Monday, April 18, 2011

Buck a Shuck

It's always fun starting a new project. One of the best parts of my job is getting to travel to new places, work with some great people and leave with a sense that we've accomplished something.

For those who don't know, I work as an implementer for Digital Technology International. My company produces fully integrated publishing software for both print and digital (online). Most of our customers are newspapers, and the projects take anywhere from about nine months to more than a year, depending on the size of the company and the extent to which they implement our software.

Beginning a new project is a special time. You're getting to know people you will be working with for months to come, and you know that several of them will remain friends long after the project is over. You're also getting the chance to explore a new place.

Right now, I'm in Baton Rouge, La., working with The Advocate. A group of about six DTI employees was here a couple of weeks ago, and we began the most crucial phase of the project -- finding the good restaurants in town.

OK, maybe that's not the most crucial phase of the project, but it's at least a crucial part of surviving life on the road.

The first week on site is always stressful and tiring. After all, you have to be on your best behavior because the site doesn't know you yet, plus there are usually a few upper muckety mucks around who keep you from really letting your hair down, so to speak.

That's a long way of saying I was just too tired during that first week on site to update this blog, but I promise to do better this week.

During that first week, I managed to eat seafood for every meal. I'm wondering if I can continue that trend this week. Let's face it. It's hard to get get fresh seafood in Amarillo. Anytime I get close to the ocean, I start scoping out the best places for catch of the day.

Tonight, my co-worker Scott Braucher and I went to Ralph and Kacoo's. Don't let the cheesy gift shop that greets you when you enter the door deter you. You'll be tempted to run for the hills, thinking that you've stumbled into a Red Lobster meets Stuckey's. But if you can make it into the humongous dining area, you'll find some pretty good seafood.

We ate there our last time in Baton Rouge, and I have to admit, I was drawn back by the Buck a Shuck promotion. During the month of April, oysters on the half shell are only a buck apiece.

I know oysters aren't everyone's cup of tea, but I love them, and I can personally report that the little oil spill they had down here awhile back hasn't seemed to have caused any irreparable harm to my favorite little molluscs. These Gulf of Mexico beauties are plump and meaty, and much better than the scrawny ones they serve up north in fancy cities like Chicago.

After starting off with a six-pack (of oysters, that is), I selected the King Louis salad as my main course. It comes in three versions, but I chose the "Seafood" version, which features shrimp, crab and most importantly, crawfish.

Louisiana is smack dab in the middle of crawfish season, so you can get fresh crawfish just about anywhere on just about anything. The ugly little critters go by a lot of names -- crayfish, crawdads, mudbugs -- but I just call them good.

I had ordered the King Louis Salad for lunch the last time, so I was shocked when they brought the dinner version, which was at least twice the size of the lunch portion and packed full of plenty of seafood. Ralph and Kacoo's serves their King Louie with a mildly spicy seafood dressing that's very tasty.

Now, I'm a big salad fan. Rarely do I find a salad that I can't finish, but this one was too much for me. You could easily split this between two people and have a satisfying meal.

I'd be remiss in failing to mention R&K's bread selection. They bring a basket of hot hush puppies and some kind of garlicky, cheesy soft rolls that are downright dangerous. Be careful you don't fill up before they even bring you the menu.

Ralph and Kacoo's may not be a glamorous seafood restaurant. The service is a little slow, and the decor is strictly "mounted sailfish" vintage 1970s, but the food more than makes up for those shortcomings.

And with less than two weeks left in the Buck a Shuck promotion, I'll probably have to swing by at least once more this week to slurp another dozen or so.

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