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Baton Rouge/Plantation Country

Sophomore pitcher Anthony R. Ranaudo

Thrill box

Watching the Louisiana State University Tigers play baseball during spring in the openness of Alex Box Stadium reminds me of Mardi Gras. There are plenty of revelers; the purple and gold of the Tiger uniforms dot the green field that surrounds the baseball diamond like Rex banners on random French Quarter balconies; the fresh air smells of peanuts, hot dogs, cold beer and the traces of tailgating. Watching LSU baseball is as thrilling to me as watching the Tigers in autumn. The metallic clink of the bat as it strikes a ball is a stirring sound –– for decades this baseball team has carried on a long tradition of pure scrappiness in the form of late inning batting eruptions. Win or lose, they’re never boring. In an early season game against University of Central Florida, the Tigers exploded in a seventh inning batting melee that resulted in a victory: LSU 13, UCF 4. Batters D.J. LeMahieu, Sean Ochinko, Leon Landry and Tyler Hanover proved to be reliable powerhouses in the batting department.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Anthony R. Ranaudo, who stands at a towering 6-foot-7, lasted six innings against UCF, yielding one run on three hits and one walk and firing in 10 strikeouts. This Jersey boy’s pitches have been clocked at mid-90s speed, leaving little wonder that he’s considered one of the best prospects in the country. Like a Louisiana black bear prowling, his huge frame doesn’t stand in the way of a marked instinctual feel for pitches: Ranaudo can easily shift gears from curveball to fastball. As a freshman, in his first career start against Auburn in the 2008 season, he recorded five strikeouts in three innings. In the last inning of LSU’s win in Game 3 of the NCAA Super Regional against University of California, Irvine, Ranaudo pitched a no-no: no runs, no hits and one strikeout. This young man, who will turn 20 in September, plans to major in education with a minor in business. He credits his father, who told him he could always do whatever he dreamed, with his success.

Mid-morning glory

Once upon a time, when I was less pressed for time, I loved to put on a huge calico pinafore and spend a day in the kitchen preparing homemade herb vinegars and butters to give to friends for special occasions. Even if one of my destined-to-be-dumped-before-it-was- jarred homemade mustards cleared the house of family members because of its aroma, for the most part, these little herbal treasures of mine were appreciated. Something about the ambience and attention to detail in the menu at Mansurs on the Boulevard strikes a similar considerate and pleasant cord. On Mother’s Day, when all women should be allowed the luxury to lay aside their aprons –– figuratively or not –– brunch at Mansurs is sheer gourmet nurturing.
Appetizers such as Crab Cakes Covington are presented with rémoulade sauce and tomato-corn relish that’s reminiscent of maque choux. So much flavorful imagination goes into the dishes in this elegant eatery that it matches the creativity of Beatrix Potter. Imagine Acadiana Egg Rolls: duck and shrimp filling a crispy wrapper with jewel-like Asian dipping sauces waiting alongside. As one who could probably live off of brie, fresh fruit and a glass of wine for the remainder of her days, I strongly suggest you lose yourself in the velvety nuanced wonder of the Cream of Brie and Crabmeat Soup. Awakening your palate with spring-like freshness, the Marinated Seafood Salad is artfully constructed with tender crabmeat, shrimp and fresh herbs tossed in olive oil and house vinaigrette. The tangy Napa Salad –– marinated chicken, fresh spinach and blue cheese graced by crisp apples, grapes and walnuts in a honey-Pinot vinaigrette –– seems to touch every part of your mouth and tongue with various chords of resounding flavor.
The humble oeuf is not overlooked on Mansurs’ brunch menu. Light, crispy crab cakes resting on an English muffin crowned by poached eggs and served with rémoulade sauce and fresh fruit comprise the Boulevard Brunch. A pair of succulent filet mignon medallions are adorned by poached eggs on an English muffin base, accompanied by the lemony-butter glory of Hollandaise sauce and fresh fruit. Lump crabmeat and Gulf shrimp may be added to any egg dish by request.
Finally reaching Louisiana from the Low Country of South Carolina, Mansurs’ Shrimp with Grits is another delectable offering, complete with cream cheese grits that morph into a soft mélange that reflects the shrimp, andouille and Abita Amber flavors.
Mansurs on the Boulevard, 5720 Corporate Blvd., Baton Rouge, (225) 923-3366, www.mansursontheboulevard.com

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