Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cochon Restaurant, pseudo-reviewed

I recently had an amazing dinner at Cochon Restaurant. Known for "Cajun Southern Cooking", my friend Bruce and I shared appetizers of grilled oysters drizzled with a spicy oil, and stuffed crab shell with thin garlic toast. For dinner I had a spectacular catfish filet court bouillion, while Bruce had the fish on a half shell - served in skin and scales, so the fish easily flakes off the "shell". But I did not take notes on the meal, or pictures, so I can't provide a full restaurant review. Instead, I will share with you my memory of the dessert, which well symbolizes the excellence and inspiration at this restaurant.

Simply labeled as chocolate and chickory custard with whipped cream and cayenne pepper, it would be easy to expect little from the dessert, especially when it arrived in an unassuming Mason jar - maybe the presentation could be altered, but it would come at the expense of the surprising intensity of what lays within the jar.

Chocolate with peppery heat is everywhere lately: spicy cinnamon or cayenne hot cocoa, high-end dark chocolate bars with chiles, etc. Cochon capitalizes on this trend by combining a simple dessert, chocolate custard, with flecks of cayenne pepper, in perfect balance. A dollop of whipped cream adds richness, while staying true to the roots of New Orleans cuisine, by the subtle influence of chickory - reminding you that this dessert won't be found anywhere else on the planet. And then, just when all seems perfect, the taste and crunch of a fleck of rock salt shocks the mouth to life. Salt chocolates and salt caramels have similarly become ubiquitous recently - it seems that everyone is experimenting with chocolate and seasonings. Cochon took these trends, and juxtaposed of all these flavors into one small jar: sweet whipped cream, rich chocolate, distinctly New Orleans chickory, spicy flecks of cayenne, and the unexpected, invisible impact of the salt. It made for one of the most simply inspired desserts I've experienced.

On top of this, Cochon suggests dessert beverage pairings, and I went with their recommendation of a ruby red Italian dessert wine, slightly frizzante (bubbly). Initially it had a taste of plum, reminiscent of tawny port. But the dark flavors of the wine disappeared once the taste of the chocolaty dessert was in my mouth, and rich, red fruit flavors of strawberry sweetness emerged from the wine.

This is the kind of dessert experience that makes a restaurant. And that's why on a Thursday night, in the slow season, every table was full.

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