Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip

Austin, TX

Austin, Texas, Home to the Texas Longhorns, great music and most of all great food. On this trip I was set. I knew exactly what I was looking for. I like to think of Austin as my second home. Many people congregate in Austin for music festivals or just to party the night away on 6th St. Not me, at least not this time. I’m here for the food. I brought the 2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip to the capital of Texas to find real Texas barbeque, find out who is hand tossing the best pizza and explore the sweet creamy goodness of cupcakes.
In Texas we are known for great smoky barbeque. Sure there are tons of places we could visit but with such a tight schedule we could only pick three. Emails came in from all over the place telling us to try this place or that place so I picked the three I heard most about. I’m sure there are tons of other spots that we could of checked out but don’t worry. As much as I visit Austin I will get to them all soon enough. To find out who took our vote for the best barbeque be sure to read the Texas Barbeque Showdown. In Austin, when looking for pizza you have more than enough to choose from. Honestly I think it’s pretty hard to go wrong with a pizza but in Austin they have taken the love for the Italian dish to a whole other level. You can find a pizza parlor or trailer on almost every block in town. It probably has a lot to do with all the college students around. One thing I’ve noticed about Austin is their support for local businesses. Sure you will still find your usual pizza chains but here it’s the independent guys that are taking the cake, or should I say pie? On this trip we chose to triple up on everything so we found three parlors and had a pizza toss off. To see who we picked and who came out on top be sure to check out the Austin’s Pizza Toss-Off.
Looking for something sweet and small? Drive around Austin and you will find some great bakeries baking up some of the sweetest and most delicious treats in all of Texas. I found the cupcake to be a growing trend and everyone is putting their own spin on this tasty little cake. From store fronts to trailers, Austin is baking up some great cupcakes but who’s got the better batter? Be sure to read the Austin Clash of the Cupcakes and find out who has the best bang for the buck.
I would like to say thank you so much to all the new friends me met while in Austin. April from Sweet Leaf Tea was a great host. She offered advice on places to try and things to see and she even introduced us to the wonderful staff that keeps Sweet Leaf Tea brewing. Also I would like to say thank you to everyone at Republic Tequila. If anyone knows how to welcome guest into town its Republic Tequila. They have left a lasting impression on me and would like to wish them the best of luck on the release of the tequila this month. They have made me a true tequila admirer now and I can wait to go back to Austin and see them again. Austin you are a wonderful and beautiful city. I can’t thank everyone enough for their hospitality and their friendship. Bite Me Austin!

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *New Orleans*

Desire Oyster Bar & Bistro
300 Bourbon St
New Orleans, LA
(504) 586-0300

Among the bars and drunken chaos of Bourbon St. lays a tranquil and quite restaurant that seems very out of place. The Desire Oyster Bar & Bistro is a little diner that seems to transport you to past. It looks as if nothing in this place has changed since its original opening. Old tiles and grand bar bring a nice nostalgia and makes this place seem very warm and welcoming. Many people have told me about Desire but so far I was a little disappointed in the recommendations. I have yet to find that good ole Creole cooking. Everything we have had in New Orleans seemed a little bland and didn’t give me that nice spicy kick. I was hoping Desire would put an end to that. The prices hovered in the median for what I was expecting to pay and figured it would be well worth it. Almost as soon as the waiter brought us some bread and butter our food was almost ready. I was very pleased with the bread. It was very soft and chewy, still warm from the oven. I was growing a little tired with all the Po’Boy’s on this trip so we decided to go with the Crawfish Alfredo and the BBQ Shrimp. Desire is known for their oysters but I have a utter disgust for them and choose to not take part. As the dishes were rush to our table, an eclectic scent of spices came calling. The food was presented nicely and I couldn’t wait to take a bite. The lone crawfish rested atop a mound of fettuccini seemed to stare at me and anxiously wait to be ripped apart and eaten. I decided to toss the little guy to the side and save him for last I was after the pasta first. The sauce wasn’t too thick so it made twirling the fork a breeze. Jumbo lumps of crawfish tails spread throughout the dish like confetti. The taste of the Alfredo sauce was outstanding. Nice mild spice with a rich creamy cheese flavor. The boiled crawfish tails were plump and added a nice little kick. I felt like I was in Cajun food Heaven. I had finally found some great real Cajun cuisine. I looked across the table to see the BBQ Shrimp swimming in a bowl of butter and seasonings. My mouth watered as I longed to taste them. Butter dripped down my fork and I selected a shrimp. The succulent sent of Cajun spices almost danced on my touch as I brought the shrimp to my mouth. It was near perfection. The shrimp was boiled to perfectly with a firm but chewy texture. The taste though is something that can’t be explained. It had a little kick but it wasn’t too spicy and while it was resting in a bowl of butter it wasn’t as greasy as one could imagine. I was falling head over hills for Desire. I started to wonder if this was how they got their name. After you eat here you seem to only desire more. Who would have known you could find such great food tucked in between all the rowdy bars of Bourbon St.

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *New Orleans*

Café Du Monde
800 Decatur St.
New Orleans, LA.
(504) 525-4544

When people think of New Orleans deserts they usually think of a few things: King Cakes, Bread Pudding and Beignets. On this trip I felt it only necessary to find out what made Café du Monde stand above the rest. In a small in/outdoor café across the street from the St. Louis Cathedral they are frying up these little French donuts three at a time. Unlike your usual donut Beignets are fried and coated with tons of powdered sugar while they are still hot. When I say a town of powdered sugar I mean a lot. The proof is all over the floor. While others have told me about different cafes but Café du Monde has the most history. Café du Monde opened up in 1862 and it still stands in the same spot. They are still making the beignets the same way and pouring out the same coffee. This must mean they have been doing something right. No trip in New Orleans is complete without Café du Monde Beignets and famous chicory coffee. It was very hot and humid on our trip so as we stopped in to the café they last thing we wanted was hot coffee. They have a very smooth iced coffee that compliments the sugar coated beignets. The beignets were nicely fried to a golden brown and doused in powdered sugar and brought to us right away. The taste was decent but it wasn’t something that blew me away. The texture wasn’t as soft as a donut and there were no glazes or fillings just fried dough and powdered sugar. I felt that there was just too much sugar. With every bite it there would be a clump of powdered sugar caking behind my front teeth to the roof of my mouth. Don’t get me wrong it was good but I wouldn’t have minded a little less sugar. Word of warning, this coffee is strong. And not made for those with a sensitive stomach. While it was a delicious beverage to wash down the beignets it did reek havoc on my tummy that evening. While in Café du Monde you will notice tons of waiters and waitresses waiting for customers to sit down. I had to know a little bit about the café so I struck up a conversation with our waitress. I found it very interesting to know that in such a little place they can have up to 15 employees bringing you your fried dough. Each person only has a couple of tables and they work fast and hard in hopes of a good tip. I can vouch for the employees that getting the tables cleaned and ready for the next customer isn’t an easy job. It’s very hectic inside Café du Monde and they are working for very little money. They only accept cash because when you place an order the waiter or waitress has to pay for your order with their own pocket. Next time you stop in to enjoy some beignets and coffee think about your waiter and be sure to tip nicely.

Monday, July 20, 2009

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *Austin*

Republic Tequila

Be sure to check out Republic Tequila in the July issue of Texas Monthly on page 105.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *New Orleans*

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

On almost a daily basis hundreds of individuals flock to Bourbon St. looking to let loose and unwind. With an abundance of bars to choose from it almost seems overwhelming. With all of the lights and sounds coming from every direction, you walk down the strip trying to find the most unique and interesting place to stop in. When you come to the corner of Bourbon and Orleans you seem to find yourself drawn to the Tropical Isle. Notoriously known as a staple to the Quarter, Tropical Isle has been mixing up one of the most potent and delicious drinks in town, the Hand Grenade. You can’t walk a single block without seeing groups of people carrying the signature hand grenade cup and the only place to get one is at Tropical Isle. The Hand Grenade is a grain alcohol based drink mixed with melon and pineapple juices that will leave you begging for more. The recipe is kept very secret and not even I could break them. This is what keeps Tropical Isle so popular. This is the only place in the world to get a hand grenade and they like to keep it that way. Tropical Isle was founded in 1984 by Pam Fortner and Earl Bernhardt and they have grown from one bar to four plus the fine dining establishment Orleans Grapevine Wine Bar & Bistro. Sadly two of their locations were severely damaged by fire earlier this year but with the true New Orleans spirit they plan to rebuild and come back even harder.

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *New Orleans*

Old New Orleans Rum Distillery

Spirits are said to be haunting the streets of New Orleans and I’m not talking about the ones that go bump in the night. Just outside of the French Quarter you will find the New Orleans Rum Distillery. This company is a great example of New Orleanians facing adversity and their fight to keep on going. Over the years Old New Orleans Rum has gone through quite a transformation since Hurricane Katrina flooded them in 8 feet of water. They changed the name, redesigned the bottle and began distilling some great new brews. We were given a tour through the distilleries by Jascha, a northern transplant who said he fell in love with the city a few years ago. Jascha learned distilling over the years while working the company and is hand-crafting some of the rum you taste today. The company produces four different varieties of rum. They have their Crystal, Amber, Cajun Spiced and their 10 Year Special Edition. All of these rums are very smooth to the point where they can be sipped alone without that harsh burn other rums can give you. The Crystal Rum would be your ideal mixing rum to make your everyday mojitos and daiquiris. It has a very mellow with hints of vanilla or molasses. Their Amber Rum is a mix from different oak barrels that is aged for three years and they finish it off with their homemade caramel to add a little added flavor. The Cajun Spiced Rum is something to behold. While they have won many awards for their rum the Cajun Spiced have won the best in category for the last three years. It’s a very smooth amber rum that has been blended with different spices to give it that New Orleans kick. This is a very drinkable rum that has the very unique essence of New Orleans. This had to be one of the best spiced rums that I've ever had. It's a very mellow rum with a mild spice. I mean, I could literally drink this all day. Around here they like to mix it with sweet tea to make their Cajun Tea. A very delicious cocktail if I must say so myself. Old New Orleans Rum even distills a unique treasure that can only be purchased in town. They are bottling a10 year old rum that resembles a fine Irish whiskey. This rum is a survivor of Katrina and supplies are limited. They are only cranking out 700 bottles per year. It is a smooth sipping rum with a warming rich vanilla flavor. It would almost be an insult to use it as a mixer. While at the distillery we were lucky enough to sample a work in progress. Old New Orleans Rum has been experimenting and are working on a coconut rum. This delicious buttery coconut rum is unlike anything I had ever had. It seemed to be a little thicker than your usual flavored rum and that was due to the all natural ingredients. I would have to say this trip taught me a lot about rum and how it is distilled. Before this trip I only knew rum to be something you use to make a fruity frozen cocktail. I really can’t thank Jascha and the Old New Orleans Rum Distillery for their hospitality and a lesson in rum. I highly recommending you pick up a bottle of the Cajun Spiced rum for yourself. If your lucky enough to travel to New Orleans try to find a 10 year aged bottle. You definitely will not regret it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Were Taking Over Texas!

Mike Cortez here of Bite Me *Houston*. Your non sugar coated guide for the best food and drinks in town. We are proud to announce that we will be teaming up with Texas on Air and broadcasting our love across this great state. I would like to send a big thank you to Joey V. for bringing me aboard. This is an honor and I really hope everyone enjoys the articles. As always I promise to bring you the inside scoop without all the hype. Bite It!