Grab your tickets for the Capital Chef Showcase on Sept. 4!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Russell's Reserve: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Calandro's Supermarket

Russell's Reserve is a 10 year aged Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey that, at least on the average score, slightly disappointed. I enjoyed the nose as it has some playful hints and reminded me of a mild Speyside Scotch.  It had floral and mineral notes which were inviting, but unique for a bourbon.  The whiskey definitely came across smooth, clean, and easy on the palate.  It had a light oak flavor and rending me of cheese and the light toastiness of crackers.  The whiskey finished crisp and astringent, smoothly fleeting the tongue.  Ultimately, though, compared to other bourbon we've tried, this one didn't really feel as bourbon-y.  Perhaps it is in the 10 year aging process or the amount of malted barley in the mash.  It was quite drinkable, but lacked a certain pizzazz.

Russell's Reserve

Average Score 69.5


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, February 26, 2013

The Great American Beer Boom: Jay's Beer Journey

Back in October, many of you will remember that I set out on a craft beer adventure to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver and then on to check out some breweries in San Diego.  What might have slipped through the cracks is that I made a stop in Louisiana as well, and that my buddy Tommy Talley of tommysTV came along with me on the journey... with a camera.  Here's a story that tells what I found out about the relationship between craft brewers and their wholesalers:


Greg Koch of the Stone Brewing Co. poses with a beer and Jay Ducote

Saturday, February 23, 2013

MLB FanCave 2013 Update

Jay arrives at MLB FanCave registration
MLB FanCave Credentials
The whole experience of being selected to the final 30 of the 2013 MLB FanCave has been far more unreal that I ever imagined.  I sent in an application with a video submission back in November or December.  Out of literally thousands and thousands of applications, mine was selected to be in the top 52 and went to an online vote.  Thanks to all of you, I escaped that round to the #FanCave30, which also earned me a trip to Phoenix for Spring Training with the other 29 hopefuls.  Not really knowing what to expect, I went into the auditions with an open mind and the attitude I carry with myself every day.  I wasn't nervous because all I had to do was be me.  If they like it, great.  If not, I'll be just fine.  The MLB FanCave is in its third year, which anybody who deals with things of this nature knows is a huge year for the production run.  The third year is usually when more sponsors come in, kinks have been worked out, and everything starts to run a little smoother so there can be more experimentation.  Major League Baseball certainly hit it out the park.  It started with them sending transportation to pick me up  from my house to get me from the airport.  After flying to Phoenix, my friend Veronica from college days at LSU picked me up from the airport and brought me to grab some dinner and beers at the OHSO Eatery and nanoBrewery.  I could tell by the twitter alerts that the #FanCave30 were all making their way to the hotel, so anticipation built on my end. We spent that first night getting to know each other and hanging out by/in the hot tub.  The next morning, business got underway as we officially registered with MLB and collected our gear, including the credentials and backpack seen above.

A group of us pose for a picture at our hotel before loading up for Chase Field
Time to board the MLB FanCave Bus!
#FanCave30 at Chase Field
While at Chase Field, we got our first pep talk from Tim Brosnan, the Executive Vice President of Business at Major League Baseball.  He reminded us that we made it to the top 30 for a reason, and to just be ourselves.  He also let us know that we'd be soon be doing our 60 second pitches, but first, we feasted on some ballpark fare.  I went straight to the hot dogs.  I am a hot dog eating champ, after all.

Ballpark Franks... a fitting lunch
A moment of reflection in the DBacks' dugout



After the elevator pitches, which at least in my mind came pretty naturally to me as I wasn't nervous and thought I delivered exactly what I wanted to, some folks had more formal interviews with the MLB brass while the rest of us took off on an adventure around Chase Field filming a music video.  Here's the result:  


The time had then come for baseball trivia and karaoke.  Eric Byrnes, former big leaguer and current MLB Network personality, hosted along with Ricardo Marquez, one of last year's cave dwellers.  Team Gong 'Em Style (my team) took home the grand prize, a TV segment with  the Phoenix FOX news crew the next morning!

Team Gong 'Em Style with Kristin from My FOX Phoenix
We weren't done at Chase Field just yet though.  After trivia, we sang karaoke on the outfield terrace.  Fellow #FanCave30 member Alex Justice and I did our best rendition of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.  Enjoy:



The next day, after the morning news segment, I boarded a bus with eight others to head to Goodyear, AZ, Spring Training home to the Reds and Indians.  We got to hang out at the Reds facility for a while and then filmed a segment with Jay Bruce... and I got PRANKED!  I'll have to wait until the video is out to tell the whole story, but I did get to meet Jay Bruce, and after he stopped pretending to be pissed, he was a great fella.

Posing with Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds
Goofing off before my interview
That evening, after a freak Phoenix thunderstorm with hail, the time came for my formal interview.  I felt like it went extremely well.  We talked about me coaching high school baseball, my journey as a food and beverage content creator and everything else that I do, and more.  After the interviews were over, MLB took us to a Lucky Strike where we ate, drank, and were generally very merry.  Bowling and drinking some beers, we capped off an excellent couple days in the desert.  I really don't think it could have gone any better, and I couldn't have met a better group of people.



Hayden Moss and I... one of many great people I met!
I don't know yet which of us will get to spend six months in NYC at the cave.  We should find out next week at some point.  Until then, all I can do is think back on the week that passed, and remember all the wonderful friends that I made.  Hopefully they'll be calling my name soon to invite me to the FanCave.  But until then, just keep wishing me luck!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

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

Prichard's Double Barrel Bourbon
Prichard's Double Barreled Bourbon out of Tennessee scored extremely well with our judges, though there were some differing opinions.  Eric scored it a 90 while James had it at 72. Jeremy and I were in the middle with 82 and 81, respectively.  The nose is a delightful bouquet.  Jeremy caught whiffs of green gummy bears, Eric notice vanilla ice cream with caramel syrup, and I thought it smelled like a sweet corn pudding.  The corn definitely came through on the palate as a spicy corn bread balanced with honeysuckle.  The bourbon is complex with lots of flavors that stand out including an excellent marriage of smoke and sweet.  It hits all over the tongue, lingers with spice, and the dissipates with nice astringency.  Prichard's Double Barreled Bourbon is definitely one to look out for when thinking about adding some artisan bourbons to your collection, and it is available in Louisiana!



Prichard's Double Barreled Bourbon

Average Score: 80.75


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.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Louisiana Feast of Fields 2013

Anybody out there interested in a true farm-to-table type of dinner?  The Louisiana Feast of Fields 2013 is a gastronomic gala taking place at the LSU AgCenter's Botanical Gardens off of Essen Lane on April 12th.  Chef Ryan Andre from Le Creole in Baton Rouge will lead the culinary team that matches up local farmers, fishermen, and chefs to create a five course meal!  Check out all the details below.  You can purchase your tickets online though PayPal from the Louisiana Culinary Institute.  The dinner also features wine and beer pairings from Pontchartrain Vineyards and the Tin Roof Brewing Company, and Dr. Mike Strain as a guest speaker.  It is sure to be amazing.



Here's a preview of the dinner with myself in the kitchen with Ryan Andre putting together the pork belly dish that will be featured at the dinner!



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Defending Maker's Mark: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Calandro's Supermarket


Maker's Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky
This is not a normal Whisk(e)y Wednesday post.  I'm not reviewing Maker's Mark today.  Instead, I decided to make this week's post about current events.  Maker's Mark, a Kentucky bourbon that uses the Scotch spelling of whisky, announced this week that they are diluting their flagship bourbon down by 3% alcohol by volume (ABV).  In an email to their "ambassadors," of which I am one, Maker's officials said that they cannot keep up with demand at the 90 proof level, and that diluting it just 3% (45% to 42% ABV or from 90 to 84 proof) will allow them to produce enough bourbon to satisfy the market.  This move has upset a lot of loyal Maker's fans who have turned the distillery with the signature red wax into a major player in the whisk(e)y world.

I, on the other hand, am at least understanding of the move.  The market for bourbon has exploded recently in a way that nobody could have predicted even 6 to 10 years ago.  US markets and especially foreign markets are demanding a lot of bourbon, and if aged properly, that bourbon would have had to have been distilled earlier in the 2000s to be on the market now.  There simply isn't enough supply of bourbon to keep up with the global demand.  Simple economics tell us that this means the prices will go up, at least until there is an adjustment in the supply.  So, rather than see prices rise for Maker's, the distillers got together, put a lot of thought and taste testing into diluting their product, and made the executive decision that adding 3% more water would create enough extra supply while not sacrificing the quality of the product.

That argument certainly sounds like some marketing jargon from Maker's, but I actually agree with their statement.  I doubt many people could tell the difference between Maker's at 90 proof and Maker's at 84 proof.  Plus, most bourbon on the market is actually 80 proof, so they are still keeping their bourbon at slightly higher ABV.  Truth is, all bourbon, unless it is truly barrel strength, is diluted with water to the proof that the distiller desires, with a minimum of 80 proof or 40% ABV.  Additionally, I applaud Maker's for having the fortitude to tell their most loyal fans what's up instead of just releasing a lower proof bourbon hoping nobody would notice.

The backlash from fans of Maker's Mark shows that they actually have passionate fans.  And my guess is that the strong majority of those fans will stay loyal to the brand.  It's not like they are going to switch over to Knob Creek overnight, a bourbon made by Jim Beam.  Perhaps they'll find other local or small batch bourbons, but at the price point, Maker's is still a pretty good bang for the buck whisk(e)y.

I get why it upsets people, though.  This is clearly a move by Maker's Mark to stretch what's in their barrels, and make more money on the product they have on hand.  It is a change to their product which has been consistent for decades.  All that being said, all we can really do is get a bottle of 90 proof Maker's then wait for a 84 proof bottle to come around, then do a blind taste test to see if there really is no difference in quality.  Challenge accepted!

Maker's Mark

Average Score N/A


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.

Monday, February 11, 2013

What is a Pop-Up?

I speak to the crowd at The Truck, The Brewer, and the Blogger I
at the Tin Roof Brewing Company
Pop-up restaurants are now at the pinnacle of trendiness.  They've been popular for years in New York and San Francisco.  They're getting press in New Orleans in publications like Garden & Gun and Country Roads.  An underbelly of food movements, pop-ups seem to have followed a similar model to food trucks as far as being a canvas for a new generation of young culinary minds without the start up costs of brick and mortar restaurants.  But what exactly is a pop-up restaurant or dinner?  It seems like they are all different, and there's no set formula, but there are certainly some consistencies.

To me, in order to be a pop-up, the establishment must emerge and then vanish.  Literally, it should pop-up, then pop back down at some point.  However, the timing varies for each pop-up.  Some pop-up restaurants take over a vacant spot for several months.  It is an opportunity for a chef to try a new concept without starting a fully fledged restaurant.  Other pop-ups, like the ones I've done, last for one night only.  Gulf Pig in Shreveport is a similar series of pop-up dinners.  Each has its own menu and theme, but they are all done under the Gulf Pig label for one dinner service only.

Some pop-ups are recurring, popping up in the same location one day each week.  These have been seen all around New Orleans at restaurants that are otherwise closed on Mondays.  They essentially lease their space out to another chef to do a pop-up restaurant.  The food is typically far from the normal fare at that the host restaurant selling.

Speaking to the crowd at a Pop-up Wine Dinner at Roux Wine and Spirits in Prarieville, La

Each pop-up is unique, but my preferred style is the one-and-done method.  Sell some tickets, put on an awesome dinner in a unique space, then go back to the drawing board to create a menu for the next dinner.  In true Bite and Booze fashion, my pop-ups have all been themed around pairings with beverages.  I've used wine and beer to help me create my menus.  I'm thinking a whiskey dinner might need to be coming up soon as well!

Actually, the next dinner in the "The Truck, the Brewer, and the Blogger" series is coming up on March 14th.  I'll once again be joined by Taco de Paco and Christina Stephens to put on a five course beer dinner at the Tin Roof Brewery.  We just put the menu online (see below), and signup link is active.  Reserve your seat now!




Wednesday, February 6, 2013

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

Booker's Bourbon
Sticking with over-proofed bourbons, Booker's might be one of the stiffest around.  Coming in at 127.4 proof, this gargantuan whiskey will put some hair on your chest.  Booker's is another label out of Jim Beam's small batch collection, and they certainly don't cut it much.  The nose gives whiffs of vanilla and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  The taste, with what's left of your palate, comes across with flavors of candied yams and honey.  Then the burn hits you.  It is harsh, spicy, and gives away to tastes of wet hay all the way down.  It is balanced and complex, but potent and in your face.  Drink straight on a dare.  Sip on the rocks or with a splash of water for better consumption.


Booker's Bourbon

Average Score 72.5


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, February 5, 2013

ChefDance at Sundance

Beetroot Macaroon, Foie Gras, Sherry Reduction
While I didn't get to watch any films at the Sundance Film Festival, nor did I do any skiing on the famous Park City slopes, I did get to attend one event worthy of noting (other than the party at which I cooked).  MorningStar Farms ChefDance, a series of celebrity-chef crafted dinners at Sundance, clearly has made a name for itself as the go-to culinary event during the festival.  Each night, a different chef takes center-stage to put on a multi-course dinner offering for celebrities, festival attendees, and members of the culinary media.  Fortunately for me, I fell into one of those categories!  The crowd at ChefDance was huge.  I spied the likes of Tony Danza as I found my seat, and after some cocktails from the Snake Oil Cocktail Company and a brief delay, food started to come out of the kitchen.  Chef Shawn Armstrong led the brigade to create a stellar menu for the multitude of diners.


Snake Oil Cocktail Co's Bulleit Bourbon Beverage

Aspen Smoked Salmon, Blood Orange, Avocado Cream, Tangerine Lace, Citrus Creme Fraiche

Parsnip Cream & Crisp, Sugar Cured Pork Belly, Seasonal Mushrooms, Oregon White Truffle, Micro Chive, Green Onion Oil, MorningStar Farms "Chix" Pea Powder

Femme Fatale: Bulleit Bourbon, Smoked Maple-Chicory Soda,  Dried Apple Chip

Lamb "Ribeye", Charcoal Tortellini, Local Honey Glazed Butternut Squash, Puffed Black Barley, Roasted Brussels Sprout Petals, Black Garlic

Ginger Graham Crusted Sweet Potato Cupcake filled with Cinnamon Honey Creme Brulee, topped with Orange Whipped Cream and Candied Pumpkin Seeds

On the whole, the meal was quite extraordinary.  Despite the long wait time and lengthy dinner service, each course impressed me enough to stay in my seat until the end.  The macaroon had a savory element with sweetness from the sherry redux.  The salmon may have been the best course, though I'll never argue with lamb or pork belly.  Both of those dishes were outstanding as well, and the lamb came out cooked beautifully, especially considering the crowd of 300+ plates that went out.  The cupcake was a creation of Megan Brown from Sweet Tooth Fairy, winner of Cupcake Wars.  It may not quite have been one of Christina Stephen's cupcakes, but it was really damn delicious!

I'm definitely glad that I got to experience MorningStar Farms ChefDance while in Park City.  Hopefully I'll be back again... perhaps even as a chef.  Hey, you can always tweet @chefdance and let them know that @biteandbooze should be there next year!

Friday, February 1, 2013

MLB FanCave

Last year's MLB FanCave
While this isn't a sports blog, few things go together better than Bite, Booze, and Baseball... from the fan's perspective, anyway.  I'm excited to announce that I am a finalist for the 2013 MLB FanCave.  If selected, I'll spend a good bit of this summer living a baseball fan's dream at the FanCave in NYC.  In order to get there, I need some help.  As of right now, I'm one of 52 finalists selected from thousands of applicants.  The first goal is to be in the top 30 in online voting, thus earning me a spot at the Spring Training auditions.  From there, I'd try out to be NYC bound.  So vote.  Vote again.  Refresh the page and vote again.  And then make sure you share on Facebook and Twitter!

bit.ly/jay4fancave
#Jay4FanCave
@MLBFanCave