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