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New Cochon Volant BBQ Smokehouse

Sonoma County barbecue fans will remember Rob’s Rib Shack and La Poste bistro in Sonoma from more than a decade ago. More recent types know the Cochon Volant mobile barbecue business, via chef-owner Rob Larman catering with a fire-breathing trailer pulled behind his truck.

And now, there’s Cochon Volant BBQ Smokehouse in Boyes Hot Springs/Sonoma, as a permanent home for the tasty beef short ribs and 14-hour brisket featuring prime, grass-fed Black Angus cuts.

You know you’re in the right spot when you see the metal flying pig sculpture holding court atop the roof of the cocoa stucco, metal roof capped building - Cochon Volant, in French means “flying pig,” after all.

While the space is bit fancier with its wood accents and polished wood tables, this is still Larman’s comfortable casual mood. We order at the counter, take a seat on a ruby red stackable chair, and listen to the blues music that goes so well with slow cooked meats and our fingers stained with sauce.

The secret is in the smoke, Larman will tell anyone who wants to chat about barbecue, defined by the fuchsia ring that deep, almond wood smoking imparts to the meat. The trick is to get the ring, but not overly smoky flavor, with ample marbling retained so the delicious fatty juices soak in. When the meat is done, Larman wraps it in pink butcher paper, to seal in moisture until each cut is sliced to order.

Pulled pork shoulder is certainly moist, even before it’s drenched in Carolina sauce, a thick, whole mustard seed and coarse ground coriander recipe with subtle burn without the typical vinegar grip. Served on a crusty bun with a side dish, it’s one of his bestsellers, Larman notes. While barbecue chicken breast is more mainstream, the fried chicken is everything we crave: crunchy, juicy, and paired with our choice of sweet-tart coleslaw and smoky ranch beans, or marvelous mac ‘ n cheese balls deep fried and paired with seasonal veggie pickles.

Fan of baby back pork ribs will find these models worth gnawing to the last speck, while beef rib fans will be disappointed by only one thing – the crusty-edged bites are served on weekends only. Doused in slightly sweet, smoky-spicy pasilla negro chile-chipotle accented sauce, the ribs are some of the best things on the menu (even better when washed down with Sonoma Springs Uncle Jack's Kolsch, or HenHouse Saison from Petaluma/Santa Rosa).

Way back when, diners lined up at Rob’s Rib Shack for his “killer” fries. They’re a highlight again here, as heavily seasoned skinny sticks nearly as powerful as the first-rate mashed potatoes zinged with tons of garlic. A bite of potato, a bite of sauce soaked sausage, and manners be darned, we’re finishing every last messy bite.

Napkins, breath mints, and smiles, all around.

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