Saturday, May 24, 2008

Heart and Soul Food

Whew! Yesterday's meals presented plenty of opportunity to practice the lessons I've learned about healthy choices and portion control.

We jump started the day in Monroe, La. at The Coffee Bean, where owner Kim Neck says, "The coffee is probably the worst thing on the menu." Not the best opening statement to six coffee-addicted journalists who haven't seen a decent cup of coffee since we got to north Louisiana.

In case you're not familiar with the diverse coffee culture of the state, here's the short version. In south La., coffee is typically dark-roasted and served steaming hot - sometimes as "au lait," with milk. In north La., coffee is usually a mild roast (translation: watery, as in, you can see the bottom of the cup) and is rarely hot.

Kim does a whopping business, however. Her breakfast menu includes a variety of muffins (none of which are low-fat or multi-grain), cinnamon rolls and beignets (the fried pastries dusted with powdered sugar) and quiches. I did manage to squeeze in a bowl of fresh fruit to go with my coffee - which eventually turned out pretty good after I asked for an extra shot of espresso plus a zap in the microwave.

Her blockbuster items, though, are tomato basil soup, chicken salad (300 pounds a week!) and takeout casseroles.

Thirty miles west, we at lunch at Blue Light Cafe in Ruston, La. Owners David and Eula Wright, married 53 years, treated us like family; while niece Lina Venzant cooked up some of the best "home cooking" I've ever least since I was in Monroe at Big Mama's!

Private dinner at Shreveport's ArtSpace was dubbed, "Someone's in the Kitchen with Chef David." Owner of local restaurant Bella Fresca, Chef David says he enjoys blending the Cajun/Creole traditions with the north La./Texas style of cooking.

The result was crawfish fritters, BBQ shrimp over stone-ground grits, couchon de lait (pulled pork) over dirty rice and banana pudding cheesecake. I enjoyed tiny bites of each item. (Thank goodness for the fresh fruit plate in our hotel room!)Yep, that's a piece of braised pork belly in the picture.

In an hour, we're off to Natchitoches (NACK-uh-dish), La. for another round of culinary delights...but not before we eat breakfast at Strawn's, home of the Hungry Man's breakfast. Thank goodness I've already done my cardio this morning in the hotel fitness center!


Cammy said...

I would've done well with the banana pudding cheesecake, and that's about it. :) Safe travels!

Phat Teacher said...

Wow, that food looks incredible! Hope you have a great weekend :-)

Hanlie said...

You have the fortitude of a saint! I'd have run screaming into the hills/swamps/bayou/plains by now!

Pattie said...

Your commitment to staying healthy is awesome, Rebecca! I’m incredibly proud of you.

I’d be in trouble in your line of work: not because of the temptations (which would be bad enough) but I’m allergic to many fish and shellfish dishes. I would likely be checking out the Louisiana hospitals instead of the scenery!

Hope the remainder of your trip is productive and safe.