Louisiana Life September-October 2020

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PLUS Best Hike and Bike Trails PG.28


La Nouvelle Louisiane SAZERAC HOUSE

in New Orleans is co-winner in the museum category






Capitol Ideas

Four flavorful recipes for the ever versatile yardbird




Noteworthy news and happenings around the state 6


A roundup of fiction, non-fiction and verse that digs deep into the state’s real and imagined history and lore 8


Louisiana doctor recommends getting checked early and often to combat prostate cancer




Casinos around the state reopened with cocktails, gaming, good eats and live music on the table 40


Travel and food writer Jada Durden shows off the sparkling side of the ShreveportBossier area



Bringing Back the Sunday Drive 12


Kaitlynn Fenley and Jon Scott Chachere create fermented foods from their Baton Rouge-based commercial kitchen using science and creativity 14



La Nouvelle Louisiane The best of what’s New in the Pelican State


Hike and Bike Y’all Louisiana’s top hike and bike trails

Louisiana’s en plein air artists capture the state’s natural and manmade landscapes on canvas 16


Aimee and Michael Bell remodeled their Covington house with respect for its 1950s origins


New Orleans’ state-of-the-art new Sazarac Museum is one of our co-winners for La Nouvelle Louisiane’s Best Museum in the state.


Capitol Ideas


ere’s a hint. The place is in Baton Rouge. OK, I guess you need more information, but first, what prompted this discussion? In this a year that best be forgotten, except maybe for LSU’s football trophy, there has not been much to celebrate. Yet the state lives on. We wanted something else to celebrate so we created our first of what will be an annual feature dedicated to the best of what is new in Louisiana. We asked our readers to send in recommendations and we asked our editors to ponder. The result is a list of some of the state’s most interesting new and notables. Special emphasis was placed on architecture. New Orleans alone had three contenders: the Louisiana Children’s Museum, The Sazerac House (an interactive museum all about booze) and the new terminal at Louis Armstrong International Airport (a marvelous place though finished just as the pandemic started curtailing air travel). Thinking through the winners made me wonder, what would be first among buildings if there was an all-time list? The are many great colonial structures reflecting classic styles but there is only one place that is not only interesting but captures the bravado of the state. It is located at 900 3rd Street in Baton Rouge. You won’t have trouble finding it. Just look upward. We’re talking about the state capitol. Driving along Highway 190 or I-10 heading toward Baton Rouge you will see it in the distance, that rocket ship looking like it is ready to take off. Its beacon radiates the dreams, ambitions, passions and even the skullduggery of Louisiana. Inside, Huey Long would live and die. In his book “Life on the Mississippi,” Mark Twain panned the earlier state capitol calling it “a little sham of a castle.” He complained of its medieval look characterizing the chivalry of old Europe. That building, now known conveniently as the Old State Capitol, is within sight of the structure that replaced it, a 34-floor marvel, whose 450 feet make it the nation’s tallest capitol. It could pass for a modern building betraying both its 1934 construction date and its $5 million dollar cost. Grand public buildings are often built by monarchs, czars, popes and presidents among others. The Louisiana state capitol was built by then Governor Huey Long who might have been the most powerful of all. At his peak Long became the ultimate populist using the nectar of the oil industry to build the ultimate welfare state and to control the politics. He had elevated himself to the U.S. Senate by that Sunday afternoon in 1936 when he visited the capitol that he built. It would be his last time. Ironically, the assassin’s gun is on display in a museum at the Old State Capitol. Great buildings can be rich in symbolism. Their significance is in the mind of the beholder. To me, as that rocket prepares to blast from the swamps to reach the stars, it is a monument to ambition. It may not be a noble castle, but there is a bounty of stories within its walls.




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Interactive Artscape JAMNOLA celebrates the Crescent City with rotating, fun, funky and eye-popping art installations BY LISA LEBLANC-BERRY


WAY TO GO! The town of Thibodaux has earned recognition from the popular website USA Today 10Best as having the No. 3-ranked Best Small-Town Food Scene in the U.S., in part due to the success of the Cajun Bayou Food Trail, an initiative launched two years ago. Thibodaux was the only Louisiana town to make the Top 10 list; 10Best.com showcases destinations throughout out the world.


Do Not Open Officials are warning Louisiana residents to remain guarded about opening the contents of packages containing seeds mailed from China and Eastern Europe that are often labeled “jewelry” or “toys.” According to Dr. Mike Strain, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, the first calls (from hundreds statewide) came from the St. Rose area, then Calcasieu and Orleans. “Whatever you do, do not open the packets and plant the seeds,” he says. Call 225-922-1234 if you receive a package. ST. M A R T I N V I L L E

Cajuns with Cast Iron Pots Break bread with locals and learn how to cook with a cast iron pot the old-fashioned way with a “Dutch Oven Gathering” Oct. 3 in St. Martinville’s Lake Fausse Pointe State Park. They light the coals at 9 am. Pots are on the table at noon. For info: cajuncreolecookers@gmail.com. R USTO N -L I N CO L N PA R I S H

Still Peachy After All These Years


t resembles a New Orleans courtyard, with indigenous plants for hair,” says multimedia artist Skye Erie, creator of the compelling “Garden of Legends” featuring seven statues of famous musicians in JAMNOLA’s luminous Finale Room. The quirky, 12-room interactive exhibition ranges from crawfish to costumes and sound walls, ending with Skye’s pouty Big Freedia, New Orleans Queen of Bounce, and rapper Lil’ Wayne’s bananaflowered dreadlocks above the entrance. Singer Irma Thomas emerges from her magnolia fountain near Satchmo, Professor Longhair and Fats festooned in glitter (jamnola.com).


The 70th annual summertime Louisiana Peach Festival has been rescheduled for Oct. 24. Celebrating the Dixie Gem peach, the weekend outdoor festival will be headlined by the costumed six-piece ‘80s Cheez Whiz Band and includes a Peachstock Battle of the Bands, kids’ fishing and tennis tournaments, a rodeo, peach art exhibit, peach cookery contest and a family-fun diaper derby.




Local Legends A roundup of fiction, non-fiction and verse that digs deep into the state’s real and imagined history and lore BY ASHLEY MCLELLAN




Ignatius J. Reilly and the cast of misfit characters that populate the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Confederacy of Dunces” was almost never to be seen or read, and would have been lost to time if it weren’t for the efforts of an upstart writer and ambitious editor. In “I, John Kennedy Toole,” writers Kent Carroll, Toole’s posthumous editor, and Jodee Blanco take a look at the story behind the story. A tale that is both tragic and funny, riveting and inspiring, the authors provide a love letter for fans of the book and an imagined history of the real-life cast of characters that made it possible for all to read and treasure. Pegasus Books, 256 pages, $25.95


Deep Delta Justice: A Black Teen, His Lawyer, and Their Groundbreaking Battle for Civil Rights in the South BY MATTHEW VAN METER

The year is 1966. The setting is a small Louisiana town in Plaquemines Parish. Gary Duncan, a 19-yearold Black man, sees a fight break out between a group of white children and his two cousins while out for a drive. Duncan quickly pulls over and breaks up the fight, and in doing so touches one of the white children on the elbow. What ensues is a battle for civil rights and Duncan’s reputation. Accused of battery, Duncan is arrested. The case would take him and his 20-year-old New Orleans lawyer into battle with the local legal establishment rife with racism and violence towards its Black citizens. The case would go all the way to the Supreme Court, with repercussions that impact civil rights laws to this day. “Deep Delta Justice” tells the story of Duncan and the legacy of his case on American history. Little, Brown and Company, 304 pages, $28.

The Big Door Prize BY M.O. WALSH

A mysterious machine that promises to predict your life’s ambitions may seem too good to be true. And perhaps it is. But in the small Louisiana town of Deerfield, residents are tempted to see what the DNAMIX Machine can tell them about their hopes, their dreams and what is in store for them, all with a quick swab of DNA. Novelist M.O. Walsh deep dives into what it means to question your beliefs and dreams, test the bonds of marriage and explore your place in your community and beyond. Packed with characters and small-town charm with hidden mysteries, “The Big Door Prize” is filled with humor, optimism and a touch of darkness. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 384 pages, $27.



Double Effect: Poems BY MARTHA SERPAS

In “Double Effect,” Martha Serpas’ third collection of poetry, the author explores themes of bad deeds, good intentions and positive results in the Catholic tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas. Through Cajun language and Catholic tenets, Serpas measures a world that is filled with destruction and renewal, hurricanes, celebrations, accidents and survival, and the impact it has on the people and the places of South Louisiana. LSU Press, 88 pages, $17.95



Fresh Take

Early Bird Louisiana doctor recommends getting checked early and often to combat prostate cancer

What is in season right now



String beans, French beans and snap beans are all rich in vitamins A, C and K. They’re also full of calcium, fiber, and folate and contain high quantities of iron, which is good for combating issues like anemia and low metabolism.



rostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men (only skin cancer has more cases). The latest estimates from the American Cancer Society (cancer.org) state that over 191,000 American men are diagnosed with prostate cancer per year and over 33,000 die of it. One out of every nine men will be diagnosed in their lifetimes. Despite these numbers, it is often a treatable cancer. NEW TREATMENTS Dr. Marc Matrana, director of Ochsner’s Precision Cancer Therapies Program, said exciting new treatments are available for prostate cancer. PARP inhibitors treat specific genetic mutations and allow doctors to individualize treatments. This is important since the tumors in one person might be different than the tumors in another person. SCREENINGS Unlike some cancers, there is not a

baseline age where doctors recommend everyone be screened. Dr. Matrana said you should talk to your primary care doctor about your history and the risks and benefits of screening. “Not every man needs to be screened,” Dr. Matrana said. Dr. Matrana said patients should know their


own bodies. If they have any worrisome changes like weight loss or pain that does not go away, those could be signs they need to see a doctor. W H AT TO DO W H E N D I AG N OS E D Dr. Matrana said if the cancer is limited to the prostate and has not spread, it is often curable. Patients will receive surgery, radiation or hormonal therapy. Treatments can also include a combination of those elements. In some cases, doctors simply recommend watchful waiting. In older people, the prostate cancer can be so slow growing that it might not be worth putting the patient through treatment. PREVENTION Dr. Matrana said the strategies for

preventing prostate cancer are similar to many other cancers. Maintain a healthy diet and weight. Eat whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean meats and fish. Avoid smoking (lung cancer is not the only cancer smoking makes you more vulnerable to). Like any other cancer, early detection improves survival odds. So, the best prevention strategy means seeing a doctor about any concerns you have. “Don’t delay, don’t deny, come in and get checked out,” said Dr. Matrana. n

Okra features large amounts of vitamin C, which is crucial to supporting your body’s immune system. It’s also low in calories and carbs while containing some protein.


Pears are a great way to get minerals like copper and potassium. This will help strengthen your immune system and control your cholesterol. Pears are also rich in antioxidants, but be sure to eat the peel, too. That’s where you’ll find the highest concentration of antioxidants.



Backroads and Byways Bringing Back the Sunday Drive STORY AND PHOTOS BY MELANIE WARNER SPENCER


few weeks ago, my husband Mark was losing it. He’s an extrovert, at risk due to asthma and we are 24 weeks and 195 days into this COVID-19 dumpster fire. Our medically approved activities include: Neighborhood walks and bike rides; socially distant porch sits with friends; picnic dates; reading, streaming shows, cooking and anything else we can do at home; and socially distant, no-contact solo staycations in the forest as often as possible. It has gotten routine, even by my introverted standards. We took up coloring a few weeks ago, which was a smash hit, but for his mental wellbeing, we needed to add a little more adventure into the repertoire. Enter: The Sunday drive. Yes, driving around aimlessly qualifies as adventure these days. Why I didn’t think of it until 16 weeks into pandemic mandates? Each week, we brainstorm a destination. There are no rules, other than bringing masks and hand sanitizer, avoiding going inside any establishment and avoid being around too many other humans. A road-worthy playlist is optional. Game on! For our first drive, we meandered through New Orleans’ French Quarter. One of my favorite things to do is amble around the Quarter taking pictures and people watching. Generally, I’d add ducking into Erin Rose and grabbing a slice at Cosimo’s or one of our other favorite places to nosh, but as mentioned, we aren’t going inside, so taking pics and people watching from the car would have to do the trick. And it did. What a thrilling diversion! I’m not even kidding. On week two, we wandered through side streets from our neighborhood to Lakeview’s West End, parked the car in a front row spot on Lakeshore Drive and gazed upon Lake Pontchartrain. There were more sailboats out on the lake than usual, which prompted us to daydream about how great it would be to have one. Lots of folks had the same idea, so again we stayed in the car. But it still provided visual novelty and a bit of zen, as watching boats float across the water is a calming endeavor. The next voyage was to City Park. There are few places more beautiful in New Orleans, so this was


(top) Lake Pontchartrain (bottom) City Park

a spectacular change of scenery. Nature, art and people watching combine all in one spot with this locale, plus we were able to get in our daily walk. (Note: The sculpture garden closes at 4:30 p.m. on Sundays.) I cannot recommend a stop at City Park enough, especially if you need to spend time in the great outdoors — which we all do. Vitamin D is essential, people. Thinking up a location is part of the fun. We now have a working list. Something to look forward to is also a huge chunk of the allure. The longer we endure the pandemic and its restrictions, the more I appreciate simple thrills like getting out of our neighborhood for a couple of hours. It’s important to feed our souls in any way possible — within safety and reason, of course. Who knows what things will look like 24 weeks from today. But right now — 24 weeks into this thing — coloring and Sunday drives are keeping us from being driven crazy (or driving each other crazy). In fact, I’m not keen to look too far ahead, because it’s all so uncertain. As a rule, our lives tend to whiz by in a blur, like those historical landmark signs as we zip down the freeway on our way from point A to point B. What was that? What did it say? Even though right now, time seems to have slowed down, or even come to a standstill some days, I’m sticking with a policy of staying present, embracing what comes day-by-day, moment-by-moment, Sunday drive by Sunday drive. Life is still happening all around us. It’s just a little different right now. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss it. n



Go With Your Gut Kaitlynn Fenley and Jon Scott Chachere create fermented foods from their Baton Rouge-based commercial kitchen using science and creativity BY JEFFREY ROEDEL PHOTOS BY ROMERO & ROMERO


t takes a lot of courage to launch a new culinary brand, but for Kaitlynn Fenley and Jon Scott Chachere, the creative couple has guts down to a science. As an informative wellness blog-turned-fermented foods brand, Cultured Guru is backed solidly by Fenley’s microbiology expertise from studying and assistant teaching at LSU and Chachere’s years of ad agency experience making tantalizing product and food photography. Inside the duo’s commercial kitchen in Baton Rouge, mason jars teem with fervently-hued fermented goods — mostly kimchi, sauerkraut and jalapeños, prepared through Fenley’s FDA-certified processes and ready to ship to foodies and health-conscious customers, many of whom have embraced cooking with probiotics and



digestive wellness in mind through Cultured Guru’s frequent essays and recipes. “The early blog posts were way more nerdy,” says Fenley, who met Chachere while both served in the LSU Ambassador program. “I think when it comes to teaching science through blogging I wouldn’t just start telling people about sourdough microorganisms without beautiful pictures of crusty Dutch oven sourdough bread. It’s appetizing. It’s drool-worthy. It looks so good that people want to know everything about it.” Cultured Guru’s business has grown to supply more than two dozen retail stores, including Whole Foods Market. That expansion from concept to kitchens across the state in four years as Louisiana’s first commercial fermented foods company is due in large part to how efficiently Fenley and Chachere work together. From R&D and food safety, to writing, marketing and social media, between the two of them, everything at Cultured Guru is done literally in house. Despite the long workdays of a startup, operations are relatively painless. Communication, Chachere says, is key. “Kaitlynn and I did not go to business school, so we are learning as we go,” says the 26-year-old Chachere. “There are days that are frustrating, and it is so easy to take things personally and get upset with each other, but if you keep in mind that it is ‘Us vs. the Problem’ not ‘You vs. Me,’ it really allows you to tackle issues more effectively.” Using large American white oak barrels, the couple began cranking out batches of fermented foods in 2016 after Fenley, now 27, taught several sold out fermenting workshops in Baton Rouge. Kimchi, the brand’s biggest seller, wasn’t even on the initial menu of offerings. The blog then began supporting the ferments, showing how easy it is to incorporate gut-friendly, natural probiotics into daily cooking. “We want to be a resource for all things good for your gut, so I want to make sure that my photography communicates that,” Chachere says. “These foods look good for you, and they are good for you.” The COVID-19 outbreak hasn’t affected their supply chains — at least not yet — other than slightly more difficulty getting fresh carrots and green onions. But orders are up, and they are having to restock grocery store shelves at a faster rate. Home cooking has a lot more people trying ferments and recipes from Cultured Guru. Cultured Guru also creates biome supplement powders with probiotics

that promote digestive wellness, hormonal balance and healthy skin. They’ll be looking to expand their product lines in the next year or two, while Chachere also begins working with other like-minded companies to improve their branding and photography. But for now, Fenley is focused on another aspect of their work, the wisdom-sharing pursuit of the guru. The couple already leads classes regularly and plans to launch a fermentation school in early 2021. “I was born to teach people a holistic view of the microbial universe,” Fenley says. “To remove the fear and mystery of microorganisms through education and modern imagery so that everyone can embrace microbes as our necessary partners. The mission is to teach. To make microbiome health accessible.” Despite the extensive research and science-based approach that goes into their recipes, fermented foods and classes, Fenley stresses that eating a healthier, largely plant-based diet amounts to little more than a series of simple decisions. “We always preach,” Chacher says, “that eating a healthy, plant-based diet is not as complicated as people make it out to be.” n

Is there a food you’d like to ferment that you haven’t yet? Green tomatoes. I’m actually trying it for a blog recipe. I love just making random ferments, then teaching people how to make it themselves. Right now, I have some red wine vinegar experiments on my counter, and some fermented baby bok choy that I can’t wait to try. Which of your drink recipes do you recommend people make at home this fall? If you are enjoying a football game or a nice fall brunch, definitely make the Kimchi Bloody Marys. If you just want a healthy drink, I’d suggest the Pomegranate Orange Water Kefir. What is the biggest misconception about gut health? Definitely probiotic pills. There is no such thing as a probiotic pill for gut health. I believe that if we continue to exploit microbes the way the probiotic pill industry is, then we will find ourselves in a dangerous predicament. The ethical ramifications of the probiotic pill industry will catch up with us. If someone wants to achieve optimal gut microbiome health, one must eat plants. Mostly just plants. I’m not saying you have to classify yourself as a vegan or vegetarian, but your diet should be 90% fresh and cooked vegetables, legumes and whole grains.



Nature’s Exquisite Song Louisiana’s en plein air artists capture the state’s natural and manmade landscapes on canvas BY JOHN R. KEMP


he celebrated 19th-century American artist James McNeill Whistler once wrote that nature “sings her exquisite song to the artist alone.” Many Louisiana landscape painters believe Whistler’s “exquisite song” is heard best by artists who paint outdoors in the natural landscape. “In a landscape, every spot has a sense of presence, a sense of place, if you honestly look at it,” says Auseklis Ozols, the acclaimed Latvian-born New Orleans artist and founder of the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts. “You can’t get that from a photograph. At the moment you’re observing a scene, there’s a spirit out there wherever you are. It’s something magical that goes into your head, then into your hand, and then into the painting.” Painting “en plein air,” as the French say, has been popular in Europe since the late 18th and 19th centuries, especially among the French Impressionists and their American disciples. It has been a steady art form in Louisiana since the late 1800s. Today, artists


(above) “Pasture Study No. 4” by Dave Ivey (top, right) “Bayou Camp” by Carol Hallock (bottom) “November Morning Sun” by Charles Smith (facing page, top) “Magic Hour” by Mary Monk (middle) “Old Light House for the Blind” by Phil Sandusky (bottom) “The Pecan Grove” by Jerome Weber

across Louisiana brave insects, rain, withering heat and humidity in search of Whistler’s “exquisite song.” Some find it in wetlands, along bayous or in woodlands while others listen for it in towns, cities and farmlands. Some complete their paintings on location while others use their plein air paintings as studies for more detailed works back in climate-controlled studios. “I love painting everything outdoors,” says Phil Sandusky, known for his paintings of old New Orleans neighborhoods. “I like cityscapes the most because there’s a bit more danger, which is exhilarating. If your goal is to capture and communicate to others the full impact and nuance of your experience, nothing beats making art in the place where that experience is happening. I started painting plein air seriously in 1984 when I moved to New Orleans because of the beautiful old architecture and lush tropic foliage. The atmosphere is thick and beautiful.” New Orleans artist Alan Flattmann, who has given painting workshops across the United States and Europe, says painting plein air enables him to respond quickly to the nuances of light and “colors that are lost in photographs” without “getting too fussy” about details. For Dave Ivey of Keithville near Shreveport, painting outdoors brings back childhood memories of his

grandfather’s farm in North Louisiana. With brushes, palette and canvas, he ventures out into the countryside to a nearby pasture or lake. There, he says, is his “perfect environment, alone with nature.” In Central Louisiana, Margie Tate finds her perfect environment in the woodlands near her home in McNary southwest of Alexandria. Embraced by forests and warm sunlight dappling through overhanging tree limbs, she feels an “intimacy” with nature and the land. Farther south, Charles Smith explores the Baton Rouge area to “capture the beauty” of the disappearing rural landscape. Though he also paints in his studio, plein air painting has taught him “the reality of color and value” and “how much light and color there actually [are] in shadows.” Over in New Iberia, artist Jerome Weber, who co-founded the annual Shadows-on-the-Tech Plein Air Painting Competition with the Shadows’ director Patricia Kahle, says South Louisiana “is the most beautiful place to paint” and that he tries to “tell a story” with each new painting. In St. Tammany Parish north of Lake Pontchartrain, Mary Monk finds inspiration in the marshes bordering the lake. There, she says, “she has always found peace” painting a sunset and telling “the quiet stories of this place.” On the eastern side of the parish, Carol Hallock, who resides along Bayou Lacombe, paddles her kayak

up and down the bayou to capture moments of “soft and inviting” light and stands of live oaks with their “power, rhythm and beauty.” Watery scenes along the bayou, she says, are “soothing and mesmerizing, a biological need.” Whether searching for “soft and inviting” light, a “magical” experience, or “exhilarating” city street scenes, Louisiana artists who paint out in nature continue to give us “exquisite” songs up from the land. n

Exhibits CA J U N

“ Bridging the Mississippi: Spans across the Father of Waters.” Photographer Philip Gould documents bridges and their historic significance along the Mississippi River, through April 3, 2021. Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum, Lafayette. hilliardmuseum.org CE N T R A L

“ Collected Visions: Louisiana’s Artistic Lineage.” Features the connected visions of Louisiana artists over the last century, through 2022. Alexandria Museum of Art. themuseum.org P L A N TAT I O N

“ Frank Hayden: Lift Every Voice.” Features work by the influential Louisiana sculptor shaped by Catholic faith and Civil Rights Movement, through Dec. 1. Louisiana Art & Science Museum, Baton Rouge. lasm.org NOLA

“ Louisiana Contemporary.” Statewide juried exhibition featuring contemporary art in Louisiana, through Feb. 7. Ogden Museum of Southern Art. ogdenmuseum.org NORTH

“ Theo Tobiasse: Textural Emergence.” Features 20th century French artist Tobiasse’s metaphoric JudeoChristian paintings, through Feb. 6. Masur Museum, Monroe. masurmuseum.org




A Nod to Mod Aimee and Michael Bell remodeled their Covington house with respect for its 1950s origins BY LEE CUTRONE PHOTOS BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY


amily has been important to Aimee and Michael Bell’s Covington home in more ways than one. For starters, Aimee grew up spending time and making lasting memories at the house, which was built as a weekend get-away by her grandparents, Clifford and Aggie Favrot, in the 1950s as part of an enclave of houses owned by members of the Favrot clan. (The oldest of the houses in the compound dates to 1860 and was purchased in 1919.) Aimee’s grandparents’ house passed to Aimee’s parents and then to Aimee and Michael, who now keep it as their primary residence and the place where they welcome their three grown children, ages 25, 27 and 28. Michael’s career as an architect specializing in residential work and Aimee’s role as the office manager of Bell Architecture has proved invaluable to the legacy of the house. After carefully considering a renovation for years, the couple renewed the property with a midcentury modern aesthetic that pays homage to its roots and incorporates contemporary design. “We say that we designed this for 10 years,” says Michael. “We kept pouring over it and pouring over it. Ultimately, it was so much more appealing to me to work with what was here already than trying to build new.” Designed in 1953 by architect and builder Paul Charbonnet, the original five-bedroom, five-bath house

(Left) The motif on the front door is repeated from the retro pipe columns that Michael designed for the patio. (Above) A cigar-rolling table in the Hemingway room, named for its books and hunting trophies. (Right) Michael designed the minimalist built-in shelves.




(Below) Cabinets with gliding shelves eliminate clutter. The “Tulane tiles,” from Stafford Tile, are nicknamed after Michael’s alma mater. (Right) The window was angled to accommodate the round table, which Aimee stripped, bleached and refinished. Mario Villa chairs, original floor. Patio pipe columns, designed by Michael, are visible through the windows. (Far right) The fireplace is original. Ida Kohlmeyer painting is one of many works by Louisiana artists.

featured corner windows, wood paneling and a brick fireplace — all part of the midcentury modern vernacular. It also made use of things that came through Cliff Favrot’s building materials business, such as a corrugated metal applied as decorative siding on the perimeter. Several previous renovations eliminated the corner windows and added a pool. A new metal roof replaced the original damaged by Hurricane Katrina. By the time the Bells decided to go ahead with their renovation, they had developed a wish list that included an enlarged kitchen overlooking the Bogue Falaya River and an outdoor shower. Though well built, the house lacked insulation and was termite damaged. Working with Premier Custom Homes, the couple took it down to the studs.


“We took out all the old windows and gave it a new skin,” says Michael, explaining that new insulated metal clad windows and screens are designed to bring the outdoors in. The footprint, existing roof structure, and a few elements that convey midcentury modernism (such as the flat, brick fireplace) remain, but a former bedroom was eliminated to make room for the new kitchen and a mudroom and pantry now reside where the kitchen used to be. Architectural details, designed to look original, enhance the modernist look. V-shaped pipe columns supporting the roof over the patio, for instance, call to mind iconic 1950s structures. The V configuration is also repeated in the design of the front door. At the same time, French antiques, a Drysdale painting, and furnishings by Mario Villa, all part of Louisiana’s decorative heritage, cohabitate inside the modern dwelling. After all, the space is a marriage of many things — including nature, history and family. “A day does not go by that I don’t appreciate that this is a blessing,” says Aimee. “I grew up coming over here and I am still amazed by the scenery, the property, the river. It takes my breath away. This place is all about family.” n

At a Glance A R CHI TECT

Michael Bell, Bell Architecture I NTER I OR DESI GN

Aimee and Michael Bell SQUA R E FOOTAGE



*Views of the natural surroundings: kitchen overlooks river, all doors and windows replaced. *Redesign was conceived to accommodate the way the couple lives and gathers with family and friends. *Midcentury brick fireplace and retro inspired design of patio roof.



La Nouvelle Louisiane The best of what’s New in the Pelican State BY MISTY MILIOTO



Huckleberry Brewing Co. ALEXANDRIA Jacob

Willson founded Huckleberry Brewing Co. in 2018 after spending 10 years learning the art of craft brewing in Portland, Oregon. Flagship beers include Sandbar Blonde, Riverboat Razz, Trail Dog Tangerine Wheat, Upriver IPA and 3 Card Stout. huckleberrybrewingcompany.com

Rally Cap Brewing Co. BATON ROUGE Located

in the Industriplex area of Baton Rouge, this craft brewery and taproom opened to the public in December. 2019. The hop-centric brewery features plenty of pale ales and IPAs. rallycapbrewing.com


Gilla Brewing Company GONZALES Founded in October 2019 by Brad Andersen,

Alex Shillings and Derek Stewart, Gilla Brewing Company is Ascension Parish’s first brewery. While the nano-brewery specializes in fruited sours, New England IPAs and pastry stouts, the founders are able to brew in small batches so there’s always something new on tap. The menu includes options like Gilla Wit Dat (a wheat beer), Gilla Numpsahoola (a pilsner), Gilla Neapolitan Feels (an imperial stout) and Gilla Gilla Warfare (an IPA); a number of guest taps, such as NOLA Brewing’s Peanut Butter Espresso Bon Bon Stout (an imperial stout) and Parish Brewing Co.’s SIPS: Pinot Noir Grape and Black Currant (a fruited sour); and a large selection of bottled and canned beer from other in-state brewers, such as Bayou Teche Brewing, Crying Eagle Brewing Company and Urban South Brewery, and out-of-state brewers, such as Cigar City Brewing, New Holland Brewing and Southern Prohibition Brewing. For those who aren’t a fan of beer, Gilla also offers a selection of red and white wine from Sutter Home. gillabrewingco.com


Twenty 8 West Brewing ALEXANDRIA Ray Gill, owner of Jack’s bar in Alexandria, teamed up with friends Edan Moran and Mike Brunet to create Twenty 8 West Brewing as Alexandria’s first original microbrewery. facebook.com/ twenty8westbrewing


Panorama Music House Lake Charles This live music venue opened last year in a space once home to Rikenjaks. Taking its name from the old Panorama Burger House, the new venue promotes local bands, and offers a full-service restaurant and bar. Try the Panorama burger, with pepper jack cheese, poblano peppers, arugula and chipotle aioli. thepanoramamusichouse.com FINALISTS

The Fillmore New Orleans NEW ORLEANS Modeled after The Fillmore in San Francisco, this new music venue features state-of-the-art lighting and sound, and a healthy dose of New Orleans-themed art and decor. fillmorenola.com

The Hub Music Hall MONROE Serving as an event space and live music venue in the heart of downtown Monroe, The Hub offers 17,000 square feet of luxe indoor and outdoor space. thehubmonroe.com

Red Stick Social BATON ROUGE Occupying three floors in the newly renovated Electric Depot, Red Stick Social features state-of-the-art bowling lanes, game tables, live music and locally inspired fare. redsticksocial.com



NEWLY NOTABLE NEW ORLEANS Zion Williamson drew national attention first for his slam dunks at Spartanburg Day School in South Carolina, where he led his team to three straight state championships. He later drew attention as the first overall pick by the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2019 NBA draft. He takes to the court as a power forward for our home team.


Cajun BMX LAFAYETTE This 1,200-foot, all-dirt BMX bicycle track is a public-use facility at Picard Park. One of only four USA certified BMX tracks in Louisiana, the track hosts weekly races and practice sessions. usabmx. com/tracks/1995


Kerrick Jackson Kerrick Jackson started as the head baseball coach for Baton Rouge’s Southern University in 2018. The Jaguars ended the 2019 season as SWAC Western Division Champions and Conference Tournament Champions.

Quinton “Munchie” Washington As a young and popular Black comedian, Quinton “Munchie” Washington is a regular on the downtown Shreveport nightclub scene. Often performing at LOL Comedy Club, which opened in 2019, Washington regularly sells out his shows.

Frank Wilson First-year McNeese head coach Frank Wilson—the first African-American head football coach in school history and the second in the history of the Southland Conference—enters the 2020 season with a number of high-profile transfer athletes.


E V E N T S & AT T R A C T I O N S | W I N N E R

Jean Lafitte World Championship Pirogue Races JEAN LAFITTE Pirogue racing on Bayou Barataria is a tradition that dates back to the 1930s. The Jean Lafitte World Championship Pirogue Races, which started in 2018, is the town’s way of bringing this event back to life. Races take place in categories such as the Championship 2 Mile (one race for women and one race for men), the Decoy Pick Up Race, the Blindfold 100 Meters and the Kayak Race 300 Meters. In true Louisiana style, in addition to the races, the event includes local music, food, and arts and crafts. Last year, other activities included a Cajun canoe builder demonstration and a pirogue history lesson. The event takes place in September, with the date and time to be announced soon. townofjeanlafitte.com/events


METAIRIE While the New Orleans Rugby Football Club was established in 1973, it wasn’t until 2017 that the NOLA Gold team was founded to compete in Major League Rugby. The 2021 season kicks off in February. nolagoldrugby.com

Topgolf Baton Rouge BATON ROUGE This family-friendly venue features more than 70 climate-controlled hitting bays, a rooftop terrace with fire pit, more than 200 HDTVs, and a fullservice restaurant and bar. topgolf.com



Chaya Conrad NEW ORLEANS An alumni of the Culinary Institute of America


Phillip Beard BATON ROUGE As

the head chef at Bumsteers, a new burger joint that opened in Baton Rouge in 2018, Phillip Beard is offering chef-driven, local and affordable food in a neighborhood spot. Some of the specialties on his menu include Dr. Phill’s Smoked Wings and Brisket Sliders; Bum Fries (smothered in brisket gravy, cheese, smoked bacon, pulled pork, jalapeños and green onions); tacos; burgers; and salads. bumsteersbr.com

Sierra Torres and Grace Treffinger Sierra Torres and Grace Treffinger recently opened Cattail Cooks with the aim of cooking food that pays homage to the farmers, fishers, ranchers, crabbers, ecology and food communities of the Gulf South. Both chefs are alumni of NOCCA’s Culinary Arts department, and they are currently organizing food relief aid for families affected by COVID-19. facebook.com/ cattailcooks

in New York, Chaya Conrad has been a beloved pastry chef on the New Orleans culinary scene for years. After working as pastry chef at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse under notable Chef James Leeming, and later working in premium grocery store bakery management, she recently realized her dream of opening her own bakery, restaurant and cafe. As the owner and head baker of Bywater Bakery, Conrad offers breakfast, brunch, lunch and a bevy of cake varieties. Fun tidbit: Conrad invented the Chantilly cake, so, if you’ve bought one of these desserts in the past 15 years, you most likely have tasted her talent. bywaterbakery.com

LAFAYETTE This Lafayette-based restaurant is known for its seafood and Southern dishes, serving bunch, lunch and dinner. For brunch, choose from items such as chia pudding, smoked salmon toast or shrimp and grits. Meanwhile, the lunch and dinner menu features a variety of salads, sandwiches, wraps, tacos and fish. The restaurant opened in 2018 in a converted Conoco gas station and was named as a James Beard Foundation Award Nominee for 2020 (Outstanding Restaurant Design Award: 75 seats and under). spoonbillrestaurant.com FINALISTS

BLDG 5 Market + Kitchen + Patio BATON ROUGE Located beneath the Perkins Road Overpass, BLDG 5 is an intimate marketplace offering all kinds of fixins for the pantry. Even better, grab a seasonally inspired lunch or dinner on the happening patio. bldg5.com

Vyoone’s Restaurant NEW ORLEANS Vyoone Segue Lewis’ French and Afro Creole ancestry shines forth in the menu at her CBD restaurant. Choose from dishes like escargots de bourgogne, poulet confit and some of the best French onion soup in the city. vyoone.com

Zuzul Coastal Cuisine SHREVEPORT This LatinAmerican seafood restaurant is a new concept from local chef Gabriel Balderas. Here, you’ll find beautiful dishes filled with fresh and sustainable ingredients, refreshing sangria and a lively patio. facebook.com/ zuzulcoastalcuisine






NEW ORLEANS This new museum pays homage to NOLA’s history and traditions — not only the city’s cocktail culture, but also everything else that surrounds it. The beautiful three-story museum is located within a 48,000-square-foot historic building in the CBD that dates back to the 1860s. The Sazerac House offers complimentary self-guided tours and interactive cocktail exhibitions. You’ll learn about the methods used in distilling Sazerac Rye, how the worldfamous Peychaud’s Bitters are crafted and the history behind it all. Better yet, reserve an exclusive tasting hosted by expert bartenders for a unique experience that celebrates the city, cocktails and customs for which New Orleans is known. Before you leave, be sure to check out the shop for a vast array of spirits, apparel, bar accessories, bitters and more. sazerachouse.com


Guardians Institute NEW ORLEANS

Guardians Institute, founded by Herreast J. Harrison in honor of her late husband, Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr., is home to the Donald Harrison, Sr. Museum and the Legacy Performance Pavilion. The museum spotlights artwork, music collections and many other artifacts from New Orleans’ First Family of Art and Culture as well as other artists. guardiansinstitute.org


Louisiana Children’s Museum NEW ORLEANS The Louisiana Children’s Museum recently

opened the doors to its new $47.5 million state-of-the-art facility located on a lush 8.5-acre site in New Orleans City Park. The museum focuses on early childhood development for children ages eight and younger with five interactive, educational exhibitions, 100-foot-long mighty Mississippi River water exhibition, literacy center and a parent-teacher resource center. The museum also features outdoor environmental elements like decks, bridges, sensory and edible gardens, floating classroom and restorative, interpretive wetlands. Some of the museum galleries include Follow That Food (learning about how food travels from the Twin Cities to the Gulf of Mexico along the Mississippi River) and Dig Into Nature (learning how different natural elements work together). Plan your visit ahead of time, choosing from a number of experiences: literacy, the environment, arts and culture;health and wellness or STEM. If you get hungry, grab a bite at Acorn, a Dickie Brennan & Co. cafe. lcm.org PHOTOS BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY

Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden NEW ORLEANS

The New Orleans Museum of Art unveiled the six-acre expansion of the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden in May. In addition to a plethora of new sculptures, the expansion includes an outdoor amphitheater and stage, pedestrian bridges and walkways, a new gallery and an outdoor learning environment. noma. org/sculpture-garden


Moncus Park Lafayette Since breaking ground in 2018, Lafayette’s 100-acre Moncus Park now features a new four-acre lake, a great lawn, more than two miles of new trails, a dog park and hundreds of tree plantings. Acadiana’s newest green space also will soon feature a playground, a treehouse by design/build firm Nelson Treehouse of Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters, an amphitheater and an interactive Louisiana-themed water element. moncuspark.org FINALISTS

Alley Park WEST MONROE Downtown West Monroe has recently closed a section of Natchitoches Street to vehicular traffic between Commerce and Trenton streets in Antique Alley. The area, known as Alley Park, will now be used to host concerts, a marketplace and other events.

George Rodrigue Park NEW IBERIA George Rodrigue Park in the New Iberia historic district celebrates Rodrigue’s long career as a gifted artist, community leader, arts advocate and philanthropist.

Millennial Park BATON ROUGE Baton Rouge recently opened Millennial Park in the Mid City area featuring eateries housed in repurposed industrial shipping containers, an entertainment venue and the largest patio in the city. millennialparkbr.com




Nature is the new black and Louisiana is as on-trend as ever with an abundance of top-rated hike and bike trails TAMMANY TRACE

Abandoned train corridors can be reincarnated into excellent biking and hiking paths, and such was the case in St. Tammany Parish. The parish government purchased land once owned by the Illinois Central Railroad and created the Tammany Trace, a 31-mile asphalt trail that takes visitors from downtown Covington all the way to Slidell and, in the process, through the historic towns of Abita Springs, Mandeville and Lacombe. The Tammany Trace is one of several designated trails for hiking and biking use in Louisiana, offering visitors and residents alike chances to be active and immerse themselves in the state’s unique natural environment. Since the Tammany Trace covers so much territory, each section provides different experiences.

“The Trace has something for everyone,” be found. South of Hackberry, for instance, said Patrick Brooks of Brooks’ Bike Shop in the Blue Goose Trail and observation deck Covington. “Covington to Abita is an easy covers a marshland full of waterfowl, with trip, good for kids and grandmas. Serious a one-mile primitive walk to Calcasieu Lake. riders might want to do the whole Trace, The Wetland Walkway further south allows for handicapped viewers. which is 62 miles roundtrip.” To the far east is the Lacassine National Brooks’ rents bikes by the hour and Wildlife Refuge with its 3-mile by the day at three locations wildlife drive that takes visitors along the Trace, with the to “The Pool,” also popular with majority of visitors exploring waterfowl and seasonal birds. And the stretch between Covington For the and Mandeville and throughout adventurous, hike along the coast, there are beaches, both towns. Probably the most to Wolf Rock Cave jetties and piers to enjoy. near Leesville, popular, Brooks said, is the the only known LINCOLN PARISH PARK Covington to Abita Springs cave in Louisiana Mountain bikers don’t have to portion, a 2-mile ride to the Abita that was used by Beer brewery and another mile primitive people at travel to mountains to get their fix on. Lincoln Parish Park north and a half to its brew pub, a least 1,000 years of Ruston offers a mountain bike ago. The cave is great stopping off point for those located within trail that Mountain Bike Action wishing for refreshment or lunch. the Vernon Unit Magazine ranked among the “Abita is probably the number of the Calcasieu nation’s top venues. The trail one ,destination because of the Ranger District was created by mountain biker of the Kisatchie brewery and brew pub,” he said. National Forest. James Ramsaur, with help from “And Abita Springs is a cool little Louisiana Tech University. town.” There’s a 10-mile challenging loop for the Abita Springs to Mandeville is a long ride, not recommended for kids, Brooks added. advanced biker that comes with “Tomac A Mandeville ride, however, can include Hill,” a 120-foot ski jump downhill. A smaller a trek along Lake Pontchartrain and Old 4-mile bike trail is available for beginners. For hikers, there’s a 1.25-mile paved walking Mandeville. path that circumvents a lake, plus trails that wind off through the woods. CREOLE NATURE TRAIL Special biking events happen regularly in There’s 180 miles to explore along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road the park, including the 28th Annual Piney in southwest Louisiana. The trail heads Hills Classic MTB Festival to be held Sept. 20. For more ideas on where to hike or bike south from Interstate 10 on either side of Lake Charles and does a long stint along this fall, visit louisianatravel.com. the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, so visitors will experience lakes, marshes, bayous and seashore, among so much more. Louisiana state parks offer much in the way of hiking, some with historic relevance. Sam Bikers can tackle small sections or ride Houston Jones State Park outside Lake the entire trail, heading down one side Charles, for instance, includes a hiking trail from I-10 and biking up the other. Hikers on the Old Spanish Trail that wound its way may prefer the boardwalks at specific into Texas. Mountain bikers may prefer Lake locations, ones that stretch out into wild Claiborne State Park between Shreveport and Monroe with its wooded trails around the lake. areas where exotic birds and alligators may

The Clark Creek Natural Area begins in Louisiana north of St. Francisville and extends into Mississippi and offers a woodsy hike along a stream that includes seven waterfalls. For bikers, the surrounding Tunica Hills provides for some of the most beautiful — and rolling — terrain in Louisiana.


Kisatchie National Forest consumes much of the state, 600,000 acres of pine forests, lakes, streams and hiking paths. Naturally — pun intended — bikers and hikers find plenty of room to explore with more than 100 miles of hiking trails and mountain biking in four of Kisatchie’s five ranger districts. A favorite among hikers is the Longleaf Vista Trail near Natchitoches, which stretches down from a high sandstone bluff with amazing views to the rollicking Kisatchie Bayou, a state natural and scenic stream.





TIP Baked Chicken Thighs With Lemon, Oregano and Potatoes needs a green vegetable to round out the meal.

B A K E D CH I CK E N THI GHS WI TH L E M O N , O R EG A N O A N D P OTATO E S ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided 4 chicken thighs coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 cup water 2 pounds russet potatoes ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves P R E H E A T oven to 350 F. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy casserole. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook until browned. Turn and brown the other side. Remove chicken and season with salt and pepper. Pour off fat from casserole. Add water and scrape up brown bits from pan. P E E L potatoes and

Chicken Dance Four flavorful recipes for the ever versatile yardbird BY STANLEY DRY PHOTOS AND STYLING BY EUGENIA UHL



hicken is to a cook what an empty canvas is to a painter. It suggests infinite possibilities, limited only by one’s imagination and talent. There have probably been more culinary improvisations involving chicken than most any other ingredient, in part because chicken is so adaptable. Modern chickens are often criticized for their lack of flavor, which may be why they are such an inspiration for adventurous cooks who can enhance them with spices and seasonings. Chicken can be cooked quickly or slowly, either whole or in pieces, on the bone or boneless, with the skin on or off. It can be fried, sautéed, baked, broiled, boiled, stewed, grilled, cooked most any way you

slice thickly. Add to casserole and season with salt and pepper. Place chicken on top of potatoes. Pour over remaining olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkle with oregano. Cover casserole and bake until chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Transfer chicken and potatoes to serving plates and spoon over some of the pan juices. Makes 4 servings.

can imagine and, if done well, any method can yield delicious results. Asked what comes to mind when thinking of chicken, many will say fried chicken, roast chicken or rotisserie chicken. Depending on personal taste and preference, others might choose chicken gumbo or jambalaya, chicken and dumplings, barbecued chicken, chicken soup or salad, chicken sandwiches or any number of other preparations. Chicken has been a subject of countless cookbooks, among them John T. Edge’s revelatory “Fried Chicken,” but it also crops up frequently in modern music. The great jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker was known as “Bird” (shortened from “Yardbird”) because of his love for chicken, and many musicians have recorded chicken-themed songs, such as the wild and rousing “Eat That Chicken” by Charles Mingus, “Chicken Strut” by The Meters and “Chicken Fried” by the Zac Brown Band. This month’s chicken recipes are quick and easy to make. Three of them call for chicken thighs and one for chicken breasts, but you can substitute other pieces, if desired, though cooking times will vary some. Today’s chickens have been bred to produce large breasts, so often it makes sense to cut each breast in half. Boneless and skinless chicken thighs are readily available. n



2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound) coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper ¼ cup all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons vegetable oil ½ cup chicken stock ½ cup white wine 2 teaspoons lemon juice 2 teaspoons capers, drained 2 teaspoons chopped parsley

4 chicken thighs coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 medium onion, chopped 4 cloves garlic, minced 1½ pounds okra, trimmed and sliced 2 cups whole peeled tomatoes with juice 2 cups chicken stock 1 bay leaf 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves cayenne pepper hot sauce steamed rice

C U T chicken breasts in half and

season with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour. Add oil and butter to a large skillet over medium heat. When butter has foamed, add chicken breasts and cook until browned on one side. Turn and cook on the other side until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken to a warm serving platter or plates.

P O U R off the fat in the pan.

Increase the heat to high and add chicken stock and wine. Scrape up the brown bits that have adhered to the pan. Cook until the liquid has begun to thicken. Add lemon juice and capers. When the liquid turns syrupy, remove pan from the heat and spoon sauce over chicken breasts. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Makes 4 servings.

S E A S O N chicken thighs with salt

and pepper. Add olive oil to a heavy casserole or dutch oven over medium heat. Add chicken thighs and brown on both sides. Remove chicken and set aside.

A D D onion and cook until softened, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and simmer briefly. Add okra and cook, while stirring, for about five minutes. Add tomatoes and chicken stock. Break up tomatoes with a spoon and stir to combine. Return chicken to pot, cover, and simmer until chicken is cooked through and okra is tender, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, cayenne and hot sauce. Serve over steamed rice. Makes 4 servings.

B R O I L E D CH I CK E N T H I G H S W I T H CR E O L E M US TA R D A N D B R E A D CR U M B S 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper 4 teaspoons Creole mustard 4 teaspoons Panko breadcrumbs

TIP Chicken Breasts with Caper Sauce goes nicely with rice to soak up the sauce. Add a vegetable or salad—and put on some chicken music while you’re cooking that chicken.

P R E H E A T broiler and oil a broiler

pan. Open chicken thighs so they lay flat. Remove visible fat and discard. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Broil until juices run clear when pierced with the tip of a small knife. Remove broiler pan and coat each thigh with mustard. Coat with breadcrumbs. Return to broiler until breadcrumbs have browned. Makes 4 servings.



In Play Casinos around the state reopened with cocktails, gaming, good eats and live music on the table BY CHERÉ COEN


hen casinos reopened in May, they followed many other Louisiana businesses by limiting their offerings — in this case gaming positions — and decreasing the facility’s capacity to allow for social distancing. Safety precautions were put in place, including requiring masks and installing sanitation stations throughout. Unfortunately, many of the live performances scheduled for 2020 were cancelled or postponed. But, the game’s still on. Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville, the state’s largest land-based casino, is fully operational except for the closure of the Atrium Bar and the lounge at Legends Steakhouse and the Cyber Quest arcade for kids. Guests may still enjoy the gaming floor with spacing between gamers, the iconic alligators in the hotel’s atrium which get routinely fed in front of an audience, overnight accommodations at the hotel and the Market Place Buffet. Gatherings of more than 50 people, which includes concerts and conferences, are on hold for the time being, said Jody Madigan, Paragon Casino Resort general manager. The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe, which owns and operates the resort, requires masks for all visitors, even though they are exempt from state mandates, which do not include Louisiana’s Native American tribes. “The Tunica-Biloxi Tribal Council and Paragon leaders are continuing to stay in contact with local, state and federal leaders surrounding COVID-19,” Madigan said. “Both leadership teams are continuing to monitor the situation and will respond accordingly.” Horse racing continues at Louisiana Downs and safety measures are in full swing at its sister property, Horseshoe Bossier City Hotel & Casino, which includes a 24-story hotel and several dining options. Labor Day promotions are on the menu for Golden Nugget in Lake Charles and Harrah’s New Orleans. Golden Nugget is offering a $250,000 Labor Day Luxury Car Giveaway Sept. 4-6 with guests entering to win each day. Three BMWs will be awarded each night during Labor Day weekend with announcements made at midnight. Harrah’s prefers Lexus as its Labor Day prize, announcing the winner on Sept. 5.


While live music is currently suspended, the 205-guest room hotel at L’auberge Baton Rouge remains a luxurious getaway, especially when coupled with a meal at 18 Steak, the casino’s fine dining experience. What makes L’auberge Baton Rouge unique, at least for non-smokers, is that the hotel exists on one side of the levee and the casino another, with a passageway connecting the two. The distance between the two buildings gives those with sensitive noses the ability to rest smoke free. The 1,000 four-diamond hotel rooms and suites at L’auberge Lake Charles are routinely cleaned and inspected upon checkout and the resort’s restaurants and expansive lazy river remain open, good news for those wishing to escape the heat of September. The poker room, buffet and arcade will be closed until the COVID pandemic lessens with the gaming floor limited to 50 percent capacity. Like its sister property in Baton Rouge, L’auberge Lake Charles’ live music and entertainment are suspended until further notice. Blues Traveler and Cheap Trick have been rescheduled but check the resort’s website for current updates. Golden Nugget Lake Charles will restart its entertainment this month with Tracy Lawrence performing Sept. 5 and Hank Williams Jr. on Sept. 6. The fall lineup includes ZZ Top, Chicago, Gladys Knight and Little River Band, among many more. Naturally, dates are subject to change or cancel so check casino websites and social media for up-to-date information. n

Golden Nugget At the Golden Nugget in Lake Charles, Labor Day weekend contests feature big-ticket prizes for guests.


Traveling Around Louisiana

Baton Rouge


this year, and the fall weather will provide a welcome respite from the high temperatures of summer. Louisiana offers a number of diverse landscapes for enjoying the great outdoors. In North Louisiana, hills bring excitement to bikers and hikers, while large lakes provide top-notch fishing and recreational boating. South Louisiana has its own fair share of urban cycling paths and beautiful scenery for taking a stroll, exploring the swamps, or even dining outdoors. Camping, birdwatching, and golfing are other activities popular across the state during the fall months, as the seasonal shift brings a change of scenery and color. As you explore your options for weekend fun and family friendly adventures, consider the following destinations for a breath of fresh air and an escape from the confines of the home.

While Baton Rouge works to ensure the city is safe for you, reLouisiana’s Capital City is home member to wear your mask and to unbeatable southern hospital- socially distance when you visit. ity, incredible eats, good music and For travel ideas, virtual tours, and more, and while it slowly returns to more, go to VisitBatonRouge.com. normal, the priority is keeping travelers and community members safe. CYPRESS BEND RESORT Unleash your adventurous side Moments of splendor define every at BREC’s swamp and nature trails, visit to Cypress Bend Resort, from extreme sports park, or with a bike sunrises over the shimmering lake ride along the Mississippi River to birdies on its lush championship Levee Bike Path, the Downtown golf course or family stories around Greenway, or the Comite River a glowing fire. Located on Toledo Park Mountain Bike Trail. Under Bend Lake just 70 miles south of the shade of 100-year-old oaks, Shreveport, Cypress Bend Resort you can stroll along the LSU lakes promises unforgettable memories or take in the scenery by paddle for friends and families seeking boarding and kayaking. a beautiful and tranquil respite. Around Baton Rouge, you’ll Cypress Bend offers the perfect find everything from bed and locale for vacations, meetings, breakfasts, shops, and lunch spots conventions, or weddings with its to must-see attractions, galler- 95 guest rooms (including 14 twoies and more. If you’re not quite bedroom golf suites). The resort ready to travel, take a virtual tour also boasts a Spa at Cypress Bend, of the Red Stick and share your 600 acres of gardens and forests, favorite things using the hashtag 11,000 square feet of state-of-the#ExploreBatonRouge. art conference facilities, a nationVISIT BATON ROUGE

Park, where its top-rated mountain bike trail offers 10-miles of excitement for both advanced riders and beginners. A walking path winds around the park’s serene lake, which welcomes fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. Meanwhile, free park Wi-Fi keeps you connected when you want to be. Another outdoor paradise is James Lake Birding Trail, one of Louisiana’s best places to spy a variety of birds. The lake area also features pavilions, restrooms, an RV park, playground, and amphitheater. Ruston’s Rock Island Greenway is another gem that offers a shareduse walking, running, and cycling RUSTON & LINCOLN PARISH This fall, experience the best of path throughout the area. Visit October 24th and add North Louisiana’s great outdoors with an adventure to Ruston and the Louisiana Peach Festival to Lincoln Parish. Enjoy the cooler your adventure. This outdoor fesbreezes and changing leaves in the tival brings music, food, and art area’s many parks and waterways, to Downtown Ruston. For more and you’ll likely find yourself re- information on these attractions, visit experienceruston.com. turning year after year. Mountain bikers from across the country flock to Lincoln Parish ally recognized 18-hole golf course, and the top bass fishing lake in the country according to BassMasters. Crisp, country air, serene views, and southern hospitality all combine to transform and elevate your experience—whether a meeting or golf game—into a communion with nature. The resort is conveniently located for residents of both Louisiana and East Texas. Discover the magic of Cypress Bend Resort with your loved ones. For reservations and information, visit CypressBend.com or call 318-590-1500.




Lovin’ Life Travel and food writer Jada Durden shows off the sparkling side of the Shreveport-Bossier area BY LAURA MCKNIGHT PORTRAIT BY ROMERO & ROMERO


Jada Durden launched the “Loving This Life!” blog in 2014, which has become a go-to recource for regional food, travle and entertainment news.

uicy brisket-bacon-sausage burgers, hot Vietnamese-style crawfish, craft cocktails with ornate garnishes, flyboarding adventures, craft brewery karaoke nights, film festivals and theatrical events — food and travel blogger Jada Durden shows her followers a sparkling side of Shreveport-Bossier City. Eclectic and sumptuous, it’s a slice of the region that can be easy to miss, even by natives like Durden. “I used to be a huge ‘There’s nothing to do in Shreveport’ person,” Durden said. “Boy, was I wrong.” Durden, 39, began discovering the more vibrant aspects of Shreveport-Bossier City, from food to outdoor recreation, after she began work with the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce in 2005. She moved up from receptionist to government procurement officer, a position that helps small businesses earn government contracts, and learned even more about the region’s restaurants, bars and other leisure businesses. Durden worked for a local staffing agency and then for the state, continuing to grow her knowledge of local entertainment offerings. She also gained the flexibility to enjoy more events and began sharing her experiences on social media. The Shreveport Times, and then Monroe’s The News-Star took notice, and Durden began penning regular pieces on local arts, culture and recreation. Her work has appeared in USA Today and The Huffington Post, helping visitors and locals alike discover wine tastings, aerial yoga, Vietnamese cuisine and Shreveport’s own creations: the hip-hop subgenre dubbed ratchet and dishes like Classic Shreveport Creole Stuffed Shrimp, created by a historic Black-owned restaurant. In 2014, Durden began her blog, Loving This Life!, becoming a go-to source for regional food, travel and entertainment news. Her award-winning blog highlights weekend getaways, like trips to Tennessee and East Texas, but always brings the spotlight back to her hometown’s offerings. “The home team is first,” Durden said. “Shreveport is first and foremost.” Durden steadily expands her horizons hosting and curating a cocktail-and-music series, Libations & Hip-Hop, and regularly speaking at travel blogging and writing conferences. She also partnered with the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau to develop a website promoting Black-owned food businesses in Caddo and Bossier Parishes. The website, ShreveportBlackRestaurants.com, launched in July. The busy Durden, who has an 18-year-old son, says her blog includes an underlying theme of self-care, encouraging readers to nurture themselves and their relationships with others. And they don’t have to go far to do just that. “I hope they’re inspired to go on an adventure and explore their own backyard,” she said. n

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