Monday, April 30, 2012

Artisana Nut Butters for Virtual Potluck: Shrimp Stir Fry and French Toast

Dana's Mystery Ingredients
My sister, Dana, recently challenged me to a "Chopped" style cooking experiment where she would bring home a range of mystery ingredients and I would have to prepare a meal using all of them.  I added my own wrinkle by also making this little culinary challenge into a post for Virtual Potluck.  Artisana Raw Organic Nut Butters had previously gifted each of the VP bloggers with some various butters and asked us to use them in some recipes.  Not knowing what Dana would come up with, I thought it may make my day even tougher to incorporate a couple nut butters into my dish as well!  

Shrimp Stir-Fry with Artisana Cashew Butter
I decided to split the ingredients into two dishes.  Obviously the highlight of Dana's mystery ingredients were the large, head-on Louisiana shrimp.  I know I had to do something fun with those.  Along with the shrimp were portobello mushrooms, water chestnuts, blackberries, eggs, and a loaf of bread.  I also added the Artisana cashew butter and the pecan butter for good measure. My first dish went a little Asian in nature.  I decided to stir-fry the shrimp with the mushrooms, water chestnuts, and cashew butter.  I also added a little onion and carrot along with some sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce.   The resulting dish had plenty of flavor!  The cashew butter added a nuttiness to the dish and worked well with the flavors of the oil and vinegar to make an interesting sauce.  Peanut sauces are fairly common in Thai cuisine, so I figured that the cashews ought to work in the stir-fry, and they did.

French Toast with Blackberry-Pecan Cane Syrup
I still had blackberries, bread, and eggs in addition to the Artisana pecan butter so it seemed like a dessert was in order.  I decided to go for a French Toast with Blackberry-Pecan Cane Syrup.  I sliced up the bread and dredged it in some beaten eggs spiced up with a little cinnamon.  The strips of egg covered bread were then grilled on a pan to give them a golden brown crust on the outside.  I also took some pureed blackberries, pecan butter, and cane syrup and whisked them all together to make sauce which I then drizzled over the French toast.  After adding a couple fresh blackberries as a garnish, this breakfast-turned dessert was ready to be devoured!

Artisana Organic Foods makes quite a few different organic raw nut butters.  They are manufactured in a gluten free and peanut free facility.  They are pure, with no sugar added, and are extremely healthy to cook into recipes or just eat them with some fruit on the go.  If you'd like to receive your own bottle of one of their nut butters and some sample squeeze packs, leave a comment on this post telling me about your favorite nut!  I'll pick one winner and get Artisana to send you a little something special.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Abeeya's Bakery Bite and Booze Radio Show Birthday Cake

Today on the Bite and Booze Radio Show I'll be joined by Donna Butler from Abeeya's Bakery in Zachary.  Donna was kind enough not only to be a guest a the show, but also to bring in a custom Bite and Booze Radio Show Birthday/Anniversary Cake!  
Jay Ducote, Donna Butler, and Natalie Ducote in the Talk 107.3 FM Studio
Make sure to listed to the show every Saturday at 5 PM on Talk 107.3 FM.  You can also find it as a podcast on iTunes or streaming through this very website.  Donna talks about how she started her bakery, how she puts love into her sweets, and how she's become very involved in the community.  Her story is one that you truly won't want to miss.

Abeeya's Bakery's My Louisiana State Cake
Finally, this a cake that everyone needs to try.  The "Louisiana State Cake" from Abeeya's is one of the single best cakes I've ever eaten.  The double chocolate cake is filled with a pecan praline mixture between each layer.  The chocolate shell on the outside provides a layer of texture that stands out.  The cake itself was rich and moist.  As you can see, the stepped design is unique and the magnolia flower truly makes it a Louisiana cake.  I know Zachary may no be right next door for everybody, but if you have a special event coming up or want to celebrate the Louisiana bicentennial, you ought to request one of these cakes from Donna.  Just walk in and say "I want that!"  She'll know what you mean.

Abeeya's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Truck, the Brewer, and the Blogger! Pop Up Beer Dinner

A lot of people have been asking me when I'll cook something that they can eat and telling me that they're jealous of dishes that I post all the time.  Well, here's your chance to actually be a part of something that I have going on.  I'm teaming up with Chef Aaron Brown from Taco de Paco, Christina Stephens and her amazing cupcaking skills, and my good friends at the Tin Roof Brewing Company to do a pop-up restaurant beer dinner at the brewery!  Come check it out.  You won't be sorry!

What: Pop Up Beer Dinner with Chef Aaron Brown from Taco de Paco and Jay Ducote from Bite and Booze

Where: Tin Roof Brewing Company - 1624 Wyoming St. Baton Rouge, LA 70802

When: Thursday, May 3rd, 7 PM

Who: YOU!  Must be 21+.  Guest space is limited to the first 40 who sign up.

How much? $60 includes a six course meal.  Beer is free.  That also covers all fees, gratutities, etc.

Why?  Because we can.  And you should too.  And beer dinners are awesome.  And we love supporting our local food trucks, craft brewers, and culinary personalities!

Dress: Casual.  This event is at a brewery.  If it is hot outside, then it may be a little warm inside.  Don't expect white table clothes or candles.  Do expect great food and outstanding local beer.

Want to register?  Go to our Eventbrite page and sign up!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bunnahabhain 12: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by The Cove

Bunnahabhain 12 Year Scotch Whisky
This 12 year old single malt Islay Scotch had a sweet, fruity, and a lightly peaty and smokey nose.  Hints of figs, apple, and perhaps similarities to brandy.  On first taste it seemed consistent with the nose.  "Tasty" and "Good" were words used to describe the Scotch, which by all means were strong compliments from Raise a Glass experts Eric and James.  Sweetness matched the fruit aromas, and molasses coated the tongue with a slight bite.  However, it failed to linger.  The Scotch finished dry and quickly (insert that's what she said reference).

Bunnahabhain 12 Year
Average Score

Whisk(e)y Wednesday is a new blog post series on Bite and Booze and sponsored by The Cove.  Check out The Cove in Baton Rouge, LA to browse their selection of over 200 whiskeys (including bourbons) and 325+ Scotches.  Whisk(e)y Wednesday is created and rated by the hosts of Raise a Glass.  Scores are marked for Nose, Taste, Finish, and Balance and Complexity using our own propriatary scoring system.  Marks are then added and averaged, leaving us with a final score out of a 100 point scale.  Our scale should be looked at on the full range of 0-100.  A 50 should be considered average while anything below 10 is horse piss and anything above 90 is rather extraordinary.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tin Roof Releases the Blonde Ale in Cans, Announces First Seasonal

This is exciting.  I love when things really start to come together in Baton Rouge, and in Louisiana in general.  I've been saying in passing for a while that Tin Roof needs to start coming out with some seasonals in order to establish themselves as a legit craft brewery. But I've also been defending them, knowing that it takes time in order to establish three solid brands and get the brewing capacity needed to be experimental and try some seasonal beers.  Well, it looks like the time has come.

The Tin Roof Watermelon Wheat will be an American wheat beer brewed with Louisiana watermelon and is set to release in just a few weeks.  The Watermelon Wheat will be available on draft only for a few months, and fortunately that will be during the heat of the summer.  I'm sure that this refreshing beer will be enjoyed on quite a few patios around town!  According to Tom Daigrepont, Tin Roof’s brewmaster, the recipe for the new brew has been in development for several months.  “We’ve worked really hard perfecting this beer,” said Daigrepont.  “We had to experiment with several different yeast strains until we found one that melded just right with the watermelon.”  The brewery credits their commitment to the use of local ingredients as their inspiration for the unique brew.  I've personally had a watermelon beer before in San Francisco, so I'm excited to try our own local version!

The other big news, which is equally as exciting to me, is that the Tin Roof Blonde will be available in 12oz aluminum cans starting tomorrow, Tuesday, April 24th, in Baton Rouge.  Other local markets, including New Orleans and the Northshore, will begin seeing Tin Roof Blonde cans in early May.  This will add their second selection in cans, joining the Perfect Tin Amber Ale.  The pretty awesome purple and gold cans should catch some eyes on the store shelves as well as be ideal beverages for a Louisiana summer filled with outdoor activities.  I know what I'm bringing on a canoe trip or on the sail boat!

I'm still waiting for some darker options out of Tin Roof.  I certainly understand that they are trying to appeal to the average Louisiana beer drinkers, so the fact that this news is coming out about a Watermelon Wheat and a Blonde Ale is not surprising.  However, neither are straying very far from a mild and approachable session beer.  Not to worry though.  After tasting their prototypes for the Coffee Porter (Louisiana roasted coffee, I'm sure!), I imagine it will just be a matter of time before we start seeing some dark malts or crazy hops!

Tin Roof Brewing Company was founded in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and began operations in November 2010.  Brewery tours and tastings are held every Friday from 5:00-7:00.  For more information, follow Tin Roof on Twitter, find them on Facebook, or visit

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

You Will Drink Local

Just a friendly reminder from Bite and Booze that a Jedi drinks local.  Sith Lords drink Jameson.

I know St. Patty's Day came and went a month ago, but I still thought these pictures were worth sharing.  Also, as far as the Jameson goes... did you know that while Jameson is the #1 selling Irish Whiskey world wide, it isn't even close to the top selling Irish Whiskey IN Ireland?  Jameson : Irish Whiskey :: Foster's : Australian Beer.  Translation: it is all about marketing.  Try Power's, John Sullivan, Tullamore Dew, Redbreast, Midleton Very Rare, or quite a few other types before ordering Jameson as your next shot of Irish Whiskey.  I will say though that the Jameson Reserve 12 yr is pretty tasty.  Stay tuned every Wednesday on Bite and Booze as I'll soon be ramping up a new series called "Whisk(e)y Wednesdays!"

Monday, April 16, 2012

Grilled Rosemary Quail with Team Sweet Mama's BBQ Chicken Rub

Our latest Virtual Potluck adventure has taken the group into the world of gourmet seasonings from the Savory Spice Shop.  Each VP blogger got a different category of spices to deal with.  I chose the chicken and seafood grouping since I knew I'd be grilling something in that category sometime soon.  Still, I didn't want to be too obvious.  Chicken on the grill just wouldn't do.  I thought about perhaps some Louisiana seafood, but nothing quite struck my fancy right away.  Then I had my ah-ha moment.  Savory Spice sent me some seasoning called "Team Sweet Mama's BBQ Chicken Rub."  However, I wouldn't use chicken for this cook out.  Instead, I decided to grill one of my favorite, most nostalgic game birds: quail!

The quail, which I picked up at Calandro's Supermarket here in Baton Rouge, got a special brine of their own.  They marinated in a mix of apple juice and apple cider vinegar with some onion and spices for a few hours.  I then stuffed each quail with a skewer of fresh rosemary from my Harb's Oasis herb garden.  The outside of each bird got generously sprinkled with the Savory Spice Shop's Team Sweet Mama's BBQ Chicken Rub.  The quail were then grilled over some charcoal and apple chips to provide a little sweet smoke.  The succulent birds had a wonderful flavor throughout.  They took on the characteristics of the apple and rosemary very well.  But the real secret had to have been the rub.  The delightful blend of seasonings created a crust on the outside of the quail that had just the right amount of sweet and heat!  I might have to try to cook some more quail soon.  If anybody would like to take me quail hunting, just let me know!!

1 Quart Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Pint Apple Juice
1 Yellow Onion, Coarsely Chopped
2 Tablespoons Savory's BBQ Rub
2 Tablespoons Crushed Red Pepper

Reserve a cup of the brine for basting before soaking the quail in the remainder.

The Rest:
A Dozen Quail (or however many you want to cook!)
3-4 Inch Sprig of Rosemary for each Quail
1/2 Cup Savory Spice Shop's Team Sweet Mama's BBQ Chicken Rub

Grilled Rosemary Quail with Team Sweet Mama's BBQ Chicken Rub
Savory Spice Giveaway:

Savory Spice Shop on Facebook

Twitter: @SavorySpiceShop  

Go to the Savory Spice Shop Facebook page, click the Virtual Potluck link, and choose a spice from my section.  Then come back here and tell me which spice or blend you'd like to try the most!  I'll select one winner on Friday, April 20, 2012 to get some free spices from our friends at the Savory Spice Shop!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pizza Magic at Mama Della's

Mama Della’s New York City Pizzeria is the new place to get a slice in town. True New York style pizza is not easy to come by in Baton Rouge, and best I can tell, Mama Della's does it right. “I’m into what’s going on in your mouth,” owner and chef Barry Kalt told me as he joined my table for a brief moment in between pizza orders. Born and raised in New York City, Kalt knows what it takes to make the authentic New York style pies that are coveted across the country. He started in the restaurant business 46 years ago and has worked in various venues including restaurants, casinos, and even submarines. All of this experience has left him with the knowledge and talent to run a successful restaurant while sticking to his roots. All of the pizzas at Mama Della’s are handmade and the recipes come from different members of Kalt’s family. Even the logo is a picture of his mother, Adelle. While the chef is happy to discuss his life and experiences, he’d rather talk about his pizzas and the steps that go into making them. Because after all, “it’s all about the food.”

While at Mama Della’s I tried two of the favorite items on the menu. I'll get to the pizza in a bit. Besides serving NY pies, Kalt also fixes up Italian-style hero sandwiches. I opted for the chicken parm. Mama Della’s does a pretty good job on this simple sandwich. A fried chicken cutlet is served on soft Italian bread with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. What makes the sandwich so special is Chef Leonardo’s marinara sauce, which is named after Kalt’s father. If pizza isn’t for you, you’re sure to find something on the menu that is true to New York style.

The star of my meal was one of Chef’s favorites, a classic margharita pizza. The simple pie only contains four elements: crust, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Complexity isn't needed here. It’s the quality of the ingredients that make this Mama Della specialty so good. Kalt hand tosses the dough for all of the pizzas and this extra step is evident in the food that he serves. The crust doesn’t overshadow the rest of the pizza, which is the way a classic New York style pie should be served. It’s thin enough to have a crunch but thick enough to hold the few ingredients and complement the flavors. But that's where the margharita pizza ends its common ties. There’s no sauce on Chef Kalt’s signature creation. The tomatoes, which come from an area in Italy near Pompeii, have a sweetness and tang which pair excellently with the mozzarella. They alone make up the tomato portion of the pizza. And they are a topping unto themselves. Throw on a little basil, and you have a fairly authentic pizza! Chef Kalt doesn’t cut any corners when it comes making his pizzas. “If I can’t get the ingredients I want, I don’t serve that pizza. It’s as simple as that. I’m not going to compromise the quality of my pizza in order to make more money,” said Kalt.

While there are no exceptions when it comes to the ingredients of his pizzas, Chef Kalt is willing to make changes for a customer. “I go the extra mile to make sure folks are taken care of,” he told me. Just please don't ask him to add pepperoni and Italian sausage to a margharita pizza. I'm sure he'd do it, but the man might die a little inside.

When you walk into Mama Della’s it may not seem like anything too special. It’s a standard in and out restaurant with bar stools and red checkered table cloths. Chef Kalt serves his pizza on paper plates with plastic utensils for those who may need them for some bizarre reason. In New York City they don’t eat their pizza with forks so he doesn’t serve it that way here either. His attention to quality and authenticity are attributes that give a restaurant staying power. Let's hope this one lasts.

If you’re looking for classic New York style pizza, the only thing Mama Della’s is missing is the Statue of Liberty in the background. Alright, so it may not have quite been Lombardi's pie coming out of a coal oven in Manhattan, but I can definitely add it to my list of go-to pizza restaurants in Baton Rouge. Next time you’re in the mood for a slice, avoid a chain and try a new, local pizzeria. I don't think you'll regret it.

Mama Della's N. Y. City Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Coyote Blues Beer List Fail

Those of you who really know me or have ever spoken with me about Bite and Booze know that I don't fancy myself as a food critic, but rather as a food and beverage enthusiast.  I've been able to make a name for myself and find a market for my writing and speaking through highlighting what I love about eating and drinking, and the culture and traditions which surround them.  For that reason, I rarely post a "bad review" or even call a place out for serving frozen burger patties (unless you're in Tuscaloosa, AL, of course).  I prefer to highlight the good generally at the expense of ignoring the bad.  If I have a meal or a cocktail that I don't like, I usually just choose not to write about it.  I don't have time to write about everything I eat anyway.

That being said, I feel like it is high time I take a stand on some things that really grind my gears.  I would have been writing this post about the foolishness of the Baton Rouge Metro Council had item "T" regarding the food trucks been passed last night.  Instead, it was deleted from the agenda because everyone not named Smokie understood how frivolous it truly was.  Props to that.

Today I'd like to rant about piss poor beer lists... and about general dumb-ass-ed-ness when it comes to menu creation with beer.  Please observe this snapshot of the menu from Coyote Blues in Baton Rouge:

Coyote Blue's Beer Menu
To their credit (well, not really), the Mexican and "Latin" selection is not seen in this picture.  There are a few more crappy lagers available than this if you like what marketing companies have led you to believe is beach beer.  However, I'm not ranting about the quality of the beer on their list.  I'll give you a second to look it over if you haven't noticed the problem already.


Kegs of Macrobrew
Okay, time's up.  Since when is Shiner Bock an import?  We have to "import" beer from Texas now?  I realize that crossing state lines can be an issue with alcohol distribution, but it isn't really importing!  I suppose that I half-way sort of kinda understand-ish the old school mentality of "domestics" and "imports" being used more for price differentialization (can I make up that word?).  That needs to change too, though.  However, when you HAVE A CATEGORY for "Domestic Specialties" in order to solve the price gap issue, and then still list Shiner Bock under imports, I REALLY have a problem.  To me this shows one of two things: ignorance or lack of giving a flip.  If ignorance is to blame, then sometimes there is no cure.  Fire the person who ignorantly thought Shiner Bock to be a German beer and hire somebody who knows their stuff to create a new menu.  If, on the other hand, you don't care about things like this, then I will even more quickly stop caring about your bar or restaurant.  Show a little passion for your beer list or I won't assume that there is any sort of attention being paid in the kitchen, either.  

And if I may... and it is my website, so I grant myself permission... Blue Moon should not be on any respectable beer list as a "specialty."  It is produced by Coors.  It is as "macro" and "domestic" as anything on the list above it.  I understand that it might carry a bit higher of a price tag, but please stop trying to pretend that it's something which it ain't.  I know they aren't actually calling it a craft beer, but it also shouldn't be deemed special.

Everyone please feel free to send Coyote Blues Baton Rouge a memo that they may want to change their embarrassing beer menu.  I'm okay (though certainly not thrilled) with a Mexican place having a terrible beer selection, but they ought to at least label it correctly!  This sort of thing shames me and, in my opinion, this city.  We HAVE to be smarter than this.  Beer menus and wine lists are tied in with the entire gastronomic experience of eating out, and I'd rather everyone in Baton Rouge impress rather than disappoint.

Attention restaurants: you're now on notice.  It only takes a little effort and a little bit of caring about the products that you sell to correctly put together a menu.  If you need help, call me.  I'll do some consultation.  But if you make an error like this, I just may have to call you out on it.  Be warned.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cornmeal Fried Catfish, Black-Eyed Pea Salad, Pickled Jalapeno Relish

Cornmeal Fried Catfish over Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Pickled Jalapeno Relish
I've been wanting to play around with some different fried catfish recipes for a while so when I was gifted a Lodge Cast Iron skillet and cookbook as part of a Virtual Potluck blog party, I knew which recipe I needed to try!  The dish titled Cornmeal Fried Catfish over Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Pickled Jalapeno Relish jumped right out at me.  Rather than being fried catfish with more fried stuff, this presented an almost-healthy alternative.  Sure, I would still bread and deep fry the catfish in peanut oil, but at least I didn't throw in sides French fries and hush puppies!  I assembled a group of friends at my buddy Bret's house to test out his remodeled kitchen.  A short while later, a memorable meal emerged!  The Lodge Cookbook provided the recipes for the black-eyed pea salad and jalapeno relish in addition to the catfish itself.  Both were very easy to create and extremely tasty.  The pickled jalapeno relish didn't overpower anything with spiciness and its sweetness made it an interesting garnish.  The black-eyed pea salad which sat underneath the catfish came out bright and full of flavor from the artichoke hearts and red bell pepper.  So the main thing I needed to master quickly became frying the fish!

The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook and My Groceries at Calandro's Supermarket (Win a Cookbook at the bottom of this post!)
After a shopping trip to Calandro's Supermarket to pick up the key ingredients, I arrived at Bret's house and got to work.  The recipe for the catfish itself is what really piqued my curiosity.  It began with sprinkling the fillets with salt and pepper followed by a hefty dash of hot sauce.

Raw Catfish Fillets with Hot Sauce
After covering both sides with salt, pepper, and hot sauce and rubbing it over the fillets, the next step was to dredge the catfish in the dry batter.  The hot sauce helped the batter adhere to the catfish and create an excellent coating for a crispy fish.  This, however, was no ordinary fried fish batter.  It started with equal parts cornmeal and masa harina.  Masa harina is basically the fine corn flour that is used to make the dough for corn tortillas and tamales.  I had never used it before as a fish fry, but I'm sold now.  In addition to the cornmeal and masa harina, I added a decent shaking of Cajun seasoning and seasoned salt.  Then the fillets were tossed in the batter and prepared for their oily bath.

Catfish Fillets in the Cornmeal and Masa Harina Batter
 In a 12 inch Lodge Cast Iron skillet my peanut oil came up to temp at around 375 degrees.  I dropped in catfish fillets two at a time and fried them until they were golden brown.

Catfish Fillets Frying in Peanut Oil in a Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
To plate the dish I spooned a generous portion of the black-eyed pea salad on the middle of a plate.  I then topped the salad with a fresh catfish fillet.  On top of the fish rested a couple spoonfuls of the pickled jalapeno relish.  All in all, this dish really impressed me.  I think the catfish itself stole the show.  I might incorporate masa harina into frying batters much more often.  It delivered a light and crispy batter to the beautifully seasoned catfish.  If you're looking for masa harina, I know Calandro's Supermarket in Baton Rouge has it.  You can also find it at any Latin or Mexican specialty store.

Cornmeal Fried Catfish over Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Pickled Jalapeno Relish


Want your own copy of the Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook?  Leave a comment on this blog post about what your favorite things to cook in cast iron.  You can go big like a jambalaya in a 30 gallon pot or you could cook cornbread in an 8" skillet.  No matter what, just tell me what you like to cook in cast iron and make sure I can get in touch with you.  One lucky comment will be selected to receive a free copy of the book!