“Eric, I don’t think I’ll make it,” I groaned, severe discomfort setting in. “You can’t quit now! C’mon, we’re halfway there!” My brother-and-law and I weren’t hiking up Mt. Everest or even Mt. Kilimanjaro. We weren’t swimming from Cuba to Florida. It was something much more intense…. We were attempting to hit every food station at Baton Rouge’s L’Auberge and sample each decadent culinary dish from Louisiana’s premier chefs.
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Fete Rouge – aka- The Foodie Marathon
Every year in August, Louisianians excitedly prepare for one of the state’s biggest food events: Fete Rouge. It’s a whirlwind affair of food and wine from nearly every restaurant in Baton Rouge and beyond. Chefs gear up to impress hungry guests and a panel of judges with their creative takes on Louisiana classics, like an alligator, frog leg and snapping turtle andouille gumbo with wood grilled okra, creole mustard and duck egg risotto. I have to mentally prepare for Fete Rouge. It’s like that fantastic Willy Wonka-style dream you may have had as a child, where you’re in a world made of candy and you can eat everything around you. But it’s that dream meshed with the weird hot-dog eating contest where Takeru Kobayashi conditions his stomach for competitive binges. I literally fast before the event in hope of fitting all that food down my gullet. There’s way too much for my taste buds to experience! I can’t short change them once it’s game time!
“OK, let’s go,” I tried to sound convincing as we moved to the other side of the room to start with those restaurants’ tables. It was half-time, and I was determined to push on. The food and wine were flowing, and I felt myself succumbing to the effects of a Thanksgiving-like food coma.
We made it to the end of the line and were turning the corner to catch some of the center tables. A bite here, a bite there, filling- filling – filling up to the top of my…
“Okay, I have to stop. No more,” I surrendered. “No! You have to try this last one! It’s Louisiana Lagniappe’s Fresh Fish en Papillotte!” “It’s too big. I can’t. I’ll vomit.” The dish was about four times the normal bite-size plates being served. Looking at the fish in parchment overwhelmed me. I would have to accept defeat. To my chagrin, the one dish I didn’t try turned out to be the People’s Choice award winner of the night. Doh! It turns out I’m no Kobayashi.
If there’s any one thing that defines Louisiana culture, it’s the food!
It’s definitely one of my favorite things about the state. In my interview podcast with Chris Christensen for Amateur Traveler, I talked a lot about Louisiana food … and LSU football, of course.
Even though the night is a gluttonous feast on rich Louisiana fare and fine wine, the proceeds from Fete Rouge actually go to benefit local childhood health and nutrition programs and epicurean scholarships to local accredited institutions. So, at least everyone’s gorging for a good cause.
If you ever find yourself in the Red Stick in August, try to find a coveted ticket to Fete Rouge. Maybe you’re more Kobayashi than I am. Maybe you could get to the finish line!
All opinions are 100% my own