Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Best Bites of 2015: Jay's Picks

by Jay D. Ducote

This list did not come about easily.

Over the last two weeks, Blair and Sydney have each posted about the five best things they ate in 2015. As my turn came, I wrestled with all the memories of great tasting food throughout the year. I analyzed, reminisced, and salivated over pictures of scrumptious treats from many months ago. This year has been an excellent one, and there's no doubt that I've eaten way too much good food for it be easy to narrow my list down to just five. But I've done it.

These are the five dishes I ate this year which will live the longest in my mind. I'll remember them a decade from now and will want to taste them again. I'll remember the mark that they left on me. Each one represents the absolute best version of that particular dish I've ever tasted, and that's saying a lot considering this list contains barbecue, chicken wings, steak, and apple fritters!

Apple Fritter at Nola Doughnuts Portland, OR

Nola Doughnut's Maple Doughnut and Apple Fritter
Maple Glazed Doughnut on the left,  Apple Fritter on the right

Nola Doughnuts owner Robert Herkes invited my buddy Eusebio Gongora to help him sell his doughnuts at a farmers market outside of Portland one Saturday when we were there for a guy's trip in late June. I'm truly glad I awoke from my slumber and tagged along. The doughnuts, made from croissant dough, were out of this world, but it was the apple fritter that really won me over. This, unquestionably, was the best apple fritter I've ever eaten. It calls out to me like the island from Lost. I have to go back.

Bacon Rouge's Pork Butt at Hogs for the Cause New Orleans, LA

The Bacon Rouge team celebrates the Pork Butt victory at Hogs for the Cause 2015
The Bacon Rouge team celebrates the Pork Butt victory at Hogs for the Cause 2015

Somehow I don't have a good picture of the Bacon Rouge pork shoulder itself. It is the only box that we turned in (whole hog, ribs, and "porkpouri" were the others) from the annual Hogs for the Cause competition in New Orleans I didn't snap a picture of. Perhaps it was just too beautiful, and I couldn't wait one extra second before going to turn it in to the judges. However, I can say this... championships aren't a fluke. We won, and it was because we turned in the best pork butt I've ever tasted.

The texture of the Iverstine Family Farms smoked pig seemed perfect as it nearly melted as we pulled some and chopped other parts. It didn't need any sauce. It didn't need any extra seasoning. It just needed to be turned in. That's the only box of barbecue I've ever submitted to a competition where I truly felt like we had a chance of winning.

My Grilled Rib Eye with Pomegranate Molasses Chimichurri & Stewed Okra Los Angeles, CA

I'll always remember my time on Food Network Star. However, the food part of it can be a blur. We didn't get to feast on our own food and truly enjoy the spoils of our cooking very often. However, for the Fourth of July episode when they made us switch groceries and I got to cook the prime rib eyes Dom purchased, I was able to share that dish with the entire cast.

Of everything I cooked, this challenge may have put me in my element the most. I had a grill, a cast iron pot, and enough time to make it all happen. I redeemed myself on the okra, and I cooked what was probably the best steak I've ever seared. I had extreme confidence after that round of the competition, especially once Bobby Flay told me how fantastic the rib eye tasted. But, I, along with fellow contestants, already knew that.

Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Chicken Wings at Pok Pok Portland, OR

Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Chicken Wings at Pok Pok in Portland, OR
Vietnamese Chicken Wings at Portland's Pok Pok

Chicken wings could be their own food group. I love them. There's just the right amount of barbarian style eating meat off the bone combined with a modern gastronomic flavor push that makes wings magical for me. And I've never had better wings, ever, than at Pok Pok in Portland, Oregon.

I didn't really want to put Portland on this list twice. I've traveled a lot this year, and including Portland twice kept me from including anything from Los Angeles, New York (including Blue Hill at Stone Barns as well as the Sac-A-Lait meal at the James Beard House), Las Vegas, New Orleans (aside from my team's previously mentioned winning pork shoulder) or Baton Rouge. Still, when looking back on the year, including all the great chicken wings I've had like the ones from Sway in Austin that would be the runner-up to Pok Pok, I just couldn't keep these babies off the list!

Franklin Barbecue Brisket Austin, TX

Lean and Fatty Brisket from Franklin Barbecue in Austin, TX
Lean and Fatty Brisket from Franklin Barbecue in Austin, TX

Sydney put the brisket that I cooked at the #GnarBQ on her top 5 list. While I'm honored, I also know she didn't eat the brisket at Franklin Barbecue like I did. Mine has nothing on this. No brisket I've ever tasted had anything on this. Yes, it was worth the four hour wait in line with my friends Zac and Andrew. No, you shouldn't waste space on anything other than the brisket. The glorious brisket.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Brea Frederick: Vixen of Vermouth

by Blair Loup

I bet you didn’t know your friendly neighborhood bartender is a licensed cosmetologist in three states, has tended bar in five states, and was a short-order cook at a Waffle House when she was 18 years old.

Brea Frederick of Olive or Twist in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Brea Frederick of Olive or Twist in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Bartender Brea Frederick at Olive or Twist was born and raised in San Diego, California, and moved to Baton Rouge during four of the most formative years of her life.

Looking for a change in a few different places, Brea's travels carried her to Phoenix, the Twin Cities and New York. Most of the time she worked two jobs, and she always had one foot behind the bar or in the kitchen.

From constant unwanted advances to being corrected on classic drink recipes, Brea has some less than pleasant experiences as a bartender in New York, and some of those struggles are still very real for her in Baton Rouge.

“Being a woman in this industry is challenging, but being a lesbian in this industry makes things even more difficult,” Brea said.

She said there’s something about the sense of entitlement found primarily in the older white privileged males that reminds her of the disrespect many Middle Eastern men she encountered in New York have for women.

After living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan for four years, Brea made her way down to New Orleans. Trying to wedge her way into the industry in the Crescent City, she landed a position at SoBou where she met fellow Woman in Booze Abigail Gullo before her move to Compère Lapin.

Shortly after working at SoBou, Brea found her life pulling her back to Baton Rouge.

“Baton Rouge has always been a big slice of home to me,” Brea said.

The friends she made here are like family, and now so are her coworkers.

As one of five bartenders (and the only female bartender) at Olive or Twist, she says her coworkers are incredible. There's a lot of mutual respect happening among the staff behind and outside of the bar.

Olive or Twist is Brea's first craft cocktail job, and she admits to being overwhelmed and intimidated at first by the enormous collection of booze at Olive or Twist. Who wouldn’t be? With a towering wall of alcohol, some of which can only be reached by a sliding Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-style ladder, Olive or Twist boasts an extensive and seasonal cocktail menu.

Brea’s favorite part of working in a craft cocktail bar is surprising her customers’ palates with flavors and ingredients they’ve never experienced. She likes to shoot from the hip with a little cocktail roulette when she’s behind the bar playing with vermouths and aperitifs.

You can snag one of her more recent concoctions, The Formidable Frisk, at the bar, or make it at home with this recipe:

1.5 oz. Old Overholt Rye
.5 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon
.5 oz Lime Juice
.75 oz Vanilla Syrup
.5 oz Turbinado
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
Muddled Rosemary
*serve in a rocks glass and garnish with a sprig of rosemary*

Brea says a good cocktail changes people, so if you’re in the mood for great conversation or life-changing sip, visit Brea Frederick at Olive or Twist.

Cheers to you lady!

This post is part of a monthly series spotlighting Louisiana women in the business of booze. Previous features include:

Natalie Parbhoo: Duchess of Distribution
Lindsay Nations: Baroness of Beer
Dori Murvin: Sorceress of Service
Nora McGunnigle: Headmistress of Hops
Myrna Arroyo: Vino Valedictorian
Brandi Lauck: Warden of Whiskey
Cari Caramonta: Mother of Malts
Erin White: Priestess of Pairing
Beth Donner: Dame of Distilling
Halston McMullan: Hustler of Houston Hops
Libby Landry: Governess of Grapes
Abigail Gullo: Leading Lady of Libation

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Best Bites of 2015: Sydney's Picks

by Sydney Blanchard

Looking back, 2015 has been a pretty big year for me. I graduated from college (Manship, represent), landed a real job (thanks to Jay), and started paying bills for the first time (the Internet is expensive, yo).

I've also had the opportunity to travel across the country and try some amazing dishes. Whittling my 2015 eats down to my five favorites was no easy task. But as you'll see, a pattern emerged.

For me, Louisiana food wins 80 percent of the time.

Boudin along the Boudin Trail Lake Charles, LA

boudin trail
Smoked boudin in Lake Charles

Smoked, boiled, or balled, the state's best boudin inarguably hails from Southwest Louisiana. My family is from Eunice, Louisiana, and growing up I was convinced there was no better boudin than the boudin coming out of Eunice. My trip to Lake Charles proved me wrong. Any stop along the Boudin Trail yields delicious, smokey, seasoned results.

Jay's Brisket at the Gnarly Barley GnarBQ Hammond, LA

Jay's brisket is one of the best things in the world

My official nickname since starting with Bite & Booze as an intern back in January has been "brown nose," because apparently my enthusiasm for all things Bite & Booze comes across as sucking up for brownie points. That being said, back in October, Jay cooked all sorts of smoked barbecue goodness for Gnarly Barley's GnarBQ. My favorite of all the proteins served was this brisket, rubbed down with Jay D's Sweet & Spicy Rub. Tender, juicy, sweet and spicy with a crispy exterior, this brisket melted in our mouths. If that makes me a brown nose, so be it!

Alligator & Mashed Mirliton at the James Beard House New York, NY

sac a lait

Chefs Sam and Cody Carroll of Sac-A-Lait in New Orleans have had a hell of a year, arguably culminating in their invitation to cook at the James Beard House in New York. To show our support, we took a team trip up to New York to help Sam and Cody where we could and to enjoy a phenomenal dinner in the famous house. The sweet fried alligator and mashed mirliton dish was one of the first courses, and it simply wowed my taste buds. The Carrolls' cuisine tastes nostalgic to me; just like the food I grew up eating, only elevated with beautiful plating and a sense of nuance. Luckily, this dish is on their New Orleans menu, and comes highly recommended by me.

Strawberry Pie at Strawn's Shreveport, LA

strawberry pie
This is what dreams are made of

Around Shreveport, Strawn's Eat Shop is an institution. They're known for their icebox pies, and while there on a media trip I was lucky enough to see first hand how the pies are made and to try a variety of their famous pies. The strawberry icebox pie is simple in construction: fresh strawberries are combined with a red, syrupy strawberry red sauce, topped with a heap of confectioners sugar, and then finished off with whipped cream. That's it. But this pie is the stuff of dreams, light and fluffy and not overly sweet, but decadent nonetheless. Word on the street is City Pork Kitchen & Pie took some inspiration from Strawn's when drawing up their icebox pies.

Family-style Lunch at Woodson Ridge Farms Oxford, MS

woodson ridge
Every element of this Woodson Ridge Farm lunch was aesthetically perfect

It's safe to say I fell in love with Oxford, Mississippi. My trip was filled to the brim with delicious food, the weather was perfect for our entire stay, and I got to learn about the historical importance of the town. One meal in particular stood out, and that was a homestyle fried chicken lunch prepared by Elizabeth Heiskell of Woodson Ridge Farms in Oxford. Every element of this meal was perfect: we had spicy collard greens, roasted root vegetables from the farm, a brussel sprout slaw, served family style outdoors at a big wooden table in the middle of the farm. It was true Southern decadence.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Southern Foodways Alliance, Uprooted

by Sydney Blanchard

Each month, our Uprooted series will highlight local chefs, restaurants, organizations, and farmers who are spearheading the farm-to-table and local foodways movements in South Louisiana.

It would be negligent of me, perhaps criminal, to attempt to write a series about Southern foodways without giving mention and credit to the Southern Foodways Alliance based out of Oxford, Mississippi.

The Southern Foodways Alliance's offices are located in the Barnard Observatory at the University of Mississippi

Founded in 1999 by author and activist John Egerton, the Southern Foodways Alliance aims to document, study, and explore the diverse food culture of the American South while mapping its evolution.

The Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi acted as an incubator and provided start-up capital for the SFA. In 1998, the Center staged the first Southern Foodways Symposium, organized by then-graduate student John T. Edge. 

JoAnn Clevenger: A Girl Scout with Gumption. Owner of Upperline Restaurant in New Orleans. 

Now SFA's Director and award-winning writer and commentator, John T. Edge and his team collect oral histories, produce films and podcasts, publish pieces of writing, mentor students, and stage events to further their mission to challenge the way people think of the South. It's nearly impossible to understand the impact of their work unless you watch some of their films.

Their podcast and print publication Gravy was named Publication of the Year by the James Beard Foundation.

Many credit Edge and the SFA with putting Southern food on the map nationally. Before it was trendy, someone had to make it trendy.

The Gospel of the Alabama Oyster, featuring Murder Point Oyster Company.

The SFA hosts an annual symposium, recently rebranded as Food Media South, where major players in the culinary media world come together to network, hear prominent speakers, and enjoy great food. Last year's symposium sold out in seconds. They've even had to create a summer symposium in order to meet the demand of attendees.

While on a media trip with Visit Oxford, I met with Edge at the SFA World Headquarters at the University of Mississippi. He joined us with a warm plate of biscuits and a story that explains the gap the SFA is trying to bridge.

Edge told us about Biscuit Pit in Grenada, Mississippi, where Earline Hall had been making biscuits from simple ingredients for more than 15 years. Each day Earline would cut out rounds of biscuit dough using a disemboweled tin can and would turn the dough into biscuits that tasted like something your grandmother would make.

After reading Edge's Garden & Gun article about the Southern biscuit renaissance that mentioned Biscuit Pit's biscuits, Don Newcomb of Oxford, the visionary behind regional chains Newk's and McAlister's, decided to open a restaurant concept called MyGuys utilizing Earline's biscuit expertise.

The idea of the homemade-style Southern biscuit being brought into a modern realm is what Southern Foodways Alliance is all about, Edge explained. 

Further, he said, his role at SFA is to complicate people's ideas about the South.

"We all see our work as a progressive force in this region," Edge said. "It’s not an attempt to preserve the South, it’s an attempt to document the evolution of the region and tell stories of the region that change perceptions and deepen understanding."

In Edge's view, food serves as a vehicle for bettering the South. The organization doesn't shy away from broaching issues of race, class, religion, gender, etc. In fact, Food Media South's 2016 symposium is specifically focused on "how race and gender impact which food stories get told and who tells them."

Having these kinds of important conversations through the lens of food can be powerful.

If We So Choose, a short documentary about food's role in the Civil Rights Movement. 

Edge mentioned the taint of slavery on the South, and the love/hate relationship he has with the South many Southerners identify with. The tensions between the joys and struggles of the South is what brought Edge to Oxford 20 years ago, where he hoped he would be able to work out his feelings through writing.

"People who thoughtlessly love the South ain’t paying attention," Edge said. "I think that food writing, thinking, exploring food is the most accessible way to get at some of the issues that really matter in the get at issues of race, class, gender, ethnicity. That’s why I do this work."

In a region so divided, is it possible food can serve as a uniting force?

"The South is evolving for the better in many ways," he said. "We’re taking old ways and adapting them to the present."

Monday, December 21, 2015

Passport to Shreveport: International Cuisine Rules in the 318

by Sydney Blanchard

Growing up in South Louisiana, there are certain assumptions we make about "Northerners." And by Northerners, we are referring to anyone in Louisiana situated too far north of I-10/12. 

The general theory tossed around as I was growing up is that North Louisiana is essentially Yankee territory, with a disturbing lack of Catholics, culture, and alcoholic beverages. 

Not to say this theory is entirely false, but it's not entirely accurate either, as I discovered on our recent trip to Shreveport. 

As it turns out, Shreveport has quite the budding food scene. Alongside great Southern food, there exists an array of international delicacies that one would be remiss to skip. 

Here's a short list of some of the delicious, multicultural cuisine we enjoyed while visiting the Shreve!

Mexican Fare at Ki' Mexico

What began as a successful farmer's market salsa endeavor has since turned into the restaurant concept Ki' Mexico, owned by Rodrigo Mondragon, his brother Elezear and his mother Lido. Ki' Mexico serves up what they've dubbed "Mexican Soul Food." But this isn't your ordinary Mexican fare – their tacos feature cactus and pickled beets!

Vietnamese Dreams at Jimmy's Seafood and Steak

clay pot

Jimmy's Seafood and Steak, nestled inside the Margaritaville Casino in Shreveport, serves up menu items you'd expect to see at a nice steak restaurant in a casino. What you wouldn't necessarily expect to see on the menu is Chef Frederick Ngo's Vietnamese clay pot fish dish, or braised fish swimming in a sweet and salty sauce that's unlike anything I've ever tasted before. Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau's Public Relations and Social Media Manager Chris Jay put it best: it would be a mistake to order a steak at Jimmy's knowing the clay pot fish is an option.

Chinese-American Perfection at Lucky Palace

roasted duck

Lucky Palace boasts some of the best Chinese-American cuisine in the state. I've previously written all about Lucky Palace on the blog. Trust me, this place is more than meets the eye. 

Dominican Realness at Sabores


Dominican flavor bursts through at Sabores. This small hole-in-the-wall joint offers a variety of bold dishes that highlight the best tastes of the region. Spicy meats, crispy fried plantains and surprising sauces are featured on the menu that might be hard to translate if you're not familiar with Spanish.

Latin American Flavor at El Cabo Verde


Gabriel Balderas is doing something major in Shreveport. Cooking with fresh, organic produce, he brings the flavors of Mexico to pop-up restaurants around the Shreveport-Bossier area. You can taste the difference fresh, local produce makes. Gabriel's tamale is out of this world, and we hear the tacos are pretty outstanding, too.

Tea Buzz at Rhino Coffee 

international tea

It turns out there are just as many tea nerds as there are beer nerds! Tea is similar to beer in a number of ways: there are endless varieties from all over the world, the flavors are distinctly different depending on number of factors, and drinking it results in a slight buzz. No kidding! Shreveport's Rhino Coffee offers a wide selection of teas, and even offers a tea program for tasting and learning about teas from all over. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Beers With Chuck: Cold Brews in A Galaxy Far, Far Away...

by Charles Pierce

mos eislet
Photo from Wikipedia.

Like most writing jobs where travel is involved, you sometimes find yourself being shipped out to strange locales that wouldn't normally be your first choice in visiting for a story. This is the situation I found myself in not so long, long ago as Jay decided that I should broaden my beer knowledge by heading out to the desolate planet of Tatooine and checking out the Mos Eisley Cantina to see what out of this world brews were being served on tap.

star wars beer
Photo from

There's not much to say about the harsh desert planet Tatooine. It's located way out on the Outer Rim, mostly run by vile slug-like gangsters known as Hutts and orbits not one, but TWO giant suns. With my hatred of Louisiana summers, you obviously know this wouldn't be my first choice of places to visit. Besides kicking back on a Saturday afternoon to watch the local podraces, the Mos Eisley Cantina (located in Mos Eisley NOT Mos Espa as most people think) is the only other place with some entertainment and cold brews.

As I made my way through the doors of the very smoky and dimly lit cantina, I took a look around at the local and not-so-local clientele. Everyone from smugglers to criminals and other various rogues filled the cramped spaces at the bars and tables. Totally a wretched hive of scum and villany. As I made my way to the bar I noticed The Modal Nodes, a popular touring band from the planet Bith, were about to kick off their first set. I'd heard nothing but good things about these guys so I was super excited to hear them.

As I waited for the bartender to finish washing some glasses I surveyed the taps and noticed the selection ranged from local brews like the Dewback Dry Ale from Binary Suns Brewing, Far Far Away IPA from Allendale Brewing all the way to Sierra Nevada's The Empire Strikes Black, a hefty 9.8% Imperial Stout that pulls no punches.

star wars beer
Photo from

While figuring out what to order, I noticed this impatient blond kid rudely tugging at the bartenders shirt to get his attention. The nerve of some people. I thought to myself, he'd better watch himself doing stuff like that in here. You could easily lose a limb with this kind of crowd.

After a few minutes I finally made my choice and went with the That's No Moon Treetop Pale Ale from Twin Moon Brewing Company located over on the forest moon of Endor. This tasty 6.5% ale goes down smooth with just the right amount of bitterness from the Corellian, Bespin and Yavin hops. Before I could get my phone out to log this brew into Untappd though that pesky blond kid seemed to have picked a fight with an angry walrus-looking guy and his pal. 

star wars beer
Photo from
I had to get out of the way before...hey is that a lightsaber? Uh oh, I've got a bad feeling about this. WHOA! Down goes walrus man missing a right arm. This looked like a good time for me to finish my beer and head back to the hangar and catch the next cruiser back home. I also need to remember to have a talk with that scruffy looking nerf herder of a boss about where he plans on sending me next time.

This post is a part of a series where we delight in Chuck P's brewtastic adventures. Check out his other beer soaked experiences:

Gnarly Barley's Imperial Korova Milk Porter at the GnarBQ
Tin Roof 5th Anniversary Party ft. the Oatmeal Pale Ale and Parade Ground Coffee Porter

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Best Bites of 2015: Blair's Picks

by Blair Loup

At the end of last year, Jay and I teamed up and narrowed down a list of the 10 best bites of food Jay had that year. In 2015, Team Bite and Booze grew to a team of three, and Jay, Sydney and I have traveled extensively throughout this year.

We all curated our own lists of the five best things we’ve eaten this year. It wasn’t easy, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t go through any personal turmoil in making this decision.

These are the five most delicious, life-changing, fork dropping, emotionally involved bites I had the pleasure of eating this year.

Torta Ahogada at Araña New Orleans, LA

I’m not typically in the mood for sandwiches. It is what it is. I can’t explain it, but I could eat this any day, any time. All of the flavors and textures are everything I want: savory, fresh, pickled, spicy, sweet. The bitter/fruity nature of the chili sauce that drowns the torta harmonizes the dish like a rug that ties a whole room together. Every time I think about this dish or see this picture, I fight the urge to drive to New Orleans.

Torta Ahogada: Slow Roasted Pork on Bolillo Bread, Black Bean Purée, Avocado, Crema, Cotiga Cheese, Cumin Pickled Onion,  Spicy Chili Dipping Salsa
Torta Ahogada: Slow Roasted Pork on Bolillo Bread, Black Bean Purée, Avocado, Crema, Cotiga Cheese, Cumin Pickled Onion,
Spicy Chili Dipping Salsa

Smoked Duck Banh Mi Waffle at Waffle Champion Oklahoma City, OK

I had zero expectations for the Oklahoma City food scene when Jay shipped me off in May, and it blew me away. There are several places I wanted to try that weren't on our schedule, and I honestly can’t wait to plan a trip there soon. Seriously. Picking one item off of the menu at Waffle Champion is challenging, so I went with my heart. The smoked duck was on point; the pickled red onion gave a nice crunchy, acidic bite, and I’m all about pickled fresh jalapeños on anything. The right amount of duck fat soaked into the waffle, which made my life. If you’re ever in OKC, go to Waffle Champion and order this.

Smoked Duck Banh Mi Waffle packed with pickled veggies, jalapeño, and cilantro mayo
Smoked Duck Banh Mi Waffle packed with pickled veggies, jalapeño, and cilantro mayo

Beet Salad at Compère Lapin New Orleans, LA

I love beets. I’m not ashamed of that, and if there’s an item on a menu with beets on it, I will have it. I got the chance to hang out at Compère Lapin interviewing head bartender Abigail Gullo for my Women in Booze series. We talked about seasonal menus, and when she realized my appreciation for beets, she had them send out their beet salad. These perfectly, and I mean perfectly, roasted beets atop house made ricotta, a little Kale pesto, pistachios, and a rocking ciabatta toast point made me emotional.

Roasted Beets, House Ricotta, Kale Pesto, Ciabatta Photo Courtesy: Compère Lapin
Roasted Beets, House Ricotta, Kale Pesto, Ciabatta
Photo Courtesy: Compère Lapin

Besh Shrimp at The Second Line Oxford, MS

Born and raised in Louisiana, I’ve never really caught on to the whole New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp thing. I can appreciate it, and I think it tastes okay, but it’s not my favorite Louisiana dish. Recently on a trip to Oxford, Mississippi, at Chef Kelly English's  Second Line, I had the best BBQ shrimp dish of my life. Obviously named after one of Chef Kelly’s mentors, John Besh, this New Orleans style BBQ shrimp dish had me on that feeling you’re supposed to get when you bite into a York Peppermint Patty. Executive Chef Meredith Pittman runs a tight ship at the Lousiana-inspired eatery with a lovely staff of devoted and talented students. I could eat these Besh Shrimp until the end of my days. It legit made me feel feelings.

Besh Shrimp at Second Line in Oxford, MS
Besh Shrimp at Second Line in Oxford, MS

Mole Burrito at El Limon Wayne, PA

When I took a trip up to Wayne, Pennsylvania (outside of Philadelphia) for one of my best friends’ graduation from Villa Nova, he took me to a local Mexican Taqueria, El Limon. Authentic Latin American cuisine is one of my soft spots, but the mole at this place is unreal. We tried several menu items there, but I dreamt about this mole the rest of the trip. That’s right…we went back for more. The cravings were so strong; I had to have that roasty, toasty, spicy goodness twice in one week.

Mole Burrito at El Limon in Wayne, PA
Mole Burrito at El Limon in Wayne, PA

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Trip to the Big Apple for a Bite of the Lucky Peach

by Blair Loup

It was love at first binge watch.

I first got to know David Chang, creator of the Momofuku restaurant family, watching the first season of Mind of a Chef on Netflix in an attempt to educate myself before starting my new job at Bite and Booze nearly two years ago.

The series taught me a little about several topics in the world of food, but the art and culture of ramen stood out the most.

I learned how different types of noodles were made and why they’re used in which styles of ramen. I became intensely fascinated.

What’s worse is that bitten by this ramen bug, I had nowhere to go. There’s only one establishment to my knowledge in Baton Rouge serving ramen, and, while tasty, I knew it to be far from the real deal.

When Team Bite and Booze took a trip to New York to support Chefs Sam and Cody Carroll cooking at the James Beard House, we headed to Momofuku Noodle Bar first.

The Noodle Bar is simply that, a noodle bar. The magical thing about ramen culture is its simplicity. Park yourself at a community table and order away. The menu is broken down into five categories: Daily, Buns, Bowls, Fall and Snacks.

In true Bite and Booze fashion, we ordered something from each category.

To start things off seasonal, we went with the Pea Shoots. I couldn’t get enough of this. Crispy, bright greens coated in kimchi vinaigrette were spicy and sweet all at the same time. Kimchi is fermented mixture of cabbage, Korean chili flakes and other ingredients. Usually a side item, kimchi is being manipulated into things like vinaigrettes and sauces for salads, fries, etc.

Pea Shoots - Chicory, Sesame, Kimchi Vinaigrette
Pea Shoots - Chicory, Sesame, Kimchi Vinaigrette

One of the daily specials, Corn, blew us away. Roasted corn cut off the cob topped with a creamy/spicy sauce with pickled tomatillo, fresh oregano, and a sprinkling of roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) hit home on every level. Roasty, toasty, and creamy with the right herbs and spice level, this dish had us fighting the urge to lick the bowl.
Corn - Pickled Tomatillo, Pepitas, Oregano
Corn - Pickled Tomatillo, Pepitas, Oregano

I have a major appreciation for tail meat, so naturally I jumped at the Pig Tails in the Snacks section. The tails were tossed in a chili sauce providing a subtle heat and topped with scallions. While there are a lot of restaurants that use scallions as a useless garnish, I find that when purposefully used, scallions make a dish pop. The pickled Asian pears may have been my favorite part of this dish. I’m a sucker for non-cucumber pickled things.
Pig Tails - Pickled Asian Pear, Chili, Scallion
Pig Tails - Pickled Asian Pear, Chili, Scallion

Our Content Sheriff and Warden of the Web Sydney wasn’t feeling in a ramen mood, so she tried the Brisket Buns. Being the sweetheart she is, she let me have a bite. If clouds were buns, they would be steam buns. They’re more of a textural element of a dish. The little to no flavor of the steam bun set the stage for a bold bite.
Brisket - Horseradish, Pickled Red Onion, Cucumber
Brisket - Horseradish, Pickled Red Onion, Cucumber

I had heard fantastic things about all of the Bowls at Momofuku, but I had my heart set (for over a year). It's important to remember there are different styles of ramen. Some are thinner, clearer broths, while others can be thin and have a creamy, thick, and rich taste.
Momofuku Ramen - Pork Belly, Pork Shoulder, Poached Egg
Momofuku Ramen - Pork Belly, Pork Shoulder, Poached Egg

This particular bowl of ramen was more brothy and turned creamier when I swirled in the yolk of the poached egg. The noodles were some of the best I’ve had. Ramen noodles behave the way they do because of their alkalinity. It can better be explained by this video from Lucky Peach:

I will say that if I get the chance to go back, I’ll try their chilled spicy noodles. The guy sitting next to me was losing his mind over them.

No trip to Momofuku Noodle Bar would be complete without a walk to their sister bakery Milk Bar a few blocks away. James Beard decorated pastry chef Christina Tosi made the desert program at Momofuku and has since gone on to assist some of the other Momofuku restaurants in winning awards as well as running "one of the most exciting bakeries in the country," according to Bon Appétit Magazine. Known for their Birthday Cake, Crack Pie, and Soft Serve, you can’t go wrong.

Soft Serve at Milk Bar
Soft Serve at Milk Bar

Chef David Chang is a special dude doing some cool things with the right people in place. Being able to go to his flagship restaurant for a good bowl of ramen is something I've wanted to do for a long time. If you have any restaurant bucket list items feel free to leave them in the comments below or let us know Facebook or give us a shout on Twitter or Instagram at @biteandbooze.

Bite and Booze Bonus: If you're into awesome recipes, food knowledge/science, culinary adventures, etc., check out Lucky Peach. David Chang is one of the founders and editors of this quarterly food journal.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

You Deserve a Video Break

by Sydney Blanchard

Hey, you. Yeah, you there. We just want you to know, we see you. We know you've worked hard all year. You've put in the hours, you've sent all the emails, and you've attended to most of your responsibilities.

Despite long grocery store lines and children crying in restaurants, you've managed to stay on Santa's naughty list.

And for that, we salute you.

Here, check out these videos. You deserve a little break. Let's be real, you're running on empty from now until the end of the year anyway.

Free Booze Friday

In which Jay gets puppets drunk and they all argue about booze

Louisiana Culinary Trails

In which important food people talk about delicious Louisiana cuisine

Food Network Star Finale

In which Jay gets a little emotional at the Food Network Star finale party

I'm Not Trying to be an Underwear Model

In which Jay tries to get fit

Raising Cane's Store #94 Grand Opening

In which a young Jay hangs out with Todd Graves and former Mayor-President Kip Holden

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Lucky Palace in Bossier City: You Either Get It or You Don't

by Sydney Blanchard

Since I began as an intern with Bite and Booze nearly a year ago, I have heard whispers of Lucky Palace in Shreveport, Louisiana.

It's safe to say Jay and Blair are obsessed with the place: these two actively fantasize about the restaurant, and they tell everyone about this place if the topic of best places to eat ever comes up.

Sure, they say, the food is phenomenal, but that's not what makes Lucky Palace special. It's the location, the decor, the service.

It's the unexpectedness of it all.

So when Jay, Blair, and I were invited to hang out in Shreveport-Bossier with the tourism bureau's PR and Social Media Manager Chris Jay in late September, I stayed focused on my one true objective throughout our trip. I had to see whether Lucky Palace lived up to the hype.

Here's the thing. Lucky Palace is situated in a seedy part of town within an interstate-side hotel. The parking lot looks like the kind of place where people meet up to buy or sell prescription pain medication. It's poorly lit, and getting to the restaurant requires entering through the yellowing, smoke-smelling hotel lobby.

Entering Lucky Palace is akin to entering another dimension. Lucky palace exists in another place and time.

The interior is shrouded in red-tinged darkness. It's impossible to sense how large or small the place is, or to determine where the walls end and the floors begin.

Imagine a cross between a very ornate Chinese restaurant from the 1970s and the Red Room from David Lynch's Twin Peaks. That's the only way to describe Lucky Palace.

The menu offers typical "Chinese-American" fare: sesame, orange, and General Tso's chicken, egg drop soup, and egg rolls. But a keen observer will head straight for the House Specialties: Northern style duck with steam buns, squid with sour cabbage, Korean pancakes, and more.

Roasted Duck on Scallion Pancakes

It almost goes without saying that the food is incredible. The roasted duck on scallion pancakes makes for a perfect bite. The crunchy "pirate boats" filled with crisped scallops chopped and served on Belgium endives topped with black bean sauce is breathtaking. The sweet, pecan inspired sesame 
ball dessert is a dream.

pirate boat
Pirate Boats with Black Bean Sauce

Everyone agrees the food is exceptional, but Lucky Palace’s reputation was built on its highly curated selection of wines. They have more than 250 to choose from.

Tamarind Marinated Rack of Lamb with Jalapeno Mint Glaze

Since 2003 the restaurant has nabbed Awards of Excellence from Wine Spectator, and since 2006 it's been recognized by Awards of Unique Distinction by Wine Enthusiast. Lucky Palace has also twice
been named in the Top 100 Chinese Restaurants in America.

Steak with onion and bell pepper

The proprietor, Kuan Lim, is a local legend. His smile illuminates the dark restaurant. Lim excels in customer service, and he has the ability to make every diner feel looked after. He will personally pair a wine with any dish at Lucky Palace, and to quote Chris Jay, "this may be the world’s only restaurant that serves a $7 sesame chicken lunch special as well as a $760 bottle of 2002 Harlan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon."

Battered shrimp with peppers
After all the hype, I have to say, Lucky Palace exceeded my expectations. It’s easy to see how a place like this can be overlooked, and it made me ever grateful to be experiencing Lucky Palace with people who knew enough to appreciate it.

There's nothing like Lucky Palace.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Jay D's Famous BBQ Chili Recipe

Jay will be demoing this chili recipe today at the Red Stick Farmer's Market. Come by to try some and restock on Jay D's Louisiana Barbecue Sauce!

Chili from last year's Brew at the Zoo

Jay D's BBQ Chili

Makes about 8 servings

2 lbs Ground Chuck 80/20
1 Medium Yellow Onion, diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
1 Green Bell Pepper, diced
6 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Serrano, seeded and diced
1 Jalapeño, seeded and diced
1/2lb Andouille, diced
12 oz dark beer
1/2 cup Jay D's Spicy & Sweet BBQ Rub
1 tbs Mexican Oregano
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Chile de Arbol (can sub a different chili powder such as ancho, or just additional chili powder)
1 tsp Coriander
1 tsp Cumin
12.7 fl oz bottle of Jay D's Louisiana BBQ sauce
Cheddar Cheese, Chopped Green Onions, Sour Cream, etc. to garnish

In a cast iron dutch oven, cook the ground beef over medium heat. Cook until all the beef is brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove the beef from the pot with a slotted spoon, straining out the grease. Reserve the beef. Discard all but a couple tablespoons of the grease which can be left in the bottom of the pot.

If the same dutch oven over medium high heat, saute onion, bell peppers, garlic, serrano and jalapeno. Cook until the onions have been sweated and all the vegetables begin to soften, about 7 minutes.
Add the andouille to the vegetables and stir. Cook the andouille with the vegetables until the andouille starts to brown, around 5 minutes.
Return the beef to the pot and stir. Add the beer and the Jay D's BBQ Rub and stir. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the oregano, chili powder, chili de arbol, coriander and cumin. Stir and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add the Jay D's Louisiana Barbecue Sauce. Stir and simmer everything for another 10-20 minutes.

Serve warm in a bowl. It can be served over rice, with tortilla chips, as a Frito pie or eaten by itself. If desired, garnish with cheddar cheese and/or chopped green onions, sour cream, or anything else you can think of.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Beers With Chuck: Tin Roof 5th Anniversary Party ft. The Oatmeal Pale Ale & Parade Ground Coffee Porter

by Chuck P

coffee porter
Tin Roof's Parade Ground Coffee Porter, photo courtesy of Tin Roof

The Tin Roof Brewing Company in Baton Rouge will always hold a special place in my heart for two reasons.

1) Co-owner Charles Caldwell was my first official "big time" guest on my old Me & My Big Mouth Podcast.

2) He suggested I seek out a local craft beer lover and food blogger by the name of Jay Ducote to have as a guest on my podcast.

The rest, as they say, is history.

It's still crazy to think that Charles, along with his partner and all-around handsome fella William McGehee, have been cranking out tasty local craft goodness for five years now, but they have, and that was the reason I was over at the brewery on November 19 for their 5 Year Anniversary Party.

Time, as they say, indeed flies by.

I left Tin Roof a few months ago to work for Jay. I was hired by the brewery to help open and manage their newly built tap room, which turned a year old in October, and then moved into doing sales for the company before leaving to tackle the world of BBQ saucesomeness.

So coming back to the brewery to help celebrate all of their success was a little emotional for me.

After all, I have been a HUGE supporter of Tin Roof since the doors opened, so I feel in some small way that even though I'm no longer working for them, I'm still a part of the family.

As I pulled up to the brewery that evening the parking lot was already crowded. Walking through the doors of the tap room, I saw some of my old co-workers hanging out at the end of the bar. I walked over and said hello and was immediately greeted with hand shakes and hugs.

pale ale
Tin Roof's Oatmeal Pale Ale, photo courtesy of Tin Roof
After spending a few minutes catching up with everyone, I made my way to the bar and ordered a pint of their newest release brewed specifically for their anniversary event, an Oatmeal Pale Ale. This beer comes in at an easy drinking 5.2% ABV, so having more than a few pints won't have your head spinning. I thought the aroma was very nice with some of the grapefruit and orange notes I was picking up from the cool combo of Mosiac and New Zealand Waimea hops used in brewing. I thought it had a really good nutty flavor with kind of a creamy texture. Overall, a really good beer that reflects the creativity of Tin Roof.

The weather felt incredible, so I ventured outside to soak in the unusually cool Louisiana November evening and to check out the progress on the newly added deck. Besides a few sheets of tin missing from the corner roof (of course it's gotta have a tin roof, duh.) the deck looked incredible and was packed with people enjoying not only the anniversary beer, but all of the other Tin Roof brews like Perfect Tin Amber, Voodoo Bengal Pale, Turnrow Coriander and my personal favorite of the flagship beers, the Juke Joint IPA.

My good friend Jesse Romero was also outside on the new deck slinging delicious pulled pork (covered in Jay D's BBQ Sauce natch) and chicken parmesan sandwiches that everyone, and I do mean everyone, had a plate of.

Looking out onto the sprawling lawn, I saw more plates of food and brews at the picnic tables and games of corn hole in action while beers were being passed between competitors.

This party was off to a great start.

Making my way back inside, I bellied up to the bar, got my girl Emily's attention, and ordered a pint of what is my absolute favorite beer that Tin Roof makes: the winter seasonal Parade Ground Coffee Porter.

Oh, Parade Ground. How I love you so.

This incredible brew, coming in at a sneaky 7% ABV, is a beautiful mix of coffee, mocha, and chocolate flavors that embrace the pallet with all kinds of tasty goodness. It's completely balanced, and a coffee and craft beer lover's BFF. Upon its release, everyone demands this beer become a part of their year-round flagships and be relieved of its seasonal status. At first, I agreed with Charles and William that it should stay a seasonal so it stays highly coveted. But lately I find myself siding with the masses to have this porter become a year-round beer. Sure, it's available in cans, and porters tend to age well, but with Tin Roof not having a dark beer available in its year-round line up, adding Parade Ground or perhaps creating a new porter or stout would keep all the craft beer lovers of dark brews happy.

Whatever the decision, I'll be stocking up for sure just to feed my need for this delicious beer when I get the craving.

After another pint of Parade Ground, it was time to head off to my gig and say my goodbyes to William and a few others (Charles was in Oxford for a Tin Roof event) and make my to the parking lot and into my Jeep.

As I sat there about to pull onto the road, I looked back at the crowd gathered inside and outside the brewery, and I felt a warmness creep through me.

Sure, I'm not an employee there anymore, but before that I was an avid visitor for the Friday night tours, special events, and any other happenings. I've recorded numerous podcast and radio shows at Tin Roof and even organized a Pub Crawl with the help of John Peak for the second year release of Parade Ground, The 3rd Street Coffee Crawl. I guess a small part of me feels like I've always been a part of this company. And I guess a part of me always will.

Happy Birthday, Tin Roof! Here's to five more incredible years.

This post is a part of a series where we delight in Chuck P's brewtastic adventures. Check out his other beer soaked experiences:

Gnarly Barley's Imperial Korova Milk Porter at the GnarBQ