From the editor's desk, July 25: Experiencing Cajun cuisine


By ERIK CHALHOUB, Managing Editor

Who knew that frog legs taste like chicken?

Despite assurances from Executive Chef Erick J. Ponce that the green amphibian’s mode of travel does indeed taste like the most populous domestic bird, I was a bit skeptical when trying out the delicacy during the Taste of Orleans festival at California’s Great America in Santa Clara over the weekend.

But I’m glad I did. The crisp frog legs smothered in Creole aioli almost resembled and tasted like a batch of fried chicken, but without as much meat. They are skinny frog legs, after all.

I was invited to the park’s second annual Cajun festival on Saturday. Also on the menu was craw fish etouffée, chicken and andouille sausage gumbo over rice, hushpuppy shrimp skewers with Cajun dipping sauce (think a corn dog, but with shrimp), blackened catfish sliders with tangy slaw and a choice of classic beignets or praline bread pudding.

Ponce, a 17-year culinary industry veteran who has been the executive chef at Great America for the past year, has given the classic Cajun recipes his own twist.

“We take a lot of pride in what we do here at the park,” he said. “We’re trying to elevate the guest experience, not only with our food, but in our attractions as well.”

Public Relations Manager Roger Ross agreed.

“What Chef is cooking up here and what he is planning in the coming years is really incredible,” he said as Ponce demonstrated how to cook a catfish slider.

Taste of Orleans also features chalk artists, live Cajun music, midway entertainment, regional drinks and a fireworks show set to Cajun music.

A $25 tasting card, plus admission to the park, gives guests access to six different dishes.

Taste of Orleans will return this Saturday and Sunday at the Santa Clara park. For information, visit www.cagreatamerica.com.

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Erik Chalhoub can be reached at 761-7353 or [email protected]

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