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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The end of an era brings a dilemma: Taco n Sabor is closed

by Blair Loup

Taco n Sabor is closed and it sucks.
Taco n Sabor is closed and it sucks.

How many more lives need to be ruined? We literally cannot with the closure of Taco n Sabor.

I think it's important for Baton Rougeans to recognize the culturally diverse and delicious food scene that exists within our large Latin American community.While La Carreta, Superior Grill and Ninfa’s serve a purpose, they don’t come close to offering the incredible flavors that Taco n Sabor did.  

I understand the lusting after free chips and salsa and the enjoyment of multiple high fructose corn syrup laced albeit refreshing margaritas, but the food simply isn't on par with the truly authentic eateries in the city.


Spicy Beef Gordita at the former Taco n Sabor
Spicy Beef Gordita at the former Taco n Sabor


This closure in particular literally hit close to home for Team Bite and Booze. Located near Bite and Booze headquarters, Taco n Sabor served up some of our favorite, authentic Mexican dishes with friendly and quick in-and-out service not to mention a chance for Jay to put some of those high school Spanish classes to good use. Now that it’s closed, we’re feeling the true definition of the word dilemma. Where the f*(& is our new lunch spot?

This news is absolutely devastating. It’s the kind of news that brings us to our knees with our fists in the air while shouting, “Why?!” at the ceiling. Why must dreams be crushed and lives be ruined?

Tacos at Taco n Sabor
Tacos at Taco n Sabor
We did try to reach out to our amigos at Taco n Sabor but have not heard back on why they’ve closed. While we assume it is likely financial reasons, it certainly could be a personal or professional decision.

Regardless of why this tragedy has unfolded on College Drive, I’m upset. Taco n Sabor taught me that beef tongue is one of my top 5 favorite proteins and made me realize my undying love for Joya Grapefruit Soda. I’ll miss all of the business talks and ideas that Jay and I came up with at their bolted down booths. Most of all, I’ll miss the roasted jalapeños because they were especially delicious.

"I’ll miss the way they stuck the tortilla chips up in the beans on my plate, the cold Mexican cokes, and the spicy beef,” says Jay. “It was so convenient and they were good people. This sucks.”

We’ll never forget you Taco n Sabor. RIP.

If anyone else's pain is as real as ours, please feel free to check out some other amazing whole-in-the-wall Latin American restaurants in Baton Rouge to fill the void: Palo Rojo: 7 (now 6) Places to get Your South of the Border Fix in the Red Stick.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Myrna Arroyo: Vino Valedictorian

Myrna Arroyo
Myrna Arroyo
by Blair Loup

Not every rung on the ladder to success is dredged in plight for females. Myrna Arroyo's story is one of passion and determination. I know what it sounds like, but this is not a triumphant sports tale.

Myrna is a wearer of many hats: lawyer, former wine shop owner, public relations guru, luxury travel advisor, and certified sommelier. She can trace her love for wine back to one particular sip. A celebratory Bordeaux was left behind in her law firm’s boardroom years ago. That glass of Bordeaux gave Myrna a wine wake up call. It’s a taste she kept chasing with wine tastings and trips to popular wine destinations. Then, after she and her husband took a trip to Barolo, Italy, Myrna decided to become a certified sommelier.

Almost all who attempt to become a certified sommelier come from the service industry or alcohol industry. Myrna was chasing the goal on fumes of interest alone. She admits that she was relatively clueless about the process at first. It took hours of wine tastings in New Orleans and submerging herself into the culture surrounding the grape with wine dinners, small group tastings with others in the program, and classroom-style learning about different regions of wine.

All of her hard work paid off. Shortly after receiving her certification, Myrna opened a wine shop in Prairieville called Roux Wine and Spirits. Although that wine shop has closed, she still finds herself picking out fine wines for some of her former customers. “I really enjoy helping people discover wine, it’s as simple as that!” Myrna has goals of opening a wine bar in the future featuring bottles you can’t find in other establishments nearby. In the meantime, she owns a luxury travel company called Roux Wine Tours. The company organizes group trips all over the world tasting wine or other types of booze. Her passion for wine and travel work extremely well together as the alcohol tourism industry has really taken off. Myrna has lead trips to Napa, the Rhone River Valley in France, and to Italy. She's also been playing around with trips to Scotland and Kentucky for whisky and bourbon purposes. You can keep up with her adventures by liking Roux Wine Tours on Facebook and checking out her website at www.rouxwinetours.com.

What I admire most about Myrna is her tenacity. She discovered a passion and decided to master it. To set your sites on a goal and drive relentlessly to that achievement takes a strong female; so to that I say cheers to Myrna Arroyo and other women making things happen!



This post is part of a monthly series spotlighting Louisiana women in the business of booze. Previous features include:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sac-A-Yay: Chefs Cody and Sam Carroll open a new restaurant in New Orleans

by Blair Loup, Chief Confusion Coordinator

Chefs Cody and Sam Carroll, both graduates of the Louisiana Culinary Institute, opened a new restaurant in the New Orleans Warehouse District last week and Team Bite and Booze could not be more anxious to get through the doors. Sac-A-Lait boasts a menu full of elevated Prairie and Swamp Cajun dishes.

I first met the Louisiana Culinary Institute graduates while tagging along on shoots for the Louisiana Culinary Trails. We filmed at the duo's first restaurant, Hot Tails, in New Roads.




I hope Jay and I can make it to New Orleans soon to dine at their new venture. Once we do, we'll make sure to get you a full review. But to tide me over, I had Sam send over a few pictures of her favorite dishes. You can check out the full menu for Sac-A-Lait by clicking here.

Drunk Pheasant: Whole Bird with Rosemary with thin Canebrake Gravy
Drunk Pheasant: Whole Bird with Rosemary with thin Canebrake Gravy

Low Tide Tower: Hot and Cold Louisiana Seafood
Low Tide Tower: Hot and Cold Louisiana Seafood

Lost Trout: Perdu-Style Speckled Trout, Sweet Corn Calas, and Crawfish Étouffée
Lost Trout: Perdu-Style Speckled Trout, Sweet Corn Calas, and Crawfish Étouffée

Aged Banana Pudding in a Jar: Peanut Butter Mousse and Vanilla Wafer Crumble
Aged Banana Pudding in a Jar: Peanut Butter Mousse and Vanilla Wafer Crumble

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Who makes the world's best single malt whisky? - Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Lock & Key

Kavalan Soloist Vinho Barrique Single Cask Strength
Kavalan Soloist Vinho Barrique Single Cask Strength
Every year since 2007 Whisky Magazine releases the World Whiskies Awards to name the top whiskies in the world. They typically have over 300 entries and go through a multiple-round tasting process to determine the elite sips from around the globe. This year's results came as a shock to many people as a single malt cask strength whisky out of Taiwan called Kavalan Soloist Vinho Barrique took home one of the most coveted prizes: the best single malt whisky in the world for 2015!

Traditionally this category had been dominated single malt Scotch, but last year the Tasmanian Sullivan's Cove French Oak Cask Single Malt took home that prize, and now with the top spot moving to Taiwan, the Scots might need to be worried. In order to be named best in the world, a single malt must first be named best in its region, of which there are 13: Africa, Australia, America, Europe, and Asian get their own regions, as do Ireland and Japan. The rest of the options come from the six whisky regions of Scotland: Highlands, Lowlands, Island, Islay, Campbeltown, and Speyside. So with 6 of the 13 finalists and by far the longest traditions of single malt whisky production, it is easy to see why the Scots are usually the favorites for the award.

Kavalan didn't quite come out of nowhere. In 2012 it won new whisky of the year from Whisky Bible and it also won a gold medal from the San Francisco World Spirits competition. Still, the only whisky distillery on the island of Taiwan, the King Car Distillery, got its start in 2005, so to see it claim the spot as the world's best whisky in 2015 is quite an astonishing accomplishment.

The World Whiskies Awards also have categories for American, Blended Malt, Blended, Canadian, Flavored, Grain, and Pot Still whiskies. Perhaps we'll look at some of those, especially the American category, in next week's Whisk(e)y Wednesday post presented by the Lock & Key Whiskey Bar.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Taking a Tour of Louisiana's Craft Beers at Zapp's International Beer Festival

– Sydney "Brown Nose" Blanchard

zapps stockings
Needless to say, it was a pretty exciting day. Two thumbs up.


I don't claim to know too much about beer. As someone who turned 21 only a couple of years ago, the world of booze is still pretty new to me. My drink of choice tends to be whatever can get me intoxicated the fastest for the least amount of money.

Don't judge; I'm a college student.

But since I've been interning with Team Bite and Booze, I've learned that my Mic Ultra just isn't cutting it.

In order to further my education, Jay and Blair brought me to Zapp's International Beer Festival on Saturday to literally get a taste of the local craft brew scene.

My goals were simple: drink as much delicious beer as humanly possible in three short hours while staying sober enough to be able to recall and write about the experience later.

Despite the rain, the mud, and getting separated from the group for an hour, I managed to accomplish my goal.

Without further fanfare, here is my (amateur) list of stand-out beers at this weekend's Zapp's Beer Fest:

zapps mud
Blair and I were smart enough to wear sensible shoes...but we still got muddy.

Seven Sisters IPA by Old Rail Brewing Co

Out of Mandeville comes the Seven Sisters IPA. Caramel colored and served ice cold, this was my first beer of the event and one of the most memorable. Seven Sisters is pretty hoppy, which isn't usually my jam, but the sweet and malt flavors sold me.

Berry-ly Legal by LA Homebrew

Based in Baton Rouge, this home brew supply shop can set you up with your own at-home brewing system stat. Luckily for us Beer Fest attendees, they served up some creative home brews. The Berry-ly Legal is a raspberry honey wheat beer. Light in color and slightly syrupy, this brew is best in small doses. I'd take this over Abita Strawberry any day.

The Saison of Saint 14 by Bicycle Brew Club

This Baton Rouge club's brews were going fast. Before they ran out, I was able to sample their festival darling, the Saison of Saint 14. I wasn't a huge fan of this dark brew, but everyone else couldn't get enough. I'd give some tasting notes, but it was that unmemorable.

Stout Chocula by Redstick Brewmasters

This chocolate stout, brewed by Brad Bendily of Redstick Brewmasters, was one of my favorites. I'm a huge fan of chocolate beers, both to drink and to cook with. Stout Chocula was rich, creamy, and not overwhelmingly chocolatey.

Blonde Sugar Sex Magik by Tin Roof Brewing Company

It's no secret that we're pretty big fans of Tin Roof. Turnrow with a burger is as close to food heaven as I can get. But I wanted to try something different at the Tin Roof tent, so I opted for the Blonde Sugar Sex Magik. I'll admit I only picked it for its name, but I wasn't disappointed. Cool and crisp, this was a pretty standard blonde but with a hell of a kick at the end (re: chili pepper). It was more spicy than sexy or magical, but it was an interesting brew.

zapps blue
The Blue tasted like my childhood. 


Blue by SweetWater Brewing Company

I never thought I'd be writing this sentence, but Blue would make an amazing breakfast beer. This blueberry ale tasted exactly like the frozen Leggo blueberry pancakes of my childhood in the best way possible. It was more refreshing than sweet, which was a nice break from all the dessert beers I'd been drinking.

Revenge of the Quakers by LA Homebrew

I heard a group of beer aficionados singing the praises of this brew, so I trekked back through the mud to the LA Homebrew tent to see what all the fuss was about. The sign described this brew as a "chocolate vanilla coffee infused Bourbon oatmeal stout." That's a mouthful, but it perfectly described the layered flavors of the beer. The chocolate, coffee and oatmeal flavors stuck out the most to me.



zapps larrys
Larry's Famous had some interesting concoctions. 






Vietnamese Iced Coffee Stout by Larry's Famous

At this point I was fairly intoxicated, rain-soaked, and caked in mud up to my knees. But I wasn't going to let a little rain keep me from trying this Vietnamese Iced Coffee Stout. I love Vietnamese iced coffee, so I knew I'd be into this stout. It tasted exactly as I imagined it would: a boozier version of my favorite caffeine fix.

Black IPA by Larry's Famous

IPA's really aren't my jam, but I'm learning I like the darker ones, and this Black IPA was no exception. One of the pourers at the tent recommended this one to me, and I had low expectations. It just sounded kind of boring. But the flavor was dark and rich, and I caught some hints of berry at the finish.



Monday, March 23, 2015

Gourmet in the Garden returns on May 1st

Last year, team Bite and Booze took home the Best of Show prize at the annual Gourmet in the Garden event, a progressive dinner in the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens. This year, the event is coming back even stronger with more chefs creating signature dishes with farm-fresh products. The showcase goes down from 7-10 PM on Friday, May 1st. Proceeds benefit the Gardens and the Louisiana Culinary Institute. 

Local beverages including beer, wine, and spirits will also be served as live music plays throughout the gardens. 

Tickets are $60 in advance and $70 at the door, subject to availability.  Must be 21 years of age.  ID's will be checked at registration.  Casual cocktail attire requested.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Louisville, Kentucky: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Lock and Key

When I think of Kentucky, one thing comes to mind: bourbon. Well, maybe Kentucky Derby and fried chicken, too. But still, bourbon is definitely on top.

Founded in 1778, Louisville, Kentucky was named after King Louis XVI of France. The city's been making bourbon for almost as long as it has existed. Currently, a third of all bourbon comes from Louisville. There's debate over where the name bourbon came from: some say it's Bourbon County in Kentucky while others insist it's Bourbon Street in New Orleans. It actually turns out they're all correct because the county and the street are both named after the same French family.

Louisville has been a tourist destination for ages, but now the city sets itself apart with fine dining options, a lively arts scene and modern takes on the things for which they're known: derby and bourbon. Louisville is an important stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, so it makes sense that the city has a lot of bourbon-themed activities.

arteatables
Small-Batch Bourbon Truffles at Art Eatables in Louisville. Photo courtesy of arteatables.com.

Art Eatables in downtown Louisville serves up Small-Batch Bourbon Truffles that are legendary.
Bourbons Bistro uses local ingredients to whip up a seasonal menu of bourbon-inspired dishes. They also have a rotating menu of more than 130 bourbons. The Marriott Louisville East is the state's only bourbon themed hotel (the Bourbon suite features Bourbon-barrel decor).

bourbons
Bar at Bourbons Bistro in downtown Louisville. Photo from Facebook.com/BourbonsBistro.

For those interested in learning more about the city's main boozy export, Louisville's many bourbon distilleries offer tours and tastings.

The Bulleit Distilling Company at the iconic Stitzel-Weller Experience on the outskirts of Louisville is a great place to start. The facility, originally opened on Derby Day in 1935 and reopened to the public last year, houses the bourbon distiller that almost didn't exist. The story involves a mysterious disappearance in 1830, a lost family recipe, and a great-great-grandson taking a risk.

vendome
Vendome Batch Distillation System. Photo courtesy of vendomecopper.com.

Vendome Copper & Brass Works is another must-visit destination. The family owned still-making company has been operating continuously since the early 1900’s (they survived Prohibition!). Smaller towns outside of Louisville also boast their own famous distilleries that are worth checking out.

If the sound of a trip to Louisville has your mouth watering, consider joining Team Bite and Booze on a trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in July! For three days we'll be touring distilleries across the state. You can get a look at the more detailed itinerary by filling out the form here or by sending an email to Myrna Arroyo at myrna@rouxwinetours.com.

And, of course, you can always taste any of these bourbons at the Lock & Key Whiskey Bar in Baton Rouge!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Marksville Gets a Shiny New Toy: Broken Wheel Brewery Ribbon Cutting



by Blair "B-Rex" Loup

Late last year Jay, Chuck P., and I discovered the Broken Wheel Brewery in Marksville, Louisiana. Owner, Jonathan Knoll was getting his footing on a couple of brews in the back of the Marksville eatery, Fresh Catch Bistreaux.

After looking around at his brewing equipment and hopeful hop garden, we hit the road back to Baton Rouge wishing Knoll the best of luck. I was pleasantly surprised to run into Jonathan again in Lake Charles when I went home for the Louisiana Winter Beer Festival. Broken Wheel Brewery was a crowd favorite at the festival pouring their Spring Bayou Blonde Ale and a milk stout.

I had a lot of beer that day, but that milk stout kept calling my name. You can try it for yourself at the Broken Wheel Brewery’s Ribbon Cutting this Friday, March 20th at 3pm at Fresh Catch Bistreaux (109 Tunica Drive E., Marksville, LA 71351).

They’ll be pouring their Pachafa Pale Ale, Spring Bayou Blonde Ale, the milk stout, and brown ale at the event. If anyone can show you a good time in Marksville, it’s Broken Wheel.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Zorba's Bistro: It's All Greek to Me!

– Sydney "Brown Nose" Blanchard

When Zorba's Bistro reopened last year, many Baton Rougeans rejoiced. From 1984 to 2000, Zorba's had been a local favorite and one of the only Greek restaurants in the city to serve nothing but Greek food (as opposed to Greek and Lebanese fare).

I had never been to the original Zorba's, but recently when Blair asked me what I wanted for lunch, I suggested we check out the new Essen location. 


zorbas patio
Zorba's new location on Essen Lane has a cheery outdoor area.


If the day hadn't been so rainy, I'd have insisted we sit outside. The new location has a lovely outdoor seating area, painted white with a vaulted overhead ceiling and patio umbrellas in shades of blue. 

The interior was just as nice. It was dimly lit with scenes of Greece and woven baskets lining the walls, and it offered us refuge from the rain.

Our waiter, a family member of the owners, helped us choose our appetizer and main course. He recommended we start with the Chef's choice, cheese saganaki, or Greek kasseri cheese flambéed at our table and drenched in lemon juice. I'm not one to get excited about squares of fried cheese, but this stuff was amazing; crunchy and lemony on the outside, warm and gooey on the inside. 

flambe
We didn't start the fire! Our waiter lit our cheese saganaki on fire.

As per our waiter's suggestion, Blair ordered the Big-Z Lamb Burger, a thick portion of seasoned lamb meat on a bun topped with arugula and sun-dried tomatoes and served with Zorba's house salad and feta cheese fries. The burger was gigantic and juicy, but Blair and I were blown away by the feta cheese fries. I kept stealing fries off her plate. They were insanely delicious. 

zorbas feta
We live for these feta cheese fries. 


I ordered the combination souvlaki, which was a massive plate of beef, chicken and gyros served with rice pilaf, Zorba's house salad and grilled bell peppers. This was perfect for people like me who are trying to watch their carb intake. It can be really hard to cut back on carbs, but this colorful plate made it painless (minus the rice pilaf). 

zorbas combo
Chicken, beef, and gyros combination souvlaki plate with rice pilaf, salad, and grilled veggies. 


We were stuffed to the gills, so we passed on dessert, but we swore we'd try the baklava the next time around. And there will be a next time. 


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pop Culture on a Stick: Pops and Rockets in Lake Charles

by Blair "B-Rex" Loup

From top to bottom: (Your Own) Personal Ginger, Save a Pear, and Same Rosewater As You Photo Credit: Anna Sprigg
From top to bottom: (Your Own) Personal Ginger, Save a Pear, and Same Rosewater As You
Photo Credit: Anna Sprigg
Recently I went back home to Sulphur/Lake Charles for the first installment of the Louisiana Winter Beer Festival. Event organizer Nick Villaume invited me to the festival and suggested that I should check out this popsicle business he and a friend started up called Pops and Rockets. He described them as "gourmet pops with an '80s music theme."

 "Oh hell yes," I replied.

I couldn't have been more excited to be attending a craft beer event in my home town with one of my good friends/down-the-street neighbors, Anna Sprigg. Nick instructed us to find his partner Robbie Austin and have him take us to their pop-eration (my words, not his). He said his partner could better explain some of the flavors. Maybe it's because Robbie is a teacher: high school theology and college art. As well as a gourmet popsicle maker.

You know, just the average day in Lake Charles.

Nick had the idea to start up a gourmet pop business, but Robbie wasn't buying it. One day Robbie started thinking of '80s lyrics and pop flavors and caved into Nick's pop demands. They've now sold over 5,000 pops just from pop-up business, special events, and the local farmer's market.



Robbie told Anna and me all of this as he led us into a shady storage area where a tiny and brightly-colored structure stood containing deep freezers and a pasteurizer. We started opening pops and talking about flavor profiles. 


Co-owner of Pops and Rockets, Robbie Austin and I have a connection. Photo Credit: Anna Sprigg
Co-owner of Pops and Rockets, Robbie Austin and I have a connection.
Photo Credit: Anna Sprigg

The first one I tried was (Your Own) Personal Ginger made with coconut milk, ginger, and honey. Spicy, creamy, and just mind blowing-ly satisfying. While this one topped my list, the Save a Pear with spiced pear and golden raisins is my ideal Fall weather pop.

Anna went to town on the Same Rosewater As You made with raspberry, cherry, and rosewater. It was super refreshing. The tartness of the berries mellowed out the floral notes of the rosewater. This one would be perfect on a hot Louisiana day. 

These guys aren't playing around with these pops. The flavors they're creating are very layered and complex, but don't mistake that for intimidating.

Their goal is to up production of their pops to meet the demand they're faced with at farmer's markets. Check out their Facebook page in the link above to stay hip to the latest pop news. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Bee Sting Smash: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Lock and Key

The Bee Sting Smash at Lock & Key Whiskey Bar
The Bee Sting Smash at Lock & Key Whiskey Bar
It's that time of year again, and we in Baton Rouge look forward to another glorious St. Patrick's Day parade. I was looking for something to get me in the spirit of this year's festivities, but not just any old Irish whiskey drink--something magical, sparkly, and giddy. Arthur Lauke and Brandy Tabor of Lock & Key Whiskey Bar pointed me straight to one of their most popular whiskey cocktails: The Bee Sting Smash.

Delightfully simple, each of their cocktails is made with love and attention to detail. I would not be shocked if you told me they tucked each drink in to bed with a bedtime story. That's how delicious these drinks are. Like I said, I was looking for something that wasn't just delicious, but something that contained sparkle. Each Bee Sting Smash is made with lemon and mint muddled in a succulent, house-made ginger syrup. They toss in some ice cubes, pour in some Paddy's Bee Sting Irish Whiskey and send it on it's way. The Paddy's Bee Sting is floral and friendly. You don't get that punch of whiskey, but I like how the floral notes sweetened by the ginger syrup. The slight earthiness and spice of the ginger mellows out with the rest of the ingredients, and the lemon and mint lend some brightness. You'll definitely want to swing by Lock & Key sometime this week to get your fix. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Happiest of Happy Hours at Johnny Sánchez

– Sydney "Brown Nose" Blanchard

A couple of weeks ago, Blair and I took a little road trip to New Orleans to interview the Headmistress of Hops herself, Nora McGunnigle. We made it to the city sooner than expected, and to kill some time we figured we'd stop in somewhere and take advantage of some Happy Hour deals.

That's when we stumbled upon Johnny Sánchez. The restaurant, situated in the CBD, resulted from the combined efforts of Chefs Aarón Sánchez and John Besh. Together, the two established a Mexican-style taqueria utilizing the amazing local ingredients available in New Orleans. 

Johnny Sánchez has a super cool interior. Find them at 930 Poydras Street in New Orleans. 


With a focus on local ingredients and the super cool atmosphere, it's no surprise it was a hit with us. 

The moment we were seated, we were brought a green, chunky salsa and a dark red, thinner salsa. For optimum dipping, we were brought tortilla and plantain chips. I'd never tried dipping plantain chips into anything, and after that fateful day, my eyes have been opened. Blair and I couldn't agree on which of the salsas we preferred. Luckily, our waitress kept bringing us refills of each as we decided on our drinks.

Johnny Sánchez has crazy Happy Hour deals. From Sunday to Friday between 3 pm and 6 pm, draft beer, house wine and well mixed drinks are half off. Their house made margarita pitchers are half off. And their street tacos are only five bucks.

Blair and I opted for the 'ritas, made with Agavales blanco, lime, triple sec, and agave and rimmed with salt.

Before we decided on a more substantial meal, we got hit with the best guacamole either of us had ever had. It was made with avocado, pico de gallo, lime and cilantro, which is pretty standard, but it was topped with radish shavings. We couldn't get enough. 

Can't get enough of this guac. 

As for the street tacos, we ordered one of each. You know, for science. 

The Pork Carnitas taco is filled with slow-cooked pork, chipotle, and raw onion. As a pork fan, this was one of my favorites. The combination of the pork flavors with crunchy onion does me in every time. 

JS carnitas
The Pork Carnitas street taco


The Al Pastor, with chargrilled pork, achiote, and grilled pineapple was a close second. I'll put grilled pineapple on anything. The acidity of the grilled pineapple complemented the pork really well. 

JS AL
The Al Pastor street taco


The Papas con Rajas were a happy surprise. I didn't have much faith in a taco filled with Yukon gold potatoes, grilled poblano peppers and onions, and chihuahua, but I clearly underestimated my love for carb-based tacos.

JS Papas
The Papas con Rajas street taco


It has been well-documented that Blair loves beef tongue. The Lengua was right up her alley: slow-cooked beef tongue, Valentina hot sauce, and white onion. It's almost like this taco was made with Blair in mind. Valentina is her hot sauce of choice at home. 

JS Lengua
The Lengua street taco

Last, but definitely not least, the Chorizo y Camote, with Mexican chorizo, crispy sweet potatoes, and pickled red onion. These might have been my favorite. They reminded me of the authentic street tacos I had in Austin. Once you try the pink pickled onion, there's no going back. I have dreams about these tacos. 

JS chorizo
The Chorizo y Camote street taco

By this point, we'd finished our 'ritas. Blair ordered a beer, and I ordered a wine, and we continued munching and talking happily until we left the CBD to meet Nora at Avenue Pub on St. Charles.

If you want to get in on one of the happiest hours I've experienced, check out Johnny Sánchez.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Vino and Venison: Taking a bite out of the monthly wine dinners at L'Auberge Baton Rouge's 18 Steak

by Sydney "Brown Nose" Blanchard

If you haven't gotten a chance to check out 18 Steak at L'Auberge yet, you're missing out. The decor is totally luxe and over-the-top: quilted leather booths, dark interior lighting, chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.

It looks like somewhere The Godfather would bring someone he was either trying to kill or impress. And it's awesome.

Recently we had the opportunity to try one of 18 Steak's monthly wine dinners. The restaurant has been offering multiple course dinners paired with a variety of wines, and when L'Auberge Public Relations Manager Julie Collins got in touch with us about attending a dinner, we couldn't very well pass it up.

The dinner started with a cocktail hour where we sipped on champagne and admired the decor. We snacked on some passed hors d'oeuvres while Blair and Julie rekindled their friendship by nerding out over Harry Potter (you may have read about these two gals gushing over HP before in Put it all on 18 Steak).


Poppin' champagne like we won the championship game.
Poppin' champagne like we won the championship game.
First course: oysters on the half shell
First course: oysters on the half shell

Once we were seated, the serious eating began.

Our first course consisted of a variety of raw oysters served on the half shell and paired with a lovely chardonnay, the William Fevre Champs Royaux 2013. One of the oysters, the table favorite, was a rare find from Japan. It was topped with a lemon-y granita and had a really unique flavor, different for those of us who are used to Gulf oysters.

Next, we were brought a duck confit salad served with fresh Louisiana strawberries. I wasn't a huge fan of how stem-y the greens were, but the confit made up for it. The strawberry sauce added an unexpected sweetness to the salad which went along nicely with the duck as well as the paired wine, the Bouchard Pere et Fils Beaune Reserve Bougogne Rouge 2011.




Second course: duck confit salad
Second course: duck confit salad



Around this point, we were all two glasses in (well, three if you count the champagne at the bar). The previous courses had definitely whet our appetites, but we anxiously awaited the main course while juggling our multiple wine glasses.

When it was finally brought out, it took all our efforts to keep our jaws from hitting the floor. We were served a medium rare venison chop. Porcini crusted and topped with micro-greens, the venison laid in a red pool of cherry reduction. Cutting into it was like cutting into a stick of softened butter, and the texture was the same upon eating a bite. This dish paired elegantly with the Bouchard Pere et Fils Beune Savigny-les-Beaune 2012.





Main Course: Procini Crusted Venison Chop  with Cherry Reduction
Main Course: Procini Crusted Venison Chop
with Cherry Reduction

The main course was Blair's favorite, but I enjoyed the dessert course most of all.

We were brought a beautiful little log of chocolate cake topped with a hazelnut creme and poached pears sprinkled with cinnamon. Chocolate syrup was dotted on the plate along with a dollop of pear jelly. This final course was served with the Bouchard Pere et Fils Beaune Gevery Chambertin 2012.

Blair goes to a lot of these dinners, so she's a seasoned professional. She was very happy with the amount of food we were served. Normally, she said, each course is a huge portion of food. At the end of the 18 Steak dinner, we were able to move and weren't feeling the 'itis.





Dessert: Chocolate cake with hazelnut creme and poached pears
Dessert: Chocolate cake with hazelnut creme and poached pears




Blair and I both appreciated that the wines weren't super heavy. Each glass paired nicely with each course, and at the end of the dinner we were each given a bottle of Pinot Noir to bring home.

If any of this sounds interesting to you, you're in luck! 18 Steak will be hosting another wine dinner featuring Hall Family Vineyards on March 25 for only $99 per person. And Julie told us to keep our eyes peeled for another dinner in April. More information can be found here.








If the wine dinner is a little out of your price range (normally, it is for me), Julie gave us the down-low on a great promotion starting this week in Bon Temps Buffet at L'Auberge. They're calling it Fisherman's Keep, and for $25 you can eat all the snow crab clusters, sautéed scallops, fried shrimp, boiled shrimp, stuffed crabs, barbecue shrimp, stuffed flounder and crawfish you can get your paws on until April 4. Julie suggests heading there Wednesday for dinner and hitting up Blitz Bingo at Edge afterward. Click here for the menu.