Featured image: Chef Frederick Ngo’s clay pot fish, served at Jimmy’s Seafood and Steak. Photo: Jim Noetzel.
You may have noticed that I try to avoid two things when writing about food for 20×49.com: making lists and calling things “the best.” However, as 2016 rapidly approaches, I thought it’d be fun to list a few favorite meals eaten in 2015 in Shreveport-Bossier. After all, 2015 really was a year worth celebrating. Local food lovers saw farmers’ market vendors launch exciting brick-and-mortar eateries, new mobile food vendors experimented with non-mainstream eats ranging from crêpes to currywurst, local chefs were fêted in New York City and Austin, tacos were the talk of the town, and – I think it’s safe to say – the local food scene began to feel more like a community than it had previously.
Here are a few of the best things that I ate along the way.
Clay Pot Fish at Jimmy’s Seafood and Steak (See featured photo)
Margaritaville Resort Casino Bossier City
Approximate Price: $65 (As part of a three-course prix fixe meal)
One of the most delightfully out-of-context meals in Shreveport-Bossier is the Vietnamese clay pot fish at Jimmy’s Seafood and Steak, an upscale steakhouse located at Margaritaville Resort Casino Bossier City. 20×49.com wrote extensively about the clay pot fish experience here, but it’s worth repeating: The last place that I expected to eat one of the best Vietnamese meals of my life was at Margaritaville Resort Casino. This dish – a giant portion of Chilean sea bass served in a rich, salty and sweet sauce with coconut rice and pickled vegetables – surprised and delighted my taste buds.
El Cabo Verde’s Barbacoa Tacos Made with Smith Family Farms Lamb
Eaten at Benton Farmers’ Market
Approximate Price: $4
Chef Gabriel Balderas’s pop-up taco and tamale stand, El Cabo Verde, wowed me this Summer with $4 lamb barbacoa tacos made with lamb from Smith Family Farms in Doyline and pork carnitas tacos made with Mahaffey Farms pork from Haughton. Balderas uses carefully sourced, mostly local ingredients and makes his own tortillas and salsas from scratch. The joy of “eating local” should be available and affordable for everyone to experience, and El Cabo Verde’s outstanding tacos gave me a glimpse of what it’d be like if that were the case.
Chicken-Fried Rabbit Porchetta with Red Bean Cassoulet
Wine Country Bistro and Bottle Shop
Approximate Price: $40 (As part of a three-course prix fixe meal)
In September 2015, the Louisiana Travel Promotion Association (LTPA) took nine Louisiana chefs to Austin for a night of cooking demos and more called the “Louisiana-Lone Star Restaurant Night.” Among those nine chefs, Chef Anthony Felan of Wine Country Bistro and Bottle Shop served a three-course tasting menu highlighted by this decadent, yet sophisticated, dish: bacon-wrapped, deep-fried rabbit porchetta served over a substantial serving of red bean cassoulet topped with pickled shaved root vegetables.
Approximate Price: $5
There’s been no shortage of applause for the outstanding tacos, seasonal soups and salads at Ki’ Mexico. 20×49 joined the chorus of folks singing the restaurant’s praises shortly after it opened in September 2015. But my favorite bite of food I’ve eaten at the restaurant, over the course of a dozen or so visits, was a seasonal pumpkin flan topped with house-made pumpkin seed brittle and spiced pears. Created by Eleazar Mondragon, this pumpkin flan almost reduced me to tears. It was delicately sweet and also salty, silky-smooth but also jagged and crispy (thanks to that incredible brittle, which looked like Alton Brown’s recipe to me), and it was a perfect taste of Fall.
Asado de Puerco
Approximate Price: $11 (Restaurant has permanently closed)
Open for an all-too-brief three months or so, La Costenita was a hole-in-the-wall Mexican kitchen located on Lakeshore Drive and operated by an award-winning tamale chef. Sadly, it has closed its doors. Over the course of several visits to La Costenita, I ate some of the most unique Mexican fare that I’ve ever had in Shreveport. The sauces at this place were impossibly rich. This asado de puerco, a pork stew that is slow-cooked in an ancho chile sauce, was fork-tender and radiated the intense flavor of the smoky, piquant adobo sauce. I ate this meal in April, and I’m still daydreaming about it in December.
If you love local food, consider downloading Eat Here: A Food Lover’s Guide to Shreveport-Bossier, a new brochure published by the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau.