About Steve

Hello, I am Steve of Steve’s Gastronomic Home Page, which was started as a hobby to let others know about some of my favorite restaurants. This blog is an update and expansion of the original web site, and a chance for readers to leave their comments and suggestions.

The most up-to-date restaurant reviews are at OKGourmet.com. For now I am including links to the reviews rather than try to move everything to Steve’s Food Blog all at once.

I am not a professional food person and I do not have a connection to any restaurant. As a geography major in college (Texas Christian University and the University of Texas at Austin) I am interested in different countries and cultures. This has now expanded to food in not only focusing on ethnic, national, and regional foods, but also in trying to determine what constitutes authentic ethnic food.

My academic training and profession also inspired me to try to make a “master list” of restaurants, which I have included in the Blog as “Steve’s List”. I have included a box for comments on the list so that others can help me compile the list and keep it updated. At the very least, though, I hope it will serve as a list of interesting restaurants to try when traveling to different geographic areas.

Christmas in Southern New Mexico–Tularosa, NM

For those who might be in the Alamogordo or Ruidoso area at Christmas, one way to experience a traditional New Mexico Christmas is to see the luminarias at the Catholic Church in Tularosa, a historic town about ten miles north of Alamogordo.

Setting up luminarias

Setting up luminarias in Tularosa, NM

These photos were taken during the afternoon of Christmas Eve when it seems that practically the entire town participates in setting up luminarias. Hundreds of luminarias are set up outlining the church, lighting up the church grounds, and following the main street in town leading to the church. They are lit at nightfall in preparation for the the special Christmas Eve service which takes place at the church.

The Catholic Church in Tularosa

Saint Francis de Paula Church

The church in Tularosa has the typical Spanish style architecture that is found in New Mexico, and this one dates from 1869. Even without Christmas decorations the town is quite photogenic, and is worth a stop if you are in the area. With the Sacramento Mountains as the backdrop, the White Sands to the west, and extensive pistachio orchards to the south, this is one of the most scenic spots in New Mexico any time of the year. I will say from experience that usually the weather in this part of the state is agreeable enough to enjoy the celebration and possibly a few outdoor activities during the daytime.

The manger scene

The manger scene

The tradition of luminarias signifies lighting the way for Mary and Joseph to find their way to the stable where Jesus is about to come into the world. The tradition of lighting luminarias is found in towns throughout New Mexico, but I find the light show in Tularosa to be one of the most impressive I have seen.

Casa de Sueños

Casa de Sueños Restaurant in Tularosa

Of course most restaurants are closed late on Christmas eve and on Christmas day, but at other times visitors to Tularosa can enjoy traditional New Mexican cuisine at Casa de Sueños on the south edge of town. I particularly liked the red enchiladas with blue corn tortillas (the blue corn variety is not normally served in southern New Mexico). Casa de Sueños is not particularly spicy, but it is spicy enough to be what I would call “real” New Mexican food that is not dumbed down for tourists. Quite a few tourists stop here, though, because of its reputation for serving delicious New Mexican style food.

I also discovered another stop a few miles south of Tularosa on U.S. 54 and 70 where the McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch has its store and winery at 7320 US 54/70 (but don’t worry about the address, just look for the giant pistachio on the west side of the highway).

 

The giant pistachio at McGinn's

The giant pistachio marks the location of McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch

 

Of course one of the main items for sale is the pistachios grown on the McGinn Ranch, and these come in different sized bags according to how many you think you might need. They have a number of different flavored nuts, but after trying several of the free samples I decided to go with the plain ones.

Quite a number of other items are also available, including New Mexico salsas, but I will go into more detail in a separate article on McGinn’s.

McGinn’s is open daily according to the newmexico.org web site, but of course there may be special hours around Christmas.

Poche’s–Breaux Bridge, LA

Poché’s
3015 Main Highway
Breaux Bridge, LA
(337) 332-2108
Poche's

Poche’s Market, Restaurant and Smokehouse


Poche’s has become one of the best known places to get Cajun food, having been featured on Globe Trekker as well as countless travel books and guides. Located a few miles east of Lafayette, Louisiana, I watched in mid-morning as much of the local community and possibly a few tourists such as myself congregated at this “market, restaurant and smokehouse” for its popular plate lunches, with even more people picking up Poche’s famous sausage and other items to go. One of the best aspects of it is that it is not a tourist destination, but it provides an insight into the local Cajun culture which is steeped in tradition, nowhere more evident than in its food.

Poche's sign

The entrance to the restaurant and meat market

The food served here requires hours of preparation for most items, mainly because most items contain sausage or other types of smoked meat. I can say that sausage is the best item here, but really it is the delicious dishes that contain sausage and other smoked meats such as the richly flavored red beans and rice (served as a plate lunch on Mondays) or the gumbo (a seasonal dish served in the winter). I feel that I hit the jackpot by being able to try both of these dishes, but I am sure there are others that are equally good.

Plate lunches

The selection of plate lunches

The plate lunches, served from 10:30 AM to 2:00 PM, are arrayed in a counter where you can pick out a main dish and two sides. This is served daily, with a different menu each day of the week. Dinner is served after 2:00, with the same menu every day. Seasonal specials, such as the gumbo, are available all day until they run out, and do not come with side dishes.

I was happy I came during the time they had plate lunches. Not only are they reasonably priced, but I got to see a sample of true Cajun food even though I was not able to try everything.

Red Beans and Rice

Red beans and rice

Red beans and rice plate lunch

The Red Beans and Rice plate lunch was something I was able to try, and found that the sausage in this dish is probably my favorite (the menu just calls it “Sausage”). I loved the flavors of this dish, and thought that even without the sausage this would have been the best example of red beans and rice I have tried. This was one of the items on the Monday menu, though, and is only available for a three and a half hour period once per week. (The ladies told me, though, that you can go earlier than 10:30 and still get many of the plate lunch items).

Gumbo

Gumbo

Gumbo available as a seasonal dish in winter

I ordered Gumbo thinking that it would be a light lunch (really breakfast for me), but the generous servings of meat in it provided a quite filling meal. It appears that they sometimes vary the meats, but this one had chicken, sausage, and tasso (all were excellent). The flavor of the roux, though, made this the best dish I tried and quite possibly the best dish at the restaurant.

Boudin

Boudin

Boudin

Although I really did not have the appetite for it, I did not want to miss a chance to try Poche’s famous Boudin sausage. There is no doubt they know what they are doing in their sausage making, although being the first time I had tried boudin I don’t have any others with which to compare it.

The Market
Poche’s also sells food (mostly smoked meats) to go, and a good selection of grocery items including some specialty items such as Poche’s Pralines. Many items are also available by mail order.

The Overall Picture
In my opinion Poche’s is the quintessential example of Cajun food, much as Chope’s is for southern New Mexican cuisine. I have not tried very many other Cajun restaurants, and I am not sure Poche’s is the best, but I believe it is enough to demonstrate what Cajun food can be if prepared properly.

The rating for this restaurant (one of the highest I have given to any restaurant) is based on the fact that the right combination of ingredients (such as the gumbo or red beans and rice) provided an experience as enjoyable to me as a top quality steak or similar examples of other cuisines. I do not say that Cajun food is better than other cuisines, but prepared as it is at Poche’s it can certainly be equal to others.


RATING: 27

Cuisine: Cajun
Cost: $$
Hours: 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM (6 AM to 7 PM Sun.)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: N/A

Most Recent Visit: Nov. 27, 2017

Number of Visits: 1

Best Items: Gumbo, Red Beans and Rice, Sausage

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Beans and Rice
star 5 Gumbo
star 5 Boudin

Sam’s Southern Eatery–Bossier City, LA

Sam’s Southern Eatery
2910 Barksdale Blvd.
Bossier City, LA
(318) 658-9980
Sam's Southern Eatery

Sam’s Southern Eatery


Sam’s Southern Eatery is a chain of Cajun style restaurants based in Shreveport, and which consistently shows up on restaurant review sites as a readers’ favorite. There are several locations in the Shreveport area, and they appear to be individually owned although linked to the chain through the supply of shrimp they receive as well as following the same recipes for cooking the food.

One feature pointed out to me that made this location unique was its sale of freshly made home made cakes. The regular menu appears to be the same at all Sam’s locations, although I did notice some differences between this restaurant and the one I had previously tried in Oklahoma City (the OKC restaurant served fried rolls and this one did not).

When I went to this location in the evening hours it had already run out of some items. They had run out of red beans and rice, and they initially said they were out of gumbo but then said I could have the gumbo but they were out of the rice that went with it (I gladly accepted this offer).

Gumbo

Gumbo

Gumbo without rice

The Gumbo was my main order, and it was a very good one. They were out of the rice that usually came with the order, but I thought the gumbo was very good anyway. The flavor of the roux was really a lot better than the one I had tried in Oklahoma City, although the shrimp and other ingredients were about the same at both restaurants. This was not the largest size gumbo they had, but was nevertheless filling if you ate it with side dishes.

Fried Shrimp

Fried shrimp

Medium sized order of fried shrimp

The sign on the front of the restaurant says “Home of the Jumbo Shrimp,” and this is to be taken seriously. I think these are actually prawns, but in any case this order of eight shrimp really seems to be enough for three people although two of us with great effort managed to eat it (and enjoy it very much).

My dining companion ate the side dishes, and they were reported to be very good as I have found them to be in the Oklahoma City Sam’s.

Cake

Chocolate cake

Chocolate cake

This location features home made cakes made by a third party, with about eight or ten varieties available. The restaurant recommended peanut butter and reviews also indicate this is one people particularly like, but I thought the chocolate I ordered was quite satisfying (you probably can’t go wrong with any of the flavors).

General Comments
This was not the absolute best fried shrimp I have ever had, but it was close, and I can see why it is the featured dish of the restaurant. Keep in mind, though, that the pieces are quite big. In my mind about three or four pieces per person is about right if you eat it with side dishes or a small gumbo.

The gumbo is what I enjoyed the most, though. I feel that it is a special treat to get gumbo as good as the one here, and ones with comparable flavor are not available in most parts of the country.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Cajun
Cost: $$
Hours: 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM (closed Sun.)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: N/A

Most Recent Visit: Nov. 27, 2017

Number of Visits: 1

Best Items: Gumbo, Fried Shrimp

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Fried Shrimp
star 5 Gumbo
star 5 Chocolate Cake