Thursday, July 4, 2013

Have You Seen the Car Commercial…

with Shaquille O'Neal where he says to close the commercial, "Like my Mom said the day I was born, ‘Wow, that's a lot more than I expected’.”

Hang in with me. We’ll get back to this later.

I have been trying to calculate the number of times we have visited the Lafayette, LA, area. I know that there were three short trips before we bought the RV and at least four—if not, five—after we became nomads. But somehow the Steamboat Warehouse Restaurant in Washington (about 25 miles north of Lafayette) escaped our attention until it was recommended to us by a member of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Construction on the Steamboat Warehouse began in 1819 and was completed around 1823. Of the original seven warehouses operating on the banks of Bayou Courtableau, formerly known as the Opelousas River, the Steamboat Warehouse is the only one still standing.
When the railroad chose Opelousas for its local route, the steamboat’s whistles were silenced. Since then, the warehouse has fulfilled many functions ranging from a feed mill to a general store. Restored to its original shape in 1977, the Steamboat Warehouse Restaurant remains a feast for the eyes…. It combines the rustic atmosphere of historic yesteryear with wonderful regional cuisine that is Louisiana at its finest” (steamboatwarehouse.com).
“’It was one of the first to use a renovated facility in south Louisiana, tapping in to cultural tourism before the phrase was invented or anyone thought it was cool,’ said historian and Washington resident, Jim Bradshaw” (countryroadsmagazine.com).
And rumor has it that the warehouse is haunted. “…(T)he Steamboat Warehouse Restaurant, located on the banks of Bayou Courtableau, is a wonderful location for any historian or ‘Ghost Hunter’….
One of the staff claims she witnessed a cart rolling several feet one evening during close out. Another evening a female staff member was pushed in the back while waiting for her order from the kitchen. The owner and chef (Jason Huguet) claimed that one night he came to the restaurant around 2:00 a.m. and while he was there he heard dishes ‘clanking’ in the restaurant. Another employee has seen a female and young girl walking along the bayou” (laspirits.com).
We arrived at around 12:30 p.m. and found almost every table filled. Given that the 2011 population of Washington was under 1,000, you know that this must be a destination restaurant.

And, like the Two Step restaurant in San Antonio and Buck & Johnny’s in Beaux Bridge, Steamboat Warehouse Restaurant is another example of modernizing an historic structure without sacrificing historical integrity.





The restaurant’s menu was posted on their website, so we had time to study it and arrive at a game plan—share three appetizers and one dessert. But upon seeing the day’s specials, Chuck (a.k.a. Mr. Potato) had to add a cup of the Loaded Baked Potato Soup. So this was added to the mix.

As our “first course” we had the soup along with an order of Shrimp Betsy—six large Gulf shrimp sauteed in olive oil, herbs, and spices and accompanied by bread for dipping. (Two were eaten before the photo was snapped.)
When the dish first arrived at the table, I thought that I smelled an overabundance of garlic. But that first impression was misleading. Instead, the broth was a nicely balanced mix of oil, herbs, garlic, and lemon. In fact, the broth was so tasty that—once we had eaten the shrimp and bread—I ate the remaining broth with a spoon. And the shrimp were, since we are in Cajun Louisiana, cooked perfectly.

The soup had a thick—not “spoon stand up straight,” but thick nonetheless—cream base with some small recognizable pieces of potato and was topped with cheddar cheese, sour cream, bacon (real bacon) bits, and scallion tops.
The cheese was placed directly atop the soup so that it became slightly melted so that we had little cheese threads hanging off each spoonful. And, of course, bacon makes everything better.

It was time for course Number Two and here we have to give props to our server—Jade Buller. She waited until we had finished the soup and shrimp before asking the kitchen to send out our next two selections. This gave us a few minutes to savor what we had eaten and anticipate what was to come.

The next round included an order of two fried Crab and Crawfish Cakes made with fresh Louisiana white crabmeat and crawfish that was served with homemade remoulade. These appeared to have been battered before frying in a method that I can best describe as “chicken fried.” They were lightly seasoned and the sweetness of the shellfish was the predominant flavor.
The remoulade was good, but like with the pesto accompanying my crab cakes at Buck & Johnny’s, I decided that the cakes needed no further embellishment.

Our fourth item was the Eggplant Belle Rose—two fried eggplant medallions topped with Louisiana crawfish, Gulf shrimp, and fresh crab meat, then smothered with a seafood sauce containing fresh bluepoint crabmeat. The eggplant had been lightly coated before frying and had a thin and crispy exterior.
Again, the crawfish, shrimp, and crab mixture had been seasoned and again not so seasoned that you couldn’t taste the shellfish. And the sauce was rich and creamy and contained small pieces of crab.

Since we added a fourth appetizer, did we forgo dessert? Of course not. And shared a slice of Bananas Foster cheesecake.
This was dense, creamy, and rich with a caramel-like topping and the cream cheese mixture was flavored with banana liqueur.

And now back to Shaq’s mama. I had checked Urbanspoon for diner reviews and was a little concerned to read comments like “…food was fair. Over priced for the portion I received. Service was very slow. Wouldn't eat here again.” and “Food is overpriced. Portions are too small.” And “Very pricey!! The food was not great…”

Well, we disagree on all counts. The food was excellent and certainly not overpriced for the quality. And our server Jade was first rate.

So, as Mrs. O’Neal said “Wow, that's a lot more than I expected.” And earns 5.0 Addies.

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

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