My main reason for visiting New Orleans earlier this year was to attend Chowzter’s annual North America Fast Feasts Awards. I’ve been working with Chowzter for almost two years now, and I’m excited with how much they have grown.

They recruit food writers, guides and experts from all over the world to provide recommendations of must-eat dishes for each city. I’ve found the website very helpful and it’s always my first resource now when I am visiting somewhere new.

The annual awards is always an exciting time. Not only is it fun to find out the dishes that won, but it’s nice to reunite and spend time with other Chief Chowzters whom I’ve become friends with.

Every time I am with them, I get this feeling of “these are my people.” People who are adventurous eaters, who don’t blink at the mention of a multiple meals or food crawls, and who enjoy taking pictures of their food.

Our first official Chowzter event was a welcome dinner that took place at the historic Brennan’s, which has just recently reopened. It was founded back in 1946 and is known for creating the Bananas Foster. During our dinner there, they mentioned to us that they are actually most known for their breakfast. I didn’t have a chance to try it for myself, but a few of my friends went the very next morning for breakfast and said it was one of the highlights of their trip. The breakfasts are extremely lavish, serving courses usually reserved for lunch and dinner. It’s definitely on my to-do list for next time I’m in NOLA.

Here are a few photos from our dinner that evening:

Oven Roasted Gulf Oysters

Seafood File Gumbo

One of my goals for 2015 is writing a series of baking tutorials. First up, what is the best type of cookie sheet for baking the most even and pretty cookies.

Best Baking Pan for Cookies

Occasionally, I will get a comment from a reader that is having issues with one of my cookie recipes: the cookies didn’t spread out, they spread too much, etc. When I suggest that the issue could be their baking pan, they often don’t believe me. But baking pans can make a huge difference.

I currently use the Nordicware Aluminum Half Sheet Baking Sheets. Aluminum heats up quickly and evenly. These pans are sturdy, yet lightweight, and most importantly, they produce beautiful cookies.

Here are some recent chocolate chip cookies I baked on the aluminum baking sheet.

While I haven’t had the luxury of being able to conduct tests on dozens of different cookie sheet brands out there, I’ve found that in general, to stay away from the darker pans (steel, nonstick, etc).

Here are the results of cookies I made with a darker non-stick Chicago Metallic pan (top four) versus my Nordicware aluminum pan (bottom four cookies). I kept all the other variables constant: same batch of dough, same amount of dough, same position in oven, same amount of time, same baking temperature, etc.

After an initial good meal at Draft Republic earlier this year, I was eager to revisit so that Mr. K could try it out as well.

We went on a Saturday for lunch, and as luck would have it, it was also the last day of San Diego Restaurant Week. Their select menu offered three courses for just $20, which was a really good deal considering most of the entrees are close to $20. Staying in tune with their very casual and fun atmosphere, the restaurant was also fine with one of us dining from the restaurant week menu and one of us not, and letting us share everything.

Tuna Tataki

Mr. K chose to this as his appetizer. The seared tuna was served on a crispy wonton with a little guacamole. I through the proportions were off, with the tuna piece barely covering the wonton wrapper.

The Draft Republic Burger

The burger is served with a basket of parmesan fries, which we devoured, and a side of mixed greens.

I’ve heard good things about the burgers here, so I nudged Mr. K in the direction of ordering it as his main course. I have to say, this was one of the most beautifully stacked burgers I’ve ever been presented with. I love how you can see the multiple layers of ingredients so clearly. I couldn’t have styled it better myself.