A Vietnamese Po’ Boy at Cochon Butcher
I spent yesterday at Jazz Fest where I had a wonderful morning of visiting and interviewing with Vance Vaucresson and various other food vendors (more about that later). BTW, I needed a break today, but I expect to return to Jazz Fest tomorrow.
I had plans to meet my friend Deborah Cotton and her mother for lunch Wednesday. She e-mailed at the last minute with a change of venue. “This place is even better” she wrote- “Cochon Butcher”. Great- I’d heard a lot about Cochon , the James Beard Award winning restaurant. So I set out to walk the few blocks up Tchoupitoulas Street to the restaurant. Deb called while I was walking to say she’d be a few minutes late, so I settled at the bar to wait for them. I’m impressed already, I thought, as I watched the barmaid pour a chilled glass of Rosé, a Côtes de Provence.
I scanned the wall of reviews- the top one from Garden and Gun– there’s something so sad, yet unfortunately, so apropos to New Orleans about that. I sat for 20 or so minutes sipping my Arnold Palmer, wondering what had happened to Deb.
“I thought you might be here”, I heard someone call out to me. “We’re at the Butcher.”
“Hey, Deb. How are you, girl? We walked around the corner to Cochon Butcher, a little charcuterie tucked behind Cochon. “I was a little surprised to hear you recommend this place, since you don’t eat pork” I said to her.
“Yeah- they’ve got me.”
Deb and her Mom had already ordered. Deb, a Tuna Melt on Olive Bread ( one of the very few non-pork items on the menu), and her mother a sandwich with Pulled Pork in Barbecue Sauce.
“Hmmm- I’m getting the Bahn Mi.”
Bahn Mi is Vietnam’s version of a po’ boy with thinly sliced pork, pate and head cheese dressed with pickled jalapenos, shredded carrots and herbs on French bread.
“Yeah- I thought about ordering it, but I changed my mind when I saw that,” Deb said, referring to the head cheese.
I told Vance that I used to turn up my nose with a big YUCK! when, as a child, I watched my father relish head cheese. In fact, my father would often stop by to order some head cheese from Vance’s father butcher shop when he was in town. For the uninitiated, that’s hog’s head cheese, and here’s the Wikipedia definition: “meat pieces from the head of a calf or pig (definitely a pig in this case), in aspic, with onion, black pepper, allspice, bay leaf, salt and or vinegar. It may also include meat from the feet, tongue and heart. It is usually eaten cold or at room temperature as a luncheon meat.”
But hey, I jumped in before giving it too much thought, and I sure did enjoy that sandwich. The sandwiches are served with house made potato chips, and Deb had ordered some of the creamy house- made French onion dip chock full of caramelized onions, which I dug into and heartily enjoyed more than my fair share of, all washed down with an Alsatian white wine (no Rosé on this wine list).
Deb had to go back to work, but suggested that her Mom and I take in the Chaz Fest, a sort of anti-Jazz Fest.
“It’s in the Bywater ” she said. “They removed the fences between three backyards. Just drive down St. Claude until you see a gaggle of cars.” People in New Orleans are always giving directions like that. After a bit of wandering around and getting lost we called Deb who directed us there a bit more specifically- like with an address. We found it, but for the $30 a pop entrance fee, we decided to pass. Besides it’s only a couple of hours before gathering for po’ boys at the Gonzalez’s …