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Claire’s Place on the Creek – Mobile, AL

6 Apr

Claire’s is a fairly new country buffet place on Halls Mill Road in Mobile, AL. The Stagecoach Cafe used to be at this rustic pine-shaded location, but they have decided to focus all their attention on their primary location in Stockton, AL. But not to fear! Louisa “Claire” Terrell has re-opened the place and really all that has changed is the name.  

You can always tell a good Southern lunch joint by the vehicles in the parking lot. Lots of trucks and police cars = good chow. Really good chow!

The grilled pork chops were simply delicious with a authentic char-grilled flavor. I snagged a couple chops at the bottom of the chafing dish to make sure they were plenty juicy — and they were. The green beans were smoky and soft to the bite. Claire’s also makes a killer jambalaya loaded with tender pieces of white chicken and bright green bell pepper. The cornbread dressing was excellent and the tomato pie tart & tasty (especially if you can score an end piece). I even tried fried asparagus spears for the first time in my life and found the flavor combo to be, well, a downhome natural.

Believe it or not, I did save a little room for dessert. That’s a good thing because the choices here are plentiful. Claire’s buttermilk pie was moist with lots of chewy flaked coconut in each and every bite. The banana pudding was even better — incredibly smooth and heavenly. I was on Cloud Nine.

Pricing at Claire’s Place on the Creek ( yes, they are on a creek) is $9.50 and includes the all you can eat lunch buffet, drink ( I suggest the Leroy Hill fresh brewed Sweet Tea), and as many dessert treats as you dare tackle. You will not go away hungry or dissatisfied. This is the real deal y’all and I am so glad to have found them. They can already count me as a regular.

NOTE: Claire’s Place is also open for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.

Donald Link’s “Real Cajun” Cooking

15 Aug

real cajun

We recently enjoyed dinner at Donald Link’s Cochon restaurant in the Warehouse District of New Orleans. Honestly, we had never heard of the place and were not planning on hitting it during our brief eating tour of the Big Easy. But our friend Sara Roahen suggested we should give it a try and this gal really knows her stuff when it comes to Crescent City dining.

I contacted Asst. GM Tomy (pronounced Tommy) Lagneaux and he set us up with a 6:30 dinner reservation and a place at their Chef’s Counter, where diners can watch the chefs in action. We arrived to find that Tomy wasn’t working that night and no one seemed to know a thing about us or our planned visit and review. Bummer. The hostess was cute, but really didn’t seem to care that we were in the process of being stiffed. Thankfully, a manager jumped in and scored us a booth in the back of the clean yet rustic looking dining room.

cochon 

To be concise, the food was pretty good (some of it really good) but the portions were on the smallish side and the prices weren’t exactly cheap. Example: $4 for a small bottle of Mexican Coca Cola, $5 for a bottle of Cheerwine. I do applaud the uniqueness of their beverage selections, but come on folks. Seriously!

The rolls served before dinner were OK — nothing special about them. My hen and andouille gumbo was superb … easily the best we had on this trip (or any trip for that matter). Dark and rich with a nice little afterburn. Good job, y’all. The macaroni and cheese was pretty amazing – the wife and kids scarfed their’s up in record time, although I did manage to steal one decadent taste before it all disappeared.  

I really would have loved to have sampled more food that night. Especially a variety of meats and sausages that Cochon has made it’s name on. But Tomy’s dropping the ball and the rather proud pricing at Cochon prohibited that from happening — at least on this journey.

I would like to score some of their recipes to try at home, so I may see about getting a review copy of Link’s recent cookbook, “Real Cajun.” A guy named Link making world class sausage??? Sounds like it was written in the stars on some starry Bayou night long ago.  

From Publishers Weekly
If bacon does not immediately come to mind as an essential ingredient of Cajun cooking, then clearly you have been missing Link, the chef-owner of two New Orleans restaurants, Herbsaint and Cochon. He not only begins his premiere cookbook with instructions on making four pounds of homemade bacon, he includes such tempting items as a fried oyster and bacon sandwich, tomato and bacon pie, and catfish fried in bacon fat. Even in his vegetarian twice-baked potatoes, he cannot help mentioning, Normally I like crisp bits of bacon in stuffed potatoes. And where bacon leads, the rest of the pig is sure to follow. A classic boudin recipe is rich in pork liver and shoulder; deer sausage combines venison with pork butt; and a hearty/scary breakfast dish, oreilles de cochon (pig ears), is boudin-stuffed beignets. There is also plenty of crawfish, be it in a crawfish pie, a traditional boil or in a boulette (deep fried balls of crawfish meat and stuffing). A bourbon cherry lemonade or a plate of fresh peach buckle would cleanse the palate nicely, Eighty color photos enhance Link’s efforts, as do his brief meditations on crawfish farming, family gatherings and the joys of making a perfect roux. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review
“Donald Link’s book simply makes me hungry the way I used to be around my grandmother’s kitchen down on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He is more than a chef. He is a southern artist using tradition as a canvas and acquired culinary magic as his box of paints, with which he brings to life masterpieces of southern cuisine that ignite our taste buds as well as reminding us of who we are and where we come from.”
—Jimmy Buffett

“Donald Link’s childhood in Cajun Country taught him that cooking is all about family, local ingredients, and, most important, taste. There’s no blackened redfish here, just delicious recipes (think Crispy Softshell Crab with Chili Glaze or Satsuma Buttermilk Pie) and great memories, informed by his wry sense of humor and passion for food and place. Real Cajun is the real deal and proves, once again, that Link is not only the soul of New Orleans but also one of the most talented chefs in the country.”
—Julia Reed

“Donald Link is rediscovering traditional Cajun food in all of its diversity and simplicity. His flavors come from backyard organic vegetables, local fish, and heritage breed pork. The essence of Cochon’s cooking is beautifully revealed in this inviting book.”
—Alice Waters


“Donald Link’s cooking embodies the very best–the heart and soul–of New Orleans cuisine; there’s no one in the business with more credibility. Real Cajun captures the straight-up, un-cut, raw, and wonderful rustic classics in all their unvarnished, unprettified glory.”
—Anthony Bourdain


“Real Cajun tells Donald Link’s captivating story of growing up in southwest Louisiana and shares with us the incredible no-holds-barred type of cooking and eating that Cajuns live for. With great traditions, vivid tales, and passionate cooking from a real Cajun chef, this cookbook will be a treasure for all who turn its pages.”
—Frank Stitt


“Real Cajun is honest, gutsy, and proudly provincial. Read this book and you’ll want to mainline shrimp and crab gumbo. Cook from this book and you’ll rationalize an all boudin diet.”
—John T. Edge, general editor of Cornbread Nation