food

Ian McNulty

Sandra Hanna

It's a common fact of life that there is more to people and things than meets the eye.

For example, many people know New Orleans artist Thomas Mann for his jewelry and metal sculptures, but may have been unfamiliar with his interest with food. An accomplished cook and self-styled ovo-lacto-piscean vegetarian, Thomas will get to show off his chops on Food Network's new competitive cooking show "All-Star Academy," which premieres Sunday, March 1 at 8 p.m. He gives us the scoop on his network debut and what audiences can expect to tune in to.

Louisiana Eats! roving reporter Jyl Benson is more than just a longtime contributor to our show. She's also a prolific food writer and, most recently, author of a new cookbook: "Fun, Funky and Fabulous: New Orleans' Casual Restaurant Recipes." Along with collaborator Sam Hanna, Jyl discusses how the book came together, both offering an in depth look at their approach to food photography.

Also, Chris Boucher, industrial hemp advocate, explains the benefits of Cannabis sativa, the plant often demonized as "The Devil's Weed." While hemp and marijuana are both derivatives of Cannabis sativa, hemp contains no THC, the active chemical that gets marijuana users high. Chris explains why attitudes toward hemp turned sour by the 1930s and why he believes, with new research and growing interest in the product, hemp cultivation will soon become a giant industry in the U.S.

We're taking a long look on both sides of the fence on this week's Louisiana Eats!

Ian McNulty

Construction is underway on a Whole Foods Market in Shreveport. The grocer wants to line the shelves with more local products to make it unique. The Austin, Texas-based upscale grocery chain is holding a class for Louisiana vendors on Friday, Feb. 27, in Shreveport.

The program will go in-depth on quality standards, food safety, packaging and regulatory requirements, according to Kelly Landrieu, a Whole Foods local forager. (Yes, that is her official title.) She says dozens of people have signed up for her class.

snowpea&bokchoi / Flickr

Vietnamese New Year was officially Thursday, but the festivities in New Orleans East have just started. The largest of these events is a three-day Tet festival hosted by Mary Queen of Vietnam Church (14001 Dwyer Blvd.) beginning Friday, February 20 at 6:30 p.m.

Drawing in thousands of locals and visitors from across the region, the neighborhood festival features live music, dancing, fireworks and, of course, exceptional Vietnamese cuisine. Food writer Ian McNulty gives Poppy the scoop on what dishes to sample this weekend and why you should arrive with an empty stomach.

Kenny Louie / Flickr

Mardi Gras may be over, but festivities for the Lunar New Year have just begun! On this week's Louisiana Eats!, we celebrate the Year of the Goat the way they do in China, with a baijiu toast, courtesy of baijiu enthusiast Derek Sandhaus. Derek explains to us the story behind the ancient Chinese liquor and its recent emergence in the West.

Then we'll check in with our roving reporter Ian McNulty about this weekend's Tet Festival at Mary Queen of Vietnam in New Orleans East. Gabriella Gershonson of Every Day With Rachel Ray shows us how to host a dim sum brunch. Finally, John Georges, Master Distiller of Angostura Rum, gives us a look at how they ferment, distil and age their famous liquor.

Central Louisiana’s regional food summit, Foodapalooza, is set Friday, Feb. 27, and organizers expect it to attract about 200 people.

The day-long event in Alexandria will feature seminars, such as planting a profitable garden for farmer’s markets, an introduction to worm casting, and developing food hubs. John Cotton Dean, regional food systems planner for the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, anticipates the third annual event will be the largest one yet.

Ian McNulty

It sounds so fundamentally good, so easy, so natural — it’s dinner out on the town with someone special, with your sweetheart. Well, pull your head out of the clouds, lover boy, because this is no time to be getting all mushy. This is Valentine’s Day. And this is serious business.

Poppy Tooker

It's Carnival time in Louisiana! We'll take you into the secret realm of some of New Orleans' oldest Mardi Gras krewes by visiting Antoine's and Tujague's Restaurants. Antoine's fifth-generation proprietor Rick Blount gives us a tour of the Rex Room, the Proteus Room, the Twelfth Night Room, and the Hermes Bar. Then, Mark Latter of Tujague's shows us the infamous Krewe d'Etat Room, a place of rollicking misbehavior.

In sharp contrast to elaborate parades and krewes of New Orleans, Mardi Gras in Cajun Country is altogether different. From Lafayette, Toby Rodriguez and Lucius Fontenot talk to us about the prairie Mardi Gras traditions that make Acadiana unique.

Also, Robin Young, host of NPR's Here & Now, turns the tables on Poppy with an interview about Mardi Gras food. There's more to it than just King Cake!

Allons au Mardi Gras!

King Cakes, fancy balls and brandymilk punch are some of the staples of Mardi Gras season in New Orleans. Poppy Tooker, a native New Orleanian and host of the public radio program Louisiana Eats!, explains the traditions to Here & Now’s Robin Young. She also shares this recipe for Milk Punch:

Milk Punch

Serves 6.

Ingredients:

1 cup (8 oz.) brandy or bourbon

1/2 cup cream

2 cups whole milk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

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