> Bless Their Hearts Mom: Recipe Weekend/ Book Review: Meanwhile Back at Cafe du Monde by Peggy Sweeney McDonald, photography by V
Saturday, September 15, 2012

Recipe Weekend/ Book Review: Meanwhile Back at Cafe du Monde by Peggy Sweeney McDonald, photography by V

Ah, Pelican Publishing, they give us not only the best of Louisiana, but our flavor and heart, and this book continues their excellence in local publishing! 

We were thrilled to be able to preview a pre-release galley of the book, due to our connections to it! Read on to find out more! 

Meanwhile Back at Cafe du Monde  cover

This book is very much a labor of love for Peggy! What started as the gem of an idea has spawned into an annual event, in multiple states, attended by hundreds! Everyone who comes to NOLA, is from NOLA, or has lived in NOLA, has their own Cafe Du Monde story! Cafe du Monde is now 150 years old, and celebrating its 70 year of being owned and ran by the Fernandez family. They have been such an integral part of NOLA, that no one can imagine it without them! They have operated 24 hours a day, 364 days a year (no work on Christmas!), for that 150 years, with the exception of after Hurricane Katrina, when they were shut down for 10 weeks! When they reopened, NOLA sighed a deep sign of relief, and knew recovery was underway! 

Peggy knew this love and what started as an offhand family comment blossomed into an idea for others to share their Cafe Du Monde moments, while being served good food- aka a typical Louisiana family event! The Meanwhile Back at Cafe du Monde inaugural show was at The Myrtles, in St Francisville, in May of 2010, then followed by a second show in Baton Rouge, before coming home to NOLA in June of 2010. There have now been over 13 shows in 3 states- Louisiana Mississippi, and northern California! The book aims to share some of those stories, and the wonderful food, with everyone! 

The book starts off with a wonderful forward from Peggy explaining how the show came about. She then includes a brief history of Cafe Du Monde, then includes sixty-seven of the "Louisiana" vignettes from people who have been in the Meanwhile Back at Cafe du Monde show over the past 2 years.

Of course our FAVORITE vignette is from Suzanne's sister- Jeanne Vidrine- who is proudly featured on pages 50/51! She shares her love of her favorite Midcity's bar, Finn McCool's,  during Saints football season. She shares the tale of her infamous "eagle" wing gumbo that blazed its way to the Golden Spoon Trophy award for Finn McCool's Wing Cook Off one week!ANd yes, the girl can cook a mean pot of gumbo! You will LOVE her recipe for  the award winning Turkey, Chicken and Andoille Gumbo! I can proudly attest that she owes her cooking chops to her daddy Louis, the best Cajun cook bar none!

Another vignette that resounds with us all if that from Drew Ramsey, owner of Hubig's Pies. He tells the tale of how his father was trying to get back into NOLA after Hurricane Katrina and was admitted becuase he was wearing a tshirt with Savory Simon, their pie mascot on it. He was refused by the National Guardsman at first, but a NOPD officer recognized the logo, asked if he was the man who gave them pies during Mardi Gras time (they give pies to the officers on the parade routes), and BAM he was allowed in! It is a totally NOLA moment, as we like to call them, and illustrates the recognition as food as a shared love for those here. The memory is even more poignant for NOLA, as the Hubig Pie Factory burned down in July, leaving NOLA bereft of its nearly century old pies for the time being (they are promising to rebuild). 

Another poignant vignette comes from Sal Sumseri, who speaks of the 135 years of P&J Oysters,  and how they have survived wars, disasters god made (like Hurricane Katrina) and man-made (like the  BP oil spill) that hurt their company, yet they have survived and will continue to, as long as their is one oyster left in Louisiana. Their company's resolve to survive echoes that of many people who live in Louisiana, and refuse to leave, no matter what comes their way.

Chefs, and artists alike, provide recipes with their vignettes, like Leah Chase's Shrimp Clemenceau, Nell Nolan's Pineapple Upside Down Cakes, Michael Regan's Antoinne's Crawfish Cardinale (which is just to DIE for), Marilyn Monette's Tequilla Shrimp and Jay Ducote's Blackberry Bourbon Boston Butt (which will have you running to the store for the ingredients!). The recipes attend their vignettes and help illustrate their love for all things NOLA. You can listen to some of the tales on the Meanwhile Back at Cafe du Monde website as well.

This book is more than just a cookbook or a travel book. It is a labor of love- of love fro NOLA, for the food that binds us together, and for the memory of one place that screams NOLA like a neon sign, calling us all back over and over, to share a little puff of powdered paradise and shared nostalgia. If you love NOLA, get this book. If you have visited, or want to visit, get this book. Peggy has outdone herself with her expression of love for NOLA with this book!

AND if you are in NOLA, be sure to check out the Hungry In The South food conference,  this weekend, September 14-16, at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans, which coincides with the books release today! The event concludes with the French Quarter Cookbook Fair on Sunday. The event includes a cookbook swap, book signings, rare and used bookbooks, demonstrations and presentations of the Meanwhile, Back At Cafe Du Monde food stories. The Meanwhile,.. Storytellers include, Nell Nolan, Actress & Social Editor of The Times Picayune; Karen Benrud of Cafe Du Monde; actor Leon Contavesprie; Liz Williams, Founder/President of Southern Food and Beverage Museum); Chef Jay Ducote of The Bite and Booze Radio Show and blog; and Peggy Sweeney-McDonald, creator of the "Meanwhile, shows and book.  Mike Theis (Lifestyle Reporter of ABC 26 and columnist for Where Y'at Magazine) will emcee. Jay Ducote will demonstrate the aforementioned Blackberry Bourbon Pork Shoulder recipe from the book. The Meanwhile, Back At Cafe Du Monde... Life Stories About Food will begin at 1:00pm on Stage in the French Market. 

Can't make it? How about a wonderful recipe that we've eaten at the Audubon Nature Institute, at different functions over the years, from Alan Ehrich.

Crawfish Andouille Sausage Cheesecake


1 onion, minced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. garlic, minced
1 cp olive oil
1 lb. Louisiana crawfish tails
1 lb. andouille sausage, chopped
1½ tsp Creole/Cajun seasoning
1 lb. cream cheese, softened
1 cp. heavy cream
3/4 lb. Gouda, chopped
4 eggs
1 cp. Italian bread crumbs
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp. olive oil


1 Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Chop onions, bell peppers, celery and garlic. Saute them in olive oil for a few minutes, until onions are translucent.
3. Coarsely chop crawfish tails and sausage, and add to pan. Add seasoning and cream cheese, to pan and mix thoroughly.
4. Remove from heat and add heavy cream and Gouda and eggs. Mix well.
5. Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and 3 tbsp of olive oil . Place crumb mixture in bottom of a spring form pan, to make an even crust. Press tightly.
6. Pour crawfish mixture into prepared crust. Place pan in 2” hotel pan, and add 1 ½ inch es of water and cover.
7. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until mixture begins to set. Remove cover and continue to bake, until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. You know it is set when you shake the pan and the center does not jiggle. And also when you touch the center of the cake with the palm of your hand, it is firm to the touch.
8. To remove from pan, run a small knife around the edge of the cake, before releasing the latch.
9. Place of serving plate. Serves 50 on a buffet. Serve with crackers or pieces of French bread, or baguette slices.

About the Author: Peggy Sweeney-McDonald, creator of Meanwhile, Back At Café Du Monde . . ., grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As president of Superstar Events-LA, she produces unique red carpet, non-profit, and corporate events. Sweeney-McDonald is a graduate of Louisiana State University and was a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority. She worked in film, theatre, and commercials as an actress for more than twenty-five years and is actively developing southern film projects. Sweeney-McDonald and her husband reside in Los Angeles, California. 

About the Photographer: Troy Kleinpeter grew up on a farm in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. He is a partner in Kleinpeter Photography, one of the premiere photography studios in the Baton Rouge area known for its beautiful family portraits. He has been the official photographer for Meanwhile, Back At Café Du Monde . . . since the first show at the Myrtles Plantation and has photographed hundreds of the headliners, emcees, audiences, and countless pictures at Café Du Monde! Kleinpeter and his family live in Prairieville, Louisiana. A portion of the book's proceeds will be donated to Liberty's Kitchen a nonprofit based in New Orleans.

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this book for review purposes on this blog, free of harge, from Pelican Publishing .No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it.

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