Thursday, January 29, 2015

All Your Favorite Balls [Ranked by a Boudin Ball Expert]

Boudin Balls on Boudin Balls.
Boudin Balls on Boudin Balls.
– by Sydney "Brown Nose" Blanchard, intern

It may not seem obvious, but here at Bite and Booze, we work hard. 

Day in and day out, we shovel mountains of food into our face holes, forcing down bite after agonizing bite, analyzing and articulating flavor, texture and taste. 

Eating and drinking Louisiana's best food and beverages is not for those of weak constitutions. Just ask me. I can't hang.

"In the three weeks I have interned at Bite and Booze, I have overeaten to the point of vomiting twice." 
 We make it look easy, but it's grueling. And someone's gotta do it.

That's why we decided to get to the bottom of one of Baton Rouge's most pressing matters. Not higher education budget cuts, not our quickly-deteriorating ecosystem, not the salt-water intrusion threatening to cause the collapse of the city as we know it.

We decided to investigate Baton Rouge's Best Boudin Balls.

Baton Rouge has a number of delectable balls in an astonishing range of shapes, textures and sizes.
And they're all beautiful, each and every one. And that's says a lot coming from me.

We rounded up seven of our favorite balls from across the city, and left the deciding up to one man.

Mr. Loup (progenitor of Blair Loup, Bite and Booze's Chief Confusion Coordinator) is a mustachioed, Opelous-born, Sulphur-raised Southern gentleman. Having grown up in "Boudin Country" and being accustomed to eating the best boudin the world has to offer, we felt Mr. Loup would be the perfect person to rank Baton Rouge ball scene. As an extra qualifier, he had never once eaten a Baton Rouge boudin ball before, so his opinion ethically lacked any preconceived notions.

Jay, Blair and I spent an afternoon venturing across the city to the restaurants listed below, acquiring an order of boudin balls at each location. At Blair's apartment, we incubated our boudin babies under a heat lamp to keep them warm, and had Mr. Loup do a blind taste test. Perfectly scientific.

Here's what he came up with. Now go out and eat!

7. Dempsey's, 13580 Coursey Blvd.

Dempsey's is one of our favorite eateries, but Mr. Loup wasn't too keen on their boudin balls. He observed that these were some of the smallest balls. They were light in color, tinged maybe yellow or orange, and had a fair amount of rice inside. Overall, according to Mr. Loup, "There's not really much to say."

Ranking: *

6. Beausoleil Restaurant and Bar, 7731 Jefferson Hwy.

Beausoleil is newer to the game, and they bring a certain style to boudin balls. These balls were more cylindrical than round. Mr. Loup noted they were finely ground on the inside, but bland for his taste. In fact, he said in comparison, "There's no taste to them." However, after the taste test, we all tried them with the red bean puree which accompanies the balls at the restaurant, and Mr. Loup agreed that the puree added something unique to these balls.

Ranking: **

5. Ronnie's Boudin & Cracklins, 9830 Florida Blvd.

Ronnie's is a Baton Rouge institution. Mr. Loup first commented on the fullness of these balls. He pointed out they were more brown than gold and were more finely ground. These balls are huge, and Mr. Loup picked up on the heavier pork flavor of these balls. But Mr. Loup didn't like how finely ground they were as they were lacking the internal texture of the whole grain rice.

Ranking: **

4. Bergeron's, 790 Highway 415 in Port Allen

Outside the Baton Rouge city limits, actually, across the Mighty Mississippi, lies Bergeron's. Mr. Loup instantly became a fan of Bergeron's boudin ball crust. He again wasn't in love with how finely ground the boudin was, and he felt it needed more green onion. Overall he felt this one was somewhat bland compared to the others. 

Ranking: ***

3. The Chimes East, 10870 Coursey Blvd.

Chimes is a local staple, and they're known for the boudin balls on their appetizer menu. The liver flavor was predominant in these balls, according to Mr. Loup. He liked that he could see the grains of rice in the ball, just like real boudin. The pepper flavor was there, but not overwhelming. He also felt, aesthetically, this was one of the best looking balls. 

Ranking: ****

2. Tony's Seafood, 5215 Plank Road

Much to Jay and Blair's glee, Mr. Loup ranked Tony's balls second in the lineup. It has been well-documented that Tony's boudin balls are the only thing Blair lives for. Mr. Loup said these smaller boudin balls resembled marshmallows, and said the taste was better than the previous balls. He liked that they were crunchy and peppery, and they were easy to eat for on-the-go consumption. 

Ranking: ****

1. Days Smokehouse & Specialty Meats, 35770 Old La Highway 16 in Denham Springs

Days Smokehouse out in Denham/Watson came out on top. Mr. Loup ranked it No. 1 mainly because of the smoky flavor. They are darker in color than some of the other balls, and again, he noted their fullness and robust size. He thought the flavors were great, and that they were just spicy enough for him.

Ranking: *****

Baton Rouge's Best Boudin Balls
Baton Rouge's Best Boudin Balls

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Come to Lock & Key Tonight: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Lock & Key

Evan Williams Single Barrel

I'll be at the Lock & Key Whiskey Bar  tonight for a little in-person Whisk(e)y Wednesday! The bar will be offering a special Louisville-Bardstown-Frankfurt flight with Willett 2 year Rye, EH Taylor Single Barrel, and Evan Williams Single Barrel for $18. You can of course also try anything else from their vast collection any of the happy hour cocktails (until 7). Go ahead and plan to join us for Whisk(e)y Wednesday Flight Night tonight, Wednesday, January 28th, from 6-8 PM. 

Myrna from Roux Wine Tours and I will be there to drink some bourbon, tell you about a fantastic trip we're planning for July, and just have a good time! Speaking of the trip, we are going to tour Bourbon Country from July 9-13, 2015! We'll be staying in Louisville and taking day trips to Bardstown and Frankfurt. We're going to be doing the trip in true Bite and Booze style with VIP tours, excellent meals, and nobody has to drive! You can get more information tonight at Lock & Key or you can enter your email address at the link above.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cultivar Wine Club: The kind of cult you want to join

Pouring the Cultivar Wines 2012 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
Pouring the Cultivar Wines
2012 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

Recently, team Bite and Booze joined the Cultivar Wine Club. This winery out of Napa Valley will send their club shipment to your doorstep quarterly. This month I received two of Cultivar's new releases: the 2012 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 Oak Knoll Chardonnay. Use code CultivarWineBiteAndBooze for 10% off your purchase on

Sous Vide Duck Legs over Sweet Potato,  Roasted Brussels Sprout, and Andouille Hash
Sous Vide Duck Legs over Sweet Potato,
Roasted Brussels Sprout, and Andouille Hash

The Howell Mountain Cabernet was overwhelmingly delectable. I could drink this wine on a regular basis. With a dark fruit nose, the flavor profile touches earthy and smoky notes. The Howell Mountain paired perfectly the sous vide duck legs over sweet potato, roasted Brussels sprouts, and Andouille hash I prepared for a private dinner recently.

Cultivar Wines 2013 Oak Knoll Chardonnay
Cultivar Wines 2013 Oak Knoll Chardonnay

Blackened Catfish over Smoked Gouda Grits topped with Pickled Jalapeño Relish
Blackened Catfish over Smoked Gouda Grits topped with
Pickled Jalapeño Relis

The Oak Knoll Chardonnay, while aged in French oak barrels, turned out to be less oaky than I anticipated. It hits notes that I would usually look for in a Sauvignon Blanc: pear, citrus, and grass. I’d pair this wine with something the blackened catfish dish I prepared the other night. The catfish blackened in butter and laid on a bed of smoked gouda grits brought out the oaky notes of the Chardonnay. To kick the acid profile of the wine back up, I topped the fish with a pickled jalapeño relish.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dori Murvin: Sorceress of Service

Almost everyone has a connection to the service industry. Whether you're a frequent restaurant diner or a former (or current for that matter) service industry employee, you are surely aware that there are some people who dedicate their lives to making each of your restaurant experiences memorable. We see general managers doing table visits and celebrated chefs with write ups in magazines, but there are others that pump blood through the restaurant industry.

After being laid off during a large corporate buyout with Maison Blanche, accountant Dori Murvin began waiting tables at the old Colonel's Club where Chelsea's Café currently sits in Baton Rouge. Six months into the game, Murvin moved up to bartending. A year in, she was managing. Dori moved to Mansur's to fill in for a couple of months and ended up working there for 5 years where she fell in love with wine and began handling their wine program. After that, she helped whip the Camelot Club's wine program in to shape and worked with Chef Peter Sclafani at Ruffino's with their new wine dinner program at the time. Further along in her career she worked at Fleming's as their wine director.

Dori Murvin
Dori Murvin Enjoys a Glass of Wine

Over the years, the bond Dori formed with players throughout the industry began to turn into something more. She and some of her friends started talking about creating a wine round-table to better the dining experiences offered in Baton Rouge. They wanted to help gain buying power for the market to bring in wines not typically seen in the city. Talks turned to action thus producing the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society. The organization is known for their glorious events, such as Fête Rouge, that raise money to be poured directly back into the community. Each fête is a competition, and with Dori Murvin as one of the founders, there is most definitely a Fête du Vin. She is in charge of getting the wine flights prepared for tasting, contacting teams to taste each wine, and more recently has expanded the the event to include local sommeliers to help further educate the tasters and enhance their experience. 

She worked at a few more restaurants along the way until one fateful evening when she attended a friends and family night at the newly opened Beausoleil Restaurant and Bar. It was love at first sip. "Jeff (the general manager) went and grabbed some of [chef] Nathan's gnocchi and I tried it with the pinot and said, 'I have to work here.'" At the time Conaway couldn't offer her a management position, but Murvin believed in the food so much she offered to return to a server position for the opportunity to work at the new, inspired eatery. She showed up for work the following Tuesday in 2010 and the rest is history. "I love working here. The food's good, the wine's good, it's just a good place. I don't have a poker face, I have to work somewhere I believe in." Now serving as the Front of the House Manager and Wine Director at Beausoleil, Dori dedicates herself to keeping Beausoleil on the cutting edge of the local dining scene. She also does wine consulting for other programs in the city and is still heavily involved in all aspects of the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society. 

Dori Murvin is a strong, in-charge female who has been consistently killing it in the Baton Rouge service industry for years. Discovering her love of fine wines along the way ended up being a stepping stone that lead to being one of the founders of an extremely charitable organization in the capital city. The Baton Rouge service industry needs more passionate people like Dori who dedicate themselves to the making fine cuisine and wines approachable and elevating our food culture.

This posts is part of a new monthly series spotlighting Louisiana women in the business of booze. Previous features include:
Natalie Parbhoo: Duchess of Distribution
Lindsay Nations: Baroness of Beer

Friday, January 23, 2015

Bite and Booze devours the #SoMes!

Jay and Logan go over the script for the SoMes
Jay and Logan go over the script for the SoMes
Yesterday evening in Baton Rouge may have been a little dreary, but I didn't let that keep me from having a good time! Blair, my Chief Confusion Coordinator, and I fought Baton Rouge traffic for the half-a-mile trip from our office to the Pelican House. With a Gnarly Barley Radical RyePA in one hand I joined my fellow emcee Logan Leger in some script reading, preparing ourselves to host the show. We came up with some good material about trimming beards, Logan's perpetual use of Twitter to talk about LSU Football as if somebody out there cares what he thinks, and my status as a "local celebrity." 

As the show got on the road I ordered a Tin Roof Juke Joint IPA and took to the stage. The crowd that gathered at the Pelican House for the fourth annual #SoMes turned out to be a great one. The audience anxiously awaited the results as the award committee and Baton Rouge Social Media Association board members were introduced. The #SoMes are awards given out for excellence in social media. They cover a broad range of categories from non-profit campaigns to viral pictures. Bite and Booze actually wound up being a finalist in the "Consistently Social" category, an award given out for having the brand which most consistently posts relevant content across multiple social media platforms. I handed out the first award to Visit Baton Rouge, then Logan presented the "Consistently Social" award to... Bite and Booze!

Blair holds up the Consistently Social award for Bite and Booze!
Blair holds up the Consistently Social award for Bite and Booze!

As the emcee, I really hadn't also prepared for a victory in the awards. At previous #SoMes celebrations I had lost out in similar categories to the likes of Raising Cane's and Community Coffee. This year I was up against Abita Beer and Visit Baton Rouge, both with over 100,000 Facebook likes as well as The Advocate, now the state's largest print newspaper. I'm extremely grateful to have been recognized for the work that Bite and Booze does on social media. Obviously the blog itself and the podcast version of the Bite and Booze Radio Show are both forms of new media, but our social media channels themselves, specifically Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are definitely active in celebrating the culinary culture of Baton Rouge, the State of Louisiana, and anywhere I travel. I also want to give a shout out to Blair Loup, my previously mentioned Chief Confusion Coordinator, for all her hard work this year helping me manage all of the Bite and Booze social media channels. Her Instagram skillz, in particular, are on fleek.

Thanks to everyone who voted and congratulations to the rest of the winners. We actually also took home a People's Choice award at the end of the night as well thanks to tweets during the show. It turns out the Visit Baton Rouge also earned the People's Choice award for votes cast during the online voting period, so we both won twice! Thanks to the Baton Rouge Social Media Association for inviting me and Logan to host the event. We had a great night!

Jay gives his acceptance speech at the #SoMes
Jay gives his acceptance speech at the #SoMes - photo credit to @BRSocMe