I just got back from celebrating my birthday in New Orleans, a city with familial ties and a foodie heaven. I go to New Orleans often, and try to dine in as many of the restaurants that promote local and sustainable products as possible. This trip we feasted at Dante’s Kitchen, August, and Brigtsens; all wonderful restaurants with a commitment to locally sourced ingredients. However in my opinion there is no chef in New Orleans who is more true to the locavore movement than Donald Link. I’m not a celebrity chef restaurant groupie, believing that celebrity chef owned restaurants fall short of expectations on a regular basis so for me to have such high regard for Donald Link is out of character. Maybe it was his commitment to the New Orleans community right after the devastation of Katrina that draws me to him, or maybe it’s his commitment to using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible because he realizes how important it is to support the local farmers (not to mention how good the food is when it’s fresh picked); or it could be that his food simply gives me goose bumps because the flavors bring me back to food from my childhood and relatives long gone. Regardless of the reason, I’m definitely smitten; so much that we went to Cochon for dinner, Herbsaint for lunch and then right before our flight made a mad dash for Cochon Butcher to purchase meat and sandwiches for our flight home (possibly the best pork shop EVER!). Like us at Catskill Maison, Donald Link sources his own pigs, he knows exactly where his meat is coming from…he’s a proponent of nose to tail cooking and makes the best sausages and salumi I’ve ever had in my life. His head cheese, boudin (a Cajun sausage made with herbs, spices and rice), and blood sausage make you wanna “slap yo mama” (as my relatives in the south say so often). Sausage making is an art, I’m always so grateful when our farmer/butcher smokes our meat just to our liking and seasons our sausage to our taste…I don’t take it for granted and nor do I take the artistry of Donald Link for granted. I put my money where my mouth is, I purchased pounds of different types of sausage and head cheese, asked the butcher to give me a
bag of ice and I hauled a huge paper bag full of meat and ice in the overhead carrier of the airplane back to New York. I must say I’m very proud of two things, 1. That I was able to get by the TSA smuggling all of my pork parts (HA!) and 2. That the bag didn’t bust until I was curbside waiting to be picked up, I avoided the humiliation of having the entire airport viewing links of sausage falling all over the place like a trail behind me. But even if they would’ve fallen and I had to carry the sausage in my arms it would’ve been worth it. We are trying to figure out how to get Donald Link’s andouille sausage in mass quantity to enhance our dishes at the upcoming Wine Bar…stay tuned. If you can get to New Orleans do yourself a favor and check out Donald Links restaurants, and if you can’t get to New Orleans, we will do our best within the next year to bring New Orleans to you.