Summer is road-trip season, so we're taking a culinary tour of America. But
because Portland is a city of immigrants from other states, we don't have
to leave town to do it. We're traveling to 50 Portland restaurants to try
one distinctive food from each state. Our 50 Plates tour
beignets from Louisiana, which joined the union on April 30, 1812.
The state: Though most Portlanders only know it for its largest city, New
Orleans (which isn’t even very large—only half the size of Portland),
trappings of Louisiana culture originated from around the area and later
concentrated in the Big Easy. Cajun food comes from the southwest bayous.
Creole cuisine comes from the plantations of the state's first colonial
settlers. Mardi Gras actually started in Mobile, Ala. New Orleans is still
the best place to visit, though, and anything above Interstate 10 (Duck
Dynasty territory) is a cultural wasteland.
The food: New Orleans’ Cafe Du Monde is a
tourist trap, but a necessary one. Locals still eat there and largely
recognize its beignets as the best in town, even though the mix is readily
available for purchase.
Beignets are a deep-fried Creole dessert often said, probably erroneously,
to have been brought to Louisiana by Ursuline nuns—though beignets
shouldn’t be confused with a similar pastry called pets de nonne, or nun
farts. Made the New Orleans way, beignets are light, airy and covered with
heaps of powdered sugar that, when inhaled through the mouth, will induce
coughing fits in novice tourists.
Other dishes considered and rejected: Choosing a single dish from a state
that originated entire cuisines is tricky, but other staples aren’t hard
find. See: jambalaya, boiled crawfish, etouffee, gumbo, hurricanes,
Get it from: Several places around town serve beignets, from the
complimentary ones at Cheryl’s on 12th to
bacon ones at The American Local , but
one of the most authentic, New Orleans-style offerings are the Sunday brunch beignets at sister eateries Eat: An Oyster Bar and The Parish
(231 NW 11th Ave., 227-2421), and they were conceived by
a guy from Arkansas. Co-owner Ethan Powell is from Texarkana, Ark., and he
based his recipe off versions of Cafe Du Monde’s. Along with co-owner
Tobias Hogan, who spent most of his life in Boston, they used an old French
cook book and played with the Du Monde recipes to devise a method of
prepping the beignets in the morning so they could fry and serve them at
Sunday brunch (the only time you can get them). The result is similar but a
little thinner than the rhomboid chunks you can get in
New Orleans. The Parish’s also come with a bourbon sauce, the same one
on the bread budding, that is good for taming the powdered sugar, if
Click on the map to see each state's distinctive food and where to get it in Portland.