Eat here: Cochon Butcher, New Orleans

Cochon Butcher
930 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans
https://cochonbutcher.com/

A tribute to Old World butcher and charcuterie shops, Cochon Butcher melds a distinctive Cajun accent to the art of curing meat.

With a menu description like that, as if we weren’t going to visit this place! We first saw it through the eyes of Anthony Bourdain, then read a ton of great reviews, and then heard more good stuff about it once we got to New Orleans.

Much like places in Melbourne (think Jimmy Grants, Huxtaburger), Cochon Butcher is the super successful, less formal offshoot from the more fancy Cochon, drawing in a solid hipster and young professional crowd. The menu is very pig-centric, in the best possible way, with everything crafted, cured and smoked in house.

We visited at lunch time and shared a Buckboard bacon melt with collards on white bread (bottom left) and a charcuterie plate (top left). Buckboard bacon melt was probably the best spin on a ham & cheese toastie I’ve ever had – that bacon was amazing.

The charcuterie plate was next level – for a mere USD$16.00, we got dry cured pork loin, country terrine, spicy fennel salami, chorizo, pork rillon, flat bread crackers and pickles. And every single thing on that board was magnificent.

They also have a mean cocktail menu, heaps of beer and wine options, and you can shop their flatware, aprons, sauces and pickles after you’re done eating. They’d have every right to be a little arrogant and pretentious, but the staff were cool and laid back without being complete tools. They made the atmosphere like that of a fun, young deli, but the food was clearly the product of experience. We’d go back to eat there again in a heartbeat. And now all I want for breakfast is a bacon sandwich.

Eat here: Crif Dogs, New York City

Crif Dogs
113 Saint Marks Place, NYC
http://www.crifdogs.com/

Ahh Sunday afternoon, that bittersweet time of the week when you realise you still have a few more hours of relaxation before shit gets going again for another week. I generally read for an hour each day on week days, catching the train to and from work, but I’ve been trying to set aside a little time on Sunday afternoons to read a little, too. It’s just nice to unwind and get away from a screen for a while, you know? This week I’ve been reading Anthony Bourdain’s “A Cook’s Tour” (I’ll post a little something on that this coming week, because it’s a great read). I find it impossible to read anything he’s written now without reading it in his voice. That soothingly sarcastic, slightly psychotic voice that lulls me into a sense of maniacal comfort every time I flick channels and find him on my screen.

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We heard about this place (as we heard of so many others) from “the great man” as my husband refers to him, Anthony Bourdain, on his New York episode of The Layover. He visits Crif Dogs and it’s hidden bar PDT (Please Don’t Tell) with a man who I have great respect and love for, David Chang; they order a few dogs, and Chang orders a side of tater tots with gooey melted cheese for Bourdain, knowing he’ll appreciate it. All seems quite friendly and civilized, until we hear Bourdain tell Chang that it’s “only out of deference to him that he’s not thrusting his ****” in the melted cheese, such is his love for it. Needless to say, being the immature children we are, this line has been repeated countless times over perfectly lovely, otherwise civilized meals of our own.

Anyway, we were excited to be visiting and tucked into (left to right)
– BLT: bacon wrapped dog with lettuce, tomato and mayo
– Tsunami: another bacon wrapped dog with teriyaki sauce, pineapple and green onions
– Jon-Jon Deragon: dog with schmear of cream cheese, scallions and everything bagel seeds

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Honestly, couldn’t flaw any of them. That simple little BLT was magic, they all were, actually, and I’m starting to understand how Bourdain felt now. The dogs themselves were probably the best hot dogs I’ve ever had, and while there were heaps of options, they were all kept relatively restrained, with only a few toppings on each.

I wish we had hot dogs of this caliber in Melbourne…

 

Crif Dogs on Urbanspoon

Ladies who eat & blog: SCARF Community dinner @ Green Park

Hands up who’s heard of SCARF?! Not many, I’m guessing? That sucks… hopefully this will help spread the word about an awesome group who do some seriously good work for the community and also make some delicious food in the process!

So, my last attendance to a Scarf dinner was when I was in a past blogging life at Multicultural Melbourne, way back in 2011, and I’m a little ashamed that I haven’t been back since! You can read all about the amazing work Scarf do on their website, but the Readers Digest version is basically they’re an amazingly dedicated organisation taking disadvantaged youth and mentoring/training them up in all facets of the hospitality industry. Once a week, they take over a restaurant kind enough to donate their space for a few hours and run a full service. Told you they’re amazing! They are currently taking up residence at Green Park in Carlton North, where $40 gets you a two course set menu and the opportunity support a pretty great organisation that’s making a big difference. Everyone wins!

I can’t remember what made me think of it, but I simultaneously thought that I really wanted to head back for a long overdue Scarf dinner and organise a little catch up for some fellow lady bloggers. It really frustrates me to see how competitive women can be these days; at a time where we seem to be hearing about more and more women being attacked, bullied, hurt and victimised, when maybe more than ever we need to support each other and have each others backs (isn’t there already enough pressure on us without being mean and bitchy to each other, too?!), more and more women seem to be getting more and more competitive and judgmental towards each other instead. On the flip side, I’ve been lucky enough to have met some really incredible and inspiring women through blogging and would love to get to know some of them a little better! In the spirit of Scarf and doing good deeds, I thought it might be nice to get a group of women who’s work I really admire together for a great night  : )

IMG_8413So, allow me to introduce to you the lovely ladies who joined me for dinner this week:

Cass from Hungrycookie – Cass’s blog is about “all things fashion, food and travel” who brings you the latest in both food and fashion, both very important to Melbournians!

Terri from Little Wanderings – Terri is a bit of a blogging soul sister to me with so much in common – another Melbourne girl who loves her city, her food, and travelling the big wide world 🙂

Monique from Mon’s Adventure – Mon’s a foodie and a beautiful story teller, who always seems to be on and between fabulous adventures!

Sheena from Chasing A Plate – Sheena collaborates with Thomas for a beautifully photographed and written food journal, based on the belief that life is too short for bad food (amen!).

 

With the introductions over with, allow me to introduce the food and the host restaurant…

Green Park
815 Nicholson St, Carlton North, Melbourne
http://greenparkdining.com.au/

The Scarf menu, designed by Green Park’s chefs and executed by Scarf’s trainees, offered two entree and two main options (thank you very very much to Cass sitting next to me who coincidentally ordered the dishes I didn’t and let me try hers!)…

 

ENTREES:
Roast beetroot, feta, walnut and rocket salad (which I ordered, and was a really nice and light starter)…

IMG_8402… and the chicken liver parfait with onion jam and bread (so rich, so good!)

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MAINS:
Braised beef shin with cauliflower, bacon and hazelnuts (I was stoked with my choice – the beef was delicious and sooo tender, the perfectly little pile fell apart at the first poke with my fork! Also, the hazelnuts were the perfect addition!)…

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and the gnocchi with pumpkin, burnt butter and sage (it’s a classic for a reason, and it was done very well!):

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DESSERT:
Just the one option, and being lactose intolerant and quite unwell for the last week or so, I decided to forgo the deconstructed yoghurt cheesecake, but it looked very pretty and the ladies who did order it seemed pretty happy with it!

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The food was amazing, especially considering the fact that these were restaurant quality dishes made by trainees! They did a fantastic job and both the trainees and mentors should be incredibly proud  : )

Green Park on Urbanspoon

 

Everyone did a fantastic job, from the slightly nervous waitress who must have been at least a little daunted by the five loud women talking about everything from Hodor to potatoes, the waiter who wasn’t looking after our table but still more than happily took our photo at the end of the night, the mentors floating around making sure everything was running smoothly. Yeah, the food is great, but it’s about so much more than that.

If you’d like to do more than dine and support Scarf, you can book dinner right here, and someone will get back to you with a confirmation very quickly! And I must make sure I don’t leave it another four years before dining with Scarf again! Thank you for a great night, and we’re all wishing the trainees all the very best for the bright futures they’ll no doubt have in the hospitality industry!

Eat here: 1090 Burger, Melbourne

1090 Burger (food truck)
https://www.facebook.com/1090BURGER

Hamburgers have always been my favourite food, and much to my utter and complete joy, the burger phenomenon that began to take Melbourne by storm a couple of years ago is still going strong. My general allegiance has always been pledged to Beatbox as my all-time, all round favourite basic burger, and the double smash from Rockwell & Sons would have to take out my favourite “dirty” burger (read: dripping with melty cheese and grease and sauce and everything I love. Dirty is NOT a bad word here!). I didn’t ever think I’d find a hybrid so perfect. 1090 Burger, where on earth did you come from, and where have you been all my life?!

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This little gem of a food truck is a regular in my northern ‘burbs (thank the burger gods), and compared to a lot of it’s competitors, it really doesn’t stand out at first glance. It’s a plain, unadorned truck, that might be mistaken for any other parked truck in the area, were it not for the crowd of people on the lawn beside it with picnic mats, beers, dogs and burgers. Like all good food trucks, the menu was small but impressive – I always like to try the signature on my first trip to any burger place, so I went with the 1090 Burger ($8.00) which was made up of bun + patty + cheese + lettuce + tomato + onion + mustard + mayo + ketchup + fairy dust. At the last minute, I noticed bacon on the menu for an extra dollar. My hands were tied. Give me bacon, too.

The burgers came wrapped in plain white paper, in a simple brown paper bag stamped with the 1090 logo. I loved that; simple is good. I carefully unwrapped my little gold nugget, and it was up there with the absolute best looking, most picture perfect burgers I’ve ever seen. It was burger porn.

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With beautiful looking burgers come high expectations, and I’ve lost count of the amount of pretty burgers I’ve eaten that have tasted like crap, so I tried not to get my hopes up. Totally unnecessarily so. This was the burger of my dreams. It was all the best parts of my favourite burgers combined. The holy trinity of mustard, mayo and ketchup was perfectly proportioned, and didn’t lead to soggy buns (thankfully, because the burger bun was perfectly soft with just enough crispness to hold it together). Flavour of the beef was just about perfect, cheese was melted magnificently and the bacon was crisp and so very good. Just the right amount of lettuce and tomato, and I know it seems like a random point, but best onion I’ve had in any burger. I don’t know what it was or where it came from, I just know it was several types of delicious.

Honestly, there really isn’t much else to be said. I think 1090 Burger just soared to the top of my list. To be certain, I plan to chase down the truck again next week, and possibly the week after. Quality control, you know.. Also, they often park up at Ruckers Hill in Northcote, and I mean, how much better a view can you ask for?! Anyway, believe the hype, this burger is beyond amazing, my new fave, and if you’re not already on social media trying to find it for dinner over the next few nights, then you need to have yourself examined.

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Cook this: From scratch beef & bacon pie

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Flaky, golden pastry. Tender, soft chunks of beef. Crispy bits of bacon. Gooey, melted cheese. And that punch of red wine and thyme that you can smell from the next room. As if you need any more convincing! Home made pies; yeah, they’re a little time consuming, but if you’ve got a few hours to kill over the weekend, I promise you that the end product will be MORE than worth your time and efforts! Husband and I were both craving some good, old fashioned meat pies, so I needed a good, no, a great recipe to satisfy; I needed help from Donna Hay for this one. Well, for the filling anyway; I’d like to think I’ve already got pretty solid pastry skills.

So, first things first – get that pastry going. It needs to rest in the fridge before you even think about turning the oven on, for at least 30 minutes, up to 2 or 3 hours. You can use my recipe for pastry right here, making it from scratch, or if you’re a little short on time or patience, feel free to buy some from the supermarket! If you’re going the whole hog from scratch, I doubled this recipe to make 4 pies that were made in Texas muffin tins (read: giant cupcake sized).

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While the pastry is chilling in the fridge, get the filling going. I used a recipe from an old Donna Hay cookbook as a base for my pies; here’s the recipe with my changes!

Ingredients:
– 800g chuck steak, cut into bite-sized chunks
– plain flour, for dusting
– olive oil
– 4 rashers bacon, diced
– 1 small brown onion, diced
– 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
– 1 cup red wine
– 1½ cups beef stock
– 2 tsp thyme leaves
– sea salt and cracked pepper
– 1½ tbsp plain flour
– 3 tbsp water
– 4 tbsp grated manchego cheese

Method:
1. Once you’ve made the pastry and popped it in the fridge to chill, place the steak in a large bowl and dust with plain flour. Make sure all pieces are well coated. And, preheat the oven to 180°C while you’re at it!

2. Heat a large pot over high heat and add a generous amount of olive oil. Add the meat, in batches if need be, and cook for 3 – 4 minutes until well browned.

3. Remove the meat from the pot, add a little more olive oil, as well as the onion and bacon. Cook, stirring constantly for a few minutes, until the bacon starts to brown. Then add the garlic and cook, stirring, for another minute.

4. Return the meat to the pot, along with the red wine, beef stock, thyme, and as much salt and pepper as you like. Bring to the boil, then simmer, covered, for half an hour.

5. While the filling is simmering away, take the pastry out of the fridge and roll it out. Personally, I like my pastry a little thicker, but each to their own! Cut out larger circles of pastry for the pie shells, and smaller circles for the tops. Spray your pie (or Texas muffin) tins with cooking oil, and fit the pastry in, pressing firmly around all edges. Prick a few holes on the bottom of each pastry shell, line with baking paper, and fill with pie weights or rice. Put the tray in the fridge until the 30min of covered simmering time is up.

6. When that 30 minutes is up, take the tin out of the fridge and put it into the oven. At the same time, remove the lid from the pot and simmer for another 15-20 minutes. When that time is up, take the pastry out of the oven – it should be a light, golden colour.

7. Mix the flour and water together in a small bowl, and add it to the pie filling. Bring the mixture to the boil again, and stir until it thickens up to a consistency you’re happy with.

8. Fill your pie shells with mixture, add a little grated cheese on top, then place the pastry rounds on top, carefully pressing on the edges. If you need a bit more stickyness to help you, brush a little water around the edges of the rounds. Make one or two small slits in the tops, and pop them back in the oven for another 20 minutes, or until golden (For added golden-ness, I like to brush a little melted butter on top first).

What’s gonna come out of the oven and onto your plate (let them cool for a few minutes first, or you can kiss your tongue goodbye!) is probably not going to be the most beautiful pie in the world. Mince certainly weren’t. But you’re going to have a crispy little golden shell filled with soft, tender beef, and the subtle melty cheese which adds the perfect touch to balance out the rich, strong flavours of the filling.

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I was so stoked with how these pies turned out, with the fabulous Ms Donna Hay once again coming to my rescue! Who else has a stock pile of her cook books that never let you down?!