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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Andrew Zimmern Visits Baton Rouge and the Food Trucks Go Crazy!

Jay Ducote and Andrew Zimmern in Baton Rouge
Andrew Zimmern, probably best known for hosting Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel, stopped by Baton Rouge on Wednesday to film an episode of his popular MSN web series "Appetite for Life."  In case you are unaware, next week a new episode of Bizarre Foods America will air on the Travel Channel that features Louisiana and our unique cuisine.  This time though, Andrew was hosting a jambalaya cook-off, and to make things more interesting the weekly Wednesday Food Truck Wroundup was held at lunch in conjunction with the filming.  I actually had the extreme pleasure of being one of the judges for the food truck event that featured each truck's best Cajun inspired dish.  Along side me in the judging booth were Rachael Upton from 225 Dine, Lauren Westbrook from WAFB, Beth Colvin from The Advocate, and Brian Haldane from Talk 107.3 FM.  

Judging Panel for the Appetite for Life Food Truck Wroundup
Every truck there did an exceptional job with the challenge.  The dishes blew me away with their creativity and flavor.  This seriously might have been one of the most difficult food challenges that I've ever had to judge.  It is a tough job, but somebody has to do it... or so they tell me (as I'm doing it!).  Here were the entries and results.  Start drooling now.

Taco de Paco's "Cajunator": Seafood gumbo taco with seared andouille, crawfish tails, rice, gumbo sauce, and fried okra!  This won the "Laissez Les Bon Food Trucks Rouler" award for best use of traditional Louisiana/Cajun foods in the entry.

The Cajunator from Taco de Paco
A Coffee Truck returned with their King Cake Latte that took the non-traditional prize in last year's King Cake Contest with Visit Baton Rouge.  While it didn't win any awards this year, it still impressed all the judges and was a great sweet treat along side all the savory dishes.

a coffee truck's King Cake Latte
The Cuban Connection's entry featured a blackened catfish filet over a bed of Louisiana seafood paella.  I loved the seasoning on the catfish as it burst with spices that were home to both the Cajuns and the Cubans.  Unfortunately this plate didn't win either, but the Cuban truck should still keep their chin up!

Seafood Paella with Blackened Catfish from Cuban Connection
 Curbside hit a homerun with a debut offering and sneak peak at their upcoming links truck.  The "Porkducken" featured truck-made local pork, chicken, and wild duck sausage basted in duck fat, thyme, and roasted garlic then finished with lemon zest.  Nick and crew topped the sausage with a cream cheese foam, Hungarian smoked paprika and fresh chives which all sat atop some house-made creole potato chips and fresh French bread.  Curbside ended up taking home the "Way more creative than this name" award for most creative dish.  Well deserved!  It freaking rocked, and I can't wait for that new truck!

Curbside's Porkducken
Sadly I got so carried away with everything that I forgot to snap a picture of FRESH's shrimp salad.  It also had blue cheese and candied pecans.  It was definitely my kind of salad!  They didn't win any awards for it, but I'd gladly eat it again!

Ignatius Reilly's took home the top prize with their Warm Savory Couche-Couche, with Smoked Trotter & Switches Gravy and a Fried Softshell Crawfish.  The gravy was loaded with slow cooked pig tail and crawfish tails.  The dish had an amazing balance with sweetness from the cous cous cake, spiciness from the gravy, and savoriness from, well, everything.  And then to top it off with deep fried soft shell CRAWFISH?!  Wow.  For the win.  The "Show Dat" award for overall best tasting - best in show.  Congrats!

Ignatius Reilly's winning dish
The event as a whole helped raise over $2,000 for the Capital Area United Way.  Big thanks and congrats to everyone involved, and I'll definitely be posting the link to the Appetite for Life episode when it comes out!!  Oh, and there is also this clip about the whole event from WAFB.  Watch closely... you'll see me taking a huge bite at some point!