Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?

What’s that? I couldn’t read your comments through all the dust that’s accumulated over the blog.

It has been some time, hasn’t it? I’ve noticed I’m still getting quite a few daily hits, and I’m pleased! However, I permanently relocated to lovely California several months ago. (Yay!) The move has been beneficial to me both professionally and personally, but I’m still grateful for the fabulous food and experiences I had during my stint in Louisiana.

As a result, some of the information you might find here may not be up-to-date. I’m no longer keeping track of restaurant openings and closures in Shreveport, so if you read a review you like, be sure to call in advance and make sure they’re still around!

As far as I know, Shreveport still lacks a regularly-updated, unbiased and objective restaurant review blog. Most local newspapers, magazines, and tourism websites (and this applies to everywhere, not just Shreveport) strive to paint a particular picture of a location–often to appease advertisers and personal connections. Through Savoring Shreveport, I aimed, frankly, to cut through all that crap. I didn’t write for page views or to make friends, I did it because I believed (and still believe!) that people are entitled to an unbiased opinion when deciding where to spend their money. The immense popularity of sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon corroborate my belief. But if you miss my blog (and I hope you do), perhaps you’ll think about starting your own and picking up where I left off.

I thank you all for nearly three great years as a member of Shreveport’s small-but-active blogging community. If you’ve got questions, comments, compliments, or complaints, I may still be reached at savoringshreveport[at]gmail dot com.

Nosh on,
Alex

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Twine

So Twine just opened on Monday, and I’ve already been there twice. I think that speaks for itself. Okay, bye!

 

 

Ah, good one, Alex. You really got them that time. Actually, when I visited Twine on their first day of business, I was feeling a little under the weather. I grabbed a cup of tea to go and went home to nap for, like, four hours. I thought I might have been coming down with something, but it turns out I’d just achieved my lifelong aspiration of becoming a bohemian layabout.

Happily, I was feeling much better today–well enough that I was enthusiastic about hitting up Twine for the second time and indulging in some items from their towering chalkboard menu. “Twine” is a portmanteau of “tea and wine on Line,” which neatly sums up the basics. On our first visit, my companion was concerned about their location–we couldn’t locate a numbered address anywhere on the Internet, and we drove back and forth on Line Avenue before we found it. It’s in kind of a weird place–next door to Rep. Roy Burrell’s old mayoral campaign headquarters. If you’re one of the twelve people (including us–no shame!) who voted for him in 2010, then you know where I’m talking about. For the rest of you, it’s in the ground floor of the large office building on the corner of Line and Jordan.

With its fresh-paint smell, dark, quiet interior, and black-clad staff, Twine gives off a calming “backstage” vibe. It’s a nice break from the traffic and blazing sunlight just beyond its heavily tinted windows.

Agua fresca

To the left, the handwritten menu is cluttered in the best possible way. Luscious, carb-centric items like dainty macarons, freshly made bagels, and shortbread tea cookies mingle with just-gourmet-enough sandwiches like The Manwich, a “why didn’t I think of that?” combination of barbecue pulled pork on blueberry toast. The details have been lovingly attended to, as well. Instead of a clunky old soda fountain in the corner, Twine offers house-made Twinings iced teas ($2, free refills) in Lady Grey or mixed berry, and two self-serve containers of agua fresca ($2) in watermelon-jalapeno and cucumber-mint (my favorite).

Their signature sandwich, the Twinewich ($7), comes with your choice of pimento cheese or chicken, ham, or salmon salads. Despite the traditional fillings, this is not a ladies-who-lunch sandwich. I picked chicken salad, which came nicely seasoned and not overly sweet, a mistake many restaurants like to make with the aid of pickle relish and/or Miracle Whip (ugh). I’m pleased to report that Twine seems to use real mayonnaise. Big chunks of chicken are accented by dried cranberries and chopped boiled egg, then smushed between two imposing slices of country white bread with crunchy cornmeal added to the dough.

Chicken salad Twinewich with a side order of s'mac

My companion ordered the Manwich, loaded up with tender pulled pork in a subtly sweet barbecue sauce. A layer of slaw is added for some crunch, of course, and then the whole glorious thing is made even more glorious by the addition of two big slices of blueberry Texas toast. “You can actually taste the blueberry,” my companion exclaimed. I thought it might just be a novelty thing, but nope, the flavor is there–and it works.

The Manwich

For dessert (or snack, or breakfast, or whatever), Twine offers an impressive variety of coffee and tea–from good old English Twinings to loose-leaf Rishi (organic, fair trade, and artfully blended) to Metropolis coffee, a small batch artisan roaster out of Chicago. The desserts and bakery items are overwhelming, and probably warrant a special visit (or a doggie bag). Crafted by their very own pastry chef, Jodie, they offer daily specials (today was cheddar-bacon scones) and a slew of items new to Shreveport–including ultra-trendy French macarons, the airy little sandwich cookies that at least 18 food bloggers are attempting to master at this very moment. But it gets better. Each morning, Twine also provides Shreveport with three dozen freshly-made (that’s boiled and baked, people!) bagels. BAGELS. IN SHREVEPORT. Surely you recall my previous struggle. Now we no longer have to schlep across state lines to get our mouths around those irresistible gluten cushions. Once word of this gets out, they’re going to be big. People will camp out. I will camp out.

Still in its fledgling stage, Twine’s cons aren’t enough to keep me away. Their payment system is clunky, the restroom is located outside of the restaurant itself (but still in the same building), and the location isn’t super-convenient for a lot of us. For now, their hours are little narrow as well: 7 a.m.-2 p.m. This is only until they get their liquor license next month, though, after which they’ll be open until midnight with wine, tapas, crostini, share-able bowls, and charcuterie. They’ll also be introducing Saturday and Sunday brunch.

Cheddar-bacon scone, Earl Grey tea cookies, and macarons with coconut-chai buttercream

After two visits, I can sincerely encourage you to head out there and say hello. Twine seems to have answered all my food prayers in one go: non-Starbucks coffee, bagels(!), fun and thoughtfully prepared food, a friendly, name-learning staff, and a comfortable place for late-night eats, something we’ve been sorely lacking for a long time. Im thrilled to have a place like this in town, and I really hope they stick around.

1513 Line Avenue
414-403-6286
facebook.com/twineshreveport
twineshreveport.com

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Copeland’s of New Orleans: New and Improved

Picture it: I’m squiring a houseguest around town. Who is this houseguest? Doesn’t matter. Could be my parents, could be my husband’s parents, or my sister, or just someone from college who’s passing through Shreveport on his or her way to one of the coasts. We head down Youree and get to the Bert Kouns intersection. “Oh!” my passenger says. “Copeland’s. That looks…nice.”

And, indeed, it does look…nice. It reminds you of New Orleans in the same way that the Rose and Crown pub at EPCOT reminds you of England. Cleaner, newer, sanitized, accessible.

“It’s a prom night place,” I say, eyes fixed on the congested road ahead. And it is–perhaps a step up from Carrabba’s, Copeland’s is the kind of place frequented by teenagers of the upper-middle class, rolling up in rented limos (wait…you didn’t get a limousine on prom night? It’s OK, neither did I) or their parents’ freshly waxed Camrys. Inside, there’s the din that would be expected in a restaurant the size of Copeland’s. It’s not what someone would call “intimate,” and that’s alright, since intimacy isn’t too high on the high schooler’s list of restaurant must-haves.

Copeland’s was a place that I myself always seemed to overlook. Maybe I was just being snobby, but my idea of a special occasion dinner for grown-ups usually involves Line Avenue, not Youree Drive. My expensive taste, coupled with a desire to patronize locally-owned businesses whenever possible, didn’t really leave any room for a place like Copeland’s.

But you know? I had my 21st birthday lunch (less than five years ago) at The Cheesecake Factory. With its cartoonishly proportioned architecture, American-sized servings, and focused emphasis on cheesecake, The Cheesecake Factory is really just Copeland’s without the Creole accent. And heck, if I thought The Cheesecake Factory was good enough for a milestone birthday, then surely Copeland’s is good enough for similar celebrations. In fact, maybe that same oversized, opulent quality, that same whimsy, is exactly the point. Maybe these restaurants need an upgrade from “guilty pleasure” to just “pleasure.”

A day at EPCOT isn’t any less enjoyable because their countries are watered-down, climate-controlled versions of the real thing; instead, that scrubbed-up, family-friendly quality might actually be part of the fun.

Just this week, I attended a PR lunch at Copeland’s, in honor of the unveiling of their “new and improved” restaurant. After undergoing a $1 million renovation, everything about the Bert Kouns location seems to be new: new management, new decor, and a new approach to their food with fresher ingredients and proprietary recipes. Al Copeland Jr., who made an appearance, explained that the renovation aims to bridge the gap between the food at Copeland’s and the atmosphere. Once dissonant, with no discernible identity, the new decor at Copeland’s is a bit sleeker, more up-to-date, and has a distinctive New Orleans theme. They’re also introducing a Sunday (live!) jazz brunch, to be held each week from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

My sample-sized portion of bananas foster cheesecake.

Since I wasn’t a paying customer during this visit, I won’t be doing a real review. But if you already liked Copeland’s, this is a good excuse to pay them a visit. And if, like me, you were dubious, let go of your pretense and your self-inflicted shame. Invent a special occasion and order yourself a 6-inch tall slice of bananas foster cheesecake. It may not be haute cuisine, it may not be “authentic” (whatever that means), and it’s definitely not kitschy enough to be ironic. But it’s damn delicious.

To borrow the words from my friend Tony Bourdain, “Good is just good. It doesn’t matter when or why.”

Copeland’s of New Orleans

1665 E. Bert Kouns Industrial Loop

318-797-0143

www.copelandsofneworleans.com

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Marilynn’s Place

If you’re ever puttering down Fern Avenue when your “check engine” light clicks on, you may be tempted to stop by a friendly-looking garage with green trim. Not too many cars there, you think, looks like there probably won’t be a wait. And look! It shares a parking lot with a sno-ball stand, which boasts an impressive list of flavors. Hmm…why haven’t you seen this place before?

Well, two things. First, you probably have, but ignored it. Until recently, the building was just another rundown garage, blending into the charming, tree-lined scenery where Broadmoor and South Highlands overlap.

Secondly, it’s not a garage at all. Well, not an operating one, anyway. It’s Marilynn’s Place, a new Cajun/Creole restaurant that features “organic when feasible, local when possible” food. It’s been generating some buzz among the under-40 set who seem to be drawn to quirky, locally-owned businesses with liquor licenses. “Out-of-the-way” is a spectacular understatement, and perhaps that’s part of its appeal. With no exterior signage or marketing to speak of, it feels like an indulgent secret–like only those “in the know”  (perhaps accompanied by a misguided few who simply needed oil changes), have been lucky enough to darken the doorway.

I’ve been to Marilynn’s Place a few times, now, and though service is consistently good, the food can be iffy. The restaurant takes a “fast casual” approach: order at the counter, and either wait for your name to be called, or for an employee to bring it to your table. I’ve had both happen, so I’m not sure what the typical protocol is for them. The menu itself is kind of a mixed bag. Familiar south Louisiana specialties like shrimp creole and jambalaya share space with a vegan brownie and a slow-cooked pork po’boy accented with pineapple.

The pork po’boy is listed on the menu as the cochon de lait. The term cochon de lait is usually applied to a traditional Cajun pig roast. Perhaps that ritual is the inspiration for Marilynn’s sandwich, but, as the first item I tried there, it left a lot to be desired. I was initially drawn to the pineapple salsa aspect of it. Pork and pineapple are a classic Caribbean pairing, and I knew the flavors would work well. However, when I received the sandwich–unfussily wrapped in butcher paper and masking tape–it was a soggy wreck. I was able to take exactly one bite before the bread disintegrated and I was forced to tackle it with a knife and fork. By then, the remaining bread had become an unappetizing paste. I poked around in the filling, which, admittedly, was very good.

Cochon de lait po'boy

The pork was tender and juicy, and the pineapple brightened things up. But I wouldn’t go down that road again–I had to go spelunking in order to get a forkful worth eating. The price, $7.95 for a half sandwich only, felt like a ripoff when all was said and done. (As an aside, I’ve been told that sometimes po’boys are messy–that’s the idea. But, in my opinion, once the services of a knife and fork are necessitated, a sandwich ceases to be a sandwich, and should market itself correctly. Soggy bread really isn’t my thing.)

In an uncharacteristic twist, my companion played it safe with an order of curry fried catfish. This was catfish done right: its curry-kissed cornmeal breading encased flaky, tender catfish–no hints of freezer or dirt flavors to be found anywhere. (Seriously, we’re in a sad state when people start to associate catfish with freezer burn and mud.) It’s served with its standard accompaniments of hush puppies, fries, and slaw. And while $11.95 would seem a bit steep for a plate of fried food, the quality of the fish and the size of the portion makes it worth it.

On our subsequent visits, we also ventured into traditional territory–shrimp creole, crawfish etouffee, and jambalaya were all sampled, as well as a side of dirty rice (because, clearly, our meals just didn’t have enough carbs). The jambalaya and etouffee lean towards the Cajun method of preparation, with less of an emphasis on tomatoes and more on meat. The jambalaya featured big, generous chunks of andouille–quite a treat when compared to the glorified rice some places try to pass off as jambalaya. The shrimp creole was rich and warming. Though I got the feeling that the shrimp weren’t as fresh as they could be, it hit the spot nonetheless. Living 250 miles inland, I’ll take what I can get.

The dirty rice, with a light sheen of grease and the perfect amount of heat, was some of the most flavorful I’ve ever had.

Curried catfish platter

A third companion chose the William Edward Joyce (WEJ) curried catfish po’boy.  Now this was a po’boy I could get behind. The drier filling (the same curried catfish that comes on the platter) ensured that the bread stayed intact, and a thin layer of mayo kept it from entering cotton ball territory. The menu claims it’s “so good it needs a publicist!” Though I wouldn’t go that far, it’s certainly a damn good choice when you’re craving something a little more satisfying than a few Mrs. Paul’s popcorn shrimp tossed on a hoagie roll.

Other items that piqued my interest are the veggie po’boy, dressed with hummus (perhaps that vegan brownie would make a nice little playmate), the shrimp remoulade salad, and the Irish Channel po’boy–with corned beef and cabbage!

With a nice selection of beer and an atmosphere conducive to lingering (something tells me the deck out front will be very popular once the weather turns tolerable), Marilynn’s Place will no doubt be a hit with locals looking for decent, homemade food right in their own backyards–if they can find it, that is.

Marilynn’s, I implore you. Invest in a sign. Maybe you’re trying to be subversive, riding on the coattails of pop-up restaurants and underground dinner clubs. Or maybe you’re just lazy. I don’t know. But it would be a terrible shame to see a good business go under because they didn’t know how to market. Word of mouth can only do so much.

Although, so far, it seems to be working for Marilynn’s.

Marilynn’s Place

4041 Fern Avenue

318-868-3004

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Marilynns-Place/160460130668886

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On food deserts–and beer!

According to the CDC, “food deserts” are areas that “lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet.” If this seems like an alien concept in overfed America, consider the recent Shreveport Times article that estimated 1/3 of Shreveporters to be living in a food desert. (Do yourself a favor, though, and don’t read the comments on that link–especially if you’re sensitive to racism, classism, and general douche-ism.)

Living on a low income in a car-dependent city like Shreveport makes it hard to get to a decent grocery store. Even if you make it to the store, higher-quality food means a higher price (though there are exceptions), and many people don’t have the culinary knowledge to prepare fresh produce, beans, or meat in a nutritionally sound way. This may be a moot point, though, as many grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods have abysmal selections of healthy food–the fresh, less-processed items located on the perimeter of the store. Until Steve Casey deploys a fleet of his Peace Prize-worthy Fresh Moves buses to the South, food deserts are here to stay. In a small community like ours, it’s likely that you regularly interact with someone who lives in a food desert–or that you live in one yourself.

Like it or not, food is political. It’s polarizing, but it also has the power to bring us together and equalize us. If you have a psych background, you know that Abraham Maslow put food at the base of our hierarchy of needs. It’s what we need before we can go on to solve even our most rudimentary problems. Strip our culture out of its man-made, 21st-century trappings, and our day-to-day goals are exactly the same as any other animal’s. Find food. Stay healthy. Keep going.

If you haven’t yet heard of Slow Food North Louisiana (or, on a larger scale, the global slow food movement), consider participating in their upcoming $5 Meal Challenge. The premise is simple: prepare a tasty, nutritious meal that can serve a family of 4 or more for $5 or less per person. Bring the dish and your grocery receipt to Camp Forbing on September 17 at noon. “Challenge the popular belief that it is more expensive and more time consuming to eat food that is good, clean and healthy than food that is fast and processed.”

More information here: http://www.slowfoodnla.com/event

How about another great equalizer? Beer! I’m not sure what it is about fermented, fragrant, wheat-based drinks that seems to turn enemies into friends, but there it is. The world could use more friends. Shreveport Brew, our fair city’s annual beer-tasting extravaganza, is coming up on October 15. Tickets are already on sale, and a sellout is anticipated. Drinking on an empty stomach, however, is not recommended. With that in mind, several local restaurants will be on hand, dishing out sample-sized portions of some of their best-loved dishes to sop up all of that hoppy goodness. A $50 ticket gives you full run of the beer and food. Best of all, no kids allowed! This is a major selling point for me. Not that I’m some kind of evil kid-hater, of course, but sometimes people don’t exercise very good judgment when it comes to appropriate nights out with the ankle-biters. That’s all I’m saying about that.

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Back in the Saddle

Yeah, it’s me. Yep, still here. Oh, and the changes with which I could regale you! My trusty, food-loving companion is now my husband. His orders to California were canceled in what could be considered the Greatest Catastrophe of Our Married Life. But that was months ago. We’ve mellowed out, unpacked, and settled in for Round II in good ol’ SHV.

I wanted to drop in and let you know about our experience a few nights ago with Shreveport’s newest food delivery service, GoWaiter.com. Back in college, my friends and I played an unofficial game that we called Taco Bell Roulette. There weren’t really any rules. Actually, it wasn’t much of a game. You’d just go to Taco Bell (usually late at night, usually after an evening of…imbibing), order something, and get something completely different. A win or a loss could be determined by whether you’d beaten or been beat by the Taco Bell system. Did you ask for two crunchy tacos and a packet of cinnamon twists, but end up with three gorditas, pintos ‘n cheese, a taco salad, and five MexiMelts? Win! They don’t even make MexiMelts anymore! Anyway, you get the idea.

So, based on our one experience with GoWaiter.com, they are kind of playing their own version of takeout roulette. Currently, they offer service from a handful of restaurants: Sake Sushi, Ristorante Giuseppe, Athena Greek and Lebanese, Firehouse Subs, Chili’s, Cantina Laredo, Honeybaked Ham (just in case you have a Christmas Emergency), and Columbia Cafe. They deliver the food for regular menu price, plus a $3.99 delivery fee and driver tip. We chose Athena: two orders of Athena Special Fish, specifically. We ended up with a veritable feast: one order of Athena Special Fish, a plate of shawarma, three feta salads, two orders of hummus, and one of tzatziki. I suppose this was a win. By the time we made the discovery, we had been waiting for an hour, so we ate gratefully and put the rest away for leftovers. Still, if you’re on a restrictive diet or don’t like surprises, GoWaiter.com might not be a good choice. Unfortunately, we all sometimes fall victim to the siren song of delivered food, despite our best intentions.

I’m still not sure if I want to completely resurrect Savoring Shreveport. I’ve moved away from freelancing, and although writing will always be a major part of my identity, I haven’t made eating out as much of a priority since we got The News. I also haven’t been as abreast of the local food landscape–although I’d like for that to change. In the meantime, I’m looking for full-time work (know anyone who’s hiring?) and taking some time to adjust.

And that’s where things are right now. I hope everything is well with you, readers.

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Chilly snacks for chilly days

Well, I think it’s safe to say that the season has officially changed here in Shreveport. How is it that just a couple of weeks ago my Facebook feed was full of frustrated friends venting about the unseasonably warm weather? I wore my scarf to the farmer’s market this morning!

Just in time for the cold weather are TWO brand-new frozen treat establishments that I’m ridiculously excited about. Opened in September, Geauxsicles, over on Youree Drive, specializes in handmade, gourmet ice pops in outrageous flavors. Companion and I have already visited enough times to get a free pop with our punch card. Flavors like Southern Peach (peaches and cream with cinnamon), Mandarineez (mandarin orange, fresh basil, ginger, and coconut), and PB&J (creamy peanut butter with a swirl of strawberry) are menu standouts, and they also have a sizable offering of no sugar added varieties, as well as seasonal flavors like Sassy Cider and S’mores. With so much talk lately about eating and buying locally, Shreveport owned and operated Geauxsicles provides a good opportunity to put your money where your mouth is and keep cash in our community.

The second place on my list is so new that a Google search for its name doesn’t generate any hits. Fruiti Yogo, on the corner of Youree and 70th Street, is a new-to-Shreveport frozen yogurt idea. Fruiti Yogo offers an almost completely self-service experience. Walk into the stylishly minimal shop, grab a cup, and start helping yourself to an incredible variety of flavors. This week’s offerings include green tea, pomegranate, red velvet, and plain ol’ vanilla. Once you’re satisfied with your yogurt base, visit their toppings bar and pick from fresh raspberries, blackberries, coconut jelly, Fruity Pebbles, chocolate chips, nuts, and more. When you’re finally done, your yogurt creation is weighed and priced by the ounce. A yogurt place boasting a similar concept opened last summer in my Florida hometown, and I was lucky enough to try some when I was there for a visit. I was totally hooked and a bit depressed that Shreveport didn’t have something comparable. Well, depressed no more! I especially like the idea of Fruiti Yogo; the option to buy as much or as little as you like makes it a good choice for an after dinner treat (because sometimes you just want a little hit of sweetness without committing to a piece of cake or an ice cream cone. Or at least I know I do). By the way, Fruiti Yogo is in the Kroger shopping center, on the side that faces 70th Street (next to Southern Maid).

With the sudden and drastic dip in temperatures, I know frozen snacks aren’t the first on anyone’s list. But I think Geauxsicles and Fruiti Yogo are great and overdue additions to our lackluster dessert scene, and I’d love to see them stick around.

Alex

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Columbia Café

During my time here in Shreveport, I’ve heard a lot about Columbia Café. Perhaps the comment most often heard from friends and acquaintances is that it just isn’t what it used to be.

Obviously, I had to see for myself. My companion and I had been to Columbia once  before, for brunch, long before Savoring Shreveport was even a twinkle in my eye. “Disappointing” is a suitable term. Our server didn’t know a thing about the brunch menu, and consequently, he led us to believe that we had a choice between an omelette with toast or…an omelette with toast. I now realize, in fact, that they have quite an extensive breakfast and brunch menu, so our guy was just ill-informed.

But, that being so long ago, and my experience there being somewhat of a moot point, I was interested in giving it another shot for the sake of the blogosphere. So my companion and I got cleaned up and headed out for a Friday night dinner at Columbia with open minds.

I’m not sure when Columbia is supposed to be crowded, because they were virtually empty at 7:30 on a Friday. This could be both good and bad. Columbia Café blends in with most of the other houses in Highland–and yes, that’s a compliment. Its original layout has been preserved, and the individual dining rooms lend an air of intimacy. Large, sheet-like cuts of cloth hang over recessed lighting, diffusing the light and creating a cozy (if not dimly lit) space.

Our server presented us with the specials and seemed glad to see us. We immediately ordered the stuffed portabella mushroom appetizer. True to its name, a large portabella mushroom cap is stuffed with sautéed spinach, artichoke hearts, tomato, feta cheese, and sweet, intense balsamic vinegar. It’s then draped with a good bit of romesco sauce–which is sort of like pesto, substituting roasted red peppers for the basil. I liked this appetizer option. It’s just enough to tease the palates of two people, and it’s a nice, healthy alternative to fried shrimp cocktail or crab cakes.

In a nautical mood, I chose the evening’s special: grilled amberjack with crab-mango salsa. I chose squash and asparagus as my two included sides (hey, I have a girlish figure to maintain). My companion, who has never been known to turn down a piece of fish, ordered the pecan-crusted trout with garlic-chive beurre rouge.

You don’t see amberjack on many menus, especially around here, so I was eager to sink my teeth into it. The generously-cut fillet was lightly seasoned and grilled. However, amberjack, a relative of the pompano, is an extremely mild fish. I’m afraid that this preparation didn’t allow it shine to its full potential. The crab salsa was a pleasant, vibrantly flavored stopgap, but once that was gone, I didn’t have much interest in the fish on its own. The vegetables were fine, though, especially the squash; it was a seasonally-appropriate mix of zucchini and yellow tossed in a very light garlic butter. My companion’s trout, on the other hand, was dynamite. “Pecan-crusted” might be a little misleading; there was definitely a spiced sweetness there, almost as if the fish had been crusted in candied pecans instead. I’ll admit, I was unschooled on the subject of beurre rouge, but a quick Google search revealed that it’s the red wine cousin of the more popular beurre blanc. It’s made with butter (duh) and the wonderful crust from a deglazed pan. Boy, do I love that crust.

While we were originally intending to stop at post-dinner coffee and tea (the owner of Columbia roasts his own beans on the premises), dessert was on the house that night. (Lest you think I’m abusing my nonexistent “powers,” it was on the house for the rest of the restaurant. I’m not sure what the occasion was, but we didn’t complain.)

Desserts that evening were a chocolate marquis, which is basically a flourless chocolate cake, and a blueberry creme brulee…companion’s favorite. I had the chocolate marquis. There’s just not enough chocolate in my life. It was dense, rich, and unfinishable…like dark, dark chocolate brownies barely cooked through. I enjoyed it a lot, but was dismayed to notice, a few bites in, a faint refrigerator flavor. Obviously, it would be completely unrealistic to expect a restaurant to make each dessert when it’s ordered, but the flavor definitely threw me. Maybe Columbia should invest in a few boxes of Arm and Hammer.

The creme brulee was surprisingly pleasant; not only was it topped with blueberries, but the entire dessert was infused with a faint-but-discernible fresh blueberry flavor. The coffee was excellent, and for $50 + tip, it was a nice break from our usual Friday night special of PieWorks or sushi.

Would I call Columbia Café an “institution,” like so many others have? No, probably not. But then again, I haven’t been here for very long, and I haven’t witnessed their apparent evo- or devolution (it depends on who you ask). Still, Columbia Café fits the bill for a modest date night, or any evening that you wish to spend tucked away over a nice piece of fish and some ultra-fresh coffee.

A brief aside: In light of the current city- and statewide political campaigns, restaurants like Columbia must be patronized if we’re serious about Shreveport becoming the city we’re all wishing for. Businesses like this help improve the landscape of our forgotten neighborhoods (like Highland), provide refuge from large, boring chains that are infiltrating the city, and give neighbors something to talk about. They keep us communicating. In a healthy city, people talk, they eat, and they talk about eating–for better or for worse. Let’s reinforce the threads that tie us all together. Let’s get out there and eat.

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An Apple Memo

Ostensibly, fall is upon us here in northwest Louisiana. You wouldn’t know it by going outside, but small changes are everywhere. Maybe your glasses don’t fog up when you leave the house in the morning. Maybe the neighbors have that tasteless inflatable black cat in their yard already (or maybe you’re the tasteless neighbor). Whether we like it or not, the tomatoes in the grocery store are growing wan and pasty, strawberries are losing their luster, and people who didn’t even attend LSU are donning their purple and gold.

At any rate, there’s a special treat that I look forward to each autumn, and I want to share it with you. Honeycrisp apples started popping up nationwide several years ago. They make their seasonal debut sometime in September, and often stick around until January. Spring and summer are long and lonely, as no other apples will do; nor should they. Honeycrisps will completely shift your apple worldview, and, chances are, they’re available in your neighborhood grocer at this very moment.

Honeycrisps hail from Minnesota, like most good things: Post-It Notes, Target, and Bob Dylan, for instance. They were developed at the University of Minnesota by a group of benevolent biologists who sought to make the world a tiny bit better by introducing what is quite possibly the tastiest commercially available fresh-eating apple in the country.


In fact, here's a windblown 20 year-old me during a 2006 pilgrimage to the very hospital where Dylan was born: St. Mary's in Duluth, MN.

Honeycrisp’s family tree is a delicious tangle of Macoun, Golden Delicious, and Honeygold varieties, and the taste is uniquely light, with a muted tartness that swims underneath dazzling sweetness. Its finish is clean and brisk, like an early fall stroll through downtown St. Paul. Unmatched in crispness, a toothy break into Honeycrisp’s yielding flesh is more of a satisfying “crack” than a crunch.

Kroger on Youree Drive (location of last week’s unfortunate red rears incident) carries big, robust Washington-grown Honeycrisps, while the Barksdale AFB commissary offers smaller, smoother New York Honeycrisps.

So, if you’re aching to hear autumn’s bittersweet ballad despite the uncooperative weather, crank the AC down to the 60s, grab a Honeycrisp from the fridge, and hold fall in the palm of your hand.

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Smashburger

Before I begin my long-awaited(?) Smashburger review, allow me to mention a few things about Savoring Shreveport and how it works.

Since I don’t get paid to write this blog, I patronize restaurants with money out of my own pocket. For both financial and dietary reasons, I try to limit my restaurant meals. The caveat with this system is that the blog doesn’t get updated on a regular basis. Sometimes posts are a few days apart, and at other times, the gaps may be longer. However, Savoring Shreveport is still going strong, and will hopefully continue to do so until I run out of restaurants or I move away, whichever comes first. So, if I fall silent for awhile, don’t despair! I’ll usually be back sooner than later.

Alright, Smashburger. I figured it’s about damn time I wrote this thing up; I’ve eaten at Smashburger several times since the initial VIP lunch, and I think I’ve enjoyed enough of their menu to make a fair assessment.

Before Smashburger opened, when the first whisperings of a boutique burger joint were making the rounds, my gears started turning (as well as my salivary glands). I assumed Smashburger would be something akin to Five Guys, which has, quite frankly, some of the best food I’ve ever had. (If you haven’t been lucky enough to experience the majesty that is Five Guys, get thee to one: the closest locations are in Little Rock and Plano.) To my surprise, Smashburger has very little in common with Five Guys; it’s an entirely different (but still delicious) burger-eating experience.

Americans are finally beginning to pay attention to where their food comes from. They’re also branching out culinarily,  thanks in part to the pop cuisine of Food Network celebrities and and once-obscure-now-readily-available ingredients. Enter Smashburger, a great transitory restaurant for people who are ready to try something a little new without going miles outside of their comfort zones.

French fries? How about French fries with a sheen of olive oil and rosemary?

Burgers? How about on a buttered, artisan bun?

Milkshakes? How about one with the sweet, toasty flavors of bread pudding?

Companion and I have run the gamut of Smashburger’s menu items, from several of their burgers to their “smashchicken” to their salads. Smashburger, by the way, isn’t just a catchy name; it refers to the way the beef patties are “smashed” on the grill to create a juicy, evenly cooked burger that comes to you in a fraction of the time.

Popular Smashburgers include the Spicy Baja, which features an extremely generous scoop of guacamole and freshly chopped jalapeno peppers; and the Louisiana Burger, with cheese, bacon, “Cajun grilled onions” and remoulade sauce. That a Smashburger in Shreveport has a “Louisiana Burger” is no coincidence; Smashburger has a different burger for each state that they have a location. (Ohioans, for instance, can choose the “Buckeye Burger,” with fried pepper rings, haystack onions, and American cheese). Honestly, it’s nice to see something that brands itself as “Louisiana-style” without crawfish on or in it. Man, that gets old.

The Smashchickens are also a great choice; get it crispy with buffalo sauce and heaps of blue cheese, or grilled with avocado, bacon, and ranch on a multigrain bun (one of my favorites). I appreciate that the chicken breast is flattened (or “smashed,” I guess). Too often, when ordering a chicken sandwich, there’s a big, thick, dry breast sitting in the middle. (Aaand I feel like that’s the perfect segue into a “your mother has big, thick, dry breasts” joke, but I won’t. Or maybe I just did.)

Both the burgers and the chickens offer a “create-your-own” option; choose your bun and the trimmings. For 99 cents more, you can go really old school and top your burger with a fried egg; it’s said that that’s how hamburgers were served when they were still novelties.

Sides aren’t included with burgers and chicken, which is both good and bad: it costs a little more, but gives the patron the freedom to choose from Smashburger’s welcome assortment. Smashfries with olive oil and rosemary are popular, as are sweet potato fries (also with olive oil and rosemary and garlic; a smart, unexpected variation on the sugared sweet potato fries seen at places all over the country), fried pickle chips, and haystack onions. Possibly the most unique side option, though, are “veggie frites”: flash-fried carrot sticks, asparagus spears, and green beans. Flash-frying gives the vegetables a modestly crisp exterior while preserving their natural flavors and textures. The sweet potato fries remain my personal favorite, although the haystack onions run a very close second; they come in a big knot of crispy, stringy, slightly sweet goodness.

Another thing worth mentioning from Smashburger’s menu is their modest selection of hot dogs. These are real, all-beef dogs served the way mother nature intended: Chicago-style (right down to the poppyseed bun!), “Louisiana-style,” and a classic chili cheese. I have yet to find a place nearby that serves, if not specializes, in hot dogs, and Smashburger comes through for cravings. (Although, if any of you can recommend another great hot dog stand in town, please do not hesitate!)

Wine, beer, Crush sodas, and Haagen-Dazs milkshakes (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and bread pudding, another regional flavor) provide special finishing touches on a truly one-of-a-kind menu.

Foodwise, I really haven’t hit any snags with Smashburger. Their food delivers exactly what it claims it will. Unfortunately, Smashburger is nearly always crowded, with a line stretching to the door at peak times. Watch the staff, though…they’re hauling ass. Sometimes a long wait is the product of good food and word-of-mouth, not of lazy, lackadaisical waitstaff. Smashburger doesn’t bill itself as fast food, but they do strive to get your meal out in ten minutes or less, with relative success. I’d say it’s worth the wait.

Smashburger

7503 Youree Drive

318-797-1988

www.smashburger.com

(Coming soon to Bossier City!)

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