I’ve learned quite a few things in the time I’ve been running Eatthislafayette.com. If a chef offers you a drink; you drink it. If someone hands you a knife at a boucherie; you use it. And most recently, if someone invites you on a food tour of Lafayette; you go!
The only one of its kind in Lafayette, Cajun Food Tours, the #1 ranked “To-Do” activity on TripAdvisor for Lafayette, has conducted tours since mid 2012 and has delighted locals and visitors alike. With its partnership with over 25 local establishments, the 6 stop 3 hour tour is a great experience; a food lover’s dream. It’s easy to see what gives Cajun Food Tours its true appeal, though. It is more than the delicious food and the joy of possibly meeting people from around the world. The true thrill comes from meeting the Owner/Tour Guide of CFT; Marie Ducote.
I had only met Marie in person once before my tour, but in true Louisiana fashion, she greeted me as if we had been lifelong friends. The double doors of the tour bus jutted open with a ‘WOOSH’ and Marie invited me in and gave me a hug.
“Andre! I’m so glad you could join us on today’s tour. We’re going to have a great time.”
After a round of introductions, our 10 person group made up of myself, three couples from Canada and a family from Texas, took off for our first destination. Cajun Food Tours is more than just a shuttle from one culinary hotspot to the next. The tour, though primarily focused on the cuisine of Acadiana, is a vehicle for Marie to do what she does best: Teach. In fact, the former educator of 23 years even jokes (threats) of a quiz that will preface dessert.
The atmosphere on the bus is fun and relaxed. Zydeco and Cajun music plays in the background while Marie narrates our journey. The occasional question from a rider pops in and Marie answers it without missing a beat. She openly speaks of the hardships felt by the Acadian people during Le Grand Dérangement (the Great Expulsion), the Seven Years’ War and the French and Spanish occupation of the Louisiana Territory leading up to our statehood. Marie is proud of her Cajun heritage, what it stands for and for Lafayette’s many accolades. This pride, the way she speaks of Cajun/Creole people and her love for Acadiana are what you really get out of a tour with CFT.
Naturally, the morning tour starts with coffee and breakfast. Our first stop brought us to Jammin’ Java in Youngsville. The Minczeski family have been running Jammin’ Java since 2012 with playful takes on flavored coffees, teas, ice creams and sandwiches. Get the Boudin biscuit with a Pecan flavored coffee. The savory boudin is drizzled with Steen’s syrup and the biscuit is soft and fluffy. I couldn’t eat just one, and neither will you!
Loading up for our next stop, Marie, in her ever joyful joking manner, closes the double doors knowing that one of her guests was lingering behind. After opening the doors and letting him in, she informs him that we all voted. If he’s late again, she jokes, we’ll kick him off of the bus and we will split his food.
Our drive to our next destination is filled with stories. Marie describes the cracklin making process and then weighs in on the boudin debate. The boudin we had at Jammin’ Java came from NuNu’s, and that’s where we stop next. We take for granted how glorious a specialty meats market is sometimes. Charles, a firefighter from Canada who was on the tour, was awe-struck and planned to order the entire store via their website when he made it home. With its 20+ in house sausages, daily plate lunches, cracklin and traditional and seafood boudin, NuNu’s is a carnivore’s Canaan. I’ll be back for a pack of Smoked Pork and Steen’s sausage this week.
We round out the first half of the tour by visiting Hook’d Up Bar and Grill in Youngsville. With the lunch crowd steadily streaming in, we take to our table to taste some of the best friend catfish I’ve ever had. The thin, crispy fillets were hot and tender and proved to show that just because something is fried, it doesn’t have to be heavy. Join them for live music and get a basket of catfish with a local beer from Parish Brewing.
Marie makes the tour personal. She tells Boudreaux and Thibodeaux jokes, recants memories of her grandmother’s cooking and shares one of her past times; dancing with her husband at Vermilionville on Sundays.
Set right on the bayou, La Cuisine de Maman (Mama’s Kitchen) serves up Cajun and Creole classics and even offers a seafood buffet on Fridays. The Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, served with the option of potato salad on the side, is rich and flavorful.
One mention of the word “Courtboullion” and eyebrows raise. After describing the dish and its regional differences, I get pulled aside by one of the travelers while in the parking lot of T-Coon’s.
“How do you spell that?”
“No! They have to spell it if they want to eat it!”
We walk across the parking lot after polishing off our samples at T-Coon’s and grab coffee and King Cake at Poupart’s. It’s a delicious end to our trip. Cases of dobash cakes and various pastries fill the air with a sweet, satisfying aroma. The king cake, made from airy brioche dough, is the perfect end to a day full of eating.
You can’t get off of the Cajun Food Tours bus without Marie reaching out to give you a hug; and you are happy to oblige. Marie has truly found her niche and has carved out her place in the Lafayette culinary and history scene. As an ambassador of the two, she has been successful in educating over 350 groups in the ways of being Cajun. At the end of the day, Cajun Food Tours is not just about food. It’s about our people, our traditions and our history. Be a tourist of Acadiana. Try new foods. Meet new people. Experience the joy of seeing others realize just how special we are; and go on a Cajun Food Tours trip today.