I attended the best children’s birthday party ever a week ago. The honorees were two of my daughter’s classmates, whose names I will not mention because I did not ask their parents if I could.
I did not attend the first part of the party, which was at a craft shop on Magazine Street. As is our habit, Georgia and I arrived late, but fortunately things were not so far advanced in the craft department that Georgia could not participate. If that were the whole story, I would probably not be writing about it and certainly not in this space.
But that was not the whole story. After the crafting, the kids and some of the parents of the kids got to eat a lunch at Cochon.
If you know me and/or have read my writing over the last two decades you’ll know that I am a huge fan of Cochon and of the folks behind it, particularly Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski. They are talented cooks and perhaps more importantly they are fantastic at finding good people to work in their restaurants.
I recall talking to Donald Link when he opened Cochon with Stephen Stryjewski. He said what a lot of other chefs have said in similar circumstances; to paraphrase: I know this guy is incredibly talented and either he’s going to work with me as a partner or leave and go out on his own and I trust this guy enough that I want to be in business with him. Again, that’s a paraphrase but I don’t believe Donald would dispute the sentiment.
It’s damn near an empire at this point and the thing that makes it work is that the food at each of those places is so very consistently good. This is a difficult thing to do in this day and age when it is hard to hire and retain good people at restaurants. Yet they do it.
So when I learned that this particular birthday party for two young men (who, I will add, are very fine young men that my daughter likes very much,) I was rather excited.
I did not expect the spread that was presented to us, however. Nobody could have expected the spread that was presented to us. It was a cornucopia of the best food on the menu at Cochon, starting with boudin balls and cracklin’s with Steen’s cane syrup.
I have eaten recently, and I am still getting hungry writing about this.
The starters were just the, well, the start. Because thereafter they sent out plate after plate of food, both to the parents in attendance and to the kids, and by God the kids ate a lot of it, too. The spread had wood-fired Gulf fish served whole; a pork shank braised to a perfect tenderness; a charcuterie plate with house-made pickles, hogshead cheese and rillettes; beef short rib with butternut squash and oyster mushrooms; fried catfish and shrimp; grilled cheese sandwiches (those were for the kids); and sides like macaroni and cheese, collard greens with bacon and fries, lots of fries.
Then they brought desserts: chocolate chess pie, toasted marshmallow ice cream, pineapple upside down cake with buttermilk Chantilly cream, coconut cream cake and passion fruit sherbet.
Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous and so very delicious.
And they served us wine. It was glorious and while I am not sure that I will ever attend a child’s birthday party of this nature again, I am glad I had the opportunity to do so.
I would be delighted to hear your experience about birthday parties in New Orleans, because for heaven’s sake we have a very different experience than most people in other parts of the country. I will be very surprised if you have a party that tops this one, though.