Thursday, March 31, 2011

Brush with Greatness

We felt lucky to have found a parking spot so close to the tournament planned for Girard Park in Lafayette, LA.

The row of trash containers alerted us to the size of the crowd the day's event's planners expected.

As we approached the location of the playing field, we caught snipets of conversations about the event and their preparations for it.

"Looks like the courts (left) are in good shape," observed one person.

"Bernard asked me to team up with one of his friends. I've been playing for two days," confided another to his friend.

"I heard they're exprecting teams from Washington and Texas," noted a local competitor.

The person on the left in the photo caught our attention because of his unusual headgear. We would later learn that both people in the photo were participants in the tournament.

Another participant was this bare-footed gentleman.

"He's an interesting guy. I've seen him play in his underwear when the temperature was 104 degrees," reported a woman in a nonchalant manner to her friend.

Now before you begin wondering if this is leading to "April Fool!" let me put that to rest.

Shown here with yours truly is Bernard Champey (left), mul-tiple Boule Lyonnaise champion and world champion in the sport of petanque ("pah-tonk"). Monsieur Champey, who spoke very little English, was kind enough to pose for this photo.

The game of petanque, developed during the 18th century around Lyon, France, can be played on almost any terrain; most players actually prefer an uneven terrain to make it more challenging.

Play begins by one participant tossing a "jack," a plastic ball (yellow ball in photo), at least 12.5 meters from the player. The purpose then is to get throw your boules (hollow metal balls) as close to the jack as possible. In doubles, each person throws three boules.

Though similar to bocce, petanque has these differences: Bocce balls are usually rolled palm up, petanque balls tossed palm down (shown in these three photos), so they get backspin upon release.

Bocce players take steps before throwing, petanque players stand still (feet together, in a small starting circle).

Bocce has different variations as to court size and layout. The court should be smooth and flat; some rules call for wooden sideboards to make it an enclosed area.

Petanque can be played on almost any terrain; most players actually prefer an uneven terrain to make it more challenging. Enthusiasts like to convince those who are designing a larger playing area not to stick to six neat independent rectangles, but rather a plain open area that fits into the surroundings. A tree here and there makes it so much more enjoyable.

(Note the rough surface as the measurement is being taken in one of the games.)

Among the teams competing was the defending champions from LeCannet in south of France. Kate got to talking to some of the participants from Washington State (far left in the photo, player from Seattle and player from Walla Walla, far right).

I thought I had wanted to learn curling, but now petanque is at the top of my list.

(By the way, the crowd consisted mostly of players and Kate and I; the rows of pink trash cans were left over from the 12th Annual Komen Acadiana Race for the Cure held the day before.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

To Quote an Authoritative Source . . .

“Chef Roy’s became one of my favorite restaurants anytime, anywhere. Co-owners Robert Credeur and Chef Benoit Morel have done everything right.” Who is that authoritative source you might ask? That would be me blogging on December 1, 2008.

“Chef Benoit Morel…started to study the culinary arts in 1989 and graduated from the culinary school of Troyes France in 1995 as a Chef de Cuisine. He was nominated for the best culinary student in Champagne France in 1993… In 1997, Chef Benoit Morel moved to Louisiana, studied and worked under Chef Roy Lyons as a sous chef for one year. From 1999 to 2004, Chef Benoit worked as chef de cuisine for Chef Roy's restaurants in Crowley, Lafayette, and Rayne.

“Robert Credeur is a native of Mire, LA, and graduated from Rayne High School. Robert started working for Chef Roy in 1992 and worked up to General Manager in 1998.… On January 1, 2005, Chef Benoit Morel and Robert Credeur purchased Chef Roy's Frog City Enterprises from Chef Roy Lyons…(and) have maintained his legacy of authentic Cajun Food with Chef Roy's original recipes” (from the restaurant’s web site).

I am always anxious when revisiting after a couple of years a restaurant that I loved. Will it have changed? Will the food be as good? What about the service? Will co-owner Robert still walk through the dining room greeting diners?

Well, very little has changed. The dining room still conveys a homey comfortable stylishness with its painted paneled walls, dark wood ceiling, heavily draped windows, and the most comfortable dining chairs I have found in a long time. The food and service are still excellent, and Robert is still a friendly presence in the dining room.

In fact, we had the chance to talk with Robert, and he remembered us from our visits thirty-three months ago. He remembered inviting us to his sister’s wedding reception—an experience we always will remember—and that we camped in Duson.

Our server that noon was Amy, who exhibited great patience as we almost endlessly studied the menu and debated our options. On her second visit to our table to see if we had any questions, she said that she would just wait until we closed the menus as a clue that we were ready. And Amy was a fount of information when we finally settled on our choices.

For starters, Chuck chose a cup of the corn and crab soup and I ordered a cup of the seafood gumbo. My gumbo (left) was delicious—filled with shrimp, oysters, crawfish, and crab in a wonderful dark roux base.

But if my gumbo was delicious, Chuck’s soup was wickedly delicious. Corn and crab are two foods meant to be combined, since the sweetness of each com-pliments the other. The soup was medium thick, contained bits of shredded cheese, and was garnished with scallion top rings. This was amazing. So amazing that I kept reaching across the table to steal just one more spoonful.

You have your choice at lunch of ordering from the full dinner menu or from the shorter menu with smaller serving portions. On the luncheon menu, the choices include Crawfish Fettuccine, Crawfish Napoleon, grilled chicken breast, chicken fried chicken, a shrimp or chicken enchilada, grilled shrimp or chicken salad, fried shrimp or catfish, shrimp etouffee, a hamburger steak, and a mixed fried seafood platter.

Chuck chose, after a l-o-n-g deliberative process, the fried seafood platter with sweet potato fries and an order of onion rings. Fortunately, Amy asked if we wanted the half order instead of the full. Yes, this is the half order. The onion rings, of which I ate too many, had an almost transparent beer batter and had all the flavor of sweet onions.

His platter contained three cornmeal coated and flakey catfish filets (one taste was not enough for me), two beer battered shrimp, a stuffed shrimp, and a fried oyster. Great! He doesn’t care for oysters! I’ll get the whole thing. No, he only offered me half. And an excellent fried oyster it was.

The platter came with sweet potato fries (his choice of side) which were lightly dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon. These were like candy on the plate and went amazingly well with the fried seafood. I would never have thought to add the sugar and cinnamon, but this really worked—for both of us.

Chef Roy’s menu represents what I think of as a new generation of Acadiana restaurant owners and chefs. Yes, you will find your gumbos, fried seafood platters, and etouffees. But in my order, the Crawfish Napoleon, they take indigenous ingredients and assemble them in new ways. Two rounds of eggplant sandwich a savory stuffing (similar to that used to stuff crawfish heads for crawfish bisque or to form crawfish boulettes), and then the stuffing is topped with small crawfish tails. Over this is ladled a rich cheese sauce accented with just a hint of curry and more crawfish tails. The curry added just an undertone of flavor and let the cheese and crawfish take the leading roll. I had ordered this during our November 2008 visit and remembered to save half a roll to wipe up every speck of cheese sauce from the plate.

No room for dessert. Drat!

Well, Chef Roy’s Frog City Café (the café is located in Rayne, LA, which is the Frog Capital of the World) is still one of my favorite restaurants anytime, anywhere and earns the ultimate 5.0 Addie rating.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An Afternoon at the Rice

When we last visited Crowley, LA, about 30 months ago, Parkerson Avenue, the main street through this town of about 15,000, was impassable.

Today, the downtown businesses can proudly point to the boulevard that guides people into town. The island features historic-looking street lights and combined with the brick designs in the inter-sections and crosswalks presents a warm welcome.

One of the beneficiaries of this project's completion is the Rice Theater. The art deco style of this movie theater, built by the Southern Amusement Company in 1940, is apparent in the building's doors.

The archi-tectural style presents a striking picture as we entered the lobby. The green neon fits beautifully over the popcorn and candy counter.

Before its scheduled opening date of August of 1940, the theatre was damaged by a flood caused by a hurricane and had to be renovated. It did not open its doors until January, 1941.

I was not able to learn anything about the theater for the period from its opening to 1986, when the building was sold to the City of Crowley. This was when the Rice City Civic Center Project was undertaken by a group of concerned citizens and the City of Crowley Adminis-tration.

To us, this investment of time and money by the community reflects the commitment of the city to creating another community gathering place and an attraction to visitors.

During our brief tour of the theater, our guide, Bonnie Wines, mentioned that "the seats in the center rock!" We thought that she was quite current in her use of the language of the day. But she meant that the seats literally rock, whereas those along the sides are stationary.

"We have a small problem with the rocking. Some of the kids insist on rocking throughout the perfor-mance, and some of the chairs squeak as they rock. So, it does create a distraction if several are rocking in the squeaky chair.

The photo (right) looks toward the rear of the theater and the balcony.As we headed up to the balcony, I took this photo because of the attention to stylistic detail that it showed.

This last group of photos show the balcony seats and the view from the balcony.

Bonnie mentioned that there are about 550 seats in the theater. In addition to offering a monthly "Nite at the Rice," which features local performers and musicians, the Rice is the site for graduation ceremonies and other community ceremonies.

Above the stage is some artwork that shows some rice (center of the photo) and some masks signifying the theater's work.

It's very gratifying to see a community behind the restoration of a historic gem that all can feel part of.

Monday, March 28, 2011

It’s Noon at Olde Tyme Grocery. . .

and chaos reigns.

Having been disappointed by the Number One Lafayette restaurant on, we weren’t sure what to expect at Olde Tyme Grocery. (The tile sign in the photo is on the sidewalk outside of what may have been a grocery at one time, but today is primarily a po-boy shop that also sells snack items and beverages.) But it had been recommended by the folks that we spoke with while eating a late lunch at Original Don’s Seafood (see 3/13/11) and by no less an expert than The Cajun Foodie.

“Well-loved by locals and passers-through alike, Olde Tyme is currently ranked number two in our poll for the fried shrimp po-boy…The fried shrimp po-boy is comprised of a pile of golden fried shrimp, a couple slices of ripe tomato, mayo and lettuce. Stuffed into fresh Langlinais bread with a pillowy interior and crackly crust, this po-boy truly could be the definitive example of what this sandwich should be” (

And Old Tyme Grocery has been voted The Times' (the local free entertainment newspaper) Best Deli, Po-boy and Sandwich in Acadiana. Best in Acadiana? We’ve been promised that before.

Olde Tyme Grocery is located just two blocks from the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the combination of proximity, low prices, and good food make this a popular spot for college students. But the “eat in” crowd during our two recent lunches wasn’t just students. We shared the indoor dining room with a couple of police officers, senior citizens, families with small children, business people, and a smattering of students. In fact, it appears that most students take their food “to go.”

The crowd first assembles in a small and rather cluttered room where you place your order in one location, step to the right a few paces and tell the cashier what you have ordered (Yes, the honor system is at work here.), pay, and wait for your name to be called. Imagine at least thirty people moving from place to place, opening the cold cases for beverages, and milling around the iced tea dispenser. Pande-monium might be a better descriptor than chaos.

The menu is really simple. Po-boys, a couple of salads, and fries. With the exception of the half and half (shrimp and oysters), the po-boys can be ordered as a whole or half sandwich.

The main dining area had this older menu just standing on one end in one corner of the room. It was a sign of prices and times gone by, and I wish it could find a place of prominence on a wall of the grocery.

Chuck ordered the dressed (lettuce, tomato, mayo) whole shrimp po-boy (left), while I ordered the half and half. I had my choice of having the shrimp and oysters mixed or each served separately. Wanting to taste the unique flavors of each, I chose the separated. And, silly me, I asked Chuck if we really needed fries. We shared an order of fries.

The first thing you need to know is that these sandwiches are HUGE. I picked up mine and immediately knew I was in trouble. I started with the oyster half. The oysters were on the small side but had been expertly coated and fried. But, being small, they lacked the plump juiciness of my oysters at the Firehouse Café.

Next I tackled the shrimp half and, about a third of the way in, knew that some adjustment was needed. I was never going to finish, and this is not a sandwich that you take home and reheat. So, I elected to eat just the shrimp and scratch the bread. I counted the remaining shrimp. There were seven so I calculate that the half contained at least ten good sized shrimp. After having eaten the entire oyster half, I was hard-pressed to finish the shrimp half—even without the bread.

But finish I did because the shrimp were that good. Like most Louisiana fried seafood, they were coated with a seasoned fry mix that was part flour and part cornmeal. This combination makes for a light, but crunchy, coating. And there was nary an overcooked shrimp on the sandwich.

Our shared order of wedge fries was OK. Since I am not a big fan of wedge (or steakhouse) fries, I am perhaps not the best judge here. Still, we managed to consume the entire order.

At a later date, we were back in the neighbor-hood and looking for lunch. A second visit to Olde Tyme Grocery seemed to be in order. Again, the place was packed. After we had repeated the routine—order, pay, and wait for our name to be called—I went looking for a seat. I thought that we would need to sit on the outside patio, which, given that the day was hot and humid--humid only in the way it can get in South Louisiana, was not an appealing prospect. But, lucky me, a table inside was suddenly free.

Having learned my lesson, I ordered the half shrimp and it was as good as on the previous visit—with one proviso to be discussed later. Chuck ordered the half sausage po-boy and an order of fries.

I unwrapped Chuck’s sandwich first. (All orders come in a brown paper bag as if you were taking the food “to go.”) One look and I could tell that this was not sausage. This was corned beef. When I brought this to Chuck’s attention, he took one look at the mob still milling in the other room and declared: “Corned beef. Just what I really wanted.” This must be why one blog commenter said that when ordering take-out he always checks what’s in his bag before leaving the shop. It was decent corned beef—thin sliced and moist—but it wasn’t the sausage sandwich Chuck ordered.

Some locals think that Olde Tyme Grocery’s po-boys are the equal to, if not better than, those found in New Orleans. I disagree. And it is all about the bread. Yes, it was pillowy and chewy as the Cajun Foodie promised. But it was missing the crackly crust of Parkway Bakery’s. And the bread-to-filling ratio was off. The bread portion on my second sandwich was almost as wide as long. Way too much bread. (Notice that I didn’t ask for more filling—just less bread.)

Even with these missteps, I would certainly return to Olde Tyme Grocery and give the po-boys a 4.0 Addie rating.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

According to,

this combination bakery and sandwich stop is the Number One (out of 298) restaurant in Lafayette.

With reviews like:
“...makes some of the best burgers in Lafayette. The bread is what makes it so good. Order a cheeseburger and I'll bet it won't be your last.”


“…burgers are better than excellent; they are superior to almost all other burgers in Lafayette or anywhere else. My suggestion is to go with a friend and split one -- yes, they are that big!”


“Wow, wow, wow! Their huge hamburgers at lunch are out of this world!...I sat and savored my lunch in a way I haven't in years. Yes, I even closed my eyes…What put it over the top was the bun…If the butter bun leaves you unimpressed, I would suggest you have tired of life itself, but that's just me. I'm drooling a bit just thinking about the place.”

These had been voted the “Best Burger in Acadiana.” Always on the search for the ultimate burger, we had no choice but to visit Southside Bakery for one of their acclaimed hamburgers.

“It was shortly after the conclusion of World War II that founders Russell and Edith Guilbeaux opened what was once called the Dixie Cream Donut Shop…In the late 1970's, son Sammy bought the bakery from his father, and ran the bakery with his wife Gerry for ten years. Sammy closed the bakery in 1987 due to illness…Today, Southside Bakery continues to be a family operated business, with identical twin sons Denny and Billy, now carrying the family standard of providing only the highest quality products. They have expanded their menu to include hamburgers, sandwiches and salads“ (from the restaurant’s web site).

It wasn’t yet 1:00 p.m. when we walked in and three-quarters of the tables were occupied with most customers dining on large hamburgers. You walk to the order counter to read the short sandwich oriented menu. Offerings include: Cajun “Rich Boy” Sandwiches with a choice of ham, turkey, or roast beef on the bakery’s butter bread with lettuce, tomatoes, and mayonnaise and are served on our “delicious” butter bread; a Fried Shrimp or Grilled Shrimp Sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, and tartar sauce (mayo in the grilled shrimp); the “Gourmet” Hamburger or “Gourmet” Cheeseburger with lettuce, tomatoes, and mayonnaise; the “Gourmet Turkey Burger; the Crab or Crawfish Burger; a grilled cheese sandwich; and shrimp or chicken salads. For sides you could choose a salad, fries, or snag a bag of chips from the rack along one wall.

After ordering (a basic cheeseburger for Chuck and the cheeseburger with added grilled onions and bacon for me), we found a seat next to one of the bakery’s display cases where I was forced to gaze upon a tantalizing array of cakes, cookies, and other pastries. This was not fair. We have been gorging ourselves on the world’s greatest donuts (more about this in a later blog) and had vowed to take a break from desserts.

Finally our lunch arrived. By this time, it was just after 1:00 p.m. and the café was almost empty. With no exceptions so far, lunch in Acadia is eaten between noon and 1:00 p.m.

With the burgers, we shared an order of above average fries. We should have stopped there.

The Best Burger in Acadiana? I hope not. First, the meat’s texture was mushy. It was as though it had gone through a food processor and not a meat grinder and reminded us of all the bad hamburgers we ate in Canada. Second, Chuck thought that his was dry, but, then again, he had them hold the mayo and didn’t have the grilled onions. (This is my sandwich that you see pictured here.) Third, he thought it had an off taste. I didn’t notice this at first since I had the additions of onions and bacon. Then I noticed my mouth starting to burn. The meat had been seasoned with some spicy or peppery seasoning that obscured the flavor of beef. And, fourth, there was a sweet taste to the bun that I found off-putting.

Not a successful outing by any means. I’ll give the fries 4.0 Addies but 0.0 Addies for the burger.

Now I have read about a small place just down the road known as the “Home of the Dixie Burger.” What’s a Dixie Burger? I have no idea, but it must be better.