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Tastes of Lafayette, La.

Tastes of Lafayette, La.

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Silvia Bertolazzi and Rick Rowan have "created a little taste of Italy" in downtown Lafayette, La., at Carpe Diem! Gelato Espresso Bar, where they're both gelato chefs. "It's diverse," says Bertolazzi of Lafayette's food scene. "It's different cultures all melted together, making it creative, colorful and fresh." Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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No trip to Louisiana is complete without sampling some local boudin, pronounced "boodan" here. The dish typically consists of pulverized rice, pork, onions, peppers and seasonings stuffed into a sausage casing. For the real deal, head to Johnson's Boucaniere in the heart of downtown Lafayette, a stop along the state's Cajun Boudin Trail. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Wallace Johnson prepares fresh boudin for a customer at Johnson's Boucaniere, just as his kin have done since 1937 when his family opened a grocery store bearing their name. Johnson's Grocery closed in 2005 and gave way to Johnson's Boucaniere, owned by his daughter, Lori Walls, and son-in law, Greg Walls. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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A crowd pleaser in these parts is the popular plate lunch, consisting of a main entree and two sides. In this case it's a serving of smoked sausage and tasso in red sauce over rice with sides of coleslaw and mac and cheese at Johnson's Boucaniere. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Bottles of Swamp Pop glisten in a refrigerator at Pop's Poboys in Lafayette, La. Swamp Pop was created by Lafayette natives and cousins, John Petersen and Collin Cormier, who use Louisiana cane sugar in their sodas. The drinks come in such flavors as Praline Cream Soda, Satsuma Fizz and Ponchatoula Pop Rouge, made with strawberries – Louisiana's state fruit. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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While in Lafayette, La., take a sunrise swamp tour in the Atchafalaya Basin, America's largest and most complex swamp ecosystem. Glide past moss-draped cypress trees, where egrets perch out of reach of lingering alligators. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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At Pop's Poboys in Lafayette, customers line up to order sandwiches listed on a chalkboard, then take a seat. The menu includes classics like this buttermilk-fried catfish po' boy enveloped in French bread and dressed with lettuce, tomatoes and mayo. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Presley Ready pours an alcohol slushy at New Orleans Original Daiquiris in Lafayette, one of many drive-through frozen daiquiri joints in Louisiana. The container is considered closed by law if it has a lid that's not punctured by a straw. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Warm weather calls for snow-balls in Louisiana, where you can find them sold at stands throughout Lafayette. The simple treat is made with shaved ice and sugarcane syrup. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Southerners go nuts for pecans. "That's because you don't find pecan trees much above Missouri," says Bill Bowers, who offers 14 varieties at Classic Golden Pecans in Lafayette, La., including Cajun spice and praline. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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At The Coffee Depot in Scott, La., beignets are made fresh each morning. Dough is flattened and cut into squares, then fried until air pockets form in the middle. They're sprinkled with a hearty dose of confectioners sugar and served warm. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Charles Lamotte holds a basket of beignets at The Coffee Depot. "Ours have a little bit of a crunch and are less doughy," Lamotte says of the deep-fried treats. "Almost everybody who comes in says ours are better than Cafe Du Monde's in New Orleans." Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Creativity abounds in downtown Lafayette, La., where murals, street musicians and art galleries frame an equally colorful culinary scene. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Festivals Acadiens et Creoles, a three-day event held every October, is a celebration of Acadian music, food and culture. Visitors experience several music stages, displays of fine arts and crafts, and lots of great eats at the Bayou Food Festival. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Musicians perform at Festivals Acadiens et Creoles, where Cajun and Zydeco music permeates the air beneath the sprawling oaks of Girard Park in Lafayette. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Art and crafts are a big part of the Festivals Acadiens et Creoles in Lafayette. The festival presents traditional and fine artists and craftspeople from across Louisiana. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Marie Ducote-Comeaux, owner of Cajun Food Tours, introduces visitors to the rich history (and deliciousness) of food in Louisiana's Cajun region. The 3.5-hour weekly tours sample Lafayette's traditional cuisine, such as crawfish, boudin, gumbo and cracklin'. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Just a breeze from the Gulf of Mexico, fresh fish is always in season in Lafayette. Randol's Seafood Restaurant's fresh catch is served here blackened on a bed of cabbage with onion rings and hush puppies. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Dancers hit the floor at Randol's, an upbeat seafood restaurant and dance hall owned by Frank Randol that's been going strong since 1971. Bring your dancing shoes, because Cajun and Zydeco musicians perform nightly. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Acoustic tunes strike the right note at Blue Moon Saloon and Guest House in Lafayette, La. Established in 2001, the bar is one of the top spots in the country for roots music and draws artists and music lovers from around the world. Wednesdays are reserved for "Cajun jam," in which anyone with an instrument can play. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Amy Gerald of Bon Temps Grill delivers what the restaurant calls "swamp-edge cuisine," including barbecue alligator, crab cakes and corn maque choux. "You're not going to find it anywhere else," Gerald says. "We take some of the Creole and some of the Cajun and mix it together." Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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The Shrimp Remoulade Cocktail at Bon Temps Grill consists of chilled, poached shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico that's tossed in a Cajun sauce. "We're so used to frying everything and serving it with white rice. It's delicious, but we're now using more lighter sauces and fresh vegetables," says Gerald. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Feast on Cajun cuisine at Blue Dog Cafe while surrounded by original works by the late pop artist George Rodrigue. The New Iberia, La., native gained notoriety in the 1990s for his paintings of indigo canines. The original location has been joined by another to the west, in Lake Charles, La. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Andouille sausage is a staple of Cajun cuisine. At Blue Dog Cafe, it's sliced, grilled and served with Creole dipping sauces. Make it a meal with seafood wontons and "Dirty-Dog" beans and rice. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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La Cuisine de Maman, located in a historic Lafayette village called Vermilionville, serves authentic Cajun and Creole dishes such as chicken-and-sausage gumbo, po' boys and jambalaya. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Chicken-and-sausage gumbo is the real deal at La Cuisine de Maman. Gumbo is a rich stew that traces back to the 18th century and is symbolic of Cajun culture. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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T-Coon's Restaurant is a local favorite in Cajun country. You'll find lots of regional favorites here, including red beans and rice, rabbit, courtbouillon and creamed, grilled catfish. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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T-Coon's chef and founder David Billeaud refers to the food at his Lafayette restaurant as Zydeco, a mix of Creole and Cajun styles. Billeaud has created an all-purpose seasoning blend he calls "The Stuff" that represents this style of cuisine. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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NuNu's Fresh Market produces 15 varieties of fresh sausages every day at its three locations in Cajun country. Chicken patties, stuffed brisket and pork, and a tasty house brand of Cajun seasoning also are popular items at the supermarket. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Avery Island, where Tabasco sauce is produced, attracts visitors with a 170-acre garden, guided bird tours and, of course, the Tabasco factory. The Tabasco Experience includes a stop at Restaurant 1868, which offers Cajun and other local dishes flavored with Tabasco sauce in a cafeteria-style setting. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Crawfish, freshwater crustaceans found in abundant measure amid the swamps and marshes of southern Louisiana, are an essential dish of the Lafayette area. Here, crawfish etouffee is in focus at Restaurant 1868. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Since 1868 the McIlhenny family has produced Tabasco sauce on Avery Island, a salt dome covered with pepper fields about an hour southeast of Lafayette. Tabasco’s range of eight tasty flavors is right at home with the region’s spicy Cajun and Creole cooking. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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One taste that never gets old in Louisiana is that of a well-made crab cake. One hot spot for this delicacy in Lafayette is Charley G's, which specializes in grilling fresh seafood over a hardwood fire. Here executive chef Holly Goetting spoons tasso hash onto a plate of béchamel crab cakes with creole sage aioli. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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The French Press is an apropos name for this New Orleans-inspired bistro inside a former print shop in downtown Lafayette. Chef Justin Girouard, a James Beard Award semifinalist, stamps artistry on every aspect of his tasteful space. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Breakfast steals the spotlight at The French Press, where traditional favorites receive a Cajun twist. This hearty helping of Cajun Benedict tops French bread with two poached eggs, boudin and chicken-and-andouille gumbo. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Prior to opening as a restaurant in 1981, Cafe Vermilionville served as an inn, infirmary, beauty shop, antique store, private residence and a bar in Lafayette. Its many lives have not only given this 1835-built home lots of character, but make it a fitting home for the bold Louisiana cuisine that's served inside. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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The turtle soup at Cafe Vermilionville is prepared with alligator snapping turtle meat, blended in a roux-tomato base and served with sherry and eggs. "Everything is made from scratch," says co-owner Andrea Veron. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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In downtown Lafayette, Pamplona Tapas Bar is modeled after Spanish small-plate eateries. Several traditional tapas, as well as assorted sandwiches and other small plates are served. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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The Morcilla-Quail Egg plate consists of black boudin topped with a fried quail egg. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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House-made sangria is one of the specialties at Pamplona Tapas Bar, in addition to classic cocktails such as the Crusta, which combines cognac, lemon juice and other flavorings, served in a sugar-rimmed glass, as prepared here by Ryan Soprano. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Daxx Thibodaux prepares oysters on the half shell at Don's Seafood in Lafayette. Don's has served authentic Cajun cuisine, including seafood and steaks, since 1934. There are now six Don's locations in southern Louisiana. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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The Old Fashioned is the house cocktail at Don's Seafood, and the bartenders make potent Bloody Marys, pictured here. Don Landry opened his namesake shortly after the repeal of Prohibition, and the six-restaurant chain is still family owned and operated. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Cool drinks are on the menu at Fezzo's, a seafood, steakhouse and oyster bar with three locations in Cajun country. Here, bartender Trevor Viator prepares to serve house margaritas. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Ashlyn Kershaw offers a glass of Bayou Teche Brewing beer at the Wurst Biergarten in downtown Lafayette. Wurst Biergarten is a communal gathering spot where visitors can enjoy a good variety of beer, live music and live comedy in an open-air market. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Cajun Brewing is the first microbrewer in Lafayette and provides free public tours on Saturday afternoons. Its limited number of brews includes Cajun Wit, a witbier made with citrus and coriander aromatics. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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In Broussard, La., Parish Brewing Company has been around for only about a decade but has become the second-largest beer maker in the state. About 20 beers are available in its taproom, where customers can enjoy a flight of flavors or fill up their growlers. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Parish Brewing’s most popular beer is Canebrake, a wheat ale that uses Louisiana sugarcane to help produce its understated honey note. Sugarcane, first brought to Louisiana by Jesuit priests in the mid-18th century, is now a $2 billion industry in the state. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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David C. Meaux, founder of Rank Wildcat Spirits, shows off some of his distillery's Sweet Crude Rum. The small-batch white rum uses locally sourced sugarcane. Rank Wildcat Spirits is the first fully licensed distiller in Acadiana. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Rêve Coffee Roasters specializes in creating unique blends including nitrogen-infused iced coffee that's poured from a tap and tastes like a dark stout beer. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Cajun Market Donut Company sprinkles on the sweetness with a huge variety of freshly baked, doughy sweets in Lafayette. In addition to doughnuts, you'll also find King Cakes, stuffed breads and kolaches, pastries with a dollop of fruit. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY

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Poupart's Bakery bills itself as the only authentic French bakery in Acadiana. It offers up baked goods, soups, sandwiches and other lunch items. One of Poupart's specialties is the King Cake, both in traditional French style and designed for Mardi Gras, a slice of which is pictured here. Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY