- Cajun Tales… Tall Tales After Dunk Hunting
- C’est Bon, Indeed
- Hammond Smokin’ Blues ‘n BBQ Challenge
- The Baton Rouge BuRger Scene
- Cochon Butcher – New Orleans
- “Drink Well. Do Good.” Tour Coming to New Orleans
- Random Bites and Boozes
- Rama Thai Cuisine
- St. Charles Tavern After the NFC Championship Game
- Super Bowl at Cooter Brown’s in Nola! WHO DAT??
Durian Fruit as eaten by Andrew Zimmern in Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel
Eusebio and I were a little nervous to try it as an ice cream flavor, but it was actually quite good. The vanilla and coconut icecreams tasted pretty standard. They were not very rich, but still had a smooth texture and the right amount of flavor to provide a condiment to the fried fruit and something sweet to end the meal with. The durian icecream certainly had a unique flavor but it was nothing offensive. I actually think I liked it more than the other two, even if it was just for originality alone. I wouldn’t hesitate to order it again next time I go to Rama, that’s for sure!
I happened to be in New Orleans this year for both the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl. Surprisingly, I actually remember both of the games and the good times I had. I guess I’m growing up… a little. The atmosphere in New Orleans for the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings wasn’t just electric; it was like nuclear-powered energy flowing through the entire city. While I didn’t get to actually go to the game, I had an amazing time tailgating on Poydras and enjoying the festivities.
Home Sweet Dome
While the day was spent drinking cheap beer, tailgating, eating jambalaya and fried chicken, and general tomfoolery, things settled down when the game came on. After intense hours of watching a TV outside with static every time a helicopter flew overhead, the game came down to an overtime field goal by Garrett Hartley, and the city erupted into joyous pandemonium! Below was the scene on Poydras street, just minutes after the field goal split the uprights. The Saints were going to the Super Bowl!
Party on Poydras
After many more hours of jubulant celebration and following Megan’s pom-pom that led use to Bourbon Street, Brandon, Megan, and I eventually wandered back towards Brandon’s apartment where we made a stop at a local 24 hour joint: St. Charles Tavern.
St. Charles Tavern
St. Charles Tavern sits in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans, just minutes away from both uptown and downtown locations. The Tavern was established in 1917 and has been serving breakfast, burgers, and New Orleans’ famous poboys ever since.
Famous Tavern Hash Breakfast
I glanced rather incoherently at the menu and quickly picked out the Famous Tavern Hash Breakfast. Hey, if it is famous, I might as well try it, right? The breakfast came with chicken and andouille hash, scrambled eggs, grits, and a biscuit. Needless to say, I stuffed every bit of that late night snack right now my pie hole, and it all tasted glorious with one exception. The biscuit truly disappointed me. It came out already sliced in half, and with an extreme lack of flakiness that makes biscuits so delicious. As for the hash, wow! This mixture of potatoes, sausage, chicken, onions, bell peppers, and more was right on. The hash made me happy on its own, but after throwing in the grits and eggs, I was in gluttonous heaven. But hey, it’s alright, because the Saints were going to the Super Bowl! Who Dat?!
Hey! Anybody remember when the Saints won the Super Bowl? Well I sure do, although I was pretty hammered when it happened! It all started at Brandon’s apartment in New Orleans where I had a shot of Wakey Whiskey with him before heading to Cooter Brown’s with Brent and Daniel. We were running a little late as we wanted to be there when the doors opened at 11 A.M., but luckily Andrew and Megan were there already to hold a spot down. We arrived before noon and promptly began chanting Saints cheers and “Put on the game!” Did I mention that this was about six hours before kickoff?
Cooter Brown’s Tavern and Oyster Bar, New Orleans, La
While Brent dealt with his hangover and Daniel drank his water, Andrew and I began sharing pitchers of delicious brew. I started things off with a pitcher of NOLA Blonde. NOLA, which is synonymous with New Orleans, Louisiana, in this case stands for the New Orleans Lager and Ale Brewing Company. NOLA Blonde is a pretty decent American blonde ale with some nice, citrusy hops. We drank merrily as we downed the pitcher and went back for Andrew’s selection.
Before my beer-induced obnoxiousness got too out of control, I decided it would be a good idea to sample some raw oysters. After all, Cooter Browns is an oyster bar, and I happened to be in New Orleans. There isn’t much better! These salty, slick, fresh Gulf oysters made me extremely happy as I continued with my pregame preparations: more drinking, of course!
Raw Oysters at Cooter Brown’s Tavern and Oyster Bar
The oysters were a true treat. I mixed up some ketchup, horse radish, Crystal hot sauce, and worcestershire sauce to dip my oysters in. After dipping them, I placed the mollusks on saltine crackers and then added a special treat. I placed a few drops of Crown Royal to the oyster and then plunged the entire collection of flavors and textures into my mouth. It was like heaven on my tongue! It turns out that whiskey and horseradish are perfect compliments! Who knew?!
Coonass Special and Cheese Fries
Needing to soak up a little beer for reasons that will soon be disclosed, I went to the food counter and picked out the most famous sandwich that Cooter Brown’s offers: the Coonass Special! This delightful poboy comes with Mrs. Wheat’s meat pies, provolone cheese, and gravy, served on French bread. Meat pies on a sandwich is a great idea, and gravy adds so much more! Oh, and what’s better than cheese fries to help absorb some liquor?
With a little food, Brent’s spirits picked back up and he quickly joined Andrew and I in our inebriation. The two of them had agreed on a menu of drinks to go through, and being a fan of drink menus, I decided to join in. On the menu were shots of Jager, Patron, and Timberwolf, a glass of Crown and water, and chugging pints of Abita Andygator. Rough, yes, to a normal man.
Sticking with Louisiana beer, I had a pitcher of Abita Amber at some point. I know that because I have a picture of it. Also consumed before the Super Bowl was a pitcher of NOLA Hopitoulas. This IPA is brewed with six malts and six hops, then is polished off with some additional dry hopping. The name comes from a famous street in New Orleans called Tchoupitoulas, and clearly there is a reference to the amazing hops in the beer. Hoptastic! We were joined by Brandon, who had been studying since we left his apartment, Amanda, and Katie in time for more drinks… and then… hours later… THE GAME!
Oh yeah, remember when the Saints won the Super Bowl?! Somehow I was still conscious for the entire game, and the after party! Go me! WHO DAT?!
This article has been published in Town Favorites Magazine. You can visit the Town Favorites website at http://www.townfavorites.com/, follow them on Twitter @TownFavorites, and find their magazines at over 150 restaurants and businesses around Baton Rouge! Pick up a copy today!
The 2010 Crawfish Season in the Red Stick
By Jay D. Ducote
This year was well on its way to being a banner year for Louisiana crawfish until a hard freeze in early January changed everything.
“The outlook for this crawfish season started out on a very promising note. Any time we get abundant natural rainfall in the late summer and early fall, it bodes well for the survival of crawfish in their burrows,” said Burt Tietje, a crawfish farmer who sits on the board of the Louisiana Crawfish Farmers Association. “I firmly believed that my problem by this point in the season would have been too many crawfish for the early markets and a rapidly dropping wholesale price.”
However, this was not the case at the early part of this season. Burt, who also works for the Jeff Davis Economic Development Office, continued by saying, “This is a true story… so far I have averaged losing $75-100 each time I have run my traps when labor and fuel are figured in. I keep fishing because you never know when the crawfish will turn on and I want to have fresh bait out there when they do.”
In 1997, Southwest Louisiana had very similar wet weather followed by a severe freeze. “I had to break ice out of the traps, but they were full of crawfish and I never missed a lick that season,” Burt exclaimed. “This year is a complete mystery to me and to everyone I talk to. Perhaps the hard freeze came at a time when the young crawfish were particularly vulnerable. I just don’t have an explanation.”
What the Louisiana crawfish industry desperately needs now is some sunshine and warmer overnight temperatures to get the crawfish moving. Mudbugs are cold-blooded creatures and the cooler the water; the less biologic activity is taking place in the ponds and basins. It is estimated that for every 10 degrees of water temperature, activity doubles in the ponds.
Even with a cloudy supply of farm-raised crawfish and an uncertainty about when the basin will have water diverted to it, the demand for crawfish in the Capital area is starting to pick up. Mardi Gras has come and gone and spring is near. Warmer temperatures won’t just bring more crawfish; they will also bring more crawfish boils, all-you-can-eat crawfish specials, tail pinchers, and head suckers. Oh yes Baton Rouge, Crawfish Season is here!
Jay Ducote stands with two batches of live crawfish at Tony’s Seafood. Each basket holds up to 500 lbs. of crawfish!
I recently took a look at the Baton Rouge crawfish scene to see where I could find exceptional boiled crawfish in the Red Stick. My first stop, which should be no surprise to anybody who knows seafood in Baton Rouge, was at Tony’s Seafood on Plank Road. Tony’s is best described as an institution, and is in fact the largest seafood market in the Gulf South. Started as a produce stand by Tony Pizzolato in 1959, by the early 1980’s Tony’s had transformed into the thriving seafood market that we know it as today.
The fine people at Tony’s gave me a tour of the facility including a chance to stand behind the counter, and a glimpse at their gigantic walk in cooler where they keep live crawfish. Tony’s cooks their crawfish in batches of up to 500 lbs. at a time in giant baskets and boiling pots. On a prime day, Tony’s can boil up to 30 pots, or as much as 15,000 lbs. of crawfish! Tony’s has great crawfish for the average palate. While they are mass-boiled, the flavor is great and extremely edible. However, if you are the kind of crawfish eater that wants their lips to burn eyes to water when eating spicy, red mudbugs, then Tony’s “friendly” spice may not be quite what you are looking for.
A large batch of freshly boiled crawfish at Tony’s Seafood is ready to be served.
My next stop occurred down Florida Boulevard at Randy Montalbano’s Seafood and Catering. Randy Montalbano, Jr. greeted me as I walked in to his restaurant and offered a quick tour of his kitchen. Although the scale of Montalbano’s operation is nowhere close to that of Tony’s, their seafood easily rivals that of their larger counterpart. Founded in June of 2006 by Randy and his father, Randy Montalbano, Sr., Montalbano’s specializes in boiled seafood and other Cajun dishes, providing off-site catering and in-store family-friendly dining. During the peak of the season, Montalbano’s averages around 10,000 lbs. of boiled crawfish per week. Randy let me sample some of his crawfish to get a taste of his spice and flavor offering. Let me tell you friends, C’est Bon! Montabano’s crawfish left my lips tingling without feeling overwhelmed by extreme heat. The crawfish had an excellent flavor with a great balance of salt and spice.
Boiled Crawfish at Randy Montalbano’s Seafood and Catering… C’est Bon!
While exploring the Red Stick area for crawfish, I also felt like it would be good to head out to the “suburbs” where I came across Jimbo’s Seafood on Jones Creek Road. Teresa Guerin kindly welcomed me and gave a detailed tour of their crawfish business. Like Montalbano’s, Jimbo’s boils farm-raised and basin crawfish to perfection. Jimbo’s has been serving up fresh and boiled seafood in the same location for the past 16 years and has built a loyal clientele. Teresa showed me firsthand how Jimbo’s hand-picks their crawfish and purges them in salt water to make sure their customers get nothing but the best. After watching preparation, Teresa served me a batch of fresh crawfish. Along side the crawdaddies came beautifully boiled corn and potatoes that are always a perfect complement. Jimbo’s batch impressed me just as much as Montalbano’s. I don’t think they had quite the heat, but they had every bit as much flavor. I wouldn’t hesitate ordering from them next time I wanted a few pounds of mudbugs to go!
MJ sorts through the live crawfish at Jimbo’s Seafood on Jones Creek as Jay Ducote looks on.
Baton Rouge has a handful of great places to eat fresh burgers so it is a shame whenever somebody thinks that fast food or national chains offer superior patties. Among the elite burger joints in the Red Stick is Riverside Patty, a staple of the downtown dining scene since 1982.
Riverside Patty on Third Street
Walking into this place you get the feeling that you’re going to eat something good. The surroundings make even a relatively young man like me nostalgic for the days of old school burger joints with classic milk shakes. While Riverside Patty doesn’t quite deliver on the shakes, they still do a fine job with the burgers! The place is as casual as can be and could certainly use a renovation, but that’s what makes the character so great!
On one visit to Riverside Patty with Darrell, I ordered the house special. This combo comes with a half pound burger patty and all the fixin’s, fries, and a drink. I ordered mine on a wheat bun with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and honey mustard. Just for good measure, I opted for a side of sweet potato fries! The burger tasted delicious, but it lacked the juiciness that I had previously experienced at Riverside Patty. The burger seemed overcooked and indeed the patty was well done throughout, without even a hint of pink in the middle. I was rather disappointed, but still ultimately satisfied.
1/2 Pound Combo Burger with Honey Mustard and Sweet Potato Fries
On a future visit with Dana and Becca I ordered a Bacon Swiss Burger on wheat. With all the other toppings the same, I found this burger to be slightly better, though still overcooked. What is it with restaurants these days that make them not want to serve a medium rare or even medium cooked burger? Well done beef is for the birds! Again, this burger was tasty, but it could have been so much better with a little grease dripping down my forearms! Next time I visit Riverside Patty I’m going to make sure to note that I want the burger cooked medium, not well done!
Not too long ago I met Megan for lunch at La Carreta on Government Street. This local Mexican Restaurant got its start in Hammond, La area before expanding to Baton Rouge and other locations in South Louisiana. In fact, business has been so good for owner Saúl Rubio that he has recently opened a second location in the Red Stick on Bluebonnet Blvd. Still, the Mid-City location is easier for me to get to from work, so it was there that I dined!
La Carreta on Government Street
The restaurant recently underwent a renovation that moved the entrance to the patio area that used to be the back of the establishment. La Carreta actually has one of my favorite outdoor dining spaces in Baton Rouge, so if you are ever in the mood for Mexican food on a nice day, it is a good spot to hit up.
La Carreta’s Salsa
Obviously one of the best things about Mexican dining in the United States is the free chips and salsa that customarily accompanies every feast. La Carreta’s salsa has a few chucks of fresh tomato that are mixed in with an otherwise liquidy base of tomato juice and herbs. The flavor is fairly ordinary but still tastes fine if you like a classic salsa to go with your salted corn tortilla chips.
La Carreta Special: Beef Burrito, Chicken Tostada, Beef Enchilada
I ordered the La Carreta Special for lunch. It came with a beef burrito, a chicken tostada, and a beef enchilada. The tostada got buried under a pile of lettuce, sour cream, and pico de gallo while the burrito and enchilada could be found a little easier on the plate. Unfortunately the ground beef that stuffed the burrito and enchilada was nothing to brag about. It was plain and bland and I think I’ve honestly been happier with burritos at Taco Bell. This really surprised me as I’ve had great experiences with La Carreta in the past. Perhaps the best advice is to stick with chicken or steak and avoid the ground beef. I’m sure I’ll be back at some point to sit on the patio and enjoy some cerveza. I’ll just have to be more careful about what I order!
While most of the culinary conquests that I write about on this blog consist of restaurant reviews and delightful dishes that other people create, every now and then I do a little cooking myself. I recently spent an afternoon barbequing for some friends where I experimented with some pork shoulder recipes and also threw in a little bit of grilled chicken, green beans, macaroni and cheese, and some homemade biscuits. Brent, Eric, Justin, and James all came over to enjoy the afternoon of sports and smoked meats. Add some beers and few things in life could be much better!
Two Pork Shoulders Ready to be Seasoned and Smoked
I decided to use two different injections for the pork shoulders so I could play around a little bit and see which one came out better. Since my blog is title Bite and Booze, my first decision was that each recipe should contain some kind of booze in it. The first injection contained blackberries, honey, and bourbon. I tried to make this one sweet instead of salty to see how the meat would turn out. After combining the blackberries, honey, and Maker’s Mark bourbon, I injected the liquid mixture into the pork shoulder and then rubbed the rest onto the meat. I let the shoulder marinate like that overnight and in the morning I rubbed it down with a blend of seasoning that mostly contained Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning and brown sugar.
The smoking of the pork shoulders took quite a few hours, so there was plenty of time to enjoy the company of my friends, watch sports on TV, and drink some beers. I smoked the shoulders over pure mesquite charcoal. I really like mesquite because it brings me back to my childhood days at South Texas deer camps where my father taught me how to grill on open mesquite fires. Mesquite smoke leaves a unique flavor and spiciness in meats that I’ve never found from any other wood.
Two Pork Shoulders in the Smoker, Blackberry/Honey/Bourbon in the Back,
Worcestershire/Mustard/Hot Sauce/Beer in Front
While the pork smoked over the indirect heat of blistering mesquite coals, I got to work back in the kitchen to make sure I had lunch ready at a decent hour. I seasoned a batch of chicken thighs with my rub from the pork that mostly consisted of Slap Ya Mama and brown sugar. While grilling the chicken thighs over the mesquite, I sautéed some haricot verts in olive oil and lemon juice with a touch of garlic, sea salt, and fresh cracked black pepper. In addition, I made a smoked Gouda mac and cheese with some grated Gouda and boiled egg noodles.