Italy is famous for serving wonderful red wines in generic carafes at family restaurants. My pick for this genre is Il Ghizzano, which is crafted to bring back memories of these timeless European table wines.
Looking for delicious meatless Lenten meals? Now is a great time to enjoy fresh seafood. I always keep various types—salmon, shrimp, tilapia—in the freezer for quick, go-to meals, thanks to a friend who loves to fish and share with me. And what better time to spotlight our delicious Gulf Coast seafood than when the Lenten season coincides with the National Nutrition Month of March!
March is typically the time to pull out the crawfish pot, check that the tank is full of butane and fire it up.
On a well-appointed table under textbook Louisiana live oaks, four courses inspired by the local culinary bounty emerged. Hog’s head cheese with Creole mustard and pork belly with red pepper gastrique came first, followed by mixed greens with Steen’s cane syrup and pecan vinaigrette. The ensuing entrées were fennel-stuffed pork and roast beef from boutique farms and Creole paella made with Gulf shrimp. Louisiana-grown grilled asparagus and Brussels sprouts with cane vinegar honey made an appearance, and for dessert, there were kumquat curd tartlets with goat cheese mousse and strawberry-Pinot Noir coulis.
Having just opened a few months ago, Olive or Twist is turning heads with its long list of complex and inventive cocktails. And we're not exaggerating when we say long. Divided into sections like Specialty Cocktails, New Orleans Cocktails, Drop Martinis, Dessert Martinis and more, it's easy to get lost in the menu's maze of concoctions. But when the bartenders take the time to smack basil leaves between their palms a few times before adding the garnish to a drink (it releases the oils), you know you're in good hands.
Few culinary ingredients are as open to transformation as the egg. Essential components of sweet and savory dishes, eggs are a baker's best friend, an enduring part of breakfast, a lunchbox staple, a satisfying midnight snack and, this time of year, colorful Easter basket booty. They've been gathered by cooks for centuries and are still considered one of the most nourishing and balanced foods around. Get inspired by these local egg-centric tools and gifts.
With many excellent restaurants in town, folks may think twice about driving to nearby Sunshine for lunch or dinner. But those who have dined at Roberto's River Road Restaurant know that a few extra minutes of drive time off the beaten path is definitely worth the trip.
Many of you may or may not know, but I own the FreshJunkie restaurant, and though I won't refer to myself as a chef, technically I guess I am one. Really, I consider myself more of a cook. Semantics I suppose, but chef or not, many people have asked me advice about what gadgets, utensils and other items they absolutely need to have for their kitchen. So, without further ado...
Back in October, many of you will remember that I set out on a craft beer adventure to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver and then on to check out some breweries in San Diego. What might have slipped through the cracks is that I made a stop in Louisiana as well, and that my buddy Tommy Talley of tommysTV came along with me on the journey... with a camera. Here's a story that tells what I found out about the relationship between craft brewers and their wholesalers:
I've reached the point in my life as a mother of three children where 15 minutes is sometimes all I have to get something on the table. What can I make in that amount of time? A phone call for pizza delivery, which I do from time to time. But that's unsustainable, and the truth is, there are a ton of serviceable dinners that can be out in short order; it just requires a tiny bit of planning. The most important thing to remember is to limit ingredients, to always have certain things on hand and to forget the idea that dinner always has to be a protein, starch and vegetable. Here are a few suggestions that are both fast and healthy.
Pop-up restaurants are now at the pinnacle of trendiness. They've been popular for years in New York and San Francisco. They're getting press in New Orleans in publications like Garden & Gun and Country Roads. An underbelly of food movements, pop-ups seem to have followed a similar model to food trucks as far as being a canvas for a new generation of young culinary minds without the start up costs of brick and mortar restaurants. But what exactly is a pop-up restaurant or dinner? It seems like they are all different, and there's no set formula, but there are certainly some consistencies.
The boudin and boudin balls at the Best Stop Supermarket in the town of Scott west of Lafayette are sublime. One of the celebrated spots along the state's unofficial boudin trail, the Best Stop is a quintessential roadside grocery store with cold drinks, sundries and enough cuts of meat to outfit a big box store.
While I didn't get to watch any films at the Sundance Film Festival, nor did I do any skiing on the famous Park City slopes, I did get to attend one event worthy of noting (other than the party at which I cooked). MorningStar Farms ChefDance, a series of celebrity-chef crafted dinners at Sundance, clearly has made a name for itself as the go-to culinary event during the festival. Each night, a different chef takes center-stage to put on a multi-course dinner offering for celebrities, festival attendees, and members of the culinary media. Fortunately for me, I fell into one of those categories! The crowd at ChefDance was huge. I spied the likes of Tony Danza as I found my seat, and after some cocktails from the Snake Oil Cocktail Company and a brief delay, food started to come out of the kitchen. Chef Shawn Armstrong led the brigade to create a stellar menu for the multitude of diners.
The last couple of years in Baton Rouge we've seen a growing level of interest in how to improve our local food systems. More chefs are buying local, farmers market numbers continue to climb, school gardens are up and there is palpable enthusiasm for new culinary trends. On Saturday, Feb. 16, Slow Food Baton Rouge will host a live webcast of TEDx Manhattan's annual food forum, “Changing the Way We Eat.” The third annual webcast convenes farmers, chefs and food entrepreneurs from around the country to explore the state of the American food system and our progress toward greater sustainability. It will be held at the Shaw Center for the Arts' Manship Theatre from noon to 3:30 p.m. Doors open at 11:30 a.m., and the bar will offer brunch cocktails, local beer and snacks for purchase. The event is free and open to the public.
The carnival season of Mardi Gras is in full swing, and Valentine's Day is right around the corner. I have easy dishes to help you celebrate both. Whether you are spending a quiet evening in front of the fire or having a festive time at a parade, you can enjoy this chilly month with fabulous food.
This month’s wine selections, found at Martin Wine Cellar, are budget-friendly yet don’t sacrifice quality or nuance. We’ve got a flinty Sauvignon Blanc, an impressive organic red blend worth more than its $12 price tag and a 92-point Spanish Grenache for only $7. These are all perfect wines for changing weather, Mardi Gras festivities and the seasonal bounty that emerges this spring.
During the long winter months, it is hard to get motivated to do much of anything, much less entertain. So we've come up with a nice way to unwind without going to too much trouble.
It wasn't easy, but Chef Chris Wadsworth from Baton Rouge's Restaurant IPO successfully guided our team through dinner impossible at the Sundance Film Festival. With contributions from Chappapeela Farms (duck, pork belly), Inland Seafood (shrimp, crawfish, oysters, redfish, tasso), and Community Coffee, we arrived in Park City, UT ready to cook up a snow-storm of Louisiana dishes. Chris and I received and invitation to serve as guest chefs for a party being thrown to promote the Louisiana International Film Festival. Before we left, Chris and I made a video about what we were bringing to Sundance:
On Friday, February 1, tickets will be available for the third annual Slow Food Spring Farm Tour and Dinner in the Field event. Slow Food Baton Rouge members can purchase their tickets first, while others will have to wait until February 8. The two-part event, which exposes farm life and the regional culinary bounty, has become a favorite among local food aficionados. It begins with a free, self-guided tour of selected family farms north of Baton Rouge. Even if you don't attend the dinner, this is a great way to spend the afternoon of March 24. At 4 pm, dinner festivities kick off under the live oaks at Oakland Plantation in Gurley, La. Drinks and nibbles are served between 4 pm and 6 pm, followed by family-style dinner made by a handful of local chefs. The team is led this year by Juban's executive chef Jaime Hernandez, who tells me the menu won't be decided until the last minute to take advantage of what's emerging from field and stream. Seating is limited. Tickets are $125 per...
Chef Chris Wadsworth is a both a food artist and an entrepreneur. The flavors of his creations are pure and inventive, the plating beautiful. Restaurant IPO, where Wadsworth is the executive chef, is one of Baton Rouge’s newest gems on the culinary scene, and is one of his seven businesses.
Team Bite and Booze will be present at this year's Hogs for the Cause. Iverstine Family Farms will provide the pigs. I'd love for you to join us! When you buy a ticket, you'll be prompted with the question “Would you like to credit one of the competitors with this purchase?” There will be a dropdown box with every single team name, so make sure to pick "Bite and Booze." Credits go to our team fundraising tally, so spread the word!
By now, the New Year's resolutions we made almost a month ago are either rocking along or have been tossed on the failed experiment pile. I'm not a big fan of making resolutions because they're usually dull and restrictive, but this year, I made a simple commitment to eat more nutrient dense foods—to actually play off the list of so called Super Foods as my starting point in meal planning. It hasn't been hard when you consider what's on it: blueberries, beans, wild salmon, avocado, dark chocolate, oats, low fat yogurt, onions and garlic, turkey, spinach, pumpkin, oranges, cinnamon, soy and more. These self-contained nutritional powerhouses are named Super Foods because of their generous vitamin and minerals and lack of unwanted fats, salt and sugar. There are a handful of Super Foods apps which profile the foods themselves and include recipes. SuperFoodRX is the one I've been using. It's been a great tool for last minute dinner inspiration.
With Baton Rouge Restaurant Week here (use #BRRW on Twitter), I thought I'd show another video clip from a participating restaurant. Over 30 restaurants are involved in the first ever Baton Rouge Restaurant Week, creating an exciting opportunity for diners to check out new hot spots, return to an old favorite, and spoil themselves if just for a night... or a whole week! From today, January 14th, until Saturday, January 19th, each participating restaurant will offer three course menus for a fraction of the normal price. The food may be discounted, but remember, always tip your servers!
Our interest in all things food-related has never been bigger, but the amount of time we spend in the kitchen diminishes more every year. That said, how are young people going to learn to cook? The answer lies in a bag of chocolate chips.
Le Creole is one of over 25 restaurants participating in the upcoming Baton Rouge Restaurant Week from January 14-19. I had a chance to hang out in the kitchen with chef Ryan Andre to help him put together a new steak dish: filet mignon over a bed of sweet potato hash with melted bone marrow butter and fried leeks. Take a look for yourself at the deliciousness that ensued!
The Baton Rouge food and beverage scene has seen a lot of growth in 2012. It is exciting to be a part of the movement, watching a culinary culture grown right in front of us. Baton Rouge has much more than chains, you just have to get off the gridlocked interstate to find some of them. When I first thought of putting together a list of my top new restaurants and bars in 2012, I figured it might be a challenge to actually get to 10. Instead, I found myself perplexed by what to omit. Joining forces with Cherry the Dive Bar Girl, somebody who certainly cares as much as I do about unveiling the interesting places in Baton Rouge and forgetting about the chains, I increased my total to 12 for 2012. Unfortunately, some new spots got left off the list, but here are Baton Rouge's best new bars and restaurants of 2012 (must be original to BR and must have opened in 2012)!
Charcuterie boards. Small batch tonic. More leafy greens. Hibiscus. ATM-like machines that dispense everything from cupcakes to hamburgers. Pop-up restaurants that can excite palates and bring life to a community's dark spaces. Farm-to-bar. Yep, that's bar, watering holes.
In the wintertime, we tend to reach for stronger cocktails with deeper flavors to warm us up. But sometimes, the cold weather doldrums warrant a drink with a little more pucker to wake us up. The Sidecar finds its origins in Paris, so it’s a natural fixture on Bistro Byronz’s French-style menu. Cointreau and pulpy lemon juice give it a tangy, citrus flavor, and brandy rounds out the sour edges. Pair it with an hors d’oeuvre on this Government Street restaurant’s popular patio if the weather allows, or order it as an after-dinner drink that will linger on your palate as any good cocktail should. bistrobyronz.com
Now that Christmas has come and gone and New Year's Eve celebrations are under our belts, it is time to take a moment to sit back and relax. But not for long—because Carnival season is upon us.
Carnival season officially begins Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, but Louisianans know it's here when stacks of white rectangular boxes adorned in purple, green and gold appear in local grocery stores. King cakes are back, and most locals will pick up more than one before Ash Wednesday brings the Carnival festivities to a close. Supermarkets and bakeries take Louisiana's favorite pastry seriously, but few outlets have the same following as Gonzales-based independent grocery store Ralph's Market.
LSU alums Barrett Meeks and James Whitley have unleashed a food truck tiger onto Baton Rouge’s streets. The Bengalier (thebengalier.com), taking its name from the old LSU Football program and painted purple and gold, is slinging piping-hot signature sandwiches all over town.
Around noon, dressed in suits and slacks, state employees and other downtown businesspeople head out for lunch. With plenty of options in the area, they may be dining on tapas, salivating over a freshly made crepe or grabbing pizza from a food truck with a wood-fired oven.
After a week of sandwiches and Lean Cuisine meals, why not treat yourself to a warm plate from the Bayou? In a small strip of shops on Jones Creek Road sits Jasmines on the Bayou, often packed with families chattering away as they wait for food full of love and flavor. They have many specials for lunch ($7.95-$9.95), ranging from a cup of corn and crab bisque with half of their popular Rocket Shrimp Po-boy to Grilled, Blackened or Panéed Chicken Alfredo. The crisp panéed chicken is nestled on top of a heaping pile of linguini that's been tossed in a house garlic alfredo cream sauce. The lunch specials include a side of your choice—be sure to consider the sweet potato casserole—a side salad and bread. If you manage to save enough room, order a slice of their bread pudding. Although it's a generous serving, no one would blame you if you don't share it. Jasmines also delivers to the home or office. So step away from the office microwave and give this restaurant a try.
Our food critic's name may be false, but the credentials are not. This gastronome has studied the history, cultivation, preparation, science and technology of food for more than 30 years.
There is something so delicious about a hot, hearty meal on a crisp day. But don't think that your favorite comfort foods can't be good for you as well! No gimmicky diet needed. Eating healthy is not about eating less, but about enhancing our foods with more of the good stuff—fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I've trimmed some favorite recipes in calories while keeping the tastes terrific through great ingredients. These are easy, full-flavored, homemade meals you can trust to nourish and please your family.
Food entrepreneurs will soon have a local place to develop, prepare and package their goods. The LSU AgCenter Food Science Incubator is slated to open its doors this spring, and tenants are being considered right now. Veteran food consultant Gaye Sandoz (left) is coordinating the new venture.
A new app recently hit the marketplace for Apple products that was created right here in Baton Rouge. Logan Leger from NewAperio and Chad Aucoin released Extreme Cajun Cooking. The app features a ton of recipes categorized by the main proteins or types of dishes. The depth or recipes is definitely pretty solid, and there are contributions from companies like Bruce Foods and Slap Ya Mama that you know are going to be good! Maybe one day I'll have a recipe or two in here!
Louisiana craft beer has made a lot of progress in the last couple years. So much so that it is time for the masses to start paying more attention to what they drink, and just as importantly, where it is from. Louisiana has always had a lot of pride in eating locally. We promote our seafood to the rest of the world, and dishes like king cake, jambalaya, and boudin are symbols of our state that we wouldn't dare accept from outside our borders. The farm to table movement has also hit the restaurant scene in Louisiana, where we see chefs actually paying attention to farms and local food manufacturers where they source their ingredients. So now it is beer's turn. This goes out to all the beer drinkers, restaurant and bar owners, servers and bartenders: start drinking and pushing more Louisiana-brewed beer. These brewers are our neighbors. They have made a commitment to us by setting up breweries in our state, and it is our obligation to drink it (I know, it is a tough job!)...
The holiday frenzy is officially here and it’s a great time to stash some back-pocket recipes that will ease the burden and fill the belly. Bone-in skin-on chicken thighs are a great place to start. They’re my favorite part of the bird because of their rich flavor, versatility and reliable juiciness.
Nostalgia has never tasted so sweet. Nothing Bundt Cakes opened its doors on Corporate Boulevard last month, serving up trendy Bundt cakes in an array of sizes. “I hope these cakes will become a part of everyone’s lives, whether as a personal indulgence, a special gift or as a centerpiece during any gathering or special occasion,” says owner Elizabeth Novak.
By now, you've been formulating your Christmas dinner plan, scribbling down shopping lists and plotting your time in the kitchen. Most of us put a lot of time and energy into the Christmas Day meal, but what about Christmas Eve? In the past, I've served soups and salads, a make-ahead meal that's easy to dispense and which frees up my kitchen so I can cook for the big day. I've also served roast chicken with cornbread dressing and a few sides, since I deprive my guests of their Thanksgiving favorites by serving beef on Christmas Day. This year, however, I've got a houseful of people with disparate tastes, so I'm turning to an appetizers-only menu. Here's some of what it will entail:
Smoked fried oysters and hogs head cheese came out of Mark Falgoust's kitchen at the Grand Isle restaurant in New Orleans. I wasn't quite expecting it from the seafood restaurant sandwiched between Harrah's and the Convention Center. Well, I expected oysters. And plenty of them. But the smoked fried oysters are something worth venturing to Grand Isle for over and over again. The crispy fried mollusks had a delicate layer of smoke on them, elevating the flavor from delicious (as most fried oysters are) to extraordinary. When Mark brought them out of the kitchen, and then followed that with a plate of hogs head cheese, I knew this guy really knew what we was doing beyond the typical fried seafood platter.
Salú specializes in tapas, or Spanish-style small plates, meant to be passed around the table and shared in feasting camaraderie Often it seems that Americans associate this style of dining with notions of expensive appetizers. Typically, I find that not to be the case. Chefs right now, like Chris Wadsworth at Restaurant IPO in Baton Rouge, are using the small plates medium to increase creativity without having to charge an arm and a leg for it. The same can be said Salú on Magazine St. in New Orleans. The idea is simple: feature dishes inspired by the French, Spanish, and Italian Rivieras, serve them in smaller but share-able portions, and pair them with equally appealing cocktails and wine. While the concept remains relatively standard, the execution is not. With their new menu and a rather new Executive Chef, Dustin Brien, Salú is attempting to show off some non-traditional New Orleans cuisine with one of the better happy hours in town.
How many times this holiday season will you find yourself in a grocery store wine section under pressure to separate swill from decent stuff? If it's white you're looking for, the 2008 Pinot Grigio from California winery Murphy-Goode fits the bill. The wine is around $11, but it offers a lot more than your average Pinot Grigio, including a lush golden hue and notes of pear, citrus and spice. Bright and crisp, it's a great way to start the evening, but it's also hefty enough to serve with pasta or seafood. It's not a wine you buy for serious nuance, but it is most definitely a reliable and adaptable crowd pleaser.
The holidays are here, and it's time to start cooking and baking for parties aplenty. You certainly cannot forget dessert! Better yet, why not make a party centered on desserts? This time of year, everyone likes to indulge a little, and dessert parties offer the welcome respite of a last party stop before calling it an evening. Guests enjoy sampling a variety of desserts, so make an assortment.
Not yet part of the Red Stick's main dining stage, Thai cuisine is slowly and quietly making its mark in the city. In a small, unassuming building on South Sherwood Forest Boulevard, Duang Tawan offers friendly service and an authentic Thai menu within a small, cozy setting.
The Chimes is an old friend and a home away from home. It's been there in good times and bad, sickness and health. I've celebrated birthdays, graduations and random Tuesdays within the walls of its famed Highland Road location. It's helped me get over lost loves and revel in new ones. I even met my spouse there. And I would never have survived graduate school without its happy hour.
For advice on what wines to serve during the holidays, we turned to Bill Hounshell, general manager of Matherne's Supermarket on Highland Road.
Chef Scott Varnedoe got his call to cook in the James Beard House for the first time in May 2010. To the Stroubes chef, the Beard awards are the pinnacle of the culinary world. While cooking in the house is not quite the same as winning one of the top awards, it still holds some exceptional prestige.
When the temperature finally begins to drop around us, our craving for ice cream is quickly replaced by the urge to find just the right hot drink to warm our souls during the typically short winter season. Forget about those watery concoctions mixed with powder packets you’ve found elsewhere. Served in a steamy glass mug, the oversized hot chocolate ($3.75 regular/$4.05 large) at downtown favorite Strands Café is a sweet way to beat the cold.
Most years, when we were growing up, we spent Christmas Eve having a quiet night with just the immediate family—our parents, the two of us and our younger sister. Our mother was always up to her ears in stuffing and pies, getting ready for a big Christmas Day feast for extended family and friends. So we watched reruns of It’s a Wonderful Life and ate takeout Chinese before heading to midnight mass.
Chicken pot pie was so close to heaven for actor Daron Stiles, he'd have chosen it over church any day of the week and twice on Sunday. If only his parents had agreed.
Please pardon the quality of these photos due to lack of lighting, but I think you'll see that you still wish you were at this beer dinner. Last month, Juban's Chef Jaime Hernandez put together a beer dinner with daring beers from Clown Shoes and the Brash Brewing Company. A beer dinner with brews as bold and adventurous as this has not been done in Baton Rouge, to the best of my knowledge... and I would know... or this. There were a couple beers that I had never tried before, like a sneak peak at the Texas Exile, a bourbon barrel aged brown sugar porter with coffee. These breweries have good stories like this one told by Todd Price. And more importantly, they have good beer!
No matter what food trends surface, homey, gooey casseroles remain a fixture on most holiday tables. Their pabulum-like consistency, indulgent ingredients and tether to the past make them irresistible. But as much as I enjoyed sweet potato, squash and fresh green bean casseroles at Thanksgiving, they left me searching for cleaner, leaner vegetable side dishes for my upcoming Christmas dinner. This week, I started playing around with some of my favorite roasted veggie recipes.
Chef Scott Varnedoe got his call to cook in the James Beard House for the first time in May, 2010. To him, the Beard awards are the pinnacle of the culinary world. While cooking in the house is not quite the same as winning one of the top awards, it still holds some exceptional prestige. “Not to sound like a sissy, but there were tears involved. It just doesn't get any better than that.” No, it sure doesn't. The James Beard Foundation's mission is to celebrate, nurture, and preserve America's diverse culinary heritage and future.
A few years ago, kale was anointed the darling of the leafy green world, and since then it's been seen in everything from upscale salad bars to smoothies. Kale chips have become a wildly popular method of using up the season's bounty because they make the biting green accessible and fun to eat. Kale chips also make pretty little garnishes for Thanksgiving feasts this week. The problem with them is that they sometimes don't crisp up enough, and they can still be slightly aggressive. Solve the first problem with proper cooking, and the second with inventive spices. Here's an easy recipe:
LSU alumnus Will Edwards is bringing the classic Central European kolache, a popular pastry in his native Houston, to Baton Rouge with The Kolache Kitchen (Map it!). A kolache is a pastry about the size of a hot dog bun and filled with a variety of ingredients; traditionally, sausage, cheese or fruit. Edwards hopes that the easy-to-eat nature of the kolache and the store's proximity to LSU's campus—it will open in the former Blimpie's at Nicholson and East Boyd drives—will make the venture successful. Edwards is also adding a mobile component to his business plan, as a food truck dubbed The Rolling Pin will cruise LSU and the downtown area, serving products also sold at The Kolache Kitchen. To follow the new restaurant's...
The hit food monologue show that I've been proud to be a part of as a headline and emcee has now been transformed a coffee table book filled with stories from all walks of life. Everyone has a story related to food, and the Meanwhile, Back at Cafe du Monde... coffee table book is filled with 67 stories by everyone from chefs to college students and from politicians to journalists.
The forthcoming holidays will have us combing wine shelves over the next few weeks looking for great deals, party wines, culinary mates and special bottles to break out when the rest of the room isn't looking. I'll be exploring a handful of winners in this column to keep you busy. This fun red blend is for all my red-loving readers who are constantly searching for an under-$20 wine that tastes more expensive. Sturdy and impressive, the 2009 “Bookmaker” is crafted by the limited production Sonoma winery, Parlay. At $17, it is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Syrah and Petit Verdot grapes resulting in a wine that presents notes of chocolate, berry fruit and spice. It's full-bodied, but versatile, fitting the bill with all those meals leading up to Thanksgiving dinner, including gourmet burgers, short ribs and good ol' steak. Look for it at Calandro's on Government Street.
Sometimes a food writer and radio host just needs to get down on some grub at a fair. The Greater Baton Rouge State Fair recently passed, and I had the opportunity to visit the festivities in order to taste a few deep-fried delicacies. J.H. Martin, the Foundation Chairman for the Fair, invited me out personally to try a new addition to the culinary lineup: the Red Velvet Funnel Cake.
Last week's formula for easy larb at home converts nicely to a recipe for lettuce wraps, another interactive dish that's completely within reach on weeknights. All it takes is butter lettuce, shredded rotisserie chicken, fresh herbs, raw crunchy vegetables like packaged broccoli slaw and grated carrots and a quick sauce.
Ruffino's chef Peter Sclafani shows you how to make his exciting heirloom tomato salad.
There's an exciting dinner coming on November 9th that I'd like to pass along to you. I won't be cooking this one, but you better believe the food will be excellent. Plus, this is the kind of event that contributes to a food culture that we so desperately want more of in the Red Stick. The Louisiana Feast of Fields 2012 is a dinner which will bring together local farmers and chefs to create an inspired meal at the Burden Center, part of the LSU Rural Life Museum off of Essen. The LSU Ag Center property will play host to Chef Ryan Andre (from Le Creole) and his team from the Louisiana Culinary Institute and more. They'll create a five course meal paired with wines from the Pontchartrain Vineyards. Dr. Mike Strain, Louisiana's Agriculture Commissioner, will be there as well to say a few words. The "Gastronomic Gala" is sure to be a palate-pleasing triumph of a feast that you won't want to miss! Plus, all proceeds go towards the Burden Center and LCI's non-profit fund which will...
The piquant Thai appetizer, larb, is one of my all-time favorite dishes because it’s interactive and because it is at once spicy, sweet and tangy. Larb is ground chicken or some other ground meat sautéed and sauced with a mysterious dressing and enhanced by fresh herbs, red onion and hot peppers. It’s generally served in cold raw cabbage or lettuce cups, which add an irresistible layer of freshness and crunch. I’m forever playing around with at-home recipes, trying to replicate the larb I’ve had in Thai restaurants in Baton Rouge and other cities. Lately, I’ve been making a knock-out version that is ridiculously easy and achievable on busy weeknights.
When nationally renowned chef Donald Link was considering a second location for his phenomenally successful New Orleans restaurant, Cochon—an “upscale Cajun” eatery that has been referred to as one of the Crescent City's best by The New York Times and USA Today—he considered Baton Rouge, where he cut his teeth at Sammy's Grill.
When I arrive at a new establishment, it’s important to me that a good tone is set. When we entered Blend, my date’s favorite artist was playing at a reasonable volume. This was a positive sign. More foreshadowing of a pleasant night: patrons having a conspicuously good time. With excellent music and happy clientele, I thought, “Laissez les bons vins rouler.”
Traveling around the Capital Region lately, you are sure to find a staple on most traditional Southern menus: shrimp and grits. If the craving for a bite of this popular comfort dish hits you, consider grabbing a booth at an unexpected spot to satisfy your urge. With two locations, local longtime favorite TJ Ribs is better known for its great barbecue and fun game-day atmosphere. However, this spot hits a home run with its Avery Island Shrimp and Grits ($17.95). One might quickly overlook the shrimp and grits on the menu next to typical barbecue and grilled fare. But after your first forkful, you will soon appreciate what may be this restaurant's best-kept secret. Perfectly sautéed, jumbo Gulf shrimp rest on a generous portion of creamy, savory poblano corn grits with a slight smoky twist. Finely diced tomatoes and a squeeze of lime help freshen and lighten what is often a heavy dish.
Thanksgiving dinner is one of the most anticipated meals of the year in my family, as we gather around the table with food and loved ones. In the leadup to this feast, you will find me devoting my time preparing sensational sides that often steal the show! Leave the cooking of the big bird to the family member with the secret technique. The selection here of fabulous, healthy side dishes will ensure that the only thing stuffed at your home will be the turkey.
The crowd closed in tightly, oohing and aahing in hushed tones as if they were watching a piece of performance art. Instead, it was the preparation of the Spanish rice dish paella—complete with flourishes of the wrist, a symphonic clanging of spoons, rising steam plumes and rapidly evolving layers of colors and aromas—that was holding this group spellbound.
Back when I attended LSU (don't I sound old now?), I dined somewhat regularly at the Faculty Club. Most students didn't realize that they could eat there on their lunch breaks between class, so it wasn't too difficult to find a table and eat some decent food as opposed to the fast-food-court at the Union. I've also attended several wedding receptions at the Faculty Club, so the place holds a special spot in my heart. Recently, the Faculty Club underwent a face lift and is now re-branded as The Club at LSU Union Square. I received an invite to come check it out for myself, so of course, I accepted! The new menu shows off features some pretty stellar dishes and a reasonable wine list... something that I don't recall seeing before. The menu began with some rotating specials. I opted for the Seafood Amuse Trio with a stuffed oyster, cucumber crab shooter, and chili glazed fried shrimp on a green tomato puree. The shrimp stole the show as my favorite of the three, but they were...
A good hamburger is good for one reason above all others: because it is juicy. No matter what ingredients have been added to class it up or make it hip, a burger falls short if it's dry. Therein lies the perpetual challenge of the turkey burger. You want to master it because it's a healthy alternative to the beef burger and its delicate profile pairs well with different ingredients. But its lack of fat means you have to fight to keep it moist.
For anybody who has been waiting to eat my food again (or for the first time), you're in luck! On Thursday, October 25th I'll be cooking a pop-up wine dinner at Roux Wine and Spirits in Prairieville. Along with Chef Brian Medlin for All-Star Catering and Smokin' Aces Barbecue, we'll cook up my menu inspired by wines from the Vending Machine Winery and vending machines themselves. Each dish will have some item found in vending machines incorporated into it. Neil and Monica Gernon from Vending Machine Winery will be there to talk about the wines as well!
This time of year, you notice the trees, their branches sagging from the weight of oblong, orange fruit. Persimmons can either be one of the most sumptuous and sweetest fruits you've ever tasted or a colossal disaster in your mouth. It all depends on timing. Taste a sliver of persimmon when it's still hard, or even semi-soft, and it overpowers your mouth with a blast of astringency and bitterness that takes minutes to fade. But if you wait until the fruit is overripe, almost to an unappealing degree, voila!, its secrets are revealed.
In case you've been living under a rock during past couple months, there's a new food truck roaming the streets of Baton Rouge that you really can't miss. Bon Repas is currently a bright pink mobile food vending establishment that came over from nearby Lafayette. Owners Chris and Sommer Wadsworth started the truck in the heart of Cajun Country slinging wraps. However, when Chris took a gig as the Executive Chef of Restaurant IPO in downtown Baton Rouge, Sommer and truck came along for the ride. They re-branded the truck with the pink facade and a deep fryer for homemade empanadas. The pink truck is definitely and ode to girl power as it sports a crew of women with serious chops to run the truck. They also use the pink as a sign of charitable giving to support breast cancer research. You really can't go wrong eating an empanada for a good cause!
At one point in her life, AnnieLaurie Thompson was so in love with cheese, she decided to make a career of it. Its culinary possibilities were too infinite and its heritage, too inspiring. She joined the cheese team at Whole Foods Market in Baton Rouge, and along the way kept learning about the magic behind curds and whey. Her passion paid off. Recently, Thompson became one of only 121 cheesemongers in the U.S. to pass the inaugural American Cheese Society's Certified Cheese Professional Exam, an indication of her knowledge of cheese from farm to counter.
The Londoner, on the appropriately named Sherwood Forest Boulevard (actually, while Sherwood Forest is famous due to Robin Hood lure in England, it isn't that close to London, but still...) in Baton Rouge, recently had me over to help host a beer dinner. We did four courses with eight beers from around the world shortly after the Summer Olympics ended in aforementioned London. Each of the four courses were paired with two beers of similar style from different countries. The first course featured the famous Belgian treat of mussels and frites with Belgian style ales from Belgium and the Netherlands. The mussels had a wonderfully flavorful broth with tomatoes, basil, and bacon. We paired them with the Tripel Karmeliet from Belgium and the La Trappe Quad, which is actually a Trappist brewery in the Netherlands. While the Tripel and Quadrupel are technically two different styles, they still showed of what that Belgian yeast and malt profile can taste like with its signature...
Like any self-respecting Louisiana food lover should, you probably have a gumbo recipe in your arsenal, but how often do make straight-up soups? The answer should be real often, because soups are not only economical and convenient, they are a fabulous template for creativity. Black bean, vegetable beef, potato with dill and creamy butternut squash sound simple, but prepared correctly, they can be complex and luscious. Best of all, you can make them without being joined at the hip to recipes; just follow three important principles:
October is a busy month, with kids back in school, daytime meetings, evening activities, and more—you need a meal on the table, and you need it fast! My rush-hour recipes are the perfect solution to your daily dinner challenge. Kids and adults alike will enjoy digging into these delicious meals, and you will love how quick and easy they are to prepare—letting nothing stand in your way of providing healthy home-cooked meals!
The global culinary trend of tapas surfaces in one of Baton Rouge's most historic districts at Restaurant IPO, which launched on Third Street in June. Chef Chris Wadsworth's menu is flush with Southern-inspired and locally sourced small plates. Highlights include miniature tacos stuffed with redfish ceviche and andouille bacon bits, sweet and spicy coconut curry mussels, and tasso-infused deviled “bayou eggs” topped with fried oysters. Apple pie eggrolls and fried cheesecake with bananas Foster sauce make for a fun ending to a meal. Wash it all down with the signature cane mojito.302-5541restaurantipo.com
Blends are the fastest growing red classification, and my QPR (quality price ratio) favorite is The Griffin 2009. This Robert Foley Vineyards proprietary blend of Petite Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is an across-the-country hit from sip to sip. It’s crafted each year with a different blend from the cellar’s wine lots, and every vintage has been stellar. The Griffin is a structured red with dark cherry, dark berry mocha and spice flavors infused with soft tannins, balance and loads of personality. In a word or two—simply delicious! Robert Foley, the winemaker and genius behind so many legendary Napa wines, plumbed his Irish roots to deliver this economical superstar. With a winemaking philosophy to produce very expressive wines that finish gracefully, it’s no wonder Bob Foley is leader of the cult pack.
An interactive component has helped make Mason's Grill one of the most visited brunch spots in Baton Rouge: Here, you can design your own Bloody Mary. Owner Mike Alfandre says the concept has soared in popularity at the eatery, which added it five years ago. “Customers love doing this,” he says. “It's something they really get into.” Patrons check off one of 17 different vodkas; enhancers like Worcestershire, horseradish and wasabi; and garnishes ranging from pickled okra to stuffed olives to classic celery stalks. Five different spice levels range from “Burn, Baby, Burn” to mild. Alfandre says of all the variations out there, the Meaty Mason is the most popular. It's made with bacon vodka, garnished with a strip of bacon and sipped up with a vodka-soaked beef jerky straw.
When a bar's cocktail list includes ingredients most of us haven't heard of—like falernum, orgeat or averna—it's clear they've put some thought into their mixes. The Radio Bar on Government Street not only gets creative; they change up the menu regularly to fit the season. The popular bar's summer menu featured gin-, rum- and tequila-based drinks with hints of citrus liqueurs and even habañero bitters. While waiting on the fall menu, we couldn't help but check out the bar's regular lineup of classics. The Crosley ($8), with Old Overholt rye whiskey, raw ginger syrup and grapefruit bitters, hit the spot with just enough of a ginger kick at the end to keep you on your toes. The rye, a dash of Angostura bitters and soda keep it smooth. And the mixologists at Radio Bar know how to do a lemon peel right, rubbing it along the edge of the glass before dropping it in. It's all in the details.
October is one of our favorite months here in South Louisiana. The weather is finally getting cool. The leaves are beginning to change, and folks are decorating their houses with the beautiful pumpkins and sugarcane stalks so plentiful at places like the Red Stick Farmers Market and South Side Produce.
Americans have broadened their wine palates considerably in the last few decades, and today, they’re ordering and purchasing more selections than ever before. But wine merchants say it remains challenging to convince customers to step out of their comfort zones. Many prefer to return to reliable domestic bottles with flavor profiles they know and enjoy, rather than roll the dice on something unfamiliar, says Martin Wine Cellar Manager Ian McCaffery. It’s particularly true with European and other international wines whose labels can seem cryptic.
Usually, the only “good” part about a burger is its satisfying taste. But Burgersmith, Baton Rouge's recent craft burger addition by way of Lafayette, has created a burger that uses organic USDA Certified grass-fed beef for $7.50. According to their menu, the burger is “higher in proteins and essential fat and leaner and lower in saturated fats.” There isn't a noticeable difference in taste, especially if you order it in the preferred Smith style, but if you're buying an organic burger, you're probably more interested in the source than the end result anyway. Along with the usual toppings of lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles, the new burger establishment provides premium toppings such as organic ketchup and a fried organic egg. Yes, it's from a cage-free chicken. This is a burger you can feel good about in more ways than one. And try it with the restaurant's own Burgersmith Ale brewed by Heiner Brau in Covington.
People love brunch. It's like the last weekend hoo-rah before the workweek starts. On a recent Sunday, my companion and I set out to join the final celebration at Mansurs on the Boulevard.
Like any self-respecting, self-professed food fanatic, I swore I'd never turn to bakery cakes after I met my future husband. Our happy little home would be filled only with cakes made from my sweat and grit, mixed by hand, baked in the oven, cooled, iced and lovingly decorated. No matter how busy life got, I wouldn't take short cuts in the birthday cake department.
BREADA, or the Big River Economic & Agricultural Development Alliance, is the group that runs three farmers markets in Baton Rouge. Their mission is to build a healthy and strong local food system; to increase sustainability of independent local farmers, fishers and food producers; and to foster stewardship of land and community through public markets.
Each month I block out a couple days to do a cooking class at Fresina's Pasta Company at the Drusilla Shopping Center in Baton Rouge. Since they are an Italian specialty shop with homemade pastas, I make an Italian inspired menu for a group of up to eight people. Over wine or local beers, I teach some tricks and show off some recipes. It is always a good time and everybody leaves full from a homemade lunch.
Somehow I had managed to not dine at Commander's Palace during my first 31 years on this planet. I knew I had been missing out. The legendary New Orleans restaurant is known around the world for their Creole cuisine and commitment to service. While in New Orleans this past August, the New Orleans CVB invited me to take part in the COOLinary New Orleans program. During August every year, restaurants around the Big Easy create a prefix meal for just $20 at lunch at $35 at dinner. This offers tourists and locals alike a chance to visit some of the city's best eateries for a fraction of the normal price tag. Since I got to pick my spots for the COOLinary trip, I knew that my time had come to check out what Commander's Palace has to offer. The previous day I visited Superior Seafood, one of NOLA's newest joints, so on this day the most iconic of all Crescent City restaurants called my name.
The poor Crock-Pot. There it sits collecting dust, while Big Green Eggs, Le Creuset roasters and pricy, hip sauté pans take center stage. Long considered a tool that requires little finesse and few skills, the slow cooker seems about as cool as polyester pants or sandals with black socks. It routinely gets short shrift in an era that values distinct cooking steps and culinary sophistication.
On weekdays at the Louisiana Culinary Institute, budding chefs undergo rigorous training for future careers in hotels and restaurants. But on Saturdays, the institution has a different vibe. Local food enthusiasts file in for sold-out leisure classes in topics ranging from Louisiana seafood to knife skills to artisan breads. LCI launched the courses shortly after completing a new state-of-the-art facility on Airline Highway in 2008.
Raise a Glass, a show I host on WHYR 96.9 FM Baton Rouge Community Radio, recently completed a 14 episode run of the "Beer Olympics." The program is about the history, traditions, culture, production, and, of course, consumption of alcoholic beverages. We dedicated our entire 4th season of the show to beer in an event called the Beer Olympics. Each beer style served as a separate event for the Olympics in which only one beer from each country could enter. Fortunately for us, The Cove has over 660 beers available from all over the world, so finding a selection to please our palates didn't prove to be too difficult.
Cheap, convenient and packed with flavor possibilities, sandwiches are the reliable stuff of beach trips, lazy weekends and, around here, weather events. For many of you, hurricane preparation has included purveying several loaves of bread and a few tried and true ingredients to slide between slices. But even when wind and rain aren't an issue, a sandwich is homey goodness with powerful flavor possibilities. Most of the nation's great regional cuisines include superb sandwiches—two of the most recognizable, the poor boy and the muffaletto, hail from New Orleans, and excellent local versions of them are available throughout the Capital City!
This time of year, home cooks are looking for efficiency, economy and flavor in the kitchen, and an eye-of-round roast is an exceptional means to an end. This is the cut of meat from which rosy roast beef derives, that centerpiece of Sunday suppers. But it's more than that. Except for maybe ground beef, eye of round is one of the most convertible cuts around, slipping easily from roast beef one night into fajitas, beef stroganoff, salads, pasta dishes, soups or wraps the next.
Despite the fact that it's still scorching outside, “fall” is here.
On the Upper West Side of Manhattan resides a Jewish Deli that has literally stood the test of time. Open since 1908, stepping into Barney Greengrass is like opening the pages of a history book. The interior looks like it may not have been updated since at least the 70s, but that's okay. The "Sturgeon King" still gets plenty of love from New Yorkers and people all over the world. Their specialty is Atlantic fish, so I thought it to be a little odd that I got invited to eat there for breakfast, though it soon make sense. I met Sharon from The Daily Meal at Barney Greengrass and she gave me a quick overview of the menu. The salmon and sturgeon specialties were served fresh, smoked, and cured with eggs or to top on bagels. Sharon ordered the fresh Nova Scotia Salmon and advised me to go with an order of scrambled eggs with lox.
Prosciutto-wrapped melon, tangy, salty olives, Caprese salad with Creole tomatoes and fresh basil and all sorts of yummy cheeses —antipasti like these make the perfect summer dinner in Louisiana because of their assertive flavors and their ability to hit the table largely without heat. This not only a perfect cocktail meal, but it suits children well. You'd be surprised how adventurous kids get when they have a chance to explore diminutive pick-ups packed with flavor.
When the University of South Carolina plays LSU on Oct. 13, tailgate masters Robert “R.C.” Cannon and Don “Big Don” Pearce will fire up fried chicken near the LSU Aircraft Memorial. Meanwhile, pit master John Richardson will grill his award-winning hot wings at the 30-year-old tailgate he puts on with friends on the Parade Grounds.
Until Aug. 12, elite athletes from all over the world are competing for the gold in the 2012 Olympics in London. Because most of us can't be in London to watch, the next best thing is to head down Sherwood Forest Boulevard until you see the iconic red double-decker bus that marks The Londoner. Better known for its beer selection, The Londoner also provides an array of London-themed drinks from the 007 to the Witty Brit. While you're praying for your favorite athlete—like former LSU track star Lolo Jones—maybe you could use a little help from the Baptist Preacher ($9). Like a good sermon, it'll leave you shaken, not stirred. This classic Manhattan is made with Elijah Craig 12-year-old Bourbon and sweet vermouth. Garnished with a lemon twist, the amber drink is not harsh, but smooth and soothing, perfect to celebrate a well-deserved win or for consolation after a devastating loss.