Sunday, May 8, 2011

We Interrupt this Festival...

(sort of), to discuss an issue of importance.

Do you know what divides people into warring camps? Women vs. men? Democrat vs. Republican? Urban vs. rural? North vs. South? East vs. West? “No” to all of these. It’s oysters. I have long maintained that the world can be divided into two groups—those who love oysters and those who don’t. I belong to the former contingent and Chuck to the latter.

So, when on a visit to LA Seafood House in Duson (LA), co-owner Cody McCowan asked if we had tried their char-broiled oysters, I replied, “No” and explained that Chuck was not an oyster man.

“You’ll love these oysters.” he says to Chuck. “We have people in here all the time who don’t like oysters, and they love these. And you have to try our alligator.” Now that’s a harder sell.

One week or so later, we were back at LA Seafood and to our surprise (and delight) it was “Two for One” appetizer night. Buy one appetizer and get the second free. The only catch is that you can’t get a second order of oysters free.

We decided to share three appetizers and approached the menu from the standpoint of choosing some items that Chuck would like if he didn’t like the oysters. Our choices included Crawfish Nachos—crawfish tails in a spicy cheese sauce over house-fried tortillas and topped with cheese and jalapenos; Yum Yum Shrimp—wild-caught Louisiana gulf shrimp, fried and tossed in a spicy Asian sauce; Frog Legs—fried or grilled Louisiana Bull Frog; Alligator Legs—fried or grilled farm-raised Louisiana gator; Spinach and Artichoke Dip served with fried eggplant chips; Fried Alligator—flash-fried tail meat served with a remoulade sauce; Crab Cake—fresh handmade Louisiana crab cake, lightly breaded and fried and drizzled with a light cream sauce; Crawfish Rolls—Louisiana crawfish hand-rolled with rice, cheese and seasonings and served with fried green beans and a spicy Asian dipping sauce. We decided on an order of the crawfish nachos, the Yum Yum Shrimp, and the char-grilled oysters.

First to the table were the oysters. I love oysters, but these raised oysters to a new level. Plump and briny, they had been grilled with butter seasoned with garlic, Cajun seasoning, and parmesan cheese. One bite and I fell in love. Unfortunately, after one bite Chuck also fell in love. There went my plan to have more than my share of oysters. And once you had extracted the oyster from its half-shell, you had a pool of oyster liquor mixed with the seasoned butter. Then you tear off a small piece of bread and then wipe out the shell and savor the flavors one more time.

After the oysters, anything would be anticlimactic. The shrimp were beautifully fried with the crisp coating we have come to know and love in Louisiana. Not a one of the ten was overcooked. The menu described the sauce as “spicy.” That is an understatement. The sauce was mucho spicy. In fact, later Cody told us that this was the spiciest item on the menu.

By themselves, the shrimp would have been fine. But then we paired them with the crawfish nachos, which were also quite spicy thanks to the jalapeno slices. Crawfish were mixed in a rich sauce that contained, in addition to the tails, chopped red and green bell pepper.

We finished the meal with a slice of persimmon bread pudding. Persimmons are a very sweet fruit so this was a very sweet, but delicious, bread pudding. And this was covered with a sweet sauce.

And now we return to the festival…

and who is one of the food vendors? LA Seafood House. Cody and a large contingent of his staff were feeding the masses with shrimp and grits, grilled ahi tuna wraps, grilled shrimp wraps and… char-grilled oysters.

And who is there with Cody and the crew? Mr. Charles. The same Mr. Charles who stands behind the bar at LA Seafood and prepares the delectable oysters for the restaurant. The same Mr. Charles, who, no matter how long the lines at the festival stand, grilled his oysters with calm panache.

And did we eat oysters? Yes, on both of the first two festival nights. A tip of the hat to Mr. Charles for maintaining the same level of quality under less than ideal circumstances.

We have been so fortunate to have two 5.0 Addie restaurants (Chef Roy’s and LA Seafood) within a short drive from our home in Duson. Already my mouth is watering thinking about when we can return to Acadiana again.

And no. We never did try the alligator. Eating reptile is a stretch even for me.

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