Friday, September 28, 2012

Restaurant IPO Coffee Dinner and National Coffee Day

Good Morning
Chef Chris Wadsworth took on a new challenge with the attitude of an expert who had been there before.  Actually, he had.  In 2010, while serving as the Executive Chef at Nottoway Plantation, Chef Wadsworth won the annual WYES Cooking with Community Coffee contest.  He created a five course meal using ten different Community Coffee roasts.  Invited to cook again in 2012, Chef Wadsworth, who now runs the kitchen at Baton Rouge's latest smash hit, Restaurant IPO, decided to one up himself.  Or maybe two up.  He created a seven course tasting menu utilizing fourteen different Community Coffee roasts.  Since tomorrow, September 29th, is National Coffee Day, I thought I'd share the meal with you.  Chris decided to title the meal "A Day at the Office" in reference to The Office Bar that sits upstairs as well as the incessant need for coffee during a routine day at the office.  The dinner also came paired very well with wines from Republic National.  All of the pairings were fantastic despite me not really getting into them here.  

Warm Up
Cleverly naming his seven courses by activities in one's daily grind, we began with the Good Morning: creamy Louisiana grits accented with Breakfast Blend roasted grillades and garnished with a sunny side up quail egg and French Roast drizzle.  These may have honestly been the best grits and grillades I've ever had.  The pork had plenty of flavor and bolstered the grits with its fork tender form.  The use of the coffees came in huge as the drizzle had an elegant bittersweet combination that played well off the richness of the egg.  After this course, I couldn't wait to see what would come next.   Course two quickly came to be known as the warm up.  It featured a soup of garden carrots pureed in a blend of mirepoux and local honey laced with Cinnamon Roll Roast and highlighted by a Colombian Roast infused oil.  The soup brought about a sweetness from the carrots and honey in a refreshingly clean and palate pleasing way.  After the richness of the first course, this soup definitely warmed us up for what was still to come.

Getting Dressed
During any day, one of the first things we do is get dressed.  The Getting Dressed course rightly had a unique salad dressing of its own.  The dish featured baby mixed greens with baked Hazelnut goat cheese and pears tossed in an Almond Amaretto dressing.  The coffee balance had to be very delicate with the salad an Chef certainly pulled that off.  The goat cheese was crusted in ground up coffee that actually worked extremely well to deliver a unique flavor while not being overpowering.  The pears and greens worked very well with the dressing that had just a hint of the nutty sweet coffee roast.

Off to Work
After getting dressed it was off to work for the patrons at the WYES Cooking with Community dinner.  Our fourth course consisted of Pecan Praline smoked duck breast accompanied by a Medium Roast berry compote and crispy duck cracklins.  While the duck had been cooked past the ideal medium rare stage, it didn't present a problem with this dish because of the smoked flavors.  The duck didn't dry out and combined with the berry compote, made one heck of a dish.  Not to mention any time you have duck skin cracklins, you can't complain one lick!

Lunch Time

Lunch time came during the day at the office, and it most definitely did not disappoint.  This course tied with the grits and grillades as my two favorites, and it's not hard to see why.  The plate had a prime beef medallion rubbed with Cafe Special and topped with a 5-Star Hotel Blend demi.  It came served over a sweet potato hash and garlic braised spinach.  The steak's magnificent medium rare center cut apart with a butter knife.  The charred coffee rub on the outside lit up the steak with flavor while the sweet potato hash, cooked up with bacon, and the spinach were excellent choices with which to surround such a prize piece of beef.  I could eat this every day.


Our break came with a little play on a palate cleansing sorbet.  The Chocolate Almondine popsicle was one of Chef Wadsworth's more daring creations, but it certainly worked.  It had plenty of chocolate and coffee flavors in a frozen treat.  I only wish it would have served in between the duck and the steak courses to further accentuate the play on a sorbet rather than as a second dessert.  While it may not have cleansed the palate like a smooth fruity sorbet would have, it also would have broken up the two protein rich courses and the two sweet desserts.  Despite that, the popsicle worked brilliantly as a risky play to serve at a seven course wine dinner, and I applaud the chef for pulling it off!

The Drive Home
The meal ended with the way a day at the office ends: the drive home.  The Chicory and chocolate molten lava cake overflowed with Vanilla Nut ganache and came topped with Irish Cream ice cream scooped table side.  The cake had a moist brownie batter type center with chocolate and vanilla flavors, but the real highlight was the ice cream.  

The entire dinner seemed like a huge hit for everyone in attendance.  Chef Chris Wadsworth made a bold and daring dinner with seven courses and fourteen coffee roasts.  His attitude is refreshing for a chef that is new to Baton Rouge but really trying to make an impression.  He ended the dinner by saying he didn't cook this dinner to win the Cooking with Community contest.  He cooked this dinner to win it again.  After eating it, I'd be surprised if he doesn't. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Breckenridge Bourbon: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Calandro's Supermarket

Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey
Whisk(e)y Wednesday gets back to bourbon with Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey out of Colorado.  Yet another bourbon that dispels the foolish myth that all bourbon comes from Kentucky, the Breckenridge Bourbon is a tasty offering of a corn-based spirit aged in freshly charred American white oak barrels.  Sweet like candy and snowballs on the nose, the whiskey wafts hints of butterscotch aroma that screams "banquet bourbon."  Upon tasting, our Raise a Glass crew wrote adjectives such as "smurf litter" (Jeremy), "jacuzzi" (James), "mellow, sweet, and inoffensive" (Eric), and "Rocky Mountain High... Corn" (me).  The whiskey was warm on the finish with lingering flavors that were mellow with slight complexity.  Overall we were all satisfied with the bourbon but not excited about it.

Breckenridge Bourbon

68.5 Average Score

Whisk(e)y Wednesday is a blog post series on Bite and Booze sponsored by Calandro's Supermarket. Calandro's has one of Baton Rouge's best selections of bourbon, Scotch, and other whisk(e)ys as well as wine and craft beer. WW 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 rather than an academic range where 70 is passing and anything less is failing. A 50 should be considered a very mediocre whisk(e)y while anything below 20 is absolute horse piss and anything above 90 is rather extraordinary.

Monday, September 24, 2012

2012 Chefs to Watch Dinner with Louisiana Cookin' Magazine

Every year, Louisiana Cookin' Magazine names five up and coming Louisiana chefs as their Chefs to Watch.  The chefs then create a five course menu that is cooked up at the Chefs to Watch dinner in New Orleans to benefit Cafe Reconcile.  Fortunately for me, I got to attend this year's event to see what sort of wizardry the chefs could cook up.  Unfortunately for me, I showed up "slightly late" and did not receive any of the pre-dinner cocktails or passed hors d'oeuvres.  This is the second year that that's happened to me.  I understand keeping a tight schedule with so much going on, but this time I was really bummed.  I actually arrived right on time, and plenty of people were still up an mingling.  Oh well... with a five course dinner awaiting all paired with wine from Republic, I knew I wouldn't leave hungry or entirely sober.

Shrimp and Andouille Beignets with Crawfish Corn Maque Choux
Chef Zac Watters, executive chef of Zachary's in Mandeville, presented the initial dish to the crowd of over 400 people at Harrah's.  His shrimp and andouille beignets were set atop crawfish corn maque choux to provide a duo of classic Louisiana flavors.  He then added a little ravigote sauce with onion, lemon, dijon mustard, and more to give the dish a little pizzaz.  The dish got the entire meal off to a great start.  The beignets were unique and rather tasty and the corn carried enough pop to whet the palate for the wine and more great grub.

Smoked Tomato Soup with White Wine Crab and Creme Fraiche
Chef Ryan Andre from Le Creole in Baton Rouge ladled up the next dish for the hungry guests.  His smoked tomato soup with white wine crab and creme fraiche proved to be a real hit at my table.  Garnished with a little basil-infused olive oil, the orange tinted soup had a rich smokey flavor from the tomatoes that paired extremely well with the extra sweet crab that had been sauteed in butter and white wine.

Goat Cheese and Blueberry Salad with Pistachios and Blueberry-Vodka Vinaigrette
The salad course came from Chef Lindsay Mason of Cristiano Ristorante in Houma.  His goat cheese and blueberry salad also contained a blueberry-vodka vinaigrette which had me rather intrigued.  Chef reduced the vodka and burnt off the alcohol before adding it to the blender with blueberries, dijon mustard, and garlic, then he drizzled in olive oil while pureeing the dressing.  I could have used a good bit more on my salad, but I liked the thought of it nevertheless.

Zapp's-Crusted Cobia with Garden Vegetable Hash and Smoked Tomato Butter Sauce
Smoked tomatoes showed up once again in our main course of the evening.  This time they were used in a butter sauce surrounding a gorgeous piece of fish topped with a Louisiana shrimp by Chef Brad McGehee of Ye Olde College Inn in New Orleans.  The cobia, a rather fishy fish, was coated in a mixture of Zapp's Crawtators and crumbled andouille.  After baking in the overn the fish were plated with a vegetable hash of Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, corn, and more.  The delicious butter sauce also contained a hint of booze in the form of Herbsaint.  I thought the overall dish was pretty nice and perhaps one of my favorite preparations of cobia that I've had.

Toasted Grits Waffle with Buttermilk Ice Cream and Bacon Caramel Sauce
Chef Manny Augello from Jolie's Bistro in Lafayette presented the dessert with his take on a breakfasty "Bacon and Waffle."  The grits in the waffle batter provided a unique flavor and texture to the base of the dessert.  However, it was the buttermilk ice cream that stole the show.  Along with the bacon caramel sauce, the ice cream had a magically satisfying flavor and texture to round out the stellar meal.

My compliments to all the chefs who prepared the meal as well as everyone else who helped them out in the kitchen.  Also congrats to the chefs and to Louisiana Cookin' for putting on such a great dinner for a wonderful cause.  Not only does the Chefs to Watch dinner serve as a tremendous way to recognize young culinary talent in our state, but it also provides much needed resources to Cafe Reconcile so that they can provide job training and education in the culinary arts to at-risk populations in New Orleans.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

BREADA's 2nd Annual Tailgating Throwdown

Local Musician John Gray Leads the Line to the Tailgating Throwdown
BREADA, or the Big River Economic & Agricultural Development Alliance, is the group that runs three farmers markets in Baton Rouge.  Their mission is to build a healthy and strong local food system; to increase sustainability of independent local farmers, fishers and food producers; and to foster stewardship of land and community through public markets.

This October, BREADA will put on its second annual Tailgating Throwdown.  With LSU playing out of town at Texas A&M, the Red Stick Farmers Market at the Main Street Market would like to invite all tailgaters to come throw their party downtown for a good cause.  You'll be able to cook dishes on site with ingredients purchased from the market and enter them into the contest.  If you've always thought that your tailgating krewe makes the best food, then now's your chance to show off your skills!  

Check out the Tailgating Throwdown website to enter your team and get all the official rules.  I'll once again be a judge this year.  I'm extremely excited about working with BREADA on such a fun project.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Yamazaki Single Malt 12 Yr: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Calandro's Supermarket

Yamazaki Single Malt Japanese Whisky
Japan's distilling culture makes its first appearance on Whisk(e)y Wednesday with Yamazaki Single Malt 12 Year.  Made in the Scotch style using single malt barley, the Yamazaki had a honey and floral nose that delivered a slight burn.  The 86 proof whisky had plenty of charred oak and big wood on the palate.  James referred to it as an "understated" Scotch in style as it finished with a little bit of peat smoke and heat.  Overall the whisky seemed to struggle with balance and did not come across as being all that complex either, but the nose and initial taste were enough to make it a decent purchase if you want a Japanese whisky in your collection.

Yamazaki Single Malt 12 Year

69.25 Average Score

Whisk(e)y Wednesday is a blog post series on Bite and Booze sponsored by Calandro's Supermarket. Calandro's has one of Baton Rouge's best selections of bourbon, Scotch, and other whisk(e)ys as well as wine and craft beer. WW 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 rather than an academic range where 70 is passing and anything less is failing. A 50 should be considered a very mediocre whisk(e)y while anything below 20 is absolute horse piss and anything above 90 is rather extraordinary.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Recipes: September Class at Fresina's with Anolon

Each month I block out a couple days to do a cooking class at Fresina's Pasta Company at the Drusilla Shopping Center in Baton Rouge.  Since they are an Italian specialty shop with homemade pastas, I make an Italian inspired menu for a group of up to eight people.  Over wine or local beers, I teach some tricks and show off some recipes.  It is always a good time and everybody leaves full from a homemade lunch.

Tomato Sauce for Bruschetta in Analon's "Everything Pan"
In September I made a menu of Italian Sausage Caprese Bruschetta, Chicken Canzanese over Creamy Polenta, and Double Chocolate Fennel Biscotti inspired by fellow Virtual Potlucker Food Hunters Guide.  I also got to use my new pans that Anolon sent me for the first time.  I cooked the sauce for the bruschetta on the 9.5" Nouvelle Copper Stainless Steel "Everyday Pan."  The chicken canzanese was cooked in the 5 quart covered saute from the Anolon Advanced series.  Feel free to check out Anolon on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about their pots and pans.  These two were certainly incredible, especially the Anolon Advanced saute pan which held ten chicken thighs and cooked them up wonderfully with no sticking anywhere in sight!  Here are the recipes for the class.  I hope you enjoy!

Course 1: Bruschetta with Fresina’s Italian Sausage, Creamy Mozzarella, Spicy Tomato Sauce, Fresh Basil, and a reduction of Fresina's Balsamic Vinegar

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 lbs Fresina’s Italian Sausage
2 cups white wine of drinkable quality to cook with
10 cloves of garlic, peeled and divided, mince half the cloves
1 leek, diced
1/2 jar of red pepper chunky tomato sauce from Fresina’s
10 leaves fresh basil
1 baguette of Italian or French bread
1 block of fresh or aged Mozzarella from Fresina’s
Makes 8-10 servings

1/3 Cup Fresina’s Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper

Place balsamic, sugar, and cayenne in small sauce pan over medium heat.  Allow to simmer and reduce by half until it coats the back of a spoon.

Preheat the oven to 350F

Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom to a large saute pan or high-walled skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage in its casings on all sides as much as possible for 5 minutes or so.  In a second skillet, or in this case Anolon's Everyday Pan, heat enough olive oil to over the bottom of the pan over medium heat, then add the diced leak and the five minced cloves of garlic and sauté until soft, 2-3 minutes.

When the sausage has browned, add one cup of the wine and simmer the sausage uncovered in the wine.  If you need to speed up the cooking process at any time, cover the pan.  When the leaks and garlic are ready, add the tomato sauce and stir.  Reduce heat to simmer.

Slice the baguette on a bias (diagonally) into oval pieces that are approximately a quarter inch thick.  In a food processor, add the five whole garlic cloves and approximately a 1/3 cup of olive oil.  Blend until the garlic is fully incorporated into the olive oil.  Brush the garlic oil onto the bread slices that are arranged on baking sheet.  Place the bread in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes.  During the 10 minutes, stir the simmering tomato sauce, balsamic that is reducing, and flip over the sausage.  If the pan has run out of wine to simmer in, add the other cup of wine in with the sausage, or add a cup of water.  Also, slice the mozzarella into pieces that will fit nicely on the bread slices.  When the 10 minutes is up, remove the bread from the oven.  While it cools slightly, slice the sausage on the bias into pieces that will fit on the bread and are about the same thickness as the bread.  Start building the bruschetta by placing a slice of sausage followed by a slice of cheese onto each of the pieces of bread.  Place them back in the oven for another 5-6 minutes to melt the cheese.

When the bruschetta comes out of the oven, spoon the tomato sauce over each piece, followed by a drizzle of the balsamic reduction.  Top them with the basil chiffonade to garnish.  Eat immediately.

Course 2: Chicken Canzanese - White Wine Braised Chicken Thighs with Crispy Skin
served over Creamy Polenta

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
4 medium garlic cloves , sliced thin lengthwise
8-10 skin-on chicken thighs (about 3 pounds)
2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups white wine of drinkable quality to cook with
1 cup chicken stock
4 whole cloves
6-8 whole fresh basil leaves
12 whole fresh sage leaves
2 bay leaves
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed oven safe saute pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until just starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add garlic slices and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is golden brown, about 1½ minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer garlic and pancetta to small bowl and set aside. Do not rinse pan.

Increase heat to medium-high; add remaining 2 teaspoons oil and heat until just smoking. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with ground black pepper and kosher salt. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until well browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken and brown on second side, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to large plate.

Remove all but 2 tablespoons fat from pan. Sprinkle flour over fat and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly add wine followed by the stock; bring to simmer, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Cook until liquid is slightly reduced, 3 minutes. Stir in cloves, sage leaves, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and reserved prosciutto and garlic. Nestle chicken into liquid, skin side up (skin should be above surface of liquid), and bake, uncovered, until meat offers no resistance when poked with fork but is not falling off bones, about 1 hour. (Check chicken after 15 minutes; broth should be barely bubbling. If bubbling vigorously, reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.)

Using tongs, transfer chicken to serving platter and tent with foil. Remove and discard sage leaves, cloves, and bay leaves. Place skillet over high heat and bring sauce to boil. Cook until sauce is reduced to 1¼ cups, 2 to 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in lemon juice, and butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Plate chicken over the polenta and pour sauce around chicken.  Garnish with chiffonade of basil and serve.

4 cups water, plus more as needed
4 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups polenta
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan

In a large saucepan, bring the water, milk and butter to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons of salt to the water and whisk in the polenta. Whisk constantly for 3 to 4 minutes to prevent lumps. Simmer for 45 minutes, partially covered and stirring every 10 minutes, until the polenta is thick, smooth, and creamy. Remove from heat.  Add the sour cream and Parmesan. Check for seasoning and adjust consistency by adding milk or water to the polenta.

Course 3: Double Chocolate Fennel Biscotti

2 Cups Unbleached AP Flour
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Ground Fennel
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
3/4 Stick (6 Tablespoons) Butter, Softened
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1 Cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease a large baking sheet.

In a bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, ground fennel seeds, and salt. In another bowl with an electric mixer beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined.  Add vanilla.  Mix in flour mixture a little at a time.  Stir in chocolate chips.

On the prepared baking sheet with floured hands, form the dough into two slightly flattened logs, approximately 2 inches wide.  Bake for about 35 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes.  Cut logs diagonally into slices.  Arrange cut sides down on baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Project Push-Up with The Ambrosia Bakery and the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center

Dear friends, 

This September I've teamed up with the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center for Project Push-Up.  The program is designed to raise awareness for prostate and colorectal cancers as well as help fight the deadly disease.  The Ambrosia Bakery in Baton Rouge is also doing their part with the "Push-Up Cake Pop."  These delicious treats, made in house at Ambrosia's bakery, can be purchased in store or online and sent anywhere in the country.  They come with either white or chocolate cake and blue icing for the awareness campaign.  $1 for each cake pop sold will go directly to Mary Bird Perkins and their efforts.  Please help with this truly worthy cause.  Swing by The Ambrosia Bakery on Siegen Lane or visit to place an online order!

With compliments,

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Prichard's Lincoln County Lightning: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Calandro's Supermarket

Prichard's Lincoln County Lightning
As the first white whiskey to make a Whisk(e)y Wednesday appearance, Prichard's Lincoln County Lightning certainly wasn't a bad offering.  White whiskey, or "white lightning," was the name given to un-aged whiskeys that were for the most part all prohibition-era moonshines.  After any distillation process, the resulting distillate will be clear in color.  Whiskey gets it shades from aging in wooden barrels.  In bourbon's case, that barrel must be made of charred, never-before-used, American oak.  Since the Lincoln County Lightning has never been aged, its flavor has not been mellowed out nor has character from the wood been added.  The result is a reasonably harsh and strongly corn flavored spirit.  Prichard's began with a metallic nose that came across as sterile in a medicinal way.  It's taste had various flavors but nothing profound and it finished rather smooth for a white lightning.  At 90 proof, the whiskey certainly has some kick, but it went down reasonably well.  Prichard's Lincoln County Lightning, made in Tennessee, is certainly not a bad white whiskey to get your hands on if you'd like some in your collection.  However, it is still an un-aged whiskey and leaves a lot to be desired.    

Prichard's Lincoln County Lightning

50.75 Average Score

Whisk(e)y Wednesday is a blog post series on Bite and Booze sponsored by Calandro's Supermarket. Calandro's has one of Baton Rouge's best selections of bourbon, Scotch, and other whisk(e)ys as well as wine and craft beer. WW 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 rather than an academic range where 70 is passing and anything less is failing. A 50 should be considered a very mediocre whisk(e)y while anything below 20 is absolute horse piss and anything above 90 is rather extraordinary.

Monday, September 10, 2012

An Ode to Crabs

Crabs are one of the most delicious critters on earth.  Their sweet and delicate meat is often imitated, but that stuff is for the birds.  I'll take my crab meat in lump form or boiled freshly for me in the shell.  I have fond memories of crabs including catching them at the beach and winning an eating competition in Alaska.  You really just can't go wrong with crabs!

Blue Crabs Ready to be Boiled
Of course, every region has their own way of preparing crabs.  In Louisiana the preferred method for cooking them whole is to boil them in a spicy bath much like we do with our crawfish.  In places like Maryland and Delaware, crabs are steamed then doused on the outside with seasoning like Old Bay.  What's your favorite cooking method?

Steamed Crabs is Delaware
Alaskan King Crab Legs in the Kodiak Arrest Challenge
The Louisiana blue crab is one of the staples of our seafood industry.  I always enjoy crab cooked into many Cajun and Creole dishes.  Some noteworthy Baton Rouge crab dishes are the Crab and Brie Soup at Mansur's, the superb Crab Cake at Le Creole, and of course Juban's Hallelujah Crab.  What are your favorite crab dishes?  If I haven't had it then I'll make sure to add it to my list.  Just leave a comment on the post and let me know where to go crabbing!

Here I am showing a northerner how to eat a Louisiana Blue Crab at Susie's Seafood in Morgan City.

Friday, September 7, 2012

I Like Cheese!

Cheese is one of those things that is a mystery to a lot of people.  Much like some whisky or bitter beer, you have to acquire a taste for it.  To a real cheese head, the stinkier the better.  I like that.  I like eating cheeses that smell like feet.  However, I often don't really know where to find good cheeses.  It seems like there isn't much made in Louisiana other than some fine goat cheeses.  Why is that?  I'd love if somebody started making a bunch of stinky cheese.

This cheese tray was graciously brought to my room recently at the Hyatt French Quarter in New Orleans in between COOLinary meals at Superior Seafood and Commander's Palace.  Their restaurant and coffee bar, named Powdered Sugar, has a pretty sweet selection of cheeses as well as some nice coffee beverages that I sipped on the next morning.  I was impressed that they brought some small batch cheese from Georgia and South Carolina.  Now I want some Louisiana cheese!  Anyone know of any?  Leave a comment below if you do!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ardbeg 10: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by The Cove

Ardbeg 10 Year

Whisk(e)y Wednesday returns to the world of Scotch with Ardbeg 10 year, a single malt Islay whisky.  This smoky elixir is like a beach bonfire in your mouth.  The salinity of the driftwood exhausts onto your taste buds.  Jeremy compared it to ashtray water due to its smokiness, and I felt like it went from a beach bonfire to smoldering peat to nearly cigar smoke on the finish.  Still, James liked it enough to say it is like a grownup version of Glen Livet.  While it certainly isn't the first Scotch that I'd reach for nor one for a beginner, the smokiness that Ardbeg produces is certainly worth a taste.

Ardbeg 10 Year

70.0 Average Score

Whisk(e)y Wednesday is a blog post series on Bite and Booze presented by The Cove. Check out The Cove in Baton Rouge, LA to browse their selection of over 200 whiskeys (including bourbons) and 325+ Scotch whiskys. 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 rather than an academic range where 70 is passing and anything less is failing. A 50 should be considered a very mediocre whisk(e)y while anything below 10 is absolute horse piss and anything above 90 is rather extraordinary.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

COOLinary New Orleans: Commander's Palace

Commander's Palace Restaurant
Somehow I had managed to not dine at Commander's Palace during my first 31 years on this planet.  I knew I had been missing out.  The legendary New Orleans restaurant is known around the world for their Creole cuisine and commitment to service.  While in New Orleans this past August, the New Orleans CVB invited me to take part in the COOLinary New Orleans program.  During August every year, restaurants around the Big Easy create a prefix meal for just $20 at lunch at $35 at dinner.  This offers tourists and locals alike a chance to visit some of the city's best eateries for a fraction of the normal price tag.  Since I got to pick my spots for the COOLinary trip, I knew that my time had come to check out what Commander's Palace has to offer.  The previous day I visited Superior Seafood, one of NOLA's newest joints, so on this day the most iconic of all Crescent City restaurants called my name.

The staff at Commander's started Michele and I off with a couple different amuse-bouche.  French for "mouth amuser," these sometimes single bite appetizers are usually just a little something to get a meal started.  The first dish remains a bit of mystery to me, though it was incredibly delightful.  It had some infused honey swirled around a plate topped with a brittle of some sort, goat cheese, and a bit of fruit.  I recall the nutty brittle and creamy goat cheese pairing very well together along with the sweetness from the honey.

The second amuse to be placed in front of us also impressed.  It had a well seasoned Louisiana shrimp wrapped around some pickled okra and onions.  The shrimp itself had been tossed in a hot sauce bath.  Everything rested on a splendid pool of pepper jelly.  This dish had a spiciness that contrasted well with the first amuse.  The shrimp reigned supreme while the pickling of the okra and onion were cause for celebration.  The multitude of spices in the pepper jelly worked even better as a dip for the crusty french bread that Commander's placed on the table.

My appetite had grown and my palate was properly prepared for the rest of the meal.  But first... a little something from the bar!  Commander's Palace offers 25 cent martinis for lunch with the purchase of an entree.  That's right, a quarter!  I would have preferred for my martini to be a tad dirtier, but it still wasn't bad at all for a the measly price.  With an option to get up to three of these cocktails for lunch, you could definitely need to take a nap afterwards or just call it a day!

Commander's Palace $0.25 Martini
Pig & the Peach
I'm a sucker for anything with pork belly.  Throw in some peaches and Louisiana cane syrup, and I can't think of much better.  Sweet fruit pairs so well with salty, fatty pork that it is nearly indescribable.  The Commander's Palace version will make anybody a believer.  The "Pig & the Peach" dish features a root beer braised pork belly over house made boudin with whiskey-soaked peaches, Abita beer cane syrup, and red pepper coulis.  I have tasted few more magical dishes in my life.  Seriously... this plate of food would wind up in the my death-bed meal.  It is Bite and Booze put together at its finest.  Supreme compliments to Chef Tory McPhail on this one.  I probably should have ordered two... or stolen Michele's portion, at least.  It'll bring me back, for sure.
Commander's Turtle Soup with Sherry
The two-course COOLinary offering for Commander's included a soup or salad and an entree.  We made sure to sample as much as we could, so Michele ordered the famous turtle soup while I went with the smoked chicken and garlic gumbo.  My gumbo had a rich, dark roux and plenty of chicken and garlic flavor.  It came with no rice whatsoever, which I thought to be a little odd, but because of its thickness, the gumbo certainly didn't need any.  Michele's turtle soup won the prize though.  Spiked with plenty sherry, the soup hit multiple delicious notes on my taste buds and I wish I could have stolen a few more bites!

Chicken Saltimbocca
Griddle Seared Gulf Fish
The COOLinary menu had several entrees for us to choose from at only $20 each including the soups as well!  Michele opted for the Chicken Saltimbocca.  The plate featured paneed chicken filled with tasso, mozzerella, and sage.  It came over a pasta salad with tomatoes, olives, grilled eggplant, basil, and more with a smoked tomato butter sauce.  I went with the griddle seared gulf fish as my entree.  The black drum came delightfully seasoned and placed atop a bed of andouille, legumes, tomatoes, and summer corn with sauce Acadian.  Despite being stuffed, I managed to eat every bite of the flaky fish the readied myself for dessert.  

Creole Bread Pudding Souffle
We decided that splitting dessert would make the most sense.  Our fantastic wait staff convinced us that we couldn't leave without trying the Creole bread pudding souffle.  It didn't really take much arm twisting.  The souffle featured a decadent bread pudding that had been whipped up and coerced into rising in the oven.  The puffy souffle was delivered to our table where the waiter punctured the top only to pour a whiskey sauce into the gorge.  Each spoonful of souffle popped fireworks of flavor in my mouth.  The creamy, smooth texture along with the sweetness of the bread pudding and bite from the whiskey made this an absolutely all-star dessert.  It capped off the entire meal with the flare that the Commander's experience deserved.  And that was just lunch on a Tuesday.  I can't imagine getting spoiled with dinner on a Friday at Commander's Palace.  Maybe one day!

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