Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bite and Booze's Top Ten of 2010

For the final post of 2010 I have decided to take a stroll down memory lane and relive my top 10 bites and boozes of 2010.  This list has been difficult to come up with, and it could change in time, but as of right now, here are my favorite things I ate, drank, and blogged about in 2010!

10. New Year's Day Gumbo

On January 1, 2010 I gave my first true effort to be completely in charge of cooking a gumbo from scratch.  I make it at Jay's Bay with a bunch of my buddies from high school, and everybody was happy with the results.  The gumbo had roasted duck, chicken, and sausage.  It certainly satisfied all of our stomachs while we settled in on a cold afternoon and tried to watch college football bowl games!

The guy's trip to Alaska was so great that it is going to make this list twice.  Coming in at #9 is all the beer that we drank from the Homer Brewing Company.  We were fortunate enough to spend a week in a small Alaskan fishing town that had its own brewery, winery, and meadery.  Upon arrival in Homer, the owner of our rental house had multiple growlers of Homer Brewing Company beer ready for our consumption.  We went back to fill up growlers several times, we got a keg from them, and we even had the owners, Karen and Steve, over for dinner.  The Red Knot Scottish Ale seemed to be their favorite brew, but all were refreshing and tasty in my book!

A line of empty growlers from the Homer Brewing Company (they started full, of course)

Mason's Grill's Cajun shrimp burger highlighted the Town Favorites Magazine article that I wrote about burgers in Baton Rouge. This award-winning beef/crustacean/cheese combination had my mouth watering and itching to return. It starts with 8 ounces of fresh ground beef made to order into a jalapeño-stuffed patty. The burger is then flame-grilled to desired temperature while shrimp are sautéed with more jalapeños. When the shrimp are almost ready, the chef will add a cup and a half of jack cheese in with the shrimp and peppers and let it all melt together. The cheesy mixture is then scooped up and piled high on the beef patty which is resting patiently on a sweet sourdough bun that is made specially for Mason’s Grill.  Yeah, it is THAT good!

The Cajun shrimp burger at Mason's Grill

On a post oil spill trip to coastal Alabama, I discovered the famous Bushwacker beverage, and I found none I liked better than the concoction at Tacky Jack's. Their version of the creative cocktail mixes white rum, coconut rum, coffee liqueur, and a little 151 proof rum over vanilla ice cream. It is interesting, unique, delicious, refreshing, and dammit, I just flat out liked it!

Tacky Jack's famous Bushwacker

Over labor day weekend I experienced the truest form of gluttony known to man... The Buffet... of... BUFFETS!  Yes, not only did this involve eating at an all you can eat buffet, but it actually included unlimited entry for 24 hours into any of the seven casino resort mega buffets on the list.  Indeed, this truly was a buffet of buffets, and we did our best to eat our money's worth.  We ended up only making it to three of the seven eateries, but that was plenty.  Caesar's Palace, the Rio, and Planet Hollywood were all infiltrated by my crew from Houston.  The damage was done both at the buffets, and back at our hotel rooms.  Lots of things made an impression... braised beef, prime rib, fried shrimp, wood-fired pizzas, crab legs... but the most impressive thing overall might have been the dessert bars! 

A full plate of dessert from the Lago Buffet in Caesar's Palace

The Fall of 2010 was dominated by two story lines for Bite and Booze.  The first story line features lots of flavors in different combinations.  In what was essentially the Bite and Booze introduction to film, I teamed up with Ninja Snowballs and Contrast Films/TommysTV to do a Submit a Flavor Contest.  We started with 16 flavors and reduced the field down to 4 doing a taste test.  We then let the Ninja Snowballs eaters decide from there.  The final video matched up the Lemon Fluff vs. the Mint Julep in an epic showdown that only this film could do justice:

4.  Hammond Smokin' Blues and BBQ Challenge

In March of 2010 I entered my first ever official barbeque competition, the Smokin' Blues and BBQ Challenge in Hammond, Louisiana.  I was joined by expert chef Eusebio Gongora and outdoor cook extraordinaire Travis Ducote.  We represented Team Bite and Booze well, turning in meat in all four categories on time and in edible fashion.  Not bad for our first rodeo!  In the end, we placed 39th out of the 50 teams, which we were actually quite proud of considering that every other team had done multiple contests before.  The real highlight for us, as agreed upon by the judges, was our chicken.  We turned in the most delicious barbeque chicken thighs that I've ever had a hand in cooking.  They ended up earning 24th place in the chicken category.  While that might not sound great, we were ecstatic to have our dish in the top half of the competition!  

Of all the beer I've had in 2010, it is still the Louisiana craft beer that is most near and dear to my heart.  Andrew Godley of the upstart Parish Brewing Company got my 2010 started right with tours and tastings of his delicious brews.  Andrew's passion and enthusiasm about his beer is evident in his approach to brewing and the final product that he kegs and sends out to bars in the Lafayette area.  I hope one day soon he is able to expand his operation so that he can distribute to Baton Rouge, but until then, who wants to take a road trip?!

Parish Beer's Pumpkin Porter

Perhaps I spoke too soon about gluttony when mentioning topic #6.  That, indeed, was not the most gluttonous event of 2010.  Instead we'll have to go back to Alaska where I entered, completed, and suffered from the Kodiak Arrest Challenge. The Kodiak Arrest Challenge is a feasting competition of Alaskan proportions. It starts with 3 lbs of Alaskan King Crab legs. Listed on the menu at $34.99 per pound, the Challenge is almost worth its price right there. After the crab, the platter is loaded with a foot-and-a-half-long link of reindeer sausage, seven salmon or crab cakes, mashed potatoes or fried rice, and mixed vegetables. At the end there is also a berry crisp dessert served with ice cream. All together, the food weighs six pounds and must be consumed in 90 minutes or less.  Yeah, I did that.  I became the fifth person to ever complete the challenge and, as far as I know, my name and picture should be hanging on the wall!

The Kodiak Arrest Challenge... eat all six pounds, and become legendary
Jay finishes off the last bites of the Kodiak Arrest Challenge at the 90 minute mark

The Fall of 2010 was truly highlighted by the performance of my Blackberry Bourbon Bone-in Boston Butt in the Tony Chachere's Tailgating Cook-off.  Representing LSU, my recipe took the top spot in the initial round of online votes against competitors from the other 11 schools in the SEC.  Then, after a live cook-off at LSU, the pork shoulder defeated Ole Miss and Mississippi State in the finals.  Though by the end of the year I was tired of cooking it, the recipe was pretty darn good.  It basically consists of a bone-in pork shoulder that is injected with mixture of blackberry jam, bourbon, honey, and black pepper, then rubbed on the outside with Tony Chachere's and brown sugar before being smoked over Louisiana pecan wood.  Delicious!

The now-famous and award-winning Blackberry Bourbon Bone-in Boston Butt

So there you have it.  My Top Ten of 2010 list.  Stay tuned to see the January article in Town Favorites Magazine where I list out the 11 things I'm most looking forward to eating and drinking in 2011!  That should be a good list as well!  Thanks for reading and for helping make 2010 such a success!

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Monday, December 27, 2010

PurpleGold (The Tiger in Me)

While this video isn't directly food or drink related (other than the scene where I eat grass), I still felt like I should share this with all my Bite and Booze friends.  I made this video with Tommy Talley and Freddy Mince from TommysTV as well as Geno and Ian Von with the music.  It also stars John Worrel and MIKE THE TIGER!!  Check it out!!!

Also, just this morning WAFB in Baton Rouge picked it up and aired some of the video on the local news. Thanks to Graham Ulkins for bringing it to the masses! You can see that clip HERE!

Please help us spread the word about this video. A lot of work went into the production of it, and we want all LSU fans to see it!  Oh, and if you want one of those awesome PurpleGold shirts, we got them from Tiger District!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank needs your support!

Please help out the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank by taking about 10 seconds out of your day to "like" Baton Rouge in the "Fighting Hunger Together" contest!  The Food Bank is in a challenge against 99 other communities to get the most facebook "likes" for their page.  The winner will receive a $1,000,000 donation from Walmart, and the next five communities will each get $100,000!  Baton Rouge could certainly use that money to help feed people!  You have until December 31st to cast your "like", but don't wait, do it now!

The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank serves an 11 parish area and moved more than 10.8 million pounds of food in 2009. Their mission is to service short-term, unmet food needs of individuals in the greater Baton Rouge area through existing or social service providers, churches/synagogues and other organizations.  Please join me in taking a moment of time to show them our support.  Also, help share the word using the button below.  Tis the season, after all!

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Blackberry Bourbon Bone-in Boston Butt Recipe

Ever since my recipe won the Tony Chachere's Tailgating Cook-off I've had numerous requests for the actual recipe of my Blackberry Bourbon Bone-in Boston Butt.  Since I don't actually have it written down anywhere on the blog, I decided it might make sense to feature it in on Bite and Booze one last time detailing the ingredients and instructions on how to make it!

Jay Ducote flanked by Celeste Chachere and Celeste Podojil at the Tony Chachere's Tailgating Cook-off
The recipe is fairly simple.  It combines meat, an injection, a rub, and hours of smoke.  Here are the ingredients you'll need:

1 large bone-in pork shoulder (Boston Butt)
1 jar of blackberry jam (8 oz or so)
1 pound of local honey
1 cup of bourbon
1 Tablespoon of fresh ground black pepper
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning
Louisiana Pecan Wood

Ingredients for the Blackberry Bourbon Bone-in Boston Butt
So let's start with the injection.  The idea is that we're going to flavor the pork both inside and outside the meat.  The ingredients that get injected inside the pork will marinate the meat as well as provide some bold flavor.  Take the blackberry jam, honey, bourbon, and black pepper and mix it all together really well.  I use a food processor or blender for this part.  Once it is all combined, strain the seeds out if there were seeds in your blackberry jam.  They will have trouble getting through the injector.

Now take your pork shoulder.  One side will probably have an excessive layer of fat on it.  Go ahead an trim most of that off.  This isn't required, but I've found that I prefer to do that before cooking the meat rather than afterwards.  There is no precision required, just make sure you are trimming off fat and not muscle.  Pork has so much fat in it to begin with that you don't need that extra layer.

Now the fun part... lay the trimmed pork shoulder down on a pan of some kind and start injecting the blackberry/bourbon/honey/pepper mixture into it.  Feel free to take a little sip... it should be sweet, fruity, peppery, and have a little kick from the bourbon!  Stick your needle into the pork shoulder all over the place. Be very liberal with it.  You might as well use it all!  Flip the pork over and make sure to get the other side too.

Inject the pork all over the place!!!
Once you have thoroughly injected the mixture into the pork, the next step is to rub the outside.  The rub is a simple combination of brown sugar and Tony Chachere's.  That will provide the sweetness of sugar with the saltiness and spiciness of Tony's.  The brown sugar will caramelize on the outside and provide a nice bark while the salt and peppers will penetrate into the pork and leave it flavorful.  Just blend the ingredients together and rub it all over the outside of the pork shoulder.  It will mix with the runoff blackberry mixture, but that's ok.  Just let it form a paste on the outside of the pork shoulder.

Now get your smoker going.  This varies completely based on what kind of smoker you have... so its hard to give specific advice.  As a general rule of thumb you'll want to smoke the pork shoulder at 200 to 250 degrees until the internal temperature has maintained around 165-170 degrees.  I usually smoke it closer to 200 degrees, so it takes 8-10 hours.  I've even left them in the smoker for over 12 hours with no problem, but it was very indirect heat.  If your smoker stays hotter than that, you won't want to leave the shoulder on for that long.

The finished product should look something like the picture below.  The bark on the outside should be nice and caramelized.  The inside will be tender, juicy, and delicious.  This certainly isn't a traditional pulled pork recipe, so don't think of it that way... although I do suggest you pull the pork apart.  If it won't pull apart with your hands then it really isn't cooked enough.  It may be safe to eat, but it hasn't broken down like it needs to.

LSU's Winning Recipe: Blackberry Bourbon Bone-In Boston Butt
Jay readies the pork shoulder for consumption
Pulled pork at its finest!
Once you've removed the pork shoulder from your smoker and given it a little time to rest and cool, you should be ready to start pulling it apart.  Just grab and handful and go to town!  I hope this recipe brings you as much happiness as it did for me.  Enjoy!

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Geaux Get Some Gumbo!

This article has been published in the December 2010 issue of Town Favorites Magazine. You can visit the Town Favorites website at, follow them on Twitter @TownFavorites, "Like" them at, and find their magazines at over 150 restaurants and businesses around Baton Rouge! Pick up a copy today!

Jay Ducote shows off a pair of gumbos at The Chimes
Geaux Get Some Gumbo!
by Jay D. Ducote

There is certainly no shortage of Baton Rouge restaurants serving delicious bowls of gumbo this winter, so often times the only real challenge is determining which gumbo is best for you. I recently took a miniature tour aboard the “Gumbeaux Express” to see what local establishments are offering. One thing’s for sure, no two gumbos are ever alike! The tricky thing about gumbo in south Louisiana is that everyone seems to prefer whichever style of gumbo their grandma made. It is culture, tradition, and memories on which our fundamental love for gumbo is developed. Due to this, we can sometimes be hard pressed to find a restaurant version that lives up to our expectations. Still, with so many great chefs and authentic Louisiana restaurants in our great city, somebody out there has to be cooking a pot of gumbo “like grandma makes it!”

The first stop aboard my Gumbeaux Express tour occurred at Dempsey’s on Jefferson Highway. Chef George Gugich and manager Daniel Hatcher met me inside on a cool, rainy day to serve up a sampling of both their seafood gumbo and their chicken and andouille gumbo. George has been cooking gumbo his whole life and continues that passion at Dempsey’s. The Jefferson Highway location is the newer version (opened in July 2009) of their other location on Coursey Boulevard (13 years old and still going strong). Josh Armand, the chef at the Coursey restaurant, has been there since they opened the doors when Josh was 16 years old. The two restaurants have the exact same menus, so you can decide on your own which to visit! At the Jefferson Dempsey’s, George cooks up giant 35 gallon batches of gumbo to feed their loyal patrons. Each batch features everything made from scratch, begining with three gallons of flour and two gallons of oil to make the roux.

Dempsey's Seafood Gumbo
In addition to the medium-dark roux, Dempsey’s adds nearly 40 pounds of vegetables to each batch of gumbo. They use the same roux for both gumbos, which isn’t something you see very often… but why mess with a good thing? Dempsey’s customers rave about everything on the menu, so my anticipation heightened before my first taste of gumbo this winter. The seafood gumbo had a reasonably thick base with a good amount of spice. The bowl contained plenty of shrimp and okra with a little bit of crab mixed in as well. The chicken and andouille gumbo featured a surprisingly smoother texture and a noticeably smoky flavor from the chicken and sausage. The roux seemed to compliment the chicken and andouille flavors a little better, but both bowls were incredibly tasty and left my full stomach feeling very satisfied.

Chicken and sausage gumbo at Dempsey's
The next arrival gate for the Gumbeaux Express came at Drusilla Seafood. General Manager Brad Zito welcomed me in and chatted with me about the restaurant. Brad’s father Jimmy has owned Drusilla Seafood since 1991, though the restaurant has actually been around since 1982. Chef Sonny Creel makes the seafood gumbo that is a year-round staple on the menu. He begins with a classic dark roux made from butter and flour for a richer flavor. Sonny prides himself in his home style gumbo and classic Cajun taste. The Holy Trinity of Cajun cooking, onion, bell pepper, and celery, are all sautéed in butter before being added to the roux, which is then combined with fish and chicken stock. Sonny adds crab claws, crab meat, and shrimp to the gumbo to finish it off with plenty of substance. Sonny told me that the restaurant will typically go through 30-50 gallons of seafood gumbo every week. They make it daily in five gallon increments to keep up with demand. As you might expect, Sonny said that when the temperature drops outside there is a significant increase in demand for gumbo. It certainly is a cold-weather Cajun favorite!

Drusilla Seafood's gumbo features a dark roux
Before taking my first bite of Drusilla’s gumbo, I asked Sonny how the restaurant fared after the oil spill and how their gumbo sales were affected by the tragedy in the Gulf. He told me that seafood in general moved slowly for a little while after the oil spill both because some ingredients got a little pricier and harder to procure and because diners were a little weary to trust the seafood. Fortunately for all of us along the Gulf Coast, things in the restaurant scenes seem to be on the path towards recovery. It will certainly take more time to get everything back to how it was before the spill, but at least we can enjoy our seafood gumbos during the Holidays! Drusilla’s gumbo is really highlighted by the rich, dark roux that serves as the foundation of flavor. It provides enough heat and a slightly nutty flavor that actually goes very well with all the morsels of shrimp and crab. I particularly enjoyed the crab claws that are featured in the gumbo.

The Chimes' seafood gumbo
I knew this tour would not be complete without a trip to The Chimes. The gumbo at the Chimes is consistently rated among the very best in Baton Rouge, so I had to go make sure that my opinion hadn’t changed from back in my college days when I was a regular at three to four different tables and bar stools. I grabbed a seat at the bar of The Chimes on Highland Road at the North Gates of LSU and ordered up a bowl of both their duck and sausage and seafood gumbos. The manager, Wade, and the chef, Harry, both came out and talked gumbo with me for a bit. The seafood gumbo came closest to replicating what I remember both my mom and Maw Maw making as a child. The gumbo is loaded with the Cajun Trinity as well as a plethora of okra. It also features plenty of shrimp, a few crab claws, and a lighter, more liquid base than any other gumbo that I tried. Chef Harry called the roux in the seafood gumbo a “blonde” roux made with butter. The seafood gumbo had a nice kick from the vegetables and spice but certainly not an overpowering heat. It really had a great mix of flavors.

Duck and andouille gumbo at The Chimes
In a totally different direction but equally delicious gumbo, the duck and andouille sausage at The Chimes is sure to evoke some sort of emotional response. The in-house hickory smoked duck pairs with Richard’s smoked Cajun sausage to provide a much thicker, darker, and unique gumbo than any other that I found. This gumbo was created to “stick to your ribs” as it is hearty in consistency while bold and intriguing in flavor. It is prepared with an oil-based dark roux and also contains some extra rendered down fat from the sausage to make it even more rich, smoky, and satisfyingly decadent. As with the seafood gumbo, Louisiana products are used throughout the recipe to support local food producers and ensure that authentic flavor.

There are so many more places that I could have gone to try gumbo, but I can rest well knowing that I hit up three well deserving establishments with their own versions on classic Cajun gumbo. Each creation that I got to try tasted fantastic and I’d be happy to eat any of them again. Do yourself a favor and grab a spoon and make your own Gumbeaux Express tour this December. Your stomach won’t regret it!

Jay D. Ducote is the author of the blog Bite and Booze, which chronicles his culinary and indulgent cultural experiences around Baton Rouge, South Louisiana, and the world. It can be found at You can also reach him by email at, like the Bite and Booze fan page on, and follow him on Twitter @biteandbooze
Thanks to Eric Ducote of for taking all the pictures for this article.

Dempsey's II on UrbanspoonChimes (LSU Area) on UrbanspoonDrusilla Seafood on Urbanspoon

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Louisiana Beer Dinner at Niche Bar and Grill

Wednesday night I had the pleasure of attending a Louisiana Beer Dinner at Niche Bar and Grill.  It wasn't too long ago that this would have meant an "Abita Beer Dinner," so the fact that this can now be done without a single Abita beer on hand is exciting in itself.  On tap were brews from Baton Rouge's own Tin Roof Brewing Company, Covington's Heiner Brau, and the Bayou Teche Brewing Company in Arnaudville.    

I was happy to find out about the beer dinner and get to make a larger reservation with Ause, the owner of Niche.  It was a pleasure to be joined by Eric Ducote, Dustin Davis, and Jessica Jameson.  Robert Romero was in town from New Zealand and he decided to join us along with his brother Jesse and a couple of other friends.  Aaron LaRose also came with his lady friend and a couple more pals.  William McGehee and Charles Caldwell from Tin Roof were there to drink their own beer, as was Dorsey Knott from Bayou Teche.  Even a few guys from Mockler Beverage showed up to praise the craft beer that they now get to distribute!

The Louisiana Beer Dinner featured a five course meal each paired with a different beer.  It's hard to argue with that!  And at $35, Niche also presented a great value that is sure to attract more and more people when they do it again.  So, without further ado, let's get to it.  Course one paired a French onion soup with the Tin Roof Perfect Tin Amber.  While the soup didn't blow anybody away, it was a nice course to start off with and did pair fairly well with the beer.  The soup was a little stronger than the amber brew, but at the same time I could still taste the malt and hops in the beer, so in the whole scheme of things, I'd say it worked.

French Onion Soup with the Perfect Tin Amber from Tin Roof
The second course was probably my least favorite of the evening, as it was also the least inventive.  It had a bleu cheese wedge salad with roma tomatoes paired with the Pontchartrain Pilsner from the Covington Brewhouse (Heiner Brau).  While I understand pairing light food with light beer, I think there could have been more to this. Still, for the second course out of five, I guess it did the trick... to a degree.  The salad was alright and the pilsner was reasonably crisp and a tad refreshing.

Bleu Cheese Wedge Salad and the Pontchartrain Pilsner
Course three gave us my favorite dish and pairing of the night.  Chef cooked up a great blackened mahi with a spicy mango salsa, and paired it with the Bayou Teche LA 31 Biere Pale.  The seasoning from the blackened fish beautifully complimented the pale ale flavors of the beer.  The salsa also added some citrus flavors that matched the hops in the beer.  All in all, this dish worked pretty well, and I ate every bit of it!

Blackened Mahi with Mango Salsa and the LA 31 Biere Pale
Next up, Niche Bar and Grill decided to put a little meat in our diet.  We had a beer braised beef brisket (I like the alliteration!) served along side the Tin Roof Voodoo Bengal Specialty Pale Ale.  The brisket was actually slow braised in a Voodoo Bengal broth, which I think worked really well.  The beef came out fork tender and covered in a pretty decent sauce.  The dish also came with some fairly standard mashed potatoes.  I think the brisket came in first place for many of the diners, but I still liked the fish better.  But you know, to each their own, and the beef certainly tasted pretty darn good!  Also, the beer hit home for me.  The cane syrup used in the brewing process gave the beer just enough sweetness to counter the hops and pair nicely with the sugar in the barbeque sauce.

Beer Braised Beef Brisket with Mashed Potatoes and the Voodoo Bengal Specialty Pale Ale
Finally, the dinner concluded with a lemon berry mascarpone cake and the Heiner Brau Strawberry brew.  The cake actually turned out to be really well made.  It was dense, fruity, and had a great layer of tasty cream that was not overly sweet.  The Heiner Brau Strawberry worked with the sweetness to give a good flavor profile and accent the fruitiness of the cake.  Again, complements to the chef.

Lemon Berry Mascarpone Cake with Heiner Brau Strawberry
BONUS: As a little lagniappe, we all got a taste of another beer from Bayou Teche before the meal actually began.  The Granade (the French settlers mistook Louisiana passion fruit for a type of pomegranate, so in parts of Cajun country they are still called granades (grruh-nod)) is a very lightly fruited wheat beer that was refreshing and unique.  I actually think it may have been my favorite brew of the evening!  The picture on the right is a Niche pint glass filled with the Granade.

A huge thanks to Ause and Niche Bar and Grill for hosting this Louisiana Beer Dinner.  Also thank you to the guys from Tin Roof, Bayou Teche, and Mockler for being there and sharing their passion and insights for the suds they create and market.  If you missed the beer dinner, look for the fine Louisiana beers in your local watering holes, and keep an eye out for when Niche might do it again!  Until then, drink ya later!

Niche Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Downtown Baton Rouge's The BUZZ Cafe

A Pastrami Panini of some sort at BUZZ Cafe
The BUZZ Cafe in downtown Baton Rouge was one of my favorite lunch spots back when I used to work in the area.  It opens up early for breakfast and coffee but I always showed up around the noon hour to grab a sandwich, soup, or an occasional salad if I was feeling particularly rabbit-like that day.  Most of the time I stuck with the hot grilled Italian panini sandwiches, of which they had multiple to choose from.  All sandwiches come served with some of their "gourmet" potato chips and a pickle wedge.  I typically throw the pickle on the ground, go wash my hands, then enjoy the chips and sandwich.

BUZZ Cafe offers a rather friendly environment to enjoy your breakfast, lunch, coffee, or snacks.  They've got some comfortable tables fit for meeting colleagues, wi-fi for people trying to surf the web or get some work done, and a coffee bar where you can read the paper and chit-chat with the baristas.  Good times!

As I said before, the panini's are usually my go-to item on the menu.  Priced around $8, the sandwiches aren't a bargain, but they aren't ridiculous either.  Many offer grilled chicken with various cheeses like bleu cheese crumbles, melted mozzarella, and cheddar.  I'm not usually a big mayo fan, but their garlic mayo is certainly worth getting on your sandwich.  They also had other sandwich toppings like Roma tomatoes, fresh basil, and hickory smoked bacon.  Hard to go wrong there! And, of course, you could always go with a bowl of soup, one of their pretty good salads, some quesadillas, a deli sandwich, or a wrap.  Pictured above is a bowl of BUZZ cafe's vegetable soup and and a turkey panini.  Naturally, no meal is complete without a little something sweet.  This fresh baked chocolate chip cookie sure hit the spot!  It is places like this that make me miss working downtown.  There's something great about being a brisk walk away from multiple dining or hang-out establishments.  The BUZZ Cafe certainly made my list for its casual, relaxed atmosphere and pretty decent sandwiches!

The Buzz Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Bite and Booze Entry: Marx's Foods Iron Foodie 2010 on Foodie BlogRoll

I recently had the pleasure of being selected as one of the top 25 challengers in the Marx Foods Iron Foodie 2010 contest on Foodie BlogRoll.  You can find the blog post that I wrote to enter here... but the best part was getting to cook with the secret ingredients that Marx Foods sent me!  I had no idea what to expect when I opened the package, but to my surprise there were some pretty interesting ingredients awaiting some culinary creativity.

Eight Products To Choose From
The challenge asked each competitor to choose three products from the group of eight secret ingredients.  My secret ingredients included:
  • Dried Aji Panca Chilies
  • Vanilla Beans
  • Fennel Pollen
  • Dried Wild Porcini Mushrooms
  • Tellicherry Peppercorns
  • Dulse Seaweed
  • Maple Sugar
  • Smoked Sea Salt
The dish I decided to create was a pan-seared duck breast with smoked sea salt and dried Aji Panca chilies over a homemade Tellicherry peppercorn pasta with a wild Porcini mushroom cream sauce.  I got hungry just thinking about it.

The first step was to place a little bit of the smoked salt on the skin side of the duck breasts and let them sit over night in the refrigerator.  This helps to draw out the moisture in the skin and allow it to get extra flavorful and crispy when cooking the next day.

Duck Breasts with Smoked Sea Salt
Next I needed to rehydrate the dried wild porcini mushrooms, so I placed them in a bowl with some warm water.  I also gathered some of my other ingredients for sauce including shallots, olive oil, white wine, brandy, cream, butter, salt, and some tellicherry peppercorns.

Imgredients for the Wild Porcini Mushroom Sauce
Next it came time to make the pasta.  I gathered the flour, eggs, water, olive oil, salt, and crushed black peppercorns and then starting combining them to make the dough.  

Tellicherry Peppercorn Pasta Ingredients
After I got the pasta rolled out and cut, it was time to put the focus back on the porcini mushroom cream sauce.  I started with cooking down the shallots in olive oil.  After they were translucent, I added the brandy and white wine (1 cup each), peppercorns, and mushrooms, then let that reduce about before adding a cup of cream.  Once that had reduced about halfway, I started whisking in the butter.

Wine, Brandy, Shallots, Mushrooms, and Peppercorns Reducing
Wild Porcini Mushroom Cream Sauce
Now that my sauce was left to just simmer and let the flavors continue to meld together, all I had to do was boil my pasta and cook the duck breasts.  I put the homemade pasta in boiling salted water and let it get nice and tender.

Boiling the Homemade Peppercorn Pasta
And now the highlight: I added a little bit of chili oil that I made with the dried Aji Panca chilies and olive oil to a pan, sprinkled some chili seeds on the salted duck breasts, and seared the duck skin-side down for a few minutes to ensure a crispy skin.

Duck Breasts Searing in Chili Oil
After I got a good sear on the skin side, I flipped the breasts over, seared the bottom very briefly, then moved the pan to the oven with the skin up.  I let them continue to cook in a 400 degree oven for about 8-9 minutes, then removed them and let the duck rest for a bit.

Crispy-Skin Duck Breasts Moved to the Oven
Smoked Sea Salt and Aji Panca Chili Duck Breasts Resting Before Being Sliced
Now that everything was cooked, all I had to do was plate the dish.  I move the boiled pasta into the pan that the duck breasts cooked in with little chili oil residue.  I then ladled some of the mushroom cream sauce on to the pasta and tossed that around to get coated really well.  I started the plate with the pasta and cream sauce at the bottom and then topped that with a sliced duck breast, then finished the dish with a drizzle of the cream sauce over the duck and a little parsley for garnish.  Bon Appetit!

Finished Product: Seared Duck Breast with Smoked Sea Salt and Dried Aji Panca Chilies over Homemade Tellicherry Peppercorn Pasta with a Wild Porcini Mushroom Cream Sauce
Iron Foodie 2010 | Here's Why that will be me: -- Fine Bulk Foods The Foodie BlogRoll
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