Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend

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Sundancer7
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/23 06:52:51 (permalink)
My next trip to Lafayette will definately include this cafe.  I will order exactly the same breakfast that you did. Great pics Stephen.
 
Paul E. Smith
Knoxville, TN
#31
Stephen Rushmore Jr.
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/23 12:05:49 (permalink)
Saturday - Boudin Cook-off
 
The annual Boudin Cook-off is a one day event held at a public square in downtown Lafayette.  Over twenty linkeries setup booths where people could sample their boudin creations and other pig parts like cracklins.  Admission was free, you pay for what you eat or drink.  Beyond eating, it is a family friendly atmosphere with bouncy houses, a rock climbing wall, live music, and mini games that involve throwing a fake boudin through a pig’s mouth or pin-the-tail on the pig.
 

 

 

The cook-off featured three different categories:
  • Traditional Link – Steamed / Boiled sausage with rice, pork and red pepper
  • Specialty Link – A more open category serving non-traditional sausage. For example, the boudin link would be smoked or served with crawfish instead of pork.  One entry poured BBQ sauce on top.
  • Unlinked – The most open category, serving boudin in a dish that wasn’t a sausage.  Some examples include King Cake with boudin or pecan boudin pie.
Lastly, there was a People’s Choice award for the most popular cookery.  Participants could purchase sample tickets for fifty cents apiece and get Dixie-cup portions from the competitors.  Afterwards they would submit their favorites to a polling booth where the results would be tallied at the end of the day.
 

 
With the exception of Bob (Boudinlink.com) friends from Jacksonville, Florida, all the competing restaurants were from Louisiana.  People were initially skeptical of Bob’s out-of-town friends who called themselves “The Redneck-Riviera Beachbumbs,” but they were drawn to their duct-taped labeled sign and king-cake boudin dish which sold out in less than two hours!
 

 
After getting acclimated to the event, it was time to start the judging.  Each of the three categories had over twenty submissions, and I was assigned to both the traditional and specialty link category.  I was joined with five other people and we rated the boudin on the following characteristics: presentation, rice, casing, meat, texture and taste.  Each was waited differently, and an overall score was given to the dish that helped determine the winner.
 

 
I don’t think any of the judges sampled this much boudin before, so it took a couple links before we found a rhythm for getting through all the dishes.  Boudin is starchy, so we quickly learned that beer was essential for cleaning the palate of both carbohydrates and spice.
 
Before the judging began I was nervous if I would be able to distinguish between good and excellent boudin.  Coming from the northeast, where boudin is non-existent, I felt disadvantaged from those who grew up in Acadian country. Thankfully it wasn’t an issue - 20% of the boudin was exceptional, 70% was very good, and the remaining 10% was difficult to get through.  The very best had tender and succulent pork, smooth texture, completely void of cartilage, and a warm spice that would slightly pepper the mouth.   The bottom ten percent had a natural casing with visible veins, poorly cooked rice, and meat with occasional chunks of cartilage.
 
The judging process went as follows - A facilitator would retrieve a uniquely numbered clamshell filled with boudin and each of us would grab a sample and squeeze the contents into our mouth and then take notes on the scorecard.  It took me around three bites before becoming comfortable assigning a score.  After a few samples, my plate would fill up with leftover links that I would routinely offer to obliged bystanders hovering over our shoulders – “you can’t let all this great boudin go to waste” proclaimed a hungry spectator.
 
The specialty link category was my favorite because it was open to creativity.  A bacon-wrapped boudin was the most unique, but my favorite had to be the smoked boudin varieties.  The rice and meat had a backcountry BBQ flavor, while the natural casing was snappier than the boiled varieties so it was easier to digest.
 

 
Smoked boudin in the bottom-center:

 
Who were the winners?  NuNu’s from Youngsville was the overall champion.  They took the title for Traditional, Unlinked and the People’s Choice award.  The Sausage Link got first place for their bacon wrapped boudin in the Specialty category.  While my vote only counted 1/6th of the total, and I agree these places were some of the very best, it is important to reiterate that excellent boudin can be found throughout Louisiana. If you are visiting in the area, don’t just limit yourself to this year’s winners.
 
Photo of the NuNu's crew:
 

post edited by Stephen Rushmore Jr. - 2010/10/23 12:11:01
#32
Sundancer7
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/23 13:11:53 (permalink)
Great review Stephen.  You are correct as boudin is almost a staple is that area of the state.  Great cracklins also.  I have been around Lafayette many times during the spring when the crawfish are being harvested from the flooded rice paddies.  Great time of the year.
 
I am glad you got to be a judge.  Unique perspective! The bacon wrapped looked the best but I certainly see why you preferred the smoked version.  It was much more eye appealing than the boiled boudin.
 
Paul E. Smith
Knoxville, TN 
post edited by Sundancer7 - 2010/10/23 13:14:03
#33
Stephen Rushmore Jr.
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/23 15:33:26 (permalink)
Saturday - Boudin Cook-off Leftovers
Another highlight of the festival was the boudin eating contest.  Around 10 participants were challenged to finish six boudin links – the first three received an award.  I was judging while this was going on, so I couldn’t see the gorging, but hundreds of people gathered around the long eating table and cheered their favorite participant.  The winner was the gentlemen on the right; second place was the lady in the middle, and third place on the far left.  None of them were professional eaters, and they seemed to be enjoying their moment of fame because the spent the day walking around with their sash attached.
 

 
Finally, the festival organizers were courteous and invited me to judge the Unlinked category of the Boudin Cook-off, but my stomach couldn’t handle the load any more. The only requirement for the dish was that it must contain boudin.  Twenty portions of King Cake with boudin or pecan boudin pie sound delicious on am empty stomach, but the smell of these heavy dishes made me nauseous.  The sampling of 40 links had taken a toll, so I stayed around to photo a praline boudin and then walked off some of my appetite.
 

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Stephen Rushmore Jr.
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/23 15:35:30 (permalink)
Thanks for the compliments Paul. The people Lafayette are some of the friendliest in the country.  Combining nice locals with great food and music is a winning combination.
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Stephen Rushmore Jr.
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/23 15:39:34 (permalink)
Saturday Afternoon - Borden’s
Towards the end of the festival I walked over to Borden’s to try some ice cream.  For some reason, I can eat large quantities of ice cream even after eating inordinate amounts of food – 44 boudin link samples to be exact!  This is the last of the stand-alone diary shops, and they are popular for ice cream and frappes.  I can appreciate the place for nostalgia, but it is no comparison to the quality of ice cream I grew up with in New England (see our eating tour of New England ice-creameries for more details (http://www.roadfood.com/TheBest/NewEnglandIceCream).  The texture could have been smoother and less icy, and the flavors could have been more intense.  It reminded me of ice cream from the early 1980’s like Howard Johnson’s or Friendly’s – not bad, but very average for today.
post edited by Stephen Rushmore Jr. - 2010/10/23 21:20:46
#36
Stephen Rushmore Jr.
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/23 16:16:04 (permalink)
Saturday Evening –The Bluerunners Reunion Concert
After the very successful Boudin Cook-off, Greg from Johnson’s Boucanerie invited me to join him for a sold-out concert at the brand new Acadiana Center for the Arts to see The Bluerunners Reunion show.  I have never heard of the band, but it sounded like an offer not to be missed.  The venue was an intimate and contemporary setting with seating for just over 300 people.  At one point during the show, the lead singer asked how many people were related to a band member and nearly half the audience raised their hand.  Welcome to Acadia country!
 

 
The music was a delightful but unfamiliar blend of accordion, slide guitar, washboard, bass, and drums.  Everyone in the audience seemed to recognize the bands catalog of songs and danced the entire night.  One thing became clear at this concert - people in Lafayette REALLY enjoy dancing.  Just like Café de Amis, the aisles were packed with people swinging their arms and shaking their hips.  I even spotted a few moms dancing with their newborns strapped to their bellies (at 10 PM!), and couldn’t resist sharing this with Greg.  “Oh yah, they start them young” he replied.

After the first set we made our way to the breakout area for some drinks when I encountered the following sign:
 

 
Most concerts I have been too sell popcorn and pretzels.  This was a truly southern menu.  Devils on Horseback, which was new to me, are pitted dates stuffed with mango chutney and wrapped in bacon.  I regret not trying, but my appetite after a full-day of eating was non-existent.
 
After the break the band had a twenty minute Q&A session with the audience, a signature feature of the Louisiana Crossroads series, and then played for another hour.
 
At the end of the night Greg gave me a hug, and said “you are like one of the brothers.”  If there is one thing I learned about Lafayette it’s that food, family, and music is the trinity of life in Acadia country.
post edited by Stephen Rushmore Jr. - 2010/10/23 16:17:17
#37
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/23 16:50:08 (permalink)
Grest report...............terrific food.................most of all...........wonderful people!
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Stephen Rushmore Jr.
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/23 19:00:51 (permalink)
Sunday Morning –Meche’s Donut King
On the final morning of my visit I met up with Bob (BoudinLink.com) and his family for breakfast at Meche’s Donut King.  This place must keep Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts out of town with their fresh hot donuts.
 

 
We sampled the glazed donuts, apple fritters, and a variety of others.  Anything still warm from the fryer is worth ordering.
 

 
The manager invited me back to the kitchen when he saw me taking pictures of the food.  I quickly turned my camera to video mode and captured the servers placing hot fresh donuts into a box for customers.
 

 

 
My only disappointment with Meche’s is the lack of ice coffee.  I would have thought it there would have been a demand in the hot southern climate.  Nonetheless, Meche’s is a great place to start the day.
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Stephen Rushmore Jr.
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/23 19:40:12 (permalink)
Sunday Morning – Mike’s Country Corner
Mike’s was the last stop of my journey, and even though I had been eating all weekend, I wanted to grab a large meal to hold me over for 10 hours of travel back home.  Plate meals are popular at certain eateries around Lafayette, and Mike’s is known for a special BBQ plate on Sunday.  They make a certain quantity of pork, brisket and chicken, and stop serving when the supply runs out – I was told usually around Noon.   Located just outside of Lafayette, Mike’s Country Corner operates more as a mini-mart than an eatery.  Aside from plate lunches, they also serve boudin, cracklin, and stuffed bread (pistolettes).
 

 
Behind the counter were about 80 styrofoam clamshell boxes with various plate lunches inside.  Without seeing any of the contents, I took a chance and ordered the pork.  The cashier handed me a hefty container that probably weighed five pounds.
 

 
I walked outside to a broken wooden picnic table, cracked open the box and was stunned to see they stuffed a foot-long slab of pork inside.  The brittle plastic forks supplied were no match for a meat hunk of this proportion.  Manners and etiquette were briefly suspended as I lifted the pork with my hands and gnawed like a carnivorous cave-man.  The meat was fairly tender with a strong smoky flavor.  Next time I would arrive earlier to get a warmer piece.  Under the slab of pork was a creamy potato salad, beans, and some of the best dirty rice around.  Mike’s dirty rice, which should be on everyone’s short-list of Lafayette’s must-eats, is a mixture of tiny bits of beef, liver and onions.
 

 
After filling up on at least a pound of rice and half the pork, I rushed to the airport and headed home with a full stomach and some new friends.  Sadly, the trip had come to an end, but I look forward to returning next year with a group of Roadfooder’s.
#40
billyboy
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/23 19:57:09 (permalink)
Wow, Stephen!  What a truly amazing, informative, educational and inspirational report!  I really felt like I was there with you.  Lots of great detail and your pictures are what I aspire to one day.  I've never been to Louisiana and have no experience with Cajun/creole cuisine but this and the yearly tour have made me crave it!  I hope to make it there next year.  Thanks so much!!!
#41
mr chips
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/24 00:13:35 (permalink)
What a great report! Hope to read many more from you. I admire your iron stomach as well as your participation in a lot of local cultural activities
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Nancypalooza
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/24 09:51:10 (permalink)
I really hope you do more of these--I feel like I know a lot more about Louisiana-outside-New-Orleans food now.  So how long did it take to get over having consumed part of 44 boudin links?
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/24 10:11:27 (permalink)
Fantastic report, Stephen.
I've never been to Louisiana but I love cookbooks from there. My favorite has always been 
"Talk About Good" from ...Lafayette
Thanks for putting a face on the area. 
 There are now several cookbooks from the Junior League there:
 Junior League of Lafayette Cookbooks
but I only have the 1st:
 
  Amazon.com: Talk About Good Cookbook (9780935032024): Louisiana Lafayette Junior League, LA. Junior League of Lafayette: Books: Reviews, Prices & more
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ann peeples
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/24 11:14:24 (permalink)
Excellent and drool-worthy report.The dirty rice, among all the foods, sure caught my attention!
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/24 11:29:50 (permalink)
bill voss

Fantastic report, Stephen.
I've never been to Louisiana but I love cookbooks from there. My favorite has always been 
"Talk About Good" from ...Lafayette
Thanks for putting a face on the area. 
There are now several cookbooks from the Junior League there:
Junior League of Lafayette Cookbooks
but I only have the 1st:

 Amazon.com: Talk About Good Cookbook (9780935032024): Louisiana Lafayette Junior League, LA. Junior League of Lafayette: Books: Reviews, Prices & more

Bill, I also have this cookbook. It's one of my favorites. But my all time favorite is The Pirates Pantry from the Junior League of Lake Charles, La. I love this type of regional cookbook.
Stephan, great report! I really enjoyed reading this one!
#46
CajunKing
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/25 16:45:48 (permalink)
Stephen
 
I must admit that your trip report made me cry. In your report I saw familiar places and foods and made me REALLY miss Breaux Bridge and that whole area. 
 
In having lived there for several years (and having been exiled to Yankee country) I truly miss this unique part of the world.  The people, the area, the food, the traditions.
 
Your photos were little bits of Heaven, THANK YOU for sharing.
 
I have had boudinlink.com bookmarked for several years i look forward to his new reviews.
 
I also must admit that for a Yankee in Cajun Country you dun good!
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CajunKing
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/25 16:46:28 (permalink)
annpeeples

Excellent and drool-worthy report.The dirty rice, among all the foods, sure caught my attention!

 
ANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN
 
Missed ya!
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jtchampag
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/26 14:56:28 (permalink)
Hey there.  I am from Lafayette.  While i would semi agree with you on Judice Inn burgers, i will have to say that lafayette isnt really a burger town, they are def more of a plate lunch/po boy place.  Judice inn used to be much better, their whole thing was their special sauce and simplicity..not to mention it has been there since the street they were on was a gravel road...and as for your comment about meches not having iced coffee, i say go to starbucks if thats what you want...people love the old places back home because they have thrived on being what they are, and that is a place thats does something great and sticks to it...i dare you to find a better donut....i am surprised that out of all the places for you to try, two of them were burger joints in a town full of so muck more culinarily (is that even a word, ha!)  i will say that i do enjoy your site and writings, but i will say that you should have dug a little deeper in lafayette....
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boucaniere
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/26 15:38:45 (permalink)
Jt, 
Greg here from Lafayette, LA.   My wife owns and runs Johnson's Boucaniere (based on the world famous Johnson's Grocery in Eunice, La) in Lafayette.  Glad you found this post.  We hosted dinner for Stephen Thursday night and a prolifia of restaurants were thrown out there, but he had a very limited window, and I'm actually amazed he crammed that much into his week-end.  He really only had Friday during the day to go to restaurants, because he attended Downtown Alive to promote the Boudin cook-off the next day, followed by The Blue Moon Saloon that night.  Then he spent the day judging the boudin contest, followed by a show to see the Bluerunners that night.  If you have suggestions on other places to eat I would bet that he is sure to return at some point to Lafayette.  Anyway, next time your down in this neck of the woods come check our place out.  We are Downtown one block from the Cathedral.
Cheers,
Greg
post edited by boucaniere - 2010/10/26 15:40:54
#50
Tony Bad
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/26 16:23:50 (permalink)
Wow Stephen, you really crammed a lot into a short time. Thanks for a great report and great pictures...even if you did forget my cracklins!
#51
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/26 17:28:02 (permalink)
Tony Bad

Wow Stephen, you really crammed a lot into a short time. Thanks for a great report and great pictures...even if you did forget my cracklins!

 
I think the words you are looking for are THANK YOU!
#52
boucaniere
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/27 11:22:22 (permalink)
tony,
Greg here w/ Johnson's Boucaniere
I just sent you a message for step-by-step instructions for making your own cracklins.  Let me know if you do not receive the mail and I can resend.
 
#53
Nancypalooza
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/27 11:23:53 (permalink)
Oh now you've done it.  Now he will never leave the house.  :)
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Tony Bad
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/27 11:46:49 (permalink)
boucaniere

tony,
Greg here w/ Johnson's Boucaniere
I just sent you a message for step-by-step instructions for making your own cracklins.  Let me know if you do not receive the mail and I can resend.


 
Thank you very much Greg, message received. As I wrote in the note back to you, I was really just joking with Stephen. He had warned e that cracklins were a bit of an acquired taste...one which I acquired in about 7 seconds! I really liked them but they were gone very quickly!
 
Nancypalooza 

Oh now you've done it.  Now he will never leave the house.  :) 
 
 
You got it Nancy!
 
 
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/27 22:41:45 (permalink)
Nancypalooza

Oh now you've done it.  Now he will never leave the house.  :)

 
He'll have to leave the house to cook them outside.
Cajun Cooking Rule #57--NEVER cook Cracklin's or Chitterlings in the house unless you want your house to be uninhabitable for 6 months!
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/28 22:57:11 (permalink)
Wow, some nice photographs in here. You've got an eye for the angle.
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/10/28 23:37:21 (permalink)
Fantastic trip report.  I was with Stephen much of his time here and it is hard to believe that he could hit so many places in such a short trip.  Truly a marathon of culinary explorations.  We hit some great spots.  Are there more?  Absolutely.  Looking forward to his next visit.   
 
I've decided that I really need a new camera.
#58
mattie405
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2010/11/01 01:08:12 (permalink)
I have to agree with your opinion of the Judice Inns burgers. After having lived here for almost 30 years now we finally had to go see what all the fuss was about with these burgers. I fail to see anything good about them and one try was enough to convince us not to go back again. Now, hubby does like the ones at the Southside Bakery but those don't impress me either, the spice they use overpowers the meat and leaves me wondering why the need to hide a good meats taste with all that seasoning. Glad you like Lafayette, it can be a nice town, even if you're a NYC transplant.
#59
anitapizza
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Re:Lafayette, LA and the Boudin Festival Weekend 2011/01/03 00:21:31 (permalink)
Yeah, it is a shame about the Judice Inn.  Years ago I lived in Lafayette and would go there whenever I wanted a great burger.  But the times I've been there recently were disappointing.  Once, the meat was undercooked; another time it was overcooked.  That place could be - and used to be- so much better!  It could be the perfect burger joint!  It's as if they just don't care anymore.  Really sad.
#60
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