New Orleans LA
Cochon Butcher is Donald Link's sandwich shop. This is not in of itself particularly unusual: seems like many big-name and well known chefs are opening casual, lunchy renditions of their flagship eateries in cities across America, dishing up sandwiches, small plates, and snacks to a hip and culinarily adventerous crowd. Butcher has been a particularly successful member of the club - New Orleanians love their sandwiches, and they love sandwiches featuring a copious amount of pig products even more. Game, set, match. Besides sandwiches, Butcher provides a rotating selection of "bar food," with specialities changing with the season and what looks good at the market. The other half of butcher is the deli: customers can pick up house-made cured meats, dressed and ready to cook meat products, and choose from a bunch of ready-to-go take out items. Handy!
This is an arugula salad with a preserved lemon dressing and slices of lomo, dried Spanish-style pork loin. Donald Link prides himself on his European style cured meats, and this flavorful, salty lomo was a fine example of his work. Link has done some study in Italy and Spain on the techniques required to create this stuff, and it seems to be paying off.
I was born in Tampa, and my earliest food memory honest-to-God involves a Cuban sandwich. I remember the salami and the pickles, and the melty cheese, but mostly I remeber it being good. So of course we got the pressed cochon de lait Cuban sandwich, ($10) served with housemade potato chips. Verdict? A tasty, toasty rendition of the classic, featuring Link's always impeccable roast pork, ham, salami, and plenty of mustard and pickle. But there was one problem: there's a cilantro spread on the sandwich that wasn't listed on the menu board, providing my cilantro loathing mother with a nasty surprise. Be more precise, black-board menu writers! Think of those that walk among us with that horrible soapy-mouth cilantro mutation!
These are marinated brussel sprouts ($6.00) and they were excellent. I believe they are briefly fried and then set to marinate in vinegar, mint, sugar, chili, and a couple other herbs - they come out delightfully fatty, bitter, sweet, and herbacous all at once and are entirely addictive, superior to potato chips.
My friend Cassidy was feeling brave, and went with the Cochon banh mi ($10.00) with liver pate, hogs head cheese, and pickled vegetables on a French roll. This is a truly classic Vietnamese sandwich combination, and all those funky meat products within created an unctuous, fatty, and delightfully porky experience, in tandem with the vinegary vegetable slaw. For god's sake, don't hold the mayo. The stuff really brings this sammich together. Highly recommended, even if you are technically adverse to eating the head of a hog. Open your mind, your ass will follow, etc etc etc.
We bought a chunk of Butchers (in)famous bacon praline for dessert, and unwrapped it in the car. It was dumbfounding. Pretty much everyone present compared the experience to kinky sex, rather like making love to some unholy but delectable combination of pure essence of pig and sugary maple candy pecan horror. That's about the gist of it. Try it and find out. Try it.
We used Butcher for my graduation party and everyone was pleased with the results. Smoky turkey and andouille gumbo, meaty collards, some awesome cheese-and-crab dip and a lovely boucherie plate kept my crew of friends and associates fed and somewhat complacent. Thanks, y'all.