Remember how excited Russ Salazar and I were when we tasted the Shrimp Remoulade Croque at ZacJack Bistro in Cameron Park? Recall how I went on and on about the Crab Cakes at the Gold Vine Grill in Somerset? And, who can forget our excitement with the Crab Stuffed Salmon at Los Pinos in Cameron Park? Well, I have another really outstanding dish for you to try: Blackened Catfish at The Levee in Placerville.
Actually I shouldn’t have been surprised about this dish as it is the one most often ordered at The Levee and the owner, Sonya Huff, comes from “Cajun Country,” Alexandra, Louisiana.
It was a Thursday evening when Russ Salazar and I dropped in on this newer restaurant at 451 Main St. #8 (the old Café Luna location). We picked that day because it is the least crowded and we could talk with Sonya and her daughter, Brandi, who was our delightful and knowledgeable server that evening.
Sonya learned cooking from her mother and grandmother while growing up. “I love to cook and always have,” she said. “From a very young age it has been my passion.
“What I want people to know is that our Cajun cuisine is purposely prepared mild so everyone can enjoy what I love, but if you ask we can ‘kick it up’ to your liking.
“Everything is from scratch and made to order,” she continued. “We make our own sauces, desserts and even the dry rub and blackening seasonings we use. We even blacken our fish in a cast iron pan, like it should be done.
“We try to buy local and fresh and are pretty interesting people,” she added with a smile. “I think we are the best kept secret on Main Street.”
Our first dish was Boudin Bites with Remoulade sauce. Generally this combination of cooked rice, pork, onions, green peppers, and seasonings is stuffed in a casing and eaten on the go. But now restaurants are making it into balls, coating them with bread crumbs, frying them and serving them with Remoulade, which is sort of a Cajun tarter sauce, but much better. They were a delicious appetizer that prepared us for the next course, Gumbo.
Gumbo comes in many varieties, from thin to heavy and gets its name from either a Native American or African word for okra. Theirs is thinner and is made with both chicken and andouille sausage, giving it a great flavor. I think they saw us both add several drops of Louisiana hot sauce, so they “kicked up” the rest of the dishes for us.
I really like okra and have never really understood why other people don’t. It can be easily overcooked and become mushy, but left slightly crunchy it is wonderful.