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Cochon Butcher

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930 Tchoupitoulas St
New Orleans, LA 70130

December 27, 2011

The first evening after our arrival in NOLA we went on a long walk to find Cochon Butcher. I’d been warned that Commander’s Palace would probably slay my appetite for the rest of the day, but as five rolled around, I was ravenous. Butcher, as it turns out, is a great place to spend time when you’re very, very hungry.

My introduction to boudin started the meal. Of all the boudin we tried during our trip, this was by far my favorite, even over the devilishly conceived fried boudin balls we encountered in a few places. The boudin at Butcher is creamy and the accompaniments are perfect. We followed it up with a delicious duck prosciutto slider and some pancetta mac and cheese. It was at this point in the meal that I remembered to check my notes and discovered that part of the reason we’d come were the bacon pralines. I went up the counter and asked and got the very bad news that they’d sold out of them for the day around lunchtime.

I moped back to the table and drowned my sorrows with the croque monsieur with country ham and melted leeks. I love pork in all its many forms, but this was my first introduction to the lovely, almost buttery kind that is country ham. We then tore into the pork belly sandwich which was tasty, though it could have been rendered a bit more for my tastes.

As we prepared to end the meal with a PB & J cookie, the manager wandered our direction. As it turned out, a catering order was over an hour late picking up and, as a result, she said with a grin, I can let you have these. And she presented me with an entire box of pralines. “How many would you like?” I thought I was being grateful when I said we’d take the entire box.

As it turned out, I was the one who was being treated. It’s a horse race between these and the rum pralines at Southern Candymakers for my favorite pralines of all time. Not only are they buttery, sweet, and have beautiful whole pecans in them, but I suspect that the porky additions to the standard form of praline isn’t all that’s going on. Given how long they stayed soft and the extra unctuous mouth feel, I’m pretty sure they substitute some bacon fat for some of the butter that normally makes up a praline. I wholeheartedly approve.

I’ll be posting a review of Cochon at some point and we had a pretty bad customer experience there. Despite that, I would return to Butcher without hesitation. They went out of their way to take care of us and the food was second to none.

Cochon Butcher on Urbanspoon

What I Ate in San Francisco – A Confession, part 2

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March 31 – Day Two
We get an early start knowing that there’s a line ahead of us. We know this because of the reviews of the place all mention them. We also know due to a bit of 21st century spying

Dottie’s True Blue Cafe – Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes, Whiskey Fennel Sausage and Mushroom Scramble with Grilled Jalapeno Cornbread, and Blackberry Bourbon Coffee Cake

You know there’s going to be a wait and, in a city where we counted at least six restaurants on every city block downtown, probably something really worth eating when you can look at the Google Maps Street View and see they happened to catch a substantial line outside when they took the picture. Add to that the fact that, despite only being four blocks from our swanky Marriott Marquis hotel, it’s in a particularly manky part of the Tenderloin, and you know that the popularity must mean something.

We got lucky and arrived to find only 4 people in line. That still required about 30 minutes of waiting, so Loria pointed out that we must have gotten there just as most of the dining room was seated. The place is tiny inside, maybe 10 tables. It is decked out in retro style. It is not what anybody would describe as pretty. But since I was there to eat rather than get decorating tips, I couldn’t have cared less.

The pancakes were tender, substantial, and pocked with more blueberries than I’d have thought possible. They are served with honest-to-goodness maple syrup. Loria ordered a side of bacon and it came, as requested, crispy. I don’t know where they get it from, but it was the good stuff.

The scramble was loaded down with the sausage, which looked to be cut up links, fried up crisp. Loria thought that the fennel was a bit strong, but I really liked it. I also really enjoyed the grilled cornbread, especially for the rather impressive trick of having a full jalapeno taste without much heat. Although you can see the majority of the grill area when you walk in, and it’s tiny as all get out, clearly these are people who love food. They must, since they dish out portions of it which are criminally large. I ordered the coffee cake to go, mostly because it sounded too delicious to pass up but I hadn’t a single bit of room left in my belly. For about $30, we were full until well after noon.

That coffee cake? Yeah, it rivaled anything from Dynamo. The booze taste was pronounced, but paired really well with the large, juicy blackberries that covered every bit of the top of the cake. By the time I got around to eating it in the evening, the crumb topping had dissolved into more of a caramel. I doubt the state of it would have made the baker very happy, but oh, dear heavens, was it good.

Good enough that, on the final morning of our trip, I got up at 6am and was in line at about 7:15am to make sure that we had some breakfast to go. I looked in the window and nearly wept openly to see that the coffee cake was not on the hand-written marker board where the daily baked goods are listed. The baker, seeing me crestfallen, shook his finger at me to indicate that the items on the board were not, in fact, what they would be serving. He then took a towel, wiped it all away, and replaced them including, instead of the blackberry version that I’d hoped for, a blueberry whiskey coffee cake. The memory of the previous version was positive enough that I bought two pieces of it, along with a few scones, a regular cinnamon coffee cake, and an apricot peach muffin. All were fine, and although the blueberry incarnation didn’t quite live up to the big, juicy blackberry version, it was definitely tasty.

Dottie's True Blue Cafe on Urbanspoon

Full high-quality diner food, we waddled to Powell and stood in line for a cable car. Our plan was to catch a boat to Alcatraz. Arriving at the pier, we took the long walk down to where the tickets are sold…a long walk which passes the Pier 39 sidewalk seafood stalls and…what’s that, stomach? You’re hungry? How tha…nevermind. Later. You can wait an hour.

Eventually discovering that not only is Alcatraz a popular choice today, but that all of the cruises out there are completely booked, we take the long walk back to the pier and past it to Ghirardelli Square.

Ghirardelli On-The-Go – Thick Chocolate Shake

The last time I was in San Francisco, it was for a high school debate trip. I went on one of these each of the years I was in high school. The first year, I established a bit of a tradition upon arriving in the wharf area: I would go to the Ghirardelli shop for a deep, rich chocolate shake, then go upstairs to the Boudin shop and get a bay shrimp sandwich. That combination, despite many lovely meals in SF, came to sum up what I figured the city should taste like.

Sadly, both the Boudin shop at Ghirardelli Square and the sandwich are gone. We stopped by several of the Boudin Cafes – now ubiquitous in the city – and ended up eating at none of them. I guess the lack of my favorite dish soured me.

But, I couldn’t pass up the shake.

Since my time in high school, I’ve become much more selective about the chocolate I eat. This is due mostly to the excellent chocolate tasting class taught by Matt Caputo at Tony Caputo’s Market and Deli as well as a lot of tasting and reading of my own. I expected going in, therefore, that the weight of my current snobbery would overcome any fondness from my formative years. Wrong.

Is the chocolate flavor a one-note samba? Yes. It didn’t matter. The thick, rich shake reminded me of all of the reasons that I prefer dark chocolate to other kinds. We shared the shake, but even as stuffed as I was, I could have eaten a second on my own happily.

Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop on Urbanspoon

Instead, being that it’s still only 11am and a bit early in the day for a second full-on carbfest, we get out of there, wander around what has become a quite barren shop space at the Square, and go looking for something more substantial.

Tarantino’s Sidewalk Cafe – Bay Shrimp Salad on Country Bread

I’m still mostly stuffed from breakfast and the apres- brunch chocolate dessert, so I opt for a sandwich. I’m craving shrimp due to my Boudin-related disappointment, so I go for the shrimp salad sandwich, choosing from what is a surprisingly robust selection for what is basically an open hole in the restaurant wall. It’s simple mayo, celery, and a double-fistful of shrimp, but the salad is really good. The bread doesn’t hold a candle to Boudin and is slightly dry to boot, so I eat most of the filling out of it with a fork and toss it. Done and done.

Tarantino's on Urbanspoon

Then, not surprisingly, we both need a nap, so it’s back to the hotel.

Loria wakes up suggesting Slanted Door, a rather high-end Asian fusion place we looked over in the Ferry Building. She mentions the many noodle dishes sounding good. I recall it being pretty expensive, so I’m not as jazzed. We look out the window and what do we see? Nay, no popcorn or apricot trees. Rain. This is to be the story of the rest of our trip, culminating in an epic storm that we get to experience on our last day in SF as a thundering downpour (which I trudge through four separate times to get food) and a second time the next day when we get to Utah and find that winter has made an unwelcome reappearance.

So, walking down to the Ferry Building is out. I Yelp and discover that several Japanese noodle shops are nearby, one of which has gotten raves.

Katana-Ya – Butter Corn Ramen

Many of the reviews that I read mentioned Butter Corn Ramen. Being intimately familiar with both the stale, plastic-wrapped versions as well as fresh ramen in Japan, the combination intrigues me, so I read no further and we’re off in the rain to get hot noodles.

It’s a tiny place, 15 tables max. We’re seated immediately and start to pour over a huge selection of ramen, sushi, and donburi choices. My mind’s made up going in, though: butter corn ramen for me! I can choose from either shoyu, salt, or miso broth, and opt for the miso. As it the norm for a fresh noodle house, the food is out almost immediately. I quickly discover that, although I’m expecting some exotic flavored noodle or strange ingredient that would explain the name of the dish, it turns out that butter corn ramen is…you guessed it!…a bow of ramen with a couple of pats of butter melting on the top and a half-cup of freshly cut yellow corn. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but given the many choices I had on the menu, I wish I’d read the reviews a bit more closely. The food is delicious and hot, perfect for a rainy evening.

Katana-Ya on Urbanspoon

Next time: why not all mall food courts are equal.

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