5 More Louisiana Travel Ideas for Foodies

Satisfy your appetite for culinary travel at Louisiana’s food festivals, cooking schools, and culinary tours.

Cajun Boudin Trail homepageFollowing are five of the Bayou State’s many attractions and events you’ll surely savor.

Cajun Boudin Trail

The self-proclaimed capital of Cajun Country, Lafayette is known for its bounty of boudin. The best boudin is made in-house and is often found at gas stations, meat shops, and independent grocers.

The Cajun Boudin Trail puts you on the path to discovering Louisiana’s best boudin and other regional specialty items, be they pork chop sandwiches, beef jerky, cheesy boudin balls, specialty sausages, cracklin, smoked meats, plate lunches, stuffed chickens, or chili dogs.

Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail

Lake Charles is the urban center of a five-parish area called Southwest Louisiana.

Travel the Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail along I-10 and visit any mom and pop food establishment, specialty meat shop, or grocery store that has boudin fresh or packaged. Locals eat this delicious Cajun sausage for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

Brewery Tours

Louisiana Craft Beer
Louisiana Craft Beer

Craft breweries are popping up across Louisiana, and many offer tours and tastings.

Established in 1986, Abita Brewing Company is the oldest and largest craft brewery in the southeast and one of the oldest craft breweries in the United States.

Baton Rouge is home to the Tin Roof Brewing Company. For $5 you can tour the brewery Friday (doors open at 5 p.m.), receive a special edition souvenir glass, and three samples of their handcrafted ale. Tin Roof’s first summer seasonal beer, the Not Too Sweet Watermelon Wheat is brewed with fresh local watermelon to sweeten the brew pot.

Further south in the heart of New Orleans is NOLA (New Orleans Lager and Ale) Brewing Company offers names like Hopitoulas IPA, 7th Street Wheat, Hurricane Saison (Summer Seasonal Ale), and Smoky Mary (Fall Seasonal Ale).

In Cajun Country the Parish Brewing Company concocts a beer made with Louisiana’s own Steen’s sugarcane syrup. Located in Broussard, right outside of Lafayette, the nanobrewery prides itself on creating “uncompromised, independent, craft biére” that includes Canebrake (Wheat Ale), Parish Envie (American Pale Ale), Grand Reserve (Barleywine Ale), and Farmhouse IPA (Belgium Style Ale).

Not far away on Highway 31 in the small town of Arnaudville, Bayou Teche Brewing was founded on a simple dream—to craft beers that compliment the unique cuisine and lifestyle of Acadiana. In a converted old rail car near the banks of the Bayou Teche, innovative ales are being crafted true to the brewers’ original intent—LA-31 Bière Pâle, LA-31 Boucanèe, LA-31 Bière Noire, and Passionné.

Southern Food & Beverage Museum (SoFAB)

It is only fitting that a city obsessed with food would have a culinary museum. The Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SoFAB) is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding, and celebration of the food, drink, and the related culture of the South.

SoFAB is located on the Convention Center side of the Riverwalk Marketplace (best found through the Julia Street Entrance) and features rotating exhibits that feed your mind and make you hungry as well as weekend programs that highlight local culinary products and restaurants.

A collaboration of many, the Museum allows food lovers of all stripes—Southerners and non-Southerners, locals and tourists, academics and food industry insiders—to pull up their chairs and dig into the food and drink of the South.

Louisiana Food Festivals

Louisiana food festivals come in all sizes and descriptions, and for visitors they provide a fantastic opportunity to taste the flavors of the state, feel the rhythm of local tradition, and share authentic cultural experiences with the locals.

Bernard Crawfist Fest 2012The Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival occurs the first weekend in May (May 2-4, in 2014) when the delicious crustaceans are at their most plentiful. All weekend long you’ll enjoy tasting crawfish prepared in every imaginable way—fried, boiled, in an étouffée, bisque, boudin, pie, or jambalaya, and crawdogs, along with other Cajun favorites (shrimp, crab, gumbo, red beans, and rice, just to name a few).

Up north, in Shreveport, a similar scene takes shape during the Mudbug Madness Festival on the Memorial Day Weekend (May 22-25, in 2014).

April is strawberry harvest time in Southeast Louisiana when the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival (April 11-13, in 2014) takes over the streets of its namesake town.

Meanwhile the last full weekend in October is time to celebrate the Sweet Golden Yam (sweet potato) at the Louisiana Yambilee Festival in Opelousas.

The oldest and largest agricultural festival in the state, the Crowley International Rice Festival is an annual event held the third weekend in October (October 17-29, in 2013).

Some festivals honor foods and preparations that have come to symbolize their particular communities year-round. When people talk about pies in Natchitoches they mean the savory turnovers that have been popular here since the late 1700s. Gone are the street vendors chanting “Hotta meat pies! Get your hotta meat pies right here!” But the legend lives on at the Natchitoches Meat Pie Festival each September (September 20-23, in 2013).

Held the first full weekend in October, the Lecompte Pie Festival prides its self on good food, great times, and tons of pies.

No matter what form it takes, a Louisiana food festival will always put the great flavors of this state front and center.

Please Note: This is Part 12 of an on-going series on Louisiana Cuisine/Travel Ideas

Worth Pondering…

I drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol.
—Steven Wright.

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Still More Reasons to Love Texas Food

Texans take their food as seriously as they do their football.

Many Winter Texans and other visitors to the Lone Star State have the good sense to agree with them—that Texan food is that of the gods.

1. City Market

Barbecue fans head to downtown Luling to satisfy their craving for City Market’s succulent brisket, hot links, and pork ribs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Barbecue fans head to downtown Luling to satisfy their craving for City Market’s succulent brisket, hot links, and pork ribs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the great joys of RVing is visiting new places and making interesting discoveries. Another is just the opposite—revisiting those places that demand a closer look. Sometimes that second chance leads to a third—and a fourth.

City Market in Luling, is such a place. The meat-market-turned-barbecue-restaurant started in 1958, and over the years has become a barbecue icon. This is the arguably the best barbeque in all of Texas which helps explain why Luling is perennially included on our Texas itinerary.

2. Lockhart: Barbecue Capital of Texas

A short hop, skip, a jump from Luling is Lockhart, the Barbecue Capital of Texas. Out-of-towners and locals flock to four smoked-meat emporiums—Black’s Barbecue, Chisholm Trail Barbecue, Kreuz Market, and Smitty’s Market.

Brick pits that smoke the meats at Smitty's—brisket, pork ribs, and chops, shoulder clod, sausage, and prime rib. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Brick pits that smoke the meats at Smitty’s Market in Lockhart—brisket, pork ribs, and chops, shoulder clod, sausage, and prime rib. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Several tons of barbecued beef, pork, chicken, and smoked sausage are served each day. It is estimated that over 5,000 people visit these establishments on a weekly basis—that’s roughly 250,000 people a year who eat BBQ in Lockhart. Lockhart’s pit masters smolder native post oak logs, seasoned at least eight months, to provide the fragrant smoke and indirect heat that slowly roasts and flavors the meat. After that, secret recipes, cooking methods, and condiments separate the establishments.

It’s amazing that four barbecue establishments can stay packed all the time—and in a small town, too. Incidentally, my favorite is Smitty’s Market. The brisket and links as well as the unique experience make me a repeat customer.

3. Big Texan Steak Ranch

Not one of the businesses to put out a welcome mat for Oprah when she appeared in an Amarillo court against the beef producers, The Big Texan is best known for its 72 ounce steak. No matter how you cut it, 72 ounces is 4½ pounds and that’s a lot of meat. And it’s free if you can eat the steak and the accompanying salad, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, and bread in one hour while everyone else in the restaurant watches.

The atmosphere is awesome. There are elk heads all over the wall, about six Texas flags outside, along with a huge cow statue and other Texan artifacts.

4. Shiner Bock

If Blue Bell Ice Cream is a food group, then why not beer—but not just any beer; it must be a Texas original from “the little brewery in Shiner”. Reflecting the tradition of genuine Bavarian beers, Shiner Bock has been brewed since 1913, almost as long as the Spoetzl Brewery has been in business.

However, it wasn’t until 1973 that Bock went into production year-round. Bock was considered a lent beer, and therefore was only made around that season. Today over 80% of the beer made at the Spoetzl Brewery is Bock.

5. Las Vegas Cafe

For excellent home cooked Tex-Mex food, Las Vegas Café in Harlingen in the Lower Rio Grande Valley doesn’t disappoint.

The key to the eatery’s continued success is its consistency with good food, good service, and reasonable prices.

The name has spicy origins and so do the recipes. The building was a go-go club in the early 1960s that went by the name of Las Vegas Lounge.

Las Vegas owners Julio Charles and his wife, Eloina, started the café in 1964. Today, their two daughters, Lori and Julie, primarily run the café.

The classic Shiner Bock is a God given blessing. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The classic Shiner Bock is a God given blessing. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The popular café began its operation with only three tables and eight stools and now has a seating capacity for 140 people.

This is a great place for lunch, but it’s always very busy. You will never go wrong with the specials posted on the wall. Or if you prefer, ask for a menu. The cheese enchiladas, fajitas, and nachos are fantastic. Also, the sweet tea alone is worth the price of the meal. Great value!

Note: This is the third in an ongoing series on Why I Love Texas Food

Part 1: What’s to Love about Texas Food

Part 2: 6 Reasons to Love Texas Food

Worth Pondering…
You Can’t Spell Texas without H-E-B

You need Corpus, you need Abilene, Odessa and Laredo,
Bastrop and Lufkin, Port Lavaca and Salado.
Dallas, Waco, Harlingen and places big and small,
No, Texas ain’t Texas…unless you got ’em all.

You can’t have the cotton-eyed without the Joe,
And springtime ain’t sprung until the bluebonnets grow.
You couldn’t have a front porch without the rocking chair,
And if it wasn’t for the corn dogs you couldn’t have the Fair.

There’s so much to love about Texas,
That’s why Texas is home for me.
Can’t find any place on Earth like Texas.
And you can’t spell Texas without H-E-B.

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Shiner Bock: A Texas Tradition

We arrived at the brewery’s hospitality room in time to catch the afternoon tour and were led through the modern brew house with its gleaming copper kettles to the bottling room, where seemingly infinite lines of brown bottles are filled, capped, pasteurized, labeled, and boxed.

A classic poster in Shiner's hospitality room. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We learned that there’s no forced retirement at this brewery—Joe Green holds the record for employment with 63 years of service when he retired at age 81.

Following our informative tour we headed back to the hospitality room to trade our wooden nickels for cups of beer.

Spoetzl Brewery has been doing special beers celebrating the brewery’s German and Czech heritage since 2005 with Shiner 96. That was an Oktoberfest, or Marzen-style lager.

This was followed by Shiner 97 Bohemian Black Lager, Shiner 98 Bavarian-style Amber, and Shiner 99 Helles. The black lager, or schwarzbier, was well-received and put into the regular Shiner lineup as Bohemian Black.

Spoetzl’s current offerings include Shiner Bock, Shiner Blonde, Shiner Bohemian Black Lager, Shiner Hefeweizen, Shiner Light, Shiner Dortmunder, and Shiner 101.

The classic Shiner Bock is a God given blessing. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Reflecting the tradition of genuine Bavarian beers, Shiner Bock—Spoetzl’s flagship beer—has been brewed since 1913, almost as long as the Spoetzl Brewery has been in business. However, it wasn’t until 1973 that Bock went into production year-round. Bock was considered a lent beer, and therefore was only made around that season. Today over 80% of the beer made at the Spoetzl Brewery is Bock.

Shiner Blonde is the direct descendant of Spoetzl’s earliest brew. Although Blonde has carried numerous names, such as Shiner Special, Shiner Premium, and Shiner Texas Special, the recipe has been virtually unchanged since it was first brewed in 1909. For this reason, Blonde carries Brew Kettle No. 1 on its label.

Originally a limited edition schwarzbier for the Spoetzl Brewery’s 97th anniversary, Shiner Bohemian Black Lager became a permanent part of the brand portfolio in late 2007. Black Lager uses imported Austrian Saaz and Styrian hops and dark-roasted malts.

Shiner Hefeweizen (Hef-ay-vite-zen) recalls the classic beers of Bavaria as a true unfiltered wheat brew. This beer captures old-world Munich Malt, wheat grist used in a scant 1% of all brews worldwide, orange and lemon zest in a frothy classic example of bottle-conditioned beer. Clover honey and yeast is added just before it’s bottled touching off a unique, secondary fermentation process inside before its final release from the brewery.

A deep amber brew blended from choice Munich malts, select hops, and pure Artesian water, Shiner Light sacrifices none of the taste while reducing calories and carbs. Shiner Light has the lowest production numbers out of all of the year round beers.

Shiner Dortmunder has a smooth, well-rounded flavor—the perfect fit for any Springtime activity. Because of the unique nature of the style, Shiner Dortmunder satisfies the palate of a diverse crowd.

"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza." © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shiner 101 is a well-crafted beer with no frills, classic recipe, and bold taste. And with just four ingredients—hops, barley, yeast, and water—Shiner’s 101st anniversary beer is the culmination of more than a century of brewing know-how.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…
Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

—Benjamin Franklin

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Something’s Brewin’ in Shiner, TX

Nestled below the triangle of Houston, Austin, and San Antonio is the old Czech-German town of Shiner, home to a beer by the same name crafted at the 101-year-old Spoetzl Brewery. Currently owned by Carlos Alvarez of Gambrinus Brands, the Spoetzl Brewing Co. of Shiner, is the last of the original Texas breweries. Their classic Shiner Bock is a God given blessing.

“little brewery in Shiner” © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The original brewery was founded in 1901 amid an Austrian, German, and Czech farming community near the railroad tracks on the banks of Boggy Creek.

The early efforts did not go well and the brewery was leased to Oswald Petzold and German brewing craftsman Kosmas Spoetzl in 1914.

Carrying a family recipe for a Bavarian beer made from pure malt and hops, Spoetzl began to produce beer in wooden kegs and bottles. The following year, Spoetzl purchased the brewery. After 1916 the beer was packaged in glass returnable bottles; aluminum kegs were first used in 1947, nonreturnable bottles came in 1958, party kegs in 1964, and cans in 1970.

Reflecting the tradition of genuine Bavarian beers, Shiner Bock—Spoetzl's flagship beer—has been brewed since 1913. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During Prohibition, the brewery produced ice and near-beer and, and according to some sources, regular beer as well.

After his wife’s death in 1921, Spoetzl considered returning to Bavaria but was convinced by his daughter to retain the business.

With repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the business resumed, with the introduction of “Texas Export,” a new product later known as “Texas Special” beer. Sales were made within a 100-mile radius. Over the next decade the company added a new bottling room and brew house, and in 1947 Spoetzl constructed the white brick Alamo-style plant still in use to this day.

When Kosmas Spoetzl passed away in 1950, his daughter Cecilie (known as “Miss Celie”) became the only woman to own a brewery in America. Her daughter Rose joined the firm in 1964.

The Spoetzl family control ended with the sale of the brewery in 1966. The “little brewery in Shiner” then changed hands several times. In 1989, Spoetzl Brewing Co. was purchased by the current owners, Carlos Alvarez and the Gambrinus Company, importers of Corona Beer and owners of craft brewer Bridgeport Brewing Co. in Portland, Oregon.

The brewery has been active in the local community throughout its history and sponsors chili cook-offs and other festivals. A state historic marker was placed at the brewery site in 1971, and the company later opened a museum and gift shop there.

Until the late 1970s and early 1980s, the bulk of their sales were confined to the San Antonio-Austin-Houston triangle. Gradually, the sales area grew to cover most of the state of Texas. Today, Shiner is distributed in over 40 states.

You'll find Shiner "deep in the heart of Texas". © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the 1970s and 1980s the brewery’s Shiner Beer and Shiner Bock had less than one percent of the Texas market. In 1983 Spoetzl produced 60,000 barrels of beer; in 1990 only 36,000. Sales improved after Carlos Alvarez of San Antonio acquired the brewery in 1989: Production grew to 100,000 barrels in 1994, and over the next ten years, production nearly tripled.

Upon arriving at the brewery we’ve given four wooden nickels.

The story of the little brewery in Shiner and the wooden nickels continues tomorrow…

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…
Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.

—Dave Barry

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