ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA, March 7, 2016 – My first night in St. Tammany Parish began just outside the cabins of Fontainebleau State Park in the historic town of Covington at a restaurant called The Dakota where I had an unforgettable rendezvous with a bowl of soup.
Covington, located in a cluster of southern towns including Lacombe, Mandeville, Slidell and Abita Springs, each a half hour drive from New Orleans, oozing Southern charm. With enormous antebellum homes and quaint shops, the area has much to offer its visitors.
From a dense summer festival schedule to live music at the Mandeville’s historic Dew Drop Jazz and Social Hall established in 1895, St. Tammany Parish never disappoints.
St. Tammany Parish is packed with top-notch restaurants. From the outstanding Cajun influenced breakfasts at local Mandeville favorite Liz’s Where Y’at Diner to a perfectly executed Ribeye at Gallagher’s Grill, St. Tammany’s food scene continues to wow. Also in Covington is the arrestingly delicious Oxlot 9.
Located in the newly renovated Southern Hotel, Oxlot 9’s melt-in-your-mouth Duck Confit is good enough to make you blush.
And while world-class cuisine of St. Tammany Parish waits at every turn, no place is such excellence exemplified quite like the comfortably upscale eatery known as The Dakota.
Chef Kim Kringlie from The Dakota features perfect executions of southern entrees including Gulf Shrimp and Grits, Gumbo and a Redfish Amandine with Crawfish Boudin Beignets. While impossible to order poorly, the menu really begins and ends with one item: the Lump Crabmeat and Brie soup.
“It is everyone’s favorite thing on the menu,” my bright-eyed waiter assured me before listing the specials.
“Every month we serve enough bowls to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool,” interrupted one of the managers dropping off a much-needed glass of wine.
“That’s a lot of soup,” I said, trying and failing to visualize such a quantity.
“And never a drop left in a single bowl,” he said with the bravado of an NFL first round draft pick.
“It is really good,” added the waiter for good measure.
I couldn’t help but worry… What if I didn’t like the soup? Such an utterance would likely result in me, Matt Payne Travel Writer, being chased out of Mandeville by pitchfork-wielding waiters, Fontainebleau’s wild hogs and angry raccoons.
Even the “soon-to-be-part-of-the-soup” crabs of Lake Pontchartrain would likely be outraged were not every drop consumed.
Two glasses of wine later, the moment of truth arrived. Before me, a rich, creamy soup steamed, the lump crap floating decadently on the top, making my mouth water.
The whole town seemed to watch as I picked up my spoon. With one taste, so began a soup-inspired suspension of space and time. The world stopped and all that was left was the soup and I. Lightning fast, the bowl was empty. With bread I mopped up what remained like a savage.
The soup had exceeded the hype. It was perfect.
I felt that the room should applaud. Finally, I’d become among the “Crabmeat and Brie Soup” initiated.
“Another bowl?” asked the manager with a new, familial way that made me feel like I was a part of something important.
“Could you make it a swimming pool?” I said half serious and ready for another.