MISSissippi, Gulfport

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Driving through, I thought “wow, this place is a dump”…

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But I realize now that was a snap judgement. Sure, the places I was weaving in and out of were dumpy… but then I got downtown…. to Long Beach. And drove along the beach for a few miles. It was lovely. Think about that, the Beach. In January. Yes, its still quite cold (47 degrees, feeling like 45 to be exact). I seriously contemplated finding a to-go lunch and taking it to a bench on the beach for a few relaxing minutes.

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Until I found this place thanks to Google Maps. Darwell’s Cafe… yes, it looks a little, how do I say it, campy? But not nearly as scary as Dreamland and it had 4.5 stars (out of 5). So I went in. Well wouldn’t you know, the first person who greets me is Darwell himself, the chef and owner. And this place is FILLED with crap. Christmas lights all over the ceiling, random photos on the wall, and the menu above my head. I have no idea what I’m ordering or what they even serve here. As I say “this is my first time here”, Darwell is pushing a warm styrofoam cup of crawfish etoufee into my hands and telling me all about how he makes it, and its more alfreado-ey than the “friends to the west” (he means New Orleans), and how he makes it much milder. Also, that everything is made completely from scratch, not one thing is dropped in a deep fryer, Oh, and his wife does all the baking.

Sweet Jesus it is delicious. This is my first encounter with the dish and I don’t think I’ll ever eat it anywhere else. It warms my soul the same way the baked potato soup in a sourdough bread bowl does from Panera. Except better. Yes, I want more of that… oh, the best selling item is that on top of a burger?!

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Messy. Delicious. Amazingness. That’s all I can say about this meal. Darwell also gave me a taste of the gumbo (another first!) it was a little hot (spicy) but I’d already eaten everything else on my plate so I was stuffed…. roll me on out friends.

I was still wearing my name tag, so Darwell took it upon himself to give me the full tour and history of the place. He’d only been open 28 days before Katrina hit and wiped out pretty much the entire area. He came back into his little restaurant, and realized he was the only place in the area who could realistically reopen and sell food, so he worked quickly to do so. Then one magical day, Guy Fieri just happens to walk in. Darwell gives him the same crawfish etoufee he handed me and that was it.

BOOM. In come the cameras, and all of a sudden, Darwell’s Cafe is on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives. Darwell shows me all the photos on the wall, all the people who have come to see him just because they saw the episode, and all his pro-wrestling friends in the area (yeah, he does that too). His daughter also makes an appearance on the wall of fame – in her dance costumes – that’s where he’s headed next, to pick her up. His dad “Papa D” runs the place for dinner, “So there’s always a Darwell here” and also serves as the emcee at nights with live music outside on the patio. Its BYOB, and now seats 500 hungry guests.

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I was on my way to the B&B that my event is being held in tonight, when I passed what looked like a bank, but then saw a sandwich board out front advertising “French Kiss Pasteries”.

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Don’t mind if I do!

Its funny how one small thing can bring back a waterfall of memories, specifically French Kiss, but not for the reason you’re thinking…. Allow me to explain. During my training in Jamaica, we had an initiation of sorts.

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All the newbies were called to the stage, given an Old Navy flip flop on a ribbon (to be worn as a necklace the rest of the week) and told to pick an item out of a bag. no peeking. Of course you had your totally harmless items, but when your hand slips over that small square box, you know you do NOT want to have to sell condoms in front of your entire workforce… including VP, as a rookie. I was lucky number 2 in the lineup, but this isn’t about what I was selling. Of course it was a competition, to see who could sell their product the best, and we had the European rookies in attendance with us. When the French kid was up to sell… whatever it was he was selling, he didn’t even know what it was. His sales pitch was in seductive French accent “I don’t know what this is, but, buy one, get one French Kiss for free”. And all the women in attendance swooned. So there it was, the nickname that would stick. French Kiss.

I backtracked, how could I pass that photo op up!?! I of course snapchatted it to my Canadian friend, because she gets it. And then I wandered in. It’s a super cute coffee shop. BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

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The owners of the place bought the building from the Free Masons back about 3 years ago. Not only is the first floor a coffee shop and the pastry shop in the back, there’s also a boutique hair salon upstairs!

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Some places never cease to amaze what they can fit into small spaces.

After all that excitement, I also got a call that my car is finally all fixed!! So on to Shreveport I went to get it back ๐Ÿ™‚ I left by 6am and was at the dealership by 11, something about them needing the other key to be able to program the PCM part? ok, sure. “it’ll take a couple hours”. So off on sales calls I went. After completing them all, and skipping lunch, I wandered back to the dealership (its 3:30pm). Its not quite ready yet, ok, I’ll go find lunch.

I get a call as I’m filling the rental car’s tank back up, bad news. noooooooooooooo.

“so, the part is in, and it’s good to go, except the check engine light is still on. But my mechanic says it’s totally safe for you to drive back to New Orleans if you want to.”

ummmm….. OK FORD. riddle me this. I bring the car in to you because the check engine light is on. Why in the HELL would you release it to me IF THE PROBLEM HASN’T BEEN FIXED!?

“well, we replaced that part, but we’re still getting that code that the Torque Converter isn’t working properly.” (the original code’s print out, which they seemingly decided to ignore…) oh, and no, Ford doesn’t cover a rental car even when the car is UNDER WARRANTY FOR A DEFECTIVE PART. Hi friends. 1. that’s complete and utter BS, 2. I’ve had this thing for less than a month. Its a 2014 model. FIX. IT.

No, I’m not going to drive it 5 hours home with the light still on, thanks anyway. Reason being, if it does happen to break down along the vast stretches of NOTHINGNESS between Shreveport and New Orleans, are one of YOU going to come pick me up? “Ford does have roadside assistance, so, to answer your question, yes, somebody would pick you up”.

As much fun as it is to say… I do not want to be broken down in Atchafalaya, by myself,ย in the dark.

So I got back in my sad rental, with no cruise control, but satellite radio (hello 80s on 8), and slogged 5 hours back to New Orleans. Maybe next week I’ll get to take my car home ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

#AdventureYear

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