Natchitoches, Louisiana: A Best Southern Small Town

Today’s Natchitoches, Louisiana post is an updated version in tribute to Natchitoches being chosen Best Southern Small Town by USA Today readers. Visit Natchitoches once and you will come to know why this comes as no surprise to me. 

It’s the time of year for travel.

Vacations, staycations and day trips refresh our recreating souls, renew connections and give us ideas to implement into our home decor.

Natchitoches, Louisiana is a small town rich in history and bragging rights.

Natchitoches (NACK-uh-tush) is located about one hour south of Shreveport and five hours north of New Orleans.

Natchitoches was established by the French in 1714, and is the oldest permanent settlement in the 13 state territory Louisiana Purchase.

French and Spanish forts, historical homes, national historic landmarks, bed and breakfasts, antique shops, and fantastic restaurants line the original brick Front Street.

The thirty-three block National  Historic District and plantation district along the banks of Cane River Lake is made up of 100 historic homes and buildings.

Historic Front Street in Natchitoches, Louisiana

Historic Front Street in Natchitoches, Louisiana

One of my favorite shops to visit on historic Front Street is Kaffie-Frederick, Inc., General Mercantile.

Kaffie-Frederick is the oldest general store in Louisiana.

The front door swings open to a blast from the past decor full of charm, hardware, tools, classic toys and utensils all in I remember these splendor.

Natchitoches is the hometown of  writer, producer and film director Robert Harling.

Robert Harling is best known as the writer of the play, Steel Magnolias.

Rooted in location and hometown authenticity, Natchitoches was the star of the South for a brief period of time in 1988 when Hollywood came calling.

The excitement surrounding the filming was a statewide topic of conversation, and the memories of the stars and their time spent weaving in and out of the local landscape a souvenir program in Louisiana film history.

The Taylor-Cook home, better known as The Steel Magnolia House, remains one of the most recognizable and popular historic homes in downtown Natchitoches.

Many moonlight tour of homes ago, Dave the Builder purchased tickets to the Natchitoches Fall Pilgrimage Tour of Homes as a surprise birthday gift to me.

Steel Magnolia House Natchitoches Louisiana

Steel Magnolia House – Natchitoches, Louisiana

The evening tour of Taylor-Cook aka The Steel Magnolia House was a candlelight and cocktails themed party not to be forgotten.

Several hundred guests strolled the grounds and toured the home filled with period antiques tastefully paired with stylish accents while sipping cocktails by moonlight, music and magnolias.

tulips-in-bloom

Natchitoches, Louisiana knows how to throw a good party.

Clockwise from top left: Taylor-Cook House, Front Street, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Melrose Plantation

Roque House (circa 1797)

Roque House (circa 1797)

Big_House_at_Melrose_Plantation_-_east_elevationBig House at Melrose Plantation

One of my favorite artist, African-American folk artist Clementine Hunter (late December 1886 or early January 1887 – January 1, 1988) is closely associated with Natchitoches.

Miss Hunter was born near Cloutierville, Louisiana, moving to Melrose Plantation when she was fifteen years old.

Clementine Hunter (pronounced Clementeen) was a self-taught artist who painted from memory.

Clementine Hunter photo

Clementine was encouraged to paint and locally promoted by Melrose plantation curator, François Mignon.

Clementine_Hunter_-_The_Wash_-_91.88.2_-_Minneapolis_Institute_of_ArtsThe Wash – Clementine Hunter

The subjects of her paintings portray plantation life as it were in the early 20th century.

Although most of her works are untitled, the subject would be verbally described by the artist herself when asked.

Clementine_Hunter_-_Picking_Cotton_-_91.88.1_-_Minneapolis_Institute_of_ArtsPicking Cotton – Clementine Hunter

In the early days of her painting dating to the 1940s, Clementine Hunter sold her works for a quarter.

Her paintings can now sell for thousands of dollars.

It’s estimated Clementine Hunter painted between four and five thousand paintings in her lifetime.

Miss Hunter continued to live in Northwest Louisiana until her death in 1988.

Cane River view downtown Natchitoches

Cane River

Picturesque Cane River runs through downtown Natchitoches.  

On the first weekend of December, Natchitoches illuminates the Southern night sky in a festive Christmas festival firework spectacular.

Approximately 150,000 visitors descend on the small town to experience this annual festival of lights, a tradition that ushers in the holiday season.  

The famous Natchitoches Meat Pie, a Southern delicacy, dates back to the late 1700s.

classic Natchitoches meat pies

Natchitoches Meat Pies are deep-fried pastries filled with ground beef and ground pork seasoned with onions, peppers, and garlic also known as the Cajun trinity.

Classic Natchitoches Meat Pie 

Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided, plus more for frying

½ pound ground beef

½ pound ground pork

1 teaspoon dried oregano

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ cup minced yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

2 Meat Pie Dough (recipe follows)

1 large egg

2 tablespoons water

Directions

In a small Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add beef, pork, oregano, salt, red pepper, black pepper, and cayenne.  Cook, stirring frequently, until meat is browned and crumbly, about 6 minutes.

Drain any excess liquid.  Sprinkle with flour, and stir to combine.

In a large saucepan, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat.
Add onion; cook until tender, about 2 minutes.

Add garlic, bell pepper, and celery; cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir into meat mixture.  Let cool completely.

Reserve 12 pieces for another use.  On a lightly floured surface, roll 28 pieces of dough to a 5½-inch circle, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Using a 5-inch round cutter, cut rounds from each piece of dough.  In a small bowl, whisk together egg and 2 tablespoons water.

Place 2 tablespoons filling in center of each round.  Lightly brush edges with egg wash.  Fold dough over filling, and press to seal.

Using a fork, crimp along edges of pie. Using a pastry wheel, cut along edges to further seal.

Freeze pies before frying.

In a large Dutch oven, pour oil to a depth of 4 inches, and heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 370°.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels, and place a wire rack on top.
Remove pies from freezer.

Using a slotted spoon, gently place pies, 3 at a time, in hot oil.  Fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.

Remove from oil, and let drain on prepared pan.

Makes 28.

Meat Pie Dough

Ingredients

5 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 ½ teaspoons salt

1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder

¾ cup lard

2 large eggs

1 ½ cups whole milk

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.
Using a pastry blender or 2 forks, cut in lard until mixture is crumbly.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and milk.  Pour egg mixture over flour mixture, and lightly toss with your hands until a dough starts to form.  Knead together twice, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Cover and refrigerate until using.

Makes 14.

-Louisiana Cookin’

Southern hospitality flows through the town like the Cane River and the welcome mat is always out.

Natchitoches, Louisiana is home to Northwestern State University, festivals, historic homes and plantations, bed and breakfasts galore, quaint shops and excellent restaurants.

Natchitoches, Louisiana is a great destination for day tripping, a weekend getaway or a stay for a week or two visit.

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4 thoughts on “Natchitoches, Louisiana: A Best Southern Small Town”

  1. Oprah Winfrey’s visit was unannounced and a surprise. Please correct that word in your blog. Otherwise, it was very well done.

  2. im from Natchitoches but I live in another state its a very nice place to mellow out and relax your mind and the fire works is a work of art. fantastic yes

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