Monday, October 31, 2011

Bite and Booze Investigates: The McRib

While I'm certainly no advocate of National chain fast food dining, there is something to say about their marketing and ability to set trends which create frenzies. There is perhaps no better example than the McRib at McDonald's. The processed pork patty slathered in sauce makes its appearances for limited times only, seeming sporadic at best. Still, each time it comes back, the crowd of hungry Americans goes wild. So what is it about the McRib? I had to find out!

Alright, I've actually had a McRib before. Several in fact. And I'm not afraid to admit it. I don't get worked up about it, and I'm not proud of it, but I'm no stranger. However, I can't recall having one in the past four or five years, so when I landed at the BWI airport and had two (that turned into nine because of storms) hour layover before my next flight to the Big Apple, I thought it couldn't hurt to revisit the pinnacle of limited-time-only foods.

McRibs are to the Nation what King Cakes and Crawfish are to South Louisiana. The "seasonality" of them only increases the demand. When they are barren from the golden arches menu board people go hungry. When they appear again, people rejoice. I ordered mine, as you could probably guess, without pickles. Unfortunately due to the high traffic at the airport I had to wait 10 extra minutes for fries, during which time my McRib must have sat lifelessly under a heat lamp. The normally moist and tender pork patty was shriveled and dry. The only saving grace was the tangy barbeque sauce that covered the form-molded rib-shaped puck.

Perhaps I'll eat a McRib again in four or five years. Until then, I think I can avoid McDonald's altogether. Still, at times, research is necessary!

Monday, October 24, 2011

LSU vs Auburn Tailgating Eats

Once again this past weekend Courtney, Garrett and I went around campus trying to find the best eats at LSU.  Tiger fans were cooking up some amazing grub all over, so it proved to be rather easy to find some places to film!  When we found our boy Bucket over by the Energy, Coast and Environment building we knew we had struck tailgating gold... unfortunately, a lot of his quotes weren't acceptable for our video production.  Clearly referencing our football team's off field troubles, Mr. Bucket kept referring to smoking his "synthetic beans" and "synthetic chicken."  While that didn't make the video, a lot of great food did.  Enjoy!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hotel Indigo Hosts Local Bloggers and Food Writers

Last week I had the pleasure of being invited to a blogger and food writer dinner at Baton Rouge's Hotel Indigo.  The boutique hotel sits on the corner of Lafayette and Convention downtown and features 93 stellar guest rooms.  The entire hotel is filled with amazing photographic prints of scenes from around the Red Stick which gives the space a great local feel.  Next to the lobby on the first floor sits the King Bar & Bistro, named after the old hotel that previously occupied the site in the first half of last century.  The space opens as a coffee shop and for breakfast daily at 6 am then transitions to lunch and to dinner without ever closing.  Perhaps most exciting is the happy hour with tapas from 4-7 pm on Monday through Friday.  I might have to go check that out soon... plus I can bring a laptop and get some work done with the free wireless internet throughout the hotel.

A Teddy Bear Margarita came out as the "prelude" for our dinner at Hotel Indigo.  The beverage consisted of tequila, passion fruit puree, Cointreau, Grand Marinier, and lime juice.  I love a flavorful margarita that never touches high-fructose corn syrup loaded premade mixes!  The Teddy Bear did well to whet my appetite.  The name came from a quote from an early drinker of the cocktail.  This margarita is said to "wrap its arms around you" and squeeze a little like a Teddy Bear if you've had a couple!

The great servers at the King Bar & Bistro placed the "beginning" course in front of everyone at our table.  The Capital City Seafood Gumbo came with rice, Creole mustard potato salad and some garlic bread.  The rich and flavorful roux and broth tasted great as I consumed everything down to the final morsel on my plate.

A Ponchatoula Strawberry Salad was served as our "fresh" course.  The strawberries are buried underneath the fresh spinach in the picture above, but they were actually quite plentiful.  Along with the crumbled cheese and toasted pecans, this salad combined a great mix of flavors and textures.

Along with the salad came a classic cocktail called a French 75.  Very simple in ingredients, the cocktail packs quite a punch to go along with a tremendous flavor and refreshment factor.  The French 75 is a mixture of gin, lemon juice and champagne.  I enjoyed this version so much that I might have to add these to my regular imbibing schedule!

For the night's "main event" we were greeted with Tin Roof BBQ Shrimp served over creamy grits, some garlic bread spears and a side of marinated peppers.  The New Orleans style barbecue shrimp's flavor exploded in my mouth with the addition of Baton Rouge's local brew in the sauce.  One great aspect of all Hotel Indigo properties is that they are required to take on the characteristic of their surroundings.  The hotel has a uniquely Baton Rouge feel complete with two beer taps in the bar that pour nothing but the local Tin Roof Beer.  Being an advocate for both eating and drinking locally, I loved it!

Only to out do themselves, our "finale" tugged at my soul.  I'm a firm believer that every great meal should end with dessert and this one sure worked!  River Road Dark Roast and New Orleans Praline Liqueur accented a stunning slice of Bourbon Pecan Pie.  I could have eaten two or three slices had they been placed in front of me.  I enjoyed the entire meal and am very glad that I got to participate in the "Locals Know Best - Dish on the Dish" series.

   The King Bar & Bistro at the Hotel Indigo on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

BREADA Tailgating Throwdown

Saturday, November 5th is the day of the biggest football game of the year as LSU faces off against  Alabama in Tuscaloosa.  Here in Baton Rouge there will be some amazing pregame festivities for a great cause.  BREADA, the organization that runs the Red Stick Farmers Market, is hosting a Tailgating Throwdown outside the downtown market.  From 8 AM to noon the normal market will be going on as well as the arts market.  There will also be teams up and down the streets competing to create the best tailgating dishes using ingredients from local farmers.  All proceeds will go towards BREADA's mission which includes supporting the market and local food producers as well as education about local foodways.

There are several ways for you to get involved.  First, you have until this Monday (October 24) to submit your team to compete in the Throwdown.  If you think your tailgating food is hard to beat, come try out your cooking skills in downtown Baton Rouge!  Second, just show up at the market to shop with the local farmers and sample all the tailgating cuisine.  I'll be there to judge the cook off along with Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne and Poppy Tooker from NOLA.  There is also a people's choice award that everybody will get to vote on!

You can find more information on BREADA's webpage.

You can also get more information about being a sponsor or entering your team!

Hope to see you on November 5, 2011!  Meet me at the Market!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Catch "Meanwhile, Back at Cafe du Monde..."

"Meanwhile, Back at Cafe du Monde..." will hold its 32nd food monologue show tomorrow (Sunday, October 16th) at 5:30 PM.  Boutin's Restaurant on Bluebonnet Blvd. will be the host for the evening of gastronomic glory.  I'll actually serve as the emcee for the event and we'll have headliners sharing their favorite food stories including General Russel Honore, Paul Arrigo from Visit Baton Rouge, Chef Nathan Gresham from Beausoleil, Celeste Landry from Firebelly Concepts and Peggy Sweeney-McDonald, creator of the show.

General Russel Honore, Peggy Sweeney-McDonald and Jay Ducote in the Talk 107.3 FM Studio
I recently had Peggy, General Honore and Paul Arrigo on the Bite and Booze Radio Show presented by Calandro's Supermarket to discuss the food monologue event, the Louisiana Bicentennial, and lots of other food and culture related topics.  You can listen to the full episode below or you can find it and subscribe on iTunes.

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Photo Courtesy of Curt Gibbs/ExperienceLA
Sunday's show is at Boutin's.  Dinner starts at 5:30 and the show kicks off at 6:30.  I really hope to see you there for a night full of stories, laughter and celebration all revolving around food!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Celebrate Booze on the Bite and Booze Radio Show

The Bite and Booze Radio Show presented by Calandro's Supermarket has been on the air for 6 months and 26 episodes now.  I'm extremely excited about the growth of the program and the response from the community about the show.  Each week I hear about more people who are listening to it on Talk 107.3, more people who subscribe on iTunes, or more people who have heard about it through friends or other sources.  Thanks to everyone for the support.  I'm sure the next six months will be even better!

Last weekend the show got back to the second half of the Bite and Booze equation: Booze!  CJ Webre from Calandro's Supermarket and Bernie Ralston, a broker for Select Brands, Inc joined me in studio for an episode filled with cocktails and alcohol!  We talked about the history of the cocktails in New Orleans including Tales of the Cocktail, and then discussed five different mixed drinks!  You can listen to the episode here:

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And here are the recipes that were mentioned on air:

The Original Cocktail "A Sazerac"
1/2 teaspoon Vieux Pontarlier Absinthe
1 teaspoon simple syrup
4 dashes Peychaud bitters
1 small dash, a scant drop, Angostura bitters
2 ounces Pierre Ferrand Original 1840 Cognac
Strip of lemon peel

Pack a 3-1/2 ounce Old Fashioned (rocks) glass with ice.  In another Old Fashioned glass, blend the simple syrup with the cognac and bitters.  Add a few cubes of ice and stir to chill.  Discard the ice from the first glass and pour in the Absinthe.  Coat the inside of the entire glass, pouring out the excess.  Strain the 1840 cognac into the coated glass.  Twist the lemon peel over the glass so that the lemon oil cascades into the drink, then rub the peel over the rim of the glass; do not put the twist in the drink.

Cucumber Ginger Splash
2 oz Square One Cucumber Vodka
1/2 of a lime squeezed
3 oz Ocean Spray Light Cranberry juice
1 teaspoon ginger syrup

Mix ingredients into a shaker over ice, shake vigorously.  Strain into a martini glass.  Garnish with a cucumber ring.

Cool Basil Martini
1.5 oz Square One Basil Vodka
1.5 oz Pink Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Agave nectar
4 medium size mint leaves

Combine all ingredients into shaker filled with ice.  Shake well and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.  Garnish with grapefruit and a sprig of mint.

Red Moon Bloody Mary
2 oz Junior Johnson Midnight Moon Original Moon Shine
5 oz Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix

Pour ingredients into tall glass with ice.  Garnish with pickled beans.

Monday, October 10, 2011

LSU Tigers vs Florida Gators Gameday Tailgating

The Florida Gators came into Baton Rouge for a showdown of ranked teams on October 8th.  With such a huge game coming up and the Tigers of LSU carrying the weight of being the number one team in the country, the tailgating atmosphere on campus was electric.  Courtney, my LSU cheerleader friend, and I set out with our camera man Garrett to find the best campus eats with our eyes on the real prize... I was determined to find at least one tailgate cooking a whole gator.  Fortunately, I found two, and a whole lot more!

I hope you didn't miss the cannibalistic Gator fan with the pony tail!  Classic... but he forgot his jorts!  I'm also really glad I got to go by Second String Tailgaters with by buddies Rob, Drew, and more, as well as the Chili Cookoff at the Vet School, which I also judged!  Oh, and then there was this guy:

Teriyaki Rotisserie Gator.  Doesn't get much better than that!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Westvleteren Tasting to Celebrate BR Beer Scene's 365 Challenge

In order to celebrate the completion of his challenge to drink 365 beers that were new to him during 2011, my brother Eric Ducote of the BR Beer Scene and my co-host on Raise a Glass held nothing back when it came to beers 363, 364, and 365.  He rounded up a stellar beer drinking crew and bought in on a six pack of Belgian beer.  However, this was no ordinary Belgian beer.  This was three different bottles from Westvleteren, a Trappist Brewery run by monks.  Their beer is some of the rarest and highest rated beer in the world.  Oops.  I got to try some!

We actually got to try the Westvleteren Bier Blond, the Westvleteren 8, and finally the Westvleteren 12.  The numbers typically correspond roughly to the alcohol percentage in the beer, so the 12 is obviously pretty strong.  The Belgian beers have a distinctively and deliciously unique taste from the different hops and yeasts that they use in their fermentation process, among other factors.  Bottom line: Delicious!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Emeril's Stir-Fried Squid with Chili Sauce

My final recipe from Emeril Lagasse's new cookbook Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders is probably the quickest recipe to make from the entire book.  That's not why I chose it though.  While I've eaten calamari and squid salads at many restaurants before, I hadn't ever actually worked with raw squid.  That needed to change.  Emeril's recipe for stir-fried squid with chili sauce seemed intriguing so I decided to see what I could do.  I found everything I needed, including the frozen squid bodies with tentacles, at Calandro's Supermarket.  Once I got home, the time was right to cook something spicy!

The recipe had three main components.  First, the squid itself had to be sliced into rings, dusted with crushed red pepper and then stir-fried.  Second, the chili sauce had to be made with the vinegar, sesame oil, brown sugar, salt, Sriracha chili sauce and ginger.  The final component included the cabbage, green onion, garlic, jalapenos and chilies.

After all of the prep had been taken care I got the squid in my pan (a wok would have been preferable) to give it a quick fry.  It didn't take long in the canola oil to cook it off, then I set it aside to focus on the rest.  I quickly put the cabbage and accompaniments into the same pan to stir-fry them until soft.  Once the cabbage started to wilt I added the chili sauce and then returned the squid to the wok as well.

The stir fry had a great flavor and I was impressed at what I had been able to accomplish in just about 15 minutes of total time.  The spice ended up being rather intense but not too much for my palate.  The squid had an excellent texture.  I knew the most important part would be to cook it just right to where it wasn't overly chewy.

I really enjoyed my blogging party time with Emeril's new cookbook.  Having made nine of the recipes from the book, I'd definitely recommend it to anybody who is looking for some creative ideas for dishes to make in your own kitchen.  I certainly got to step out of my comfort zone with a few of these dishes and I encourage any chef, foodie, or fan to do the same!