Saturday, December 31, 2011

Eleven Amazing Happenings of 2011

While I'm not one to follow the trends all the time, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the past while looking forward to the future.  I know "top 11 of 2011" lists and "12 things to look forward to in 2012" lists are all over the place right now, but this ain't my first rodeo.  Last year I came up with a top 10 list of items that I ate, drank, or blogged about during 2010.  Then I followed that up with 11 things I wanted to eat and drink more of in 2011.  Some of them I succeed, some proved to be impossible, and some I just didn't really do.  This year I decided to change it up a bit.  I tried to recall the top eleven memories or amazing things that happened to me over the past calendar year.  Somewhat in order of importance, though certainly not by scientific or well thought out criteria, here is my list that counts down from eleven:

11.  Victory at the Frankie's Dawg House 4th of July Hotdog Eating Contest

Winner, winner, hot dog dinner!

10.  KingCakeBR

Visit Baton Rouge, the Baton Rouge Social Media Association, and TommysTV collaborate with me on this project and it turned out to be a huge success!

9.  Emeril's Blogger Party and the start of Virtual Potluck

Calandro's Supermarket helped me out with a lot of the ingredients and I successfully cooked 9 recipes from Emeril's new book over a three week period this past Fall.  It also introduced me to the other bloggers who were selected that have now formed the Virtual Potluck!

8.  Viking Cooking School Outdoors
Photo taken on film, courtesy of Frank McMains
I got to help open the first ever Viking Cooking School Outdoors at the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center.  It was a fun and challenging month watching the school go through construction, dealing with logistics and equipment orders, all the way to the helping teach the opening class!

7.  Meanwhile, Back at Cafe du Monde...

I had the pleasure of being a headliner and filming a segment for the TV pilot in 2010.  In 2011 I got to serve as a red carpet host and emcee for a couple shows and have submitted an entry for the coffee table book.  I'm so proud to be a part of what Peggy has built from this food monologue show!

6.  Eat St. on the Cooking Channel

Eat St. came to Baton Rouge to film three episodes for the Cooking Channel (and the Food Network in Canada) and I got give an interview for the show about Taco de Paco!

5.  Raise a Glass

"Raise a Glass" is a weekly radio show about the history, traditions, culture, production, and consumption of alcoholic beverages.  I host it with my brother Eric Ducote from BR Beer Scene.  The show airs on Fridays at 6 pm and replays Sundays at 4 pm on 96.9 FM WHYR Baton Rouge Community Radio.

4.  LSU Press Bite and Booze Cookbook Contract

Although it won't come out until 2013, signing my contract for the "Bite and Booze Cookbook" is certainly worthy of being on this list.  Now all I have to do is write it and wait!

3.  Forty Under 40

I had the extreme honor of being recognized as one of the Baton Rouge Business Report's Top Forty Under 40 recipients for 2011.  My mom and dad joined me for the awards banquet, which was also quite an honor!

2.  The Bite and Booze Radio Show

The Bite and Booze Radio Show on Talk 107.3 FM started in April 2011 and has been a consistent fixture in Baton Rouge's Saturday talk radio lineup ever since.  I actually just signed a contract for all of 2012 as well, so the Bite and Booze Radio Show is here to stay!  Get ready for more interviews with local chefs and some great food and drink talk radio!

1.  MasterChef

The audition process started in 2010, but I actually spent 10 days in Los Angeles in February of 2011 filming the first four episodes of MasterChef on Fox.  I didn't get a whole lot of air time out of it, but national television exposure is better than none!

Here's to an even better 2012!!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Honey Chocolate Holiday Cocktail

*Update (12/29) Thanks to a reminder from @kastonie on Twitter, I have renamed the "Honey Russian" as the "Honey Badger."  I meant to do this all along, and then forgot as it came time to post.  Geaux Tigers!

I recently received a bottle of Barenjager honey liqueur meant to inspire me to create a dish or cocktail for a Virtual Potluck holiday party.  Needing to find a renewed focus on the booze part of "Bite and Booze," I chose to add a cocktail to the festivities.

I've long been a fan of White Russians, the infamous beverage of choice from "The Big Lebowski" where The Dude pounds "Caucasians" like a champ.  The basic White Russian recipe is vodka, Kahlua, and dairy (cream, half and half, or milk are all acceptable).  With that in mind, I got thinking that there might be a way to create a similar beverage with honey liqueur instead of coffee liqueur.  I experimented a little bit and found that a little something was still missing, so I went back to my liquor cabinet and grabbed a little bottle of Godiva chocolate liqueur to throw in the mix.  It turns out, honey and chocolate go pretty well together!  Here's my recipe for a "Honey Badger."  It's pretty bad ass.

1 oz Barenjager Honey Liqueur
1/2 oz Chocolate Liqueur
1/2 oz Vodka
1 oz Half and Half

Pour all ingredients over ice.  Shake, stir, or mix by pouring back and forth with another glass.  Garnish with a mint leaf, and enjoy!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

LSU vs Arkansas Tailgating

The following events happened the day after Thanksgiving, so I figured it only made sense to actually post the video on Christmas Day!  Good logic, right?  Enjoy a little video of LSU tailgating before the Arkansas game with me as we kiss goodbye to 2011 and bring on 2012 and the upcoming BCS National Championship Game.  Geaux Tigers!!

This little piggy went to the market

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Beausoleil Celebrates Their First Anniversary!

For the past year I've been raving about how Beausoleil is not only one of my favorite new restaurants in Baton Rouge, but also one of my favorite restaurants period.  Owners Jeff Conaway and Chef Nathan Gresham have breathed a fresh breeze into BR's restaurant scene with their blend of casual atmosphere, soulful dining, and local ingredients.  Their brunch, lunch, and dinner menus change with the seasons and always impress.  Plus, every dining experience begins with fresh pork rinds delivered to your table instead of the traditional bread and butter!  With a bar menu featuring custom cocktails like the Aviator and craft spirits along with boutique wines, Beausoleil is really doing things right!

I recently had the pleasure of attending Beausoleil's One Year Anniversary Wine Dinner featuring a five course meal from hors d'oeuvres to dessert.  Wine pairings came from the Vending Machine Winery which has a local twist as well.  The winery, which is in California, is owned by some excellent Louisianians and is currently only distributed in Louisiana!  The passed hors d'oeuvres featured barbeque rabbit turnovers and shrimp mousse on endive.  The turnovers had a superb texture contrast between the moist and tender rabbit on the inside and the crisp doughy outer shell.  Similarly, the endive had a great natural spice and crunch to it that complimented the creamy shrimp mousse.

When we sat down at our table I knew we were really in for a great evening all around.  My guest Hannah Lane and I were seated at a table with newly weds Brian and Ashley Thom as well as the O'Connors and a few other people.  Pork rinds awaited us at the table, but I knew that I had plenty of eating to do so I didn't overload on them.  I'll admit though, they are incredible hard to resist!  The Premier course brought out a lobster bisque with ghost pepper caviar.  I thought that the bisque would be a little spicier with ghost pepper in the name but Chef Gresham did a marvelous job of incorporating the true flavor of the pepper without leaving behind the intense heat that would have taken away from the delicate lobster and flavorful bisque.  The soup came with the "Loula's Revenge" Chardonnay that contrasted the soup very nicely and left the palate longing for another bite, then another sip, and still another bite.

Our Intermediare course featured a smoked duck breast over mushroom risotto served with a sweet fig sauce.  It paired with the 2009 Vending Machine Winery "Double Shotgun" which is a lovely Petit Verdot/Cab Franc blend.  The duck itself came out masterfully cooked.  The fig sauce had enough sweetness to both contrast with the mushroom risotto and compliment the flavors of the duck.  It actually may have been my favorite dish of the day, which is saying a lot especially with the dish on deck.

Our Principal dish of the evening drew inspiring oohs and aahs when placed in front of the anniversary dinner guests.  Teasing my taste buds sat a blue cheese bruleed New York Strip with crispy fried Louisiana oysters over braised mustard greens and a red wine jus.  Naturally, this dish came with the "Crooked Mayor," Vending Machine's Cabernet Sauvignon.  Everything about the dish worked as I could hardly control myself from gobbling up each morsel as rapidly a Hoover on a dirty floor.  The greens were amazingly tender and the beef had a true flavor despite being surrounded by so many other distractions.  I like to taste a good cut of steak, and I certainly did with this one.  The blue cheese, oyster, greens, and jus only helped add to the party.   

As the Finale to the evening we had a lovely piece of birthday cake and a glass of sparkling wine.  The cake was no ordinary birthday cake though.  The chocolate ganache sat atop salted caramel and underneath some Chantilly cream and fresh berries.  The cake had aspects of dense and fluffy.  It was decadent and flavorful.  The berries, cream, and chocolate all worked together in harmony but were then brought to another dimension by the salted caramel at the bottom.  The cake provided an excellent ending to a magical meal.  Happy anniversary to Beausoleil.  I hope you have many more to come as you continue to make your mark on the Baton Rouge restaurant landscape!

Beausoleil Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New York City's Clinton St. Baking Company

My last day in NYC brought about the need for a Sunday brunch after a Saturday night of bar hopping and parties.  Molly and I found the Clinton St. Baking Company on Manhattan's Lower East Side and thought it looked like a spectacular option!  The cozy little cafe and bakery was packed but we fortunately got a table for two right away.  After a quick glance at the menu my stomach made an excellent decision: banana walnut pancakes with warm maple butter!

Banana Walnut Pancakes with Warm Maple Butter
The pancakes themselves were warm, fluffy, and beautifully golden brown.  The bananas and walnuts were just a topping, but that's okay.  I still enjoyed them as accessories to the scrumptious flapjacks.  The warm maple butter that came served on the side lit up the plate and consumed every bite of griddle-fried dough with its essence of sweet delight.  I'd gladly hit up the Clinton St. Baking Company again whenever I'm in the neighborhood.  It is a great little restaurants that the locals clearly embrace.  I'm always down with that!

The Clinton St. Baking Company
Clinton St. Baking Company on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lombardi's Pizza in New York City

There is good pizza... and there is great pizza.  This, my friends, proudly represented the latter.  I'm not sure that it was the most mind blowing pie I've ever had.  It may not even top some of the deep dishes that I've eaten in Chicago, but it certainly lived up to every expectation of what a coal oven New York style pizza should taste like!  

Large pizza at Lombardi's in New York City
I met some good buddies from LSU, Adam and John Robert, who currently live in NYC, at Lombardi's Pizza in Manhattan.  Fortunately we got there right as they opened so we had no line to wait in.  Rumor is that this place builds up quite the crowd on a weekday lunch.  While it attracts its fair amount of tourists, multiple locals gave their support for Lombardi's as one of THE places to go for an authentic New York slice.

Lombardi's Coal Oven Pizza
As if he hadn't been back to Louisiana in a while, John Robert asked if it was too early to start drinking.  I smiled and said of course not!  We ordered a pitcher of Brooklyn Lager to help wash our pizza down!

Brooklyn Lager
We ordered our pizza with pepperoni, Italian sausage, and extra mozzarella.  It also came with some fresh basil on top.  The coal oven baked dough had a wonderful crunch on the outside while remaining hot and chewy on inside.  The little pepperonis shrunk as they heated up and released their amazing juices.  The outside edge turned up as they shriveled to provide little cups of greasy heaven.  The sauce, cheese, and basil were all fresh and magnificent as well.  I could eat one of these pies once a week and never even feel shame because it is that good.  New York Pizza... check!

Authentic New York City Pizza at Lombardi's

Lombardi's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Visit to McSorley's Old Ale House

Choosing beer is easy when you only have two options: light or dark.  The answer: get both, of course!  On a recent trip to New York City I had the pleasure of stopping in at McSorley's Old Ale House in Manhattan's East Village.  LSU Alum and current MLB employee Adam Wilson took me on walking tour of the area, and fortunately we passed by this landmark of a bar.  McSorley's dates back to 1854 and prides themselves on being NYC's oldest continually operating saloon.  Stepping into McSorley's really is like taking a step back in time.  Women weren't allowed to frequent the establishment until 1970.  And by frequent, I mean enter.  There is sawdust on the floor... on purpose.  And there are no fancy beer taps with different brewery logos beckoning to be sold by the pint.  Nope.  Not even close.  McSorley's has two beer offerings, and you have to buy two at a time.  They come in 10 oz mugs and are two for $5, cash only (not a half bad deal for NYC!).  Your options don't say anything about the style of beer or the balance of malt and hops.  Only light or dark.  You can read more about the history of McSorley's Ale and how they survived through Prohibition on their website.

Jay visits McSorley's Old Ale House in New York City's East Village

It actually turns out that at the current stage, McSorley's beer is brewed by the Pabst Brewing Company and is available at places other than McSorley's Old Ale House.  The dark beer is actually a dark lager, pouring nearly black in color with a tan, creamy head.  The toasted malts are present and overall the beer is fairly mild and pleasant to drink.  The light beer was nothing special but I still enjoyed going back an forth with Adam for a couple rounds.  McSorley's is a bit of a tourist trap but there are definitely plenty of locals that frequent the place as well.  They serve up some bar food but I didn't order any.  Apparently they get crowded and attract a college age clientele at night.  All in all, I'd definitely go back when doing another NYC pub crawl.  That atmosphere really captured my spirit and I could imagine sitting in there for hours just drinking beer and having actual conversation.  That's my kind of bar for sure!

McSorley's Light Beer and Dark Beer

McSorley's Old Ale House on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Turkey Sandwich Gauntlet 2011

The rules were relatively simple.  For two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, eat nothing but one turkey sandwich for every meal each day.  Two weeks.  Fourteen days.  Forty-two turkey sandwiches.  I failed.  Being a food writer, radio host, and having a lot going on for two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, I found it nearly impossible to consume nothing but turkey sandwiches for fourteen straight days.  Still, I tried.  And while 33% is certainly a failing score, if I were playing baseball that would be a pretty damn good batting average.  I managed a total of 14 turkey sandwiches, or an average of one per day.  I'll take it... until next year!

Turkey breast with spinach, red onion, and mustard on a croissant from Maxwell's Market

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bite Club: Katz's vs Stein's

The return of a Bite Club post can only mean one thing: I recently ate two things that I strongly felt needed to be compared!  In an epic match up of the original Katz's Deli in New York vs the upstart Stein's Market and Deli in New Orleans, only one pastrami sandwich on rye could reign supreme!

Katz's on the Lower East Side of Manhattan has been around since 1888.  They are famous for pastrami, corned beef, and the orgasm scene from "When Harry Met Sally."  While the "I'll have what she's having" line is definitely the quote of the film, Meg Ryan wasn't actually eating a pastrami or corned beef sandwich.  Still, I had to go for the good stuff while I was there with my friend Caroline and her friends from Williamsport, PA.

Pastrami on Rye, Katz's Deli, New York
The pastrami at Katz's is undoubtedly some of the best I've ever had.  The brined beef soaked up all the flavors while the peppercorn rub on the outside left the beef spicy and delicious.  Each slab of pastrami is hand carved to order right in front of the customers and then piled high on rye bread.  Throw in a little mustard for good measure, and you've got one heck of a sandwich!  

On Magazine Street in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans, Stein's Market and Deli is a hot spot for diners looking to get an authentic Jewish Deli style sandwich.  Again, I ordered pastrami on rye with a little mustard.  Stein's also added some melted cheese to my sandwich.  I always have a hard time arguing with that!  The pastrami packed a lot of flavor into the thin beef slices while the cheese helped to mellow out the spices from the peppered red meat and the mustard.  This was a good sandwich... no, a great sandwich.  And I'd go back and eat it again and again when in New Orleans.

Pastrami on Rye, Stein's Deli, New Orleans

But, with that being said, Stein's pastrami truly presented itself as a distant cry from the mouth-watering succulence of Katz's deli.  Katz's thick-cut to order, tender slabs of beef had so much juice and flavor that it can easily put people into proper food comas.  It didn't need cheese to reach a desired mixture of tastes and textures because the pastrami could speak for itself.  I applaud Stein's for trying to bring a taste of the New York deli to Louisiana.  The store is great and the sandwiches are terrific.  However, do yourself a favor and try not to compare it too critically to the granddaddy up north.  Katz's Deli, while touristy, is overcrowded for good reason.  And locals flock there too.  Quite simply, it is just that damn good.

Katz's Deli on UrbanspoonStein's Market & Deli on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving in Louisiana

Thanksgiving in Louisiana is an injected turkey in a deep fryer, and knowing how to do it right. It is the smell of smoke filling the air for those who opt not to deep fry but would never be so traditional as to bake their bird. It is a sweet potato casserole topped with crunchy pecan pralines, not marshmallows. It is the ongoing debate between cornbread and oyster stuffing... or dressing. It is family and friends; and beer and football. It is game day eve as the Tigers take the field on Friday. It is hunting season, and the weather is that lovely season in between the sweltering heat of summer and the slight chill of winter. People gather, people give thanks, and people enjoy what people enjoy best in Louisiana: good food, good times, and great people.

Happy Thanksgiving from Bite and Booze!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Turkey Day with Virtual Potluck and Marx Foods

A group of food bloggers from around the country who were brought this Fall for the Emeril's cookbook promotion has together decided to continue to work together on other projects. I'm very proud to be a member of the Virtual Potluck group and hope to continue to do some amazing things such a wonderful and inspirational group of bloggers. One of our first promotions is to cook a virtual Thanksgiving meal with ingredients from Marx Foods, a gourmet specialty food company that can send amazing ingredients straight to your door. You can actually use a promocode this week to get a discount at Marx Foods: Enter “POTLUCK” into the “Coupon Code” field at checkout for 10% of everything in the store. Valid 11/21 – 11/27.  My contribution was part of "Turkey Four Ways" meal that I prepared for WBRZ news in Baton Rouge. The special should air the night before Thanksgiving. You can find links to the rest of the Virtual Potluck meal on Cookistry, and you can find all four turkey recipes at Deep South Magazine, but below is the recipe for the Smoked Sea Salt and Puya Chili Oil Seared Turkey Thighs with Brandy Wine Black Trumpet Mushroom Cream Sauce!

Smoked Sea Salt and Puya Chili Oil Seared Turkey Thighs with Brandy Wine Black Trumpet Mushroom Cream Sauce
2 turkey thighs
2 tsp. smoked sea salt (or kosher salt) - From Marx Foods
1 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper or to taste
1 puya chili with stem removed (or guajillo or other medium-heat pepper) - From Marx Foods
3 T grapeseed, sunflower or canola oil, divided
1/2 ounce dried black trumpet mushrooms or other mushroom variety - From Marx Foods
1 cup hot water
2 shallots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup cream
1/4 pound butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat turkey thighs dry with a paper towel. Lightly score the skin of both thighs with a knife in a crosshatch pattern. Sprinkle skin side with smoked sea salt and place aside to rest for at least 10 minutes. In a food processor, add the chili and 2 tablespoons of oil. Pulse the food processor to incorporate and make chili oil. Place dried mushrooms in hot water and let soak for at least 10 minutes. Heat the chili oil over high heat in an oven-safe sauté pan. Sprinkle the turkey thighs with black pepper and place skin down in the chili oil. Sear the skin side for 4-5 minutes and then flip the thigh over. Transfer pan to oven and continue to cook for 30-35 minutes until the thighs have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

In a separate sauté pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and place over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to stir for another minute or two. Drain the mushrooms, chop them a little if desired, and add to the pan. Add some freshly ground black pepper. Lower the heat to medium. Add in the white wine and cook until reduced by half. Carefully pour in the brandy and continue to reduce for a few more minutes. Add the cream and again cook until reduced by half. Reduce heat to low. Stir in and melt the butter. Taste and add salt as desired. Once the butter is in, do not return the sauce to a boil. Pour sauce over turkey thighs and pasta if desired.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bite and Booze Two Year Update

A little over two years ago I started a blog about everything I eat and drink.  The whole idea of it was to give me a creative writing outlet that somehow, someway, made my food and beverage expenditures more productive.  I took a look at my credit card statements in September 2009 and said, "man, I spend a lot of money eating and drinking... why don't I write about it?"  The rest is history, and it has been one heck of a ride.  This blog led to other freelance food writing, lots of press and media attention, cook offs and barbeque competitions, two national television appearances (MasterChef and Eat St.), two local radio shows (Bite and Booze and Raise a Glass), and now to be recognized as one of Baton Rouge's Forty Under 40 for 2011.  It is quite an honor!

Plenty more has been going on in the Bite and Booze world.  I helped open up the first ever Viking Cooking School Outdoors from July to October.  I recently spoke with Chef John Folse in New Orleans along with Wendy Waren from the Louisiana Restaurant Association, Chef Patrick Mould, and Visit Baton Rouge's Paul Arrigo.  The panel on culinary tourism seemed to be a real hit!  Chef Folse also appeared on the Bite and Booze Radio Show presented by Calandro's Supermarket recently and I'm going to record an episode of his show, Stirrin' it Up, really soon.  WBRZ also recently came to my house to film a Thanksgiving cooking segment.  Look for that to air the night before turkey day at 10 PM.

In October I emceed the return of the food monologue show "Meanwhile, Back at Cafe du Monde..."  We had an amazing cast and the show was a lot of fun.  I also recorded a TV pilot with them at the end of 2010 and will be published in the Meanwhile coffee table book!

There are a whole lot of projects on tap for the future as well.  I can't really reveal all of them right now, but let's just say that blogs, magazines, and radio can lead to books and more video.  Bite and Booze is going strong.  Based on where the previous two years have brought me, I'm really excited to find out where the next two years will lead!  Thanks to everybody who is reading this or has ever read my blog or listened to my radio show or watched one of my TV appearances whether local or national.  I couldn't do this without your support!  And if you happen to want to lend additional support, Bite and Booze cups, koozies, and shirts are available in the Bite and Booze store!

Happy Holidays and cheers!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Raise a Glass Season 2: Whiskey Tournament!

Season 2 of Raise a Glass starts tonight (Friday, 11-11-11) at 6 PM on WHYR 96.9 FM in Baton Rouge.  It will also be available online and through iTunes shortly.  Raise a Glass is a weekly radio and podcast hosted by myself, Jay Ducote, and my brother Eric Ducote.  It is produced by James Lawson.  The show is about the history, culture, traditions, production, and consumption of alcoholic beverages, and for season 2 we are introducing something new: a Whiskies of the World Tournament!

To find out how this bracket was selected make sure to tune into Raise a Glass tonight at 6 or Sunday at 4 to listen to the Whiskey Bracket Selection Show.  We'll be narrowing down the field on each episode for the next 13 weeks until we get to one winner which will win the prize of the Raise a Glass Best Whiskey/Whisky in the World!!  Have a vote on which whiskies you think should move forward?  Would you like to share your opinions about bourbon, scotch, Tennessee, Canadian, Irish, Japanese, or any other whiskey?  Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment here or tweeting our show @RaiseaGlass!

Here is the first round matchup from my quadrant of the bracket: Prichard's Tennessee Whiskey versus Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey.  We'll announce who moves on from this match up and more on future episodes of Raise a Glass!