Baton Rouge/Plantation Country

Regional Reports From Across the State

Pineapple fried rice from Sake Café

Last summer when Gustav took his slow, two-day walk across Louisiana, he leveled the carport belonging to the Smith family of Prairieville. Dewayne and Sabrina Smith are the parents of special-needs children, and the lack of a carport on rainy mornings posed a special problem. Sabrina does the bulk of the driving for the children: Serena, who is 5, and twins Nathan and Michael, who are a year younger. Serena is blind and unable to walk or talk and, like her brother Michael, who is fed with a tube, also uses a wheelchair.    
Loading two children in wheelchairs into a car in the pouring rain was considered unacceptable by the volunteers of the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers Council of Greater Baton Rouge. Richard Ourso, owner of Ourso Designs LLC and chairman of the Baton Rouge association, heard about the family’s plight from a teacher at Central Elementary School and issued a call to action. According to the Ascension Parish section of the Baton Rouge Advocate, volunteers from the Port Allen, Baton Rouge, St. Francisville and Ascension Parish regions showed up at the Smiths’ house over a series of weekends and constructed a new carport.
This family seems to hold a special place in the hearts of Baton Rouge businesspeople: Earlier in the year, the Smiths won the Treads and Care Tire Co.’s Extreme Vehicle Makeover competition. Thanks to Treads and Care and the Ascension Body Shop, the Smiths’ van was overhauled with new repairs and a new set of tires and spiffed up with new paint.
Tri J Unlimited worker Kevin Jones told the Advocate that the materials needed to build a 37-foot-by-16-foot carport were contributed by local businesses. The volunteers also belong to the Capital Region Builders Association, and the Smiths are now using their new carport.
“It’s going to make our life a lot drier, for sure,” Dewayne said. “It’s just amazing what the community can do when it gets together.” Apparently, the community is not ready to disband when it comes to assisting this family.
“Now we’re going to regroup and work on a design for a new [wheelchair] ramp for the family,” Ourso told the Advocate. The decision was made when the volunteers noticed the pronounced steep pitch of the ramp currently in place.
“A new ramp will make life a lot easier,” Sabrina said. “This is such a blessing to us; we can’t thank them enough.”

Sake it to me
What happens when Pacific Rim cuisine comes to the bayou? A complete marriage of the minds occurs, and nowhere is this better experienced than at Sake Café in the sprawling Mall of Louisiana in Baton Rouge. My dining partner chose the salmon teriyaki for an entree and proclaimed it tender, remarkable and delicious. It’s really a beautiful dish: salmon sprinkled with sesame seeds and served with steamed broccoli, carrots and baby corn on the side. The fish swims in a thick sienna-colored teriyaki sauce filled with the sweetness of caramelized onion. I was in a barbecue mood, and acting on a suggestion, I ordered the Yakiniku Donburi. This is a Japanese barbecue creation: Parchment-thin beef strips that have been marinating in the sweet-salty combination of a sugared soy sauce are grilled with slices of onions and served on a bed of fluffy rice. It disappeared all too quickly from my plate. We chose not to have dessert, but because of its intriguing name, we asked about the red bean tempura. Our waiter described it as ice cream surrounded by dough, dipped in tempura batter, deep-fried and topped with whipped cream. Leaving the bustle of the Mall of Louisiana to enter this eatery is like going from high to low gear. The atmosphere is suitably zen and soothing, and the waiters treat you like family.
Sake Cafe (Mall of Louisiana), 6401 Bluebonnet Road, Baton Rouge, (225) 767-3389

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