I have fought in vain with a certain so-called French chain restaurant over the subject of café au lait. Apparently, it is possible to do business in south Louisiana and not know what this is, much less have it on the menu.

“Oh, you want a latte,” said the employee again.

An au lait is not a latte. A latte is Italian. There are other differences.

Café au lait is a drink made by taking strong drip brewed or French-pressed coffee and adding hot milk. It is the standard for European coffee made at home. Filter coffee is used and the type is important, as is the amount — double what Americans normally use — and the ratio of coffee to milk is always 1:1.

This is in direct contrast to a caffè latte, which is always made with a shot of espresso as a base, much more milk and has a required layer of foam.

A New Orleans-style café au lait is made with scalded milk (milk warmed over heat to just below boiling), rather than steamed milk, and uses dark roast rather than an espresso machine. Best of all, when it’s made correctly there’s chicory, a bitter root and reminder of bygone days.

The use of roasted chicory to cut coffee became common in Louisiana during the Civil War, when naval blockades cut off the Port of New Orleans, forcing residents to stretch out the coffee supply. A café au lait has provenance — a backstory threaded in the broad tapestry of Louisiana history.

“Latte drinker,” on the other hand, is another term for out–of-touch liberal elitist.

You see my point.

Patricia Gannon covers society for The Acadiana Advocate. She can be reached at Fete@theadvocate.com.

From Politics to Poetry

Anyone who was anybody in academia was there. The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities held a cocktail reception at the A. Hays Town Building of the University Art Museum. Titled “From Politics to Poetry,” the evening featured an inside look at LEH, as well as art by Denise Gallagher and poetry by former poet laureate Darrell Bourque and ICON Award winner Alex “Poetic Soul” Johnson, who performed “Power of Black Woman” and “I am Griselda Blanco.” Breathing the rarefied air were Debbie Caffery, Becky Collins, quintessential Cajun Zachary Richard, Dr. Jay Culotta, Dean Jordan Kellman and Cheylon Woods, of the Ernest Gaines Center. “We’re excited about being asked to co-host,” said Woods. Others doing hosting duties included Cathy Indest, Phebe Hayes, Mark and Ramona Gremillion and LEH President Miranda Restovic. Abacus provided the hors d’oeuvres, which bordered on poetic themselves.

Gulf Brew

They weren’t drinking coffee here. The Acadiana Center for the Arts hosted its Gulf Brew at Blackham Coliseum, a mecca for microbrewers and more. Crying Eagle Brewing from Lake Charles brought its Don't Blush and Pano Rama Pale Ale; Parish Brewing had the new hotties ("a bunch of beers we don't distribute"); and Gnarley Barley from Hammond made the Brewers Association list of fastest-growing breweries. The 12th Annual Gulf Brew saw Pineapple Mango Milkshake, Strawberry Catahoula Common and Peanut Butter & Jelly Korona Milk Porter, as well as the Dead Yeast Society and members' backyard brews, including Earl Grey Mead. "It's all our private stash," said Nick Best. "We go to competitions around Louisiana and Texas, the Bayou Circuit." However, the best beer story belongs to Nola Brewery's Reno Broussard and his Hoppyright Infringement Imperial IPA, formerly named Hopzilla. "The Godzilla people sent us a cease and desist letter," said Broussard. "The beer is citrus-forward, a 7.8 that drinks like it's a 5. You have to be careful," he added. Sounds just like New Orleans.

Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again

The Christian Youth Theater staged "Mamma Mia!" at Burke Hall Auditorium. The hit musical details the story of a mother, daughter and three possible dads set to the '70s' songs of ABBA. An intergenerational morality tale for today's youth, included Kim Monroe, Melissa Bowen and Allison McClymont, who played Tonya, Donna and Rosie, respectively.