Culture and cuisine--we sampled it all
What if you could time travel, all in one day, from a pre-Civil War sugar planter’s breakfast, to an authentic Cajun crawfish boil, to trendsetting seafood dishes from talented New Orleans chefs moving a traditional cuisine forward?
That’s exactly what a group of Marriott’s culinary, F&B, and event planning leaders did on our Flavor Foray “On the Bayou” April 20, 2017. No region takes their history and culture as seriously as Louisiana and we got a taste of it all.
The day began with a historical sugar planter’s breakfast on the grounds of White Oak Plantation & Farm, Chef John Folse’s catering facility housed in a majestic white columned mansion. Back in the day, folks went into the fields before the sun came up and then came in mid-day to eat their main meal.
In the early morning sunshine, we could smell bacon cooking every which way on a live fire station. If there’s a heaven, it’s that station full of bacon--Acadian bacon, cane syrup-candied bacon, whole smoked, brown-sugar cured ham, Cajun bacon, boudin, and creole sausages. Pain perdu, grillades and blue corn stone-ground grits, fluffy cathead biscuits, calas cakes, and eggs a la crème completed the feast.
From there, we ventured into the swamp on the Atchafalaya Princess led by Henderson mayor Sherbin Collette on his boat, the Crawfish King. We glided past majestic moss-draped cypress trees through mysterious waters where graceful egrets perch just out of reach of lurking alligators. There are plenty of crawfish in there too.
Just a stone’s throw down the road sits Crawfish Town USA, a restaurant and fresh market housed in an authentic barn from the 1900s. Here in the heart of Cajun country, it’s crawfish season and Chef Dustie Latiolais threw down a traditional crawfish boil on newspaper-covered tables under the trees. His restaurant peels about 10,000 pounds of crawfish every year. No crawfish boil would be complete without some beer and Bayou Teche Brewery obliged.
The past met the future in a grand finale celebrating Louisiana Seafood in Jackson Square’s historic Cabildo, an elegant baroque museum the was the seat of the Spanish colonial government in New Orleans.
Six of the Crescent city’s best chefs showcased the state’s seafood bounty from oysters, to blue crabs, to shrimp, to fin fish, and even gator. And we dined like royalty on their creations in the magnificent halls where Spanish grandees once ruled.
Nathan Richard (Cavan) invented Alligator “Turtle” Soup, that is to say, alligator soup cooked in the style of traditional New Orleans turtle soup. Chris Montero (Napoleon House) used both Gulf shrimp and jumbo lump crabmeat in his refreshing Louisiana Seafood Salad with local heirloom grape tomatoes, confit garlic and baby arugula. Aaron Burgau (Patois) put his own spin on oysters and dumplings with Louisiana Oyster Stew and Gnocchi chock full of fennel and leeks.
Tableau’s John Martin put a twist on traditional Oysters Bienville with his Crawfish Bienville which included shrimp, oysters, ham and bacon and served it on slices of French bread topped with shrimp and oyster mousse and fresh crawfish and finished with blue crab butter sauce. Cody and Samantha Carroll (Sac-a-Lait) gave their deviled crab a contemporary touch of drama with a house made saltine dyed black with squid ink. Carrollton Market’s Jason Goodenough turned to the fin fish category with his Yellowfin Tuna Hot Oil. “The sushi-grade tuna was sliced sashimi-style, dressed with soy and lemon juice and then splashed with screaming hot sesame oil to flash cook the outside of the slices while simultaneously making a vinaigrette on the plate a la minute,” Goodenough explains.
Louisiana is the nation’s second largest producer of seafood generating more than 856 million pounds each year and is the largest commercial fishery in the contiguous United States. No wonder there’s crab piled on top of so many entrees or iconic dishes overflowing with crab, shrimp, and oysters all at once.
Beam Suntory showcased some special libations that have not yet been released to the market including Makers 46 Private Select, Tyrconnell 16-year-old Irish Whiskey, Basil Hayden Rye, and Knob Creek 25th anniversary.
Post Script. It took another half a day to see a couple more things. No trip to New Orleans would be complete without a visit to an oyster house so why not stop in to visit with Sal Sunseri at P&J Oysters. NOLA Brewing Company stopped in too. And then cap the morning off with a Bloody Mary and cracklins (now that’s a pairing!) in the shaded courtyard of Lucullus, the venerable culinary antique store on Chartres Street filled with copper pots and endless other tabletop temptations.
And a vote of thanks to all our generous sponsors: Bigelow, Cardinal, Dannon, Jade, Juicero, Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.
For more information, check out our video below.