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

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Grilled Pork Chop with Spicy Peach Chutney

I came up with this recipe on the fly while walking around Rouse's Supermarket in Lafayette prior to doing a Louisiana MasterChef cooking demo.  I really wasn't sure what I wanted to cook, but all of the sudden it hit me: pork, fruit and booze.  I've seen that combination play out well for me before! Walking through the store I found some lovely peaches and some amazing thick-cut pork chops.  I just went with it from there.  Here is the recipe of what turned out to be a great dish.  I'd make that spicy peach chutney again any day!



Grilled Pork Chop with Spicy Peach Chutney 

6 bottles of slightly fruity wheat beer (I used Bayou Teche's Grenade)
2 cups brown sugar
1 tbsp Allspice
2 tbsp Cinnamon
1 bay leaf
4 thick cut pork chops
1 stick of butter
2 shallots
2 jalapenos
1 garlic clove
2 peaches 
Slap Ya Mama white pepper blend
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp ground black pepper

Step 1: Make a beer brine. 

Pour 2 bottles of beer into a grill-safe pot. Heat the beer until simmering or slowly boiling. Add 1 and 1/2 cups of brown sugar, 1 tbsp of allspice, 2 tbsp of cinnamon, 1 bay leaf, 2 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp ground black pepper. Heat keep over heat until all ingredients have dissolved into the beer and come together as one. Remove from heat and chill.

Once at room temperature, add the pork chops to the brine and allow to soak for at least an hour or two.

Step 2: Drink a beer while the brine is cooling and the pork chops are in the brine. Okay, drink two beers. 

Step 3: Prepare spicy peach chutney. 

Once the pork is getting close to coming out of the brine, finely chop the shallots, jalapenos, garlic and peaches. Melt some butter in a pan over the grill. saute the shallots in the butter. Once soft, add in the jalapenos and garlic. Saute until cooked down and soft, then add the chopped peaches. Continue to cook down. Add about half of a beer (drink the other half), the 1/2 cup of brown sugar that remains, and Slap Ya Mama white pepper blend to taste. Continue to cook it down while moving on to step 4.

Step 4: Cook the pork chops. 

Remove the pork chops from the brine. Place on the grill over a medium heat. Cook for a few minutes, then flip. Cooking times will vary depending on thickness of the chop and temperature of the grill. Probably 5-10 minutes per side. Cook to a medium temperature.

Remove the pork chops from the grill. Allow them to rest for just a few minutes. Top each chop with the spicy peach chutney, and enjoy with your last beer from the six pack.


And in case you missed it, here is the little video I put together of the cooking demo with myself, Brant Langlinais, and Jason Broussard... all in the Top 100 on MasterChef Season 2!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Swine Palace to Host Wine Tasting Fundraiser Event July 28th

Come join Bite and Booze for, well, Bite and Booze!  Swine Palace, Baton Rouge’s premier professional Equity theatre company, invites the community to share a summer night of fine wines and hors d’oeuvres on the Reilly Theatre stage on Thursday, July 28, where 100 percent of the event’s proceeds will go to support Swine Palace mainstage productions.  I had a blast at this event last year and would love to see even more people there this year!  I recently played a role in a Swine Palace production called HEIST that was hosted at the LSU Museum of Art.  It was such a great time for everyone.  I'm thrilled to be able to support the Baton Rouge arts and entertainment companies when I can, so I'll definitely be attending this Wine Gala.


The event begins at 7 p.m. and will be held at the Reilly Theatre, located on Tower Drive on LSU's campus. A champagne reception will be held prior to the event at 6:30 p.m.
            
During the event, guests will have the opportunity to sample an assortment of 24 excellent champagne and wine varietals poured by licensed servers, all while supporting Swine Palace. There will also be a raffle to win an “instant wine cellar” – 25 bottles of summer’s finest wine varietals. Tickets for the raffle are $5 each. Special “mystery envelopes” will be on sale at the event as well, filled with wonderful gifts provided by some of Southeast Louisiana’s finest hotels, arts organizations, restaurants, spas and businesses.
                
Advance tickets for the event are $40 each. Tickets can also be purchased at the door for $50 each. Advance tickets can be purchased online at www.swinepalace.org. This event is open to guests 21 years of age or over, with age verification being enforced.
        
For more information on the wine tasting event, contact Swine Palace Director of Development Jacquelyn Craddock at jcraddock@lsu.edu or call 225-578-9277.
               

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Frankie's Dawg House 4th of July Hot Dog Contest

Dawgs, Dawgs, and more Dawgs
There is a time in every man's life when he wonders just how many hot dogs he can eat.  The cylindrical tubes of mystery meat are fed to us in our youth, used as fish bait at ponds with our fathers, and glamorized on the most American of holidays. There are terribly crappy hot dogs that will stain fingers with an eerie pink hue.  There are also gourmet dogs that claim to made from quality ingredients and are craftily cased for consumption.  No matter the dog, and no matter how much of a foodie I have become, I've never stopped my appreciation for the wiener.  Throw it between an elongated bun and top it with cheese, chili, mustard... I'm down.

So when Frankie's Dawg House in Baton Rouge announced a Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, I knew I couldn't pass it up.  Frankie's definitely has some high quality dawgs and buns, so I figured the taste wouldn't be the issue.  Still, despite knowing that ultimately the challenge requires being a glutton for gastronomic punishment, I also knew my abilities to consume the Frankie's frankfurters could reign supreme.  Fresh on the heels of watching Baton Rouge's own Adrian Morgan down 31 hot dogs in 10 minutes at the Nathan's contest in New York, let along seeing champion Joey Chestnut take down 62 dogs and buns, there certainly seemed to be an air of excitement at Frankie's.  Eight competitors braved the July South Louisiana Heat and gave it their best effort.  However, after an hour of downing dawgs, only one man could emerge victorious.  I'll let the video do the rest of the talking.  Big thanks to TommysTV for the film!  Feel free to watch full screen and bump it up to HD!  Oh, and caution to any week stomachs out there.  This might get messy!

Monday, July 11, 2011

BR Foodies experience Le Creole

On a mission for our BR Foodies group to experience a new restaurant all at the same time, I arranged a trip for the group to dine at Le Creole on Highland Road.  Nobody had been before so other than some word of mouth, none of us knew what to expect.  

Le Creole is reasonably new to the Baton Rouge fine dining scene.  It is the latest creation of seafood lover, caterer, and restaurateur Wayne Stabiler.  His other restaurants include both Little Village locations and the City Cafe.  Wanting to get back to his Louisiana seafood distribution roots, he opened up Le Creole.  Chef Ryan Andre, who had previously be on board at Commander's Palace in New Orleans, took the reigns of the kitchen of the while Clark T. Ellis assumed the General Manager position.  

Upon arrival at Le Creole our group gathered in the bar with some cocktails while we caught up and chatted.  Clark greeted us and offered a little tour of the kitchen where we could meet Chef Andre.  The kitchen bustled with activity of chefs at their stations. 
GM Clark T. Ellis gives the BR Foodies a tour of the kitchen (left); Chef Ryan Andre poses for a picture at Le Creole (right)

My evening began with a Maker's 46 Old Fashioned.  The bartender muddled a maraschino cherry and a wedge of orange before adding the bitters, simple syrup, and bourbon.  The beverage got my taste buds kick-started as I prepared myself for a tasty meal.  I don't drink too many Old Fashioneds, but this this one could get me to change that.  I thoroughly enjoyed the beverage.  I had a whiskey sour later in the meal that did not impress me nearly as much.  I wished I had ordered a second Old Fashioned!  Before I got started eating, I first had to do some tweeting and posting which Kelly Spell happened to capture on camera!  Good times with the BR Foodies gang!


Le Creole started us out with their fresh-baked bread and some lemon herb butter from Plaquemines Parish.  The bread had a thick crust with a soft center and the butter had a tremendous flavor.  Following the bread came a cochon de lait bruschetta for each of us.  As a sampling portion of the their cochon de lait flatbread, the bruschetta featured tender pulled pork with goat cheese and provolone melted on top.  While I actually liked the flatbread version better, the pork and goat cheese combination stood out as a delicious combination.  The fork-tender pig mixed beautifully with the creamy cheese.  I could have eaten nothing other than that and been happy.  Come to think of it, I need to make a cochon de lait style pulled pork and goat cheese sandwich!


I continued my meal with tastes of Le Creole's boudin spring rolls with a raspberry sauce and a delightful watermelon, spinach and goat cheese salad.  The salad impressed me with its refreshing nature while still offering some great flavor combinations.  The sweetness of the watermelon played off of the goat cheese tang as the two danced in my mouth.  After the salad I opted for the turtle soup with sherry.  It was not the most memorable turtle soup I've had but it still satisfied my craving for more booze in food!


The true highlight on the night came in the form of the above pictured crab cake.  Chef Andre took jumbo lump crab meat and formed cakes that were held together by just a small amount of spicy mayo.  The cakes were then broiled in a hot oven instead of fried.  Served with a spicy remoulade sauce, the crab cake exploded with flavor.  Sweet crab and spicy sauce filled every bite and the texture of the lump meat with crispiness and creaminess gave a great mouth feel to each additional taste after taste.

My entree, pictured at the top of this post, featured a whole deep fried mangrove snapper served with sauteed squash, zucchini and red onion.  The whole fish presented an awe-inspiring spectacle of a dish.  Our wonderful server Erica placed it in front of me and I actually wanted to photograph the fish slightly more than I wanted to eat it.  Perhaps that is because I started to get full a course or two before the main entree, but still, it looked pretty amazing.  Once I dug into the fish and veggies I became just slightly underwhelmed.  As great as the fish looked, the flavor didn't quite deliver upon the visual expectations.  I enjoyed picking the fried flesh off the bones, but the taste failed to blow me away like some of the appetizers did.  The vegetables added nothing special to the dish and really forced the snapper to attempt to stand on its own.


We wrapped up our meal by passing around a trio of desserts.  We had a banana cake, a bread pudding and my personal favorite, a homemade cookie with ice cream.  The vanilla bean ice cream melted rapidly over a oven-hot chocolate chip cookie in an individual cast iron skillet.  Simply put, this dessert capped the meal right back up at the top of the delicious scale.

Overall I had a wonderful meal and a great experience at Le Creole.  Clark, the General Manager, and his staff took great care of us all evening long.  Erica, our waitress, delivered amazing service and it seemed like everyone else in the restaurant received plenty of attention as well.  The food belonged among Baton Rouge's upscale dining elite.  While my entree didn't amaze me, the snapper still tasted quite good, and rest of the courses certainly made the entire experience into a memorable meal.  On the way out of the dimly lit and intimate dining area I realized that the music I had been hearing all evening was coming from a live pianist.  Yet another fun touch to make me want to go back for more from Le Creole!

Thanks to Kelly Spell of the BR Foodies for most of the pictures from a great evening!

Le Creolé on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 7, 2011

El Xuco Xicana en Houston, TX

Summertime in South Louisiana isn't much different than summer in Houston.  Heat.  Humidity.  Afternoon thunderstorms.  Desperation for football season to get here.  The biggest distinction, from best I can tell, is the quality of the Mexican food.  For some reason it seems that authentic, delicious Mexican cuisine has trouble traveling an extra 300 miles to Baton Rouge.  Not one to worry too much, I easily solve the problem by feasting on frijoles whenever I'm in the "Bayou City" of the state to our West.

El Xuco Xicana's Milletes topped with Fried Eggs
A recent trip found me setting up a visit to Chef Jonathan Jones's El Xuco Xicana.  Chef JJ, who came to fame under his Beaver's name, recently took over the kitchen at the establishment formerly known as El Patio.  Wanting to revamp the cuisine to reflect that of authentic interior Mexican superiority with a Texan twist, Chef JJ started massacring the menu and putting his flair all over it.  His "Comida Texano" menu made my mouth water before I could even order the signature blue margarita that reflected back to the El Patio days.

The Famous Blue Curacao Margarita from El Patio
I was joined by an excellent cast of characters for an early afternoon Sunday brunch.  We had my dear friend Amanda, high school pal Chad and his wife Ashley, Alvin and Jason from MasterChef on FOX along with Jason's bad ass lady friend, Sara Jackson and a friend of hers who are working on some food based television productions with kids in the Houston area, and a fella named Jay, who on Twitter goes by @GunsandTacos (clearly fits in well with my @BiteandBooze mentality), with his wife.  We gathered and ordered drinks.  Soon enough, Chef JJ's right hand man at XX, Chef Kenny Pullin, came out to the table to greet our crew and drop off our first round of grub.

Battered Stuffed Toast at El Xuco Xicana
The Milletes made me happy to be alive.  Proclaimed on the menu to be a "REAL Mexican brunch food," the milletes featured bolillo bread toasted and topped with refried black beans, queso Chihuahua and chorizo.  Then I had the option to add a fried egg on each half of the open-faced sandwich.  As you can see, I couldn't resist!  The milletes combined classic flavors into a brunch dish that I'd eat over and over again.  Then came the battered stuffed toast.  Dear Lord.  Heaven.  And Hell.  In every bite.  The dish is constructed by stuffing Texas toast with Dulce de Leche, coating that in a Grand Marnier cinnamon batter, dropping it in a deep fryer, then topping the sandwich with ancho-maple syrup, sauteed apples, and Chantilly cream.  Each bite let me know I was alive while assuredly slowly killing me.  I didn't mind.  I took another bite.  It tasted that damn orgasmic.  

El Xuco Xicana Mojito 
Ceviche at El Xuco Xicana
The beverages at El Xuco Xicana also provided plenty of punch.  Chef JJ warned me about the strong margaritas.  After I began with the blue margarita I noticed the rest of the table drinking amazing mojitos.  I needed to try one for myself.  It did a splendid job of being thirst quenching and intoxicating.  Meanwhile, Chef Pullin brought out the signature ceviche.  One thing that I like about the menu is that it warns the diner that the ceviche changes depending on the freshness of the seafood and availability of produce.  There is no set recipe, but rather a rotating and seasonal ceviche.  Ours had a gulf drum marinated in loads of citrus.  I thought I tasted lime, lemon, and the something a little different like a grapefruit.  It also had jalapenos, watermelon radishes and avocado.  The bottom line is that the concoction used fresh ingredients and tasted equally refreshing on a hot day.  The blending of sweet, sour and spice worked magnificently.

El XX Hot Wangs
The feast concluded for me with the El XX Hot Wangs.  The wings were fried naked then tossed in a special blend that includes Jalisco Chili de Arbol vinegar hot sauce, toasted sesame, cilantro and queso fresco.  They were served with "cucumber and jicima con chili y limon".  The "wangs" were certainly different than a traditional Buffalo style hot wing with celery and bleu cheese.  That being said, I loved them!  I thought the twists were pretty ingenious and I'm a sucker for an inventive wing.  Bravo, El Xuco Xicana.

I essentially got a full meal by sampling an assortment of brunch and appetizer selections.  Truth be told, that is one of my favorite ways to experience a restaurant.  Sometimes the most creative dishes are appetizers and daily specials.  The food at El Xuco Xicano was worthy of any trip to Houston.  I have no doubt that I'll be back when I get a Mexican craving that my local establishments can't handle!

Xuco Xicana on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My "Best of 225" Ballot

I had the privilege of being randomly selected to vote in the Best of 225 poll a couple months back.  Now that the selections have been published, I thought it would be appropriate to reveal my ballot... as it relates to bites and boozes anyway.

First of all, the Best of 225 is nominated and voted upon based on randomly selected individuals who are plugged into the 225 electronic media outlets.  The nomination forms are blank and ask for just that: nominations in each predetermined category.  After the nominations are tallied, the top nominees are then listed on a ballot and sent back out to a random group of readers.  Here were my picks that warrant noting:

Boiled Crawfish:
Randy Montalbano's Seafood and Catering




















Tony's crawfish are under seasoned on purpose.  They self-admittedly don't over heat the mudbugs because they boil so many and have such a large, broad market.  I don't blame them, but I also don't think they're the best.  Sammy's is where my friends and I go most often... but I still think the chances of them being fresher and spicier are higher at Montabano's on Florida Blvd.  You can check out my 2010 crawfish tour for more info.



Brunch:
Mason's Grill




















Mason's came in second place to The Chimes.  I'm okay with that.  But Mason's has Bloody Masons and bottomless mimosas.  Mason's Grill, FTW.



Burger:
Tramonte's Meat and Seafood





















There are plenty of local burger places that deserve to be high on this list.  Plenty.  My choice goes to Tramonte's.  Many people don't even know of this place, but those folks are just missing out.  It is easily the best back yard on the grill style burger in town.  Side by side with Tramonte's I'd have any burger from the Curbside Truck.  I know there was a separate category for food trucks, but Curbside's burgers are no joke!  And what about the Cajun Shrimp Burger at Mason's?? And if I wanted a flat-top burger, I'd certainly pick Dearman's or Roul's Deli over Five Guys.  I'm ashamed at our voters.



Deli:
Anthony's Italian Deli




















My pick pretty easily goes to Anthony's Italian Deli.  Their muffaletta is certainly one of the best in town.  And it is just real.  It is a locally owned, tiny, hole in the wall Italian deli and market.  You can't beat that.  I'm a fan of the Maxwell's Market selection in Best of 225 though.  They do a great job.  I imagine that by this time next year the Swine Market at Marcello's will be on my list.  And finally I'd put AM Mart on towards the top of my deli list.  They make a mean Cajun turkey sandwich!



Exotic Pizza:
Pastime





















First, define "exotic pizza."  Then, tell me what is more original and unique to our cuisine than the Boudin Pizza at Pastime?  I do LOVE the Around the World at Fleur de Lis, but what makes it exotic?  Anchovies?  And I'd also like to at least mention the Duck and Andouille Sausage Gumbo pizza at Oscar's.  That's pretty exotic in my book.



Frozen Treats:
Latte e Miele


*photo credit to Latte e Miele's facebook page



















Easy choice.  Never been?  Fix that, fast!



Meat Lover's:
Doe's Eat Place




















Mmmm.... meat!  Some of the best steaks in town.  Locally owned by great people.  Handcut.  Prime.  Cow.  I wrote a whole article about them that you can find on Bite and Booze: Get Your Steak on at Doe's Eat Place.



South Asian:
Rama






















This little hole in the wall at the Perkin's Road Overpass is excellent.  Well, I like it anyway.  And yes, I'll count Southeast Asian as "South Asian."



Sushi:
Sushi Yama





















If you've never gone into Sushi Yama, sat at the bar, and asked the talented chefs to just make you something unique, then you aren't really experiencing sushi in Baton Rouge.



Sweets:
Strand's Cafe






















I feel sorry for anybody who doesn't know about Strand's Cafe downtown.  You want to talk about some amazing sweets?  Well, here you go.  It is gourmet, but it is also expertly crafted by some great people with constantly smiling faces.  The chocolates are delectable.  Go stop in and tell them I said hi!



New Restaurant:
Beausoleil





















Beausoleil got robbed by not winning this category in the Best of 225, but rest assured that they got my vote! I've still only been for lunch and brunch, so if anybody would like to join me for dinner some time soon, let me know.  First glass of Smooth Ambler craft distilled whiskey is on me!



Cold Beer:
The Chimes



























$2.50.  Tin Roof.  Tuesdays.  Yep, they've still got it.



Happy Hour:
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar



























This pick may seem a bit odd, but I challenge anybody to find a better happy hour.  If you do, please let me know!  What you get at Fleming's for the price tag during their 5-6-7 daily happy hour is the best deal I've found in town.  They have 5 appetizers, 5 glasses of wine, and 5 cocktails for $6 from 5-7 PM.  Plus, their burger is also $6... and it is an incredible burger compared to anything else I've ever found for $6.  It doesn't take much to get me to go to Fleming's for happy hour, so if you're in the mood, just let me know!



Live Music:
Varsity



























I saw Willie Nelson at the Varsity within the past year.  I don't need to say anything more than that.



Party/Event Venue:
Roux House






















The Roux House has a nice indoor space, a great patio area, and some of the friendliest bar staff around.  Plus it is on Third Street, so it is a great place to have an event and then bar-hop if you're so inclined.



Wine Bar:
Enoteca Marcello's






















I like Enoteca Marcello's as a wine bar because of the atmosphere.  The wine list isn't incredibly extensive, but it is really good.  And the place is more my style than other "wine bars" in town.

Agree on some of these?  Disagree?  Have some thoughts of your own?  I'd love to hear them!  Please leave a comment on this post or hit me up on Facebook and Twitter.  These were my picks for 2011, but they've been different in years past and will certainly continue to evolve in the future.  Also, stay tuned this fall because the BRFoodies will be releasing the BRTop100: 100 favorite dishes from 100 original Baton Rouge restaurants!  It'll be posted in groups of 10 on Bite and Booze to count down from 100 to 1!

Friday, July 1, 2011

How to Eat Louisiana Crawfish and Blue Crabs

I recently went on a fantastic press trip to Coastal Louisiana where I got to see some first hand accounts of swamps, bayous and, of course, seafood.  At Susie's Seafood in Morgan City, I dined at a table of local hosts and fellow travelers.  Naturally the best thing we could do was order as much Louisiana seafood as the table could hold!  We requested multiple buckets of crawfish, crabs, shrimp, corn, potatoes, and sausage for our feasting pleasure.  Larry Lovell and I couldn't resist also sampling a side of tater tots covered in cheese since they were only 10 cents more than the non-cheesed tots, but that's a different story.

Boiled Crawfish, Crabs and Shrimp at Susie's Seafood in Morgan City, LA
The meal came after a day of canoeing some man-made logging bayous and swamp areas near Franklin and then taking a tour through the Atchafalaya swamps on Captain Jack's boat.  We had worked up a mighty hunger, and Susie's delivered the nourishment our bodies needed.  The boiled seafood tasted every bit as delicious as it looked and smelled.  I readied myself to dig in, but since I was actually the "Louisiana Seafood Expert" at the table, I took the liberty of showing Kathleen Ahamed-Broadhurst from Massachusetts how the seafood should be properly consumed.  Kathleen writes for GoNomad, an alternative travel site, and shot these how-to videos of me and my crustaceans!  Enjoy!



Susie's Seafood on Urbanspoon