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Get It While It’s Hot

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Catfish, watermelon and cocktails are a salute to summer

July’s heat is on full force, but there is no shortage of outdoor food festivals celebrating glorious Louisiana products. This month, we honor catfish, watermelon and cocktails. Summer’s definitely here.

The time to feast on catfish from Des Allemands, otherwise known as the Catfish Capital of the Universe, is July 11 to 13. The Louisiana Catfish Festival is held at St. Gertrude Catholic Church and, like all festivals, it is a whirlwind of music, games, rides and loads of contests, particularly catfish-cooking and catfish-eating ones. Wild Louisiana catfish, the real deal, is well worth the short drive to get hooked on crispy, golden catfish “chips” (the smaller belly filets) or larger pieces if you prefer. Expect to find catfish prepared in as many ways as you can imagine, from sauce piquante to fried to the downright homey and delightful catfish boulettes. Stop at Spahr’s on the way to (or from) the festival for the area’s hands-down-best Bloody Mary.

Tales of the Cocktail, July 16 to 20, celebrates everything cocktail. Held at the Hotel Monteleone, it’s four days of seminars, cocktails and cooking demos, the latest in cocktail trends and information, the Bar Chef Challenge (an Iron Chef–like competition with our own cocktail guru Alan Walter as a contestant) and gathering of cocktail luminaries. Thursday’s Cocktail Hour is a top draw and the perfect opportunity to meet some of the world’s greatest cocktail book authors, sample a slew of sips, purchase books and have a spirited time. Be sure to check out Spice and Ice on Saturday, July 19, for an adventurous look and taste of spicy and savory cocktails, as well as a focus on how to make spice-infused liquors, syrups, garnishes and tips for pairing cocktails with spicy foods.

Cool off over the weekend of July 24 to 26 with the 45th Annual Louisiana Watermelon Festival in Farmerville, Louisiana. Watermelon rolling, watermelon eating, best-dressed watermelon and watermelon seedspitting competitions are just a few of the events surrounding this celebration of our state’s own deliciously sweet, bright pink, crunchy, juicy watermelons, which are serious business here. At the watermelon auction, first- and second-place melons from each size category will be auctioned to the highest bidder. When you bring home that beautiful watermelon, dedicate one half to this recipe adapted from Bon Appétite, Y’All, by Virginia Willis.