Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *New Orleans*

Packing the Punch on Bourbon St.

All year long people flock to New Orleans to let loose. Some come to gamble and others come for that southern sin city vibe. No matter the reason, they are all here to drink. Bourbon Street lays in the middle of the French Quarter and is packed with tons of bars ready to drown you in any poison you desire. Drinking can be expensive here if you’re not careful, so I decided to be your test dummy and find out who was packing the best punch for the least amount of money. Sure there are spots along the strip that offer $2 near beers and $5 Huge Ass Beers but it can take some time to get that good warm feeling from beer. Plus you end up pissing it out most of the night. While I don’t condone binge drinking, I support a healthy and respectful attitude towards alcohol. It’s not hard to spot the people that clearly can't handle their liquor. Almost every block you walk down there is someone falling down or throwing up, and every other block there’s a couple fighting. Maybe it’s the humidity or hot air combined with too much liquor that makes people act this way. Either way, this was going to be an interesting test. To be fair I only had one strong drink per night. This would be the only way to gage the effects of the drinks. The humidity in New Orleans is similar to Houston but the air seemed thicker and the heat made it almost unbearable to drink.
We stayed at the historic Bourbon Orleans hotel located on the corner of Bourbon and Orleans. The first stop for us on our intoxicated adventure led us to Tropical Isle since it was half a block away. While they have a few other drinks they are most notable for their famous Hand Grenades. You can’t walk anywhere along Bourbon St. without seeing someone carrying around the green plastic cup. For $8 you get a souvenir yard cup and a little plastic grenade atop a strong but sweet, yummy concoction that tastes of pineapple and melon liqueur. Right away I fell in love. While the taste of alcohol was faint, it was clear this drink had a punch judging from all the people dancing in the streets, but all I cared about was how delicious it was. The recipe is very secretive and the Hand Grenades can only be found here. No exporting on this fine drink. It really makes a trip to New Orleans all worth it. Once I finished the drink, I didn’t quite feel the buzz but I wasn’t disappointed because it tasted so good. I was so intrigued by the company that I setup an interview with the creator of the Hand Grenade so I could learn more but that’s another article. Right now we’re on a mission to find the hard stuff.
Next, we had to visit one of the most famous places in New Orleans, Pat O’Briens to grab their famous Hurricane. A mix of light and dark rums with fruit juices makes this a strong,cold drink to ward of the summer heat. I was expecting it to be frozen, but on the rocks would work too. This was a strong drink and it wasn't hard to taste the booze. While it was somewhat sweet, the stiff taste of alcohol was always present. At each sip, the alcoholic fumes rose to the nostrils followed by a sweet sticky taste of fruit punch. At $8 I wished it came with some sort of souvenir cup to help me remember what I drank the night before. As I continued to drown my liver, the punch flavor disappeared and all I could taste was watered down alcohol. Not exactly the best taste in the world. Once I finished the Hurricane I felt kinda queasy but it wasn’t from being drunk. Maybe it was from the sugary syrup or that watered down taste. Whatever the reason I wasn’t too thrilled about the Hurricane. I was expecting a drink to blow me away with the force of Katrina. Instead it was a tropical depression on both my buzz and my wallet.
On the last night in New Orleans I was still in search of that strong punch. Many people began to recommend I check out Port of Call. An old steakhouse located on the edge of the French Quarter one block north of Bourbon on Dauphine and Esplanade. Granted it wasn’t on Bourbon St., I was told it was here that I would find that kick I was looking for. Esplanade isn’t one of nicest looking areas but it felt safe. Your about 8 blocks from all the action so it’s in walking distance but on a hot night like this I was getting a cab. Walking into Port of Call, it’s a little different...think Gilligan's Island. It’s a very small place that’s very dim lit and the bar takes up most of the space. They are most known for their burgers and stakes but on this visit were looking for the Holy Grail of drinks to make us regret it in the morning. Neptune’s Monsoon was a big cup of fruit juices and alcohol. When I asked what makes it so strong I was told “It’s only got two liquors and that’s all it needs”. They said Neptune's Monsoon was a last request drink for pirates that were forced to walk the plank. I figured if it was going to be their last drink it must be something to remember. This was a pretty big drink and at $9.50 it also came in a souvenir cup. I was a little nervous to drink this on my own but I'm known to take on a challenge, so I sucked it up and started drinking away. It was so very sweet but not overbearing. It reminded me of a Hurricane but not as overloaded with that stiff alcoholic taste. By the time I reached the middle of the cup I was already starting to feel a little warmth. I needed a little help on this one but I had down most of it on my own. I felt pretty nice as I walked out of the bar. I waited for cab to arrive and I could feel the Monsoon's warm breeze flowing over me. I had to admit I finally caught a buzz. Not only was it strong...it tasted delicious. The punch wasn’t too sweet and the alcohol wasn’t too strong. It was mixed perfectly to make this enjoyable drink. Overall I think this challenge could've ended up different for everyone. It really depends what you’re looking for when you’re looking for the biggest punch on Bourbon St. I admired the Tropical Isle Hand Grenade the most because of the flavor I wouldn’t have minded paying another $8 for seconds. While the Pat O’Briens Hurricane was my least favorite, some people enjoy it. All of the drinks were about the same price and granted not everyone cares for a souvenir cup. I just think it adds into the cost of the product for what you get. I think that the Hurricane has become so hyped up that it’s kind of lost it’s flair along the way. The Port of Call's maybe a dollar more expensive, but I believe it’s a bigger drink and it clearly packing the punch I was looking for. In the end you can choose your beer of choice or sample the many different daiquiris and frozen drinks along Bourbon St. but don’t overdo it. If I really had to choose I would say it’s a toss-up between Tropical Isle & Port of Call but my heart has a passion for the Hand Grenade and its yummy secret recipe. Next time you’re in New Orleans you be the judge.

Tropical Isle
721 Bourbon St
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 529-4109

Pat O'Briens
718 Saint Peter St
New Orleans, LA 70116

Port of Call
838 Esplanade Ave
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 523-0120

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *New Orleans*

Mother's Restaurant
401 Poydras St
New Orleans, LA 70130-3207
(504) 523-9656

While doing some research for this trip I came across Mother’s Restaurant. It has been highly recommended by many to be the place to find the best Po’ Boy in New Orleans. I don’t care where you go, everyone always thinks they have the best but when your customers are the ones putting the word out, it usually means you have something good. I figured Mother’s would be a great place to start my exploration of New Orleans fare. One thing I find very annoying about the French Quarter is parking. There never seems to be any free parking. Like any downtown I suppose parking is limited but the prices here are a little higher than usual. We park a few blocks down and make our way to Mother’s. I’m starting to feel very good about this venture and I’m looking forward to this over stuffed Po’ Boy. When you walk into Mother’s there isn’t much to say about the place other than it’s a little warm and everything looks aged. This place is said to cook up the world’s best baked ham. It’s even printed on the sign outside. Everyone kept telling me about the Ferdi Special so I had to know what the buzz was all about.
The Ferdi Special is a large Po’ Boy stuffed with Ham, Roast Beef, Debris and Gravy (Debris is roast beef that falls into the gravy while baking in the oven). We figured it would be nice to share a bowl of Red Beans & Rice, a Cajun staple. Once you place the order they begin to prepare it right away. The food was out to us pretty quick and I was pretty impressed by the size of the sandwich. The French bread was over stuffed with plenty of meat to serve two people and Red Beans & Rice seemed like the perfect side to share with a meal like this. I was eager to jump, but intimidated by the size of this Po’ Boy. I decided to just pick it up and dig in. Gravy came running out as I bit into the bread. Right away I noticed something wasn’t right. The roast beef was very dry. Sure it’s usually dry but it almost felt hard to swallow. While the gravy helped moisten the meat it just seemed like it wasn’t enough, not to mention there really wasn’t much for flavor. The red beans and rice even seemed to be a little flat. I had to throw in some salt and pepper just so I could taste this meal. Where was that spicy and flavorful Cajun spice I was expecting? I was a little disappointed with Mother’s. Had the hype killed this place? Maybe it was just a bad day, but for $40 for two Po’ Boys, two drinks and a bowl of red beans and rice I felt a little shafted. I think the Ferdi Special had some real potential but a dash of seasoning to both the Po’ Boy and the Red Beans & Rice would have made this experience so much better. I personally think that’s a lot of money for what you get. Like I said maybe it was just a bad day. Next time you’re in New Orleans check it out maybe you will have a better experience.

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip

*New Orleans*

With summer here and the recession keeping our money tight, it’s getting harder for people to go on vacation. This year many people plan on staying in their own towns, but I refuse to be held down. The one thing I miss the most from my childhood is going on road trips with my parents to little cities across Texas. I decided this would be a great chance to take Bite Me on the road.

The first half of the tour I drove to New Orleans, Louisiana. This is a city with years of tragic history and a poor image since the media frenzy surrounding hurricane Katrina. New Orleans. Needless to say I was a little apprehensive about choosing New Orleans because of its safety and not to mention the costs. As the trip grew closer I was beginning to regret it but there was no turning back. I had only been to New Orleans once in my past and I wasn’t old enough to enjoy it (i.e. drink). This was my chance to see what the hype was all about and get a chance to sample some great food.
When I announced the trip recommendations flooded in with tips and advice. After awhile I began hearing about the same restaurants and cafés over and over again. While they all sounded like a great place to check out I thought there has to be more out there. I didn’t want to visit the tourist spots and while the French Quarter is a tourist trap in itself, I knew there had to be some great food waiting to be tasted. I’m your average person, I like simple things and I don’t want to spend my whole paycheck on one meal. One thing I noticed while doing my research was that restaurants in the French Quarter can be very expensive with the average plate costing about $25 per person. While that may not seem like a lot to some, I have to spread my money to take this trip from New Orleans, Louisiana all the way back to Austin, TX and still have enough money to pay for the expense of traveling back to Houston.We arrived in New Orleans on a Friday night just before midnight. I have always heard New Orleans was the city that never slept in the south and I was hoping this was still true post Katrina. Since we arrived under the cover of the night we didn’t get a good look at the outer regions of the city but as we reached the inner city lights of the warehouse district I was honestly shocked. It all seems so pretty and clean. I was beginning to think this wasn’t a bad idea after all. The streets of the French Quarter seemed welcoming with that old Victorian feel. I was ready to drop my bags at the hotel and see what hidden gems awaited us. I wanted to explore Cajun food and find out what the locals favored. I wanted to find out who had the strongest drink on Bourbon Street. I was anxious to learn a little bit about beignets and who was serving them up. I knew this would be a trip I wouldn’t soon forget.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip
-Houston, Texas - New Orleans, Louisiana - Austin, Texas-
June 19 2009 - June 28 2009

Its summer time and with the economy in shambles many people are planning on just staying in and exploring their own city. For me, I can’t just stand by and let the economy hold me down. That’s why I’m picking up a camera and hitting the road. This is the 2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip. I’m headed from the swamps of Louisiana to the hills of Austin. I’m going to find the best food in drinks they have to offer and enjoy that Southern hospitality. In Louisiana I’m going to stop in on New Orleans to see what the French Quarter is cooking up. We’re going to find out who is really packing the punch on Bourbon Street; Battle of the beignets; Cajun fine dining and maybe catch a few spirits along the way. Then we will head back into hill of Austin and chow down on some authentic Texas barbeque; Cupcake showdown, find out what’s the connection between pizza and Austin; See what’s distilling in town and find that home cooked hearty breakfast. The tour starts June 19-28 in New Orleans, Louisiana then we will make our way back to Texas into Austin. I hope everyone enjoys the videos. Be sure to follow along with us on Twitter. @BiteMeHouston

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Trentino Gelato

Trentino Gelato

It was a sweltering Sunday afternoon in Houston and the temperatures were hovering around the mid 90’s. In such an active city it’s hard to stay indoors on such a beautiful day. Though the heat was slowing us down I had a friend on the inside that had a cure that could chill the soul. Marcelo Kreindel, an Argentinean born Houstonian, is bringing the passions from his home country here to Houston. Marcelo is the mastermind and gourmet chef behind Trentino Gelato. I know what you’re probably thinking and trust me I was thinking the same, what is an Argentinean doing making Italian ice cream? Well after introductions and a quick sampling, Marcelo told me about Argentina and their love for these frosty treats. Though Gelato may have been born in Italy, Argentineans have been making their own versions for years. Marcelo told us that gelato shops are as common as coffee shops here. Being in Houston the gelato shops almost nonexistent and Marcelo felt a bit homesick. After returning home to Argentina, Marcelo studied the art of gelato making and was ready to bring that Argentinean passion to Houston. Located in a kitchen just outside of downtown Trentino Gelato is literally whipping up some of the sweetest and smoothest treats in town. These aren’t your average Gelatos. Of course you can get your usual fix of chocolate and vanilla but why stop there when Trentino’s has flavors to make your head spin and mouth drool. They are using some of the freshest ingredients and balanced recipes to bring you out of this world flavors like Egg Nog, Green Tea, Nutella, Star Anise and Wild Texas Honey. That’s just to name a few. And do not worry if you're lactose intolerant. .Trentino’s has a wonderful world of sorbets to keep you chill all year long. With cool and refreshing flavors such as Beer, Chili Chocolate, Cucumber Cilantro & Lime, Gazpacho and a South American favorite Guanabana, you won't feel left out. Marcelo is always in the kitchen trying to come up with new recipes for Trentino Gelato fans. A big appeal to me is his passion for his product and his ongoing support to keep things local. Marcelo uses fruits from local farmers markets and deserts from bakeries and coffee shops around town to add a very special local flair of this cross networking goodness. He has even recently added Saint Arnold’s brewery to his list of flavors with the Saint Arnold Amber Beer Sorbet. For the time being Trentino Gelato can only be found at Spec’s, Rice Epicurean & Belden’s or you can find them every Sunday at the Discovery Green Farmers Market. Trentino Gelato can also be found at Coffee Groundz, D’Amico’s and Crickets Creamery & Café. In my opinion Trentino’s is the best gelato I have ever had. His gelato has such a rich and silky texture that can only set you up for the explosion of rich flavors that be bestowed on your tongue. And all the health conscious Houstonians out there will be pleased to know that gelato has less fat and air than ice cream, so its naturally better for you than ice cream. That nutritional tidbit is what inspired me to sample as many flavors as I could. The Dulce de Leche and Brownie was without a doubt the best thing I had ever tasted. I also highly recommend their sorbets. Trentino's Lemon Sorbet is quite possibly the best thing to have on a hot humid day in Houston. It's sweet and refreshing with a bit of a tangy after taste that bites you in the jaw but it's blended with perfection to balance out the sweet and sour flavors. Trentino's Gelato is the perfect snack to have while spending an afternoon in downtown at Discovery Green Park.

***Be on the lookout for new flavors. Right now Trentino’s is teaming up with Riazul Tequila to make a Blanco sorbet. Sounds yummy and we can’t wait to try it out. I can almost guarantee that once you try Trentino Gelato, you will never go back to ice cream.