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USATourist News Magazine by Elizabeth Blair
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USATourist News Magazine

February 2009 - Southwest Louisiana

In this issue:

Louisiana Culinary Trails

Culinary trails are quite the rage in the United States right now. If this is your first time hearing the phrase "culinary trail," let me explain. Various regions have been or are pulling together restaurants, businesses, shops and factories to partake in regional "trails" featuring foods and dishes unique to the area. One of these areas is, not surprisingly, Louisiana.

Louisiana boasts seven culinary trails: Creole Fusion Trail (Greater New Orleans), Bayou Bounty Trail (Iberia/Lafayette), Capital Cuisine Trail (Greater Baton Rouge), Prairie Home Cooking Trail (Alexandria and vicinity), Delta Delights Trail (Monroe and surroundings), Red River Riches Trail (Bossier/Shreveport) and Seafood Sensation Trail (Lake Charles area).

Blue Softshell Crabs

Blue Softshell Crabs are one of the Louisiana specialties you'll find at the Seafood Palace Restaurant
Photo by Elizabeth Blair ©

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Southwest Louisiana's Calcasieu Parish (parishes are equivalent to "counties" in other states of the U.S.). This parish is home to the town of Lake Charles and the Seafood Sensation Trail.

While I spent 14 years in Baton Rouge, - this trip showed me that Southwest Louisiana is a melting pot of ethnicities: French, Spanish, African, Native American, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern are only a handful of cultures residing in this region, each reflected in enticing food.

If you're looking for some restaurant suggestions here a few terrific establishments in Lake Charles:
Breakfast: For a terrific hot southern breakfast I recommend Southern Spice (3901 Ryan Street) and Chez Café (127 West College Street).

Lunch: Chastain's Food & Spirits (3922 Ryan Street) is where you can pick up oysters and beef brisket poboys (the southern versions of submarine sandwiches). You can experience some terrific, fresh seafood at Steamboat Bills on the Lake or Seafood Palace (2218 Enterprise Blvd) - the prices are fantastically reasonable at each of these.

Dinner: Mazen's Restaurant offers fine Mediterranean dining in a casual but elegant setting (the fried asparagus drizzled with hollandaise sauce is unforgettable!). Le Truffe Sauvage provides a lovely fine-dining experience in an intimate setting with delicious menu items from Angus Beef to fresh seafood.

Tip: Over 75 annual Festivals are held year-round in Calcasieu Parish - any time you visit, there should be something fun going on.

Sallier Oak Tree

The giant Sallier Oak tree is a perfect spot to take a break.
Photo by Elizabeth Blair ©

Southwest Louisiana History

Rumor has it pirate Jean Lafitte buried his treasure somewhere in the bayous of Southwest Louisiana. You can learn more at the 45-year-old Imperial Calcasieu Museum (204 West Sallier Street).

Outside, behind the museum are the Sallier Oak and Lynda Benglis Sculpture Garden. Be sure to take a peek at the 400-year-old live oak tree (live oaks stay green year-round) - you can't miss it.

Bettin' on the Bayou

Besides good food, there are also plenty of gaming opportunities in this part of Louisiana. Isle of Capri Casino and Hotel is an affordable, Caribbean-themed property consisting of two gaming riverboats, several restaurants, and shops and an all-you-can-eat buffet.

L'Auberge du Lac Casino Resort is a striking.rustic-style resort-casino that recently added 250 luxury rooms and a handful of upscale boutiques. Snake River Grill is on the premises and has received Wine Spectator's prestigious "Award of Excellence" for nine consecutive years.

This year the Sugarcane Bay Resort and Casino, island themed resort, will be opening adjacent to L'Auberge du Lac.

Be sure to sign up for every casino's "player card" for discounts and sometimes extra gambling money.

Tip: The riverboat casinos were formerly required to make regularly scheduled 90-minute cruises every 3 hours - but that's a thing of the past. Now, you can come and go as you please.

Throw Me Something Mister!

It's that time again.this month is Mardi Gras 2009 and the festivities are happening all across the Louisiana. In fact, Southwest Louisiana has the second largest Mardi Gras in the state with over 40 "krews" (teams working parade floats). Mardi Gras season lasts from January 6 (Twelfth Night, otherwise known as the Feast of the Epiphany) to Ash Wednesday (something to keep in mind for next year). Parades, pageants and King Cakes are all part of the celebrations. Speaking of King Cake.Delicious Donuts and Bakery (across the street from Imperial Calcasieu Museum) ships this tasty treat all over the world. If you would like to order one or learn more click here - you will see the various fillings this doughy dessert has (my absolute favorite is the House Specialty: Pecan Praline or Pralines-n-Cream).

Mardi Gras ball gown

The Mardi Gras Museum features some of the elaborate gowns worn by revelers.
Photo by Elizabeth Blair ©

Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu

The Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu in Lake Charles is located at Historic Central School Arts and Humanities Center and is a "must-see" while in Lake Charles. The newly renovated museum features various Mardi Gras events, tributes to the krews, history about this famed holiday, and a even a Mardi Gras float. The exhibit presents rows of mannequins la femme adorned in lavish Mardi Gras ball gowns. (809 Kirby Street, Lake Charles, LA)

How to get there

Lake Charles is only a couple of hours drive from Houston, Texas, to the west, and New Orleans to the east, but Lake Charles Regional Airport also has many inbound flights from both metropolises and other regional cities. Flying over the bayous and along the Louisiana coast is a fantastic way to see this unique region.

Special Travel Deals and Discounts

New Orleans School of Cooking - The Creole/Cajun experts teach you New Orleans specialties such as Gumbo, Jambalaya and Pralines, and season them with history, trivia and tall tales.

Book New Orleans activities online - cruises, tours, restaurants and discounts!

Six Flags Hurriance Harbor LA - Buy Tickets

Book your Carnival Triumph cruise from New Orleans in 2009, now offering two new 7 Day Caribbean itineraries!

Six Flags Theme Parks - Buy Online Now!

Find the Ideal Bed and Breakfast Inn on

Romantic Hideaways & Hotels at Expedia. Save even more when you book your flight and hotel together.

Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair

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