Louisiana Daily Photo: Gonzales Jambalaya Festival

Lee Elisar has emerged as the World Champion of jambalaya cooking at the big cook off in Gonzales this past weekend.

2015 marked the 48th edition of the event. Unfortunately business had called me to Mississippi so I missed the competition.

Gonzales Louisiana

Gonzales Louisiana

Here’s a photo I snapped at last years shootout. The gentleman pictured was the gatekeeper to a freak show that featured genetically absurd snapping turtles.

Business was brisk for the ticket-tearer but I did manage to catch him between patrons.

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Louisiana Daily Photo: Jeanfreau Super Market In Chalmette

One of the best hamburgers in the greater New Orleans area is served at Joey’s Grill inside Jeanfreau’s Super Market in Chalmette.

But the real allure of Jeanfreau is the handmade sausage that their charcutiere puts out on a daily basis.

Jeanfreau Supermarket In Chalmette Louisiana

Jeanfreau Supermarket In Chalmette Louisiana

I go here for the pork sausage laced with green onion and anchored with plenty good hog fat. An hour on the smoker in the backyard and you have one of the premium forcemeats served in all of Louisiana.

Jeanfreau’s has also been known to open their commercial kitchen to area culinary schools so that their students can get some hands on experience on the grinder/extruder.

Who knows how many budding charcutieres have developed a love of the craft from this crucial experience?

2324 Paris Road
Chalmette, LA
70043

Hours of operation
Sun 8am-6pm
Mon 8am-6pm
Tue 8am-6pm
Wed 8am-6pm
Thu 8am-6pm
Fri 8am-6pm
Sat 8am-6pm

Telephone (504) 279-6590

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Louisiana Daily Photo: Bocce Club In Metairie

I have a long and storied history with Kenner, Louisiana. When I was a little kid my dad would take me out to the lakefront on the edge of town to go crabbing. We’d buy dead chickens from a little roadside shack, tie them off then wade out in Pontchartrain to snag a basket of crabs for a boil.

Bocce Club In New Orleans

Bocce Club In New Orleans

A big treat involved being taken to the old Ground Pati on West Esplanade for their superb burgers and big pewter tankards of fresh rootbeer.

That restaurant is lost to the annals of time.

On a recent sojourn through nearby Metairie, I pulled over to the side of the road to snap a photo of the Italian American Bocce Club. One imagines phalanxes of elderly Italian men gather here to drink red wine, play bocce and talk about all the skirt they used to chase back in the old country.

Italian American Bocce Club
2340 Severn Ave
Metairie, Louisiana
70001

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Louisiana Daily Photo: Westwego Shrimp Lot

Westwego Shrimp Lot opened in 1977 under the aegis of Ronnie Temento Sr, the owner of the property. The founding fishermen who made the lot into a commercial enterprise were: Joe Temento, Dave Dominique, Darvele Melfort, Edward Camardelle and Joe Camardelle.

Westwego Shrimp Lot

Westwego Shrimp Lot

Over the last four decades the old, gravel parking lot, littered with handmade, wooden fish-selling kiosks, has done booming business; you better get there early if you want the pick of the day’s catch.

New Orleans locals as well as savvy West Bank denizens know this is the finest source of fresh seafood in Southeast Louisiana.

Ruth Ann and Rob’s Seafood Unlimited is our favorite vendor on the lot, but truth be told we’ve never had an ounce of bad fish from any of the sellers.

100 Westbank Expy
Westwego, LA 70094

Ruth Ann & Rob’s 504-340-3351

Wayne Hebert’s 504-340-1830

Sue’s Seafood 504-348-9394

Pauls Seafood 504-436-7730

Wade’s Seafood 504-341-2222

Debbies Seafood 504-348-9285

Amy’s Seafood 504-348-9285

Capt. Jonthan 504-436-6005

K&B Seafood 504-347-9227

Jerris Seafood 504-371-7705

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Alabama Barbecue Robbery: Gunman Takes Down Miss Myra’s In Vestavia

Miss Myra’s Pit Barbecue was taken down Friday, May 15th 2015. This is one of the finest barbecue joints in the state of Alabama and I imagine a posse is riding hard right now to round up the brigand who invaded the restaurant.

May Heaven help the perp if old Randall Joe from Cullman gets to him. That man really loves Alabama barbecue and he rolls heavily armed every time he leaves the house.

It was around 8:30 pm Friday evening, a half hour before close, when a Black gentleman wearing all-red walked into the restaurant.

He was carrying a semi-automatic pistol.

I’ve spent many a Friday evening at Miss Myra’s, formerly Rountree’s Hickory Pit. It was one of my favorite smoked meat houses when I was in culinary school in Alabama and I regularly ran out to Cahaba Heights from Southside to eat their superb, crispy-skinned barbecue chicken with white sauce.

They also serve one of the best potato salads I’ve ever eaten in any restaurant…anywhere.

The unidentified robber relieved the gathered patrons of their belongings in addition to taking the day’s receipts from the restaurant.

This being Alabama, he’s fortunate that he didn’t find himself on an earlier-than-planned celestial departure as many Alabamans exercise their right to keep and bear arms.

Years back, a Shoney’s in Anniston was being robbed and a tough old redneck who happened to be inside told the robbers “I wouldn’t do that if I were you”

When I say tough, I mean tough as he never even showed his gun. His tone was so full of menace that the would-be robbers immediately fled.

Miss Myra’s will survive. They survived the death of founder Clark Rountree in 1996 (RIP) and they’ve weathered the economic storms that all long-running businesses suffer.

A recipe for Clark Rountree’s White Barbecue Sauce is here

Address:
3278 Cahaba Heights Rd
Vestavia, AL 35243

Hours:
Mon 8:00 am – 8:00 pm
Tue 8:00 am – 8:00 pm
Wed 8:00 am – 8:00 pm
Thu 8:00 am – 8:00 pm
Fri 7:00 am – 9:00 pm
Sat 7:00 am – 9:00 pm
Sun Closed

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Louisiana Daily Photo: Lost In New Orleans

I have no idea where I took this photo, I was lost on the streets of New Orleans.

Lost In New Orleans

Lost In New Orleans

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Louisiana Daily Photo: Boudin Rouge At T-Jim’s In Cottonport

The nigh mythical boudin rouge aka blood boudin at T-Jim’s in Cottonport, Louisiana.

T-Jim's In Cottonport, Louisiana

T-Jim’s In Cottonport, Louisiana

Here’s a full length report on my trip through Acadiana.

T-Jim’s

T-Jim’s Grocery
928 Kaufman Street
Cottonport, La
71327

Hours
Mon-Fri 7am-6pm
Sat 7am-4pm
Sun Closed

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Louisiana Daily Photo: Village de L’Est

15 miles to the east of the French Quarter in New Orleans sits one of the largest Vietnamese communities in North America: Village de L’Est.

 Village de L'Est

Village de L’Est

It is an absolute treasure trove of Vietnamese culture with churches, art galleries, pho parlors, banh mi shops, karaoke bars, fresh fish markets and nearly any other thing you could think of that is at least tangentially connected to the culture of the Vietnamese people.

I go here to gorge on Vietnamese cuisine, take photos, and shop for groceries that you can’t get in downtown New Orleans.

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Happy Birthday New Orleans

New Orleans was founded today in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville. .

Our lovely town is named for Duke of Orleans, Phillippe II, a bit of a gay blade.

New Orleans has changed a lot since my first visit here back in the 70s. The rollicking, anything goes atmosphere has diminished a bit but I’m still proud to call the old girl home.

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Louisiana Daily Photo: Oasis Sno Balls And Tamales In Arabi

I’ve made a vow that whenever I see a sign in Louisiana promising Hot Tamales that I will stop and purchase at least one tamale.

Louisiana Daily Photo

Louisiana Daily Photo

Which is what caused me to pull into the Oasis Sno Balls and Tamales stand in Arabi Louisiana.

The family running the little business is Mexican but the hot tamales are pure Deep South-style.

Unfortunately the salsa that comes with the meal is from a jug, most likely labelled “Pace”

7200 St. Claude Avenue

Arabi, Louisiana

70032

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Louisiana Daily Photo: Blue Runner Beans

Busy Louisiana cooks don’t always have the time to wash, rinse, soak and simmer their beans for hours on end.

That’s when they reach for a can of Blue Runners.

The Gonzales, Louisiana-based company has been running strong for almost 100 years (est.1918) and while I would never resort to eating a canned bean, I can see why folks in these parts keep a spot in their cupboard for the product.

Next month I’ll be heading up to Gonzales for the World Jamabalaya Championship and will run by the Blue Runner factory to take a picture of the mothership.

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Louisiana Daily Photo: Tag’s Meat Market In Chalmette

Tag’s Meat Market In Chalmette is home of the Papa Tag’s Burger. It’s called Papa because it can feed four hungry eaters.

Tag's Meat Market

Tag’s Meat Market

1207 E. Judge Perez Drive

Chalmette, LA

70043

(504) 277-6594

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2015 Ponchatoula Louisiana Strawberry Festival Poster Controversy

Shelley Matherne is at the center of a firestorm. Ms. Matherne is the public relations representative for the 2015 Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival which has somehow ended up at ground zero for contemporary race discussions in Louisiana.

Because of the poster created by artist Kalle Siekkinen for the event.

2015 Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival Poster

As you can see, the poster depicts two Black children wearing all white garb and perhaps preparing to feast on some delicious Ponchatoula strawberries.

Read into it what you will.

Tremble with outrage or tremble with outrage that anyone could be outraged.

Either way there’s no getting around the fact that the Louisiana Strawberry and Marketing Board will be having some sleepless nights ahead.

The 2015 Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival is to be held the weekend of April 10th.

There will be dozens of vendors trotting out all manners of strawberry related foodstuffs. I’ll keep an eagle eye out for heirloom varietals like Daybreak, Tangi or Headliner but I won’t be holding my breath.

Strawberries have been big business on the North Shore since the late 1800s when Italian farmers began the commercial cultivation of the delicious fruit. Back then there were thousands of acres devoted to the industry, nowadays there are only a few hundred.

With the prevalence, and easy availability of Driscoll strawberries from Mexico and California, the Louisiana varietals have been pushed aside.

Except for one glorious weekend in April when folks gather from all over the state in Ponchatoula to eat, drink, listen to live music and this year, have some intense discourse on the modern state of race relations in Louisiana.

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2015 Barbacoa And Big Red Festival In San Antonio

I live in the greatest city in the USA: New Orleans, Louisiana, but there is one city in my former home of Texas that I miss deeply: San Antonio.

The foodways of that town are unmatched, the women folk strap on their stiletto heels  just to go to the HEB, the citizens could not be friendlier and the city is beautiful in a dusty, forlorn sort of way,

And I love the “Keep San Antonio Lame” shirts that all the neo-Bohemians wear around town. San Antonio is many things, lame is not one of them.

Then there’s the barbacoa. The western and southern regions of San Antonio are littered with dozens of barbacoa parlors vending copious amounts of slow-cooked cow heads, served on handmade tortillas and garnished with some of the finest hot sauces in all of USA.

You haven’t eaten Tex Mex til you’ve worked your way through San Antonio’s restaurant and taco truck scene.

Now, 15 of the biggest heavy hitters in town are all preparing to gather in one place, at one time, to show and prove who makes the best barbacoa in all of Texas at the Barbacoa and Big Red Festival set for  May 3 2015 at R & J Music Pavilion in Thelma, 30 minutes south of San Antonio.

The event was founded by Tony Villareal in 2012 as a way for the community to gather as one under a united love for cow head meat.

There are few food and beverage pairings that can equal barbacoa and Big Red soda. Although Big Red was invented in Waco, Texas in 1937 by Grover C. Thomsen and R.H. Roark, I grew up hopelessly addicted to the stuff over a thousand miles away in the Cumberland Highlands of Eastern Kentucky.

For decades Big Red was only available in parts of Texas, Kentucky and Indiana.

Big Red also extends itself to other areas of popular culture: One of the centerpieces of my record collection is The Return of Doug Saldaña by Doug Sahm, the greatest musician to ever come out of the great state. Big Red is featured on the album cover.

And who can forget the red soda wars of the 70s when Big Red squared off with Tiger Red, a regional soda pop maker with deep roots in the Midwest and upper South?

You can guess who won that contretemps.

While the 2015 edition of Barbacoa And Big Red Festival will undoubtedly be a fun party let’s not forget that it’s also a competition. At the debut event in 2012, Rio’s Barbacoa emerged as the winner. In 2013 Pepe’s Barbacoa walked away with the title while Celorio’s Barbacoa has won the last two events.

Could we possibly see a visit from the much vaunted Vera’s out of Brownsville? They’re the only outfit in the whole of Texas still permitted to cook the cow’s head buried in the fertile soil of Texas. This is the centuries-old technique that is now largely forbidden by modern health codes.

I’ve driven to Brownsville for the sole purpose of eating at Vera’s and I can tell you there is no barbacoa finer and their dragon’s blood salsa is the apogee of Texas hot sauce.

Unfortunately I will not be able to attend this event. It’s 500 plus miles from my new home and while I would love to cue the Stone Cold Steve Austin entrance music, quit my job and rush to San Antonio in my beloved Ford Econoline van, it’s just not going to happen.

Any San Antonio bloggers reading? Feel free to write a scene report and file it through the contact button. It will probably make you famous.

Event: 2015 Barbacoa And Big Red Festival

Date: May 3rd 2015

Place: R & J Music Pavilion 18086 Pleasonton Rd, 78221

I tweet from the Upper 9th Ward in New Orleans, Louisiana, the finest eating city in all of USA @rlreevesjr

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Crime In The Bywater: Knife Wielding Madman Takes Down Jimmy’s Grocery

Anyone who thinks that the newcomers that have flooded into New Orleans over the past few years have completely taken over only need to visit the Bywater neighborhood to view things differently.

Friday February 7th 2015, Jimmy’s Grocery at the corner of Dauphine and France Streets was robbed by a knife-wielding man who threatened the life of the clerk over the contents of the cash register.

Jimmy’s In The Bywater

In a sage move, the cashier surrendered 300 plus dollars from the till and the brigand fled with the moneys.

My next door neighbors drive the two blocks it takes to traverse the distance between our homes and Bud Rip’s Old 9th Ward Bar after a friend was pistol-whipped and mugged leaving the historic tavern a month ago.

And it’s open season on bicyclists in The Bywater as numerous riders have been assaulted and relieved of their rides in addition to their wallets, keys and whatever else they may have on their persons.

Last Fall, a foursome were out for an evening stroll when a pistol-wielding mugger attacked them and demanded their belongings. One of the group attempted to reason with the gentleman and was pistol whipped for his efforts.

While muggings and property crime are abundant, murder must be figured into the equation as well. In mid-January of this year a man was found face-down on Louisa Street with a bullet in his head. He was dead at the scene.

With New Orleans’ police force at historic lows and new money surging into historically economically challenged areas, I don’t reckon that crime in The Bywater will let up anytime soon. Within 10 blocks of my home there are dozens of quick marts, bars, cafes, diners and coffee shops; each is a magnet for folks who have wallets, purses and automobiles…and targets on their backs in the view of neighborhood toughs and no-accounts.

When a friend visited in December he got all dressed up and was about to leave on a photo safari through the area when I stopped him at the door. He was wearing a nice blazer, shined up shoes and an Oxford dress shirt.

“Might want to not look like such a mark, man” I warned him. He wisely put on some old threads and headed out. And came home safe an hour or so later. I breathed a sigh of relief; part and parcel of living in The Bywater

 

 

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Watch Molly Schuyler Take The 72 Ounce Steak Challenge At The Big Texan

Molly Schuyler Takes The Big Texan Challenge In Amarillo Texas

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Appalachian Food Summit: A Celebration of Our Appalachian Food Heritage

I’d give anything to be in Hindman, Kentucky this Sunday May 18th 2014 for the big Appalachian food summit. Mountain folk’s food often gets short shrift in the national conversation but we’re predicting that will change as southern food enjoys an extended star turn via the media’s hot glare.

Eventually they’ll discover Kentucky’s mountain soul.

Chef Travis Milton will be preparing a feast Sunday night. He works at Comfort in the hills of West Virginia; our best efforts to find a menu were for naught but be careful to not catch a tablefork in the back of your wrist from Silas House when you go in for a piece of fried chicken.

Prior to the big Sunday night supper, Ronni Lundy (“Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken: The Heart and Soul of Southern Country Kitchens.”) will discourse on all things Appalachia; Bill Best, a tomato farmer from Berea will give a talk as will noted documentarian Jamie Ross  (“Appalachia A History of Mountains and People”)

The event is free and open to the public. The supper is sold out.

71 Justice Center Dr, Hindman, KY 41822

Sunday May 18th

1pm

And for good measure: Here’s how to make one of Eastern Kentucky’s classic dishes http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2010/6/7/The-Kentucky-Kitchen-Part-I-Classic-Kentucky-Recipes-The-Fried-Baloney-Sandwich

Posted in The Rural South | 1 Comment

2014 Guide To Barbecue Competitions In USA

Gas up the Jetta and hit the open road this Summer to reconnoiter your way through pick-up truck loads of smoked meats at barbecue competitions across the USA.

It’s how I’ve lived my life for over 20 years and I see no reason to stop now.

Memphis, Tennessee: Undeniably violent, hot and filled with some of the finest photo opps for urban decay in America-it also hosts a monster of a barbecue shootout called Memphis In May. Hundreds of teams vector in from all over the world to battle it out on the banks of the Mississippi.

Please be aware that teams are not allowed to dole out food. As bizarre as that seems to a Texan, this is a rule laid down by the folks running the festival so take plenty cash to buy meat from vendors.

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party in NYC. This is the 12th year of the event held in Madison Square Park in Manhattan June 7th and 8th 2014. Pit bosses from Texas, the South, Missouri, the Carolinas and New York all gather in the humid concrete swamp that is NYC to determine who the king of the crime-ridden Big Apple barbecue scene is.

For over four decades the little town of Brady Texas has hosted an International Goat Cook Off on the grounds of Richards Park. I’ve been to dozens of barbecue cook offs all over the US and this is my all time favorite. Expect over 200 teams, true Texas hospitality, more free food and beer than you can wrap your mind around and multiple riffs on smoked cabrito. August 29th and 30th 2014.

American Royal Barbecue Competition. Kansas City lays claim to being the best community of barbecue in all of USA. Of course native Texans know this to be false but we allow them to have their civic pride, no matter how misguided it is. Nearly 600 teams will converge on the Stockyards October 2-5 2014 to duke it out to see who will be dubbed champion. Once again, don’t expect Texas-style hospitality with tons of free meat being doled out by the teams.

It is forbidden.

Take plenty cash as you will have to buy your meat.

Dana Point State BBQ Championship in Dana Point, California. October 4th 2014. I imagine a lot of tri-tip sirloin will be served with big glasses of earthy red wine as the Californians attempt to put on a barbecue competition.

National Championship Barbecue Cook Off in Meridian, Texas. This shootout is my 2nd favorite cook off I’ve ever attended. 20k dollars is on the line as over 200 teams compete via invitation only on the Bosque Bottom fairgrounds the fourth Saturday in October each year. As this is Texas you will be fed tons of free high caliber barbecue as you can’t walk 20 feet without somebody trying to give you a plate of brisket and a cold beer.

There are thousands of barbecue competitions held in the US each year. This little list does not even scratch the surface but as a rough guide to some of the bigger cook offs it provides a good jumping off point for a meat fueled meander across America.

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Broadbent Wins 2014 National Country Ham Association Championship

At the big 2014 National Country Ham Championship held recently in the heart of the ham belt: Paducah, Kentucky; Broadbent Hams captured the title of Best Unsmoked Ham in USA.

Ham aficionados across the globe have had Broadbent on their radar for decades as the Kuttawa, Kentucky company has routinely seen their hams auctioned off for hundreds of thousands of dollars, including their alpha ham of 2010 that sold for $1.6 million. That is correct. Almost 100k per pound.

Meanwhile in the smoked category of the same competition, Tripp Country Ham of Brownsville, Tennessee was victorious.

Tripp is old-school when it comes to technique: when the ham arrives at the facility, it’s salted down and placed in a curing vat where it relaxes for five days before being salted down once more.

After that, the ham sits at 36 degrees for seven weeks before being cleaned and rotated to the Spring room where it hangs at 45 degrees for two weeks. Finally, the ham goes to the Summer room where it’s held at 80+ degrees for four weeks, a process that is crucial to the flavor and helps the ham reduce it’s weight by a minimum of 18%.

This is the defining characteristic of country ham, and it’s been codified into law as well. If the ham doesn’t drop that weight percentage, it may not be called “country.”

When a Tripp’s ham comes out of the Summer room it’s smoked for a solid week before being deemed ready for market. That’s a grand total of about 15 weeks devoted to getting that ham whipped into shape and ready for consumption.

And that’s a fair amount of time until you compare it to places like Benton’s down in Madisonville, TN where the ham undergoes a similar process but one that takes a minimum of 52 weeks.

It all comes down to the hog. Tripp’s uses commodity ham from pigs that have  had nearly all the fat bred out of them. If they were aging their hams any longer than they are it would not benefit the final product; it would be too dry.

Benton’s is using heritage pork, a much fattier pig whose hams can survive, and indeed thrive under lengthy curing.

There is no comparison between the two. A well nurtured heritage breed pig will always trump the flesh of a commercial feed lot creature.

Any good ham competition will also have reserve champions. They say a miss is as good as a mile but don’t sleep on either of these two purveyors as they are also putting out world class meat:

Unsmoked reserve champion: Goodnight Brothers of Boone, North Carolina

and

Smoked reserve champion: Harper’s of Clinton, Kentucky.

Now get out there and eat a big plate of country ham and report back.

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Rest In Peace: Ray’s Barbecue In Montopolis, Texas

A morning trek through the Montopolis neighborhood of Southeast Austin yesterday brought a gut wrenching discovery.

Ray’s Barbecue has fallen.

In its stead is a muffler repair shop.

Flying under the radar for years until it became a set location for Friday Night Lights, Ray’s consistently put out some of the best brisket and smoked chicken in Austin, Texas. Sterling, a man mountain, ran the counter and made sure the guests were treated like family while Ray Williams, the patriarch, hustled the meats off the smoker out back.

Ray’s had a brief flirtation with the soul food crowd a few years back. Their Thursday blue plate was a sight to behold with giant platters of fried catfish, oxtails, collard greens, fried cabbage and a plenitude of other southern sides.

It’s hard news anytime a restaurant shutters and it’s made doubly hard when a non-restaurant replaces it. The build-out and permitting to get any type of food business off the ground in Austin is a staggering process so when we lose a structure that has all the requisite plumbing and electrics required of food service it’s a dark day in Travis County.

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