Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bite Club BR - Crawfish Challenge

After the success of Bite Club BR Round 1: King Cake, it is high time to start planning the next installment!  Don't worry folks, it is sure to be a treat.  Bite Club BR Round 2: Crawfish is in the works!

#BiteClubBR will be back at the Hollywood Casino on May 21 as part of their Crawfish Festival.  There will be live music, plenty of eats, cold beer, and Bite Club!  For now though, we are still taking nominations.  So let's hear it folks: what are favorite restaurants and caterers in the Greater Baton Rouge Area serving up crawfish?  To nominate your favorite, leave a comment on this blog post, tweet it to @biteandbooze or @VisitBatonRouge, or leave it on the Jay D's Bite and Booze Blog facebook wall!  Once all the nominations are in, we'll get out more details about how you can do some taste-testing!!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The 2011 Hammond Smokin' Blues and BBQ Challenge

This past weekend, team Bite and Booze once again competed in the annual Hammond Smokin' Blues and BBQ Challenge. The results may not have been quite what we were hoping for, but we still had a great time and cooked some fantastic barbeque.

Let's get things started by giving you a glimpse of something special.  Here's our BBQ Sauce Fountain.  Talk about a show stopper!  We had to fight the crowds away.  Please leave a comment at the bottom of this post saying how classy you think it is!

That's right... keeping it classy with a cascading BBQ Sauce Fountain and Grilled Sausage!
Thanks to everybody who came out to eat and cheer us on!  Our team - myself, Chef Eusebio Gongora, Travis Ducote, and Eric Ducote - really appreciates all the support!  Thanks to Sammy from Calandro's Super Market for coming early to help set up on Friday and hanging out all day Saturday, Ashley for coming late Friday night to relax, Jeremy for coming early Saturday morning with supplies and for assisting with the camera work on the video, and most certainly to Rush for the use of the travel trailer... what a great improvement over last year!  Also, thanks to Tony and Nani of KickersBBQ for the rub, sauce, and company!  Oh, and we also used some of the Red Stick Spice Company's applewood smoked sea salt and apple chipotle rub... you must check that out!  Finally, this video is the unveiling of the new Bite and Booze intro animation created by the one and only Hunter Brown.  Please leave a comment and let me know what you think about that and the BBQ!

Team Bite and Booze would like to thanks our title sponsor for the 2011 Hammond Smokin' Blues and BBQ Challenge:

        Additional thanks to:


Now, how about some more pictures from Jeremy Wells of

BBQ chicken plated and ready to be served to the judges
Ribs finishing on the grill after smoking for hours
Travis and Jay pull pork to plate it for the judges
Brisket resting before slicing

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Geaux Past Cancer

Two great Geaux Past Cancer events are coming up soon. It's your chance to support a great local organization doing its part to support those affected by cancer.

You can find Geaux Past Cancer on the web at as well as on Facebook and Twitter (@geauxpastcancer). Geaux Past Cancer is the vision of Staci Pepitone, who lost her battle with
esophageal cancer in March 2011. The mission of Geaux Past Cancer The Staci A. Pepitone Fund, currently a field of interest fund of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, is two fold. The first is to provide financial assistance to patients of all cancers who travel extended distances to receive the proper treatment. The second is to be an active participant in the education and eradication of esophageal cancer. Geaux Past Cancer was the name of Staci's blog that she maintained throughout her treatments in New York City and Baton Rouge.  Staci served as a mentor to myself and many others during our time at LSU, and this is a great way to honor her and everything she did.  The acorn in the Geaux Past Cancer logo symbolizes the growth that Staci sought in all of the students she worked with.  She had an acorn symbol on her stationary, and now it lives on with Geaux Past Cancer.

This evening, Wednesday, March 23rd, visit On The Border for Give Back Night. A portion of all non-alcohol sales from 4pm to 10pm will be donated to the Geaux Past Cancer Staci A. Pepitone fund of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. Come enjoy some Mexican food for a great cause at On The Border on Corporate Drive in Baton Rouge.


On Saturday, April 9th at 8 AM, join the Geaux Past Cancer Mile at the Old Front Nine on the LSU Campus. The Geaux Past Cancer Mile is a one mile walk or run dedicated to those who have been affected by cancer, including our friend and namesake Staci Pepitone. Registration begins at 7:15 AM and the kickoff ceremony will begin at 8 AM and will include a show of support to cancer patients, cancer survivors and
honor the memory of our loved ones who have lost the fight with this deadly disease.

Registration is available online at for twenty dollars ($20.00) and on the day of the race for twenty-five dollars ($25.00). If you will be participating to celebrate or remember one of your loved ones, please let us know ahead of time by emailing

Monday, March 21, 2011

Gulfport's Blow Fly Inn

A short time ago on a drive back from Birmingham with Jeremy Wells, author of the blog Faire Les Courses, I received an invite from Andy, of EatJXN anonymity, to meet him in Gulfport, MS for dinner.  Not being one to pass up a meal with a stranger and a chat about food blogging, Jeremy and I happily met Andy at Gulfport's famous Blow Fly Inn.  

Roasted Red Pepper Piminto Cheeseburger at the Blow Fly Inn
I'll get to the burger, which easily proved to be the highlight of the meal, in a few.  But first, a little tidbit about the restaurant.  The Blow Fly Inn is one of the more historic restaurants around Gulfport, Mississippi.  It got started around 40 years ago, but in 2005 it was completely wiped off the face of the earth by Hurricane Katrina.  Now rebuilt and better than ever, the restaurant gladly serves up Gulf food for the locals and travelers alike.  You can arrive at the Blow Fly Inn by car or boat, which is always enjoyable.
Our meal began with crab claws, onion rings, and a cup of gumbo.  The claws were rather meaty and nicely fried.  They weren't anything too special since I can get fried and sauteed crab all over the place in Baton Rouge, but they were still worthy of the name Gulf seafood.  The onion rings were plentiful and delicious.  The batter had some tasty seasoning and they dipped well in both ketchup and ranch.  I figured we were close enough to Louisiana that the gumbo would be worth a try.  While it may have been worth trying, I don't know that it was worth a whole lot more than that.  It had a typical restaurant texture and flavor which never blows me away.  Oh well... I still had a burger to enjoy!

The roasted red pepper pimento cheeseburger easily took home the prize for best thing I ate.  The pimento cheese added a unique flavor, but the beef itself really set the burger apart.  The half pound homemade patty sat tall on the bun.  Inside it had a pink medium rare color and plenty of beefy, juicy, goodness.  

I've seen some mixed reviews on the Blow Fish Inn as a whole.  My experience was above average for sure, though I'd have a hard time recommending anything that looks like a Cajun dish.  Do yourself a favor and make the short drive to Louisiana if that's what you want!  Still, there are some good things on the menu, a good story, and water access.  Enjoy!

The Blow Fly Inn at night
 Blow Fly Inn on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Double Double Animal Style at In-N-Out Burger

Double Double Animal Style
Sure, it may be a little cliche... and yes, I should be above fast food (or at least writing about large fast food chains) most of the time, but how can I resist a blog post about the Double Double "Animal Style" at In-N-Out Burger?  We don't have this chain where I'm from in Louisiana.  And it isn't everywhere that you can order something "animal style."  When out west and in need of a quick bite, In-N-Out it is!

In-N-Out is a regional (California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah) burger joint that prides itself on fresh ingredients and quality products.  They serve burgers, fries, shakes, and drinks, and are well known for doing so.  The Double Double is a two-patty two-cheese burger served with lettuce, tomato, onions, and mustard.  All In-N-Out burgers also come dressed with a special sauce that is similar to a thousand island dressing.  However, that's not exactly what I ordered.  In-N-Out also has a not-so-secret lingo and menu that offers customers a way to act like they are in the loop when they order.  I got my Double Double "Animal Style" which meant that they would grill my onions, add more sauce, and throw on some pickles.  Damn.  Pickles.  I asked that they hold those.  So basically I got some grilled onions.  I'm okay with that.

The burger itself was certainly better than par compared to similar fast service restaurants.  I'd eat that before the competition most of the competition any day.  I'd put the burger in the same category as Five Guys... which didn't impress me that much because you have to go in and its a little overpriced.  In-N-Out was inexpensive and delicious.   I'll take that every time.  Maybe it should remind me What-a-burger, of which we only have one of in Baton Rouge but I remember them fondly from the Houston area. The grilled onions were money and the sauce added just enough kick to make the burger stand out.  The fries I had were forgettable.  I ate them all but they could have been a little crispier.  They weren't bad, but I wouldn't brag about them either.  Still, when in the far Southwestern USA and in need of quality, affordable fast food, give it a try!

In-N-Out Burger on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 14, 2011

National Potato Chip Day and Pi Day!!

For those of you who don't know, March 14th is known by many as Pi Day (3.14).  Unfortunately for me (but not necessarily for the kids), that resonates more in mathematics classrooms than in bakeries.  I do love a good, round, sweet or savory pie, but I'll have to eat something else on this day to honor the missing "e".  As luck would have it, today is also National Potato Chip Day!  Potato chips date back to 1853 when Chef George Crum decided to slice potatoes thin and make them crispier rather than soggy after complaints from some customers.  What an ingenious move!  In 2005, the global potato chip market generated a revenue of US$16.4 billion which accounted for 35.5% of the total savory snack market that year (Wikipedia).  So with that, I'll count down my top four potato chips in recent memory.  I'll let my readers decide what I'm missing that should round out my top five!  Leave a comment on here, Twitter, or Facebook!

4. Ruffles Cheddar & Sour Cream
Of all the truly major national brands, Ruffles Cheddar & Sour Cream is easily my favorite potato chip.  The ridges really do make a difference!  Plus, their cheddar and sour cream flavoring is spot on no matter what chemicals they use to artificially make it taste that way!

3. Zapp's Cajun Crawtators
Louisiana's own "Little Chippery in Gramercy" makes its first appearance on my list with their iconic Cajun Crawtators.  Zapp's is a proud Louisiana product with a growing market and favorable reputation around the country.  The crunchy kettle chips are cooked in peanut oil for extra flavor and the Cajun seasonings make them distinctive and delicious!

2.  Bob's Texas Style, Original
Bob's chips are thick cut, crunchy, and kettle cooked in small batches.  They are not over salted, but rather have a brilliant proportion of salt to potato that you strive to find in an ideal non-flavored chip.  Next time you are driving through the Lone Star State make sure to pick up a bag... or a case!

1. Zapp's Hotter 'n Hot Jalapeño
Of all the chips that Zapp's makes, their Hotter 'n Hot Jalapeño is easily my favorite.  Sure, the Crawtators are more established and well know, and their Original chips are solid, but the jalapeño chips are one of the more perfectly seasoned chips that I know of.  The best part is that they are actually hot!  It isn't just a wimpy jalapeño flavor like you get with other brands of chips.  Zapp's actually provides heat and flavor while delivering that trademark crunch in every bag of potato chips.  Keep it up, Zapp's, and I'll keep eating!

Agree, disagree, or want to tell me what chip should round out my top 5?  Leave a comment here or give me a shout using Twitter, or Facebook!  Happy chipping!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Louisiana Culinary Institute's Race to Cannes

The Louisiana Culinary Institute's Third Annual Race to Cannes cooking competition presents an opportunity for state's best culinary students to challenge each other for a trip to the Cannes Film Festival.  Their journey to France will provide them with an opportunity to work with world-famous chefs as part of the festival's culinary team.  I had the privilege of judging two of the head-to-head match ups in the second round of the single-elimination bracket.  The ingredients that the chefs had to work with were chicken livers, red lentils, and oyster mushrooms.  Let's see what the chefs created!

Rumaki served with braised lentils and oyster mushroom salad
Chef number one was Bryan Poche.  His colorful dish featured rumaki with braised lentils and an oyster mushroom salad.  Rumaki, for those wondering, is a bite-sized morsel typically consisting of a water chestnut and duck or chicken liver wrapped in bacon and marinated in soy with either ginger or brown sugar.  Bryan's rumaki had excellent texture and flavor.  I would have preferred to have a little more flavor in the salad and in the lentils, but overall this dish had plenty appeal.

Southern fried chicken liver with red lentil and oyster mushroom tomato sauce over pasta shells
Our next dish came from Taylor Johnson.  Taylor took his chicken livers and gave them a nice, crispy southern fry before placing them over some pasta shells.  These were easily my favorite fried livers of the day, but I found the rest of the dish to be a little displaced.  The lentils were hardly noticeable and plate could have used more sauce.  The oyster mushrooms were there, but they didn't add much to the dish and kind of got lost as well.  In the end, I loved the livers, but the lentils and mushrooms didn't get their share of the love.

The other judges seemed to agree with me.  While the scoring was extremely close, Bryan Poche moved on to the third round of the Race to Cannes!  I think one thing that set him apart was that he happened to be the only competitor to not deep fry his livers.  Way to do something different, Bryan!

Pan-fried chicken livers with red lentils and oyster mushrooms
The next match up began with a spectacular dish from Jeremy Campbell.  His fried livers sat on top of a bed of red lentils cooked to a point where they still retained a little texture.  He added a veal demi-glace and the cooked down oyster mushrooms to bring it all together.  I didn't want to stop eating the lentils and demi-glace at the bottom of the dish.  The livers left a little to be desired as they had lost some of their crispiness, but everything else worked so well that I ate every bit of my food.

Southern style fried chicken livers with pepper jelly sauce served with sauteed red lentils and smoked oyster mushrooms
The final plate of the evening came from Logan Alfred.  Logan delivered more delicious food, though his plate could have been a little less monotone.  Still, his smoked oyster mushrooms were absolutely my favorite mushrooms of the day.  They had just the right amount of hickory smoke flavor to make me thing I was at a KCBS competition.  Additionally, Logan used some panko bread crumbs on his fried livers and topped them off with a pepper jelly sauce.  Unfortunately, the lentils were a little bland, especially compared to flavors from the mushrooms and livers.

Both of these dishes were really amazing and it was hard to see either of them lose.  I had one point separating the two dishes.  The other judges clearly scored them fairly evenly as well.  Ultimately, the judges and I agreed that the winner was Jeremy Campbell's dish.  I think that veal demi-glace with the lentils is what really set him over the top.

I'll be excited to see how Bryan and Jeremy do moving forward in the competition.  My hat off to all of the competitors as well as everybody at the Louisiana Culinary Institute for putting on this great culinary challenge.  I can only hope to be back to judge (and eat) more! 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ruffino's Oscar Night Wine Dinner

Ruffino's has an annual tradition of rolling out their own red carpet to host an Oscar Night Wine Dinner.  I received an invitation to join in on this evening of Hollywood cheer and to watch the Academy Awards in style.  Naturally, I couldn't pass that up!  We were treated to fantastic wine, a sensational dinner, and a wait staff (as well as Ruffin Rodrique himself) dressed up as a cast of characters from the movies.  I knew right away that this would be an evening worth blogging about!

Ruffin Rodrigue did his best "King's Speech" Impression

The meal began with the "Mad Hatter's Tea Party".  This round of walking the carpet, clinking glasses, and finger foods got the night at Ruffino's kicked off before the Academy Awards began.  All guests were served plenty of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc to go with the hors d'oeuvres.  The mild and fruity New Zealand wine proved to be an excellent choice to start the dinner and pair with the Tea Party courses.

The "Caterpillar's Mushrooms" combined crawfish and cheese to brilliantly stuff a mushroom cap.  These bite-sized appetizers delivered plenty of flavor that paired nicely with the wine.  Also served with the Tea Party were some crab meat stuffed, deep fried artichoke hearts.  Being served above by a character from "The Fighter", the stuffed artichokes were my favorite of the appetizers. Finally, the red carpet came to a close with some Tea Party sandwiches of smoked salmon and cucumber.  As inventive and interesting as they were, the sandwiches were my least favorite of the starters.  The red carpet had wrapped up and we were on to the Oscars.  My taste buds readied themselves for the rest of the show.

The formal dinner part of the evening began with a "King's Speech" inspired dish: King Salmon with the Crown Jewels.  The plate featured a pair of New Zealand King Salmon Roulade cooked in the trendy sous-vide style.  For those unaware of this method of cooking, in French it literally translates to "under vacuum."  The meat (or salmon in this case) is enclosed in a vacuum sealed bag then cooked in water that maintains a certain temperature.  This constant heat at a regulated and typically lower temperature than traditional cooking is said to maintain the integrity of the ingredients.  The King Salmon rolls were then placed atop Beluga lentils with roasted chicken jus and parsley puree.  The salmon turned out rich and flavorful.  The lentils underneath had plenty of texture to them, which I really liked compared to overly cooked down lentils.  Overall, this dish exceeded expectations and left a smile on my face... as did the accompanying wine.  The King's Salmon came paired with a 2007 Simi Chardonnay.  This California white wine featured some tropical fruit with oak flavors.  My first taste had notes of grapefruit and pear... but what do I know?  I can definitely say that it did not come across as an overly sweet Chardonnay, which I certainly like.  It worked for me, but I quickly prepared myself for the upcoming glasses of my preferred red wine varietals.        

"True Grit" made an appearance at the Oscars as well as at the Ruffino's Wine Dinner.  The above plate represents the Rooster Cockburn Cacciatore with True Grits.  The free range organic chicken thighs were stewed in a San Marzano tomato, red wine, and porcini mushroom sauce and served over creamy Mascarpone polenta.  Poured along side the dish was a 2007 Wild Horse Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara.  I loved the idea of pairing chicken and polenta with red wine. The thigh itself had a great flavor but ended up just a little dry in the middle.  With the chicken being stewed I certainly wasn't expecting to be even the slightest amount dry.  Still, the moistness of the sauce and polenta made up for it and the dish as a whole worked very well.  It certainly seems a little risky to serve bone-in chicken thighs in a fine dining setting, but I'd say that the Chef Peter Sclafani managed to pull it off.  As I said earlier, I really liked the bold pairing of red wine with chicken and polenta.  The Wild House Pinot had a bold and spicy profile that I felt worked really well with the dish.  I certainly would not have been shy about going back for more if there wasn't another course already on the way.

Wrapping up the entree portion of the menu, Ruffino's turned to "The Fighter".  The dish, titled "Black and Blue" Steak, onion "rings", "3 rounds" of zucchini, paired with a Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Robert Mondavi in Napa.  Though typical, I love beef and cab.  It is hard to go wrong.  Bold with bold.  Bring it.  Winning.  The blackened Sterling Silver filet mignon was cooked to an ideal medium rare and topped with a blue cheese glacage.  Some buttermilk battered crispy onion strings complimented the sauteed zucchini slices.  The spice rub on the steak intrigued me on first bite.  I went back for another.  I couldn't quite wrap my tongue around it.  While delicious, the blacken seasonings and blue cheese took away from the superiority of the beef.  I took another bite.  It grew on me.  I didn't love it, but I certainly wasn't opposed to it either.  Fork to mouth once again.  Well, why stop now, I thought.  Sip of wine.  Insert delicious zucchini round.  Back to the steak.  The dish fought me.  I fought back.  The spice rub may have been a bit much, and blue cheese glacage may have been over the top, but dammit, I ate every bit.  I won.  KO.  Fourth round. Ding ding ding.

Oh, and then there was dessert.  "Black Swan" delivered the final course: swan shaped profiteroles filled with white and dark chocolate mousse, raspberry sauce, and mixed berries.  Creative, delicious, and well played.  The wine dinner managed to successfully incorporate a handful of the year's best movies into the themes of their dishes.  The swan profiteroles may have been the most direct and obvious, but there's nothing wrong with that.  The dessert came with a glass of Magnificat by Fransiscan.  The Magnificat is a red wine blend from Napa that is mostly Merlot and Cab.  While not a true dessert wine like what I would expect with a final course, the Magnificat stood tall against the swans and continued to be my beverage of choice until the Oscars went off the air.  

"King's Speech" won best picture while "The Social Network" racked up its fair share of awards as well.  I'm really glad that Natalie Portman won for Best Actress.  Anybody that watched "Black Swan" and thinks somebody else should have won, please explain yourself!  I'd like to thank Ruffino's for having me as a guest at their Oscar Night Wine Dinner.  Ruffin and his crew put on a great show in the front of the house and Chef Peter provided an amazing feast to go with the entertainment.  What a night on the red carpet!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

WAFB 9Chefs Airs Today at 6:30 pm

WAFB's original and local cooking show airs tonight (Wednesday, March 2, 2011) at 6:30 PM.  First off, I applaud WAFB for stepping out on a limb and creating original content.  I'd love to see much more of this in Baton Rouge, and 9Chefs ought to be a great start!

Jay takes a gander at one of the dishes from 9Chefs
Unfortunately I was not selected to be a chef in the 9Chefs competition.  Let down a bit, I knew there must be a reason.  As it turns out, WAFB decided that after my victory in the Tony Chachere's Tailgating Cookoff, I was over-qualified for this amateur, home chef competition.  Instead of getting to compete, they decided to bring me on board as a judge!  What an honor!

9Chefs Host Steve Caparotta with judges Jay Ducote, Miss Louisiana USA Page Pennock, and Louisiana Culinary Institute Chef David Tiner
The Louisiana Culinary Institute hosted the challenge.  I judged part of the Round 1 of 9Chefs along with the current Miss Louisiana USA, Page Pennock, and Louisiana Culinary Institute Chef David Tiner.  The first round had the nine participating home cooks split into groups of three where they were required to cook a starter dish for the judges.  They received a pantry of basic community ingredients and were allowed to bring 9 ingredients of their own from home.  We got to see some pretty spectacular dishes from the home cooks, but I really can't tell you all about them here.  For that, you'll have to join me in watching the show tonight!  Oh, and make sure to let WAFB know how much you like them doing local shows with Baton Rouge residents!  Maybe we'll see more of this kind of content in the future!