Country Roads Magazine "Embrace Your Place" Issue May 2021

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Soak it all up with creativity and crawfish

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VO LU M E 3 8 // I SS U E 5

REFLECTIONS by James Fox-Smith

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FIGHTINVILLE FRESH Watering a food desert and supporting first-time vegetable growers in Acadiana by Jonathan Olivier

James Fox-Smith

Associate Publisher

Ashley Fox-Smith

Managing Editor

THE PLACE TO BE Lafayette’s downtown district shines as a place of vibrant, creative community by Jordan LaHaye Fontenot

Jordan LaHaye Fontenot

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Alexandra Kennon

Creative Director

A MOVE TO MARKETS Post-pandemic, small-scale passion projects flourish by Jason Vowell

On the Cover

Kourtney Zimmerman


Ed Cullen, Charmaine Dupré, Ashley Hinson, Paul Kieu, Emily Miller, Lucie Monk Carter, Jonathan Olivier, Olivia Perillo, Nathan Stubbs, Jason Vowell

Cover Artist


Hannah Gumbo

Cover by Hannah Gumbo

“I think ultimately, what we really learned most this past year is that our dollar is our most powerful thing,” Leah Vautrot, owner of Coffee Science in Mid-City New Orleans told writer Jason Vowell during an interview for his feature story “A Move to Markets” (page 34). “Look for those people struggling, and lift them up. Look outside your normal way of doing things. Connect with the growers and makers of your community. Together we will rise. This is the future.” This sentiment runs strong throughout the stories of our annual “Embrace Your Place” issue, celebrating the creative small businesses and makers that bring life to our regions and the spirit of community that allows them to flourish. So, it felt as appropriate a time as ever to commission an original cover from one of our favorite local artists, Hannah Gumbo—who specializes in whimsical expressions of places and their people. As you peruse our pages, be sure to flip back to the cover every once in a while, where Hannah has woven vignettes from our stories into a portrait of pure, unabashed local joy. Find more of her work at



CAST IRON COOKING The virtues of the Cajun staples


by Charmaine Dupré

PREJEANS 2.0 A bastion of the bygone era of dine-in dance halls re-emerges with new energy by Nathan Stubbs



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STITCHED UP Sigourney Morrison, the mastermind behind Dressed New Orleans


by Ashley Hinson

FROM MY CITY LOT An essay on longing and place by Ed Cullen

THE ROCK HOUSE The infamous Innis dance hall rocks out again by Alexandra Kennon

HIGH ON THE HOG Dixie Poché provides a boucherie history in The Cajun Pig by Alexandra Kennon



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OLD MANDEVILLE, NEW LENS A weekend spent exploring the Northshore’s finest by Alexandra Kennon


PERSPECTIVES Kate Gordon: The eclectic dreamscapes of Alligator Naps by James Fox-Smith



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Copyrighted. All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced without permission of the publisher. The opinions expressed in Country Roads magazine are those of the authors or columnists and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, nor do they constitute an endorsement of products or services herein. Country Roads magazine retains the right to refuse any advertisement. Country Roads cannot be responsible for delays in subscription deliveries due to U.S. Post Office handling of third-class mail.

A Special Advertising Feature from Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center

Leading by Example


ith 2021 marking the 50th anniversary milestone of Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, we’re sharing patient success stories that show the impact of compassionate cancer care. In the case of Donald Burton, expert treatment improved his chances for survivorship and lessened the burden of cancer as he bravely faced a life-changing challenge. By anyone’s standards, Lieutenant Donald Burton has led a life of remarkable achievement. The 45-year-old Ponchatoula native has always been committed to serving others in his community, from his 20-year career in law enforcement to his leadership as a local minister for Westside Church of God in Christ. Burton, a former competitive bodybuilder—and winner of 2016’s Mr. Louisiana Championship—was in the prime of his health when a simple sinus headache suddenly became life-threatening. In 2018, Burton went to a Hammond allergy clinic with a nosebleed, where his doctor discovered the cause of his sinus issues to be a rare stage four nasopharynx cancer. The same day, he visited Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Hammond, and soon began a tailored radiation treatment plan with Dr. Kos Kovtun, a Mary Bird Perkins radiation oncologist. The physician also collaborated with other specialists that were part of Burton’s care team.

Dr. Kos Kovtun

“The radiation treatment plan we created for Donald was unique to his diagnosis; it’s something we do for every patient to ensure the best outcomes possible,” said Kovtun. “We surround patients with clinical and support services and the most advanced technology. And it’s made possible by generous community support.”

Over the next year, as Burton battled cancer with his Mary Bird Perkins expert care team, it seemed like he was nearly in the clear; he had been making progress with treatment, and the affected bone near his brain had even started to regenerate. But then life threw the Burton family another curveball—during a routine PET scan, physicians found thirteen new nodules in both of Burton’s lungs. Then, in the midst of this second phase of treatment, Burton was forced to quarantine away from his support system following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020. “I just kept on believing and keeping my faith in God in order to push through physically, mentally, and spiritually,” he said. Burton’s steadfast faith kept him going until finally, he received good news. Burton completed immunotherapy and chemotherapy treatment in December, and at a follow-up appointment a few months later he heard the words that his cancer was in remission. His experience over the past three years has given him a new appreciation for life and positive outlook for the future. He recently welcomed his fifteenth grandchild into the world, has resumed his work on the police force and is looking forward to getting back into the gym as a fitness coach to help inspire others. “Every day is a brighter day because no matter how cloudy it is, I look forward to waking up and making a difference. I feel privileged to be alive,” Burton says. “We have an option to give out or give up, I like to say, and I give it all up to God. I don’t give out, I don’t quit, just keep the fight going.”

Lieutenant Donald Burton Photo by Abby Sands

Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center offers patients access to advanced radiation technology to treat cancer. Learn more by visiting or call 1-800-489-7800 to schedule an appointment.

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mong the downsides of living miles from anywhere is that if you want an active social life you need to work a bit harder. As has been divulged, for twenty-five years my wife and I have lived in the house that she and several former generations of her family have called “home,” twenty miles northeast of St. Francisville in rural West Feliciana Parish. It’s lovely country: several hundred acres of onetime pastureland that’s been quietly reverting to hardwood forest since Ashley’s forebears quit raising soybeans and cattle back in the early eighties. Living out here does have benefits: birdsong mornings, dark skies, enormous bonfires; and when your kids are young, the luxury of letting them disappear into the woods for hours or days to climb trees or dam up the creek, knowing nothing nefarious is likely to happen. Still, for somewhat social people who publish a magazine about things to do, living out here can be a bit isolating. The list of social events to which you can ‘pop,’ or ‘scoot’ is short indeed. Don’t feel like cooking tonight? It’s twenty miles to a restaurant, and don’t even ask about home delivery. Want to go to a play or see a movie? That’ll be an hour’s drive each way. The wedding,


interesting new restaurant, art opening, Mardi Gras parade, kid’s basketball tournament? The event duration will be shorter than the drive time required to get there. Often the psychological hurdle of the drive proves insurmountable and we end up staying home, envying city-dwelling friends spending their weekends ‘popping’ out to parties, backyard barbecues; or even—let’s be honest—to the grocery store because they’ve run out of milk. Last year—while socializing more or less ceased to exist and everyone was staying home—the generalized anxiety that out in the world interesting people are getting together to do fun things dissipated for the first time. We realized that for twenty-five years we’ve been living in a fog of FOMO. But no more! With the pandemic finally relaxing its grip, the kids preparing to leave home, and the world coming out of hiding at last, it’s time for a Country Roads Supper Club again. And now we’ve come up with a solution to the ageold drive-time dilemma: Bring the party to us. For several years prior to the pandemic, Country Roads Supper Clubs—operating under the motto “Great Chefs Serving Memorable Meals in Unforgettable Locations”— have been our recipe for uniting three building blocks of Country Roads into a live event. Prior to the pandemic, we’ve hosted Supper Clubs in abandoned churches, bird sanctuaries, sugar

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Photo by Raegan Labat

warehouses; and, memorably, on a Mississippi River sandbar. Up and down the River Road we traveled, bringing Supper Clubs to the most spectacular locations revealed by thirty-eight years in the publishing business. But we never imagined we’d get to host one five minutes from home. If you’re going to have neighbors, Mike Wampold is a good one to have. The developer behind Baton Rouge’s Watermark and Renaissance hotels, Mike has long owned a rolling swathe of property to the east of US Highway 61, close to the Mississippi state line. During recent years he has taken his property, which is named Woodlawn, to another level, building a majestic home, a mile-long lake, and a rushing, springfed trout stream, among other features. All together the property represents a

breathtaking slice of rural Louisiana splendor, so when Mike asked whether we’d like to host a Supper Club to introduce it, how could we refuse? So, on May 15 we’ll celebrate the completion of his project, the Felicianas’ natural beauty, and the end of the pandemic with our largest event yet: a seated dinner for 250 beside that trout stream. Executive Chef Phillip Lopez of Galatoire’s New Orleans will serve a menu showcasing the freshness and flavor of Felicianas-raised produce, Baton Rouge’s wonderful tradjazz band the Florida Street Blowhards will play; and out on the lake, trick skiiers from Bennett’s Water Ski School will mess about behind boats. It’ll be the best of our local stomping ground, distilled and delivered to one of its most beautiful locations. I wish I could say “Hurry up and get tickets and we’ll see you there,” but this Supper Club is sold out—has been for weeks, actually, which says a lot about the excitement we all feel about being able to get out and enjoy a social occasion again. But don’t worry, we’re planning more Supper Clubs for the months to come, bringing great chefs to spectacular, little known locations near and far. Seems fitting, wouldn’t you say, for a magazine that goes by the motto “Adventures Close to Home?” Stay tuned. —James Fox-Smith, publisher


ThErE’S No PLAcE LIke HoUmA Tasting trails, swamp tours, and more in Terrebonne Parish


xperience authentic Cajun culture, a steady supply of seafood, and adrenaline-pumping adventures in Louisiana’s Bayou Country, just fifty-five miles from New Orleans. Shaped by more than 2,500 square miles of shallow marsh and swamps, Terrebonne Parish encompasses more water than land. So it makes perfect sense that to get to the heart of this rich region, you should start with the waterways. INTO THE WILD From outdoor excursions like boating, fishing, and paddling to embarking on a swamp tour, exploring a wildlife refuge, or birding at an Audubon sanctuary, Louisiana’s Bayou Country brings the natural beauty and vast wilderness of the wetlands right to your doorstep. Or perhaps you’d rather sightsee en route—traveling along the Wetlands Cultural Scenic Byway, you’ll encounter coastal communities with a way of life that goes back generations. Make a pitstop at the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum and learn about area heritage and history, including colorful local legends like that of Alligator Annie, the nickname given to Annie Miller, who was the state’s first swamp tour guide. Born in 1915, she was raised to live off the land, trapping and hunting gators twice her size since the tender

age of eight. Speaking of recreation, Houma’s geocaching tour offers the only high-tech treasure-hunting game of its kind in the state. Use your wits (and GPS) to follow the clues and find all twenty-one caches hidden in plain sight. Be sure to document your finds—and what you leave behind—with the #GeoHouma hashtag and download your tour passport at

host you! Mark your calendars for May 15, when the inaugural White Boot Stroll hits the streets in downtown Houma. You’ll want to don your finest shrimping footwear for the free block party and arts market, where all are invited to celebrate all things arts and culture in Terrebonne Parish.

Later down the line in October, Rougarou Fest brings the spirited, spooky folklore surHEADS N’ TAILS rounding the fabled swamp monster to life, The newly minted Bayou Country Craw- while the Voice of the Wetlands music fesfish Trail, a culinary road-map dedicated tival, founded by Houma native and Gramto the famed fat-tailed crustacean, contains my-nominated bluesman Tab Benoit, brings thirty-eight crawfish-carrying eateries run- Louisiana artists together onstage to raise ning from downtown Houma all the way to awareness of the environmental challenges the Gulf. Featuring a range of fresh fare from faced by our fragile ecosystem. takeout seafood markets and drive-thru boil houses to casual eateries and gourmet restau- “It’s all about getting the community involved rants, you’ll have your pick of crawfish made and revitalizing our downtown to preserve any-which-way all year long. Consult craw- our traditions and culture,” said Noah Lirret, to download your Trail Guide, a co-owner of Bayou Terrebonne Distillers, and be sure to keep your receipts. Send them which put on a citywide boucherie benefit in as proof that you’ve visited at least five lo- in April that included the first ever “Cajun cations and you’ll earn a Crawfish Trail tee, Olympics.” making your crawdad commitment official. Learn all there is to love about Louisiana’s FUTURE FUN Bayou Country here in the heart of Houma— Ready for the return of your favorite fairs, download your Houma Adventure Guide and fêtes, and fais do dos? Houma is waiting to plan your getaway at

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y the time we got to The Little Easy after a morning spent in Natchez, we’d already received recommendations from five or so different locals to try: the jerk waffle and chicken, the BLT, the brisket sandwich, and the salmon salad—“You’ve just got to try the salmon salad!” Driving up to the highly-anticipated new eatery— which is helmed by the husband-and-wife duo Ashley Allen and Sarah Sookraj and occupying the same building that once housed Steampunk Coffee—we were greeted by a pair of older women standing

out front, brightly-colored cocktails in hand; and whatever they were talking about, well it sounded fascinating. It was two in the afternoon, on a Thursday—the weekend was practically here. Associate Publisher Ashley FoxSmith and I fell right in line with that sentiment, seating ourselves at one of the bistro tables outside; she ordered a rosé, and I opted for the Scratch Margarita, a refreshingly simple mix of Resposado, Cointreau, and lime. We were joined shortly by local gallery owner Stacy Conde, who promptly started agonizing

about whether she should get that famed salmon salad again or if she should try something else. Before any of us had finished perusing the Southern-winking-atthe-Caribbean menu (which promises a “Boozy Brunch from sun-up to sun-down, Mon-Sun, 7 am–7 pm”), blustery winds with the threat of downpour shooed us inside, where we found ourselves seated cozily at a gorgeous wood-slice table in the corner of the little café. The best way to eat in Natchez is to eat with a local, especially if they are a new friend. We’re all Southerners here: we get close fast. I had met Stacy only that morning, but before the first round of drinks was complete, we were recommending new hairstyles to Ashley and discussing their relationships with their daughters. But in between all of that came, one after another, introductions to essentially seventy percent of the restaurant’s patronage that day: Stacy knew all of them, including Tate Taylor, who was seated at the bar with a group of locals. The Natchez-based film producer and director of Academy Awardnominated film The Help is behind much of the buzz going on in the city these

days—including the opening of The Little Easy, part of a series of ventures which imagines Natchez as a newlyenlivened and thriving cultural center for years to come. Ashley and Stacy each ordered a salad—Ashley went for the slow-smoked salmon salad (someone certainly had to), and Stacy relented for the “Cluckin’” salad. Both were presented beautifully on beds of greens, with fresh seasonal vegetables sourced from a collection of local vendors, microgreens, edible flowers, and a sous vide egg to boot. As for myself, I never turn down anything with the words “Smoked Brisket” in it, and the sandwich—dressed with tomato, arugula, tomatillo avocado salsa, caramelized onions, and gouda—was about as good as they get: juicy, flavorful, and surprisingly delicate. At some point, an unaccounted-for serving of truffle fries showed up at our table, giving us a reason to linger a bit longer, and order a second round of drinks. It was Thursday afternoon, after all. The weekend was practically here. —Jordan LaHaye Fontenot



ly casting, as anyone who has tried this ancient, but challenging, fishing method will tell you, is no easy business. Hand most of us garden-variety fishers a fragile, nine-foot flyrod and the only thing we’ll catch is adjacent vegetation at best, or possibly an unfortunate bystander’s ear. But when demonstrated by an expert, fly casting is a beautiful thing. Standing by a riverbank, tracing graceful arcs of weighted line through the air, the accomplished fly fisherman might shoot a dry fly, weighing just one or two grams, upwards of fifty feet before setting it lightly on the water’s surface, inches ahead of a hungry trout. In the popular imagination it’s usually the wary, elusive rainbow trout that is


the fly fisherman’s main quarry. But here in Louisiana, with our muggy weather and murky water not generally suited to trout, the state’s fly fishermen have adapted, casting flies for bass, bream, sac a lait; and in saltwater for redfish, jack crevalle, and even tarpon. So, while planning the visual diversions for the latest in our Country Roads Supper Club series—an outdoor dinner entitled River Run that will take place on the banks of a trout-stocked artificial river running through the West Feliciana estate of Mr. Mike Wampold—we wondered whether there might be a few accomplished, local fly casters who might like to come along and demonstrate their craft. That’s how we got in touch with the Acadiana Fly courtesy of Royal Carriages. Rodders’ flyPhoto fishing club.

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“You can catch just about any kind of fish on a flyrod,” observed Clint Crowe, Lafayette resident and longtime Acadiana Fly Rodders member, who plies a flyrod in saltwater marshes across South Louisiana. In addition to actually catching fish, Crowe explained that many fly fishermen are drawn to the sport for the sheer pleasure that comes from a well-cast fly-line. “It’s quite hard to do well, and can be just mesmerizing to watch,” he said, noting that an accomplished caster can send a fly fifty feet or more, and land it within inches of the target. As a member of the Acadiana Fly Rodders, Crowe knows some accomplished casters, several of whom will be demonstrating their craft at Country Roads’ River Run Supper

Club in the Felicianas on May 15. They’ll be casting, and also sharing information about Reel Recovery, a nationwide volunteer organization that provides support and companionship to men living with cancer by taking them fly fishing. —James Fox-Smith

Learn more about Reel Recovery and how to support its good works at Acadiana Fly Rodders will hold a fly fishing event in Youngsville, LA on May 12. Non-members are welcome.



f Louisiana leads the continental United States in anything, it’s rainfall. Our semi-aquatic environment is central to our culture—affecting everything from our cuisine to our jobs to our recreation. But, with such impressive levels of rain come problems, too. “Because we’re number one in rainfall, we’re number one in polluting the watershed,” explained Marie Constantin, founder of Louisiana Stormwater Coalition, an all-volunteer organization formed last year to increase awareness on the benefits of stormwater management. “Every couple of weeks, a big rain comes, and everything that’s on the streets gets carried to a storm drain. The storm drains are freeway onramp systems to a lake, river, bayou, or stream. So, that’s how the litter gets there, but it’s easy to intercept it.” Constantin, a photographer by trade, has always had a soft spot for nature. “I’ve always loved the outdoors. When I was a student, I was a worker for two research projects,” she explained. “I went to the California desert and studied the Blunt-Nosed

Leopard Lizard. Then, when I was at LSU, I assisted in studying the four regenerative methods of Loblolly Pine and their impact on the forest environment. I almost went into wildlife management, but then I picked journalism.” After years of witnessing the toll litter was taking on the wildlife in Capitol Lake in Baton Rouge, last year Constantin founded the coalition to aid the quickly deteriorating area. In the short fifteen months since its founding, the Louisiana Stormwater Coalition has removed an astounding 1,192 bags of litter from the lake. “Litter is actually very complicated. To make it simple, think of the streets as the lipstick and the pearls, and then the watershed as the soul. The lipstick and the pearls can be ugly—the litter isn’t going to kill us. We’re not eating it, but we are going to lose business because of it,” said Constantin. “And then you have the soul. The fish that we’re eating have pollutants in them, and we have very little ecotourism in our sportsman’s paradise because it’s horrible looking. Animals are dying a death by litter. But, other states have stormwater treatment programs that

Photo courtesy of the Louisiana Stormwater Coalition.

intercept these floatables that are so destructive.” Constantin has spent the last several years researching multiple communities in Florida with longstanding stormwater treatment plans in place, which she hopes to use as models for Baton Rouge and other Louisiana communities. Their tactic: consider stormwater a utility, and charge a few bucks a month— generating millions a year—to treat stormwater with equipment ranging from simple booms to sophisticated hydrodynamic separators. “There are solutions—these are not

complicated,” explained Constantin. “We are not reinventing the wheel. The sportsman's paradise is positioning itself to heal. It’ll take seven years for the land to heal itself, but there’s a model. Everything we’ve done has not worked. And so, if we keep doing the same thing, that’s insanity. This is a pivot. We know this can work. These stormwater treatment programs will reduce flooding, allow our sportsman's paradise to heal, and bring us ecotourism.” —Kathryn Kearney

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One of the most singular musical experiences in the region is Luther Dickinson’s annual ode to Walter Anderson in the streets of downtown Ocean Springs. For the fifth year, Dickinson will perform against a backdrop of animated light projections illustrating Anderson’s murals. Image courtesy of the Walter Anderson Museum of Art. See event listing on page 20.


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Shreveport, Louisiana

Slidell, Louisiana

Carnival rides, livestock shows, aerialists, flame-spitters, and all the fried food your little Southern heart desires? It’s gotta be the Louisiana State Fair in Shreveport. Open noon–10 pm weekdays, 10 am–10 pm weekends. $8 gate admission. k

Springtime beauty abounds not only on the trees and bushes; now see it on display in the form of artwork, too. The Slidell Cultural Center has an exhibition of botanical artwork curated by Liv Butera on display. Noon–4 pm. Call (985) 646-4375 to set up an appointment. Free. k


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Hammond, Louisiana

What happens when a seance actually summons something sinister? And when those involved respond by singing? Gian Carlos Menotti’s The Medium answers these questions in the form of a lively and operatic dramatic musical. Enjoy New Orleans Opera’s production without leaving the comfort of home with their virtual performance, filmed and available on YouTube. $40. k

Wild & Free, a new exhibition at Hammond Regional Arts Center, features the works of three groundbreaking female artists from Louisiana with unique and vividly colorful artistic styles. See artworks by April Hammock, Kimberly Meadowlark, and Denise Hopkins. On display in the upstairs Mezzanine Gallery, find work from local artist Samara Thomas. Free. k




Baton Rouge native and current Covington resident Paolo Dufour has followed in his father Paul Dufour’s footsteps, making colorful and intricate glass sculptures and teaching his art at LSU and beyond. Catch his works on display at The St. Tammany Art Association Art House from 10 am–4 pm Fridays and 11 am–4 pm Saturdays. k




Lafayette, Louisiana

Kate Gordon’s art begins in her dreams— bizarre, vivid experiences from the depths of her unconscious. In a stream of consciousness approach, she takes her source material to canvas—which she must first treat so that they respond to watercolors like paper does. After this // M A Y 2 1



Beginning May 1

laborious stage, her canvases accumulate with images layered upon one another, creating infinite new meanings cut apart and stitched back together. In her installation, Alligator Naps, on view at the Hilliard Art Museum, Gordon’s work is displayed in her large-format canvases, hung vertically from the ceiling in layers. The effect is a culminative illusion of depth, almost sculpture-like. Like a traditional painting, the entirety of the work can only be viewed from a limited perspective, right in front of it. Presenting it this way, Gordon removes the ability to certainly interpret by close examination, reminding viewers that meaning is determined by perspective. Read more about Gordon and Alligator Naps in our “Perspectives” column on page 54. k




Baton Rouge, Louisiana

A collaboration with Matthew Desmond, professor of sociology at Princeton University, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow,

and a best-selling author, Evicted offers an immersive experience bringing viewers into the world of low-income renter eviction. With unique design elements and striking graphics, the exhibition challenges adults and youth to face the enormity of a difficult subject, while providing context and a call to action. This visual arts exhibition will be hosted at the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge’s Firehouse Gallery. Details at k



ART EXHIBITIONS LACHAUN MOORE: 17845 Lafayette, Louisiana

In LaChaun Moore’s exhibition at the Hilliard Museum, cotton jackets suspended from the ceiling act as clouds, casting shadows while simultaneously existing as lovingly-made, human objects heavy with legacy. Made by Moore from cotton, indigo, and other crops she’s grown, these textiles represent the intentional agency she has enacted over the very systems of agriculture that once acted as systems of oppression for her

ancestors and all Black and indigenous farmers. In an Afro-Surrealist style intertwining the spirits of Toni Morrison and Salvador Dali, she crafts talismans of healing and growth through family heirlooms, informed by ancestral plant knowledge and a mastery over nature rooted indelibly in her own personal history. k

Lafitte National Historical Park is hosting two exhibitions by female artists in celebration of Women’s History Month. Works by fused-glass artist Jerilyn LaVergne of Sunset, Louisiana will be on display, along with the dyed silk and marbled paper works of Alice Wallace. Free. Call the Acadian Cultural Center at 337-232-0789 ext. 201 or visit k







The Acadian Cultural Center of the Jean



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In a new solo exhibition at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery by figurative painter and video artist Ruth Owens, Black and brown bodies are intentionally situated in spaces where viewers aren’t necessarily used to seeing them: in outdoor spaces. Reclaiming the healing and restorative elements of the natural world—a place where people of color have historically been excluded—Be Kind To Yourself invites new perspectives of racial identity and its relationship to the natural world. k



7th Ward native Cely Pedescleaux grew up surrounded by talented seamstresses, watching them artfully hand-work lace, crocheting, beading, and tatting into decorative textile arts. Now she, a self-taught artist herself, has expanded her love for quilting through fashion. In 2009, she debuted her designs on Worn Again, a New Orleans fashion television show where organizers provide old clothing to local artists, who then transform them into unrecognizably stylish garments. Today, Pedescleaux teaches quilting and the history of African American quilting through public programs at museums, galleries, universities, festivals, and quilt shows all around Louisiana. Her contemporary works have been displayed in France, Italy, and China. k



resident John Taylor is the centerpiece of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s exhibition The Guardian of the Wetlands, which is presented in collaboration with The National Wildlife Federation. Growing up in the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle, Taylor has deeply fond memories of wandering through its swamps, catching turtles and crawfishing, collecting herbs and roots and selling them to make some extra money. A selftaught artist and naturalist, he’s learned to whittle walking sticks from driftwood collected from the wetlands and rivers, using only a utility blade. As a historian and storyteller, Taylor uses his knowledge of the area and of ecology to advocate for the restoration of the Triangle, which has largely disappeared due to the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet built in the early 1960s, along with other human interventions. The Guardian of the Wetlands showcases eight of Taylor’s walking sticks and eight of his photographs of the Triangle, alongside historical information on Louisiana wetland loss. k


John D. Rockefeller III and his wife Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller began their journey into the Asian arts after World War II, aiming to prioritize classical masterpieces that represented the great technical skill and creative breadth of Asian artistic practice. Assembled between the 1940s and 1970s, the collection includes objects from across the Asian continent—Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tibet, and Vietnam. The collection includes a massive diversity of objects ranging from every day food wares to imperial dining vessels and ceremonial Bodhisattvas to devotional Hindu sculptures. The diversity of class, region, and religion are represented in the range. Typically housed at the Asia Society Museum in New York City, this collection is presented at NOMA for a rare exhibition. k







New Orleans, Louisiana

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

An artist, naturalist, photographer, and advocate, lifelong Lower Ninth

Taking the place of the Preservation Resource Center’s annual Julia Jump and

Revival Gala, the first Revival Gala-vant is a self-guided run/walk/bike/kayak experience that gives participants five different routes to explore various New Orleans neighborhoods. Each route is paired with its own podcast to give fun, meaningful insight to each community and its historical sites and landmarks. $30. k

Shows start at 7 pm. Visit the Hideaway on Lee’s Facebook page for the most updated schedule. k

MAY 1st - MAY 29th



Downtown Lafayette’s new spot for casual dining is also extending a welcoming hand to some of the region’s best local musicians, hosting frequent outdoor concerts for free. See their upcoming shows, here: May 1: Paul Daigle & Cajun Gold May 2: Donny Broussard May 7: Johnny Nicholas May 8: Pine Leaf Boys with Courtney Granger May 9: Jonesville Justus May 14: Julian Primeaux May 15: Corey Ledet May 16: A Major Storm Birthday Bash with Major Hardy & Warren Storm May 21: Ray Boudreaux May 23: Burris May 28: The Brothers Savoy

Lakeview RV Park’s fantastic barn dances are held every Saturday night—always attracting the friendliest, warmest, most diverse group of fun-lovin’ folks you’re likely to find anywhere. Strangers dip and dive, old couples glide around as smoothly as if they’re on rails, and hip kids break out serious moves in between, while little ones sit on the sidelines, soaking up the culture. 9 pm–midnight. Price varies, free if you’re camping. k


1st - MAY 29th


Bring a blanket to sit on and/or your dancing shoes for Red Stick Social’s Groovin’ on the Grass outdoor concert series. Bring the dog too—it’s even pet friendly. Lineups are on Red Stick Social’s Facebook page. 8 pm every Friday or Saturday.











Tickets sold out Find More Great Events at 14

M A Y 2 1 // C O U N T R Y R O A D S M A G . C O M


1st - MAY 31st


Genre painter Linda Lesperance keys into a specific note of lifestyles in New Orleans: milestones. A city of celebration, the unique traditions of celebrating milestones unites a collection of figure paintings, rendered in a color palette ranging from saturated color to pastel. See her work at Gallery 600 Julia throughout the month of May. k

MAY 1 - JUN 1 st



Shop at one of over twenty-eight local shops along the Cajun Coast for a chance to win a $500 gift card. Each time you spend $10 translates to a passport sticker. Collect fifteen stickers at eight locations, and mail in your passport to be entered. The winner will be randomly selected on June 1. k


LeMieux Galleries presents Places I Remember, a group show of landscapes curated by Gallery Co-Owner/Director Christy Wood. The show’s opening day will coincide with Jammin on Julia. Noon-7 pm. k

MAY 1st - JUN



The Arts Council of Livingston Parish

will host a photography exhibit at the Arts Council gallery in Denham Springs. There will be an opening reception May 15 from 10 am–1 pm, with photographers present, and light refreshments served. Come see what the Livingston Parish shutterbugs have been capturing. Wednesday—Friday 10 am–noon; Saturday 10 am-2 pm. 133 Hummell St. (225) 664-1168 or k






The new innovative, arts-forward, anti-profit group Yes We Cannibal is streaming talks and performances with artists via Twitch in their Meat Meet Salon Series. Sundays 4 pm –6 pm at Free. The schedule is as follows: May 2: Meat Meet #16: Cary Cronenwett (Los Angeles), screening and interview May 9: Meat Meet #17: Giant Fossil (Baton Rouge), noise music May 16: Meat Meet #18: GBA Yung Lavage (Baton Rouge), performance, interview May 23: Meat Meet #19: Cindy B. Wonderful (Baton Rouge), interview May 30: Meat Meet #20: Amber Dennis (Brooklyn), digital art and interview. k






Professional photographer Aaron with Eye Wander Photography is offering a beginner digital photography course for

Support the local shops along the Cajun Coast, like the ones in downtown Franklin seen here, for a chance to win prizes with Bayou Shopping Days. See listing above. Photo courtesy of Cajun Coast Visitors & Convention Bureau. // M A Y 2 1



apply for the third and final Lost My Gig Fundraiser. Doors at 6 pm, concert begins at 7 pm. $97. k

Beginning May 3rd - May 8th aspiring shutterbugs. Monday classes will be held in the Eye Wander studio, and the Sunday class will be a “Photo Field Trip” to the Rural Life Museum to hone participants’ skills out in the wide, photogenic world. Monday instudio classes are from 5:30 pm–9:30 pm, the Sunday “Field Trip” class is 9 am–11:30 am. $400 with friend/family member discount of $350. Email or call (225) 366-4567 to register for a class. k






A new juried art exhibition commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Louisiana Scenic Rivers Program is coming to Far Horizons Art Gallery in Folsom: the Louisiana Scenic Rivers Art Festival. The subject matter of all of the artworks are along the three thousand miles of water protected by the Louisiana Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Gallery hours are 9 am–5 pm, Monday–Friday. k





In 2020, Acadiana stepped up and donated over $40,000 to the Lost My Gig Fund to support full-time local musicians who lost their livelihoods due to cancelled gigs as a result of the pandemic. A year later, local event company Social Entertainment wants to celebrate the return of local musicians to stages with a fundraising concert. Lost My Gig: The Concert, presented by Rader Solutions, is a special evening featuring Marc Broussard & Friends at the Acadiana Center for the Arts’ James Devin Moncus Theater. Tickets include bites by Central Pizza & Bar, an Art Auction by local artist Trent Oubre, sounds By DJ Digital and a live concert by Marc Broussard with special guest performances by Chubbie Carrier, Roddie Romero, Steve Adams, Lee Allen Zeno, Keith Blair, Ray Boudreaux, Julie Williams, Julian Primeaux, Sharona Thomas, and Sarah Russo. The entirety of the ticket sales benefit local full-time musicians who

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Spectacular floral designs created by garden clubs, floral designers, and creative talents from across New Orleans are set to be showcased at one of the South’s most-anticipated springtime events: New Orleans Museum of Art’s annual Art in Bloom showcase. Themed “Home Grown,” this year’s event will bring together exhibitors and speakers from around the area to celebrate the beauty that can be found right at home in our Louisiana gardens. This year, Art in Bloom will feature a blend of virtual and in-person events. To kick off the occasion, patron previews and wine tours will be held May 5–May 6 from 4 pm–9 pm. Reservations required. Lectures will also be held May 6 in NOMA’s newly renovated Lapis Center for the Arts; virtual access will be limited. Three prerecorded creative instructional videos will be available starting May 6. k

MAY 5th - MAY 26th


Join the Friends of the Cabildo for a special history lesson on the eclectic neighborhoods of New Orleans. The five-session class will breakdown corners of the Crescent City from the Quarter to Bayou St. John to Carrollton, with historians Charles Chamberlain, Karen Leatham, and Joyce Miller to lead the way. 4 pm, virtually on Wednesdays. $60; $40 for Friends of the Cabildo members. k

MAY 6th & MAY 19th PADDLE PARTY SUNSET PADDLE Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Join BREC for a special paddle set at golden hour at the Milford Wampold Memorial Park. Designed as a leisurely paddle, this experience is great for youth and adults with any level of watercraft skills. Kayaks and canoes are available to rent. 6:30 pm–8 pm. $25 for a canoe; $20 for a tandem kayak; $10 for a single kayak. Ages twelve and older Reservations at or at k

MAY 8th


Bring the whole family out to the Covington Trailhead for a morning of exercise and fun in the name of heart health. Festivities begin at 8 am, walk at 9 am. k




Celebrate Brennan’s Restaurant’s ten turtles—all named for French or New Orleans sauces—with a festive brunch and float-viewing at the historic French Quarter restaurant. Photo courtesy of Brennan’s.

cause: Safe Haven Foundation’s mission to support mental heath care on the Northshore. Pick up your plate of fried catfish, boiled shrimp, or boiled crawfish at the First Baptist Church of Covington or at Patton’s Catering in Slidell. Noon–4 pm. $15–25 in advance, $25–35 day of event. k

MAY 8th


Show off your boiling chops at the first annual Old Arabi Bar Crawfish CookOff—or just come for the tail. Artist Luis Colmenares will be on site selling his artwork, as well as awarding the best of the bunch handmade one-of-a-kind trophies. Johnny Sketch and The Dirty Notes will provide the tunes, and all proceeds will go to the Louisiana National Guard Child and Youth Program. Noon. Details at k

Get a tantalizing taste of the arts in Southwest Louisiana during this Spring Art Walk in downtown Lake Charles. And while elements of the evening are perfectly peaceful—pop-up galleries at cafés, bars, restaurants, and other businesses—you should prepare for battle. Art Wars features teams of artists who will compete to create a mural live in front of an audience, with just an hour to do it. 3 pm–7 pm on Ryan and Broad Streets. k

MAY 8th

MAY 8th

Covington, Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana

Pick up a seafood feast for a great

If you’re a bit slow with the times, you



WE CARRY EACH OTHER It’s how we do things in Louisiana during times of challenge. We’re stronger together and we know our strength lies in the helping hands of our neighbors. So let’s wear a mask and protect one another. And protect the life we love.

01MK7496 R3/21

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Beginning May 8th - May 13th

might not yet know that New Orleans restauranteur Ralph Brennan has a special little spot (er, shell) in his heart for turtles. When he and co-proprietor Terry White bought the iconic Brennan’s restaurant, it came with a family of ten—living happily in the fountain pool in the courtyard of one of New Orleans most popular restaurants. To celebrate the restaurant pets—Béchamel, Espagnole, Hollandaise, Tomate, Velouté, Remoulade, Ravigote, Bordelaise, Mignonette, and Cocktail (the only male among the lot), Brennan’s will host a festive brunch and float viewing party with the following schedule: 9 am–6 pm: Float Viewing (past parade floats will be parked in the courtyard) 10 am: Turtle Blessing by Monsignor Christopher Naulty, St. Stephen Church 11 am: Turtle Pardoning by Judge Lauren Lemmon, State District Court Judge (to ensure the turtles don’t become Brennan’s famous turtle soup) 2 pm–6 pm: Tipsy Turtle Happy Hour k




Eat some boiled crawfish, buy some local crafts, and enjoy some live music by Vintage, Orange, and Nonc Nu & da Wild Matous in Golden Meadow. 11 am. $15 per person, $25 per couple, $5 donation for music only. See the Facebook event for more details. k


Stafford Tile project ; Liz King photography

Join the Friends of the Cabildo in exploring this defining historical moment in New Orleans’—and America’s—history. The Friends’ tour invites a look at the event away from the battlefield and into the city, visiting lost locations of forts, Jackson’s headquarters, and various events in the Quarter. The twoand-a-half-hour tour takes off at 10:30 am from the NOLA Jazz Museum. k


8th & MAY 15th


The LSU Rural Life Museum’s Ione E. Burden Symposium returns as a speaker series presented on Saturdays throughout the 18

M A Y 2 1 // C O U N T R Y R O A D S M A G . C O M

spring. Each week will bring a distinguished speaker presenting on various topics of local culture and preservation. Seating is limited, but all presentations will be available via Zoom as well. May 8: Dr. Jenna Kuttruff on “Louisiana Acadia Textiles and the Importance of Textile Preservation” May 15: Melissa Smith on “LSU Libraries Special Collections Role with Community Outreach” Lectures will begin at 10 am. Regular admission rates of $10; $8 for children; $9 for senior citizens and LSU faculty, staff, and students applies. k


8th & MAY 22nd


Come take a swig of good fun as the folks at Pontchartrain Vineyards embark on the spring edition of its long-running Jazz ‘n the Vines outdoor concert series. Vineyards wines are available for tasting and purchase and food trucks will be on site. See the May lineup here: May 8: Amanda Shaw & the Cute Guys May 22: The Krickets 6:30 pm–9 pm. 81250 Old Military Road. $11.25–$27; children 17 and under free at (985) 892 9742 or k


During May, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame & Northwest Louisiana History Museum presents a special lecture series exploring the role of sports in American culture. Each of the four sessions will feature a world-class Olympic athlete, who will discuss the values of discipline, determination, sportsmanship, teamwork, respect, perseverance, and more. In order, the featured Olympians include: Shreveport-native Hollis Conway, a silver and bronze medalist in the men’s high jump; Bossiernative Timothy Dement, a world class Olympic boxer; Baton Rouge native Danielle Scott-Arruda, a double silver medalist in volleyball; and Alexandrianative Warren Morris, a bronze medalist in baseball. All lectures will take place at the museum; the first three are from 2 pm–3 pm and the final lecture is from 3 pm–4 pm. Free. k


9th - MAY 30th


Old Mandeville is chock-full of lovely historic homes, and four of them have opened their doors to videography crews so those of us enthralled by historic architecture and fine antiques can appreciate their loveliness from the comfort of our own houses. Each twenty–thirty minute tour will delve into the architecture, restoration process, antiques, and artwork; highlighting each owner’s unique space and personality. The tours will be available on YouTube for $25. k




Join the Three Worlds Symphony Orchestra—made up of LSU faculty and students alongside members of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra and Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra—— for a premiere performance of LSU Associate Professor of Composition Mara Gibson’s bassoon concerto, “Escher Keys”. Inspired by the artwork

Webster Parish CVC 110 Sibley Rd. Minden, LA | 318-377-4240

of MC Escher, Gibson composed the work for her colleague Darrel Hale, who is the LSU Associate Professor of Bassoon. The performance will be conducted by LSU Associate Director of Orchestra Scott Terrell and will showcase the bassoon as an under-used instrument capable of interactivity and evolution. The premiere broadcast will also feature a special premiere performance of a pastiche song titled “Galatea’s Dream,” which is drawn from three songs Gibson composed for Megan Ihnen and various musicians. This performance will be directed by Rachel Harris and will include Hale, LSU Associate Professor of Viola Kimberly Sparr, and saxophone player Alan Theisen. The concert will be streamed for free through LSU at 7 pm. Register at k



PADDLE OUT KAYAKS & COFFEE Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The only thing that starts your day as well as caffeine is adventure, so grab a cup of joe and hop in a boat to join BREC for its Kayak & Coffee program at Milford Wampold Park. 10 am–noon. $10. Email for details. k



with twenty-five species of native plants, increasing to Silver with fifty, and Gold with seventy-five. See the schedule below for lecture dates:


Join Governor John Bel Edwards, Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, and other state and local dignitaries in honoring Louisiana’s first female governor and New Iberia native Kathleen Blanco with the unveiling of her state historical marker at the Bouligny Plaza. 3:30 pm. k








This year’s Friends of the Hilltop Arboretum Symposium is placing an emphasis on getting a gardener started using native plants in residential, commercial, and public gardens. Over the course of the spring, five experts will virtually share their practical handson experience on how to transition an existing garden into one that is more native friendly. The lectures are designed to guide gardeners toward achieving Louisiana Certified Habitat designation, which begins at the Bronze Level

May 12: “A Grower’s Perspective on Native Plants in the Landscape” by Rick Webb May 26: “Conserve Louisiana’s Natural Heritage: Grow a Louisiana Certified Habitat” by Phyllis Griffard and Tammany Baumgarten. All sessions are at 6:30 pm and $20; $15 for members. k

MAY 13th


Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra will alight the River Terrace at the Shaw Center for the fourth installment of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge and River City Jazz Coalition’s River City Jazz Masters 2021 Season. Just before the performance, the Annual Hall of Distinction Award will be presented to Herman Jackson. Season ticket subscribers can reserve their seats today by emailing or calling (225) 344-8558. Individual tickets can be purchased at the Manship Theatre box office or online at Individual tickets are $45. 7:30 pm. k

The great outdoors of Webster Parish is where you’ll discover lakes, bayous and trails that replenish your soul, savor the flavors of festivals and grilling competitions all while soaking up the sun in one of our historic districts. Come out to Webster Parish and discover our good nature!

p! Plan Your Tri // M A Y 2 1



Beginning May 13th - May 16th MAY




As part of the Friends of the Cabildo Second Thursday virtual lecture series, Professor Elizabeth Ellis will explore the legacy of Native Americans in Louisiana. An assistant professor of history at New York University and researcher on the subject of how Indigenous people shaped the extent of European colonization, Ellis will describe the ways Natives’ influence on early French settlements affected the development of the Louisiana colony. 6 pm on Zoom. Free. Register at k


13th - MAY 15th


Cruise around Cajun Country with fellow car enthusiasts during this weekend of food, demonstrations, tours, music, and fun. 6 am–9 pm. Free. k




- May




Be one of the first to ever attend the Mudbug Music Festival at The Natchez Bluff for this inaugural event. Expect live music from Riley Green, Drivin N Cryin, Southern Avenue, Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience, plus others; plenty of food vendors; cold beer, and cocktails on the Mississippi River. Don’t forget Smoot’s Epic Street Party featuring live music from Epic Funk Brass Band and more on Friday night. $30–$150. Find more information on Facebook. k




Celebrate the best of Terrebonne Parish’s arts and culture at the inaugural White Boot Stroll in historic downtown Houma. In addition to having the chance to buy locally-made products and art, guests will enjoy

live music, art installations, photo opportunities, special promotions from restaurants, and more. Kids will especially enjoy Greenwood Gator Farm’s baby alligator petting station at the Waterlife Museum, which will also be open to the public. At this community-wide block party, there’s sure to be something for everyone. 11 am–5 pm. Free. k



MAY 15th


Celebrate our armed forces for keeping us safe at home with a flag raising ceremony and patriotic music at Bouligny Plaza. 6 pm–8 pm. k

MAY 15th



Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

One of the most singular musical experiences in the region is Grammywinner Luther Dickinson’s annual performance to accompany Walter Anderson’s magnum opus—his murals in the Ocean Springs Community Center. The fifth annual concert will take place in the streets of downtown Ocean Springs, where the audience will enjoy music to a backdrop of animated light projections of Anderson’s murals. Dickerson arranges the music, joined on stage this year by Kirk Joseph of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Jake Eckert of the New Orleans Suspects, Johnny Vidacovich of Astral Project, and others. 5 pm–10 pm. $20. k

The Highland Road Park Observatory celebrates this special worldwide event with games, exhibitors, physical science demonstrations, and viewings of the sun, moon, Venus, and Jupiter. Enter the raffle to win hundreds of dollars in prizes. Sounds like a stellar event. 13800 Highland Road. 3 pm–11 pm. Free. k

MAY 15th


Readers, don’t miss this chance to meet two of last year’s biggest names in literature, both from the great city

Come for the music. Stay for the experience!

Sunday • May 23 • Trinity Episcopal Church

Saturday • June 5 • First Presbyterian Church

Friday • May 28 • Lansdowne

Wednesday • June 9 • Temple B'Nai Israel

Friday • June 11 • Natchez Community Center

Friday • June 25 • Natchez Community Center

Saturday • June 18 • Natchez City Auditorium for







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Sunday • June 27 • Waverly

E  B  N

The West Baton Rouge Museum’s exhibition Evangenalia: Evolution of an Icon explores the evolution of Longfellow’s maiden in Louisiana culture and her influence on other artists over the past two hundred years, including works like this one by Francois Gaudet. Artwork courtesy of the West Baton Rouge Museum.

of New Orleans, and both telling rich stories of it. As part of the One Book One Community program, the Main Library at Goodwood welcomes Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, author of the National Bestseller The Revisioners, who joins Sarah M. Broom, author of the New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction The Yellow House. Both offer haunting, complicated, and vital stories about the Crescent City—a place resounding with both corruption and light. Free. Register at (225) 231-3750. k

MAY 15th


The Legends of Pop Gala will conclude Of Moving Colors pop-themed week of spring events. Beginning with their performance of POP, the dance company will then host a week-long crowdfunding campaign with interactive games and a costume competition. The in-person gala will highlight pop icons from across generations and include the first “Legend” award. 7 pm–10 pm. k

MAY 15th


Featuring a menu developed to showcase the freshness, flavor, and variety of produce raised and grown in the Felicianas, this Country Roads Supper Club will introduce attendees to spectacular Woodlawn Estate. The evening will feature a four-course meal with paired wines prepared by

Chef Phillip Lopez, Executive Chef of Galatoire’s New Orleans; and hors d’oeuvres and accompanying cocktails by Chef Jason Roland of Heirloom Cuisine in St. Francisville. Attendees will explore the property at the height of spring, sit for an outdoor feast served banquet-style on the banks of a rushing trout stream, then move to a lakeside boathouse for an on-water show with live entertainment throughout. Guests will spend a beautiful afternoon in the Tunica Hills, eat like kings, and leave with a heightened appreciation for the small, artisanal farmers and producers leading the Felicianas’ agricultural heritage into a new generation. 4:30 pm–9:00 pm. $175. Tickets available at k

MAY 15th - OCT 31st


From the pen of a poet who never stepped foot in Louisiana to a symbol of the Acadian identity, the heroine Evangeline has endured into the twenty-first century in many forms. The West Baton Rouge Museum’s exhibition Evangenalia: Evolution of an Icon explores the evolution of Longfellow’s maiden in Louisiana culture and her influence on other artists over the past two hundred years, including Francois Gaudet, Rémi Belliveau, Melissa Bonin, and George Rodrigue. k

MAY 16th


In conjunction with the Louisiana State Museum’s exhibit Mystery in Motion:

B Q L  R 1818   7      5 . 1358 John A. Quitman Blvd., Natchez 601.442.5852 // M A Y 2 1



Beginning May 17th - May 23rd African American Masking and Spirituality in Mardi Gras at The Presbytere, the Friends of the Cabildo are presenting a special virtual lecture on African Influence in Black Masking Traditions. Scholars from the Musée du Quai Branly—Jacques Chirac and from Southern University at New Orleans will join the guest curators of the exhibition to discuss loaned artifacts on display that highlight African and Caribbean influences on New Orleans Carnival. 1 pm. Free. Registration is required at k





“One of the best gift shops in the South” -As seen in Southern Living 411 Franklin Street 225-636-0442

Brooklyn-based band The Lone Bellow is known for its transcendent harmonies, serious musicianship, and wild live performances; all of which it is bringing to the Acadiana Center for the Arts. They’ve performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Late Show, and are now setting their sights on Lafayette. 7:30 pm–9:30 pm. k




Happily, one of our favorite venues has access to one of the best spots in Baton Rouge from which to watch a sunset. The Manship’s new Sunset Series brings talented musicians to the Shaw Center’s Fourth Floor River Terrace for a special outdoor concert experience. Next up is Louisiana fiddler Amanda Shaw and her band The Cute Guys, who promise a spirited and playful interpretation of Louisiana culture. Doors open at 6:30 pm. $38. k





The Arts Council of Pointe Coupee’s annual Performing Arts Series has returned in full swing. The 2021 PAS comes packed with high-energy musicians who have been favorites at the French Quarter Festival and Jazz Fest in New Orleans, as well as strong regional vocalists who have come highly recommended by PAS patrons. This month, check out The Krickets: A trio of female vocalists from Panama City, Florida, The Krickets are an Americana group 22

M A Y 2 1 // C O U N T R Y R O A D S M A G . C O M

whose music Paste Magazine calls “a truly stunning, one-of-a-kind sound.” With a specialty in swamp harmony, the group’s genre-bending songwriting has allowed them to play for diverse audiences from listening rooms to official performances at SXSW. $29.25; $10.45 for students. k




Who doesn’t like free, outdoor live music? We, and the folks on the Northshore certainly do, and they make it evident with their Sunset at the Landing concerts. Past acts have included The Groove Kings, The Magnolia Sisters, Sweet Olive, and many other esteemed local artists. Always a lively crowd, and did we mention that it’s free? Just bring chairs and refreshments. 6 pm–9 pm. Find more information on Facebook. k



SIP & STROLL WILD WINE WALK Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Wine tasting, food sampling, twinkly lights, live music: it’s a night of celebration and class we’ve all been craving. Oh and then there are the monkeys. And the giraffes. And, of course, the alligators. The Friends of the Baton Rouge Zoo invites all to its inaugural Wild Wine Walk, a lively and indulgent stroll through the zoo, enjoying a variety of wines and bites from local eateries. 5 pm–7:30 pm. $50; $75 for VIP, which includes early entry (4 pm) and exclusive rides on the zoo’s shuttles for the first hour, as well as a commemorative insulated wine tumbler. k




Fancy yourself the Tiger Woods of the Northshore? Prove it while having fun and supporting a great cause at this golf tournament in support of Hospice House. Noon–6 pm. Entry starts at $150. k

MAY 21st & MAY 23rd LIVE MUSIC HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING? Mandeville, Louisiana

Northlake Performing Arts Society presents a medley of gospel, Broadway,

pop, and other favorites from Richard Rogers showtunes to Barry Manilow classics at Hosanna Lutheran Church in Mandeville. There will be two showtimes for the event, Friday, May 21 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, May 23 at 3 pm. $15 for ages ten and up. k




A full day of incredible jazz and R&B acts in Natchitoches’ historic downtown? You’d better believe it. This year’s lineup includes Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hell Raisers, Neal McCoy, Peter Rivera of Rare Earth, Back in Black, and many others. Bring your lawn chairs and blankets, but leave your ice chests and outside food and drink at home. 1 pm–11 pm. k




FUN RUNS BAYOU SIDE RUN New Iberia, Louisiana

Get your steps in while taking steps to raise mental health awareness with the 2021 Bayou Side Run 5K. Set to take place in the historic downtown

district of New Iberia, funds raised by the event will go to the Iberia Mental Health Initiative, a coalition of concerned citizens dedicated to identifying and addressing the mental health needs of the Iberia Parish community. 8 am. $25. k


Head to Galvez Plaza in downtown Baton Rouge for the annual Baton Rouge Oyster Festival. Bushels of briny bivalves will be on hand—if you’re in a sporty mood, get ready for the shucking, cooking, and eating competitions. Live music will also abound. And what’s an oyster without a good beer? VIP tickets available. Join the shuckin’ party to support the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana in their efforts to restore and protect a sustainable coastal Louisiana. batonrougeoysterfestival. k


Here’s something to put some wind in

your sails. For the seventeenth year, West Baton Rouge is launching high-flying festivities at the West Baton Rouge Soccer Complex. The event has been named “Festival of the Year” by the Louisiana Travel Promotion Association and a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society. Attendance has grown tenfold over the years, ballooning to twenty thousand people or so, and on more than one day. The kite-loving crowds will get to enjoy a kite design contest, indoor kite flying, and other professional kite exhibitions, plenty to eat and drink, kite vendors, musical entertainment, kite-flying lessons, and kite-building workshops. Plus, don’t miss the big fireworks display on Saturday night. No pets or ice chests, please. Free. 11 am–8 pm on Saturday, 11 am–6 pm Sunday. Call 225-3442920 for more information. k


Are you ready to start your next remodeling project? Or do you just want to do a little wishful thinking? The Lamar-Dixon Expo Center hosts The Home and Remodeling Show this

weekend, with products and services your domicile needs for a good pampering, inside and out. The event will showcase all the latest in kitchens, bathrooms, siding, and more. Pamper yourself too, since there will also be health and beauty products, jewelry, specialty items, and more. All that aspiration should build up an appetite— not to fear, Ralph’s Markets Food Fest will be on the premises too, featuring free samples, tastings, coupons, and recipes from an exciting set of vendors; and one lucky attendee will take home $500 worth of groceries. 10 am–5 pm both days. $6; ages twelve and younger free. k




The Point Coupee Historical Society and the eighth-generation family owners of Bonnie Glen Plantation in New Roads invite all for a grand jazz brunch and tour of the home and grounds. Admire Louisiana Heritage plants that have been on the grounds since before 1860, and take in the Bonnie Glen Oak, an ancient live oak on the property that is on the National Live Oak Register. Lively music will be provided by the St. Cyr Jazz Band. Garden party attire is encouraged, so

Bridal registry, gifts, wedding flowers, parties, events, holiday décor, etc....

505 Franklin St Natchez, MS 39120 601-446-3011 601-445-8416 Mon-Sat 9am-5pm

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Beginning May 23rd - May 29th

break out your most festive spring hat and seersucker. $125. k

RIDE ORGANIZERS ARE ADHERING TO ALL STATE ORDERS AND LOCAL PRECATIONS RELATED TO COVID-19. WE ARE TAKING ALL NECESSARY STEPS TO ENSURE THE SAFETY AND WELL-BEING OF ALL PARTIPANTS AND VOLUNTEERS INVOLVED. Friday, May 14 5PM End of Regular Registration ($55) Beginning of Late Registration ($65) Thursday, May 20 12PM Online Registration Closes Friday, May 21 6PM-9PM Welcome Party & Package Pickup (LAST chance to register) Saturday, May 22 7AM Package Pickup Broadway St. 7:30AM-8AM Riders will line up 8AM Ride Begins 1PM SAG Stops Close 11AM-2:00PM Post-Ride Lunch

The Natchez Young Professionals and Natchez Adams Chamber of Commerce will host the 2nd Annual Natchez Bicycle Classic on Saturday, May 22, 2021! Last year's ride was a tremendous success and we are looking forward to another on one! This year's ride will again feature paved or multi-surface routes with beautiful scenic views along the Natchez Trace Parkway. Paired with Natchez's delicious culinary selection and entertainment, it is sure to be a fun weekend! Come for the ride; stay for the party! For more information & registration

Sunday, May 23 8AM Optional Recovery Ride Led by Natchez Bicycle Club

MAY 23rd & MAY 28th


Every May since 1991, the Natchez Festival of Music has been making Mississippi musical, staging a month-long whirlwind of operas, operettas, Broadway musicals, jazz, and special concerts in historic venues around the city. Among this month’s highlights: Sunday, May 23 : Moonlight and Magic—A Vocal Concert by Stacey Trenteseaux. 7 pm at Trinity Episcopal Church (305 S. Commerce Street). $20. Friday, May 28: Friday Fusion Featuring the Diamond Trio. 7 pm at Lansdowne (17 Marshall Road). $20. k Follow us on Facebook Natchez Young Professionals




LIVE MUSIC VIBES IN THE VILLE Saint Francisville, Louisiana

St. Francisville’s new music series Vibes in the Ville is keeping the good vibes flowing in Parker Park the last Thursday of each month. 5:30 pm. Free. This month’s artist is local favorite The Fugitive Poets. k





Downtown Lafayette is on the rise, it’s plain to see. Local organizers have harnessed that energy into an exciting community event—Downtown Rising. Join the town in toasting to the vibrancy and the growth of cultural center that is Lafayette, made all the more exciting by performances from Cold War Kids, Givers, and DJ Digital at Parc International. 5 pm–10 pm. $25; $50 for front stage; $100 for VIP (includes reserved area with seating, snacks, sodas, beer, and wine); Group tickets for ten are $200. k

MAY 169 Homochitto St Natchez, MS 39120 (601) 445-8203

5064 Hwy 84 West Vidalia, LA 71373 (318) 336-5307 24

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Baton Rougeians will enjoy the spirited return of the Arts Council of Baton Rouge’s Jazz Listening Room, a series

of intimate cabaret-style jazz concerts featuring nationally and internationally known acts. This month welcomes Charles Brooks to Chorum Hall’s outdoor stage. Tickets at Details at k






Lots to see, do, and learn at the Northshore Garden & Plant Sale, held at 1301 N. Florida Street in Covington. Organized by the LSU AgCenter and Master Gardeners of St. Tammany Parish, exhibitors and experts will be on hand to address all those gardening woes and inquiries, including topics of pruning, vegetable garden diseases, and Louisiana super plants. There’ll also be children’s activities, food vendors, a plant health clinic, and demos, as well as plant material and garden supplies for sale. 9 am–4 pm both days. $5 for adults; younger than eighteen free; police, fire, and EMT free. (985) 875-2635. k




St. Francisville’s newest restaurant The Jungle Inn is hosting its own Crawfish Cook-Off for Memorial Day Weekend. This is the first annual cook-off, but it surely won’t be the last. Noon. Free. Details on Facebook. k




Chafunkta Brewing Company invites you to enjoy live music by Cypress Creek, tasty to-go food by Creole Tomateaux and Mi Bop’s Tamale’s, a virtual silent auction, and of course Chafunkta brews to raise money for the Captain Vincent N. Bibelot Jr. Memorial Fund, which helps families of fallen first responders and military. 3 pm–9 pm. Free. K


The sixth annual Home and Remodeling Show, along with Ralph’s Market Food Fest, returns to Lamar-Dixon May 22—23


s life slowly but surely returns to normal after a year spent mostly indoors, now is the perfect time to spruce up your space and finally tackle that home renovation to-do list. Thankfully, the sixth annual Home and Remodeling Show returns to the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales on May 22— 23. This weekend-long event is a one-stop shop for all the products, services, and resources you need to get a high-quality remodeling project done right. The show continues to get bigger and better, and this year’s presentation includes new vendors, door prizes, and certain discounts only available at the expo. Attendees can expect to meet an extensive lineup of professional contractors, builders, health and beauty products, jewelry, specialty items and so much more! More than two hundred spaces will be showcasing any and every material you can imagine, from windows and cabinets to flooring and doors, all under one roof. Homeowners can plan to make their dream projects of every size and scale a reality upon visiting the show. What could make the wall-to-wall expo even better? Ralph’s Market of Gonzales will return with an onsite food fest to appease hungry shoppers. To encourage attendees to shop local and support small businesses, Ralph’s dishes out store coupons, tasty samples, and recipes from dozens of vendors, plus access to niche new products from your favorite supermarket brands. In case you need any more convincing, $500 worth of groceries are set to be given away to one lucky customer over the course of the weekend! Regular admission to the show is $6, but for those wanting to save all their money for the vendors, there are several ways to get in for less. Admission coupons are available online and printed in The Advocate, The Weekly Citizen, and Marketeer. Rather get in for free? Just spend $25 at either of Ralph’s two Gonzales locations before May 23 to receive two admission tickets to the show. Check for updates, giveaways, and tickets.

Attend for your chance to win $500 in free groceries from Ralph’s Market! // M A Y 2 1


V I S I T S T. F R A N C I S V I L L Great Things Happening in West Feliciana!


s the world opens back up for adventure, mark your calendars for an abundance of opportunities to enjoy all that West Feliciana Parish has to offer. Whether you are looking for an adult getaway, a family-friendly excursion, or are a parish resident who wants to make the most of your days, we have got you covered. If you are a music lover, take note that the Town of St. Francisville is hosting its “Vibes in the Ville” live music series at 5:30 pm on the fourth Thursday of the month through the summer. The venue

is the beautiful Parker Park, located in the historical district of downtown St. Francisville. Visit for details. Also mark your calendars now for the Tunica Hills Music Festival on August 27 from 10 am–10 pm, also to be held in Parker Park. This festival will feature multiple bands and music genres jamming throughout the day. There will be various food and refreshment vendors; don’t forget your chairs or blankets to enjoy the lawn! If you are a historian or art enthusiast, the John James

Audubon Bicentennial Celebration will be hosted this summer. The event will highlight the life and the many invaluable and timeless contributions John James Audubon made to West Feliciana Parish. Check out for upcoming information and details. Residents of West Feliciana & St. Francisville, make plans to attend the Community Update Event presented by the West Feliciana Chamber, May 20 at 5:30 pm at the Bluffs Event Center. Speakers include St. Francisville Mayor Bobee Leake, Parish President

Kenny Havard, and Tourism Director David Floyd. They will provide all the exciting plans, current and ongoing improvements across our parish. Appetizers provided by The Francis Southern Table restaurant, and a cash bar available. Tickets available at The local shops, restaurants, parks, recreation areas and other attractions are open, so make your plans now for a day trip or book a room at one of the many overnight lodging accommodations, each with its own unique style and flair. We love it here, and so will you!

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M A Y 2 1 // C O U N T R Y R O A D S M A G . C O M 225.635.6717

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5720 Commerce Street (225) 635-6502 // M A Y 2 1



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Fightinville Fresh








From left to right: Kimberly Culotta, Kevin Ardoin, and Nicole Johnson met during the LSU AgCenter’s Grow Louisiana Program in 2019. They wanted to support other beginner farmers like themselves while also doing something to benefit a community in need. Thus, the Fightinville Fresh Market was born.



n 2019, three beginner farmers in Acadiana convened at the early workshops for the LSU AgCenter’s Grow Louisiana program—an initiative designed to train growers with fewer than ten years of experience. Looking for ways to expand their individual operations, Kevin Ardoin, Kimberly Culotta, and Nicole Johnson started to brainstorm. One of the ideas that stuck was starting a new farmers’ market in the Lafayette area—one that would be easy for beginner farmers like themselves to join, and that could also


benefit a community in need. Ardoin immediately thought of his old neighborhood of LaPlace. The very first subdivision developed adjacent to Lafayette’s downtown district, “La Place des Creoles” was established in 1876. The historic neighborhood was home to the first African American Catholic church in town, as well as the first school offering classes to the area’s Black population. Then, it grew into a hub of social life that residents dubbed “The Block.” Ardoin remembers The Block full of night clubs, bustling with activity on

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the weekends. But most of all, he said he cherishes the community that welcomed him with open arms. “Everyone in the neighborhood accepted me,” he recalled. Over the years, the neighborhood has gone by several different names, including Monroe, West End Heights, and Mills Addition. But Ardoin knows it as Fightinville (sometimes referred to as Fightingville), a title that likely originated in the nineteenth century when the neighborhood was positioned outside of the Lafayette city limits. As legend has it, back in the day, residents resolved disputes on the city limit line, by way of fist fights. In the nineties, Ardoin observed an economic downturn in his neighborhood. He said the bustling activity in The Block started to wane, and he noticed more businesses began to shut their doors. “Everything went into decline,” he said. “It was like a ghost town. Today, there aren’t grocery stores and people can’t even buy fresh food.” Many of the residents Ardoin knew didn’t have vehicles, he said, amplifying the difficulties for many in the neighborhood to access fresh food. “When you get home from work and you’re trying to cook a meal, and you’re missing something—I can just jump in

a car and go get it,” he said. “But in that neighborhood, for some people, they go without.” Ardoin began Zydeco Farms on his property near Ville Platte in 2019. He started by experimenting with plant varieties, a novice in a complicated profession. But he wasn’t starting from scratch. As a boy, he had helped his grandfather Oban Ardoin tend to his market garden, growing watermelon, purple hull peas, and more. “You learn when you do something,” he said. “We would plow two acres with a little rototiller.” Later that year, Zydeco Farms was seeing some significant success, producing cucumbers, okra and tomatoes. But hoping to acquire more knowledge about market gardening and to grow his business, Ardoin signed up for the LSU AgCenter’s Grow Louisiana program, where he met Culotta and Johnson. Johnson and her boyfriend Travonic Lively began gardening in their Lafayette backyard about six years ago. When they filled up all the space in their backyard, they began growing in the yards of neighbors and family. “We had a vision of growing fresh produce and providing that for our families,” Johnson said.

“That was our first passion. When we started growing, we realized that we could grow and preserve it all, too. We began getting the bulk of our produce from the garden.” Johnson and Lively dubbed their operation L4S Farm, which stands for Living for Success Farm. By the time Johnson began courses in the Grow Louisiana program in late 2019, she felt ready to take on a bigger project They eventually secured a spot to expand their operation at Earthshare Gardens, a community supported agriculture organization north of town, where Culotta also spent time learning about sustainable farming practices. Around six months later, in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, she, Johnson, and Ardoin hosted their very first market together, calling it The Fightinville Fresh Market, in the LaPlace neighborhood. “Food security should be in that neighborhood,” Ardoin said. “That should be available for everybody.” One of the most important tenets of the Fightinville Fresh Market is to offer fresh produce to an area without easy access to grocery stores. “We want to nurture the mind, body, and soul through our market,” said Johnson. “We want to be whatever the neighborhood needs us to be. We started out with an idea to be open-minded and flexible, and to be the hub the neighborhood needs.” The trio began by supplying the bulk of the produce at the market, which runs on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Over

the course of the summer, other vendors began signing on. Johnson said they now have artisans selling crafts, jam, and sauces, and offering lemonade. Another of the market’s goals, explained Johnson, is to offer a lowbarrier to entry so that new farmers can easily take part. The market organizers recently began an initiative called the Fightinville Fresh Growers Collective, which is a way to invite small or beginning farmers to get involved. Currently, the collective includes about a dozen people, ranging from hobbyist gardeners with backyards full of plants to those with just a few extra cucumbers. The collective helps these folks sell their produce on consignment, which Johnson explained is a way to encourage gardening while growing the economy. Ardoin, who supplies a plethora of vegetables at the market, said he couldn’t be happier with the result of the project he helped create. Each week, he feels like he’s nurturing the community that welcomed him all those years ago. “When I see the guy from around the corner come by and get tomatoes to go home and make dinner,” he said, “that’s what motivates me.” h

The Fightinville Fresh Market takes place from 3 pm–5 pm on Tuesdays and noon– 3 pm on Saturdays at 315 W Simcoe St. in Lafayette. // M A Y 2 1


W H Y D O N ’ T Y O U TA K E M E D O W N T O W N


By Jordan LaHaye Fontenot

All photos courtesy of Downtown Lafayette Unlimited. Top left and bottom right photos by Paul Kieu. Top right photo by Reece McDaniel. Events like Downtown Alive! and ArtWalk in Lafayette’s downtown district have attracted locals to the area for years now. New collaborative events like the Sunday Brunch block party are being thrown by business owners throughout the district, emphasizing the spirit of community and celebration that Lafayette has come to be known for.


bookstore with a wine bar; a family grocery founded in 1967 in New Orleans, revived in Acadiana; a restaurant/music venue inspired by Louisiana house dances of old; an energy company; a natural wine shop and tasting room; a web-based golf retailer; a no-waste bulk goods store; a vintage clothing shop serving gourmet coffee; an urgent care; a purveyor of outdoor gear; a gourmet popcorn shop; a spa; a law office; an interior design showroom; a realtor; a Magazine Street hat shop, brought home to Cajun country; a nightclub; and a tavern serving Italian comfort food: these are the eighteen locally-owned businesses that opened their doors in the downtown district of Lafayette in the year 2020. For the first few months of the pandemic, historic Jefferson Street— like other downtown areas across the country—sat quiet and desolate. Restaurants shifted to curbside pickup, retailers moved their focus to online, and the future seemed daunting. “I think not having people on the streets for those few months reminded us how much that is a part of who we are,” said Anita Begnaud, CEO of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and Downtown Lafayette Unlimited (DLU). “I think we had a moment of, ‘What if we didn’t have this? What if this didn’t exist? What would our community be like?’” Begnaud’s role, in a nutshell, is to set the vision for downtown Lafayette through the two entities she oversees. The DDA—funded by property taxes within the boundaries of the downtown district—is a political subdivision of the state founded by the Louisiana legislature in the 1980s to facilitate private and public development in downtown Lafayette.


Around the same time, DLU was formed as a 501c6 nonprofit to support the DDA’s initiatives through marketing and programming designed to drive people downtown. As CEO of both organizations since October 2018, Begnaud works under two separate boards of directors, developing strategies and managing teams to enact initiatives and support the residents and businesses of the district. “Really, what I do is meet with people a lot,” she said. “I encourage them to invest downtown, figure out what their challenges are, and try to connect the dots for solutions, as well as connecting dots between people who want to achieve similar goals that would be difficult to achieve by themselves.” The COVID-19 pandemic followed a big year for the DDA and DLU. “We titled our annual report for 2019 ‘Momentum,’” said Begnaud. “It was the year of ‘Let’s try everything!’” In 2019, Begnaud oversaw the creation of new programs like a Lunch & Learn series, the first ever Sno-Ball Festival, and a series of holiday events hosted under the umbrella of “A Merry & Bright Christmas” in downtown Lafayette. DLU membership doubled, and the DDA initiated grant programs like the Façade Improvement Program, which resulted in aesthetic and structural updates to over twenty historic buildings in the district. Fourteen new businesses opened, and over 100,000 people visited the district for the over sixty events hosted by the DDA and DLU. It felt like something big was shifting in downtown Lafayette, said Begnaud: “The energy was changing.”

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Dr. Robert Autin, owner of the Acadian Superette in Lafayette’s Freetown neighborhood and his wife Clare Cook, founder of the downtown arts collective Basin Arts, enjoy Central Pizza with their daughter Mathilde.

DLU Director of Programming and Engagement Jamie Hebert grew up in the district and agreed that while the area has always exuded an energy of entrepreneurialism, the last several years have definitely seen a significant evolution. “Downtown was always a place you come, go to work, then go home, and it would be basically a ghost town except on a Friday night or for a festival,” she said. “Now, something is growing, and there is true activity here on a day-to-day basis.” Michele Ezell, owner of the twentyone-year-old downtown institution Tsunami Sushi, spoke to this as well, “Back in the day, we’d shop talk around the idea table, dream about cultivating ‘the downtown space,’ with like a Little Italy and a Little Asia. Have an Italian restaurant, a Thai restaurant. And over the last few years, that’s kind of happened. We didn’t design it, but we’re there. There’s Central Pizza, Pamplona, Spoonbill.” Maggi Bienvenu, a resident of the district and board member, described the disheartening experience of watching the decentralization of Lafayette over the past several decades, and now getting to watch its revival. “It’s so exciting to see things

coming back down here, and people really caring about it,” she said. “Finding people here who care as much as I do about this place was a huge draw to move back to this area.” But last spring, with foot traffic halted and businesses shutting their doors— some temporarily, a few permanently— the momentum built in 2019 seemed at risk of being lost entirely. “We tried to be creative about meeting people where they were,” said Begnaud of the DDA and DLU’s response to the pandemic. “For our restaurant base in particular, we wanted to find a way to build them up when they were feeling at their lowest, asking ‘How are you doing? What can we do to help?’” In the spring, Begnaud facilitated a Zoom call with the district’s restaurateurs, which also gave them the opportunity to talk to each other and exchange experiences. “Then,” Begnaud said, “an idea sparked from one restaurateur like ‘What if we did a competition?’” And thus was born the Chicken Sandwich Smackdown. Held over the course of a month in the summer of 2020, the competition featured sandwiches from fourteen of the district’s restaurants, all vying for

the titles “Best Overall” (top score from the judging panel), “Crowd Favorite” (people’s choice), and “Best Seller”. One dollar from the sales of each sandwich went towards the efforts of DLU. When it was all over, the local restaurants had raised $50,000 in chicken sandwich sales alone, not including appetizers or drinks or other meals. “It started a new model for what cooperatives and agreements and working together as a neighborhood can look like,” said Hebert. “It didn’t just create sales, which was the point,” said Begnaud. “And it didn’t just succeed in supporting our restaurants or in marketing the district, which were also the points. But it was also successful in building community among the restaurants.” In the fall, DLU repeated the model, hosting the Burger Battle Royale, which was equally successful. The spirit of community in the district, particularly between business owners, has long been a defining factor of Lafayette’s downtown, setting it apart from other parts of the city and from the downtown areas of other cities in the region. With a scene so overwhelmingly local and chain averse, and product lines and ingredients sourced so often from vendors you could find at the farmer’s market down the road—it’s refreshingly easy to run into the moms and pops running the shops, and to share common ground with them. “We share and help each other all the time,” said Ezell of the relationships between restaurant

owners in the district. “We’ve got this running list, this environment of who borrowed what.” Events like Downtown Alive!, Festival International, and monthly Artwalks have played a big part in developing a united identity in Downtown Lafayette. But in the last three years, under Begnaud’s watch, an even more cohesive sense of community has emerged in the area. When she was being interviewed for the CEO position in 2018, Begnaud said, she made a point of meeting with many of the downtown business owners she’d be working with. “I took these notes,” she said. “I still have them, a stack. I sat down with all these people and asked ‘What do you think the DDA should be CEO of the DDA and DLU Anita Begnaud (pictured second from the right) joined the owners of Beausoleil opened in October 2020—for the grand opening of their adjacent wine bar,The Whisper doing?’ One of the things that I heard Books—which Room, on April 10, 2021. Photo by Reece McDaniel. was that while people often felt a connection to their adjacent neighbors what create the genius ideas and beautiful a safe manner. The series of dance on the street, they didn’t necessarily feel partnerships. So, it’s very simple, but it’s installations was presented over two a connectivity across the district, with also very layered. We started bringing Saturdays, in which founder of the people off of Jefferson or on the other side people together and set a little spark, and organization Clare Cook performed of it.” it all took off and now they’re really doing in the window displays of downtown Begnaud took that as a call to use the it on their own.” businesses Wild Child Wines, Hub DLU to more intentionally bring the area Over the past year especially, City Cycles, and Handy Stop Market. merchants together, and she set about collaboration has arisen as a particularly Since January, Mitzi Guidry has developing opportunities for everyone resounding theme in downtown hosted three breakfast pop-up events to run into each other and interact. “The Lafayette, often occurring, as Begnaud at her concept thrift and coffee shop, way I look at community building,” she noted, totally independently of DLU. Lilou—which opened in September said, “it is actually very simple. It’s about Last Christmas, Basin Arts Dance 2020. Serving fresh coffee along with bringing people together. And when Collective presented a “Window funky vintage finds, Guidry’s pop-up you do that, their ideas will spark more Wonderland” series, an effort to bring events served up a modge podge local ideas. The collaborations are going to be performing arts back to Lafayette in breakfast experience involving other

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Where the people are continued . . .

Enjoy the outdoor fun!

An aerial artist performs at Downtown Lafayette’s March Artwalk. Photo by Reece Mcdaniel.

8592 Hwy 1, Mansura, LA 800.833.4195 32

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local vendors like Scratch Kitchen, Wild Child Wines’ pizza pop-up sister Only Child Pizza, Lucia Bakehouse, Kiki’s Juicebox, Root Floral, and SOLA Violins. Similarly, earlier this year the businesses on the 400 block of Jefferson—Central, Tula Tacos, Handy Shop, The Grouse Room, Genterie Supply Co., Marley’s Sports Bar, Legends, and La Caretta—all came together to start hosting a series of Sunday brunch block parties, blocking off their section of the street to set up pop-up shops, food and drink specials, and live music. On smaller scales, these businesses promote each other’s products on social media, donate portions of their sales to support organizations like Basin Arts or the Acadiana Center for the Arts, and simply shop at each other’s stores. When Pop-a-licious first opened downtown in August 2020 (after relocating from the Acadiana Mall), owner Justin Cormier described the experience as family taking you in. “People reached out to us, as a new business in the area,” he said. “They’d come as neighbors, like ‘If you need anything, just come over here and ask!’ Now we’re hanging out at each others’ houses, shooting around ideas. I love the vibe.” “Everyone is always going inside and outside of each other’s shops, eating at everyone’s restaurants, buying records at Lagniappe, getting haircuts at Mon Rêve or Joie de Vivre,” said Katie Culbert,

co-owner of Wild Child Wines, which opened in January 2020. “And we all talk shop and look out for each other a little bit. It’s very natural really. All the people I’m meeting downtown, I genuinely like. There’s something about them. We all share a common mission, this love for Lafayette.” Culbert is one of the owners of downtown’s eighteen 2020 businesses and is also an example of a trend Begnaud referred to as “boomerangs”: “People who grew up here, moved away to a big city, then moved back—people who got out and saw other communities and other successful concepts, and were like ‘I want to come home and bring that here,’” she explained. Among them are Mitzi Guidry at Lilou, Stephen Verret at Spoonbill, Justin Cormier at Pop-alicious, Culbert at Wild Child Wines, and Colby Hebert from The Cajun Hatter, who “had his shop on Magazine Street, had a son, and wanted to raise him where he grew up, so he came back and brought the shop to Jefferson Street.” “These are all examples of the young, creative, entrepreneurial people in Downtown Lafayette who are willing to take risks in their own community.” “Growing up in Lafayette, you set up this pedestal that you need to move to bigger cities, that you need to get out,” said Culbert. “I had this vision of Southern California being the most magical place on earth. And it was, and it wasn’t. It made me realize how wonderful Lafayette was; we’re cool too.

And as a business owner, it’s an amazing opportunity to be down here, where you can be a bigger fish in a smaller pond, but also offer something we need here. You can build this community up, and give everyone options, and put life into this area.” Many of these “boomerangs” are the owners of Downtown’s eighteen new businesses, who either opened just before the pandemic or right in the thick of it. It’s a counterintuitive trend that’s been observed over the last year—a combination of clean slates, high emphasis on supporting local, and migration to smaller cities that has resulted in business owners putting their all into smaller, more boutique enterprises within their communities. And with its ready-made community of fellow creative entrepreneurs, its walk-ability, its outdoor spaces, and the support of the DDA and DLU— Lafayette’s downtown was the launchpad of choice for many looking to open their new business in 2020, or to relocate their existing one. In addition to the district’s eighteen new businesses, thirteen existing downtown business owners either expanded or relocated to more strategic spots within the district in 2020. There are also economic draws to opening a business in downtown Lafayette, thanks to the efforts of the DDA. In addition to attractive incentives such as the Façade Improvement Grant program, the Storefront Awnings program, and the Blade Sign program— which all offer financial support to businesses willing to invest in improving their buildings—the DDA introduced a new grant in 2021 designed to entice retailers to the area. The Retail Tenant Improvement Program will offer up to $3,000 in grants to support interior renovations for retail businesses in the district. But even more than businesses, Begnaud emphasized that the DDA is working to attract residents to the area. “As these businesses continue to open, we want there to be residents down here who are their daily supporters, not just people who are coming into work or coming in to visit. We want to develop a strong base of people whose lives are centered around here to support the business base.” While there are improvements to be made as far as residential opportunity, the draw is already there. “There aren’t a lot of neighborhoods like this in the region,” said Bienvenu, who currently lives in her great grandmother’s 120-yearold house downtown. “I like to be in the center of everything, and just love the neighborhood vibe of being able to just walk out and grab dinner, walk around town, run into people I know.” Katie Culbert and her husband Denny have lived in the area for over ten years now, and she said that the pedestrian-friendly nature was a draw for them as well. “It’s very European. We’re raising our kid downtown, starting our business downtown, walking our dog downtown.

Everything we need is right here. It’s a dream.” For Liam Doyle, another longtime resident of the area, the accessibility of downtown’s offerings is an enormous factor in his decision to live there. Doyle, who is wheelchair bound, doesn’t drive. “I loved all of the activity downtown, the programs, events, restaurants, and I wanted to be part of that,” he said. Doyle has served in various roles advocating for disability affairs with Lafayette Consolidated Government since 2015— most recently as ADA Coordinator— and as a DLU board member since 2017. He’s worked closely with Begnaud and the DDA to oversee projects to make the Downtown area more accessible not only for traditional pedestrians, but for people with disabilities as well: repairing sidewalks, putting in curb cuts, moving obstructions when possible, and spreading general awareness. “I love this place,” said Doyle. “I’ve championed downtown for years and being involved in making it better, and working with people who are always trying to make it better, and having that mentality echoed throughout your day to day visits, is fantastic.” As cities across America look at strategies to re-animate their main streets and downtown areas, downtown Lafayette stands as an example of a community doing something that is working—even in the face of a pandemic. Begnaud, who before her time at the DDA and DLU was working with One Acadiana, identified three main pillars of development for a successful downtown district. “Education is where you start,” she said. “People need to know that this is important and can make an impact in their town.” Then, intentionality: “Be intentional about the outcomes you want to see and ways to fund them.” (In Lafayette, she said, community members did this by appointing the DDA and taxing themselves: “Downtown Lafayette has someone who wakes up every day and thinks about getting things done.”) Finally: Engagement opportunities. “That’s what makes the energy pop,” she said. “You get the people, the business owners, and the property owners involved in growing the energy base.” And the energy, Begnaud said—the energy is everything. Listening to a panel with One Acadiana years ago, she wrote down in her notebook the advice: “You need to create a place where people want to be and love to be.” “We’re building that,” she said, “a place that we love. People invest in places they love.” h

5713 Superior Drive, Suite B-1 Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70816

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N O T- S O - S I D E H U S T L E S

A Move to Markets


Story and photos by Jason Vowell

J Leah Vautrot (pictured below) started her Mid-City coffee shop, Coffee Science, in early 2020. Once COVID-19 hit, she began to seek out ways to collaborate with other small businesses. She now hosts a farmers’ market every Sunday morning.

Luci Winsberg and Tyler Correa started Fish Hawk, a fishmonger and pop-up specializing in fresh local seafood, during the lockdown. They are two of many individuals who left their previous professions in the wake of Covid to pursue their passion projects.


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ust before sunrise on a spring morning, Rome Julian will start up his stake bed truck, revving the engine to a steady purr. He’ll turn the dial on his radio, releasing New Orleans’ most iconic soundtracks, courtesy of WWOZ, out of the open doors. Julian might worry about the brass band music disturbing the neighbors at this hour, if he had any neighbors. Boots crushing the dewy grass, he’ll begin to load flats of vibrant microgreens glistening in the cobalt blue twilight, followed swiftly by radishes, turnips, cabbage, kale, lettuce, and green onions. Just as the sun threatens to break the horizon, roosters will crow in protest of his imposing figure collecting cartons of eggs from their warm coops. Julian’s farm, Laketilly Acres, sits on a quiet corner of Robert E. Lee Boulevard (soon to be Allen Toussaint Boulevard) and Peoples Avenue in the old Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans—across the railroad tracks from Southern University and a stone’s-throw from Lake Pontchartrain. A head turn clockwise reveals the distant and shadowy monoliths of the central business district. Laketilly encompasses nearly an acre of land where houses once stood before Hurricane Katrina. The plot is now finely tilled and rowed with carefully cultivated gardens. Plywood and chicken wire coops resting on caster wheels spring up like Stonehenge in the morning mist, rotated daily so the chickens always have a fresh patch of grass to pluck from. “Right now, I’m setting myself up for the increase in demand.” Julian said. “I have twenty garden beds, each fifty feet wide, all loaded with spring vegetables.” Julian hasn’t always been a farmer. For seventeen years, and up until the pandemic, he was working over sixty hours a week as a camera assistant on big budget movies, television shows, and commercials. “I was already working on this farming idea before the lockdown,” Julian said. “Working in film is tough. Your career can be very long or very short.” The virus wasn’t the first thing to threaten Hollywood South. The film industry has gone through periods of ups and downs. It’s a transient job affected by politics, tax incentives, and union strikes. Film workers often have some sort of side hustle to fill the financial gaps when on-set jobs get lean. Julian’s green thumb took hold at his Gentilly home, less than a mile from where Laketilly Acres currently sits. “It became a situation where I had to have a talk with my wife,” Julian laughed. “I was like, ‘Listen, I’m gonna rip the front yard up. Let’s grow some food.’ And that just kinda snowballed to the back yard, then into my neighbor’s yard. Next came the chickens so we could have our own eggs.” Julian started with two chickens, which grew to four, then

ten. He now has over twenty laying hens, and fifty pasture-raised meat birds. “The homestead took priority in numerous ways,” he said. “I have to eat, not just pay the bills.” It wasn’t long before his phone started to ring. Word about his microgreens, produce, and eggs had spread to not only friends and family, but to chefs across the New Orleans area. “There was a lot of uncertainty at the beginning of the pandemic about going to grocery stores and restaurants,” said Julian. “So, I started delivering. It was way more convenient for people than the risk of getting sick. With all this new technology, people could just pay me on their phone, and I could leave a box on their porch. We didn’t even have to see each other.” That’s when everything went full steam: Delivery after delivery, straight out of the ground or a coop, into a box, and onto their plates. Julian quickly realized he had to expand. “My grandmother used to live in this neighborhood,” he told me. “I found the farm driving down the street. It was just a big empty overgrown lot. After asking around, I found out it was owned by a church, and I spoke with the pastor. I asked about putting a community farm on the land that his congregation would have access to. He said, ‘Go for it.’” As he hopped into his loaded-up truck to head to the market, Julian flashed a smile that highlighted his trademark handlebar mustache and said, “Just like that, the side hustle became a full time job.”

Farm to Funk is a ferments shop started by Emily Shoemaker and Adam Orzechowski offering locally-sourced, waste conscious, vegan products in the New Orleans area.

Across town on a busy stretch of Broad Street, Leah Vautrot starts her Sunday mornings sweeping the sidewalk as a line starts to form in front of Coffee Science, a Mid-City hub for all things caffeinated. As vendors begin to descend from every direction and unload their goods into the courtyard, she darts about, pointing people to their stations, carrying crates of produce, and placing heavy speakers strategically on the back patio. As co-owner of the coffee shop, she does this every week in anticipation for the weekly farmer’s market that she curates.

None of this was exactly part of Vautrot’s plan. Like Julian, she worked in the film industry before the pandemic, but as a makeup artist. “Going to a farmers market was never a real option for me,” she said. “We just worked too many hours on set.” A little over a year ago, Vautrot and her husband invested in Coffee Science—their chosen side hustle. Then the pandemic came, dropping sales by ninety percent practically overnight. Vautrot was forced to furlough her staff and to devote all of her time to finding ways to keep the business afloat.

What can we build for you?

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Markets continued . . .

Rome Julian is the owner of Laketilly Acres, an urban farm in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans.

“I just wanted to help. I wanted to contribute,” she said. “My mantra this whole pandemic has been ‘together we rise’. If we take care of each other, and we lift each other up, then we will all get through this together. I quickly saw there was more I could do.” At the beginning of lockdown, her customers expressed that they were struggling to get basic groceries like fresh vegetables and eggs. So, Coffee Science paired up with Husser, Louisiana-based Covey Rise Farms to sell over 150 produce boxes every week, putting special focus on delivery of seasonal, locally-grown fresh produce to the at-risk community. As demand grew, Vautrot began reaching out to other growing urban farms, including Julian at Laketilly acres. “I think I said it half joking one day [to Julian]… Let’s just have a farmers market at the coffee shop!” She laughed, “It just clicked, I was like, ‘I’m just going to put my big girl pants on and make this happen.’ So, we started the Sunday market, and it was immediately a hit.” Now, every weekend Vautrot invites dozens of vendors to set up and sell their goods at Coffee Science, free of charge, to help grow these small businesses. The resulting traffic allowed the coffee shop to hire back most of their pre-pandemic staff. “The goal with this market was to foster a variety of purveyors,” 36

Vautrot explained. “I try to make sure there is no competition. And that really fostered a sense of community. Everyone feels like they are a part of a team. Most of these people lost their jobs but found their passions. That’s the silver lining in all this. The world has to be a better place if people start doing more of what they love, right?” Breanne Kostyk of Flour Moon Bagels, for example, used to work in a hotel. “I think a lot of people were stuck in a job they weren’t happy in,” she said. “Now I’m surrounded by really talented people taking risks and doing what they love. And the best part is that the community is really coming out and supporting it.” “I went from working eighty hours a week to zero,” said Peyton Barrell, Chef-owner of Gourmand, an online gourmet marketplace that brings charcuterie and gourmet goods (like Barrell’s signature pimento cheese spread) to the market each week. The standstill brought on by the pandemic drove him nuts, he said, which is what brought him to start Gourmand as a way to get back in the kitchen. “You get to be human again, not just a vegetable-chopping robot in the back of a kitchen. With the rise of pop-up markets, it feels like the spotlight has shifted from celebrity chefs with James Beard Awards back to the creative cooks that make real, delicious food.” Amanda Regina of Buttery Spell

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sells gourmet nut butters, compound butters, and infused oils. Before the pandemic, she worked at a tuxedo shop. “Then all of the weddings got cancelled, and Mardi Gras after that, and business just evaporated,” she told me. “This has changed my life. Now I’m pushing myself instead of just settling. I’ve found something that makes me happy, and I’m good at.” “We started making hot sauce for fun,” says Emily Shoemaker. She and Adam Orzechowski, both coming from the hospitality industry, partnered up during the pandemic to start Farm to Funk Ferments. “Being able to explore what we like doing versus what we have to be doing has been a great experience for everyone involved. All of these things that you sort of pencil in? Things you say you want to do at some point in life? During the pandemic, we just did them. And that’s amazing.” Luci Winsberg and Tyler Correa started Fish Hawk, a fishmonger and pop-up specializing in fresh local seafood, during the lockdown. At the market, they are best known for their signature smoked trout dip. “Everyone here at the market has been really lifting each other up. Promoting and supporting each other as much as possible,” said Winsberg. “I left the market last week with everything I needed for an epic breakfast bagel picnic. You can do all of your weekly shopping at these markets and actually

meet the people that make your food.” And the trend goes far beyond Coffee Science; the markets are multiplying. Julian has even started his own midweek market at Laketilly. “People from all over town come out,” he said. “They bring their kids, they bring their dogs. They ride their bikes here. It’s just a good way to connect people to their food again. You come here and see the chickens running around while you are buying protein to feed your family. It’s a teaching moment. It’s about entrepreneurship. It’s about communion with the Earth. The money you spend stays right here in the neighborhoods. It circulates. And you start to see things move in positive directions when you uplift people in your community.” Julian wants people to think more intentionally about their connection to their food and the food movement in their city. “We should care,” he said. “We should know better. And I think everyone should attempt to grow their own food. I don’t care if it’s just a couple of green onions to sprinkle on your gumbo. Start with something. Figure out what you like to eat, and grow those things.” Vautrot believes where your attention goes is what grows. “I think ultimately, what we really learned most this past year is that our dollar is our most powerful thing,” she said. “Look for the person that you can give your money to. Look for the business owned by a woman. Look for the Black-owned business. Look for that small farmer. Look for those people struggling, and lift them up. Look outside your normal way of doing things. Connect with the growers and makers of your community. Together we will rise. This is the future.” h

The Sunday Mid-City Market at Coffee Science takes place from 9:30 am–noon at 410 South Broad Street in New Orleans. The Wednesday market is from 3:30 pm–6 pm at 6183 Peoples Ave in Gentilly. Find these vendors on Instagram: @laketillyacres @flourmoonbagels @gourmandneworleans @buttery_spell @farmtofunk @fishhawknola

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MAY 2021 38




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To further expound on the virtues of cast iron, once you’ve heated the pots, they provide intense STIRRING THE POT heat for searing, and retain heat for a long while after the stove is turned off. They are easy to THE VIRTUES OF THE LOUISIANA STAPLES clean, never look Story by Charmaine Thibodeaux Dupré dirty, and can last a lifetime. Cast iron can Illustration by Emily Miller at Emily Kaye Studio ( on Instagram). be used on the stove, in the oven, or on a campfire. a slurry of flour and water, and They even add a little iron to your diet. So, when I planned my cooking there was plenty of gravy to feed our large family. Along class menus, I often included “Cast Iron with a rice cooker full of Cooking” as one of the themes, and steamed rice, a vegetable side, featured down home Louisiana recipes, and salad from the garden, adding my own twists. As expected, this was standard fare for us more men signed up to those classes, throughout my growing years. and Henry hung around to tell hunting Cajuns love rice and gravy, and stories and pour the wine. I wondered when the men around here have what I could teach these professional suppers at their camps, the choice of meat camp cooks, but it didn’t take long to win may change, but the rice-and-gravy takes their favor. One evening we started in the rowing up on a small farm the center of the plate every time. kitchen with appetizer crab cakes and in Lewisburg, Mom always Mom also had a high-walled cast iron remoulade sauce, followed by a warm had a cast iron pot (or two) pot with a lid, which she used to prepare cup of sweet potato and andouille bisque. on her stove. In the ten- sides. It was perfect for cooking many While I demonstrated the preparation inch skillet, she made cornbread, drop types of fresh beans with a little diced of the dishes, my guests devoured these cheese biscuits, fried eggs and bacon, onion and bacon, for frying catfish, appetizers, and we all engaged in food and stir-fried beef with onions and French fries, and turning out the best talk. peppers. When a calf from the farm was homemade doughnuts. For the main course, I set a butchered, Dad sautéed fresh calf’s liver Cast iron cookware originated in woodland-themed tablescape, starting and onions in that skillet. It seemed that China in the sixth century B.C. In the with a white tablecloth topped with a no part of the animal went unused. He United States, Lodge Cast Iron has burlap runner and Spode “Woodland” also relished making “bouie,” a stew of been making cast iron pots since 1896 plates. I chose glasses and chargers in chopped fresh heart, kidney, spleen, and in Tennessee. They have been around earthy greens, and placed silver pheasants sweetbreads, and enjoyed it as a delicacy. a long time and are passed down from at the foot of a rustic floral centerpiece. I As children, we didn’t care much for this one generation to the next. If you haven’t had demonstrated how to “spatchcock” offal, but Mom skimmed off some gravy inherited one, there are plenty to be a chicken, which involves cutting away from the dish, served it over rice, and that found at vintage shops, flea markets, and the backbone and flattening out the was our dinner, take it or leave it. I took it garage sales throughout Louisiana. bird for faster cooking and a crispier and admitted, only to myself, that it was I have cast iron skillets in four sizes, skin. At the table, my guests were served not bad. a medium-sized Dutch oven, and two this succulent Cajun-spiced lemon and The second and hardest working different molded pans for cornbread. herb skillet chicken accompanied by my black iron pot was the six-and-a-half At our camp, my husband Henry has yummiest crawfish cornbread dressing. quart covered Dutch oven. In it, Mom another skillet and Dutch ovens in I had also shown the group how to browned a seasoned beef pot roast (or three sizes, which are used to cook assemble a warm skillet apple pie with other types of meat), then added the the game or fish he brings in from the pecan streusel. When served, this dish, Cajun mirepoix—chopped onions, wild. When I asked him what the best topped with vanilla bean ice cream, may bell peppers, and celery—and often thing he has ever cooked in his pots have stolen the show. a few pieces of smoked pork sausage. is, he said squirrels one time, ducks The cuisine of any culture originates The brown bits from the meat and another time, and squabs the last time. from the food that the land, waters, onions were deglazed with water, then In other words, whatever he cooks in a and sky provide in that area. Living off the roast was covered and left to braise cast iron pot turns out great. To Henry, the abundance of Louisiana’s land and until tender, filling the kitchen with a as to many outdoorsmen, the black sea has been a tradition and way of life tempting aroma. When it was done, she pot is a symbol of camaraderie, jokes and for centuries. Louisiana is called the Sportsman’s Paradise for good reason. thickened the smoky brown gravy with stories shared, and good Cajun cooking.

Cast Iron Cooking



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// W

Hunters have a diverse array of wildlife that live and thrive here. From waterfowl, like ducks and geese, to the more exotic alligator, hunters can find their desired target. Our land is fertile for raising cattle (both for meat and dairy), pigs, chickens, and eggs. We are spoiled for choice from our waters, which supply the best shrimp in the world, delectable blue crabs; huge, salty oysters; and crawfish in abundance. Along the Louisiana coast you can find a wide variety of freshwater fish waiting to be caught, including four types of bass, bluegill, speckled trout, sac-a-lait, and catfish. Our saltwater fisherman reel in tuna, wahoo, amberjack, cobia, grouper, snapper, and redfish. As I drive around my home state, lush with vegetation and trees, I see acres of rice, sugarcane, and corn crops (sweet corn for our tables, the others for grain). These are the top food crops of our land. All around Louisiana, there are fields of sweet potatoes—our state vegetable. In early spring, strawberry stands line the roadside from Slidell to the Atchafalaya Basin. This is our state fruit, brimming with flavor for salads, smoothies, and desserts. Blackberries, blueberries, peaches, and figs are harvested next, generous enough for canning. And crops of cantaloupe and watermelon fill wagons high for bringing to farmers’ markets and grocery stores. Smaller truck farms supply our seasonal vegetables, and there are plenty to choose from. In winter those include beets, carrots, red potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, onions, and many types of leafy green vegetables. In summer we have tomatoes, a great variety of peppers, okra, eggplant, squash, cucumbers, and purple hull peas, to name a few. There is no reason to go hungry in the Bayou State. Back in the kitchen, our restaurant chefs and home cooks not only have access to the freshest products to work with, but also a wealth of special techniques to add umami deliciousness to our foods. For example, it is quite common to first season our meat, fish, and poultry before we cook them. Our seasoning blends (like Slap Ya Mama and Tony Chachere’s) are sprinkled generously on our foods to add heat and flavor. I usually add one tablespoon per pound of meat. Using those heated cast iron pots, it’s been our tradition to

brown our seasoned meats until they’re seared well on all sides. The French call this the “Maillard Reaction,” which gives the food a distinctive flavor and makes a good, brown sauce. Many of our sauces, stews, gumbos, and jambalayas start with a “holy trinity” of chopped onions, bell pepper, and celery. A mixture of these ingredients, ready to cook, is available in most of our meat markets and grocery stores. Speaking of brown gravies, our chocolate-colored roux is another key ingredient in our cooking. Besides thickening gumbo—our state dish—locally-made roux is added to meatball stew, chicken stew, pork backbone stew, shrimp stew ... you get the idea. We love the flavor of dark roux as a thickener, and I am reminded of the savory joys of these dishes almost daily thanks to the distinct scent of the roux being made at Kary’s Roux manufacturing plant, a mile from our home. Our little hometown of Ville Platte is known as the Smoked Meat Capitol of the World, and our local cuisine is particularly characterized by the addition of sausages, tasso (smoked pork shoulder), turkey necks, and more. I love to add sliced tasso when cooking navy beans in my instant pot. Of course, Louisiana is well known throughout the world for Tabasco Sauce, and many other similar sauces and products that add heat and intrigue to our dishes. For four decades, Jack Miller’s Barbeque Sauce, made with seventeen ingredients, has been mopped on our burgers, pork steaks, and all manner of barbequed meats in our area. Using Jack Miller’s, my dad made the best barbequed lamb for our Easter dinners every year. Traditional desserts served at our tables are made with cane syrup, local pecans, homemade preserves, and leftover bread. In place of gingerbread, we make Gateau de Sirop (Cane Syrup Cake), a classic Acadian dessert made with Steen’s cane syrup from Abbeville. Pecan trees drop tons of nuts throughout Louisiana in October. In a good year, we crack and peel about twenty quarts of pecans from the one tree in our back yard. I use them in most of my baking when nuts are called for; ranger cookies, pralines, pecan pie, and in toppings for fruit crisps. The fruit preserves are used to fill sweet dough pies and cakes, especially fig cakes. In restaurants, the most common dessert on menus is bread pudding. There are many recipes, all made from

leftover breads and the favorite spices and sauces of the chef composing them. The Palace Café in New Orleans holds my favorite, a white chocolate bread pudding, decadent and delicious. To finish a meal, Community Coffee is the standard, and it comes in several flavors, to please the palates of all Southern coffee lovers. So, in this land of plenty, when we are not cooking at home, we seek out the Cajun and Zydeco bands, and celebrate our culture at many festivals throughout the year. In Acadiana especially, our festivals revolve around our local cuisine. There is the Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge, the Boudin Festival in Scott, the Cracklin’ Festival in Port Barre, the Smoked Meat Festival in Ville Platte, the Rice Festival in Crowley, and the Frog Festival in Rayne. At Le Grand Hoorah at Chicot State Park, there is a traditional boucherie where a hog is butchered, cooked by chefs in large black cauldrons, and served to hungry patrons. There is even a Black Pot Festival and Cookoff at Lafayette’s Vermilionville Historic Village to celebrate our favorite pots. Each of these festivals features toe-tapping music and tents offering the delicious dishes and crafts of the Cajun people. Festivals showcase our unique “joie de vivre,” our joy of life, our philosophy. Bienvenue! h

Elizabethan Gallery More Than Just A Frame Shop


Mid City in Bloom A SPRING ART EVENT

Friday, May 7th 3-9pm Free and Open to the Public Show Hangs Until June 19th Twin Cypress, 24x48, Oil on Canvas by Carol Hallock

Spring Fields Along the Interstate, 36x36, Acrylic on Canvas by Kay Lusk

Docked for Lunch, 10x10, Oil on Panel by Andrea Phillips

St. Joseph’s Cathedral, 12x18, Mixed Media by Keith Douglas

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This story is an excerpt from Charmaine Dupré’s memoir, Life Around the Table: Living the Spirit of Hospitality at Home and Abroad, released on May 1 and available at barnesandnoble. com and For signed copies, Dupré can be reached at Find some of Dupré’s recipes on our site at Photo by Jordan LaHaye Fontenot




Ron Reed has been frequenting Prejean’s for a decade now, and is thrilled at the recent updates overseen by the Metcalfs.


Prejean’s 2.0



on Reed is adjusting to some changes. It’s just before 5 pm, and he’s settling into his regular seat at Prejean’s. Sleeves rolled up, Michelob Ultra tucked firmly into a koozie, his routine is intact, but his surroundings seem slightly foreign. This bar used to be a cavernous corner of the restaurant; it is now part of an open floor plan, with improved lighting and fixtures, a showcase sign overhead inviting guests to the Cypress Tavern. Gone is the decaying Formica countertop, replaced with beautiful sinker cypress, shining under a clear epoxy finish. Same for the rickety old barstools, the ones that would let out an uneasy creak at any shift of weight; they’ve been upgraded to comfortable metal-reinforced counter chairs. Reed looks up to a pair of new flat screen televisions and down to the new wood grain tile flooring that spans the dining room. “Look at this,” he told me with admiration. “This whole thing has changed.” Reed has been regularly visiting Prejean’s for the past decade. When Tim Metcalf bought the restaurant in November and closed it down for the


Story by Nathan Stubbs • Photos by Paul Kieu ten-week renovation, Reed anxiously awaited its re-opening. For him, it’s convenient; he lives three minutes away. But more than that, the social exchange that takes place at Prejean’s is what has continuously drawn him back to the Cajun institution along the I-49 corridor. The forty-one year old Carencro restaurant has sustained a reputation that stretches worldwide—built on a history as rich as its famous duck and andouille gumbo. “You know what I like about this place?” Reed asked me. “I’ve met people from all over the country here.” Noting their propensity to return, he added: “and I’ve met them more than once.” Metcalf is still in awe of what he just purchased. On a tour of the sprawling seventeen thousand square foot restaurant, he noted the enormous amount of effort and funds (close to one million dollars) that have been poured into the re-opening, a massive undertaking for a place in dire need of upgrades. With 8,500 square feet of kitchen space alone, Metcalf and crew have installed a new drive-through window for takeout service and a newly screened-in boil room decked out with a pulley system for lifting heaping pots

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of crawfish and shrimp. The new layout also features a cold room set at fifty-eight degrees, designated for shucking oysters and processing other temperaturesensitive seafood. Around the corner from the pastry room, he’s also set up a prep area with three jumbo tilt skillets capable of producing up to 420 gallons of gumbo a day. Almost the entire kitchen has been outfitted with new equipment, from skillets to stoves. Welcome to Prejean’s 2.0, durably fashioned and adapted for the postCovid era. “It’s very ambitious,” Metcalf acknowledged. “Covid was the proverbial straw that broke Prejean’s. Prejean’s had its issues, but it was still functioning just fine pre-Covid.” First opened in 1980, Prejean’s, along with Mulate’s in Breaux Bridge and Randol’s in Lafayette, paired a menu of classic Cajun seafood—boiled, fried, and etoufféed—with live music and dancing for the quintessential Cajun experience. A booming oil economy ate it up; tourists took note. The circuit propelled the carriers of local Cajun and Creole musical acts, including future Grammy winners Beausoleil, Wayne Toups, and Chubby Carrier.

What set Prejean’s apart was the arrival of Chef James Graham in the mid-nineties. An avid hunter-fisherman originally from Montana, Graham elevated Prejean’s food to new heights, serving up crowd-pleasing stews and savory desserts, upping the ante by mixing in wild game dishes like the popular rack of elk topped with a mushroom and andouille cream. The gumbo was the best in town. Perhaps nothing distilled Graham’s legend more than his dark roux masterpiece, which came to be sold exclusively at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, and has reached near mythical status in the canon of Cajun cooking. Having won first prize at the New Iberia World Championship Gumbo Cookoff seven years in a row, Graham’s pheasant, quail, and andouille gumbo went on to establish Prejean’s as one of Jazz Fest’s most sought after food vendors for over twenty eight years, drawing a line of annual devotees and wowing artists from Jimmy Buffet to Lady Gaga. After a decade of success, Graham left Prejean’s for other entrepreneurial projects, and sadly passed away in 2006 at age forty-six while living in Florida.

A series of subsequent chefs kept the Prejean’s kitchen humming, but with the changing times, the restaurant lacked a clear vision for evolving. PreCovid, Prejean’s had settled into a role that capitalized on its established fame, featuring live music and servicing tourists, but the restaurant had lost much of its local following. Owner Bob Guilbeau, seventy-two, was eyeing retirement. His son Bud, an engineer by trade, had taken on many of the dayto-day operations. When the pandemic flatlined the tourism economy, Prejean’s was in need of a lifeline. Enter Tim and Greg Metcalf. Second and third generation restaurateurs best known as operators of the local Dean-O’s Pizza franchise, the Metcalfs have, through decades of successful ventures and a couple setbacks, grown bolder and keener on eyeing opportunity, exemplifying a “go big” business credo. (The family also ran the now closed Deaneaux’s Boil House and Teak’s Sports Bar) “When everybody zigs, I zag,” Tim said, professing his maverick tendencies. “My wife thinks I’m crazy sometimes, but I don’t know, I’m not doing bad. It keeps me young.” A prime example is Dean-O’s Pizza’s pivot at the onslaught of the pandemic. An already scheduled remodeling was reworked with Covid in mind—stressing sanitation, curbside pickup space, and an expansion of the outdoor patio. Dean-O’s social media pages continued an upbeat advertising of specials and to-go ordering, blending in a healthy dose of pandemic awareness updating customers on cleaning protocols and special offerings such as free lunch days for first responders. In addition, Dean-O’s capitalized brilliantly on new state rules allowing restaurants more wholesale and takeout flexibility. Stocking a line of signature “Take ‘N Bake” pizzas and bottled house ranch dressing in a network of fourteen locally-owned grocery stores, from Champagne’s Market in Lafayette to NuNu’s in Youngsville, Benny’s in Opelousas, Janice’s in Sunset and Robie’s in Abbeville, Dean-O’s pies began flying off the shelves across Acadiana. At Prejean’s, the Metcalfs hope to replicate that success. While the immediate focus has been on executing its new menu and drive thru takeout, plans are underway to streamline wholesale production and put Prejean’s gumbos, sauces, and even a few entrée items in more grocery stores. The Metcalfs are also keeping watch on the nearby Amazon fulfillment center, currently under construction at the site of the former Evangeline Downs horse racetrack. The new one million square

foot facility is slated to bring in five hundred direct employees, and more than nine hundred indirect jobs. “We don’t know yet how Amazon eats,” Tim said. “But we’re going to find out.” Alongside his father, Greg has taken a lead role in honing and balancing the Prejean’s menu. Their challenge: augmenting the tried and true James Graham gumbos and other classics with more updated apps, salads, and complementary entrées. The Metcalfs have brought back oysters on the half shell (a seafood favorite that had long ago fallen off the Prejean’s menu) and added fresh baked pistolettes from famed Lejeune’s bakery in Jeanerette. Chef Seth Ratcliff, a veteran of Charley G’s and Commander’s Palace, also helped direct a recommitment to quality sourcing and made-to-order cooking (Ratcliff has now left his original post as Head Chef at Prejean’s for an opportunity with his family farm; he remains involved with the restaurant on a consulting basis. The Metcalfs are in the process of finding the right person to serve as head chef). The menu now features local crawfish and alligator; oysters from Empire, Louisiana; and local greens grown in Cankton by St. Joseph’s Homestead, run by Ratcliff’s brother-in-law Trey Johnson. “It’s such an iconic restaurant, it’s a challenge. Because the word from the locals lately—and I felt the same way too—is that Prejean’s used to be better when they were focusing on more than just the tourists,” Greg said. “True Cajun people are gonna have the door

open for whoever wants to come eat and drink with them, but you gotta take care of your local people.” Last year, the Metcalfs were already eyeing Carencro as a possible location for the next DeanO’s Pizza franchise. When word came around that Prejean’s was for sale, Tim seized the moment. “I was a little surprised,” Greg says of the deal his dad brokered, “but we both took it as ‘Man, this is the opportunity of a lifetime.’” For his part, Tim’s plans encompass the entire 7.5-acre property. Part of the Prejean’s purchase included a campus of four other buildings, three eighteen wheeler trailers, and four shipping containers, most chock full of equipment (they also own the overhead billboard). Tim envisions an outdoor stage, bar, and tables, all centered around the beautiful century-old oak with a fifty-foot canopy located behind the restaurant. “We’ve got big ideas, but I think we have the means to do it,” he said. The restaurant is betting on a live music and tourism renaissance once the pandemic subsides, but they’re also taking their local guests to heart. Back at the bar, Ron Reed has been fêted with Mardi Gras beads and wears a wide grin. He’s easily developed a rapport with the new staff, and he can now gaze all the way across the restaurant to the storied bandstand from his corner perch. Groups of diners, mostly local, are once again filing in to sit along the vintage red checkered tablecloths. A palpable energy is back. According to one of Prejean’s most loyal customers, “It’s gonna do well.” h


for more fun than we can t in these pages

Tim (left) and Greg (right) Metcalf are best known as the second and third generation owners of the Acadiana DeanO’s Pizza franchise. Revamping the iconic Prejean’s restaurant is their newest endeavor.


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You’ve Got to Pick Up Every Stitch MEET THE MASTERMIND BEHIND DRESSED NEW ORLEANS, SIGOURNEY MORRISON Story by Ashley Hinson • Photos by Alexandra Kennon


hould you make your way to the Bywater’s Upper Ninth Ward, then stroll down Japonica Street, you will find a collection of artist studios settled inside an old school building, bedecked in murals. Step inside, and on the floor is a sleeping rescue mutt, Roxie, in a handstitched leather collar. Her owner, Sigourney Morrison, is at work, the vintage Singer 114w103 whirring. “It’s pretty much the standard chain stitch machine everyone uses,” Morrison explained in a Zoom call last December. “They don’t make ‘em anymore, so you have to find a vintage one.” Chain stitching is purely decorative, most recognizable as tiny loops that often make up flowers all strung together, but Morrison is “not interested in making things that have been made before.” Her designs are each a personal touch within her unique aesthetic realm, a world woven with color. The playful camps of Dolly Parton, Karen O, and Grace Jones’ rock ’n’ roll glam come into play with her childhood fascination with Kelly Bundy. Then, throw in a bit of southwestern 42

influence—befitting a creator whose style motto is “If I can’t wear my boots, I’m not going.” Morrison showcases the kinetic and eclectic style of her chain stitching under the moniker Dressed New Orleans. A quick look at her Instagram @dressedneworleans reveals neoninfused evil eyes on requisite cool kid denim jackets, lovingly-detailed okra patches, and the wild and ancient landscapes that drape Louisiana. Like many artists before her, New Orleans has captured Morrison’s attention as “an endless source of inspiration,” but she avoids the kitsch in favor of a downtown, savvy—if cheeky—aesthetic. Though the New Roads native hesitates to call herself an artist, Dressed New Orleans’ success has been her sole form of income for two years. “Beats the service industry,” she joked. Morrison’s journey to entrepreneurship started with popups in trendy shops and requests for pet portraits on embellished jacket sleeves. But before all of that, and even before formally studying fashion, she learned embroidery from her paternal

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grandmother, Shirley. Morrison still holds onto Shirley’s sewing kit, along with three others that belonged to women in her family; she has four generations’ collected textile tools. Her dexterous hands and eye for design found direction at Louisiana State University, where she majored in fashion design and first began constructing and selling hats



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and detailing veils. The seven-year stint of hat-making led her to discover chain stitching, which she taught herself as a way to add flourishes to her pieces. Soon enough, she said, “It took over. I stopped doing everything else and started concentrating on that.” However, Morrison said her transition into full-time creative was harder than she imagined it was going to be. “I’m still not performing at eighty percent of what I could be doing,” she said. “It’s hard because you’re the marketer, the secretary, the treasurer, the president, everybody. You’re spinning plants at the same time!” To combat chain stitching fatigue, she said that she practices yoga and takes part in dance classes. The past year has been especially difficult. As an immunocompromised person, she’s been especially cautious, all while battling the loss of business that typically comes from festivals and pop ups. And yet, Morrison’s niche styles keep her afloat. Traditional chain stitching veers into homemaking territory, but she subverts the traditional methods of her craft with her off-the-wall bait-andswitch. The textured thread is familiar, endearing in a way that covers quirky without being cloying. Her online shop is a gallery of her mind: tame camellias

alongside a Willendorf Venus, a pink and starry tablecloth “for an altar or tarot card reading.” A banner reads, in proud cursive, “Homeaux.” “A lot of it is ironic, funny, or subversive, so I try to stay away from basic stuff,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with [the basic stuff], but there’s plenty enough of it to go around.” Morrison’s approach to fashion is personal and gravitates toward the time-tested. “It’s movement in the total opposite direction of fast fashion,” she said, explaining her commitment to avoid purchasing fast fashion products. She lamented the staggering amount of clothing that ends up in landfills annually; the EPA totaled 11.3 million tons of textiles in 2018. Morrison’s closet is filled exclusively with previouslyowned clothing or pieces purchased with knowledge of who made it, where it was made, the process behind it, and if it was ethically produced. “That has helped a lot, I think, in curating a more sustainable and longer-lasting wardrobe, too. I mostly work on vintage pieces, so I incorporate sustainability.” Expressive style is a hallmark of New Orleans women, but Morrison’s inspiration for her curated closet leads back to Shirley, who made flamboyant

dressing a daily habit. “She was very extra,” said Morrison, who keeps several pieces from her

“IF I CAN’T WEAR MY BOOTS, I’M NOT GOING.” grandmother in her closet. “She wore scarves around her neck, Mardi Gras beads as jewelry, and her gold patent leather shoes all the time—anything extra and an accessory. Every day was, for her, like a costume day. That did shape my perception of wearing clothes. She was loud, cheerful, and I get most of my inspiration from her. She taught me a lot. ‘It doesn’t matter what they think.’ ‘Do whatever you want.’ She lived by that.” On crafting sustainable and memorable fashion accessories in the spirit of personal expression, Morrison mused: “When you wear something you feel is special, you have a certain emotion and confidence, and people tend to gravitate toward that.” h

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From My City Lot



y city lot is tiny, but there are places where one may sit to read, look up, and be surprised by the illusion of acreage. Gardeners call it borrowed landscaping. A neighbor’s trees, a barn, a winding road, a pasture, a pond serve as an extension of our land if we can see them. At a corner of my house, trees obscure nearby houses. My gaze takes in a footworn path, a bench, and in the distance the looming wall of a neighbor’s house. From my chair beneath a mutant Meyer lemon tree, all that my eyes take in belong to my sense of place. This past year I have longed to be in places I once took for granted; not just longed to be somewhere else, but missed driving to that place, seeing familiar roadside buildings, houses, pastures, little roads glimpsed from interstate bridges. The exit to Natchitoches off I-49 carries my eye to the college I first approached from another way, up narrow, winding La. 1 from my childhood in Alexandria. The drive from my parents’ house to my dorm at Northwestern State College, later upgraded to a university, took about an hour, but it was a voyage of adventure. Every mile north put home farther behind me. I was fleeing safety, homecooked meals, and familiarity for the uncertainty of a new town, a senseless war, and the specter of the draft board. My Corsair flyer (it looked like a 1953 Plymouth Belvedere to other people) sped north, cylinders wheezing, air coming into the cab from all directions on the compass, beat up engine gulping twenty-nine-cent-a-gallon gasoline. I came home on a dollar and change and had the temerity to tell the gasoline station attendant to shake the hose (to get every drop of that golden fuel). Up La. 1, the spine of the Pelican State, I was comfortable in the cockpit of my old car. I turned the radio dial looking for my homing beacons, KALB in Alexandria on the way home or KNOC, the radio station on Natchitoches’ Cane River, as I closed on the college. You picked up KNOC at about the city limits where the station’s signal lost oomph and landed in roadside weeds. The Corsair was a mighty flying ship of the imagination. It had its failings as an automobile built thirteen years after my birth, near the end of World War II. It is funny to think I started life so soon after that great war and my only strong memory of it is the Bluejacket’s Manual my father brought home in his sea bag. Among the old car’s endearing oddities


were the aforementioned radio dial, which somehow was installed backward so that KALB’s 580 kilocycles were at the righthand end of the dial instead of the left, where it was on the kitchen radio at home. The car’s heater didn’t work at all, but the fan made a clicking contact with something metallic inside the heater mounted beneath the dash. The non-heating heater had three speeds and therefore three rates of clicking. An accompanying red light, faded to pink, added to the illusion of warmth. “I am freezing,” said a date one night at the drive-in picture show. “Turn on the heater. Please.” “You know it doesn’t work,” I said. “Please.” I turned the knob. The inside of the car sounded like a Geiger Counter on top of the mother lode, and that lying pink light blinked on. “Happy?” “Yes.” This was in the day of bench seats in automobiles. Dates might sit close to the driver as much to ward off frostbite as show affection. Those drives to school became my first transition from place of childhood to practicing for adulthood. These past months, I have returned to that youthful drive to college and reveled in the promise and newness of the trip. Since the virus, I have made other trips to places where I longed to be, places I was desperate to go simply because I could not go there. My small city lot sometimes expands to imagined acres of woods on a hillside I know from cycling in West Feliciana. On that hillside, I have built a shotgun house of the mind, a small barn and a garden fenced against deer. The back porch looks down the hill to a pond fringed by pine, oak, and ironwood trees. In the spring, bass and chinquapin, red-ear sunfish the size of small fry skillets, slap the pond’s surface, yelling for me to grab my flyfishing rod and head down the hill at a trot. The good thing about imaginary property is that there is no upkeep, no liability or fire insurance, no fear of intruders and no ad valorem tax payable to the sheriff.

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As it happens, in my real back yard in town, there is a shed, open on four sides, with a sloping tin roof. It is as easy as sitting just inside the shed to make the trip to that West Feliciana hillside. It was here where, for years, my small son knew he’d find me when I disappeared on a Saturday afternoon. Happy in each other’s company, we sat on makeshift stools to smell motor oil, dirt, rust, and the burned exhaust of the just-used mower. The virus that closed our daily lives, made us fearful, restive, and impatient for places we never went anymore but now longed for—is finally easing its grip. This Covid thing reminds us that life has just the one finish line. We

are never beyond danger or safe in the knowledge that we are safe. There will always be a virus of some description, a rogue president, a fair-weather Congress, a nation that wants to call itself the best and most powerful but can’t agree on the best way to survive each other. This virus is a reminder that of all the places we visit, our minds offer the best succor. I have a garden to make in a place made sunny by storm and tree removal. It won’t take long, so I’ll draw out the work, enjoying the place. There is a bicycle, too, in the shed requiring my attention. So much to do. So much time to do it. h


Rock House Queens IN INNIS, A HISTORIC DANCE HALL GETS A NEW LIFE Story by Alexandra Kennon • Photos by Lucie Monk Carter


uring its heyday, weekends at the Rock House Ballroom in Innis, Louisiana meant live music from the likes of Buddy Guy and Joe Simon reverberating through the building. Mama Tucker grilled hamburgers for the sizable crowd, and ladies of Point Coupee like Alzetta Walker and Easter Holmes would dance, and dance, and dance. Some nights, a little girl would peek through the door, just to watch them, entranced. “My uncle was runnin’ it, and I used to love to watch the ladies dance, man,” current owner Jeanine Lemoine said, nostalgically. Much of the Rock House’s history is less innocent than hamburgers and dancing, however. “Gosh, if those walls could talk,” Lemoine said, referring to the multiple shootings and weekendlong poker games. “I think there was maybe a couple people killed in there. There were some bullet holes, when I was renovating,” Lemoine chuckled uneasily. “I said, you know, I probably shouldn’t have filled them in with the mortar, I maybe just should have just put a glass over it.” But before the dancing, the gunfire,

and the poker games, there was a Sicilian immigrant establishing his family’s mark on rural Louisiana. Vincent Purpera Sr. and his wife Grace Sansone Purpera settled in Innis after traveling from Sicily in the early twentieth century. There, Vince Sr. first made his livelihood selling groceries he carried around town on his back, then later from a horse-drawn cart. Eventually he built a grocery store in Batchelor which he and Grace ran until the early 1940s, before building the “Old Store,” still in Innis today. Next door, he started building the Rock House Ballroom in 1944. The businesses were managed by Purpera’s four sons: Lemoine’s father Leonard and Joseph ran the store, while Tony and Vince Jr. ran the Rock House. For a town not exactly known for its nightlife, the Rock House provided everything, and then some. Behind closed doors, the Sicilian owners and their friends would play poker games that often lasted days at a time: “I might have gone for the early part of the games, but when it was serious stuff, the doors were closed,” Lemoine said, recalling

childhood memories of her Uncle Tony’s poker games at the Rock House. “Cash, I’m sure they bet other things. I’ve heard stories that there was a lot of money involved.” Meanwhile, the larger area that included the bar—designated for African Americans in those early days of segregation—roared with live music and dancing. David Tucker helped Tony run the bar, which has come to be fondly associated with Tucker’s wife Delphine’s famous hamburgers. “I mean everybody, to this day, if you talk about the Rock House they’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, Mama Tucker’s hamburgers were so good,’” Lemoine said. The dancehall even had its own baseball team, the Rock House Braves, who would garner large crowds when they played.

Of course, a highlight of the Rock House’s storied history is Buddy Guy’s gracing its stage. The blues legend was born and raised “a few miles up the road” in Lettsworth in north Point Coupee Parish. “Mr. Buddy caught the train right there in Lettsworth and went up to Chicago, and now he’s world renowned,” Lemoine said reverently of Guy’s ascent to music stardom. When the Purpera family still owned the “Old Store” in Innis, Lemoine recalled that Guy would visit home around Christmas and shower locals with free liquor, turkeys, and hams he’d purchase from the grocery. “Just a sweetheart. Really, really nice man,” Lemoine said. “To be world renowned like he is, and still humble.” When the eight-time Grammy Award winner addressed the crowd at a 2018

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Rock House continued . . . Mississippi Blues Trail marker dedication in his home town of Lettsworth in his honor, Guy said, “There are some things that make you feel like you’re on top of the world, including me playing in the White House. I thought playing in the White House was my favorite thing, but I think coming home is the best.” Soul and R&B singer Joe Simon also performed at the Rock House, and live music continued at the venue more or less until it was closed for renovations in 2019. “Oh yeah, we had live music when I was there,” confirmed Eddie Hartford, who after Vince Purpera Sr. passed away in 1987 leased the bar from Leonard and managed it with his family from 1988 until renovations began. “Ernie K-Doe, the Neal Brothers, I had ‘em all there.” Having managed the bar for around thirty-two years, Hartford has many memories of his time at the Rock House—like the origin of those bullet holes Lemoine mortared over. “A fellow got killed in there about six months after I started,” Hartford told me, then added, “I got robbed in there once. Shot through my clothes, but didn’t touch me.” Hartford said it was common to have a crowd of over one hundred and fifty people at the Rock House on a Friday or Saturday night. “It was real rowdy. I had to get a handle on that,” Hartford laughed. “It was the neighborhood spot, oh yeah.” When Leonard Purpera died in 2011, he left the Rock House and Old Store


to Lemoine, the little girl who—decades before— would peek through the door to watch the ladies dance. After selling the grocery in June of 2019, Lemoine knew she had to somehow keep her grandfather’s dance hall—a big part of her family’s legacy, and also Innis’s—alive. She never wanted to run a barroom but felt that the northern area of the parish was lacking an event venue, so she decided to move ahead with renovations with help from her husband Rodney and other members of the community “Every time I prayed: ‘Am I doing the right thing? What should I do? I sold my store, I don’t want to let my Rock House go. It’s my roots,’” Lemoine said. In moments of uncertainty, she would pray, calling on her late father for guidance: “‘Please, am I doing the right thing? Daddy, you gotta help me.’” Each time she did, pennies would appear, which she took as a sign of encouragement from her father. “So, every penny that I found throughout the renovation is in that bar under the polyurethane.” Lemoine’s goal was to have enough of the work complete by October 14, 2019 to have her sixtieth birthday party at

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the Rock House, which she did. By the end of November 2019, the renovations were finished. Though COVID gave the newly-reopened event venue a slow start, Lemoine said she currently has around ten events booked for the coming months. Her late father Leonard helped in ways beyond the encouraging pennies: Lemoine utilized cypress wood, an old gable for above the bandstand, and bead board she found in his barn. “Everything in there is really special in one way or another,” she said, “because, you know, it’s basically my roots.” The Rock House is imbued with history in many ways: from the bullet

holes in the walls, to that old gable of Leonard’s above the bandstand, to Lemoine’s girlhood memories of Alzetta Walker and Easter Holmes dancing. “My bar is kinda like my memories, because there are a lot of old pictures: some of Eddie, and some of the girls that worked there, and Alzetta Walker and Easter,” Lemoine said with a smile. “They’re all in there. I call them the Rock House Queens.” h

For more information about renting the Rock House for an event, contact Jeanine Lemoine at (225) 405-0966.


High on the Hog DIXIE POCHÉ’S BOUCHERIE HISTORY Story by Alexandra Kennon


true maven of Southern culture knows that the best research is not conducted in the archives or the library, but rather along back roads, in gatherings in rural communities, and at small town lunch counters. St. Martin Parish native and author Dixie Poché is a master of both varieties of research, as is evident in her latest book The Cajun Pig: Boucheries, Cochon de Laits, and Boudin. This exploration takes readers on a road trip through time to the butcher shops and barbecue joints of vintage rural Louisiana and provides a modern glimpse into how these porky traditions continue to influence life in the Bayou State today. “My love of travel stems from those early road trips where we unexpectedly stopped at unusual hole-in-the-wall places,” Poché explained of her decision to open the book with anecdotes about the family road trips of her childhood. “I wanted to keep a nostalgic theme throughout my book, so began with some memories of small town adventures.” As intended, the sense of nostalgia is palpable from the beginning of The Cajun Pig. Poché weaves childhood memories of piling pajama-clad with her sisters into the car before dawn with tidbits of historical trivia you didn’t know you wanted to know, like the 1940s origin of the “doggie bag,” or why ice cream servers were once called “soda jerks”. This is a book that is chockfull of history, without the stuffiness or formality of an academic text. In The Cajun Pig, Poché has achieved something more like a collection of stories from a knowledgeable relative; a relatable glimpse into the past. “My mother often spoke about the family boucheries that she attended, where everyone had a task assigned to them to help with feeding big families; whether setting up, cleaning up, playing music, or making boudin,” Poché said of what inspired her to write the book. “Also, my aunt and uncle had a mom and pop meat market in St. Martin Parish, and I was inspired about their business sense and customer service. Their boudin and plate lunches were generous and delicious. By sharing heartfelt stories of similar businesses, I hoped to give a glimpse into how they thrived through hard work, despite facing many challenges.” As endearing as Poché’s personal narratives are, when necessary she gets to the meat of the matter. From a thorough rundown of how Mansura’s Cochon de Lait festival came to be and was later revived, to an inside look at how a family prepares for a boucherie,

Cover image courtesy of Dixie Poché

to a detailed encyclopedia defining pork-related terms from chaurice to ponce, no sausage casing is left unfilled, no cracklin’ un-crunched. “I like including a cross section of different dishes and types of businesses,” Poché said of the comprehensive nature of the project. “Louisiana has so many amazing treasures, and I feel that our cultures draw a lot of interest. I was especially inspired to be acquainted with long-running family businesses that I included in the book such as Bourgeois Meat Market in Thibodaux, Teet’s Food Store in Ville Platte, and Laura’s II in Lafayette.” The Cajun Pig makes an excellent overview for an outsider looking for a glimpse into Louisiana’s unique culinary world, and a bookshelf requirement for any local interested in cuisine, history, and the intricate ways the two intersect. Though food is one of her favorite subjects to write on, Poché is an ambassador for all her home state has to offer, reminding tourists and locals alike of Louisiana’s too-often-neglected wonders. “I believe that all regions of our state have something fun to do— whether it’s hiking, cycling, festivals, bird watching, photography opportunities, kayaking, breweries, historic sites, museums, live music, and so much more. It is true that sometimes you don’t realize what’s in your own backyard.” h

Poché’s next book about the Cajun Mardi Gras will be published by Arcadia Publishing and released summer of 2022. Her books The Cajun Pig, Louisiana Sweets, and Classic Eateries of Cajun Country are available in local bookstores, online, or by contacting the author at .

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"St. Tammany's Manager of Marketing and Public Relations Anna Strider aboard Captain Rick Delaune's boat, the Windward Passage."


very time I cross the Causeway, I’m surprised by how quickly the drive goes. On this occasion, it helped that my boyfriend Sam had taken on the crucial role of playlist curator. He filled the brief trip with a selection of Northshore all-stars neither of us had previously listened to, despite our mutual affinity for local music and statuses as long-ishtime Southshore residents. Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s synthesis of blues, country, and jazz; 12 Stones’ angsty grunge-rock; and Christian Serpas & Ghost Town’s classic country twang each surprised us with the sheer variety of genres emerging from Mandeville and the surrounding towns. Between the music and excited conversation (“See that sailboat out there? That’ll be us tomorrow!”), when we drove up to de la Bleau B&B in Old Mandeville it felt impossible that forty minutes had already passed since we left Mid-City. Raised on cement pillars and painted a bright teal (think Commander’s Palace, but more tropical), de la Bleau seemed to beckon us inside, saying “Relax: you’re on vacation now. C’mon in.” We carried our bags up the stairs and entered the front door into an expansive modern kitchen that opened to a living/dining room; all sparklingly clean and filled abundantly 48

with natural light. Distinctive décor touches abounded in the contemporary spaces—a beautiful wood carving of dolphins and a sea turtle leaping from waves stood as tall as a person near the front door, and the common areas and suites all featured a collection of nautically-themed artwork. We took mental note of the wet bar—filled with beer, sodas, and bottled waters for the taking—and headed upstairs to the Bleau Room, where we found a queensized bed, WiFi, and a sleek bathroom with a walk-in shower. But my favorite amenity was the sunlight-drenched window seat looking out over Lake Pontchartrain. We briefly settled in before venturing back out for the most obvious-yetdelightful activity Old Mandeville has to offer: a stroll along the Lake. On our way out we met our hosts, owners of de la Bleau Cindy and Clyde—a smiling, polo-shirt-clad couple who appeared as if they are perpetually on vacation, despite running the B&B consummately. After a brief and pleasant chat, we ducked out into the warm yet breezy late afternoon, heading toward the water. There, we joined joggers with their pups, a teenaged couple holding hands, one guy strumming an acoustic guitar and singing to no one in particular. The

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smattering of locals enjoying the beauty of Lake Pontchartrain made a potentially mundane experience feel special, communal. We took a break to rock back and forth on one of the swinging benches facing the water before walking down to the small sandy beach, then headed back toward de la Bleau to change for dinner. We got spiffed up, more for ourselves in excitement to be embarking on an actual dinner date than in accordance with the restaurant’s dress code, which is relatively casual. Recently vaccinated after beginning our relationship in the midst of the pandemic, dining at restaurants still feels somewhat like an indulgent novelty. To maximize the long-missed night out experience, we started our stroll to dinner by first popping into a local watering hole, The Barley Oak. Styled like an English pub with an edge of punk (artwork on skateboards adorns the deep red-trimmed and dark wood-paneled walls, and early 2000s pop-punk music fills the space), the balcony overlooking the water is what drew us in, but the deep leather couches and expansive international beer list kept us there for a while. Sam opted for a hefeweizen while I sipped a Louisiana gose, and we admired the several dogs who trotted by with their humans. Knowing we had a fine dinner

ahead of us, we managed to resist the soft pretzels, though I hear they are fantastic. A worthy choice for our first night out in a year, our dinner destination, Pat’s Rest Awhile, was perhaps the most talked about spot in Mandeville at the time, having just been opened in January by one of the Northshore’s most trusted master chefs. Chef Pat Gallagher’s newest development on the water is made up of three historic buildings, whose ambitious restorations have generated a buzz on their own accord. The restaurant’s main building was first completed as the fashionable Frapart Hotel in 1890. But the building spent the majority of the twentieth century as the Rest Awhile, a charity retreat for underprivileged single mothers, their children, and orphans from New Orleans. Two smaller cottages were also moved in and elevated to supplement the space of the main building; an expansive outdoor deck with seating and an oyster bar connects the structures. We joined St. Tammany’s Vice President of Communications, Marketing, and Public Relations Christina Cooper and her husband Tim at a picnic-style table on the raised deck overlooking Lake Pontchartrain. The offerings at Pat’s Rest Awhile are familiar and well-executed. This is not a menu that includes much in the way of surprises, because it doesn’t need to: Chef Gallagher knows what his guests like, and he and his team excel at the local staples. More complex, international, and modern offerings can be found elsewhere in Mandeville these days, anyway (and I’ll get to some). But when you’re craving the classics—gulf fish amandine, a double cut pork chop in a pecan bourbon glaze, a fried seafood platter, or a nice steak masterfully prepared and served in a historic, waterfront setting—look no further than Pat’s Rest Awhile. A sucker for an amandine, that’s what I had, and the dish—the fresh grilled fish topped generously with lumped crabmeat, toasted almonds, and brown butter sauce—stood up easily to any served at a New Orleans Grand Dame, I’d wager. Though, I must admit to a tinge of order-envy after tasting Christina’s cedar plank redfish with a citrus horseradish crust, which included impossibly-thin fried potato strings as a contrast to the supple seafood. I recommend not skipping chargrilled oysters to start—something about dining lakeside mandates oysters on the half shell. On a busy Saturday night, we found Chef Gallagher slinging said oysters on the grill behind the bar,


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traveler weighed down by a breakfast of grits and a bike basket full of Girl Scout cookies? Either way, a cruise through the greenery and swamps along the Trace is an excellent call for a bit of natural rejuvenation and exercise. Falling into the latter category, we opted for a relaxed couple of miles from the Trailhead into Fontainebleau State Park and were back in time for lunch. In the market for something light-ish after kicking the day off with grits and pancakes, we pointed our wheels toward the restaurant across the street from the Trailhead, with its colorful, funky sign and outdoor picnic tables: Rieger’s on the Trace. Sarah and Billy Rieger opened the restaurant on January 1, 2020 (and at 2020 Woodrow Street, for a dose of serendipity). After a decade of working under Chef Frank Brigtsen in New Orleans, Billy had moved to Victoria in British Columbia, where in 2013 he and Sarah opened a food truck called A Streetcar Named New Orleans, serving classic Creole and Cajun dishes. The Riegers made their way to Louisiana in 2015 and the Northshore in 2019. After looking at several potential locations that didn’t quite suit the family atmosphere they longed to cultivate, the Riegers had all but given up. “And then we were building our house two blocks from here when this place came up on the market,” Sarah said. “We wanted what we wanted, and this is exactly it.” The building housing Rieger’s was formerly a sno-ball stand, equipped with a large kitchen and takeout window, but no seating for customers. The couple added a deck, outdoor seating, and a kids’ play area, which came in handy when just ten weeks after opening, COVID struck and ground indoor dining to a halt. “It was the best of the worst situation,” Sarah told me from the perspective of our thankfully more normal Saturday as kids ran past her playing. Between Billy’s training in New Orleans cuisine and the couple’s mutual affinity for international flavors, the menu is creative, bright, and fresh. Offerings include red bean falafels, roast beef poboys available dressed “banh mi style,” charred broccoli with General Tso’s sauce and sesame seeds, and a good ol’ fried pork chop sandwich with Crystal hot sauce on Bunny bread. They also serve Creole Creamery ice cream in homemade waffle cones (with complimentary whipped cream and a cherry—they have kids, and know what’s up). We opted to share a fried catfish sandwich with the cabbage salad. While the phrase “cabbage salad” might sound like a bore, I assure you this one was delightfully dynamic—weeks later I can still recall the sharp funk of the pecorino contrasting the tartness of the Granny Smith apples, all tied together in the bright lemon vinaigrette; light and crunchy. The brioche bun struggled to contain the massive catfish fillet, which was fried crisp enough for



his hands very much on the day-to-day operations of his youngest venture. He only took a couple of brief moments to, well, rest a while and tell us about the complex’s storied history before returning to slathering garlic butter onto bivalves. For a small community, Mandeville isn’t lacking in tasteful nightlife destinations, so after dinner we took a walk (I truthfully think we only used the car once the entire stay, continually delighted by everything’s close proximity), to a little neighborhood wine shop called the The Grapeful Ape, which offers a charming adjacent bar called the Ape Cave á Vin. A smattering of well-dressed locals chattered animatedly along the dimly-lit bar; busts of regal, crowned gorillas looked down at them from the shelves behind it. The wine list was of course quite lengthy, so contrarians we are, we ordered whiskey cocktails. Each was smooth, strong, and well-balanced; serving as a nightcap in the truest sense. Beds are great, but it’s always the second “B” in “B&B” that really excites me. Candied bacon, thick creamy grits, eggs any way we liked (we went with scrambled for the sake of adding onions, peppers, and cheese), fresh fruit, and banana walnut pancakes enjoyed in the morning sunshine on the veranda made for a lovely opening to our Saturday. Another thing we missed during the throws of the pandemic was making new friends, so we were delighted when fellow de la Bleau guest Pat from Covington accepted our invitation to join us. She was in town to celebrate her birthday with lunch at Pat’s Rest Awhile (I meant it when I said the restaurant was the current talk of the Northshore). After breakfast we headed to Brooks’ Bike Shop (again, only a brief walk from de la Bleau and the Lakefront), where we were directed to choose any cruisers we liked from the extensive and colorful selection parked on the lawn in front. I grabbed a sunshine yellow one; Sam went for a royal blue with a large basket. Old Mandeville is easy to navigate on foot, but equipped with a bicycle, anything is possible. For starters we tackled the Old Mandeville Trailhead Market, which is the place to be on a Saturday morning. Some freshly-made salsa verde, award-winning boudin, local Flamjeaux Coffee, Girl Scout cookies, and several spirited conversations with local vendors later; we were more than equipped for a ride on the Tammany Trace. My favorite thing about the Tammany Trace is that it’s a bit of a real life “choose your own adventure”. Once a route of the Illinois Central Railroad, the trace was purchased by the St. Tammany government and paved in the 1990s. Today it can be used for hiking, biking, or any number of non-motorized activities. Are you a serious cyclist with plans to power pedal thirty-one miles to Slidell? Or, are you a leisurely weekend


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May 15 - October 31, 2021

June 5, 2021

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Old Mandeville continued . . . Gulf fish amandine at Pat’s Rest Awhile

Breakfast, including Cindy’s famous candied bacon, at de la Bleau B&B.

An Italian-meets-Turkish spread at Duman Artisan Kitchen.

The fried catfish sandwich special and cabbage salad at Rieger’s on the Trace.

the thoroughly-seasoned breading to practically shatter. My only regret in choosing Rieger’s was that we didn’t arrive hungrier. After lunch we popped into a few of the local boutiques and antique shops in colorful cottages along Girod Street—I emerged victorious from Gran’s Attic Thrift Shoppe with an original Cornflower patterned Corningware dish for five bucks. Then we took a ride along

the lake before returning the bikes to Brooks’. Our afternoon itinerary called for a different mode of transportation entirely, one neither of us had ever experienced: a sailboat. We headed to the marina to meet Captain Rick Delaune of Delaune Yacht Brokerage & Sailing Charters, and St. Tammany’s Manager of Marketing and Public Relations Anna Strider, who had never been sailing before, either, and

happily joined us bearing local gourmet snacks and craft beer. Anna, Sam, and I excitedly clambered aboard Delaune’s boat, majestically named Windward Passage. Armed with as much charisma and humor as sailing experience, Delaune teased us as we shoved off by singing the line of the Gilligan’s Island theme “A threeee ho-uuuur touuuur,” because that’s what we were in for—well, not the shipwrecking, I hoped. Aboard the Windward Passage, the vastness of the Pontchartrain became so much more evident, and the forty-two foot boat (on which Delaune can host up to six passengers) was just small enough to really amp up the sense of adventure. Sailing, by nature, is somewhat involved, which allowed each of us to participate as much as we chose. We didn’t get very far out before Delaune turned the helm over to Anna so he could raise the sail. Despite our complete rookie statuses, Delaune treated us like seasoned fellow crew members: “You’re a natural!” He told Anna as she avoided a crab trap. He wasn’t wrong—I was up next, and she made it look easier than it was. “The boat weighs 24,000 pounds, so it’s moving 24,000 pounds of water out of the way,” Delaune explained casually as Anna steered. “What happens is the bow wave, we call it, has a tendency to make the boat want to careen off of its own bow wave up into the wind. So Anna is having to fight it a little bit, put a little rudder on it, to make it stay on a straight course.”

It turns out steering a sailboat requires a certain finesse which I decidedly lack. Still, I must admit that gripping the helm, bow pointed out toward the Causeway, I felt a rush of power and liberation that doesn’t typically accompany anything legal. For a first sailing experience, we couldn’t have asked for a better captain. Delaune’s demeanor from the beginning was easygoing yet energetic—it was more like sailing with a friend, or a really fun uncle, than a stranger. He was more than happy to educate us in nautical vocabulary, Coast Guard regulations, and sailing techniques when asked without being remotely patronizing, and while keeping the experience fun. “I’ve been in Mandeville since the 1980s, and I’ve been on vacation since the 1980s,” he told us, the gratitude evident in his voice. “[This business] has been a fabulous way to meet people from all over the world. I love it. I just love it.” A couple of hours into the sail, the sun began to set. Being on a sailboat on the lake is already as lovely as it gets, but as the peachy-golden light began to reflect off the waves—picturesque doesn’t cover it, because pictures can’t capture that degree of natural beauty. Utterly windblown and the tiniest bit sunburned, I handed the helm over to Sam for his turn as Honorary Captain while Anna and I munched on tasty local pimento cheese spread, buffalo chicken dip, and shrimp cocktail from craft grocer Girod

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Street Market and Deli. We admired the Mandeville skyline of trees and raised historic buildings, like a little doll set in the distance. The colors in the sky seemed to peak in their vibrancy just before we pulled back into the bay, darkening with the close of our “three hour tour”. For dinner we decided to try another highly-recommended spot: Duman Artisan Kitchen. Headed by another husband and wife team, this is Bulent and Ozgur (Ozzy) Duman’s third pizza restaurant together, opened in 2016. Though the couple has mastered woodfired pizzas and handmade pastas, they have other plans for the restaurant moving forward that are closer to their hearts, as well as their roots. In May 2021, they’re closing Duman Artisan Kitchen with plans to do a light remodel and reopen mid-May as a Turkishstyle meze house, or meyhane. “In Turkish culture, what we do is similar to Louisiana people: most of our activities are gathering around the table, eating and drinking, but we do it for hours,” Ozzy explained with a smile. “That’s why we have many small plates, or mezes. We want to spend as much time together as possible. You sit and slowly drink, slowly eat, and you can sometimes be there until midnight or the wee hours of the morning. So that’s sort of what we want to do.” Even before the transition, we were impressed by the carefully-curated cocktail list and extensive selection of

appetizers. I ordered the flaming fried cheese: a block of mozzarella fried and then doused in cognac and set ablaze table-side, before being cooled with a dressing of lemon juice and chopped parsley. Wanting to try the Italian fare before it was phased out, we ordered a prosciutto pizza with arugula and goat cheese, and handmade pappardelle with garlic shrimp, homemade creamy pesto sauce, marinated artichoke hearts, capers, and shaved parmesan. Each was truly exceptional: the pizza crust light and fluffy with a crispy char on the bottom, the sauces rich yet fresh, the pasta delicate and fine, each topping evidently selected and prepared with careful intent. In anticipation of their shift to small plates, Ozzy sweetly sent us some favorites that were already hiding in plain sight on the appetizer menu: ovenroasted garlic cloves in a house sun-dried tomato balsamic, homemade hummus, whipped goat cheese garnished with a truffle balsamic. Each was more flavorful than the next, and it was easy to imagine passing a long evening sipping, laughing, and volleying

triangles of freshly-baked pita bread between friends. I trust that Duman’s move to a more Turkish style and cuisine will do well in Mandeville. As Ozzy told us: “We’ve been here for a while now, and we got to know the people, the city itself. We have such a great community here, and I think they will receive it really, really well, because there’s nothing like it here.” The sense of community is strong in Mandeville. It’s a town of people who take care of each other, show out-of-towners a damn good time, and appreciate their history while also embracing delicious foods

and experiences they might not have encountered before. And from a Southshore perspective, that’s more than worth a drive across the Causeway. h

For more information on how to make the most of a visit to Old Mandeville, visit Disclaimer: This trip was hosted by the St. Tammany Parish Tourist Commission, though the thoughts, opinions, and ramblings of the writer are entirely her own and formed independently of this fact.

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Artistry of Light


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East Baton Rouge Parish Library


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LSU Rural Life Museum


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Mandeville, LA

WRKF 89.3


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West Baton Rouge CVB


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West Baton Rouge Museum


Hal Garner at Nest


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Monmouth Historic Inn


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Town of St. Francisville


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M A Y 2 1 // C O U N T R Y R O A D S M A G . C O M

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Kate Gordon



Kate Gordon. Left: “Truly Co. Oz”. Right: “Whac-A-Mole”.

f someone could paint your dreams, what would the audience see? Would the result be some smooth, coherent landscape with a clear beginning and end, with everything pretty and making perfect sense? Or would your dreamscape be a weird, otherworldly place—a mashup of memory, lived experience, image fragments, good and bad, dark and light—where tenderness and violence coexist in peculiar juxtaposition, and things happen without rhyme or reason? When Kate Gordon—a New York artist who formerly taught at the Pratt Institute—moved to Louisiana to take up a professorship in the University of Louisiana-Lafayette Department of Visual Arts, the result was decidedly the latter. The strange otherworldliness of her new surroundings took her by surprise … but in a good way. “Louisiana totally, radically shook up the imagery in my work,” Gordon observed. “My work was already based on the surreal, but then I moved to Louisiana, and it took me a good year of chewing on the visuals here to get my bearings.” Throw in a pandemic and—for a surrealist artist interested in creating dioramas as a means of exploring the human subconscious—the possibilities became rich indeed. Gordon is a collagist, who will create forty or fifty drawings based on her dreams, imaginings, memory fragments, and day-to-day happenings, then put the results away for a while. Then she’ll pull the whole stack out and storyboard the disparate elements together, literally stitching pieces with monofilament fishing


M A Y 2 1 // C O U N T R Y R O A D S M A G . C O M

line to assemble surreal dioramas that startle, cajole, challenge, and delight. “My rule for myself is, ‘You have to make forty drawings before you can cut anything up,’” she said. “Make a pile, don’t look at them; then it’s open season. It’s kind of violent but there’s creativity in that destruction.” And the subject matter? “Everything that bubbles up is fodder for painting,” Gordon laughed. “When I realized I couldn’t tell the whole story in one go, I started making multiple pieces, then putting them together in different ways. I try not to censor things. In the end the sweetness and lightness and innocence is always followed by darkness and violence. Some stuff is so dark and difficult that you just have to laugh at it.” Gordon makes collage work that is site-specific— installation art that fools with concepts of two- and three-dimensional space because “there’s a little space in the middle where magic tricks can happen.” Her latest, Alligator Naps, is a large-scale, theatrical diorama installed in a long, narrow gallery space at the Hilliard Art Museum at the University of Louisiana Lafayette. Depending on the angle from which they approach it, each visitor can experience the installation differently. The effect creates an illusion of navigating through twodimensional space, reducing the distance between artist and audience and allowing the visitor to be a participant rather than simply a viewer. Of course, that’s exactly the effect Gordon is going for. “When I’m looking at a painting, most of the time I’m not thinking of what it’s about; I’m thinking ‘Where did the artist want me to go?’” she explained. “I’m walking through [the painting]

with them. And when I’m painting, I’m thinking about space a lot. I’m asking, ‘Where does my eye go intuitively?’ And ‘Where does it want to go after that?’ I think so much about that: about where the map is— where’s the treasure hunt.”

Why “Alligator Naps?” Gordon explained that the title is a nod to her adopted Acadiana environment’s indifference to the passing travails of humankind. “I created this piece during the pandemic, which seemed appropriate, because my work is all about—is a reflection of—unpredictability,” she observed. “As I was building the diorama, [Hilliard Museum curator] Ben Hickey called and asked what to name it. At the time I was thinking about the pandemic, and how the alligators are just out there, floating around and not caring. It’s called “Alligator Naps” because it has everything and nothing to do with what’s happening around us. What was an alligator thinking about, dreaming about? How can we ever know?” h

Kate Gordon’s Alligator Naps remains on view at the Hilliard Art Museum at University of Louisiana at Lafayette through June 30, 2021. Paintings and a video installation piece by Gordon are at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s River Center Branch from May 8–31. See more of Gordon’s work at or on Instagram at @kategordon_studio.

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FREE One Book One Community Author Watch Party & Live Stream Event!



2 p.m. Saturday, May 15

Join us for a special FREE One Book One Community Author Watch Party and Live Stream event featuring New York Times Best-Selling author of The Yellow House, Sarah M. Broom, along with award-winning author of The Revisioners, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton. The panel-style program will be presented in-person on the BIG screen of the Large Meeting Room at the Main Library, virtually via YouTube live stream, and will include a robust discussion of each authorʼs book, as well as the experiences and inspirations that have shaped their work. Can’t make it to the Watch Party? Go online for the YouTube live stream the day of the event! Visit the Events Calendar at to access the link. MARGARET WILKERSON SEXTON THE REVISIONERS

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