Friday, March 30, 2012

Food Porn from an Airstream: Ignatius Reilly's Gourmet Street Food

Some chefs just get it.  Marcus Day is one of those chefs.  His cuisine is uncompromising.  Food and flavor before all else.  No shortcuts.  Handmade pastas, sauces from scratch, and creativity daily.  The story becomes even more remarkable because Chef Day does it all out of a vintage Airstream trailer.  And he has a name that came out of local literature: Ignatius Reilly's Gourmet Street Food.  For anybody living under a rock, Ignatius Reilly is the name of the main character in John Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces.  Ignatius Reilly is an educated, eccentric, but often slothful 30 year old living in uptown New Orleans.  And he loves to eat.  To know more, read the book.

Bolognese with Fresh Pasta and Parmesan
Marcus also clearly gets the overall Food Truck movement.  The idea of a concession stand on wheels is as old as traveling carnivals.  However, gourmet mobile eateries slinging restaurant quality grub at affordable prices... well that's what turns a trend into a revolution.

Chef Marcus Day's Ignatius Reilly's Gourmet Street Food
Social media has played a large role in the surge of meaningful mobile food vendors.  Chef Day has been on top of his branding from the beginning, posting pictures of dishes of Facebook and interacting with his customers on Twitter.  He also uses the channels to tell his fans where he is set up for lunch, dinner, and even brunch on the weekends.

Carrot Ginger Soup with Mint Creme Fraiche 
Ignatius Reilly's concept is fresh and local, to every extent possible.  His signature items are handmade pastas, carefully crafted soups, and specialty sandwiches.  The top photograph of the bolognese is perhaps Chef Day's signature dish.  Ever on the menu, the pasta with beef sauce and layers of Parmesan lives up to its permanent place on the menu board.  After one bite you can taste the freshness of the homemade noodles and the unique bolognese.  The latest dish that I've tried from Marcus is the above carrot ginger soup.  The delicious and nutritious soup is finished with a little butter to add that wonderful extra richness and then topped with a dollop of mint creme fraiche to just take it over the top. 

Eggs Cancienne: Poached Eggs, Grilled Don's Andouille, French Bread Toast, Fresh Cheese Grits, Tasso Hollandaise 
As I mentioned earlier, Ignatius Reilly's sets up for weekend brunch around Baton Rouge as well.  Make an effort to track him down any weekend and you won't be sorry.  The Eggs Cancienne represent a fantastic all around dish that would be worthy of any brick and mortar joint.  Chef's Day own spin on the classic Eggs Benedict, the tasso hollandaise is bright and rich and is simply superb with the cheese grits on the bottom.

Creme Brulee Pain Perdu: NOLA French Toast, Steen's Cane Syrup, Candied Pecans, Powdered Sugar 
Not to stop there, also found on the brunch menu at times is a French toast dish with some Louisiana favorites.  I could eat this creme brulee pain perdu for breakfast or dessert at any time and be completely content.

Everything that Ignatius Reilly's serves comes in containers made from recycled products which just furthers the notion that Chef Day has it figured out.  Next time you see his stainless steel Airstream around town, make sure to stop by, order some great food, and tell him hey.  You won't be sorry!

Ignatius Reilly's Gourmet Food Truck on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 26, 2012

Blown Away at Cochon Lafayette

Boudin and Pickles at Cochon Lafayette
First of all, allow me to congratulate Chef Donald Link for his 2012 James Beard Awards "Outstanding Chef" nomination.  The Louisiana chef known widely for his work with the pig at Cochon, Herbsaint, Calcasieu, and Butcher in New Orleans has certainly earned his bid at the most elite title in American cuisine.  Just this past Fall, Chef Link opened up a new location closer to his Cajun Country home: Cochon Lafayette.

I swung by the Acadiana hotspot to check it out for the first time during a recent lunch.  My buddy Tommy Talley and Cochon bartender Brian Thom both joined me at the bar as we had some beers, multiple appetizers, a couple sandwiches, a tour of the facility, and then some whiskey.

Tin Roof Voodoo Bengal Pale Ale
Cochon Lafayette sits along the new water-front development in Lafayette's River Ranch area.  With the brand new construction, they did a remarkable job of making the restaurant feel slightly rustic and rather comfortable.  The open floor plan including high ceilings, a showroom kitchen, and plenty of large windows and  wood accents made me feel right at home.  I took a seat at the bar and rejoiced at the Louisiana beer on tap.  Though they happened to be out of Lafayette's own Parish Canebrake, I was able to get a Tin Roof Voodoo Bengal.  I drank happily.

Braised Pork Cheeks and Other Goodies
Manager Brian Fuller started us off with some of Chef Link's signature boudin.  Rather than steaming the boudin like most truck stops would do, the Cochon secret is to bake the boudin in a relatively low oven - around 275 degrees - in order to crisp up the skin and make it crack as you bite into it.  Served with some house-made pickles that I could actually tolerate, this pork and rice concoction is what many Cajun dreams are made of!

Fried Chicken Livers on Pepper Jelly Toast

Our next appetizer consisted of braised pork cheeks atop spoonbread with baby lima beans and crushed herbs.  The cheeks had that fabulous fork-tender, melt-in-your-mouth kind of texture that proper braising will give.

The pork cheeks were followed by fried chicken livers on top of pepper jelly toast.  I thoroughly enjoyed this dish.  It is easy to understand why chicken livers aren't for everyone, but being the adventurous food spirit that I am, I scarfed down one after another.  The pepper jelly went wonderfully with the livers in order to add some sweet and spicy flavors to the golden fried delicacies.

Cochon Lafayette's Oyster and Bacon Sandwich
Another Look at the Oyster and Bacon Sandwich
Choosing an entree did not prove to be an easy task.  At the suggestion of Brian, I opted for the oyster and bacon sandwich.  The BLT with fried oysters turned out to be a great decision.  They fresh Louisiana oysters were deliciously fried in a hearty batter and placed with the bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes between two slices of buttery toast.  Each bite bustled with textures and flavors that made one incredible sandwich... and I do like sandwiches!

Selection of Whiskeys that I tasted at Cochon Lafayette
After the meal, we began talking about Raise a Glass and our Whiskeys of the World Tournament.  I realized that Cochon Lafayette had quite a few whiskey varieties that were not in the tournament, and several rye whiskeys that I had never tried before.  So what else were we to do other than hold a whiskey tasting right there on the spot?  And don't forget the moonshine, as seen on the left.  After downing some whiskey and eating all of that glorious food (don't worry, it was captured on video for "I'm Not Trying to be an Underwear Model"), I got a tour of the Cochon Lafayette terrace with their herb garden, their fully stocked kitchen, and the outdoor smokestack with Chef de Cuisine Kyle Waters.  The restaurant is truly an impressive facility, and I have a feeling that I'll be back fairly often!

Cochon Lafayette on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 19, 2012

Seared Sea Scallops with Maple Bacon Relish

When the Virtual Potluck crew got to choose from a selection of Coombs Family Farms maple products to cook with, I had no trouble going after the organic maple sugar. I've cooked with very nice maple syrups a number of times, but I had never played around with maple sugar before. So the next question was: what to cook?! Maybe one of these days I'll get adventurous (for me) and start baking with products like this. Not this time though. My mind rushed to one thing: maple bacon! And what to put the maple bacon on top of? How about some seared sea scallops? Yes, please.

Sear Sea Scallops with Maple Bacon Relish

9 Ingredients in the Recipe... Simple and Delicious!
I gathered my ingredients to cook what in my mind was sure to be a delightfully sweet and spicy relish to put on top of the scallops. I started by chopping up about half a pound of hickory smoked bacon into small morsels and then throwing them in a skillet over medium high heat. I wanted the bacon to brown and for the fat to render, because bacon fat is what I would use to cook everything else. After that had been accomplished I removed the bacon from the skillet and placed it in a bowl to reserve it. I transferred about half the bacon fat to another skillet that I would use for my scallops and turned that heat up to medium high. In the original skillet that had the bacon and still half the bacon fat, I threw in half of a yellow onion, diced fairly finely, one jalapeno, seeded and diced finely, and about five cloves of garlic, minced.

Maple Bacon Relish at the Deglazing Stage
After the onion, jalapeno, and garlic had all cooked to the point of being soft, I added the bacon back in. Next, I deglazed the skillet with about half a cup of balsamic vinegar to free all of the buildup on the bottom of the skillet and get all the flavors to meld. I added a little freshly ground sea salt and black pepper and let the balsamic reduce a little more. When the contents of the skillet began to dry up and the flavors really looked like they had come together, I added another quarter cup or so of balsamic and about 2 tablespoons of Coombs Maple Sugar. After stirring it all in, I reduced the heat to a simmer and turned my attention to the scallops.

Scallops Searing in Bacon Fat

In the other skillet I already had the other half of the bacon fat pretty hot. I sprinkled each side of the U10 scallops with sea salt and black pepper, then bumped the heat on the burner up to high. When the bacon fat began to pop, I added the scallops the grease and rejoiced at the sound of the sizzle. Scallops searing in bacon fat: there isn't much sweeter of a sound! After a few minutes on one side I used a set of tongs to test their readiness to flip. If it is ready, it should easily let go of the pan. You might think that if the scallop sticks the pan that you might be burning it, but it actually means you should allow it to cook a little longer. When the scallop is flipped over you want to see some golden brown Maillard reaction effects (like caramelization). If your skillet isn't hot enough or you don't cook the scallop long enough, this sear may not develop. After searing like this on both sides, the scallop should be ready to go. You certainly don't want to overcook your scallop and dry it out, so don't be afraid to pull it off. A couple minutes on each side ought to do it!

A Second Plating of the Seared Sea Scallops with Maple Bacon Relish
To plate the scallops I simply arranged three of them on a dish in triangular fashion and then spooned a generous portion of maple bacon relish on top of each one. With some fresh parsley out of my Harb's Oasis herb garden, I'd say the dish was a tremendous success. The balsamic, bacon, and maple worked incredibly well together. I didn't get quite as much heat from the jalapeno as I wanted though. Still, it certainly worked as an interesting flavoring component. The scallops themselves were wonderful and paired deliciously with all the flavors in the relish!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

True Lemon Panna Cotta with Pontchatoula Strawberries

True Lemon Panna Cotta with Pontchatoula Strawberries and Chianti Reduction
Panna Cotta is an Italian gelatin-based dessert made with cream, sugar, and whatever flavorings your heart desires. I recently found the beauty of panna cotta in its simplicity. There are few desserts that are easier to make or that give you a more rewarding outcome for the effort! So when I got sent a box of True Lemon as part of a Virtual Potluck promotion, I figured it could work perfectly in a lemon panna cotta!

True Lemon Panna Cotta with Pontchatoula Strawberries and Chianti Reduction

1 quart heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
6 packets True Lemon (equivalent to juice of one lemon)
2 packets gelatin
6 Tbs cool water
1 pint Pontchatoula Strawberries, stemmed and sliced
1 cup Chianti
2 Tbs local honey (Bocage Bee Company)

Makes 8-10 servings
Make 3 hours ahead of time or even overnight

Place cream in sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in sugar and continue to heat until cream is steaming but not boiling and sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in True Lemon until it is completely dissolved as well.  Place gelatin and water in a mixing bowl and allow gelatin to absorb the water. Let it stand until the cream is ready. When the cream is up to temperature and the sugar and True Lemon are dissolved, remove it from the heat. Pour the cream over the gelatin in the mixing bowl. Allow to cool for a few minutes before evenly pouring it into either 8-10 ramekins (to invert onto a plate) or wine glasses (to serve directly out of). Place containers with panna cotta mixture into a refrigerator and allow to set for at least three hours or overnight.

In a small saucepan, heat the Chianti over medium-low heat. When warm, add in sliced strawberries and honey and allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes for all the flavors to combine together, stirring occasionally to ensure that the honey is dissolved. Either top the cold panna cotta with the hot strawberry-Chianti sauce, or allow the sauce to cool, scoop on top of the panna cotta, and keep it refrigerated until ready to eat.

Company Website:
Company FB page:

All True products are 100% natural with no artificial ingredients or sweeteners, preservatives,sodium or gluten. True Lemon's ingredients are the same as found in a lemon: Citric Acid, Lemon Juice, Lemon Oil and Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)

True Lemon, through Bite and Booze, is giving away one gift set (consisting of a box each of True Lemon, True Lime, True Orange, True Grapefruit, True Lemonade, True Raspberry Lemonade, True Lemon shaker, True Lime shaker and a t-shirt) as part of a drawing. Also, anybody who reads this and emails True Lemon directly at can have some free samples.  Just mention Bite and Booze AND Virtual Potluck in your email!  To be entered to win the gift set, leave a comment on this blog post telling me how you would use one of the True products!  And make sure you follow me on Twitter and like me on Facebook too!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Anything Special About Magoo's Grill and Bar?

Magoo's Diesel Dog
Magoo’s Bar and Grill on Sherwood Forest sits in a building formerly occupied by Schlotzsky's Deli.  How Subway makes it where Schlotzsky's failed is beyond me, but that's another story. Magoo's owner Rick White wanted a fun name in the style of old cartoons and came up with the concept based on the old Mr. Magoo character. Frustrated with the fact that he couldn't always give his diners exactly what they desired in the franchise world that he previously lived in, Rick opened Magoo's with different intentions. According to White, everything on the menu can be tweaked in order to accommodate to the tastes and preferences of his customers. For example, anything on his menu that is deep fried, which is a lot, can also be ordered grilled with no questions asked.

Magoo's Appetizer Sampler with Fried Green Tomatoes on the Left
I started with a couple of different appetizers including Magoo chips, which are potato chips made in house, and fried green tomatoes. White explained that he personally enjoys fried green tomatoes and wanted to offer a southern favorite that you can’t usually find at chain restaurants. The tomatoes were hearty and a nice green color, but not too tart. They were surrounded with a flaky, crunchy crust and topped with Parmesan cheese. They went well with the spicy ranch dressing that Magoo’s serves on the side. The appetizer sampler also came served with fried mushrooms and an interesting take on fried pickles. 

Another look at the Diesel Dog

Next on the menu was the Diesel Dog. Being a fan of hot dogs, I had to try it. It turns out, it’s almost as intimidating as it sounds. Magoo’s takes an all beef frank, wraps it in bacon, then deep fries the whole dog before covering it with jalapeno ranch. Unlike a normal American hot dog, Magoo's uses an England style bun that is more similar to a soft, buttery toast. Everything about the dog works. The beef frank is nothing amazing, but when wrapped in bacon it certainly gets the job done. The spicy jalapeno ranch adds extra flavor to this not so average hot dog. And the bun is something that truly has the ability to set this dog at Magoo's apart from its competition. I definitely thought the Diesel Dog to be one of the better items on the menu.

Mr. White seemed eager for me to try an item on the menu with the signature “Magoo sauce.” I certainly am not the kind of man to turn that down. He brought out the Saucy Magoo, which is a decent sized, hand crafted burger topped with bacon, grilled onions, and Magoo sauce, served on a Ciabatta bun. The Magoo sauce might be a little misleading. Don't try to dip a french fry in it, that's for sure. The sauce really contained a combination of normal burger fixings all mixed and bound together including shredded lettuce, onion, pickle relish, mustard, and mayonnaise. I had to think twice about it, but when I dove into the burger it all made sense. I didn't have to work about any topping sliding off or escaping from underneath the bun. Instead, all the goodies were held in place as one condiment. Not too shabby at all.

Magoo's Cheesy Grilled Shrimp Croissant

Switching gears from turf to surf, I tried the shrimp croissant which consists of fried shrimp dressed with cheddar cheese and mayo on a croissant. I opted for grilled shrimp (which, as Rick White pointed out, is never a problem) on what seemed like a mediocre dish to eat after having cheeseburgers and hot dogs loaded with sauces. The shrimp croissant presented itself as a simple, flat sandwich. However, the first bite proved otherwise. The flaky croissant exploded with cheesy shrimp flavor that actually kept me going back for more despite being fairly full by this point. Simple, yes, but while this popular Magoo's dish sticks to the basics, it still stood out as something a little different.  A few more shrimp may have been nice though.

I liked Magoo's. I liked Rick. I'd love to see businesses like his succeed because they are what we need to continue to grow our food scene. By no means is Magoo's fine dining or even a stellar place to impress a date, but it is something local and authentic. It is the kind of place that reminds me to hang my head in shame at how many people go to boring chain restaurants instead of supporting the stores owned by their neighbors. I hope Rick decides to take some chances. I hope he commits to having a decent beer selection and a cool bar if he really wants one. If he conforms to the array of franchised crap out there then he'll struggle. However, a narrowed focus on building solid dishes like his Diesel Dog and burgers, and he'll have a chance to make a splash that sends some ripples through the Sherwood area. I'll definitely be back to keep supporting them, and I encourage you to check Magoo's out and tell them Bite and Booze sent you!

Magoo's Grill and Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 5, 2012

Chicken and Buffalo Andouille Risotto - Virtual Potluck

The Virtual Potluck crew recently teamed up with The Buffalo Guys to do a round of blog posts about incorporating various buffalo sausages into a dish.  Since I needed to test out my recipe for chicken and andouille risotto anyway, I decided to give it a try with the buffalo andouille that was so graciously sent to me.

I knew the dish would be pretty similar to a chicken and sausage jambalaya.  The main difference is that the Arborio rice used to make risotto is a short grain Italian rice which cooks a little differently than a longer grain Louisiana rice.  The method for cooking risotto is to slowly add stock little by little, allowing the rice to soak in the flavors as you go, rather than boiling and covering the rice until it has absorbed all the water, as is common in most Cajun dishes.  A risotto should yield a dish that is ultimately similar to jambalaya (in this case, using the Trinity, chicken, and andouille).  The rice should end up cooked through, soft, and perhaps even a bit creamy without being mushy.

Chicken and Buffalo Andouille Risotto 
Makes 4-6 servings
Fresh Herbs from the Garden

  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 quart water
  • Several sprigs fresh herbs (flat leaf parsley, thyme, cilantro, oregano from my Harb's Oasis herb garden)
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 pack (12 oz) buffalo andouille sausage
  • 1 cup medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbs shopped curly parsley for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

In a 4-6 quart stock pot, add the chicken stock, water, herbs, and carrots and bring to a boil over high heat.  In an enameled cast iron pot (or another stock pot), heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan over medium high heat.  Cut the chicken thighs and Andouille into bite-sized pieces.  Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper.  Add the chicken to the oil followed shortly by the andouille and brown them until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes, but don’t overcook because you still want the chicken to be juicy.  Transfer the chicken and Andouille and juices to a mixing bowl, the return the pot to medium-high heat.  Add a tablespoon of olive oil followed by the onions, celery, green bell pepper, and garlic.  Saute until the onion becomes translucent. 

Strain the herbs and carrots out of the stock.

Add the Arborio rice to the pot with the onions, celery, bell pepper, and garlic, and let it soak up any liquid that might be in the pot.  When everything is dry, scoop in two ladles worth of stock and stir with a wooden spoon until all the stock has all been absorbed.  Add another ladle of stock and stir.  Continue to add stock, one ladle at a time, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes.  Add the reserved chicken and sausage and continue to ladle in stock and continually stir for another 10 minutes or until the rice has absorbed enough liquid.  Taste the risotto for seasoning and texture of the rice.  Adjust salt and pepper as needed.  If rice still has a little crunch, continue to ladle in stock and cook, stirring regularly, until the rice has absorbed enough stock to be soft throughout but not mushy.

Scoop a pile of risotto onto a plate and grate some fresh parmesan cheese on top, then sprinkle with chopped parsley as a garnish. 

Discount on Buffalo Sausage

Would you like to try some buffalo sausage for yourself? The Buffalo Guys will offer a 15% discount off any hot dog or sausage purchase through the end of March 2012. Just go to their online store and enter the code VIRTUALPOTLUCK when you check out. I’m sure they would also appreciate it if you gave their Facebook page a LIKE.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Raise a Glass Whiskey of the World Tournament Final

The final four of the Raise a Glass Whiskey of the World Tournament
As I'm sure most of you are aware, I am currently hosting two radio shows and podcasts in Baton Rouge.  One is the Bite and Booze Radio Show presented by Calandro's Supermarket on Talk 107.3 FM, and the other is called Raise a Glass which airs on WHYR 96.9 FM LP, Baton Rouge Community Radio.

Raise a Glass recently wrapped up Season 2, which was a 13 episode Whiskey of the World Tournament in which a field of 68 whiskeys and whiskys were whittled down to one solitary winner.  I had a blast doing the tournament with my co-host and fellow Booze Brother Eric Ducote, author of BR Beer Scene, as well as our producer James Lawson, and fellow beverage enthusiast and owner of Me-Moe's Lawn and Landscape, Jeremy Spikes.

Jay, Eric, Jeremy, and James prepare to record Raise a Glass at Roux Wine and Spirits
Roux Wine and Spirits on Airline Highway in Prarieville hosted our recording session and provided a bottle of each of the final four whiskeys in the tournament.  Pictured below, those whiskeys were Jefferson's Presidential Select 17 yr Bourbon, Highland Park 15 yr Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Penderyn Welch Whisky Madeira Cask, and Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey.  The most expensive bottles in the tournament were right around $100 each, and two of those made the finals, Jefferson's and Midleton.  That price tag is not to scare you off - they are worth the money - but rather to let you know what we didn't have any crazy 30 or 40 year scotches or significantly expensive bottles in the tournament.

Final Four Whiskeys lined up and ready to be poured
You can listen to the finals in the embedded player below.  SPOILER ALERT: for those that don't want to listen and just want to know the winner, click and mouse over this blank space as if to highlight it: Jefferson's Presidential Select Bourbon! Also make sure to follow @RaiseaGlass on twitter, like Raise a Glass on Facebook, and subscribe to the show on iTunes.  Season 3 of Raise a Glass will explore all sorts of topics from wine to cocktails and drinking in places from Mexico to Japan.  We'll even have some light beer taste-offs and samplings of malt liquor.  It'll continue to be a great show!

Whiskey of the World Tournament Final Episode: