Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Louisiana produces sugar cane, why not rum?

Trey Litel, cofounder and president of Bayou Rum
For a state that produces more sugar cane than any Caribbean island, you’d think producing rum would be a vital part of that equation. That was the question Trey Litel asked. The LSU graduate worked for Bacardi rum at the home office and in Florida, always loved the alcoholic drink created from sugar, and when he came home to Louisiana to hunt ducks, driving past miles of sugar cane, he began to distill an idea.

“I always wondered why does Louisiana have so much sugar cane and no rum?” he said.

Litel and partners started Louisiana Spirits Distillery in Lacassine, Louisiana, in 2011, distilling two varieties of rum, a silver and a spiced rum. Today, their inventory includes a Bayou Select Rum aged in oak barrels and a Satsuma rum liqueur made with Louisiana satsumas. Naturally, the alcohol derives from locally produced sugar cane, mostly from the M.A. Patout & Sons mill in Patoutville, Louisiana.

Bayou Rum distillery is open for tours and perusing the gift shop Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information, visit the distillery’s Facebook page at

Here are some fun Bayou Rum facts:

They use 80 proof alcohol to sanitize their bottles.

One person can fill 25 bottles of rum per minute.

Bayou Rum averages 8,000 bottles per day.

M.A. Patout & Sons is a seventh generation business.

2,000 pounds of sugar equals roughly a half acres of sugar cane.

Bayou Rum copper tanks have names — Ruby, Uma and Maryland

Leftover rum mash is fed to regional cows.

Need more encouragement to try this delicious Louisiana product? Here's a popular recipe in the Bayou State.

Gator Bite
1 ounce Bayou Silver
1 ounce Bayou Spiced
1 ounces Bayou Satsuma
1.5 ounces orange juice
1.5 ounces pineapple juice
Juice of 3 limes wedges
Splash of Grenadine

Mix together and enjoy!

Cheré Coen is a food and travel writer who loves weird and unusual things, not to mention a good-tasting rum.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Natchez Bridge of Sighs and its magnificent view

The Mississippi River as seen from the Natchez Bluffs
I was born and reared on the side of the Mississippi River so it holds a special place in my heart. Many’s the time I spotted ships moving past higher than my head when the river rose in the spring and there was only a levee between my New Orleans home and those muddy waters. Later, I would work along the river in Baton Rouge and never fail to pause and admire the third largest river in the world.

But it was those levees that kept that river from me. When you visit towns such as Natchez, Mississippi, a city built upon a bluff, the river stretches before you like a goddess. My favorite activity when visiting Natchez is to stand beside my river and absorb that magnificent view along the Natchez Bluff.

All along the riverfront in Natchez is a walking-biking trail, one high upon the bluff, and one closest to the river’s edge. In 2015, to connect the two sections of the bluff-side Spanish Esplanade or Promenade, the city of Natchez built the “Bridge of Sighs,” a footbridge allowing pedestrian traffic over Roth’s Hill Road. The recent addition is a replica of a 19th century bridge that spanned Roth Hill Road, and that bridge got its name from an ancient one in Venice, Italy.

Walking across the Natchez Bridge of Sighs, visitors will spot numerous padlocks, some sporting initials and names, a tradition that lovers use as a public token of their affection. Placing padlocks on bridges is popular in Europe, including Italy.

The Bridge of Sighs in Venice, by the way, was built to connect the city’s New Prison to the interrogation rooms within the Doge's Palace. It was the last view of Venice convicts saw before their imprisonment. There are similarly named bridges in Cambridge, England; Stockholm, Sweden; Glasgow, Scotland; at The Venetian in Las Vegas; connecting The Tombs with the Criminal Courts Building in New York City; and within the Santa Barbara County Courthouse in California. Richard Russo wrote a novel titled “Bridge of Sighs” and the bridge has been used in operas as well as the title song of Robin Trower’s album, ”Bridge of Sighs.”

And I’m not the only one who fell in love with the Natchez bluff, although I didn’t leave a padlock behind. Frederick Law Olmsted, known as founder of landscape architecture in America, said this: “But the grand feature of Natchez is the bluff, terminating in an abrupt precipice over the river, with the public garden upon it…. So, after supper, I went to the bluff again, and found it most solemnly beautiful; the young moon shining through rents in the clouds: the great gleaming crescent of water; the dim, ungapped horizon; the earth sensibly a mere swinging globe.”

Perhaps Olmsted would have left a padlock behind as well.

Cheré Coen is a food and travel writer who loves weird and unusual things, and hopes the owners of these padlocks truly find everlasting love.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tupelo: Where even pets love Elvis

Bruno in Pet-Owner Look-a-like category
There's a buzz in Tupelo, Mississippi, every June, and it owns a distinct Elvis vibe. The first weekend in June means Elvis Festival time, with live concerts, an Elvis Tribute Artist competition and a pet parade and pageant.

Yes, even the pets love Elvis in Tupelo.

The annual event raises money for the Dilworth Small Animal Hospital in town and winners walk away with a cash prize, trophy and gift bag.

This year's Elvis Pet Parade and Pageant was hosted by Memphis Jones, a regional celebrity that kept the audience in stitches and the event concluded with a performance by Elvis Tribute Artist Brandon Bennett, the 2008 winner of the "Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist" contest.

But the stars were the pets and those the animals had on a lease. Carolyn Smith and her dog, Bruno, at right, were dressed in khakis to represent Elvis' army years — not to mention she has two children in the navy. "Thank you for your service," Jones said to Bruno as he paraded across the stage.

One adorable girl and her dog wore Hawaiian attire to represent Elvis in his film, "Blue Hawaii." There was a miniature Doberman wearing bell bottoms, tiny dogs with velvet guitars and sideburns attached and one dog who wore sunglasses without minding, pausing on the stage as if to pose, which brought the house down. He took away the Elvis lookalike category.

Here are a few of the photos:

Best Elvis lookalike category winner
Best Costume Winner


Most Unusual winner - this boy brought a stuffed turtle.

Best in Show winner. 
Cheré Dastugue Coen is a travel and food writer from South Louisiana who appreciates the weird and wild side of life. Write to her at

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ziplining a life experience. Who knew?

Our brave group of travel writers.
There’s something terrifying about climbing high above treetops and jumping off. It’s not the worry about falling to my death. Because I understand that two levels of ziplining cables, the trolleys and the double carabiners will protect me. What I feared most was having to brake myself at the other end.

My first ziplining experience was in North Carolina where a group of us zipped through several lines as snow softly fell. It was both exhilarating and horrifying, because as much as I enjoyed flying through the winter air and viewing the gorgeous mountain scenery I kept spinning and forgetting how to brake at the other end. The guides assured me they would catch me if I failed, but the first time I screwed up my brake and rammed into the guy. Which was enough to scare anyone off the sport.
Bill and Erin, our trusted guides

Later, I would zipline without the need to self-brake and loved that so much better. I started gaining confidence and would gladly raise my hand when the offer to zipline emerged.

Until last month. 

A group of travel writers — me included — were invited to zip through the canopy of Adventures Unlimited near Milton, Florida, in Santa Rosa County, an attraction that also offers cabin accommodations and paddling down Coldwater Creek, one of the most pristine waterways in the state — and one that I highly recommend enjoying. As we walked to our first run, I was told that self-braking was in store, but no worries, they would explain and all would be fine. Guess what? After listening intently to the instructions, I stuck my hand in front of the trolley to brake — it goes behind — and screwed up my brake on the first run. I ended up stumbling horribly, then stopping before the platform, having to turn and pull myself in.

Are you kidding me?
“I don’t worry about you,” our guide Bill told me. “I can tell you have no fear so you’ll be fine.”

Was he blind?

Our next run was a LONG climb up, so my second attempt was frighteningly high, as in seeing magnolia blooms at the TOP of trees. I couldn’t imagine stepping off that platform. I asked to go last — as if that would help. And then I stood there like a zombie, staring off into the trees hiding the next platform where Bill waited, a man who believed I had no fear.

“You can do it,” said Erin, the other guide who waited patiently behind me.

“No, I can’t,” I thought, but I walked off anyway, flying through the air like a fool but not spinning and remembering to brake the cable above my head, but this time behind me. I actually slowed the dang thing down and slipped into my guide’s arms without a problem. I don’t know who was more excited, that man or me.

Me finally learning to zip.
It took a few more attempts before I felt confident, but by the seventh run, a long, delicious stretch that veers over Coldwater Creek, I actually enjoyed the run, stopped thinking too much about my braking and started relishing the scenery. As we walked back to the outpost with our gear beating against our legs and our bandanas glued to our humid foreheads, I was a new woman.

I came. I ziplined. I braked!

Want to see Bill easily flying over Coldwater Creek? Click here for my Facebook post.

For more information on Adventures Unlimited, visit Be sure and stay the night, enjoy the cabins and paddle the that gorgeous creek.

Coldwater Creek at Adventures Unlimited

We're actually happy at the end. We did it!
Cheré Dastugue Coen is a travel and food writer from South Louisiana who appreciates the weird and wild side of life. She actually ziplined over alligators near Shreveport (read about it here), but the braking there was easier. Write to her at