Made in Acadiana
10 Edible Local Products
Lafayette is called the “Hub City” for its centralized location within Cajun Country, but it’s also an important culinary focal point, boasting outstanding restaurants, unique culinary traditions and great food products for sale.
Here are a few Acadiana culinary creations to be experienced locally but that also travel well.
100% Pure Cane Syrup
119 N. Main St., Abbeville
800/725-1654 | www.steensyrup.com
It’s difficult to miss the downtown Abbeville plant; three giant Steen’s syrup cans greet visitors on Main Street.
C.S. Steen started the company in 1910 with a small syrup operation producing nothing but pure cane syrup. Today, the company still sells the famous cane syrup, cooking it up in open kettles and adding nothing to the mix, which is why it’s labeled Steen’s 100% Pure Cane Syrup.
The product is delicious over pancakes and waffles but also as a glaze for hams and with Louisiana yams and as an ingredient in pecan pies, popcorn balls and other sweet dishes. In addition, Steen’s sells a dark molasses and a light and sweet Louisiana Cane Vinegar, as well.
Cane River Pecans
1415 Easy St., New Iberia
800/293-8710 | www.caneriverpecan.com
The pecans grow along the banks of the Cane River near Natchitoches, but the company packages the gourmet pecans along the banks of Bayou Teche, ready to be shipped around the country.
Cane River Pecan Co. was started in 1969 by Dan Regard, who purchased 2,000 acres of pecan trees and sold his crop along historic Front Street in Natchitoches. His son, Jady Regard, continues the business from New Iberia, producing tins of specialty Cane River pecans in a variety of flavors. Most people prefer the Pecan Trio Assortment, a tin offering roasted and salted pecans, chocolate-covered pecans and praline pecans.
The company also sells cookies, pecan oil, pecan praline popcorn and other food products, plus the Pelican Publishing cookbook Pecans: From Soup to Nuts, featuring the recipes of Jady’s grandfather Keith Courrégé and Acadiana cookbook author and foodie Marcelle Bienvenu.
McIlhenny Co., Avery Island
One of the world’s most recognizable brands is still family-owned and -operated on Avery Island outside of New Iberia. Edmund McIlhenny created the famous pepper sauce in the mid-1860s, blending Tabasco peppers, mined salt from Avery Island and high-quality distilled vinegar aged in white oak barrels.
That same recipe is used today, says Harold Osborn, Tabasco vice president of agriculture and new product development. And because so “very few things change” in regards to producing Tabasco products, they often take years of research and development.
Take Tabasco’s Buffalo Style Hot Sauce, a cayenne pepper-based sauce that’s a natural for chicken wings and dips. The new product will launch this year nationwide but took seven years to develop, Osborn explains. The company had to ensure both the quality and quantities of cayenne peppers and develop the ideal combination.
Once approved, the sauce, like most Tabasco products, gets shipped out to 168 countries.
“It’s a marvel how you get these little bottles from New Iberia to around the world,” Osborn says.
Another new Tabasco product is pure salt from the Avery Island mine, available through the Tabasco catalog, online store and select retail outlets.
Bruce Foods Corp.
P.O. Drawer 1030, New Iberia
337/365-8101 | www.brucefoods.com
Bruce Foods has been making Cajun food products since 1928, just outside the city limits of New Iberia. Today, the company ships products worldwide from Acadiana and other U.S. processing plants but is still family-owned and -operated.
Some of the most popular products Bruce Foods produces are the Original Louisiana Hot Sauce (300 million bottles annually) and Bruce’s Yams, the best-selling canned yams on the U.S. market. Bruce Foods also sells the Cajun Injector Brand, marinades that give meats an infusion of flavors, especially when grilling, smoking or deep-frying.
New products on the market include the Louisiana Gold Horseradish Sauce and the Louisiana Gold Wasabi Sauce.
Locally, Bruce Foods has long-standing relationships with The Boy Scouts of America, The United Way, Second Harvest Food Bank and United Blood Services, says Patrick Brown, chief marketing officer. Bruce Foods also works with ULL, LSU, Tulane and The John Folse Culinary Academy to provide scholarships, continued education and industry expertise.
10218 Louisiana Highway 82, Abbeville | 337/893-3856
Chef Carroll “Caro” Thomas operated a restaurant for 17 years. But his talent for developing great food products began with his mother’s cooking, says Beau Thomas, vice president of sales and marketing of Cajun Power and son of owner Carroll Thomas.
The objective for this family-owned and -operated business in Abbeville is to provide products that Acadiana residents will enjoy, Beau Thomas says.
“We make food for our local Cajun people, but it just so happens that it’s sold all over the world,” he says.
Cajun Power sells more than 80 products, including chicken gumbo, spaghetti sauce, barbecue rubs, marinades and seasonings. The company also produces private labels, offers a mail-order service and invests in research and development.
Usually, it introduces eight to 10 new products a year, Beau Thomas says, but instead the company spent 2011 building a manufacturing facility to produce its new line of “fruit treats,” an all-natural product “done the way it was done 100 years ago,” Beau Thomas says. “It’s not a jelly, and it’s not a jam. It’s all-natural fruit, and it’s absolutely dynamite.”
Even though the company is growing every year, Beau Thomas maintains that the goals are still the same. His brother, Cody Thomas, oversees production; his mother, Marilyn Thomas, and sister, Kristie Besson, control accounting and the office; and his 74-year-old father “steers the ship,” he says.
“Even though we’ve exploded over the past few years, we’re still a mom-and-pop business.”
P.O. Box 53767, Lafayette
337/232-2310 | www.zydecobars.com
When Michelle Vallot commuted 100 miles a day to attend law school, she longed for a quick nutritional bar that tasted better than cardboard. She and her husband had baked Italian fig cookies, and Vallot wanted both to keep that tradition alive and to produce a nutritious bar that tasted good.
Vallot begins with a sweet potato base that provides a healthy taste of sweetness broken down slowly in the body for sustained energy, as opposed to raw sugar, which produces drastic highs and lows. She includes other healthy nutrients to complete the Zydeco Bar.
The nutrition or breakfast bar can be found in numerous grocery stores and specialty stores throughout Louisiana, in addition to locations in New York, New Jersey and several Southern states.
Vallot will introduce two new flavors in early 2012.
The business has taken off so well that Vallot left her legal job in July to dedicate more time to the growing business.
“It’s a way lot of work,” she says of building a new national presence. “But it’s very exciting.”
Tony Chachere’s Creole Foods
519 N. Lombard St., Opelousas
800/551-9066 | www.tonychachere.com
Opelousas chef Tony Chachere published his own Cajun Country Cookbook in 1972, which included a recipe for his personal seasoning blend. When demand arose for the seasoning, he founded the company and product that makes just about everything taste better – Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning.
Today, the Opelousas company produces many other food products, including injectable marinades and dinner mixes, rouxs and gravies and gumbo filé. The company will also relaunch its frozen food entrees this month, including wild-caught Gulf shrimp, Tur-Duc-Hens, smoked sausage and boudin, meat pies, crawfish-cornbread dressing and more.
But the most popular item remains the Creole seasoning, which has evolved over the years to include Salt-Free, Lite Salt, Spice n’ Herbs and More Spice and has inspired other companies to produce their blends, as well. Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning uses include gumbo, crawfish étouffée, sweet potato fries and breakfast eggs. And it’s still produced by the Chachere family in downtown Opelousas.
Bayou Teche Brewing
1106 Bushville Highway, Arnaudville
337/303-8000 | bayoutechebrewing.com
Karlos Knott spent years crafting beers for family and friends, starting out making traditional brews and then experimenting with ingredients that would produce a nice complement to local cuisine.
“We were always trying to find beers that tasted good with Cajun food,” he says.
Karlos Knott preferred Belgian, German and French beers, but he “amped them up a little bit” in true Cajun fashion, he says.
In January 2010, Karlos Knott and his brothers Byron and Dorsey established Bayou Teche Brewing. Their first beer, crafted with Belgian malts and American hops and yeast, was named LA-31 Bière Pâle for the highway running through Arnaudville and Breaux Bridge.
They have since brewed more styles and introduced a darker Bière Noire this past fall and a wheat-and-passion fruit beer called Grenade. Their latest, Bière de Joi-Mello Dubbel, a Belgian Trappist-style brew, contains Mello Joy coffee, another unique Acadiana product that offers a sweet, malty taste, Karlos Knott says.
“We thought it [the Belgian style] would work well with coffee,” he says. “It’s one of my favorites.”
In January, Bayou Teche Brewing introduced the Courir de Mardi Gras, an artisanal version of the French Bière de Mars seasonal ale. Courir will be cross-promoted with a Cajun and Creole Mardi Gras album by Valcour Records.
Bière de Joi-Mello Dubbel is only available on tap in Louisiana, but the brewery’s other labels are available in stores.
This past year the young brewers won three silver medals at the World Beer Championship and were one of 100 breweries nationwide to take part in Savor: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
Sweet Southern Ladies Designer Cakes
1299 B Loreauville Highway, St. Martinville | 337/394-3855
People stop Martha Hebert and Rebecca “Becky” Guidry when they shop for groceries, pump gas and run errands in St. Martinville. Although the sisters have lived and worked in the area their entire lives and were known throughout the area for their delicious and gorgeous cakes, their two appearances on The Learning Channel’s Ultimate Cake Off made them “TV famous.”
The team won the first time they appeared on the show and came in second on their return trip to Hollywood. Now, they bake cakes for celebrities and special events such as an Emeril Lagasse fundraiser.
“People are intimidated by us because we were on TV,” Guidry says, but she insists nothing has changed, including the prices they charge for their cakes.
The Sweet Southern Ladies produce elegant wedding cakes, some as tall as 8 feet, plus specialty cakes. They have created in cake LSU’s Tiger Stadium, a golf cart and shoes, standing guitars and more.
The bottom line, they insist, is that the cakes taste great.
“It’s an art, a sugar art,” Guidry says. “But people love the way they taste.”
Mello Joy Coffee
313 N. Chestnut St., Lafayette
866/355-6569 | mellojoy.com
Brothers Louis and Will Begnaud began the Mello Joy Coffee Co. in 1936, with Louis taking on the reins solo years later. Acadiana enjoyed the local brew for decades until 1976, when Louis Begnaud sold the company to a regional competitor and the brand name was phased out.
Acadiana had to give up its cup of “pure joi,” but the company was resurrected by new owners in 2000.
Today, consumers can find Mello Joy Coffee throughout Acadiana grocery stores and in parts of the South and the East Coast.