Monday, February 27, 2017

West Coast Vibin’ at The Crack Shack: Where Gov’t Taco Research meets Fried Chicken

by Aimee Tortorich

In January I had the pleasure of heading back to San Diego after over 4 years being away.  The reason? Taco research. With the upcoming opening of Gov’t Taco, I wanted to check out what the West Coast was up to in the food scene. Let me tell you, they still got it going on!

We tried everything from traditional Mexican to modern American tacos, but eating tacos for 16 straight meals gets a little monotonous, so we headed to a few different restaurants for inspiration.

One of the coolest places we went was The Crack Shack, Richard Blais’s new restaurant known for their chicken and eggs. Free-range and local fried chicken and eggs are served in a fast casual restaurant with a true Southern California laid-back vibe. Surrounded by bocce and frequented by any and all, including happy dogs, it was a nice start to a great research trip.

We arrived the morning around 9 am on a weekday, so we never had to wait in line. (Word of caution, if going on the weekend, be prepared to wait for this crack.)
After discussing the menu options, which are located on the wall next to the ordering counter, we decided to try an assortment of delectable offerings.

Chicken Lollipops

Togarashi and Lemon
Togarashi and Lemon

Perfectly fried and whimsical to the eye, these beauties were laced with a little Japanese spice mixture known as tōgarashi, which added a nice heat and citrus flavor.  Definitely a winner on my list, I would go back for more all day, everyday.

Border Slaw

Papaya, Mango, Jicama, Coconut, Chili, Pineapple
Papaya, Mango, Jicama, Coconut, Chili, Pineapple

The border slaw was a nice variation of traditional southern slaw. The freshness of the fruit mixed with the textual crunch of the elements didn’t disappoint. Good as a palate cleanser or an option for the health-conscious, this slaw would definitely go great on any seafood taco.

Mini Biscuits

Miso-Maple Butter
Miso-Maple Butter

These little beauties were top of the line in the biscuit world. Delicate, buttery and served with miso maple butter, I had my fair share and “maybe” overindulged. Chicken and biscuit taco anyone????

Chicken Oysters

Pickle Brine, Meyer Lemon, Mustard Seed Tartar
Pickle Brine, Meyer Lemon, Mustard Seed Tartar

Any chef will tell you that the best part of a chicken is the chicken oyster. These tiny dark meat jewels come right off the backbone at the thigh and are super tender and juicy.  It’s no surprise that Richard Blais would put these prized bits on the menu. Pickle brined, fried and served with fried kale and mustard seed tartar, these were a great appetizer and made for a great chicken biscuit!

The Condiments

From bottom left to right: Baja Hot Sauce, Cracksup, Kimchi BBQ, Vadouvan Mustard, Chimichurri and Ranch
From bottom left to right: Baja Hot Sauce, Cracksup, Kimchi BBQ, Vadouvan Mustard, Chimichurri and Ranch

These house-made sauces were definitely a huge inspiration for Gov’t Taco. Offering 6 different options, these sauces hit all the notes from sweet to spicy to tangy. My favorite was the mustard, which was sweet and had notes of curry. It was a great dipping sauce and would be an interesting component for tacos.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Jay D's Bites: Spicy & Sweet Cast Iron Bake

by Aimee Tortorich

We love Jay D’s Spicy & Sweet Rub, so naturally we use it as an all-purpose seasoning on anything from protein to vegetables. For this recipe, we used the rub not only on the pork, but also the Brussels sprouts and roasted them together to make a glorious marriage of flavor; super easy, quick and a weeknight winner.

Spicy & Sweet Cast Iron Bake

Serves 4

2 Tbs Smoked Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Red Stick Spice Company
2 Tbs Jay D’s Spicy & Sweet Rub
1 pork tenderloin, about 1 lb.
½ pound Brussels sprouts, halved
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Rub pork tenderloin with 1 Tbs of smoked olive oil and 1 Tbs of Jay D’s Spicy & Sweet Rub. Sear on all sides in a cast iron pan and set aside. 

Toss Brussels sprouts with 1 Tbs of smoked olive oil and 1 Tbs of Jay D’s Spicy & Sweet Rub and sear in the same pan on all sides. 

Add seared tenderloin on top of Brussels sprouts bake in cast iron pan for about 10 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 145ºF.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Making it Reign: King Cake Takes around Baton Rouge

by Hannah Wilson, intern

When I moved to Louisiana, there was a certain degree of culture shock. There were all of these new celebrations and everything was something to toast to. Something I learned early on was one of the delicacies that Mardi Gras season is best known for is King Cake. King Cake can be eaten for any meal, at any time without judgment and for that, King Cake will always hold a special place in my heart.

If there’s one thing Louisianan’s know, it’s how to celebrate. Over the years, different restaurants and companies throughout Louisiana have found different ways to incorporate King Cake into their menu to celebrate Carnival in new and creative ways. Here are some of the most tasty ways I’ve seen to enjoy King Cake.

Fat Cow King Cake Milkshake

This is something people crave all year. Fat Cow’s milkshakes are already amazing, but the festive flavor pairs well with their Parmesan and Duck Fat Fries or any burger.

Cupcake Allie King Cake Bites

This bite size way to enjoy King Cake is easy to pop in, grab, and savor on the go!

A post shared by Cupcake Allie (@cupcake_allie) on

Rösch Bakehaus King Cake

These artisanal cakes are few and tasty. With flavors like Dark Chocolate & Lavender, Ginger & Walnut and Raspberry Frangipane, they’re a uniquely delicious, hand-crafted way to celebrate Carnival.

City Pork King Cake Brulee

A unique take on a classic, crowd favorite. This festive treat pairs well with any of their special cocktails, especially the Hummingbird.

Bistro Byronz King Cake Bread Pudding

These two very tasty things merged into one is what dreams are made of. Trust me.

A post shared by Good. Real Good. (@bistrobyronz) on

Tiger Deaux-nuts Maple Bacon King Cake 

Salty and sweet, what more could you want? This King Cake gets decadent with crumbled bacon, making all of your tastebuds happy!

Everyone has their own traditions and different ways they celebrate Carnival and Mardi Gras. Over the years, I’ve realized that no matter how you celebrate it’s always a memorable experience. These are tasty, local ways to mix it up this season.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Jay D's Bites: Havarti and Pear Grilled Cheese

by Aimee Tortorich

I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like a grilled cheese. Simple and delicious, grilled cheese in my eyes is the king of all sandwiches. There are so many varieties out there, so we wanted to mix things up a bit. We used Jay D’s Molasses Mustard as a way to add some sweetness and tang that makes this sandwich stand out!

Harvarti and Pear Grilled Cheese with Molasses Mustard

Serves 1

½ pear, sliced into thin strips
1 Tbs of Jay D’s Molasses Mustard
2 slices sourdough bread
4 oz. Harvarti cheese, sliced
1 Tbs unsalted butter, softened

Spread mustard on each slice of bread evenly. Next, layer with cheese on both sides and add pears to one side of bread. Heat a saute pan and add butter. Cook on each side of sandwich until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Taking a Bite Out of Chicago

by Hannah Wilson, intern

Eating your way through any city can be an intimidating challenge, especially in one of the biggest cities in the United States. However, being a Chicago native, I’ve spent almost 22 years eating my way through this city. Although I don’t think I could ever eat everything the city has to offer, I can assure you that these culinary inventions of Chicago are worth tracking down.

Chicago Style Hot Dog

A true Chicago classic, an all-beef wiener on a poppy seed bun. You can find these bad boys topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear tomato wedges and a sprinkle of celery salt but never, ever ketchup.

Gene & Jude’s, in the Chicagoland area, is said to have the number one hot dog in America since 1945. They don’t even supply Ketchup in their store.

The Twinkie

In 1930, James Dewar invented this spongy, indestructible treat. In 1980, about a billion Twinkies were sold each year.

Italian Beef

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

Thin slices of seasoned roast beef on a thick, Italian-style roll are the base of an Italian Beef. Chicago natives often order it juicy, which means it’s dipped into the juices that the beef is cooked in, and smother it in sweet and/or hot peppers. This is a Chicago dish that dates back to the 1930’s.

Chicago Mix Popcorn

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

An unlikely pair of cheese and caramel flavored popcorn is literal heaven in your mouth. I don’t know where it came from, or who thought of it, but bless your soul. This Chicago staple can be found all throughout the city, almost on every block like Starbucks. You definitely shouldn’t leave without trying it!

Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza

Photo credit: unbirthdayparty
Photo credit: unbirthdayparty

I can best describe this as a pie; it is baked in a deep, steel pan with large amounts of cheese and chunky tomato sauce. Toppings that would usually go on top of a pizza before being baked are actually baked within the pizza, in-between the cheese and sauce. A native knows that tackling this tasty tradition requires a fork and knife.
There can never be a unanimous “best deep dish” restaurant because everyone has their own opinions, there are different style of deep dish and each one holds special place in my heart. 

The possibilities are endless when deciding what to eat in Chicago, but leaving without trying what the city is known for, would just be a shame.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Jay D's Bites: Molasses Mustard Salmon

by Aimee Tortorich

Salmon is one of those proteins that never gets old and can be prepared multiple ways. It has amazing health benefits with vital nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, B12, and Vitamin D. Naturally, salmon works very well mustard so it was a no-brainer when we decided to use Jay D’s Molasses Mustard. The sweetness from the molasses pairs well with the tanginess of the mustard and adds a perfect touch of flavor to salmon while the rub gives it a spicy, smokey kick.

Molasses Mustard Salmon

Yield 4-6 servings

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Mix mustard and rub together and set aside. Pat salmon filets dry and place skin side down on an oiled, foil-lined sheet pan. Add the Spicy & Sweet Rub/Molasses Mustard mixture to the tops of the filets and bake in oven for 12-15 minutes.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Celebrating a SOUPer Holiday: National Homemade Soup Day

by Sarah Grimball, intern

If you’re anything like us, you believe that homemade soup is the epitome of comfort food. In honor of National Homemade Soup Day, we are taking a trip down memory lane to revisit some of the best soups we’ve made and have been served throughout the years.

Whether made by our own hand or by the hands of chefs we love, these soups have taken us to taste bud heaven:

Smoked Creole Tomato Soup

Momofuku Ramen from Momofuku Noodle Bar

Squash Curry

Pho from Dang's


Sancocho in Santo Domingo

Friday, February 3, 2017

Duck, Duck, Whisk: A Coffee Cake Recipe to Quack About

by Sarah Grimball, intern

I hosted Christmas at my house for the first time this year. My uncle came bearing an unexpected gift: duck eggs. I did some research; and it turns out that duck eggs are awesome not only for eating, but for baking. You can use them the exact same way that you use chicken eggs: scrambled, fried, poached or for baking. They have twice the nutritional value of a chicken egg and stay fresh longer due to their thicker shell. They’re also more rich, with higher levels of Albumen – also known as egg white -- which makes cakes and pastries fluffier and rich in flavor. Not wanting to waste my opportunity, I had to make a delicious coffee cake.

Fresh Duck Eggs
Fresh Duck Eggs

As previously stated, this was the first time that I had ever looked at a duck egg, much less cooked with one. The eggs have a different look than a regular ‘ole chicken egg. Off-white and sometimes speckled with brown spots, they are a lot larger than your typical egg. I noticed that the egg was a lot harder to crack because of its thick shell, and the yolk was an orange color that was totally unlike any chicken egg I’d ever seen. I’ve made plenty of cakes before, but the colors and textures here were so new and unlike anything else. 

A slice of Duck Egg and Brown Butter Coffee Cake with a cup of Jay D's Single Origin Coffee
A slice of Duck Egg and Brown Butter Coffee Cake with a cup of Jay D's Single Origin Coffee

If you are new to baking, it is important to note that you want to make sure that your ingredients are at room temperature. Using room temperature eggs means that the eggs will disperse more evenly into the batter and allow for even cooking and a lighter texture. To quickly bring your eggs to room temperature, soak them in a bowl of warm water for 10- 15 minutes.

Duck Egg and Brown Butter Coffee Cake

Yield: 12 Servings Time: 1 hour

For the Cake: 

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 large duck eggs at room temperature
1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups sour cream
1 tsp vanilla

For the topping:

3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 3/4 Tbs cinnamon
2/3 cups chopped walnuts
For the icing:

½ cup Powder sugar
2 Tbs milk
1/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and butter and flour a 9" circular baking pan. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Then, in another separate bowl, mix together the sour cream and vanilla. Turn the mixer on low and alternate between adding the flour mixture and sour cream mixture. Pour half of the batter into the prepared baking pan.

To make the topping you will need to simply combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and walnuts in a bowl and stir to mix well. Sprinkle half of the mixture on the batter and then pour in the rest of the batter into the pan. Finish by sprinkling the rest of the topping mixture onto the cake.
Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. While the cake is cooling mix together the powder sugar, milk, and vanilla. Drizzle the icing onto the cake and enjoy.

These types of cakes are typically accompanied by some type of beverage such as tea or coffee. We of course are biased towards Jay D’s Single Origin Coffee; so when it came down to tasting it, we paired it with that. Let us know if you are going to try out this recipe or try to get your hands on some duck eggs at your local farmer’s market. We’d love to see your creations on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!