Despite all of my formative years being spent in suburban England, Cajun food holds a special place in my heart. In October 2011, halfway through a road trip through the Deep South, I found myself at what would later turn out to be a life-changing event: a tailgate in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Not only did I experience a steaming cauldron of crawfish étouffée for the first time; I also met the man I would marry six years later. He’d spent his entire adult life in Louisiana, and after he moved to Amsterdam we would spend many a weekend trying to coax a roux to the colour of chocolate (for which I had to throw all my French training out the window), track down andouille sausage (pretty much impossible in Holland), and perfect a jambalaya recipe (thankfully, the holy trinity is far easier to come by in Dutch supermarkets, although I never did master the rest of it).
On arrival, we sat at the bar for a couple of Bloody Marys while we decided what we wanted to eat. They came perfectly spiced, salted around the rim, and topped with a skewer laden with a brined chilli, olive and pickle. Which, as anyone who’s ever been disappointed by a Bloody Mary in Amsterdam before will attest, is exactly how they should come.
We couldn’t decide what to order, so Chef Logan brought us a few small dishes to share. Everything on the menu is available in full or half portions, which makes it easier to try a few things. First up was the feted gumbo, which was chocolate-brown, richly thick and laced with kielbasa sausage (because they’ve had just the same problems tracking down andouille as we’ve had). Mr Foodie looked like he’d come home.
We also tried Jenifer Street’s jambalaya, which was pleasantly wet (I’ve eaten many dried out versions) with more meaty shrimpy goodness and the comforting mush of broken rice. I’m not making it sound very good, but believe me – it was. Perhaps my favourite dish, however, was the mac & cheese – which I was surprised by, seeing as it’s something I actually did grow up with in England in the 80s. Jenifer Street’s mac & cheese is properly spicy from its Cajun seasoning, while maintaining the right level of richness and creaminess from a blend of cheeses. (I’m curious what’s in the blend, as it was pleasingly sharp and didn’t have that plastic sheen of American cheese – perhaps one of the benefits of making it in Holland!)
Everything came with the kind of bread rolls that would clearly have been fantastic for po’boys (New Orleans’ answer to a sandwich) and that have also been on our list of “things that are impossible to get hold of in Amsterdam”. But by this point, we were stuffed and had to leave the sandwiches for next time.
And there most certainly will be a next time. Chef Logan and the eponymous Jenifer were even talking about throwing a crawfish boil… Now, that’s got my love language written all over it.