We went to Tunica and all I got was some chocolate cake. My husband was luckier, however — he picked up two first-place awards from the Mississippi Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest for headlines and sports columns. We were in Tunica recently for the MPA annual get-together and awards luncheon. It was my first glimpse of the famous gambling town and only my second time ever to go to a casino. And in fact we didn’t even go to the casino so my record still stands at once … and I don’t think I got the full experience even then since I only sat at a nickel machine for a few minutes and watched my dollar bill dribble away. Sigh. Anyway, our Tunica adventure was on a Saturday and my sports-editor husband could only take enough time out of a work day to drive over (Down? Up?) to the luncheon, so we only saw the inside of the Harrah’s conference-center room. I had a blast sitting with friends from my husband’s newspaper, and although we were all less than impressed with the food and the service — Seriously, no tea or water refills and only one carafe of coffee for 200 people? — our dessert of chocolate cake certainly looked intriguing. The cake itself was on the dry side, but the berry puree and the chocolate ganache were divine. I also can report that I saw beautifully landscaped grounds and a sign advertising the Paula Deen Buffet, but that’s about it for my Tunica Harrah’s experience. Husband and I agreed we needed to come back and stay longer. See for yourself at http://www.harrahstunica.com/casinos/grand-casino-resort-tunica/hotel-casino/property-home.shtml.

Cajun Week

L'Auberge du LacThis past weekend  I had the great good luck to Casinosbe in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Some friends and I drove down to Cajun Country for a wedding and stayed at L’Auberge du Lac Casino Resort. You know that in Louisiana (and Mississippi), gambling places by law L'Aubergehave to be on water, so L’Auberge — billed as a “riverboat casino” — is built on a bowl-like structure that’s in the lake but you’d never know it. In fact, with the hotel’s dark wood and metal Arts and Crafts-like decor, you’d never know you were in Louisiana. I loved the massive fireplaces and the solid oversized furniture, but it reminded me more of the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina, than a Cajun casino. But then this was the first casino I’d ever been to, so what do I know? Since my only casino experience is from Ocean’s Eleven, I really didn’t know what to expect. The hotel part, however, was lots of fun. The two rooms we four women were in were lovely, with wonderful bathrooms (you know I always love a good hotel bathroom) and especially luxurious bed linens and mattress — a good thing, too, because due to an apparent twist of the air vents, we could hear everything said and done in other rooms somewhere in the hotel. Every. Little. Thing. Not so noticeable during the day, but at 4 a.m. when a bunch of drunk females wandered back to their room in a loud and feisty mood? Extremely annoying. We didn’t Lake Charles, Louisianaget much sympathy from hotel management, either. Oh, well. Isn’t a hotel stay always a gamble? And speaking of, I did try my luck in the casino under guidance from my more experienced friends. Unwilling to risk anything more than what it would cost to eat at McDonald’s, I plopped down in front of a 1-cent slot machine, making $1 last about 20 minutes and losing a total of $1.76. I just don’t get gambling, although I thought I had an addictive personality since I cannot leave any Mint Milanos in the bag and have been known to sit through an entire day of America’s Next Top Model reruns. Maybe if I knew how to play something that involved some skill, such as craps or 21, I might like it better, I think — although my husband was glad to hear that I found my gambling experience sort of boring. However, I did pick up some helpful gambling tips: Always get the machines close to the door, because they pay off more. Always get the machines farthest from the door, because they pay off more. Always get a machine that’s been paying off, because it’s hot. Always get a machine that hasn’t paid off, because it’s time is coming. Always play for big money, because you’ll win big. Always play for small money, because you won’t lose much. Good luck!!!

Check out the Web site for L’Auberge du Lac at http://www.ldlcasino.com


Cajun weekendToday I’m kicking off Cajun Week for no other reason Cajun wedding weekendthan this past weekend some friends and I drove a looooonngg way to Cajun country for the wedding of another friend’s daughter — and had such a blast we’d turn around and do it again in a second, despite the seemingly endless marathon of driving on the Natchez Trace. Since I still can hear the zydeco music and taste the andouille sausage, I’m sharing with you all. First, can you guess where we were? This is the view out of our eighth-story casino-hotel window, looking toward the lake for which this town is named — or maybe it’s the other way around. Anyway, the restaurant pictured is a very cool and tasty downtown eatery just around the corner from the breathtakingly beautiful Catholic church where the wedding was held. Sadly, I don’t have any Cajun prizes to give away to the winner, but you’ll have the satisfaction of proving you know your Louisiana geography. And please come back all week — I’ve got upcoming posts on Cajun food, decorating and wedding styles along with all the gambling tips I picked up in my (brief) career as a high-roller. You don’t want to miss it!