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Monday, March 26, 2012

Blown Away at Cochon Lafayette

Boudin and Pickles at Cochon Lafayette
First of all, allow me to congratulate Chef Donald Link for his 2012 James Beard Awards "Outstanding Chef" nomination.  The Louisiana chef known widely for his work with the pig at Cochon, Herbsaint, Calcasieu, and Butcher in New Orleans has certainly earned his bid at the most elite title in American cuisine.  Just this past Fall, Chef Link opened up a new location closer to his Cajun Country home: Cochon Lafayette.

I swung by the Acadiana hotspot to check it out for the first time during a recent lunch.  My buddy Tommy Talley and Cochon bartender Brian Thom both joined me at the bar as we had some beers, multiple appetizers, a couple sandwiches, a tour of the facility, and then some whiskey.

Tin Roof Voodoo Bengal Pale Ale
Cochon Lafayette sits along the new water-front development in Lafayette's River Ranch area.  With the brand new construction, they did a remarkable job of making the restaurant feel slightly rustic and rather comfortable.  The open floor plan including high ceilings, a showroom kitchen, and plenty of large windows and  wood accents made me feel right at home.  I took a seat at the bar and rejoiced at the Louisiana beer on tap.  Though they happened to be out of Lafayette's own Parish Canebrake, I was able to get a Tin Roof Voodoo Bengal.  I drank happily.

Braised Pork Cheeks and Other Goodies
Manager Brian Fuller started us off with some of Chef Link's signature boudin.  Rather than steaming the boudin like most truck stops would do, the Cochon secret is to bake the boudin in a relatively low oven - around 275 degrees - in order to crisp up the skin and make it crack as you bite into it.  Served with some house-made pickles that I could actually tolerate, this pork and rice concoction is what many Cajun dreams are made of!

Fried Chicken Livers on Pepper Jelly Toast

Our next appetizer consisted of braised pork cheeks atop spoonbread with baby lima beans and crushed herbs.  The cheeks had that fabulous fork-tender, melt-in-your-mouth kind of texture that proper braising will give.

The pork cheeks were followed by fried chicken livers on top of pepper jelly toast.  I thoroughly enjoyed this dish.  It is easy to understand why chicken livers aren't for everyone, but being the adventurous food spirit that I am, I scarfed down one after another.  The pepper jelly went wonderfully with the livers in order to add some sweet and spicy flavors to the golden fried delicacies.

Cochon Lafayette's Oyster and Bacon Sandwich
Another Look at the Oyster and Bacon Sandwich
Choosing an entree did not prove to be an easy task.  At the suggestion of Brian, I opted for the oyster and bacon sandwich.  The BLT with fried oysters turned out to be a great decision.  They fresh Louisiana oysters were deliciously fried in a hearty batter and placed with the bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes between two slices of buttery toast.  Each bite bustled with textures and flavors that made one incredible sandwich... and I do like sandwiches!

Selection of Whiskeys that I tasted at Cochon Lafayette
After the meal, we began talking about Raise a Glass and our Whiskeys of the World Tournament.  I realized that Cochon Lafayette had quite a few whiskey varieties that were not in the tournament, and several rye whiskeys that I had never tried before.  So what else were we to do other than hold a whiskey tasting right there on the spot?  And don't forget the moonshine, as seen on the left.  After downing some whiskey and eating all of that glorious food (don't worry, it was captured on video for "I'm Not Trying to be an Underwear Model"), I got a tour of the Cochon Lafayette terrace with their herb garden, their fully stocked kitchen, and the outdoor smokestack with Chef de Cuisine Kyle Waters.  The restaurant is truly an impressive facility, and I have a feeling that I'll be back fairly often!

Cochon Lafayette on Urbanspoon