We are just back from four days of rest, relaxation, and fine dining in New Orleans, our usual celebration of my birthday (I won’t tell which). We were especially pleased, given the winter that seems to be coming on here, to enjoy weather there in the 70s and 80s, unseasonably warm even for New Orleans.
The big daily question in New Orleans for us was: “Where do we eat tonight?” Post Katrina New Orleans, you will be glad to hear, has not only recovered its tourist economy, but has gone through a veritable renaissance in eating opportunities, with around fifty new restaurants opening in the past few years — so the choices seem limitless, particularly for only a four-day stay.
Giving a pass, on our first night, to those old war horses of Creole style dining: Arnaud’s, Antoine’s, Galatoire’s, Brennan’s, Commander’s Palace and such, we chose that relative newcomer to the New Orleans restaurant scene: Cochon. True to its name, Cochon’s menu is primarily pork-oriented, and in a very interesting local Louisianan way.
In fact, its menu offerings read like an indirect lesson on how much of the pig we have forgotten to eat. Have a look at the usual super market meat counter, and what do you find pork-wise on display? Pork chops of course, a pork loin or shoulder roast, ribs, bacon, sausage, and maybe salt pork, and that’s about it. Where, we never seem to wonder, thanks to years of supermarket shopping, does the rest of the pig go?
Our meal at Cochon goes a long way toward answering the question. We settled on the small plate offerings so that we could sample as many of the pork dishes as we could in one sitting. Our choices included :
º deep fried pig’s ears with naval oranges, mushrooms, kohlrabi, black eye peas, and vinaigrette
º braised pork cheeks with grits, grapefruit and toasted almonds
º pork belly with…. well, I can’t quite remember, but it was delicious
º smoked pork ribs with watermelon pickle
We had to limit our pork choices to four, out of respect for our waistlines, and in order to fit in as well, a small plate of wood-fired oysters with chili garlic butter, and one of smothered greens.
So we sadly had to miss out on the special entrees:
º pork neck stew with radishes, turnips, carrots, chipotle onions and lemon herb
º pig tail, braised and fried, with sauteed spinach, radishes, Moroccan spiced carrots and preserved lemon
To say nothing of the regular entrees like:
º smoked ham hock with herb spatzle, Brussels sprouts & mustard cream
º Louisiana cochon with turnips, cabbage & cracklins
º An oyster & bacon sandwich
But there is always a next time, we tell ourselves.
Now besides thoroughly enjoying our Cochon meal we have come away with a growing awareness of how unnecessarily our diet of pork has been narrowed in the years since the inception of the supermarket, and the demise of the local butcher, and how many wonderful taste treats (many of them quite inexpensive), we have, as a result, been denied. Now that we are back at the farm, we look at our plump pigs romping happily in their pens and pasture with new eyes.