Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cafe Des Amis, Breaux Bridge, LA

We came in off the chilly Gulf and harbored over in Breaux Bridge, the ''crawfish capitol of the world.''  Located about 10 miles from Lafayette, the cultural heart of Cajun country, Breaux Bridge is also home to the wonderful Cafe Des Amis where crowds gather on Saturday mornings to scoot back the tables and dance during the cafe's famous "Zydeco Breakfasts.''  We seem to have a knack for showing up in places on their ''off'' days, but things usually work out anyway.  

Pont Breaux

Located a block and a half from the rust-brown meanders of the Bayou Teche, Cafe Des Amis lives up to its friendly moniker.  Town was dead on this chilly Wednesday night, but the cafe sent a cheerful glow out into the mist.  The restaurant is housed in an old building that was once a coffin factory.  Caskets were built on the second floor and eased to the ground level with the region's first elevator.  The inner works of the lift, a sculpture of wrought iron wheels and cogs, has been retained and stands above the host station.  

The restaurant was almost empty, but the few people at tables looked quite pleased with the situation they'd found themselves in.  A group of couples at the front of the house ordered everything on the menu and it was thrilling to watch the dishes pass to their table in a slow procession.  

We started with fried eggplant wheels swimming atop a slurry of seafood splendor.  The crust upon these divine wheels was unlike any I've had-- it was almost glassily brittle and extraordinarily yielding.  It cradled the delicate pockets of  perfectly done eggplant, which, unlike many specimens of the vegetable, oozed with flavor.  

The cafe's singular take on crawfish pie consists of a tower of puff pastry doused in buttery, zippy etouffee packed with crisp crawfish tails.

Lucky for us, our server forgot one of the dishes we'd ordered and offered to buy us a dessert.  He described the coconut pie as fluffy, but I found it velvety-dense, buttery and exploding with coconut essence.  I'm not much into sweets, but this part of the country will convert even the most recalcitrant soldier of the savory.  They don't often make cakes and pies like they do down South.

Our sweet tooths fully roused, we visited Champagne's Bakery the next morning and left town with a wedge of yellow layer cake with chocolate frosting and lemon curd and a hint of almond extract.  We ate it while driving past expanses of crawfish hatcheries mouthing "Wow'' like a school of stupid carp.


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