Take a trip down memory lane with Missa Capozzo, our Director of Sommology, as she dishes about her days living in Louisiana and her favorite Deep South delights. Take it from a somm, you’ll want to bypass the hurricane glass and go straight for the wine glass when it comes to the spicy and satisfying flavors of Mardi Gras!
Back in 1993 at the age of 18, my family and I moved from Massachusetts to Louisiana. You can imagine the culture shock this Yankee was in for, having been born and raised in New England! I had never visited Louisiana or anywhere in the Deep South, and truth be told, I didn’t know much about the culture. Being a foodie all my life, spending time in Louisiana was nothing short of one delicious adventure after another. I soon learned what the incredible appeal was visiting cities like New Orleans and Baton Rouge—the culture, the history, the music, the wonderful people and, of course, the food! Although New Orleans is known more for its mixed drinks such as daiquiris and hurricanes, I find wine to be the ultimate complement to the local cuisine.
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Po’boys & Fried Feasts
All these years later, whenever I make a trip to Louisiana to visit my family, the very first thing on my list is stopping for a fried shrimp po’boy (a traditional Louisiana sandwich served up on New Orleans French bread). Incidentally, my favorite po’boy isn’t from a restaurant in New Orleans, but from a quaint little restaurant in my mom’s town of Gonzales, Louisiana, called Philay’s Catfish ‘n More. The shrimp are fried to juicy perfection and dressed with just the right amount of toppings. Whether fried fish, fried oysters, or fried shrimp po’boys, the meal simply isn’t complete without a dry, crisp white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or even a Chardonnay or nice acidic dry Rosé.
Another seafood favorite of mine is boiled crawfish. For years, I thought the term “crawfish boil” was “crawfish bowl” (clearly a result of my inability to decipher the local dialect which I now know and love). Once I attended my first official crawfish boil, it all made sense … a giant pot of seasoned crawfish, corn on the cob, and potatoes all cooked and dumped on a giant table covered in brown paper. This is an experience everyone should enjoy at least once! A crawfish boil begs for several bottles of Chardonnay to enjoy, from unoaked versions to oaked versions. It’s simply a pairing made in heaven.
Jambalaya & Gumbo
No trip to Louisiana is complete without enjoying some authentic gumbo and homemade jambalaya. In my experience, it’s the little hole-in-the-wall food stands and take-out restaurants that have the best jambalaya and gumbo in the state, such as The Jambalaya Shoppe. Not only is an individual portion of jambalaya in NOLA enough to last three days, but the giant seasoned chunks of chicken and sausage can’t be beat. I absolutely love pairing these spicier dishes with an off-dry white, such as Riesling or Moscatel, or even a light- to medium-bodied red with softer tannins, such as a Pinot Noir.
King Cake & Beignets
New Orleans is also home to famously delicious desserts—from King Cake, a traditional Mardi Gras treat, to creamy Louisiana pralines. But no trip to New Orleans is complete without visiting Café du Monde in the French Quarter to enjoy their famous beignets. The light, fluffy, French donuts are fried to perfection and smothered in powdered sugar. Any of these delectable, sweet desserts will pair perfectly with an off-dry white, a semi-sweet white, or even a sweet dessert wine.
After I returned to New England, I looked forward to my visits back to Louisiana when I could again indulge in these dishes with family and friends. Today, I regularly cook Louisiana-style cuisine so I can enjoy that unique taste of the Deep South anytime. And, I always pair it with a great wine! Here’s one of my go-to recipes for jambalaya!
Missa’s Favorite Jambalaya
Source: “Crockery Favorites” by Mable Hoffman & The Hamilton Journal From Robbie Shelton’s Database.
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoon minced parsley
2 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
2 teaspoon oregano leaves, chopped
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 oz. smoked sausage, chopped
8 oz. chicken breast, chopped
2 cup beef broth or bouillon
1/2 lb. cooked shelled shrimp
1 cup cooked rice
In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients except shrimp and rice (prepare and cook separately, set aside to add last). Cover and cook on low 9-10 hours. Turn slow cooker on high, add cooked shrimp and cooked rice. Cover; cook on high 20-30 minutes.
Cheers to a fun, festive and wine-infused Fat Tuesday, y’all! Check out our picks for Mardi Gras wine any time of the year!