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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Contemplating Existence at Pop’s Poboys

by Drew Broussard, intern



The Poboy (Po’boy, Poorboy…?), where do I even begin? It is as important to Louisiana as festivals, Bourbon Street or hurricanes. It occupies an entire row on the metaphorical Cajun Food Pyramid. It is a bonafide staple of so many people’s diets, and I am no exception. From their humble beginnings as street food for New Orleans transit strikers in the early twentieth century, poboys have evolved into a sort of cultural (and epicurean) phenomenon. No matter where you are in Southern Louisiana, you are sure to be able to get your hands on one of these quality sandwiches. And it is with great enthusiasm that I encourage you to eat at every poboy stop that your stomach will allow. There are plenty of options. Oh, and trust me, no matter how many you have, they don’t get old.

It was on this very crusade that I happened to stumble into a small restaurant on the corner of Jefferson Street in Downtown Lafayette last summer. I agreed to meet friends at a new restaurant called Pop’s Poboys. We were set to journey on a two week camping trip the following day, and we were all in search of a parting meal, Louisiana style. When I first walked in, I could sense the trendiness. This place was like a plaid wearing, man-bunned hipster playing Ice Cream Paint Job on acoustic (excuse the hyperbole). It had it all: chalkboard menus, a self-service water station, and butcher’s paper on the tables! This wasn’t the greasy, grimy, country music type of poboy place that I was used to. This was poboys for millennials. Who was this “Pop,” guy anyway?




Even more questions popped into my head as I looked at the menu hanging from the wall above me. What was this place? I saw the classics, such as catfish, roast beef, and hot sausage, but what were these imposters? Meatball poboy, Nashville hot chicken poboy, red bean falafel poboy, where does it end?! I grew skeptical, but my friends at the table encouraged me to try something new. It was then that I first laid my eyes on the beast of a sandwich known as the Cajun Castro. Pulled pork, ham, cheese, stewed greens, AND fried pickles all on crispy french poboy bread. This wasn’t a cuban, but it wasn’t a poboy either. My curiosity overcame my doubts, and I went for the Castro along with a side of fried okra (you know, to keep things authentic). When it arrived at my table, I started to grow excited. I suppose that my stomach was overpowering my mind, because the juices seeping through that butcher paper containing the sandwich were having me feel some type of way. I peeled back the tape, unwrapped the thing like it was Christmas morning, and took a moment to behold what was in front of me. Forget about whether it was authentic or not, this thing looked GOOD. The crispy loaf gave way to creamy smothered greens that were seemingly struggling to bear the weight of all the meat on top of it. Cheese and fried pickles were on top of that, along with the top piece of the french bread that seemed like it had fully coped with the fact that it was never going to see its bottom half again. This thing was packed, and I dug in. The cajun pork tasted like it had been cooking for hours, and its fattiness was cut perfectly by the bold greens underneath. And despite the overwhelming juiciness, the bread and fried pickles managed to stay crispy enough to provide varied texture. There is a lot to be said for good bread on a poboy. I truly don’t know how, but I finished the thing. The flavors were too good to go to waste. Somehow, amidst all the internal conflict, I knew that I’d have to come back. Poboy or not, this place was too good to pass up. I could keep a secret from my Cajun forefathers, right?

Two weeks passed and I arrived back from my camping trip. It took less than twenty-four hours at home before I found myself looking through Pop’s glass doors once more. This time I was serving as the millennial ambassador to my parents as I led them through this New-Age poboy experience. This time around, I opted for the Hot Hot Chicken Poboy. One of the employees warned me that this Nashville style sandwich would bring the heat, but I was not afraid. Although I am usually skeptical of a restaurant’s judge of spice, this sandwich didn’t hold back. The homemade buttermilk ranch and house pickles cut the spice to the point where I can only describe the sensation in my mouth as, “hurts so good.” My parents were completely on board too after their experience. A Shrimp Bahn Mi Poboy is untraditional, but man, did my mom enjoy it! My dad had similar sentiments after chowing-down on the Cajun Castro, the one that started it all for me. After I realized that my parent’s, true poboy enthusiasts, had an incredible experience eating these non-traditional dishes, I started to wonder: does the tradition even matter?

Pop’s has since become the go-to spot for my friends and I anytime that we find ourselves in Lafayette. The uniqueness is too intriguing to pass up on. From the hamburger poboy with pimento cheese to the cheese fries with spaghetti noodles and pickled onions, I haven’t been led astray. Even their more adventurous weekly specials are a guaranteed home run. In fact, my absolute favorite sandwich from Pop’s is the El Guapo Cochon. Try not to salivate: crispy poboy bread with deep red, pastor style pork, pineapple pico di gallo, a sprinkling of queso fresco, and a little bit of spicy chipotle mayonnaise.

Sinful.

The El Guapo has got the perfect amount of spice, and the pineapple is just bright enough to register on the tastebuds. The queso fresco is a subtle yet crucial sprinkling of cheesy beauty on top. I could eat it every day, but unfortunately it's available only on a rotating weekly basis. With that being said, be sure to check out Pop’s Facebook, they keep it populated with all of their latest creations.



I’ve been an almost shameful amount of times to this place over the past year, and in that time I have achieved a bit of an ideological transformation. I used to believe that Louisiana’s cajun and creole culture is rooted in its ways, unchanging, settled. I thought that a poboy had only a handful of of variations that had been tried and tested over the course of generations. I couldn’t imagine the New Orleans street car workers enjoying a Nashville Hot Chicken version of their beloved sandwich, but this isn’t the late 1800’s. Pop’s has helped me realize that an area’s culture is living, no matter the number of references made to its past. No agent of culinary change would exist without there being an element of disruption, and Pop’s is that nontraditional force. The cajun cookbook is long and venerated, with the poboy claiming one of the largest chapters. But that cookbook is still being written, and I can promise you that Pop’s Poboys in Lafayette, Louisiana will be adding a few pages.

Friday, August 11, 2017

South American Supper: A Private Dinner at Red Stick Spice Co.

by Sophie Spring, intern


Gov't Tacos Chef Aimee Tortorich, Jay Ducote and their culinary team were able to take a break from slinging tacos and focus on the latest Red Stick Spice Company private dinner, South American Supper for 24 lucky guests. The four course meal featured traditional South American foods, with a Bite and Booze twist.

The guests starting arriving around 7, with the tantalizing scent of roasted potatoes filling up the store.

Our first passed course was red snapper ceviche with a crispy fried plantain chip and glasses of bubbly Prosecco. The guests enjoyed this course while perusing the store, allowing them to see all of the delicious oils, vinegars, and spice mixtures Red Stick Spice Co. has to offer.

Photo by: Jordan Hefler Photography

Once the guests were seated it was time for the second course, a seafood paella. Our paella was traditional, using Supreme Rice with saffron, mussels, shrimp, and green peas. The dish was complimented nicely by Jay D’s Blanc du Bois. An added bonus for the guests were the extra prepared mussels that were served family style to each table.

Chef Aimee Tortorich plating the paella. Photo by: Jordan Hefler Photography 
The third course was a real show stopper: Cafeciteaux coffee rubbed tri-tip served over fresh green cilantro chimichurri with a side of creamy paprika roasted potatoes a la plancha. This course was probably the biggest hit of the night. Every plate brought back to the kitchen was licked clean. Our guests enjoyed this course with a glass of robust Malbec.

Photo by: Jordan Hefler Photography

For the dessert course, the culinary team put a spin on traditional tamales, making a dulce de leche tamale served with homemade bananas foster ice cream. The tamales had a subtle sweetness and the bananas foster ice cream melted beautifully over the warm masa. The guests loved this unexpected dessert. Served alongside the tamale was Jay D’s Single Origin Coffee, with a splash of Frangelico hazelnut liqueur and cinnamon whipped cream.

Photo by: Jordan Hefler Photography

The dinner went off seamlessly, thanks to help from Anne and the Red Stick Spice staff there to help us out. After the dinner was over, the team received such great feedback that we were inspired to plan another SOLD OUT Red Stick Dinner, North African Appetite on August 16!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Pico's: A Houston "Mex-Mex" Institution

by Blair Loup

Since establishing Pico’s in 1984, it has become a shining beacon of “Mex-Mex” cuisine in the holy land of Tex-Mex. The Richards family treats their customers like relatives. When you enter the sprawling restaurant you can hear fresh margaritas shaking, smell the hand-pressed tortillas on the flat top and see the genuine smile across the faces of their employees. You can’t have a bad time at Pico’s; they simply won’t allow it.

It’s a large restaurant, but don’t let that fool you. Chef, and owner, Arnaldo Richard has his hand in every dish. The attention to detail that goes in to the flavor built on each plate is extremely authentic. If you’re looking for true Mexican cuisine in the Houston area, you need not look any further.

The depth of flavor isn’t just in the food though. Arnaldo’s daughter Monica Richards is at the helm of their fantastic tequila program. Even the most baseline of margaritas at Pico’s is top-notch. Whether you’re looking to demolish a couple of shakers of their house margaritas or taste from some of Monica’s select barrels, she has taken the time to curate a truly special tequila experience for their guests. The tequila selection alone is a worth the trip.




Jay, Chef Aimee and I have had the pleasure of dining with Monica and visiting with Arnaldo on a couple of occasions and each trip has only made our hearts grow fonder. Here are a few of the best bites and sips we had the last time we were there:




Ontiones Carlos Slim is one dish that I think speaks to the attention to detail and flavor building Arnaldo's cooking is centered around. With this take on Oysters Rockefeller, Arnaldo uses an intricate blend of celery leaf, tarragon, chervil, parsley, herb saint, spinach, collard greens and purslane and tops each bite with cotija and parmesan cheeses.

Ontiones Carlos Slim
Ontiones Carlos Slim



These mussels are sautéed in a white wine and crema sauce with Spanish chorizo and topped with micro cilantro. After we got a hold of their bolilla (similar to French bread) these babies didn't last long. The creaminess of the sauce combined with the flavor of the mussels and the little kick and umami from the chorizo made each one more poppable than the last.


Mejillones a la Gallega



I'm not going to lie. I think about this next dish all the time. In a section on their menu called Al Ajillo you can find some of the tastiest dishes in the whole joint. Ajillo is a condiment in Mexican cuisine that is made by infusing olive oil with dried chilis and fresh sliced garlic for a minimum of 72 hours. It's even more amazing than it sounds. They sauté different types of seafood in this delectable concoction, but my favorite version is the octopus. So tender, it feels like you're biting into a cloud that's soaked in garlic/chile olive oil; insane.

Pulpo Al Ajillo
Pulpo Al Ajillo



Mole holds a very special place in my heart. There's a lot that goes into each mole, but you can always be sure of one thing when it comes to this comforting dish: whoever took the time to make it, undoubtedly stirred in a lot of love. In this case Arnaldo moved me to feelings. The duck fell apart in the rich, decadent mole and the tostones hit the hearty, but sweet notes. I would order this dish again and again.  



Until next time, Pico's! If you're ever in the Houston area, Pico's is a must. Keep a look out for some of their phenomenal tequila dinners as well! 


Thursday, August 3, 2017

A Bonut Baker’s Dozen: Batch 13 Biscuits & Bowls

by Paige Johannessen


Before the new Copeland’s concept opened, the Bite and Booze team had the chance to try out Batch 13 Biscuits & Bowls. If you haven't been by to try the fun and inviting bright yellow restaurant, you're missing out. The menu is certainly different than the other restaurants under the Copeland's name, featuring a “Grab-and-Go” wall lined with salads and bowls, as well as a dine-in option for the guests that want to hang out and enjoy the quirky signage and dozens of succulents.



We had the chance to try a few of their signature menu items as well as grab a "bonut" or thirteen. I wasn’t starving when we made the trek over to Batch 13 so I opted for the “It’s All Greek To Me” lunch bowl. The hummus and vegetables were light and delicious, a perfect refresher for a warm summer afternoon. Not exactly filling for those who want a complete lunch, but could definitely serve as a sharing item for a table.

Herbed hummus, cucumber, feta, mixed tomatoes, olives, roasted peppers, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic reduction sauce and sumac, with lavish chips.

The “Wild Wild (South)West Hot Bowl” was my personal favorite. A rice bowl, served with spicy chunks of chicken, veggies and pickled jalapeños...right up my alley.

Spicy chicken cutlets, pickled cabbage, charred corn, pickled onions, roasted red peppers, pickled jalapeños, black beans, cilantro, warm seasoned rice and Southwest Ranch.

The table favorite was definitely the "Spicy Fried Chicken and Andouille Gravy Smothered Biscuit." This classic spoke to the hearts of all of the Popeye’s lovers out there. Fried chicken and a warm buttermilk biscuit, what else could a South Louisianan need? 

Andouille sausage gravy, fried marinate chicken and Copeland's hot sauce on a toasted buttermilk biscuit.

To cap off the meal we tried a handful of Chef Darryl Smith’s signature creation, the “bonuts.” This fusion of a donut and biscuit is something that could get my wallet in trouble if I lived closer to Batch 13. I recommend the apple cinnamon bonut. It's like a gooey apple pie that is meant to be eaten for breakfast. Glorious.

 
From top left going clockwise: Apple Cinnamon, Hot, Choc & Bacon, Cinnamon Sugar and Glazed bonuts.

Batch 13 Biscuit & Bowls is a must lunch spot for those of you who frequent the Essen/Perkins area. It's quick, convenient and darn good! A great fast-casual breakfast and lunch addition for that part of town.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Jay D’s Backyard BBQ at Tin Roof Brewery

by Sophie Spring, intern

Our Bull Grill from Goodwood Hardware loaded up with meats at Tin Roof Brewing
Our Bull Grill from Goodwood Hardware loaded up with meats at Tin Roof Brewing
photo credit: Jordan Hefler Photography

The Bite & Booze team was excited to throw a Backyard BBQ party at Tin Roof Brewery to help celebrate the release of their new Watermelon Wheat. The day started early, cleaning ice chests, loading red beans and Supreme Rice into the Goodwood Hardware trailer, lugging heavy cast iron pots to the brewery, cooking up cheese sauce and slicing smoked sausages. Aimee and Therese planned the schedule for smoking the chicken, ribs and sausage days in advance. The pimento cheese sauce was made with love the morning of the event, proportions of rice and beans and seasonings were calculated carefully, and lists of supplies covered tables in the office.


What was on the menu for the event, you ask? Tender, fall of the bone ribs, juicy smoked chicken, and flavorful sausage. The trio of meat was accompanied by impossibly creamy pimento mac and cheese, dirty rice and BBQ beans.

Chef Aimee Tortorich shows off some Jay D's smoked ribs!
Chef Aimee Tortorich shows off some Jay D's smoked ribs!
photo credit: Jordan Hefler Photography

All of which was served with an iconic slice of white bread to sop up all the juices that gather in the bottom of the red checkered trough used to serve our “Full Monty” (a plate of all three meats and each of the sides). The team used Jay D’s Spicy & Sweet BBQ Rub to season the meats, Louisiana Barbecue Sauce to mop the meats as we finished them on the grill and Louisiana Molasses Mustard and barbecue sauce were available for dipping and slathering.

The weather was perfect for the event, sun shining and clear skies. It was the ideal day to relax in the yard at Tin Roof Brewery, Watermelon Wheat in one hand a smoked BBQ rib in the other. As we anticipated, the “Full Monty” was our best seller. No one wanted to miss out on any of the meats or sides. We were so happy with the turnout, it felt like there was an endless line of people from the start to when we sold out of meat.

Sophie Spring and Chuck P. scooping the Supreme Rice dirty rice for service
Sophie Spring and Chuck P. scooping the Supreme Rice dirty rice for service
photo credit: Jordan Hefler Photography

The team was running back and forth with hot trays of ribs and sausage, using paddles to scoop steamy dirty rice into hotel pans, pulling BBQ beans out and rushing to get them to our customers.

Sold out BBQ!
Sold out BBQ! photo credit: Jordan Hefler Photography

The food was gone before we knew it, and at the end of the night all we had left was the bottom of the pot of dirty rice and BBQ beans. Overall, the event was a success: beer, BBQ, and a good time!