A TASTE OF NEW ORLEANS HERE Until recently, few would have named Washington as a destination for fine Cajun or Creole food. But on Sept. 12, Acadiana, a Louisiana-style restaurant opened on New York Avenue NW near the Convention Center.
Two weeks earlier, Hurricane Katrina had hit New Orleans. Chef-owner Jeff Tunks, who'd lived and worked there, wasn't dependent on supplies from the city except for one thing: the bread for the classic New Orleans po' boy sandwiches on his lunch menu.
Mississippi-born Ann Cashion, the chef-owner of Johnny's Half Shell on P Street NW, where po' boy sandwiches are also popular, needed the bread, too.
Working with Leidenheimer, a renowned New Orleans baking company (founded 1896), Tunks has since gone to great lengths to bring those authentic loaves to Acadiana, where he's also made them available to Cashion.
Before the storm, he'd had enough bread for a month or so stored frozen in a local warehouse. But it wouldn't last -- the restaurant serves about 175 to 200 po' boys a week.
Leidenheimer, which provided the original bread, had not been severely damaged by the storm, but without its staff and electricity, it couldn't function. The solution: sending one of its bakers to a Chicago facility to make bread for its out-of-town clientele.
Why is the bread such a big deal? "It has a light, fluffy, airy interior and a crisp exterior with real chew," says Tunks. "It's tender enough in the middle to hold up well to the fillings."
Tunks, who two years ago struggled to lose 100 pounds, ate his way around New Orleans before he decided on the fried oyster, roast beef and barbecued shrimp fillings for Acadiana's po' boys. He admits his recent seven-pound weight gain indicates he may have eaten a few too many. "I'm back on the exercise bike now," he says. "It's not an easy restaurant to eat light in."
-- Judith Weinraub