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!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hollywood Casino's Bourbon Dinner

The funny thing about bourbon dinners is that while they are supremely delicious, you don't always remember the fine details of the evening.  The Hollywood Casino in Baton Rouge had a bourbon dinner a little while back and I had the pleasure of attending.  I knew the night would be good when they were passing out whiskey sours and mint juleps upon arrival!

What I don't remember is exactly which bourbons were in each drink.  I know I had some Bookers, Bakers, Knob Creek and more... but I can't tell you which bourbons are photographed above.  I looked for notes and couldn't find that either.  Ah, bourbon, how I love you!

We had a salad.  It was, well, as salad.  There were some mixed greens.  And sprigs of thyme.  I recall the salad being really good, but I was far more concerned with the bourbon.  Oops!

I did mention that there was more bourbon, right?  This reminds me of my time on MasterChef

Okay, I do remember the steak.  This was actually a buffalo ribeye topped with a garlic and bourbon infused butter!  The tender buffalo meat caressed my tongue as it partied with the lingering bourbon in my mouth.  The grilled endive that accompanied the steak really stood out as well.  I was a happy man after this course... I just needed more bourbon!

We finished the meal with a bourbon milkshake and a chocolate raspberry cake.  I really can't argue with that.  At all.  The shake had a great flavor that tasted of bourbon but not so much that it stung.  

I know when I left this meal I had a big smile on my face.  Every dish pleased the palate and even more importantly, the bourbon reduced my inhibitions enough to go play a little blackjack.  I was way up until I had a huge hand that I had to split and double down on... then I got robbed.  Oh well.  Such is life in a casino, but at least I had some tasty bourbon to drown my gambling sorrows!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bandit Blonde Ale is the latest release from the Tin Roof Brewing Company

On Wednesday, November 9 Tin Roof, Baton Rouge's own local brewery, will launch their third beer to hit the taps of area tap rooms and restaurants.  The Bandit Blonde Ale pays homage to the Chinese Bandits, the famous defensive unit responsible for helping LSU bring home the 1958 National Championship. The beer is a light-bodied, crisp American blonde ale, which in their opinion and that of many of LSU's faithful, is suited perfectly for Tiger tailgating.

Tin Roof owners William McGehee and Charles Caldwell are thrilled to finally be able to launch the new brew to their Baton Rouge customers.  They had long been expecting a Fall release but it kept getting held up due to official collegiate licensing on the cans.  Tin Roof has been working closely with LSU, and students have already been attending regular brewing sessions at Tin Roof throughout the semester as part of a new, brewing-based food science course. The Louisiana Business and Technology Center, the LSU business incubator, has been assisting in business planning and marketing with its counselors and MBA graduate students.  The brewery also provides the LSU AgCenter with cattle feed.  Thousands of pounds of spent grain from the brewing process are sent to the dairy on a weekly basis.  While that is still moving forward in the process, the owners decided to go ahead and release the beer on tap now that they have the capacity to brew it.  They will also be donating 10% of all proceeds from the Bandit Blonde to the LSU Foundation until the proper licensing agreements are finalized.

The extra brewing volume is due in large part to the arrival of three new 60 barrel fermenters earlier this Fall.  A barrel, which is twice the size of our normal kegs (hence the 1/2 barrel name), holds 31 gallons of liquid.  Thus, the new fermenters will expand brewing capacity by over 5,000 gallons of beer per brewing cycle.  These extra suds will allow Tin Roof to keep up with demand in the Baton Rouge market and continue their expansion throughout the rest of Louisiana.  Prior to the new fermenting tanks the Perfect Tin Amber Ale and Voodoo Bengal Speciality Pale Ale were all they had room for.  Now the Bandit Blonde Ale will also have its spot in the brewery on Nicholson Drive.  Make sure to stop by on most Fridays from 5:30 to 7:30 PM to get a tour and a sample!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

300seats Pop-Up Restaurant with the Edible Event

If you haven't noticed for some reason, culinary events are kind of my thing.  That's why when Manny Valencia and Andrea Fontenot told me that their startup 300seats was going to host a pop-up restaurant in Baton Rouge, I knew I had to be a part of it.  I had the fortune of helping out early in the planning process and then, more importantly, the pleasure of enjoying the opening night dinner!  The Edible Event, a local catering company under the same umbrella as Boudreaux and Thibideaux's and Serrano's Salsa Company, served as chefs for the event.  Fellow food blogger Jeremy Wells joined me for the dinner.

A pop-up restaurant is an emerging trend in the food world.  The premise is to convert a space into a temporary restaurant where a chef can be experimental for a short time period and then move on to their next thing without the risk of a full restaurant startup.  While it certainly isn't the easiest thing to pull off, it is quite an extraordinary dining experience when it all comes together.  

Our meal at the 300seats pop-up restaurant in a vacant restaurant space in Perkins Rowe began with some adult beverages.  I immediately grabbed a can of Tin Roof's Perfect Tin Amber Ale.  Being a Baton Rouge brewery, I was happy to see them help sponsor the beer for the event.  And if you haven't had a Tin Roof beer out of a can yet, I suggest you try it!  Adding to that, each course beautifully paired with a different wine to keep our boozing options varied and plentiful.

The first course from The Edible Event featured a delightful tray of fresh fruits, meats and cheeses.  The sliced pecan plank held Aged Manchango, Drunken Goat, Azores Flores, Goat Cheese Stuffed Piquillo Peppers, Membrillo Jelly, Spanish Chorizo, Serrano Ham, Pears and Champagne Grapes.  The latin-influenced platter warmed up my taste buds.  Of special note were the chorizo, pears and stuffed peppers.

Course two brought out my favorite dish of the night because of the surprising flavors and spices that were bold and delicious.  Sticking with the Latin American theme of the evening, the soup course featured a chilled avocado soup with lobster ceviche.  The intense heat from the ceviche peppers and spices combined with the cool and creamy texture from the pureed avocados worked in harmony in my mouth.  Combine that with the acidic citrus juices which cooked the tender lobster and we had a dish that impressed, pleased and evoked conversation around the dining room.

Our salad also had a scrumptious twist.  The fried softshell buster crab salad boasted chorizo, candied pecans and a spicy buttermilk dressing.  The buttermilk and crab worked very well and the differing textures added extra pizzaz to the dish.  I loved the way the sweetness of the pecans played against the spiciness of the dressing and chorizo.  All in all the salad worked really well and got me ready for the main course.

Portobello and Fontina cheese ravioli topped by a ragu of braised beef cheeks and fire roasted tomatoes covered our entree plate.  The beef cheeks oozed of succulence with every bite as the tender braised meat melted in my mouth.  The ravioli combined the flavors of the pasta, cheese and mushrooms along side the tempranillo wine braising liquid sauce and sauteed spinach.  Each mouthful delighted the guests and we knew that this pop-up restaurant dinner was something special for Baton Rouge and the Edible Event team sure knew how to cook!

The course ended with chocolate-espresso pot de creme with toasted coconut and whipped cream.  While I didn't get even one hint of coconut, the chocolate and espresso were very well pronounced and the dessert's texture was silky on the tongue.  I could eaten three of four if they had let me.  Combined with a nice cup of gourmet coffee from A Coffee Truck, this dessert, and entire meal, wrapped up very nicely.

Congrats to Manny, Andrea and the team on such a successful pop-up restaurant and thanks for brining an event like this to Baton Rouge.  Also congrats to Celeste Landry, Sean Malone and the team at The Edible Event for putting together such an amazing meal for the guests.  I'm pretty sure that everyone left  with full stomachs and smiles on their faces!