Bite and Booze by Jay D. Ducote

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Sneak Peek at the Parish Brewing Company

A couple nights before Thanksgiving I was invited to check out the brand new Parish Brewing Company near Lafayette, La. Andrew Godley, the owner and brewer, welcomed me and some of my select craft-beer-loving friends to his home where we were able to sample his brews and discuss his brewing knowledge and game plan for the brewery over dinner.  I brought Eric and Eusebio with me while Ben and Andrea met us at Andrew and his wife Rachel's house where Andrew has been home brewing since 2007.

The Group Talking About Parish Beer in Andrew's Garage

Andrew got the festivities started right away by pouring us all a glass of beer before talking about any of his brews or custom equipment.  We began with a tasting of the Parish Biere Blanc which is a dry-hopped pale ale using hops from the Pacific Northwest.  It had many of the characteristics of craft beers that you find in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington while still maintaining a crisp and refreshing taste throughout and not being overpowered by the delicious hops.

The Parish Brewing Company's Tasting Taps

Parish Primo Pilsner and Parish Oktoberfest

The next two brews that Andrew let us sample included his version of an American-style pilsner and his seasonal Oktoberfest beer.  The pilsner was lagered and had the taste of a typical "American" macro-brewed beer except that you could actually taste the malt and hops!  In some ways, it reminded me of what a Budweiser should taste like if it were not watered down due to mass production.  The beer still had the light and crisp characteristics and, I hate to say this, "drinkability," while also offering the extra flavor and beer notes that come with any good micro, or in this case nano, brews.  The Oktoberfest had a true beer flavor that you find in a lot of European beers and American Oktoberfest-style beers.  Brewed as an ale, the Oktoberfest blended together a wonderful combination of malty goodness and noble hops.

Now for a look at the Parish Brewery original home brew kettles and the new equipment to enlarge the brewery's capacity.

The old home brew kettles made with retired stainless steel half-barrel kegs.

The new boil and mash pots.  The are actually stainless steel 55 gallon drums.  The wood is for insulation and decoration.

Jay checking out the new line of stainless steel drums.  Photo courtesy of Eric Ducote.

Parish's electrical relay switches followed by the new fermenting tanks which will replace the 5 gallon carboys

Parish Pumpkin Patch and Parish Canebrake

Now we should return to the beer before moving on to dinner.  The final two Parish beers that Andrew poured for us were the Parish Pumpkin Patch and the Parish Canebrake.  I would venture to say the Pumpkin Patch won the evening as the beer that is most ready to go to market and needs no further tweaking of its recipe or process.  The best thing about the Pumpkin Patch is that it is a beer first.  Many vegetable and fruit beers add extract that overpowers the actual beer.  A lot of times this is taken advantage of by the brewer making a relatively crappy beer and then masking it with sweet flavor.  That is no good.  The Parish Pumpkin Patch is just the opposite... and excellent beer with just enough pumpkin flavor and spice (which comes from real pumpkin added into the process, not just flavoring afterwards) to make it feel like the Fall has arrived.

The Parish Canebrake is a the beer that I'm looking most forward to Andrew perfecting.  It has potential to become Parish's flagship label as it is brewed with Louisiana sugarcane!  The light, crisp, and refreshing beer will finish sweet on the palate with lingering hints of molasses.  The version that we tried was a little lighter on the sugarcane than I think he should go with.  I wanted a little more pure cane flavor to stay on my taste buds after each swallow, not to the point of overpowering the malt and hops, but enough to make me realize what I'm drinking.  I have no doubt that Andrew will play with this recipe and get it right just in time for Crawfish Season!  Mais cher, dat'll hit da spot, yeah!

The Grill Fired Up with Glorious Assorted Meats

Andrew lit the barbeque pit and began to cook a feast for us while we continued to drink Parish beers and talk about brewery related topics.  He hit up a local specialty meats store and picked out some wonderful meats for us to dine on.

My Glorious Plate of Food at the Parish Brewing Company

My platter featured several perfectly cooked bacon wrapped duck breasts.  They were tender and juicy on the inside, and everything is even better when you add bacon!  Above the duck breasts on the plate are three stuffed mushrooms.  Two featured a seafood dressing and the third came stuffed with a spinach mixture.  Both varieties were extremely tasty but I'd give the edge to the seafood dressing.  On the left side of the plate is a broccoli salad that was really a slaw of sorts with broccoli mixed in.  I'm usually not a cole slaw fan, but this salad hit the spot and supplied a bit more greenery on the plate.  Finally, the top of the post features a locally created chicken and apple sausage.  The apple added just a hint of sweetness to the chicken to create a really great encased meat.

The Final Beer of the Night: Maharaja Imperial Pale Ale from the Avery Brewery

The Maharaja is one of the finest and hoppiest IPAs that I've ever tasted, so a very big thank you to Andrew for breaking his bottle out and letting us try it.  The great thing about beer geeks is that they know good beer when they taste it, and the aren't afraid to promote what other brewers are doing well.  That is the case with Andrew when it comes to this IPA from Avery.  Every sip was a hop explosion on the tongue, though the malt was still present and obvious on the palate, unlike some double or triple IPAs.  The Maharaja ended the evening of craft beer and food fantastically.  I'll be very excited in the coming months when the Parish Brewing Company begins to be fully functional and the beer starts to flow through South Louisiana.  I highly recommend that everybody give them a try and taste a bit of what Louisiana craft breweries have to offer! Cheers!

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Eusebio's House for Barbeque Goodness and Another Saints Victory

I love some good old barbeque, and Eusebio sure knows how to do it right.  Since he is a chef for a living, he doesn't cook at home all that often, but when he does it is certainly worth accepting his invitation!  The other night he grilled some chicken thighs, pork chops, and some good Cajun sausage along with eggplant and squash.  He also whipped up some fresh mashed potatoes and a batch of smoked gouda mac 'n cheese.

Barbeque and Sides from Eusebio's House

Eusebio and I share a passion for chicken thighs.  I feel that they are by far the best part of a chicken.  I'm a fan of all dark meat, but the thigh is usually the most special.  Whether fried, baked, cooked drunk-chicken style, roasted, smoked, grilled, blackened, or other, the thigh meat always stays more tender and far juicier than the rest of the bird.  These thighs were no exception as they came out moist and marvelous.  The pork chop was tender to the bone and coated in a tangy barbeque sauce.

Eggplant and squash are two of my favorite vegetables to flame broil and serve piping hot with some grilled meats.  They were fantastic again on this night, which I never doubted.  Eusebio's mashed potatoes were loaded with sour cream, chives, and garlic.  The fluffy texture perfectly complimented the seasoned chicken and pork.  Finally, the smoked gouda macaroni and cheese rounded out my double-plated feast.  They were a creamy mixture of elbow noodles and delicious cheese.  Pretty hard to go wrong with that!

Banana Pudding from Matherne's Supermarket

Like any good meal, this one ended with something sweet.  Matherne's banana pudding hit the spot, satisfying our sweet teeth with creamy, smooth, rich deliciousness.  I could eat that stuff every day!

Eggplant on FoodistaPork Chop on Foodista

Chicken Thigh on FoodistaGouda Cheese on Foodista

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

A True Travesty: Mugshots Grill and Bar, Tuscaloosa, AL

On a scale of 1 to 10, Mugshots blew.  Tuscaloosa sunk to a new low.  Here is the thing: there is only so much hype, creativity, and atmosphere that can cover up lousy food.  Once you get over the hype, realize that it really isn't that creative, and the atmosphere is proven to be artificial, you can really tell what the food is worth.  In Mugshot's case, the truth hurts.

Eusebio and I had to drive through Tuscaloosa, AL on our way home from Talladega and thought it may be a good idea to stop for dinner at a highly rated Crimson Tide joint.  Mugshots Grill and Bar is right off of the University of Alabama campus and promoted their intesteresting array of specialty burgers with different combinations such as "Trevor's 1000 Island Burger" and "Stu's Magic Mushroom Burger."  They say "These burgers are said to be the best around - a full half pound of choice ground round, grilled medium-well..."  What kind of self-respecting burger joint cooks all of their burgers medium well?  I figured out the answer: the kind that uses frozen patties, a.k.a. Bubba Burgers, and tries to pass them off as something close to gourmet.

To make matters worse, we also ordered an interesting appetizer that didn't really tickle our taste buds.  Fried rib tips sounds pretty good.  I like ribs, and I like most things fried, so I thought it would be hard to go wrong.  Well, I missed the call on that one!

Fried Rib Tips at Mugshots Grill and Bar, Tuscaloosa, AL

The rib tips were over battered to the point where the actual rib did not stand out.  It was like eating battered batter with a hint of rib meat.  They had potential, but were not well executed.  However, the biggest sin of it all is that they clearly battered the rib tips in the same batch of batter as the fried pickles.  Mixed into our basket of fried pork was a stray fried pickle which almost made me throw up a little in my mouth when I accidently inserted it into my pie hole and chewed.  There was clearly pickle juice mixed into the batter as well because each rib tip had a slight hint of pickle taste... and if you know me, you know how much I hate pickles.  They are my arch rival.  I hate pickles like I hate Nick Satan... I mean Saban.  Around the bowl and down the hole, roll tide roll! 

McDonald Burger at Mugshots

Before I knew any better, I placed an order for the McDonald Burger which the menu claims is by far the best burger that they offer.  Apparently the best they offer is previously frozen, over cooked crap.  It was later confirmed by watching a member of the kitchen staff walk out of the freezer with a box of Bubba Burgers that Mugshots really is that bad.  While I'm not trying to knock Bubba Burgers since they are a good choice when in the market for a mass produced, sizeable, uniform, frozen buger patty, I am willing to say that any restaurant that uses the product should be shut down or just simply be called fast food.  I don't understand how a restaurant that prides itself on burgers can continuously use frozen patties and pass it off and something good in the community.  The eaters of Tuscaloosa that actually like this place are worse than people in Baton Rouge that actually think Walk On's has good food, but that is a story for another day. 

The burger contained a dried out beef disc with ranch and barbeque sauce, bacon, lettuce, tomoto, and red onion.  The taste of the bun and condiments actually made the burger edible, but certainly not anything to rave about.  The highlights of the night were easily the sweet tea and the beer battered fries which I think I can actually say were pretty good!

Make sure you read Eusebio's review for his take on Anthony's Peanut Butter Burger and Mugshots as a whole.  Needless to say, he won't be going back either.

Mugshots Grill and Bar on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Talladega Nights: The Legend of Jay D Ducote

DANG!  In the course of one week I visited two of about the most culturally opposite places in the country... Talladega, Alabama on a NASCAR race weekend and San Francisco, California for a blogger festival that promoted organic and sustainable foods.  Screw sustaining things for now... Boogity! Boogity! Boogity! Let's go racin' boys!!!

Eusebio and I had the privilege of taking a Sunday out of our schedules to make a 24 hour trip to Talladega for the Fall Sprint Cup race.  We drove overnight to Alabama, arriving at the track around 4 a.m. in a fog thicker than Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Southern accent.  We took a nap in the truck until the sun came up then cracked open a couple ice cold Budweisers just to make everything right with the world.  Soon it was time to walk to the track, so, with ice chest and beers in hand, we began our journey through the Superspeedway maze of glory.

Jay Standing by the Talladega Superspeedway Sign

Talladega, in all of its awesomeness, filled the air with joy, celebration, and redneck perfume, which is a mixture of combusted fuel exhaust, sweet barbeque smoke, and cheap beer induced urine.  It is the smell of excellence.  Eusebio and I made our way to the promotional area where trailers can be found vending merchandise of all the popular drivers to their legions of fans.  There were also exhibits to promote products, show off drifting techniques in Dodge cars, and even sign up to join the U.S. Army! 

I Took a Picture with the #39 Ryan Newman U.S. Army Chevy Impala because Ryan Newman is my boy!

Alas, this here is a food and drink blog, not a NASCAR hootananny, so let's eat!  Before getting to our seats in the grandstands, I picked up a handfull of hotdogs for me and Eusebio.  Some unknown meats on an enriched flour bun with a "squirt" of yellow mustard sure hit the spot!

Two Talladega Dogs with Extra Mustard

I don't seem to a have picture of the beer, but rest assured they were consumed in mass quantities.  If I remember correctly, which oddly enough I do, we each drank a mixture 14 ice cold Budweisers and black and gold (representing the Saints, but I also know they matched the black and gold of th #39 US Army Chevrolet) Bud Lights.  They tasted delicious amidst the carbon monoxide fumes that filled the air from the race track below.  We really couldn't have asked for a prettier day.  I mean, look at that picture below!

Race Cars Lined Up for the Start of the Amp Energy 500 at Talladega

During the course of events in a 500 mile race and 14 refreshing cans of macro-brewed swill, one is bound to eat more than just a couple of mustard-drenched wieners on a bun.  Leave it to Eusebio to find something a little more interesting for the palate.  Behold the Taladega pulled pork sandwich!

Pulled Pork Sandwich with Enough Slaw to Make a Slack-Jawed Yokel Feel at Home

The pulled pork sandwich made me happy while I was upset that I couldn't even see Ryan Newman's wreck (click here to watch the highlight with French broadcasters... hilarious) because it happened on the other side of the track.  No worries though, I had a belly full of beer and pork and we were going to a green-white-checker finish!  The slaw seemed a bit excessive to me and I pulled some out, but the pork was actually quite edible.

Talladega made me miss my three consecutive years of going to Bristol for the Spring race.  I'll be back for sure.  As much as I joke and make fun, I really do love NASCAR races.  They are always a great time and they let you bring your own beer and food into the track.  What other major sporting league can say that?! 

After the race Eusebio and I found a shortcut through the pastures of people and vehicles to get back to my truck.  We climbed in and set off to the West where were hoping to find something to eat for dinner and eventually our home in Louisiana.  We had to be at work the next day and being in Alabama wasn't going to help that situation!  Unfortunately, in order to get home we had to drive through Hell... I mean Tuscaloosa.  It was there that I ate one of the most disappointing burgers of my life, and certainly the worst since the River Queen Drive Inn.  For that, you'll have to check back for the next post.  The checkered flag is waving... I'm out! 

Hot Dog on FoodistaMustard on FoodistaPork Shoulder on Foodista

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sammy's Grill After a Little High School Football

It's always a good thing to go back to your old stomping grounds for a few cold brewskies with some friends.  While my "old stomping grounds" has changed a couple times throughout the years, I can definitely say that my most common watering hole these days is Sammy's Grill on Highland Road.  It's always good to have a place where you have the menu memorized and the waitstaff knows you by name and drink order. While I would prefer if they had a better tap beer selection, I certainly can't argue with a cold pitcher of Bud Light on a warm Baton Rouge evening.

Mmm... This Bud's for Me!

I know I know, how can a food and drink critic such as myself actually give praise to Bud Light?  Well, I really can't.  Not the beer.  But, I can always praise the company that I drink beer with!  On this particular day I was joined by some former teacher colleagues of mine from LHS, Rachel Saltzberg, Brandon Levatino, and Brent Broussard.  I got to listen to them talk about their new teaching gigs and how things in education have gone since my "retirement" back in May.  Mix in a few pitchers of beer after a high school football game, and you have a good time at Sammy's!

Chicken Pot Pie Soup at Sammy's Grill

I noticed a chef's special on the board that I had never seen before so it only made sense that I give it a try. The chicken pot pie soup featured tender chicken in a creamy soup with peas and carrots.  It tasted just like the stuffing of a chicken pot pie, which made it weird to eat as a soup.  The soup's consistency was rather solid for a soup and really belonged in a bread bowl or possibly even between two slices of bread like a chicken salad sandwich.  I really enjoyed the flavor, but overall it was a just a little odd.  Oh well, I still ate the entire bowl and left Sammy's satisfied and happy to spend time with some great company!

Sammy's Grill on Urbanspoon

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Friendsgiving!

Friendsgiving came and went, but the memories will last forever yet again. I'd like to start by giving Sara and Rachel a heartfelt shout out for hosting such a fine evening of wine and Thanksgiving-style cuisine. Our third annual Friendsgiving took place this past Wednesday and certainly lived up to all the hype and anticipation!  I brought scallops topped with bacon and a home made pear and bourbon reduction chutney for an appetizer as well as a side of asparagus for the feasting.  In addition, I also threw in a bottle of Suisun Valley's Scholium Project Syrah, which is quite tasty!

Sara and Rachel set up a couple old Third Row tables in their living room to give us enough dining space for the 16+ guests that showed up for Friendsgiving.  They did a fabulous job setting the table to dazzle the diners both before we sat down and after!

Friendsgiving Dinner Table Before and After We Were Seated

We served the food buffet style and then took our seats at the table.  I was fortunate enough to grab the end of the table with a little extra elbow room!  Our end of the table was certainly the "classy side" as I was joined by Eric, Teal, Hunter, Rachel Smith, and Chris. 

My First Plate at the Freindsgiving Feast of 2009

I'm going to attempt to go around the plate in order and give credit where I can and where it is due.  Starting on the bottom center we have Teal's cornbread dressing with shrimp and crab meat.  It is a great place to start because it was delicious!  I'm not sure I'lve ever had cornbread dressing that had such a perfect combination of moistness and flavor.  Well done, Teal!  Moving clockwise to the left sits the sweet potato casserole topped with candied pecans.  Money!  Next is a special tradition from Hunter Brown: mashed potatoes and gravy from Popeyes Famous Chicken and Biscuits!  It is hard to do better, so why try, right HB?  To the far left there is part of a roll.  Above that there is a great green bean casserole that was made by my sister, Dana.  The beans were moist and tender and covered in crispy onion strings.  The casserole impressed me, but not as much as Dana's other dish, the macaroni and cheese.  All the way at the top of the plate sits Dana's mac 'n' cheese which used multiple cheese varieties and some penne pasta noodles.  Way to go, sister!  Next, we have the turkey.  Eric made the turkey again this year and did another marvelous job with the large bird.  It came out of the oven about as tender and moist as one could ask for with plenty of flavor.  I'm a big fan of the dark meat, so my plate contained mostly leg and thigh meat with some home made cranberry sauce.  There is some ham that Rachel Stich cooked under there somewhere too.  To finish the plate off there are a couple asparagus spears that I cooked under there somewhere and another cornbread dressing at the bottom right of the picture.  Whew!  I got through all that.  How did I go back for another round?  I must be a machine.  Just call me Jaybert Dujols,  the Albert "The Machine" Pujols of feasting. 

Three Home Made Ice Cream Flavors from Sara

There were plenty of desserts at Friendsgiving but ice cream was the only thing I still had room for.  Fortunately Sara had three flavors of home made ice cream to choose from.  On the right is the brown sugar and bacon ice cream!  The bacon flavor shined in the cream while not leaving too much of the taste in your mouth afterwards.  My only complaint would be that there were actually chunks of bacon mixed in the ice cream that tasted fine but messed up the texture of the creamy goodness.  On the top left there is a coffee flavored ice cream which had a good taste that was not overpowering.  Beneath the darker brown coffee ice cream is the orange pumpkin ice cream.  It won my award for best ice cream of the night and I could definitely eat it again.  The ice cream had a smooth, rich flavor with the pumpkin and spices that make pumpkin pie so good... but in an ice cream.  Thanks Sara! How cool would it be to serve coffee ice cream in photo mugs with our favorite group pictures?

Happy Friendsgiving, everyone!  Eat, drink, and be merry!  'Tis the season, afterall.

Cornbread on FoodistaTurkey on Foodista

Baked Ham on FoodistaWine on Foodista

Green Beans on FoodistaIce Cream on Foodista

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