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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bite and Booze Radio Show: Louisiana Sweet Potatoes and the Sweet Rewards Recipe Contest

This week's Bite and Booze Radio Show episode featured a flurry of folks to talk about the Sweet Rewards Recipe Contest going on right now with the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission and Louisiana Cookin' Magazine.  Holly Clegg, cookbook author and spokesperson for the Commission joined me in studio as well as Rene Simon, the Commission's Executive Director, Dana, who won last year's dessert recipe, and Daniel Schumaker, editor of Louisiana Cookin' Magazine. You have until the end May to enter the contest at either SweetPotato.org or LouisianaCookin.com!


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The Bite and Booze Radio Show presented by Calandro's Supermarket airs on Saturdays at 5 PM on Talk 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge.  It is also available on iTunes.  The show's sponsors include Calandro's SupermarketVisit Baton RougeSlap Ya Mama Cajun SeasoningLouisiana Cookin' MagazineJuban's Restaurant, the Tin Roof Brewing Company, and the Louisiana Culinary Institute.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Joe Squared Gives Pizza a Name in Baltimore

David and I
Not too long ago I ventured through Baltimore, MD after getting picked up by my good friend Caroline at the BWI airport.  We were on our way to Williamsport, PA for a week of catching up, eating out, and an adventure to the Finger Lakes Wine Country of New York.  Before getting out of the city, Caroline and I made a stop at Joe Squared, a pizza joint where David Mathie Bersch, a friend that I had met while filming Season 2 of Masterchef in Los Angeles, works and plays.

I'm usually in awe of David's facebook postings, finding ways to create flavor combinations with miraculous beauty and composition on a plate.  I'm well aware that I lack his finesse when it comes to cooking, but I still get inspired by it.  Joe Squared isn't really where David does his artistic cooking though. It is more of a working-class pizza joint with beer and wine, and one Hell of a selection of rum.  I liked it because of its uniqueness.  Who has a rum collection like that?  And who drinks all those rums?  Well, I for one, wanted to try some just because I could, and my not ever get the chance to again!





Joe Squared
The inside flap of Joe Squared's menu had an insert for weekly specials.  I knew I liked the place just from reading some of it.  First, just the attention to detail to constantly challenge one's self in the kitchen and to continue to create great specials on a weekly basis instead of simply relying on the standbys is great.  Secondly, a special of the day just doesn't cut it anymore.  I'm not looking for one special dish.  I'm looking for a whole menu.  For some actually thought, creativity, and pairings.  Some of the items on Joe Squared's weekly menu were a Spinach and Lamb Soup, Gorgonzola Dulce and Toasted Pistachio Risotto, draft beer and wine specials, and Raspberry Mole Chicken Wings.  I got the chicken wings.  I rarely pass up a mole.  And I'm glad I didn't.  The wings were fried to a nice crispiness on the outside and tossed in a spicy and earthy chocolate mole sauce sweetened with the fruity notes of the raspberry.  They were messy, but I ate the heck out of them!

Raspberry Mole Chicken Wings at Joe Squared in Baltimore
Since Joe Squared had a risotto menu in addition to a pizza menu, I couldn't help but get one for Caroline and I to try.  I wanted something different, and they had about 20 options to choose from on the menu.  I kinda wanted to go with the weekly special but if memory serves me correctly Caroline picked out the sausage and carrot risotto with Gouda and roasted fennel seed.  Either way, I applauded the decision as the risotto delivered a creamy texture full of flavor.

Sausage and Carrot Risotto

For the pizza we went a little outside the box compared to normal toppings as well.  We ordered a large pizza, which of course is square shaped.  On one half we got the Chicken, Corn, and Apple and on the other I demanded the Cumin Braised Lamb pizza with roasted eggplant, mozzarella, Romano, parsley, and mint.  Both sides were certainly worth eating.  If I had to knock anything, it would be the corn.  The whole kernels tasted like they were just straight out a can or the freezer.  And the apple flavor didn't really come through.  I liked the creativity of it as a whole though.  The lamb pizza, on the other hand, had every element working from crispy crust to succulent lamb.  The mint even added the right touch of uniqueness without being overpowering.

Square Pizza
After the meal and a few rum drinks and brews (for me, Caroline was driving!), we bid David adieu and took off for Pennsylvania.  I definitely enjoyed meeting up with a fellow Masterchef contestant once again though.  And I'd gladly go see him again at Joe Squared!

Joe Squared Pizza and Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Concannon Irish Whiskey: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Calandro's Supermarket


Venturing back to the Republic of Ireland, Concannon Irish Whiskey presents itself in traditional Irish fashion: smooth and pleasant.  On the nose the whiskey has a fruitness like a mild wine with a hint of smoke and the aroma of grains.  On the tongue the smoke comes through again.  The oak is rather strong, but the whiskey remains smooth.  It would be very nice with a cigar while relaxing on an Irish hillside by a loch.  Concannon is certainly a unique Irish whiskey.  In an interesting touch, Concannon actually owns and operates a vineyard and winery in Ireland.  Their whiskey is aged in ex-bourbon barrels and then blended with malt whiskey that is aged in their own used wine barrels.  Perhaps that's where the extra oak and fruitness comes from!

Concannon Irish Whiskey

Average Score 76.0


Whisk(e)y Wednesday is a blog post series on Bite and Booze sponsored by Calandro's Supermarket. Calandro's has one of Baton Rouge's best selections of bourbon, Scotch, and other whisk(e)ys as well as wine and craft beer. This WW feature was scored by Eric DucoteBrenton Day, and Charles Pierce. Scores are marked for Nose, Taste, Finish, and Balance and Complexity using our own proprietary scoring system. Marks are then added and averaged, leaving us with a final score out of a 100 point scale. Our scale should be looked at on the full range of 0-100 rather than an academic range where 70 is passing and anything less is failing. A 50 should be considered a very mediocre whisk(e)y while anything below 20 is absolute horse piss and anything above 90 is rather extraordinary.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bite and Booze Radio Show: Hot Tails


Back in March I had the pleasure of interviewing Cody and Sam Carroll, owners of Hot Tails in New Roads.  Folks, this is a place worth driving to.  If you've never been, do yourself a favor and listen to this tasty episode of the Bite and Booze Radio Show presented by Calandro's Supermarket, then make the trip to New Roads, LA and feast at Hot Tails!


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The Bite and Booze Radio Show presented by Calandro's Supermarket airs on Saturdays at 5 PM on Talk 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge.  It is also available on iTunes.  The show's sponsors include Calandro's SupermarketVisit Baton RougeSlap Ya Mama Cajun SeasoningLouisiana Cookin' MagazineJuban's Restaurant, the Tin Roof Brewing Company, and the Louisiana Culinary Institute.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Is it time to give Walk-On's another try?

Walk-On's Tuna Tini
Like most Baton Rougeans around my age (31), my first memories of Walk-On's weren't pleasant.  They were unfairly compared to The Chimes before they even opened their doors, but once they did, nothing worked.  One time, at a business meeting while in grad school at LSU, I ordered some sort of stuffed shrimp dish.  It seemed like nothing more than prepackaged, frozen and battered morsels that I could likely find at Sam's Club imported from India and served over a mound of soggy waffle fries.  My friend Caroline, a grad school acquaintance, decided to take her family to Walk-On's after her graduation.  I felt embarrassed for her.  And sad for her family that they had come in from Tennessee expecting amazing Louisiana cuisine only to get stuck in the basement of culinary despair that was Walk-On's.



Spinach and Artichoke Dip
A funny thing happened though.  Walk-On's had great success.  The company grew.  They served their unimaginative food and sold a lot of beer.  Their location clearly worked for a college area sports bar.  And the owners, Jack Warner and Brandon Landry, knew that the food left more than a little to be desired.  They sought to improve it.  Several times they revamped the menu.  Several times they brought in consultants to work on the food aspect of the business.  Quality improved, but consistency floundered.  People would come in one week and eat an excellent crawfish etoufee dish, then they'd be back the next week and want to throw it against the wall American Beauty style.

When the company decided to expand into Lafayette, they knew the food had to be better.  After all, Lafayette is the Cajun capital of Louisiana, and they couldn't afford to open up there and have the same start they did in Baton Rouge.  The Lafayette Walk-On's got a new menu.  While certainly not totally different, it featured new dishes, revamped entrees, and more attention to finer details.  Despite their reputation in Baton Rouge of having food more along the caliber of a Chili's, Lafayette embraced Walk-On's from the beginning.  The sports bar provided at least adequate food to go with the adult beverages, and truly all accounts that I heard about the restaurant were that the food impressed.  I questioned if it was the same Walk-On's.  In many ways, the answer was no.

Abitarita with Abita Strawberry
When Last In Concepts, the parent company that manages Walk-On's, Schlittz and Giggles, Happy's, and Roux House, decided to make a move into New Orleans, they knew the Walk-On's brand would work perfectly right outside the Superdome.  Again, to enter a market like New Orleans, one of the greatest food cities on the planet, they knew the menu needed some upgrades.  People told them that they'd never make it in the Big Easy.  People claimed their food just didn't have the fortitude to survive.  But last year ESPN named them the number one sports bar in America.  That title got bestowed upon the New Orleans location, and people like me, people who celebrate the food and beverage culture of Baton Rouge, were left scratching our collective heads.

Not only had Walk-On's always been a place that I wasn't proud of, but I nearly felt embarrassed about calling it a Baton Rouge restaurant.  We're better than that.  Or I'd like to think so.  So how could it be doing so well in Lafayette and New Orleans?  How could this restaurant that I don't care to patronize be winning awards in other cities?  Of all Baton Rouge restaurants to expand out of BR and successfully integrate into our cultural neighbors, how did Walk-On's do it?  What am I missing?

Truth be told, I've never been to the one in Lafayette.  I've stepped foot in the New Orleans location, but that's about it.  I think I drank a beer and left, not wanting to eat anything from Walk-On's in a city like New Orleans.  So I don't know how to compare those locations to the Burbank and Coursey spots.  However, after the revamped Lafayette and New Orleans menus, the two locations in Baton Rouge are now, as of March 2013, fully on board with the upgrades.  For the first time, all four Walk-On's have the same menu, and I set out to see if it really improved.

Duck and Andouille Gumbo
Joined by an esteemed group of colleagues, I recently sat down with Jack Warner, Brandon Landry, and Scott Taylor, one of the engineers of the redesigned menu.  We got started with a smorgasbord of appetizers which proved that Walk-On's isn't playing anymore.  The Tuna Tini highlights something a little different for them.  Sushi grade ahi tuna gets dusted with blackening seasoning and seared on the outside while left raw on the inside.  The Tuna Tini is rimmed with tuna squares and filled with a tropical slaw that boasts mango and avocado.  The Spinach and Artichoke dip, their number one selling appetizer, is creamy and delicious.  It might not be perfect for everyone, but those who love it will keep coming back for it.  We also had the improved cheese fries with the crispy waffle fry base and loaded with cheese, banana peppers, and true chunks of bacon as opposed to the bacon bits they started off with a decade ago.  Their Boom Boom Shrimp is an obvious and calculated play on Bone Fish Grill's Bang Bang Shrimp.  I don't mind that.  Inspiration comes from everywhere.  What I do like is Walk-On's commitment to now using all Louisiana seafood.  The boneless wings in the sweet and spicy BBQ sauce were pretty spot on, as far as boneless wings go.  Perhaps the real winner of the show was the blackened alligator.  MattyC, one of my fellow diners, claimed that it may have been the single best piece of alligator that he's ever tried.  The 100% tail meat chunks most certainly satisfied everyone at the table.

Cajundilla with Red Beans and Rice
A round of Duck and Andouille Gumbos came out to the table and we were all told that we had to try it.  It looked dark and rich and smelled incredible.  After one taste I knew that they had put some work into this gumbo.  In fact, Jack told me that the inspiration came from a particular New Orleans restaurant.  The duck meat is most certainly present, though I would have liked to find a tad more andouille.  Still, the complex smoky flavors and rich nuttiness of the roux all came through into a pretty stellar bowl of gumbo.  We also tried the Cajundillas, a name that they have trademarked, which are like quesadillas but filled with chicken, andouille, boudin, onions, and cheese.  That dish got served with a side of red beans and rice.  I was asked to guess where the inspiration for the beans came from, and with one look I knew the answer had to be Popeye's.  And I, of course, picked correctly.  That dish, with the uniqueness of the Cajundillas and the pretty satisfactory interpretation of the Popeye's staple, could be one of my go-to orders on the menu while watching a game.

Selection of Salads at Walk-On's
Jack and Brandon told me a story about how when they started the restaurant, they didn't even want salads on the menu.  They wanted a sports bar, and they felt there was no room on the menu for food that their actual food eats.  Well, times have clearly changed, and salads are now important to them.  We sampled four of their salads including the chicken and berry, tuna, shrimp, and cobb.  Each salad had its unique flair.  They've all morphed from the original Walk-On's salads with iceberg and dressing.  Now there are decent lettuce mixes and fresh ingredients.  The chicken and berry salad really impressed Gabby from Brew Ha Ha who joined the eating adventure.  It is proof that you can go to Walk-On's and eat reasonably healthy despite the south Louisiana sports bar vibe.

Burgers and Waffle Fries
We also got our hands on several of the burgers at Walk-On's.  The beef and buns have changed over the years, and now they seem pretty proud of the burgers they are putting out.  The new bun is a sweeter almost Hawaiian style bread this is pretty popular with burgers these days.  I like it, so I didn't complain.  Their stuffed burger, which has been around since the beginning, and the barbeque burger were both nice.  I wouldn't start putting them on the list for the best burger in town, but if I really craved a burger and wanted to hang out at Walk-On's, I wouldn't shy away from it like I used to.  Plus, the waffle fries are a great touch!  There were several entrees that we tasted as well including the Catfish Atchafalaya both blackened and fried, each topped with crawfish etoufee and fried crawfish tails.  There were a couple other sandwiches on the menu like the Blackjack Chicken, a Thin Fried Catfish Poboy, and the Ahi Tuna Wrap, which featured everything in the salad but in wrap form.

We capped off the evening with one of the most amazing ideas I've ever heard of in all my culinary experiences.  Krispy Kreme... Bread Pudding.  That's right.  Krispy Kreme Doughnuts turned into a bread pudding.  No, it can't be good for you.  And yes, it is a little on the sweet side.  Okay, a lot.  But damn.  Damn!  It is delicious.  And to me, it is nostalgic.  I remember as a kid stopping at Tony's Seafood on Plank Road for boudin balls then swinging into Krispy Kreme when the Hot Now sign flashed red neon into the night sky.  This.  This Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding.  This is something that Walk-On's could be known for. This could be a signature dish featured on traveling food TV shows.  This shows the forward thinking of a national food trend that's happening with collaboration between brands, to be proud of and show off a product that paved the way.  Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding.  Yes, indeed.

Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding at Walk-On's
The overall meal at Walk-On's truly impressed.  There are undoubtedly significant upgrades to the menu compared to the last few years and especially if you date back to when they first opened.  I'm most impressed with the assortment of appetizers.  True to the small plate or tapas trend, you can now go to Walk-On's with a group, watch a game, order a bunch of appetizers to share, and have a few cold beers.  Speaking of beers, I'd love to help them out with that.  They had no IPA on tap, not even the Juke Joint IPA from Tin Roof which is brewed literally right down the street from them.  Still, the food can actually draw people in now.  And even if you are not ready to be drawn in yet, I at least admit that I'll no longer shy away from Walk-On's as a venue to watch a big game or hang out with some buddies.  I also respect Jack and Brandon for recognizing that they had a problem and wanting to do something about it.  Growth has meant change for the company, and that change for the better is now in their two Baton Rouge restaurants.  I'm not saying it is fine dining by any means, but if you're looking for a casual, family friendly restaurant or a local sports bar, it is time to give Walk-On's another shot.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Truck, the Brewer, and the Blogger III: A Pop-Up Beer Dinner at the Tin Roof Brewing Company

On Thursday, March 14th, Chef Aaron Brown from the Taco de Paco food truck and I teamed up on the third installment of our "The Truck, the Brewer, and the Blogger" dinner series at the Tin Roof Brewing Company in Baton Rouge, LA.  We were joined by Christina Stephens who did cupcakes for dessert, as well as Louisiana Culinary Institute students Paige Lucas and Jonathan Drago, Team Bite and Booze: Michele Smith, Erin Kenna, and Corrito Gealogo, Executive Chef Chris Wadsworth, Chef Sean Rivera, Chuck P of the Me and My Big Mouth Podcast, Dan Jones and Tommy Talley with TommysTV, and everyone else who helped out along the way including event sponsors Cajun Country Rice and Event Rental.

Here's a video to check out that recaps the incredible evening!



Also, I have another pop-up coming up in collaboration with the aforementioned Chef Chris Wadsworth at Restaurant IPO.  It is a movie villains themed dinner that will take place on Wednesday, May 8th.  For more information or for tickets, go to http://movievillains.eventbrite.com.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Deerhammer Down Time: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Calandro's Supermarket

Deerhammer Down Time
Deerhammer, an artisan distillery in Buena Vista, Colorado, produces a single malt whiskey called Down Time.  The whiskey is sort of a cross between a bourbon and a Scotch.  It uses entirely barley in the grain bill, like all single malt Scotch, but it uses yeast that is more popular with bourbon distillers and is aged in a freshly charred new American white oak barrel, exactly like bourbon.  The result is interesting for sure.  The oak comes through on the nose as well as the noticeable barley grain bill and absence of corn sweetness.  Lots of wood, caramel, and toffee line the palate.  Some herbal qualities and spice arise at the finish and then are drowned out by the oak and a bitterness like swig of black coffee.  The whiskey is significantly complex as the grains, yeast, and barrel are all providing different flavors to create a unique whiskey.


Dearhammer Down Time

Average Score 61.5


Whisk(e)y Wednesday is a blog post series on Bite and Booze sponsored by Calandro's Supermarket. Calandro's has one of Baton Rouge's best selections of bourbon, Scotch, and other whisk(e)ys as well as wine and craft beer. This WW feature was scored by Eric Ducote, Brenton Day, and Charles Pierce. Scores are marked for Nose, Taste, Finish, and Balance and Complexity using our own proprietary scoring system. Marks are then added and averaged, leaving us with a final score out of a 100 point scale. Our scale should be looked at on the full range of 0-100 rather than an academic range where 70 is passing and anything less is failing. A 50 should be considered a very mediocre whisk(e)y while anything below 20 is absolute horse piss and anything above 90 is rather extraordinary.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bite and Booze Radio Show: Kolache Kitchen

On this week's episode of the Bite and Booze Radio Show presented by Calandro's Supermarket, I interview Will Edwards, owner of the Kolache Kitchen on Nicholson Dr. in Baton Rouge.  We are also joined by Jeff "The Dude" Dowd to discuss the Louisiana International Film Festival and Mentorship Program.




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The Bite and Booze Radio Show presented by Calandro's Supermarket airs on Saturdays at 5 PM on Talk 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge.  It is also available on iTunes.  The show's sponsors include Calandro's SupermarketVisit Baton RougeSlap Ya Mama Cajun SeasoningLouisiana Cookin' MagazineJuban's Restaurant, the Tin Roof Brewing Company, and the Louisiana Culinary Institute.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bugs & Brew for Drew Crawfish Cook-off and Beer Festival




Now this is a Bite and Booze event that is not to be missed!

The Drew Rodrigue Foundation will be hosting the fourth annual Bugs & Brew for Drew Crawfish Cook-off and Beer Festival, which will take place at a new location on the banks of the Mississippi River at River City Plaza at Mardi Gras World in New Orleans on April 20, 2013 from 11:00 a.m–5:00 p.m. Featuring a crawfish competition, Louisiana beer garden, local music, and children’s entertainment, this family-friendly festival will benefit the Drew Rodrigue Foundation, a local non-profit which celebrates heroes in the face of adversity, in honor of Drew Rodrigue, a local football coach who battled against cancer.

“My husband Drew embraced life and believed that cancer would not win each day,” said Mary Kathryn Rodrigue, Chairman of the Board of the Drew Rodrigue Foundation. “This event is in homage to that passion for life, an opportunity for us to change the lives of others, while celebrating moments with friends and family.”

Proceeds from this event will support the Foundation’s many charitable projects. The Foundation’s mission is to change the lives of individuals who have stared their adversities in the face and have bravely decided to suit up and march onto the playing field of life and show others that giving up is not an option.

Growing rapidly in its first few years, the event will move from its original location at Jesuit High School
to the River City Plaza at Mardi Gras World in New Orleans, where over fifty teams from around the region will compete for the titles of “Best Crawfish” and “Best Lagniappe.” The festival will also feature local craft beer and a cask-aged beer garden, hosted by the recently formed Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild, with participation from all seven of Louisiana’s breweries: Abita, Bayou Teche, Chafunkta, Covington, NOLA, Parish, and Tin Roof. “The Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild is honored to be a part of Bugs & Brew in our inaugural year,” said Conrad Rolling, Executive Director of the Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild. “It’s a fantastic chance to celebrate the exceptional craft beer that Louisiana breweries are producing, while supporting a great cause.”

In addition to the crawfish boil-off and beer garden, Bugs & Brew will feature the musical talents of Papa Grows Funk, Honey Island Swamp Band, Johnny Sketch, and Stone Rabbits. Kids can enjoy face painting, and there will also be a raffle, with the opportunity to take home gift certificates to local restaurants, local artwork, vacation packages at hotels along the Gulf Coast, and more. Admission to the festival is FREE. Advance VIP tickets can be purchased online for $50 until April 15 at www.bugsandbrew.com, or after April 16, for $60. Also known as the Cajun Pass, this ticket allows you to eat and drink all day. Separate drink and food tickets will also be sold at the event. Enthusiast Members of the Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild receive a $10 discount.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Prichard's Double Chocolate Bourbon Whiskey: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Calandro's Supermarket


A bourbon from Tennessee?  Why, yes.  We've seen Prichard's before on Whisk(e)y Wednesday.  Both their Double Barreled Bourbon and Lincoln County Lightning have graced the blog, but this time we take a sip of the Double Chocolate Bourbon!  The scent of bitter chocolate graces the nostrils at first whiff, followed by a pleasant aroma of whiskey.  The bourbon hides the chocolate more on the taste than the nose.  It is noticeable  but subtle.  The chocolate flavor is more that of cocoa powder than a candy bar.  It is different, unique, and worth a try.  While it is a bit weird, it gets bonus points for the effort to do something different.  Prichard's Double Chocolate Bourbon Whiskey loses a bit of pizzazz on the finish, and the balance is peculiar, but don't say no if you see a bottle.  Give it a try and see what happens!


Prichard's Double Chocolate Bourbon

Average Score 63.75


Whisk(e)y Wednesday is a blog post series on Bite and Booze sponsored by Calandro's Supermarket. Calandro's has one of Baton Rouge's best selections of bourbon, Scotch, and other whisk(e)ys as well as wine and craft beer. WW is created and rated by the hosts of Raise a Glass. Scores are marked for Nose, Taste, Finish, and Balance and Complexity using our own propriatary scoring system. Marks are then added and averaged, leaving us with a final score out of a 100 point scale. Our scale should be looked at on the full range of 0-100 rather than an academic range where 70 is passing and anything less is failing. A 50 should be considered a very mediocre whisk(e)y while anything below 20 is absolute horse piss and anything above 90 is rather extraordinary.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bite and Booze Radio Show: Out Da Bayou

This week's episode of the Bite and Booze Radio Show features John Jackson, host and producer of Out Da Bayou, a new local television program bringing Louisiana fare out da bayou and onto the dinner table.  Also joining us is Jeff "The Dude" Dowd to speak about the Louisiana International Film Festival and Mentorship Program.




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The Bite and Booze Radio Show presented by Calandro's Supermarket airs on Saturdays at 5 PM on Talk 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge.  It is also available on iTunes.  The show's sponsors include Calandro's SupermarketVisit Baton RougeSlap Ya Mama Cajun SeasoningLouisiana Cookin' MagazineJuban's Restaurant, the Tin Roof Brewing Company, and the Louisiana Culinary Institute.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Donner-Peltier Distillers Wins Bronze and Golds

It has been a great launch for the Donner-Peltier Distillers in Thibodaux, Louisiana. They now have a bronze medal and some gold medals to hang in their show room. A big Bite and Booze congrats to a Louisiana distillery!

At the American Distilling Institute's 7th Annual Judging of Artisan American Spirits, Donner-Peltier Distillers took home a Bronze medal for in the White Rum category for their Rougaroux Sugarshine.  On March 4-5, 2013, ADI judged 317 artisan American spirits at Huber Orchard and Winery in Starlight, Indiana: 127 whiskies, 66 gins, 36 moonshines, 47 rums and 41 fruit spirits were submitted from 124 independently-owned, small-batch, distilled spirits producers. Judges awarded 23 gold, 44 silver and 46 bronze medals, again upholding the highest standards by awarding medals to only 37% of participants.

Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded based on the judges consideration of the spirit's merits, and not on their numerical scores. Best of categories were awarded to the medal-worthy spirits that scored numerically better than other spirits in the same category. The tasting was totally blind and evaluated in terms of Nose, Palate, Finish and Balance. Judges were not allowed to see bottles or know what spirits were submitted until all judging was complete.

DP's Oryza Vodka
Meanwhile, at the recent convention of the World Spirits Association in Klagenfurt, Austria, Donner-Peltier Distillers of Thibodaux, Louisiana, won gold medals for each spirit the company entered for judging. Among these was the distillers’ flagship Oryza Vodka with a score of 91, Rougaroux Full Moon Dark Rum, with a score of 92, and Sugarshine, a clear rum that earned a score of 94. Sugarshine also won the clear rum category outright.

“We were thrilled when we heard the news”, says Beth Donner, company president. “We always had confidence that we were making great products, but to have an international panel of spirits experts agree is very gratifying.”

The World Spirits Association conducts an annual spring competition each January, which requires submissions of spirits in December. “We were only in business for a month or two when the submission deadline rolled around”, said Donner. “Our hope was that we might receive a medal, maybe two, but to win three medals with three products, and have them all be gold-well, that was really the best surprise I’ve had in quite a while.”

Donner adds that the best is yet to come. The distillery is planning to release two new products onto the market in the next two months: Rougaroux 13 Pennies Praline Rum, and Oryza Gin. Sometime later
this year, the distillery will release LA1, Louisiana’s first whiskey since Prohibition. Donner explains “These products have taken some time to develop, but we think we’ve got them perfected now, so they should really be our best yet.”

Friday, April 5, 2013

BRES presents CrawFête at Mockler Beverage

Plenty of mudbugs will be served in all forms at CrawFête
On Thursday, April 18th, 2013, the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society and Mockler Beverage Company will
host ‘CrawFête’, a gourmet crawfish tasting and live auction.  Some Baton Rouge's best chefs from some of our finest restaurants will be on site to prepare outstanding crawfish dishes complemented with the craft beers, wines, and spirits from Mockler.

I attended this event last year and had a blast.  It's always interesting to see what the chefs come up with when given a common ingredient like crawfish but then letting their minds run wild with possibilities.

The restaurants cooking at CrawFête include:

Bin 77, Blend Wine Bar, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Culinary Productions, Galatoire’s Bistro, Hot Tails Restaurant, Juban’s Restaurant, Latil’s Landing Restaurant, Mansurs on the Boulevard, Ruffino’s Restaurant, Sammy’s Grill Catering, Stroube’s Steakhouse, Sullivan’s Steakhouse and more!

Tickets for CrawFête are $50 a person and are available by visiting www.crawfetebr.com.

Proceeds from CrawFête benefit local childhood health & nutrition programs. The Baton Rouge Epicurean Society, a 501c3 non-profit organization is dedicated to the education of childhood nutrition Girls on the Run, Boys & Girls Club of Baton Rouge, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, 4-H leadership programs, Pro-Start culinary high school programs, Epicurean scholarship funding and the cultural preservation of the Greater Baton Rouge area. The Baton Rouge Epicurean Society was formed by local food and beverage professionals in the Greater Baton Rouge Area.

For more information on the event please visit www.crawfetebr.com or contact
Renée Molbert, @ mrdugas@msn.com or 225.773.4889.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tullibardine 1993: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Calandro's Supermarket

In one of the worst showings in recent Whisk(e)y Wednesday posts, Tullibardine 1993 Highland single malt Scotch has clocked in close to the mid-point of the 0-100 scale.  Granted, anything over a 50 means I wouldn't turn it down if somebody bought it for me.  The Scotch is sweet with a candy-corn like aroma that you'd get on an un-aged white whiskey.  Grapes and honey came through on the palate almost like a white wine aged in oak barrels.  I found it to be harsh and medicinal with very little refinement or balance.  Ultimately, especially for a Scotch, the Tullibardine is flat out boring.  Drinkable, yes, but spend your money elsewhere.

Tullibardine 1993

Average Score 52.5


Whisk(e)y Wednesday is a blog post series on Bite and Booze sponsored by Calandro's Supermarket. Calandro's has one of Baton Rouge's best selections of bourbon, Scotch, and other whisk(e)ys as well as wine and craft beer. WW is created and rated by the hosts of Raise a Glass. Scores are marked for Nose, Taste, Finish, and Balance and Complexity using our own propriatary scoring system. Marks are then added and averaged, leaving us with a final score out of a 100 point scale. Our scale should be looked at on the full range of 0-100 rather than an academic range where 70 is passing and anything less is failing. A 50 should be considered a very mediocre whisk(e)y while anything below 20 is absolute horse piss and anything above 90 is rather extraordinary.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bite and Booze Radio Show: Louisiana Feast of Fields

This week's episode of the Bite and Booze Radio Show featured Chef Ryan Andre from Le Creole, Chef Jeff Oliveri from L'Auberge BR, and Chef Sean "Foodie Patutie" Rivera.  We discussed the Louisiana Feast of Fields coming up on April 12th at the LSU Burden Center, as well as many more things going on in the food and beverage world of Baton Rouge.  Enjoy!




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The Bite and Booze Radio Show presented by Calandro's Supermarket airs on Saturdays at 5 PM on Talk 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge.  It is also available on iTunes.  The show's sponsors include Calandro's Supermarket, Visit Baton Rouge, Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning, Louisiana Cookin' Magazine, Juban's Restaurant, the Tin Roof Brewing Company, and the Louisiana Culinary Institute

Monday, April 1, 2013

Heading to NYC: Ruffino's James Beard Preview Dinner

Katherine Lagow and I at the James Beard Preview Dinner
Chef Peter Sclafani, Ruffin Rodrigue, and everyone at Ruffino's have earned my round of applause.  Chef Peter has been selected to cook at the James Beard House in New York City, and I had a lucky spot at the 'Central Park' table at Ruffino's for the preview dinner.  “Cooking at the Beard House has been on my bucket list ever since I donned my first chef’s hat,” said Sclafani, Co-Owner and Executive Chef at Ruffino’s. “I am truly humbled that they have asked me to cook there, and I am exceedingly proud to represent Baton Rouge and Louisiana on the most prestigious stage in the American culinary landscape.”  The dinner in NYC will be this Saturday, April 6, 2013.  Chef Sclafini's take on 'French Creole meets Italian' is a winner, and I'm certain that it will please the palate of all who have the fortunate ticket to the amazing dinner.  Here's a little of what they're in for as Ruffino's brings Louisiana up north!

Hors D'oeuvres: Grits and Grillades
The hors d'oeuvres were served with a little bubbly to get the night started.  The Mionetto Prosecco NV got everyone's palates ready for the onslaught of Louisiana-inspired goodies.  Shrimp corndogs with honey mustard, crawfish arancini, charbroiled oysters, and a corn and crab shooter rounded out a bevy of seafood small bites.  All were fantastic.  The grits and grillades, pictured above in the Asian spoon, were right on the money.  I could have eaten a dozen of them!

Crab Cheesecake
For the first sit down course, Chef Peter pulled out one of his classic dishes: crab cheesecake.  The cheesecake is loaded with Louisiana crab meat and plated with all sorts of delicious sauces and crumbles.  I'm embarrassed to say that I hadn't ever had his signature crab cheesecake before.  Next time I'm there, I'll be looking out for it as an appetizer!

Heirloom Tomato "Caprese" Salad
Chef Peter is bringing a new twist to his award winning caprese salad course with him to New York.  The dish, which features heirloom tomatoes, burrata cheese, and balsamic caviar, will now also feature some foie gras mousse as well.  The foie gras is inside the burrata cheese, and when all mixed together, provides and excellent additional flavor to the exquisite tomatoes and the novelty of the sphere-ified 25-year-old balsamic vinegar.

Braised Mississippi Rabbit with Gnocchi
The third course of the dinner service brought on a locally inspired dish with plenty of Italian flare.  The braised rabbit is cooked down with plenty of aromatic vegetables until it is tender and rich with flavor.  The gnocchi, a popular Italian potato pasta, are fluffy and soak up plenty stock.  This is a comfort dish that I could eat a whole bowl of as a meal, but it worked even better as a course in this delightful dinner.

Head-to-Toe Pork
The James Beard preview dinner's main entree consisted of pork two ways.  Pork cheeks, one of the most succulent cuts of pork in existence, were served with Benton's bacon jam along side a butternut squash puree.  Also joining the plate were a pair of pork trotter tortellini.  The pork trotters are from the feet of the pig, and also provide good eating when cooked the right way.  Everything on this plate worked the right way.  From the tenderness of the pork to the flavor combinations with the bacon and butternut squash, I couldn't get enough.  Really.  I had to steal some off of the plate next to me!

Chicory Cafe Au Lait Panna Cotta with Chocolate Chip Beignets
Naturally, the Creole-Italian dessert featured coffee.  The delicious chicory panna cotta played with me senses and the bitterness of the coffee danced with the creaminess and sweetness of the gelatin-based dessert.  The beignets, when dipped in the chocolate sauce, added a nice change of texture to the dish.  I definitely left satisfied and filled to the brim.  Those folks in New York are in for a treat!

Driven by its mission “to celebrate, nurture and preserve America’s diverse culinary heritage and future,” the James Beard Foundation is dedicated to exploring the way food enriches our lives. The Foundation maintains the historic James Beard House in New York City’s Greenwich Village as a “performance space” for visiting chefs. A cookbook author and teacher, James Beard was a champion of American cuisine who helped educate and mentor generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled for Peter, and for our restaurant, to be invited to the Beard House,” said Ruffino’s co-owner Ruffin Rodrigue, who manages the front of the house and operations for the restaurant. “This is truly an amazing honor, and you can bet Peter will be pulling out all the stops to make April 6th a night that New York City won’t soon forget!”  I agree with Ruffin.  If he can pull off the dinner in NYC like he did for us at the preview dinner on his home turf, he'll be making Baton Rouge and all of Louisiana proud, that's for sure.