By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
Those who prefer their food fiery will definitely splash one chili-infused sauce or another on the crawfish étouffée, which, because of an addition of cream, is the mildest of the stews. It's also one of the tastiest, the tail meat of the tiny freshwater crustaceans sweetly engaging.
(Readers Quiz: Is crawfish étouffée more likely to be Cajun or Creole?)
Monday in New Orleans is traditionally laundry day as well as red beans and rice day. This is by design: The beans can be cooked slowly, with little attention, while the wash is being attended to. Creolina's clean rendition is lacking in ham-hock smokiness (for the sake of vegetarian diners) but offers a modicum of that taste via smoked andouille sausage and is otherwise imbued with full flavors emanating from the vegetables, seasonings, and stock. A Cajun combo with bowls of rice and beans, jambalaya, and étouffée is a great way of getting acquainted with, or just enjoying, all three. It costs $15.95, which is about average for the entrées -- Creolina's prices have steadily crept up over the years but are still pretty decent.
209 SW 2nd St.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301-1821
Region: Fort Lauderdale
Having personally blackened more than a thousand redfish while cooking at the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans, I've experienced occasional pangs of guilt over their near-extinction. Redfish have been recovering recently thanks to the never-ending quest of food faddists to move on and threaten the existence of other species (like, more recently, the poor Chilean sea bass), but it should be respectfully noted that Creolina's doesn't serve either of these seafoods because of their endangered designation. There are still plenty of catfish to fry, however, and the kitchen crew does a bang-up job of doing so, first flouring the fish, then bronzing in a pan of hot oil, and finishing with a thin, brown, butter sauce that soaks its fatty flavor into the white flesh; a few pecans are thrown on top to warrant the menu title of "catfish pecan." The plate also comes heaped with collard greens, crunchy haricot verts, an aromatic, cardamom-infused acorn squash purée -- and buttery rice.
Sugar cane is Louisiana's second-largest cash crop, which may be why desserts in that state are so saccharine -- is there a sweeter treat than pecan pie? Well, you won't find pecan pie at Creolina's, nor pralines nor freshly fried beignets, but there is a ridiculously rich, sweet, and delectable bread pudding, served warm and studded with walnuts and melted chocolate. As if that's not enough, the pudding is padded with a heap of whipped cream and a second mound of a well-spiked bourbon sauce that's really more like a foam. If after finishing one of Creolina's hearty meals, you've no trouble polishing off this pudding, you may have an eating disorder.
If Creolina's were located in the Crescent City, it would be one of countless places to grab a decent plate of rice and beans. In Broward County, it's one of the only, which is something of a good news/bad news proposition. The bad: With so little competition, it needn't be spectacular to succeed -- and it isn't. The good: It's still a pleasant, affordable place for honest, tasty, unpretentious home cooking and might just be the best spot in Fort Lauderdale to get your ya-yas out with authentic food from New Orleans.
(Answer to Readers Quiz: I already told you -- if you aren't sure, say "Louisiana cooking"! Jeez, this Prudhomme guy's gonna eat you alive.)