Louisiana Beignets: Breathe In Through Your Nose

Our Fifty Plates tour continues with beignets from The Parish

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 continues with 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 to find. See: jambalaya, boiled crawfish, etouffee, gumbo, hurricanes, Popeyes. 

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 used on the bread budding, that is good for taming the powdered sugar, if needed.

Click on the map to see each state's distinctive food and where to get it in Portland.

Pennsylvania Maine Louisiana Texas West Virgina Nevada NC Colorado Alaska Mississippi Washington Minnesota Tennessee Nebraska Missouri Massachusetts Michigan Wisconsin Ohio Arizona south carolina newyork Connecticut rhode island Wyoming New Mexico Kentucky Idaho alabama new jersey georgia kansas california iowa montana oklahoma indiana vermont hawaii utah arkansas maryland Virginia oregon Illinois Florida New Hampshire South Dakota Delaware North Dakota

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