Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cochon - A Final Bit of Pig

After not nearly enough sleep, Boo rouses me out of bed and my head's about as foggy as it looks in the picture. Problem is it wasn't a foggy morning in New Orleans. The camera just seemed to sense that I wasn't at my best. There was no sign of life whatsoever in Merlot Boy and Margarita's room and we were scheduled for a 10 a.m. start across the French Quarter. So, Boo and I just had to make our way on our own and leave them a note as to how to catch up.

Not that I really expected to ever see them.

Another Big Easy treat that Jeaux had introduced me to years ago was the New Orleans School of Cooking. I tell every person that will listen that this is the best bang for your buck to be found in the city. It's a cooking class/comedy show, with food and drink, and I've made it a "Do Not Miss" event on my schedule whenever I've made it to town. Indeed, my family favourite bread pudding recipe is an adaption of the recipe I got at the School of Cooking a couple decades ago.

Admittedly, I wasn't at my best at the start of the class (and I don't even think that I finished my lunch) but it was a blast even through my haze.

Chef Kevin Belton is a giant of a man and I swear he could be a stand-up comic if he wanted to be. He was the chef all those years ago when Jeaux and I attended and I'd specifically timed our reservation so that we'd see him this time as well. It was as funny as all get out when Merlot Boy and Margarita showed up half an hour late. Kevin simply told them that it's a tradition that the last people to arrive are required to do all the dishes before they leave.

Kevin proceeded to cook his way through red beans & rice, cornbread, pecan pie and pralines and then, we ate our way through the results of his considerable talents. Many people have tried to one-up him on witty comebacks - but I've yet to see anyone succeed. And heaven help you if you pose a "less than scholarly" question. When one gal asked if she could substitute skim milk for whole, he simply replied "Yes," but asked her "Why would you want to? Do you like skim milk?" When she responded with "Yes, as a matter of fact I do," he quipped that she "no doubt likes margarine over butter as well" and added that she might keep her figure a bit slimmer that way but he'd be willing to guarantee that her guests would like her cooking a whole lot better if she stuck to the whole milk and butter.

Having been brave enough to attend class in my delicate condition, I figured I deserved a nap later in the afternoon before we went out for another big dinner.

I'd looked at Chowhound a bit for some suggestions and I saw a number of good comments for Cochon. There was a general consensus that an extravaganza of pork sounded like a plan. It didn't disappoint - particularly since both Aussies thought our waiter was a dead ringer for their favourite Aussie Rules Footy player. That in itself was good reason for a bit of flirting and an excessively generous tip.

984. 2009 Herdade do Esporão - Defesa - Touriga Nacional - Syrah (Vinho Regional Alentejano - Portugal)

Another new producer (I love being in a new city to see the different wineries and bottles that are available). It's not a combination of varietals that I recall seeing before - likely because there aren't that many wineries, outside of Portugal, that grow Touriga Nacional and not that many wineries that grow Syrah in Portugal. Portugese blends regularly feature varietals that most people have never heard of; so, this sounded like an interesting choice. Maybe the fact that the winery has an ex-pat Aussie winemaker on board plays a role in utilizing the Syrah.

A little online research, after the fact, shows that Herdade do Esporão is one of the largest producers in Portugal. The current winery for Defesa was only established in 1992, but the Herdade estate's boundaries go back to 1267. For a relatively new enterprise, the winery was making ten million litres of wine annually as of 2009. Herdade currently produces five brands and labels and Defesa appears to be primarily an entry level wine. It's certainly not the cheapest Portugese wine that you'll find, but I think that, at around $17 (in New Orleans, but not the restaurant), it's still a decent price.

The Defesa brand and packaging is definitely modern in scope and the website promotes the wine as having a personality that "enjoys a good time, going to parties, nightlife & is at ease wherever the place." The marketing is a little hokey for me, but I did enjoy the wine and I'd definitely give it another go if I ever see it in our market. And, if nothing else, the description seems appropriate for our little gang on vacation.

On the way home, we wandered past - of all things - an Aussie bar. There was next to no chance that Merlot Boy and Margarita were passing up on that opportunity - particularly not on their last night in town. There were even a couple of old ex-pats that Merlot Boy felt obliged to reminisce with. A giant-sized Fosters (or whatever it was) later, we left that little corner of Oz and made it back to our little corner of the Quarter. It was hard to believe that we'd have to part ways in a matter of hours. Even with booze aplenty, three days just isn't enough time to whet our whistle when it comes to Merlot Boy (and I'm even going to be nice and avoid the obvious and dirty little pun that could be inserted here - but you can always take a stab at it in the comments). It was a joy to meet our new Drinking Buddy, Margarita, as well. It's got to take a helluva woman to keep up with our Merlot Boy.

Good thing we're scheduled to catch up with them again Down Under in a matter of months!

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