Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Foodie Adventures

At Rayford Crossing RV Resort, Spring, Texas…

There have been a couple of interesting firsts for me during this visit with our kids and grandkids in Houston.  One was my stint as a judge in a barbeque cookoff in Conroe, and the other was a visit to Suire's, a fabled country store near Abbeville, Louisiana.  And while I'm at it, I'll go ahead and mention Parrain's in Baton Rouge as well.

First the cookoff:  SIL Tyler, who apparently has risen to semi-muckety muck status in the annual Conroe event, invited me to do some judging, and I happily accepted.  I thought it was high time these folks were given the opportunity for a true BBQ connoisseur to opine on the fruits of their labor!

When we arrived, I was quite surprised at the scope of the cookoff; 128 teams were cooking, and the variety of pits and barrels and other smoking devices was astounding.  All the participants seemed happy for passersby to sample their food and admire the handiwork and decor of their spaces and cooking garb.  Boy, did it ever smell good in Conroe!

Mason and Tyler in his BBQ apron
There were quite a few judges sampling categories of chicken, ribs, pulled pork and brisket; I was asked to judge pulled pork, which was fine with me.  Our panel judged the semifinals--fourteen samples that had been pared down from around a hundred entries.  We were asked to rank the submissions on a scale of one to ten for several aspects, including taste, texture, appearance, etc., and my lowest score given was a two and the highest a nine.  The judging was very well organized and monitored, so I didn't have a single opportunity to cheat!  (Sorry, Tyler.)  However, I was happy that Tyler's team showed well in several categories, even without my help!  He and his teammates won their placements fairly and deservedly, for sure, without any funny business from me.

Yours truly, preparing to judge a pulled pork submission among other judges.  Note my official judge's badge!
While we were already in Houston, Sandy and I made a quick overnight road trip in Mae to Baton Rouge, where we took a look at an Allegro Bus that might have been a candidate for upgrading from Phannie. (We didn't tell Phannie we were going; she would not have understood.) Upon arrival, we checked with the locals, of course, for recommendations of the best restaurants.  We settled on Parrain's, a rustic seafood house on Perkins Street, where we had some of the best seafood and bread pudding ever.  May I highly recommend the filet Vermilion and the bread pudding with white chocolate sauce.  There is no charge for the choir of angels that will certainly accompany these fiendishly decadent dishes.

This bread pudding at Parrain's should be illegal.  For everyone but me.
It didn't take us too long to consider that the wide price difference being asked by the dealer between our coach and the newer one, coupled with the cost of adding the upgrades Phannie already has, made no sense financially.  We've decided to keep that money working in our investments and go instead back to Red Bay for some more goodies for Phannie, like installing a residential refrigerator and replacing her carpet, among other things.

On our return trip to Houston, we decided to take a detour down to Kaplan, Louisiana for lunch at Suire's, an old-fashioned country store and restaurant in the middle of nowhere, but not far from the legendary Betty's RV Park near Abbeville.  If you haven't heard of Betty's, you probably haven't read many RV blogs.  Betty's has a large cult-like following among RVers, and staying there is almost a rite of passage.  We haven't had the experience yet, but we definitely have plans to do so.  Anyway, Suire's (pronounced Sweers) is a joint where the food is home cooked and cheap, and the people are down-home friendly--a place certainly among Betty's top recommendations for her guests.  Since I wasn't quite sure of the name of the store and its location, I gave Ed (of Ed and Marilyn fame) a call for help.  He responded instantly with all the information needed, and we headed out.  In about a half hour south of I-10, we came upon the place, a ramshackle white frame building at the intersection of two country roads.  For a foodie, this was like striking gold; I just knew the food would be good.

We had the sampler seafood platter, and boy, was it fine.  No supper for us, for sure!  Thanks, Ed, for the good directions.

Back in Phannie I couldn't resist this photo of Sandy and the grandsons.  Gosh, they change every day!


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