It’s good luck for late sleepers that brunch has come to the bayou.
Margaret Girouard wasn’t interested in pickles and ice cream when she was pregnant. “Give me boudin,” she said. Her husband, Justin, was running the kitchen at Stanley, star chef Scott Boswell’s restaurant on Jackson Square in New Orleans, with a breakfast-driven menu. Justin dreamed up a crazy Cajun take on Eggs Benedict, substituting a grilled boudin patty for the Canadian bacon, and exchanging the classic hollandaise topping for a ladle full of chicken and sausage gumbo.
“It was crazy good,” says Margaret, “but he’d only make it for me on the sly; he was trying to keep the idea a secret.”
One year later, the Girouards opened The French Press in their home town of Lafayette, and the dish, dubbed Cajun Benedict, is the star of their brunch menu.
Here in Acadiana, we have for two centuries been a collection of small towns, small farms and sugar plantations. An agrarian economy necessitates getting up early. Breakfast, be it coffee and a nose of French bread, or eggs, sausage, grits and biscuits, is an early morning affair. Even as the Cajun economy shifted to oil and gas, we’ve kept to our country foodways: breakfast in the morning, dinner at noon, and supper in the evening. But things are changing on the bayou.
|Cajun Benedict, The French Press|
The Cajun food driven breakfast menu really got its start at Café des Amis in Breaux Bridge in 1992. Dickie Breaux, his former wife Cynthia Schneider, and Dickie’s son Brett Breaux put together a menu that reached deep into the black iron pots of country cooks. They started out with a conventional breakfast, but once Zydeco Breakfast was born, so was a morning eggstravangaza that tucked boudin patties under and sauced crawfish etouffée over the poached eggs. Beignets, by way of Café du Monde in New Orleans, oreilles de cochon, right out of Cajun fry pots, tasso omelets and andouille-laced grits rounded out a menu that has drawn an international crowd to the little café and catapulted Café des Amis into the pages of The New York Times, Gourmet, Saveur and Bon Appetite magazines.
The only complaint about breakfast at Café des Amis is that it stops at 10:30 a.m., and the menu switches over to lunch. Restaurateur Ema Haq saw the need to extend eggs and bacon hours. His restaurant, Bailey’s, has been offering brunch on Sundays for 17 years. Chef Pat Breaux fills a buffet with smoked salmon, cream cheese and bagels, traditional Eggs Benedict, Eggs Bailey’s (which pours crawfish etouffée over the Benedict stack), crawfish cakes, carved prime rib and leg of lamb, an omelet station and for dessert the much-adored bread pudding.
|Al fresco brunch at The French Press|
Still, brunch took a while to catch on. It wasn’t until six years later that Blue Dog Café owner Steve Santillo turned his popular Cajun restaurant into a Sunday morning scene, with the biggest brunch buffet in town and a live jazz band. Typically, the parking lot begins to fill and a line forms even before the doors open at 10:30 a.m. Find your way to dine on the back patio, where George Rodrigue’s big Blue Dog sculpture keeps watch over the shady courtyard.
Blue Dog stirs up the definitive corn and crab bisque in town. Limpid, silky, with a rich corn introduction to the tongue and a nice slow cayenne burn at the back of the palate, it’s the kind of subtle soup that will have you going back for thirds if you don’t watch yourself. The buffet line reads like plate lunch paradise, with grillades and grits, dirty dog rice, limas and tasso, smothered cabbage and a house fave, crawfish enchiladas. Blue Dog also offers straight up Americana plates: carved roast beef, omelets made to order and Belgian waffles. Save room for the homemade cheesecake. Miss Irene, the pastry chef, has perfected her recipe over 11 years. She’s been baking cheesecake since the day Blue Dog opened its doors.
Right down the road, Santillo’s new restaurant, Jolie’s Louisiana Bistro, recently added a half dozen brunch items to the Sunday lunch menu. Seafood Benedict Mornay tops poached eggs with a prosciutto and a creamy crab and shrimp cheese sauce. The intriguing pain perdu begins with soaked and sautéed ciabatta, and is topped with a wholly original praliné of apples and andouille. End brunch (or begin, if you like your dessert first) with a bourbon milk punch, the quintessential breakfast quaff.
|Beignets, Village Café|
Chef Jude Tauzin at Village Café started serving Sunday brunch in December. Sitting outside on the Town Square at River Ranch is one of the most satisfying ways to start your sabbath. Tauzin is acclaimed for his culinary finesse, and brunch is treated as carefully as the rest of his menu. He serves two breakfast classics, Eggs Benedict and Sardou, and treats them with respect for the great dishes they are, while adding a twist of his own. The Benedict gets the boudin patty treatment, definitely an improvement over Canadian bacon. Sardou has a killer combination: cream spinach, fresh artichoke hearts, poached eggs, hollandaise. Tauzin doesn’t mess with that perfection, but he does guild the lily a bit by adding a fried oyster to the stack, which contributes the necessary crunch to make this a stellar dish. However, the white giant of the three poached egg dishes is Tauzin’s steak and eggs, medallions of medium-rare beef tenderloin, blackened tomatoes, eggs, and two sauces, a truffle-wild mushroom marchand de vin of great depth, twinned with the lemony hollandaise. It’s over the top, and worth every calorie.
|Seafood Benedict Mornay, Jolie's Louisiana Bistro|
Prejean’s has been serving great breakfasts for more than a decade. Outspoken former Gov. Mike Foster’s Waterloo was the Prejean Napoleon, a short stack of a polenta cake, crab cake and poached egg, blanketed with hollandaise and garnished with shrimp and tasso. General manager Brett Breaux took on refreshing the menu about six months ago. Breaux, who was instrumental in developing Café des Amis’ menu, brought boudin patties into Prejean’s Breaux Bridge Benedict. His take is piled on a grilled buttered biscuit, with boudin, he will tell you proudly, from Don’s Speciality Meats, poached eggs, and a really excellent crawfish étouffée. The dish is very rich, the peppery boudin setting off the mellow eggs and étouffée with a nice burn. While both egg dishes are excellent, the pain perdu really shines at Prejean’s, made the way your grandmother does, with custard soaked French bread, grilled to a gentle crispness and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Warm cane syrup comes on the side. Prejean’s offers breakfast seven days a week, but even on the weekends, when late sleepers are looking for omelets at noon, the breakfast shuts down at 10:30.
That abrupt cutoff coaxed us back to downtown, where the breakfast scene has been monopolized by Dwyer’s early morning biscuits for decades. The new kid on the block, the French Press has changed the downtown culinary vocabulary.
|Pain perdu with syrup, Prejean's|
“Brunch is my favorite meal of the day,” says Justin Girouard. “It’s always easier to cook what you can appreciate eating. If I want to eat what’s going out the door, that’s instant gratification for me as the cook.” Breakfast and lunch are really one menu at French Press, where sandwiches containing bacon, eggs and boudin vie with fried oyster poboys and a healthy bowl of house-made granola topped with yogurt and fresh fruit. But the real game changer is the hours. French Press serves brunch five days a week, from 7 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. weekends through closing time at 2 p.m. The outdoor tables, facing Parc Sans Souci, draw couples with strollers and dogs. Bicyclists, drawn to the downtown scene as well as the hipster bike shop two doors down, Recycled Cycles, chain up to the No Parking signs when they stop for coffee. And afternoon segues into evening, with a glass of wine chez Philippe’s, before the French Press opens its doors for weekend dinners.
Brunch is urban, it’s cool, it’s praline bacon, and it’s here, on the bayou.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The Houston firm said Friday in its weekly report that 1,575 rigs were exploring for oil and 338 for gas. One was listed as miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,776 active rigs.
A crew began erecting the 25-foot mini-wheel late morning Friday in anticipation of the evening’s Hottest Night of the Year party at the park.
Frances Boothe of Nunez, who also happens to be filmmaker Stephen Meaux’s grandmother, prepares a cool-weather fave.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
New Iberia colonial or Broussard traditional home
The LPSB is poised and ready to move forward with the termination of Pat Cooper following a discussion Thursday with the attorney hired for the investigation of the superintendent, but a decision of this magnitude should be left up to the new board seated in January, especially with three pro-investigation board members bailing out come the new year.
Fiery style for game day
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Google vs. Amazon in drone race; more deaths in Syria; Russia escalates Ukraine conflict and more national and international news for Friday, August 29, 2014.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
Three bedroom Port Barre cottage or three bedroom historic district Opelousas home
No laboring for shoppers this holiday
It will be next month before Gov. Bobby Jindal will likely get a chance to change the membership of a South Louisiana flood board that is suing dozens of oil, gas and pipeline companies.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
The Acadiana Center for the Arts and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority have announced a new artist stipend program, ArtSpark, designed to offer financial aid to local artists.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Three bedroom traditional or two bedroom Victorian cottage