A December 2002 trip
to Natchitoches by TRAVELPRO guide
Quote: This Louisiana city predates New Orleans by four years. It was founded in 1714.
We visited this historic town during the holidays when it was aglow with Christmas festivities for all the family.
We had a wonderful time, and we want to visit again.
Attraction | "Old Court House State Museum"
The museum houses a large collection of outstanding paintings of Clementine Hunter, a slave woman, who has remarkable talent. Her wonderful bright paintings tell of life on the 19th-century plantations of the South.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 26, 2003
Old Courthouse Museum
600 2nd Street
Natchitoches, Louisiana 71457
The structure is a significant example of 19th-century architecture with Creole influence.
Th museum has a wealth of early religious artifacts from French and Spanish churches, vestments worn by Bishop Martin (1853-1875) in Nathitoches, a statue of St. Francis carved from cypress in 1840. Many artifacts were donated by plantation owners who had chapels in their homes.
Bishop Martin Museum
Attraction | "Festival of the Lights"
Fireworks on the river open and close the festival. Activities include a parade, tour of historic homes, arts and crafts show, and live entertainment on the riverbank stage. During the celebration, the town lights up with over 300,000 lights.
Festival of Lights
781 Front Street
Natchitoches, Louisiana 71457
Attraction | "Melrose Plantation"
Melrose Plantation Farm
3524 Highway 119
Natchitoches, Louisiana 71456
Ann Brittain showed us beautiful dresses that were worn in the movie Steel Magnolias that was filmed in this area.
This plantation is built on the site of historic Fort Charles. It is furnished with lovely antiques.
Beau Fort Plantation
For more information, call 318 352 6723
What’s Cajun food? What’s Creole food? When you are dining out in New Orleans, Lafayette, Alexandria or small towns in south Louisiana, it may be hard for a visitor to distinguish between the two cuisines. "Creole and Cajun cuisines continue to evolve and even merge into what might be called South Louisiana cuisine," according to the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission.
When we dine in south Louisiana, we find this subtle fusion of Creole and Cajun flavors to be delightful—a real treat. There's a myth about south Louisiana food being loaded with too much pepper, but it's not true.
"Cajun cooking is not hot," explains Wylma Dusenbery, a gracious Cajun lady who serves authentic five-course Cajun meals in an old Acadian-style cottage. "Yes, I use cayenne and hot sauce, but only to season and enhance the flavor, but never to burn the mouth." We commented that her red beans and smoked sausage served on rice was not overly spicy and neither was the chicken file' gumbo soup. It was seasoned just to our liking.
Fresh seafood seems to dominant the menus, and it’s always prepared into dishes fit for royalty. It takes time to crack the many well-seasoned, boiled crawfish served on the popular seafood platters, but it is worth the work. Their Cajun and Creole gumbos , made from a roux paste, have a rich unique taste.
Chef Harold Traham at Don’s Seafood and Steakhouse in Lafayette tells how to make a roux for gumbos in the restaurant’s own cookbook. Use 1.5 cups of cooking oil and 1.5 cups of flour. Always pour excess oil off the top of the roux when making gumbo. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over low heat and stir constantly until it is a rich brown. Do not burn. Even a slight burn will ruin the best sauce or gravy. He notes that the roux may be cooked in the oven, but to add an extra half cup of cooking oil.
Creole cuisine got its start in the early 1700s in New Orleans when blacks and Caribbean refugees arrived in Louisiana; eventually Creole cuisine spread throughout South Louisiana. Their foods contain distinctive Caribbean spice combinations and cooking techniques.
These Creole foods include greens cooked with fatback, Caribbean-style cowpeas and rice, gumbos with pork sausage, chicken giblets, seafood, and okra, plus a host of stews that use humble ingredients to create rich flavors. One of the most popular entrees is Shrimp Creole, which can be prepared many ways
Here’s a recipe for Shrimp Creole from the Cane River Cookbook published by the Service League of Natchitoches, which is in the heart of Creole country.
.5 c. flour
.5 c fat
4 cups chopped onions
2 c. chopped bell pepper
.5 c celery
2 8 oz cans tomato sauce plus .5 c water
2 t. salt
.5 t. red pepper
1 t. black pepper
3 T. parsley
3 T. chopped green onion
4 lbs. shrimp, peeled and deveined
Make a golden brown roux with flour and fat. Add onions, bell peppers, and celery to the roux and cook until tender. Add tomato sauce, salt, red, and black pepper. Simmer covered for 20 minutes. Before serving, add parsley, green onions, and shrimp. Cook for 30 minutes. Serve with hot rice. Serves 6. May be prepared ahead and frozen before adding shrimp, parsley, and green onions.
About the same time that the blacks and Caribbean refugees arrived in Louisiana, the French Acadians came to Louisiana after being expelled from present-day Nova Scotia in Canada. The Acadians were farmers so their early cuisine was based on corn, rice, root vegetables, chickens, and pigs. The south Louisiana bayous and wetlands provided an abundance of shellfish (especially crawfish) and game birds. They learned to use corn from the local Indians.
In recent years crawfish dishes have become the food most associated with the Acadian culture, according to the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission. Cajuns also love their rice and gravy. Rice, of course, has become one of the major agriculture crops of southwest Louisiana. They use it in gumbo, boil it, steam it, and serve it with gravy.
Their gravy is always brown and made from drippings of meat cooked slowly over a low fire. Their gravy is really liquid meat with the flavorings included for seasoning the meat. The gravy also is thick, like hearty Cajun coffee.