Jay’s Bar-B-Q

April 19, 2016 – In 1954 Jay Prethro was managing a convenience store in Baton Rouge.  He wanted more.  He wanted his own business.

He took over a small hot dog stand on Government Street and started serving barbeque to his neighbors.  62 years later Baton Rouge residents are still lining up for Jay’s legendary barbeque.

When Jay decided he was ready to retire, he sold the Government Street location to his employee of 30 years, Floyd LeBlanc.  Jay’s daughter and son-in-law, Connie and Rick Newton with their son Rich, own and operate a second Jay’s on Sherwood Forest, using the same recipes as the Government Street location.

The Government Street Jay’s was where I was having lunch.  Floyd LeBlanc’s son, Milton, took it over after his father passed away.  Milton has retired and his daughter, Jessica Mills, is now in charge.  Jessica is an affable lady who moves through the kitchen like a whirlwind but still takes time to flash a smile and greet her customers.  Through three generations the recipes and the quality haven’t changed.

My cousin, Genelle Parker Hughen, and I were meeting my longtime friend and former Baton Rouge neighbor, Selma Ruth, at Jay’s.  It was Selma’s idea.  She likes their chopped beef sandwich.

Genelle and I arrived first.  We ordered some popcorn shrimp and fried mushrooms to hold us until Selma arrived.  Both were satisfying.  Nicely browned.  Juicy.  Tasty.

When Selma arrived we got down to the serious business of eating barbeque.  Genelle followed Selma’s lead and ordered the chopped beef sandwich.  I wanted to try pork.  I asked for the pork dinner.  My plate came piled with thin slices of smoked pork accompanied by potato salad and beans.

It also came with a small container of barbeque sauce.  Not just any barbeque sauce.  It was wonderful!  Most of the barbeque world tends toward tomato-molasses based sauces.  Jay’s makes its own Carolina-style vinegar based sauce.

I go light on the tomato-molasses based sauces.  They tend to overpower the smokiness of the meat.  Jay’s sauce is thin, slightly sweet and very appetizing.  Just as a vinegar based sauce should be.  It compliments the meat rather than overwhelming it.   It might be the best barbeque sauce I’ve ever had.

The next time I’m in Baton Rouge, I hope Selma wants to go back to Jay’s.  I’ll go back  for the sauce and a loaf of bread.

And maybe some more smoked pork.

Or chopped beef.

But the sauce.  Definitely the sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

Bistro 33

April 9, 2016 – I was surprised when my wife ordered the Bourbon & Berries.  She’s not a fan of bourbon.  It was, she said, the berries that drew her to it.  Maker’s Mark bourbon, fresh strawberries, cucumber, mint, agave nectar and orange bitters.  She tasted and remembered that she’s not a fan of bourbon.

I ordered a drink called Lip Service.  It’s made with Hendrick’s gin.  With its cucumber infusion and mild taste, Hendricks is my choice for most any gin based cocktail.  It was delicious.

Still we had the problem of my wife’s Bourbon & Berries.  Would I trade with her?  As much as I like Hendrick’s gin, I like bourbon equally.  I was happy to swap drinks with her.  I thought the Bourbon & Berries was extraordinary.  It was a good trade.

We were meeting her mother and stepfather at Bistro 33 in El Dorado Hills.  We got there a few minutes early.  It was pleasant as we sat near the door to the terrace.  It was pouring rain so sitting outside was not an option.  But the door was open slightly.  The sound of the rain was soothing background as we sipped our cocktails and studied the menu.

When my in-laws arrived, Vicky asked for a Moscow Mule, which came in the customary copper mug.  They had a long drive ahead of them with John behind the wheel.  He opted for iced tea.

It was happy hour at Bistro 33.  We ordered a selection of small plates to share.

I asked for the Philly Cheesesteak Sliders and  criss cut fries.  The Bistro 33 version of the beloved Philly sandwiches were made appropriately with thin slices of beef and cheese (in this version white cheddar) on small Hawaiian sweet bread buns.  The surprise was the inclusion of hot peppers mixed in with the beef.  The combination of spicy beef, mild cheese and slightly sweet bread worked well.  Nicely done.

The criss cut fries, also called waffle fries, were accompanied by an excellent sauce with gorgonzola cheese as its base.  A mild counterpoint to the spicy sliders.

Vicky requested Buffalo wings and a chicken enchilada dip.  The dip came with chunks of chicken in a Vera Cruz salsa with lime crème.  The Vera Cruz salsa was a good choice for the dip.  Traditionally made with onion, garlic, tomato, chilis, olives, capers, oregano, majoram and bay leaf, it was a nice lift for the chicken.

The Buffalo wings were terrific.  I was thankful that Bistro 33 decided not to go the far too common route of slathering them with a non descript barbeque sauce.  The wings were enticingly crisp with a slight hint of smoke.  Served with the traditional bleu cheese sauce, they were great.

John had ordered a crab Louis, a west coast favorite since 1914.  Chunks of Dungeness crab, red onion, cucumber, tomato and romaine lettuce.  While there are a selection of dressings that are commonly served with this salad, Bistro 33 uses a version of the mayonnaise based Louis dressing.

He also requested chicken satay.  The thin ribbons of chicken threaded on wooden skewers came with the traditional peanut sauce made in house at Bistro 33.

My wife was probably the most clever of us all.  She ordered nothing but a plate and fork. She got treats from every dish on the table.  And she convinced me to trade cocktails with her.

What a clever girl!

 

Milestone

April 2, 2016 – When they put together the menu for Milestone, their new restaurant in El Dorado Hills, Nick Dedier and Russell Okubo say they were thinking “memory driven American classic.”  They wanted a menu that evoked nostalgia.  A menu of hearty comfort food.  Combined with the impressive wine list, the menu defines Milestone as middle America meets Napa.  With the able assistance of their managing partner for Milestone, Alexa Hazelton, they have done well.

It was our fifth anniversary.  My wife and I planned a special evening.  We stopped by Nick and Russell’s Aji Asian Bistro in the late afternoon for cocktails.  I swore I wasn’t going to order any of their wonderful happy hour small plates.  But another promise broken.  They’ve added fried oysters to the happy hour menu.  Curses!  Oysters rolled in Panko and lightly fried so as to remain plump and juicy.  Couldn’t resist.  And the Tequila Sunrise was a perfect pairing.

From Aji we traveled the short distance to Milestone for our evening reservation.  As we perused the menu, my wife asked for a Chardonnay; I opted for a Prosecco.  We ordered the artichoke dip for a first course.  It came nicely seasoned with shaved Parmesan and just a hint of lemon, escorted by slices of a warm baguette .

My wife ordered the veal schnitzel, that staple of Austrian and German kitchens, served with a whole grain mustard sauce.  Even better, it was also came with green beans and sunchoke.  Also known as a Jerusalem artichoke (for no discernable reason), it’s a vegetable neither of us had ever tasted.

It’s very difficult to find sunchokes.  Few grocers carry them.  That’s unfortunate.  With a slightly bitter taste reminiscent of a turnip, they’re delicious.  Especially when paired with a relatively mild-flavored meat like veal.

I ordered a half rack of Kansas City-style barbequed ribs.  The style of barbeque we know as Kansas City was developed by Henry Perry in the early 20th century.  It is slow-smoked, which they do in house at Milestone.  It traditionally comes with a thick tomato-molasses barbeque sauce, which they also make in house.

The ribs placed in front of me had that dark, crusty, chewy bark that we so love on good barbeque.  It’s the result of the Maillard reaction and other chemical changes that occur when heat is applied to meat.  But then who cares?  It’s delicious.  And beneath the bark was that juicy, fall-off-the-bone meat of which we’re also so fond.

I couldn’t withstand the temptation of a side of wild mushrooms.  Not a traditional accompaniment to ribs but again, who cares?  They were terrific.  As was the mac & cheese that my wife felt like she had to try.

But wait!  The genius of Milestone’s “memory driven, American classic” menu was yet to come.  We asked about dessert.  Is there anyone among us who has so little child left within that they can resist freshly baked chocolate chip cookies with (you’re not going to believe this) a glass of milk?  Certainly not me.  The milk came in a miniature of the bottles the milk man of decades past once left at the front door.  It was just the best.

And there was more!  As their anniversary gift to us, Alexa brought us a slice of their pineapple cheesecake.  Light and fluffy with just the perfect hint of pineapple topped with a dollop of hand made whipped cream.  Highly pleasant.

One final note:  The portions are huge.  We couldn’t eat everything placed before us.  We left the restaurant with a shopping bag full of delightful treats, enough to continue our celebration for a few days.

We couldn’t have chosen a better place to celebrate our anniversary.

Thanks, Milestone!