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How to Navigate Boudin, Bourbon & Beer Fest

The Boudin, Bourbon, and Beer festival takes place on November 9, 2018.

Photo: Cheryl Gerber

The eighth annual Boudin, Bourbon & Beer at Champions Square is quickly approaching, but there’s still time to get yourself organized and get your tickets. We’ve got your guide to the festival.

What’s Boudin?

Boudin is a Louisiana Cajun sausage made with pork, pork liver, rice, and spices. The interior of boudin is softer and richer than regular sausage, and the folks who have prepared food for the festival have proven many times over that pork is just one of may ways boudin can be made.

Not only will there be diverse interpretations and selections of boudin, made with proteins like duck, chicken, oyster, turtle, alligator, rock shrimp, octopus, and, of course, pork, but there will also be non-boudin items such a  a smoked bologna sandwich with pickled pumpkin slaw on a sesame seed bun from Stephen Stryjewski (Cochon, Butcher), bourbon drunken duck boudin cone from Juan Carlos Gonzales (Sobou), smoked Spam and pork shoulder shiso “Lettuce Wraps” from Todd Pusinelli, who will soon open Warbucks on Magazine Street, and Memphis Sushi with a Kool-Aid Pickle from Pegleg Porker Nashville’s Carey Bringle. That translates to a kielbasa and pimento cheese on a cracker in this case, and a dill pickle that’s been soaked in Kool-Aid.

Have Your Game Plan 

With as many as 70 different food options and endless beer pairings, having a game plan in place is a must for this festival. Here’s all you need to know about the fest. 

Vegetarian options aren’t plentiful at the Boudin, Bourbon & Beer, but they exist. You can find a boudin vegetarian sausage, winter squash, and grain stew, from Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa, or maybe Gregg Smith from Surfing Deer in Ft. Walton, FL can hook you up with his smoked hatch chile pepper and bamboo rice boudin with a cannellini bean cassoulet, if you can skip the “Ol’ Major Bacon Bourbon Corn Muffin.”

Pescetarians have an easier time with oyster, octopus, snapper and rock shrimp options. The desserts (in the designated dessert tent) are meat-free, something that is not always a given at this event. Keep an eye out for someone wanting to put pork belly in your bourbon cocktail, which happens occasionally.

What to Eat and Drink

You’d better come early and you’d better come hungry. There is no time or stomach room to waste. The key is pre-party preparation.

The food will be served in one of four tents: the Co-chair Tent, where all of Emeril’s restaurants will be represented, along with Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski from the Link Restaurant Group and Guy Fieri, the main Chef Tent, where most of the action will be, the South Walton Tent, where chef buds Florida will be posted up, and the Dessert Tent, with sweet treats from near (Hansen’s, Sucré, and Willa Jean) and far (Jacque Torres Chocolates.)

Abita’s got the beer hookup with classics like Purple Haze, Amber, Andygator, and Turbodog; hop bombs like Hop On IPA and Wrought Iron IPA, seasonals like Christmas Ale, Office Party spiced stout, and Grapefruit Honey Lager. Easy drinkers like The Boot and 30°90°; and barrel aged favorites Bourbon Street Series beers Old Fashioned and Rye Pale Ale.

Cuisine Themes

There are a few trends that seem to have threaded through the menu. First, a return to the basics of boudin preparations and pork consumption. There are a few simple Cajun pork boudin dishes that are classic and traditional – just the boudin sausage with simple mustard or relish, and maybe pickles or a slice of bread. Donald Link (Link Restaurant Group) is serving that, as is Napoleon House’s Chris Montero and Isaac Toups (Toups Meatery, Toups South). Leighann Smith (Piece of Meat Butchers) is serving a Cajun convenience store classic: boudin egg rolls with pepperjack cheese. Doug Braselman from Emeril’s New Orleans will be presenting a fried boudin ball with pork cracklins, and Cory Bahr (Parish Restaurant in Monroe) is serving a “Truck Stop Spread” featuring smoked whole-hog boudin.

Central American dishes will be featured this year as well. Meril’s Will Avelar and Tory McPhail from Commander’s Palace are both doing tostadas (Will’s is with boudin, Tory’s is with cochon de lait), Justin Devillier (La Petite Grocery, Balise) and Gabriel Beard (Restaurant R’Evolution) are both making boudin tamales, and Cody and Samantha Carroll from Sac-A-Lait are bringing “Boud-enchiladas” to the party.

Asian flavors are making an appearance with Thai-inspired beef Isaan sausage with daikon from Kevin Fink (Emmer & Rye in Austin), Michael Gulotta’s (Mopho/Maypop) boudin stuffed bao, the Hogs For The Cause dudes’ (Rene Louapre and Becker Hall) ma po boudin, Slade Rushing’s (Brennan’s) octopus boudin shumai, and a boudin blanc Cajun “Fish Out of Water” pho bowl with bubble chips from Todd Rogers from South Walton, Florida’s St. Joe Club and Resort Company. Dishes from other regions will be featured including Middle Eastern, Western European, and straight up Southern.

Map Out Your Night

I recommend hitting three to four stations at a time, either eating on the move or carrying them somewhere you can sit down and enjoy. After a few dishes, move around for five minutes or so. Look at the silent auction items. Grab a beer or cocktail. Groove out to the music. Then jump back in for your next several plates. Hit your hot spots, and move on. Definitely figure out the top five dishes you really need to try and get your hands on them as early in the evening as possible. Lines get longer as the night goes on, and sometimes popular items run out. Any event that has room for 70+ chefs to express themselves for a good cause has plenty of space for everyone to create their own perfect experiences.

There will be live music all night long including Railroad Earth, Donovan Frankenreiter, Lillie Mae, and the Honey Island Swamp Band closing out the night. Emerile Lagasse will be hamming it up onstage with Guy Fieri, the Boudin Bourbon and Beer co-chair this year. 

Nora McGunnigle is a freelance beer, food and travel writer in New Orleans, where she focuses on the unique food and beer culture of Louisiana and the Gulf region. Her work can be found in publications like Beer Advocate, Thrillist, and Eater NOLA. You can often find her holding important meetings at the Avenue Pub or Turkey and the Wolf. Follow her on Twitter at @beerfoodtravels and keep up with her work at beerfoodtravels.com

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