Country Roads Magazine "The Cuisine Issue" July 2021

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Announcing the third annual

November 13—14, 2021

at the Myrtles, St. Francisville, LA

Celebrated Mississippi & Louisiana Chefs • Creative Dishes • Wine Pairings • Cooking Demonstrations Book Signings • Cocktail Tastings • Craft Beer & Brats Garden • Lawn Games

Featured Chefs

Alex Diaz

Lauren Joffrion

Paolo Cenni

Jay Ducote

Poppy Tooker

Katie Dixon

David Dickensauge


The Thorny Oyster

Paolo’s Restaurant

Gov’t Taco

Louisiana Eats

Birdhouse Cafe

Beausoleil Coastal Cuisine

New For 2021 Saturday Night Winemaker Dinner – 4 courses by Chef David Dickensauge, Beausoleil Coastal Cuisine; wine pairings by Steve Reynolds, Reynolds Family Winery 2021 Small Town Chefs Awards – Small plate tastings from this year’s winning chefs VIP Enclosure – Private bar, buffet, seating, & more




Generous suPPort From

Paretti Jaguar Land Rover Baton Rouge

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34 36 38


Fourth fests, live music, intriguing art, and more

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REFLECTIONS Growing Our Own by James Fox-Smith


Thinking beyond spaghetti in Hammond’s downtown district by Jordan LaHaye Fontenot

CHEF LAUREN JOFFRION Establishing an air of elevated eclecticism in Bay St. Louis by Alexandra Kennon

by Lauren Heffker

Who boils the best boudin in the land? by Jason Vowell




Understanding the complicated culinary landscape of the Smoked Meat Capital by Jordan LaHaye Fontenot

Louisiana “Pirogue” rice ushers in a new drinking trend by Alexandra Kennon


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Arts & Entertainment Editor


Alexander Cardosi, Samantha Eroche, Ashley Hinson, Paul Kieu, Lucie Monk Carter, Dagan and Valli Soileau (Parish Road Media), Jason Vowell

Cover Artist

My mom always told me that I hold my fork weird. She’d urge me, beg me to practice re-maneuvering my fingers into the “proper” cutlery cradling. And I’d roll my eyes, “Whatever Mom, who cares?” and curl my index finger around the stem, bend my wrist, and shovel dinner into my mouth. Well, as they say, folks: Mom is always right. But if you can get past Country Roads’ Managing Editor’s poor table etiquette, you’ll see the real star of the show: Chef Alex Diaz’s gorgeous peaches and burrata plate. Executive Chef at Cena in Hammond, Chef Diaz wins one of this year’s three Small Town Chefs, along with Chef Lauren Joffrion of the Thorny Oyster in Bay St. Louis, and Chef Paolo Cenni of Paolo’s in Ponchatoula. For the eighth year, Country Roads dedicates its annual Cuisine Issue to showcasing culinary groundbreakers doing great things in small towns across the region. We’ve eaten well in the weeks we’ve spent preparing this issue, tiresome work indeed that we hope will encourage you to venture out beyond our area’s culinarily renowned larger cities into the surrounding enclaves, where delectable things are happening, too. And we can assure you—they are worth the drive.


Managing Editor

Jordan LaHaye Fontenot

Lucie Monk Carter

Cover by Lucie Monk Carter


Ashley Fox-Smith

Kourtney Zimmerman

The face of traditional Italian cuisine in Ponchatoula



Associate Publisher

Creative Director



James Fox-Smith

Alexandra Kennon

On the Cover





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BONNE TERRE A homestead retreat in the heart of Acadiana by Ashley Hinson

PERSPECTIVES Julie Glass: Halfway Between Eunice and Mamou by James Fox-Smith



Sales Team

Heather Gammill & Heather Gibbons

Custom Content Coordinator

Lauren Heffker

Advertising Coordinator

Kathryn Kearney


Dorcas Woods Brown

Country Roads Magazine 758 Saint Charles Street Baton Rouge, LA 70802 Phone (225) 343-3714 Fax (815) 550-2272 EDITORIAL@COUNTRYROADSMAG.COM WWW.COUNTRYROADSMAG.COM

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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 - Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center

A Relationship Like No Other With 2021 marking Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center’s 50th anniversary, we’re sharing stories that show the impact of compassionate cancer care, and the expert medical professionals who make it possible.


t takes a certain kind of person to pursue a vocation in medicine. But to spend a lifetime specializing in cancer care, lessening the burden of a cancer diagnosis and seeing patients through to survivorship—that takes a special kind of doctor, indeed.

Dr. Vince Cataldo, an oncologist and hematologist with more than twenty years of experience, helps his patients face the unthinkable by developing innovative treatment plans to ensure they have the best quality of life possible throughout their care. As a steadfast source of support, he guides people through what is often the most difficult phase of their lives. As part of the collaborative team of oncologists at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center, he serves on the Skin and Soft Tissue Multidisciplinary Care Team where he and his colleagues ensure best practice prevention and treatment of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers are available to patients. Considering the gravity of his patients’ conditions, the nature of the physician-patient relationship tends to be extremely personal. “I don’t know that anything has the same emotional connection of a cancer diagnosis,” Dr. Cataldo says. To ensure the challenges of this dynamic—namely emotional exhaustion or burnout—don’t take a toll on him over time, Dr. Cataldo maintains reasonable expectations throughout each step of the treatment process, and helps his patients to do the same. “When you’re able to realistically approach the disease every day, not only for yourself but more importantly for your patient, both of you are always on the same page of what that diagnosis means. By making sure they’re informed on each and every aspect of their care, I think patients respect you more for that and feel that they’re more a part of their own decision making.” With such an emotionally demanding profession, how does he decompress outside of work? The answer lies within the kitchen. “I use cooking as an absolute release. It’s the only thing I do where I can really stop thinking about the rest of my life. I love it, and most importantly, I love cooking for other people,” says the Donaldsonville native.

Though his work days are long, Dr. Cataldo integrates another personal passion into his daily practice—teaching the next generation of cancer doctors. Four days every week for the past twelve years, he’s led bedside teaching during inpatient consultations for all of the center’s LSU residents. “It’s the teaching that truly keeps me going.” His desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others has always been at the forefront of his own life, even when deciding where to practice; he made the conscious effort to go where his help was most needed, where he could make the biggest impact. “I could have stayed in Houston at MD Anderson, but I didn’t, because there’s a thousand of me over there,” he says. “I wanted to bring some of what I learned from training at a major destination cancer center back to a regional place and help the people in my hometown.” He’s able to fulfill that aspiration at Mary Bird Perkins–Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center, Dr. Cataldo says, thanks to its multidisciplinary approach of minds that use every resource available to conquer cancer. “To have people who are super specialized in each individual aspect of treatment is what cancer patients deserve, and to have that opportunity under one roof is really special.”

Learn more by visiting

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’m babysitting this weekend, but not in the usual sense of the word. Now that our kids have drivers’ hlicenses and independently mobile groups of friends, the list of things they come to their parents for has become quite short. It usually consists of (a) car keys, (b) gas, or (c) money. And now that they both have summer jobs to boot, the chances of either being spotted around the house on an early summer Saturday have become about the same as my chances of stepping outside to find all the chickens in the pool, having taken up synchronized swimming. So, instead of having children to look after while my wife is off visiting her sister in California this weekend, the life form I’ve been left in charge of is a rather unremarkable-looking potted plant named a clivia, which my wife bought from a like-minded fanatic on eBay and has been mollycoddling ever since. Although this clivia (a South African native also sometimes called a “Bush Lily”) looks pretty self-sufficient, I’ve been led to believe that it won’t possibly survive her three-day absence if I neglect


the complicated hydration schedule my wife has left for me to follow. So, several times a day I go out there to turn the pot and mist the clivia’s fleshy green leaves, and also the creamy, orchid-like flower bud, which elicited shrieks-of-delightwhile-running-in-circles when said wife spotted it emerging a few days ago. I’m doing my best to share her enthusiasm but have to confess that my heart’s not all there. Because although my wife and I share a passionate interest in gardening, while she’s into ornamentals, I’m all about the vegetables. I have a hard time getting excited about a plant I can’t eat, and since there’s nothing appetizing about a clivia (a member of the Amaryllidaceae family, it contains a toxic alkaloid named lycorine, ingestion of which causes nausea, vomiting, convulsions and cardiac arrhythmia), I might just slip down and see how my tomatoes are coming along. Again. Isn’t it strange? Here we are trying to come to terms with being in our fifties, and the moment the childcare obligations let up we slide straight into that age-old gardening cliché in which the wife grows the ornamentals while the husband does the vegetables. On one side of the house, the garden has been transformed with a profusion of whimsical, colorful, probably

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Clivia Miniata, by Ashley Fox-Smith

poisonous, annual and perennial plantings. On the other, behind a barn and a chicken coop and an eight-footfence is the fort knox I have established to exclude wild herbivores and wives alike. Within this horticultural equivalent of a man cave I grow the usual suspects: tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans, eggplants; and also leeks, the occasional avocado, and currently an absolute shedload of cucumbers— secure in the knowledge that they won’t be devoured by deer, or displaced by dahlias when you-know-who tries another of her horticultural land-grabs. On the neutral ground in between we play tug of war with hoses, pinch each other’s garden implements, and negotiate over compost rights.

For a pair of people who’ve never really thought of themselves as a traditional couple, this division seems peculiar. Throughout twenty-something years of marriage we’ve shared most duties— earning a living, childcare, cooking, housekeeping, and so on—with a minimum of disagreement. But put us into the garden and we retreat into our respective camps. Is it some ancient anthropological impulse that compels me to focus my limited horticultural skills on growing fruits and vegetables (and raising chickens, come to think of it), while her interest cleaves more to the aesthetic? Or is this burgeoning obsession with raising living things a coping strategy, reflexively deployed by parents whose kids are getting ready to depart the family fold? The latter seems likely. So, while she’s away I’ll do my best to look after the clivia, all the while considering the more satisfying problem of what to do with the bonanza of tomatoes coming our way. And since this is Country Roads’ annual cuisine issue, if anyone has suggestions for what to do with the ten pounds of cucumbers I’m currently harvesting each and every day, do let me know. —James Fox-Smith, publisher

Celebrating the Arrival of America’s Greatest Artist/Naturalist with the

“I looked with amazement — such an entire change in so short a time appears often supernatural, and surrounded once more by thousands of warblers & thrushes, I enjoy Nature.”

COMING EVENTS September 17-18, 2021 - The Annual Inaugural John James Audubon Symposium LECTURES • WORKSHOPS • BIRDING TOURS • HISTORIC SITES • ST. FRANCISVILLE & SURROUNDS

September 18, 2021 - “AUDUBON UNDER THE OAKS" Gala 4 pm–7 pm • Audubon State Historic Site An elegant evening of fine Louisiana cuisine and refreshments served in the shadow of Oakley house, where Audubon painted 32 of the bird species highlighted in his famous Birds of America portfolio. Beautiful music and the camaraderie 5713 Superior Drive, Suite B-1 Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70816

Tickets for Gala & Symposium are Limited and On Sale Now at

point your phone camera here


West Feliciana Tourist Commission • 225-635-4224 • St. Francisville, LA

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N E W S , T I M E LY F A C T S , A N D O T H E R




Small Town Chefs 2021



ver the past several weeks, Country Roads’ editorial team has embarked on one of our magazine’s more thrilling—and vital­ —missions: to document the intricacies of our region’s culinary landscape. And as we have for the past eight years, we are dedicating our

annual Cuisine Issue to the creative and ambitious chefs working for local crowds of thirty thousand or less. In our Features section (starting on page 34), meet the 2021 Small Town Chefs Award winners: Chef Alex Diaz of Cena in Hammond; Chef Lauren Joffrion, formerly of Field’s Steak and Oyster Bar and now at The Thorny Oyster in

Bay St. Louis; and Chef Paolo Cenni of Paolo’s in Ponchatoula. Our chefs this year each bring unique legacies, experiences, and approaches to their kitchens—which result in delectable concoctions that are absolutely worth the drive from wherever you may be. However, for a unique opportunity to try plates from all of them in one

location—plan to join us on November 14 for the 2021 St. Francisville Food and Wine Festival, which for the first time will feature the Small Town Chef Tasting Experience. Tickets are available ($95) at —Jordan LaHaye Fontenot

Every Brewer a Queen



ard cider might seem like a relatively modern development in the hgrand scheme of good ol’ beer and wine, but the truth is that our colonial forbearers drank a good bit of the apple-derived beverage. For a seventeenth century American in New England looking for a cold one, cider would have been the most readily available, affordable, and preferable option for a pint. These early American ciders, brewed in the British style, would be nearly unrecognizable to contemporary imbibers, as they were much dryer and less-sweet than the Angry Orchards and Woodchucks of the current American cider market. This is partly because 8

these ciders were not made with typical sweet eating apples, but with more bitter “cider apples” grown with cider in mind. When Prohibition became law in 1920, those pushing temperance burned large swaths of these cider apple orchards to the ground or uprooted them, ensuring that only eating and cooking apples remained. When Prohibition ended, beer was essentially all that was left to slake the thirst of a parched marketplace. Fast forward a century to a warehouse on Iris Avenue in Old Jefferson, and cider has made quite a comeback. On May 20, Colleen Keogh opened Kingfish Cider: the first taproom to exist in Jefferson Parish, serving up their assortment of not-too-

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sweet ciders and perries (brewed with pears rather than apples), plus St. James Cheese Company charcuterie, a couple of choice local beers, and craft cocktails made exclusively with Louisiana spirits (except tequila, which isn’t made locally—yet). “To me, cider is more refreshing than beer. Here it gets so hot, I don’t want anything heavy with lactose and sour and coffee and ugh,” Keogh told me in the taproom as I sipped a light, dry, damn-near-healthy-tasting “Huey Perry”. “Cider is lighter, it’s more refreshing, it’s got as much or more alcohol content, it’s gluten free, it doesn’t have any sugar or sulfites or anything in it, so it’s very clean.” The process of opening the taproom has been a long time coming. Around five years ago, Keogh knew she liked cider, and wanted to try her hand at making it. She attended a week-long workshop in Washington State devoted to the art of cider marking—the only program like it in the country. The information was so overwhelming, one participant quit outright—but Keogh was committed. After the program ended, she set about sourcing her ingredients and started experimenting with brewing. When she perfected her recipe, she brought the result to the NOLA On Tap homebrew competition for two years—hers was the only cider competing. “People liked it, I got really good feedback. So that was the final step, was if people liked it or not, because I enjoyed it,” Keogh laughed. “So I was like, ‘Okay, we’ll do it!’”

She knew she wanted her cidery to be in Jefferson Parish, in part because she lives there, and in part because she’s fond of the neighborhood and community. “Especially Old Jefferson, is a cute, sweet spot, I think,” Keogh said. The taproom also isn’t far from the river and the Huey P. Long Bridge, which is part of where Kingfish Cider’s name comes from. “Nothing says Louisiana more than the Long family. They have such an interesting history, and even after eighty to ninety years or so, their influence is still so embedded in the entire state. So it’s kind of like the brand of Louisiana,” Keogh explained. “That, and in the thirties Huey Long was assassinated, which was also Prohibition, which was really the death of cider.” After experiencing the taproom, with its vintage décor touches and refreshing assortment of ciders and perries myself, I can tell you that thanks to Keogh’s skill and enthusiasm, cider is very much alive again in Louisiana. —Story and photo by Alexandra Kennon For another story about a women-owned brewery bringing an old-turned-newagain beverage to the New Orleans area, see Alexandra Kennon’s article on Wetlands Sake on page 43.



n my favorite Pixar movie, Ratatouille, Master chef Auguste Gusteau has one line in particular hthat strikes me in its poignancy: “Anyone can cook, but only the fearless can be great.” Who among us, I wonder, is the most fearless? I think back to episodes of MasterChef Junior, in which eight-year-olds create dishes with flavor profiles and ingredients I—an overthinking, highly critical adult— would never consider, would never be fearless enough to try: five spice chicken wings with sriracha foam, bratwurst panini with beer-glazed shallots, or grilled corn with chipotle chili butter. At Dickie Brennan’s newest restaurant, comfortably esconced in the Louisiana Children’s Museum, creativity and cuisine collide in an ultimate showcase of childhood fearlessness. Settled against the backdrop of City Park, Acorn’s culinary classes for kids offers a scenic wonderland for little chefs to do their greatest work through play and discovery. “Yeah, [the kids] get a sugar high, but everyone needs treats!” laughed Yvette Pettus, Dickie Brennan and Co. partner and Acorn’s culinary arts classes creator. Pettus’s background as a former neonatal ICU nurse helped in implementing COVID protocols for both the

restaurants and kids’ classes. It was an uncertain time, but Pettus aimed to create stability for staff by continuing to offer culinary classes. “We thought, let’s give this a try,” said Pettus. “Everybody has had so much fun developing and teaching the classes. Everybody on the staff will say that it’s been rewarding.” In speaking about the program’s beginnings, she recalled, laughing, a little girl screaming incessantly because Acorn staff took her poptart away to bake it. Starting with lessons on sweets like poptarts and ice cream, the classes shifted to themed celebrations of holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mardi Gras, and Easter. “Typically at the end, the Easter bunny would show up and we would do the bunny hop, or we’d second line during the king cake class. We’re making sure we’re touching on different things for different kids, like fun sensory [activities].” To get a better idea of what the classes were like, I sought out an expert: Sixyear-old Stella Esteve has attended five Acorn classes. For her interview, she wore a unicorn bow that covered most of her head and a shirt adorned with four Shopkins characters—a strawberry, a donut, a cookie, and an apple—all with smiling faces.

Enjoy the outdoor fun!

What was your favorite class? The ice cream one. It tasted so good!

Can you tell me about how you made the ice cream? I put some milk in [a plastic bag], and I shook it! It was freezing! I had to pass it around ‘cause my hands got so cold. I shivered!

What’s your favorite part about the classes? Eating!

What is a class you’d like to take next?

A veggie class! A veggie parfait! Then a fruit parfait class! Raspberries, yogurt, little nuts...I mean raisins! Raspberries, yogurt, raisins, raspberries, yogurt, raisins! Or making breakfast could be the next class.

Yum. What do you like to make for breakfast?

Eggs (When we weren’t talking about parfaits, Stella was pretty terse.)

Well what kind of eggs?

Runny. I know how to make them. Lucky for us gourmands, Stella isn’t afraid of anything. She and her peers have shown us that “anyone can cook.” h

You can reserve your class spot or book a birthday party at —Samantha Eroche

8592 Hwy 1, Mansura, LA 800.833.4195 // J U LY 2 1



When morning came to Louisiana, we were wide awake. Ready for what’s next. And as we begin anew, Blue Cross stands ready to support you.

01MK7553 04/21


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M E A T, A N D S U M M E R






for more fun than we can t in these pages

From sea to shining sea (or in this case, from Lake Pontchartrain to the Red River), fireworks will light up the skies, burgers will sizzle on grills, and local bands will serenade to bring Fourth of July partiers back together at last. See the first part of our calendar for Independence Day festivities in the region.




The Grand Dérangement, in which the Acadians were expelled from Britishconquered territories in today’s Canada, took place just twenty one years before the United States decided it was time to do some kicking the British out, so one can imagine a certain . . . extra saltiness in some Cajun Fourth of July celebrations. By now, though, the holiday is mostly about the same things it is everywhere––spending time outdoors with your friends, love of country, fireworks, and grilled meat. But it still hasn’t lost that extra Cajun zest. Erath Independence Day Cajun Carnival June 30–July 4: One of the oldest Fourth of July celebrations in Acadiana, this Cajun Carnival in Downtown Erath is set to be chock-full of rides, fais do-dos, Fire Department water fights, a fun run, a parade, and more. Cap it all off with a fireworks display the evening of the fourth at 9 pm.

Jennings Stars & Stripes Celebration and Fireworks Show July 3: An outdoor community festival with live music from 3:30 pm–9 pm and a “Celebrate America” Fireworks Show at the Jennings Airport. (337) 821-4432. Youngsville Sugar Mill Pond Independence Celebration July 3: Meet at Sugar Mill Pond and before lighting up the night, enjoy music from DG & the Freetown Sound and DJ RV, family-friendly activities, and pop-up vendors. 5 pm–9 pm. Lafayette Uncle Sam’s Jam July 4: Enjoy live local tunes from Julian Primeaux and DJ RV. Settle in to Parc International with food and drink offerings from nearby restaurants and bars—all tipping a hat to old Uncle Sam, to the Big Brothers and Sisters of Acadiana, and to the Acadiana Veteran Alliance while we’re at it. Accompanied by local musicians Blue Monday Mission, fireworks will light the sky at the end of the night. 5 pm–9 pm. Free.

New Iberia 4th of July Salt Water Fishing Rodeo July 2–4: A yee-haw good time on the water, come full circle with a bit of fais do-do under the pavilion (for an extra independence vibe, call the fish “Cecil” and make fun of its teeth). Quintana Boat Launch at Cypremort Point. Fishing begins at 12:01 am Friday, and ends at 1 pm Sunday. (337) 207-6206 or New Iberia Fourth of July Parade July 4: Patriotic harmonies are set to make their way through Bouligny Plaza in honor of the birth of our nation. An Honor Guard ceremony will follow. Downtown New Iberia. 2 pm–5 pm. (337) 367-0308. Lake Charles Red, White, Blue & You Celebration July 4: Voted one of the “STS Top 20 Events” for the month of July by the Southeast Tourism Society—this festival celebration paints the town patriotic with a star-spangled street parade, live music, concessions, face painting, and a huge fireworks display over the lake. 6 pm at the Lake Charles Civic Center.


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Beginning July 3 - July 4

Broussard Independence Festival July 4: A big ol’ birthday party for the nation, Broussard-style. Family friendly activities, a DJ and live music, and fireworks at the St. Julien Park Sports Complex. 5:30 pm–9:30 pm. Unable to join in person? Tune into the Broussard Chamber’s Facebook page to watch the happenings virtually. Eunice Fourth of July Fireworks Show July 4: For over thirty years, former Eunice Mayor and licensed pyrotechnic Kenneth Peart has orchestrated a thirty-minute fireworks spectacular for the town (and visitors) to enjoy on July fourth. Come out and watch the show at the Eunice Recreation Complex, 461 Sittig Street. 9 pm–10 pm. Krotz Springs Fireworks on the River July 4: The name says it all—head out to the Atchafalaya for a sportsman’s paradise fireworks show in Nall Park, 562 Front Street. The little town goes the whole nine yards with hot dogs, watermelon, and live local music. 6:30 pm–8 pm. k



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From parades to fireworks on the grand Mississippi, Baton Rouge will be bursting with patriotism this first weekend of July. Don’t miss any of these great events around the area this weekend! Kenilworth Independence Day Parade July 3: Having trinkets, candy, and other priceless treasures thrown at us from passing floats is a time-honored tradition in Louisiana, but why not bust it out for America’s birthday, too? Kenilworth has been celebrating Independence Day with a parade for forty-nine years straight, and proven they know how to do it right. This year’s theme is “America: Forever Resilient”. Rolls at 6:30 pm. For route information and more, visit Fourth of July Patriots and Pirates: A Revolutionary Celebration July 4: The USS KIDD Veterans Museum has been hosting a fourth of July celebration in the downtown Baton Rouge area for over two decades. Get special access to the

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Veterans Museum, with refreshments and beverages, then head out to the best fireworks viewing spot in Baton Rouge on the USS Kidd. 5 pm–8 pm. $50. Baton Rouge Concert Band Independence Day Concert July 4: Join the Baton Rouge Concert Band as they celebrate the birth of our nation. Expect patriotic songs, marches, and, of course, John Philips Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.” 7:30 pm. Free, as the Fourth oughta be, at the Main Branch Library at Goodwood. Annual Plaquemine Hometown Celebration July 4: At its annual Hometown Celebration at Bayou Plaquemine Waterfront Park, expect old-fashioned games, a veterans’ boat parade, food, crafts, live music, dancing, and a jitterbug contest. The Plaquemine Lock SHS, located adjacent to the park, will be open with free tours from 3 pm–7 pm, and the Iberville Museum will be open with free admission. k


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If you’re planning a weekend getaway to the sandy beaches of the Mississippi

Coast, here are some option for you to take in some fireworks and celebrate the holiday, Gulf Coast style. Fourth of July Weekend Celebration July 2–4: Head to the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum’s beautiful Biloxi grounds for a weekend-long celebration of the Fourth of July, featuring plenty of tasty food, live music, and fireworks. Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo July 1–4: The annual rodeo always delivers a bang of a fireworks display at the Gulfport Harbor in Jones Park, but the four-day festival features live music, karaoke, kids’ events, a midway, and more. Ocean Springs Fireworks Show July 4: Fireworks from the front beach of Fort Maurepas Park; bring blankets, chairs, and a competitive spirit for the volleyball court. 7 pm–9:30 pm. (228) 875-6722 or Fireworks in Biloxi July 4: Eighteen minutes of wonder are set for 9 pm off of Biloxi’s coastline, viewable from the lighthouse eastward to the Biloxi Bay Bridge. Fireworks in Gulfport July 4: Shot from the Moses Jetty, fireworks will light the sky starting at 8:45 pm with viewing areas from Jones Park, the Gulfport Marina, and the beach south of 90. k


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The Northshore is well known for its relaxed pace of living and the many opportunities it offers for outdoor fun, as well as its burgeoning food and drink scene. But here, the days leading up to the Fourth of July make the most of the Northshore tourism boom . . . plus the literal “boom” of fireworks! Slidell Heritage Festival July 3: Inside Heritage Park, join the community in celebration of our nation with live music from Witness, food trucks and beverages, and of course a fireworks show to cap it all off. Gates open at 6 pm. Free, though donations are encouraged as the event benefits local charities. Madisonville Old Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration July 3: Kids’ games and contests from horseshoes to watermelon eating and beyond begin at 10 am on the banks of the Tchefuncte River. Make sure to bring your chairs and coolers, because beginning at 5 pm at the Maritime Museum is a parade, followed by fireworks. Covington Sparks in the Park July 3: Bogue Falaya Park lights up again this year from 4:30 pm–9 pm with patriotic

music, face painting, watermelon and hotdog eating contests, and more. The evening concludes with a fireworks show at 8:50 pm. Homecoming Fourth of July Celebration July 3–4: Two days of celebration in Abita Springs this year, with festivities that include a jambalaya cook-off (with all you can eat options for guests), live music by Four Unplugged, a farmers’ market, and fireworks. 11 am–5 pm Saturday; 6 pm–9:30 pm Sunday. Light Up the Lake July 4: Begin your day on the Mandeville Lakefront at 10 am, when the city clears the way for unfurling your picnic setup. Entertainment begins at 6 pm, with a patriotic recognition followed by live music by The Boogie Men. Fireworks commence at dark. k


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The perpetual party of the Big Easy gets even more raucous for Independence Day. Go Fourth on the River is holding off until 2022, but naturally there are still plenty of party options. Uncle Sam Jam July 3: Mosey to lovely Lafreniere Park in

Metairie for live music by Wilson Phillips, The Guess Who, Creole String Beans, and more; tasty food, and great company at this twenty-fifth anniversary festival. 3 pm, fireworks start at 9 pm. Free. Fourth of July Celebration Cruise July 4: Celebrate independence aboard the Creole Queen Steamboat, enjoying a buffet, open bar, and live music. Board from 7 pm–8 pm and cruise from 8 pm–10 pm. $129.




The small towns that line the stretch of the river between New Roads and Natchez— the upper-lower Mississippi, one might say—are noted for small-town charm and Southern hospitality, but don’t let the graces and good manners fool you. These people can party almost as hard as those flat-land Cajuns—particularly when the theme is patriotic. New Roads Fourth of July Boat Parade July 4: Music, food, and fireworks set off the celebrations all weekend long. Catch the beloved annual boat parade at Morrison Parkway at 2 pm with prizes for “best dec-

orated,” “most patriotic,” “mayor’s award,” and others. Pointe Coupee Fourth of July Celebration July 4: Fireworks and live music will grace the Old River Landing in Batchelor, starting at 9 pm. (225) 240-2447. Natchez Fourth of July Celebration July 4: To celebrate Independence Day, Hank Williams Jr. joins guest Steve Earle & the Dukes on the bluff for a special concert just before the city’s annual fireworks show. 1 pm. $55–$300. Natchez July Fourth on the River July 4: Independence Day fireworks from the the lofty heights of the Natchez Bluff at 9 pm. Pull up a seat and enjoy the spectacular fireworks reflections on the river. k


3rd - JUL 4th


The folks way up I-49 don’t always get enough credit for their festive spirits and ambitious events, but we’re happy to report that there will certainly be no shortage of barbecue and fireworks in cities like Monroe and Shreveport this month. Fourth of July Fireworks July 4: Watch a grand display of color and

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Beginning July 1 light over the Ouachita River as fireworks are launched from the Edom Bridge at 9 pm. They’re best viewed from downtown Monroe or West Monroe, and the levee near Lazarre Park will also be available for public viewing. Freedom Fest Finale July 4: Faith, hope, and patriotism are celebrated at the July fourth events that conclude KTBS’s Freedom Fest Series. Fireworks will be set off from Stoner Avenue in Shreveport, Temple Baptist Church in Ruston, and Northwood County Club in Blanchard. Shreveport entertainment includes Espe Moran singing the National Anthem, Alter Ego, Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs with Estelle Brown, Linnea Allen with Liesl Cruz and Emily Petzold, and the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra. 5 pm. Celebration on the Cane July 4: Head down Front Street in downtown Natchitoches for a spectacular fireworks show over Cane River at 9 pm, plus live music and food vendors after 5 pm. Retail shops, paddle boards, kayaking, carriage rides, and the Cane River Queen

Riverboat will be operating throughout the day, as well. k


JUL 9th


The Olde Towne Arts Center and the City of Slidell are hosting their annual exhibition at the Slidell Cultural Center in City Hall. Gallery hours are by appointment only Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 am to 2 pm. Same-day viewings will be accommodated based on availability. (985) 646-4375 for appointments. Free. k


JUL 29th


As part of an effort to bring arts enrichment opportunities to areas of Baton Rouge that do not necessarily have those resources, the LSU Museum of Art has created NAP: the Neighborhood Arts Project. NAP brings artists, art supplies, and special creative projects everywhere from empty parking lots to parks, offering kids a fun opportunity

“Untitled” by Asia Rachal of Dillard University (acrylic, 2021), part of The Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s eighth annual Historially Black Colleges and Universities Art Showcase.

Artwork courtesy of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.






celebrate ceramics JULY 8 –OCTOBER 17


LSU MOA thanks the following patrons for making these exhibitions and Form & Fire collection catalogue possible: Partner Sponsors Catherine Burns Tremaine and Becky and Warren Gottsegen; Supporters Debbie de La Houssaye and Lake Douglas and Brian and Jacki Schneider (as of June 2021). IMAGE (L to R): Head Vase by Akio Takamori; Chimney Pot by Peter Voulkos; Acorn Vase by Charles Smith; Pedestal Piece from Kimono series by Paul Soldner; Bisque works featured are unfinished ceramic works used for teaching purposes: Rabbit by Joe Bova; Caged Vessel by Jen Allen


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

Two exhibitions celebrating ceramics and bisqueware Scan QR code to register for artist talks and programs |

to create artwork while learning. Here are the places this summer that NAP will be popping up with a tent, supplies, and plenty of fun for families to participate in for free:

The gallery is open from 10 am–5 pm Tuesday–Friday. k

Until July 23 in the Community Tuesdays: 10 am–noon at Ardenwood Village (1957 N. Ardenwood, Baton Rouge) Wednesdays: 10 am–12:30 pm at Cadillac Street Park (6117 Cadillac Street Park, Baton Rouge) Thursdays: 10 am–noon at Gardere Initiative (8435 Ned Avenue, Baton Rouge) Fridays: 10 am–noon at Monte Sano Village (3002 E. Mason Avenue, Baton Rouge) July 27, 28, and 29 at the LSU MOA 10 am–noon (100 Lafayette St., Baton Rouge)


For more information about LSU Museum of Art’s education programs, contact Museum Educator Grant Benoit at k




Teresa Streva prefers to paint on forty-foot theatre walls over canvas. In fact, she’s painted over thirty set backdrops for local community theatres. These days, she paints what she is inspired by, and a collection of these works is on display at Cité des Arts.



New Orleans, Louisiana

For grown-ups looking to enrich their summer by diving into an art: be it cooking, painting, dancing, or something else entirely—there are NOCCA’s summer classes for adults. Learn to build a marketing portfolio, write a film script, dance your heart out, recite Shakespeare, or any number of experiences your creative heart may be yearning for. Find the full offerings and sign up at k




New Orleans-based artist John Isiah Walton presents his first ever large-scale solo exhibition at the SLU Contemporary Gallery at Southeastern Louisiana University. Drawing from influences of internet aesthetics, Black identity, pop culture, and Louisiana history, Walton references Picasso’s “Blue Period” as a

means of reflecting our contemporary moment. His large scale paintings—thirty of which are included in the exhibition—use black acrylic pigment, which is then layered with white outlines and swift, colorful brushstrokes. Free. k


SEP 11



For her largest solo exhibition to date, multi-media artist Stephanie Patton brings works from across the span of her career, including pieces made from 1993 to 2021 in every discipline she’s explored including photography, performance art, sculpture, textiles, and more. The Acadiana Center for the Arts’ exhibit, Stephanie Patton: Comfort Zone, 1993–2021 offers a significant survey of the vast body of the Lafayette-based artist’s work, and explores its common threads of humor, love, health, and more. The works are often an invitation to lure the viewers into their own state of self-awareness, and Patton finds that creating humorous objects often breaks down barriers and allows for the beginning of an open and genuine dialogue between her art, the audience, and herself. Born in New Orleans, her work has been exhibited in leading galleries and art fairs in New York, Paris, Tokyo, and Miami, and is held in many private and public collections,

including the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Hilliard University Art Museum, and more. She currently lives and works as a practicing studio artist and educator in Lafayette. k


OCT 10th


The Ogden Museum of Southern Art has once again collaborated with the New Orleans Chapter of The Links, Incorporated to present the eighth annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities Art Showcase, which features the artworks of twenty-three students who attend Dillard University, Southern University at New Orleans, or Xavier University of Louisiana. k


JAN 16th


New Orleans ceramic artist Christain Dinh channels his experience as a first generation Vietnamese American for works in this exhibition at the Ogden Museum, which confronts racism, stereotypes, and underrepresentation while celebrating the many ways Vietnamese Americans contribute to the United States. Dinh includes decorated

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Beginning July 1 - July 8 porcelain casts of hands that are used to depict services in nail salons, providing commentary on how many of the immigrants working in nail salons for whom English isn’t their first language use such casts as a means of communicating services provided. “Vietnamese nail salons are often stigmatized, due to the association with lower-class minority work,” Dinh told the curators at the Ogden. “However, I believe the Vietnamese nail salon to be one of the great success stories of the Vietnamese-American community.” In utilizing nail salon imagery, Dinh creates a pop aesthetic inspired by modern Vietnamese American culture. k


FEB 11th


“Where is your sanctuary?” Linda Alterwitz’s new exhibition at the Hilliard Art Museum asks. “What is sanctuary at all?” Through photographs of mysterious landscapes, simulated wind, and music— Sanctuary mimics the physical, concrete ideas we draw on for comfort and refuge, while also juxtaposing it with a reminder of the ephemerality and

delicacy of any psychological state. If we are, as science and intuition imply, so affected by external stimuli such as these, then we are subject to an eternal ebb and flow, to constant change. Underscoring all of her work is Alterwitz’s desire to help her viewers find healing and peace. k


2nd - JUL 30th

2nd - JUL 17th


Downtown Lafayette’s newest hotspot for casual dining is also extending a welcoming hand to some of our best local musicians, hosting frequent outdoor concerts for free. Upcoming shows here: July 2: Jason Frey July 3: Feufollet July 4: Willie Nelson Tribute July 9: Jeffery Broussard & The Creole Cowboys July 10: AJ and the BadCats July 11: Amis du Teche July 17: Michael Doucet with Lacher Prise Shows start at 8 pm. See the Facebook page for the most updated schedule. k

Discover the Real Louisiana!

Natchez, Mississippi

Natchez’s legendary restored Juke Joint carries a prestige all its own—a pillar of the city’s history, an homage to the area’s status along the Mississippi Blues Trail, and a modern-day site for memory-making, the music venue has recently been infused with new life in the post-COVID era. Some of the best in regional touring acts are making stops in the storied space. Here is the schedule for this month: July 2: Yea Probably July 3: Red + the Revelers July 11: Phil + Foster July 17: Epic Funk Brass Band July 23: The Sideliners July 30: Bruce Smelley Shows start at 9 pm. Cover is collected at the door. k


year, and this year promises virtual components, too. This year, restaurants will also offer delectable Creole tomato dishes and Bloody Marys, all month long. There will also be in-person food booths and kids’ activities in Dutch Alley. 8 am–5 pm. Free. k




A day filled with music by zydeco sensations Sean Ardoin, Lil Nathan and the Zydeco Big Timers, and Rusty Metoyer and The Zydeco Krush; plus authentic Louisiana cuisine, dance lessons by Arthur Corbin and Harold Guillory; and free admission to the Jazz Museum. Held at the Old US Mint, 400 Esplanade Avenue. k





Baton Rouge, Louisiana


It’s time again to celebrate summer’s favorite bounty: fresh Creole tomatoes. The juicy fruits take over the French Market every

Some hilarious comics are heading to the River Center for So You Got Jokes, which is sure to be a raucous night of comedy featuring JJ Williamson, Des Banks, DC Young Fly, Karlous Miller, and Rude Jude. Starting at $54.99 at k

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


3rd - AUG 7th


New works will be on display this month at Ariodante Art Gallery on Julia Street in New Orleans, beginning with a First Saturday ArtWalk opening reception from 10 am–6 pm. Works include paintings by Cheri Ben-lesau, ceramics by Sandra Maher, jewelry by multiple artists, paintings by Tim Maher, and other pieces by Sergio Alvarez. There will be an opening reception from 10 am–6 pm. The gallery is open 9:30 am–4 pm Monday– Saturday, 9:30 am–1:30 pm Sunday. k


4th - JUL 25th


followed by “Alter Destiny versus Manifest Destiny: The End of the American Century and the Path towards Black Liberation,” a conversation between Dr. Thomas Stanley and R.C. Clarke. Meat Meet #19, July 11: Screening of Maggots and Men, followed by a pre-recorded interview with Ilona Berger and Cary Cronenwett. Meat Meet #20, July 18: Performance by Austin Franklin of Baton Rouge, an internationally recognized composer and sound artist. Meat Meet #21, July 25: Performance by Melinda James Kentucky, a Baton Rouge artist and musician, who debuts melodic, dark, and disco-influenced live looped pleasure. k


4th - AUG 1st


Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Arnaudville, Louisiana

The innovative, arts-forward, anti-profit group Yes We Cannibal is hosting talks and performances with artists in person, as well as streamed to Twitch in their Meat Meet Salon Series. Sundays 4 pm–6 pm at Yes We Cannibal’s Government Street space or Free. The schedule is as follows:

Bourré beginners might think they’ve just got to get the rules down pat before they’re welcomed into the card game’s inner circle, but the trash talk’s just heating up. Get your sea legs with lessons taught by a local bourré master before entering into a spirited game, all hosted by the Bayou Teche Brewery. Every level of experience welcome; thick skins preferred. Immersed in the Acadian culture of the Bayou Teche,

Meat Meet #18, July 4: Screening of the late Sun Ra’s own cut of Space is the Place,

guests will also enjoy a porch jam session and get the chance to listen in on—or participate in—a French Table. 2 pm–5 pm. Free. k




Kid-favorite YouTube star Blippi is bringing his educational entertainment from the screen to the live stage, with a stop at the Raising Cane’s River Center as part of his North American Tour. This family-friendly, interactive show promises to delight as well as teach. k




City’s storied history via these artful remnants of the past. 9:30 am. Free. Zoom registration link on the event’s Facebook page. k




Learn more about the process of ceramic artist Kurt Weiser, whose work is featured in the LSU Museum of Art’s exhibition Form & Fire: American Studio Ceramics from the John Bullard Collection, in a special virtual artist talk. 5:30 pm via Zoom. Free. Register at k





New Orleans, Louisiana

Long before billboards, in the nineteenth century artists known as “walldogs” would paint advertisements on the sides of buildings. Most of these murals are long gone, but some remain as “ghost signs”. Join Ed Branley, noted author and local historian, on Zoom for a Learning Before Lunch event as he takes listeners on a walk through the Crescent

The Trees Remember is a compelling series of short fiction films spanning the course of sixty years, in which Black women reflect on their experiences with the outdoors, directed by Emmy-nominee Angela Tucker. Live music begins at 7 pm, with the screening at 8:30 pm and a Q&A to follow. See the Facebook event for more details. k









Beginning July 8 - July 10 JUL







The Art Guild of Louisiana is offering a series of workshops this summer to keep participants’ creativity going strong. Whether you’re looking to enhance your drawing skills or become more mindful, this wide variety of classes offers something for everyone. Intermediate Drawing July, 8, 15, 22, and 29: Up the ante and improve your skills with local artist Larry Downs. 4 pm–7 pm. $90. Tangled Gems–Zentangle July 9–11: Certified Zentangle instructor Kathy Redmond will lead participants in an aesthetically-pleasing mindfulness exercise, using repetitive patterns that result in complex and beautiful drawings. 1 pm–4 pm. $90. Traditional Compass Rose Meets Zentangle July 23–25: Kathy Redmond will lead participants in creating “faux” eco-dyed paper on which to place their unique compass rose. 1 pm–4 pm. $90.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Scrap Paper Houses–Collage July 31: Transform all your junk mail, old magazines, or family memorabilia (old letters, report cards, etc.) into one-of-akind gifts and cards via a simple collage technique. This class is for adults, but a seven–eighteen year old child may accompany them. 10 am–3 pm. $50, $70 if accompanied by child. k


8th - OCT 17th







Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Visit Independence Park Theatre now through September to see a special selection of works created by members of the Louisiana Art Guild during classes or workshops. This exhibition highlights these works which, created under the direction of nationally-known artists, are ineligible for regular public exhibits because they do not fulfill the originality requirements, but are nonetheless integral works that speak of art as a process and growth. Visitors will get the opportunity to vote for the winner of the People’s Choice Award. Free. k

A totem of the teacher, a bisqueware is the porous, unglazed result of wet clay demos completed, then fired once in ceramics educational settings. These bisque works—unglazed records of an artist’s creative process—are often referenced year after year by professors and students. In a special exhibition, the LSU Museum of Art presents over two hundred bisque works, which continue to provide a valued resource for the LSU School of Art’s top-ten ranked ceramics program. Displayed to imitate the “boneyard’—a storage method for bisque works in studio spaces, which showcases a variety of techniques, improvisation, and skill—the exhibition will feature rotating displays against a demonstration space to be activated by MFA students, and local and visiting artists. k


8th - OCT 17th


quest, at the LSU Museum of Art—offering a special opportunity for study by students in LSU’s top-ranked ceramics program, as well as the public. Explore over one hundred works representing a vast range of materials and techniques and sixty-nine artists, including prominent artists the likes of Kurt Weiser, Paul Soldner, Akio Takamori, and others. k




Celebrate the powerhouse women in hospitality with this inspiring luncheon sponsored by the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation and Fidelity Bank. Lunch is provided by Desi Vega Steakhouse, featuring a selection from Neat Wines. 11:30 am–1 pm. $68 per person, which includes a welcome glass of bubbles. A portion of event proceeds benefits the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation. k






Baton Rouge, Louisiana


E. John Bullard’s massive ceramics collection is receiving a special showcase, through a long-term loan and promised gift by be-

To celebrate and honor the recipients of the 2021 Humanities Awards, the Louisiana Endowment for the

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

© Joanie Johnston

JULY IS A TIME OF CELEBRATION And have we got a party planned... A crucial record of a ceramic artist’s creative process, unglazed bisque works are on display at the LSU Museum of Art as part of the rare exhibition The Boneyard: The Ceramics Teaching Collection. Image courtesy of the LSU MOA.

Humanities is hosting a series of events that will be available virtually. Registration is required for each of the 11 am Friday programs, which are as follows: Best in Digital Humanities, June 11: Slow Burn: David Duke Podcast Host Josh Levin and Producer Christopher Mose Johnson in Conversation with Larry Powell. Champion of Culture, June 18: Culture Bearer Carol Bebelle in Conversation with Kelly Harris-DeBerry. Documentary Photographer, June 25: Photographer Abdul Aziz in Conversation with C. J. Hunt. Humanities Book of the Year, July 9: Katrina, a History, 1915–2015 Author Andy Horowitz in Conversation with Jarvis DeBerry. Lifetime Contributions to the Humanities, July 16: Remembering Frank de Caro: A Conversation with Folklorists Barry Jean Ancelet, Marcia Gaudet, Nick Spitzer, and Robin Roberts. Light Up for Literacy, July 23: Teacher and Literacy Advocate Pat Austin in Conversation with Sarah DeBacher. . k

JUL 9th - JUL 25th


This powerhouse pop musical tells the story of how Jill and her friends live life as big as a parade––tiaras, feathers, and all. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm. $27–$45. k

JUL 10



Paradigm Gardens, perhaps the loveliest block of Central City New Orleans, is kicking off a new concert series called

Roots of Music, celebrating the origins of blues, jazz, reggae, funk, soul, and more. For this inaugural concert, enjoy the Caribbean sounds of Jamaican-born, grammy-nominated reggae artist Etana and the Roots Riddim Band. Gardenfresh cuisine and drinks from Karibu Kitchen will be available. 7 pm. k

JUL 10th


We celebrate everything in St. Tammany Parish, one hour from Baton Rouge. Mark your calendar and plan a weekend getaway for these exciting upcoming events.

© Anthony Chopper Leone

July 3 Sparks in the Park at Bogue Falaya Park July 3 Slidell Heritage Festival July 3 & 4 Homecoming: Abita Springs 4th of July Celebration July 4 Madisonville Old Fashioned 4th of July Celebration July 4 Mandeville Light Up The Lake Fri. & Sat., Sweet Potato Queen, July 9-24 The Musical at Cutting Edge Theater July 10 Kokomo Stroll in Downtown Covington July 16 Sunset at the Landing Concert at Columbia Street Landing July 25 HERPS Exotic Reptile & Pet Show at the Harbor Center July 29 Lobby Lounge Concert: Hannah Belle at the Harbor Center

© HERPS Exotic Reptile & Pet Shows

July 30 Columbia Street Block Party in Downtown Covington

1-800-634-9443 • LouisianaNort

Get back to Perkins Rowe for the sake of benefitting St. Vincent de Paul on this day filled with live music, a maker’s market, food trucks, and much more. Some of the stores will be donating a percentage of proceeds to St. Vincent de Paul. 11 am–6 pm. Free. k

JUL 10th


Bargain hunters, we’re looking at you! Dig to your heart’s delight in the center of downtown New Iberia for a special Bayou Bargains Pop Up Shop, featuring vendors that include clothing, candles, succulents, treats, decor, food trucks, spices, cheese, Farmasi makeup, jewelry, popcorn, and more. Live music will be provided by The Beauty of Gray. All at the Steamboat Warehouse Pavilion. 11 am–3 pm. k

JUL 10th


Break out your flip-flops and coconut bras, because island living is coming to the Northshore. In the spirit of summer, the Kokomo Stroll is a leisurely walk through downtown Covington, // J U LY 2 1



Beginning July 10 - July 24

where participating restaurants and local businesses will provide samples of signature bites and refreshing specialty drinks, with live music to round out the beach experience. If you partake in every cocktail sample, you may actually believe you’re on vacation. Attire is “dress down,” think beach casual. 5 pm–8:30 pm, rain or shine. $35. k



VROOM VROOM SLAM’D & CAM’D CAR SHOW Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Over three hundred of the finest vehicles in the South are heading to the Raising Canes River Center for one day of rabid car enthusiasm. From hot rods, to classic cars, to motorcycles; plus plenty of other entertainment, music, a Kids’ Garage, pinewood derby with the Iberia Area Council Scouts, and food, this event promises to go all out. 9 am–8 pm. $15 for adults, $5 for kids ages three through twelve. k






LeMieux is bringing back its juried exhibition And Now for Something New. This year’s jurors are Lee Deigaard and John Barnes, Jr. The jury-winning artist will be announced at White Linen Night in August and will receive a show at LeMieux Galleries in the future. k








Covington, Louisiana

Tiffany Nesbit’s body of sculptures arises from a fantasied idea of how to make peace with nature in an increasingly industrial world, partly inspired by her personal past living in both urban and rural areas. Born in New Orleans, several of her murals are on display in Lacombe, and she has curated art exhibitions and events throughout Louisiana. Now, her new exhibition of works (which are never displayed the same way twice) will be on display at the St. Tammany Art Association. An opening reception will be held during the Kokomo Stroll from 5 pm–8 pm. k 20

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In a poetic celebration of Longfellow’s heroine, Louisiana poets Darrell Bourque and Melissa Bonin will present a special poetry reading at the West Baton Rouge Museum, exploring the many poetic variants of Evangeline. Louisiana’s history is filled with women who exemplify the virtues of the migration’s great figure, portrayed throughout literature, and expressed today—as is appropriate—in verse. The event accompanies the museum’s current exhibition Evangeline: Evolution of an Icon, and is free and open to the public. 2 pm. k


12th - JUL 25th


Enter to win the playhouse of your child’s cutest dreams while supporting an important cause with an online silent auction to benefit CASA (Capital Area Court Appointed Special Advocates Association). This year’s “Magnolia Mansion” playhouse was designed by Lilliput Play Homes, and will be on display in the Main Branch Library on Goodwood Boulevard until July 25. The virtual silent auction will conclude with an online “CASA Fiesta” where a winner will be drawn, which can be viewed from home while enjoying takeout tacos from Superior Grill to further benefit CASA for $50 a tray. k


13th - SEP 25th


Pete Souza was the official White House Photographer for two seminal American presidencies, capturing candid moments of humanity in each: those of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Now, fifty-six of Souza’s photographs from these presidencies will be on display in this exhibition going up in the Old State Capitol. Free. k

JUL 14th


The Hermann-Grima House, which has its own ties to Jewish history (the original

owner of the house, Samuel Hermann, was a German-born Jewish immigrant) is hosting a virtual lecture with Kenneth Hoffman, executive director of the newly opened Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience. Hoffman will dive into Southern history through a Jewish lens in this free talk. 6 pm on Facebook. k








The Arts Council of Livingston Parish will host artwork from members of the Denham Springs Fine Art Association during the months of July and August. Free. k





Who doesn’t like free, outdoor live music? The folks on the Northshore certainly do, and they make it evident with their Sunset at the Landing concerts. This month, catch Japheth O’Connor, The Steve Anderson Band, and Jess Kerber. Always a lively crowd, and did we mention that it’s free? Just bring chairs and refreshments. 6 pm–9 pm. k

JUL 16th


Head on over to The Wurst this weekend for a special comedy show featuring funny guy Erik Bergstrom, who has made laughable appearances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central, and his cartoons have appeared The New Yorker. Catch him from 8:30 pm–10:30 pm. $10. Details at The Wurst Biergarten Facebook page. k

JUL 16th - JUL 17th


Boogie down Falaya style to the Morgan City Auditorium for this year’s Atchafalaya Music Fest, a family friendly event featuring local musicians at their best. This year, organizers partnered with KQKI to host their music showdown on Friday; guests will also enjoy a performance by the Jus Cuz Band, food from The Asian Cajun food truck, and a cash bar. A special concert will follow on Saturday, featuring the showdown winner, followed by Shorts in December and a finale by Belle River’s own singer-songwriter Kyle Daigle, whose classic

country lyrics have garnered him two titles as American Songwriter Award Winner and as a Nashville Songwriter Association International “One to Watch” for the second year in a row. Details at the Morgan City Municipal Auditorium Facebook page. k

JUL 17th


hiatus with a different silent cinema classic each month until October in BREC’s City Park. 8 pm. $7 a ticket, bottomless popcorn included. This month, catch The Crowd (1928) with an original score from The Lilli Lewis Project. k

JUL 23rd - AUG 7th


Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana

If you have a young, budding paddler between the ages of five and seventeen, Tour du Teche’s annual Petit Tour du Teche might fan the flames of a new hobby (as well as a passion for conservation). The event offers a variety of short races, from 250 yards to one mile—manageable distances for little arms. The longer races are done in legs, so that all of the action takes place at Parc des Ponts de Pont Breaux, where family and friends can watch. 7 am (with first race starting at 9 am) at 251 East Bridge Avenue. $10 registration includes lunch. (337) 789-0319 or k

Founded in 1993 by a handful of Tulane Faculty members, the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane has become one of the most significant theatre events in the Gulf South. This season the festival is returning to bring The Comedy of Errors to the Lupin Theater stage. For times, tickets, and other details, visit k

JUL 24



Baton Rouge Gallery is bringing back its Movies on the Lawn series after a year on

JUL 24th - JUL 25th BOAT RACES BATTLE ON THE BASIN Morgan City, Louisiana

Get a front-row (or water-front) seat for the 2021 Championship Boat Races, when high-octane drag boats blast across the (hopefully calm) waters of Lake Palourde. As drivers put their outboard-powered rocketships through their paces, attending landlubbers get to

B 

Natchez // J U LY 2 1



Beginning July 24 - July 31 enjoy various foods and non-alcoholic beverages. The family-oriented event begins at 10 am each day at the Russo Boat Landing on LA 70. $10 for adults; $10 per day for each ice chest admitted. k






Slidell, Louisiana

Come to the Harbor Center for all your scaly, slimy, we’ll-admit-actually-kinda-cute pet needs. 10 am–5 pm Saturday, 10 am–4 pm Sunday. $10 for an adult one-day pass, $5 for kids five–twelve, kids four and younger free. k



Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Have you started planning the big day yet? Dive into this sea of lace, white, and tulle at the semi-annual Baton Rouge Bridal Show. L’Auberge Casino’s Event Center will be awash with tons of local wedding vendors, wedding inspiration, and plenty of door prizes to be won, including an all-expenses-paid honeymoon. Worry about your somethings old, borrowed, and blue later—it’s time for something new. 1 pm–4 pm. $15. k


LIVE TUNES VIBES IN THE VILLE St. Francisville’s latest music series Vibes in the Ville is keeping the good vibes f lowing under the gazebo in Parker Park the last Thursday of each month. 5:30 pm. Free. For this month’s act, check closer to the event at k







Have a wall that looks a bit bare? Now’s your chance to score the perfect local artwork to fill that void while supporting the Mansur Museum of Art in Monroe with the museum’s virtual Off the Wall silent auction fundraiser. to bid or donate. k 22

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Lake Charles, Louisiana

The Marshland Festival’s motto pretty much sums things up: “Y’all don’t haf to be Cajun to pass a good time.” To ensure this promise is upheld, an array of Cajun, zydeco, swamp pop, and country entertainers will be on hand to perform, surrounded by booths offering up all kinds of South Louisiana cuisine, arts and crafts, exhibits, and games. Hot? Not. Everything happens in the air-conditioned comfort of the Lake Charles Civic Center, 900 Lakeshore Drive. $10 on Friday; $15 Saturday. Twelve and younger free. k



Envision da Berry, an Iberia Parish nonprofit that strives to provide support for local creatives and to improve cultural and economic development in the parish, returns with its popular Showtunes Sing-a-long. The raucous, campy, live piano karaoke extravaganza will take place at A Spot for Tea. Enjoy singing along to Broadway favorites from Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Annie, Les Miserables, and beyond. If they haven’t sung your favorite, the group will play anything you ask for with a donation. A cash bar with beer and wine will be available. 6 pm. Free; donations encouraged. k


Saint Francisville, Louisiana












This weekend festival dedicated to the memory of Louis Armstrong presents an extensive roster of performances by contemporary New Orleans musicians from many genres, paying homage to the musical and cultural legend. Bands coming to play read like a who’s who of traditional and contemporary jazz and brass bands (we’re talking Charmaine Neville, Wendell Brunious, Hot 8 Brass Band, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers, and Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns, to name a few). Children’s programming, seminars, special events, and tasty food are on the docket, too. The two main stages are located at the Old US Mint, 400 Esplanade Avenue. $7 a day. k

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GOOD TIMES ARE CLOSE BY She borders Louisiana to the east, named after the mighty river that defines her western boundary. Mississippi. The Magnolia State is split into five different regions, each rich in its own distinctive geography, cuisine, history, and culture—Capital/ River, Coastal, Delta, Pine, and Hills. From backroads and beaches to small town charm and big name destinations, our Southern neighbor has it all, and there’s no season like the summer to discover something new, or return to familiar, favorite haunts after a most indoor year. Get up, get out, and experience everything each region has to offer, because good times are always close by.

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Mississippi Gulf Coast The not-so-secret shore


he southernmost region of the Magnolia State, and South Louisiana’s closest neighbor to the east, the Mississippi Gulf Coast is 62 miles of shoreline stretched around the Mississippi Sound, and dotted with distinctive beach towns personified by the Southern creatives who call them home. Just a stone’s (or a seashell’s) throw away from Interstate 10, the coast has long served as a seaside escape within easy reach of New Orleanians fleeing the sweltering temperatures of the humid port city in the summertime. This sandy-white stretch of central Gulf Coast is less of a secret these days. Today, the Mississippi Gulf Coast has truly emerged as a sought-out tourist destination with a flourishing arts and music scene, and newlydeveloped attractions that highlight the region’s natural splendor. The Coastal Region attracts a range of travelers with its eclectic mix of sun-soaked beaches, world-class golf courses, exquisite art galleries, fresh-off-the-dock seafood, deep-sea fishing, and avid nightlife, paired with expansive barrier islands and waterways offering both relaxation and adventure. Plus, there’s a burgeoning culinary scene that has garnered national attention, with James Beard Award-nominated chefs busy redefining Southern cuisine. Beyond its string of waterfront communities—which include Gulfport, Biloxi, Bay St. Louis, Ocean Springs, and Pass Christian— there’s even more to explore. There’s Hattiesburg, home of the University of Southern Mississippi; and Laurel, known as the charming small town setting of the mega-hit HGTV show Home Town, in which classic, historic, and vintage homes are restored by the show’s stars, and Laurel natives, Ben and Erin Napier. To get the lay of this oh-so-beautiful land, let’s begin in Bay St. Louis. This quaint seaside village welcomes visitors with a cool, laid-back vibe that

makes for a relaxed, scenic stop along the shore. You won’t find large condominium developments or busy big-box stores here. Instead, historic homes and cottages are lovingly preserved, as is the town’s long history. Moving east, Pass Christian—a casual and carefree community referred to by locals simply as “The Pass,” is a haven of historic homes and ancient moss-laden oaks. Pick up a one-of-a-kind antique or a gift from its funky, walkable downtown district, which is lined with local shops, boutiques, and galleries. Don’t miss grabbing a fresh-brewed coffee at Cat Island Coffeehouse, which sports an incredible view over the Mississippi Sound. Further along the coast, Gulfport is popular for the plethora of parks and water recreation areas dotted throughout the city, up-close-and-personal adventures with the Gulf’s abundant marine life, and zip-lining tours that’ll have you skimming through the coastal canopies. The tucked-away nook of Fishbone Alley is a hidden gem of everevolving original public art murals. Place your best bets in Biloxi, which lays claim to a vibrant nightlife and gaming industry courtesy of several luxurious casino resorts that host a glittering roster of touring bands and entertainment acts. The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, housed within a sleek Frank Gehrydesigned landmark, showcases an incredible collection of pottery and ceramics made by the “Mad Potter” George E. Ohr. To understand just how important fishing is to the way of life in this region, the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum makes a must-see attraction. Exhibits on shrimping, oystering, and marine biology come to life through a carefully curated selection of artifacts dating back three centuries. The West Biloxi Boardwalk makes a perfect place to soak up a sunrise or sunset, and the Biloxi Lighthouse, built in 1848 and towering at 64 feet tall, is one of the city’s most prominent landmarks.

To the east of Biloxi lies the town of Ocean Springs, best-known as the home of renowned 20th century painter Walter Anderson. There, the acclaimed Walter Anderson Museum of Art pays homage to the vibrant, evocative vision of its native namesake, and houses many of his murals depicting the natural world he loved so much. Art lovers can also visit the Anderson family business, Shearwater Pottery, where handmade ceramics have been sold since the workshop was established in 1928. Washington Avenue—Ocean Springs’ downtown thoroughfare—is lined with a colorful variety of local sweet shops, eateries, and pubs, including The Greenhouse on Porter, the local biscuit café in a greenhouse expertly tended by Jessie Zenor and Kait Sukiennik. For outdoor enthusiasts of all ages, Moss Point is the way to go. Visit the Pascagoula River Audubon Center nature preserve to discover the wild world of Coastal Mississippi’s abundant native flora and fauna by kayak, or by joining a river, marsh, and bayou boat tour. Pascagoula, Mississippi’s Flagship City, boasts handsome antebellum architecture and a rich 300-year history. Pirate Jean Lafitte, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Zachary Taylor, and Jimmy Buffett all spent time in Pascagoula and considered it either home, hideaway, or restful respite over the years. Visit La Pointe-Krebs House, circa 1718, in all its rugged splendor with a panoramic view of Krebs Lake, or simply kick back with a picnic at Beach Park to spend a lazy summer day, overlooking the Mississippi Sound. Top Tip: If you plan to visit many of the Gulf Coast’s historic places and museums, consider purchasing a Coastal Mississippi Attractions Pass. For $45, you’ll have access to eight of the region’s top cultural sites. The pass never expires, so you can see everything or split up the fun for your next visit.

72 Hours in Coastal Mississippi Embark on a scenic road trip along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, where artsy small towns, sandy shores, and a singular culinary scene intersect Day 1: Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Gulfport

What to See and Do: Home to some of the state’s most popular attractions, Gulfport has plenty of all-ages entertainment to choose from. The recently-opened Mississippi Aquarium opens a window to the world beneath the Gulf waves, while the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center—a children’s museum in a restored 1916 schoolhouse—showcases outdoor and indoor interactive exhibits to keep your little ones engaged and entertained. There’s also the Gulf Islands Waterpark, the Zip’n Fun Adventure Park, and the Gulfport Dragway, if slip ‘n slides, go-karts, putt-putt golf, arcade games, or topfuellers are more your speed. For art aficionados

Bay St. Louis offers a wealth of art galleries, including the Art Deco-style Gallery 220, and the Alice Moseley Folk Art & Antique Museum, in the historic Bay St. Louis Train Depot. Where to Eat (and Wander): The best way to explore the laid-back, bohemian streets of Bay St. Louis is by grabbing a bike to explore the scenic Old Town Bay and the Bay Bridge Artwalk. As you stroll through downtown, pause at the Heavenly Carved Wooden Angels—live oaks that fell victim to Hurricane Katrina and since carved into beautiful works of art. Another scenic route takes you through Pass Christian’s stunning Historic District on your way to wildly popular Pirate’s Cove for their famous roast beef

poboy. On the Gulfport waterfront, the classic coastal cuisine, served amid majestic oaks at The Chimneys, never disappoints. While there, take a stroll along Gulfport’s Fishbone Alley, a public art installation that is the brainchild of local painters. Where to Stay: Luxurious surroundings with picturesque gulf vistas await at Gulfport’s Island View Casino Resort. Also worth checking out are the city’s Beachview Vacation Cottages, a series of home-away-from-homes just three hundred yards from the beach. In Pass Christian, the boutique Hotel Whiskey offers 11 elegantly appointed rooms and a sleek on-site restaurant. Also in Pass Christian, a night at the historic Oak Crest Mansion Inn is memorable for its

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sophisticated, storied atmosphere while in Bay St. Louis, consider Carroll House Cottages for cosy comfort within walking distance of dining, shopping, and entertainment.

Day 2: Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Moss Point

What to See and Do: This stretch of the Gulf coastline is a recognized hotspot for the visual arts. In Biloxi, don’t miss the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, which is dedicated to the ceramic creations of George Ohr (the self-proclaimed “Mad Potter of Biloxi”), and the Mary O’Keefe Cultural Center for Arts & Education. Gallery 782 and Negrotto’s Gallery, showcase works by local and regional artists. In neighboring Ocean Springs, the Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA) and Shearwater Pottery bear witness to the extraordinary vision of renowned painter Walter Inglis Anderson. Where to Eat (and Wander): In Biloxi, local landmark Mary Mahoney’s has welcomed generations of diners with upscale cuisine served in one of the oldest homes in America. Ocean Springs boasts a burgeoning culinary scene that elevates classic southern fare by sourcing farmto-table ingredients for inventive dishes. Craft

Advisory Brewing and Bistro offers gastropubstyle fare in its taproom. Government Street Grocery is a casual neighborhood bar offering home-cooked burgers and ice-cold beer. The Shed BBQ is a Mississippi barbecue institution, and for fine dining, at Vestige, acclaimed Chef Alex Perry presents experimental, naturalist cuisine that is redefining “coastal creativity.” Where to Stay: Biloxi’s casino resorts, with its public boardwalk offering easy beach access, deliver a fix of entertainment, gaming, food and drink, and luxury accommodations, all in one place. Take your pick of lodging options: there’s Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, Escape at Margaritaville Resort, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the Palace Casino Resort. Or, if you prefer lodging options with more of a small town sensibility, nearby Ocean Springs offers charming, quirky B&Bs on or near the beach, such as Front Beach Cottages, The Eaves Bed & Breakfast, The Beatnik, The Inn at Ocean Springs, and The Roost.

Day 3: Barrier Islands Excursion

Where to Stay: For an overnight adventure in rugged accommodations, book a remote cabin

with Eco-Tours of South Mississippi. What to See and Do: Try out your sea legs by exploring one (or more) of Mississippi’s barrier islands, which form part of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Ship Island is a popular destination. Nearby Cat Island, Horn Island, and Deer Island Coastal Preserve are other options for an island excursion. Between them you’ll find recreational activities including charter fishing, sailing, shelling, birding, dolphin sightings, jet skiing, kayaking, and parasailing. Where to Eat (and Wander): Nature lovers will want to head to Moss Point on the state’s southeastern border, which hosts public nature centers including Escatawpa River Observatory Birding & Wildlife Viewing Area, Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Gulf Coast Gator Ranch, and Pascagoula River Audubon Center. Packing a lunch for your outdoor escape? Stock up with salads, box lunches, platters, and savory biscuits at Ocean Springs’ Greenhouse on Porter, and while you’re there, grab a box of fresh donuts from iconic Tatonut Donut Shop. You might have to wait in line, but you’ll be glad you did!

24 Hours in the Upper Coastal Region It’s more than the shore, so take a day to discover Hattiesburg and Laurel What to See and Do: In the heart of Hattiesburg, tour the University of Southern Mississippi’s three-hundred-acre campus, making stops at the All-American Rose Garden and the USM Museum of Art. Then zoom over to the Hattiesburg Zoo within Kamper Park to meet more than one hundred wildlife species. For some local Hattiesburg history, take a lap through the residential grandeur of the city’s historic district, or follow the Freedom Summer Trail, which offers a guided audio tour featuring firsthand oral history accounts of the Civil Rights Movement. The Sarah Ellen Gillespie Museum of Art at William Carey University provides an introduction to notable Mississippi artists of the 20th century, while the Oddfellows Gallery specializes in fine work from regional artists. To really get into Hattiesburg’s burgeoning arts scene, hop onto the city’s newly unveiled Public Art Trail, which reveals nearly 40 permanent sculptures and murals. The city’s downtown district is also home to The Lucky Rabbit, a popular flea market featured on HGTV’s Home Town, and the East 6th Street Museum District, with distinctive options for good food, fun, history, and shopping around every corner. Outdoorsy types might check out the nature trail at Longleaf Trace, which follows the route of a former railroad line. 15 miles northwest of Hattiesburg in Seminary, famous Okatoma Creek (aka “Mississippi’s white water creek,”) offers canoers, kayakers, and tubers a picturesque 3- to 4-hour paddle route, with boat rentals and primitive camping offered by

Okatoma Outdoor Post. Thirty-five minutes away in charming Laurel resides a historic district lined with turn-ofthe-century architecture. The Leontyne Price Musical Park is named after the AfricanAmerican opera singer, who was born in Laurel and rose to international acclaim; and the Trustmark Art Park, which was redesigned by Ben and Erin Napier, stars of the HGTV smash hit Home Town, and featured in an episode in 2018. Founded as the state’s first art museum, the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art hosts an extensive collection of Native American artifacts. Then, hit the trails that wind through the DeSoto National Forest. Where to Eat (and Wander): Hattiesburg: With a robust craft beer scene, see what’s on offer from local breweries like Southern Prohibition Brewery and Colludium Brewing Co. For cuisine, the Hatties[BURGER] Trail is your go-to guide for mouthwatering burgers around town, highlighting more than thirty local restaurants including The Porter Public House and Ed’s Burger Joint— the popular brainchild of famed chef/author Robert St. John. Depot Kitchen & Market is renowned for its refined southern-style eats and specialty coffees, but make sure to save room for dessert in order to sample a slice of decadent, homemade cheesecake from Cotton Blues Cheesecake Company. Laurel: In downtown Laurel, the fresh-made, home-cooked soul food served at Pearl’s Diner

has made the restaurant a landmark and a travel destination for people from all around the world. For quality food on-the-go, head to Phillips DriveIn, better known simply as PDI, a longtime local landmark serving up classic diner fare since 1948 (and the winner of the “best burger in Laurel” accolade). Another award-winning local eatery, Mimmo’s Ristorante Pizzeria, was named “Best Italian Restaurant” by Mississippi Magazine. For fresh cuts of specialty meats, stop by The Knight Butcher, owned and operated by Laurel natives Chad and Terri Knight. Last but not least, a trip to Laurel can’t be considered complete without visiting the Laurel Mercantile Co. and Scotsman General Store, the flagship retail shops of Erin and Ben Napier. Where to Stay: Hattiesburg: The city has more than thirty hotels to extend your stay, as well as two locally-owned B&Bs: Camellia House Bed & Breakfast, a lofty two-story home that doubles as a secluded event space set among towering pine trees, and The Bay Bed & Breakfast, a beautifully restored home right in the heart of the historic district. Laurel: Like any Southern town worth its salt, Laurel is home to an assortment of charming and comfortable B&Bs for those passing through. You’ll receive a warm welcome at any of the local lodging options, but popular choices include Wisteria Bed and Breakfast, Grandiflora B&B, the Laurel Cottages, and Sweet Somethings B&B. // J U LY 2 1


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Capital/River Region Museums, movies, & music in the state’s culture capital


n the southwest corner of the Magnolia State, you’ll find the Capital/River region. Stretching from the rolling hills around Jackson, west to the Mississippi River and south to the Louisiana state line, Capital/ River is an epicenter of Mississippi culture. A true historic hub, the region boasts a wealth of meaningful landmarks, historic homes, Civil War battlefields, and sites of national significance in the Civil Rights Movement. Hollywood has taken note of the beauty of the Capital/River region. Indeed, the small town of Canton (population: 12,000) has been dubbed “Mississippi’s Film Capital”, having served as the backdrop for several notable films including My Dog Skip, A Time to Kill, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? You can catch a glimpse of some of the props used in these blockbuster films in the Canton Movie Museums. Of course, we mustn’t forget about Jackson itself, where several scenes were filmed for the Academy Awardwinning 2011 film The Help, written and directed by Mississippi native (and Natchez resident), Tate Taylor.

of Johnson’s day-to-day existence—including his qualms over his ownership of slaves—and is now considered a vital source of information about the lives of free African-American people in the historical South. Today, many historic Natchez residences offer bed and breakfast accommodations. Some, including Monmouth Historic Inn and Gardens and the newly reopened Dunleith Historic Inn, operate as small luxury hotels complete with full restaurants and bars, inviting guests to really settle into their gorgeous surroundings. Besides the homes themselves, history, culture, and fine cuisine all await discovery along downtown Natchez’s walkable streets, which include restaurants, bars, galleries, and shops.

In the southern part of the region, perched on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River you’ll find Natchez—founded in 1716 and the oldest city in the state. Pre-war architecture is plentiful in the charming town, with opulent, historic homes lining crepe-myrtle shaded streets throughout. One of Natchez’s most fascinating attractions is Longwood—the largest octagonal home in the United States. Construction on Longwood began in 1860, but stopped a year later at the outbreak of the Civil War, never to resume. The exterior and lowest floor of the home were completed, but the upper levels of the home remain unfinished to this today. Tours of the home led by Natchez Pilgrimage Tours are available almost every day of the year.

Further upstream, in the Capital/River region, stands Vicksburg. Teeming with Civil War historic sites, the city was referred to as the “Key to the South” by none other than Abraham Lincoln. Vicksburg National Military Park commemorates the earth-shaking events that took place in the city during the Civil War, including the Battle of Vicksburg and the Vicksburg Campaign. Another not-to-be-missed historic site is Pemberton’s Headquarters, which served as command post for Confederate Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton during the Union’s 47-day attack on Vicksburg. For a lighter-hearted history, the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum recounts the history of the world’s most notable soft drink, which was bottled for the first time ever in 1894 by Vicksburg resident Joseph Biedenharn. And for the foodies—Vicksburg offers more than just museums. The award-winning Walnut Hills Restaurant serves sublime Southern cuisine, while 10 South Rooftop Bar & Grill gives patrons a view of the mighty Mississippi River that’s almost as impressive as its menu of expertly prepared Southern staples.

Just a mile or two from Longwood in the historic heart of Natchez you’ll find the William Johnson House. The home, which was built in 1840, is now a museum operated by the National Park Service. William Johnson was a freed slave who worked as a barber, and taught his trade to free African-American boys. For 16 years until his death in 1851, Johnson kept a journal in which he recorded significant events in his life and the life of the city. The journal chronicles many facets

In Jackson, the capital city, you’ll find still more rich history at the “Two Mississippi Museums”: the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History. Providing deeper insight into the infamous events of Mississippi’s Civil Rights, the Jackson Civil Rights Movement Driving Tour guides visitors to visit 81 sites that served a role in the long-fought struggle to secure freedom and justice for all.

The Mississippi Museum of Art is the state’s largest art museum. With over 5,800 pieces on display, the museum features American art from the 19th and 20th centuries. Notable artists whose works have been displayed here include Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, Robert Henri, and Radcliffe Bailey. Jackson’s Fondren District is a cultural center for the city that attracts visitors and residents alike with great shopping, fine dining, and a collection of of Mid-Century Modern architecture. Two long-standing favorite restaurants of the Fondren District include Walker’s Drive-In and Brent’s Drugs (fun fact: Partial filming of The Help was in Brent’s Drugs). The Capital/River region is home to plenty more must-see spots. In Clinton, home of the Olde Towne Historic District, the galleries of local artists Wyatt Waters and the late Dr. Samuel Gore are nestled along the quaint brick streets. Brookhaven offers a wealth of history and architectural charm, and has gained national attention as home to one of America’s Top Ten Main Streets. Ridgeland is an exciting destination for outdoor adventurers. Its multiuse trails, mountain bike trails, BMX track, and the Natchez Trace Parkway make it a cyclist’s dream. Anglers and boaters will surely find their happy place at the 33,000-acre Barnett Reservoir. Love America’s favorite pastime? Catch a game (and maybe a fly ball) in Pearl, home of the Mississippi Braves. Here you’ll find the Outlets of Mississippi, the state’s largest outlet shopping destination. And if the retail bug has bitten you, set a course for Flowood, which has a well-earned reputation as the beating heart of the region’s retail scene. You’d better believe it: in Mississippi’s Capital/River region, there truly is something for everyone.

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72 Hours in the Capital/River Region Explore (and eat) your way through Jackson and Vicksburg If you’ve got a long weekend to spend in the Capital/River region, consider spending your first two days exploring Jackson and it’s surrounding areas, then round out your trip with a third day to Vicksburg.

Day 1: Jackson

Where to Stay: The Fairview Inn. A quintessential Jackson spot, the Fairview offers classic, luxurious lodging, and has hosted many VIPs in its day (Mick Jagger’s room of choice at the Fairview happens to be the presidential French Suite). The Fairview’s old library has been transformed into the aptly-named Library Lounge. Patrons pay homage to classic Mississippi authors while enjoying a cocktail or nosh in the sophisticated, moody space, or lounge outdoors beneath the sprawling branches of the inn’s massive magnolia tree. What to See and Do: Jackson has many must-see museums. Stop into the Mississippi Museum of Art, the state’s largest fine art museum, which houses thousands of notable works. The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is another cultural landmark no visitor should miss. For the kids, there’s the Mississippi Children’s Museum. Where to Eat (and Wander): In the Fondren District, Walker’s Drive-In is a classic Jackson landmark, where Chef Derek Emerson serves

upscale favorites made with top-notch ingredients. Another Fondren favorite is Brent’s Drugs, where the original soda fountain from 1946 and retro finishes will transport you into a old world wonderland. Stop in for a lunchtime burger, or drop in after hours when the back transforms into a speakeasy-style bar, The Apothecary. While in Fondren, save time to shop through the district’s locally-owned boutiques. Locals will insist you visit Keifer’s in Belhaven for a gyro.

Day 2: Canton and Ridgeland

Once you’ve gotten your taste of Jackson, head out on a day trip to see Canton and Ridgeland. Your first stop is the Canton Movie Museum. Situated downtown in “Mississippi’s Film Capital,” the museum houses props from notable movies filmed in Mississippi. Due to renovations, the museum is currently by appointment only. Be sure to call ahead to book your spot. Then head to Ridgeland for a bite and some outdoor adventures. Have lunch at Cock of the Walk, which New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne hailed as home to “possibly the best catfish in the nation.” If you choose to stick to land, head out on one of Ridgeland’s many bike trails. From a selfguided bike tour to a BMX track, there’s a route suitable for all. Should you prefer to take to the water, head for Barnett’s Reservoir to fish, boat,

sail, or paddle.

Day 3:Vicksburg

To Vicksburg: Now that you’ve checked the boxes in the Jackson area, take the quick hour drive to Vicksburg, where you’ll find a town chock-full of fascinating history, and more good food. If you decide to stay the night, make a reservation at Anchuca, the oldest B&B in Vicksburg, which dates back to the early 1800s. For your daily dose of history, visit the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum, the first place in the world to bottle Coca-Cola®. While you’re in the area, take a stroll around to explore the nearby galleries and shops. For lunch, stop by Solly’s Hot Tamales or the classic Walnut Hills Restaurant, which has had its share in the spotlight thanks to an appearance on Good Morning America. Also on your list should be the Vicksburg National Military Park, where you’ll learn more about Vicksburg’s deep involvement in the Civil War. For dinner, check out the views from 10 South Rooftop Bar and Restaurant, or enjoy the intimate atmosphere of Café Anchuca.

Day to Remember A day-trip to Natchez—that spectacular, and sophisticated, “City on the Bluff” For a one-day trip to the Capital/River region, visit Natchez to shop, eat, and tour some truly spectacular historic homes.

properties, including Longwood, the William Johnson House, Stanton Hall, and St. Mary Basilica.

Where to stay: The newly renovated Dunleith Historic Inn lavishes guests with modern-day amenities, an excellent on-site restaurant, and unparalleled architectural grandeur, all without missing a drop of traditional Southern charm.

Afterwards, dive into downtown to explore. Along its brick sidewalks you’ll find all sorts of shops, galleries, and restaurants. Stop into Natchez Brewing Company on High Street for a tour and a taste of the first “Natchez” beer.

Prefer to be right in historic downtown? The Natchez Grand Hotel makes a great base from which to explore the city by car or on foot with spectacular views over the Mississippi River.

Where to eat: For lunch, get off the beaten path a bit with a visit to the Old Country Store in Lorman, located right off of the Natchez Trace Parkway between Natchez and Port Gibson. The store, still in its original 1875 location, is famous for “Mr. D’s Heavenly Fried Chicken.”

What to do: You can’t visit Natchez without taking a tour of one of its many historic

If you prefer to stay in the city, consider The Camp Restaurant. Situated on the banks of the Mississippi, the vast, classic menu and prime location are sure to please everyone in your group. Fat Mama’s Tamales is another Natchez institution, its award-winning tamales, fire-and-ice pickles, and “Knock You Naked” margaritas keeping locals and visitors coming back for decades. For dinner, consider The Kitchen Bistro and Piano Bar. Chef Josh Harmon’s inspired menu of modern American fare—paired with a jovial cocktail crowd gathered to enjoy live piano sounds—make this a popular spot for a weekend bite. // J U LY 2 1


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The Mighty Mississippi Delta Discover the “cradle of American culture” and a world apart


he Delta region has a history that has shaped our nation well-beyond the South. Known as the “cradle of American culture,” the Delta is the birthplace of the blues, a sparking point for the American Civil Rights Movement, and an agricultural powerhouse. Within its 150-mile stretch, these fascinating, intersecting legacies, meld together to make the Mississippi Delta a cornerstone of cultural discovery—and a compelling place to explore. Clarksdale holds deep ties to the blues. Home to the Crossroads of Highways 61 and 49, the infamous site is where iconic bluesman Robert Johnson reportedly sold his soul to the devil to improve his guitar skills. Although Johnson’s expertise went practically unnoticed during his short 27-year life, today he is revered as one of the great blues pioneers, having influenced iconic rock bands including Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. You can explore the legacy of Robert Johnson and other musical icons at the Delta Blues Museum, the state’s oldest music museum. Want to hear some blues for yourself? Ground Zero Blues Club—co-owned by actor Morgan Freeman—has garnered national attention as a site to see (and hear) some of today’s finest Delta blues musicians in action. Paired with a classic Southern menu, you’ll get a true taste of Delta culture here. Red’s Lounge is another real-deal juke joint keeping the music alive with no frills, big beers, and maybe a bite from the barbecue grill out front. Cat Head Delta Blues and Folk Art—a record store, art gallery, and live music venue combo— is another must for Clarksdale visitors. Owner Roger Stolle opened the place in 2002 after ditching his advertising career, and now wears the mantle of “regional expert” for all kinds of blues-related topics. For a place to lay your head in Clarksdale, don’t pass up the Shack Up Inn. Touting its tagline “the Ritz we ain’t,” this inn offers unique, coolly-casual digs in several renovated shotgun cabins, and adjacent Cotton Gin. Another lodging option is the Travelers Hotel, housed in a 1920s building in downtown Clarksdale that once served traveling railroad workers, and has now been transformed into a boutique hotel run by a staff of artists and creative placemakers.

Another notable Delta town with a powerful past is Indianola, the home to “King of the Blues,” B.B. King. See his gravesite and learn about the life of this musical legend at the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center. Just down the road, you’ll find Club Ebony, a landmark on the Mississippi Blues Trail. Club Ebony is one of the region’s most iconic, historically significant juke joints, which dates back to shortly after the Civil War. During the decades Club Ebony hosted icons including Ray Charles, James Brown, Ike Turner, and Syl Johnson. B.B. King would celebrate the end of the annual festival hosted in his honor with a performance at the club, and even took ownership of Club Ebony from 2008 until his death in 2015. The club is now owned and operated by the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center. In Greenwood, the Alluvian Hotel offers visitors a luxurious refuge right in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. A sleek, boutique hotel developed by Viking Range founder Fred Carl, the Alluvian offers a broad range of services and amenities guaranteed to keep guests entertained in style. Occupying an entire city block in the historic heart of downtown, the Alluvian shares space with the Alluvian Spa, and the Viking Cooking School, which offers culinary classes for all skill levels. Giardina’s—a dining staple in the region since 1939—offers superb steaks, seafood and Italian cuisine in a storied building, with its Prohibition-era, curtained speakeasy booths still in place. Beyond the walls of the Alluvian, Greenwood offers visitors ample space to wander. For some outdoor recreation the Yazoo River Trail and Arboretum offers explorers access to fortyfive acres of immaculate forest and native trees. If indoor activities are more your speed, you must make a stop at Turnrow Books, the Delta’s unofficial literary headquarters that was aptly named “the most beautiful bookstore in America” in a New York Times column by Ann Patchett. In Cleveland, still more music history awaits. The GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi is the only GRAMMY museum outside of Los Angeles, and gives visitors an interactive dive into the extraordinary musical legacy of the Delta.

Dockery Farms, the storied birthplace of blues, is located right outside of Cleveland. Dockery Plantation, a cotton plantation and sawmill, was home to blues musician Charley Patton, the most noteworthy early blues musician. Today, Dockery welcomes visitors year-round. Another Cleveland don’t miss is Delta Meat Market. Chef Cole Ellis is a Cleveland local with an impressive résumé, which includes being named a semifinalist in 2017 for the James Beard “Best Chef South” Award. The market, located in the Cotton House Hotel, is both a premium meat, cheese, and artisanal goods grocer, and also operates a full-service restaurant serving Southern classics with an international flair. For a resonant introduction to Cleveland’s place within the American fabric, visit the Amzie Moore House Museum. Moore was an early Civil Rights leader who made significant contributions through his work to increase voter registration and get students engaged in the struggle for equality. While you’re in the area, save time for a stopover at McCarty’s Pottery, which is just north of Cleveland in Merigold. Situated right on the banks of the Mississippi River, Greenville is another city with inimitable Delta-style culture. This is where you’ll find the Delta’s Museum Mile, a collection of museums, all located in close proximity, enabling guests to discover everything from antique firetrucks to blues memorabilia. Belmont Plantation is the last home of its kind in the region. Boasting 9,000 square feet, the property now welcomes visitors to Greenville as a bed and breakfast and event space. There’s one last Mississippi Delta gem we can’t help but mention—the Birthplace of Kermit the Frog Museum. Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, was born in Greenville and raised in the nearby Leland area, where this delightful little museum recounts Henson’s childhood adventures playing along the banks of Deer Creek. It was here that Henson first conjured a character named Kermit the Frog. And the rest, as they say, is history. Indeed, from Muppets to blues, the Delta comes by its title as the “cradle of American Culture” rightfully.

72 Hours in the Mississippi Delta Day 1: Clarksdale

Where to Stay: Shack Up Inn. “The Ritz it Ain’t,” and therein lies the Shack Up Inn’s charm. Get into the spirit of your Delta adventure by spending the night in one of the Shack Up

Inn’s series of renovated shotgun cabins, or neighboring Cotton Gin. The relaxed, homey vibe here is perfectly matched with the bluesdrenched culture of the city it calls home.

What to See and Do: Cat Head Delta Blues and Folk Art: Named for “cat head” biscuits, the “cat head” drawings of Leland, Mississippi bluesman-slash-folk artist Pat Thomas, and last but not least, animal-themed record labels, Cat

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Head is an iconic record store and a Clarksdale staple for all things blues and beyond. Your next stop should be the Delta Blues Museum—founded in 1979 and the world’s first blues museum. Besides, what’s a trip to Clarksdale without hearing any blues? Located right next door to the museum, Ground Zero Blues Club is an area staple that has garnered national attention. Though national acts play occasionally, the mission of the club is to showcase the chops of local Delta blues artists. Any Wednesday through Saturday, you’re guaranteed to catch some live music here. Where to Eat: Rest Haven serves a harmonious mix of Lebanese and Italian specialties, highlighting two groups of immigrants that have contributed significantly to the Delta’s rich cultural fabric (the menu features an interesting assortment of southern favorites, too). With a dish for any meal of the day, Rest Haven has been doing it right since 1947. Abe’s Bar-B-Q, another long-standing Clarksdale establishment, Abe’s has been familyowned since 1924. Located at the infamous crossroads of highways 61 and 49, this stop on the Mississippi BBQ Trail is justifiably famous for its smoked pork, beef, and hot tamales. In the heart of downtown, Yazoo Pass is an espresso bar, bistro, and bakery combo. Pop in for a coffee, or try one of their breakfast, brunch, or lunch specialties.

Day 2: Cleveland

Where to Stay: Cotton House. While Cleveland is close enough to Clarksdale for a day trip, Cotton House offers amenities that make an overnight stay worthwhile. Cleveland’s first boutique hotel, Cotton House blends the best

of the old and new Delta to create a one-of-akind destination. Ninety-five guest rooms, sleek décor, beautiful amenities, and an impressive art collection featuring pieces by notable Mississippi artists, and 2 restaurants offering memorable dining options. What to do: Venture north of Cleveland to Merigold, home of McCarty’s Pottery, an iconic Mississippi institution since 1954. Founded by Lee and Pup McCarty, the couple has William Faulkner to thank for their early pottery success. Lee—who taught Faulkner’s daughter, Jill— sourced his clay from a ravine on the property of Rowan Oak—the Faulkner family home. The GRAMMY® Museum Mississippi pays homage to the musical achievements of Mississippians. An interactive and celebratory experience, the museum is the South’s most technically advanced music-centric museum. Cleveland’s Historic Downtown District bristles with boutiques, clothiers, restaurants, and cafés to divert curious passers-by. Where to Eat: Inside the Cotton House you’ll find Delta Meat Market, an artisanal grocer and full-service restaurant run by award-winning executive chef Cole Ellis. A few floors up on the rooftop is Bar Fontaine, another Ellis creation. This is the place for small plates, home-made pastas, and inspired cocktails, served with a southern European flair. The Senator’s Place, established by Senator Willie Simmons and his wife, Rosie, offers good, down-home Mississippi soul food. Airport Grocery makes a quality Mississippi tamale (tamales are another, possibly unexpected, Delta culinary mainstay) in a casual, lively setting.

Day 3: Greenwood

Where to Stay: Conclude your Delta stay with a night at The Alluvian. This boutique hotel was developed by Viking Range founder Fred Carl, and offers guests plenty of luxurious amenities and entertainment options. What to Do: Want to stay in? Enjoy a treatment at the lavish Alluvian Spa, or hone your culinary skills at the elite Viking Cooking School. When you’re ready to explore, get a little lost amid the aisles of Turnrow Books, any Southern literature-lover’s dreamland. For some fresh air, mosey over to the Yazoo River Trail and Arboretum. With forty-five acres and harboring abundant wildlife, your outdoor excursion can be as relaxed, or as riveting, as you like. Where to Eat: Lusco’s is your Greenwood go-to for steaks and seafood. After eighty-eight years in business, the classic recipes at this old-line Italian mainstay have been perfected. What makes Lusco’s such a standout are its everpopular sauces, dressings and marinades—some of which are even available bottled thanks to endless demand. Giardina’s is another long-standing Greenwood landmark. Since 1939 its curtained booths (a speakeasy hangover from Prohibition years) have invited diners to settle in for a private, languorous meal of Italian favorites, and superb steaks and seafood. Fan and Johnny’s is another dining option, where the black eyed pea cakes with baby greens and remoulade are a perennial favorite. A few blocks over, famous Crystal Grill has a wellearned reputation for its “mile high pies.”

A Day in the Delta To make your one-day in the Delta region really count, divide your time between Greenville and Indianola. Where to Stay: At Greenville’s Belmont Plantation, you’ll be settling into one of the last pre-war homes to remain standing in the Delta. Before the Civil War, with few levees to hold back river floodwaters, settlers avoided building anything very permanent. But Belmont remains the exception, having withstood flood, foreclosure, and the region’s various economic storms. Now the Greek Revival and Italianate-style home offers 6 B&B suites and an event space. Featuring intricate architectural details, some call Belmont home to the “finest decorative plasterwork in Mississippi.” What to Do: Hop in the car for a 30-minute

ride to Indianola. The homeplace of the legendary bluesman B.B. King now pays honor to his life and career with the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center. Right up the road is Club Ebony, a historically significant African-American juke joint that has operated continually since opening in 1945. Legendary bluesmen who played here include Howlin’ Wolf, Little Milton, and B.B. King himself, who owned the club for a while, until donating it to the B.B. King Museum. Where to Eat: Crown Restaurant in Indianola keeps it fresh with a new menu of inspired “new Southern” cuisine each week. One constant,

though, is Catfish Allison, a menu favorite— farm-raised poached catfish fillet gratinéed with a Parmesan, butter, and green onion sauce. The original Doe’s Eat Place is family-owned in Greenville. Famous for its tamales, the legendary Doe’s version is still made using the original recipe dating from 1941. A simple, straightforward menu, Doe’s does just a few things—steaks, mainly—but they do them really well. So well, that Doe’s was named one of America’s Classics by the James Beard Foundation. // J U LY 2 1


Special Advertising Feature: Visit Mississippi

The Hills Alive with literary, cultural, and natural wonders


he Hills region of northeast Mississippi encompasses the beginnings of the lush, rugged woodlands, clear lakes, and bubbling streams of the Appalachian foothills. Famed figures like Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis hailed from the area—trailblazers who make this Hills country as culturally significant as it is naturally rich. But this massive region comprising 19 counties has been the stomping ground of other creative giants. Literary legends William Faulkner and John Grisham have called it home. Situated at a cultural crossroads between the radically different Appalachian and Delta regions, the Hills also formed a geographic crossroads for the Confederacy during the Civil War, when the Union captured the city of Corinth after a brutal, month-long siege. Major milestones in the Civil Rights Movement also left their mark here. One was the enrollment of James Meredith, who in 1962 became the first African-American student admitted into the University of Mississippi at Oxford. Or as it’s more commonly known, Ole Miss. Even the Natchez Trace Parkway—the forested thoroughfare that winds through 444 miles of scenic countryside between Natchez and Nashville, TN—is a major attraction in its own right. The Trace follows the route traveled by Native Americans for millennia, and later by early European explorers and traders, and covers terrain that William Faulkner dubbed his “postage stamp of native soil.” Travel the Trace and you’ll pass by many picturesque small towns, historic

sites and Civil War battlefields along the way. For fans of Southern literature, the North Mississippi home of native novelist William Faulkner, Rowan Oak, is a must-see in Oxford. While in this city beloved by writers and literary enthusiasts alike—which has also been touted as the “cultural mecca of the South,” visit the University of Mississippi campus and browse through the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. Get to know how “the King of Rock ‘n Roll” grew up at the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum in Tupelo, where you can tour his childhood home. Or visit Elvis and Priscilla’s honeymoon cottage in Horn Lake. The city of Holly Springs is where you’ll find Rust College—one of ten historically-AfricanAmerican colleges and universities, founded before 1868, and still operating today; and Mississippi’s second-oldest private college. Also in Holly Springs is the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, a breathtaking, 3,000-acre protected nature property. When entering the town of Walls you’ll encounter the Edgefield Mounds, silent sentinels recalling the Native American people who built them some five centuries ago. Later, this area was home to blues icon Memphis Minnie, and her gravesite is located nearby at New Hope Cemetery. Taking the slow road? The Great River Road National Scenic Byway and the Great River Road Bike Trail both offer a scenic way to stop and smell the wildflowers, and offer picturesque views over the Mississippi River.

You’ll find a little bit of everything in Olive Branch’s Old Towne, where shopping, history, and art collide with pleasing effect. Olive Branch’s Historic Walking Trail highlights local landmarks dating back to the town’s founding in 1836, while Arts in the Alley, a public walkway adorned with local art and home to the Painted Pigeon Art Gallery, also serves as the headquarters for the Olive Branch Arts Council. Surrounded by some of Mississippi’s prettiest countryside, Grenada offers a wealth of ways to immerse yourself in the natural world. Embark on aquatic adventures at Grenada Lake and the Yalobusha River Paddling Trail, which winds through miles of bottomland forest, sloughs, and croplands. The Malmaison Wildlife Management Area encompasses over 9,000 acres, and harbors abundant game, as well as oxbow lakes and swamps offering spectacular fishing opportunities. Downtown Grenada features three markers on the Mississippi Blues Trail, and the landmark Belle Flower Missionary Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered one of his powerful civil rights speeches. Want one last local treasure? How about the Grenada Historical Museum, which boasts the largest selection of Coca-Cola® collectibles outside of Atlanta. At the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the towns of Iuka and Tishomingo are home to 3 picturesque waterways including Pickwick Lake, Bay Springs Lake, and Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. And for your parting shot, the bird’s-eye view of the Tennessee River from J.P. Coleman State Park’s towering bluff is unforgettable.

The Hills Are Alive 72 Hours to discover Corinth, Tupelo, and Grenada Day 1: Corinth

What to Do and See: Located in the northeast corner of the state, Corinth has been dubbed “Mississippi’s Gateway City,” and harbors a lot of history. At the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, exhibits depict the city’s role in the War Between the States. Make a stop at the Verandah-Curlee House (c.1857), which served as military headquarters during the Civil War. Located within a historic train depot, the Crossroads Museum presents artifacts from the Civil War, when Corinth was known as the “Crossroads of the South” for its strategic railways. The Black History Museum of Corinth preserves local African American heritage with emphasis on education and religion. What’s old is new again in the revitalized SoCo

District, packed with local shops including clothing and gifts. Where to Eat (and Wander): V Taco is a casual taco shop and margarita bar with a rooftop deck. In downtown Corinth, Smith offers an upscale dining experience, plus grab-and-go selections. Recently opened by the folks behind Corinth favorite Vicari Italian Grill, Conservatory by Vicari serves lunch with an all-afternoon gelato bar, plus wine and small plates in the evening. A beautiful rooftop patio complements the third floor dining room. Where to Stay: Step back in time at The Oakley House, a beautiful log cabin near Tishomingo State Park that sleeps four comfortably.

Located in nearby Olive Branch on five wooded acres, Andover Plantation Bed & Breakfast is an English manor inn offering elegant accommodations that combine the spirit of days gone by with modern creature comforts.

Day 2: Tupelo

What to Do and See: Start your Tupelo visit at the can’t-miss-it Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum. The museum encompasses the modest home built by Elvis’s father, a statue of Elvis at thirteen, a memorial chapel, a walk of life, fountain of life, and the Assembly of God Church that Elvis attended as a child. Next, stop by Tupelo Hardware Company, where Gladys Presley bought her son, Elvis, his first guitar as a tenth birthday gift. A Tupelo icon, this family-owned store is still in operation today.

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Continue tracing the legacy of the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” on the self-guided Elvis Presley Driving Tour, which reveals fourteen sites significant in the musician’s life. Get to grips with the local art scene by following the Off The Wall Mural Project throughout town, and by visiting the Caron Gallery, which hosts workshops and demos by Mississippi artists. The Gumtree Museum of Art, housed in a 1900s bank, also offers a thorough overview of Tupelo talent. Get a taste of sunshine at the first meadery in the state, Queen’s Reward Meadery, which makes mead from Mississippi honey. Where to Eat (and Wander): Serving Mediterranean fare with an Italian influence, Amsterdam Deli & Grill is a must-visit Tupelo dining destination and a hotspot for live music. Café 212 is a local hotspot serving gourmet sandwiches, homemade soups and salads. Clay’s House of Pig (CHOP) specializes in delicious ribs, “sammiches” and BBQ nachos made with homemade rubs and sauces. What makes CHOP’s barbecue extra special (and delicious) is its smoking process: every cut of meat is smoked with hickory, charcoal, and pecan on a smoker hand-built by Clay’s father. Head to Forklift Restaurant for farm-to-table Southern cuisine and handmade craft cocktails. Located in the oldest gas station in Lee County,

King Chicken Fillin’ Station serves all kinds of chicken so you can “eat like a king,” as the sign and mural suggest. Where to Stay: The Courtyard by Marriott, the Hilton Garden Inn, and Best Western Plus Inn & Suites are all tried-and-true options here.

Day 3: Grenada

What to Do and See: The 36,000-acre Grenada Lake—known for having some of the best crappie (or “sac au lait” for you South Louisiana visitors) fishing in the U.S.—offers abundant outdoor adventure and watersports. Continue your aquatic adventures along the Yalobusha River Paddling Trail, which winds through bottomland forest, sloughs, and croplands. The Malmaison Wildlife Management Area encompasses over 9,000 acres and is home to deer, rabbits, turkeys and squirrels, as well as oxbow lakes and swamps with great fishing opportunities. Get your game on at Dogwoods Golf Course in Hugh White State Park, which has been named one of the best affordable golf courses by Golf Digest. Downtown you will find three markers on the Mississippi Blues Trail commemorating the role Grenada played in Mississippi’s blues story. Dating back to 1868, Belle Flower Missionary Baptist Church remains a significant location. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered one of his

powerful speeches here. The Grenada Historical Museum, once the Grenada Bank, tells the story of the town’s origin and houses the largest selection of Coca-Cola® collectibles outside of Atlanta. Where to Eat (and Wander): Spencer’s Dairy Kream is an old-school ice cream shop serving summertime sweet treats. For delicious Italian cuisine, head to Carmella’s Ristorante, or for fresh steak and seafood, The Kennel Club Steakhouse offers a menu full of upscale surf-and-turf options in relaxed digs. Inspired by owner Deborah Bailey’s mother, Molly—who flew with the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots in World War II—Molly’s Place offers vintage cocktails and craft beers alongside its handcrafted Southern fare. Where to Stay: The Little Big House is a luxury cabin on Grenada Lake, making for easy access to the nearby hiking, swimming, and fishing opportunities. Popular with anglers aiming to get out on Grenada Lake, Big Oaks Lodge is a spacious home in a country setting. At Lofts on the Square, a newly-renovated downtown B&B, each room is named to represent the historical significance of a different aspect of Grenada.

24 Hours in Mississippi’s Hills Region Spend a horizon-expanding day discovering Oxford—a town often touted as the “cultural mecca of the South” While its reputation as an eccentric little college town and home to “Ole Miss” might precede it, Oxford is anything but just a college town. It boasts a rich literary tradition as the preferred stomping ground for American authors including William Faulkner, Barry Hannah, John Grisham, and Larry Brown. Even so, the town remained a mostly unassuming hidden gem until 1949, when William Faulkner won the Nobel Prize in Literature, garnering international acclaim and bolstering Oxford’s place in the public eye. Things to do and see: At the top of any mustsee list about Oxford will be the town square, referred to as just The Square, where some of the city’s best-loved shops, eateries, and art galleries have been in business for generations. A visit to vaunted independent booksellers Square Books is essential for bookworms and aspiring writers alike. Encompassing four stores on five floors across three buildings, Square Books has endured for more than forty years, and anchors many of the town’s cultural happenings and events. Local art galleries Oxford Treehouse Gallery (where visitors enter an unconventional, beautiful interior with much to appreciate), Southside

Gallery, and Gallery 130 at Ole Miss all warrant perusing. Architectural Digest named the Ole Miss campus one of the most beautiful in the country, so it’s worth wandering the grounds and The Grove of the “Harvard of the South” to see why. While you’re there, stop by the University of Mississippi Museum, which includes the estate of Rowan Oak, south of campus, the beautiful 1840 Greek Revival home where Faulkner spent his days imagining fictional worlds, until his death in 1962. Where to eat (and wander): National chain restaurants are not permitted in The Square. So every eatery is locally owned—many by chefs with the highest credentials, including James Beard awards and nominations. Helmed by Chef Joel Miller, The Ravine delivers some of the best fine dining in the region, with sophisticated and sumptuous fare all made inhouse. Ajax Diner is an Oxford landmark known for its down-home southern plate lunches that even the hungriest tailgaters will wait hours in line for on a busy gameday. Tribe Tarasque Cucina is a mom-and-pop

Italian family spot featuring classic pastas and rotating small plates sourcing Mississippi’s seasonal produce. At Mama Jo’s Country Cookin’, the beloved, home-style soul and country cuisine served by Mama Jo has filled local bellies for years, with everyone from workers on their lunch breaks, to the Chancellor of Ole Miss, stopping in for a slice of cake and sweet tea. For a sweet treat, head to Bottletree Bakery for fresh bread and pastries baked daily. Where to stay: Local luxury boutique hotels The Graduate Oxford and the Chancellor’s House Hotel both offer top-flight amenities like The Graduate’s rooftop bar, The Coop. You can also enjoy a beverage at the Chancellor’s Lounge before settling into one of its thirty-eight sumptuous rooms. For the complete college experience, stay on campus at The Inn at Ole Miss, which recently added a bar and grill to what was already a winning playbook. For comfortable and cozy accommodations that feel just like home, Oxford has several bed and breakfasts perfect for a couple’s getaway or girl’s trip. Check out Willowdale Farm B&B, The Nests at Holly Grove Farm, and The Z Oxford. // J U LY 2 1


Special Advertising Feature: Visit Mississippi

Into the Pines Region Central Mississippi includes the Choctaw Nation, cool casinos, the home of Mississippi State University, & a theatrical legend.


ith its diverse terrain and accessible blend of down-home fun, Central Mississippi’s Pines Region is beloved for its outdoor recreation, which includes all sorts of nature centers and adventure parks. That’s in addition to the network of markers that guide visitors along several of the state’s most fascinating cultural trails. The Pines can claim not one, but two twentieth-century cultural icons as native sons: playwright Tennessee Williams, who was born in Columbus, and Meridian’s Jimmie Rodgers, widely regarded as America’s “Father of Country Music.” In this region, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians built the world-class Pearl River Resort in Choctaw, right outside of Philadelphia. This complex offers two large casino/hotel properties—the Silver Star and the Golden Moon—welcoming visitors with a spa, upscale dining, a fun-filled water theme park, and two of the nation’s highest-rated golf courses at Dancing Rabbit Golf Club. Learn about the creative culture and customs of the Choctaw Tribe at the Chahta Immi Cultural Center. Starkville, the home of Mississippi State University, brings together the vibrant energy of a college town and the picturesque downtown and colorful Cotton District neighborhoods. On campus, visitors can look into the life of the eighteenth president of the United States at the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, and dive into the high-stakes world of legal thrillers in the John Grisham Room. Extend your walk and outdoor adventure with a hike or bike ride at the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. Within the city of Winona stands the largest observatory in Mississippi, the Rainwater

Observatory and Planetarium. Gaze into the awe-inspiring mysteries of outer space, or take a walk on the wild side and come soar, zip, climb, crawl, and swing through the treetops at one of the state’s most exhilarating adventure parks, Old Mountain Outdoor Adventures. Architectural masterpieces meet the great outdoors in Aberdeen, right on the banks of the 234-mile long Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. Also known as the Tenn-Tom, on its banks you’ll find Blue Bluff Recreation Area, a popular spot for hiking, fishing, camping, swimming, or just soaking in the combination of lush greenery and eighty-foot bluffs. The hub of Aberdeen’s entertainment emanates from the circa 1937 Elkin Theatre, which continues its cinematic legacy by showing films each week as well as occasional live performances. Discover another Aberdeen legacy—blues music—by following the trail markers along the Mississippi Blues Trail that winds through town. If you do, be sure not to miss the blues mural featuring legendary slide guitarist and singer Bukka White. Each fall the Bukka White Blues Festival brings live performances from local blues musicians to the banks of the river, to be enjoyed by the thousands of blues fans who come to town. In Meridian, it’s all about kids at the new stateof-the-art Mississippi Children’s Museum. Here you’ll find the WonderBox—Mississippi’s first filmmaker space for kids—and the only life-size recreation of interactive scenes from the classic children’s books Goodnight Moon and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Take a spin on the historic Dentzel Carousel, which has stood in the same location within Highland Park since 1909, and is the inspiration for the outdoor public art exhibit Around Town Carousels Abound. Tune into Meridian’s

musical legacy by visiting markers on the Mississippi Country Music Trail and celebrate the stardom of successful Mississippians at the Hall of Fame in the Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience. The Hall of Fame showcases Magnolia State greats including William Faulkner, Elvis Presley, and special exhibits about Meridian natives Jimmie Rodgers and Sela Ward. Outdoor destinations should definitely include Bonita Lakes Park—home to three lakes, and nature trails suited to horseback riding, hiking, and biking, and Okatibbee Lake, which is the perfect spot for camping and swimming. Aptly coined “The City That Has It All,” Columbus is infused with decades of Mississippi cultural history. Eudora Welty’s alma mater, Mississippi University For Women, stands as the nation’s first public college for women. The works of Welty and Williams, whose Victorian birthplace also serves as the local Welcome Center, earned Columbus a place on the Southern Literary Trail, but this is only the first of several paths worth following. Find Catfish Alley, once a hub for African-American business and social life, and the former site of the Queen City Hotel, which served as the center of African-American life throughout the early twentieth century and hosted blues, jazz, and R&B musicians including Duke Ellington and James Brown. Located along the TennesseeTombigbee Waterway, the Columbus Riverwalk and Trail expands over four miles of picturesque landscape that offers walking, biking, and picnicking. Take a token of your Columbus trek from the Rosenzweig Arts Center, the home of the Columbus Arts Council in the heart of the city’s downtown, and where you can find art exhibitions and local handcrafted works.

72 Hours in Mississippi’s Pines Region Ambling around Aberdeen, Columbus, and Starkville Day 1: Aberdeen

What to See and Do: Architectural masterpieces accompany the great outdoors in Aberdeen, a historic port city located on the 234-mile long Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. On the banks of the “Tenn-Tom” is Blue Bluff Recreation Area, a must-see spot for hiking, fishing, camping, swimming, or soaking in the views from its eighty-foot bluffs. Take the Architectural Driving Tour to see historic homes along tree-lined streets listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The hub of Aberdeen entertainment radiates from the historic 1937-built arthouse, the Elkin Theatre, which still shows films every week for just five dollars a ticket. Follow the Mississippi Blues Trail through town to find the mural honoring blues crooner and slide guitarist Bukka White. Each year Aberdeen hosts a music festival celebrating White’s legacy, and this year’s Bukka White

Blues Festival (along with the Ribs on the River BBQ competition) returns to Acker Park on October 15-16, 2021.

guided hunts, clay shoots, and top-notch accommodations.

Where to Eat (and Wander): The Friendship House Restaurant is known far and wide for its coveted catfish, which comes served baked or cornmeal-crusted—both filets and whole catfish are available. Find down-home country cuisine at Mildred’s Restaurant, which has the familiar, homey feel of Grandma’s house inside, and offers a spectacular Sunday lunch buffet. Where to Stay: The Old Place Bed and Breakfast welcomes weary travelers to a cozily furnished, restored bungalow farmhouse within a tranquil country setting. For sportsmen looking for some weekend respite as hunting season approaches, consider Prairie Wildlife—a conservation-driven sporting estate in the heart of the Black Prairie offering

What to See and Do: Coined “The City That Has It All,” Columbus overflows with cultural diversions as the home to a university and a major air force base. First on your list should be the meticulously restored Tennessee Williams Home Museum and Welcome Center, which was the first home of the famous playwright and American dramatist, whose oeuvre includes The Glass Menagerie (1944), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955). The alma mater of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and Mississippi native Eudora Welty, the Mississippi University for Women, stands as the nation’s first public college for women. Williams’ and Welty’s contributions to the literary canon earned Columbus a place on the tri-state Southern Literary Trail.

Day 2: Columbus

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Special Advertising Feature: Visit Mississippi

Explore historic Catfish Alley, once the center of African-American commerce and culture in the community. The former site of Queen City Hotel hosted musicians including Duke Ellington and James Brown. Located on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, the Columbus Riverwalk and Trail begins downtown at Main Street, and winds along four miles of scenic waterfront well-suited to walking, biking, and picnicking. Where to Eat (and Wander): Old Hickory Steak House’s rustic exterior mirrors its name, but don’t judge a book by its cover. This oldfashioned chophouse has been a Columbus staple since the sixties, and has appeared on several “best steaks in Mississippi” lists, focusing exclusively on steaks cooked over an open charcoal grill. Huck’s Place in downtown Columbus is a bit sleeker, featuring a menu overflowing with seafood, salad and steak options. Family-owned Harvey’s serves traditional wood-fired steak and ribs cooked over mesquite along with elevated gastropub fare in a warm, upscale interior. Zachary’s is known for its award-winning savory burgers, wraps, and todie-for bar food, along with weekly live music in casual digs. Where to Stay: Shadowlawn B&B exudes southern charm in a restored antebellum mansion. A Painted Lady of Columbus

is centrally located, offering comfortable accommodations in a gorgeous Victorian-style home with views of Cedar Point Amusement Park. Built in 1902, the Queen Anne-style Puckett House serves as the Mississippi University for Women’s bed and breakfast.

Day 3: Starkville

What to See and Do: As the home of Mississippi State University, Starkville invites visitors to tour campus and take a peek into the archives at Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library and the John Grisham Room, a collection that includes manuscripts, screenplays, and other materials from the bestselling author’s career. For farm-fresh fare to take home, stop by the MSU Cheese Store, or the State Fountain Bakery for homemade cakes and ice cream. In the city’s historic downtown, the Cotton District offers dozens of interesting storefronts to browse. The neighborhood, developed to provide tenant housing for cotton mill workers in the 1920s, has been revitalizing since the passage of the Urban Renewal Laws of the 1960s. Discover the region’s natural beauty by embarking on the hiking trails and boardwalks that wind through the wilderness of Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. Where to Eat (and Wander): On Main Street in the heart of downtown Starkville, 929 Coffee

Bar makes a great, sustainably-sourced cup of coffee. The Little Dooey is the most popular barbecue destination—a laid-back joint offering BBQ and catfish atop checkered tablecloths and with plenty of outdoor seating. Bin 612 boasts a casual, cafe-like ambiance and a menu featuring pizzas, panini, and burgers. Restaurant Tyler for fine fare and an amazing wine selection. Chef Jonathan “Ty” Thames is a supporter of the “eat local” movement and concentrates on using the freshest ingredients from around the Golden Triangle (the region defined by the cities of Columbus, Starkville, and West Point). Dave’s Dark Horse Tavern is a low-lit local pub that features local bands and a variety of deepdish and thin-crust pizzas. Where to Stay: In historic downtown Starkville, the restored Historic Hotel Chester, (circa 1925) invites guests into stately surroundings, conveniently located minutes from the MSU Campus. At Burnt Oak Lodge, spend a long day out hunting or fishing, sit by the fireplace, or claim one of the many rocking chairs scattered across the front porch. Montgomery B&B, is an historic home offering four private rooms in the main house, and one private cabin invites you to come relax.

24 Hours in Mississippi’s Pines Region Meandering around Meridian Things to Do and See: Curious little travelers unleash their imaginations at the state-ofthe-art Mississippi Children’s MuseumMeridian. Unique interactive exhibits include the WonderBox—a movie-making studio space where kids channel their favorite stories onto the silver screen—plus life-size recreations of characters from classic children’s literature. MCMM’s newly unveiled Fantastical Backyard provides entertaining—and educational—play all day. The Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience (MAX for short) puts the star power of Mississippians into the spotlight. The museum’s Hall of Fame features Meridian natives, country music icon Jimmie Rodgers, and actress Sela Ward. Also worth a visit is the Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum—one of just three steam-powered factories that has kept its original equipment intact. Tune into Meridian’s musical legacy by following the city’s markers along the Mississippi Country Music Trail and the Mississippi Blues Trail. Take a ride on the Dentzel Antique Carousel, a vintage carousel housed in Highland Park, then trot along to see Around Town Carousels Abound. Meridian’s outdoor public art project features thirteen fiberglass carousel horse sculptures placed around downtown.

Rose Hill Cemetery is where Meridian’s founders, John Ball and Lewis Ragsdale, are buried, as are the “King and Queen of the Gypsies,” and a Civil War burial mound that is featured on the local Civil War Trail. This trail includes markers indicating significant historic events in Meridian, like the path of General William Sherman’s Meridian Expedition, during which the city was captured by the Union general in 1864. The perfect spot for an outdoor outing in the Pines is Bonita Lakes Park, a green space encompassing three thousand acres along Meridian’s southeast edge. Here are three lakes and 20 miles of nature trails for horseback riding, hiking, paddling, fishing, and biking. Continue on to Okatibbee Lake for camping and swimming options. Where to Eat (and Wander): Indulge in a slice of the famous black bottom pie at Weidmann’s Restaurant, a Meridian institution steeped in tradition as the state’s oldest operating restaurant, and still serving classic Southern meals. Harvest Grill is a farm-to-table family spot serving what its Mississippi-born owners have dubbed “cross-country cuisine,” thanks to the influences of their culinary experiences in

Colorado and Hawaii (we recommend the Grand Marnier citrus beignets). The Rustler offers seafood, steak, and spirits in a fine dining atmosphere, or for something a little, well, messier, try Squealer’s Bar-B-Que for juicy, flavorful smoked and fried meats, including fried pig, fried mushrooms, and deep fried mac-andcheese. Take your pick of craft beers at Brickhaus Brewtique, a relaxed taproom hangout featuring 63 varieties, plus bar food bites and live music nights. Where to Stay: Spend the night in the picturesque Victorian quarters at Lion and Harp Bed and Breakfast, on ten acres in northwest Meridian. In downtown Meridian, the historic Century House Bed & Breakfast offers comfortable lodging in 6 suites. Meridian is home to multiple campgrounds. Pat Harrison Waterway Motel and Campground at Okatibbee Lake offers a variety of lodging options, including ample RV hookups, 3 campsites, and 4 cabins. Chunky River Recreation Campground & Trading Post occupies twenty acres along the Chunky River and offers twenty-seven campsites with access to fishing, paddling, or floating for a laid-back weekend on the water. // J U LY 2 1



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Napoleon. The beautifully-arranged tower of avocado, juicy crabmeat, and boiled egg is one of the menu’s more time-consuming dishes to construct, but alas—it is a customer favorite. Inside the cozy dining area, ambient with the last light of the evening pouring in through generous panes, most of the faces are familiar; regulars who visit once or twice a week. But to the new faces, perhaps soon-to-be-converts, the servers always recommend Executive Chef Alex Diaz’s specials. “It’s what I like to be known for,” Diaz said. Complementing a contemporary Northern Italian menu of pasta dishes ranging from Spaghetti Carbonara to Squid Ink Linguini and a tantalizing list of meat-focused mains—Braised Beef Short Rib, Coriander Crusted Tuna, and Veal Piccata among them—the specials are where Diaz shines. Centered by some intriguing protein or another—Manchac catfish, New Zealand lamb chops, soft shell crabs, or duck breast— each dish is a play on seasonal, local produce, and masterful manipulations of flavors. “We try to stick to Italian, but being from New Orleans—and half my family is from El Salvador—we cross paths as far as cuisine goes,” Diaz said. “We like to experiment, see what people react to. But we try to basically work with whatever is seasonal, whatever we can get our hands on.” Produce comes from Covey Rise Farms in Husser, along with a collection of other local farms. The spaghetti, gnocSMALL TOWN CHEFS chi, casarecce, pappardelle, linguini, and ravioli are all made by hand in house. The cheese comes from The Rind BRINGING CREATIVE ITALIAN FARE TO DOWNTOWN HAMMOND Shop around the corner. Every Thursday, the Family Fungi By Jordan LaHaye Fontenot • Photos by Lucie Monk Carter folks bring in an assortment of t’s only been two years since Cena Throughout the restaurant, black table- Hammond-grown mushrooms. And opened its doors in the heart of cloths will accentuate the vivid, glistening when in season, Northshore strawberHammond’s downtown district, oranges, reds, and fluffy whites of the ries go into everything Diaz can get hbut the sleek little Italian kitchen peach, heirloom tomato, and burrata away with. “The idea is to try to be as has already settled into its rhythms. The appetizer. In the back, one ticket after local and as from scratch as possible,” said Pork Osso Buco—braised for four hours another will come in with the scribbled Diaz. “And I think it shows in the food.” and served atop a creamy parmesan words “crawfish truffle mac & cheese,” Some of Diaz’s earliest food memories risotto with a drizzle of basil and mint and the kitchen staff will sigh as yet are of his El Salvadorian grandmother gremolata—will always nearly sell out. another order lists the Jumbo Lump Crab standing over the stove, making papusas

Chef Alex Diaz



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and empanadas stuffed with black beans and cheese. “She was always making these faces as she cooked,” he said. “You could tell she really cared about making us happy, making the family happy with what she was making. I definitely think that kind of boiled over to me.” Today, Diaz said, he occasionally sprinkles some Latin American influences into his Italian comfort dishes at Cena. But more often, he enjoys making El Salvadorian dishes at home with his family. “Every year for Thanksgiving, I have a turkey recipe,” he said. “A three-day marinated turkey, baked in a bag, spiced with toasted sesame seeds, some ground up prunes, and lots of other spices. Once you try it, you won’t have another turkey.” Though his grandmother’s cooking certainly continues to inspire him today, Diaz said that his calling to the kitchen came long after the papusa-making memories of his youth. As a child, “I was more interested in eating,” he laughed. “The answers definitely came when I got older, when I saw how complex [cooking] could be.” Diaz’s culinary journey officially began, he said, when he was a teenager washing dishes at Alex Patout’s in Mandeville. There, he observed the fast-paced, light-hearted sense of camaraderie that blooms in a kitchen environment, “And I kind of fell in love with that.” Since then, he’s hopped from shore to shore, sharpening his skills at restaurants like Vincent’s Italian Cuisine, Etoile Restaurant & Wine Bar, Mandina’s, Josephine Estelle, and Liz’s Where Y’at Diner. “I enjoy the chaos,” he said, “the instant gratification that comes with getting your butt kicked all night, then it all coming together.” Diaz came to Cena through his friendship with owner Chanc Kinchen, who has been working in Hammond’s restaurant industry since 1995. “In this business, sometimes you just realize—you come across somebody and your work ethics, your personalities, your styles just work really well together,” Kinchen said of his working relationship and eventual friendship with Diaz. In 2018, with the opportunity to purchase the little building at the corner of Cate Street and US 190 in the center of downtown Hammond, Kinchen was finally ready to bring his dream restaurant to life. And he knew right off the bat that Diaz was the chef for the job. “The idea was to bring Hammond something they had never seen before,” Kinchen said. Since 2011, he had been developing the concept secretly—“I didn’t tell anybody, not even my parents. I had it

all on paper in notebooks.” The idea for a fresh, Italian-driven menu and space came from a trip to St. Helena, California, when Kinchen stepped into a little café in the downtown area for a quick glass of wine. “As soon as I walked in there, it was like everything I had in my head right in front of me.” Diaz brought his experience in Italian restaurants around the Northshore and New Orleans areas to the new menu, and helped Kinchen open Cena in March 2019. “He knew how to roll pasta, he knew exactly what I wanted,” said Kinchen. “We have always worked hard, side by side, having management meetings every week to talk about fresh ideas and to keep everything going forward. He knocks it out of the park, day in and day out.” Still, opening up a restaurant branded Italian in a small town like Hammond came with certain expectations. “We can do lasagna, we can do meatballs,” Diaz said. “But we’ve kind of had to teach our clientele, for lack of a better word, that we have so much more to offer.” For the first few months, to appease the spaghetti-craving crowd, Cena hosted Tuesday Sicilian nights. “They were great for a while,” said Diaz. “But then they just kind of fizzled out. People realized what we could really do.” It didn’t take long for the regulars to establish themselves. Two years later, Diaz

says that about eighty percent of business is made up of familiar faces. A New Orleans native, Diaz explained that this proximity to his customers is part of what has kept him more inclined towards working in smaller towns like Hammond on the outskirts of the Big Easy. “I like the idea that we see the same customers all the time,” he said. “It really is a nice community to be part of.” And sitting in the corner at Cena— the sidewalks of Cate Street just across the glass coming alive as Hammond’s gentle nightlife starts to awaken—you can see it. At the bar, glasses filled with limoncello spritz clink in celebration. A baby laughs across the way. An older man twirls up his carbonara and tells the passing hostess hello, and a couple digs into each end of their peaches and burrata plate. The waiter asks if I’ve ever been there before, and I tell him yes— and that I’ll take the night’s special. h Visit to find Chef Alex Diaz’s recipe for classic pesto. // J U LY 2 1





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here are certain revered menu staples one can expect to find at a Gulf Coast steakhouse: garlic mashed potatoes, a Caesar salad, an upscale mac and cheese, perhaps. These are all available at Field’s Steak and Oyster Bar in Bay St. Louis, to be sure—but under former Executive Chef Lauren Joffrion’s hand, you could also find pan-seared snapper atop squid ink fettuccine in a Thai tom yum broth with sweet corn butter, Korean Gochugaru oil, hot and sour shrimp, and wonton chips; or a Gulf seafood bouillabaisse that ups the aromatic ante with the addition of saffron. Lauren Joffrion you see, is not your average Bay St. Louis chef. In fact, her unique brand of creative culinary eclecticism piqued the interest of 2017 Small Town Chefs award-winner Jeffrey Hansell—who just before this issue went to press hired Joffrion as sous chef at his newest venture in Bay St. Louis. Right around the corner from Field’s in the first floor of the Pearl Hotel overlooking the Gulf, The Thorny Oyster aims to “celebrate bold, strong, and nuanced flavors from around the world”––which happens to align perfectly with Joffrion’s approach to cuisine. “That’s my whole thing, I want to give everybody something you can’t get anywhere else around here,” Joffrion told me. Surely enough, one would be hardpressed to find many spots on the Mississippi Gulf Coast offering a special of fried fish nestled in yellow curry. “It took a while for everyone around here to like curry,” Joffrion recalled of introducing the dish to the menu at Field’s. “The first one I ever ran did not sell at all. I was like ‘Man, curry’s not going to do too well around here.’” Two years later, she’s certainly gained the trust of Bay St. Louis diners, and her elevated curry specials became a guaranteed sell-out. “A lot of times I’ll eat a dish somewhere and think of how I can make it completely different, but in my style,” Joffrion explained. “Or I’ll go to the Asian markets sometimes, and see something I’ve never seen before, and think ‘How can I cook with that?’ And I’ll try to make it work somehow.” Though Joffrion grew up just down the coast from Bay St. Louis in Gulfport, her fascination and reverence for Asian cuisine and ingredients goes back to her childhood. When she was only three years old, her mother noticed her interest in cooking and bought her a step stool so she could reach the countertop to help prepare meals. “My parents like a lot of interesting foods; they travel a lot,” Joffrion said. She and her parents would watch Yan Can Cook on PBS, gleaning Chinese techniques and ingredient ideas from James Beard Award-winning host

Martin Yan. “My parents would take me to the Asian markets when I was younger and let me pick out stuff, and we’d get the ingredients and go home and cook together.” Though food has always been important to Joffrion, making a career of cooking was not her initial intent. After high school, she enrolled at Mississippi State University as an architecture major. She enjoyed it, but as she learned to draft floor plans, cooking continued to call her name. Halfway through her second year, she decided to leave college to answer that call to the kitchen. With three semesters of university tuition to pay off, Joffrion knew that attending culinary school wouldn’t be an option. She decided that to pursue a career as a chef, she would have to work her way up in restaurant kitchens from the bottom. “In the beginning [my parents] weren’t too thrilled with that,” Joffrion remembered. “They were kind of on the fence about it, but still very supportive. And my mom was like, ‘If you put your mind to it, I know you’ll make it happen. I trust you.’” Gaining trust—and proving herself trustworthy—is a bit of a theme weaving through Joffrion’s career. So, Joffrion began to work her way up. She dish-washed, did prep, and eventually landed her first kitchen job at the fast-casual sandwich and salad chain Newk’s. After that she became a live-in private chef in Lafayette for a time, before returning to the Gulf Coast to work as a cook at Stalla, the Italian restaurant in the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. Eventually she was hired by David Dickensauge at now-closed 27th Avenue Bistro in downtown Gulfport, who wasn’t looking for a chef per say, but needed a pastry chef. “I kind of really needed a job, and I’d dabbled in pastry, but I wasn’t super familiar with it,” Joffrion said. “But I guess he trusted me.” As part of the hiring process, she was asked to make a dessert. “I’m panicked,” she said. “I go home, and I’m like: pana cotta! It’s like a blank canvas, I can do a lot of different stuff with that.” It clearly impressed: she landed the pastry chef job, and later became sous chef at 27th Avenue Bistro, as well. Joffrion’s unique spins on pana cotta continued to grace the dessert menu at Field’s; her titles there included pastry chef in addition to executive chef. It was during Joffrion’s time at 27th Avenue Bistro that her work piqued the admiration of Field Nicaud when he was opening Field’s Steak and Oyster Bar. After seeing the food photos on Joffrion’s Instagram, Nicaud and friends had a few meals at 27th Avenue Bistro to test Joffrion’s consistency, then reached out and offered her a sous chef position at Field’s. Joffrion opened Field’s in April 2019.

At first, Nicaud was relatively hands-on in the kitchen right beside her, but before long he stepped back and promoted her to executive chef. “He was like, ‘I’m stepping back and I’m trusting you with this place,” she said. After two years of proving her worth as executive chef at Field’s, this June, Joffrion accepted Jeffrey Hansell’s offer to lead the kitchen at The Thorny Oyster next door, which promises ample opportunity for her to flex her signature creativity. “Lauren is one of the handful of young chefs in Coastal Mississippi who is striving to change the way people perceive a traditional Southern dish,” said Alex Perry, Executive Chef of Vestige in Ocean Springs (and 2020 Small Town Chef) who nominated Joffrion for this year’s Small Town Chefs Award. “She uses techniques that she learned through training, but also through her cultural surroundings (including Asian cuisine styles gleaned from the communities in the region), to offer her own seasonal and surprising twist on local, Southern fare. It is because of young chefs like Lauren, who choose to defy the ordinary and consistently push the boundaries in culinary offerings, that Coastal Mississippi is currently flourishing as a booming, progressive culinary scene.” At Field’s, Joffrion, twenty eight, led a kitchen staff entirely made of up of teenagers and twenty somethings. Being selftaught, she said that she likes to foster a kitchen culture that allows everyone to learn as they go. “I just make sure when I’m learning, they’re learning as well. And when I explain why I do something, I also explain how I’ve messed it up before, and what not to do,” she said. “But I don’t take myself too seriously, and we pretty much just have a lot of fun and do what we do.” Forever a student of her craft, Joffrion is eager to learn from her newest employer. “Jeffrey Hansell showcases the food he loves most, which goes all the way back to his roots. I’m excited to be a part of that, as well as helping with future menu development,” Joffrion said of this new chapter in her career. “I’m hoping to bring some Southern flare with a hint of modernity. I’m grateful for this opportunity, and I’m excited to begin this new journey.” h Visit to find Chef Lauren Joffrion’s recipe for Matcha Chai Pana Cotta. Photo of Chef Lauren Joffrion by Alexandra Kennon. Food photos by Joffrion.

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Chef Paolo Cenni A SECOND-GENERATION MASTER OF ITALIAN FARE IN PONCHATOULA By Lauren Heffker • Photos by Lucie Monk Carter


ucked away in historic downtown Ponchatoula, on a quiet drizzly Friday afternoon, Paolo’s Restaurant and Wine Bar emits a hazy glow from within the old Gateway Building. Even amid the dull, cloudy weather, it’s hard to miss the large green, neon-lit arrow above the eatery’s sign, pointing toward the entryway alcove nestled within its brick façade, beckoning you inside. Two large bay windows, each etched with gold lettering bearing the restaurant’s name, frame the front door. Inside, the Old World meets the New; white tablecloths drape atop red-checkered ones, each with a tea candle and small cut rose at the center. Little touches like these make Paolo’s feel inarguably authentic, emanating a romantic ambiance that’s both charming and classic, yet without the stuffiness or pretentiousness that tends to hover around some Italian/European eateries. Chef Paolo Cenni himself has the look of one who has spent years in the fast-paced, high-stakes stainless steel 38

world of “the culinary underbelly,” as fellow Italian and chef Anthony Bourdain would put it. His arms each bearing a colored tattoo sleeve, with a short charcoal beard, he speaks quickly and off the cuff, gesturing with his hands to punctuate certain points in a story (“It’s been twenty-six years in the kitchen, you know, and it’s taken its toll on my ears, the hood, always the ears.”). His menu is undoubtedly influenced by his own culinary upbringing; Paolo’s father, Piero Cenni, owned and operated the Ristorante Da Piero in Ponchatoula, and later in Kenner’s historic Rivertown, for nearly twenty years. Inspired by the Bolognese cuisine of his native Emilia-Romagna, a region in northern Italy known for its richness in regards to gastronomy, the food at Piero’s echoed that of big name Italian chefs downtown, the setting intimate in a century-old shotgun cottage on Williams Boulevard. When he was just eighteen, Piero sent Paolo back home to Italy to learn from their extended family of restaurateurs and hospitality business owners,

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and to hone his culinary chops apprenticing in some of the finest kitchens in the world. Over the course of three trips to the peninsula, he cultivated a deep appreciation for fresh, simple food made with the best seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients available. Prior to his sojourns to Italy, Paolo had staged in a few French Quarter kitchens and New Orleans institutions like Commander’s Palace, but upon his return, he continued to hone his skill in the kitchen at his father’s place, where he met chefs like Donald Link, Emeril Lagasse, and Jim Bremer. “When I got back from Italy, I rocked my dad’s kitchen. I had a passion to bring back what I saw and learned, what I thought that my dad might not have already known—but he knew all along, of course, you know, he’s from Faenza.” As long as he can remember, Paolowas always interested in cooking; he grew up pretending to pan-fry pine cones in a skillet in the family’s Irish Channel neighborhood backyard. While culinary school didn’t quite work out thanks to a few too many late nights spent at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, as he tells it, his apprenticeships proved to be even more valuable than a degree. “For me, it was

just something that I just had to do. I would just put on my green Crocs and my little bandana and I would just come downstairs like okay, it’s five o’clock, I’m ready for service.” When it came to embarking on his own endeavor, the now forty-two-yearold was drawn back to the small town of Ponchatoula, where his father had originally opened Ristorante da Piero in 1997 before moving it to Jefferson Parish in 2004. The doors of Paolo’s first opened as Ristorante Foodie four years ago, until in early 2020, he teamed up with new owner Coleen Enmon and unveiled the newly renovated and rebranded Paolo’s Restaurant and Wine Bar. The menu’s mainstays focus on house-made pasta, from hand-rolled linguine and tagliatelle to seafood-centric dishes like blue crab and blackened shrimp. Even a simple margherita pizza is made using the freshest mozzarella, the crust crafted by an old family recipe. “For me, it’s a passion and something that I really look forward to, sourcing ingredients. But it takes time.” Beloved by the local crowd, Paolo’s has a loyal following on Facebook, where he posts rotating daily and weekly specials. This is where he can be creative, using plates as a can-

vas to incorporate ingredients based on what’s fresh and available, from fried flounder and yellowfin tuna ponzu, to grilled redfish and even marinated squid, to tender roasted meats like rabbit confit and grilled veal chops. Bringing this sort of high-quality, flavor-dense cuisine to a place like Tangipahoa Parish, a largely rural area somewhat far removed from the bon vivant culture of the robust food and drink scene of New Orleans, and making it accessible and affordable, is no small feat. “I’m trying to keep that but at the same time, I like to be prudent to what people want out here,” said Paolo. “All these little things, it’s normal in Italy, but here it’s something to appreciate. Especially when I send out a housemade pizza. You taste that crust and it’s like, okay, this is something special, or a fresh mozzarella salad the way we do it, it’s something special.” And it is; I can attest to that. Venturing out to Paolo’s for lunch recently, I ordered the fried eggplant bocconcini, caprese salad, and that day’s special, a muffuletta. While all can be considered standard Italian fare, (though the muffuletta is technically considered a New Orleans-Italian creation) I’m of the opinion that you can really judge the caliber of a place based on its most common, customary offerings. And I was blown away. I’ve always loved a good charcuterie spread, but when it comes to muffulettas, I tend to retreat at the marinated olive salad. For Paolo’s Sicilian sandwich, however, I take it all back; the experience of devouring it—all of the food, in fact—was so sublimely satisfying, so profoundly nourishing, it was overwhelming at first. I remember thinking “This is what real food tastes like.” The father of eight is now training his oldest son, Dominick, beside him in the kitchen, ensuring this family affair is sustained through the third generation. “I think everything’s perfect. It’s a small little business, and we’re packed,” Paolo said. “We’re not static, and I’m optimistic because the food world is always evolving, and it has to, because it’s an art. I feel like it’s just getting better and better.” h

Visit Paolo’s Restaurant and Wine Bar on Facebook for Chef Paolo’s latest specials. Visit to find an original Italian recipe by Chef Paolo Cenni.

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Illustration by Alexander Cardosi




Story and photo by Jason Vowell

was somewhere around Krotz Springs, on the edge of Acadiana, when the hunger began to take hhold. Blasting down highway 190 with my headlights pointed in the direction of the Big Easy, I had skipped the continental breakfast at my Super 8 motel in Mamou and shot straight into the heart of the Louisiana boudin trail—a mad dash through Lafayette, Scott, Breaux Bridge, Opelousas, New Iberia, and every small town slaughterhouse in between. 40

I hit Billy’s and Don’s, Babineaux’s and Bergeron’s. I hit The Best Stop and Billeaud’s, Chops and Charlies, Kelly’s and Kirk’s. I bought boudin at Johnson’s and Jerry Lee’s, Juneau’s and Janise’s, Redlich’s and Richard’s. I was on the mission of a madman: to hunt down and procure dozens of links of Louisiana’s finest regional delicacies, then fly like a bat outta Hell back to New Orleans for an evening of culinary debauchery. I’d assemble a crew of diverse, discerning palates, and we’d try as we might to taste as many links of boudin as

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we could stuff in our bellies. The mission? A monumental task: for our own satisfaction alone, we would attempt to answer the burning question … Who really does make the best boudin? The trunk of my car looked like a meat market counter: coolers stuffed with still-steaming sausages—spicy boudin, smoked boudin, wet boudin, dry boudin; boudin with big hunks of pork, big hunks of liver; whole rice or mashed, smashed, and ground—all bound up in a casing that either possesses that signature snap when you sink

your teeth into it or is best enjoyed as a tube for squeezing. I remember thinking, “I feel a bit lightheaded. I should pull over.” So, I spun the tires into the gravel lot at Kartchner’s Grocery for something to take the edge off, to quell the growling beast in the pit of my stomach. Kartchner’s looks a bit like one of those saloons you see in old Western films: weathered railroad wood exterior and sun-bleached four-by-four pillars. The little warning bell jangled loudly when I pushed open the door. A wave of anxiety

swept through me as a room full of locals, all munching away on boudin balls the size of their fists, swung around to glare in my direction. I must have looked starved. Famished. And probably a little out of place. A stereotypical city boy off the beaten path. Like so many other Louisiana backroad butchering establishments, the walls were lined with buzzing coolers displaying the faded logos of long-extinct fizzy drinks. Their flickering tubes of charged vapor illuminated row after row of specialty meats: chickens stuffed with crawfish dressing, bacon-wrapped venison backstrap, rabbits rubbed crimson with Cajun seasoning, chunky smoked andouille, whole turduckens, a seemingly endless variety of sausages. Intoxicated by the smell of spices and wood smoke and hot grease, I bought a couple steaming links of boudin, with some heavily seasoned cracklin’s for good measure, and tore back out onto the highway, squeezing the innards of a perfect link into my open mouth like Popeye squeezing a can of spinach. With a wave of euphoria, my strength returned. Wiping my hands on the front of my shirt, I cranked the radio with greasy fingers, rolled down the window, and zoomed through the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge, past the swamps filled with equally hungry gators, my sights set on the lights of the Crescent City. If you ask ten people in Louisiana where their favorite boudin is made, you’ll likely get seventeen answers. That’s why my comrades in battle arrived at a stalemate during our marathon taste test that fateful night, a hung jury moaning in agony, soon to burst from tasting, debating, and absolutely reveling in every moment of our quest for the best. Between sips of good bourbon, we all agreed on one thing: boudin may, quite possibly, be the world’s most perfect food. Which is why Louisiana natives can get somewhat defensive, or let’s say a bit precious, about anyone messing with the recipe of traditional boudin. How is it that we get so up in arms about a foodstuff that is many times best served from the counter in the back of a gas station? What is it exactly that makes boudin . . . boudin? Rice, seasoning, aromatics, and pork? Even a career mathematician would struggle to equate the seemingly endless variations that lie in those four building blocks. And aside from what is inside, reworking the boudin vessel is nothing new or the least bit controversial. Or is it? Long ago ingenious cooks began swapping out boudin’s traditional casing for a roll though some peppery, wet batter and giving it a nice bath in the deep fryer un-

til crispy and golden. Someone brilliantly realized along the way that a flour tortilla had more structural integrity, which in turn saved the front of many a shirt from ruin while eating boudin and driving. Next came boudin egg rolls, boudin pistolettes, boudin and egg breakfast biscuits. At some point, gooey pepper jack cheese became an enthusiastically embraced addition to the mix. In the right hands, an already perfect dish can be made even better, elevated. Still, some of these sinful variations cause debates as heated as politics and football. This got me thinking, and the beast in my stomach groaning once again. So once more, I put rubber to the road and set out to get my hands on some of the boudin variations that have had people whispering in hushed tones, while also— sometimes secretly—lining up to get their fix. Just twenty six miles west of New Orleans, along the levee of the Mississippi River in Luling, Jason Gonzalez has been turning the idea of boudin on its head. In 2016, after being laid off from the Shell Oil Company, Gonzalez started cooking Texas-style barbecue at farmers markets and local breweries. He quickly amassed a following, and in 2020 opened his brick and mortar, Gonzo’s Smokehouse & BBQ. Realizing there was a tragic shortage of good boudin in the area surrounding New Orleans, Gonzalez made it his mission to put his own signature spin on the sausage. So, he started experimenting with what he knew best: barbecue. What came next was an epiphany. Using the trimmings from his juicy, peppery briskets, Gonzalez started making smoked brisket boudin. Next came the beef cheek barbacoa boudin, then pork belly “burntend” boudin. Unsurprisingly, as his boudin menu grew, so did the line outside his door. Gonzo’s is only open on Fridays, but Gonzalez sells out every weekend. To the north in Baton Rouge, Pastime Restaurant, a pizza hub that is celebrating its seventy-fifth year in business, has had to trademark their zany Boudin Pizza to keep competitors from stealing the idea. They pile hand-stretched dough high with chopped purple onion, green bell peppers, jalapeños, and lots of their special house boudin, then smother it all in a shredded-to-order three cheese blend. This signature creation is cooked in an old stone floor oven for an extra crispy crust. On any given day you can find politicians, celebrities, and LSU students hunched over a boudin pie. Eighty miles away, T-Boy’s Slaughter house in Mamou is a six-time Peoples Choice winner of the Lafayette Original

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Fear and Loathing continued . . . Boudin Cook-Off. It is also home to one of the few links in the state that could help you lose a few pounds. T-Boy’s is one of the many shops around the region (including Hebert’s, Cormier’s, and NuNu’s Fresh Market) that has hopped on the keto diet trend and started offering a low carb boudin option made with cauliflower instead of rice. And if you can’t take a road trip to Acadiana, T-Boy’s ships their low carb boudin to all fifty states. This healthier alternative holds its own against the traditional boudin with its big hunks of pork and house-perfected spice blend. While traditional boudin will always reign in Louisiana, we must be careful that we don’t let nostalgia confine our horizons too narrowly. We owe it to the next generation, and our taste buds, to be open to fresh interpretations. Whether it be boudin from a back counter in a gas station, an established and loved meat market, or the white table cloths of the French Quarter. We have all the momentum. And with the right eye, you can see the delicious wave of inspiration rolling out from the past to the future, bridging the divide—one link of boudin at a time. h

Gonzo’s brisket boudin, created by Texas barbecue extraordinaire Jason Gonzalez, is one example of pearl-clutch-inducing innovation in the realm of boudin-making. Photo by Jason Vowell.

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For Goodness’ Sake


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ouisiana’s first sake brewery got its start in 2019, when Nan Wallis left a bag of rice on hLindsey Beard’s front porch. Just a few weeks before, the pair of long-time friends had been discussing the way the Japanese, rice-based drink has been catching on across the country— but not in Louisiana. Beard said that somebody should open a sake brewery in New Orleans, especially considering that Louisiana ranks third in the nation for rice production. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, they should,’” Wallis agreed. When the two parted ways, Wallis

kept thinking about the conversation and started to research sake production. Two weeks later, she dropped the bag of rice on Beard’s porch with a note that said: “Call me”. Wallis had come to the conclusion that, yes, somebody should be making sake in New Orleans, and— as she told Beard over the phone—“It should be us.” Deciding they wanted to brew their sake with Louisiana-grown rice or not at all, Wallis and Beard turned to the experts at the LSU AgCenter’s H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station near Crowley for assistance ascertaining the perfect grains. From their research, they knew

that sake brewing requires short grain rice, because when the rice is milled, it removes more of the protein layer from the exterior of the rice, leaving only the starch at the center of the grain; only short grain rice contains the necessary amount of starch. Wallis and Beard were initially discouraged to learn that though Louisiana is the third-largest rice producing state in the U.S., the vast majority of rice grown here is long grain—medium grain is occasionally grown to feed livestock and things along those lines, but Louisiana-grown short grain rice was essentially unheard of. After initial testing with medium grain

rice went poorly, the pair nearly gave up on their Louisiana rice-made sake dream. Then, they got an unexpected call from Dustin Harrell, resident coordinator of the Rice Research Station and former LSU AgCenter rice specialist. “I have the perfect rice for you!” he told Wallis, who was in disbelief—they had visited the Rice Station countless times over the course of two and a half years, and each time had been told there was no rice available with the qualities they required. Harrell told them about “Pirogue” rice, a short-grain Louisiana-grown rice created by a now-retired LSU AgCenter rice breeder named Steve Linscombe in 2003. The rice was originally bred to be grown in Abbeville for a Puerto Rican market. There were still a couple of substantial catches, though: the first was that the long-forgotten short grain rice only existed in seed form at that point, meaning Wallis and Beard would have to wait for it to be planted in March and harvested that August. The second hangup was that though the pair only needed two pounds to see if the rice would even be conducive to brewing sake, the smallest amount the AgCenter could grow them was seven thousand pounds. “[Harrell] was like, ‘Even if we just grow one little patch, that’s gonna be seven thousand pounds,’” Wallis said. “And I was like, ‘I gotta call you back.’” Wallis and Beard knew that it was a stop or go decision: “Do you take the risk for the reward?” Beard said they wondered. They took the risk, and a whole sake brewery later, they and the sake lovers of Louisiana are now enjoying the reward. “If that rice had not tested well, we wouldn’t have done the brewery,” said Wallis. During that spring and summer period of 2019 while they waited for their rice to grow, the two continued to research, create their business plan, talk with brewers, and set the other practical necessities of a brewery in place so they would be ready when the crop came in. When they were able to have the rice lab-tested to ensure it had the proper high-starch, low-protein, low-iron characteristics, the results showed that the grains were ideal for sake brewing. “We were high-fiving, because it worked out really well,” Wallis said. The AgCenter grew them 100,000 pounds of the Pirogue rice in 2020, which they’re currently using to brew, while another crop is growing for an August 2021 harvest. “We have about 240,000 pounds in the ground right now,” Wallis said. That translates to a lot of sake. Finding a space for their brewery was another challenge that took them over a year to accomplish, which included those // J U LY 2 1


Sake continued . . . months that the first crop of rice was in the ground. “We would drive around all day, we would open garage doors, and warehouse doors, and talk to people,” Wallis said. No one knew of any large enough space available. “Literally, we would drive around, and she’d be like ‘Look! That one looks empty!’” Beard recalled. “And I’d open it and be like, ‘Mardi Gras float, again! Everything’s filled with Mardi Gras floats!’” Opening a business in New Orleans poses unique obstacles, to be sure. The space they landed on, adjacent to the Dickie Brennan Group’s Commissary off of Tchoupitoulas, is seven thousand square feet that they had to build out entirely. Still a work in progress, the space will eventually include a taproom in the front area—hopefully to be completed by the end of summer. For now, there are four brewers cranking out Wetlands’ simple-yet-nuanced sakes with a combined forty years of experience in beer brewing and distilling. Over the course of the three years that Wallis and Beard worked toward actualizing their plan, they brought in three different brewers with Japanese experience to train their team. It was easy enough to find folks familiar with brewing beer in Louisiana; sake, not so much. “[The brewers] came with their own experience and deep backgrounds, but now they’ve been trained to convert their knowledge into knowing what to do with sake,” Wallis said. Now, Wetlands even makes their own koji, a key ingredient in sake; one of only four ingredients that goes into Wetlands’ product (rice, water, yeast, and koji—the sparkling varieties also include the addition of natural fruit flavoring). Wallis described koji as somewhat comparable to a sourdough starter. Koji begins as steamed, milled rice, then enters the hot and humid koji room (yes, hotter and more humid than even a New Orleans summer), where koji spores—a foodgrade mold commonly used in products like miso and soy sauce in Japan—are added. For the first twenty-four hours of heat and humidity, the koji spores grow, then for the next twenty-four hours the humidity is removed to allow the koji spores to dry into the rice. Then the koji, more steamed rice, water, and yeast go into the fermentation tanks, where the koji converts the rice starch into sugar, which is consumed by the yeast to yield alcohol. The sake is then passed through a membrane filter press to remove the rice sediments, and then pasteurized to halt the fermentation process and stabilize the sake, ensuring a longer shelf life. “It’s gluten-free, it’s hand-crafted, it’s vegan, there is no artificial anything added—no preservatives, no additives,” Wallis said. “So, it’s very clean and pure.” So clean, in fact, that some have said sake 44

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doesn’t cause hangovers. “I’m not really gonna tout that—if you drink enough of anything you’re gonna get a hangover,” Wallis said. “But it’s a clean drink.’ After three long years of work that included the rice dilemma, the warehouse hunt, and a whole slew of other COVID-related setbacks, Wetlands Sake became available in local grocery stores in March 2021. Now, the sakes are available across the state in major grocery stores such as Winn Dixie and Rouses, as well as smaller local chains like Breaux Mart and Calandro’s; plus smaller local wine, beer, and spirits retailers like Bin Q, Martin’s Wine Cellar, 504 Craft Beer Reserve, and Alexander’s Highland Market. Now that people are again drinking in places besides their own homes, Wetlands Sake is available in local restaurants and bars, too. “It’s blossoming, and we’ll hopefully move seamlessly into the taproom and the whole experiential element being a part of it too,” said Katrina Matthews, director of marketing for Wetlands Sake. Currently all four varieties of Wetlands Sake are available in cans: unfiltered (a cloudy, lightly floral beverage more akin to traditional sake), filtered, or sparkling (which is lighter, fizzier, and includes natural passionfruit or blood orange flavors). Once the taproom opens, the team looks forward to debuting different infusions that will rotate, flights, sake cocktails, and other creative interpretations. “This will be a fun experience for people to come and try sake, and then we can share our love of sake with them,” Wallis said. “We think the educational piece is important, because people trying our sake will open their eyes to trying other sakes that are being imported,” Beard said. “Hopefully that means that sake will grow in general in Louisiana.” They also hope to open people’s minds to the wide variety of cuisine that sake pairs well with, beyond just sushi and hibachi. And while they think it certainly elevates any food experience, Beard and Wallis also want to assert their sake’s place as an excellent option for a standalone, grab-and-go alternative to beer or hard seltzer. “We put it in a can because we want people to take it with them everywhere,” Beard told me. “We don’t think it needs to be paired with food—it pairs well with life.” Both having grown up in New Orleans, the two women understand the importance of being able to throw a canned drink in a cooler to bring on the parade route, or on the fishing boat, or wherever. “We were committed from the beginning to doing cans,” Wallis said. “Because we were thinking: one, it’s the most recyclable packaging out there; and two, we wanted the whole single serving grab-and-go thing.” Another commitment Wallis and Beard made when they first conceived

of Wetlands Sake is right in the name: they’ve pledged to donate two percent of all profits to Save America’s Wetlands. “We were pretty intent on the fact that the wetlands were such an important part of it for us,” Wallis explained. “Because we’ve both lived here our whole lives, and we’ve experienced hurricanes, and we’ve experienced flooding, and we’ve experienced farmers losing crops because they get flooded out, and we need the conservation of wildlife, and the wetlands, and the coastal safety of that. We grew up being familiar with that; we also grew up having access to the beauty of the wetlands and the benefit of the wetlands . . . if we can do it where we can help restore that, and use Louisiana resources—that was really the intention.” Save America’s Wetlands is a national organization; as Wetlands Sake eventually launches into other states, Beard and Wallis will identify wetlands conservation efforts in those areas to contribute to. “So, in each state we go into, we’ll try to take the opportunity to find someone who’s doing good work in that market,” Wallis said. That’s why she and Beard chose the heron for their logo—there are wetlands all over the world, and in all of them, there are herons. “It’s a bird that everyone recognizes,” Beard said. “There are different species of it, obviously—a lot of them—but it’s a bird that no matter where you go, people can relate to it.”

There’s another, smaller, more hyper-local way Wetlands Sake is giving back: the leftover compressed rice filtered off after the fermentation process (called kasu) goes to “The Reverend”, a farmer in Jefferson Parish who feeds it to his cows. After talking with Wallis and Beard and touring the shiny new brewery, which is already saturated in a sweet, subtly-sour sake scent, I stepped out into a sunny, hot New Orleans day to find The Reverend, clad in shrimp boots, loading his truck bed with buckets of the kasu. “Are you the farmer who’s feeding his cows the leftover sake rice?” I asked. “Oh yes ma’am! They’re lovin’ it too. They love it, and I love them! It keeps them happy, and let me tell you: they are so tender!” The fact that the mashed rice byproduct of Wetlands Sake is so enjoyed by cows across the Huey P. Long Bridge— and consequentially by those who enjoy said cows—perhaps serves as an indicator of how enjoyable the sake itself is to humans. As someone who’s tried it—now with barbecue poolside, Lebanese food in the living room, and all on its own—I must agree that this cooler-friendly, subtly sweet and floral, refreshing-yet-deceptively-boozy Japanese drink is in Louisiana to stay. h

Wetlands Sake owners Lindsey Beard (left) and Nan Wallis (right) in front of their brewery off of Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans. They hope to open a taproom by the end of the summer, with eventual plans for an outdoor patio space, as well.

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sausage anywhere else in the world that lives up to Teet’s, or boudin that holds a candle to T-Boy’s. And to, as a child, be just a little bit confused when you heard out-of-towners or people on television refer to the misogynistic slur: “Women belong in the kitchen.” “In Ville Platte, the men learn to cook before the women do,” said Kermit Miller, the second generation owner of Jack Miller’s Bar-B-Que. “They learn from their dads, and they teach ‘em young.” Listening to him—and then a few hours later to Ross Lafleur, the third generation owner of Kary’s Roux down the street—say something similar, photographers Dagan and Valli Soileau and I all nod in MEAT CAPITAL understanding. In both of our homes, we wives do fine work in the kitchen. But when it comes to the traditional Evangeline Parish delicacies—rice and gravy, gumbo, a roast—it’s the men who, generally, take the lead. Settled across a sparsely-populated expanse of prairieland (Ville Platte means “Flat Town” in French) made up mostly of soybean farms, rice fields/crawfish lakes, and cow pastures—Evangeline Parish’s food culture is a very particular thing. In contrast to the seafood-heavy diets of our Cajun cousins settled along on the bayous and coastlines of the St. Mary, Terrebonne, and Lafourche regions, our ancestors excelled in meat. “I have quite a few friends from Houma and Thibodeaux, and it’s so interesting talking to them because they don’t put chicken or sausage in a gumbo,” said Lafleur. “They never ate a meatball stew. And I had never heard of a shrimp and egg stew until I was older.” Ville Platte claims the title “The Smoked Meat Capital of the World,” a designation locals hold with utmost pride. Even to step just outside of the envelope of the rural prairie into Lafayette or Alexandria or Lake Charles is to threaten the quality of smoked sausage available. The skin is never crinkled just right, the taste of various added seasonings overwhelming the taste of smoke. For

The Kitchen Culture of Evangeline UNDERSTANDING THE COMPLICATED CULINARY LANDSCAPE OF THE SMOKED Story by Jordan LaHaye Fontenot • Photos by Parish Road Media


he ballpark,” I thought to myself, one leg hanging out of my car’s open door on a recent May morning, parked in front of the Jack Miller’s Bar-B-Que Sauce factory. “It smells like the ballpark.” Like sno-cones and sweaty babies and visor-clad moms yelling “Hot Boudin, cold couscous, come on Ville Platte push push push”. I could practically taste the tangy, onion-y sauce dripping down my chin, staining my fistful of napkins a bright orange and totally relinquishing the burger of any responsibility for bearing significant flavor of its own. And I hadn’t even stepped inside yet. 46

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To grow up in Evangeline Parish is to share in such a universal trove of food-centric experiences. To associate Jack Miller’s with a slice of orange-blotched Evangeline Maid bread, soaking atop a Boston butt and some dirty rice in a Styrofoam box on a Sunday after mass. To automatically equate any recipe’s suggestion for “salt & pepper” with Slap Ya Mama, and to always add extra. To use The Pig Stand as a geographical marker, even though it’s been closed for close to a decade. To drive down Main Street early in the morning and catch a whiff of burning roux on the air, saturating its way through town from Kary’s down the street. To always, for the rest of your life, struggle to find smoked

almost seventy years now, Teet’s Food Store has established itself as the most distinguished smokehouse in town, a bastion of the smoking tradition in a parish that once supported up to twenty smokehouses at a time. Now, according to Teet’s third generation owner Luke Deville, there are only five. The secret to his store’s success, he said, is the simplicity in their sausage’s ingredients: “Salt and red pepper,” he said, standing in front of their smokehouse, the tasso scent settling into all of our hair and clothes. “Everyone else tries to put black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder. Our sausage has a clean taste.” “I think it’s funny,” said Lafleur, “that people love the taste of smoked sausage, but it wasn’t done that way to have that flavor at all. [Our ancestors] raised everything in their backyard and had to find a way to preserve it. It’s just basic cooking.” Against a broader backdrop of Louisiana cuisine that is worthily exalted for creativity and ingenuity, in the tight-knit communities of Evangeline Parish—isolated as they are at about a thirty minute drive from any interstate ramp—it is this spirit of authenticity that prevails. We’re still making our great grandmother’s gumbo, and we’re still using every piece of the pig. “That’s for the hog head cheese,” Paul “T-Boy” Berzas casually offered as explanation for the wide-eyed, waxyskinned pig’s head sitting behind the meat counter at his store and slaughterhouse. The Mamou institution’s freezer selection includes ponce, eight varieties of boudin, plus sixteen varieties of sausage (green and smoked), four types of tasso, marinated everything; and chickens stuffed with cream cheese, cornbread, crawfish etouffée, and more.

T-Boy’s boudin is widely recognized as some of the best in the region. When he was first opening the store in 1995, Berzas said he worked from several of the traditional recipes he’d encountered growing up in Mamou, tinkering and toying with them until, finally, his friends and family confirmed that he had nailed it. Like Deville, Berzas claims that his recipe’s prominence comes partially from its resemblance to the old way of doing things: using fresh liver and black pepper in his secret seasoning blend when most boudin purveyors have moved away from both. He also attributes his success to using exclusively fresh meat he purchases live and processes himself, and the freshest green and white onions available, “We started off making one hundred to one hundred fifty pounds every day,” he said. “Last week, we made about five thousand pounds.” T-Boy’s is the last of Evangeline Parish’s slaughterhouses, and Berzas noted that, for a while, the demand had slowed. “It is a lot of work,” he said. “But last year, this turned into a whole new business.” The COVID-19 meat scare had people turning what Berzas described as “the old businesses” back into the new. “We used to kill a calf or two a week throughout the whole year,” he said. “Now, people want to have a calf in the freezer. Last year we would kill fifteen to twenty per week.” And so, in a way, life and business in Evangeline has come full circle. Evangeline Parish has seen plenty

of change in the last fifty years. A small but largely thriving conglomerate of communities throughout the twentieth century, more recently Evangeline has seen a significant economic downturn that can mostly be attributed to the establishment of I-49 in the 1980s. The interstate bypassed Ville Platte, and through traffic in the town essentially ceased entirely. Now serving an almost exclusively local, largely low-income clientele, businesses have closed left and right for the past few decades—and restaurants have been hit especially hard. Today, around eighteen eating establishments total serve Evangeline Parish’s population of 34,000. The oldest of the set is a beloved local landmark called either The Frosty Inn or Zoyon’s, depending on who you ask. It’s been around since 1960 and is little more than a glorified hamburger stand. Similar, casual concepts have survived the longest: Tom’s Fried Chicken in the backwoods of Bayou Chicot at least has three or four tables inside, and it’s been around since 1983. David and Lori’s in Mamou has a menu soaked in greasy golden goodness, plus daily plate lunch specials. And The Crawfish Barn in Vidrine opened in the late nineties, with the same sort of fare plus boiled crawfish, oysters, and a massive dance floor. Growing up on the Pine Prairie end of the parish, our family spent many a night at Joe’s Diner and The Pine Cone, both of which have been around long enough to have doubled for many years as video rental stores. And then we’ve got three Chinese restaurants and “The Mexican Restaurant”: El Charro has been run by the same family for decades now, and many locals insist they use Slap in their seasoning blend. As far as a truly traditional Cajun menu, Café de La Salle has been serving up its lunch buffet of gumbos, rice and gravies, and etouffées since 1998. “When you eat here, it literally feels like you’re eating something you cooked at home,” said Elizabeth West, the Marketing Director for Evangeline Parish Tourism, gesturing toward my overflowing plate of stewed fish

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Evangeline continued . . .

Known as a food-centric community, Evangeline Parish is the home of some of Louisiana’s most defining Cajun products, including Slap Ya Mama seasoning, T-Boy’s boudin (top left: Paul “T-Boy” Berzas with son Brent), Teet’s smoked meats (top right: third generaton owner, Luke Deville), Jack Miller’s Cajun Products (bottom left, the staff at Jack Miller’s: Lonzo Acclise, Kermit Miller, his son Christian, and Walter Thomas), and Kary’s Roux and Pig Stand Bar-B-Q Sauce (bottom right: second-generation owner Ross Lafleur).

and crawfish fettuccine. “I know I’m gonna get good food, and good food as it if it were cooked in my family’s kitchen, but I didn’t have to do all the work.” Besides these old timers, various concepts have rotated through the wilting historic buildings of the parish, most lasting no more than six months, a few making the two year mark. Whenever a new restaurant opens in town, people generally hold their breath and say a prayer for the owner. In recent years, a handful of daring entrepreneurs’ new restaurants have survived the challenging food landscape, often thanks to reliance on other revenue streams or limited menus and hours. The Krazy Cajun Café opened up inside the historic Hotel Cazan in Mamou a few years ago; Mrs. Sheila’s soups and sandwiches have become a hallmark at the local gift shop Cottage Couture. The folks at David and Lori’s opened up The Bait Stand in Pine Prairie, which pairs its extensive selection of fishing lures with some of the best poboys around, plus plate lunches. Big D’s Smokehouse recently settled into a 48

closed-down meat market to offer a selection of smoked meats and plate lunches throughout the week. Point Blue BBQ’s got the same idea, but they are only open on the weekends. Then, there are Evangeline’s real treasures: gas station meat markets like Paul’s, B&S, Charlie’s, and The Quick Stop, who frequently offer cheap and indulgent plate lunches weighted down with Boston butts or rice and gravy or other local delicacies. The Cajun Catfish Buffet, opened in 2014, is an outlier. Offering the same good old Cajun food as many of our other restaurants, the Buffet has managed to draw a following off of the interstate, coming from all parts of the region to try their seafood. In 2020, the same owners finished renovating the long-abandoned Pizza Hut in Ville Platte into a fried chicken joint, The Cajun Coop. Perhaps the most ambitious of our surviving restaurateurs is Chef Jay Gielow, who opened Café Evangeline in 2019 in the historic La Banc de la Ville Platte, built in 1907. One of the best-main-

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tained historic buildings in the parish, the gorgeous space has in recent years hosted one restaurant or bar concept after another: it’s been called The Bank Note, The Cock’s Tail, and simply “the old bank”. From Minnesota, Gielow’s background includes a decade of managing Landry’s Seafood in Breaux Bridge and New Orleans, and a six year stint serving as the Culinary Director at the Dewey Balfa Cajun and Creole Heritage Week, which for many years was held at Evangeline Parish’s Chicot State Park. Though a transplant, Gielow has managed to energetically immerse himself in the community, and currently serves as President of the Evangeline Parish Tourism Commission. His menu offers a selection of local ingredients presented in a more elevated fashion than other offerings in the parish—Trout Amanadine, Seafood Crepes, Crab Cake Stuffed Trout—along with more casual, seasonal offerings of sandwiches and plate lunches. “Our original menu changed before we even opened because I realized the significance of smoked meat here,” he

said. “That was fun, to start using smokehouse stuff and learn how to cook with all of that.” It’s been an uphill climb certainly, he said, but this July, Café Evangeline celebrates its third anniversary. When asked about the parish’s limited restaurant scene, which stands in contrast to its distinct influence in Louisiana’s food landscape as a whole, Miller, Lafleur, Deville, Berzas, and West each admitted to the region’s economic struggles, but then pointed out something else: People like to cook here. “When we see each other, our family and friends, the very first thing we do is say, ‘What you cookin’ for supper?’” said Berzas. “We always go to someone’s house, to cook and visit. Sometimes there’s a little cold drink here and there. That’s how we gather in Cajun country.” West agreed, saying that she—a millennial—didn’t grow up ordering food or going to restaurants as often as her family ate at home, though she loves to eat out and support local businesses these days. “So many people really do just cook at home,” she said. “That’s how most of us grew up around here.”

Deville pointed out, too, that celebrations in Evangeline tend to revolve not just around food, but around the stove. “Prime example,” he said. “Tomorrow we’re having a birthday party for my two boys. Most people would go buy a pizza or something. We’re going to smoke a Boston butt.” Just before Memorial Day, Bertrand at T-Boy’s spoke to the same phenomenon. “For this weekend, we fixed up a bunch of little small hogs, stuffed and seasoned for the Cajun microwave.” The result of a longstanding homesteading culture, combined with a lack of outsiders and a struggling economy— Evangeline Parish’s cuisine takes place mostly in private homes, where tradition reigns. Which explains the prominence of products like Jack Miller’s sauce, The Pig Stand Bar-B-Q Sauce, Kary’s Roux, and Slap Ya Mama. This place’s contribution to Louisiana food culture is derived from the home cook, and that is where its sense of innovation is most powerful. Deville pointed out the unique opportunity Evangeline’s isolation provides for meat markets like Teet’s, which expanded into a full-fledged community grocery store in 2019. “We’re such a small community,” he said. “Everybody has got the same taste. In a bigger community, you have people from all over the world, all over the state. All these different cultures and tastes. It’s a good and bad thing. But

being small, everybody eats the same, everybody cooks the same.” And smoked sausage is on everybody’s grocery lists. What Gielow has tried to do with Café Evangeline is daring. “The idea was always to go against the grain a little bit, to offer something that isn’t offered or hasn’t been offered up here for a while,” he said. “Fresh cocktails, fresh local ingredients, something beside the eight dollar plate lunch full of carbs. Just to try to do something that didn’t exist in Ville Platte, so that people don’t have to drive to Washington or Sunset or Opelousas for a nice dinner.” The biggest challenge, Gielow said, has been getting the locals to accept him into the community and trust he’s there for the long haul. In addition to simply listening in to what his customers like, he’s also decided to put his money where his mouth is; he and his wife moved from Breaux Bridge to Ville Platte in 2020, going all in. In addition to his work with the tourist commission, he’s also been involved with the Main Street Revitalization program, and before COVID-19 was hosting the first live music events the city had seen in years, including a full-fledged street dance in front of the restaurant in November 2019. “People don’t like change here,” he said. “And Ville Platte is about ten years further behind socially than a lot of the places I’ve lived. Everything moves at

“WHEN WE SEE EACH OTHER, OUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS, THE VERY FIRST THING WE DO IS SAY, ‘WHAT YOU COOKIN’ FOR SUPPER?’” —T-BOY BERZAS a slow pace.” But it’s moving, he says, and the city’s support of Café Evangeline shows it. “If I can get over to Café Evangeline at least once a week, I’m happy,” said Miller, who told me he makes a point to eat out at one of the local restaurants every day for lunch with his wife. Just a few streets over from Gielow’s restaurant, a brand new development has been causing a stir throughout the parish: Ville Platte now has a gourmet coffee shop. Speaking with owners of Hundredfold Coffee Steven and Sarahi Sawtelle, and their daughter and manager Jennifer Hopkins, I learned that they had been hoping to start something meaningful in their hometown for quite some time. After buying one of those old abandoned buildings off of Main Street, they brainstormed ideas ranging from a soup kitchen to a youth center. They almost decided on a gathering place where people could bring their own lunches that also offered drip coffee, when Hop-

kins—who has worked as a barista in Austin, Texas for four years—suggested they expand to a full coffee menu and transform the space into a coffee shop. After extensive renovations and the addition of tasteful, coffeeshop-quirky furniture and décor, the space feels “like you are leaving the little town and stepping into a big city,” according to Sarahi. In Ville Platte social media circles, it’s all anyone is talking about. When I visit, a man approaches me, introduces himself as Dirty Daryl, and tells me that he painted my parents’ house when I was three. I overhear someone a few tables down talking about going to a wedding this weekend for one of my high school classmates. And if you step outside and breathe in deeply, you can catch a hint of burning roux. The little town, it’s still here, too. h

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Bonne Terre


Story by Ashley Hinson • Photos by Paul Kieu

Proprieter of Bonne Terre Artists’ Retreat Jennifer Gray—pictured right with writer Ashley Hinson, left—has lived on the property since 1979, and she has been inviting creatives from around the world to be inspired by the natural beauty of Acadiana since 2016 .


estled deep in the forests of Poché Bridge in St. Martin Parish, where paved roads wind into gravel trails and the sky feels endless, there is a gem. The aptly named Bonne Terre Artists’ Retreat is rich with the sounds, textures, and pace of true country living designed to work with nature, not against it. Proprietor Jennifer Gray, a cheerful native of New Iberia, feels more a steward of the land than an owner of property. Walk50

ing the grounds, the ten acres are rife with the life she cultivates. She nurtures the fruits, herbs, and vegetables she grows the same way she tends to her menagerie of rescue goats, bunnies, birds, and a horse named Rio. “I try to be an ambassador to the area,” she said. “People come, and we live in such a beautiful area that is so unique and special. So, anything I can do to try to show that off, I try to.” The structures on Bonne Terre’s lush

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property are an homage to rural, Southern living. The complex includes three buildings. The Cottage, where carpenter bees hum, is where Gray resides with her dog, Siro. The Main House Gray referred to as “a labor of love”; the one-hundredplus-year-old beauty with long-leaf pine floors had to be transported from New Iberia. In the back, there is the invitingly open and pattern-draped artists’ studio, where I stayed and wrote this story. Energy toward care is palpable, and the studio is packed with thoughtfully hand-picked items. You may pour your coffee, a dark roast blend with a hint of

citrus crafted by Rêve Coffee Roasters, into artisan-made stoneware, which goes perfectly with the multicolored farmfresh eggs in the fridge. Every corner of the studio is bathed in warm light that illuminates regional treasures. Posters of musical icons Clifton Chenier and David Egan, as well as modern artists like Motel Radio and Dylan LeBlanc, overlook vintage organs, a washboard and triangle, and an acoustic sunburst guitar. Binoculars hang by the window, and yoga mats rest, rolled up in a wicker basket. The bookshelf houses Confederacy of Dunces, alongside I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and guidebooks for ayurvedic yoga.

When you are invited to sit down, you are invited to slow down. And then, you’re implored to explore the grounds and the bounds of your own creativity. Meandering the property, particularly at the rainy and delightfully overgrown start of spring, is a bit like looking into a kaleidoscope: you see something new each time you look. From the studio’s back porch, the horizon stretches out across the field behind the barn, where Rio and the goats roam. An herb, fruit, and flower garden spills into the orchard, whose perimeters are lined with intricately planned herbs, fruits, and vegetables. A lake lined with tall grass and dappled by lilies sparkles toward the left of the property, leading to more fruits and vegetables in the back.

In late March, the fresh strawberries were bright and full, ready to be plucked from their pots behind the lake. Bonne Terre is a member of the Farm Stay USA network, one of the program’s only two locations in Louisiana (the other is Splendor Farms Bed & Breakfast in Bush). The program is known for fostering “farm vacations” that invite guests to experience the lifestyles of growers and homesteaders around the country. At Bonne Terre, visitors can interact with the land and its inhabitants to their level of comfort. Gathering eggs and feeding animals are all at your fingertips. Harvesting fruits and vegetables is also on the table, given the season. Gray majored in horticulture at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and is fond of companion gardening, a technique wherein one plants different herbs, flowers, and food in proximity to each other. Plants are rooted to provide a beneficial habitat for insects and utilize space, thus increasing crop productivity. Gray planted her summer spinach,

zucchini, and kale all crowded together, where they thrived. From the potatoes to the parsley, it’s all organic. She was more than happy to share her expertise, and even some radish shoots, as we strolled through her orchard, offering adages like: “People are wise to be like trees. Trees that bend don’t break.” Bonne Terre has been Gray’s homestead since 1979. Before she established the property as a retreat, it was Acadiana’s first organic farm. “To live on the same land and see the seasons change— familiarity is a beautiful thing,” Gray said. “It’s all about the balance in nature.” She said that she always encourages her guests to pursue gardening while they are here. “Gardening is therapy,” she said. “You can’t imagine how much food you can grow out of it, and it makes a joyful place.” Gray’s experience of growing up in the country manifests in her expert care of the land, but also in reflexive recycling. The barn, she said, features portholes that were salvaged from a Norwegian tanker that the Germans sunk in the Gulf of Mexico during World War II. The hay from the chickens is used to mulch the gardens. Things find new homes. Most of the bunnies on her property she’s acquired as a result of other families’ well-intentioned, but sorely underestimated, Easter presents. Gray spent the night in her first

AirBnB for a friend’s 2013 wedding in Brooklyn. By 2016, she had put the finishing touches on the studio and moved into The Cottage. “I wanted a really nice experience for people, a retreat to come and recharge and connect with nature,” she said. “Who wouldn’t want to drink coffee out of an artisan-made mug and be surrounded by art?” Gray views inspiration as reciprocal. Behind the studio, marsh violets dot the walking trail of the woods, the wildest portion of the property. Gray said they make her feel lucky. Pecan, oak, and cypress trees cast shadows from overhead. She welcomes what is inherent to the land to take up space. “Any time someone creates something—whether it’s a photograph, a piece of pottery, literature, visual art, or music—think about how much of your heart you pour into what you’re doing,” she said. “You feel that. I call it an artist’s retreat, but I feel it’s for everyone to be creative. A lot of times, people will come and say, ‘I played your guitar, and I haven’t played in forever.’ They’ll start bird watching with the binoculars. How universal is that?” h

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hen Shreveport sculptor Julie Finally come found metal objects—from car parts and Glass started looking at satel- saw blades, to a section of flood-twisted wrought-iron lite maps of Louisiana’s sinuous fence Glass salvaged from post-Katrina New Orleans, waterways, she saw something close to the site of the Seventeenth Street Canal breach. that most of us probably would not: the possibility of The result: three-dimensional “maps” that render the a third dimension. “I love history and geography,” she said, “so looking at maps of the landscape had long been interesting to me.” Intrigued by the workings of the Old River Control Structure in Vidalia, Louisiana, Glass pulled up Google Earth for a closer look, and found the epic meanderings of the state’s waterways immediately captivating. “Once I started looking, I realized that [Louisiana’s river systems] are gorgeous all on their own. I thought, ‘What could I do with this in the realm of sculpture?!’ After that, the sculpture itself came easy.” The “sculpture” is the work in Glass’s Halfway Between Eunice and Mamou: a series inspired by the patterns, colors, and textures of Louisiana’s uniquely complex circulatory system of waterways—a system only truly comprehensible from space, or with the help of a map. Zooming in on LouJulie Glass, “Atchafalaya at Berwick 3D” isiana’s intricate filigree of river deltas, Glass prints maps of those that interest her most, then does the math required state’s serpentine river systems corporeal. Disarming in to visualize them in three dimensions. With weld- their grace, Glass’s sculptures capture the complex interer and oxy-acetylene torch, she creates a steel armature play between water and land, reflect the relationship bethat frames the channel networks, then builds up allu- tween natural forces and human endeavor, and convey vian layers of fabric, landscape cloth, and colored resin. what is vast a little more comprehensibly. 54

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Glass’s art isn’t all about rivers, though. She has done series inspired by the shapes of different kinds of vessels and the patterns of cracks in concrete sidewalks. Her work incorporates an ever-expanding variety of materials: steel, concrete, car tires, and found objects. The challenge presented by a new material is often what drives Glass’s subject matter. “I’m an artist more interested in manipulating the materials than I am in actually creating the images,” she explained. “I call it ‘mad scientist mode’; the materials talk to me and help me figure out where to go.” Creating Half Way Between Eunice and Mamou has taken Glass to a lot of places: she visited fifty-five of Louisiana’s sixty-four parishes while figuring out how to capture the essence of its water bodies in her sculptures. In April and May 2021, the work also took her to the Louisiana State Museum, where she paired each work in the series with the satellite images that inspired it, plus explanations of riverine phenomena including oxbow lakes, river meanders, and the Old River Control Structure itself. Asked what she hopes viewers take away from the work, Glass pointed to the thrill of experiencing geography from different points of view. In a flat state, she noted, one’s understanding of a river changes dramatically when seen from above. “Louisiana is pretty interesting on the ground, but when you look at these maps, and you do the quest, you realize that there’s beautiful stuff everywhere.” h

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Sign up at your local library branch or online at

Enjoy lots of virtual and in-house programs and activities all month long! Stop by your local library for a calendar of events.

Programs are available for everyone! Li’l Ones: ages 0 to 5, or non-readers Young Readers: ages 5 to 11 Teens: ages 11 to 18 Adults: ages 18 and up

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Take a Walk Down Memory Aisle with Author Julie Sternberg! Mark your calendar now! Join us for the FREE Walk Down the Memory Aisle event featuring award-winning author of the best-selling book Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie, Julie Sternberg! Come to the Library to hear about her newest work, the middle-grade novel Summer of Stolen Secrets. The event also will include an exhibit with beloved objects and images commemorating the Goudchauxʼs/Maison Blanche department stores, and Sternberg will share stories from the storesʼ past, describing what it was like to grow up as a child whose family owned and ran them! For more information about author Julie Sternberg, visit her website at au 3 p.m. Sunday, August 1 Main Library at Goodwood • 7711 Goodwood Blvd. For more information, visit the online events calendar at

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