Sunday, February 28, 2010

La Carreta on Government Street

Not too long ago I met Megan for lunch at La Carreta on Government Street.  This local Mexican Restaurant got its start in Hammond, La area before expanding to Baton Rouge and other locations in South Louisiana.  In fact, business has been so good for owner Saúl Rubio that he has recently opened a second location in the Red Stick on Bluebonnet Blvd.  Still, the Mid-City location is easier for me to get to from work, so it was there that I dined!

La Carreta on Government Street

The restaurant recently underwent a renovation that moved the entrance to the patio area that used to be the back of the establishment.  La Carreta actually has one of my favorite outdoor dining spaces in Baton Rouge, so if you are ever in the mood for Mexican food on a nice day, it is a good spot to hit up. 

La Carreta's Salsa

Obviously one of the best things about Mexican dining in the United States is the free chips and salsa that customarily accompanies every feast.  La Carreta's salsa has a few chucks of fresh tomato that are mixed in with an otherwise liquidy base of tomato juice and herbs.  The flavor is fairly ordinary but still tastes fine if you like a classic salsa to go with your salted corn tortilla chips.

La Carreta Special: Beef Burrito, Chicken Tostada, Beef Enchilada

I ordered the La Carreta Special for lunch.  It came with a beef burrito, a chicken tostada, and a beef enchilada.  The tostada got buried under a pile of lettuce, sour cream, and pico de gallo while the burrito and enchilada could be found a little easier on the plate.  Unfortunately the ground beef that stuffed the burrito and enchilada was nothing to brag about.  It was plain and bland and I think I've honestly been happier with burritos at Taco Bell.  This really surprised me as I've had great experiences with La Carreta in the past.  Perhaps the best advice is to stick with chicken or steak and avoid the ground beef.  I'm sure I'll be back at some point to sit on the patio and enjoy some cerveza.  I'll just have to be more careful about what I order!

La Carreta on Urbanspoon

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Pork Shoulder Barbeque at the House

While most of the culinary conquests that I write about on this blog consist of restaurant reviews and delightful dishes that other people create, every now and then I do a little cooking myself.  I recently spent an afternoon barbequing for some friends where I experimented with some pork shoulder recipes and also threw in a little bit of grilled chicken, green beans, macaroni and cheese, and some homemade biscuits.  Brent, Eric, Justin, and James all came over to enjoy the afternoon of sports and smoked meats.  Add some beers and few things in life could be much better!

Two Pork Shoulders Ready to be Seasoned and Smoked

I decided to use two different injections for the pork shoulders so I could play around a little bit and see which one came out better.  Since my blog is title Bite and Booze, my first decision was that each recipe should contain some kind of booze in it.  The first injection contained blackberries, honey, and bourbon.  I tried to make this one sweet instead of salty to see how the meat would turn out.  After combining the blackberries, honey, and Maker's Mark bourbon, I injected the liquid mixture into the pork shoulder and then rubbed the rest onto the meat.  I let the shoulder marinate like that overnight and in the morning I rubbed it down with a blend of seasoning that mostly contained Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning and brown sugar.

Honey, Blackberries, and Maker's Mark Used to Marinate a Pork Shoulder

For the second shoulder I decided to use more of a salty and spicy mixture to contrast the sweetness of the fruit and honey in the first injection.  I blended together some Worcestershire Sauce, Creole mustard, German-style Kölsch beer, and Louisiana-style hot sauce to create a unique injection liquid for the pork.  Specifically, I used Lea & Perrins which truly is THE Worcestershire Sauce as far as I'm concerned.  For the Creole mustard I used some Zatarain's that I had in my fridge.  As far as Creole mustards go this is pretty much on the top.  My good friends at Slap Ya Mama supplied provided the hot sauce.  There a lot of options to choose from when it comes to Louisiana-style hot sauce, but you can never go wrong with Slap Ya Mama!  Finally, the beer I chose is actually from Texas, but it is damn good and I have no problem using it with Creole mustard and Louisiana hot sauce.  Saint Arnold's Lawnmower is crisp and refreshing with good malt and fruit flavors.  I thought it was a good beer to use in this injection because it is full bodied but light enough to not mask the other flavors.  Plus, I got to drink the half that did not get injected!  Like the first shoulder, I let this one marinate with the injections over night and then I rubbed it down with a generous portion of my blend in the morning.

The Second Batch of Injection Ingredients Lined Up, Two Pork Shoulders in the Smoker

The smoking of the pork shoulders took quite a few hours, so there was plenty of time to enjoy the company of my friends, watch sports on TV, and drink some beers.  I smoked the shoulders over pure mesquite charcoal.  I really like mesquite because it brings me back to my childhood days at South Texas deer camps where my father taught me how to grill on open mesquite fires.  Mesquite smoke leaves a unique flavor and spiciness in meats that I've never found from any other wood. 

Two Pork Shoulders in the Smoker, Blackberry/Honey/Bourbon in the Back,
Worcestershire/Mustard/Hot Sauce/Beer in Front

While the pork smoked over the indirect heat of blistering mesquite coals, I got to work back in the kitchen to make sure I had lunch ready at a decent hour.  I seasoned a batch of chicken thighs with my rub from the pork that mostly consisted of Slap Ya Mama and brown sugar.  While grilling the chicken thighs over the mesquite, I sautéed some haricot verts in olive oil and lemon juice with a touch of garlic, sea salt, and fresh cracked black pepper.  In addition, I made a smoked Gouda mac and cheese with some grated Gouda and boiled egg noodles.

Lemon and Garlic Haricot Verts and Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese

I felt a bit adventurous so I took a stab at making some biscuits from scratch.  I tried to use a recipe that I had stumbled upon for Popeyes-style biscuits.  They ended up having a pretty good flavor but they didn't rise like I wanted and wound up dense rather than fluffy.  Oh well, it will give me something to work on for next time!

Biscuits in the Oven, Plate of Lunch Featuring Haricot Verts, Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese, Grilled Chicken Thighs, and a Biscuit

After lunch, football, and several rounds of beers the time had finally come to take the pork shoulders out of the smoker.  The anticipation in my mind ran wild with thoughts about how great this pork could be.  While there certainly are some tweaks to make to the recipes, overall my expectations were met with great satisfaction!  The "sweet" recipe could have been sweeter.  The honey and blackberry didn't shine through quite as much as I had hoped and I found that I could have used even more sweetness in the injection and rub.  Next time I think I will try it with pure maple syrup instead of honey.  I also might use some blackberry preserves rather than trying to put fresh blackberries through a food processor.  We'll see though.  In the end the pork certainly ended up being juicy and tender, I just think it could have used more flavor.

Blackberry, Honey, and Bourbon Pork Shoulder

I found the salty and spicy shoulder to be the better of the two.  The flavor of this shoulder really came through with the spiciness of the mesquite smoke complimenting the Creole mustard and hot sauce.  If I had one complaint about this one it would be that I applied too much rub to the outside and it became a little bit over salted if you got a big enough piece of the crust.  I'll certainly need to work on my rub, though I thought it was really pretty darn good considering how easy it was.  All in all I had some really good food with some great guests while I worked on some barbeque recipes.  It is hard to get much better than that!

Tray of Pulled Pork: Worcestershire/Mustard/Hot Sauce/Beer on the Left,
Blackberry/Honey/Bourbon on the Right

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hot Pizza at Schlittz and Giggles on a Cold, Rainy Day

On a cold, rainy winter day in Baton Rouge there are few things that help boost the spirits more than going out for some hot food at lunch time.  I previously had been disappointed with the quality of pizza at Schlittz and Giggles on Third Street, so when a coworker suggested that we meet there I wasn't exactly thrilled.  Still, not being one to refuse to eat at places (other than maybe Olive Garden or Applebee's), I decided to give the downtown pizza joint another shot. 

Schlittz and Giggles in Downtown Baton Rouge: "Silly Name, Serious Pizza."
The aroma inside Schlittz and Giggles is a beautiful fragrance of baked pizza crust and assorted cooked toppings mixed in with mass quantities of macro-brewed swill.  It is quite a delicious smell, and it took every bit of self restraint that I had not order a beer in the middle of the day.  While their beer selection offers nothing of extraordinary value other than possibly the Abita Amber that is on tap, there is something to be said about a beer menu that features cans of Schlitz, PBR, Coors Banquet, The Beast, Schaefer Light, High Life, and Old Milwaukee.  Oh, and they have a $1 mug or $5 pitcher on their "House" beer which is nothing other than a keg of Natty Light.  Genius!  I took a seat on one of their leather bar stools and glazed over the menu.

Kitchen Floor Pie
The pizza tasted a fair amount better than my previous experience led me to believe.  Perhaps that is because on my previous trip I stumbled over there and ordered pepperoni pizza by the slice at one o-clock in the morning.  Usually when I eat like that everything tastes ridiculously amazing, so this is a mystery that will need to be solved.  However, for this day, the pizza hit the spot.  I ordered a lunch sized Kitchen Floor pizza, which is their version of a supreme. It came reasonably loaded with pepperoni, ham, Italian sausage, bacon, roasted red peppers, green bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, olives, and their Schlitty Cheese Blend (Mozzarella, Asiago, Romano, and Parmesan).  The hand-tossed dough needed very few cooking utensils as the chefs flung the circles of bread high in the air. The size of the pizza turned out to be plenty enough food to full up even a fat man.  While the pizza certainly did not amaze me as a form of culinary genius, it certainly lit up my taste buds enough to bring me back in on another day... though it will probably be when I can sit around and have a few of those cheap beers while watching one of the many TVs that are always tuned into sports.

Schlittz & Giggles on Urbanspoon

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Mansurs on the Boulevard

Among the fine dining restaurants in Baton Rouge, Mansurs on the Boulevard is often considered towards the top.  This restaurant has been locally owned and operated since 1989 and they are busy for both the business lunch crowd and the romantic or celebratory dinner crowd alike.  They dub themselves as "Louisiana's Premier Bar and Grill" and claim to offer "a taste of Louisiana."  There my be some merit to those statements.  

Mansurs on the Boulevard 

My recent trip Mansurs came for a business lunch and I certainly was not upset to be taken there.  The restaurant it is set up with a nice ambiance that includes a small feel mixed in with well decorated dining rooms that can be used for private events or larger groups.  

Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Tortilla Chips and an Asparagus Spear with Bleu Cheese Sauce

Our lunch began with a couple of appetizers that were nice, but sadly not the best that Mansurs offers.  Oh well, that's what happens when I don't get to choose!  The spinach and artichoke dip tasted alright.  It was heavy on the spinach and light on the artichoke, and for a dip around here, lacked the creaminess and cheesiness that we've come to love in our SpinArt dips.  The Dixie Bleus Asparagus Spears were lightly breaded and fried, then served with bleu cheese dipping sauce.  I liked this appetizer for its uniqueness, and the taste certainly didn't miss.  Fresh asparagus is always good, especially when fried and served with a great dipping sauce!

Cream of Brie and Crabmeat Soup

I had to try Mansurs' signature soup while I was there, the cream of brie and crab.  This delightfully rich and creamy soup is served with an adequate amount of lump crab meat and an ample amount of fresh, melted brie cheese.  The combination blends well together to deliver an outstanding cup of deliciousness that I'd order any time over a salad.

French Quarter Crepes with Fresh Fruit

For an entree I decided on the French Quarter Crepes.  These thin and delicate pancakes were stuffed with shrimp and crabmeat in a Mornay sauce, then topped with the same mixture.  I certainly can't argue with this dish as a light lunch.  The shrimp and crab had excellent flavor and the Mornay sauce added a great creamy cheesiness to the dish that perfectly complimented the seafood filled crepes.  I'm certainly glad that I got a chance to dine at Mansurs and I have to imagine that I'll be back again! 

Mansurs on the Boulevard on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Late Night Excursion to Mel's Diner

After our recent trip to the Parish Brewing Company we obviously needed to put a little food in our stomachs.  As luck would have it, Andrew knew of a place right around the corner from his new warehouse brewery that offered late night dining for drunks like us.  Eric, Eusebio, Dustin, Andrew, and I all settled into our booth at Mel's Diner where a waitress named Flo (no kidding) sat us down and took our drink orders... a round of water!

Mel's Diner, Broussard, La

There were a few things that I really liked about Mel's Diner.  First, it really did feel like we were mingling with laid back country folk just like on the movie Dumb and Dumber when Harry and Lloyd were waited on by a waitress named Flo (in case you didn't get that reference earlier).  Second, the prices on the menu were low, and the portions were rather large.  However, we really didn't need large portions because it seemed like every one of us ordered two breakfast entrees to scarf down.  I, for one, went with the steak and eggs and a stack of five large pancakes!

A Couple of Beautiful Biscuits

The steak and eggs, just like everyone else's meals, came with a side of two delightful biscuits.  Seriously, I had been boozing, but these biscuits were enormous and incredible.  For some reason the lighting didn't work out in the picture above, but these buttery and flaky hockey puck-sized treats made everything right with my craft beer-filled gastronomic reservoir. 

Steak and Eggs with Grits

Ah, steak and eggs, the cornerstone of any late night, alcohol induced breakfast.  Oh, and don't forget to throw in the grits, we are in the South, after all.  The steak at Mel's certainly could have been better.  I didn't expect anything more, but this particular steak was about as cheap of a cut of meat that can get away with being called steak as you'll ever find.  However, while the slab of beef consisted of far too much gristle, the seasoned flavor of the red meat actually impressed me for a 24-hour diner.  The eggs came scrambled and plain.  They didn't add anything to them, so a little salt and pepper was needed, but past that they were pretty standard eggs.  The grits were grits, and I ate them up, that's for sure.  I do love grits, and these were perfectly fine in my book.  All in all the quality is about what the place and price make you expect, but when drunk after hours with Andrew at the Parish Brewing Company, this food is all that one could ask for!

To-Go Box with Pancakes and Other Leftovers

When Flo (I don't know about you, but I'm still laughing) brought out our food she thought something went terribly awry with the order.  It is rare to see a look of such utter confusion of the face of a waitress, but Flo really couldn't comprehend what happened.  There were five of us at the table and we ordered enough food for eight to ten, easily.  Flo didn't take our order, so when the food came out of the kitchen she grabbed the tray and brought it to us, only to find a full plate of food in front of each of us already.  Confused, Flo started to take the food back to the kitchen, so we called out, "Excuse me, Flo, that is our food, too!"  Well, it surely had to be something along those lines anyway.  Flo returned to the table and placed a plate with five large pancakes in front of me.  These pancakes rivaled the biscuits for my favorite part of the meal.  Large and perfectly cooked, the stack of flapjacks would have been enough to feed me by themselves, and for only $4.95.  I added two of them to about half of my steak, eggs, and grits and got a to-go box for the rest.  My eyes were certainly way larger than my stomach, which didn't have normal capacity since it was still full of brew. 

Mel's Diner hit the spot after our tour of the new Parish Brewing facility and rounds of beer tastings with Andrew.  My thanks to Andrew for such a great evening and inviting us to sample and help critique his trial runs at nano-brewing.  I can't wait to order my first pint of Parish at a bar!  As for Mel's, I doubt I'll be back when sober, but there's a good chance I'll return at some point when I need something to bite in order to soak up more booze!

Mel's Diner on Urbanspoon

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Your Nominations, Please!

Dear Friends and Fans,
225 Magazine just released their nomination form for their annual Best of 225 Awards which highlights people's favorites restaurants, shops, and personalities in Baton Rouge. Please take a moment of your time to fill out the nomination form, which I have linked below. You may fill in the form with the people and places of your choosing, and please feel free to contact me if you need some ideas about restaurants, but I'm asking for special consideration in a couple categories:

1) Best Blogger/Columnist - Jay Ducote of How great would it be if I was nominated for this? I would really appreciate your support!

2) Best Steak - Fleming's. My buddy Eusebio (most of you know him) is the Sous Chef at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, and does AMAZING work. If you've never been, you should!

3) Best Sandwich and/or Best New Restaurant - Jimmy John's. My friend Kyle recently opened up the only Jimmy John's in Louisiana on Perkins Road. You should definitely stop by for a sandwich and tell him that Bite and Booze sent you! One day last week he gave everybody that said that a 10% discount!

4) Best Visual Artist - Hannah Lane. Hannah is an amazing painter and operates out of her studio right here in Baton Rouge. Her work can be seen all over the city... and she is an amazing person!

Here is the link for the nomination form:

Thanks so much for taking a moment to fill it out. Make sure to keep checking for the latest on all of my culinary and indulgent adventures! Also, sorry to anybody that I did not mention here that I should have... let me know and I'll try to give you a shout out as well. Finally, please feel free to share this with all of your friends! It is really easy to do with the button below.  Let's make this thing go viral!

Jay D. Ducote

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Parish Brewery Part Deux

It had been a couple months since I first tasted Parish beer, and the time that passed since then grew more and more difficult without the locally brewed crafty taste of malted barley and noble hops on my tongue.  As if an angel heard my prayers while they were in South Louisiana to watch over the Saints, Andrew Godley from the Parish Brewing Company sent me a message inviting me back for a second round of brews and to give him some feedback on his latest fermentations.  I gladly obliged and hit the road to Lafayette with Eusebio, Eric, and Dustin.  Parish is still in the research and development phase to find that perfect recipe, though now Andrew is really just fine-tuning and tweaking his flagship suds.  With the beer batches being brewed and the paper work getting ever closer to completion, it is just a matter of time before we can order a pint of Parish in some select local watering holes.  I, for one, wouldn't mind being the first in line. 

Engraved Parish Brewing Company Canebrake Tap Handle... A Real Thing of Beauty

The tap handle alone makes me want to drink the beer.  Parish's signature "Fleur de Barley" couldn't be hitting the market at a more appropriate time.  This particular handle is for the Canebrake flavor, which is an American wheat beer brewed with pure Louisiana sugarcane molasses.  The picture on the right below is the Canebrake beer.  As can be seen, the brew is poured with a cloudy body, a unique flavor, and a surprisingly creamy finish.  The Canebrake boasts a 4.8% ABV.  Andrew's new batch of the sugarcane beer came out a fair amount better than the previous version.  He added even more molasses to ensure that the sweet flavor and aroma came through and could be tasted clearly, though still without being overpowering.  He is still playing with the recipe slightly and is considering a batch with a small amount of lactose to help make the beer a little sweeter and creamier, amost giving it a melting sensation in your mouth.  Yeah, that sounds good, I think I'll have that.

Parish Biere Blanc and Canebrake

The Biere Blanc (pictured above on the left) is a light and refreshing take on a European style pilsner.  Beer geeks and typical light beer connoisseurs alike will enjoy this brew as it certainly has more malt and hops than your American standards, and also has a slight hint of wheat and a smidge of sweetness on the back end.  Like the Canebrake, the Biere Blanc is about 4.8% ABV.

Newly Stained Wood Wrapped Around Stainless Steel Brew Kettles

The beer that I think will sell the best early on in the Louisiana market is the Parish Pilsner (below on the right).  The pilsner is a crisp, light, and refreshing beer that has that something extra that all cheap American light swill lacks.  The first taste of the pilsner on the lips is a sweet and fruity flavor, not all that far from a sparkling wine or Champagne.  But then, on your tongue, the hops hit you, and know this is no fermented fruit, but rather a beer with unique character.  It finishes with a bit of dry spice on the back of the tongue and a crisp, delicious bite.  The beer is complex yet is amazingly clear and, remarkably, is unfiltered (as are all the Parish beers).  The Parish Pilsner has around a 4.7% ABV and it shines with a beautiful luster in the glass.  This baby will sell in South Louisiana, that is for sure.  

Envie APA and Parish Pilsner

Finally, Andrew brought out the beer that might soon win him some awards and accolades from true beer geeks, the Envie American Pale Ale.  Envie is an old Cajun French term that means a craving or a hankering for something.  For example, while writing this post, I have an envie for more Parish beer.  The Envie poured with the biggest head of the bunch... that's what she said.  At first nose the beer smelled distinctly of orange citrus, rather than grapefruit which a lot of Indian Pale Ales bring.  The orange aroma led to a balanced, very non-offensive hoppy taste.  Pale Ales are notoriously hoppy, and while this APA brought the hops, it did so in a way that was very pleasing to the palate for even amateur craft beer drinkers.  The Envie boasts a 5.2% ABV, and with its delicious flavor and perfect blend of malt and hops, this beer is sure to be a hit for many years to come.  

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

1012 Corridor Cuisine: The Po-Boys

I have some exciting news for Bite and Booze!  My submission has recently been published in 1012 Corridor Magazine!  1012 is a business publication that covers everything going on along I-10 and I-12 in South Louisiana.  In every edition there is a section on Corridor Cuisine and the Winter 2010 publication covers a South Louisiana favorite, po-boys.

While fried seafood is traditionally the favorite po-boy of most Louisianians, I agrued that the best po-boy on the block doesn't contain any seafood.  Click the link below to read the 1012 Corridor Cuisine: The Po-Boys article.  Make sure you scroll all the way down to the bottom to see the nomination by "South Louisiana food lover and amateur food critic Jay Ducote!"

(Thanks to VikingGeek on Flickr for the Picture)

Darrell's on Urbanspoon

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