Friday, August 15, 2008

New Orleans: Best Meal Year-to-Date

For the past two years my brothers, my father and I have headed down to New Orleans to go Fishing for the athletic Redfish that inhabit the salt marshes of the deep south, though I will mention the anticipation for the most recent  trip was equally strong for our return to Cochon. Cochon is quite simply, a culinary celebration of the pig (although they do many other Cajun specialties, mind blowingly well). They do masterful things with swine down there, and pretty much cook everything but the stink - Mmm Hmmm even the nasty bits make their way in, and itwouldn't be right if they didn't. 

One of my favorite menu offerings on the menu is the Boucherie plate. It's a handsome little plate full of all the great charcuterie that these southern  hog wizards conjur up on the premises. In the shot above you can see that we start with perfect little toast points and a substantial (delightful, actually) stone-ground mustard. From there you pick your various toppings including pork rilletes (which were awesome), perfectly smoked ham (dissolved on the tongue), a nice salty salami, what they called "homemade Slim Jims" which were great little jerky sticks, and some good old head cheese (I won't get in to too many details, but it's the nasty bits, and it's good!). Sometimes it's just better to eat and not think about it. Everything is made in house and was completely fantastic. You can also see the salad I ordered to start the night off - a perfectly fresh cucumber salad with fresh herbs and vinegar.

Our waitress actually brought out the above - wood roasted oysters because we had to wait a few minutes to be seated. The oysters were amazing, I was told (I'm allergic to shellfish), and the aroma alone made me glad we stuck it out a few extra minutes.

Next we'll get into my entree, which was a braised Ham Hock with a Cajun gremolata, lima beans and rice. It was utterly and completely to die for. Simply breathing in the vicinity of this perfect portion of pork would have shed the meat right off the bone. It was perfectly salty, smokey and all together rich. The beans and rice soaked up all the hearty braising jus, and it was totally outrageous - the perfect meal for a fisherman fresh off the saltwater; tired from pulling in the red beasts swimming in the shallows just beyond the Louisiana coastline.

I've also attached my brother, Pat's entree, which was the Louisiana Cochon - it was quite good, perfectly meaty, with a well seasoned yet sensual taste of pork. The cracklins that were served with were amazing.

If you find yourself in New Orleans anytime soon, I highly recommend you check it out. It's not in a touristy location and there is no Bourbon Street commotion to detract you from the great Cajun cuisine that they serve up. All you have to do is pour a nice cold Abita Bitter Beer and enjoy the warm aromas until you food arrives.

Happy Eating,



BUMMER ALERT! Scroll to 9/16 update.

That is exactly what I'm going to do. I'm going to run, not drive or walk, just run to Eric Austin's Bourbon Street Steakhouse. I was heart broken when he closed down on Eat Street. He has the best sandwiches in the city, not to mention the best Mac 'and Cheese (several Wolves players had standing orders of the stuff back in the day) and fried green tomatoes anywhere outside of New Orleans - the dude was trained at the Commander's Palace, so he knows what's going on. 

The menu seems more upscale with a variety of steaks (tomahawks!) and seafood options that he didn't have at his old joint, but my favorites, including his catfish po'boys and all his delicious sides are still there. I'm going to try and get there soon (I've got to let the kitchen and service get their legs) to do a quick write up and post some pics. The only disappointing part is that it's all the way in South Saint Paul. I can tell you without even stepping in the place that it will be worth the trip, though, because nobody does soul food like Eric around here. Seriously though, it may be a good idea to run there because creole food is not light, but worth every step on the treadmill thereafter.

I'm hoping to get another soul/creole food post up here yet today - it'll be a recap of a fabulous meal I had in New Orleans earlier this year.

Happy eating,


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rock Solid

So last night, I got a case of the lazys (blaming it on the rain), and rather then go out to the usually extravagant Tuesday night dinner, or cook something at home, I decided to head to one of my neighborhood favorites: Gigi's Cafe. In fact, it was so informal, that I forgot my camera - sorry, I need to get better about that, but when I'm thinking about food, it's hard to concentrate on anything else. Anyways, I'll definitely be back and will post pictures next time. See, the thing about Gigi's is that it is consistently good, fast, welcoming and best of all - Cheap! They offer a wide variety of dishes from pastas or salads with curry to Mexican, Italian, Thai and everything in between - even some delicious hybrids. They always have good pasta salads and comforting specials.

I'll check my usual food snob musings at the door here (no mention of flavor combinations starches, proteins or seasonings today). No, the food there is simple, tasty and rock solid. I go to Gigi's quite frequently and will continue to do so. 

Seriously though, if you haven't been to Gigi's you need to do so. Its quick counter service is the perfect stop before/after a shopping spree in Uptown or a nice walk around Lake Calhoun. Their menu changes daily, so they are always serving up something fresh, inventive and most importantly, delicious. Also, they have good, cheap beer. I think a Premium is $2 during Happy hour and a Summit EPA is $3. They have many more beers and actually crank out a pretty diverse list.

By the way, if Key Lime Pie/Tart is your thing (or dessert in general), then you need to floor it to Gigi's asap. I'm noticeably not huge on sweets, but my girlfriend and I attacked this hunk of sweet/tart preciousness with an aggression that would make any thing that ran on Shark Week look soft and un-motivating. 

Happy Eating,


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Few Notes

Went to Indio last Friday for the second time and it was just as good as the first. Our server was a bit odd, but we made it through. I went with a group of seven, so we were able to order a pretty wide sample of the menu. The Guacamole was good, but lots of places have decent Guac. I though the tosdatitas were really good personally - just the right amount of heat and and each portion (3 total) was just over a good sized Amuse Boush which I think is just right for an appetizer. I'd recommend this place for sure. If you aren't sure of their credentials, it's the same group that runs El Meson and Cafe Ena. Anyone that can have three successful ventures going in a city that is known for good Latin/Mexican food must be doing something right.

Heard from AZ that Alex Roberts is opening another Brasa location, possibly is St. Paul. I say bring it on. He serves up some mean pork, chicken and beef with legit sides. More Alex Roberts is a good sign by my standards. I find it hard to make my way over to Restaurant Alma, although I had a fabulous meal there, so if we can fold him in on Grand Ave. in St. Paul, I'll take it, although selfishly, I wouldn't mind another Brasa even closer to me in SW Minneapolis, or even say, in my own backyard.

Heading to Al Vento on Friday. I'll try and get a few shots and thoughts up on that.

Happy Eating,

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