Join us at the Cancer Services Capital Chefs' Showcase on September 10th!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Month of Salads: MJ's Cafe

I started the month of salads in 2013 as a way to trick myself into eating more greens. I also wanted to feature salads that are worthy of consumption as a meal. Believe or not, they do exist. I found this fresh caprese inspired salad at MJ's Cafe on Jefferson Hwy. in Baton Rouge, and it definitely proved worthy of writing about.

The gorgeous plate of veggies featured fresh basil along with organic baby greens, ripe creole tomatoes, cucumber, fresh mozzarella, and a balsamic vinaigrette. Playing on the tomato-basil-mozzarella caprese salad, this version had even more to offer in the way of flavor. MJ's is always a go-to for me when I need a nice comfort meal that's fresh and local. Their salads, soups, sandwiches, and quiches are always top notch, second only to Maureen's warm smile. It is a true gem in Baton Rouge.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Halston McMullan: Hustler of Houston Hops

by Blair "B-Rex" Loup

Halston McMullan, Louisiana Sales rep for St. Arnold Brewing Co.
Halston McMullan, Louisiana Sales rep for St. Arnold Brewing Co.

It all started with what sounds like a very Texas 21st birthday. Not deep in the heart of Texas (clap, clap, clap, clap), but somewhere in the shoulder in Lubbock, Halston McMullan chose Triple J Chophouse and Brewery for her birthday celebration.

It was there at Triple J that she had her first micro brewed IPA, and the next day, she applied for a job there.

"I had a palate for it,” Halston said, recalling how her passion for beer began.

Throughout her years at Texas Tech, the International Business major’s love for craft beer grew. Her curiosity intensified after she attended her first beer fest in Dallas.

She learned that people talked about beer for a living, groundbreaking news to Halston, and she made contacts to start a career in craft beer.

“It was never the end game to be in the game,” she said.

After graduating with her business degree, she applied for jobs at marketing firms and corporations while her mom took her shopping for pantsuits, but Halston didn’t see pant suits in her future. It turns out she was right.
The contacts she made at the beer festival resulted in a job doing tastings in grocery stores.

“It felt very natural to me,” Halston said. A month into that gig, she began seeking out sales positions.

She went to St. Arnold (Patron Saint of Craft Beer) for answers and spied a position open for Louisiana Sales based in New Orleans. Halston had never stepped foot in Louisiana, but applied for the job ready to take on a challenge.

“I like proving adaptability to myself.”

While she knew she would be selling beer in a state that loves to drink, she recognized she needed to learn beer from a sales perspective.

“Two years later, I feel like I’ve got it down!”

Being a rep for a brand that isn’t technically local has proven challenging. St. Arnold’s isn’t produced in Louisiana and isn’t distributed nationally, so there’s no Scrooge McDuck pool of money labeled “Marketing Budget” to help push product.

“It comes down to the relationships I’ve built,” she explained, “staying relevant in this market is tough.”

Despite Louisiana’s loyalty to products made in-state, last year St. Arnold had only a two and a half states in their distribution, but were still making Top 50 lists by volume.

“The more I learn about this company and the more I have to fight for it, the more it becomes a part of me. I didn’t know I’d be so proud.”

This post is part of monthly series spotlighting Louisiana women in the business of booze. Previous features include:

Natalie Parbhoo: Duchess of Distribution
Lindsay Nations: Baroness of Beer
Dori Murvin: Sorceress of Service
Nora McGunnigle: Headmistress of Hops
Myrna Arroyo: Vino Valedictorian
Brandi Lauck: Warden of Whiskey
Cari Caramonta: Mother of Malts
Erin White: Priestess of Pairing
Beth Donner: Dame of Distilling

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Things I Learned from Bourbon Curious: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Lock & Key

by Sydney "Brown Nose" Blanchard

In Fred Minnick's "Bourbon Curious" there's something for everyone. Whether you're a seasoned bourbon drinker or a whiskey novice, there's a lot to be discovered in this "simple tasting guide for the savvy drinker."

I definitely fall into the whiskey novice category. Just scanning this book, I learned new things about the history and legends surrounding whiskey. For this Whiskey Wednesday, I've compiled a list of facts from the book that stuck out to me.

This post is best read with a whiskey in hand. Enjoy, and happy drinking!

1. There's a misconception that bourbon must be two years old. Bourbon itself has no age requirement, but to be labeled straight bourbon it must be two years old. 

Flappers drinking bootleg alcohol. Photo from

2. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States, not just Kentucky.

Bourbons can be made anywhere on this map. Map from

3. The spelling of whisk(e)y is a matter of preference. American and Irish whiskeys use the "e," and Scotch, Canadian, and Japanese whiskies usually don't.

There are more differences than just one letter. Graphic by

4. Secret bourbon societies exist on the web, on Facebook, and in the dusty basements of bars. The members of these societies happily refer to themselves as whiskey geeks.

A secret drinking cub at Oxford University in the 19th century. Photo from

5. Early Americans made what would qualify as bourbon and called it "corn brandy."

Early Americans harvesting corn. Photo from

6. There are two competing theories as to the name of "bourbon." We'll never definitively know the truth, but some claim it is named after Bourbon County in Kentucky, while others claim it's namesake is Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Photo from

7. The Bottle-in-Bond Act of 1897 gave women career opportunities. Women became chief bottle operators because they were known to break fewer bottles.

Vintage postcard. Photo from

8. U.S. brothels were major whiskey retailers in the 1800s.

The Brothel Scene from A Rake's Progress by William Hogarth, 1735. Photo from Wikipedia.

9. In order for whiskey to be called bourbon, it must be stored in new charred oak containers.

Different levels of char produce different effects in the aging process. Photo from

10. Tabasco is one of the largest companies purchasing used bourbon barrels. Tabasco ages its product in Kentucky bourbon barrels for at least three years.

Peppers growing on Avery Island in Louisiana. Photo from

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Month of Salads: Nino's Italian

by Blair "B-Rex" Loup

Unlike my two counterparts, I embrace the Month of Salads with open arms. I am a long-time lover of vegetables, and I can go to town on a salad.

The Grilled Heart salad at Nino's Italian in Baton Rouge, LA
The Grilled Heart salad at Nino's Italian in Baton Rouge, LA

Maybe I just haven't lived enough life, but this is the only time someone's brought a steak knife to the table for my salad.

Nino's Italian is known for its fresh, in-house pastas and Chef/Owner Elton Hyndman's dedication to the local slow food movement, but when I think of Nino's, their Grilled Heart salad is the first thing on my mind.

Grilling the heart of Romaine gives it that grill taste: not charred, but charred-esque. Drizzled with a local honey and goat cheese dressing, salted with the hearty Pancetta, and topped with sharp Parmesan cheese, the warm Grilled Heart salad is worthy of love, even for the salad skeptic who considers greens to be rabbit food (looking at you Jay Ducote).

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Nightingale Room's Old-Fashioned: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Lock & Key

by Blair "B-Rex" Loup

There are some that believe in drinking only pure Old-Fashioneds. I'll admit, these days it can be hard to find a straight up Angostura bitter soaked sugar cube engulfed in rye whiskey Old Fashioned, but I grew up with a crotchety grandpa and don't intend to be the same.

The Old-Fashioned at The Nightingale Room in Houston, TX
The Old-Fashioned at The Nightingale Room in Houston, TX
Sometimes it's nice to shake things up and be creative while giving a tip of the cap to the classics and while I love Baton Rouge, I often find myself thirsty for a different kind of bar serving libations that inspire me.

About a month ago, Jay and I took to the streets of downtown Houston to check out some of their cocktail bars. You know, just another day in the office.

I stepped into The Nightingale room, eyes adjusting from the blazing surface of the sun to the dimly lit, cozy spot. Once I climbed onto my bar stool (I'm short) I found myself looking at a wall covered in vinyl and saw that the new Alabama Shakes album, Sound and Color, would be spinning next. 

At this point, you've got to understand that I am in the happiest of places: a cool bar, rad records coming my way, and a uniquely delicious Old-Fashioned in my hand with champagne drinks to follow.

Did I mention we were there for Happy Hour? Half off all cocktails, which means I was sipping on a $4.50 harmonious blend of bourbon, cognac, turbinado, and bitters.

This version of the classic cocktail called for a similar make-up, but subbed the white sugar cube for a lesser-refined sugar-in-the-raw that looks like brown sugar, but a little lighter in color and has tasting notes of molasses. It's not outlandish to use bourbon instead of rye whiskey, but that makes the cocktail feel warmer. 

I don't know why, but for me, bourbon is like a warm fire a couple of weeks before Christmas.

With the added cognac, this Old-Fashioned tasted warm, velvety, with the occasional crunch of turbinado sugar. The Nightingale Room is a win.

For more takes on the Old Fashioned, make sure to check out Lock & Key in Baton Rouge!