I learned long ago to bring an ice chest whenever I’m driving around Louisiana because of course so many routes are dotted with great butcher shops. It’s fun to stock up with smoked meats and special treats for home. Lately, I’ve been learning a lot more along the Andouille Trail - a circuit of markets, shops and restaurants around the River Parishes.
Tradition and regional flavor runs deep at these places, and the Andouille Trail is the name of a new campaign created to help highlight it all. This launched in September, and the timing was no coincidence.
Autumn in Louisiana stokes cravings for cast iron cooking, the gumbos and jambalayas, the stuff of holiday parties and football weekends. This kind of cooking calls for andouille.
You can find this sausage everywhere, but there’s no doubt the heartland for it is the River Parishes, where old world German sausage making acquired a French name and worked itself into the culinary lexicon of Louisiana.
The Andouille Trail comprises about three dozen stops in a region stretching between New Orleans and Baton Rouge on both sides of the river. You can find the official map online at andouilletrail.com.
Some are restaurants with andouille on the menu, others are shops that make it on site - and a few are both, which I like because they act like test tracks where you can taste the andouille you’re buying for home in action on the menu.
Logging my miles on the Andouille Trail, I’ve learned how recipes follow families, how they differ from town to town and shop to shop and how, at their most intense, these sausage links can be dark as cigars, thick as baseball bats and smoky enough to set off a fire alarm all on their own. For an aficionado of smoked meats, a romp through its range is like pursuing the same wine varietal across different vineyards.
Along the way I also learned, the hard way, that if I’m going to covet something at every stop, I should probably just start bringing two ice chests.