Friday, February 5, 2016

It’s Happy Hour Time in Manhattan and Brooklyn – New Discounted Food and Drink Pairings Will Chase the Cold Away

We sometimes forget how much fun Happy Hour can be.  We work too late.  We begrudgingly meet our friends just in time for dinner, or dinner and a show, or maybe we schedule a late drink.  It’s time to turn back the clock, step out early, and enjoy three new happy hours that will keep you warm this winter.
 

Brooklyn’s Syndicated, the restaurant/ bar/ independent movie theater in Bushwick, has debuted  hearty, movie-themed food and drink pairings offered during their early-starting happy hour, from 4-7pm, Monday through Friday. Try the Titanic (popcorn fried oysters served with Rockaway Pale Ale); Mary’s Poppins (house-cured corned beef scrumpets, panko-crusted and fried, paired with Kelso Brown Ale); Cloudy with a Chance Of… (bacon-butter meatballs with an Old Fashioned); or the King and Rye (peanut butter-banana sandwich with a shot of rye whiskey).  Pairing prices are $11-16. Happy hour beverages at the bar are discounted as well.  40 Bogart St., Brooklyn, 718-386-5181, www.syndicatedbk.com

In the West Village, Michelin-starred btempts with an ambitious Japanese-style cocktail program, the Lucky 7 Happy Hour. Weekdays from 5:30 – 7pm, Head Bartender Shinya Yamao will offer 7 cocktails for just $7 each, along with $7 glasses of red and white wine selected by Wine Director Victoria James. $6 draft beers are also available. At 6pm, just to confuse you a bit, bar guests will receive a complimentary bar snack such as herb-parmesan cornmeal financiers. Guests at the bar can also play the Lucky 7 card draw – draw a number 7 card to win a free cocktail from the happy hour list, which includes creative libations like the savory Adonis (sherry, sweet vermouth, orange bitters)  or Salary Man (Nikka Japanese whiskey, club soda and lemon, on draft).  Bespoke signature cocktails from Piora’s regular drink list can be enjoyed for a discounted $10 versus the usual $15-18 price. 430 Hudson St., 212-960-3801, www.pioranyc.com

Timna’s new Aperitif Hour is a real bargain, asking only $12 for a drink and food pairing.  At this modern Israeli restaurant, from Tuesday through Friday, 5:30 – 7:30pm, the bar room offers beer and house wines by the glass, paired with a choice of menu selections such as farro and vegetables with warm tahini and dates molasses; Chinatown salad; a mass of glass noodles, green bean tempura, ginger-cilantro pesto and baby radish; or small plates like kubaneh bread accompanied by crushed tomatoes and labaneh cheese or chestnut soup with enoki mushrooms and quail egg yolk. 109 St. Mark’s Place, 646-964-5181, www.timna.nyc

Thursday, December 17, 2015

European Christmas Markets: Six Cities Where You Can Find Them


Now through Christmas is a wonderful time to visit the Advent markets in Europe. Beautifully lit and filled with people in high spirits, the markets, so much a part of the European holiday season, are essentially a block party that lasts into the evening, filled with shopping, food, drinks and holiday merriment. It's also a great time to explore some of Europe's finest hotels and cafes. 


This is an important time to visit Paris, to show our support for the people and to tell the world that nothing will dampen our holiday spirit. Let's all take a cue form U2 who performed a unity concert in Paris this month. Vive la France.

In Paris, the Christmas market stalls along the Champs-Elysee on the Right Bank stretch almost the full length of the boulevard on each side. In addition to food vendors hawking beer tastings, oysters, hot wine, and sausages, you’ll find a bungee jump, a skating rink, and great arts and crafts as you wend your way towards the Arc de Triomphe or the gigantic Ferris wheel, both strikingly lit at night.  If you time it right, you'll be able to duck into the Palais Royal or the Louvre to take advantage of the museums' fabulous exhibits at a time when crowds are at their lowest.









Where to Stay:  After munching on holiday treats, leave the Right Bank and explore the lively Left Bank filled with its many restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. The cozy and charming Hotel le Senat at the corner of the Luxembourg Gardens is a great choice. Its breakfast room and lobby are intimate, and you can get a room with a balcony that overlooks the roofs of the city. Caring service by staff members, an uber-comfortable bed, and thoughtful touches like an honor bar and late-morning breakfast set-up in the lobby complete the experience.The hotel offers a winning location a short walk from Saint Germain des Pres, the literary landmarks like Café Deux Magots and Café de Flor, and high-end shops like Moncler. Feel like a crepe? Try tiny La Crepe rit du Clown on Rue des Canettes.

Salzburg is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Sound of Music, and it also has some of the country's most festive Christmas markets. The Salzburger Christkindlmarkt on and around Cathedral Square and Residenzplatz Square is the oldest and largest in Salzburg. Through December 26, you'll hear traces of Mozart tunes along with Christmas carols as you stroll among the booths. Look upward towards illuminated Hohensalzburg Fortress and walk the festively lit lanes and city square -- there's no way not to be taken in by the Christmas feeling in this "City of Mozart." The city's tour guides are among the most knowledgeable on the continent, and this year you can sign up for a walking tour of Christkindlmarkt. Through December 23, these tours will enlighten you with the history of the city, Advent in Salzburg, regional treats and crafts of the markets, the city's famed marionettes, and more. Tours leave from the Christmas tree in front of the Residenz daily at 4pm.





Where to Stay: Just a short walk from the Christmas market, The Hotel Goldener Hirsch is a 15th-century gem with the conveniences of the 21st century. Located on the pedestrian-friendly street where you'll find the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Mozarts Geburtshaus), the hotel embodies service, quirkiness and charm. Staircases lead to various wings and corridors filled with antiques and artifacts, a breakfast room that's as charming as its staff, and a cozy dining room and bar. A view from your room will remind you why Salzburg is continually ranked one of Europe's best small cities. If you need a pick-me-up, grab a Bosna, a local form of hot dog, at the Balkan Grill in the alley next door.

Vienna completes its 150th anniversay of the Ringstrasse this year. In addition to the many special exhibitions about this marvel of urban planning, the city gives you a choice of 21 small to large Advent markets around the city center and off the Ringstrasse. Across from Stephansplatz and near the Austrian National Library, you’ll find two charming markets, each filled with booths of beautiful snow globes (they originated in Austria) and other crafts, as well as Glühwein (spiced red wine), mini donuts, and other goodies. The best, however, is the market on Rathausplatz against the backdrop of City Hall by the Rathaus, which extends for rows and rows with booths and booths and booths of treats. Through December 26 you can try a palatschinke (a rolled up pancake) to go with your Glühwein (you pay a deposit and you can keep the ceramic mug), the perfect snack combo to enjoy as you stroll along with the crowds. Here, too, is Vienna's tallest Christmas tree, standing about 30 meters high. Need another break? There's nothing like a Sacher torte at the acclaimed Cafe Sacher Wien on Philharmoniker Str.









Where to Stay: The best, in my opinion, is the Hotel Imperial on the Ringstrasse. In a great location to experience Vienna's sites, the hotel is five-star when it comes to service, accommodations (gorgeous, gorgeous rooms), and dining and beverage. You’ll pay for the privilege of staying here, but it’s worth every euro. And if you’re a music fan, you’ll love that the hotel sits right next to the Wiener Musikverein where the Vienna Philharmonic play. Also appealing is that the Haus der Musik, an interactive museum explaining music from classical to contemporary, is only a five-minute walk. Book well ahead if you're interested in experiencing a performance by the Vienna Boys' Choir.
 

Budapest offers a chance to experience a lovely Christmas market indoors, out of the cold. At the five-star Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, the hotel's Christmas market includes cheery red-and-white striped booths filled with the likes of local porcelain and crystal, Hungarian chimney cakes and more. Set in the lobby of the palace hotel, the market welcomes you at the door with a holiday drink cart that doles out hot mulled wine, apple cider, chocolate, coffee and tea. If you’re still hungry after your shopping, you can walk to the end of the hall and enjoy the hotel’s acclaimed afternoon tea, done with panache on china made expressly for the Gresham Palace. Or, plan ahead, and reserve at the elegant Gresham Restaurant which offers modern takes on Hungarian and international cuisine. 











Where to Stay: Right here. In addition to offering some of the most beautiful accommodations in Budapest, along with top-rated service and dining, the Four Seasons Gresham Palace is located in the best location in Vienna, just across from the lovely Chain Bridge connecting Buda (and its castle district) and Pest (where the hotel is located). You’ll also be near the pedestrian walking area of shops and wine bars, which leads to the massive Central Market Hall and the waterfront. (Don't miss taking a night cruise on the Legenda to see the dramatic cityscape lit up along the Danube River.) From the hotel, it’s a short walk to the Jewish Quarter, the fascinating ruin bars, and Andrassy Avenue, the city’s monumental shopping boulevard. A short taxi ride away, the famous New York Café in the stunning Boscolo Budapest Hotel is a wonderful choice for a meal any time of the day, or for live piano music to accompany a pastry and coffee.

The Old Town in Prague is home to an elaborate Christmas market that attracts visitors from both sides of the Charles Bridge. In Old Town Square near the astronomical clock at City Hall and the city's official Christmas tree, you’ll see booth after enticing booth filled with Bohemian crystal, scarves and gloves, and handcrafted toys. Stop a moment and indulge in one of the Czech Republic’s traditional trdelnik, a churro-like creation that will warm you against the wind coming off the river. It goes especially well with a cup of mulled wine (spiced red wine). Or, grab a traditional pilsner to help you soak up the lively holiday spirit. The Christmas market here and the one at the bottom of Wenceslas Square are both open through January 6, 2015. For the first ime, there's now a market at Prague Castle, too, in the courtyard of St. George's Basilica. You can get detailed information and concert schedules from Czech Tourism, www.czechtourism.com








Where to Stay: The Mandarin Oriental in the historic Mala Strana quarter (lesser town) of Prague is the perfect place to escape the crowds and regroup. The atmospheric setting of this five-star hotel, built in a former Dominican monastery, is quiet and pampering, with each room a different configuration. Food and drink are superb, as is the service. The Mandarin Spa, built in a former Renaissance chapel, defines luxury. From the hotel, you can stroll to the constantly repainted John Lennon peace wall which attracts hippies and rock ‘n rollers of all ages. Also nearby in Kampa Park is the eerie babies monument, a sort of aliens-meet-Jeff Koons sculpture installation set by the river. If this kind of art doesn’t strike your fancy, you can walk up historic Nerudova Street, with its creative house markers and lovely Le Chocolat Cafe, to Prague Castle and enjoy some of the city’s most amazing views. For a fabulous meal, take a five-minute walk from the Mandarin to the charming boutique Aria Hotel, where every floor is themed to a different type of music. Coda Restaurant, just off the lobby, offers two indulgent tasting menus: one a Czech version and the other a more eclectic selection of five-star cuisine from talented chef David Sasek.

Berlin, not surprisingly, is filled with Christmas markets, a serious tradition throughout Germany. Two, in particular, are worth noting. Close to the S-Bahn, the U-Bahn and the designer shopping area of Mitte, the smallish one near Hackescher Market is a great place to get your feet wet when it comes to navigating a Christmas market. It’s personal, manageable, and not overrun with people. Ready for more? Walk to the larger Christmas market at Gendarmenmarkt. Here, through December 31, your first stop can be a food break where you’ll feast on currywurst, strudel, and Glühwein, all under a covered tent. You’ll also get a ceramic mug to take home (your deposit covers that). Since the market is set right in front of the Konzerthaus, there’s lively music on-stage to keep your mood festive while you walk among the booths. Enjoy the crystal, holiday clothing, and merriment as you dance your way to the tunes of a traditional band.   










Where to Stay: The elegant five-star Adlon Kempinski next to the Brandenburg Gate and minutes from Groser Tiergarten (public park) defines service and luxury. The magnificent champagne and caviar breakfast is second to none and enjoying tea is the lobby is almost a religious experience. From here it's an easy walk to the museums along Unter den Linden and to Leipziger Platz where you can visit the new Spy Museum Berlin. Trendy, design-oriented Mitte is a little further away. For a strudel and coffee warm-up, try nearby Cafe Einstein.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Party a la Rolling Stones at the Tour Plane Experience at JFK Airport




From now through December 30, you can actually get what you need, and a little satisfaction, too, if your travels take you through John F. Kennedy International airport.  Make a point of stopping in the retail area of Concourse A at Terminal 4 to visit the pop-up Jose Cuervo Rolling Stones exhibit.  Air Hollywood, a firm from California noted for creating airplane replicas and sets for the film industry (think, Kristen Wiig on that wonderful airplane scene to Las Vegas in Bridesmaids or the planes used in Wolf of Wall Street and Money Ball) has created a replica of the tour plane used by the Stones on their 1972 “party plane” North American Tour, set in an area covering 1500 square feet at the airport. At that time, it was Mick Jagger who reportedly asked for a tequila shot but was served a tequila sunrise instead. Mick was enamored of the orange juice, grenadine and Jose Cuervo creation and it became the drink of the tour, later dubbed the Tequila Sunrise Tour. And thus the drink’s fame began. 

At this replica plane, you can try a sample of Jose Cuervo Especial between 2:30pm and 8pm, and sit around a bar that looks remarkably like the one on the Stones’ plane. There are also exhibits, Guitar Hero, and the leather seats that the Stones and their music crew sat in on their memorable 1972 tour. The seats also have the immediately recognizable lips logo. You can tune out the noise of the airport, as well, as Stones songs are playing non-stop. You might actually be happy that you have a layover.  #CuervoSunriseTour

All photos: Ben Hider


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Celebrations at Hotels around the World

If you're like me, traveling anywhere for any holiday is my preferred place to be. So that you don't ignore Thanksgiving, you might want to consider some of these places where celebrations happen, but not in the traditional turkey sense.

The New York Hilton Midtown, located directly on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade route, is creating an all-chocolate suite featuring delicacies like truffles, beignets and macarons by the hotel’s pastry chef as well as master chocolatier, Jacques Torres. The hotel is also offering packages with premier vantage points of the world-famous floats, classic holiday movie screenings in the ballroom and a photo booth complete with holiday themed props. this is still a Thanksgiving celebration, but it definitely surpasses having dinner at home with the 'rents.

How about a boat trip?  Another way to see the sites of New York City and hold onto holiday traditions, the Spirit of New York has lunch and dinner cruises with live entertainment and a buffet of holiday favorites. Guests can indulge afloat with views of the Statue of Liberty. For a more European-inspired holiday on the water, Bateaux New York cruises offers an all-glass enclosed ship and allows diners to view New York’s skyline while enjoying creative takes on traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas classics.

In Beverly Hills, New York City and Washington, DC, AKA hotels have launched in-suite Thanksgiving meals for that “home away from home” feeling. AKA’s dedicated Resident Services team will arrange "bespoke" meals for guests, such as dishes from iconic food hall Chelsea Market for New York City guests, from the International Cookbook Library at AKA White House for recipes with a global flair, and from Wolfgang Puck’s acclaimed Spago for travelers to Los Angeles.

Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, in Key West is hosting the International Sand Art Competition during Thanksgiving weekend where six of the world’s best sand sculptors will create in larger-than-life masterpieces. Guests will enjoy a Tito’s hosted bar and a treasure dig where they'll search for a certified silver coin from the 1966 wreck of the Spanish galleon near Key West, valued at $1000.

Vacationers looking to ditch the dining room table and give thanks Caribbean style can book a stay at the new Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort for a Thanksgiving picnic at one of the island’s many iconic locations. Guests can feast on turkey sandwiches, rich cheese spreads, stuffed croissants, fresh fruit cocktails, and more at their preferred destination – choosing from mangrove-filled beaches, a historic lighthouse, old Dutch windmills, natural pools or glittering lagoons.

Seafood lovers who don't want to cook their own meal can take advantage of Los Suenos Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort in Costa Rica’s “You Hook It, We Cook It” program in lieu of a traditional turkey meal. A top destination for sport fishing, the resort is located on Costa Rica’s fishing capital, Herradura Beach, and will cook up any catch of the day. The culinary team then prepares a spread with a variety of local flavors and side dishes to accompany it.

You Can Still Book Dinner in NYC for Thanksgiving: Check out These Great Restaurants

Have you procrastinated about Thanksgiving dinner?  If you’d prefer a “Friendsgiving” or just another way to avoid the family stress that usually surrounds this November family get-together, there are many ways to re-locate your dinner to a more neutral and possibly more delightful location.Here are some of my favorite restaurants in New York City that are offering fantastic turkey dinners:

The Dutch

Andrew Carmellini’s popular SoHo restaurant is offering a prix fixe dinner for $95 per person ($50 for kids 12 and under).  Served family-style, the main course selection includes a typical spread of Thanksgiving treats. Roasted turkey with chestnuts and oyster mushrooms; mashed potatoes and gravy; Brussels sprouts with bacon, horseradish, and pickled mustard seeds; spoon-bread stuffing with andouille sausage and green peppers; spaghetti squash; and cranberry-orange sauce will make sure you don’t miss mom’s cooking. A choice of appetizers ranges from oysters to salads, steak tartare, soup, and pasta.  Nostalgic about keeping tradition?  Have the apple pie or pecan pie for dessert.  Or venture into more exotic turf with a pumpkin donut or devil’s food cake. Tax and gratuity, not included. 212-677-6200, 131 Sullivan Street, Manhattan. www.thedutchnyc.com




Rotisserie Georgette
While you may be tired of turkey, this is the place to have it as Georgette Farkas’s rotisserie preparations are the standouts.  It’s also truffle season, so many of the dishes have optional truffle supplements. The three-course menu is prix fixe at $84 per person (kids are $40 per person) and includes a choice of chestnut soup, pate, or two salads to start; your entrée (roasted turkey with all the fixins, chicken for two with black truffle stuffing and black truffle pureed potatoes for a $45 per person supplement, prime rib, branzino, or farro for the vegetarians).  Desserts are variations on the traditional like a pumpkin mousseline torte with gingersnap crust, or a non-traditional chocolate pot de crème.  Sides like sweet potatoes with spiced marshmallow crumb crust, or turkey sausage with black truffle stuffing are extra as are tax and gratuity. 212-390-8060, 14 East 60th Street, Manhattan. www.rotisserieg.com




The Polo Bar 
Thanksgiving might be the time to score a reservation at this not-quite-a-club, impossible-to-get-into restaurant.  The hotspot from Ralph Lauren is strong on Lauren’s holiday favorites including butternut squash soup, roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing with pork sauce.  Drinks are included, from a Champagne toast to cider, with nuts and olives on the side. Dress your equestrian best and enjoy the setting.  It’s yours on Thanksgiving for $150 per person, tax and gratuity extra. 212-207-8562, 1 East 55th Street, Manhattan. www.polobarralphlauren.com.




Kefi
How about a Greek Thanksgiving?  Two prix fixe offerings from $35 to $95 include appetizer, entrée and dessert.  To maintain the Thanksgiving spirit, Michael Psilakis starts you with something turkey, here a turkey abgolemono soup that’s a riff on Greek egg lemon soup. Follow that with roasted turkey, done pretty traditionally with mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables and gravy, and finished with a choice of two traditional Greek desserts, walnut cake with walnut ice cream, or yogurt with nuts and fruit.  212-873-0200, 505 Columbus Ave, Manhattan. Taxes, gratuity extra. www.kefirestaurant.com
If an Italian celebration is more to your liking, Il Buco’s sibling restaurant offers a cozy setting for Thanksgiving dinner. Sit at one of the rustic communal tables and enjoy a multi-course dinner for $85 per person.  A selection of salumi or cheeses is served family-style to start.  Also served family-style are the sides -- sweet potatoes , kale and quinoa, and buckwheat stuffing with figs and sage -- and desserts, chocolate tarte, roasted pears with rosemary caramel, and persimmon soufflé cake. You pick your own starter – black bass crudo, vegetable soup, or chestnut angolotti – and your own main, baccala in a spicy tomato ragout with clams, rotisserie-roasted heritage pork, or Hudson Valley turkey with caramelized endive and apple. Tax and gratuity are additional. 212-837-2622, 53 Great Jones Street, Manhattan, www.ibucovineria.com

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Family Entertainment: Broadway Shows (throughout the US) on Sale and a Giant Paper Fight

Wondering how to entertain the kids before the real holidays start?  Two innovative programs invite children to immerse themselves in theatrical artistry, designed to educate and amuse all ages.

One of my favorites, Mimirichi is a pantomime troupe that has achieved international acclaim. They bill themselves as specialists in the art of “paper fights.”  You’ll have to see them to understand what this means, but trust me that it’s a combination of comedy, pantomime, slapstick and good old-fashioned silliness. Their newest show, Paper World, promises an interactive element as well. Not surprisingly inducted into the World Clown Academy, the three Ukrainians who comprise Mimirichi recall Marcel Marceau, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and other clown geniuses. The show takes place from November 10 – 29 at Theater for New City, 155 First Avenue, Manhattan (between 9th and 10th Streets). Tickets start at $45.  The show is appropriate for ages 4 and above. Information, 800-718-1444, or http://www.mimirichi.com/events/.


Starting immediately, tickets are on sale for Kids’ Night on Broadway, February 9, 2016, brought to you by the Broadway League.  Now entering its 20th year, the program offers a free ticket to kids ages 18 and under when accompanied by a full-paying adult. The 23 productions included in this special promotion in New York City include both musicals and plays with such alluring shows as Fun Home, Jersey Boys, Kinky Boots, The King and I, Something Rotten, Wicked, Aladdin, Fiddler on the Roof, Finding Neverland, Noises Off, On Your Feet, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, The Lion King, Matilda The Musical, School of Rock The Musical, Phantom of the Opera, and Les Misérables.  For the full list of shows and links to tickets, visit http://www.kidsnightonbroadway.com/shows. Discounts at area restaurants are also available.


Not in New York City for these events?  Not to worry. Kids’ Night on Broadway events are scheduled throughout the year in other North American cities. Check http://www.kidsnightonbroadway.com/across-the-us for participating shows and venues throughout the year. Some of the upcoming ones include Matilda the Musical in Syracuse, New York on December 1, 2015; and Rogers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella in Hershey, Pennsylvania on January 27, 2016 and Appleton, Wisconsin on March 8, 2016.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Eating My Way through Lake Charles, Louisiana



While New Orleans is probably the first city that comes to mind when you think of great Louisiana food and drink, Lake Charles in the Southwest part of the state is the Cajun capital. Forget about eating hot dogs when you’re in Lake Charles. This is the home of the boudin, a sausage-y creation that’s as ubiquitous as the dirty water dog in New York City and as artisanal a food as you’ll find anywhere in the US. For a more haute cuisine experience, you can also enjoy Rouge et Blanc, Lake Charles’s premier wine and food event, this year scheduled on October 17 at McNeese State University. www.visitlakecharles.org  
 
When people ask what American cuisine is all about, Cajun cuisine rises to the top of the list. A little bit Creole with a dash of French, Cajun is smoke and spice, seafood and meats, and a whole lot of hand-crafted boudins and cracklins. In Southwest Louisiana, it’s a way of life, and a true expression of the local culture.

Boudin Trail


Different from a boudin blanc or boudin rouge that you might find in France or the Caribbean, Louisiana  boudins are rice sausages, made of pork liver, pork meat, greens and spices, encased in a wrapper made from washed and boiled pig products. Each boudin restaurant has its own standout version, and there are also seafood and alligator boudins.  I made it my business to try as many as I could as family recipes differ significantly. 

Cracklins are as much a part of this tradition as are boudins. Made from pork belly as is bacon, cracklins are their own entity because they’re cubed and cooked with their skin on. Deep fried and delicious, these pork rinds make the perfect finger food when you’re craving something salty. In Cajun country, cracklins are like potato chips. You eat them any time of the day and you can get them as smoky or spicy as you’d like. Grab some in a sack, add a few fried boudin balls (a smaller version of the sausage), and you’re ready to tailgate. No veggies allowed.

There are so many local restaurants offering boudins that the folks have organized a Boudin Trail, a trail that makes for good eating and people meeting for days on end. Think you’ve tried boudin if you stop at only one or two? Not really. Boudin is the Louisiana equivalent of BBQ – you’ll have a different recipe everywhere you go. You may not want to try all 27 on the trail, but a good half dozen will begin your journey into boudin expertise.


Five that I highly recommend:


Famous Foods – In Lake Charles. Three generations of the Guillory family have been serving Pappy’s boudin recipe for nearly 25 years. Customers drive in from all parts -- especially from Texas -- for the Creole-style menu. Famous Food will even ship to you. These boudins and cracklins achieve four-star status in my book. www.famousfoodsllc.com/  337-497-1477

Sonnier’s Sausage and Boudin – In Lake Charles. The newbie of the group I visited, this seven-year old takeout shop sells smoked, spicy and regular boudins. All are marvelously addictive.  337-656-2876

B & O Kitchen and Grocery – In Sulphur (10 miles from Lake Charles). A veteran of 30 years and three generations, the shop makes boudins of varying spice levels as well as cracklins, beef jerky, smoked sausages, and Cajun slim Jims. Be sure to ask master boudin maker Jeff Benoit to see the huge vats where the cracklins are made and don’t miss the cheese-filled boudin balls, my personal favorite. 337-625-4637

Hollier’s Cajun Kitchen – In Sulphur. Perfect if you can’t make up your mind, Hollier’s offers an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet and a dinner seafood buffet. My suggestion is to stay focused and just order up the boudins and boudin balls. This is the place to try alligator balls. http://hollierscajunkitchen.com/  337-527-0061

The Sausage Link – In Sulphur. No seating. The Sausage Link is mainly a butcher shop. They'll gladly let you watch them make the boudins, which come in multiple varieties. Lots of other meats are for sale here, too, including the mind-numbing turducken, a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck which is then stuffed into a deboned turkey. Of course, the turducken can be stuffed with boudin. 337-625-2030

Jambalaya, Seafood and Gumbo

Being near the Gulf of Mexico means there’s an abundance of seafood, all done up Louisiana style. Boiled shrimp, seafood gumbo, crawfish, oysters and jambalaya go perfectly with the Cajun music that’ll have you dancing and tapping your feet. You should try the different kinds of jambalaya that you’ll find: some have more seafood than meat, some mix the two, each with a wondrously smoky flavor. True Cajun gumbo is served on a bed of rice and can similarly be of a seafood or a more traditional sausage variety.

You can gorge yourself silly at the über-popular Seafood Palace in Lake Charles, where communal tables are quickly covered with heaps of crawfish boulettes, crab pistolettes, fried okra and bowls of shrimp and crab gumbo.  If it’s the season, order a platter of giant Louisiana blue crabs – they’ll show you how to eat them. 337-443-9293

In Sulphur, The Boiling Point specializes in crawfish and local Gulf seafood. This is a good choice if you want to enjoy the area’s seafood but don’t want to lose an opportunity to try out another boudin. http://theboilingpoint.net/index.htm  337-625-9282

Other Foodie Experiences

Each year the Rouge et Blanc Food and Wine Festival sells out to hungry folks from the area and beyond. Stands showing off the best of Southwest Louisiana from tacos to tamales and BBQ line the field, and wine is poured generously.  It’s a dress-up kind of event, absolutely Southern in flavor, but appealing to all, and one that you should try to book well in advance. The four-hour tasting event sells out quickly. http://www.rougeetblanc.us/

Southwest Louisiana has its fine dining spot, too. La Truffe Sauvage prides itself on its six-course wine pairing dinners, featuring varying American vintners. Here you can sample baked French-inflected wild Gulf red snapper with saffron risotto or beef Wellington, for example, followed by a sinfully rich chocolate oblivion torte.  http://www.thewildtruffle.com/  337-439-8364

Drinks Louisiana-Style


Lest we forget that libations go hand and hand with foodie celebrations, Southwest Louisiana has its own distillery, a newish operation that makes rum from local cane sugar. The largest private-label rum in the US, Bayou Rum comes in satsuma, a citrusy rum liqueur that uses seasonal fruit like clementines; silver (80 proof); spiced; and select dark. All use all-natural unrefined sugar and molasses and are aged and then poured into bottles rinsed with rum to eliminate bacteria and residue. You can tour the Louisiana Spirits distillery as well as sample to your heart’s content. The label’s pretty cool, too. http://bayourum.com/verify.php?return=/distillery/

Back at the Casino

In Lake Charles, the place to rest your boots is L’Auberge Casino and Resort.  Here, you’ll not only have the chance to win some money, but you’ll also enjoy another level of fine dining. There’s the mandatory Beaucoup Buffet, of course, although this one’s actually really good and doles out dishes from around the globe. You can flit from the fried chicken station to the sushi bar and prime rib carvery within seconds. And the service is sublime.

But my favorite place to dine is the Ember Grille and Wine Bar, where the casino folks cater to the high rollers with top-notch cuts like Kobe beef, baby lamb chops done up like lollipops, and a 40-ounce ribeye “Tomahawk” steak, carved tableside. Seafood isn’t ignored, and the BBQ pecan-bacon-wrapped shrimp is the restaurant’s callout to shrimp and grits. The wine list is well curated and includes an award-winning selection of reds. If you catch it right, the resort’s outside beach area has a food truck, too, with tacos and other treats. The outdoor lazy river and pool area makes sure you’re fed and refreshed with cool cocktails and snacks. For late night drinks and music, Jack Daniel’s Bar and Grill has it all, in a lively setting right across from the casino floor.  https://www.llakecharles.com/ 337-395-7777

New Orleans in Southwest Louisiana


And for something almost not related to food, Lake Charles is the location of the Mardi Gras 
Museum of Imperial Calcasieu, where costumes from krewes past fill room after room with elaborate colors and memorabilia. Set inside the Central School Arts and Humanities Center, it’s the largest Mardi Gras museum in the world and it’s also where you can decorate your own King Cake with sugars in the three Mardi Gras colors of purple (justice), gold (power) and green (faith). The King Cake is an integral part of Mardi Gras, baked up and served between Twelfth Night (12 nights after Christ’s birth) and Fat Tuesday. As tradition goes, if you bite into the slice with the baby toy inside, you’ll be the one to host the Mardi Gras party the following year (or you could consider yourself the king or queen of the present one, or just plain lucky!). Why is this museum located here? Lake Charles is the site of the state’s second largest Mardi Gras celebration. 337-430-0043 



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