-year-old granddaughter after church when we are together. She loves the popcorn shrimp and fruit and I always get the Cajun Chicken Pasta." Martha Damian 
- The Buffet at Isle of Capri (7 AM - 3:30PM; Bloody Mary Brunch Bar)

"The build-your-own Bloody Mary Bar at the Isle of Capri is a nice bonus. They have a spread of garnishes that you would never expect, but it's really impressive." Christie Guidry
Isle of Capri's Bloody Mary Brunch Bar

- Otis & Henry's at Isle of Capri (11 AM - 3 PM on Saturdays and Sundays; Blues Brunch)

Monday, April 7, 2014
By Linda Aksomitis

Witness the cannon fire on May 2 as the city militia try to
defend the seawall only to be overtaken by Jean Lafitte.
Photo by David Aksomitis
There’s nothing like a good pirate story—or event—to lure me into driving two thousand miles. And Contraband Days in Lake Charles proved to be all I hoped for.

I’ve always been intrigued with pirates, so much so that my grandson and I played pirates in our hot tub from the time he was two. Unfortunately, he always got to be the captain, and if I was lucky, I was the first mate instead of cabin boy. Both positions always ended the same way though—with a mighty splash as I walked the plank.

 So, I knew how the mayor of Lake Charles felt when “pirate Jean Lafitte” forced him to walk the plank!

 With the true head of the city disposed of, the pirates are in control for the twelve days (two weekends) of Contraband Days. And if there’s one thing pirates are good at, it’s throwing a party and having fun.

We planned our visit to arrive in Lake Charles for the first weekend of Contraband Days, so got to take in the parade and the pirate “attack” on the city. Re-enactors, dressed in period costume, defended the sea wall with canons, while boats flying the Jolly Roger circled the bay. Once the buccaneers landed, though, it was all over, and we were on to the Civic Center to continue the fun.

With a midway, lots of booths and Cajun food, plus bands on the outdoor stage, things just got better and better. The concert list for this year's festival, April 29-May 11, looks to be great with musicians like Thompson Square, Wayne Toups and Jason Crabb.  

Of course, during the day, we got to experience lots of Lake Charles culture too, from boudin balls and cracklins, to the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road and Mardi Gras Museum.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014
By Cory Cart, 

Crispy, juicy and often salty - and when prepared correctly, nothing satisfies me like fried food.  In fact, I sometimes only eat fried food when I travel.  While I’m not a food expert, I did grow up in a household that traded in their Fry Daddy for a Fry Pappy (a larger model of the popular Fry Daddy – in case you weren’t aware) and never felt the pantry was full unless you had Crisco on hand.  So I guess you could say, I know my fried foods.

Getting older, I’ve learned you can’t eat fried foods for every meal, so it with a discerning group of taste buds that I seek the finest fried foods.  I’m not into the “frankenfried” concoctions that lure people to the nearest state fair – you can keep your fried bananas, Snickers, Twinkies and peaches.  I want the real McCoy.

I have logged the tens of thousands of miles driving around the country eating at diners, roadside food stands and sometimes dripping grease on fine white table linens.  There have been times the soggy, reheated and fresh from the freezer fried foods have been piled high in a red plastic basket only to disappoint.  But I trudged forward knowing I’d be rewarded one day with fried food magic.

Then two years ago, I discovered the Holy Grail of fried foods.  It wasn’t one restaurant, it wasn’t one dish, but it was an entire city!  Sure I’ve written about Lake Charles before, but never in such a blatant and open way.  I think part of me wanted to keep this spot a secret.  But the softer side of my heart tells me that isn’t fair.  While I try to make regular trips back to savory these goodies, I am still no where near as regular of a visitor as I aim to be.

So without further ado, here are my five favorite fried foods in Lake Charles,Louisiana.

  1. Boudin Balls – No two boudins are exactly alike although they are all mostly rice and pork.  When you roll it into a ball and fry it, well - something magical happens. After sampling many, my favorite boudin balls are found at Steamboat Bill’s on the Lake.
    Fried Boudin Balls
  2. Fried Oysters - Have you ever tasted a fried sponge?  Well that’s how I find most fried oysters to taste.  Oysters are my favorite fried food of all-time, and I’m picky, picky, picky about fried oysters.  Again, Steamboat Bill’s on the Lake didn’t disappoint.  I’d freely suggest these piled high on a Po’ Boy or alongside a steaming hot heap of fries.
    Fried oysters by Cory Cart
  3. Pistolettes – I’m pretty sure there were some nervous oysters as I took my first bite of a crawfish pistolette.  I literally saw stars dripping with grease as I savored this Cajun favorite.  The fried bread is cupped in the center and holds a rich, savory crawfish (or shrimp when crawfish are not in season) mixture.  It’s still up for debate if this will move into the #1 rank as my favorite fried food of all time.  Where do you find these you ask?  Well …Steamboat Bill’s on the Lake of course!
    Pistolette by Cory Cart
  4. Fried Shrimp – How many fried shrimp have we all had?  It’s a standard staple on most menus that serve anything fried.  But one Lake Charles eatery has mastered the art of frying shrimp.  Big Daddy’s Sports Grill and Restaurant knows how to bread ‘em, fry ‘em and keep ‘em tender and juicy.  There will be no dried out frozen fried shrimp here.  (Psst – If you are on fried food overload, the grilled shrimp are just as good.)
    Fried shrimp poboy by Cory Cart
  5.  Beignets – Who can travel to Louisiana without eating a beignet?  No one.  I know most people think they must visit New Orleans for a great beignet, but that isn’t true.  My two favorite beignets are in two other Louisiana cities, one being Lake Charles.  Again, Big Daddy’s Sports Grill and Restaurant takes the prize.
    Beignets by Cory Cart