Finally, a Trip to K-Paul’s in New Orleans

It Started with Mom’s Food Crush on Paul Prudhomme and Her Collection of His Cookbooks

My Mom, an excellent cook, had a food crush on Paul Prudhomme. She bought every cookbook he published until her death in 2000, and those books were well-used. Marked-up, dog-eared and stained, they are family treasures.

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My copy of Chef Paul’s first cookbook is over 30 years old

As my first culinary teacher and mentor, Mom made sure I also got a copy of every one of the cookbooks, too, so I could share in the Chef Paul magic. I was a very young adult when Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen was published in 1984, and I’m sure that his recipes influenced my tastes and later, my recipes.

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That’s Mom and me in her kitchen around the time Chef Paul’s second cookbook was published. Louisiana Kitchen was in the stack right there on top of the oven (on the left), because she used it so often.

When she died, I inherited Mom’s Chef Paul cookbooks (and lots of others). I instantly started using her books instead of mine, because there’s a lot of love and family history encrusted in those pages. Along with the cutting boards my Dad made, these cookbooks are at the top of my Prized Possessions list. My own dog-eared copies of Chef Paul’s complete works are packed up and waiting for my son (known as the Musical Millennial in these pages) to have his own home and kitchen (after college and grad school).

Mom and Dad Fell in Love with K-Paul’s Restaurant

Even with Mom’s food crush on Chef Paul, it took a while for my parents to get to K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, the restaurant in New Orleans that he ran with his wife, Kay. Together, their names are the origin of the restaurant name “K-Paul’s”.  Finally there on a culinary road trip in the late 80s, Mom and Dad absolutely loved their dining experience at K-Paul’s and raved about it from that day forward. (It was one of their first big empty-nester trips, and I’ve never really forgiven them for not taking me along.)

Mom was ill for the last few years of her life and definitely too sick to cook, but she was a devotee of all of Chef Paul’s cooking shows on PBS in the late 90s. It was fun to visit her and watch his shows, commenting on his recipes, reminiscing about the dishes we’d made from the cookbooks, just being foodie nerds together.

Well, I never made it to K-Paul’s with Mom and Dad, and Chef Paul died in 2015.

K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen is Alive and Well

K-Paul’s is still in daily operation in the French Quarter, and you can still find tried and true Louisiana Kitchen dishes there. The Grill-Meister and I took a tenth anniversary trip to NOLA this summer, and finally visited this family legend restaurant. More than 30 years after Mom and Dad’s discovery trip, it was everything they said it was, updated for this century. And yet, still a little homey, which is the promise of the sign, the original from the late 70s (as far as I can tell from online research).

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Let me tell you about it.

The bread basket sported jalapeño rolls and two different little muffins, one of which, the carrot-pecan (and molasses, I suspect), had the Grill-Meister enthralled.

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The bread basket, after we gobbled down several of the choices (eat first, pics later!)

We shared Fried Green Tomatoes and Shrimp, and it was heavenly. Just the right amount of crisp batter on the tomato slices, with shrimp in a piquant brown sauce sandwiched between them.

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Fried Green Tomatoes – crisp on the outside, tender on the inside and made perfect with the addition of shrimp

Oh, the main courses! We ate, and we ate, and we still couldn’t finish them. I had the pan-fried fish and shrimp with jambalaya and the Grill-Meister had the blackened drum. Both came with gloriously sautéed vegetables and the drum was accompanied by a very creamy, very large dollop of garlic mashed potatoes.

fullsizeoutput_255ePan-Fried Flounder with Shrimp and Chartres St Jambalaya

Our waiter was magnificent: well-versed in the intricacies of the menu and daily specials, funny, solicitous and there when we needed him – but without hovering. Exactly the qualities we hope for in a waitperson.

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We made friends with interesting folks at other tables.

The ambiance at K-Paul’s is casual and fun, with recipes on the walls.

It’s a well-oiled machine – we enjoyed watching the food come out and get served within moments.

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Fried oysters, lookin’ good! (Next time.)

Some folks say that K-Paul’s is a tourist destination, and they’re right. That’s just fine. It’s worth the trip. It was for Mom and Dad back in the 80s, and for the Grill-Meister and me last June.

And as for those heirloom cookbooks, they’re still in use here at Glover Gardens. We make Chef Paul’s blackened fish about once a month – check it out here.

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Our blackened fish (tilapia) from Chef Paul’s recipe

Gumbo Recipe (and Stories) Coming Soon

I’m in a Paul Prudhomme mood because I’m making gumbo tonight, and he was one of my gumbo mentors. I’ll publish my version soon, hopefully in time for Thanksgiving and those turkey leftovers. Turkey makes marvelous gumbo.

© 2018 Glover Gardens

Suire’s Wows Again: I’m in Love with Their Crawfish Fettucini

After an anniversary trip to New Orleans this summer, I waxed long and poetic in this post about Suire’s, a tiny, quirky, wonderful and welcoming cafe and grocery in Kaplan, Louisiana that serves spectacular Cajun food.

Now I have to rave about Suire’s again – this time, it’s about the Crawfish Fettuccini. Wow!!!

If you read the original post (and I hope you did – or will), you’ll know the story about the generous stranger who insisted on buying us a frozen container of the Crawfish Fettuccini.

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On the right is Katlyn, our Crawfish Fettuccini benefactor, with Joan Suire, one of the owners of this delicious and delightful destination in Louisiana’s Cajun Country
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Below the baked goods where the Grill-Meister is selecting a house-made fig cake sits the frozen section – a freezer full of Cajun yumminess

The Crawfish Fettuccini Katlyn gifted us with has been sitting in our freezer waiting for the right time for us to savor it slowly and remember what a great time we had at Suire’s. Last night was the night. I’m messing around with crab cakes, trying to create the perfect Glover Gardens version. The taste is all that (according to my Official Taster, the Grill-Meister), but the texture isn’t right yet, so I’m not ready to share the recipe. Stay tuned. Anyway, I needed a side dish.

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First try on Glover Gardens crab cakes, made with Zippy Southwest seasoning and served with Sriracha mayo

The Suire’s Crawfish Fettuccini was the perfect complement to our crab cake experiment. And it was just that: perfect. Creamy, spicy, homey, with tasty little morsels of crawfish. Oh my goodness!

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You can almost taste the creamy, spicy goodness of the Suire’s Crawfish Fettuccini, can’t you?

So Katlyn, thank you so much for the gift of the frozen Crawfish Fettuccini. You were absolutely right about it. Wow.

I’m excited because we still have two frozen entrees from Suire’s – Red Beans and Sausage and Crawfish Étouffée. When they’re gone, it’s time for a road trip! Wanna come?

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© 2018 Glover Gardens

 

 

A Real Find in Cajun Country: Suire’s Grocery and Restaurant

The People of Suire's – Version 2Looking for lunch on a recent trek home from New Orleans, we took the long way along the coast and found a treasure (and I do mean treasure) in the backroads of southern Louisiana. Suire’s Grocery and Restaurant has been serving delicious Cajun food to hungry travelers, locals and hunters since 1976. It was magic: the food, the ambience and especially the people. The Grill-Meister and I were enchanted.

An Experience, Not a Pit Stop

You know it’s going to be a memorable experience instead of a quick bite right when you pull up to the unassuming white building. The menu is painted on the outside, along with a faded but very friendly-looking alligator to welcome you.

Inside, the feeling that you’re in a unique place is immediately reinforced. The walls are crowded with a fascinating collection of Louisiana kitsch, safety awards, family and local memorabilia, and articles from publications ranging from the New York Times to the Houston Chronicle. Referencing the authenticity of the food and the popularity of Suire’s with hunters and locals, the articles point out different dishes and dining experiences from the individual viewpoints of the writers, but they all have one thing in common: glowing reviews.

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From family pictures to Tabasco posters to mouthwatering descriptions of Suire’s food, the walls here are fascinating
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Suire’s during hunting season; photo from their Facebook page

Menu Choices Galore

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Suire’s pistolette, from Facebook, “good for breakfast, lunch or dinner!”

We didn’t stop to read the articles at first, though. The menu above the counter where you order at the back of the store draws you in and amplifies your hunger. And that’s only a portion of what’s on offer: there’s also a printed menu with so many choices! There are selections that you rarely find outside of Cajun Country, like turtle sauce picante and three kinds of pistolettes (deep-fried rolls stuff with crawfish, shrimp or crab), and just about every Cajun menu staple you can imagine: alligator, boudin balls, shrimp or crawfish étouffée, twelve different po-boys, multiple fried seafood platters, red beans and sausage…you get the idea. And then there are salads, burgers, sandwiches and sides like Cajun fries, potato salad. Oh my goodness!

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The posted menu on the wall is just a tiny portion of what’s available daily at Suire’s; there’s also a daily special, which on that day was spaghetti and meat sauce served with an egg roll or cheese stick and green salad

A Very Satisfying Meal

It was difficult, but we finally made our selections. The Grill-Meister and I had been in New Orleans for 3 days celebrating a milestone anniversary and had enjoyed numerous Cajun and Creole dishes, but we were happy to continue the trend at Suire’s. He chose the shrimp poboy, and I had the shrimp and crabmeat gumbo plate. They were both spectacular: fresh, delicious, perfectly balanced. Humble ingredients transformed into permanent taste memories.

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Simple, fresh and delicious: the shrimp poboy
Gumbo Plate at Suire's
Rich dark gumbo with flecks of crab
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A ceramic fish on the table holds salt and cayenne pepper shakers – love it!
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Other patrons were just as serious about their meals as we were (it’s that good)

The Sweet Smell of Baked Goods

House-made baked goods are everywhere, tempting you while you wait for your meal. This is NOT fast food. There’s time to take in the abundant ambience and ponder your dessert choices while the Suire’s kitchen prepares your order. A huge selection of old-fashioned favorites make it really hard to choose. Peanut butter balls or fig cake? Heavenly hash or rice krispy treats? Brownies, cookies or fruit-filled tarts? And who can resist homemade pecan pie??? After some soul-searching, the Grill-Meister chose the fig cake. I know that he loves me, because he gave me a bite.

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Old-fashioned baked goods are made onsite and wrapped individually

A Freezer Full

Suire's Frozen FoodsA further temptation is the freezer full of Suire’s specialties, fulfilling the promise painted on the front door:

Don’t feel like cooking? … Frozen Foods – Ready to Eat – Just Heat and Serve

We just happened to have an ice chest with us. (No self-respecting foodies would go on a road trip to Louisiana without a way to bring some of the goodness home.) The ice chest got a little fuller.

Dry Goods and Groceries, Too

I’ve been gushing about the restaurant and the ambience, but shouldn’t ignore the other side of Suire’s – the grocery store. I’m from a very small town in Southeast Texas, and I know that the local grocery store can be the center of a small community, the place where people go to chat and get news, and the source of that one missing ingredient for the big dinner you planned to make.

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Saving the Best for Last: the People of Suire’s

The most enchanting thing about Suire’s was the people. We had the great fortune to meet and chat with Joan Suire, who co-owns and runs the business with her sister, Lisa. Happy to chat, she pointed out some of the more interesting articles and photos on the walls and provided backstories. For example: behind the signed celebrity photos from the 1940s was the tale of a relative who worked at the Waldorf-Astoria, met and married a Rockefeller, “and never worked again”.

Jean tells her stories with a charismatic, wry smile and an excellent sense of timing. We could have conversed with her all day; her pride in the family business is evident and irresistible. She told us how here parents had started the business when she and her sister were teenagers, and that she’d never married but has had a great life at the counter of Suire’s. Joan shared a recent testimonial from a customer, a Baton Rouge native who’d just found Suire’s:

Your food resurrected my mother!

Taste memories. They’re important.

It was early Sunday afternoon when we visited, and there was a steady stream of locals picking up to-go orders. Jean knew everyone’s name and asked after their families with a genuine interest.

Southern Hospitality: “It’s My Treat!”

But it’s not just the proprietors that are special at Suire’s, it’s also the customers. One struck up a conversation with me, sharing that a new porch was being built at her house that day, so she was picking up lunch from Suire’s for everyone. A lovely young woman, she almost glowed as she gushed about the food, saying that the crawfish fettuccini was the absolute best. As she was paying for her order, she gestured for me to come up to the counter and said, “Do you want to try the crawfish fettuccini?” I thought she meant a little bite from some big vat of the wonderful stuff back in the kitchen, but no – she was offering to buy us a meal! We had already ordered, so I declined, but she insisted:

I’m going to buy you a frozen one, then. It’s my treat. You have to try it!

So there you are. An absolute stranger bought us a local delicacy because it’s that good. I think her name was Caitlyn and wish I had written it down so I could thank her properly. (Lovely young lady, if you read this and I got your name wrong, please correct me!) Whenever I think about southern hospitality from now on, this experience at Suire’s will come to mind.

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Joan and Caitlyn (I hope that’s right) posed for me and I told them to look for this post in Glover Gardens; what wonderful people

Another Road Trip

The Grill-Meister and I are already planning another road trip, this time with the express purpose to soak up more of that Suire’s magic. Wanna come?

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Note: some of the articles I read when I was preparing this “restaurant rave” post suggested that the 2002 New York Times article put Suire’s on the map and made it famous. I disagree. It might have increased awareness about this little gem, but it’s clear that Suire’s has always been famous with the people of Southeast Louisiana and the the travelers, hunters and fisher-people who visit.

Epilogue: Anthony Bourdain was Here

We didn’t know when we found Suire’s two weeks ago that Anthony Bourdain had visited in February of this year for his Parts Unknown series. Wow. The episode, Cajun Mardi Gras Recap, aired soon after his tragic death. The photo below, taken on Ash Wednesday, is on the Suire’s Facebook page and features Anthony with owners (and sisters) Joan and Lisa. “One of the more awesome locations I’ve ever found,” he said of Suire’s. Indeed.

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Anthony Bourdain with Joan (left) and Lisa (right)

Anthony Bourdain knew his stuff. Suire’s is awesome.

© 2018 Glover Gardens