, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

May 3, 2013

Z's Beignets bring taste of New Orleans to RiverFest

PORT NECHES — New Orleans ain’t that far.

Well, according to Vincent James and his clan of cooks from Vidor, it isn’t.

And with a bite of their made-from-scratch powdered sugar beignets at this weekend’s RiverFest in Port Neches, you’d think for a moment you were walking the streets of the French Quarter, listening to jazz music and drinking fancy coffee.

The Z’s Beignets trailer sits on prime real estate at the RiverFest cuisine walk at the fork of the craft vendors and beer garden, next to Lagniappe and Yummo’s food truck, a four-year veteran of the festival.

James and his sons, Bobby, Russell and Randall, heard a rumor that there were no beignet vendors at any of the local festivals and decided to share their own recipe.

They began cooking up fresh crawfish etoufee, jambalaya, pistolettes, beignets and hot beverages in January and worked their first festival at Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas in downtown Port Arthur a few months ago.

Since then, the trailer has traveled to the Mauriceville for crawfish and to Vidor for barbecue before sattling up to Port Neches to serve the hoards of boat racing fans and fried food-seeking families this weekend.

According to Roger Erickson with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, La., the weather should remain cool and dry for the festival. Temperatures may fall to a record low on Saturday morning where they are expected to be in the upper 30s to lower 40s.

James is originally from New Orleans, but moved to Southeast Texas in the early 1960s. It seems that the “Nawlins” flavor of living never really left him.

“The reason beignets are so popular is because after midnight, people leave the bars and clubs and go the French Market and get coffee and beignets,” he said.

Six pieces of fried dough are placed in a tray before being showered with powdered sugar and made into a confectionery masterpiece.

Since the pieces of dough are so thick, people often ask what they are filled with, said Russell James. But nothing is inside, only a layer of succulent dough.

Vincent said they’re like a doughnut. The main cook, Randall, likened them to a Mexican sopapilla.

Straight out of the fryer is the best time to eat the dessert, Vincent claimed, but Russell disagrees.

“I think they taste alright cold — just different,” he said.

With the cooling trend hitting Southeast Texas however, a fresh-out-of-the-fryer beignet and a cup of hot coffee could just hit the spot.


Twitter: @julesbmt

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