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December 2015

December 2015

Finish the year along the Trail with these Shreveport-Bossier Events and Activities

Flying Heart Brewing

Congratulations! You’ve officially survived the pre-Christmas frenzy. With Christmas Day festivities behind us and minimal gift wrap-induced paper cuts, it is officially time to celebrate. You deserve it. Known as Louisiana’s Other Side, the sister cities of Shreveport-Bossier invite you to see it, bet it, and taste it as you finish the year strong with these adult-friendly events and activities scheduled for Christmas night and weekend as well as New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Flying Heart Brewing | Merry Christmas Party*

Flying Heart Brewing in Bossier City will be open Christmas night from 6-10 p.m. and December 26 from 3:30 p.m. till midnight. The brewery has extended its hours on Saturday night in celebration of the Independence Bowl, and Flying Heart invites fans of Tulsa, Virginia Tech, and beer alike to come watch football and enjoy their locally-brewed craft beer.

Independence Bowl

If you’re feeling it, you can actually go to the 40th Annual Independence Bowl! This year’s Independence Bowl, as always, will be held in Shreveport at, you guessed it, Independence Stadium on December 26. For more information, visit the website!

The Supper Club | College Colors Pub Crawl*

For a celebration after the game, register for the College Colors Pub Crawl here. Registration pick-up will be at The Supper Club, accompanied by local brewery tastings, and the pub crawl will commence as participants make their way to local downtown establishments.

Strange Brew | Hydrogen Child, featuring Lish Starshine & The Spirit Animals*

Strange Brew in Shreveport is hosting the release party for Lish Starshine & The Spirit Animals’ first studio album as well as the last performance by Hydrogen Child before an indefinite hiatus. Starting at 8 p.m. on December 26, this is a great opportunity to enjoy live, local music. Even better, the cover is only $10.

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs | New Year’s Eve Celebration*

This Bossier City casino invites you to count the clock down to 2016 and dance the night away at its New Year’s Eve Celebration. With performances by Miss Used and DJ Love as well as a huge fireworks show after midnight, I can assure you that you’re going to want to spend New Year’s Eve at Harrah’s.


Between the holiday excitement and never-ending list of events happening throughout the cities, Shreveport-Bossier is sure to ring in the New Year the right way. Celebrate the remainder of the holidays along the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights with these fun events in Shreveport-Bossier to ensure that you leave 2015 with only the fondest memories and experiences. *Events with asterisk denote event or venue age restrictions—must be 21 or older to attend.

Shop the Trail: Alexandria/Pineville

Shop the Trail - Alexandria-Pineville

As you saw in our Taste of the Trail Alexandria/Pineville blog, these Cenla (read, Central Louisiana) cities don’t mess around when it comes to producing some of the best locally-owned restaurants in the state. Well, lucky for you, the same holds true for its shopping! Here is our unofficial guide to shopping in Alexandria/Pineville:

Funky Fleur de Lis Offering a wide range of accessories, home décor, and paint parties, Funky Fleur de Lis has the perfect Louisiana-themed souvenir for you (or any of the funky, southern friends on your shopping list)!

Sentry Drugs & Gifts A Downtown Alexandria staple, this drugstore/gift shop stocks the perfect selection of Louisiana gifts to add the finishing touches to your Christmas gift baskets. While you’re in the area, don’t forget to stop by Sentry Grill for a bite to eat!

Crossroads Gifts and Gourmet Located in Pineville, Crossroads Gifts and Gourmet has the perfectly-unique gift you’ve been looking for to finish off those last few Christmas gifts for  your loved ones. From jewelry to ornaments to hostess gifts, Crossroads has it!

Run Wild Have an outdoorsy friend to shop for this year? Find a gift they will love at Run Wild! Run Wild is locally-owned and stocked with all the right apparel and gear, carrying brands like Patagonia, North Face, RayBan, and Eno.


Alexandria/Pineville has so much to offer in the gift-giving department, so come explore and finish your Christmas shopping (before it’s too late). Did we leave one of your favorite shops out? Let us know where you go to find the perfect holiday gift in the comments below. Happy shopping!

Shop the Trail: Monroe-West Monroe

Monroe-West Monroe Shopping on Holiday Trail of Lights

Christmas is right around the corner, which means you need to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. That’s a lot of pressure. Luckily, Monroe and West Monroe have all of your shopping needs covered, and super-luckily, the cities are conveniently located along the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights. Everybody wins! Antique Alley West Monroe’s Antique Alley allows you to shop at over 30 classic antique shops and trendy boutiques stocked full of clothing, furniture, home décor, spices, and so much more without ever having to go through the typical shopping motions of leaving the store, finding your car, loading your car, driving all the way to the next stop, and then doing it all over again. Just park, explore, and shop till you drop. With so many options, this is the place to find the perfect gift all season long! Some of my favorite shops along Antique Alley include The Gingerbread House and Serendipity. The Gingerbread House has the perfect gift for everyone—even the four-legged friends in your life! The shop also carries an impressive assortment of bath bombs and handmade soaps. Serendipity is the place on Antique Alley to find fine jewelry for your loved ones (or yourself). The shop even carries brand favorites like Pandora, Alex & Ani, and Dogeared! I get excited just talking about it. aul Michael Company This home décor/furniture store will make any up-and-coming interior designer’s mouth water. Seriously. I’ve never seen so many beautiful things in one place. It’s impossible to walk in without finding the perfect gift for yourself the ladies on your list, as the store is stocked with the latest in seasonal décor, art, candles, and almost anything else you can think of. Paul Michael


The shopping options don’t stop here, though. Monroe-West Monroe has tons of other shops that I highly recommend—The Spice & Tea Exchange, Mojo Boutique, Bayou Beaux, the Duck Commander store, and so many others. So what are you waiting for? Monroe-West Monroe is waiting and ready with all of your Christmas shopping needs. Happy shopping!

Let Pinterest Save the Day

The countdown to Christmas has officially begun. It is crunch time. You’ve already been to a handful of holiday parties between the obligatory office/co-worker celebration, Friendmas (read, friend Christmas), and multiple tacky Christmas sweater parties; you’ve already gone through a handful of your go-to “perfect holiday recipes”; and you’ve come to the realization that the food at your family’s Christmas get-together needs to be spiced up a little. We’ve got you covered, no matter which food category you’ve been assigned to, don’t worry. Dessert duty These Louisiana pecan balls look tasty, and you won’t have to worry about leaving your favorite pie dish or cake saver at Aunt Marge’s again. Let us take a moment of silence for all of the baking dishes that will never get returned this holiday season. Okay, now back to the recipes. Side dish duty Try this Cajun corn casserole, because everyone loves corn, cheese, and the latest casserole. Bread duty Chef Cory Bahr of Monroe, Louisiana suggests this delicious drop biscuit recipe to put an end to bland, store-bought dinner rolls at this year’s celebration. Oh no, you’re the host Who needs a Christmas ham or turkey? Those are hard. If you want to be the hostess with the mostess, try this ambitious Cajun chicken stuffed with pepper jack cheese and spinach! If you just want an easy main course that will be a crowd pleaser and still allow you to visit with family and friends, switch it up with this recipe for creamy crawfish pasta.


Don’t let the stress of making a bomb.com dish for your Christmas get-together rob you of your chance to enjoy the Christmas season and spend it with loved ones. So plan that weekend trip to go see beautiful Christmas lights and fireworks shows along the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights—you deserve it. Don’t stress over what you’re going to make, because our Pinterest boards have you covered. You can do this. Go forth and have a stress-free holiday. Merry Christmas!

Taste of the Trail: Minden Restaurant Guide

Chicken Carciofi at Roma Italian Bistro

The City of Minden is known for its small-town charm, unparalleled hospitality, and friendly people. The “friendliest city in the south,” as it was named, is home to both incredible holiday celebrations and delicious locally-owned eateries. As you visit Minden’s holiday attractions, like its Fasching Fifth Season Lights Fantastic, be sure to stop at these local restaurants and dig in! Roma Italian Bistro This family-owned restaurant recently opened in Historic Downtown Minden, and it is the third location in Louisiana. Conveniently located on Minden’s Main Street, Roma is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. The restaurant’s slogan, “nothing fancy, just great Italian food,” is so fitting, as the laid-back atmosphere truly enables diners to enjoy the most important part of the Roma experience:  the food. I recommend trying the Chicken Carciofi—pasta and chicken served with sautéed artichoke hearts and mushrooms, tied together with a sherry wine sauce. Yum!

The Grace Estate A bed and breakfast, tea room, and event center all in one, the Grace Estate is the perfect place to have lunch in Minden. Between the splendor of its daily lunch specials and the gorgeous setting, Grace Estate will win your heart over before you even take a bite. With daily lunch specials during the week and buffet-style lunches on Sundays, Grace Estate is becoming one of Minden’s hot spots—so you’ll want to call and make a reservation, just to be safe! I recommend trying the Estate’s Signature Salad, with fresh greens, toasted pecans, feta cheese, and cucumber ribbons, served with raspberry chipotle vinaigrette; and the half brisket sandwich and crawfish bisque (one of the 2 for $20 lunch specials).

Inside the beautiful Grace Estate Tea Room Inside the beautiful Grace Estate Tea Room

 

Habacu’s Mexican Restaurant A fun Mexican restaurant famous for its gigantic margaritas and burrito challenge, Habacu’s is another Minden must-try. Locally-owned, Habacu’s interior is comfortably unique in that its walls are adorned with framed soccer team photos that the restaurant’s owner has coached and sponsored over the years. The local involvement of the owner combined with the delicious food keeps everyone coming back for more, making Habacu’s a Minden staple. I recommend the white queso, the 2 for 1 margaritas, and, if you’re feeling up to it, the “Monster Burrito Challenge.”

Taco salad at Habacu's Taco salad at Habacu's

 


  Friends don’t let friends come to Minden without trying at least one of these local favorites. As you plan your holiday travels along the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights, be sure to stop in Minden to see over 100 life-sized nutcrackers lining the streets, drive through the amazing Christmas light displays, and indulge in the city’s yummy dining options. For more information on holiday events in Minden, visit the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights website. While you’re at it, go ahead and “like” us on Facebook. We hope you enjoy your “Taste of the Trail” in Minden, Louisiana!

Taste of the Trail: Natchitoches Restaurant Guide

Natchitoches, Louisiana is known for so many things. It is the oldest city in the Louisiana Purchase, it was voted the Best Southern Small Town last summer, it is host to the famous Natchitoches Christmas Festival, and (most importantly) it is home to some of the best locally-owned restaurants in North Louisiana. Here is my unofficial guide to Natchitoches restaurants—bon appétit!

The Pioneer Pub

The laid-back, comfortable atmosphere of the Pioneer Pub is one-of-a-kind, and its food consistently keeps people coming back for more. My favorite thing to order from the Pub is “The Wookie,” a plate full of homemade fries topped with brisket, cheese, jalapenos, sour cream, and just a dash of heaven. The Wookie is a perfect appetizer for friends to share. Another favorite is the El Camino Burger—deliciously topped with guacamole, homemade salsa, and jalapenos—served with homemade fries. You’re safe with anything on the menu, though. The Pub also serves amazing homemade pizza and an assortment of beers on tap. I recommend this Natchitoches staple for lunch, dinner, or even both!

Merci Beaucoup

Also located in Historic Downtown Natchitoches, Merci Beaucoup is known by all locals as the perfect place for delicious, Cajun-inspired food in a charming atmosphere. Merci Beaucoup is open Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., so don’t get too wrapped up with shopping along Front Street and be sure to save time and stop by for lunch! The Cajun Potato is a must-try for a first-time diner. The Cajun Potato is stuffed with crawfish etouffee and jumbo fried shrimp—that should be reason enough to order it!

Grayson’s Barbeque

Technically, Grayson’s is located in Clarence, Louisiana, not Natchitoches, but we’re making a small exception here—go along with it. If you’re in Natchitoches and you mention Grayson’s Barbeque, heads will turn and mouths will water. A short drive out of Natchitoches will lead you to a small, inconspicuous building on the side of the road—aka, the home of this Central Louisiana legacy. You can smell the deliciously-smoked meat as soon as you get out of your car, so just follow the smells. The chip sandwich on a homemade bun with baked beans is my go-to order, but you can’t go wrong with anything they have to offer—especially their homemade desserts! Psst. Grayson’s also takes orders for holiday hams, but you’re going to have to plan ahead. They’ve already sold out for this year—that’s how big of a deal this hidden treasure is.


  I could recommend every single one of the restaurants in Natchitoches to you—Lasyone’s Meat Pie Kitchen, Mama’s Oyster House, Papa’s Bar and Grill, Maglieaux’s, The Landing, Mariner’s, you name it. They are all absolutely delicious. So, just consider this my top 3 Natchitoches restaurants. I implore you—make sure to fit in as much time for eating as you can possibly handle during your trip to Natchitoches. Between the beautiful Christmas lights and light displays, fireworks shows, shopping, and dining, I wouldn’t blame you for deciding to extend your visit for as long as you can. Natchitoches is a Louisiana treasure during the holidays, so don’t miss the chance to experience the City of Lights this year. For help planning your trip, visit the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights website for a list of events and activities.

Find Unique Gifts at Handmade Holiday at Rhino Coffee in Shreveport!

Holiday Gifts Rhino Coffee Shreveport - Holiday Trail of Lights

Another year, another Handmade Holiday at Rhino Coffee! This Shreveport tradition is an annual celebration of local art, handmade goods, as well as the community that makes them. Shop for one-of-a-kind presents at this multi-vendor maker’s fair while listening to holiday music and sipping hot holiday drinks. Handmade Holiday will take place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. this Sunday, Dec. 13 at Rhino Coffee, 721 Southfield Rd., Shreveport. Everyone knows that the best gifts are handmade and full of heart. But for those of us who don’t the first thing about hot glue guns (guilty!), it’s better to stick to buying presents instead of making them. This year’s event will be the largest so far with more than 30 vendors. Shoppers can expect to find handmade ornaments, candles, book marks, tea, bath salts, and even vintage clothing. There are so many great vendors scheduled, but I am excited to see that some of my favorite small businesses in Shreveport will be there! To name a few, Vessel Vintage always has the best vintage clothing, with perfect accessories for adding spunk to any outfit.  Zombee Candle makes my favorite holiday soy wax melts. And SubtleTees Junk Jewels creates beautiful up-cycled jewelry. Organizer Landon Lewis’s mission is to create a maker’s fair for the historic Highland neighborhood. “I hope that we can create an event for the people of Highland and their community, while inviting others to experience all of the talent that Highland has to offer,” he said. This year's vendors include:

  • Pelican Parish
  • Magnolia Creative
  • Day Old Blues Records
  • SubtleTees Junk Jewels
  • Art Punch
  • Deux Terrier Treats
  • A Made Accessories
  • Lavender Fairy Factory
  • An Apple and a Tree
  • Miller Made
  • Ribbons & Beauxs
  • RedEarth Wildcrafted
  • Lionhearts Arts & Apothecary
  • & more!

So bring a friend, grab a delicious Gingerbread Latte (or another one of their many holiday drinks), and start crossing people off of your shopping list! Learn more about the event on their Facebook page. Other Holiday Trail of Lights Events in Shreveport this weekend:

Taste of the Trail: Alexandria/Pineville Restaurant Guide

Boudin Balls

Alexandria/Pineville is home to many local restaurants, ranging from casual to fine dining. The localism that the two cities pride themselves on is so incredible, and the support that these locally-owned restaurants have received from residents of Alexandria/Pineville is a huge source of the success they’ve experienced. Here is my unofficial guide to Alexandria/Pineville restaurants—enjoy!

Quebedeaux’s Boudin & Cracklins

In just one year of operation, Quebedeaux’s has managed to take Alexandria by storm. The food is absolutely incredible; the owner, sweet-as-can-be; and the atmosphere, casual and comfortable. It’s a win-win-win. Serving Cajun plate lunches Sunday-Friday, this is a perfect place for a quick-stop lunch, but labeling Quebedeaux’s as a “plate lunch” restaurant would be a complete disservice—it’s so much more! Boasted as having “the best boudin in town,” the pepper jack cheese-stuffed boudin balls, the boudin rolls dipped in pepper jelly sauce, and the boudin king cakes are utterly divine. Also amazing are the ham skins, cracklins, and pork rinds, all made fresh in-house. In other words, you really can’t go wrong with anything ordered here.

Diamond Grill

A former jewelry store, the Diamond Grill in Downtown Alexandria offers an incredible dining experience. Pretty much everything on the menu is delicious and comforting, and a table upstairs provides a perfect view over the restaurant. My personal favorite is the Moscovy Duck Breast drizzled with a chipotle apricot glaze and served with parmesan risotto and green beans. Yum!

Spirits Food & Friends

An Alexandria staple since 1967, Spirits Food and Friends is the best place to enjoy great food, great service, and great live music. Offering everything from pasta to hand cut steaks, my absolute favorite dish is the Knob Creek Smoked Maple BBQ Burger, which was named Top 10 Burger in Louisiana by Thrillist.

 

Assorted boudin balls served at Quebedeaux's Boudin & Cracklins. Pictured are original, pepper jack cheese, and cream cheese & jalapeno.
Assorted boudin balls served at Quebedeaux's Boudin & Cracklins. Pictured are original, pepper jack cheese, and cream cheese & jalapeno.
Duck breast served with parmesan risotto and green beans at the Diamond Grill.
Duck breast served with parmesan risotto and green beans at the Diamond Grill

A trip to Alexandria/Pineville without dining at one of its many locally-owned restaurants is a wasted trip. Beyond these recommendations are other amazing restaurants like 1921 Jackson Street, Ember’s, and Critic’s Choice, to name a few. For more information on the best local dining experiences in Alexandria/Pineville and surrounding areas, I recommend visiting Eat Here Cenla’s website—they work to promote small restaurants in the area as part of the Central Louisiana experience. I hope you are able to try at least a few of these restaurants in Alexandria/Pineville during your next visit! With AlexWinterFête and the 12 Nights of Christmas events, the holidays are the perfect opportunity to join in on celebrating with festivities and food—lots of food. Bon Appétit!

Taste of the Trail: Bon Temps Coffee Bar

Bon Temps Coffee Bar

chocomintmochaChocoMint Mocha

If you need a pick-me-up while holiday shopping in Shreveport-Bossier City, then head to Bon Temps Coffee Bar for delicious, fresh coffee. Bon Temps Coffee Bar is Shreveport's premier all ages coffee and wine bar located in the Red River District that features live jazz and blues performances in a comfortable, inviting, atmosphere. In addition to hosting many fun events, the business donates a percentage of every cup sold to a local charity. Previously a daiquiri bar, the shop features a long, wooden bar with stools as well as many comfy chairs and tables. There’s also a large outdoor seating area where guests can enjoy the lights and music of the Red River District. I love sitting outside with a hot ChocoMint Mocha. The mocha is perfectly rich and not too sweet, so the added chocolate and mint are the perfect compliments that put you in the holiday spirit. Owner Marcus Mitchell says, “Bon Temps Coffee Bar aims to make coffee more social. Our aim is to provide an atmosphere anchored with tasty coffees and sweet Louisiana jazz and blues tunes.” My favorite thing about Bon Temps is that the baristas are committed to creating the perfect drink for every customer. Each drink is customizable with 50 unique flavored syrups to choose from such as gingerbread, eggnog, butter scotch, peanut butter, and chocolate chip cookie dough, along with the classics such as vanilla, pumpkin spice, and peppermint. I recently tried a simple ice coffee with milk and caramel syrup and it was divine. You can really taste the difference when the beans have been freshly ground and served by people passionate about coffee. The coffee bar also hosts several fun weekly events including:

  • Art Tipsy on Saturdays (Think Painting With A Twist)
  • Live Jazz music on Fridays & Saturdays
  • Open mic poetry nights on Thursdays

Learn about all of the great stuff happening on their Facebook page and Laissez les BON TEMPS rouler! Bon Temps Coffee Bar is open Monday – Friday 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Saturdays 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. and is located in the Red River District (under the Texas Street Bridge in downtown Shreveport) at 450 Clyde Fant Memorial Pkwy #700, Shreveport.

5 Tips for a Successful Natchitoches Christmas Festival

It's the most wonderful time of the year: Christmas Festival. In Natchitoches, Louisiana, this means witnessing the magical transformation of our historic city into a complete wonderland. Picture Christmas lights everywhere—above the streets, in every shop window, and cascading along the Cane River. Picture food carts lined along the riverbank, merchants selling myriad homemade goodies, and the smell of joy in the air. For most of the year, I am lucky enough to call Natchitoches my home away from home. When asked where I go to school, my response is usually followed by "Oh! Natchitoches! How 'bout their Christmas Fest? Now that is one pretty town!" or something along those lines. But there is so much more to it than just the Festival come December. Conquering the Christmas Festival and truly experiencing Natchitoches should be everyone's ultimate goal. The annual Christmas Festival will be celebrating its 89th anniversary this year. For the thousands planning on flocking to North Louisiana for the first weekend in December, there are a few tips you absolutely need to know if you want to get the most out of your Christmas Festival experience.

  1. Do not underestimate the traffic. Good things come to those who wait—be patient. Natchitoches is a small city, so add a few thousand extra visitors and it is bound to get a little congested. It's fine. Take a deep breath. Look into carpooling—you'll thank me later; check out the myriad freelancers that live in the neighborhoods behind Front Street, as they are likely friendly and more than willing to let you park in their yards (for a fee, of course); and get there early! Also, a shuttle service will be available for the first time this year, running from Natchitoches Central High School to the downtown riverbank.
  2. Come hungry, leave happy. Eat like a local while you're here. Natchitoches is home to so many locally-owned restaurants, many of which are conveniently located on Front Street. So take another deep breath, as there might be a wait, and make sure to check out some of the local favorites—Mama's, Papa's, The Pioneer Pub, or Lasyone's. Also worth checking out are the food stands on the riverbank, which have an assortment of fair-style food as well as some Louisiana favorites. You're pretty much guaranteed to eat well no matter where you end up. You are in Louisiana, after all.
  3. Bring cash. While we live in a convenience-driven society where we expect everyone to accept your MasterCard, don't count on the vendors accepting plastic. All vendors along the riverbank will only accept tickets this year so get to the ticket truck and stay prepared as the delicious smell of fried goodies float through the downtown area.
  4. Wear comfortable shoes. With all of the exploring to be done during Christmas Festival, this one almost goes without saying. Be good to your feet so that you can enjoy everything that the city has to offer.
  5. Bring a blanket and a friend. If you plan on watching the amazing firework display over the Cane River—I say if, but I really mean when because you won't want to miss it—you will want to bring something to sit on so that you are really able to enjoy the closing of your wonderful, Christmas-filled day in Natchitoches. Also, if you want to have your picture taken, bring a friend and a camera so that you can remember your time in Historic Natchitoches. If you buy them a meat pie, they probably won't mind taking pictures of you.

For more information on the 89th Annual Christmas Festival, visit the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights website. While you're at it, "like" us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter so that you can stay in the loop this Christmas season. I hope that these five quick tips for conquering Christmas Fest will help you as you prepare for your North Louisiana adventure! Good luck and Merry Christmas!