Monday, February 28, 2011

More Beer... That's What I Do

My brother Eric from the Baton Rouge Beer Scene is on a mission to try 365 NEW beers in the calendar year 2011.  While these didn't actually help him out on that mission, I still wish him the best of luck.  Check out his website to follow his progress!  Regardless, I still drank all these beers with him.  They were tasty.  You should give them all a try!

Avery is one Hell of a Brewery.  Drink anything from there!

Real Ale comes out of Texas.  Texas continues to make more and more craft beer.  Good for them.  Louisiana is getting there though.

Damn... speaking of Texas... this Divine Reserve #9 came out of St. Arnold in Houston.  It was incredibly delicious.  I still need to get my hands on the DR #10.  Abita needs to step up their game as far as rare and unique craft beer goes.  Step out on a limb, Abita!

Brooklyn makes some pretty awesome beer.  I actually met the man in charge of the Brooklyn Brewery:

Jay Ducote and Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery

Speaking of good beer... it is hard to ever go wrong with Dogfish Head.  This brewery has been instrumental in putting craft beer one the map across the United States.  Bravo to them!  Hooray Beer!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Caliente Grille Heats Up Hattiesburg

I recently got a suggestion from Jared Loftus to stop by Caliente Grille on my way through Hattiesburg to check out the restaurant, hang out with Charles, the owner, and eat some delicious burritos.  Jeremy of the blog Faire Les Courses and I were conveniently hungry as we drove through Mississippi on our way to FoodBlogSouth in Birmingham, so stopping in just made sense.

Caliente Grille in Hattiesburg, MS
Caliente Grille is similar to Izzo's or other "roll your own" overstuffed burrito places.  However, I could tell from walking in this was going to be a little different.  The service was excellent as we were kindly greeted right when we walked through the door.  The employees explained how to create our custom burritos, and I quickly knew exactly what I wanted.  I ordered ancho chili pork on a whole wheat tortilla.  I added some black beans, rice, sour cream, and the secret ingredient: a homemade, fresh, sweet corn jalepeno salsa.  As an extra measure to set themselves apart, Caliente Grille also toasts their burritos on a large sandwich press.  It does magic to crisp up the tortilla and melt the cheese.

My meal at Caliente Grille - regular ancho chili pork burrito with chips and queso
The burrito really hit the spot for both Jeremy and I.  As I stated above, the main things that Caliente Grille had going for them really set them apart from any competition.  The ancho chili pork combined with the sweet corn salsa is a flavor combination I would go back for again and again.  To top it off, pressing the burrito on the grill gave it just enough texture to take it to the next level.  Charles came into the restaurant after we finished eating and he told us about how all the salsas are made fresh daily.  Freshness is clearly a key to the Caliente way, and it shows in their food.  The only thing I wasn't a fan of was the absolutely plain queso... however looking back I could have easily asked for a little cup of one of their multiple salsas to mix it with.  Now I know!  Bottom line: if you're ever in Hattiesburg, go check out the Caliente Grille, and tell them Bite and Booze sent you!  It'll be worth the trip!

Sweet corn jalepeno salsa topping off the ancho chili pork burrito at Caliente Grille
Caliente Grille on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Louisiana Culinary Institute presents the Third Annual Race to Cannes Cooking Competition

The Louisiana Culinary Institute (LCI) 
the Third Annual Race to Cannes Cooking Competition

I am extremely proud to be a judge for Round 2, Groups 3 and 4 of this outstanding local culinary challenge.  The Louisiana Culinary Institute's Race to Cannes allows its culinary students to compete in a single elimination, bracket-style cooking competition for a trip to the Cannes Film Festival, where the winner will be part of a culinary team that will cook for the entire Cannes Film Festival in France from May 7th-23th, 2011!

This culinary team, hosted by The American Pavilion, provides up to 1,000 meals per day and caters all of The American Pavilion’s cocktail receptions, press luncheons, parties, and special events. Prior to the Cannes Film Festival, students will enjoy a three-day orientation that includes visits to markets and vineyards, and meals with famed chefs, such as Roger Verge of the Moulin de Mougins.

The Race to Cannes competition is structured as a bracket-style tournament, where students are assigned a seed number. This seed number is used for student placement on the bracket, ultimately determining the match up in the head-to-head competitions. In each round of the competition, students have presented a different pre-determined protein, starch and vegetable to the judges. The winner of each round will advance in the competition, while the loser will be eliminated.  The dishes I'll be judging will consist of Chicken Livers, Red Lentils, and Oyster Mushrooms!  Delicious!

LCI will provide the winning student with round-trip airfare to France and The American Pavilion’s program fee, which includes housing, breakfast, official Cannes Film Festival accreditation and pre-festival programming.  Not a bad prize, right?

The Race to Cannes competition will be fierce, attracting several top-notch students and judges from Louisiana’s culinary and media community (hey, that's me!).

This is also a great opportunity to view the premier culinary school not only of Louisiana but of the entire South. If you'd like further information about LCI or the Race to Cannes, please contact Charlie Ruffolo at 225-769-8820 or by email

Friday, February 18, 2011

@BiteandBooze and @VisitBatonRouge Present #KingCakeBR: Bite Club Round 1

Round 1: #KingCakeBR

For more information about KingCakeBR check out this article from Visit Baton Rouge's Red Stick Blog
Also, Check out Erin's review in Deep South Magazine!

Also, here is another video from Scott Rogers and the Around Town Show!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

GoYaYa's Chicken Caprese Crepe

The Baton Rouge food trucks are doing their part to spread quality food all over town.  If you haven't hit any of them up yet, you're missing out!  I recently tracked down GoYaYa's to try one of their flagship Grilled Chicken Caprese crepes.

GoYaYa's Mobile Food Station
The Grilled Chicken Caprese crepe highlights the GoYaYa's menu for good reason.  The combination of thinly sliced grilled chicken, Roma tomatoes, mozzarella, and their homemade pesto aioli is mouthwatering and every bit as satisfying as it sounds.  I suggest this crepe to any new-comer that is weary of going after a more exotic crepe such as the Cuban or the Vietnamese.  The Caprese is a star for a reason: it's really tasty.  Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Muffuletta, Muffoletta, Muffaletta… I’ll Take All Three!

This article has been published in the February 2011 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!

Muffuletta, Muffoletta, Muffaletta… I’ll Take All Three!
By Jay D. Ducote

While there may not be a lot of agreement about the spelling of the famous sandwich’s name, there is hardly any argument about the greatness of the muffuletta. Many suggest that the New Orleans specialty is one of the best sandwiches in the world, and I wouldn’t care to disagree. The muffuletta gets its name from the Sicilian bread loaf of the same name, but it was Central Grocery in the French Quarter that gets credit for first turning the bread into the sandwich that it is today. Combining the flat, round loaf with a unique olive dressing, ham, salami, and other meats and cheeses, the muffuletta has become a staple of New Orleans cuisine. Though it is hard to find them anywhere other than the Big Easy, Baton Rouge has its fair share of delis and restaurants that serve their own version of the classic Italian-style sandwich.

Anthony's Italian Deli's Muffoletta
The Red Stick’s most famous spot for a muffuletta is Anthony’s Italian Deli on Florida Boulevard. Home to the “best muffoletta since 1978,” Anthony’s version resembles its New Orleans counterparts closer than most. Anthony’s wife Maria and son Marco run the hole-in-the-wall, authentic Italian deli, which is actually the oldest in Baton Rouge. The muffoletta itself combines homemade olive dressing with mortadella, ham, genoa salami, capicola, and provolone cheese. The deli still uses the same recipes that Anthony started with in 1978. The bread is baked to his specifications and the olive dressing remains unchanged over the years. Anthony’s muffoletta is plenty to feed two people, though I’m tempted to try to tackle it by myself one day. The sandwich is loaded with substantial amounts of fine meats and cheese to give it a true Italian flavor. The muffoletta is then placed on a sandwich press and toasted to warm the provolone and slightly crisp the bread. It is deliciously and texturally magnificent.

A muffoletta wedge at Anthony's

There is no doubt about the passion and authenticity inside Anthony’s Italian Deli. The tiny restaurant also plays home to an Italian grocery store. It is impossible to fit much more imported ingredients inside the building, and customers often find little room to sit down, but that is part of the special appeal of Anthony’s which has clearly built a loyal clientele. The atmosphere is like stepping back in time, and nobody seems to mind. Every customer in the restaurant when I was there bragged about the muffolettas. Every single person claimed that not only is it the best muffuletta in Baton Rouge, but that Anthony’s also triumphs over New Orleans’ Central Grocery. That’s a bold statement, but having had both in the past couple months, I have to agree!

Maria, Marco, and Jay at Anthony's Italian Deli
Anthony’s might be a local favorite for muffulettas, but it is far from the only place to grab the exceptional sandwich in town. Monjuni’s has two locations in Baton Rouge, and I stopped by the Highland Road spot to sample their muffaletta with General Manager and Executive Chef Blair Kornegay. The Monjuni’s original muffaletta varies from the more traditional versions, but is exceptional in its own right. The Monjuni’s muffaletta is first highlighted by the bread. The roll is shaped like other muffuletta breads, but the Monjuni’s version is sweeter, softer, and downright delicious. On top of the bread Chef Kornegay piles ham, salami, provolone, Roma tomatoes, and porcini peppers then cooks the sandwich open-faced in the oven before adding their own olive mix. While the tomatoes and peppers aren’t quite the norm, they still help make the Monjuni’s muffaletta different, unique and pretty freaking tasty.

Monjuni's muffaletta

Monjuni’s also gives their customers an interesting twist on muffulettas. The turkey and vegetarian versions are rather enjoyable in their own right. The turkey muff replaces the ham with turkey. They will also remove the salami if you don’t want any pork products at all. The vegetarian version would be vegan if you removed the cheese. Instead of ham and salami, it features Portobello mushrooms, roasted artichoke hearts, and red bell pepper. The veggie muffaletta is certainly different from other varieties, but it is also a really delicious sandwich. I can see myself ordering more in the future and I certainly recommend it to any vegetarians out there.

The veggie muffaletta at Monjuni's
I also checked out the muffaletta at George’s under the Perkins Road Overpass. Unlike other muffulettas, George’s scraps the traditional bread and just makes theirs on poboy style French bread. George’s keeps it simple with plenty of ham, salami, Swiss cheese, and their homemade olive spread. While a far cry from the original New Orleans style sandwich, the poboy (interestingly enough, also a famous New Orleans sandwich) still packs plenty of that well known flavor.

George's Muffaletta Poboy
Baton Rouge has quite a few other places to choose from when it comes to muffulettas. Several other Italian delis serve their own, and quite a few restaurants run one on their sandwich menu or as a special. No matter where you find one, the saltiness of that olive dressing will keep licking your lips and going back for another bite. There’s a reason that the muffuletta is considered to be one of the great sandwiches of the world, and we should feel fortunate that we have so many to choose from right here in our great city! 

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 pictures for this article.

George's Original on Urbanspoon

Anthony's Italian Deli on UrbanspoonMonjunis Highland Cafe & Grocery on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New Orleans Original: a Muffuletta at Central Grocery

The Central Grocery in  New Orleans is said to be the "Home of the Original Muffuletta."  Not too long ago, Jeremy of Faire Les Courses and I had a chance to check it out!  Located in the French Quarter right down the street from Jackson Square and Cafe du Monde, Central Grocery is still first and foremost a tiny specialty grocery store.  However, that's not what gets tons of tourists and residents alike to flock there like sheep on any given lunch break.  Central Grocery is famous for the Muffuletta sandwich that they originated a long, long time ago.

What really sets the Central Grocery muffuletta apart from others is the olive salad.  Theirs is chunky and deliciously marinated.  The olives add a generous amount of flavor and saltiness to the sandwich that makes it stand out to the eater.  Other than the olive salad, I honestly wasn't that impressed with Central Grocery.  I didn't find the muffuletta bread to be anything special.  I also found the meats and cheeses to be just ordinary.  Sure, it is a good sandwich, but in my opinion far from the best I've ever had.  Still, the Central Grocery probably is worth a trip for historic reasons if nothing else!

Central Grocery's Muffuletta
Central Grocery on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 7, 2011

Non-Local Beer Shout Out

I just wanted to give a quick Bite and Booze shout out to two of my favorite beers these days that aren't from a Louisiana brewery.  In fact, they aren't from anywhere around here at all.  The first is Pumpkinhead from the Shipyard Brewing Co. in Maine.  This beer is undoubtedly one of my favorite pumpkin flavored beers.  While it may seem a little odd to be bringing it up in February, I don't care.  It's that good of a beer.  Plus, you can actually find some on the shelves of Whole Foods in Baton Rouge right now.  The brew has a wonderful pumpkin flavor while still tasting like beer.  Feel free to give it a try and let me know what you think.

The second beer I'd like to mention is somewhat widely available around Baton Rouge these days.  It has replaced Kirin Ichiban as my favorite beer to get while eating sushi or other dishes from the Orient.  Hitachino Nest's White Ale is a Japanese beer that, while moderately expensive, is worthy of the price tag.  It is smooth, flavorful, and downright delicious.  Just don't let them pour it in a frosty glass if you order it at a restaurant.  A beer this good deserves room temperature glassware!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A New Dog in Town: Frankie's Dawg House

Frankie's Dawg House in Baton Rouge
No matter how high my standards for food may get over time, I sure hope I never lose my love for a good hot dog.  I'm not talking about Oscar Mayer or those red colored franks you can buy by the 48 pack, I'm talking about serious, quality wieners (that's what she said).  Baton Rouge has a new spot to find just that: Frankie's Dawg House.  Located in a renovated building just off of Perkins on Cedardale, the gourmet hot "dawg" restaurant has a menu to meet anybody's taste buds.  From classic dogs to crazy combinations, and from all beef to alligator, Frankie's menu is as impressive as it is vast... and as it is pricy.  More on that later.  First, let's examine the food.

The above menu is only a portion of what Frankie's Dawg House offers, though it does cover most of the gourmet hot dog selections.  The free toppings and side items are found elsewhere.  I stopped by Frankie's with Eusebio and Ashley and we decided to get an array of dogs to aid our judgement process.  I took a stab at the Dawg of the Month, "The Fatty" ($6.95, pictured above, top right).  This smothered frank came with chili, cheese, jalapenos, and Cajun fries.  The only way to eat it was with a fork.  While tasty, The Fatty ended up being my least favorite hot dog of the day.  Eusebio opted for the "Swamp Dawg" which featured alligator sausage with grilled onions and spicy mustard ($7.95, pictured above, bottom right).  This dawg proved easier to eat as it used the bun as a delivery mechanism to the mouth instead of a fork.  The onions and mustard went well with the gator sausage.  I found myself impressed enough to think this may actually be gourmet.

Drunk as Duck Dawg: Duck Sausage, Peppers, and Mustard
The "Drunk as Duck" Dawg ($7.95) had a plump duck sausage on a bun along with a mixture of grilled peppers and some mustard.  While very similar to the above mentioned Swamp Dawg, I think I liked the combination of duck sausage and peppers more than alligator sausage and onions.  Either way you go, I think both are pretty quality sandwiches.

Morning Glory: Dog, Bacon, Cheese, Fried Egg, and Maple Syrup
By far the most innovative, curious, and fascinating dog of the day came in the form of breakfast.  The "Morning Glory" hot dog ($4.95) contained plenty bacon and cheese as well as a fried egg.  To top it off, it uses maple syrup as a condiment!  Genius!  I only got one bite of this beauty, but it is actually will get me back in the door.  Everything actually played really well together.  The sweetness of the syrup topped it off after the taste of bacon, egg, and cheese hit my tongue.

For as good and relatively gourmet as the dawgs were, I'm still skeptical of the life of this business if the prices remain so high.  While they are using quality products and serving generous portions, they are pushing, or perhaps breaking through, the price limits of what people are willing to repeatedly pay for a hot dog.  The duck and alligator dogs were tasty but certainly not worth the $8 each that they cost.  Most people can eat two hotdogs, but if you try to down two gourmet dogs, you're not leaving for under $10 and could be paying as much as $16... for hot dogs!  While I like a good hot dog, I don't want to pay ballpark prices for them.  The base dog with a couple free toppings runs $2.95.  That's not terrible, but its also expensive for a plain hot dog.  To build your own with up to 5 toppings costs $4.95.  That's just a little too high for my liking.  While I felt the Morning Glory was approaching a fair price at $4.95 (only because at $3 less than the Drunk as Duck and Swamp Dawgs it is a bargain), there are others that just aren't worth the money.  There are also several sides worth eating but no meal deal to get a dog, side, and drink for a cheap lunch.  Hopefully things like that will change once the business gets going, but I'm fearful of repeat business when the ticket prices for hot dogs are this high.  Still, I hate to be too down on the place.  I enjoyed everything I ate and I liked the  little restaurant itself.  Baton Rouge needs more places like this so I really hope they figure out a model that will keep customers coming in and business doing well.  Best of luck, new dawgs in town!

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Frankie's Dawg House on Urbanspoon