All posts by Ted Luoma

I'm happily married with three lovely daughters. I suffer from chronic pain and started beekeeping a few years ago to help, not only with the mental distraction, but bee stings also help alleviate symptoms.

The Jambalaya Shoppe–Gonzales, LA

One of my favorite things while traveling is hunting for great food. A chef friend told me Gonzales is jambalaya country and if you believe what the water tower says, Gonzales is the jambalaya capital of the world. I’m happy to announce that I have found some delicious jambalaya at The Jambalaya Shoppe.

My research revealed this little gem and I was pretty certain that I was in for a treat as these restaurants are popping up around south Louisiana. We opted for a bucket of chicken and sausage jambalaya and since the weather was nice, we ate at one of the two picnic tables in the parking lot.

I do have to admit that this is the second restaurant in the region I have eaten at over the past couple of days that wasn’t spicy. I love spicy food, and we don’t have many options for fire eating in Shreveport. I’ve always been told I have to go south for sinteringly hot cuisine–maybe this is reserved for New Orleans. Regardless, I happened upon a gem.

The original location is not much more than a shack–typically a good sign when you are searching for deliciousness. That standard holds true in this case. The sausage was delightfully scabbed, and the morsels of chicken were plenty. And the flavor profile? It held a subtle complexity that I will explore again this evening. I was ravenous at lunch and didn’t thoughtfully enjoy this delight, but I’ll savor it tonight.

My only complaint is that it needed heat. Naturally, I added Tabasco, but I would have appreciated more heat. Make that two complaints–we do not have a Jambalaya Shoppe here in Shreveport. I hope my second complaint is properly addressed soon.

BBQ Chronicles:  Ten 50 BBQ–Plano, TX

I found myself in Dallas yesterday car shopping with my we teen year old.  She and I share a love for good barbecue and when I told her were going to Dallas, she said, “For barbecue?”  I said, “Yes, and we have to shop for a car.”  I could have told her we were going to do anything I wanted, just so long as barbecue was in the plan.

I opened up my trusty Yelp app and saw that 372 people reviewed this new addition to the barbecue world (the cashier told me that they opened a year and a half ago), and I figured that 372 people can’t be wrong about Ten 50 BBQ.  Wrong they weren’t, but they weren’t quite right, either.

I made sure to order the fatty brisket, untrimmed.  I also ordered the sausage, ribs, and turkey.  I rarely order turkey, but we had my daughter’s friend with us and I think she can get a bit finicky.  I also had to sample their pinto beans and potato salad.

The meats were all prepared perfectly.  The brisket was incredibly tender and the fat was rendered so perfectly that it dissolved the moment it hit your tongue.  The St. Louis spare ribs had a beautiful smoke ring and pulled cleanly from the bone as you hit into them.  The sausage with its vivid black pepper note was incredibly juicy.  The turkey was decent and was moderately juicy.  If you want smoked turkey that’ll impress, you want to take a jaunt to Jefferson, TX for Joseph’s Riverport Barbecue.  I haven’t found any smoked turkey that compares. 

    
    
    
 As I said, all of the meats were beautiful and prepared perfectly.  It’s just that someone forgot to add flavor.  (The sausage was the exception.  I doubt the sausage is made in house.  It reminded me of the sausage I had at Pecan Lodge.  The brisket, though it looks as if it tastes otherworldly, is good but looks are deceptive.  The crust looked great but had little flavor.  I’d say the run needs work.  Same for the ribs.  They look great, but I only tasted an occasional hint of sweetness.  Overall, they were pretty bland.

As for the sides, the beans had a nice kick, but they weren’t terrific.  As a matter of fact, they were so underwhelming, I’ll pass on them my next visit.  I love beans, but they lacked something.  The jalapeños were nice, but they weren’t a patch compared to the jalapeño beans at Hutchins BBQ in McKinney, TX.  The potato salad was another story.  It arrested my attention so much so that it completely eclipsed the meat.  It had just the right tanginess–it was perfect with the red potatoes and green onions.  I should have gotten two servings.

As I looked at the clientele, my overall impression was that this restaurant was geared for old people and tourists.  It seems that flavored are toned down for both types of customer.  I had no idea how right I was until I read TMBBQ‘s review.  Apparently, the restauranteur’s claim to fame is his creation of the Chili’s chain and that the plan is to do the same thing with brisket.  I’m sure locations will spread like wildfire with its average flavors that are sure not to offend the palate of the uninitiated.

Jane’s Seafood–New Iberia, LA

Being in south Louisiana I was really expecting some fiery crawfish with out of this world flavor.I was hoping that Jane’s Seafood was going to scratch that itch.

I ordered the extra spicy mudbugs to be sure. Sadly, they were only medium in heat intensity (they made my lips cherry red and I drank a whole pitcher of iced tea, but the residual flavor was lacking.

The tail meat was pretty bland by itself. I don’t know if they aren’t soaking them, but that is my impression. Further, the potatoes and corn were not cooked in the boil–another hit at blandness. I also was expecting to see boiled onions, garlic, lemon, and maybe even orange, but I think they just use standard crab boil.

Don’t get me wrong, they were tasty, but I expected much more my first time eating crawfish so far south. This place is popular and they have good food, but the crawfish ain’t a patch to Crawfish Hole #2 in Dixie Inn, LA.  Nevertheless, it was a good day as I had a pile of crawfish.


 

Restaurant Sage–Monroe, LA

The widespread flooding brought us to Monroe, LA.  I’ve passed through this city a million times, but when I came to serve with Mercy Chefs, I came prepared to stay a couple of days.

We typically spend fifteen hours a day preparing restaurant quality meals in a mobile kitchen.  It’s hot and we continually have to watch out for hazards.  It’s only a small price we pay so that we can serve those whose lives have been disrupted by disaster.

After a busy day, four of us chefs decided to enjoy a nice evening at Restaurant Sage. We met Executive Chef Blake the day before as he came down to volunteer at our mobile kitchen.  (In the spirit of full disclosure, we demurred when he said there was no check.  At our insistence he sent out a check, but he discounted our appetizers.) 

Louisiana gulf oysters with garlic butter and parmesan.
 He brought out all sorts of food for us to sample from the grilled oysters and crab cakes, to the sage wraps which were chunks of filet stuffed with cheese and jalapeño and wrapped in bacon. Absolutely unbelievable.   Another high point was the andouille and duck gumbo. Chef Blake told us how intricately it was prepared and all of that effort in preparing it was not in vain. It was incredible. 

Jumbo lump crab cakes with green tomato relish and red remoulade.
 Finally, we fell upon the main course. A couple of us fawned over the short ribs, another had the blackened snapper, and I had the soft shell crab with alligator sauce piquant. Everything was great but I have to say the alligator stew was “on point” as one of my fellow chefs kept saying throughout the meal. Next time I’m in Monroe I may have to enjoy another unforgettable meal.


(Top photo consists of soft shell crab and alligator sauce piquant.)

Operation:  Monroe, LA

Somewhere on the order of twenty four inches of rain fell on the great state of Louisiana last week and thousands were affected.  I can’t even begin to imagine how many people lost everything in the flooding.  Here we are nine days later and the water has finally receded from the only road to my house. We had to get creative to get to and from home because of this.  I only had some minor flooding in the living room and I think we cut the pad out in time to rescue the carpet.  My problems pale in comparison to those we are serving this week in Monroe, LA.  

Chef John Stout smiling as he stirs red beans and Chef Gary LeBlanc assembling meals.

As a Mercy Chef, I serve alongside many talented chefs to provide restaurant quality food to victims, volunteers, and first responders.  Our numbers have been increasing daily.  As I headed home today, I was advised we prepared 1000 meals at lunchtime.  The hours are long and the work is strenuous–over two and a half days I worked nearly 40 hours. 

Chef Buddy raking a much needed break.
 
As I lay in bed reflecting on the past few days my body, my swollen hands, aching back, and angry feet remind me that I’m going to pay for it.  But I’m in my bed.  I’m not cramped in a Motel 6 relying on the kindness of strangers to meet my basic needs.  I’m in my warm home listening to my sixteen year old daughter practice her piccolo solo.  

My friends are still serving in Monroe as the need is great.  We don’t do anything special.  In comparison to other disaster relief ministries one might think we don’t do much at all.  And they would be right.  We provide a meal.  It’s intransient, yet a hot meal brings comfort in crisis. 

Chef Lisa peacing out while Chef Blake prepares apple Brown Betty. I’m the joker washing dishes.
 I’m reminded of Luke 14:12-14:

“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.” 

M3 along with its companion cooler trailer.
 That’s what Mercy Chefs does.  

Grub Burger Bar–Shreveport, LA

I always get excited to eat burgers. Not all burgers, though.  I’ll wrestle with a couple of McDoubles now and then, but when I have an opportunity to enjoy something remarkable, I’ll sometimes feel those butterflies of excitement in the pit of my belly.  Or it might be a McDouble returning with its greasy wrath.

I brought my daughter Zoe’ on a lunch date and we ventured into Grub Burger Bar.  It’s only been here about a month and I’ve heard mixed reviews.  It was time I brought my eleven year old burger expert to investigate.

I knew I was in for a treat when I saw a guy making the rolls from scratch, (These fresh rolls are better than Mooyah‘s), but I still couldn’t shake the mediocre review the the lady who insisted on talking as she cut my hair a couple of weeks ago.  Then again, hairdressers don’t have palates.  They have scissors.

The meat was fantastically juicy and nicely seasoned–a stark contrast to the over salted shoe leather I consumed the last time I ate at Twisted Root.  I’m not saying Twisted Root is trash, I’m saying that the last time I was there it was nightmarishly mediocre that I’m not sure I can return to take a risk on returning because their prices are already sky high.  All I’m saying is that if I’m going to spend my kid’s college money on a burger, it better be good.

All in all, it was great and I know that because my redheaded burger critic loved it.  She just wished that it could have come with Five Guys’ fries.

Authentic Cliché

When I hear the term “authentic” in reference to faith, I die a little on the inside. It’s been reduced to a Christian cliché along with terms like “real” and “relevant”. The truth is that we are trying too hard at branding ourselves as if Jesus is a product to be consumed.

We are all hypocrites. We are all broken. It’s time that we stop trying to look like the world in an attempt to lure goats into church. Watered down gimmicky theology saves no one. It damns them. To preach “love” without preaching repentance is not loving at all. To share a pseudo-gospel where God wants you to have “your best life now” inoculates people from the real Jesus.

It’s time we stop telling half-truths in an attempt to make Jesus palatable and share the whole Gospel which includes Jesus’ command for repentance so that people might be saved. We can be loving and compassionate in sharing the truth, but if we confuse “niceness” with love by ignoring the seriousness of sin because we are scared of hurt feelings, we are complicit in the subsequent damnation of the very people we are trying to save.

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/has-authenticity-trumped-holiness-2

BBQ Chronicles:  Pecan Lodge–Dallas, TX

It’s been a month and a half since I last noshed on barbecue.  Last time I was in Nashville, TN, and in Rooster Cogburn fashion, it didn’t hold a patch to Texas BBQ.

I was inspired by the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ joints some time ago, and I always enjoy the adventure, though there are times when Texas Monthly boogers up their ranking–they apparently like Cousin’s BBQ.  I’ve had it and I’ve had better BBQ at Dickey’s, and they serve crap. 

A nice variety of meat to gauge Pecan Lodge’s deliciousness.

Let’s start with the brisket.  I ordered both fatty brisket and some from the flat for my less enthusiastic family members.  The fat was perfectly rendered and the meat was incredibly tender.  I was immensely happy with the flavor, but it’s not as good as Lockhart in Dallas or Black’s BBQ in Lockhart.  I also have to say that Bartley’s BBQ in Grapevine, TX produces superior brisket.  Regardless, their brisket was noteworthy.

The sausage was also nice.  We tried both the regular smoked sausage and the jalapeño/cheddar sausage.  Both were enjoyable.  The skin had a beautiful snap when you buy into it and the meat had a coarser grind than typical.  This sausage was definitely better than average.
While the spare ribs were tender, they didn’t have a lot of flavor.  Stanley’s in Tyler, TX is far superior. 

These links weren’t magical, but they were good.
 The beans were adequate.  They didn’t taste as if they came straight from a can, but they weren’t stellar, either.  Normally, I would gorge on beans, but these weren’t gorge-worthy.  Again, Stanley’s beats Pecan Lodge.  But if it’s beans you’re after, try Hutchins in McKinney, TX. 
These beans look fantastic, but it’s the unassuming slices of brisket in the background that are the winners here.
 Texas Monthly gives Pecan Lodge high marks with a 4.0/5.0.  Because of the shortcomings, I think I’ll have to award a 3.4/5.0.  

Witnessing to Witnesses

This morning I was greeted by two Jehovah’s Witnesses.  They were trying to give me some pamphlet when I said that I was a Christian.  One of the guys responded that people have a misconception about Jehovah’s Witnesses.  He said that they are Christians and that we believe the same things.  I set the record straight by telling him that we share a lot of beliefs, but the differences that we have are eternal.

I quoted John 1:1 and then told him what his bible says.  The difference is a simple article.  A doctrinally sound translation says, “the Word was God.”  The Witnesses’ translation says, “the Word was a god.”  

For thirty minutes we discussed the differences in our view.  They believe that Jesus is the Son, but not God.  Then one of the gentlemen quoted Colossians 1:15 to prove Christ’s position as the firstborn of all creation, not God.  In my studies, I have come across CARM which I believe explains this verse not as a matter of physical position, but as a matter of headship.  Genesis 25 establishes this by naming Jacob the firstborn over Esau even though he was physically the second-born.  Bible.org has an extensive explanation of the prototokos concept.

I gently told them that they were going to hell if they do not believe that Jesus is God.  I told them not to take my word for it.  I advised them to read other translations.  Even better, with the Internet, they can easily see what was written in the Greek and the Hebrew.

I don’t know if I was able to reach them or not, but at least they heard the truth.  We live in an age where we don’t want to offend or hurt feelings, but regarding eternal matters, we must not be squeamish. It seems that people only want to emphasize some “permissive love,” which is not loving at all.  God is not some zen swami witch-doctor who teaches hippy love.  God will judge us all accordingly and I would not want to end up in hell because someone did not want to undertake the distasteful task of telling me that I’m wrong and must repent and believe in Jesus Christ.

We are tasked with proclaiming the Good News.  Let’s not forget to warn of the bad news.

Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack–Nashville, TN

Last week I was in Nashville, TN to attend the Send North America Conference.  Listening intently to the likes of Al Mohler and Johnny Hunt works up an appetite and I had already sampled Hattie B’s Hot Chicken the previous evening.  Before I left town, I determined to try Nashville’s standard for firey fowl–Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack.

Nestled in a seedy part of town, I was reminded of a now-defunct catfish restaurant here in Shreveport, LA.  I never went at night because I was scared of getting stabbed, but this place was filthy and the ceiling was falling apart due to a leaky roof.  I was concerned about food poisoning, but the catfish was worth any risk.

Handle with care.

I wasn’t feeling like liquidating my innards, so I just ordered the hot chicken.  I didn’t order the hottest on the menu and there was mild wuss chicken so that wusses could eat too.  I ordered the middle-of-the-road “hot” and the heat level was perfect in that it satisfied my sinuses and my mouth and esophagus enjoyed a low burn for a couple of hours. 
Much like the Sun, if you look directly at this fire, it will burn your retinas.
 
What I found lacking was flavor.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the flavor profile was rather one-dimensional.  It was hot and not much else.  Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but easily outshined by Prince’s budding competitor.

You’ll wait in line for an hour when you go to Hattie B’s.  It’s time well spent.