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Monday, March 29, 2010

Cochon Butcher - New Orleans

After the ISAW South African wine tasting at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, the only logical thing for Eric, Brandon, Katie, and I to do was find some food to soak up the delightful wine in our stomachs.  Fortunately we were in downtown New Orleans, so there happened to be quite a few dining options for us to choose from.  I heard wonderful things from various sources about Cochon Butcher in the Warehouse District, so we decided to give it a try. 

The first thing we noticed after walking in the door was a sample of bacon pralines that were available for tasting.  Man, talk about great first impressions!  I could have eaten nothing but pralines and been totally satisfied.  They contained the essential balance of sweet, salty, and savory that any good sweet with bacon must attain.  Wow.... wow. 

Bacon Pralines at Butcher

After stuffing my face with bacon pralines, which were like a Louisiana and bacon version of peanut brittle, I noticed that the butcher shop/restaurant had a lovely meat counter matched by a beautifully delicious display of hanging smoked meats.  I've seen very few more appetizing sites in my days.

Assorted Smoked Meats Hanging on Display

I had no clue where to begin when trying to determine which appetizer or sandwich to order, but fortunately I bumped into the Chef Partner, Warren Stephens.  Chef Warren had a few recommendations for me based on what he would order at the time, but certainly noted that everything on the menu is tasty and nothing can be overlooked.  He informed me that Butcher has only been around since January of 2009 and is part of the Link Restaurant Group which also runs the neighboring Cochon and Nola's famous Herbsaint and Calcasieu restaurants.  Butcher specializes in artisan meats and sausages that are made on the premises in the theme of an old world meat market.  I was ready to enjoy.

Jay, Katie, and Brandon Check Out Cochon Butcher

After a good discussion, Warren sold me on the Duck Pastrami Slider from the "Bar Food" menu and I opted to go with the Buckshot Bacon Melt from the "Sandwiches" list.  My excitement level peaked in anticipation of the flavors that were about to hit my lips!

The Menu Boards at Butcher: Bar Food, Specials, and Sandwiches.  They also have Wine and Cocktails!

The duck pastrami slider proved that simple can beat out complex any day of the week.  The sandwich contained delicate, thinly sliced duck pastrami and melted cheese on grilled slices of bread.  The flavor of the duck highlighted each bite and it was hard for me to share the remaining wedges with my friends!  Chef Warren also sent out some house-made boudin for our table to try, which tasted fantastic as well.

Duck Pastrami Sliders

Katie ordered the Cochon Muffaletta with tons of Butcher's delicious meats, provolone cheese, pickled peppers and olives.  This take on a New Orleans special is one of the best Muffalettas that I've tasted in years.  I'm extremely happy that the sandwich was too large for Katie to finish on her own because that meant I got take a couple bites to realize how fantastic it is.  The meats were smoky and complex, tender, sweet, and just plain delightful.  I'm pretty sure that Chef Warren told me that the Muffaletta is one of their best selling sandwiches, and it's easy to see why!

Cochon Muffaletta with Home Made Chips

Brandon ordered the barbequed pulled pork sandwich and Eric gave the Gambino a try.  Brandon's pulled pork (in the background below) came served with potato salad.  It looked great and Brandon ate every bit of it, so I didn't get a bite.  I also didn't get a bite of the Gambino, but it looked like a sensational sandwich.  The French bread got stuffed with Italian-style meats like salami cotto, sopressata, and coppa along with a fresh herb vinaigrette.  Eric also tried a Black Chocolate Stout from the Brooklyn Brewery which tasted rich and delicious.  I caught a hint of espresso in with the chocolate.  I'd drink that stout again any day.

The Gambino Front and Center with a Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout

As Chef Warren recommended to me, I went with the Buckboard Bacon Melt.  Yet another simple but astonishingly delicious sandwich, the Buckboard consisted of thin slices of toasted white bread filled with beautifully cured bacon, Swiss cheese, collard greens, and pepper aioli.  Every bite made me think of how much I love bacon.  Each time I chewed and the flavors oozed onto my taste buds my mind rushed into thoughts about how much I enjoy sandwiches.  I do love a good sandwich.  And this, the Buckboard Bacon Melt at Cochon Butcher, is a great sandwich!  Simple yet complex, earthy yet sophisticated, this sandwich should appeal to everybody and leave nobody unsatisfied!

Buckboard Bacon Melt at Cochon Butcher

Not wanting to only explore the culinary aspects of Butcher, I also perused the custom cocktail list and stumbled upon a drink call the Haitian Dark and Stormy.  Thinking this was an interesting name for a drink, especially in post-Katrina New Orleans and after the earthquake in Haiti, I had to know more.  It turns out that proceeds from the drink go to the Red Cross for relief efforts in Haiti, so I thought I might as well do my part.  The drink is made from a mixture of Barbancourt Rum and ginger beer.  Barbancourt is a Haitian rum company that makes traditional Caribbean sugar cane rum in multiple varieties and flavors.  Their distillery is located just outside Port au Prince, where the earthquake hit the strongest.  The Haitian Dark and Stormy itself proved to be a rather interesting drink.  Overall it was little sweet for my tastes with the rum and ginger beer mixed together.  Still, the cocktail was refreshing and quite drinkable, and would have been perfect on a warm summer day on the beaches of Haiti (or walking around in the French Quarter, for that matter).

Haitian Dark and Stormy

My Cochon Butcher experience ended up being marvelous.  I'm sure it was only enhanced by being a little sauced already from the ISAW wine tasting.  I also enjoyed chatting with Chef Warren about the restaurant and the menu.  Still, it all really comes down to the food, and this food is top notch.  The meats were fresh, salty, and marvelous.  The work that gets put into the meats at Butcher is obvious, and should be appreciated properly.  And by appreciate, I mean eaten.  And by properly, I mean often. 

"Bon App├ętit.  That's French for good meal." - Brandon Brown

Thanks to Eric Ducote of the BR Beer Scene for taking the pictures for this post.  Check out his beer and other beverage blog here.

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