Thursday, December 29, 2016

Best Bites of 2016 (Burger Edition): Chuck P's Picks

by Chuck P

Well, here we are ladies and gents. The end of 2016 (thankfully) is upon us and with its end comes reflection on past events of this crazy year. Here at Bite and Booze HQ, we’re all charged with the task of looking back on the many delicious meals we’ve had this year and compiling a list of our favorite eats.

For obvious reasons, I was given the job of choosing which of the vast amounts of burgers would make my top 5 list. To me, this is almost like selecting who my favorite child is between my son and daughter (answer: they’re both my favorites). I was determined to go through each burger or at least try to, and find the ones that really stood out. So, without further ado, here are the top 5 burgers of 2016.

#5 Calla Burger

Restaurant Calla in Lake Charles, LA

During a 3 day media trip to Lake Charles, Jay hosted a Great Raft beer dinner at Restaurant Calla. Throughout the event we heard from almost every staff member there that we had to come back for lunch the next day and try their burger. It was pretty much everyone’s favorite choice on the menu. Upon returning the next day and having their signature burger I have to agree with the staff.

A soft, toasted buttery bun with two thick, juicy house made patties covered in gooey American cheese that literally melted in your mouth. I added some bacon and a fried egg as well which perfectly complimented the already delicious sandwich. Make sure to stop by here the next time you find yourself in Lake Charles and treat yourself to this tasty burger.

#4 The Burger

Overpass Merchant in Baton Rouge, LA

The Overpass Merchant is one of my favorite new places that has opened this year. This gastropub has a great selection of elevated bar food and a very nice rotating craft beer selection on tap. I love the fact that their burger is simply called The Burger. 

With Curbside Burger’s Nick Hufft behind the creation how can it NOT be good? The combo of ground chuck, brisket and short rib blended together gives this patty its unique taste. Adding choices of Aged Cheddar, Maytag Bleu Cheese, Applewood Bacon, Fried Egg or Onion Jam only enhances your burger experience. Hell, why not add them all?!? Pair this with one of their many IPA’s on tap and you’ve got yourself one heck of a meal.

#3 The “Irregular” Burger

Pimanyoli’s Smokehouse Cafe in Baton Rouge, LA

Okay everyone, let’s just take a second and look at the picture. I mean seriously. It’s like a damn work of art! Pimanyoli’s is tucked away on Airline Highway in between an Italian restaurant and a 24 hour gym. It’s one Baton Rouge’s best kept secrets. Their BBQ plates are to die for but let’s talk about this burger. 

On top of that delicious 8oz. ground chuck patty sits a mouth watering pile of their incredible smoked brisket. Add to that some awesome bacon, Monterey Jack, smoked mushrooms and grilled onions and it’s a burger lover’s paradise. Make your way out to Airline Highway and try this burger; your belly will thank you.

#2 The Breakfast Burger

Mason’s Grill in Baton Rouge, LA

If any of you know me, you know of my deep, undying love for the Breakfast Burger at Mason’s. House made patty, American cheese, fried egg, house made breakfast sausage patty, bacon, more American cheese, another fried egg. I mean...what else is there?! No more is needed to “add” to the flavor because it’s all there.

Honestly, you could share this with a buddy or your significant other but would you want to? I know I don’t. This burger is all mine and mine alone to enjoy and savor. As far as I’m concerned there are no other brunch options on the menu. This is it.

#1 The OG Burger

Alfie’s Pop-Up in Washington, D.C.

The BEST burger I had all year. For real. As beautiful as it looks in that photo, the picture still doesn’t do it justice. Chef Alex McCoy, who was a fellow contestant with Jay on Food Network Star, is the proud poppa to this beautiful bundle of joy.

The juiciness and flavor of that house made patty was mind blowing. Every component of the burger from the pickles and red onions to the baby arugula blended together perfectly. That sweet toasty bun was absolutely magical. I could eat this burger every day and never get tired of it. It’s that freakin’ good!

Honorable mentions:
The Venison Burger at Goûter in Baton Rouge, LA
The GC2 at Curbside Burgers in Baton Rouge, LA
The Old Fashioned Bacon Burger at Cotton’s Famous Hamburgers in Lake Charles, LA
The Chef’s Favorite at Spanishtown Market in Baton Rouge, LA

Check out Blair's Best Bites of 2016

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Best Bites of 2016: Blair's Picks

by Blair Loup

I had the best of intentions for 2016. Full of existential expectations in my 25th year, I dubbed this the “Year of Blair." Well, if you know me, you know how that turned out. The year was filled with peaks and valleys, but I feel very fortunate to say that the majority of the peaks came from the opportunities afforded to me as a member of the Bite and Booze team.

On top of taking an epic road trip of a lifetime to the James Beard House in New York and their Chefs & Champagne event in the Hamptons, I took a lovely solo vacation to Georgia and we’re getting amped up for the opening of Gov’t Taco in the summer of 2017.

As per usual at this fantastic place of work, I did plenty of traveling this year and consequently ate a ton of amazing things. While this year-end post is one of my favorites to write, it’s also the most torturous. Here are the best things I ate this year:

Smoked Tomato Soup with Basil Oil

Pop-up at Tin Roof Brewing in Baton Rouge, LA

Smoked Tomato Soup with Basil Oil
Smoked Tomato Soup with Basil Oil

I know…surprising that something as simple as a bowl of soup can make the list, but on this chilly January night at Tin Roof, this soup was ON TIME. Executive Chef at soon-to-be open Kahlurah St. Grill Kelley McCann and Masterchef Season 6 contestant and owner of Robear Ln. opening in White Star Market, Jesse Romero stole my heart with this one.

The soup’s consistency blew me away. It wasn’t too creamy, but just super velvety. The smoke flavor peeked through at all the right moments and the basil oil set it over the edge. It was a damn good bowl of soup.

Orange Zest and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

Lunchbox on 10th in McCallen, TX

Orange Zest and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta
Orange Zest and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

I’m not one for sweets unless there’s chocolate involved, but this Panna Cotta had me dumbfounded. I had and still haven’t had another Panna Cotta this perfect in my life. Oftentimes I find them to be too firm or so loose they’re breaking on the plate into a pile of mush, but this one retained its structure and melted in my mouth.

Aside form the exquisite technical execution, the flavors were bright and perfectly balanced.

Chargrilled Oysters

Sac-a-Lait in New Orleans, LA

Chargrilled Oysters with a Green Garlic House-Pickled Jalapeño and Bacon Butter
Chargrilled Oysters with a Green Garlic House-Pickled Jalapeño and Bacon Butter

I feel like almost all chargrilled oysters are delicious, but these were different somehow. I will jump at any chance to dine at the beautiful, always stellar Sac-a-Lait. I have an enormous respect for Chefs Sam & Cody Carroll as friends and the utmost regard for them as some of the best chefs in the south. If you have not been, you must go, like, now.

Instead of the traditional garlic butter, the cook their oysters with a green garlic house-pickled jalapeño and bacon butter. I think the street name for it is crack.

Plated in a terra cotta plant saucer and river stones, the presentation fits the restaurant like a glove. Doing everything right always, that’s Sac-a-Lait.

Beet Sorbet

SALT New American Table in McAllen, TX

Beet Sorbet
Beet Sorbet

I love beets. They are so precious to me. I don’t know where it came from, but they are hands down my number one favorite. Having that said, I’ve had beets in about as many ways Bubba says you can cook shrimp, but it wasn’t until this year that I tasted a beet sorbet.

Several who read this will automatically turn your nose up at thinking about beets as a dessert, but you’re wrong.

This sorbet was a beet swan song. A gracious balance of sweetness while maintaining the full flavor characteristics of the beet is tricky, but they did it!

Som Tam Paa

Alfie’s in Washington, D.C.

Papaya Said with Fried Chilis and Lime
Papaya Salad with Fried Chilis and Lime

We had the pleasure of stopping by to visit Jay’s Food Network Star cast mate Alex McCoy at his pop-up restaurant, Alfie’s. As you might recall, Alex has an affinity for Asian and, more specifically, Thai cuisine. 

After mingling with the staff for a bit, Alex piled the dishes on one after one. It’s always special to be able to taste the love, and in Alex’s case, the authenticity and honor in his food. I could tell that he could back up every bit of his passion with dishes that showcase a culture.

Being the heat freak I am, this papaya salad rocked my world. Tart, refreshing and spicy as all Hell, this textural wonderland keeps you coming back for more heat every three seconds.

Open-Faced Tamale

Araña in New Orleans, LA

Open-Faced Tamale
Open-Faced Tamale

Araña is easily one of my favorite places to eat in New Orleans. Chef Richard is a magician with sauces and plates up some creative, re-imagined classics while still holding down the fort of some Mexican favorites.

This open–faced tamale is a fried rectangular prism of grits (instead of traditional tamale masa) dredged in a mildly spicy, insanely flavorful sauce and topped with tender chicken tinga, brightly pickled onions and queso fresco. Boom baby!

A shot of whiskey soaking with the fat of a 2 year cured ham, a drop of Poirier Cane Syrup and a bite of 2 year ham

Acre in Auburn, AL

2 Year Ham, Whiskey soaked with 2 Year Ham Fat and Poirier Cane Syrup

With a constant rain of accolades, Acre has become one of the top farm-to-table restaurants in the country.

Chef David Bancroft grows a lot of produce on site and throughout the parking lot of Acre. We were happy to stop by on our way back from New York for an incredible meal. Chef David wanted to “bring us back home” with some southern decadence and they took care of us big time.

While everything we had blew us away, I know Chef David’s charcuterie is a passion project of his. He treated us to some of his 2 year cured ham and brought out a special mason jar of whiskey that had been soaking with the trimmings of that ham. A shot of pig fat whiskey, a drop of Poirier Can Syrup and a bite of ham and we felt right at home.

Chilled Spicy Noodles

Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City, NY

Chilled Spicy Noodles with Thai Basil, Cashews, and Sichuan Sausage
Chilled Spicy Noodles with Thai Basil, Cashews, and Sichuan Sausage

David Chang means a lot to me. When I first got the job at Bite and Booze, I had no clue what I was in for. Like most freshly graduated 22 years olds, I knew that I had a job, but didn’t exactly know what I was doing with myself. I immediately started watching every beer and food related shows on Netflix imaginable (which in 2013 wasn’t many). I stumbled across season 1 of ‘Mind of a Chef’ and my world turned upside down. David Chang was the point person for most of that season and drove me to submerse myself in the culinary world.

Jay brought me to Momofuku Noodle Bar when we went to NYC for Sam & Cody Carroll’s James Beard Dinner a year ago, but we went back for a full on Momofuku day this summer when we were in town for our own James Beard Dinner.

This will probably always be one of the best days of my life, mostly because I decided to order differently than everyone at the table and go for these famously spicy noodles.

The entire bowl covered in these candied, crunchy cashews holds electric green, sweet, but spicy noodles. It’s the kind of good heat that you can’t put down. Bite after bite my love grew deeper and deeper. The rich basil flavor complimented by a crispy, savory Sichuan sausage peppered with the sweet, crunchy cashews still haunts my memory.

I legitimately think of these noodles every day. Every day. Still.

Check out Chuck P's Best Bites of 2016 (Burger Edition)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Marit says, "Holiday Cooking is for the Birds."

by Marit Schroeder, intern

Well I did it. My first major holiday without my parents cooking for me, and it worked out just fine! Don’t get me wrong, I had other family in town to celebrate and cook with, but I’m allowed to be a little dramatic about cooking a holiday meal, I think.

When I first found out my parents wouldn’t be in town for Thanksgiving, I was given the major task of cooking the turkey for my 14 other family members. Talk about feeling overwhelmed!

Everyone here at Bite & Booze was super helpful with tips and tricks about how to cook the perfect turkey. Luckily, I have an aunt who took over the last minute stress to cook the turkey.

Rid of the turkey pressure, my next task proved to be even trickier: cook the food for my vegetarian family members. I love myself some meat, and it was hard to focus on a meal plan revolving around vegetables. As much as I enjoy them as a side dish, translating that into a more hearty meal was a challenge.

For an appetizer, we started out with a salmon mousse and cucumbers for dipping. Not so shockingly, my sister and I had never made mousse before so it came out like a cheese dip. It was definitely delicious as a dip even though it should have been more of a gelatin mold. Clearly my college culinary skills need improvement.

Salmon Mousse with cucumbers.
Salmon Mousse with cucumbers.

Next, we had to change up the stuffing and made ours with herbed wild rice and quinoa. Quinoa has been rocking the food world for the past few years and it’s a great grain substitute or complement for a plethora of dishes.

Vegetarian dressing featuring wild rice and quinoa.
Vegetarian dressing featuring wild rice and quinoa.

Lastly, and most easily, I was in charge of a cheese tray. I took care of this by heading down to Calandro’s and picking up some of their pre-made cheese balls and fancy cheeses from the deli. 

Fancy Cheeses and accouterments from Calandro's
Fancy Cheeses and accouterments from Calandro's

All in all, though daunting, I felt accomplished at the end of the day. It was a Happy Thanksgiving to all at my house, even for those non-vegetarians!

Sadly, this is my last post as a Bite & Booze intern. I hope you’ve enjoyed my grandmother’s recipe for red gravy and learning about my first brewery experience during our Hot Chicken on a Tin Roof event. Most importantly, I’m leaving behind the valuable (and expert) knowledge of where to find the best frozen daiquiris around town!

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Bite & Booze Last Minute Gift Guide

by Rachel Hamburger, intern

It’s that time of year again… Holiday season: aka buying presents for those near and dear to our hearts. We know that finding the perfect gift for each person on your nice list has been so difficult, but if you’re still doing some last minute shopping have no fear!. The Bite and Booze team is here with some gift inspo for all the gifts you just haven’t gotten around to buying yet. (If you’re anything like me, that’s just about all of them… It’s crunch time!)

For the out of state Cajun who needs a lil’ taste of home in their pantry: 
A Slap Ya Mama Smorgasbord

For the fisherman: 

For the Jay Ducote fanatic: 

For those trying to keep things sharper in 2017: 

For the mixologist: 

For the mudbug master: 

For the one with city pride: 

For the one who needs a quick getaway: 

For constant snackers: 

For the one who wants to take their salt game to the next level: 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Jay D's Bites: Pimento Cheese Stuffed Jalapeños

by Aimee Tortorich

One of our most popular recipe creations, Jay D’s Pimento Cheese, has spread like wildfire. It’s packed with flavor from Jay D’s Spicy & Sweet Rub and Louisiana Molasses Mustard and uses smoky gouda and cheddar cheese. It’s not an uncommon treat around the office, so naturally I wanted to use it in a recipe. What better way to eat pimento cheese than stuffed in a jalapeño with bacon crumbles?!

Pimento Cheese Stuffed Jalapeños

Yields 4-6 servings

12 jalapeños
6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
¾ cup Jay D’s Pimento Cheese

Preheat oven to 375º.

Slice each jalapeño lengthwise and remove seeds and membrane. Parcook jalapeños cut side down for 5 minutes. Let cool and stuff each jalapeño with 1 Tbsp of pimento cheese. Place jalapeños on sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Garnish with crumbled bacon.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Burgers with Chuck: Kickin' it at Curbside Burgers

by Chuck P

In the glory days of the popular food truck scene here in Baton Rouge there were great choices that ranged from wood fired brick oven pizza to tasty tacos. There were enough trucks around to please everyone, but out of the many only one consistently drew bigger crowds, longer lines and created a social media frenzy when trying to track down where they would be next: Curbside.

As the food truck craze started to die, the Curbside truck disappeared as well. Marred by constant repairs, the truck had to retire until it could be fully restored, which unfortunately never happened. During this time, Curbside creator Nick Hufft found a way to put his insanely delicious burgers onto a menu in a new concept in New Orleans: Barcadia.

Flash forward a few years later and after helping bring the Barcadia concept to Baton Rouge, Huft decided the time was right to not just bring back those burgers, but to finally open his own place complete with a killer patio area, not one but TWO bocce ball courts, a very nice bar and of course those amazing burgers. Curbside Burgers are back!

When you walk into the newly built restaurant located on Government Street next to Calandro’s the first thing to greet you will be a large section of the food truck that was specially cut to fit the booth area. It’s like greeting an old friend you haven’t seen in years. Walking up to the counter to order may have been one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make in a while at a restaurant.

With only a partial menu and the full one (including brunch burgers!!!) coming soon, the six choices I had were still tough ones. There was my all time favorite, the KGB with its killer praline bacon and fried egg, The Brian 3.0 with bleu cheese crumbles, onion strings and Nick’s homemade pork belly preserves and the GC2 with Green Chili Relish, bacon, pepperjack fondue, Fritos and Cholula Mayo. Ugh.

The GC2 at Curbside on Government Street in Baton Rouge, LA
The GC2 at Curbside on Government Street in Baton Rouge, LA

I stepped up to the counter after going back and forth on everything and ordered the Naq Attaque. Topped with Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, garlic mayo, parmesan crisp and a side of french onion soup to dip it in, this burger hit all of the feels. The patty itself was hot and juicy, the onions were sweet and tender and the parmesan crisp was a nice added touch. Definitely one I’ll revisit on numerous occasions. Add to that an order of crunchy tater tots and it makes for the perfect meal combo.

The Naq Attaque
The Naq Attaque

If after that you still find yourself with room in your belly I highly suggest checking out one of their signature Boozy Milkshakes. There’s the Chilly Vanilli featuring Vanilla Vodka, Andes Mints and Oreo Mint Cookies, the CT Crunch with Rumchata and Cinnamon Toast Crunch and my personal favorite the Jr. Special with Loopy Vodka, Fruit Loops and Captain Crunch crumbles.

The Jr. Special and CT Crunch Boozy Milkshakes. Yum.
The Jr. Special and CT Crunch Boozy Milkshakes. Yum.

With all of your favorite classics along with a new items and a larger menu coming soon, I have to say it’s nice to have Curbside Burgers back on the street, especially sitting in one permanent spot. Congrats Nick Hufft and welcome home!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Jay D's Bites: Smoky, Roasted Veggies

by Aimee Tortorich

We always try to show the versatility of the Jay Ducote line of products. Jay Ducote’s Spicy & Sweet Rub, which was released earlier this year, has been a favorite among customers and it is a favorite of mine in the kitchen. Not only can it be used with any grilled meats, it adds a nice balance and spice for vegetables as well. The salt content is very low, but it is packed with flavor for those looking for a low sodium seasoning blend. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Smoky, Roasted Veggies
Tri-colored carrots and Brussels sprouts roasted with Jay D's Spicy & Sweet Rub
Tri-colored carrots and Brussels sprouts roasted with Jay D's Spicy & Sweet Rub

Yields 6 servings

12 carrots, sliced
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, cut in half
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp Jay D’s Spicy & Sweet Rub

Preheat oven to 425º.

Toss vegetables in olive oil and Jay D’s Spicy & Sweet BBQ Rub. Between three sheet pans or working in batches, pour the vegetables on sheet pan, leaving room for even roasting (and prevent steaming). Roast for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

TX takes LA: Boudin

by Rachel Hamburger, intern

In this installment of TX takes LA, I’m talking about BOUDIN!!! Boudin is something that always intimidated me growing up. I remember hearing a rumor when I was a kid that there were bugs in it… After that I always steered clear.

Beautiful, Bodacious Boudin. Photo Credit: Iverstine Butcher
Beautiful, Bodacious Boudin. Photo Credit: Iverstine Butcher

Once I got to Louisiana, boudin was around me more than ever. It seems like every restaurant here has boudin balls on their menu. Whenever I was with people who ordered them, I never tried them because I was scared of what actually made up “boudin”.

When I let it slip to the rest of the Bite and Booze team that I’d never tried boudin, all their mouths dropped to the floor. It was decided very quickly that I must try boudin. Chuck brought back a box of Tony’s Seafood boudin balls to the office the next week, and I finally got to try boudin.

While boudin balls aren’t boudin in its purest form, it still gave me a chance to try it and the fried version lessened the anxiety of what it was actually made of. I am very finicky about meats, (I even had a brief vegetarian phase for six months last year.) Not finicky about how they taste, but the thought of eating liver and things like that makes me squeamish. As long as I don’t know it’s there, I have no problem; it’s all in my head.

So what is boudin exactly?

It’s typically a mix of pork, rice, onions, green peppers, and seasonings. The Acadians brought boudin to Louisiana from Nova Scotia, although the traditional French “boudin blanc” is much different than the Cajun boudin most know today.

French boudin blanc is made with pork, chicken and/or veal, mixed with milk, cognac and spices; no rice, onions or peppers present. The recipe eventually adapted to the Cajun boudin we know today because the newly migrated Acadians had to be inventive to survive in their new home in Louisiana, and that meant making use of all resources.

They found that you could use many different parts of a hog in sausage, so along came the new form of boudin.

Where did the rice come in?

At the end of the nineteenth century, large-scale rice production began and rice was added to boudin for flavor and filler. There are two types of Cajun boudin: red and white. White is what most are familiar with, the mix of pork, rice, etc., and is pretty much all that is still available today.

Red boudin (blood boudin) is essentially the same as white boudin, but also has a large amount of hogs blood mixed in with it.

All in all, we have the French Acadians to thank for the Cajun boudin many know and love. Their crafty survival skills led to the modern delicacy that is boudin. Personally, now that I’ve tried it, I do think boudin is delicious. Although knowing that some interesting parts of the pig may be used in it does weird me out a lil bit.