I am loving this new, back-to-basics meaty renaissance taking place all over the United States. Here in Austin, we have people like Dai Due's Jesse Griffiths and Kocurek Family Artisanal Charcuterie, both of whom sell their products at the Austin farmers' markets. We also have A Noble Beast, whose very well-done pates and rillettes and spreads made from locally sourced animals and flavorings can be found at Aviary, a furniture and design shop by day and a sexy wine lounge by night.
And New Orleans is lucky enough to have Chefs Donald Link, Stephen Stryjewski, and Warren Stephens. We've been to Link and Stryjewski's pig-centric wonderment Cochon (read about our visit here), but this time in New Orleans we wanted to descend en masse on a newer venture of theirs, Cochon Butcher.
The butcher is much less formal than Cochon next door - not that Cochon is all that formal, but Butcher could be called a fancy deli. A refrigerated case sits on your left as you walk in, and the line follows this case to the far side of the room, where you place your order. The joint was hopping on the day we were there, which gave Crystal and me lots of time to try to find seats for 5 people while the boys dickered over what to order. It was a good thing we had time, too - the place doesn't have a lot of seating, and if you're in a group of more than 2, finding seats quickly becomes an exercise in looming over dining people and furniture rearranging.
Lots of meat porn after the jump: (that statement might need some work.)
I didn't envy the boys their ordering job. First, you have to stand next to this ridiculously enticing display of house-cured meats. There are traditional French preparations, like duck and pork rillettes, uniquely Cajun items like tasso, and a few playful twists like duck pastrami. Not to mention sticks of air-dried sausages, ready-made soups, and compound butters.
It took a good ten or fifteen minutes, but the guys eventually worked their way up to the front of the line and ordered a large fraction of the menu. The harried people manning the line asked them "Is that your order, or did you just read the menu back to us?" This is a common question when Logan's in charge of ordering for a group....
Luckily for the guys, we'd managed to clear off and protect a large section of bar running along the wall. Crystal and I gaped as dish after dish came out, and we scrambled to find a place to arrange our rapidly expanding lunch. Before you judge us, I should tell you that we were a group of 5. OK, now you're welcome to judge away.
A huge variety of foods appeared, from a super-simple charcuterie plate showcasing several of Cochon Butcher's preserved meats (my favorite was the fennel salami, with their spicy head cheese a close second), to a rich and tender lamb confit sandwich with tzatziki, arugula, and tomato. There was even a black eyed pea hummus with toast points, I guess in case one of us decided to embrace vegetarianism during the course of the meal.
Here are a few of the table's - well, bar's - favorites (the duck pastrami "slider" with a rich bechamel being my least favorite):
The pork belly and cucumber mint sandwich, served with maddeningly addictive house-made chips. We ordered two of them for five people, and they disappeared quickly. Juicy (read: fatty) pork was offset by the crunch of lightly pickled cucumbers and uplifted by the cleansing flavor of mint.
Their moist, ricey, soft and porky boudin, served with sweet/hot pickled cucumbers. I could have eaten a jar of the pickles. Our two orders of boudin also disappeared with a quickness.
The marinated brussels sprouts were the surprise hit of the young afternoon. I think they were fried and then marinated. They were salty, and spicy, and had a really nice concentrated sweet roasted flavor. Folks that aren't fans of brussels sprouts are really missing out here.
The Muffaletta, I think Logan's favorite, made with an assortment of house-cured meats. We've had muffalettas at Central Grocery, and this one was better. More of those house-made pickles, too. The warmed sandwich was fun to eat and had a great balance between the high-quality luncheon meats, the sweet hot pickles, the bit of cheese, and the olive salad. Pretty sure Logan would come back just for this.
And last, the tasso mac and cheese, with its creamy, peppery heat, rich bacon flavor, and crumb topping. Two of the five of us pronounced this the best mac and cheese they'd ever eaten. It was really rich, but I'm pretty sure I could polish off an entire bowl of it if pressed.
Though the guys ordered a huge swath of the menu, we did miss out on several items. I might have to go back just to try the shrimp with mirliton (chayote) slaw - I hope mirlitons are still in season when we make it back!
There were a lot of things to buy in the deli/restaurant/butcher shop. We were tempted, but didn't bite. I'm not sure why. Space considerations?
Yeah, I think I can comfortably put Cochon Butcher on the "LOVE" list. It's a great spot for an informal meal in New Orleans if you're looking for a restaurant with an unabashed sense of place. I love that the Butcher is bringing a lot of European traditions to New Orleans, while mixing in a hearty dose of local foodways. Now, if only one of Austin's charcuterie guys would renovate an industrial space (maybe on the East Side?) and open up an Austin-flavored version of Butcher - then I'd be totally set. I guess until then, I'll just have to drive 500 miles east to Tchoupitoulas.
Cochon Butcher is located next door to Cochon at 930 Tchoupitoulas in New Orleans. 504.588.PORK. (see, that's another indicator of pork obsession.) Right now, they're open for lunch and dinner every day but Sunday, which is lunch only.