Crawfish in the Sierra Nevada

Cajun LandI had mentioned in a previous post that one of our trips for this year was to be to the Deep South.  Taking in the states of Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana with the intention of staying off main highways; seeing where the route takes us.

The only plan; indulge in BBQ, Blues, and Bayous.

Since arriving at this plan we have scoured San Francisco for restaurants where we could whet the appetite and satiate a growing desire for southern bugs; with all the fixin’s of course.

Every Cajun or New Orleanian establishment found we hurtled ourselves through the door in complete and utter anticipation. The expectation being that a full bucket of freshly boiled crawfish would be delivered and spread out across the table for a finger lickin good time. 

Not once did a table see the bright red carcass of this freshwater mudbug.

Seems crawfish is out of season at sea level!

A recent road trip up into the Sierra and the Yosemite Valley had been beyond spectacular. I found myself often at a loss to find words that would adequately portray just how stunned, in a good way, I felt.  This long weekend getaway had been a celebration; every moment had been relished. The mountains had surprised us more than once with wildlife or weather and they were about to do it again; with food.

We had heard there was a good BBQ place in the town of Oakhurst and had gotten ourselves all worked up about this. Rampant anticipation; a fault or a gift? It was to be our Saturday night on the town.

The innkeeper however, recommended another restaurant as she had no love for the art of BBQ or its associated sauces. Her husband on the other hand was licking his lips at the mere thought of brisket or chicken slathered in the spicy deep red lava flow of southern Q. Unfortunately he would have to dine alone if he ever wanted dine there. Mama’s orders!

The recommendation was for a Cajun restaurant called Woody’s.

What’s a Cajun restaurant doing in the mountains was the first thought, followed closely by, da da dahhhh…

“Do they have Crawfish”?

Let’s be honest, if you cannot find good southern food in San Francisco, a mecca for foodies, then what is the hope that small town Oakhurst would be able to make the grade.

I should have looked at this differently. Big mountains; why not big flavors.  It was David vs Goliath and David kicked ass. To say this was one of the best meals to wave goodbye to a plate and say hello to my taste buds is in no way an exaggeration. As much as I was in awe of Yosemite I was just as in awe of Woody and his deep south recipes.

Appetizer of Spicy Crawfish Balls, yes, Crawfish Balls. OMG!

My apologies as I start to sound like a teenager from the valley but these globes of flavor were insanely tasty. Accompanied by a garlic enriched cream sauce these balls made of crawfish were a full meal in themselves. When the plate came my mind said “You have to be kidding me”!

Big, brown, round, and beautiful.

Next up was a feast for the ages starting with baked potato soup, crawfish etouffee, and blackened skirt steak with a side of brussel sprouts.  I have not eaten brussel sprouts since being made to eat them as a kid. I hated them then and have not had them since.

As an adult I have the right to pick what I want to eat but since Alison promised to eat them and I really wanted a steak; I acquiesced.

We were at this stage, already pining for dessert.

Upon entering the restaurant our eyes had fallen on a variety of desserts and our mouths watered instantly. It was not an option if we were having dessert; just which one.

We got down to the task at hand and ate. As we ate we groaned that groan you emit when something so wonderful is happening that your body is unsure if it’s real and certainly does not want it to stop. My stomach was on holiday and it was luxuriating in this new gastronomic delight. Equivalent I am sure of lounging by the eternity pool  on some island paradise.

Even the brussel sprouts remained resident on my plate and begrudgingly shared.

As our consumption slowed and our stomachs screamed in bliss at the bloating that has now occurred we realize in horror that if we eat desert we will explode. We were quite literally stuffed and would remain that way for a couple of days.

Fat and happy.

In the interests of full disclosure it is only fair to tell you that we returned the following night to Oakhurst. Even though still full from our meal at Woody’s we found the strength and stomach-room to indulge in Todd’s BBQ. It was good.

The description below is taken from Woody’s website;

Woody was born in Jackson, Mississippi. As a kid he would follow his brother to New Orleans during the summers. He fell in love with the extraordinary blend of Southern and French that is New Orleans, packaged in a rhythm and passion like nowhere else on earth. He began working in restaurants at 14 and has worked every position from busboy to bartender, from dishwasher to chef. In 1997, he moved to the tiny mountain town of Oakhurst with his wife, Cilina, and their three daughters. Not to long after that Woody became a cook at the Narrow Gauge Inn working under local legend Wayne St. John. While working with St. John he developed a deeper understanding of classic French cooking and fine dining. He combined that with his creativity and instinctual grasp of flavors. Borrowing from any good food that came along, Woody created dishes that were sometimes traditional, sometimes unexpected, but always delicious. This cuisine eventually led to an offer to be head chef at a new restaurant in Mariposa, Savoury’s.

As head chef at Savoury’s Woody helped design the menu and build the restaurant into one of the most successful and popular places to eat in the mountains. For six years Woody ran the kitchen at Savoury’s. Eager to get back to his roots, Woody and Cilina returned to New Orleans in July 2005, where Woody spent time cooking at the famous New Orlean’s restaurant Cuvee. Unfortunately, one month after they arrived in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina did too. They remained in New Orleans for many months afterward, but eventually they came home to the mountains and their daughters. They brought back with them the flair, the flavor and the soul that is the South, and especially New Orleans.

Now Woody is delivering the essence of New Orleans in every dish at Woody’s New Orleans West. On many nights his wife will greet you at the door and tell you to sit wherever you like. Then she or one of their daughters will bring your food, your drinks and a lot of laughs while Woody’s in the back delivering the flavor and Southern soul to your dinner.

 

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39 thoughts on “Crawfish in the Sierra Nevada

  1. I refused to eat Brussel sprouts as a child so I never even tasted them until adulthood. And can I say, I am absolutely obsessed with them. Seriously, I could eat them every day. Is that weird? In the end though, it is all how you cook them.

    On a separate note, I laughed all through the section where you ate the crawfish. Your description reminded me of when I took my husband to a steak house for his birthday. I think he cried when his food was gone he enjoyed it so much. Anyway, seems like you got the meal you were looking for that night.

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  2. Oh yum! I love that kind of food! You never know where you’re going to find exceptional meals! I’m ready for Woody’s! When I lived in Santa Barbara, there were several places with Cajun Cookin’ and I love it. Of course it’s fun having it in New Orleans for sure!

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  3. I’m telling you, there’s just something about great BBQ and southern cooking makes people fat n’ happy and ready for a good time. I knew there was NO way Woody was born out west. That food had “southern” steaming through it. I can’t wait to hear about your trip down South!

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  4. I have never had crawfish although our boys used to catch them in the creek here. If I had known they were as good as you make them sound, I might have tried a few recipes. As for BBQ, it is mentioned a lot in American based novels, but I haven’t seen any places in our neighbourhood. Surely some of the bigger places must offer it. Wouldn’t mind trying it.

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  5. Definitely looking forward to your trip to the south Tim. My mother’s side of the family is from the south and we used to spend a couple of weeks there every summer when I was growing up so I was raised on crawfish, black eyed peas and ham hocks, cornbread and my very favorite – fried okra. Yum! Of course that’s clearly why I was such a chunky kid growing up so that food is a rare treat these days. But I do love Georgia, So. Carolina, New Orleans and Louisana … not so much Mississippi or Alabama, but if there’s anything good there to find I’m sure you’ll discover and share it. 🙂

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  6. Post and pictures fabulous as always! Crawfish Etouffee is one of my all time favorites! Another favorite of mine from New Orleans is the BBQ shrimp at Pascales Manale! Do give that a try! I think you’ll love it! And if you guys even get near Charleston SC, please come see me!!!!

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  7. You really made me miss home with this post. Having family in SC, I have to echo Jeri’s thoughts with a double “stop it!” Shrimp paste is done well here in Asia but I certainly miss the things done with that and crawfish in the deep south.

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    1. Yes, I heard it closed sometime early in May. They moved somewhere in Texas I believe. Will be heading to Louisiana sometime in the next year for a road trip around the state so good food stops always appreciated.

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  8. Stop it! The thing I miss most about living in North Carolina is the abundance of Cajun food. I was in Sante Fe this weekend and made a stop at the Pappadeux’s in Albuquerque so I could get a fix of red beans and rice with shrimp and andouille sausage. Cajun food is Idaho just isn’t going to happen, but I love spicy food. At least I bought a box of grits and figured out how to make shrimp and grits similar to the way they’re made at the Tupelo Honey Cafe in Ashville.

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      1. Those are sometimes the best places. I have been reading a lot about a restaurant called Does Eat Place in Greenville MS; BBQ t-bone steaks!

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    1. We are heading down south on a road trip very soon and taking in Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia. Looking for some good BBQ, blues, and bayous. May even be heading through Ashville on our way out of Atlanta.

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  9. I love discovering quirky little gems in random places! How funny. I grew up in VA, but never have had crawfish. Guess I have to go to Sierra Nevada!

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