AM BLOG - Posted July 18, 2012 4:25 p.m.

Louisiana Flavor

Louisiana chef, artist make their way to the Panhandle

As I'm sure all of you know by now, I'm from Louisiana. Once you hear me speak, you know I’m not from these parts. When I moved to Amarillo nearly two years ago, I never expected to become homesick for a state that is always one of the top rungs of every bad list (health, obesity) in the country and one of the bottom rungs of every good list (education, healthcare).

In my state’s defense, however, we can always count on Mississippi rating worse than us, so at least I’m not from there.

For the first year of my residence here in Amarillo, I was content. My seafood and crawfish cravings were at a minimum, and I had nearly forgotten about one of my beloved Louisiana products: Abita beer. (By the way, if you’ve never heard of it, shame on you. If you have, yet never tried it, shame on you again.) The things I would do for a cold, sweating bottle of Abita…

When I returned to my hometown this past March, after a year-and-half absence, I brought back not memories cherished with my family, (inside joke), but two six-packs of Abita Strawberry, a seasonal delight that is fiercely sought after.

I savored those scrumptious suckers for three months, taking the last sip of the last bottle in June in celebration of my old ball and chain’s new job. I knew there was a reason I was holding out on that last bottle, sitting all by its lonesome in my fridge, its fruity essence and deep red hue putting its fellow, watery alcoholic beverages to shame. I won’t name any names.

Enough rambling about myself, and let me get to the good stuff.

Good Stuff No. 1: Award-winning, New Orleans chef, Emile Stieffel, will be making his way to the Texas Panhandle at the end of this month. On July 27, he will present “New Orleans Soul Food Cooking and Drinks” to an audience at WTAMU’s University’s Alumni Banquet Facility, courtesy of the Office of Continuing Education.

The program will offer cooking demonstrations, participation opportunities, and best of all, tasting of Stieffel’s soul food dishes, such as Catfish Court Bouillon, mustard and collard greens and mini muffalettas, which originated in New Orleans. If you’ve never tried an authentic muffaletta, then I strongly urge you to take a bite of the zesty goodness. Once you go there, there’s no coming back.

But that’s only the first portion of the class. The second half will consist of a “Spirits of the Bayou” session where tasters can pair mini poboys with traditional NOLA beverages such as Southern Comfort, Ramos Gin Fizz, Hurricane cocktails, Dixie beer, and last but certainly not least, Abita. The three syllables resonate in my head as I type out that paradisiacal word.

As soon as I heard Abita was on the menu, I knew I had to interview Stieffel. Maybe he can tuck a case into the overhead compartment of the plane during his trip here.

But having literally just gotten off an hour-long interview with the N'awlins chef that included mouthwatering descriptions of Louisiana cuisine and history lessons on the origin of these dishes, Stieffel said he is going to be on the lookout for Abita Strawberry in the stores. (I was just informed the company’s warehouse no longer has any in stock!) Now that is what I call a true Southern gentleman.

More information to come on the New Orleans soul food program later this week. Reservations are needed by Monday. To register, call the Office of Continuing Education at 651.2037.


by Drew Belle Zerby

After graduating from LSU in 2009, Drew Belle worked as a page designer in north Louisiana until moving to Amarillo and joining AGN Media in late 2010. In her spare time, she loves to read, travel and spout out useless movie trivia.

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