Join us at The Truck, the Brewer, and the Blogger IV Pop-Up Dinner on January 20th!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Blackberry Bourbon Boston Butt Airs On WBRZ

Today I took over the lunch-time airwaves of Baton Rouge's WBRZ to show off the "Blackberry Bourbon Bone-in Boston Butt" recipe that is representing LSU in the Tony Chachere's Tailgating Cook-off on Comcast Sports South.  John Pastorek and I had a chance to chat about the contest, the recipe, and how to vote.  Check it out below!



NOW THAT YOU'RE HUNGRY, MAKE SURE TO VOTE BY CLICKING HERE!!!

Please remember that you can vote an UNLIMITED amount of times.  There is no daily limit.  Vote now, vote tomorrow, and vote again multiple times every day until November 5th!  Just make sure that you click the "Vote for LSU" link under the video and not the play button itself, that way it will reload the video and count multiple votes! Also, please share this or the voting page with all of your friends on Twitter, Facebook, email, or any other means that you have.  Thanks!








Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Interview with DeathValleyVoice.com

While on campus during the LSU vs McNeese State tailgating festivities, I had the pleasure of walking around campus with Van Lathan of DeathValleyVoice.com.  Van and I happened to be doing a little pre-game interview as the Tigers came walking down the hill.  Check it out!  Also, will somebody please teach me how to Dougie?  And thanks to Tommy and Gino for their help with the filming and production.


The Third Row Flagpole on 10.2.10
Bookmark and Share

Thursday, October 21, 2010

ON CAMPUS: Tailgating for LSU vs. McNeese

For LSU vs McNeese State on October 16th I found the S.H.A.R.T. (Smashed Hicks and Rowdy Tricks) Tailgating krewe on Tower Drive where they fried up some turkeys.  Then I made my way to the corner of Tower and South Stadium where KOTD (Kreme of Them Dudes) was cooking up a Rainbow Stew.  Enjoy!



Make sure to check us out again for the Alabama game on November 6th!  If you want to be featured, make sure to enter the Southern BBQ Sauce Bar-B-Que Locker Contest right here on Bite and Booze!

Schedule:
Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Red Stick Red Sauce: Spaghetti and Meatballs in Baton Rouge

This article has been published in the October 2010 issue of Town Favorites Magazine. You can visit the Town Favorites website at http://www.townfavorites.com/, follow them on Twitter @TownFavorites, and find their magazines at over 150 restaurants and businesses around Baton Rouge! Pick up a copy today!


Red Stick Red Sauce: Spaghetti and Meatballs in Baton Rouge

by Jay D. Ducote

Baton Rouge may not be well known for its Italian food.  The capital city is more renowned for its Cajun influences, seafood, and its Greek and Lebanese scene than it is for true Italian.  Sure, you can find some great locally owned pizza joints, but they don’t quite do the trick when you are really after the perfect plate of Italian red sauce.  However, it doesn’t take too much searching around before you find some local chefs that really know their pastas.  Indeed, the quintessential Italian dish to try before all else is spaghetti and meatballs.  If you find an Italian restaurant that makes a satisfactory tomato sauce, or “red gravy”, and an equally delicious seasoned meatball, chances are you’ll like the rest of their menu as well.  If the spaghetti and meatballs fall short of your expectations, then heed the warning that you may not enjoy the lasagna or eggplant parmesan either.

Baton Rouge’s long standing icon of Italian cuisine is Gino’s Restaurant.  The establishment is hidden off of College Drive but everybody who knows food in Baton Rouge knows exactly where to find it.  They have often been voted by multiple polls and publications as the best Italian food in the city, so I thought it would be only natural to start there for some meatballs.

My trip to Gino’s involved a dinner to celebrate my birthday.  My brother Eric, sister Dana, father Jere, and his significant other Donna came along with me to indulge in the rich Italian sauces.  Everybody ordered their own thing, but I made certain to put in an order of spaghetti and meatballs as an appetizer for the table to share.  Gino Marino, the proprietor, chatted with me about the restaurant and the meatballs for a few minutes.  The meatballs themselves are the same recipe that dates back over 40 years and are still hand rolled by Grace “Mama” Marino.  Vincent and Grace Marino came to the United States from Sicily with their children in 1951.  The restaurant was first established on Perkins Road in 1966 but moved to its current Bennington Avenue location in 1975.  To this day, Gino’s is still 100% family owned and operated which is something that I really like when seeking out a restaurant.

Spaghetti and Meatballs at Gino's
The dimly lit dining room provided a lovely atmosphere for an evening of edible enjoyment.  We soon had salads, some wine, and a couple loaves of the famous Laurence Bread as we waited on the meatballs.  Gino’s red sauce is a slightly sweet marinara that tastes great while not overpowering the dish like some sweeter sauces can do.  The spaghetti had an ideal noodle texture for meatballs.  Sometimes I like an al dente noodle, but with meatballs thoroughly cooked pasta is preferable.  Finally, the meatball itself had excellent flavor and one could tell it had been crafted with love by Mama Marino.  All of the main ingredients combined masterfully on the plate to create a dish that made we want to sample more of Gino’s cuisine.  The spaghetti and meatballs easily passed my “first course at an Italian restaurant” test.

Maggio's Delicatessen and Catering
Switching gears from Gino’s, I tried to find a new Italian spot that also did things the right way.  Baton Rouge has a handful of good, local, established restaurants with Italian dishes such as Pinetta’s, DiGiulio Brothers, Monjuni’s, and Ruffino’s; but I wanted to get off the beaten path.  On Old Hammond Highway I found Chef and Restaurateur Mark Maggio at his newly opened Maggio’s Delicatessen and Catering.  Mark is no stranger to the Baton Rouge food scene.  He used to own and operate Maggio’s Restaurante downtown where Christina’s now serves breakfasts and lunches.  His new venture, which is only about 12-13 weeks old as of October 1, 2010, is a throwback to his family history.  Mark’s grandparents were born in Sicily and he learned his culinary ways from his mother as she made Sicilian “meatballs and gravy” during his formative years.

Mark and Jay at Maggio's
Maggio’s Delicatessen and Catering serves food out of a renovated house.  The entrance leads you into a room with a deli counter where you can get some Italian staples like lasagna, chicken parmesan, Italian sausages, and more to go.  If you’re eating in, Maggio’s has a few dining areas that are set up in rooms of the old house.  Space is limited, but that only adds to the atmosphere.  You can easily forget you are dining in restaurant and instead escape the hustle and bustle with the sensation that you are eating home-cooked authentic Italian food right there at someone’s home.  In fact, the kitchen is a far cry from most commercial kitchens in modern restaurants since they cook on residential ranges; but that certainly takes nothing way from the output quality. 


Jean prepares the red gravy at Maggio's
As Mark and I discussed his restaurant, he seemed excited that I chose to write this article on spaghetti and meatballs.  He commented, “Your first trip to an Italian restaurant should always include meatballs and gravy.”  He agreed with me on the notion that you can tell everything you need to know by the meatballs and red sauce, so I anxiously anticipated tasting Maggio’s version of the classic dish.  Mark went on to describe what sets his meatballs apart from others.  His all beef meatballs are actually made out of ground steak trimmings from the Ready Portion Meat Company right here in Baton Rouge.  The high-quality ground steak is in excess of the standard 80/20 ground beef to fat ratio.  Added to the ground steak are breadcrumbs, onions, a little cheese, and some other ingredients that Mark didn’t want to let me in on.  I can’t blame him!

Mark’s tomato gravy also uses superior products to deliver a delicious sauce.  His gravy begins with tomato paste that comes from Stanislaus Food Products.  Stanislaus uses fresh-packed California tomatoes that are canned on the line.  The paste distinctly differs from the tomato concentrate that most pastes use.  Once Mark gets the fresh packed tomato paste, he cooks it exactly the same way every time to create his red gravy in a consistent manner. 

Meatballs and Spaghetti at Maggio's Delicatessen and Catering
 The first bite of spaghetti and meatballs at Maggio’s Delicatessen and Catering made me extremely glad that I paid them a visit.  The gravy had an excellent balance between sweet and savory with enough spice to say hello to the tongue but nothing more.  The meatballs may have stolen the show though.  The flavor mixed excellently with the tomato sauce to present the combination which I had eagerly anticipated.  I literally couldn’t put my fork down between bites and could barely talk to Mark anymore once the plate was in front of me because I was too busy stuffing my face.  At only $6.99 for a plate of “Meatballs & Spaghetti” with a dinner salad and bread, this may be one of the better deals in town!     

Gino’s and Maggio’s both do spaghetti and meatballs right.  They start with quality ingredients and they take the time to carefully hand craft the meatballs.  Their tomato sauces differ, but both still reflect the Sicilian roots of their owner’s culinary heritage.  While Baton Rouge may not ever be known for Italian cuisine like other cities in America, citizens of the Red Stick can rest assured that they can find some delicious and authentic food from “the boot” across the pond if they know where to look!

Jay D. Ducote is the author of the blog Bite and Booze, which chronicles his culinary and indulgent cultural experiences around Baton Rouge, South Louisiana, and the world.  It can be found at www.biteandbooze.com.  You can also reach him by email at jay@biteandbooze.com, like the Bite and Booze fan page on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter @biteandbooze. Thanks to Eric Ducote of BRBeerScene.com for taking all the pictures for this article.

Maggio's Delicatessan on UrbanspoonGino's on Urbanspoon

Bookmark and Share

Friday, October 15, 2010

Curbside Truck and Go-Ya-Yas

The Curbside Truck
The Baton Rouge food truck craze doesn't seem to be slowing down, which is a good thing as there is still plenty of room for growth.  I've felt bad that I hadn't previously had the fortune of tasting the Curbside Truck or writing about  Go-Ya-Ya's, so yesterday when they announced that they were both setting up shop in United Plaza off of Essen, I knew this would be the right time to crash their street party.





"Gourmet Street Food" just about sums it up.







At lunch time I made my way down to the "curb" to give some gourmet burgers and crepes a "go".  The Curbside Truck serves up burgers and fries, but it is far from your typical fast food.  Promoting themselves as "gourmet street food", they take their ingredients very seriously.  They grind all of the beef themselves for guaranteed fresh burger patties.  Their potatoes are cut into fries each morning, and their lettuce and tomatoes come from local organic farms or the farmers market.  They even make their own pickles, if you like that sort of thing (if you are a regular reader, you know at pickles are my arch nemesis).    
Don't forget the swine!






The Curbside Truck has a few other practices that set them apart even more.  First, their buns come from an artisan bakery in town, not a large commercial bakery that throws extra preservatives in their "enriched" flour.  That bakery is top secret as the bun is often what sets one burger apart from another, but Chef Nick did tell me that it is a mix between a kaiser roll and Hawaiian style bread.  They also make their own pork belly preserves.  Yes that's right, pork belly preserves.  Basically they take a little pork belly, season it up shallots, garlic, and spices, then render it all down until it is just a porky paste that is left.  The preserves are used as a spread on the burgers, which you'll see below.  Not to stop there, they also supply bacon for their burgers in the form of praline bacon.  They basically take really good bacon, cook it until its crispy, and coat it in a homemade Louisiana praline mixture that includes pecans and plenty of sugar.  The sweet and savory condiment is as delicious as any sandwich topping I've ever had.  And I mean that.  It goes to the top of my list.  I even think praline bacon is one better than the previously mentioned on Bite and Booze bacon praline.  You seriously have to get your burger with the pork belly preserves or praline bacon... or if you are like me, you can get it with both!

Curbside's cheeseburger with pork belly preserve spread and praline bacon on the side along with some fresh cut fries
A compostable "plastic" cup filled with Arnold Palmer
At the end of the day though, it really all boils down to whether or not the burger is worth a damn.  Fortunately, it is worth way more than that.  The ground beef is well seasoned and the patty is most certainly substantial without turning into meatloaf on a bun.  Mine was cooked to a medium temperature and juices ran down the back side of my hand as I consumed the succulent sandwich.  The pork belly preserves highlighted every bite in a perfectly complementary way as they were sufficient to taste but by no means overpowering.  And then I added some praline bacon... and... I... became... borderline... speechless.  The sweet, nutty, savory mixture of the praline bacon combined with the garlic-y pork belly preserves and the beef patty and the cheese and lettuce on that slightly sweet, still salty bun... let me tell you friends, next time you think about going to "Five Guys" or some other burger joint, pick up your cellular telephone, access facebook or twitter, and find out where Curbside Truck is set up.  Oh, and while you're there, grab an Arnold Palmer to drink.  It is half lemonade, half tea, but all delicious.  Crap, I forgot to write about the fries.  They were pretty damn tasty.  I recommend them.  There.  Got that covered.

Still, with all that talk about Curbside, there were actually two street food vendors at United Plaza for our dining pleasure.  Go-Ya-Ya's also brought out their gourmet food truck to sell some crepes to the hungry office workers around Essen.  The crepes are stuffed with various combinations of meats, cheeses and vegetables to provide some unique and rather tasty creations.  I took Chef Kevin's suggestion and ordered the Vietnamese crepe.  This overstuffed pasty of sorts came with shredded pork, sautéed onions, bean sprouts, and some garnish with a Vietnamese sauce.  The crepe was certainly enough to fill one's stomach for a lunch on the go.  It is also a very unique street food and I certainly take my hat off to the outside the box thinking.  I really enjoyed the Vietnamese crepe but I think I'd try something else next time.  I found the shredded pork to lack a little it of seasoning and the bean spouts didn't add anything until I got all the way to one side of the crepe.  Perhaps I should have opened it up to even everything out a bit before diving into it.  Still, the fresh crepe on the outside tasted just fine and the overall flavor and concept of the Vietnamese crepe was certainly there.  I'll be excited to try Go-Ya-Ya's again because I definitely believe in their product, but they didn't hit a home run like the Curbside Truck did.


Bookmark and Share

Curbside (Mobile Truck) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Buffet of Buffets: Las Vegas, Nevada

The Buffet of Buffets
Not too long ago a crew of mine from my younger days descended upon Las Vegas, Nevada for a reunion weekend of shenanigans and tomfoolery.  While most of the acts that occurred in Vegas will "stay in Vegas," I couldn't resist returning home to write about one of the most incredible offers known to man: The Buffet of Buffets!

Thanks to Cheetz for the Limo!












In order from left to right, Chetan, John, Tyler, myself, and Chad, met at the airport where a limo picked us up and brought us to the Plaza Hotel and Casino.  I really enjoyed staying off of The Strip as downtown is such a more relaxed and old-school Vegas atmosphere.  Still, a couple nights later we made our way to Las Vegas Boulevard to experience a culinary conquest like no others.  The Buffet of Buffets is offered by seven Harrah's owned properties.  For one very reasonable price ($39.99 for rewards card holders, $44.99 without the card), diners get 24 hours of access to all seven buffets.  Conceivably it is possible to do all seven.  Perhaps one day I'll try that.  But since we had other things to occupy our time in between buffets, we did manage to hit three of their most famous destinations of glutony.

Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas
Our first stop brought the clan to lunch at the Lago Buffet in Caesar's Palace.  No, Caesar didn't actually live there.  But, the casino/resort is a spectacular place with statues, vaulted archways, and decor that really brings you back to the days of old... minus the constant ringing of slot machines that echo the majestic halls.

Chefs at the Lago Buffet
Lago Buffet had a line accumulated outside its entrance at 1 PM.  Despite the wait time, we knew our dining experience would be worth it.  The Buffet of Buffets kicks off when you arrive at any of the seven buffets on the Harrah's list.  Upon purchasing the buffet, your rewards card is activated that allows their computer system to know exactly when its 24 hour window has expired.  With a time stamp of around 2 PM, we knew how long we had to make our rounds the following day.

The Lago Buffet stuck to their specialties.  The menu featured some Italian and Asian cuisines as well as some excellent herb-roasted meats, a divine dish of braised beef, and some of the best biscotti I've ever tasted.  All in all the buffet offered legitimate quality, wide enough selection, and a commitment to keeping up the standards of the cuisine they produced.  While the Lago Buffet did not offer food from all four corners of the map, they made up for it with doing what they do really well.

Prime rib (left) and bacon-wrapped pork (right)
Plate #2 at Lago Buffet.. the mac & cheese and green beans held their own
Dessert plate at Lago Buffet: the biscotti (far left) stole the show
No caption needed
By the time that evening rolled around we had somehow rolled our way over to the Rio.  We killed a couple hours gambling and allowing our stomachs to settle before meandering over to the world famous Carnival World Buffet.  This behemoth of an eatery seems easily as large as a football field.  It is a hike to get from one end to the other.  Carnival World's gimmick is to offer such a wide variety of international and American cuisines that it would be impossible to not find something to satisfy your taste buds.  The buffet stretched from country to country, continent to continent to come pretty darn close to capturing global cuisine all in one spot.  On my first plate I hit up the meats that were right in the center of the World.  Fresh glazed ham, tender and rare prime rib, and surprisingly delicious sausage were sliced on site and plated to order.  The clear winner, among everything that the Carnival World Buffet had to offer, was the prime rib.  That night, I'd venture to say they had the best prime rib in Vegas.  It was cooked rare, expertly seasoned, and as juicy as a fresh peach.  I got both the end and a center cut off the slab of beef and went to town.  The flavor popped in my mouth and for a brief moment, while I was sitting there amongst a sea of indulgence, I didn't care about anything in the world other than getting that next fork of cow into my mouth.

Ham, prime rib, and sausage awaiting their digestion
Immaculate.  Glorious.  Beef.

Unfortunately, while the prime rib highlighted the trip to Carnival World, the rest of the fare didn't stack up.  It seemed to me that they tried to do too much and focused way more on quantity than the quality of all the little niche cuisine offerings.  The Mexican section didn't even look edible, the sushi was a poor attempt at sub-par rolls, the pizza was alright, but not stellar for the kind of oven they had there, and the American section was downright disappointing.  Still, I'd go back from the prime rib.  I hope it wasn't a fluke.

Carnival World plate #1: check out that prime rib!
You think they go through some crab legs?
Carnival World plate #2... you can actually see the plate in this picture!  And yes, that is a corn dog.  No, it wasn't good.
Desserts at Carnival World... the cookies and cream gelato rocked.
After another night at the blackjack tables at the Plaza with our new friends Janice, Toi, and Kimmy (oops, maybe that was supposed to stay in Vegas... nah, it's on Facebook, so it's official), we were set to leave Vegas.  However, none of us flew out until around 6 PM the next day so we naturally had time to hit up one more buffet in order to make the Buffet of Buffets worth it.  We had stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, so needless to say we skipped breakfast and decided to head back to The Strip where we would hit up lunch at Planet Hollywood's Spice Market Buffet.  While our bellies and digestive tracts were still a little out of sorts from the two buffets the previous day, I was really looking forward to the Spice Market Buffet.  Unfortunately, it fell flat on its face.  We made it through the line just in time to be within our 24 hour window, and from a distance the food looked great.  Like the setup at Carnival World, the Spice Market had a carving station in the middle and was flanked on each side by as series of international cuisine stations.

Plate #1 at the Spice Market Buffet in the Planet Hollywood Casino
After loading up a plate with a selection of prime rib, some Asian fare, a small taste of Mexico and France, and a few morsels of dried out chicken that represented the Middle East, I met my buddies at the table and began to chow down.  Unfortunately, I was hard pressed to find something on my plate that I wanted to take more than one bite of.  The prime rib was the biggest disappointment by far.  One look at that picture and you can tell how well done and over-cooked it was.  It looked to me like they left last night's beef in the oven for too long.  After eating the beautiful rare prime rib the night before, I pushed this rubbish off to the side and refused to take a second bite.  I went back to the prime rib station at Carnival World twice more before leaving, and every chuck of bovine glory that they sliced was well done.  What a shame.  As for the rest of the food, the best item may have been the spicy boneless chicken wings.  Yeah, exactly.  If that's the best thing, I could have just gone to get chicken wings at Hooters (or anywhere else for that matter).  Oh well.  I guess "lunch" on a Monday at Planet Hollywood really just means "Sunday dinner's leftovers."

All in all I was still blown away by the value of the Buffet of Buffets.  For $40 I got three full, gigantic meals at three totally different buffets inside of three of Vegas's most famous resorts... and there were still another four that I never got to try!  The Lago Buffet at Caesar's Palace wins my award for best all-around buffet of the three.  The selection wasn't as great, but what they lacked in quantity to the other two buffets was easily made up for in quality.  My other award for best single food item goes to the prime rib at Carnival World at the Rio.  I could have eaten nothing but that for three days and been satisfied.  The biscotti at Lago would come in second.  In closing, God Bless America, and thanks to Harrah's for allowing us to wallow around Vegas in such glutinous glory!

Spice Market (Planet Hollywood) on UrbanspoonCarnival World Buffet (Rio) on Urbanspoon
Cafe Lago (Caesars Palace) on Urbanspoon

Bookmark and Share