Grab your tickets for The Taste benefiting the Mary Bird Perkins Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center

Check out all of Jay Ducote's products at the online store with free shipping on orders over $50!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Beers with Chuck: Heady Topper from The Alchemist

by Chuck P

There are beers and there are BEERS. You know what I’m talking about? There are a select few amazing beers out in the world that are just absolute must haves. They’re the ones that taste like no other and are placed upon pedestals far above the heads of every other beer. On the West coast, most would say that beer would be Russian River’s Pliny The Elder, a one of a kind Double IPA that assaults the taste buds with a mouthful of hops. Most craft beer geeks would offer up the family pet and whatever cash they can to get just one bottle of this California nectar.

The Alchemist’s Heady Topper is, I believe, the East coast equivalent out of Stowe, Vermont.

Heady Topper by The Alchemist
Heady Topper by The Alchemist


Like the legendary East coast/West coast rap battles of the 90’s, Heady and Pliny have long been at the top of the list as the best Double IPAs made today and everyone debates as to who the true champ is. As far as I know, there’s never been a clear victor in this debate similar to the battle between Biggie and Tupac (pour one out).

Whereas Pliny carries one hell of a hop bomb on the pallet, Heady comes at you with a hop wall that washes over your tongue but finishes amazingly clean. It’s fruity, piney and all around delicious. The lingering hop feel on the back end lingers a while in the best way. Words don’t do justice to how delicious this beer truly is.

So, here’s my verdict. If I had a bottle of Pliny and a can of Heady Topper in front of me and was told I could only have one, I’d go for Heady Topper every time and twice on Sundays.

That’s not to say I don’t like Pliny The Elder. It’s a fantastic beer that I’m always happy to receive when one happens to come my way. Neither of these beers are distributed in Louisiana which makes them as coveted as the Holy Grail or actually seeing Bigfoot.

I’m sure there will be a lot of people who won’t agree with me and that’s fine. That’s the beauty of the craft beer world. We’re a passionate lot who are quick to jump on anyone who can’t understand our passion for one of our favorite brews.

This classic clash of the titans makes for some interesting debates online and that’s the geekiness and glory of craft beer.

That’s the passion I feel for Heady Topper. To me, it’s the be all end all of IPAs and you’re not going to tell me otherwise so as soon as you come to terms with how wrong you are we can go about our day.
Cheers!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Jay D's Bites: Molasses Mustard Roasted Cauliflower

by Aimee Tortorich

Cauliflower is the new kale and we are coming at you full force with this yummy recipe using Jay D’s Molasses Mustard. The molasses in the mustard caramelizes to add a nice crunch after roasting. Super easy and quick to prepare, this dish will surely be a winner for those post-Mardi Gras diets!


Molasses Mustard Whole Roasted Cauliflower



Serves 4-6

1 large head of cauliflower
1 Tbs garlic olive oil
¼ cup Jay D’s Molasses Mustard
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 375ºF. Remove the outer leaves of the cauliflower and trim the stem to be flush with the bottom of the cauliflower so it sits flat. Mix together the garlic olive oil and Jay D's Molasses Mustard and gently brush on outer layer of cauliflower. 

 Season with salt and pepper. Roast for roughly 1 hour or until you can easily pierce with a knife. Cut the cauliflower into smaller pieces florets for serving.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Beers with Chuck: Southcoast Amber Ale from Parish Brewing

by Chuck P



The majority of craft beer drinkers in Louisiana are very familiar with Parish Brewing Company’s three flagship beers, Canebreak Wheat Ale, Envie Pale Ale and the Southcoast Amber Ale. The last one in that list just received a bit of a transformation and I was lucky enough to get a chance to try it at their taproom recently.

Owner Andrew Godley was looking to change up the recipe on the already tasty Southcoast Amber by making it a more approachable and easier drinking beer that could be, in his words, “more crushable” and I would have to say he’s succeeded.

One of the changes made was replacing the original hops used by adding noble Crystal hops to give it more of a floral sensation as opposed to a citrusy American hop. This would also cut back on the sweetness but still keep the complexities of an amber ale. Visually, you can instantly tell the difference from the old recipe. It was much lighter but still had a nice, full body.

Taste wise it’s very comparable to an Abita Amber or Shiner Boch or Yuengling even though all of those are lagers. Jay and I both agreed that the flavor for us was closer to New Belgium’s famous Fat Tire Amber Ale more than anything but the flavor just stood out more.

At the end of the day, Andrew listened to what the consumers were wanting in an amber ale and I think he’s delivered on it by taking an already robust and delicious beer and making it in the way a gateway beer for those who want to dip a toe into the craft beer waters.
He wanted to make a crushable beer for the masses, and I think he crushed it.
To listen to the owner and brewmaster talk about the new Southcoast Amber Ale, check out the podcast below:


Thursday, January 19, 2017

El Cabo Verde: A Passion Project

by Blair Loup

The first time I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Gabriel Balderas, local food legend Chris Jay was taking us on a culinary dream tour around the Shreveport-Bossier area.

People always laugh when I tell them how much I love Shreveport, but it’s no joke. We found Chef Gabriel cooking some of the most amazing tamales I’ve ever had at Flying Heart brewery in Bossier City.

Instead of cooking them in corn husks, Chef Gabriel cased his tamles in banana leaves... and my life changed. Everything I didn’t really like about tamales before (dry & crumbly masa) seemed to be remedied by the moisture from the banana leaf. That’s the moment I knew Gabriel was onto some next level stuff.

We’ve kept in touch with Gabriel and watched the success of the El Cabo Verde name. Sure enough, Chef Gabriel was named one of 2016’s Chefs to Watch by Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine.

Reserved, but passionate, I could listen to him talk about food and ingredients all day. His dedication to the craft is serious and it shows on every plate he puts in front of you.

Fresh corn tortillas, chips, queso, salsa and salsa verde
Fresh corn tortillas, chips, queso, salsa and salsa verde


Here’s a look at some of the dishes we had the chance to taste at his brand new brick and mortar:


Guacamole

Guacamole with fried plantains and radish
Guacamole with fried plantains and radish


I find there’s always a fine line that separates good guac from bad guac. Too much of this or too little of that could make or break a guacamole’s reputation, and this one is made of the right stuff.


Quesadillas

Pork quesadillas
Pork quesadillas 


A traditional quesadilla is the stuff dreams are made of. Creamy, melted queso enveloped around tenderly braised meat between a homemade corn tortilla is hard to beat. This is the snack of champions.


Chicken Tamales

Banana leaf tamales with chile de arbor salsa
Banana leaf tamales with chile de arbor salsa


These are as legendary as I remember them. Covered in a tangy salsa verde, these flavorful pockets of masa combined with a side of spicy chile de arbol salsa are a must-try.


Cricket Tacos 

Crunchy cricket tacos with guacamole on a fresh corn tortilla
Crunchy cricket tacos with guacamole on a fresh corn tortilla

As a very special treat, Chef Gabriel prepared a special off-menu item for our team. I’m probably the most adventurous eater out of the group, so I was super stoked when he put this cricket taco in front of me. The flavor is unique and flavorful with hints of lime. While this may not be something you can always find, I think it’s indicative of Chef Gabriel’s passion and culture. I know I enjoyed it and I can't wait to go back for more!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Jay D's Bites: Loaded Barbecue Cheese Fries

by Aimee Tortorich

We love these loaded cheese fries using our line of Jay D’s products. It’s the perfect snack to share with friends and with the Super Bowl coming up, this dish is a must-try We tossed the fries in Jay D’s rub to give a nice kick and added Louisiana barbecue ranch dressing to add a touch of sweetness and tang. While we used store bought fries to make this dish quick and easy, you could also make your own fries at home and use the same toppings.

Loaded Barbecue Cheese Fries




1 lb. frozen fries, cooked according to directions
1 Tbs Jay D’s Spicy and Sweet Rub
1 cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 jalapeño pepper, sliced
1/4 cup Jay D’s Louisiana Barbecue Sauce
¼ cup ranch dressing
Green onions, for garnish

Preheat oven to desired temperature according to directions on back of fries package. Toss fries in a little olive oil and sprinkle with rub. While fries are baking, make the barbecue ranch sauce by combining Jay D’s Louisiana Barbecue Sauce and your ranch dressing of choice. 

 When fries are golden brown and delicious, put on a sheet pan and layer with cheese and jalapeño slices. Bake until cheese is melted and garnish with green onions. Lastly, finish with the barbecue ranch sauce and an extra drizzle of Jay D’s Louisiana Barbecue Sauce if you so choose. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Beers with Chuck: Grapefruit Sculpin from Ballast Point Brewing

by Chuck P



When I heard the news that Ballast Point Brewing Company, based in San Diego, California, was finally coming to Louisiana I was as giddy as kid on Christmas morning. Like many other beer geeks, the only way you could get any Ballast Point beers before this was by either taking a trip over to Pensacola, heading to Houston or trading beers online. Those days are over now as the the first round of Ballast Point brews are showing up on store shelves around Baton Rouge and surrounding areas.

I’ve had quite a few beers from Ballast Point but amazingly one of their most popular beers, the Grapefruit Sculpin, somehow flew past my radar. Obviously, this is something that needed to be rectified and I was quickly kicking myself for not trying this sooner.

The Sculpin IPA is a classic and one that Ballast Point is well known for, but over the years the grapefruit version seems to have surpassed it in popularity. The grapefruit notes shine through perfectly with just enough tart and bitterness to compliment the citrusy notes of the Sculpin IPA.

On the nose, as well as flavorwise, you get the grapefruit along with notes of lemon, mango and apricot. These scents come rushing to meet you in a nice balance. As crushable as this beer is, remember it’s coming in at 7% so just enjoy the ride as opposed to speeding through it.

Coming from someone who isn’t a big fan of fruit I can see myself drinking quite a few of these whether hanging with friends or perched up at the one of my favorite craft beer hangouts.

Hopefully the other variations of Sculpin like Pineapple and Habanero will make their way down to Louisiana soon but in the meantime make sure to grab a six pack (12 packs coming soon) or a pint and enjoy the deliciousness of Grapefruit Sculpin. 

When you do, raise a glass and give a big Louisiana welcome to Ballast Point Brewing Company!

To hear more about this beer, check out this podcast with Mockler's Craft Brands Manager Jacob Talley and James Brown of Ballast Point talk about the Grapefruit Sculpin phenomenon:


Monday, January 9, 2017

Jay D's Bites: Cruciferous Crunch Shrimp Salad

by Aimee Tortorich

I don’t know about you, but I get tired of seeing the same salad creations. I wanted to put a nice spin on a salad that was not only delicious, colorful and flavorful, but also super healthy (especially with all of those holiday parties we’ve been going to). For a nice crunch, we switched up your normal greens for a cruciferous blend that would add a great texture and hold up to the dressing. We added some roasted sweet potatoes, quinoa, and shrimp to create this winner. This salad has all the right flavor, tang, texture and heat to leave a lasting impression.

Cruciferous Crunch Shrimp Salad






10 oz. cruciferous vegetables mixture (shredded kale, brussels, cabbage, etc)
1 lb. uncooked deveined peeled large shrimp
2 Tbs of Jay D’s Spicy and Sweet Rub
2 Tbs of avocado oil
1 lb. peeled sweet potatoes, small diced
1 Tbs of olive oil
1 cup tri-colored quinoa

For dressing:
¼ cup Molasses Mustard
2 Tbs Jalapeño Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Preheat oven to 400º.

Toss sweet potatoes with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast until tender, about 30-45 minutes. Heat 2 cups of water in sauce pot to a boil, stir in quinoa, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn heat off and keep covered for 5 minutes. Season shrimp with avocado oil and Jay D’s Spicy and Sweet Rub. Heat a saute pan on medium heat with olive oil and add shrimp. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until shrimp is translucent. Add quinoa, sweet potatoes to the salad mix, drizzle with dressing, toss and serve topped with sautéed shrimp.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Best Times of 2016: Aimee Looks Back

by Aimee Tortorich

2017 is finally here which means that we can all kick 2016 to the curb. These past twelve months have shown us the good, bad and the ugly. There have been losses and sadness along with wins and celebrations, but you have to take the good with the bad for everything to balance out right?

Even though this past year had its share of setbacks, it was an epic year for me! From announcing the plans for our upcoming restaurant, Gov’t Taco, to cooking at the legendary James Beard House, I pretty much kicked 2016’s ass. Here’s a look at some of my favorite things I had the chance to do this year:


Gov't Taco





In early April, Jay Ducote officially announced the opening of his first food concept, Gov’t Taco. I humbly accepted the position as Executive Chef and have been working nonstop to build a menu that food enthusiasts will be excited to experience. 

I’ve gained a vast knowledge of food by traveling the world as a Navy photographer and am ready to throw Baton Rouge some bold flavors and curveballs in the form of tacos. Through our progressive vision and seasonal menu, we will continually strive to keep diners on their toes, so look out Baton Rouge! Your taco dreams will be coming true in 2017!


Volunteering for Operation BBQ Relief



As a Louisiana native, 2016 was especially difficult for me. We suffered many tragedies too close to home. One of the most humbling experiences I found myself fortunate to be a part of was volunteering to feed flood victims.

Jay put me in contact with Operation BBQ Relief, a Disaster Response Organization based out of Missouri, where they ultimately served 313,587 meals in South Louisiana over 13 days and with 540 volunteers. There is something to be said about the positive effects that come out of negative situations. The amount of support and help that I experienced during this tragedy was overwhelming and I am so proud to call Baton Rouge my home.


New York Culinary Dream Tour


There aren’t many times in people’s lives where the sun, moon and stars are aligned, but they most certainly were in July! Our New York culinary tour was what dreams are made of. The magnitude of awesomeness was off the charts and very difficult to put into words, but I will give it my best go!

Private Wine Tasting at Food & Wine Magazine





The day before our James Beard dinner, Katrina Rank (Napa Winemaker and now dear friend), invited the Bite and Booze team to a private tasting with Executive Wine Editor for Food & Wine Magazine, Ray Isle in their wine cellar. We did a blind tasting of eclectic wines from around the world. Ray guided us along with his impeccable wine knowledge and rated Jay D’s Blanc Du Bois as the best Blanc Du Bois he has tasted, ever!

Cooking at the James Beard House


Posing in the legendary James Beard kitchen (from left to right): Eusebio Gongora II, Blair Loup, Jay Ducote, Chuck P, Aimee Tortorich, Shelly Flash, Sarah Burkhaulter
Posing in the legendary James Beard kitchen (from left to right): Eusebio Gongora II, Blair Loup, Jay Ducote, Chuck P, Aimee Tortorich, Shelly Flash, Sarah Burkhaulter










As many of you may not know, the James Beard House is a sacred ground for aspiring chefs. It’s the ultimate measure of a chef’s talent besides gaining a Michelin star or Master Chef Certification, in my opinion. It’s what separates the good from the great in the culinary field and it’s been on my radar for a while, but I knew that years of hard work and persistence would be the only way I would even have a chance to cook there.

To my surprise, early last year I got an invite from Jay Ducote to help him execute his Tailgate on 12th menu! It was an unforgettable experience that the Bite and Booze team crushed!


Chefs & Champagne



Hanging out at Chefs & Champagne with John Besh and Chef Roxanne Spruance
Hanging out at Chefs & Champagne with John Besh and Chef Roxanne Spruance

Anything with the title “Chefs and Champagne” will naturually make my top moments of 2016. Fresh off of that James Beard dinner high, the Bite and Booze team headed down to the Hamptons to cook at the James Beard Foundation’s ‘Chefs and Champagne’ event at the Wölffer Estate Vineyard. 

It was no coincidence that Louisiana’s, John Besh, (and one of my culinary idols) would be this year’s honoree for all of the work he does throughout the Besh Foundation. Aside from humbly serving alongside some of the best chefs in the country, Bite and Booze was the only culinary team to represent Louisiana.


Pineywoods Supper Club


Blair, Jay and I cooking with fire at Mahaffey Farms
Blair, Jay and I cooking with fire at Mahaffey Farms

There is something special about cooking outdoors. The smell of fire and a drink in hand is probably my favorite setting for cooking. Our Pineywoods Supper Club dinner at Mahaffey Farms had to make the list. We executed the majority of our dishes entirely on wood fire and served some amazing dishes. From Jay Ducote’s Dutch oven biscuits to Nashville style hot chicken feet, all the guests were stoked and we had one hell of a time!

In conclusion, I say this to you 2016: I will not dwell upon you. I will happily thank you for all of your ups and downs, knowing that either way, you have been a year to remember! I will recall the disappointments, losses, and upsets but most importantly I will celebrate your blessings: the love, laughs, and memories that I have shared.

Cheers to what’s to come in 2017!

Take a look at what the rest of Team Bite & Booze had to say about 2016:

Best Bites of 2016: Blair's Picks
Best Bites of 2016: Jay's Picks
Chuck P's Best Bites of 2016 (Burger Edition)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Best Bites of 2016: Jay's Picks

by Jay Ducote

Every year when I look back on the adventures I've taken and the amazing things I've eaten, I'm always amazed. I love what I do and I work really hard for it. For me, rewards are often more embodied in a bowl of soup or a mouth-watering dessert than they are in any other way. All of this king-like feasting is documented fairly well, so when taking a stroll through the various and copious photo libraries at my disposal of food pics from throughout the year, I find myself salivating all over again.

Blair and Chuck have written about their 'Best Bites of 2016' and now it's my turn. I focus on three categories: dishes from the road that blew me away, desserts that I'll never forget, and times that I impressed myself with food that we prepared. Here's my best of 2016:

On the Road:

Khao Soi Neuea: Short Ribs, Coconut Curry Soup, Housemade Baa Mee, Noodles, Crispy Noodles

Alfie's, Washington DC, February

Khao Soi Neuea: Short Ribs, Coconut Curry Soup, Housemade Baa Mee, Noodles, Crispy Noodles
Khao Soi Neuea: Short Ribs, Coconut Curry Soup, Housemade Baa Mee, Noodles, Crispy Noodles


Alfie's pop-up in DC made the list for Blair and Chuck, but I knew long before I took them in July that Alfie's would make my list as well. I got my first taste of Alfie's back in February on snowy trek to our nation's capital for a beer dinner with the NBWA. Alfie's was just opening, but I managed to get a closing-time table thanks to my buddy Alex McCoy from Food Network Star. With a contingent of Louisiana friends now living in DC, we set up camp at Alfie's and nearly consumed the entire menu. 

The Khao Soi Navea, beef short ribs simmered down in a coconut curry broth with noodles, nearly made me move to Thailand. The dish had just the right amounts of spice and complexity. The beef fell apart at the twist of a fork. The crunch noodles added the right textural contrast to bring it together. I'd take another bowl right now, but Alex has moved on from Alfie's to create new pop-ups in the same space, but don't fret! It'll be back one day, and I'll be there!


East Nasty: Buttermilk Biscuit, Fried Chicken Thigh, Aged Cheddar, Sausage Gravy

Biscuit Love, Nashville, March

East Nasty: Buttermilk Biscuit, Fried Chicken Thigh, Aged Cheddar, Sausage Gravy
(bottom left) East Nasty: Buttermilk Biscuit, Fried Chicken Thigh, Aged Cheddar, Sausage Gravy


No trip to Nashville would be complete without hot chicken. I loved the hot chicken so much that we did a hot chicken pop-up here in Baton Rouge; more to come on that later.

However, the hot chicken from Nashville isn't what's on my list. Instead, the dish I crave to this day is the East Nasty from the popular restaurant in The Gulch, Biscuit Love. The buttermilk biscuit sandwich features a deep fried chicken thigh, aged cheddar cheese and a decadent sausage gravy. It's the kind of biscuit sandwich that you have to eat with a fork and knife, but that's alright by me!


Cream, Butter and Corn Milk Poached Silver Queen Corn 

Acre, Auburn, AL, July

Cream, Butter and Corn Milk Poached Silver Queen Corn
Cream, Butter and Corn Milk Poached Silver Queen Corn 


Sometimes it's the most simple dishes that create lasting memories. I've eaten some true fine dining and molecular tinkering this year, but I always remember what Wolfgang Puck told me is the secret to good cooking. "Start with good ingredients," he said with a smile, "and don't fuck them up."

Chef David Bancroft at the restaurant Acre in Auburn, AL is the embodiment of that philosophy. He grows a lot of what he cooks on the one acre plot on which the restaurant sits. When it's time to harvest, his menu features food that is essentially grown in his parking lot.

The most memorable dish that he served us on our drive home from the James Beard House in New York was this cream, butter and corn milk poached Silver Queen corn. There wasn't much to it, but it was quite simply one of the best things I ate all year. That's how corn is supposed to taste. And rather than try to do too much with it, David instead chose to just not fuck it up.


Smoked Fried Oysters, Okra and Potato Batter, Dehydrated Okra, Corn Aioli 

The Wharf Uncorked, Orange Beach, AL, September

Smoked Fried Oysters, Okra and Potato Batter, Dehydrated Okra, Corn Aioli
Smoked Fried Oysters, Okra and Potato Batter, Dehydrated Okra, Corn Aioli 


Cooking competitions are tricky, and with as many of them as I judge, there's a reason that I usually don't feature dishes from competitions on these kinds of lists. However, this year at The Wharf Uncorked, Chef Chris Sherrill from the Flora-Bama Yacht Club pulled off an nearly unprecedented kind of feat. His smoked and fried oysters took home three prizes, best in his category, best in show as picked by the judges, and people's choice as voted on by the public. He didn't just win, he blew the competition away.

The oysters were coated in a batter of dehydrated okra and potato flour. The oysters were served with more dehydrated okra for a little show-and-tell, as well as a rustic corn aioli. I could have sat back and eaten these like they were popcorn. 


Duck Carnitas 

Cosme, NYC, July

Duck Carnitas, Cosme, NYC
Duck Carnitas


Cosme in NYC impressed me so much that they are going to make this list twice. The Duck Carnitas were nothing short of inspirational. As a signature dish, they certainly nailed it. It is the kind of dish that pushes me forward and makes we want to replicate it my own way. It's the reason why we've been practicing duck carnitas tacos for Gov't Taco. It HAS to go on the menu, and it has to live up to this sort of legendary status.


Pork Chop, Huitlacoche Tamale

SALT New American Table, McAllen, TX, February

Pork Chop, Huitlacoche Tamale
Pork Chop, Huitlacoche Tamale


It takes a lot for a pork chop to get me excited, but this is the best pork chop I've ever had! Served with the most interesting cut that I've ever seen and prepared in a mind-boggling fashion. the slab of Compart Duroc pork featured the loin, baby back rib, belly and skin of the pig all in one cut. This meant that the finished product had pretty much everything: juicy, tender pork loin, succulent rib meat, fatty belly and crispy skin.

Chef Larry Delgado got each piece of the chop to work right by using multiple cooking methods including searing, sous vide, baking and frying. Honestly, it doesn't matter to most people what he may or may not have done to perfect the pork. What matters is that I've been craving more of it ever since and if you're ever in McAllen, TX you have to dine at this restaurant.



Desserts:

Carrot Cake 

Kyle Field, College Station, TX, Thanksgiving Day

Chef Picou and Jay Ducote in the Kitchen at Kyle Field with Carrot Cake
Chef Picou and Jay Ducote in the Kitchen at Kyle Field with Carrot Cake


I had the pleasure of traveling to College Station for the LSU vs Texas A&M game on Thanksgiving Day. As impressive as LSU was on the field, the Aggie Hospitality team may have taken the cake in terms of impressiveness. They're taking stadium food to a new level. If you're lucky enough to get catering in the club level or a suite, you're in for a treat at Kyle Field. 

On day one of my behind-the-scenes tour and tasting, I got to sample a lot of their smoked meats, specialty hot dogs and more. The beef short ribs weren't far from making this list, but Chefs Picou (pictured above) and Mora, both assured me that I needed to try the carrot cake the next day. I got a special invite to track them down in the stadium's kitchen at halftime of the football game to give it a try. Folks, I'm not kidding when I say it's the best carrot cake I've ever had. I'll go back to a football game and sneak into a suite if I have to in order to get another slice!


Corn Meringue

Cosme, NYC, July

Corn Meringue, Cosme, NYC
Corn Meringue


I said earlier that Cosme would make this list twice. Here's number two: the illustrious corn meringue has made magazines and headlines, so I'm definitely not the first person to admire its glory. However, this list of foods I ate in 2016 wouldn't be complete without a mention of it. With a hard shell on the outside and creamy corn sweetness on the inside, this dessert gave me a new respect for how many ways people can make something as simple as corn into something awesome.


Cornbread Bread Pudding

Dark Roux, Lafayette, LA, January

Cornbread Bread Pudding
Cornbread Bread Pudding


Speaking of making corn into something awesome, 2016 started out strong with a culinary trip to Lafayette and a feasting at Dark Roux. The entire meal was quite exceptional, but it still managed to end on an even higher note. The cornbread bread pudding had the flavors and textures that help a bread pudding stand apart. With so many bread puddings on southern menus, It's hard to be impressed by this classic dessert these days, but when one does, it's divine. Using cornbread to make a dessert gave it just enough of a savory edge to make it truly memorable instead of just being a block of sugar. If you go to Dark Roux, don't miss it.


Tres Leches Cake

Corks & Cleaver, Gulfport, MS, June

Tres Leches Cake
Tres Leches Cake


My opinion on bread pudding, as seen above, is that bread pudding is good, but it takes a truly special one to impress me. However, my feeling on tres leches is that they are usually rubbish. They are wet, soggy messes of batter and milk and sugar and they shouldn't be a thing. So when I was told to get the Tres Leches Cake at Corks & Cleaver in Gulfport, MS, my first instinct was to run.

However, trusting Chef David Dickensauge's skills and palate, I decided to give it a try. I'm sure glad I did. I've never had a tres leches like this. It's all about the texture, and this one worked. Not existent was the soggy goop of traditional tres leches. Instead, this cake featured magnificently velvety layers of sweetened milk and spongy cake. Now I think I'm scared of tres leches cakes even more though, because I'll probably never have another one like this again.


Food Prepared by Me and My Team:

Nashville Style Hot Chicken, Mustard Greens, Mac & Cheese

Hot Chicken on a Tin Roof pop-up for flood relief, Baton Rouge, LA, September


Nashville Style Hot Chicken, Mustard Greens, Mac & Cheese
Nashville Style Hot Chicken, Mustard Greens, Mac & Cheese


Having eaten at Hattie B's in Nashville twice this year, I developed a true respect and subsequent craving for hot chicken. It provides a mouth sensation that can best be described by a Ray Bradbury quote from Fahrenheit 451: "It was a pleasure to burn." 

Not being able to get hot chicken in Baton Rouge is a problem, so I decided to take it upon myself to do a hot chicken event at the Tin Roof Brewing Company called Hot Chicken on a Tin Roof. My team with Blair, Chuck, Aimee and interns (Marit and Rachel) were joined by Jason Lees of Roux 61, Alex Barbosa from Barbosa's Barbeque and Alex Hamman from the Louisiana Culinary Institute to pull off an epic hot chicken popup.

Complete with a bad ass mac & cheese and braised mustard greens (donated by Table Fresh), the plates of hot chicken flew off our serving line as fast as we could fry them. We served over 300 people that night, and between us and Tin Roof, donated over $1,000 to the Greater Baton Rouge Area Food Bank as a part of a flood relief effort.

Also, the chicken, to put it mildly, was on point.


Cane Glazed Carrots, Black Bean Purée, Pepitas, Goat Cheese, Chimi, Corn Tortillas

Office House Dinner, Baton Rouge, LA, August

Cane Glazed Carrots, Black Bean Purée, Pepitas, Goat Cheese, Chimi, Corn Tortillas
Cane Glazed Carrots, Black Bean Purée, Pepitas, Goat Cheese, Chimi, Corn Tortillas


One of our very first taco experiments to get Gov't Taco menu development started featured a dish containing a black bean puree, goat cheese, pepitas, chimichurri and cane-syrup-glazed roasted carrots. The ingredients were designed to be fillings in a vegetarian taco option, and it worked. It worked so well, in fact, that we did it again at another Gov't Taco pop-up and we're almost certain that it will end up on our opening menu. So we have that going for us, which is nice.


Fig, Fennel, Almonds, Hybrid Tortilla

Gov't Taco Pop-up at Slash Creative, Baton Rouge, LA, October

Fig, Fennel, Almonds, Hybrid Tortilla
Fig, Fennel, Almonds, Hybrid Tortilla


The roasted carrots were great, but the fig and fennel taco that we did for Spooky Taco Tuesday at S/ash Creative may have been even better. The combination of sweet late-season figs from Indie Plate and anise flavored fennel with crunchy toasted almond slices explodes on the taste buds. This is a taco that we are sure to repeat as soon as fig season is back. 


Granny's Pecan Rolls

James Beard House, NYC, July

Granny's Pecan Rolls
Granny's Pecan Rolls
Photo: Fortunato M. Ramin


My top professional accomplishments of 2016 were having a pilot for my own show air on Travel Channel, launching my Spicy & Sweet Barbecue Rub and Single Origin Coffee, and cooking at the historic James Beard House in New York. For the dinner, I knew I wanted to do some of my "greatest hits" dishes from TV shows and cooking events, but I got hung up on what to do for dessert. I wanted to feature a dish that truly meant something to me, so when we came up with the idea to feature my Granny's pecan rolls, I knew we were onto something. 

Chef Aimee Tortorich worked hard on taking my grandmother's recipe and turning it into a dessert rather than a breakfast dish. We added a little more sugar as well as a pecan praline sauce. They filled every bit of the nostalgic void in my stomach. Our best batch came at the James Beard House, though all the practice runs were pretty spectacular as well.


Whole Lamb, Confit Garlic Oil, Jay D's Spicy & Sweet Barbecue Rub

The Hamptons, New York, July





So this one time, we were in the Hamptons, and we were asked to hang out for a pool party and cook for some local guests... and Heidi Klum showed up... and when I asked for a picture, she grabbed the leg of lamb from the table and we captured this magic.

But here's what you can't really see from that picture: that lamb may have been the best thing I cooked this year. Roasted whole in a La Caja China, the lamb was seasoned with nothing more than garlic-infused olive oil and Jay D's Spicy & Sweet BBQ Rub plus a little extra kosher salt. The toasted bark on the outside of the lamb from the rub and heat from the the wood fire provided charred heaven while the inside of the lamb was tender and succulent, containing lots of flavor in every bite. It truly was worthy of The Hamptons, Heidi Klum, our fantastic hosts and all the excellent wine we drank!


Dutch Oven Biscuits

Pineywoods Supper Club, Mahaffey Farms outside Bossier City, LA, November

Jay Ducote makes biscuit dough at Mahaffey Farms for the Pineywoods Supper Club
Jay Ducote makes biscuit dough at Mahaffey Farms for the Pineywoods Supper Club
Photo: Jennifer Robison


Jay Ducote works the mother fire at the Pineywoods Supper Club while biscuits cook in Dutch ovens
Jay Ducote works the mother fire at the Pineywoods Supper Club while biscuits cook in Dutch ovens
Photo: Jennifer Robison

Evan McCommon uses the light on his phone to check on a batch of Dutch oven biscuits
Evan McCommon uses the light on his phone to check on a batch of Dutch oven biscuits
Photo: Jennifer Robison

Dutch Oven Biscuits from the Pineywoods Supper Club at Mahaffey Farms
Dutch Oven Biscuits from the Pineywoods Supper Club at Mahaffey Farms

These aren't the first biscuits to make this year's list, which just goes to show that biscuits are so hot right now. I put Dutch Oven Biscuits on our menu for the Piney Woods Supper Club, complete with many other delightful dishes from duck carnitas tacos (inspired from above) to glazed carrots (inspired from above) to a whole lamb (inspired from above). However, unlike all of those things where we had recent practice runs to base everything off of, these biscuits weren't something I had much experience with.

Buttermilk biscuit making is an art form. The proper mixing of flour, salt baking powder with cold butter, lard (from Mahaffey Farms in the this case) and buttermilk is the first step. On the farm this was all done in small batches and by hand. I actually didn't even have measuring cups so I just eye-balled everything and went by feel and ratios. I flattened the dough out on an outdoor table lined with contractor trash bags then laminated the dough, folding it over itself and stretching it back out again and again. Not having a ring mold, I used the lid to a mason jar to cut the biscuits into beautiful rounds.

Cooking outside on a farm can have its challenges, one of which is the lack of an oven to bake said biscuits. Needing to stay true to my word of delivering Dutch oven biscuits, I set up three cast iron pots above a bed of coals and then shoveled hot coals onto the lids of the pots as well once biscuits were inside. This is, afterall, the intent of the Dutch oven. Each pot fit around 7 biscuits, so using all three I was still only cooking 21 at a time.

With around a 20 minute cook time, the biscuits were the most elusive item at the 100-person feast. People waited in line for all the food, but the biscuits are what spread throughout the farm as the hard-to-get item worth waiting for. When all the smoke had cleared from the whole lamb and charred carrots, the last batch of biscuits were the only thing left over fire. Fortunately by that time most people had finished eating, so I got to have one of the biscuits right out of the Dutch oven. The buttery and flaky dough melted in my mouth as the salty lard gave a savory depth throughout the biscuits. The coal ovens gave the biscuits an outside crust with a beautiful, steamy interior.

I'll go so far as to say that they were the best biscuits I've ever made. I'm going to be searching for that satisfaction in every biscuit I create from now on.


Check out Blair's Best Bites of 2016 & Chuck P's Best Bites of 2016 (Burger Edition)