How is it that I’ve never attended- or even heard of- Fete Rouge? I visit my hometown about six times a year (on average) and make it my business to keep up with the foodie scene. Apparently not well enough!
I spent eight years eating my way through Washington DC’s finest foodie restaurants. Ensnared by the culinary artistry in our nation’s capital, I was completely dedicated to – okay, let’s call it slightly obsessed with – food. You can ask my husband… I had spreadsheets. Yes, I was very organized. And obsessed.
Usually, my food experiences when I travel focus on and tie into culture. I normally don’t hone in on the fancy-shmancy, high-end restaurants, save for when I’m visiting cosmopolitan areas known for great dining experiences. Think: New York, Chicago, DC, Austin, New Orleans, San Francisco, Miami, Paris, London, Madrid, Rome, Florence, Buenos Aires.
Now, Baton Rouge has joined their ranks. Recently voted best foodie city by ConventionSouth Magazine, beating out New Orleans, Miami, Mobile, Jacksonville, Birmingham, Jackson, and Tampa, the Red Stick has hit the big time, culinarily speaking.Food FlairAt Fete Rouge, a “Louisiana celebration of food and wine,” local chefs seized the opportunity to put a playful spin on some Louisiana classics. My favorite dishes of the night included: macque choux risotto from Blend Wine Bar (Chef Scot Love), Abita braised pork belly from Mansur’s (Chef Chris Motto), smoked shrimp and tasso tacos from Restaurant IPO (Chef Chris Wadsworth), macaroon a toi from Louisiana Culinary Institute (Chef Alex Hamman), wild hair (rabbit) from Sammy’s Grill (Chef Camile Staub), shrimp, crab and corn velouté from Juban’s Restaurant (Chef Joey Daigle), tenderloin roulade with foie gras and roasted figs from Sullivans Steakhouse (Chef Leighton Carbo), chocolate mousse tart from Ruffinos (Chef Nancy Deville), milk chocolate praline from l’Auberge (Chef Arlety Estevez), and cake ball cobbler from Brew Ha-Ha (Chef Gabby Loubiere).
If I had to pick a winner, it was Mansur’s pork belly (which actually was the winner- of the people’s choice award). The sweet syrup reduction made the pork taste almost candied, yet still melt-in-your mouth tender, and was accompanied by my favorite side dish, grits. Mansur’s has long been one of my preferred Baton Rouge restaurants, so I’m not surprised that I loved their dish. Another popular place for casual eats is Sammy’s Grill. I was incredibly surprised by their creative presentation of wild hare on toast. It seemed unconventional for them, considering their reliable, comfort food norm. I love surprises. See all of the Fete Rouge chef competition winners here.
Honestly, almost everything was supremely delicious. The only thing I had trouble eating was frog (leg) in a pirogue. It was impractical with a plastic fork. (Imagine eating a fried chicken leg with a plastic fork, only one hand free, the other holding a plate, wine glass AND camera).
I also really appreciated the presence of the classics: the red beans and rice, jambalaya, shrimp and grits, barbecue shrimp, chicken and biscuits- all delectable.
Fete Rouge is an annual event that started in 2007. It’s hosted by the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society, a nonprofit that raises money for local childhood health and nutrition programs, as well as epicurean scholarships for local individuals towards accredited colleges and institutions. It doesn’t get much better than a celebration of local food greatness while raising charitable proceeds.
I’m already marking my calendar for next year’s Fete Rouge (August 22, 2014) and plan on making it an annual pilgrimage, if possible. Maybe you should mark your calendar, too, and come check out the South’s best foodie city in all it’s culinary glory! Oh, and lest we forget the wine! So much great wine!Let me know if you plan on heading down to the Red Stick next summer for Fete Rouge! I’d love to show you around my hometown!Disclaimer: Thank you to Visit Baton Rouge for hosting me and providing me with complimentary tickets to Fete Rouge 2013. All opinions are my own, as always.