Eats 7-25-12

Every week day during EatLafayette, The Independent will spotlight a Dish of the Day; on Wednesdays, our Dish of the Day also becomes the Dish of the Week and is published in the print edition, along with other features spotlighting the local industry. Read more about The Independent's ongoing EatLafayette coverage and how to participate here.

Little Bite O' Heaven's Key Lime Cupcake

Light, refreshing and full of flavor, Lil Bite O' Heaven's Key Lime cupcakes are a perfect summer treat. The cupcake is a key lime zest cake with graham cracker crust, filled with key lime curd made from scratch. The cake is topped with a signature cream cheese frosting and tart lime garnish.

Specializing in gourmet and premium cupcakes, Lil Bite O' Heaven features five flavors daily, including traditional favorites like 14 Carrot Cake and German Chocolate, and unique variations like Blue Velvet and Mocha Motion. In addition to cupcakes, Lil Bite O' Heaven offers cake balls and mini cupcakes by special order, all made without preservatives and stabilizers, when possible. Mention EatLafayette until Aug. 15 and receive 15 percent off your entire order.

Located at 1519 Ambassador Caffery Pkwy., Lil Bite O Heaven is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. - Katie Macdonald

Photo by Elizabeth Rose

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
16 T unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
zest of 2-3 key limes
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 t vanilla

1. Set oven to 350º.  
2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl, whisk together and set aside.  
3. Add the butter to an electric mixer and beat on medium high until light and creamy.
4. Beat in lime zest.  
5. Add sugar 1/4 cup at a time.  
6. Add eggs 1 at a time until incorporated.  
7. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing until just incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.  
8. Fill each liner about 2/3 of the way full.
9. Bake 18-22 minutes.  
10. Allow to cool in pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Waffle dessert with fig sauce and figs on it
Photo by Denny Culbert

Figs it is, for now

While winding down, the fig crop has been strong this year, with French Press owner/chef Justin Girouard using them in dishes and desserts.

One option for figs beginning to look a little worse for wear is to stew them down so they're ready for the next step. "Every year at this time we have such a great product and a short window," Girouard says.

When we talked to him a couple of weeks ago, Girouard was planning a dish with braised figs and Port wine. "Last year, we did Yorkshire pudding, stuffed with figs and bleu cheese and served that with lamb," he says.

This year Girouard also did a waffle dessert with fig sauce and figs on it. Figs were showing up on salads, too.

"We get them in and use fresh figs as long as we can," says Girouard, noting that the leftovers are made into preserves. South Louisiana's fig season is short, with late June and July the peak time for harvesting.

Like a few restaurants, Girouard incorporates local produce into his menu. "It's awesome. I wish everything was like that," he says. "It allows me to really make up my mind right at the last minute and put the fresh stuff right on the menu."

Girouard says he lets the farmers he deals with know what he'll need. One of them gave him a checklist, and Girouard simply put pencil to paper and marked what wanted.

"I just gave a farmer a list of everything I wanted him to grow for the fall," the chef says. "So he's going to be doing root vegetables, greens. I've got a guy who comes around who brings me all the herbs he can. Right now, it's summertime and kind of hot for herbs. Basically, basil is about it."

Like figs, there's a seasonal aspect with all fruits and vegetables. "Between now and planting for the fall, there's kind of like a gap," says Girouard.

That's when he goes with commercial produce vendors. "Once the fall comes, there's a lot more diversity," he adds.

The farm-to-table movement in Lafayette's restaurant scene may be young (only three or four years in the making), but it's flourishing.

"It's symbiotic. I want it, and it's not just me, but other restaurants," says Girouard. "And for a long time, the small scale farmers didn't have anybody to buy their stuff besides farmers markets. Now, we and other restaurants are willing to have the flexibility with their menu and creativity. Not like a chain restaurant where you have to follow a set menu; we have the flexibility to take the local products and create dishes with them instead of trying to force the issue." - Dominick Cross

Healing House ABSOLUT Best Martini Contest
By Elizabeth Rose

Healing House, which helps support grieving children and their caregivers, is hosting its 'Tini Tuesday Tour and Absolut Best Martini Contest through Aug. 21, sponsored by Absolut vodka, and Lafayette's drinking community is asked to vote for its favorites on Tuesdays. Every Tuesday, a different restaurant hosts the tour and serves up free martinis for those with coupons. The EatLafayette restaurants are offering a variety of their own creations, including La Fonda, Blue Dog Café, Charley G's and Pamplona. The competition concludes Aug. 25 with a gala at the Hilton, where the judges' favorite and the people's favorite will be revealed. Visit Healing House's website,, to buy tickets to the gala or print a coupon to indulge in this year's concoctions.

Creator: Wil Frederick, bar manager
Frederick paired the restaurant's signature fresh sangria, a frequent indulgence for diners, that he and his team make in five-gallon batches with red and white wine, sugar and orange, pineapple and apple juices. To finish, the sangria is mixed with Absolut grapevine for a drink that "summarizes what we offer [at La Fonda]," says Frederick.

1.5 oz. Absolut grapevine
7 oz. sangria
maraschino cherry, pineapple and orange slices for garnish

Creators: Laura Shiell, bar manager, and Kelly Childress, bartender
Shiell and Childress labor over their watermelon-infused vodka on their nights off, cutting and peeling enormous watermelon and infusing each bottle of vodka with half a melon. The vodka infuses for four days if it's a small container, or up to a month if they're infusing a large barrel. "We wanted it to be dangerously delicious," says Childress. The martini is so light and fresh-tasting, it could be considered healthy. Shiell and Childress use agave nectar instead of sugar, and a secret ingredient that "brings out the flavor of the watermelon," says Shiell.
One strawberry and three mint leaves, muddled
1 t agave nectar
4 oz. watermelon-infused vodka
secret ingredient

Creators: Courtney Vincent, general manager, and Marc Krampe, managing partner
Vincent and Krampe do their own infusion with Absolut and pineapple, and mix the infused vodka with a fresh strawberry purée and basil simple syrup. To cut the potentially overwhelming sweetness, they include a few drops of balsamic reduction for tartness and then rim the glass with a basil sugar. "It's sweet, but there are more natural fruit flavors," says Vincent, "so it's leaning toward healthy."

2 oz. pineapple infused Absolut vodka
1 1/2 oz. fresh strawberry purée
Dash of basil simple syrup
Drops of balsamic reduction
Basil sugar for rim
Creator: Anson Trahan, bar manager
Pamplona, the reigning champion of two years, has crafted a martini that is simpler than its past winners, with Absolut citron and a combination of fresh syrups and bitters that Trahan sources and makes himself. The fig bitters are from Trahan's grandfather's tree, which Trahan says is his small ode to his grandfather, who died recently. The plum bitters are "grounding," or mellowing, says Trahan, who calls the contest a "bridge to start talking about what Healing House does."

2 oz. Absolut vodka
1 oz. cranberry juice    
1 oz. ginger syrup
dropper of plum and fig bitters
orange peel for garnish