Monday, December 31, 2012

Wüsthof - Defining the Edgë - Chef Richie Nakano

Wüsthof, a popular knife and cutlery company, has recently released a new video series spotlighting a few different chefs called "Defining the Edgë."  I'd dare say that is a great example of using web-based video to tell as story behind a person and a product.  This particular story caught my eye because it follows San Francisco-based chef Richie Nakano as he opened up a pop-up restaurant, something that I've been doing in south Louisiana all year.  Nakano is an accomplished chef and business owner, who left behind a steady job in pursuit of an idea. In the midst of a recession and a new baby on the way, the chef decided to open Hapa Ramen as a pop-up at the famous Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.  For Nakano, the risk paid off as he will open Hapa, his first brick and mortar ramen noodle restaurant very soon. Hapa will focus on non-traditional Japanese ramen cuisine using modern techniques, such as sous vide and low-temperature stock-making, along with the use of fresh ingredients from the best local farmers.  

I need to make a video like this for myself and everything I'm doing!  Check it out for yourself!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Baton Rouge's Best New Bars and Restaurants of 2012

The Baton Rouge food and beverage scene has seen a lot of growth in 2012.  It is exciting to be a part of the movement, watching a culinary culture grown right in front of us.  Baton Rouge has much more than chains, you just have to get off the gridlocked interstate to find some of them.  When I first thought of putting together a list of my top new restaurants and bars in 2012, I figured it might be a challenge to actually get to 10.  Instead, I found myself perplexed by what to omit.  Joining forces with Cherry the Dive Bar Girl, somebody who certainly cares as much as I do about unveiling the interesting places in Baton Rouge and forgetting about the chains, I increased my total to 12 for 2012.  Unfortunately, some new spots got left off the list, but here are Baton Rouge's best new bars and restaurants of 2012 (must be original to BR and must have opened in 2012)!

Have an issue or want to make a comment?  Post it here on this blog post, on Facebook, or on Twitter!

12.  Mama Della's Pizza  

I wrote about this NYC style pizza joint back in April.  The pie is delicious, and I fully respect Chef Barry Kalt's commitment to making pizza the way he wants to make it!  Cherry the Dive Bar Girl put it simply: "Fresh, top-quality ingredients, NYC represent!"

11. BB&PF

BB&PF (Bean Burger and Plantain Fries) opened up in 2012 in the building that used to house the Red Flower Chinese restaurant.  Bringing African cuisine to the North Gates of LSU is certainly a welcome addition to the cultural culinary landscape of our city.  Plus, the plantain fries are legit!

10.  Heaux Jeaux's

Heaux Jeaux's brought a neighborhood bar to Airline Highway near the Kleinpeter Dairy.  I'm often quoted as saying that Baton Rouge needs more neighborhood bars, so even though I don't live anywhere close to Heaux Jeaux's, I'm excited to see it thriving.  Live music, beer on tap (though the selection could improve), and much more add to this strip-mall bar.  It is a step in the right direction for South BR for sure.

9.  Smokin' Aces BBQ

Another area that significantly lacks in the Red Stick is good BBQ.  And this time, I won't settle for strip-mall meats.  Barbecue is meant to be independent, authentic, and original.  Smokin' Aces makes my list because they truly are a BBQ joint.  On Government Street in mid-city, this little shack puts out some of the city's best barbecue.  It is simple, straight forward, and good.  And it is far from pretentious.  It is far from being a chain.  And it is, once again, a step in the right direction.  There's still room for good barbecue in this city, but Smokin' Aces has filled part of that void.

8.  Saigon Noodles

This new Vietnamese eatery on N. Sherwood Forest gets some mixed reviews, but I found the Pho to be quite tasty when I went.  I enjoy that they are able to bring people in to experience Vietnamese cuisine.  Cherry the Dive Bar Girl, a follower of the Baton Rouge restaurant and bar scene, noted that "these restaurants aren't just for die hard adventurers anymore."  Saigon Noodles adds some international flair to our city that is best known for fried seafood.  I'm okay with that.

7.  Mud and Water

Taking over the old "L" Bar location near The Pastime and downtown, Mud and Water opened up as a live music venue and all-around great place to drink kind of bar.  Non-smoking on the inside with a nice outdoor space as well, this venue has been a great addition to BR night life.

6.  Tiger Deaux-Nuts

Speaking of adding culture, Jeff Herman's start-up donut business is EXACTLY what we need more of.  Creativity, passion, energy, originality, and spirit of adventurous risk-taking is what can elevate an ordinary food scene into a thriving one.  Tiger Deaux-Nuts currently operates two to three days a week out of a little back room off of Jones Creek, however the flavors are anything but small.  Maple bacon, key lime pie, jalapeno, and s'mores are just some of the flavors found below, and that's not even close to the pinnacle of what Jeff is doing.  You'll just have to check him out to see what else he has up his sleeve.

5.  Blend

Blend came into downtown ready to recreate a wine friendly atmosphere.  They did just that.  Transforming the space previously occupied by a different wine bar, Blend has made a name for itself with an eclectic wine list, a sultry atmosphere, and artistic cuisine.  The menu is one of the better kept secrets in Baton Rouge, especially the creative twists that Chef Eric Sibley takes to make it his own.

4.  Olive or Twist

One of the more recent additions, Olive or Twist opened up in December on Perkins Road.  The much blighted Perkins/Essen area finally got a bar to be proud of.  Specializing in hand crafted cocktails, this small bar has a intimate feel and a refreshing atmosphere.  It is a great place to escape after work or enjoy the company of friends all night.  They also have some quality food on the menu so you can keep drinking, as well as a pretty decent beer list for a Red Stick cocktail bar.

3.  Magpie Cafe

Fresh, local, and seasonal are buzz words in the food world, but it had been hard (though not impossible) to find true commitment to them in Baton Rouge for a while.  Magpie Cafe near the Perkins Road Overpass has filled the void for a casual cafe atmosphere and attention to sourcing everything from coffee to breads.  Magpie is a wonderful place to meet people, work, or just have breakfast a cup of coffee.

2.  Dolce Vita (Wood Fired Pizza BR)

Bogdan Mocanu should be celebrated.  He is a talented, colorful individual.  He is from Romania, and is a good enough chef to be anywhere in the world.  However, he is in Baton Rouge.  Making pizzas from scratch.  In a wood-burning oven.  On a trailer.  If you haven't found Dolce Vita, you are missing the best pizza in Baton Rouge.  I'm a fan of pizza.  I have Mama Della's on this list.  I often brag about BR originals like Pastime and Fleur de Lis.  But Bogdan... on man is he doing something special with pizza pie.

1.  Restaurant IPO

As far as making an impact on the Baton Rouge food and beverage scene, I don't think any new establishment has come close to doing what Chef Chris Wadsworth has done at Restaurant IPO.  Third Street desperately needed a place like this.  The interior is inviting, begging you to eat, drink, and stay.  The Louisiana inspired small plates are easily shared among a table of friends.  The taps are filled with nothing but craft brews, encouraging everyone to drink locally.  This is truly a "practice what they preach" kind of restaurant.  They pay attention to the little things.  They put thought into everything.  Chef Wadsworth creates his own whiskey and vodka infusions.  He wins cooking contests with Community Coffee.  He boasts a two page feature in Louisiana Cookin' Magazine.  And more is coming.  I know that for a fact.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Glenmorangie Lasanta: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Calandro's Supermarket

Glenmorangie Lasanta

Glenmorangie Lasanta is a Highland single malt Scotch whisky that is extra matured in used sherry casks.  The 12 year scotch with the extra sherry aging gives it a noticeably different flavor profile.  James called it a three-quarter Scotch because that last quarter of the taste range is undoubtedly not Scotch.  The nose is fruity, perhaps like brandy (or sherry), with some light peat, and almost some bourbon-sweet undertones.  Upon hitting your tongue there is a vast contrast between the peat smoke and the sweet flavors.  It also has a peppery bite to it and remains like cayenne and oak through the finish.  It is a Scotch drinker's Scotch by all means, and certainly has enough complexity to intrigue anybody.  

Glenmorangie The Lasanta Single Malt Scotch

77.5 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.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Extreme Cajun Cooking app developed in Baton Rouge

A new app recently hit the marketplace for Apple products that was created right here in Baton Rouge.  Logan Leger from NewAperio and Chad Aucoin released Extreme Cajun Cooking.  The app features a ton of recipes categorized by the main proteins or types of dishes.  The depth or recipes is definitely pretty solid, and there are contributions from companies like Bruce Foods and Slap Ya Mama that you know are going to be good!  Maybe one day I'll have a recipe or two in here!

The app shows pictures of the dish with the recipes.  You can also view a grocery list where you can actually check off ingredients as you shop.  The app features a techniques section that needs more content but is dynamic in that it can give video and pictures of certain techniques used in the cooking process.  There is also a places section with links to a handful of south Louisiana restaurants.  I think a culinary app like this is definitely something that Louisiana needs.  The more content that Chad and Logan create for it, the better it will become.  If you're interested in checking it out, you can buy it in the App Store, and I also have a few promo codes to give away for free downloads, so if you want one of those, make sure to hit me up on Facebook or Twitter and leave a comment here saying you want one!  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bushmills Single Malt: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Calandro's Supermarket

Bushmills Single Malt Irish Whiskey
There is such thing as a single malt Irish Whiskey.  Bushmills is actually from Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, not the Republic of Ireland, but they still make Irish Whiskey.  The nose of this Distillery Reserve whiskey contains scents of wildflowers and honey.  The taste comes across as part fruit, and part the tree that bears the fruit.  Literally, to me the whiskey tastes like a tree.  Jeremy picked up hints of plum that were light and sweet, while Eric found the oaky woodiness from the barrel aging.  More oak was present on the finish, which did not impress all that much.  Still, the whiskey had mature and mellow qualities.  While it lacked in complexity (as many Irish whiskeys do), it did carry a lovely balance and delicate flavor.

Bushmills Single Malt Irish Whiskey

70.75 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, December 17, 2012

Louisiana's Best Craft Beers of 2012

Louisiana craft beer has made a lot of progress in the last couple years.  So much so that it is time for the masses to start paying more attention to what they drink, and just as importantly, where it is from.  Louisiana has always had a lot of pride in eating locally.  We promote our seafood to the rest of the world, and dishes like king cake, jambalaya, and boudin are symbols of our state that we wouldn't dare accept from outside our borders.  The farm to table movement has also hit the restaurant scene in Louisiana, where we see chefs actually paying attention to farms and local food manufacturers where they source their ingredients.  So now it is beer's turn.  This goes out to all the beer drinkers, restaurant and bar owners, servers and bartenders: start drinking and pushing more Louisiana-brewed beer.  These brewers are our neighbors.  They have made a commitment to us by setting up breweries in our state, and it is our obligation to drink it (I know, it is a tough job!)... and if you go somewhere that you can't find it, then demand it or drink somewhere else.

So now that everyone out there has agreed to drink locally, you may also want to know which beers to drink.  I took the liberty of compiling my top 10 beers brewed in Louisiana in 2012.  Some have come and gone, some are always available, and some will be brewed again, I'm sure.

Helping me with the list was an expert panel of beer opinions:

Polly Watts, Owner, The Avenue Pub
Eric Ducote, Blogger and Raise a Glass Co-Host, BR Beer Scene
Jeremy Labadie, Blogger, The Beer Buddha
Vanessa Gomes, Director of Marketing & Event Coordinator, The Barley Oak
Nora McGunnigle, Blogger, Nora's Beer Blog
Brenton Day, Blogger, The Ale Runner

That being said, the order of the list and selection of beers really was up to me.  So if you have an issue or praise, leave it in the comments here or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter!

10.  Abita Purple Haze

Say what you will, Abita's Purple Haze is still one of the most popular beers brewed in Louisiana.  Well regarded as one of the premier raspberry beers in America, Purple Haze made the Men's Fitness list for 6 surprisingly healthy beers in 2012.  So to all you runners and fitness nuts, you have no reason to not drink local!

9. Bayou Teche Bière Noire

The Bière Noire pays homage to the strong black coffee (café noir) and what it meant to South Louisiana's French speaking ancestors.  It is rich in dark German malts, American hops, and French roasted coffee flavor.  The Bière Noire made the First We Feast list of the top brews from all 50 states, representing Louisiana.  Congrats on that one!

8. Abita 18th Star Bière de Garde (Abita Select Series) 

Abita's Bière de Garde is a French style farmhouse ale that they brewed with pilsner and wheat malts, oats, and German perle hops.  They added a little lemon peel, then aged the brew for three months before it hit taps.  Polly Watts, owner of the Avenue Pub in New Orleans, admitted that this brew "blew my skirt up. Seriously a very good Bière de Garde, rich and the yeast shines."  The 18th Star is a tribute to Louisiana becoming the 18th state in the USA exactly 200 years ago.

7.  NOLA Irish Channel Stout

Irish Channel Stout Nitro at The Barley Oak
The NOLA Irish Channel Stout is a favorite of many people, including myself, from the Big Easy brewery.  While it is only a  seasonal (just released this year's batch on December 7th), it certainly has a cult following.  Nora McGunnigle from fondly says that this beer is "so delicious, so complex yet straightforward. I can drink pint after pint with friends and have a wonderful time."  She goes on to say, "This beer makes me smile."  I like any beer that makes people smile!

6.  Bayou Teche Joie à Tous

Joie à Tous (photo from Bayou Teche)
The Bayou Teche Joie à Tous, a whiskey barrel aged dubbel brewed with Mello Joy coffee.  Jeremy Labadie, AKA The Beer Buddha, proclaimed this to be "One of my favorite beers of the year.   This beer will be my Christmas go to beer every year.  If they brew it every year."  Vanessa Gomes from the Northshore's Barley Oak told me, "I love how Bayou Teche somehow manages to incorporate a certain level of comfort in all of their beers. It's as though each one nostalgically brings you to the Sunday dinner table."  And clearly Polly Watts from The Avenue Pub in New Orleans agreed, making it known that she found the beer to be "yummy, satisfying...comfort food in liquid form."

5.  Parish Canebrake

Parish Canebrake in Bottles is Still Elusive
Parish Canebrake made perhaps the biggest push of any beer in Louisiana in 2012, surging onto the scene across south Louisiana after the Broussard brewery's expansion.  "This is my favorite Louisiana session beer," says Eric Ducote from, referring to the fact that he can drink multiple of them without getting too intoxicated or losing interest in the flavor profile.  Brenton Day from The Ale Runner chimed in saying that "Parish Canebrake is an easy drinker that many south Louisianians have taken to. It's so popular that Andrew had to double his capacity just to keep up with demand."  I'm definitely glad that he did.  I love it enough to make sure it has a place in my Top 5!

4.  NOLA Mechahopzilla

NOLA Mechahopzilla (photo courtesy of The Ale Runner)
The Beer Buddha believes in the NOLA Mechahopzilla.  The Double IPA from NOLA Brewing "made me a hop addict," Jeremy admitted.  "I ended up pissing myself,  crawling in the corner and had the shakes for about a week."  That's how hoppy the beer turned out, and many of Louisiana's craft beer drinkers rejoiced.  Eric from BR Beer Scene noted that the DIPA is "without a doubt the hoppiest beer to come out of the state, a delicious double IPA."  Meanwhile, The Ale Runner left us with this verbal picture: "It is a full assault of hops that leaves your palate waving the white flag. Or if you're a hophead like me, wanting some more."  Even Polly Watts wanted more.  "What can I say... it is a baseball bat of hops but you still love it," she admired.  Nora McGunnigle needed a bit more convincing, but sure enough, she came around, saying that "This double IPA won me over, though I tend not to be a fan of the style. Great citrus and floral hop aroma, bitter but balanced."

3.  Tin Roof Parade Ground Coffee Porter

Parade Ground Coffee Porter (photo courtesy of Tin Roof)
"The Tin Roof Coffee Porter for me, other than being a fantastic robust coffee porter, was a pleasant production change from this football tailgating college town brewery," explained The Barley Oak's Vanessa Gomes.  "This fall seasonal gave us an exciting peek into what Tin Roof can really do in between cranking out the highly demanded flagships."  I'm in total agreement.  I absolutely think that the Parade Ground is Tin Roof's best beer to date, and it is a shame that is only a seasonal that will soon be departing the taps around Louisiana.

2.  NOLA / Stone Pour Me Somethin' Mistah

Pour Me Somethin Mistah (photo from The Ale Runner)
"The hops and the malt were great when fresh and mellowed nicely with some age," explained Nora from Nora's Beer Blog.  The collaboration between the NOLA Brewing Company and the Stone Brewing Company from California was "a collective proud moment for us all in the Louisiana Craft Beer World," as stated by Vanessa Gomes.  Like most people I drank the beer with, all of my colleagues agreed that brew began a little rough around the edges with the dry citra hopping.  When allowed to warm up, or when cellared, the beer transformed into a piece of art.  The imperial porter rounded out with molasses to impart delicate flavor with the robust roasty maltiness and citra hops.

1.  Parish Grand Reserve

According to Eric Ducote from BR Beer Scene, the Parish Grand Reserve is "in the running for the best Louisiana beer, period."  Indeed, it seems that the recently released special edition beer from the Lafayette area brewery lived up to the hype and proved that Louisiana can get excited about a special release beer.  It was a beer that people scrambled around town to purchase on release day and then again a week later when a second round was released.  "Was it worth it?" asked Brenton Day.  "Absolutely. It's a very big, yet remarkably smooth barleywine that I'm curious to see how it ages."  Andrew Godley from Parish suggests aging some, and will be holding onto several cases of the beer himself.  Polly Watts described the Grand Reserve as "silky and lovely with hidden strength like a very sexy woman in a white satin dress."  Now I'm thirsty.  Nora told me that "you could really taste the love and work put into this beer. Andrew did a great job and was able to leverage the reputation of his brewhouse up a whole other level with it."  Finally, Vanessa chimed in with "Parish Grand Reserve was absolutely perfect. To me it encompassed all that a barley wine should possess. It is perfectly balanced and has the smooth characteristics one expects from the reputation Parish Brewing has built for themselves."  Now we just need more Parish on the taps and store shelves!

Parish Grand Reserve in 750ml Bottles

Honorable Mention: I didn't list it above because it isn't commercially available yet, but it is worth looking forward to!

Mudbug Brewing King Cake Lager 

Our dear Beer Buddha let me have it.  He said, "I know this isn't commercially available yet but the whole idea of this beer makes me happy.  It's a tasty beverage complete with a rimjob.  Of sugar.  What were you thinking ya dirty bastard?"  He's right.  Even Vanessa Gomes from Barley Oak gave this beer some love.  "Mudbug Brewery has the King Cake Lager with lactose, cinnamon, & vanilla that will have you searching the bottom of your glass for the plastic baby," she said with a grin.  I just know I want some of that!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dalwhinnie 15: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Calandro's Supermarket

Dalwhinnie 15
The Gentle Spirit makes a Whisk(e)y Wednesday appearance here on Bite and Booze.  Dalwhinnie 15, a single malt Scotch from the Highland region has the name "The Gentle Spirit" because of its somewhat relaxed flavor profile compared to many single malt whiskys.  The nose of Dalwhinnie is sweet with no burn from peat fires.  It tastes like honey flavored Teddy Grahams in a clean, easy, whisky sort of way.  James declared it to be a fantastic beginner Scotch because of the honey-sweet flavors similar to a Speyside.  Dalwhinnie 15 is easy drinking, yet interesting enough to make aficionados happy.  It is well balanced and delicate for Scotch, but maybe that's what is so great about it.  Dalwhinnie lives up to the name "The Gentle Spirit."

Dalwhinnie 15 Single Malt Scotch

74.5 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, December 10, 2012

Grand Isle NOLA Style

Smoked Fried Louisiana Oysters
Smoked fried oysters and hogs head cheese came out of Mark Falgoust's kitchen at the Grand Isle restaurant in New Orleans.  I wasn't quite expecting it from the seafood restaurant sandwiched between Harrah's and the Convention Center.  Well, I expected oysters.  And plenty of them.  But the smoked fried oysters are something worth venturing to Grand Isle for over and over again.  The crispy fried mollusks had a delicate layer of smoke on them, elevating the flavor from delicious (as most fried oysters are) to extraordinary.  When Mark brought them out of the kitchen, and then followed that with a plate of hogs head cheese, I knew this guy really knew what we was doing beyond the typical fried seafood platter.

Hogs Head Cheese from Grand Isle

Chicken and Andouille Gumbo with a Side of Potato Salad
After the deliciousness of a couple pints of Hopitoulas at the bar where I devoured the previously mentioned oysters and head cheese, we found a table to sample the rest of the fare from Chef Falgoust.  The chicken and house-made andouille gumbo hit the spot with a side of potato salad.  This is certainly more of a Cajun and Grand Isle way of serving gumbo than a lot of the Creole styles around New Orleans.   And the gumbo certainly delivered the flavor.  We also tried the Grand Isle version of Shrimp and Grits.  The Papa Tom's grits with Louisiana shrimp were smothered in an andouille gravy.  The dish was most certainly an interesting play on the classic dish, though truth be told I could barely stop eating it!  The grits and gravy were creamy and delicious, though the shrimp may have been lost a bit.

Shrimp and Grits at Grand Isle

Shrimp Caminada Poboy
As it turns out, Chef Falgoust has taken home a couple prizes at the New Orleans Poboy Preservation Festival.  The Shrimp Caminada is one of those award winning sandwiches.  It features a spicy citrus butter with Asian herb slaw and shrimp on Leidenheimer French bread.  It certainly had a unique taste profile compared to other shrimp poboys, which mean completely as a compliment.  It is nice to see something so classically New Orleans changed with just a few tweaks of condiments.  Heading back to his trusty smoker, Chef Falgoust concluded my tastings with a pork shoulder entree.  The smoked chunk of pork broke apart gingerly with an excellent combination of sweetness and smokiness.  Served with a bed of lima beans, cucumbers, red onions, and herbs, this pork shoulder is another example of Grand Isle being able to do more than just fry seafood.

Pork Shoulder, Lima Beans, Cucumber, Red Onions, Herbs

Grand Isle on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 7, 2012

Louisiana Cookin' Magazine Release Party at Restaurant IPO

Come join me at The Office and Restaurant IPO on Tuesday December 18th for a release party!  I'm excited to see the new January/February issue of Louisiana Cookin' Magazine.  I have a column in it, and local food writer Sean Rivera's first published writing in the magazine comes in the form of a profile on Restaurant IPO's own Chris Wadsworth!  For more on Chef Wadsworth, take a listen to his appearance on the Bite and Booze Radio Show presented by Calandro's Supermarket!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Atelier Vie releases Toulouse Red Absinthe in NOLA

Yesterday, on Prohibition Repeal Day, a day much celebrated in the drinking world, Atelier Vie announced the return of local absinthe to New Orleans.  Toulouse Red is the first absinthe distilled in New Orleans since the unjustified absinthe ban one hundred years ago.  Atelier Vie was founded in 2011 to provide a greater variety of local spirits. Bringing together a shared love of craft spirits, coupled with a DIY attitude, Atelier Vie is pleased to unleash Toulouse Red on New Orleans, and hopefully soon to Baton Rouge.  Toulouse Red is distilled with attention to both the classic methods of absinthe distillation and the innovations from more recent American absinthe trailblazing.

“Toulouse Red was born in New Orleans, a new indigenous liquor. Our red absinthe is pot distilled with herbs, and infused with additional herbs to create the lush red color of Toulouse Red,” said Atelier Vie’s president, Jedd Haas.

Toulouse Red is bottled at the traditional 136 proof (68% ABV) and is produced from all natural ingredients. The classic method for serving absinthe, a dilution with ice water at ratios in the range of 3:1 to 5:1, produces a final drinking strength of about 23 to 34 proof (11.5% to 17% ABV) – about the strength of a strong wine.  Toulouse Red is available immediately at the distillery and through wholesale distribution.  The retail price at the distillery is $60 for a 750ml bottle.

I got to try to a sample of the absinthe at the distillery recently while I chatted with Jeremy Spikes from Raise a Glass and Jedd Haas, President of Atelier Vie.  The absinthe is floral, herbaceous and quite lovely.  It can undoubtedly be expertly used in fine cocktails like a Sazerac, or can be consumed as Jedd is pouring below with a splash of ice water.  The ice water turns the red absinthe into an almost bubble-gum pink color.  I can't wait to get to Nola to grab a bottle... or better yet, for it to come to Baton Rouge!

President Jedd Haas adding some water to Toulouse Red for me at the distillery

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

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

McKenzie Bourbon Whiskey
McKenzie Bourbon Whiskey is the final whiskey in the string of WW posts from the Finger Lakes Distilling in New York.  Making a bourbon comes with quite a few rules and regulations, though none of them say anything about Kentucky.  The grain bill must be at least 51% corn and the whiskey must be aged in new charred American oak barrels.  There's more, but you get the point.  Since the Finger Lakes Distillery isn't that old, this bourbon only got about a year and a half in a smaller barrel.  The first larger barrels will be available in 2013 after three years of aging.  Hopefully Brian McKenzie and the crew will let some of the barrels continue to age even longer.  The McKenzie Bourbon has a nose that reminds me of the sweet char of oak.  The vanilla and oak flavors come across strong on the palate, and I also got flavors of toasted corn and Corn Nuts.  The bourbon finished smooth... almost too smooth.  I actually think it took a little away from the bourbon to just fall off the back of the tongue and leave little behind.  It probably needed a little more aging, but I certainly understand the need for a new distillery to sell some product.  I'll be very excited to head back to Finger Lakes in a few years to try all their whiskeys again after they've had more time to age.  All the signs of a great bourbon are there!

McKenzie Bourbon Whiskey

64.5 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, December 3, 2012

Salú on Magazine

Bacon Wrapped Prawns at Salu
Salú specializes in tapas, or Spanish-style small plates, meant to be passed around the table and shared in feasting camaraderie   Often it seems that Americans associate this style of dining with notions of expensive appetizers.  Typically, I find that not to be the case.  Chefs right now, like Chris Wadsworth at Restaurant IPO in Baton Rouge, are using the small plates medium to increase creativity without having to charge an arm and a leg for it.  The same can be said Salú on Magazine St. in New Orleans.  The idea is simple: feature dishes inspired by the French, Spanish, and Italian Rivieras, serve them in smaller but share-able portions, and pair them with equally appealing cocktails and wine.  While the concept remains relatively standard, the execution is not.  With their new menu and a rather new Executive Chef, Dustin Brien, Salú is attempting to show off some non-traditional New Orleans cuisine with one of the better happy hours in town.

I began my lunch with a New Orleans Pisco Sour.  A little Peruvian pisco, tequila, orange, lemon, lime, and pineapple juices and a dash of bitters brought on a delightful early-day cocktail.  I'll have to remember this one next time I'm thinking about a tequila sunrise for brunch!  Salú features a mussels menu with various flavors to choose from.  I appreciate a restaurant that can do something like mussels well and with different flavors.  We seem to struggle with mussels a bit in Louisiana since they don't come from the Gulf, but these were up to par.  In the foreground are the Chorizo Mussels with garlic, tomatoes and beer.  Farther back sit the Parmesan Mussels with extra cream, garlic, and chives.  Both were rather tasty.  Simple, but distinct flavors made each dish unique, and the sauces are always great for dipping some frites in!

Candied Pecan Crusted Scallops
Yet another seafood item that isn't found off the coast of Louisiana, the candied pecan crusted scallops at Salú come served over pumpkin risotto with arugula and brown butter.  These large mollusks were divinely seared with extra sweetness that rivaled the savory qualities of the butter and the spiciness of the arugula.  The pumpkin risotto sealed the deal on this dish.  To put it simply: get it!

Zaatar Seared Yellow Fin Tuna from Salú
I wish all tuna could look as gorgeous as this.  My belly began sending signals of fullness, but my taste buds had to be rewarded when I got a look at this fish.  Expertly minimally seared, the bright red tuna sat atop a smoked asparagus tomato relish with additional extra virgin olive oil.  The smoke flavors danced with the freshness of the tuna.  There was no bunny hopping in my mouth, but rather a tango with a sexy lady, wildly swinging on the dance floor called my tongue. 

Bacon Wrapped Date to end the meal at Salú
Lunch concluded with a little something sweet and savory.  A bacon wrapped date perched gorgeously upon fresh greens.  With one bite a flavor punch came across that summed up the whole meal.  Salty, sweet, creative, and strikingly beautiful in its simplicity.  Bravo to Salú.  At least for this one lunch, I felt like I had escaped Louisiana for a European adventure.  Now I just need to get back for Paella Thursday!