Cochon in NOLA: Worthy of a Repeat

I arrived in New Orleans on Thursday to attend the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC). The last time I attended this conference was three years ago when it was held in Seattle. This is my fourth trip to New Orleans and I had a few new spots to try, but the one restaurant that I was putting on repeat was Cochon. Cochon is a Cajun restaurant with a focus on fresh and local ingredients.


During a break in the IFBC, I took a leisurely lunch and headed over to Cochon. Technically, I was on vacation, so I started with a glass of rosé at the bar.  This was a 2016 Izadi Rioja Rosé from Spain. It had floral and fruit notes that I found refreshing for the humidity in New Orleans. 

I totally forgot about the homemade buns that Cochon serves, but as soon as they were placed in front of me, the sight evoked a pleasant memory. As I pulled apart the fresh soft buns, steam was released. I spread some butter on the bun, which melted quickly and they disappeared almost as quickly. Eating these really made me appreciate fresh homemade bread and how much better it is than store bought.


I ordered the chicken and andouille gumbo. As I consumed each spoonful, I was reminded that I was indeed in New Orleans. I welcomed the intense smokey flavor which I found comforting.
When I was looking at the side dishes, the twice baked stuffed potato was calling my name. The potato was reassembled with a mixture of spices, green onions, and cheese. The cracked black pepper gave it a good kick.  
I normally don’t have dessert at lunch, but again I was on vacation. I ordered the raspberry mint sorbet which was served with a cute Cochon mascot shaped cookie. I never have thought of raspberry and mint as a flavor match, but it worked and served well as a palette cleanser to end my meal. 
I was happy I made another visit to Cochon and can continue to recommend it as a place to dine when visiting New Orleans.

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Iyasare: Modern Japanese Comfort Food

“Fourth Street” is a commercial district in Berkeley bustling with shops and restaurants. I have always considered it to be a cool and hidden shopping area in the East Bay. One of the restaurants located on Fourth Street is Iyasare serving modern Japanese comfort food. Although its been around for over five years, I recently dined there for the first time.

A friend and I had early reservations on a Friday at Iyasare. It was the first time for both of us so we spent some time thoroughly reviewing the menu. We ordered the bacon mochi, one of restaurant recommendations. The mochi is grilled and wrapped with smoked bacon and seasoned with housemade teriyaki sauce and served on crispy nori seaweed. It was four to an order so it was perfect for sharing. The texture of mochi softens as it’s grilled and offers a chewy texture that I find fun to eat. In addition, the sweetness of the mochi and the saltiness of the bacon is a winning flavor combination.  
For my main, I ordered the housemade squid ink pasta with a sea urchin or uni cream sauce. The plate was colorful and beautiful with the squid ink pasta drenched in uni cream with chanterelle mushrooms and topped with squid and uni. My friend who doesn’t like uni tried a bite and really enjoyed it. It was rich and delicious and gave me the feeling of a guilty pleasure.
My friend ordered the wagyu bavette steak cooked with a Japanese spice rub and chanterelle mushrooms. I had a bite of the steak and the Japanese flavoring was truly present and the texture was “like butter.” This dish was another home run.
For dessert, we shared the choco-peanut which is chocolate ice cream, shortbread cookies, peanut butter caramel, and brown butter milk powder. If you like chocolate and peanut butter like we do, you would enjoy this dessert that I can’t believe is influenced by the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
Dining at Iyasare was a treat and although there was something very comforting about the food, it had a modern twist. I do plan to return to Iyasare for lunch where I can try their take on Japanese comfort food that I’m more accustomed to like ramen and karaage. 

Inside OMCA: Blue Oak Cafe

I spent the morning at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA), a museum dedicated to California art, history, and natural sciences. As a child, I have had many memories and field trips to OMCA to view the large collection of California art. As an adult, I have visited OMCA to attend private events, Friday Nights at OMCA, and special exhibits.
Today I was there to catch the exhibit Respect: Hip-Hop Style & Wisdom before it closes in another week, on August 12. From music, dance, fashion, and graffiti art, the exhibit explores the many facets of Hip-Hop culture. It was cool to see that the exhibit attracted an ethnically diverse group as well as young and old.  

I stopped to have an early lunch at the Blue Oak Cafe, OMCA’s dining option. Today, the cafe is run by Grace Street Catering. Blue Oak Cafe offers a variety of options including soups, salads, burgers, and sandwiches.  
I decided to order the BLT which is prepared with Niman Ranch Applewood smoked bacon, butter lettuce, tomato, harissa aioli on sliced sourdough bread. I was impressed by the generous sized BLT that also came with an organic mixed green salad topped with pickled vegetables. The harissa aioli spread elevated the sandwich and gave it a California twist. It was all very fresh as well.  
The Blue Oak Cafe appeared to be pretty popular. As I was heading out, the tables were filling up and the line to order was quite long. The cafe has some outdoor seating with umbrellas, so it’s definitely a nice place to enjoy lunch, an afternoon snack, or a glass of vino. The Blue Oak Cafe is open on museum days (closed Mondays and Tuesdays) and admission to OMCA is not required to eat there.