Make sure to schedule a night out on April 28th for Dining out for Life!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In Pizza We Trust

by Daniel Harris

First, a haiku:

Pizza, so yummy
I could eat it all the time
I love you, pizza

Here at Bite and Booze, we believe pizza is less a food and more a way of life. #Pizzaluminati

Some like it simple, maybe just cheese or pepperoni, and others like to throw on so many toppings you can barely see the cheese. Despite how you enjoy your pizza, you’ll love to feast your eyes on a few of our recent pizza pics.

Il Forno a Legna

mcallen pizza
Shrimp, smoked salmon, mushroom, mozzarella, parsley pizza at Il Forno in McAllen, Texas.

Jay D’s Barbecue Chicken Pizza

jay ducote pizza recipe
Jay D's Barbecue Chicken Pizza

Frank's Pizza Napoletana

frank's shreveport
Crawfish lagniappe pizza from Frank's in Shreveport


Dat'z Italian

datz italian
Wood-fired pizza from Dat'z Italian at the Baton Rouge Blues Fest

Red Zeppelin

Jay D’s Barbecue Venison Pizza

Monday, April 25, 2016

Photo Essay: A look at Santo Domingo's Mercado Modelo

by Blair Loup

I recently ate and drank my way through Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, and while at times things were very foreign to me, most of the time it felt a lot like home. It was hot, humid and I almost always had a beer in my hand.

The Mercado Modelo is full of interesting characters and beautiful produce. I had a few bites, got proposed to and snapped some gorgeous pictures.

Below you'll find a visual tour of the market. Be on the lookout for a post on all my experiences in the Dominican Republic!

Plantain carts and motorcycles. This is Santo Domingo.
Plantain carts and motorcycles. This is Santo Domingo.

Habaneros with a side of Eggplant
Habaneros with a side of eggplant.

Peppers & Potatoes
Peppers and potatoes.

Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts.
Yucca is almost guaranteed to be on every table in the Dominican Republic.
Yucca is almost guaranteed to be on every table in the Dominican Republic.

Salted Fish
Salted fish.

Drying Flowers
Drying flowers hang in nearly every booth.

Assorted hanging meats.

Bottles full of roots are strung up all over. Pour rum inside and you'll have Mamajuana, a local aphrodisiac.
Bottles full of roots are strung up all over. Pour rum inside and you'll have Mamajuana, a local aphrodisiac.

While this man hacked heads of cabbage into slaw at an alarming rate, he also took the time to propose.  We haven't set a date yet.
While this man hacked heads of cabbage into slaw at an alarming rate, he also took the time to propose.
We haven't set a date yet.

4ft. tall cinnamon sticks. No joke.
4ft. tall cinnamon sticks. No joke.

Seeds and fresh eggs.
Seeds and fresh eggs.

Flowers, grass reeds and palm leaves.
Flowers, grass reeds and palm leaves.

The prettiest beans in all the land.
The prettiest beans in all the land.

The cashew fruit.
The cashew fruit.

Bird's Eye chilis.
Bird's Eye chilis.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Louisiana Saturday Morning: We've Got Your Brunch Plans Right Here

by Sydney Blanchard

If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then brunch is the most important meal of the weekend.

I don't know if it's a generational thing or a gay thing, but my friends and I are constantly brunching, and I think I've pinpointed why.

Brunch foods can be savory or sweet, healthy or gluttonous, drinking is optional (but encouraged), and food always tastes better when you eat it after waking up late after a night out partying. 

In fact, I can't think of any reason not to love brunch.

Below you'll find some perfect Louisiana brunch options for the weekend. Where is your favorite brunch spot?

Mason's Grill Baton Rouge

Mason's is probably Baton Rouge's most beloved brunch spot, and with endless menu items (including the famous breakfast burger, pictured) and $5 bottomless mimosas, it's easy to see why. On Saturday and Sunday mornings and afternoons, the place is packed, so get there early to beat the crowd.

Barcadia Baton Rouge

Barcadia Baton Rouge's fried chicken and pancakes

Relatively new to the brunch scene, Barcadia near LSU has been knocking brunch out of the park with breakfast tacos and $3 Bloody Marys and Mimosas. While you wait for your food, hit up the retro arcade games that line the restaurant.

City Pork Deli & Charcuterie Baton Rouge

This particular photo is from City Pork Kitchen & Pie, but don't get it twisted: only City Pork Deli & Charcuterie offers a weekend brunch menu. The grits bowl is the way to go, paired with a Vietnamese iced coffee or a mimosa if you're feeling frisky.

Coffee Call Baton Rouge

If beignets and coffee don't constitute as brunch to you, you're wrong and I feel very sorry for you. I often forget Coffee Call is open in daylight hours, but it is, and I'm thinking I need to become a regular.

Table Kitchen & Bar Baton Rouge

You may not even be aware Table Kitchen & Bar has a brunch, but they do, and recently Jay and Rue Rusike got to try brunch there. They've got options like tomato pie and pecan pancakes and the classic shrimp and grits, oh my!

District Donuts New Orleans

A smorgasbord of donuts at District Donuts in New Orleans

Yes, they serve up some of the most delicious donuts in the city with creative, Insta-worthy toppings. But did you know that beyond donuts District has killer brunch items? Try their griddle donut sandwiches or one of their pork belly or fried chicken sliders. Your tummy will thank you.

Lüke New Orleans

Fruit sorbet at Lüke in New Orleans

John Besh's Lüke in New Orleans, an ode to the Franco-German brasseries of old, has always treated us well. Brunch on the pain perdu or the fried chicken and tabasco honey biscuit sandwich, and you'll be a happy camper.

Johnson's Boucanière Lafayette

One of Lafayette's most beloved spots, Johnson's Boucanière is probably better known as BBQ spot, but they serve up Cajun breakfast in the mornings, including build-your-own biscuits and nénaine's special, a boudin stuffed grilled cheese on a biscuit served with in-house BBQ sauce.

Marilynn's Place Shreveport

North Louisianians can't get enough of Marilynn's Place, a New Orleans style eatery with an irreverent atmosphere that's rare in this part of the state. Patrons prefer the MP Sunday brunch to church, and with knock-out drink specials and lavish options like bananas foster French toast, it's easy to see why.

Jack Daniels Bar & Grill Lake Charles

The Sunday Whiskey Brunch at L'Auberge Lake Charles' Jack Daniels Bar includes live music and a whiskey milk punch that'll knock your socks off. Chef Lyle Broussard consistently kills it with South Louisiana takes on traditional brunch items, and it's something to taste to believe. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

8 Delicious Reasons You Should Get On Our Mailing List

by Sydney Blanchard

table setting

As you may or may not have heard, Jay and the Bite and Booze team have been hosting small intimate multi-course dinners for up to 12 people, and it's been a blast so far.

The way it works is this: we plan an incredible menu, usually centered around a theme. We create an Eventbrite page and share it with a small group of insiders, people who have attended our previous events.

Then, if we have tickets left, we'll send an email out to our newsletter subscribers letting them get in on the action. If we still have tickets left after that, we resort to social media.

The week of the event, we email ticket holders the location of the dinner.

It's kind of exclusive, and kind of secretive, and that's what makes it so much fun. You never know who else you might be dining with!

So go ahead and sign up for our newsletter to get the inside scoop on upcoming dinners. We hope to see you there!

bloody mary
Bloody Mary from our Valentine's Day Brunch

deviled egg
Jay D's Molasses Deviled Egg topped with picked shrimp

soda bread
Soda bread from our St. Patrick's Day Dinner

Smoked sausage and sweet potato hash from our Valentine's Day Brunch

blood orange
Blood Orange sorbet palate cleanser from Rue Rusike's Forage & Cook dinner

chocolate cake
Chocolate molten cake with figs and edible flowers from the Forage & Cook dinner

pork chop
Pork chop and colcannon at the St. Patrick's Day Dinner

Dominican style red beans and rice with stewed chicken and fried plantains, from a private dinner

Monday, April 18, 2016

Endless Inspiration in the Rio Grande Valley: Jay’s Take on Everything Edible in McAllen, Texas

by Jay D. Ducote

I knew very little of the Rio Grande Valley when Trisha Watts, a representative of the McAllen Convention and Visitors Bureau, invited me to go there for a media trip. These days, I find myself more and more on the receiving end of invitations to travel for food and beverage while at the same time being less and less available to make those trips happen. Sometimes I truly don’t have the space on my calendar, and sometimes I just don’t feel like it will be worth my time. But McAllen felt different from the beginning.

Shishito Peppers, Sweet Onions, Toasted Garlic, Sea Salt, Aioli at Bodega Tavern & Kitchen in McAllen
Shishito peppers, sweet onions, toasted garlic, sea salt, aioli at Bodega Tavern & Kitchen in McAllen

In 2014 I emceed the Great American Seafood Cook-off at the convention center in New Orleans along with Chef Cory Bahr from Restaurant Cotton in Monroe and TV star Anthony Anderson. While there, fighting back a hangover from the pre-party the night before with a microphone in my hand, I had the pleasure of meeting chefs from around the country who were competing for the seafood title. One of those chefs, representing the State of Texas, was Larry Delgado. His Texas Gulf shrimp tostada took home second place in the cook-off, but even more appetizing was the way he genuinely seemed happy to be there, bringing friends and family with him to have a good time, soaking in the experiences and representing his state with honor.

Great American Seafood Cookoff
Jay, Cory and Anthony at the Great American Seafood Cookoff

Larry’s restaurant, Salt: New American Table, is in McAllen, Texas, and despite growing up in Texas, I had never been to or even heard of McAllen.

I had to do some research to find it on a map: in the Rio Grande Valley, on the Mexican border, and about an hour drive inland from the place they locally refer to as “The Island,” South Padre Island. I was raised at deer camps around Cotulla, a few hours drive south of San Antonio. I thought that was south Texas.

carrot rita
Carrot-rita: jalapeño cilantro infused tequila, carrot juice, orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice and cilantro simple syrup

The Rio Grande Valley occupies vast, flat lands of deep south Texas, on the fertile flood plains of the region’s namesake river. It is a cradle of culture, as American as apple pie yet as Mexican as menudo. People are genuine, friendly, and passionate.

McAllen, the second largest city in the valley after Brownsville on the coast, sits near the Rio Grande River across from Reynosa, Mexico. The influences of Mexico are present at every turn. The population, largely hispanic, clearly has ties to the other side of the border.

There are taco stands on most corners, especially since one of the more well-known taco chains operates out of gas station convenience stores called Stripes. A few years back, the Laredo Taco Company ran a promotion to come up with a new breakfast taco by having local radio stations compete to come up with the best recipe. The Q, 94.5 (KFRQ) in Harlingen, Texas, won, and the Q-taco was born. The combination of potato, egg, cheese, and refried beans on a soft flour tortilla proved to be a hit. Still, locals will advise you to order your Q-taco with the addition of bacon. So I did just that. For a gas station taco, that thing was legendary.

Breakfast tacos from Tortilleria Emmanuel in McAllen, TX
Breakfast tacos from Tortilleria Emmanuel in McAllen, TX

On a breakfast taco tour of McAllen, Trisha brought Blair, my Chief Confusion Coordinator and Spin Doctor, and I on a gastronomically challenging journey to the best taco spots. We inquired about whether there existed a definitive guide to the best tacos in the valley, and upon hearing nothing like that existed, we volunteered for the job. However, that would have to be saved for a later trip. On this excursion, we visited Ms. G’s Tacos & More, Laredo Taco Company inside Stripes, El Pato Mexican Food and Tortilleria Emmanuel. We ate too much, undoubtedly, but it was worth it.

Many places throughout Texas stake claim to the breakfast taco. Most notably, Austin and San Antonio almost go to war over it. If you’re interested, read this article from Texas Monthly. However, if you read deeply even in that article, you’ll see McAllen mentioned. Deep south Texas, right at the Mexican border, also claims to be the originator of the breakfast taco. The originals include beans and eggs. Everything else such as bacon, cheese, sausage, and more, are lagniappe.

Hangar steak, fingerlings, hominy, manchego crisp, jammy tomato vinaigrette, local greens from Bodega Tavern & Kitchen
Hangar steak, fingerlings, hominy, manchego crisp, jammy tomato vinaigrette, local greens
from Bodega Tavern & Kitchen

Blair and I ate at several restaurants in McAllen that impressed us. Blair previously documented her favorite bites of food from the trip on the blog. Beyond the restaurants themselves, perhaps what impressed me the most was the sense of culinary community in the Rio Grande Valley. Many chefs really view it as their mission to raise the bar for cuisine there, to elevate from their rustic heritage to modern American cuisine that is still true to its south Texas roots.

One of those chefs is Adam Cavazos, owner and executive chef at Bodega Tavern & Kitchen. Adam is from the area and is on a mission to create a culinary identity for the Valley. Bodega is a new, beautifully built out restaurant with an open area patio out front despite being in a shopping center. On the inside there’s a massive window looking into a charcuterie aging room that used to be an aquarium. Adam’s menu reflects his pride in being local and seasonal.

Like several other places I visited in McAllen, Bodega boasted a nice selection of Texas craft beer as well as specialty cocktails. The drinks utilized seasonal ingredients while celebrating the spirit of local libations. We undoubtedly drank some good margaritas in the Valley, but the adult beverages didn’t stop there. Whiskey and vodka focused cocktails were also very popular, and the Texas Ruby Red grapefruit played a key role in the citrus offerings.

Panna Cotta from Chef Marcel at Lunchbox on 10th
Panna Cotta from Chef Marcel at Lunchbox on 10th

Over at Lunchbox on 10th, Dutch Chef Marcel Fortuin cooks inspired food. Part cooking instructor, part fine dining chef, and part nourisher of souls, Chef Marcel has a way with food. His panna cotta is one of the most divine dishes to ever lace my taste buds. The perfectly creamy gelatin-molded vanilla cream played music on my tongue. Never have I tasted anything quite like it.

On our last day in McAllen my trip came full circle, bringing me back to Chef Larry Delgado. The chef I’d met a year before in New Orleans represented why I wanted to visit McAllen in the first place. That particular Wednesday in February was dubbed Larry Delgado Day as I tried to convince Blair of the amazing food journey we were about to enjoy. Larry has two restaurants in McAllen; his first, House Wine and Bistro, started as a wine bar with food and developed into a restaurant with wine. There, Blair had her first taste of escargot and, after stuffing myself with an endless array of dishes, I couldn’t help but devour an amazing apple tart with cheddar ice cream.

For dinner we ate the meal I had eagerly awaited. The more I look forward to some dining experiences, the more they have a chance to disappoint. On this occasion, there was a slight concern that I’d overhyped Larry Delgado Day to Blair and in my own head.

jay ducote
Chef Larry Delgado (left), Jay Ducote, and Chef Adam Cavazos 

We arrived at Salt, a gorgeous restaurant with natural wood, brick, stained concrete and lighting that evokes a sense of place and comfort. We sat at a long table underneath portraits of nearby farms adorning a dusk-blue wall. I looked out over the restaurant to the open kitchen with a team of talented young culinarians running the restaurant without Chef Delgado in site. He was running a bit behind, but he wouldn’t be going to the kitchen upon his arrival. His plan was to sit at the table and have dinner with us, along with his wife, Jessica, Trisha from the McAllen CVB, and Gaby Jones, a local craft beer rep.

Compart Duroc bacon wrapped sweet breads, habanero glaze, fingerling potatoes, morels, chanterelles from Salt
Compart Duroc bacon wrapped sweet breads, habanero glaze, fingerling potatoes, morels, chanterelles from Salt

The kitchen sent out dish after dish. With a round of appetizers at the table including the above pictured bacon wrapped sweetbreads with a habanero glaze, fingerling potatoes, morels and chanterelles, I quickly discovered I had no need to fear disappointment. This meal would live up to my expectations. After a few cocktails and the appetizers, Chef Larry and Jessica joined the party. They had been at a meeting with the City of McAllen talking about branding the city into the future. The Delgados don’t simply run their restaurants, but they are also leaders in the community and directors of the Rio Grande Valley chapter of the Texas Chefs Association.

We continued to eat, drink and be merry while chatting about the food of the Valley and how Larry’s restaurants came to be. We dined on the single best pork chop that I’ve ever had in my life, steak that melted in my mouth, and fried chicken that had been deboned and sous vide. Salt impressed the hell out of me, and given my lofty expectations, that blew me away even more.

My tour of the Rio Grande Valley and specifically McAllen felt authentic. People were genuine, happy to see me, happy to be seen, and sincere in their appreciation of home. I drank beers with great people, ate some of the best value tacos I’ve ever had, and enjoyed several truly memorable meals. McAllen delivered everything I’d want to make me want to go back. Next time, though, I’ll be prepared to do even more research on the best tacos, and I’ll keep some tricks up my sleeve for Gov’t Taco!