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.
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.