Thursday, May 31, 2012

Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission seeks your winning recipe

The sweet potato is not a potato at all—or even a distant relative to the potato. Potatoes are tubers and sweet potatoes are actually roots. In Louisiana, they are often referred to as yams and have found their way onto many restaurant menus in recent years, mainly as side dishes and desserts.

Deadline to submit your sweet potato recipe is June 7!
So where does the word yam come from, you may wonder? African slaves in the South called the sweet potato “nyami” because it reminded them of the starchy, edible tuber of that name that grew in their homeland. The Senegalese word “nyami” was eventually shortened to “yam.”

"I use sweet potatoes regularly on my menu and also use the white sweet potato called the Boniato from Cuba," said Dominique Macquet of Tamarind Restaurant in Lee Circle.

Those that are the brightest, prettiest orange color are the richest in beta-carotene, contain vitamin B6, iron, potassium and fiber and contain virtually no fat or sodium.  Studies have consistently shown that a high intake of beta carotene-rich foods like the sweet potato can significantly reduce the risks for certain types of cancer.

Louisiana Cookin' magazine's October
issue will feature the winning recipes
submitted in the Sweet Rewards
Recipe Contest.
"During the Louisiana ProStart competition a few months ago, sweet potatoes were used by the students to compliment the protein in their entree," said James Blanchard, ProStart Coordinator.

For the ninth year, the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission is sponsoring a recipe contest in partnership with Louisiana Cookin’ magazine. More than 1,000 recipes were submitted last year from every state in the nation and more are expected this year.

The Louisiana Restaurant Association is also a sponsor and encourages professional chefs to submit their most delicious recipe for an appetizers, side dish, entrée or desserts. An overall grand prize winner will be selected and will win $1,000! To top it off, one winner in the professional category will be awarded an additional $500 each.

This year, chefs can use fresh, frozen or canned sweet potatoes in their creations.  Deadline to submit your recipe(s) is June 7. If you enter more than one recipe, you need to complete a separate entry for each recipe.
Winner of the 2010 Appetizer
category was Louisiana
native Drue Deshotels with
the Subcontinent Sweet Potato
Soup featuring Louisiana Shrimp.

Prize winners will be determined based on overall flavor, visual appeal and creativity. Finalists’ recipes will be prepared by culinary students at Delgado Community College of New Orleans and judged by an independent panel of food industry professional whose decisions are final.

With the rich soil conditions in Louisiana, the nutritional benefits and a cash prize, that’s a winning recipe in our books! So enter today!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Louisiana celebrates 200 Years of Taste

By the time 1812 rolled around and Louisiana was granted statehood, we had already gained a reputation for a land where you could really enjoy an exotic and truly unique meal. Unlike anywhere in the United States, the last 200 hundreds years has seen an evolution in its culinary landscape and a return to agriculture that waned at times.

The Louisiana Bicentennial Commission’s Foodways Committee felt sharing the history of our cuisine throughout the year was extremely important. As life gets faster, humans try to keep up with technology, population shifts and relocation and the availability of foods, sharing the history and ethnic influences of this cultural aspect is a priority of food historians and industry stakeholders.

The people that have settled in Louisiana during its history have shaped the cuisine of the regions of the state. Those people have come from France, Canada, Ireland, England, Croatia, Basque, Spain, Africa, Caribbean, South America, Vietnam, Hungary, Germany, the Middle East and many others.  That’s a lot of flavor.

The Foodways Committee set forth to further its historical and culinary educational intent by producing a series of pop up banners that will travel to state libraries this year. Eight panels which will be exhibited for several weeks at each stop gives an overview of the geographic differences in types of cuisine, ethnic influences and produce availability.

“As a French Creole from Southwest Louisiana, my food memories include boudin from Abe’s on Saturdays, when my mom grocery shopped and sweet dough pies at the cash register,” said Erica Papillion, Louisiana Restaurant Association Director of Communications. “Since I moved to New Orleans in 2004, those delicacies are not readily available, but I enjoy snoballs, which are a uniquely New Orleans treat and the variety of Gulf fish that is much more pronounced on menus.”

As it appears on the introduction panel produced in partnership with the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, statehood cemented the relationship between the people of Louisiana and their fondness for all things edible.

The people of Louisiana—the Native Americans, the Europeans and the Africans—together melded their raw materials, their techniques, their labor and their spirit into a unique cuisine. The food of Louisiana is arguably the only true cuisine that has developed in the U.S. Statehood clarified and defined Louisiana so that the foods and foodways were identified with the state and at the same time became part of our identity.

An important point of the panels is the fact that the cuisine is no doubt regional and based on the bounty of those areas and the peoples that settle there.

From the white tablecloth restaurants and urban street food of New Orleans, the seafood of the coast, the game of the north and the pork of the plains, the food is connected by a certain attitude, but greatly influenced by the availability of the ingredients that geography presents.

“I grew up in LaPlace, the Andouille Capitol of the World and was always within influence of the famed New Orleans restaurants,” said Wendy Waren, LRA VP of Communications. “My husband is a Cajun from Eunice and grew up on a rice and crawfish farm. Pair that with my position at the LRA and there’s a lot I’ve tried and a lot I love.”

In the Northern part of Louisiana, the cuisine reflects that of the Caddo Indians, original residents of the southern Plains, particularly Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. The influence of the Caddo is great here. It was they who created the plains that allowed bison to wander the state and it was their influence carried along by the Spanish who established the corn flour tamál, formed around minced and spiced beef. The Spanish left hogs in the area which became feral and proliferated. Cattle and hog farms occupy an important aspect of the region.

This area looks to Texas and the Spanish, as well as to the French in the south, to find its identity. Shreveport, the Red River and the Texas Trail were created to encourage trade with Texas and Mexico and allowed the food of these regions a spot on the Louisiana table. 

Along the coast of which Louisiana has 7,700 tidal miles, oysters, shrimp, crabs and countless varieties of fish are harvested from the Gulf of Mexico, bays, bayous and estuaries and have found their way to the restaurant tables as a the star of the entrée.

“I grew up in Houma where the freshest seafood is served daily in restaurants and in homes,” said Alice Glenn, LRA Education Foundation Executive Director. “Crabbing and fishing with my dad was something I always looked forward to and just this morning I received an email from him stating ‘Red snapper season opens this Friday! Who’s in’?”

What part of Louisiana are you from, have you traveled to or have gone on business where the geographic and ethnic differences were prevalent?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fast before the Oyster Festival, June 2-3

New location, great restaurants, live entertainment, oyster eating contest!

Lucien Gunter of Acme Oyster House
works to dispel rumors that one
should not partake in eating
the Gulf oyster during months that
do not contain the letter 'r'.
"It’s a misnomer that one shouldn’t indulge in Gulf oysters in months that don’t contain the letter ‘r’,” said Lucien Gunter of Acme Oyster House. “June is actually the best month for oysters and they are at the height of perfection, plump and salty.”

Gulf oysters are some of the most delicious in the world and at their best, are juicy and briny. Whether they are raw, charbroiled, in a gumbo or fried, we can get enough of these bivalves. The New Orleans Oyster Festival kicks off June 2-3 at a new site—Woldenberg Park on the Mississippi River.
“The New Orleans Oyster Festival was something that was in planning long before Hurricane Katrina,” said Lucien Hunter of Acme Oyster House. “Holding the festival in June has generated questions about whether or not oysters are good in the summer.”

The oyster has seen its fair share of struggles as many articles have reported the impact on the static grown shelled delicacy following the BP Oil Spill. One industry insider attributes the high availability of the oyster right now to the fact that those out-of-Louisiana aren’t assured of their safety even now.

But here in Louisiana, we can’t seem to get enough and festival goers will have the opportunity, unlike any other, to try a wide array of oyster dishes in one spot.

With nearly 20 of New Orleans finest restaurants  featuring the beloved oyster be prepared to enjoy an oyster boudin po-boy from Superior Seafood, meat and oyster pies from Remoulade, BBQ oyster po-boy from Red Fish Grill, pepper jelly oysters from the Gumbo Pot, an oyster brochette po-boy from Galatoire’s, fried oysters with foie gras and truffle aioli from Elizabeth’s, charbroiled oysters from Drago’s, bourbon BBQ shrimp po-boy from Bourbon House, raw oysters on the half shell from Acme Oyster House, oyster Almondine from Borgne and so many others.
BBQ po-boy with blue cheese by Red Fish Grill takes the
traditional fried oyster po-boy and kicks up it!

Good news for previous Oyster Festival attendees, the festival this year relocates to Woldenberg Park away from the former site which was a scorching blacktop parking lot that became so unbearable at moments and certainly for those restaurateurs and staff that worked the two-day event. Woldenberg Park will certainly be transformed into a smorgasbord of oyster creations this weekend. 

In keeping with the philanthropy that is embedded deep in the heart of Louisiana’s restaurant industry, this festival benefits a great cause. Last year, the festival also pitched in to fulfill needs of added security in the French Quarter.  
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Live entertainment like Bonerama, Rockin' Dopsie,
Kermit Ruffins and Irma Thomas are just the highlights
of who you can expect to hear at the 2012 New Orleans
Oyster Festival.
“The funds raised through sponsorships and restaurant booth rentals from the festival goes to coastal restoration, specifically for the rehab of an island that was Black Bay,” said Gunter. “Last year, the festival also made a contribution to the French Quarter division of the New Orleans Police Department for bikes and scooters.”

This Saturdays line-up of live entertainment features the Treme Brass Band, Rockin’ Dopsie, the Benjy Davis Project and Wet Willie will surely have people Shuckin’ and Jivin’. Sunday’s entertainment kicks-off with the Zion-Harmonizers, Kermit Ruffins, Bonerama and concludes with “The Soul Queen of New Orleans,” the legendary Irma Thomas.

If you are planning to attend the festival on Saturday, P&J Oyster will host an oyster shucking contest. The art of shucking will be celebrated in this extremely competitive contest of skills. Local shuckers will compete to see who can shuck the most, the cleanest and most appetizing oysters in just two minutes. 

Sunday, Acme Oyster House will host an oyster eating contest with nearly a dozen major league eaters. Last year, Patrick “Deep Dish” Bertolett took first place in the Acme Oyster Eating Contest and set a state record by eating an astounding 39 dozen (468 individual) oysters in eight minutes. 

New Orleans Fish House will recognize Louisiana oyster farmers who have planted and nurtured their prize oysters with the Largest Oyster Contest. Oysters will be judged on the length, width and weight. The contestant’s oysters will be displayed throughout the festival under the cultural tent.

For the full menu and entertainment schedule, visit www.neworleansoysterfestival.org.

We can't wait until this weekend!

Friday, May 25, 2012

LRA judges Canstruction competition to benefit Second Harvest


Canstruction New Orleans features structures like
the Holy Trinity designed by local teams of
architects to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank
of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana. 

Food relief is near and dear to those of us at the Louisiana Restaurant Association. A new feature of the 20th Anniversary of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, Canstruction, a charity committed to ending hunger and is using “one can” as a catalyst for change. Coordinated in conjunction with the New Orleans Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, all non-perishable food products used and sponsorship dollars sought by the competing teams benefits the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana

This year's theme, "10,000 Reasons to Love Louisiana" features the creativity and ingenuity of eight teams of architects who built magnificent structures that are on display during the NOWFE Grand Tasting events at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, May 25 and 26. Located in the lobby of Halls I and J, the structures can be viewed by the public at no charge. 

"A wonderful array of themes where used to celebrate our state," said Mary Beth Romig, 2012 NOWFE Chair. "It was so hard to select a favorite as all the teams did a really stellar job for such a worthy cause." 

Themes ranged from the Holy Trinity of a bell pepper, onion and celery on a large cutting board, a Mississippi River paddle boat, a swamp scene complete with cypress trees, knees and an alligator, a Mardi Gras float, a giant roast beef po-boy and others. 

Food ruled several of the Canstruction projects, but the
roast beef po-boy really captured the deliciousness of
the tasty Louisiana favorite!
Each structure was judged based on criteria which included structural integrity, best meal, best use of labels, jurors favorite and best representation of theme. Judges included Times-Picayune food writer Judy Walker, Southern Food and Beverage Museum President Liz Williams, Romig, Peter Mayer Advertising's Larry Lovell and LRA VP of Communications Wendy Waren

"Second Harvest is set to receive more than $35,000 from the Canstruction event," said Terri Kaupp, Communications & PR Specialist. "We've had several events in May that have raised much needed funds and awareness for hunger relief. We were really low on food for a while and it was really tense for us at the Food Bank."  

A Mississippi River Paddle Boat was one
of the judges favorites with bags of
rice used for the waves and Folgers
red plastic containers were used for the
paddle wheels, not shown.
Participating teams include: Blitch Knevel Architects, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, Holly and Smith Architects, APAC, Mathes Brierre Architects, Perez, APC, Trapolin-Peer Architects, APC, Verges Rome Architects and Wisnia Architecture +Development.

"Volunteering to be a Canstruction judge was a really rewarding way to spend my Friday afternoon off," said Waren. "Many of us take for granted where our next meal will come from and Canstruction really hit home for me that food insecurity is real for many families in Louisiana."  

Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana is one of several organizations that benefits from the NOWFE proceeds this year. The Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation has been a recipient for the past 18 years and the funding is used to support the Louisiana ProStart Program, a restaurant management and culinary arts curriculum in nearly 50 high schools across the state.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hudson Whiskey comes to Louisiana


Hudson Whiskey is the featured spirit in the Louisiana Restaurant Association's A La Carte Magazine Spring issue in the Beverage Beat.
The Louisiana Restaurant Association had the pleasure of attending the Hudson Whiskey Dinner at Bourbon House, April 4, 2012 as part of the New Orleans Bourbon Society (NOBS) at the Bourbon House in the French Quarter.
Hudson Whiskeys were introduced in Louisiana at the
April 4 New Orleans Bourbon Society dinner at the
Bourbon House.
During the five-course dinner, Freddy May, brand ambassador for Hudson Whiskey, presented each of the five Hudson products—Baby, Manhattan Rye, NY Corn Whiskey, Single Malt and Four Grain—paired with courses of savory crawfish brioche with macque choux and a Hudson corn sauce and pepper duck breast with a parsnip pear puree and bacon Brussels sprouts, among others.

Hudson Whiskeys are produced in Tuthilltown, New York and is the first legal pot-distilled whiskey made in New York since prohibition. Made from 100 percent New York corn and aged in special small American Oak barrels, Hudson Baby Bourbon has been recognized in Forbes magazine and in 2011 won a double gold medal at the San Francisco Wine and Spirits Competition. Whiskeymagazine named Hudson the Best New American Whiskey in 2010.
Bourbon House Hudson Whiskey dinner
featured five courses of delicious cuisine.
The first course was savory crawfish
brioche served with macque choux and
a bourbon corn sauce and was accompanied
with Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey.
"It’s the dream of every micro craft distiller out there to produce a product that gets this kind of recognition within a few years,” said May. “The work of the Hudson owners has paved the way for micro distilleries in New York and now there are hundreds of them in the state.”

Hudson was bought by William Grant & Sons who have taken this line of whiskeys to national distribution status and was introduced in Louisiana at the Bourbon House dinner. Hudson is a product of Republic National Distributing Company.

NOBS offers complimentary membership and is a spirited society dedicated to the appreciation of fine bourbons. Events are hosted by Bourbon House, home to over 50 small batch and single barrel Bourbons.
Member benefits include invitations to Bourbon Events, including seminars with master distillers from the top Bourbon and American Whiskey producers, Bourbon dinners and cocktail parties, a Bourbon "passport" for members to record their tastes, complimentary pour of the featured Bourbon of the Month, the opportunity to meet and sip with other Bourbon enthusiasts and a Master Taster Recognition with a plaque at Bourbon House engraved with the names of members who have tasted the entire Bourbon list. 

Just think, your name could be immortalized!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Louisiana produce, fresh to the table

This article was printed in the Louisiana Restaurant Association's Spring A La Carte magazine and writtin by Liz Williams, President and Founder of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Part of a four part series, Louisiana produce, fresh to the table, examines Louisiana's cultural connectivity to our unique cuisine and written to commemorate the Bicentennial of our beloved state.

When the Europeans came to Louisiana they found incredible abundance, but they did not find conventional agriculture.  The orderly rows of plants, which marked European agriculture, did not exist here.  The Europeans thought that what the Native Americans did was merely hunting and gathering.  But the Native Americans were great stewards of the land.  They had planted peach trees on the levees - peaches having been brought here by the early Spanish explorers - to encourage good drainage.  They cleared areas to encourage blackberries and dewberries.  They ground file and picked greens.  And they engaged in the practice of growing the 3 sisters:  corn, squash (like cushaw, which provided the fruit and seeds), and beans.  

The soil was fertile, and the early Europeans were able to create farms that supported the first settlers.  Around the Cote des Allemandes Alsatian farmers began to grow the food that was needed to support early Louisiana. They were not engaged in monoculture to raise money for France in the early days.  They were trying to feed themselves when shipments from France were infrequent at best. 
Native Americans were great stewards of the land and
they cleared areas to encourage blackberries and dewberries.
By the time that Louisiana became a state things had changed.  The 19th century brought prosperity to the port of New Orleans and the Mississippi River, which served the entire state as a water highway.  Citrus, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and rice were important crops in the state.  Louisiana strawberries, the state fruit, are among the sweetest in the country, giving rise to the Strawberry Festival in Pontchatoula.  It seems that every product has its festival, because we here in Louisiana do not seem to be able to stop celebrating the bounty of the state, while having a good time.  But less than 400 acres are dedicated to the production of strawberries today, which while locally important, is not a major export to other states. And there is concern that the Louisiana strawberry is giving way to hardier and prettier cultivars from Florida and California.

Today the state is third in the US in the production of rice.  Rice is the daily starch of most of the state.  Whether eaten with gumbo or red beans, an etouffee, a shrimp Creole, or a jambalaya, Louisianians eat a daily portion of rice. It is certainly important enough that there are many recipes that have been created simply to use leftover rice.  Besides the traditional calas, there is also rice pudding.  And on the savory side, many a stuffed tomato, mirliton or pepper began with a bowl of leftover rice.  Besides its great production of rice, the state produces $230 million in soybeans, according to the LSU Ag Center.  And about 350,000 acres of the state are planted in corn.
The Tabasco pepper grown in Avery Island, Louisiana
has gained world-renowned status and can be found on
nearly every restaurant and home tables.
The Tabasco pepper and the famous Tabasco pepper sauce represent the state of Louisiana all over the world.  And other local pepper sauces can be found on the tables of many Cajun, Creole and northern Louisiana cooks, depending on the local tastes.  Restaurant tables often sport several different sauces to allow the customer a bit of choice.
Satsumas are grown in orchards in Southeast Louisiana and
are sweet and have a loose skin, making them easy to peel.
But being high in production for export is not the only important aspect of the state’s agriculture.  Sometimes the food is celebrated for just plain tasting good, even if it never leaves the state.  Creole tomatoes, for example, are a prime example of local terroir.  Those same tomatoes grown in a different environment would not taste quite so good.  While the tomato is a New World fruit, the satsuma, a very popular citrus fruit in Louisiana, is originally from Japan and brought to Louisiana by the Jesuits.  The satsuma has caught on in the backyards and tables of the state even though it is rarely seen in grocery stores outside of the Louisiana drive radius. 
Only the Louisiana yam, which is really an aged sweet potato, has the texture and sweetness to hold up to baking.  This New World tuber is a favorite in Louisiana, not only gracing the Thanksgiving table, but finding its way into pies and casseroles. Most recently sweet potato fries have been a popular alternative to pommes frites. 
Matt Murphy of the Irish House is one of many
Louisiana chefs who use locally-grown produce to
add rich flavor and bright colors to their menus.
Another New World food is the pecan.  This nut is found all over the state.  It is the highest in antioxidants of all of the tree nuts.  They made wonderful desserts like pecan pie and pralines, but also are fine additions to savory dishes and salads. Louisiana orchards produce about 15 million pounds of pecans each year. 
Besides large farms many restaurants are enhancing their own tables with fresh produce from restaurant farms and gardens.  It is a good way to monitor quality and demonstrate a dedication to the freshest ingredients.  Not all restaurants have the land to create their own gardens, and these restaurateurs sometimes have direct contacts with small farmers who sell directly to the restaurants.

Louisiana produce comes from the rich and fertile soil of the state.  Whether it is the product of monoculture like soybeans, rice and corn, which makes enormous contributions to the state’s economy, or is an heirloom fruit like a Louisiana strawberry, Louisiana produce is some of the finest to grace the table.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Restaurateur runs for health

Article published in A La Carte magazine, the official publication of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, Spring 2012

We caught up with restaurateur Lee Mccullough, co-owner of One Restaurant and Lounge in New Orleans has made healthy living more than a mission, but a marathon. With a healthy eating part of his upbringing, he runs for hours a week for exercise and to think and clear his head. He’s taken his passion for running to the marathon circuit.
Restaurateur Lee Mccullough
runs for hours each week and
participates in marathons.
ALC: Were you raised with an awareness of healthy eating?
LM: My mom was all about fruits and vegetables, low sugar cereals and we weren’t allowed to have sodas. She used to make squash chips and tell me they were cookies, and because I didn’t know any better, I used to think, “Wow! Cookies!”
ALC: Many restaurateurs struggle with maintaining balance between the business and their health. How do you manage both?
LM: Scheduling my time is key. I may work the lunch shift and dinner shift, but will run in between. With the long hours we work, running in between shifts gives me enough energy to make it through the long hours.
ALC: There’s the misperception that restaurant meals are highly caloric. Do you eat at your restaurant and do you eat what’s on the menu or prepare it differently for yourself?
LM: I eat what’s on the menu. Our chef, Scott Snodgrass, uses fresh ingredients and is also conscientious of the ingredients that add to the caloric content. There are few items that we will prepare differently is a diner requests it.
ALC: You have a history of athleticism. What other sports besides running have you participated in?
LM: I played baseball, basketball and rowed in high school. Rowing was the most demanding as far as endurance goes. As far as running goes, I love long distances rather than short and fast. I enjoy being outside and around other people.
ALC: How is exercise important to your mental well-being?
LM: It’s about decompression for me. Between work, family, friends and the people I encounter, running gives me time to think about all of it and really focus on what’s important to me.
ALC: What kind of music do you listen to when you’re running?
LM: Sometimes it’s heavy metal, sometimes it’s rap. Definitely upbeat regardless of the genre.   
Do you schedule time for yourself? Do you exercise or consider your food choices?

Monday, May 21, 2012

We Live to Eat seeks bowlers, fans for tournament

Back by popular demand, the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s Greater New Orleans (LRA GNO) Chapter will host its third annual We Live to Eat and Bowl Tournament Sunday, June 24, 5:30-9:30 p.m. at Mid City Lanes Rock n Bowl.  Teams of four can compete for the championship title, a trophy, bragging rights and team WLTE and Bowl shirts.

A maximum of 36 teams can enter to compete and the varying skill levels will no doubt result in fun to be had by all. From the high achievers possible splashers, sixpacks, five baggers, strikes, spares and loopers to the puddles, grandma’s teeth, fouls and chicken wings, this event boasts competition for the serious and laughs for those out for an entertaining evening.

All this fun and more benefits LRA GNO Chapter special projects like We Live to Eat Restaurant Week--offering a weeklong celebration of culinary creativity Sept. 10-16, 2012.    

Don't worry if bowling isn’t your thing, WLTE and Bowl has something for everyone. Local restaurants—Chiba, Drago’s, Galatoire’s, Acme, Mr. B’s, Mr. Mudbug, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Zea Rotisserie, Ernst Café, One Restaurant & Lounge and Creole Cuisine—will provide delectable cuisine and an open bar of libations will ease the competitors’ tension. A Live Auction will feature items like a George Rodrigue Blue Dog print featuring New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees.

A Speed Bowling tournament will be also held and the team with the most pins knocked down in one hour will determine the winner.

General admission tickets are $30 per person and $400 for a team of four to bowl. To purchase tickets or enter your team, click here.

The We Live to Eat campaign was designed to raise awareness of New Orleans’ unique culinary industry, which is at the heart of the city’s identity.

We Live to Eat Restaurant Week is slated for September 10-16 and restaurants from across New Orleans are planning special menus for your enjoyment. Stay tuned for details!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Louisiana ProStart Educator wins national award

Angie Drago honored by NRA Educational Foundation in Chicago

Louisiana ProStart Educator Angie Drago
receives the NRA Education Foundation
James H. Maynard Excellence in Education
Award in Chicago.
In Chicago during the National Restaurant Association Hotel, Motel Show earlier this month, ProStart educators from across the country gathered for the annual Excellence Awards Luncheon. Among them was Angie Drago, the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation's Educator of the Year and ProStart educator at Fontainebleau High School in Mandeville. She was nominated for the national award as a result of her state honor.

ProStart is a nationwide, two-year high school program that unites the classroom and industry to develop the best and brightest talent into tomorrow’s restaurant and foodservice leaders. In Louisiana, ProStart is offered in nearly 50 high schools with more than 1,300 students enrolled.

Each year since 2003, two ProStart educators receive the James H. Maynard Excellence in Education Award in commemoration of Golden Corral's 30th anniversary and as a tribute to James H. Maynard, Golden Corral chairman and founder.  To Drago's shock and awe, her name was called as the 2012 receipient of the national award.

Drago and Lisa Christhilf of Western School Technology and Environmental Science in Maryland were selected from the group of 35 other Educators of the Year in their respective states. 

“It was such an honor to receive the award in Chicago, especially in the presence of so many amazing teachers,” said Drago. “Winning affords me the opportunity to really spread the word about ProStart—at a time of the year when our students are beginning the next chapters of their lives, equipped with skills, certifications, college credits, and scholarships. It's an amazing program, and the scope of its impact on our students is huge!” 

Presented by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) and Golden Corral, the award is a $5,000 cash prize from Golden Corral that is given annually to two ProStart educators that excel both in and out of the classroom. Drago was awarded the LRAEF ProStart Educator of the Year in February, which put her in the running for this prestigious national award.

“We are so proud of Angie’s recognition,” said LRAEF Chair John Eastman. “Her dedication to her students and her commitment to the ProStart program at Fontainebleau is exemplary.”

The mission of the LRAEF, a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization, is to promote the industry as a career choice to our current and future workforce, offer scholarships and professional development. If you would like to make a donation, please contact LRAEF Executive Director Alice Glenn, aglenn@lra.org or (504) 454-2277, ext. 565.

LRA Staff meets to discuss conservation at headquarters

By simply turning off your office light when you leave for
lunch can save a significant amount over the course of
a year. If you're a restaurant owner, are you leaving lights
on in the dining room when you're closed?
This morning, members of the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s newly-formed “Green Team” met to discuss ways to reduce its energy, water and trash costs. The trade association for Louisiana’s restaurant industry operates on funds contributed by restaurants through annual dues paid and continuously seeks ways to be better stewards of those dollars.

“Since I began in 2010, I’ve encouraged the staff to consider ways to reduce costs at the LRA,” said Stan Harris, LRA President/CEO. “I’m pleased to see that the staff has taken the initiative to make cost savings and environmental stewardship a priority for our association.”

The discussion included items that most individuals consider when managing their home energy usage, including turning lights off when leaving a room and running only a full load in the dishwasher. Instituting a recycling program to divert paper, plastics and aluminum from landfills was the highlight of the meeting. The team is investigating options like Phoenix Recycling bins in its 30,000 square foot facility in Metairie which houses a workers’ compensation program (LRA Self Insurer’s Fund) and the association offices.

“Running an insurance company requires retaining certain files for various periods of time,” said MaryBeth Yrle, LRASIF Director of Auditing. “Last year, we began scanning files to reduce the amounts of files stored and while we shred unnecessary paper documents, a third-party company Shred-It does recycle the paper at a paper mill.”

To prepare for these changes in behavior, team members recently met with LRA member Elizabeth Shepard of LifeCity New Orleans to learn the best practices for championing these efforts among their LRA staff peers. While the team was interested in participating in LifeCity’s Green Games competition, the cost associated to do so this year were prohibitive.

“The world, the market and business is changing,” said Shepard. “More and more people, whether they are investors, customers or business owners, are interested in how organizations are impacting our community. Already, the LRA is taking a lead by participating in conferences like the March Global Green Waste Recovery Conference, and LifeCity seeks to help the LRA take that commitment further.”

In an interview this week with WWL Radio, “Millennial generation changing how we eat at restaurants,” which was picked up nationally by CBS Radio, LRA Director of Communications Erica Papillion shared what the 18-34 year olds are looking for when dining out. The first of three concerns is a restaurant’s social responsibility—are the restaurant’s practices good for the environment?
The National Restaurant Assoc.
Conserve Sustainability Education
Program shares money-saving
techniques, action plans and
industry-tried best practices for
restaurant operators.
The National Restaurant Association’s Conserve EducationProgram launched shares industry-tried best practices, money-saving techniques and personalize action plans to inspire restaurant operators to consider conservation as good for the environment and also good for the bottom line.

“I’m thrilled to be participating in this movement at the LRA,” said Alice Glenn, LRA Education Foundation Executive Director. “At home I recycle, set my thermostat to 78 when I’m not home and certainly believe in turning the lights off when I leave a room.”

For restaurants, easy to implement ideas like composting prep food waste, using compact fluorescent bulbs and low-flow spray nozzles and toilets are few ways operators can have an immediate positive impact on costs and the environment.

“The Green Team set a conservative goal of reducing energy costs by 10 percent this year,” said Wendy Waren, LRA VP of Communications. “The team was so enthusiastic that the conference room light was turned off as they exited the meeting, followed by the kitchen and restroom lights.”

The five member team includes Facilities Manager Rich McCurdy, LRASIF Audit Director Marybeth Yrle, LRA EXPO Sales Rep. Peggy Charbonnet, Glenn and Waren.

What steps have you taken to reduce your energy and water usage? Are you inspired to do more? We sure are!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Handpicked blossoms from Alps lend rich sweetness to summer cocktails

Artisanal products are all the rage right now and that got us to thinking of them in the context of the Louisiana Restaurant Association's Thirsty Thursday series. One such liquor was introduced a few years ago at the Tales of the Cocktail and we immediately fell in love with the floral elderflower elixir—St-Germain
St-Germain is a liqueur is available at
restaurants and bars across Louisiana.
The floral elderflower elixir mixes well
with a variety of spirits from gin to vodka,
whiskey to pisco.
For just a few weeks each year, similar to that of the Louisiana blueberries now in season, a group of men on bicycles will harvest elderflowers, a delicate starry white bloom, in the foothills of the Alps. They will gingerly ride them to a local village before they are ushered away to the St-Germain distillery.

The taste is hard to describe as there’s nothing quite like it. Neither passion fruit, nor pear, grapefruit nor lemon, the sublime taste of St-Germain hints at each of these and yet none of them exactly.

St-Germain pairs remarkably well with various spirits such as gin, whiskey and vodka. We even like to pour a little bit in a glass of bubbly occasionally. Ste. Marie’s Dechets Blanc cocktail adds a little soda in with the champagne and St-Germain. Here’s a few restaurant and bars that serve cocktails that include St-Germain.

Bar Tonique’s Treme cocktail consists of rye whiskey, St-Germain, Benedictine, lemon and Marsca cherry. Bar Uncommon’s Kiss of Pearsuasion cocktail boosts Absolut Pear, St-Germain, Hibiscus syrup and champagne. The Wild Magnolia cocktail at Café Adelaide's Swizzle Stick Bar features St-Germain with gin, lemon and house made magnolia bitters.

While there are quite a few cocktails that call for St-Germain, we’re feeling Sangria is order given the abundance of fresh fruit choices at Rouses. Here is the recipe for the Sangria Flora, created by Lynnette Marrero of NYC and found in a cocktail book snagged at Tales of the Cocktail 2011.
The Sangria Flora recipe substitutes St-Germain for the
brandy called for in many sangria recipes. St-Germain
promotional items include vintage inspired postcards,
metal stirring straws, mini bottles and totes.
Sangria Flora
1 bottle Sauvignon Blanc or Dry White Wine
1 cup St-Germain
2 fresh peaches
5-6 fresh strawberries
6 fresh raspberries
1 bunch fresh grapes

Method: Stir ingredients in a pitcher or carafe. Allow fruit to soak in the mixture between 3 and 8 hours. Serve in an ice-filled glass and according to St-Germain’s direction, “then telephone your physician and regale him with stories of your exemplary fruit consumption.”

We hadn’t yet done our weekly grocery run, so we improvised with Louisiana strawberries and a diced Gala apple. Each year since its U.S. launch, we enjoy St-Germain spritzers in the lobby at the Hotel Monteleone during Tales of the Cocktail, this year, July 25-29 in New Orleans.