Friday, January 29, 2016

Vanessa Gomes: Crusader of Craft

by Blair Loup

Vanessa Gomes posted up amongst mountains of beer at Champagne Beverage
Vanessa Gomes posted up amongst mountains of beer at Champagne Beverage
The craft beer industry has increasingly captivated my interest over the past two years. I've learned more about brewing processes and styles of beer than I ever thought I'd care to know.

But what interests me the most is the elaborate, Game of Thrones-esque story of the growth and shifting of the Louisiana craft beer industry.

Obviously, it lacks much of the drama and violence of the critically acclaimed HBO series, but watching the movement and growth of new and established Louisiana breweries reminds me of the shifting and growing map in the show's title sequence. It can be hard to keep up.

It’s all very entrancing, much like talking to Vanessa Gomes. Vanessa, the Craft Brand Manager for Champagne Beverage, has been a titan of the local craft beer industry on the Northshore for the last seven years.

With a German mother and a Brazilian father, this first-generation American didn't have a typical South Louisiana upbringing. In fact, English is her second language (they spoke German in her household). Though the dual citizen of Brazil didn't try a poboy until she was in her teens, Vanessa claims her culturally diverse upbringing made her the well-rounded individual she is today.

In 2009 while working in the service industry, Vanessa met Nick Powers. He told her about his plan to open The Barley Oak, a craft beer bar in Mandeville, in hopes that she would come work for him.

“I thought he was absolutely crazy,” she said.

Six years ago, Abita and Covington were the only Louisiana breweries up and running, with Bayou Teche soon to follow. A craft beer concept in that area seemed doomed, and Vanessa hesitatingly agreed to work one shift per week at the newly opened bar The Barley Oak.

That one shift turned to full-time, then to salary, and soon enough she was practically running the joint.

According to Vanessa, soon after she started at The Barley Oak, the craft beer industry finally took root in Louisiana.

"It was a fun time to be running a craft beer bar and keeping the tap selection interesting, cool, and unique," Vanessa said.

After four years at The Barley Oak, Vanessa’s wealth of knowledge had grown, and others took notice.

Around that time, Champagne Beverage, a distribution company, had acquired Glazer's craft portfolio and was on the cusp of launching New Belgium. They hired Vanessa on as their crafts brands manager, putting her immense beer knowledge to use.

Handling Champagne's craft brands requires Vanessa to know everything about the beers and suppliers in her charge, to be able to communicate that to the sales staff, and to place the beers appropriately so they sell.

At first, Vanessa admitted, she was overwhelmed.

"I had no idea what I was doing or how I was going to do it," she said.

But she's managed to pull it off. In her last three years at Champagne Beverage, she's taken their craft beer sales from zero to 1.8 percent.

Vanessa is also in charge of brand development, order placement, inventory balance, and coordination of special events like beer launches, dinners, and festivals.

She may be the crusader of craft for the Northshore, but she didn’t get where she is without tribulation. Vanessa said being a woman in this role has been her greatest challenge.

“You have to be that much more knowledgable,” she said, “if you’re not an expert, it’s not enough.”

In her experience, no one will give you respect, you have to command it. It’s one thing to face the every day challenges of being a woman, and being a woman in the beer industry comes with an entirely different set of challenges.

In a matter of days, Vanessa will be utilizing her many talents in her new role as Lead Brewery Rep with Bell's Brewing out of Kalamazoo, Mich. Soon, Bell's will be distributed in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi markets with Vanessa leading the charge.

While she's excited to start her new job, she's grateful for her years with Champagne.

"The Champagnes have given me full support on everything I need to do my job and enhance my education," she said. "They've truly gone above and beyond."

I’m extremely excited to continue to watch Vanessa’s career unfold over the brim of my glass.

Needless to say, it will be exciting to continue to watch Vanessa's meteoric rise over the rim of my glass. Cheers to you Vanessa on your last day at Champagne Beverage!

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Behind the Scenes: Calandro's Supermarket Celebrates 75 Years in Baton Rouge

Calandro's Supermarket has been the title sponsor of the Bite and Booze Radio Show since it hit the airwaves in 2011, and since then, our relationship with the store has grown in immeasurable ways.

landry vineyards
Behind the scenes at Landry Vineyards, Jay Ducote chats with Jeff Landry

In many ways, if I hadn't had the store's support, I wouldn't be where I am today. That's why making this video for them didn't require a second thought. They play a huge part in the local community and should be celebrated as much as any locally owned restaurant for contributing to the Baton Rouge food scene. 

panola pepper
Jay talks with Mike Coullard of Panola Pepper Company, where Jay D's sauces are bottled

When I launched Jay D's Louisiana Barbecue Sauce over a year ago, Calandro's didn't just put it on their shelves. They threw me an over-the-top launch party timed with the Fourth of July. They helped roll out my Blanc du Bois collaboration with Landry Vineyards and more recently Jay D's Louisiana Molasses Mustard.

In a small way, this video gave me a way to give back to the Calandro family. I'm really proud and happy with the resulting ad celebrating Calandro's 75th year in Baton Rouge.

Working with tommysTV always makes the process easy and fun, and the finished product is always gorgeous. Some of my favorite shots are the ones we took at Landry Vineyards and the ones just driving through the state. 

If you haven't watched the video, take a look! Happy 75th year, Calandro's!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Jay takes on Franklin Barbecue in Austin, TX

by Jay Ducote

Ever since I began dabbling in competitive barbecue and crafting my own barbecue sauce, Austin, Texas, has been at the top of my culinary bucket list. I recently had the opportunity to spend a couple weeks there, mostly eating and drinking my way around the city. Due to my everlasting love of the 'que, I've decided to divide my experience into three posts: Franklin Barbecue, other barbecue, and the best of everything else I ate in Austin. Check back for the other installments later.

A huge part of Austin barbecue culture isn't actually in Austin. Towns like Lockhart outside of Austin are home to some of the most historic central Texas barbecue joints. To really get a full experience of the circuit you'll need a car to get around and an extra stomach or hollow leg so you can move on to your next meat sweat.

However, I'll have to save that road trip for another time. On this trip, I got around Austin on foot and with the help of friends and Uber, so I didn't get to make the trip to Lockhart.

That being said, there's some serious barbecue happening these days inside the Austin city limits. The most famous of those is inarguably Franklin Barbecue.

Zac Jiwa and Jay Ducote prepare themselves for Franklin Barbecue in Austin, TX
Zac Jiwa and Jay Ducote prepare themselves for Franklin Barbecue in Austin

Joined by my friends Zac Jiwa and Andrew Lee, I arrived at Franklin for the four hour wait to eat Aaron Franklin's prized brisket. That may seem crazy, and it is, but if you know how to do it right, it really isn't THAT bad.

It kind of felt like a tailgate party before a game.

First, we got breakfast tacos before heading to Franklin to get in line at 9 a.m. Zac brought bag chairs, and most people in line were playing games or chatting with friends. After finishing up the breakfast tacos, Zac and I got coffee from a nearby coffee trailer.

At one point some people who work at Franklin's walked by and asked what we intended to order. They were getting a count so they knew how far down the line they'd go before they ran out of food. We were told that we'd be eating around 1 p.m. I knew it was time for a beer, which we should have brought with us, but fortunately Zac took the short walk to a nearby store for a six pack.

The line started to move at 11 a.m., and we put up our bag chairs rather than try to keep up with moving them. As the line crept along and the people who arrived earliest began to eat, the liveliness of the crowd picked up. A group of dudes who were there for a bachelor party had pretty mixed feelings about whether or not it would be worth waiting in that long of a line starting that early in the morning with a hangover. That honestly may have kept me away!

A view inside Franklin Barbecue from the door, still waiting in line
A view inside Franklin Barbecue from the door, still waiting in line

When we finally got to the front of the line, sure enough right around the time predicted, we ordered like smoked meat champions.

Three pounds of brisket, mixed between the point and the flat (or moist and lean), three bones of pork spare ribs, half a pound of pulled pork and a couple links of sausage. We knew were in for some pain, but none of us cared. Andrew and Zac both live in Austin and had experienced Franklin before, but they were just as thrilled to be there for my first experience. Plus, with the wait and with having other really great barbecue just around the corner, it's not like either of them had been to Franklin recently.

A photo posted by Jay Ducote (@jayducote) on

The reason to go to Franklin is the brisket. Its reputation as the best brisket on the planet made me wonder if it can live up to that hype. I had my doubts. I mean, I expected it to be really fantastic, but I've had some really great briskets in my day, and I didn't know if the brisket on this one particular Friday afternoon would hold up to its end of the bargain.

It did. Enough for me to name it one of the top five bites of 2015.

The ribs and pulled pork were good, but not amazing. However, the brisket is what beefy, fatty dreams are made of. I'd go back and order nothing but brisket.

Aaron Franklin talks barbecue with Andrew and Zac while Jay admires the smokers
Aaron Franklin talks barbecue with Andrew and Zac while Jay admires the smokers

Aaron Franklin, true to his reputation, was there at Franklin Barbecue. A film crew working on something for Andrew Zimmern and Travel Channel was actually there too. I got to meet Aaron and talk shop with him for a little bit. He brought us to his smokehouse where all of his enormous offset smokers were lined up. It made for a pretty cool day, for sure.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Get Familiar With These Women in Booze

by Sydney Blanchard

Since November 2014, our Chief Confusion Coordinator/Spin Doctor (and contributing blogger) Blair Loup has interviewed the women running the local booze scene. Each month, we feature one of these women and their experiences on the blog.

We've learned from them that it can be exciting (and at times difficult) working in the booze industry, a primarily male-dominated environment.

We're all about ensuring these women's voices and stories are heard and that they get the props they deserve for being the movers and (cocktail) shakers behind our drinking habit.

Read all about these killer women below, and be sure to check back with us each month to read about a new woman (in booze)!

Natalie Parbhoo, Duchess of Distribution

Natalie Parbhoo
International Wine & Spirits

"First getting into it, the woman I replaced was only the second female representative in the city, so people just didn't take me seriously. They wasted a lot of my time flirting with me and never bought anything. That's when I realized I needed to be super aggressive to sell." 

Lindsay Nations, Baronness of Beer

great raft
Co-Founder and Vice President of Great Raft Brewing 

"I can't grow a beard and be the typical face of the company in the brewing industry, but there are so many things that would fall apart if I left one day. You don't get to be the face of the company when you don't fit the stereotype sometimes."

Dori Murvin, Sorceress of Service

Manager and Wine Director at Beausoleil Restaurant

"I love working here. The food's good, the wine's good, it's just a good place. I don't have a poker face. I have to work somewhere I believe in."

Nora McGunnigle, Head Mistress of Hops

Craft beer writer/blogger

"I definitely feel like it took me a long, long time for people to take me seriously as a beer person."

Myrna Arroyo, Vino Valedictorian

roux wine
Owner of Roux Wine Tours

“I really enjoy helping people discover wine, it’s as simple as that!”

Brandi Lauck, Warden of Whiskey

lock and key
Co-owner of Lock and Key Whiskey Bar

"It’s always been Arthur’s dream to own a bar, but what’s really cool is that it’s become an outlet for the creativity and the passion that I have for women and their understanding of whiskey," she said. "This has been a great opportunity to ‘be on stage’ and bring my knowledge of whiskey to other females that are interested."

Cari Caramonta, Mother of Malts

gnarly barley
Co-founder and Creative Director of Gnarly Barley Brewing

“Personally, I love building the business. I enjoy marketing and branding. I think it’s cool that we bring a different dynamic to the table."

Erin White, Priestess of Pairing

Sommelier at August

“If you make a list of all of the things I love, it all incorporates into wine. There’s an artistic sense of color, fragrance, food, cooking, and people; for me, it all kind of funneled into one category.”

Beth Donner, Dame of Distilling

Co-founder, Co-Owner, and President of Donner-Peltier Distillery

"It’s a male dominant industry, you know? It is what it is."

Halston McMullan, Hustler of Houston Hops

st. arnold
Louisiana Sales representative for St. Arnold Brewing

"The more I learn about this company and the more I have to fight for it, the more it becomes a part of me. I didn’t know I’d be so proud."

Libby Landry, Governess of Grapes

landry vineyards

"We’d pack up the boys and live in the old barn showering with a water hose until each harvest was complete. That was our life for a while."

Abigail Gullo, Leading Lady of Libation

compere lapin
Bartender at Compère Lapin

"Women may be known as bartenders, but men are 'mixologists.' I feel like I’ve missed out on a few jobs because I don’t have a mustache.”

Mary Lewis, Superintendent of Suds

Sales Manager at Mockler Beverage Company

“My job now is to motivate my team. I don’t want my guys to think I’m just the lady that sits in the office."

Brea Frederick, Vixen of Vermouth

Brea Frederick
Bartender at Olive or Twist

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

Monday, January 18, 2016

Fullness Farm, 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.

An often unmentioned but important catalyst of the farm-to-table movement is what you might call a Walden-esque fantasy of escapism. Thoreau’s famous escape to Walden Pond at the end of the 19th century represents the fear and anxiety of a world reacting to the growing pains of the Industrial Revolution.

More than a century and a half has passed since the original publishing of Walden, and now more than ever before, technology sprints ahead of us at breakneck speeds. And, in theory, it breeds in us all the desire to return to our roots to escape it all. It’s sort of a romanticism of nature, a romanticism of the primal.

For most of us, this Walden Pond fantasy will never be more than that, just a fleeting daydream while stuck in traffic or on hold with the internet service provider.

For others, like Allison and Grant Guidroz, they made their dreams a reality.

These Baton Rouge natives started Fullness Organic Farm within the last year, and they’ve been able to turn their little half-acre of greens into a lucrative income stream. 

fullness organic farm greens
Look at these gorgeous leafy greens out at Fullness Farm off of Nicholson Drive in Baton Rouge

Both Allison and Grant graduated from LSU in 2011 with degrees in psychology and agricultural business, respectively. After college, the couple began working with Slow Food Baton Rouge and Americorps, through which they were able to to live and work on Inglewood Farms in Alexandria, Louisiana, and another farm in Arkansas, learning what it takes to run an organic farm.

allison and grant
Allison and Grant Guidroz, owners of Fullness Farm, are proud of their carrot babies

“We looked at it kind of like getting our graduate degree [in organic farming],” Allison said.

Before finding his calling in organic farming, Grant had briefly majored in finance in college.

“I figured I wanted to make a lot of money and not work hard, and I thought that would make me happy,” he said. “But it turns out, maybe working really hard and not making a lot of money but doing something that I love is what will make me happy.”

Allison and Grant are the picture of happiness. They live in what used to be a caretaker’s house on their land. The house, built in the 1940s, had been abandoned and was covered in mold, but the couple remodeled it, and their cozy little cottage acts as Fullness Farm headquarters for the Guidrozes and their dog, Tippy Toes.

Allison and Grant’s half-acre of land bears gorgeous greens. They mainly focus on growing baby greens, but they also grow spinach, three kinds of kale, mustard greens, radishes, turnips, arugula, French sorrel, broccoli, carrots and more.

Generally, they harvest and deliver to local restaurants on Fridays and sell the rest of their product at the Red Stick Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings.

The only organic growers at the market, the Guidrozes decided to do make Fullness Farm their full-time gig after their first go at the farmer’s market.

For Grant, it’s not about producing huge volumes of produce. A huge motivator is producing the best tasting, most nutrient rich foods possible. 

According to research conducted over the last 15 years, certain plant species have been found to contain more phytonutrients than others. Phytonutrients are compounds linked to reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and dementia.

For example, a Peruvian purple potato has 28 times the cancer-fighting benefits than russet potatoes. One species of apple has 100 times more phytonutrients than the Golden Delicious variety found at most grocery stores.

“I want to grow seriously good food,” he said.

Tri-color carrots at Fullness Farm

For Allison, it’s the same.

“We like to eat good stuff,” she said. “That was a big thing for me.”

Their return to Baton Rouge was no accident. The Guidrozes wanted to come home to utilize their resources, and say that the little strip of land off of Nicholson they dubbed Fullness Farm wouldn’t have been possible without their local connections.

“We really knew we wanted to be back home, doing it here, growing it for our friends and family,” Allison said. “I grew up with my parents cooking. I like to cook, and I really like good food. And man, this food tastes awesome.”

To try some of the awesome-tasting food coming out of Fullness Farm, look for them at the Red Stick Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings or grab some of their green goodies from Indie Plate.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Beers With Chuck: Grand Reserve Day at Parish Brewery in Broussard, La.

by Chuck P

It seems every November when Parish Brewing Company holds its annual Grand Reserve Day, something comes up and I can't make it or I forget to buy tickets and it sells out. But this year, thanks to my good friend at Mockler Beverage Jacob Talley, I was finally able to attend, and I'm already making sure my schedule will be open for the next one.

Parish founder Andrew Godley holds this annual event complete with live music, food trucks, and definitely enough delicious craft beer to keep everyone happy.

Jacob and I made our way to the Parish taproom in Broussard, Louisiana, and after getting our armbands and tasting glasses, we made our way through the taproom. Craft beer lovers excited to try this year’s batch and the different variations of their signature Canebreak Wheat Ale, Envie Pale Ale and Southcoast Amber Ale crowded the area.

I had the chance to try a number of their creative brews, including Plum Southcoast, Braincake, Blueberry Canebreak, Grapefruit Envie, Barrel Aged Grand Reserve, and the Neopolitan Milk Stout.

The standout is obviously the Grand Reserve Barleywine Ale.
Parish's Grand Reserve, courtesy of

Parish’s Grand Reserve Barleywine Ale is an annual, limited brew that quickly vanishes off of store shelves as soon as it’s released. Even with its supply being upped from 1,300 bottles in 2012 to a whopping 5,000 bottles for the 2015 release, the Barleywine Ale is a hot commodity.

The 11% ABV, perfect for sitting back and enjoying, especially since they come in 750ml bottles. The great thing about the Grand Reserve is that it ages really well. I have bottles from every year of its release, and I'm itching to get some folks together to open them all and compare them!

After a few hours of great music and great craft beer, we made our way back home with our bounty of Grand Reserve bottles (including a barrel aged version) and a few 4-packs of their incredible Ghost In The Machine Double IPA, by far one the best beers in the state.

Andrew Godley put on an amazing party for craft beer drinkers from around the area, and I can only assume this year’s event will be even bigger and better.

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
Cold Brews in a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Treat Yoself: A Sugary Sweet Dessert Roundup

by Sydney Blanchard

Much to the horror of my dentist, I love to eat sweets. Gummy, stick-to-your-teeth candies rank the highest for me, followed closely by pastries, cookies, chocolate, and anything else that triggers tooth decay. 

I'm not alone in my addiction to sweets. Jay and Chuck P are almost as bad as I am when it comes to sugary delights. Jay has, to my knowledge, never passed up dessert at the end of a meal, and Chuck P could eat nothing but doughnuts for the rest of his life and be happy. 

So I'd like to dedicate this post to all those sugar fiends like me who crave the sweet and will pass on the salty. Here's some of the prettiest desserts we've encountered. Some have made it to blog posts, some have been featured previously on social media, and others are debuting in this very post.

Screw your New Years' Resolutions, your diet starts tomorrow!

First It's Sour...

fisher's sorbet
Sour Patch flavored sorbet in Orange Beach

How gorgeous is this scoop of Sour Patch sorbet from Fisher's in Orange Beach, Alabama? The chefs there churn out candy-inspired ice creams as part of the dessert menu at Fisher's Upstairs, and we got to try all of them (including the Barq's root beet flavored ice cream and the candy corn flavored ice cream). This sorbet tasted exactly like the Sour Patch candies that destroyed my tastebuds as a child!

It's a Piece of (Cheese)Cake

Chocolate? Check. Cheesecake? Check. My favorite Southern city? Check. This delectable dessert came from McEwen's in Oxford, Mississippi, the perfect spot to share desserts and cocktails with friends.

Eyes on the Pies

Featured as one of my Best Bites of 2015, this strawberry icebox pie from Strawn's Eat Shop haunts my dreams. I've tried and failed to find a comparable pie around Baton Rouge. Sure, there's City Pork Kitchen & Pie's version of the strawberry icebox pie, and of course there's Ambrosia's famous strawberry cake (which has been served as my birthday cake every year since I first discovered it), but nothing around here tastes quite like what they've got going on up in the Shreve.

Fruit Sorbet, Yummy Yummy

fruit luke new orleans
Dessert at Chef John Besh's Lüke in New Orleans

Sorry, but to me this dessert constitutes as health food. Look at all that fruit! This is practically a salad, for all intents and purposes. This berry sorbet topped with a berry sauce and covered in fresh blueberries and peaches from Lüke in New Orleans tasted about as good as it looked.

Strawberry Tarts Forever

l'auberge lake charles
Strawberry tart from L'Auberge in Lake Charles

As if they didn't feed me enough when I visited Lake Charles! One night back at the hotel, I wanted a little post-dinner snack, and I opted for this strawberry tart from L'Auberge Lake Charles. Pretty much instantly, this picture blew up on social media. Enjoyed with a little wine by the fire, it was a pretty good end to a great evening. 

Snow Day

grape snowball
Grape snowball from Snoman Snoballs in Baton Rouge

The best thing about snowballs is that everyone has their "thing," either a special combination of flavors or a classic topped with condensed milk or stuffed with ice cream. Some lunatics even like sour spray on this classic summer cool-down treat. Of course Blair likes plain grape, but I always combine wedding cake and ice cream flavored syrup and top the whole thing with condensed milk. I live for snowball season.

With a Cherry on Top

I've had plenty of cheesecake in my day. It's my go-to dessert at most restaurants. And don't come at me with that "cheesecake" powder mix, or a frozen boxed cheesecake. I like the fluffy ones made from scratch. Despite my favorite cheesecake being Piccadilly's, hands down, this cherry-topped slice from Not Just Pie in Monroe, Louisiana, had that perfect fluffy texture I love.

Float On

root beer float
Root Beer Float at City Pork Deli

City Pork Deli never ceases to impress me. Once for lunch we happened to drop in unwittingly on National Root Beer Float Day, and CP was serving up this gorgeous root beer float made with Swamp Pop Filé Root Beer and rimmed with crushed candied pecan dust. Mark your calendars for August 5. Hopefully they'll recreate it this year!

Beignet? More like Beign-Bae

Last week I was up late watching Chef with my girlfriend, and we saw a scene where the main characters ate beignets at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans. Without talking, we exchanged a meaningful look, put our shoes on, hopped in the car, and headed straight to Coffee Call for a bag of their beignet fingers. As we sat covered in powdered sugar, we thought aloud, "Where else in the world can you crave beignets and acquire them pretty much instantaneously?" Our answer? Only in Louisiana!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Oxford Obessed: A Fresh Look at the New South

by Blair Loup

My veins pulse purple and gold, but Oxford, Mississippi, is a surprising enchantress once you see beyond the veil of the SEC.

Arriving in Oxford felt like walking onto a movie set. A picturesque square serves the town on a pulmonary level. By day, locals shop in quaint stores and snag a bite to eat, and by night you can find people of all ages hopping from bar to bar.

The fun doesn’t stop in the Square; you can throw a rock and hit fun times and good eats in Oxford.

There’s plenty of old school historic Oxford to fall in love with, but it’s the vibrant group of new culinary talent that captured my attention.

It’s pretty easy to find what the cool kids are up to in town. Follow the good food and you’ll find your new drinking buddy and partner in crime in an afternoon’s time.

Hang Out at a Hotel

Deviled Eggs at The Coop on the rooftop of  The Graduate Hotel
Deviled Eggs at The Coop on the rooftop of
The Graduate Hotel

If you’re taking a trip to Oxford, I highly recommend staying at The Graduate. This place is a work of art. Designed to reflect the essence of whatever college town it manifests, The Graduate in Oxford is the perfect place to kick off shenanigans. A trip to the top floor lands you at The Coop, a restaurant/bar with a beautiful balcony view of the square, delicious small plates, and a stiff cocktail.

Get Your Lard On

A breakfast skillet, house-cured bacon, bruléed grapefruit and a hot cup of Joe at Big Bad Breakfast
A breakfast skillet, house-cured bacon, bruléed grapefruit and a hot cup of Joe at Big Bad Breakfast

John Currence’s Big Bad Breakfast is a must. After a day in The Grove or a night out on the town, you can’t look me in the eye and tell me you don’t want a hearty Southern breakfast. Bonus points if you grab a “Lard Have Mercy” t-shirt and a slab of their house-made bacon or breakfast sausage on your way out.

Hop in the Second Line

Besh Shrimp at Second Line in Oxford
Besh Shrimp at Second Line in Oxford

Chef Kelly English studied under Louisiana rockstar Chef John Besh and took that talent to Memphis to open Second Line, Oxford is home to the second Second Line, and incredible things are happening there.

If you’re from Louisiana, there’s nothing worse than a New Orleans-style restaurant cranking out terribly executed Louisiana-inspired dishes, but Second Line is doing it right. Chef Meredith Pittman rules the roost in this colorful joint in the square. She runs a tight ship of culinary students fostering their creativity and passion for food.

They’re doing Louisiana staples the right way, utilizing local ingredients for some pretty cool dishes of their own and serving up some tasty cocktails too! When I go back to Oxford, this is my first stop.

Join the Hunt

Steak Frites with Chimichurri, Truffle/Parmesan Frites and Tabasco Aioli
Steak Frites with Chimichurri, Truffle/Parmesan Frites and Tabasco Aioli

Snackbar, another of John Currence’s restaurants located in the same parking lot as Big Bad Breakfast, just a stone’s throw from the Square, boasts a menu that will make you want to wear fur, drink whiskey, own many leather-bound books and smell of rich mahogany.

Chef Vishwesh Bhatt brings surprising flavors to the table that no one else in town is plating up. Additionally, their charcuterie and raw oyster game is so strong.

Everyone in Oxford is your new best friend, and if you follow these steps you’re sure to meet some amazing individuals who will serve up a mean cocktail and feed you right.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

You Deserve Another Video Break

by Sydney Blanchard

Look, it's Wednesday. We know you're not getting anything done anyway. Instead, watch these cool videos that we had something to do with.

Behold! Below you'll find sexy food shots, Jay scarfing down hot dogs, and Jay plummeting to his (near) death.


Cooking Culture

In which four LCI grads talk about their love of cooking and Baton Rouge

Hot Dog Eating Contest

In which Jay wins a hot dog eating contest

Jay in the Dominican Republic

In which Jay plummets down a steep ravine

The Truck, the Brewer, and the Blogger

In which Jay serves up food for a pop-up event at the Tin Roof Tap Room

Into the Mix

In which Jay eats his way around town with 225 Magazine

Monday, January 4, 2016

Oxford Obsessed: A Classic Look at a Southern Staple

by Sydney Blanchard

Cozy, pastel-painted homes portion themselves out among the tree-lined streets of Oxford, Mississippi. This far north, the flat, coastal state turns hilly, and cars bob up and down the road, lurching at each change in altitude.

Old, proud buildings boast their histories in the town's Square, the epicenter of life in Oxford. It's a football town, sure, but it's a town filled to the brim with culture, with history, and with delicious food.

Oxford doesn't preen or parade; it waits patiently to unravel itself to curious passersby.

It's impossible not to fall in love with Oxford.

I don't think I've ever been so taken by a town as I was with Oxford. I was smitten the moment we pulled into the city, seduced by the crisp fall air and the halcyon blue sky.

To an outside observer, it almost seems there are two Oxfords: there's the old Oxford, a college town swathed in its history and literary tradition, hoping to make peace with its Civil Rights-era past.

Then there's the new Oxford, teeming with the ambition and excitement of a town filled with academics and ready to be known more for their place in the culinary world than for their place in history books.

The old Oxford is inextricable from the new, and both versions of Oxford merit exploration and awe.

By the end of our four-day tour of Oxford, I was ready to pack my bags and move into one of the humble, soft-hued homes that ripple outward from the center of the town.

Below you'll find my guide to Oxford, highlighting the things that historically have made Oxford worth visiting. Next week, Blair will share her take on this new, revitalized, millennial Oxford.

Hop on the Double-Decker Bus Tour

View from Visit Oxford's Double-Decker Bus in Oxford, Ms.

Oxford is relatively small and easily navigable, but Visit Oxford's Double-Decker Bus Tour helped me get my bearings so I could venture out and explore the town on my own later. We were lucky enough to be accompanied by local historian and fifth-generation Oxonian Jack Mayfield, who talked us through the tour of the town. Check out the Spring 2016 bus tour schedule, and be sure to procure tickets in advance.

Tour the Beautiful Ole Miss Campus

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The Lyceum at Ole Miss

Founded in 1848, the University of Mississippi is the largest university in the state. Walking or biking around campus is the best way to get a feel for it. College students roam about well-manicured lawns and beautiful architecture. Check out the University's art museum, scope out the Grove, or visit the Southern Foodways Alliance offices located in the Barnard Observatory.

Scarf a Southern Plate Lunch at Ajax Diner

Ajax Diner, located in the Square

Located alongside seemingly every other restaurant and business in Oxford's downtown Square, Ajax Diner serves up "good eats" on the cheap. Nothing makes my tastebuds dance like a real Southern plate lunch. You can't go wrong with any of their menu items, but I opted for meatloaf with fried okra and butter beans.

See Where Faulkner Lived and Worked 

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A panorama of a room at Rowan Oak, William Faulkner's Mississippi home

The great Southern gothic writer William Faulkner spent his adult years at his Greek-revival home Rowan Oak in Oxford, his own little postage stamp of native soil. Strolling the grounds of Rowan Oak and touring the house itself, it's clear to any writer how Faulkner could find inspiration there. The home is maintained by the University as a museum, yet the gardens remain in ruin, just the way Faulkner liked it. Oxford is also home to the graveyard where Faulkner was laid to rest in 1962.

Listen in on Thacker Mountain Radio Hour

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Sign outside of Square Books in Oxford

I've never experienced anything quite like Thacker Mountain Radio Hour. Each week in the spring and fall, the Thacker Mountain Radio Hour is recorded live from the Off Square Books store in the Square in Oxford. This live show, similar to NPR's A Prairie Home Companion in format, features musical acts and author readings and is open to the public and free of cost. As a public radio aficionado myself, this was the highlight of my stay in Oxford.

Chow Down on Catfish at Taylor Grocery

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Eat or we both starve! The famous Taylor Grocery sign.

While not technically in Oxford, Taylor Grocery outside of Oxford is a local favorite. The music is jumping, the atmosphere irreverent, and the whole fried catfish worth the drive. Writing covers about every inch of Taylor Grocery which used to function as more of a grocery store than a restaurant. This place has a BYOB policy, so make sure to bring a brown bag.