Sunday, October 26, 2008

Frog Capital of the World

So we are standing in line . . .

waiting to be seated at Chef Roy’s Frog City Café in Rayne, LA. I am looking at the display of frog ceramics when I turn back to see Chuck smiling unaware that he was about to be attacked by something out of a 1950’s B horror movie. You know the kind--the movies where the spider/ant/grasshopper/bird is zapped by radiation and grows to 1,000 times its normal size. Loved those movies--still do. Anyway, this was a friendly frog and the danger quickly passed.

Jim and his wife Lynn are the resident managers at the Frog City RV Park in Duson. Jim recommended Frog City Café highly. And are we glad he did. We, along with what seemed to be half the population of Duson, Rayne, and Crowley, stopped in for lunch on Saturday. We learned that the lunch menu is only in effect Monday through Friday, and so we would have to order from the dinner menu.

Not wanting a full meal, we decided to order four appetizers (clockwise from the top)--the Popcorn Crawfish, Chef Benoit’s Cajun Eggrolls, Catfish Bites, and Mile High Onion Rings. All were prefect.

I am always somewhat leery about popcorn anything. Too often, batter covers a tiny, overcooked piece of food. These were awesome. Good-sized crawfish tails were seasoned, then battered and fried. Neither the batter nor the seasoning detracted from the sweet, mildly spicy, crawfish meat. The catfish bites were coated in a light cornmeal batter that had a modest amount of black pepper.

Both were served with a house-made tartar sauce that contained just enough mustard to give interest without overwhelming the fish. Now Chuck is not a tartar sauce man, so he told me that both portions of the sauce were mine. After the first taste on a piece of catfish, I suggested that he try just a little. Am I stupid or what? There went my second portion of tartar sauce.

The Cajun Eggrolls were inspired. Three house-made wrappers contained a mixture of crawfish, corn, and rice with just enough Cajun spice for interest. These came with a sweet-and-sour dipping sauce. And the onion rings--what can I say? Thank heaven the server asked if we wanted the half order and not the full. We would still be there eating. At first I thought there might be panko crumbs coating the batter--I am still not sure but these were crisp and fat free. Chuck asked if I tasted something sweet. The sweetness was nothing more than the natural sugars in the sweet onions.

The kitchen is run by Chef Beniot Morel, a native of Chalons en Chamgagne, France. Chef Beniot moved to Louisiana in 1997 where he went to work with Chef Roy who owned restaurants in Lafayette, Rayne, and Crowley. We expressed our satisfaction with the meal to Robert Credeur, owner and manager. He is a native of Mire, LA and had worked for Chef Roy.

This is a 5.0 Addie restaurant, and a return visit to sample the more complex items on the dinner menu is a must. Besides, there is a dessert calling my name. The Turtle--chocolate genoise cake surrounding vanilla ice cream, rolled in caramel sauce and roasted pecan pieces, and served over a pool of caramel sauce. Wow.

We took a short drive through Rayne to see the cemetery at St. Joseph's Catholic Church. The cemetery is an attraction (having appeared in "Ripley's Believe It or Not!") with people coming from around the world to see the only cemetery in the Judeo-Christian world that faces north-south rather than the traditional east-west position (the east metaphorically representing the beginning of life with the rising of the sun and the west metaphorically representing the ending of life with the setting of the sun).

We assumed the graves are above ground for the same reason they are in New Orleans--the water table is so high that they will not stay beneath the surface in heavy rains.

As we drove out of Rayne, we saw the frog welcoming visitors to "The Frog Capital of the World." Since frogs seemed pretty important, I gave a tip of my hat to stay on the good side of this dapper fellow.

I think we'll learn more about frogs in the next few weeks.

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