February 25, 2013

New Orleans, Part Two: Cochon

I'm continuing on here with a few more posts from the recent trip to New Orleans. The last meal we had during our trip was at Cochon, the award-winning restaurant of Louisiana native and James Beard Award-winning chef, Donald Link. Cochon was also recently named as one of the 20 most important restaurants in the country by Bon Appetit for their commitment to nose-to-tail-Louisiana-style cooking.

We had some very good porky goodness during our visit. Every dish was strong, sans the crawfish pie, which was just okay, slightly doughy and flavorless, and made worse by the large black hair we found in the middle. Some pics of standout dishes:

 Wood-fired oysters with garlic and pepper aioli.

Fried alligator with spicy remoulade. Alligator always seems like a throwaway-novelty item at Cajun restaurants, but this dish was pretty tasty. Tender 'gator and a slamming remoulade helped out.
The boucherie plate featuring hog's head cheese, coppa, country bologna, pork rillette, house pickles, and pickled fennel. Best pork rillette I've ever had and a damn good hog's head cheese here.
Fried boudin. Might not look like much, but this was the dish of the day. Boudin balls with an airy panko crust, fried to perfection so that they maintained a gooey-creamy interior. A brilliant bite with the pickled peppers and house mustard.
Another boudin shot.
Another strong dish: Cane syrup glazed pork cheeks with pickled red onions and potato cake.
The infamous hairy crawfish pie. Spared you a pic of the big black hair we found in the middle. Yum. Our server was gracious and comped us the pie and a couple of drinks after hairgate, which was a nice recovery 'cause shit happens.
The cocktail program at Cochon is strong, though somewhat limited. The Tiger's Tail, a concoction of Dos Lunas Silver Tequila, Merlet de Framboise, agave nectar, basil, and lime juice was quite tasty. As was aptly named Orange Whiskey made with Buffalo Trace, Peychaud's, and OJ.
No complaints from me about Cochon. Nice space (albeit smaller than I expected), attentive staff and tasty food. Some of the dishes were on the sloppy side in presentation but the taste was there, so no worries, I suppose. Fun to stop by Cochon Butcher next door and stock up on boudin and other treats for the ride home.

February 19, 2013

New Orleans Eats, Part One: Jacques-Imo's, Cafe du Monde, Central Grocery

I spent a few days in New Orleans last week at the end of Mardi Gras with friends who are native to the city. We did a fair share of eating and drinking and basking in the post-Mardi Gras glow of the Crescent City. Just about everything we ate, at every hour of the day, was top notch. Some highlights:
Real-deal Nawlin's-style, Creole cooking at Jacques-Imo's uptown.
The place is always packed, reservations are always hard to come by, and I'm told folks wait two hours some nights to get it. But it's worth the effort. Jacques Leonardi, the animated owner seems to always be present in the dining room; cracking jokes, entertaining kids, and making it feel as if you are eating at a table in his own home.

The duck and andouille sausage gumbo.
Crawfish etoufee. Don't think I was visiting NOLA and not eating crawfish etoufee at least once. And no complaints with Jacques-Imo's rendition pictured above.
The how-to-gain-five-pounds in one dish-roasted quail stuffed with foie gras, mushrooms, and bacon. Decadent and so freaking good.
Some very good Creole-Cajun soul food here in a rambunctious setting that reeks of New Orleans.
Made the obligatory stop at the original Cafe Du Monde for beignets. When the place is crowded, which is always, this location of Cafe du Monde rakes in over $5,000 per hour. A nice draw considering Cafe du Monde is basically a coffee shop selling little squares of fried dough topped with powdered sugar.
Beignets and a cafe au lait is great way to start a beautiful post-Mardi Gras day in the French Quarter. Especially if you are a little, or better yet, a lot hungover.
Had to stop by the landmark Central Grocery for a Muffuletta. A slice of Italy in the heart of the French Quarter.

While the muffuletta is the star, Central Grocery is a gem of a shop. It was founded in 1906 by Salvatore Lupo, an Italian immigrant and has been a landmark of the French Quarter ever since. Central Grocery is reminiscent of the Italian markets I remember frequenting in NYC and CT as a kid. A vast selection of mostly Italian, but also French and Creole food products including olive oils, cheeses, canned tomatoes, pastas, pastries, and more.
One could get lost poking around the shelves of Central Grocery for hours. But pay attention, and don't be holding up the line and shit. People are serious about getting to this muffuletta. Whole or half is the only decision you have to make.
The muffuletta at Central Grocery is one of those things that defies its own simplicity. Salami, ham, cheese, mortadella, "special olive salad," and olive oil. Big deal, right? However, the combination of the rich meats and briny olive spread on light and airy Leidenheimer's sesame bread is magical.
That's it for now...New Orleans Eats, Part Two coming soon... Jacques-Imo's Café on Urbanspoon

February 15, 2013

Good Eats: New Orleans

I've been hanging in New Orleans the past few days. Some good food, like the Muffulettas at Central Grocery...and the quail stuffed with foie gras, bacon, and mushrooms from Jacques Imo's pictured below:
The quail dish was rich, decadent, and mighty tasty, as was the crawfish etoufee below, and duck and andouille gumbo... More pics and full reports later..

February 6, 2013

Mother Earth Brewing

I don't really drink a lot of beer, or maybe I do, but I just tell myself I don't. I am a fan, though, of good craft beers that catch my attention. Recently, the beers from Mother Earth Brewing have done just that. I first encountered MEB at their small table at the 2012 Decatur Beer Fest. Since then, I've been able to find their beers around town and I am continually impressed. Home for Mother Earth Brewing is Kinston, NC, in the southeastern corner of the state. They only started distribution in Atlanta in April of 2012. You might guess from the name, but there is a certain earth-friendly, hippie vibe to the company that is seen in their green practices that include using solar power, blue jean insulation, and green brewing techniques such as recycling spent grain and making tap handles from bamboo.

Mother Earth Brewing's commitment to sustainability and earth-friendly practice seems to translate in the uniqueness of their beers. From the herbal-tinged Weeping Willow Belgian-Style Wit, to the Old Neighborhood Oatmeal Porter, and my favorite, the hoppy, and deliciously crisp and bitter, Sisters of the Moon Pale Ale. If you've not tried these beers, do poke around town and find some. Decatur Wine & Spirits on Dekalb Industrial Way has singles, which is the perfect way to try a few.