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My New Orlean Bites: Cochon Butcher, Cochon and Peche

July 5, 2015

When we planned our trip to New Orleans in May, all I could think about was the delicious foods and lively music scene that awaits us.  All that planning but one thing we forgot to take into account was the weather.  Even though it was barely pushing 70s in New York, the heat and, most of all, humidity was overbearing.  This made exploring the city during the day a bit of a sweaty adventure but we soldiered on and started our New Orleans with a tour of French Quarters, still in a deep slumber from the night before.  When we made it to the other end of the French Quarter, it was time for lunch.  Our timing couldn’t have been better and I had just the perfect spot in mind, Cochon Butcher.

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The popular spot is located right off the edge of the French Quarter, bordering the Lower Garden District and the convention center.  This made it a magnet for hungry crowds which resulted in a dreaded line out the door, in the blistering sun.  When we finally made it inside, we found a well stocked butcher counter full of housemade sausages, sauces, and other spreads.  We placed our orders at the counter and went into the crowd of hungry lunch-goers in the large industrial dining room in search of seats.

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We were able to snag a seat at the bar in the back of the restaurant right before our food came out.  A tip for any future diners, you can save a lot of time and discomfort by skipping right to the bar where the whole menu can be ordered with the bartenders.

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And now for the food!  The first to arrive was a generous order of the sweet and spicy pickles to satiate our hunger.  The bowl was filled to the brim, studded with mustard seeds.

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Since Cochon Butcher is known for its sandwiches, we decided to stick with them for lunch.  A new take on the typical grilled cheese, the buckboard bacon melt came with generous thinly slices of buckboard bacon, melting cheese and collard greens.  The white bread was toasted to an even golden brown, just the perfect thickness for the sandwich.  I devoured this hot sandwich within seconds of it hitting our table.

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The muffaletta is a classic New Orleans sandwich and so we knew we had try one while in town.  The one at Cochon Butcher was already conveniently cut into four for easy eating.  Lifting up a section revealed a beautiful cross section of house cured meats, cheese and olive salad.  There was nothing revolutionary about the sandwich but just a solid muffaletta.

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We spent the afternoon after lunch exploring the Garden District, trying to burn off all of the calories we consumed.  Between gawking at the beautiful mansions in the neighborhood and sampling some sweets at District Donut and Brew and stopping for a drink at Commander’s Palace, the afternoon slipped right by us and it was time for dinner before we knew it.  Not terribly starving, we decided to forgo a formal dinner and make a meal with appetizers instead.

Our first stop of the night was Peche, a seafood grill from Donald Link just a few blocks away from Cochon Butcher.  The irony of the fact that we were dining at another Donald Link restaurant did not escape us.  After a short wait, we grabbed a seat at the bar and started immediately with half dozen local oysters.

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Since this was suppose to be only a nibble, I had to try really hard to edit the menu down to only two dishes.

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The first was a special for the night, a smoked drum salad with thinly sliced zucchini and toasted pumpkin seeds.  The firm white fish retained a pronounce smoky flavor that was tempered by the sweet zucchini slices, definitely a must for any fan of white fish salads.

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The smoked tuna dip might have seemed a bit duplicative but the flavor profile was entirely different than the smoked drum.  While the drum salad had lovely chunks of white fish throughout, the tuna dip was whipped until almost smooth.  And where the drum salad was bold and unabashed about the bold seafood flavor, the tuna salad was much tamer, a little sweet and subtly smoky.

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After we wrapped up our tasty bites at Peche, we found ourselves back around the corner from Cochon Butcher at Cochon, another popular Donald Link establishment and our second stop of the night.  We figured since we have already been to two of his restaurants, why not make it a whole day of Donald Link?  Cochon was packed when we stopped by and instead of cramming ourselves inside, we decided to take advantage of the slightly cooler night air and dine al fresco.

While Peche was clearly focused on seafood, Cochon was a little more eclectic and more earth driven with dishes such as chili braised pork cheeks, rabbit and dumplings and fried boudin.  Even though we already had oysters for the night, I have heard such good things about chargrilled oysters that we couldn’t pass it up.  The chili garlic butter dripped off the shells so we ate quickly lest we waste any of the delicious sauce.

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I love all types of liver and the fried liver with pepper jelly and toast lived up to the raves that our bartender at Peche and waiter at Cochon.  The slightly sweet yet savory jelly complimented the earthy depth of the fried liver and the scatter of mint leaves on top left a lovely herbaceous refreshing note.

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Because we haven’t consumed any greens all day, a plate of collard greens seemed necessary.  Even though these were cooked in pork fat, they still count right?

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If this was any indication of what was to come from the culinary scene here at New Orleans, we were ready with fork and knife in hand, ready to eat our way through the city.  For now, onto Frenchmen Street for some jazz and blues late into the night.

Cochon Butcher | 930 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 | http://www.cochonbutcher.com/

Peche | 800 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 | http://www.pecherestaurant.com/

Cochon | 930 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 | http://www.cochonrestaurant.com/

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