Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cocktails, cocktails everywhere and more than a drop to drink

But first lunch at Cochon. Arrived around noon to a still barren dining room. By 12:15 the place was slammed. We decided to eat light. Started with a Hen and Andouille Gumbo. Dark, earthy, gelatinous and once again lives up to Link's status as the greatest gumbo assemblymen in New Orleans. Then a wedge salad with ranch, bacon, radishes, and croûtons. I know what you are thinking, "Wow, salad, what a waste." And I agree with you in general; however, not here. This salad was the perfect way to wade into a meal. Plus, we needed something green.

Next, an order of rabbit livers on toast with pepper jelly. I am not crazy about rabbit livers (totally a textual issue) but Lady loved them. Also, an order of Fried Boudin Balls with house cured jalepenos and stone ground mustard. The pig gets no higher than right here. Crunchy exterior gives way to a rice filled bonanza of spices. If Link and Stryjewski opened a movie theater, this dish would be their popcorn.

Then an order of pork cheeks over a corn cake. One can not help but notice the genealogy of this dish and its roots to the Bayona shrimp over coriander black bean cake. The pork cheeks are slow cooked, then molded into a hockey puck and sauteed with a mustard based sauce that could use a little more acidity. Finally, a simple order of hot sausage and peppers on top of creole cream cheese grits. For me this is the dish that represents Cochon. Soulful, simple, hearty fare with a light handed touch of upscale dining. Get this dish if you go; but good luck getting a reservation. I called for a Saturday night reservation recently (for about 3 weeks from now), the hostess informed me, "We can seat you at 5:30 or 11:45 p.m.

A great Spanish red and near excellent service rounded out the meal. Lady went back to work, I grabbed some dog food and went by Fed Ex. No time for Bed, Bath, Beyond.

"Are you sure we have to go?" asked Lady. It was 6 p.m. on Friday and bot of us were feeling the effects of a long week.

"Come on we will go for one maybe two drinks and if it is lame, we are out of there," I responded.

By the end of the night we would both be glad we went. The Japanese Room at Antoine's that evening has a capacity crowd of over 200 people who were in the mood to try as many cocktails as possible, pop an Oysters Foch or two, and raise money for a good cause. You have been to Antoine's, let us focus on the libations.

Republic Beverage sponsored the party and provided the booze and the bartenders. Along each side of the Japanese Room were tables set up with 2 cocktails apiece. I began with a Sazerac. I have no idea where my desire for anise flavors came from, but I am happy to oblige its tempestuous tug. Then, a French 75, Lady's favorite cocktail, for now. Cognac, Lemon Juice, Champagne, simple syrup, and a lemon peel. The glasses the cocktail was poured into were still hot from the dishwasher, turning the drink into a tepid mess, not dissimilar from drinking lemon scented bathwater. You are very welcome for that mental image.

A Manhattan, a Screwdriver, an Absinthe Frappe (again with the Anise) and a Vieux Carre Cocktail grabbed our attention at various moments. Then, Lady stumbled across the Pretty Baby and immediately had a new cocktail. Similar to a White Russian, this cocktail combined vodka (Stilleto brand), Creme de Cacao, milk, and grenadine. The Pretty Baby looks like Pepto-Bismol and tastes like a strawberry milkshake. A grasshopper finished up the dessert course.

Finally we each grabbed a twist on the classic Mint Julep. This version muddled together fresh Ponchatoula strawberries, mint, and sugar. Then, topped the mixture with ice and a generous pour of New Orleans Dark Rum. I think I have a new drink for Derby Day.

While this drink was being poured, I grabbed a hold of Fr. Tom and asked him for a tour of Antoine's. Earlier in the day, I heard him say, "If you see me tonight, ask me for a favorite thing to do is give tours of Antoine's." What a great way to spend an evening. His stories, coupled with the restaurant's many varied rooms, created a memory for a lifetime. Fr. Tom should give this tour to tourists and charge $35 a head, easily worth it. Following the tour, we bid adieu. At around 9:15 Antoine's was still fairly crowded with laughter and good cheer spilling from the storied restaurant. Ohh yeah, and we supported a good cause. What did you do on Friday to help humanity?

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