Wednesday, May 22, 2013

When People Ask

…what keeps bringing us back to Louisiana, we have a ready answer. It’s the great music, the great food, and the great people. And at our follow-up lunch at Buck & Johnny’s in Breaux Bridge, we certainly found two of the three—great food and great people. Not that Buck & Johnny’s doesn’t feature music, just not during lunch. But they do, including a Kids’ Jam on Tuesday nights.

We arrived to be greeted by Coatney Raymond, who directed us to seats at a large table where her husband—Johnny—reigned. (The Raymonds are shown in the photo below.)

Sitting with Johnny was a friend and business partner (in another business and not the restaurant) Paul Hardy (shown here with Kate). Do you remember when David Letterman would do a segment entitled “Brush with Greatness.” Well, Paul has a long and illustrious Louisiana history. He has served as State Senator and was named by the Baton Rouge State Times as the “Outstanding Newcomer.” In 1976, he was elected Secretary of State. During 1980-1984, he served as Louisiana’s Secretary of Transportation, and in 1987, he was elected as Louisiana’s Lieutenant Governor.

Soon we were joined by Iman and Mojo (shown in the photo below). Iman is a professional clown, and Wallace Baine at writes that “Her first love is juggling, and she runs a business designing and manufacturing supplies for jugglers and clowns, from rings to clown noses. Still, she's most known for her dazzling comic performances…For the past few years, she's kept a busy schedule performing a show she developed…to dispel the Ronald McDonald, birthday-party stereotype of clowns and convince the public to see them for what they are: the most versatile expression of the performing arts, from acrobatics to comedy, all rolled into one person.”

Mojo is a zydeco musician performing his own original music and is described by Syndicated News Network as: "’This Bayou Man, Mister MOJO, and his troupe of near-mad musical provocateurs, have poured Louisiana Fire on audiences across the planet for over a quarter century.... Few performers can lift an audience like Mojo, star of the Bayou Gypsies.... According to Performing Arts Center Directors, Fans, and Producers interviewed, none match the unbridled fever this charismatic singer/accordionist brings to the stage. And they are nowhere near finished with the mission.’" His business card reads “25 Years of Inducing Wild Behavior.”

click on to hear one of his original works.

And after a bit, we were joined by Ricky Hayes, a Nursing Home Administrator at St Agnes Healthcare and Rehabilitation. Unfortunately, we didn’t get much of a chance to talk with Ricky, so I can’t give you any additional information.
Over the course of our lunch, which lasted almost two hours, the conversation ranged over a variety of topics. But, as is so often the case, the topic of food predominated. We talked about local restaurants. We talked about Cajun food. We talked about what Cajuns don’t order in restaurants because they can get it so much better at home. And I learned that Johnny had been part of a team that won the Crawfish Festival étouffée cook-off three years in a row.

But it was time to eat. As with many local restaurants, Buck & Johnny’s offers daily specials. On this day the specials were beef and cabbage soup, fried or grilled pork chops, and their ultra-wonderful bread pudding.

Our lunch started with a shared order of the Crawfish Enchilada—a rolled tortilla stuffed with crawfish, cheese, and chile Rotel sauce, topped with cheddar and Rotel sauce, and then baked. Rotel is a brand of canned chopped tomatoes that include chopped chili peppers or jalapenos and can be purchased in either mild or spicy form.
The spicy Rotel’s add a real kick to anything made with them (I use them when I make Paula Deen’s Cheesy Spicy Grits.) and in this enchilada they helped cut the richness from the cheeses. While Buck & Johnny’s is not a Cajun restaurant per se—they describe themselves and being eclectic and Italian—the enchilada is a good representation of how younger Louisiana chefs are taking indigenous ingredients—in this case, crawfish—and putting them to new uses.

Next came cups of the day’s soup, the beef and cabbage. This was a hardy and robust soup made with ground beef and shredded cabbage in an intense and peppery stock.
This soup would be perfect on a cold and damp day in the middle of winter. Actually, it was a perfect soup on a hot and humid day in early summer.

Coatney then brought me a small sampler cup of their portobello and brie soup (sorry, no photo, but there is a photo of some wonderful bread from Poupart's Bakery) that was as elegant as the beef and cabbage was robust.
On to an order of Johnny's Drunken Shrimp made with fresh Gulf shrimp that had been marinated in an Abita Turbo Dog batter (This is an English Brown Ale style beer brewed by Abita Brewing Co. in Abita Springs, LA and is a particular favorite of ours.) The coating had a hint of sweetness from the beer’s sugars, and we were both immediately reminded of the Asian Shrimp from Asian Noodle Bar in Albuquerque.
Remember a week or so ago when I said that the only eggplant I’ll eat is that prepared in Louisiana? Our next shared plate was the eggplant fries that were dusted with parmesan cheese and served with a cup of marinara for dipping.
Eggplant contains a lot of water and it takes real skill to turn it into crispy fries. As Mojo said as we were enjoying them: “They really know how to fry around here.” So they do.

All this food and we’ve just gotten started. For my lunch entrée, I chose the Crabcakes Coatney. The plate came with two good-sized cakes, roasted skin-on potatoes, and a vegetable mélange of cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots.
(Chuck’s plate also contained the same veggies and even he—no real fan of cauliflower—remarked to me when we got home about how good they were.)

The crab cakes contained a minimum of filler, but did have a small measure of minced red and green peppers and an Old Bay-like seasoning. A small cup of pesto came on the side and I did try the pesto on a small section of one of the cakes. But, as good as the pesto was, I soon concluded that the crab cakes needed no embellishment. All I wanted was the taste of sweet crab.

Chuck’s choice was the Blackened Tilapia topped with shrimp basil cream and served with the same potatoes and veggies that came with my plate.
The fish was sweet and beautifully flakey; the blackening seasoning wasn’t overdone nor did it have a burned taste; and the cream sauce balanced the spices from the blackening.

And we couldn’t resist taking a photo of Mojo’s entrée—the fried pork chop special or “plate lunch.”
“Wait a minute!” you are saying. “The chalkboard said served with red beans and rice. These look like white beans.” Right you are and you win today’s prize. The photo of the chalkboard was taken at last week’s pizza meal and you caught me in a slight bit of subterfuge.

Are we finished yet? No! Time for dessert. And here we learned about a local Cajun tradition. Desserts will come to the table with a spoon on the plate for every diner. This way the dish can be passed around the table and each diner gets a clean spoon to taste each one.

Of course there was a serving of the wonderful bread pudding that I described in yesterday’s blog.
And there was a large slice of carrot cake from Poupart’s Bakery that was nicely moist and redolent with spices.
And, to round out the meal, came a slice of dobash—again from Poupart’s. This is a new one for me and when I Googled dobash I found a Wikipedia entry for doberge cake which “is a layered dessert originating in New Orleans, Louisiana. Still popular in the area, the cake is made of multiple thin layers of cake…covered in a thin layer of butter cream and a fondant shell or, alternately, a poured glaze on the outside…. Traditional flavors are chocolate, lemon and caramel.” (
Well, we have a new favorite Acadiana restaurant to add to 2Paul’s in Lafayette and Chef Roy’s in Rayne. And what do these three have in common other than uncommon food. All three have wonderful owners who are physically present in the restaurant and make even newcomers feel like old friends.

Chalk up another 5.0 Addies for Buck & Johnny’s. Although I may start a petition to rename it Buck & Johnny’s & Coatney’s.

To review the role of Adler and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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