Jay is one of 12 finalists for Season 11 of Food Network Star! Tune in for the premiere on June 7!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cari Caramonta: Mother of Malts

by Blair "B-Rex" Loup

It’s a tale as old as time (cue twinkly, sparkly music), boy meets girl, boy likes beer, boy teaches girl to like beer, boy brews beer, girl pushes boy to open commercial brewery, girl make brewery a success while wild boy brews beer all day, girl makes boy get a haircut. Okay, so obviously the story of the Caramonta’s and how they came to own what is one of South Louisiana’s favorite breweries isn’t simple and cliché and would better be accompanied by insane electric guitar riffs…

Cari Caramonta, Co-founder and Creative Director of Gnarly Barley Brewing in Hammond, LA
Cari Caramonta, Co-founder and Creative Director of Gnarly Barley Brewing in Hammond, LA

It all started in 2005 when Cari and Zac Caramonta met at Southeastern Louisiana University. “I really did not know shit about craft beer,” says Cari, “…and then, he opened my eyes to it, brought me to Red, White, and Brew (an awesome beer bar/shop in Hammond) while we were in college to try all of these awesome beers.”

Cari said when Zac expressed a desire to home-brew, he knew it wouldn’t be enough to use a crappy starter kit. After tasting the kinds of beers Zac produced, Cari saw his potential she encouraged him to pursue his love of brewing even further. Zac easily admits that if it weren't for Cari’s support and particular set of skills, he would have never thought of brewing commercially and yours truly would be left without my craft beer spirit animal: Gnarly Barley Brewing.

“Personally, I love building the business. I enjoy marketing and branding. I think it’s cool that we bring a different dynamic to the table,” Cari said. Watching this brewery grow over the past year makes my heart swell. Knowing Zac and Cari well, I know that Gnarly Barley would not be here today if it weren’t for Cari.

Cari has an outgoing, infectious, bad-ass personality… you know, she’s the kind of girl you want to hang out and drink beers with. Website management, social media guru, special event coordinator, checkbook sultan, extra sack of barley fetcher, merchandise designer, distribution liaison, and expert Zac wrangler are a few of her job titles and add to that mother-to-be.

Though Zac brews beers that are absolutely on point, Gnarly Barley would have been like the Titanic without Cari. Sure, everyone was drinking and having a good time and things looked great, until they didn’t, and that’s where Cari comes in. Without her at the helm, Gnarly Barley would have never stepped foot outside of the garage.

Now, if only Cari could answer her phone, introduce herself when people call asking for Zac, and then hang up or leave messages for Zac (that Zac can’t answer because Cari is in charge), all would be better in the wacky world of Gnarly Barley. Let it be known that there are some talented, intelligent, boss ladies in charge of your beer, gentlemen, and I’m sure they’re growing tired of being overlooked and undermined.

Let’s face it, this is Cari’s world and we’re all living in it.

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

1804 Old Fashioned: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Lock & Key

1804 Old Fashioned at Lock & Key
1804 Old Fashioned at Lock & Key
There are a plethora of fantastic cocktails on the menu at Lock & Key and lately they haven't been shy about introducing new ones. Or in some cases, really old ones.

Take, for example, the 1804 Old Fashioned. This recipe actually dates back to the early 1800s when it was simply known as a cocktail. It includes Angostura bitters, a sugar cube, 1792 small batch bourbon, and a twist of lemon rind.

Notice that there are no muddled oranges or cherries. That's how you know it really is old school!

You can find this Old Fashioned along with many other varieties at the Lock & Key Whiskey Bar. You can of course also find lots of other whiskey (and whisky for those that care about the "e") based cocktails, too.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Little Soul in the Old Heart of Baton Rouge: Dominique's Stockyard Café

by Blair "B-Rex" Loup

Many argue that Baton Rouge struggles to find a food identity, but sometimes, what I love most about our culinary culture is the variety. I hail from Sulphur, Louisiana which is home to mostly chain restaurants, mediocre Tex-Mex, and simple Americana, so moving to Baton Rouge for school became a gastronomic awakening.

Baton Rouge does a handful of things really well, and soul food is absolutely one of them.

I’ve always been an adventurous eater and made a conscientious effort to seek out hidden gem eateries to which the average college student might not venture. However, Dominique’s Stockyard Café is something I didn’t find until under the seasoned wing of Jay Ducote.

Pulling up to the Stockyard Café, I don’t know why, but I wasn’t expecting it to be an actual stockyard. Already charmed by the exterior, I entered into the café to the smell of one of the greatest things on the planet: lunch.

I am very into mac n’ cheese always, but I’ve found that soul food places tend to make theirs with spaghetti noodles. It’s not the worst idea I’ve ever heard. A bite of that with the gravied up meatloaf punched a one-way ticket to nap city.

Meat Loaf over Rice & Gravy with Mac n' Cheese and Cornbread
Meat Loaf over Rice & Gravy with Mac n' Cheese and Cornbread

Meanwhile, Jay had a rib in one hand, fried okra in another, and a goofy grin on his face. Sides of flavor bursting cornbread dressing and gravy, hearty greens, and a few strips of delectably crispy fried catfish decorated the table. Pair everything with the smiling faces of people cooking good food, and each bite becomes more heavenly than the last.

Cornbread Dressing with Gravy, Fried Okra, and Greens
Cornbread Dressing with Gravy, Fried Okra, and Greens

Crispy Fried Catfish and a plethora of more delicious sides at Stockyard Café
Crispy Fried Catfish and a plethora of more delicious sides at Stockyard Café

If you find yourself near the Old Mississippi River Bridge craving cozy home cooking at a decent price, Stockyard is a great place to stop in. And, you can actually see old Stockyard while you're there!

Stockyard Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

LA1 is back, but it won't last long! Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Lock & Key

LA1 right on the bottling line

It is Whisk(e)y Wednesday, and that means a weekly blog post about this amazing elixir.

It is also Wine Wednesday. It isn't as often celebrated at Bite and Booze, but today is special with the launch of Jay D's Blanc Du Bois!

But back to whiskey... it is time to get excited for another batch of LA1 Whiskey from the Donner-Peltier Distillery.

The Thibodaux distillery, also known for their Rougaroux rums and Oryza vodka and gin, has a limited amount of LA1 available. If you are interested, call the distillery at 985-446-0002 to place your order.

It usually doesn't last very long when the whiskey is released, and because it is so popular, hardly any gets released to bars and retailers. So why not make a little trip to Thibodaux to grab some and see the distillery?!

Hopefully Lock & Key can get a couple bottles. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

LA1 won a Gold Medal at the San Francisco Spirit awards. It is also the first aged whiskey legally distilled in Louisiana since prohibition.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Between Two Shells: Oysters Rockefeller and the Louisiana Mule

by Blair "B-Rex" Loup

The Louisiana Mule and Rockefeller Oyster at Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar in Downtown Baton Rouge
The Louisiana Mule and Rockefeller Oyster at Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar in Downtown Baton Rouge

I’m not a girl of many talents. There are some that may contest this, but I feel like I have a small skill set that consists of things that are relatively useless with only a few exceptions: I tend to find good parking spots, I have the patience and determination it takes to tackle an entire season of a television series in one day, and I have a knack for pairing drinks with food. Having that said, at Jolie Pearl, when it comes to pairings, the world is your oyster…get it?

Now that you’re done laughing, let’s explore the harmonious flavor profiles of the Louisiana Mule and Rockefeller Oyster.

The Louisiana Mule at Jolie Pearl is prepared with Louisiana White Lightning Whiskey instead of vodka. This gives the drink an extra layer of boozy flavor. With slight moonshine notes from the whiskey, the concoction is spicy, herbaceous, and refreshing. I paired it with the Rockefeller because of the licorice flavors of the Pernod and earthiness of the spinach.

The more grounded flavors of the oyster are like the moms (or dads) of your friend groups. They keep you from getting carried away, but you’re still allowed to party. While the flavors in the Louisiana mule work together, they are separately extremely strong flavors, so it pairs deliciously with a toned down, classic, and scrumptious Rockefeller oyster.

Whether you’re eating them raw, baked, or char-grilled, you’re going to want to run, don’t walk, to Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar. Check back here for more pairings each month, and take a look at this pairing that we've already tasted and tested:

Raw Gulf Oysters and Fresh Margaritas